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Author Topic: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little  (Read 17174 times)

R4360

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #180 on: 10 August 2022, 17:10:37 »
It'd be pretty easy to salt some jumpships with dropships full of stuff where they can be found. Hopefully this time around they'll remember not to put any of the really good stuff in the mix.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #181 on: 11 August 2022, 00:17:20 »
Have the ROM get a list of abandoned mines within the former Terran Hegemony worlds controlled by DC, FWL and CC, then a Comstar shell company does exploration with the aim of reopening the mine, but just happens to find mint condition mechs and vehicles, which they dutifully report to the relevant authorities (triggering another civil war in FWL).
Shoot first, laugh later.

Vizzer

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #182 on: 11 August 2022, 07:50:08 »
I do find it interesting that Comstar considers Dieron under the generally defensive Lyrans to be more of a danger than when it was under the control of the more offensively minded DC.
Strange that!
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croaker

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #183 on: 11 August 2022, 09:11:55 »
I do find it interesting that Comstar considers Dieron under the generally defensive Lyrans to be more of a danger than when it was under the control of the more offensively minded DC.
Strange that!
 ^-^

Well, first off, it's the "defensively minded" Lyrans conquering a major world from Kurita. Which is something of an expansionist thing for them to do. Combine that with their recovery of several major Lostech caches and there's the danger that they might get the idea that they don't need ComStar to wipe their butts for them anymore...

Wrangler

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #184 on: 11 August 2022, 13:43:17 »
FedSuns suddenly pulling back is bigger issue. The Lyran may not be able hold if DCMS shift it's full focus to Lyran front.
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cklammer

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #185 on: 11 August 2022, 16:27:51 »
Conquering Dieron was hard but occupying Dieron will be very much harder: ISF remnants, remnants of the military DC forces gone to ground, a large Draconis Combine planetary populace with 300+ years Draconis Combine propaganda/brainwashing in their minds, many of them speaking only Japanese... that is going to keep LIC and a lot LCAF infantry busy.

Smart money says, comb through the LCAF for Japanese speakers from New Kyoto and concentrate them in the Dieron occupation units ... common cultural background and language and stuff ... otherwise sooner or later the Lyrans will end up with some LCAF numbskull using Firestarter pacification ...

PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #186 on: 12 August 2022, 00:22:14 »
DCMS remnants and ISF will be a problem, but general population will not be, as the population was indifferent to their overlords and actively hostile to attempts to shove the Drac culture down their throats, so Lyrans have a good chance of garnering considerable local support by returning the original names to places in Dieron and co-opting the locals for planetary administration, instead of relying on imports of administrators from Lyran interior.
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #187 on: 12 August 2022, 05:41:32 »
Chapter 6

San Martin, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
July 3018


There was a sense of unreality to setting foot on Dieron. Katrina’s uncle had almost ruined the Commonwealth by drawing down garrisons to fuel reckless attacks on their neighbors. She’d been very afraid that committing troops to Frederick’s offensive might end in similar humiliation - or a debacle.

It was harsh to say that the Wolf’s Dragoons were being used for half the ‘Mech regiments assigned because they were expendable, but that was basically the truth. They were spying for a foreign power, even if the spying wasn’t all that intrusive, so if they were shattered it wouldn’t have been so bad. In Katrina’s experience, most other major mercenary units would have hesitated to accept such a high risk operation, even with the rewards she had offered.

Jaime Wolf had jumped at the idea.

The Archon wasn’t sure what that said about the mercenaries' point of origin, but she was sure that the risk had paid off.

She was met by a wall of sound: soldiers cheering her as if she was the one who had conquered this world. Security around the spaceport had been taken up by the forces she’d brought with her, so she was surrounded now by members of the units that had fought for Dieron.

The Wolf’s Dragoons. The Royal Guards. The Lyran Regulars.

Small detachments had arrived from the other three worlds that had been taken, so Team Banzai and the Lyran Regulars and Skye Rangers were also represented.

And, outnumbering them vastly, the other regiments. Donegal Infantry, Arcturan Cavalry, Royal Tharkad Panzer. Regiments from worlds stretching from Tamar to New India. The often unheralded conventional regiments that bled for inches where ‘mechs were unavailable or too unwieldy.

And every man and woman knew that unlike almost any other Archon since the debut of the Battlemech, Katrina Steiner had served with them. Had gone from the Nagelring into the infantry, the armored cavalry and then the artillery. They knew that Frederick Steiner valued them… but that she understood them.

A part of her was saddened that she had to play this game with a general who had, however begrudgingly, proven himself loyal. Another part looked at the damage Anton Marik had done to the Free Worlds League and knew that the price was worth it. The same would not happen here, not on her watch.

Civilian officials greeted her nervously, knowing that just by being seen with her probably put them on the ISF’s watch list to be purged if the Draconis Combine managed to take Dieron back. But they’d come anyway, either because they felt a duty to the people they had governed and must now serve… or perhaps in hope that it would let them hold onto power.

For some of them it might even work. Importing every level of government for an entire planet couldn’t work. She’d have to trust that some, hopefully most, would adapt to and appreciate the Commonwealth’s laws.

After that line came the meat of the occasion: the three military commanders.

Frederick was in the center, their cousin Pete on his left and Jaime Wolf on his right - the fur and leathers of his dress uniform standing out compared to the blue and white of the two LCAF generals.

“Frederick.” She returned his salute. “I know you get impatient with honors and accolades, so I’ll confer upon you something I know you’ll treasure more. I doubted you… and you proved me wrong.”

Her cousin’s stiff demeanor cracked with a frosty smile. “I appreciate that you trusted me despite your doubts.”

Katrina clasped his shoulder briefly and turned to Jaime Wolf. “And you, Colonel… I trust that you are equally proud to have announced to the Inner Sphere that the Wolf’s Dragoons are undiminished by your service to Anton Marik.”

“Perhaps not quite as proud,” the short man replied. “I, unlike the noble General, am not too proud to accept other rewards.”

“Including other tough missions, I am sure.” She reached out and they exchanged a handshake. “But before the Dragoons depart Dieron - I know that you dislike garrison work and will not ask that of you - before you depart, I shall award each of your regiments the Dragonslayer Ribbon.”

A traditional Lyran award, one marking service with distinction against the Draconis Combine. It had been awarded to mercenaries before - and it was far cheaper than the other rewards the Dragoons had asked, and would be receiving. The Nagelring was going to be furious, but Dieron was worth the price of the four items that had once belonged to General Aleksandr Kerensky, the Nagelring’s most famous graduate. It wasn’t as if the real things were really on display anyway, they had been kept in a vault since before Katrina had been born.

A school rag, a cadet class ring, Kerensky’s academy thesis and also his final letter to Archon Michael Steiner II - which had never been opened. The latter had been penned and dispatched before Kerensky learned of the Archon’s death in 2760, filed unopened by Robert Steiner II and finally handed over to the Nagelring for their memorial exhibit by Robert’s sister Jessica during the First Succession War.

For any planet, much less one as materially and symbolic as Dieron? Katrina would give them up gladly.

“And last, but not least.” The Archon turned to the commander of the Third Royal Guards. “Pete, I have discussed with the other senior officers of the Royal Guard how I should reward you and I believe that we’ve settled on something appropriate.”

The general looked puzzled. “The honors are due to my soldiers, your majesty. I merely have the privilege of standing at their head,” he said modestly.

“No longer.”

Pete Steiner’s jaw sagged.

“General Pete Steiner, I hereby relieve you of command of the Third Royal Guards.”

The soldiers' voices slowly fell silent as Katrina’s words spread. No one protested, but looking at their faces, she saw uncertainty and even anger. Good.

She looked at them and then smiled. “Today is a very particular anniversary, one with special meaning for the Royal Guards. A memory of one of the worst days of the brigade. The day that the Fourth Royal Guards, left abandoned to die upon New Caledonia, were removed from the rolls of honor.”

“Today,” Katrina Steiner announced, speaking clearly as microphones picked up her voice and carried it to every corner of the parade ground. “I hereby reactivate the Fourth Royal Guards, transferring to it the fourth battalions of the First, the Second and Third Royal Guards. And I offer its command to Pete Steiner. A man who I know does far more than merely stand at the head of fine soldiers. He leads them. And he leads them well.”

There were tears in the corner of Pete Steiner’s eyes as he accepted the fresh uniform jacket carried out for him, one bearing his proper rank and medals… but also the unit patches of his new command.

Katrina was happy to give the general a moment in the spotlight and both Frederick and Jaime seemed similarly inclined, moving away to leave room for the other dignitaries to congratulate him as the soldiers cheered vigorously, particularly those of the Fourth Battalion of the Third Royal Guards, who had just learned they were following their general into the reformed Fourth Royal Guards.

“I’ll leave the Fourth here on Dieron to get organized,” the Archon told Frederick. “The other battalions being assigned to them came here as my escort, so the Third will escort me back to Tharkad before they move to their next posting.”

Her cousin nodded, looking distracted. “There’s someone else you should meet,” he told her in a low voice. “Away from the cameras.”

She stared at him for a moment. “Who?”

“Envoys from Hanse Davion.”

Katrina made a face. “The Davions are too useful as allies, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven him for blurting out our possession of the Star League libraries. Do you have any idea how many of the Estates General have started petitioning for access to solve some problem, as if the data is a magic wand.”

“At a guess,” Frederick looked thoughtful, “All of them?”

“Pretty nearly.”

“I think I could convince Duran to elect Max to the Estates General, if you’d like at least one reasonable voice there.”

Katrina snorted. “What has he done to upset you lately?”

“Nothing yet,” her cousin admitted. “The envoys are right here, if you’d like to talk to them now. Or you can go back and join Pete’s impromptu promotion party.”

“There is nothing impromptu about it, I planned this very carefully,” she told him with a laugh. “He’ll need to get used to being a bit more public now anyway - the Fourth will be getting a lot of media attention. I can spare some time for these emissaries.”

Frederick led her to a small side-chamber. There were already two guards posted there, but Katrina’s ever-present security detail insisted on entering before her, to make sure there were no obvious threats.

“Who did Davion send?”

“General Green-Davion… and a colonel from the Davion Guards.”

Katrina arched an eyebrow. “Does the colonel have a name?”

“Sortek.”

She blinked. “You really don’t like him.” She parsed her memory. Sortek… she’d heard the name but couldn’t place it among the nobility of the Federated Suns. Not that that was all that surprising, there were hundreds of petty dynasties just in the Commonwealth. Still, if it rang a name. “What has your hackles up?”

“He smiles too much.”

Katrina felt a smile cross her face. “Something you’re not guilty of. And General Green-Davion? Does he smile too much.”

“She.” Frederick didn’t meet her eyes. “And no. Not enough, perhaps.”

Whatever was wrong with Frederick? He’d been a staunch advocate of the alliance with the Suns, but now these two had his nose out of joint. Katrina turned to her aide, a young woman with a noteputer and a memory that was almost as good. “Where have I heard of Sortek before?”

“Colonel Ardan Sortek was promoted from the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars last year, after one of the earliest attacks ordered by Ian Davion,” the aide reported without consulting anything. “Second-generation New Avalon gentry, his father and Andrew Davion were close friends and the younger Sortek is a close confidante of Hanse Davion.”

“That’s who you mean, Frederick?”

“Ja.”

Katrina’s enquiries were cut short when the security team emerged and gave the all-clear. She decided to go in directly and see these envoys firsthand. Now she had two reasons to see them: to find out what Hanse’s excuses were and why they had Frederick so agitated.

Both officers wore full dress uniform, indicating that they weren’t trying to keep their presence low-key. And despite the different ranks, their body-language indicated that it was Colonel Sortek who was in charge. Sure enough, it was the boyish looking colonel who greeted her first. “Your majesty.” He swept a deep bow towards her, then kissed her hand when she extended it.

Katrina gave him a measured look and decided that his taking the lead meant that the personal connection mattered more than formalities. “Colonel Sortek. And you would be General Green-Davion?”

The woman was tall and blonde - in a Lyran uniform she’d have been able to slot seamlessly into the Triad or Mount Asgard. She also moved gracefully and seeing her step forwards teased out a memory of seeing her once before, in a report from New Avalon.

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Well, I see why Frederick decided to monopolize you at the royal wedding,” Katrina observed.

Nelitha Green-Davion didn’t blush, but her eyes did flick towards Frederick for a moment.

The Archon gestured towards the seats. “We don’t have all that much time before I need to go back outside, so let’s drop the formality. I’m sure Hanse Davion considers his reasons good for compromising the security his brother agreed to, so let’s hear them.”

Ardan Sortek nodded. “I’m not sure how much you know about the circumstances around the First Prince… the late First Prince’s death,” he began.

Katrina listened with half her attention, glancing at Frederick out of the corner of her eyes. He was trying to pretend that his full focus wasn’t directed at the female officer, not the speaker. Someone who didn’t know him well might have been fooled, but Katrina was not.

It seemed she’d have something to tell Donna next time they spoke. Now, how to arrange for General Green-Davion to be assigned to the Commonwealth for a while? She was going to have to forgive Hanse Davion for his indiscretion, but she’d still wrench all the concessions she could get out of him so some liaison officers would be a reasonable starting point…

Honor of Skye, Skye
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
25 July 3018


“To victory on Dieron!” The duke of Skye raised his glass high and everyone present did the same.

The champagne was from a treasured vintage, and normally Aldo Lestrade would have been delighted that his uncle had broken it out for him to sample… but on this occasion, the wine tasted sour to the Duke of Summer.

But he drank. He had to. It would be social suicide not to appear to be celebrating Frederick Steiner bloodying the dragon’s nose.

“A great victory,” Grethar continued.

Aldo had to cut this off or he might start retching. “Indeed, and my understanding is that Archon will not attempt to over-reach as her uncle might have under these circumstances.” A timely reminder that House Steiner had not always been an effective guardian for Skye, he thought. Best to veil any such criticism with praise.

“I’d have thought you’d be eager to see more of Skye liberated,” someone sniped.

Raising his glass to admire the crystal of the flute and the remaining champagne, Aldo let the moment linger and then shook his head. “I’d be eager to see any Skye world free,” he assured the gathering. “But the only one of the worlds the Duke struck at that was ever part of the Commonwealth was Yorii - and that a brief interval between the collapse of the Terran Hegemony and the First Succession War. I’d not say that it’s a Skye world yet. And the use of ten ‘mech regiments has undeniably wearied soldiers, emptied warehouses and diverted shipping. We can’t reasonably expect another major offensive for a year or two. I’d have preferred to see worlds like New Wessex or Vega freed… but I’m not the Archon, am I?” He laughed lightly and sipped from his glass.

The champagne tasted like ashes in his mouth.

Free Skye’s power was based on the fact that Tharkad’s interests were not those of the Isle of Skye, which was a proven fact - look at the fact that investments were being thrown into backwaters like Duran or Porrima (the latter at least in Skye) and not into industrial hubs like Summer. That was a blatant political move to geld House Lestrade further -

Aldo had to fight not to visibly snarl at the term that came to mind.

- to weaken House Lestrade further. The Steiners were funding the worlds they ruled directly as they sought to centralize power further and further.

And they were winning. The conquest of Dieron by two generals from the ruling house was a rallying cry for the idea that only House Steiner could rule over the Lyran Commonwealth’s worlds. And restoring the Fourth Royal Guards, the traditional champions of the united Commonwealth - the Pride of the Commonwealth, where each of the other three stood for one of the constituent realms?

No, he’d been dealt a defeat.

“Perhaps in a year or two, Aldo. Dieron’s industry will be a boon for now,” Duke Grethar told him in a lecturing tone. “Without it, the Combine’s ability to prevent us taking worlds back will be weakened.”

Aldo nodded. “We’ve certainly seen how attacks on our own industries have hampered us. It makes sense that the reverse is true,” he said in a conciliatory tone.

His uncle was a fool in many ways, but Grethar Lestrade at least ruled Skye - and House Lestrade. As much as Aldo knew that he could do better - would do better! - Grethar had his respect for the fact that no opening to take power had ever been presented. The strength of House Lestrade was the strength of Skye.

And if it was just his uncle, Aldo could wait. The man was childless, his nephew the only logical heir.

His eye caught on the shadow that followed his uncle and Aldo Lestrade found it necessary to hand his wine-glass off to a servant before he crushed it in his artificial hand.

The illogical heir, on the other hand… the bastard orphan that Grethar and his wife had adopted?!

Margaret Aten was no Lestrade. And the girl had drunk deep of the Steiner kool-aid. (Lestrade had looked up what kool-aid was once, and it sounded fittingly disgusting). Aten would ‘rule’ Skye as a mere viceroy for Katrina Steiner or whoever succeeded her - assuming she managed to inherit, which looked distressingly possible.

Aldo had even considered offering to marry her to avert that dreadful prospect but the slightest move in that directly by a disposable patsy, to test the waters, had aroused Grethar’s fury… and worse than that, his wife’s. The female of the species, Aldo reflected, was more deadly than the male. The patsy might have survived Grethar by simply avoiding the Skye court for a few months but the instructions that had sent the poor man off to the far edge of Alarion province on an assignment that would measure its duration in decades, not years, had actually originated in the duchess’ office whatever the official record said.

If the time ever came to… hasten the succession of a new Duke, it would require a matched set of caskets, Aldo thought. It was an increasingly common thought in his mind.

“I doubt,” Grethar told him, breaking his chain of thoughts, “That some of your more extreme contacts will see it our way, but hopefully your efforts to rein Free Skye back will be eased by such a major victory.”

“Energetic young men and women,” the younger Lestrade noted, “May find themselves less drawn to such causes if they can direct their energies into such efforts as will be required to integrate four worlds into the Commonwealth. A work of years.”

“Indeed. There’s going to be some heavy recruitment going on,” his uncle said knowingly. “I’d much rather that the hotheads were venting their passions on the injustices left by Kuritan rule than causing mayhem at home.”

And a few years of government service there could lead to some more right-thinking people moving into offices back here, Aldo thought. “I will do my best to encourage such patriotic thinking.”

“Would you consider taking such a role yourself?” asked Aten curiously.

Aldo tapped the metal fingers of his arm. “Alas, my medical circumstances preclude such adventures,” he told her smoothly. “But if you wanted to get your feet wet somewhere…”

“I think it best Margaret learn government work here on Skye, at least for now,” Grethar cut that thought off.

“Merely a thought.” And if she rebels against your constraints by going anyway…

Aldo looked for another glass of wine. The dance goes on. Now if only Frederick Steiner had been more biddable - having a capable soldier on hand wasn’t hard to arrange, but one with the prestige of the Steiner name to use… He’d have sworn that the man would need barely a push to accept endorsement in any venture that undercut his cousin, but instead he’d reinforced her by playing the role of the man reluctantly won over despite misgivings.

Had someone got to him? There was that newly-minted Baron - who was from Summer, as it happened. They’d crossed paths at some point. But Musterman was a nobody - he’d answered phones for a living, one step above sweeping the streets.

Alessandro was dead… who else might have been that influential? It was something to think of but it was also far too late. No, if Aldo wanted support outside of the Isle of Skye he’d have to either manufacture it or approach Selwin Kelswa…

Or both, he thought. Or both.

Iscariot, Ashio
Dieron District, Draconis Combine
4 March 3019


As a prefectural capital, Ashio was one of the thirty or so most important worlds in the Draconis Combine, but this was still Takashi Kurita’s first visit. Even the Coordinator couldn’t visit every world in the Combine - especially the Coordinator, in fact. Since his father’s death Takashi had traveled much less than he had as a military officer.

But with Dieron in the hands of the Lyran Commonwealth, the administration of the military district had to be re-established. Out of Dieron’s prefectural capitals, only Algedi was further from a hostile border and Algedi was one of the Azami worlds, a group somewhat out of step with the cultural mores of the Draconis Combine. Rather than give them more access to the levers of power than either the Internal Security Force or the Order of Five Pillars liked, Takashi had allowed his cousin Marcus to choose Ashio as his ‘temporary’ headquarters.

Theodore would probably say something sarcastic about that, which the ISF would insist on reporting. His son was either blind to political reality or just didn’t care. Takashi found each equally inconvenient but it would be easier to correct the boy if he knew which.

Three men were waiting for them in the Prefect’s palace. Each wore the immaculate uniform of a DCMS general officer - except for their swords. Those were elsewhere. The trio bowed sharply at the waist as Takashi entered and remained bent over, examining the floor, as he ascended the dais and sat in seiza upon the mat waiting for him.

Marcus Kurita followed Takashi but he remained standing at the edge of the dais.

Takashi let the moment draw on and then flicked his fingers. “Tai-shu Marc DuQuesne has disappointed me. Were he alive, I would remove him as Warlord and require that he explain his failures to myself and then his ancestors.”

The three generals straightened, but said nothing. Good.

“In dying, he has expiated his personal shame.” But not his responsibility for this failure. Still, beyond Takashi’s reach. And the late Warlord had neither wife nor children or siblings which made matters… easier. “And yet, you live.”

Again, silence. He had asked no question. They offered no response.

Takashi gestured to his cousin. “General Ch’uan. General Toshirov. General Koutri. I find it necessary to elevate another officer to lead the District of Rasalhague while my cousin Marcus brings his talents to bear on rectifying such deficiencies as he may find here.”

The new Warlord of Rasalhague was a steady man, but not given to innovation. On the other hand, Cherenkoff was not overly ambitious either. Takashi Kurita liked that in him - the man indulged himself in many ways but not in the ambitions Marcus was so poor in hiding.

Toshirov, of the Twenty-Fourth Dieron Regulars, bowed once more. “Greetings, Tai-shu.” The other two followed suit.

The Dieron Regulars included superb regiments, some of the finest in the DCMS. The Twenty-Fourth was not one of them. The Third - Chu’an’s command - and the Koutri’s Twenty-Seventh were reliable but average. The Eighteenth was a true loss though. Even the Sword of Light would be wise to respect them. Although Takashi was forced to admit, the sharpest blade of the DCMS was not always wise.

It was beneath the Coordinator’s dignity to grit his teeth. Losing the Fifth Sword of Light would have been bad. But getting it mauled and then losing the Eighteenth as well? What had DuQuesne been thinking? Expend a Legion of Vega? Fine - that was what they were for! Lose a Regular regiment? That you had better have a sound explanation for.

He gestured again, just enough that Marcus would see it out of the corner of his eye.

“Being new to Dieron District,” the new warlord enquired silky, “Please explain to me why you have withdrawn from your duties upon the district capital?”

“Sir, even the Sword of Light withdrew,” Chu’an offered. Perhaps emboldened by seniority among the three - the Third could trace their history to regiments that had come to serve the first Coordinator back before Dieron’s rulers deceitfully joined the Terran Hegemony.

Marcus shook his head slightly. “General Conti has made proper apology for his failure. As you hold yourself to the same standard, General Chu’an, you may do the same.”

A side door slid open, revealing the garden. A servant walked forwards into view, carrying a pair of swords. The staff here were quite efficient, Takashi noted.

Chu’an inhaled slightly. Bowed. Walked stiffly out into the garden.

The door slid smoothly closed. Takashi really did not plan to spend time watching someone who would fail so severely.

“Inform Tai-sa Kingsley that he is elevated to command of the Third Dieron Regulars,” Marcus instructed one of the aides.

“Lord.” The aide bowed crisply and departed.

Marcus looked at the two remaining generals. “Do your answers differ, generals?”

“Sir.” Toshirov spoke up first, again. “Warlord DuQuesne ordered withdrawal to preserve our regiments for future operations upon Dieron. Our regiments stand ready. It is for you to decide if we are fit to lead them.”

“A man may dislike his duty, so long as it is carried out,” Takashi observed, keeping his voice calm, focusing on no one.

“Such operations will take place,” the new warlord informed the pair. “I shall lead the Fifth Sword of Light personally, to restore their honor. Your regiments, and others, shall share that opportunity. There will be time for you to prepare your regiments, and for you to demonstrate your fitness to lead them.”

“We are honored by your trust,” General Koutri declared.

He was right. Second chances were to be treasured, Takashi thought. “Cousin.”

Marcus half-turned. “Lord.”

“I shall confer further with you. You may bestow half of the supplies I have brought upon the Dieron Regulars. The remainder is for the Sword of Light.”

His cousin showed no sign of displeasure that Takashi was making his subordinates aware that the generosity was from the Coordinator and not himself. “It shall be as you command. If I may enlighten my officers before they are dismissed?”

Takashi inclined his head slightly.

Marcus returned his attention to the two generals. “The fortunes have smiled upon the Dragon. Two SLDF dropships have been recently discovered adrift and abandoned in a system of the Draconis Rift. While the ships themselves are mere freighters, the contents were military equipment comparable to that recently seen in the hands of the Lyran Royal Guards. I trust that you appreciate the honor you are receiving.”

Both generals doubled over. “Please express our intense gratitude to Lord Kurita,” Toshirov all but whispered. “Our lives and loyalty are ever his.”

“From my ears to his own, from your lips to mine.” Marcus inclined his head austerely towards the pair. “You are dismissed.”

Takashi watched the pair depart and it was possible his eyes twinkled slightly as he stood. If so, he hoped Marcus did not notice. Perhaps it would be appropriate to confer a poem upon the Dieron Regulars before they set out to reclaim their homeworld? He would think on it.

“Subhash,” he greeted the man who had arrived silently behind one of the drapes.

Marcus twitched slightly and turned to see the unassuming man step into the room, signature smile directed at the pair on the dais.

“Lord Kurita.” The spymaster bowed. “Warlord.”

“What news?”

“The Wolf’s Dragoons have withdrawn from Dieron,” Subhash Indrahar informed them quietly. “Alpha Regiment guards their dependents upon Mizar, the other four vent their war-lust upon our borders, their targets range from Vega to Kobe according to informants.”

“A vengeance strike at Mizar to draw reserves away from Dieron might be feasible…” mused Marcus, then shook his head. “No.”

“Correct. The Dragoons’ contract with the Lyran Commonwealth is coming to a close,” Takashi agreed. “They have proven their worth, and I am more than happy to pay their price if they will fight for the Dragon. If they do not, then we can consider vengeance. Until then, it would be premature.”

“An attack on dependents would certainly be ill-received.” Indrahar folded his hands within his sleeves. “In addition, Jaime Wolf has departed with certain senior officers - the Black Widow and the recently retired Colonel Ellman - upon a mysterious errand. His jumpship has been sighted heading for the coreward periphery.”

“Another supply run such as that ten years ago.” The Coordinator noted with a frown. “Except… then they departed spinward, beyond the Outworlds Alliance. And now they depart along our other border. It seems possible that their origin is on the far side of the Combine from Terra.”

“The same direction Kerensky - the general - departed in,” Marcus observed.

“Whether there is a connection or they merely wish us to believe that there is one, I cannot as yet say,” Indrahar admitted. “Nonetheless, it seems the Dragoons will not be a factor in any battle for Dieron this year.”

“Which leaves the Fourth Royal Guards and the Seventh Lyran Regulars.” The Warlord’s eyes narrowed. “The latter would matter little, except for Frederick Steiner.”

“A worthy foe.” Takashi paused. “And the Fourth rising from the grave… Returning them to that would humiliate House Steiner.”

Marcus nodded. “It would be overly optimistic to say that they could be destroyed before further Lyran reinforcements arrive, lord. Our ancestor Hugai Kurita trampled the pride of the Lyran Commonwealth on the battlefields of New Caledonia, but it was not a quick or easy campaign.”

“As pleasing as speed would be, cousin, all I ask is that you grind that pride into the dirt.” And if you fail, that weakens your efforts to usurp my throne. Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

cklammer

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #188 on: 12 August 2022, 05:47:21 »
@PsihoKekec: I beg to differ, the Dracs had about 15 uninterrupted generations to propaganda-warp the minds of the children starting from kindergarten age.

Dieron has not changed hands away from Combine after it was taken in the 1st SW until now in this tale.

The Dracs were controlling the news media, the education system and the histories taught, such as little as there were, political activities thus creating an echo bubble within which the vast, vast majority populace does not even get to question the political system: that yields super powerful, effective results!

(Not wanting to hi-jack the thread but there are numerous (even currently) ongoing examples where this is the case. PM me if you like)

Combined with the social control of the ISF one gets a fractured, atomized society where almost everyone is too scared or not interested in the first place to speak out.

I'd be surprised if even 1% of the current populace knows, that Dieron used to be a Terran Hegemony planet ...

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #189 on: 12 August 2022, 16:47:07 »

A traditional Lyran award, one marking service with distinction against the Draconis Combine. It had been awarded to mercenaries before - and it was far cheaper than the other rewards the Dragoons had asked, and would be receiving. The Nagelring was going to be furious, but Dieron was worth the price of the four items that had once belonged to General Aleksandr Kerensky, the Nagelring’s most famous graduate. It wasn’t as if the real things were really on display anyway, they had been kept in a vault since before Katrina had been born.

A school rag, a cadet class ring, Kerensky’s academy thesis and also his final letter to Archon Michael Steiner II - which had never been opened. The latter had been penned and dispatched before Kerensky learned of the Archon’s death in 2760, filed unopened by Robert Steiner II and finally handed over to the Nagelring for their memorial exhibit by Robert’s sister Jessica during the First Succession War.

For any planet, much less one as materially and symbolic as Dieron? Katrina would give them up gladly.

The Goliath Scorpions will be lined up for miles to trial for those!
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 #190 on: 13 August 2022, 02:59:06 »
I was off line all week, and would certainly have commented on each new post, but WOW!  I'm blown away by the three I missed until now!  :thumbsup:

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #191 on: 14 August 2022, 06:13:28 »
Chapter 7

Deep Periphery
10 May 3019


Jaime was nursing skinned knuckles when he sat down with Kerlin Ward to review his reports. The Clan Council had insisted on sending a few members along with the Khan to meet the Dragoons, and one ristar of Kerlin’s own bloodhouse had made pointed comments about them being ‘former’ warriors.

Officially, the next couple of minutes or so of the meeting had been retroactively declared to be ‘deferred Trials of Position’ that confirmed the three Dragoons present as still having warrior status within the Clan. The young Ward would be missing the rest of the debriefings thanks to Natasha and a concussion, while Jaime had been happily punching Gregor Vickers in the face.

Since Gregor’s genemother was Jaime’s father (a statement that would have raised eyebrows in the Inner Sphere), Jaime would normally have cut him a little slack but the surat had commented on Joshua’s absence favorably.

It hadn’t gone entirely the Dragoon’s way, and poor Jeremy Ellman was in the medbay with a concussion of his own… but as the saying went, you should see the other guy!

“I am glad to see that your skills have not atrophied.” Kerlin sat neatly at one end of the curved couch that filled a small niche in the cruiser he’d brought to carry the Dragoons’ replacement equipment. “But that’s not why we are here. I have had a quick look through the data you have brought back and a couple of things stood out.”

Natasha was sprawled opposite the Khan, leaving Jaime stuck between the two of them. Which was accurate to the chain of command, he supposed. “Just a couple of things?”

“Your previous reports indicated that the Successor States were at a point of technological regression, barely able to keep their remaining factories building new weapons for the Succession Wars, but now you report they are building new factories. Are the Lyrans so very different from the Suns?”

“In some ways, yes,” Jaime admitted, speaking carefully to avoid the contractions he was used to from the Inner Sphere. “They lucked into finding an old Star League library but the Steiners seized that opportunity and they’re running for it with everything they have.”

The Khan frowned. “That could alarm some of the Grand Council. How much of a technological leap are they making?”

Jaime hesitated. How do you even measure that? “I don’t believe they are building large quantities of anything particularly more advanced than they were already,” he said at last. “Or, if they are, it is well hidden.”

“Which is possible,” Natasha interjected. “They hid that library’s existence for years. It’s a cunning strategy that we could learn from Kerlin: no one launches Trials of Possession for things that they don’t know exist.” She evidently didn’t care if someone was offended by her contractions - or perhaps she hoped that someone would be.

If so, Kerlin disappointed her. “Thank you, Natasha. I would have never thought of that. So what are they building?”

“As far as I can tell, the Lyran focus has been to build more of what they currently maintain. They have a small force - the Royal Guards, think of them as the equivalent of Alpha Galaxy - that has some Star League equipment but they’re deployed sparingly - probably because they cannot replace anything they lose yet. Even munitions and armor have to come out of carefully hoarded stockpiles.”

“You can believe they want to change that,” Natasha added. “Freddie Steiner would love to use the Royal Guards more. They ripped right through some of the Combine’s best once he turned them loose. But he’s focused on parts to keep other regiments fully active. Figures it’s a better investment to have five good regiments than one great regiment, according to his aide.”

Kerlin nodded in understanding. “So these Dervishes you received were not Star League models?”

“No. They are basically the same models currently built on New Avalon, but previously that was the only factory left for the ‘mech in the Inner Sphere. The Dervish was originally designed by the Lyrans and now they’re building them again. As Natasha said, House Steiner seems to think that building a few advanced ‘mechs is not as useful as building a lot of simpler models.”

“At times they seem much like us,” Ward said in a contemplative tone. “This Frederick Steiner seems almost as if he is saKhan to the Archon’s khan… but then they elect to throw numbers at their enemies rather than quality. The logistics must be boggling.”

“They are surprisingly good at logistics. Centuries of practice,” Jaime admitted. “The current Steiners are a capable combination. Katrina, Frederick and Nondi are all capable generals, and they’re backed by a powerful resource base. When we arrived, the Lyrans had arguably the least effective military out of the Successor States, but right now I’d place them a solid third - and they’re still getting better.” If the invasion takes place, the Lyrans won’t be a pushover. I’m not sure they’d win, but they wouldn’t collapse at the first encounter with the Clans, he thought.

“There’s something I didn’t include in the report,” Natasha reported in a more subdued tone than usual.

Kerlin noted that and looked at her. “Holding information back?”

“I’m telling you. Whether you pass it on to the Grand Council is up to you.”

Jaime knew what she was going to say so he watched Kerlin for the reaction.

“Frederick Steiner’s aide, a guy called Mustermann, told me a story about some colonies in the periphery that got overrun by a barbarian horde. He was pretty disgusted, claimed they wiped out ninety percent of the population.”

The khan leant forwards. “A threat to the Inner Sphere? If there was some outside enemy we could focus the Grand Council on it would keep them from -”

Natasha shook her head. “Kerlin, he was talking about the Clans! The Cloud Cobras, to be specific.”

Kerlin Ward froze and his gaze locked onto Natasha like gunsights. “...he knew about the Clans?”

“Not in as much detail, he doesn’t know a lot of details, but I think he’s talking about the Tanite worlds. But my point is: in his view, the Cobras’ are utterly repellant. He drew comparisons to some of the worst atrocities of the Succession Wars. And he’s not wrong.”

The Wolf Clan leader’s eyes narrowed. “The Cloud Cobras report the Tanite worlds as pacified… but they’re still sharing access to their resources with Clan Burrock. My understanding was that they were still paying off the contracted aid they received when they took over. But they’ve not reported anything along the lines of mass-slaughter.”

“They hardly would.”

“True.” The Khan shook his head. “You were right to keep that out of the reports. I will dig up what I can, but the Cobras are a Warden clan. I do not want to alienate them.”

“If you can prove it,” Jaime told him, “It will be evidence of the challenges posed by invading the Inner Sphere. Whatever difficulties the Cloud Cobras faced with just three worlds, multiply by a hundred times as many worlds for just one Successor State. And, even if we win, can you imagine that level of bloodshed across the entire Inner Sphere? It’d be an unprecedented bloodbath.”

“The thought had crossed my mind.” Kerlin shook his head. “So the Cloud Cobras may have committed atrocities, word of them has reached the Inner Sphere and the Successor States are beginning to recover its lost technology. Can today get any worse?”

Jaime reached into his pocket and pulled out a data disc, sliding it across the table to Kerlin in mute reply.

The older man eyed it as if it was a poisonous reptile. “What is this?”

“When Katrina Steiner met me on Dieron and gave us some artifacts the Goliath Scorpions will be interested in - long story, it’s in the report - she gave me this.”

Kerlin picked it up. “And?”

“Play it.”

After a brief moment of hesitation, the Khan opened a panel built into the table and activated a holo-projector, inserting the data disc into the appropriate slot.

With a flicker, Katrina Steiner sprang to life above the table - facing away from Kerlin unfortunately, but a quick adjustment of the controls turned to hologram to face the Khan. The Archon sat upon her throne, wearing a uniform stripped of all rank and distinction.

“Greetings,” she said once the recording resumed. “I am Archon Katrina Steiner of the Lyran Commonwealth. I have entrusted this message to Jaime Wolf, to relay to the rulers of his people.”

“Unity…” the Khan of Clan Wolf murmured.

“Our peoples have evidently been divided by more than two centuries. My ancestors include those whose recklessness brought down the Star League. Yours, I believe, are among those who fled that holocaust. But we are not our ancestors and you are not yours. Neither of us cannot bear the blame for our forebear’s actions, what we have is the responsibility to do better. You have reached out to learn of us and I shall trust that Colonel Wolf and his people are reporting accurately, whether that is to my people’s credit or not.”

“As you have approached us, I now approach you with an offer: make open contact with us. I recognise that you must have concerns of being drawn into the conflicts that continue between the five Great Houses, but I do not ask that you take sides. I would welcome an ambassador from you, and I would use such influence as I can to introduce ambassadors to the other great lords, or to ComStar who may be able to play a more neutral role.”

“The Succession Wars were begun over the right to lead to the Star League and have proven simply that none of those claiming the title of First Lord are worthy of it. If you regard a reunited Star League as a threat to you, I can honestly say it is not a likely prospect. If you view it as desirable, then I regret to say that I cannot offer hope of the old Star League - but it is possible that a new Star League or something similar can be created. The means to this is communication, and I invite you to make this communication two-way.”

And then those gray eyes grew steely. “And if you are not inclined towards doing so, please be aware that future efforts to spy upon my people will be combated to the extent of my abilities. I am offering my friendship, but if you prefer enmity then I will meet you in kind.”

The recording cut out.

“She is impressive, quiaff?” Natasha had an impish look in her eyes.

“Aff. If she was of Bloodhouse Steiner, I would want her as a bondsman,” Kerlin concluded. “Clan Wolf would profit greatly if we had such a leader. But she is not one of those Steiners, she is heir to one of those that betrayed the Great Father and shattered the Star League. There might be a handful of Khans on the Grand Council who could look past that. A star’s worth, perhaps. No more.”

“That is my own thinking,” Jaime admitted. “I did include this in the report but I was careful to mention it only in one paragraph. Easily removed if you see fit.”

“I do.” Kerlin ejected the data disc and snapped it decisively. “It speaks well of the Successor Lords that they can still produce a leader who can send such a message, but the time has not come for open communication with any of the Successor States.”

Jaime nodded in understanding. “Alright. So we keep to the plan and take service with House Kurita. After we’ve finished our circle of the Inner Sphere, I’m guessing you don’t want us to come back. We’ve hundreds of recruits from the Inner Sphere.”

Kerlin sat back and looked Jaime in the eyes for a long moment. “I have new orders for you.”

Natasha stretched. “What next? Invade Terra? ComStar’s security is a joke.”

“No. I want you to prepare the Inner Sphere for invasion.”

The redhead sat up straight, causing Jaime’s adrenaline to spike. “You what? When did you go Crusader?”

Kerlin gave her a puzzled look and then shook his head. “Not prepare them to fall, Natasha. Prepare them to resist an invasion. I think your mission has bought us time for the issue to fall out of active consideration but sooner or later someone will bring it up again. And we have to win every vote, while the Crusaders only need to win once.”

“...you realize this is treason, quiaff?”

“Technically, you have not been ordered not to help the Inner Sphere recover from the damage they have done to themselves. Otherwise your previous evaluations for their new ‘mechs and aerospace fighters would be suspect, not to mention training up Lyran troops. Just continue doing that and do not plan on any further resupply.”

Jaime frowned in thought. “But we are under orders not to tell anyone about the Clans.”

“Yes. So long as the Clans do not make open contact, that order would remain valid. I will leave it up to you how you deal with that.” Kerlin looked tired. “Jaime, Natasha… I probably will not be Khan for another five years. I have groomed a successor, but you know that such things depend as much on luck as skill. I cannot be sure that your next report will be edited sufficiently to avoid giving the Crusaders a cause. So there must be no report.”

“We’re on our own,” Jaime concluded.

“I entrust the Inner Sphere - the Star League, such as it is - to you.” Kerlin smiled wearily. “It is in good hands, quiaff?”

Fortress Dieron, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
5 July 3019


A thousand years on, Max thought. And people still endure cubicle farms. What a bizarre universe!

The official governor’s mansion was a painstaking reconstruction of a sixteenth century Japanese castle. Frederick had deemed it ridiculous and since Max couldn’t even pronounce the name, he’d supported relocating the Lyran administration to an office building in the city. The security detail had been happy too: they weren’t at all confident that there weren’t any secret passages that would let ISF assassins into the castle.

As a result, the only difference between the room used by the Lyran administrative staff and those used by commercial firms in the same city was that the number of people per cubicle was rather smaller.

Frederick, of course, had his own spacious office at the end of the room furthest from the windows and adjacent to such conveniences as the coffee machine and the conference rooms. “Is that the shipping schedule?” he asked as Max entered. “We’ve run our spare parts down lower than I like.”

Max tossed the folder he was carrying onto the desk. “No, it’s a report on human rights violations in the central business district.”

“What?”

“Apparently the normal density of people in an office like this is four times higher than what we’re operating on.”

“I had to get a special exemption for workers' conditions on grounds of security concerns before we could move in. I’m not mis-remembering that?” Frederick asked warily. “It wasn’t some dreadful bureaucratic nightmare?”

“It was certainly a nightmare but it also happened. And yet…”

“Four times as many? They must have air conditioning to rival a ‘mech cockpit!”

Max shook his head. “They don’t.” He took a seat facing Frederick. “I’m joking about human rights violation citations, fortunately. But there will probably be a note about what the locals consider normal working conditions coming in the near future because I’m not kidding about how they pack four people to a cubicle. The building admin asked me where the rest of your staff were.”

Frederick buried his face in his hands. “I did not join the LCAF to be buried in red tape about worker’s regs!”

“To be fair, land prices on Dieron are insane. Between the mountains and the necessary agricultural lands, there’s not that much left for everything else.”

“Tharkad’s ice fields and Duran’s deserts have about the same effect, it should not be this bad. And yes, yes. I know Dieron has more people than Duran - but it’s not as heavily populated as Tharkad!”

“Want me to get an analyst on that?”

The duke nodded. “Do it.” He opened the folder Max had brought. “Ah, Bowie and Coventry reports?”

“Looks like things are going well.”

“So instead of a bureaucrat, I get to play at being a business mogul. How long before I can get in my ‘mech again?”

“As the military governor, you can do that whenever you want,” Max told him, before ruthlessly adding: “But the paperwork will be here, waiting for you, piling up.”

“Oh god.”

“There’s a scheduled exercise at the weekend for your command company,” the older man admitted kindheartedly. He didn’t want Frederick to try taking a running jump out of the window at the far end of the outer office. The glass was rated against light military weapons, so the burly officer was unlikely to actually make a successful swan dive out into the twenty storey drop, but he might still hospitalize himself from the impact. “Something to look forward to.”

“Very much so.” Frederick spread out the reports. “Ah, the Bradfords are going ahead with Project Guillotine.”

Max nodded. “Doctor Banzai patched up a damaged Commando on Altair and sent data to Coventry. It seems to have sold them on completing the new Valkyrie production line to include full-head ejection, and they’ve authorized design work on amending the Commando to alter that as well if the Valkyrie works out.”

“Nothing about doing the same for their Phoenix Hawks?” Frederick rubbed the scar on his forehead.

Max remembered that it was ejecting from a Phoenix Hawk that caused the scar. “Not yet. They’re prioritizing the more fragile light ‘mechs for now.”

“It’s a step in the right direction.” Frederick brushed them aside. “And Bowie? They’re the new money-maker, since I haven’t managed to get shares in CMW.”

“Well, you have a few.”

“A few fractions of a percent.” The duke snorted dismissively. “But I guess with a firm that’s so well-established, not many people who own the shares will be willing to give them up. Anyway… oho! Swordsman prototypes are in testing. Now I wish I was doing that, not sitting behind a desk six days a week.”

Max picked up the Coventry papers and started sorting them back out to file in Frederick’s cabinet. “Without the desk work, there’s no new Valkyries on Coventry, no new Swordsmen… and the Dervishes we’re expecting wouldn’t be coming off the production lines on Furillo.”

There was a ping from Frederick’s desk and he reached over, stabbing the comm panel. “Yes?”

“General, you have an unscheduled visitor.”

Frederick rolled his eyes. “Who is it?” Max knew that as Dieron settled down, more and more of the locals had tried to create connections with the military governor. This wouldn’t be the first one to try to catch him in the office.

“General Green-Davion of the AFFS, sir.”

The general’s face brightened visibly. “I…” He glanced at Max, almost asking permission.

The older man leant over and spoke up so the microphone could hear him. “Send her up.”

Frederick stabbed the button to cut the channel. “What are you up to, Max?”

“Do you have some reason not to meet her?”

“No!” Hesitation. “I just… haven’t met her professionally.”

“I understand it’s awkward to let her know that you’re also a general, but I think she’ll cope with the shock,” Max told him drily. “Do you have any idea what she wants?”

“I doubt it’s to come dancing.”

“Although that could be arranged…” He trailed off teasingly.

“Probably not around here,” Frederick grumbled.

“There’s an Officer’s Club. Just say the word and I’ll set up a night of dancing.”

“Since when is it your job to manage my social life?”

Max smirked. “3007, wasn’t it? That’s when you hired me.”

“Max. Shut the hell up.”

He gave his employer a casual salute and picked up the papers from Bowie. “I’ll file this away and get out of your way. No need to be a third wheel.”

Exiting into the outer office once he’d put the papers away, Max saw the elevator doors open, admitting the golden head and dark green uniform of Nelitha Green-Davion. Her expression brightened noticeably when she recognised him, but he was pretty sure that it wasn’t for his sake.

Well, there was no need for him to try to avoid her. “Welcome to Dieron. General Steiner is waiting for you.”

“It’s a pleasure to see you again, Max,” Nelitha told him, but there was a spring in her step as she headed for the office and Max had to make a point of not watching her walk away. A couple of the staff were not so scrupulous and he glared at them, feeling like a hypocrite.

His own desk wasn’t far away and Max opened up his terminal to filter through invitations. And possibly to discreetly notify the Officer’s Club that an event with ballroom dancing would be appropriate to schedule in the next week.

A ping on his own console alerted him to an incoming call, although not from Frederick’s desk - so alas it would not be instructions to find an excuse for the two generals to socialize.

“Mustermann,” he confirmed after accepting the call, which seemed to be from Fortress Dieron’s command center.

“Baron, we need to get the General on the comms and he’s put his comm on divert.”

…Frederick never set his comm to divert. Or at least, not in Max’s experience. Maybe it was a mistake, or maybe the conversation was getting too personal. Hope sprang eternal.

“What’s up?” he asked, hoping it would turn out to be something he could field himself, or defer until later.

Fifteen seconds later, to the astonishment of everyone in the office, Max dashed over to Frederick’s door and kicked it wide open. (If it had been locked, that would have probably broken several of his toes).

“What the hell?” Frederick exclaimed. He was fully dressed, fortunately or unfortunately, but he and Nelitha were sitting side-by-side and going through one of the case files listing available data from New Dallas. It looked like the Taurian directory, from the bulls head at the top of the page.

“Astrotraffic report almost a hundred jumpships arriving at the Zenith Point,” Max told them grimly. “Nothing that’s scheduled so the best guess is Takashi wants his castle back.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #192 on: 14 August 2022, 06:14:27 »
Fortress Dieron, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
17 July 3019


Frederick Steiner braced one foot of his Zeus and slammed the other into the head of the Panther running up the ramp that the Lyran was covering.

It was a savage move, but the repairs to Fortress Dieron were barely begun. Barely a dozen of the hundreds of turrets that should have been adding their fire to the defense were ready for use. The light ‘mech went down like a sack of potatoes, the head module torn half-way off the shoulders. It was possible the mechwarrior inside was alive but Frederick wouldn’t bet on it. And even if the samurai had survived, he’d not be doing anything with the ‘mech until it was repaired.

A hail of fire came up the ramp but stood to the side of it, the Zeus was a hard target to hit.

Frederick stuck his autocannon over and fired down at the ‘mechs below. Only for demonstration purposes, because he’d been dealing with insurgents and the weapon was loaded with anti-infantry flechettes that wouldn’t do much against ‘mech armor.

“‘A general should not be on the frontlines’,” he muttered, quoting Max. “Well, if we weren’t spread so thin...” He wasn’t even sure where his secretary was right now.

The Combine landings had coincided - not that it would be in any way coincidental - with ISF cells going live and leading uprisings in every city on Dieron. None of them had stood a chance against frontline forces, but that wasn’t the point. Frederick had needed to divert resources to rescue administrators and collaborators, which killed any plans to try intercepting the initial DCMS landing zones. And then commando raids had been launched on military bases, sometimes from inside the perimeter.

At least the chances were good that the ISF elements on Dieron had mostly shot their bolt, he thought.

“This is Sledgehammer Actual. I’ve encountered DCMS elements at Ramp Seven-Zero-One.” He paused and checked the unit markings, which were DCMS standard not the stylized paw of Brion’s Legion. “Looks like the Head-takers.” The Twenty-Fourth Dieron Regulars’ official nickname translated as ‘Collectors of Heads’ or ‘Head-takers’.

“Confirmed, Sledgehammer Actual.” Tim Hickson, now Colonel of the Seventh Regulars, sounded calm. “We’re tangling with both their battalions, but the Regulars have punched past the front line.”

The ramp wasn’t inside Fortress Dieron itself, it was part of the outer works - an access route up one of the two hundred meter barriers that made the stronghold so formidable from this direction. Two of Frederick’s lance-mates caught up at last - Laws’ Battlemaster and Robins’ Banshee. They’d arrived just in time. A pair of Jenners fired their jump jets to get up to Frederick’s position without using the ramp.

The two Lyran mechs opened up on the leftmost Jenner, slapping it with two PPCs and ripping off one arm and one leg. The Jenner crashed into the ground.

Meanwhile, Frederick turned to track the rightmost Jenner and fired the Zeus’ lasers into the dead center of the target, carving away plates of armor but not quite penetrating.

Then he turned and took its return fire against the left arm of his Zeus, while he kicked the other Jenner down the ramp.

Robins was now in range with his own lasers and the remaining Jenner was the lucky recipient before it could start running and become a harder target. Six medium lasers ripped multiple holes in the light ‘mech’s protection and a follow-up salvo of SRMs exploited those openings.

The Jenner exploded as its own missile storage was struck. The mechwarrior was hurled skywards by his ejection seat and an instant later, Frederick was rocked against his restraints by the blast.

Laws moved up to the ramp and fired his PPC down into the fallen Jenner. “It’s not going anywhere,” he reported, stepping back to avoid return fire from further down.

“Nor are we,” Frederick muttered. “Screwdriver, this is Sledgehammer Actual, I have a target for artillery.”

“Sledgehammer Actual, this is Screwdriver.” The artillery commander sounded apologetic. “I’m sorry sir, we’ve had to pull the guns back under cover - the Regulars have reached our firing positions.”

Frederick drew his teeth back, but before he could say anything more, another voice cut in.

“Sledgehammer Actual, this is Dancer.” Nelitha sounded cool and confident, like a drink of fresh water. “Task Force Castellan is deploying. If you can hold five minutes, you can have priority for their first firing mission.”

“That’s welcome news, Dancer. I appreciate the assistance.”

“Shuffling resources is what I do, Sledgehammer.” There was a click as she left the channel.

“Quite the lady,” Laws said lightly.

Frederick glared at the skull-headed Banshee. “Focus on the ramp,” he snapped, not entirely sure why a compliment for his friend was so irritating. “We still need those five minutes.”

Outnumbered three to one, the Lyran forces had concentrated on holding the Sükhbaatar Valley. With the two mountain ranges shielding it, they could control the entrances and use their interior lines of communication to buy time. The moment news of the invasion was sent, reinforcements had been scrambled to help hold onto Dieron. Task Force Castellan was only one of four different forces that had arrived via one of the proximity points formed by Dieron’s moons.

A half-dozen jumpships would be stuck waiting for the transient points to be usable to depart, something that might take longer than charging their drives, but they’d arrived within twenty-four hours of the first DCMS landing and their dropships were coming down right as the main forces began to pincer Sükhbaatar Valley.

Right now Pete Steiner and the Fourth Royal Guards were holding San Martin against the Twenty-Seventh Dieron Regulars, and reports were that the other Dieron Regulars unit was deploying ‘mechs refitted with SLDF grade weapons - Jenners with pulse lasers, Dragons with ultra autocannon and Panthers with extended range PPCs.

I need to ask Max where they found that, he thought. Hell, I hope he’s okay.

The northern mountains were also under pressure but rather than scatter his ‘mech forces further, Frederick had assigned the passes to armored brigades. It made him nervous but so far they only reported encountering probing attacks from the Ninth Sun Zhang Cadre. Even so, he’d prioritized them for the fresh troops.

Win in the north, he thought. Crush the cadets, wheel and take the Twenty-Seventh in the flank. That’ll leave me two or three regiments free to pincer the Twenty-Fourth and Brion’s Legion. It would be nice if the DCMS would cooperate and make this easy for me.

They wouldn’t though. Aggressive as they were, the Combine wouldn’t press attacks on fortified positions if they weren’t winning. They’ll pull back, secure the rest of the planet and force me to come after them - right before they throw their reserves in. They’ve got a couple more regiments I haven’t seen yet - I’d have thought the north would see more than just a Cadet Cadre.

“Where’s Sledgehammer Three?” he asked Robins.

“Her Archer’s leg is toast and she shot her missiles dry,” the mechwarrior reported. “The techs don’t have the knee actuators they’d need and it’d take hours to fit if they did, so she’s limping back to reload and find somewhere she can give fire support from.”

A heavy ‘mech reduced to a turret, Frederick thought. Archer actuators shouldn’t be that hard to come by but getting the forces that had taken Dieron repaired had run down stocks of parts. Some were sufficient, others not so much. “Task Force Liberty is bringing parts from Addicks,” he answered. “Prince Davion’s appreciation for our taking Dieron.”

More accurately Nelitha’s generosity. Hanse Davion had apparently authorized her to offer anything at his command in apology for revealing the Lyran’s technological advantage and when she learned how short the Dieron garrison was of parts, she’d sent an HPG to the AFFS depot three jumps away. Task Force Liberty was the result: two Mammoth-class freighters with an aerospace carrier to escort them, carrying a wishlist of supplies. Tens of thousands of tons of vitally needed parts and consumables.

“Sledgehammer Actual,” a voice cut onto his channel. A Skye accent, not quite suppressed by an attempt at crisp Tharkadian English. “This is Castellan Actual. I’m informed you need fire support.”

Frederick checked his exact grid location. “I do.” He gave his best estimate of the location of the DCMS forces massing up to rush the ramp. “How soon can you hit them?”

“Our embarked guns are still setting up,” the man responded, “But my dropships’ guns are loaded and ready now. We’ll be hitting your targets in sixty seconds or my name isn’t Quentin Alexander McPherson.”

“That would be appreciated, Commodore McPherson.”

Task Force Castellan was made up of the Elvidner: six Fortress-class dropships that not only carried two battalions of heavy artillery and their escort, but also mounted a heavy gun on the nose of each dropship.

“Expect inbound friendly artillery,” he warned his lance and the other two assault ‘mechs immediately moved for cover. Artillery might be friendly or unfriendly but it always had the right of way.

Frederick switched to the intel channel. “This is Sledgehammer Actual. Do we have any update on the other Drac regiments?”

“We’ve confirmed their dropships came down on Voltenna, sir.” The woman on that desk was steady, another good pick. Voltenna was Dieron’s much smaller second continent, roughly centrally placed in the planet’s southern ocean. “Based on dropships seen during the evacuation of Dieron last year, there’s a high probability that we’re looking at the Fifth Sword of Light and the Third Dieron Regulars.”

“I see. Have there been any problems landing our reinforcements?”

“No sir. Task Force Revenant and Task Force Ruthless have both landed in the Khüiten mountains. They’re expected to be engaging the Twelfth Sun Zhang Cadet Cadre within the next hour.

“Thank you.” Frederick cut the channel as he heard the whistle of incoming shells, and moved to cover the top of the ramp in case someone tried to rush the ramp to get away from the bombardment.

Voltenna. Tsk. Dislodging the DCMS from there will be a problem, he thought. So they have a stronghold, we have a stronghold and the rest of Mateo will be the battlefield we fight over. And numbers favor them, even with the Tenth and Eleventh Lyran Guards up north now.

Explosions rocked the mountainous terrain of the fortress and Frederick put the larger picture aside, focusing on the now.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #193 on: 14 August 2022, 08:08:49 »
I like how Natasha shared Max's knowledge of Clan Cloud Cobra with Khan Ward.  I'm wondering if he'll be able to prove Clan Cloud Cobra committed genocide, or if he does, share his findings with the Grand Council.  That would make the Warden Clans look like hypocrites, unless he can focus that hypocrisy on the Cloud Cobras.

And I see Max totally blaming Comstar for the Dracs getting nice toys.  He'll say that he knew nothing about SLDF caches there, which is probably true, and blame Comstar for dropping a bunch of stuff in the Dragon's lap like the War of 3039.  Only that war is basically happening much earlier here with sides that seem equally equipped.
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #194 on: 14 August 2022, 09:08:08 »
Liking Nelitha even more now!  :thumbsup:

And glad to see Frederick taking the lesson about generals not leading from the front lines to heart!  ^-^

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #195 on: 14 August 2022, 11:06:11 »
Task Force Revenant - wasn't that their nickname after the Clan Invasion?

P53 of the old House Steiner handbook lists the 10th as the Thundering Elephants and the 11th as St George's Regiment.
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"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
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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 #196 on: 14 August 2022, 11:36:54 »
I'm also hoping that change in orders means they don't have to work for the DC after all...

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #197 on: 14 August 2022, 12:46:37 »
Task Force Revenant - wasn't that their nickname after the Clan Invasion?

P53 of the old House Steiner handbook lists the 10th as the Thundering Elephants and the 11th as St George's Regiment.
Yes, but they have task force names that don't match their nicknames to make it harder for signal intelligence to know who they are. Max snuck Revenant in as a joke to himself and Frederick.
"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 #198 on: 14 August 2022, 13:44:25 »
Good COMSEC!  :thumbsup:

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #199 on: 14 August 2022, 15:48:34 »
Max snuck Revenant in as a joke to himself and Frederick.

Brilliant!!!!  :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
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
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #200 on: 16 August 2022, 04:40:51 »
Chapter 8

Mount Asgard, Tharkad
Protectorate of Donegal, Lyran Commonwealth
24 July 3019


The interior of Mount Asgard was cool and the various command centers were dimly lit, to make the display screens more visible. Every theater along the border had their own dedicated command center and staff, to allow the Margraves commanding them to deliver orders while on Tharkad or so the Archon and the High Command could coordinate with them when they were on their command worlds.

Katrina’s own preferred position was on a level half a kilometer below these chambers, further removed from generals who held their ranks by courtesy alone and where she could focus her attention on whatever corner of the Lyran Commonwealth needed them the most.

Right now the first of the chamber’s three large screens displayed the Terran corridor, centered upon New Earth but including Dieron and sections of all five Successor States. The next showed the full globe of Dieron, rolling slowly to show the full surface over the course of sixty seconds. And finally, the third showed the entire border with the Draconis Combine, with orange markers for activity. There was more than Katrina was comfortable with, not that that was anything new.

“We just got an update from the fighting on Port Moseby.” Edward Regis indicated one world near the mid-point on the last display. “The good news is that Gamma Regiment of the Wolf’s Dragoons should be there in three more days, but the bad news is that the Eighth Commonwealth Jaegers’ raiding campaign didn’t have quite the end we were hoping.”

“Don’t soft-soap me, Ed. How bad is it?”

“They hit their objectives, which has bought the time we need there, but the Legion of Vega caught them on the last one and barely a company made it out. Kommandant Bryan was not among the survivors.”

“Damn. Was he at fault or are we looking at a posthumous award?”

The General of Armies rubbed his chin. “The trouble with these operations is that even if you do get everything right, you can still get unlucky. If he slipped a little at the end, he still did what needed to be done.”

Katrina slumped into her chair. “Get the paperwork in motion and figure out who’ll collect it.”

“His daughter’s at the Nagelring.”

“Fine.” She took a deep breath. “Are the Jaegers going to be salvageable?”

“Probably not, at least as far as the Eighth is concerned.” Regis looked regretful. “Two leutnents got back, but there’s not enough of a cadre to rebuild it right now. I suggest folding the battalion back into the Third.”

The initial five Jaeger battalions had been successful enough that Katrina had built them up to four companies each, then split them to and added more recruits to field ten battalions. She was uneasily aware now that this might have not given the units enough time to season, but Takashi was turning Frederick’s strategy back on her: multiple raids and reconnaissance-in-force operations, fixing her reserves to avoid losing worlds elsewhere and thereby depriving Dieron.

“I meant the Eighth,” she agreed. “But the concept as a whole?”

“I consider it proven.” Regis folded his arms behind his back. “More seasoning time for them to absorb their new mechwarriors would have been preferable, but we don’t have the luxury of holding combat units back right now and the other nine have done well.”

“Frederick will be smug.”

“That is your particular burden, Archon. I think that as prices go it’s not a steep one.”

“I’ll make you deal with him next time he’s on Tharkad.”

Regis tilted his head in acknowledgement of the hit and then looked at the central screen. “I think I can bear that, your majesty. It would mean he’s made it back, after all.”

Katrina’s gaze followed the general’s to Dieron’s globe, where days old data mapped the movements of almost a dozen regiments of ‘mechs and three times that in other troops. Clashes marked where the lines of advances clashed and so far every victory seemed to have a matching defeat for Frederick’s forces. Nothing had yet been decisive either way, but the numbers did not favor him.

“So far Marcus Kurita has refrained from committing the Sword of Light against Frederick’s units,” Edward continued. “He’s using it mostly to sweep up soft victories against cities that are far from our center of mass on the planet, but we know it’s where they have the bulk of lostech. Entire SLDF ‘Mechs, while the Dieron Regulars are using existing wargear with SLDF weapons installed in place of their own.”

“His counterpart to the Fourth Royals.”

“He may be waiting for the Fourth to leave the Sükhbaatar valley. The Dieron Regulars might not be as well equipped, but their lostech is giving them an edge against the Lyran Guards and Lyran Regulars.”

“Victory usually goes to the side that commits its reserves last.” Katrina didn’t address the key point: her orders that Frederick was only to commit the Fourth in defense of Sükhbaatar. If the revived Royal Guards regiment got cut off then it might be annihilated and the political backlash would be insane. She’d rather lose Dieron than see that happen - and with the Royal Guards holding the defensive advantage in the mountains around Frederick’s stronghold, they were filling a vital role.

Regis shrugged. “It also usually goes to the side that takes the initiative.”

“What can we scrape up to reinforce him? Takashi can’t have much left with his current pace of operations. He’s even sent one of the Pesht Regular regiments to Rasalhague.” Pesht District’s only external border faced the periphery and the district’s regiments were usually understrength and undersupplied. Even so, piracy was a constant threat so moving them to face the Suns or the Commonwealth was a rare move for the DCMS.

“The Wolf’s Dragoons are already committed with four regiments responding to hot-spots and we can’t really move Alpha Regiment away from their base on Mizar.”

“It’s a fine thing for Takashi that Jaime Wolf is incommunicado right now.” She shook her head. “And Simon tells me that Kurita’s made him an offer for when our current contract ends.”

“That’s sadly predictable.” Regis steepled his fingers. “You’ve met Colonel Wolf, do you think he’ll break with their usual custom and take another contract with the Commonwealth?”

“As much as I’d like to say otherwise, the best we can probably hope for is their usual requirement of not being committed against their previous employer.”

“Which means Hanse Davion gets the pleasure of facing the Dragoons.”

“Yes. He’s made his own offer too - honestly, I’d be just as happy if Wolf took that offer, but I think he’s for some reason looking to surpass the record of McCarron.” McCarron’s Armored Cavalry had fought for every one of the Great Houses, and against four of them.

Regis looked up at the border display. “Short of turning Team Banzai around and sending them back from Duran…”

“Unacceptable. Duran A&M got a target painted on it by Davion’s admission. I want the garrison on Duran back up to strength.” She wasn’t going to repeat the mistake that her uncle had in 3005.

“And Selwin Kelswa will raise hell if we pull anything from Tamar’s theaters, justifiably.” The general made a face. “That leaves the Marik border and we’re already seeing some opportunistic probing from that direction. I think we might be able to get away with reassigning the Second and Seventh Jaeger battalions from there. With the right routing, we can get their dropships to Dieron along with a supply run for Frederick. Infantry and armor are feasible, but that will be even more demanding of shipping.”

Katrina looked at the deployments and reluctantly concluded that Regis was right. She wasn’t surprised - she’d not selected him at random to head the LCAF - but there was always some hope. “Why does it always feel as if we’re running as hard as we can to stay where we are, Ed?”

“That’s not an unreasonable summation of the Succession Wars, Kat,” he told her, matching her informality. “Shall I cut the orders?”

“Do it. And send Frederick whatever conventional regiments you can pry out of Skye’s garrisons. I’ll drop cash for militia regiments to stand up to full readiness to take their place. Besides that, have our hiring agents on Galatea up their offers - I want every merc unit we can pick up out on the border. That might take up enough slack that we can free up another ‘mech regiment.”

“I’ll try, but I don’t expect any large units will be soliciting contracts before the Dragoons move on next year.”

“I know, but enough small units spread out could have a similar effect.” Katrina tugged on the braid that she’d put her hair into this morning. “I’ll see if I can wring another favor out of Hanse Davion. Ardan Sortek hasn’t been called home yet, so I don’t think we’ve worn out our credit with the First Prince yet.”

“Is that a debt we want to call in in full?”

She paused in consideration. “I doubt he’d end the alliance, but it would be possible to go too far. But at the same time, we can’t be taken advantage of. It’s a balancing act. If he’s willing to grant what I have in mind then I think I’ll call it even and let him know that the debt is paid. Michael Hasek-Davion might not be the problem for us that he is for Hanse, but I still know which I trust more on the throne of the Federated Suns.”

Katrina checked the clock and then picked up her comm. “Jared, call Colonel Sortek and invite him to dine with myself and Melissa this evening. I’m aware it’s short notice.”

Regis arched an eyebrow as the Archon put the comm down. “You usually keep courtiers away from your daughter.”

“Ardan Sortek isn’t a courtier, he’s too sincere - besides, she likes him.”

“Ah, that’s dangerous at that age. She’s old enough for a first crush.”

She gave the general a suspicious look. “She’s nine and he’s twenty-six.”

“I’m not saying that it’s a realistic crush, or that he’d do anything remotely inappropriate. But for that very reason she may cry herself to sleep over the chivalrous mechwarrior she’ll never have.”

“...I pity any woman you marry,” Katrina told him sincerely and headed for the monorail that would take her back to the Triad. Regis had to be joking with her. Melissa was just a little girl. He had to be joking… right?

Atacama Desert, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
31 July 3019


Deber City was blazing on Frederick’s tactical display, and some of those fires were literal.

Others were tactical markers, crimson markers showing the fiery sword that meant Marcus Kurita had finally committed his prize regiment.

“Iznakki space port is in their hands,” Max reported. His Orion had been folded into the command lance - the rest of Fredericks company were out of action or had been assigned to fill slots in the other combatant regiments. “They managed to take it without any reports reaching us and then smashed right through the link between the Tenth and Eleventh Guards to reach the city and its bridges.”

Frederick thumped a secondary monitor with his fist, careful that it was one that had ceased to function anyway. The impact on plastic and metal stung his knuckles. The other man didn’t need to elaborate what that meant. Deber City lay on the Khoomei River - one of the major waterways crossing the Atacama Desert, a sizable section of Mateo’s coast. Without the bridges, the two Lyran Guards regiments couldn’t reinforce each other and Marcus could focus the Dieron Regulars on one side or the other of the river to beat back whichever half of the Lyran force that he chose.

“Can we coordinate an attack from both flanks?” he asked and then shook his head, knowing the answer. “No, let me guess - we’re jammed.”

“They got the hardlines as well,” Max added. “By the time we get a reliable commline set up…”

“No time.” Frederick turned his Zeus west. “Signal the Eleventh to withdraw east to Quintero. We’ve lost this battle, we need to preserve our forces. We’ll go east to Ulaagom.” It meant dividing their forces, but the important thing was to break contact.

The word went out, and the orders were succinct enough that a daring aerospace fighter pilot was able to act as a laser-com relay to get news across the river to the Eleventh Lyran Guards. It cost the man, though and a pair of Saber interceptors were chasing his Seydlitz north when the pilot dropped out of contact - hopefully due to the jamming and not being shot down.

Turning his backs on Deber City, Frederick turned west and marched with the Tenth Lyran Guards as fast as he could. It was ironic, he thought. Katrina offered me the Tenth once. I turned them down, but now here I am fighting with them.

The forced march was tied to the slowest units - the two dozen or so assault ‘mechs among the Guards. While Frederick’s Zeus and the rest of his lance could have reached sixty four kilometers an hour - even Max’s Orion was able to almost reach that - there were Stalkers and Atlases in the ranks that were more sluggish. But their value was too great to leave them behind.

Thus, lances of Griffins, Commandos and other ‘mechs had to fight a rear-guard, forcing the pursuit to slow and fight, then racing to catch up once the heavier ‘mechs were far enough ahead. It was fortunate that the rolling desert hills weren’t doing too much to slow the supporting two armor regiments or the mechanized infantry.

It was all frustratingly distant, so Frederick was glad to hear the chime from his comm panel as soon as they reached the next hardpoint in the planetary comms network that hadn’t been compromised. Whatever the topic of conversation was, it had to be better than his own thoughts.

“Sledgehammer Actual, this is Ragamuffin Actual,” Pete greeted him.

“I read you, Ragamuffin Actual.”

“I don’t know if you’ve got the latest intel,” the other general told him, “But it looks like the Snakes split up to chase you. You’ve got the Fifth Sword of Light behind you, while the Third Dieron Regulars are going after the Eleventh.”

“More or less what I’d figured.”

Brion’s Legion had been basically smashed between the two Lyran Guards regiments outside Deber City - some survivors had escaped, but the regiment was functionally out of play - possibly for good. Unfortunately, in retaking the city, the DCMS had probably captured the salvageable ‘mechs so they could either give them back to the mercs or -  more likely - use them to rebuild the Twelfth Sun Zhang Cadre. That had taken enough losses from combat and transfers to keep the Dieron Regulars up to strength that it had been pulled back to guard the DCMS bases on Voltenna.

Which was likely why Marcus Kurita now felt free to deploy his reserves. Well, that and the chance to smash the Lyran Guards while they were isolated from the Seventh Lyran Regulars, who were keeping the Twenty-Seventh Dieron Regulars busy in the south, or the Second and Seventh Commonwealth Jaegers, who’d drawn the Twenty-Fourth Dieron Regulars far enough north that Frederick could pounce on Brion’s Legion.

“I can have the Fourth on dropships in an hour and dropping to support you in ninety minutes total,” Pete continued. “We’re the only force you have that can match them for lostech. You know it makes sense.”

“You know I can’t do that. We don’t have any other ‘mechs free to cover the Sükhbaatar valley. Tanks and infantry can hold the passes, but if they hit the coast then we’ll be besieged in the forts.”

“They only have the Sun Zhang Cadre spare. They’ve got fighting spirit but not much else - besides, they’re down to barely two battalions. The reserves can hold them a day or two - long enough to win.”

“Pete, don’t push me.”

There was a pause and for a moment he thought that he’d convinced the other man to give up on it. Then: “If you don’t bring us out now, when will you? Right now we’re not even a threat, and once Marcus Kurita knows you won’t deploy us outside the valley we’re not even useful as a deterrent.”

“I know that, but you have your orders.”

“Your orders, or the Archon’s?”

Dammit. How secure was this commline? Codes could be broken, and landlines could be tapped into. “Pete…”

“Rumor has it that Katrina doesn’t want to risk my regiment,” Pete continued. “But if we can’t be risked then what’s even the point of us?”

“You’re holding the critical bases for us,” Frederick told him. “I know you want to fight, but without you holding them I couldn’t have risked bringing the Lyran Guards all this way -” Deber City was practically on the opposite side of the planet from San Martin. “- to take out Brion’s Legion.”

Unfortunately, with the gains there cut off, and two fresh regiments taking the field, the numbers were still about even and the Combine had two regiments of lostech ‘mechs compared to one on the Lyran side.

“You can’t keep the same fifth of your force in reserve when the Dracs are rotating theirs,” the other general warned. “If not now, let us loose soon. You can’t claim you’re holding us back to counter the Sword of Light if they’re being used and we aren’t.”

Except you’re right that Katrina’s given me orders not to do that. And the hell is, I can’t say she’s really wrong. Losing the Fourth when they were only reformed last year would be a huge embarrassment.

“I’ll put you in the field when I have the right opening and the right plan,” he promised. “Let it be, Pete.”

He cut the channel and received another call a moment later. “Sledgehammer Actual.”

“Seven,” Max’s voice replied. “I’m guessing Ragamuffin gave you the overview before begging to be deployed.”

“He did.” Frederick paused. “He’s that predictable?”

“He’s a Steiner. I’ve met Lyran commanders who weren’t aggressive, but not one yet from House Steiner.”

Despite himself, despite the situation, Frederick grinned. “Well, I hate to say it, we aren’t going aggressive. The Sword of Light have faster ‘mechs than we have here, they could keep us at range and pick us apart.”

Intelligence sources on Voltenna had made it clear that the Third Dieron Regulars had been rebuilt with the slower lostech machines, while the Fifth Sword of Light was the hammer to that anvil, including not a single ‘mech slower than a Dragon. It was going to make breaking contact with them a nightmare.

“Marcus picked a good moment to put his reserve in the field,” the older man agreed. “But unless he knows that the Fourth aren’t available, he’s gambling that you won’t bring them in and bracket his best troops between three crack regiments.”

“He could have guessed. He’s not a fool…”

Then Max said what Frederick was already thinking: “Or he knows something we don’t yet.”

“Max, I need to talk to Nelitha. If there are reinforcements inbound, for either side, that could change everything!”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #201 on: 16 August 2022, 04:42:06 »
Atacama Desert, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
1 August 3019


The Sword of Light had scouts out, so they couldn’t really be surprised to find the Tenth Lyran Guards lined up facing them, ten kilometers from the township that had been the rallying point for their attack on Deber City. Less than three days had passed, but Max would have had to look the place’s name up - if he cared to. It was another desert town on the road, any originality stamped out of it long since by the precarious economics of its location and the demands of conformity made by House Kurita.

But here they stood, a hundred Lyran Guards’ mechs (and Frederick’s command lance), flanked on both sides by armored battalions. The infantry had continued into the town - this wasn’t a fight they were suited for.

“Marcus Kurita!” Frederick’s voice boomed from the speakers on his Zeus as the red-painted ‘mechs marched towards the blue and white Lyran ‘mechs that must have been silhouettes against the setting sun. “I’ve been waiting for you.”

Kintaros. Crabs. Mongooses, Falcons and Hussars. Sentinels and Bombardiers. Lancelots and Flashmen. It was a cavalcade of anachronisms. Max could see some familiar designs among them, but almost eighty percent of the ‘mechs were designs that had been lost in the Succession Wars. Oh, occasionally there would be a trickle of production from one factory or another, but even there the ‘mechs would be patched together improvisations for technology no longer available.

Not these fresh, intact and functional ‘mechs.

One hundred and forty-nine ‘mechs, Max counted. The Fifth Sword of Light was at full strength - four battalions and a command quintet for Warlord Marcus Kurita, who stalked forwards in a crimson Excalibur. Hopefully the base model, not the Royal model that fixed some of its more glaring issues. It was hard to tell - certainly the battle computer of Max’s faithful old Orion wasn’t up to detecting the differences.

“Frederick Steiner, I presume.” The Kurita’s english was precise and accentless, no doubt learned as a boy and rigorously maintained for the handling of foreigners and dissidents who did not accept the ‘perfection’ of Japanese. “I had doubted your presence until now. Your reputation is not one of abject cowardice, and seeing this force in retreat I had thought that you were elsewhere.”

“Retreating?” The duke’s voice dripped scorn. “I was merely advancing to the most suitable battlefield. As the governor of Dieron, I must be hospitable to foreign guests.”

Keep him talking, Max thought. Let the desert cool - the cold it is, the better for us. We don’t have the freezers in our ‘mechs that the Sword of Light have. Not even Frederick’s Zeus had them - he’d refused to be out of action long enough for the ‘mech to be refitted with them.

“You are mistaken, General Steiner.” Marcus Kurita spoke smoothly and courteously as the DCMS ‘mechs fanned out to cover the same frontage as the Lyran Guards. “Dieron is the capital of my district and thus it is I who am the host. You are my guest.”

“Impossible: the guest comes to the host and you’ve come to me.”

“I have merely come to meet you.” Was that a hint of irritation? “Or would you rather say that I have come out to locate and deal with an intruder? Ah, I do not mean to treat a distinguished Lyran soldier like a bandit who has stolen over the wall in the middle of the night.”

“I do not dispute your expertise in the subject of banditry,” Frederick replied. “There is nothing dishonorable in battling pirates, and had I been assigned to the periphery I would have pursued that mission with vigor. It is merely that all of my assigned duties have been to wage war against other Great Houses.”

It was hard to say if Kurita was slighted or not. “As warlord of Rasalhague, I have taken worlds from the Lyran Commonwealth. I look forward to doing so as warlord of Dieron.”

“I assumed so, since you have come here to try to take Dieron from the Commonwealth. I must tell you though, I have yet to lose a planet to House Kurita.”

“Then this will be the first.” The Excalibur spread its arms, much as the man inside might have.

Frederick chuckled. “So you acknowledge that this is a Lyran world now, and that you are the guest.”

“...enough of these pleasantries. You say you choose this as your battlefield? Very well, I will grant you the dignity of letting you choose your place to die.” And yet, there was a note of uncertainty to Marcus Kurita’s words.

The desert was hilly here, but the hills were low - it was rare for them to be taller than a ‘mech’s height. Nor were there iron deposits to confuse magnetic sensors and as the evening chilled, infrared would pick out a combustion engine or a fusion reactor. In short, it would be incredibly difficult to hide forces here. Without satellites to pick up and relay laser-coms, only short-range radio communication was possible due to the jamming carried out by both forces, whereas closer to the town the Lyrans might be able to use the landlines there to coordinate with more distant forces.

Yet here was Frederick offering battle when he was outnumbered almost three-to-two. The warlord must be wondering if it was a trick.

No, it was definitely a trick. But what was its nature?

Frederick moved his Zeus forwards. “You spoke earlier of cowardice, General Kurita.” Another slight, that wasn’t a fair translation of Marcus’ rank. “Yet you have been waiting to join battle for weeks now, while I have been on the frontlines. I offer you the opportunity to allay the doubts of your warriors as to your courage.”

“There are no such doubts,” Kurita denied.

“Then you don’t fear to face me?”

“I have no fear of any of the Lyran Guards, even the famed Tenth regiment.”

“No.” Frederick tapped the club-like missile launcher of his Zeus against its chest. “I mean, in person.”

“...are you challenging me?”

“I am Frederick Steiner, son of Sophia Steiner, grandson of Giovanni Steiner. I am the Duke of Duran and through my veins flows the blood of Archons, of Lords of the Star League. I have won a dozen battles against House Kurita and House Marik and I have claimed seventeen battlemech kills.” Frederick’s boasting cut through the air. “I offer you, Marcus Kurita, the chance to be the eighteenth.”

The Excalibur stood stock still. “I regret that there is such advantage held by my forces that I cannot accept your offer of a proxy battle, Lord Steiner. You do me honor, but I have also my duty to my lord.”

“You mistake me, Kurita. I do not offer you any proxy. Each of my mechwarriors will face one of yours. Lyran Guardsman against Sword of Light samurai. No random melee, not blundering around looking for each other. These hills stretch for miles - to the sea of sands north of us, the ocean to the south. Plenty of room for us all to duel. A single, glorious and decisive battle. Do you dare?”

The challenge hung in the air.

“You have courage, Steiner.” Marcus managed to sound amused. “Very well. I, Marcus Kurita, Tai-Shu of Dieron military district and commander of the Fifth Sword of Light, accept your challenge. I, the son of Undell and grandson of Hugai, heir to the glorious legacy of House Kurita, shall meet you in single combat. Let each mechwarrior among your ranks seek one of my warriors who may be willing to face you. Though do not take this as license to demand that my samurai take blatantly unfair challenges.”

“I am sure you have brought enough samurai that my warriors can find suitable adversaries.”

That was more confidence than Max felt right now. With two elite regiments present he was almost assured to be the least able mechwarrior present. This was going to suck, but with numbers this heavily weighted against them, he didn’t feel that he could back off.

Marcus and Frederick stood facing each other, while other ‘mechs moved forwards to issue challenges. After the first few, it wasn’t just the Lyran Guards who sought out adversaries. There weren’t any assault ‘mechs visible in the ranks of the Sword of Light, but some of the samurai clearly felt emboldened by their advanced technology and willingly sought out assault ‘mechs to challenge.

With both of the other members of the command lance thus picked out, Max scanned the as yet uninvolved Combine ‘mechs and finally picked out a Champion as his opponent.

The heavy ‘mech was at the bottom of the heavy bracket, where an Orion was usually around fifteen tons heavier. His own cut-down Orion had only half that tonnage advantage. They had comparable autocannon and secondary armament though - he could hope that the Kuritan ‘mech’s speed would be offset by his armor.

Actually, more than off-set would be great. Hopefully this was an utter cretin who’d joined the Sword of Light due to family connections and a flawless disciplinary record rather than actual skill.

Not that that was at all likely, but he could hope.

Marching forwards, Max placed his Orion in front of the Champion and gestured towards it with one arm, in silent challenge.

“Ah, you do me honor.” The samurai’s english was closer to the slightly germanic accent found on Tharkad and other major worlds than Marcus Kurita’s star league standard. “I am Sho-sa Bernard Stolze of the Sword of Light. My family have the honor of ten generations of service to House Kurita, and I have earned distinction as a marksman.”

Shit. That last wasn’t a claim to especial accuracy - it meant at least five kills against enemy ‘mechs. The equivalent of ace for an aerospace pilot.

Max reluctantly flicked his own microphone. “Thank you Sho-sa.” He swallowed, realizing he was hesitating and continued: “I am Baron Max Mustermann… General Steiner’s secretary.”

“I am honored to face a Lyran nobleman in battle. I regret that despite knowing your name and title, I do not recall your deeds or records.”

He knows if I had any, I would have told him! “I am the first of my house, Sho-sa Stolze. And I claim no kills. I suppose that that will make you my first.” Max tipped the torso of his Orion forwards in an ironic bow. “Do take care of me.”

“...I will be pleased to educate you, Baron.”

It seemed to take almost no time at all for the mechwarriors to pair off and spread out. The Sword of Light ‘mechs not challenged backed up to the edge of weapons range, more than a battalion in number.

Max knew, vaguely, that there were other ‘mechs around him but all he could do was shift to stay roughly opposite Stolze’s Champion.

Just don’t die, he thought. Play it out, wear him down. If I have to eject, there should be enough fighting going on to escape and find my way to one of the tanks. At least the wind is coming from the east. That’ll blow me in the right direction.

There was no specific signal given to begin the duels. Or rather, it was started when Marcus Kurita’s gauss rifle discharged and Max had time to see the shot strike Frederick’s Zeus in the shoulder before all his attention was on trying to stay alive.

Stolze moved his Champion in like lightning, autocannon blazing. More by luck than skill, Max side-stepped and the shells streaked past his Orion - but his own shells also missed. Fortunately he’d managed to get a lock for his LRMs and some of them hit but they were only chipping away at the armor plating.

The faster ‘mech closed in, which was predictable. The Champion’s autocannon was the only long-range weapon it mounted, and it was just as effective up close. If it could get into optimal range for its lasers and short-range missiles then it would be too close for Max to use his LRMs.

Trying to keep his lock, Max backed up, keeping his thumb pressed down on the trigger for the twin LRM launchers - they cycled quickly, alternately lobbing small flights of LRMs at the Champion.

A second autocannon salvo marked the first damage he took - shells smashing into the Orion’s left leg and shaking him around. Max had waited for the shots to land, and fired back only once he was sure of his footing. With the target closer he was more fortunate - his shells ripped into one of the wing-like arms.

The good news was that the armor of the limb was heavily damaged by the shells, much more so than the hit he’d taken. But there was nothing critical in a Champion’s arms, Stolze could soak up damage with them and it wouldn’t impair his combat capability.

If Max had one leg of his own ‘mech crippled then he’d be a sitting duck.

Fortunately, his LRM stores were less than half-full anyway and as a pip next to his crosshairs lit up, signaling that the Champion was within extreme range of his lasers, the balding mechwarrior reached over to a side-console and lifted a cover, thumbing the button under it.

The last salvo of LRMs streaked forth, cratering the dorsal armor behind the Champion’s cockpit, but no replacement missiles fed into the weapons. Instead a panel on the back of the Orion opened and half a ton of LRMs cascaded out and onto the desert floor.

Max stepped sideways, letting the Orion cool for a moment and holding off on his autocannon. The move let him avoid a shot from the Champion’s own autocannon but his cockpit was lit briefly by the flare of inbound missile thrusters as a salvo of SRMs hit home.

He barely had time to look at his status indicators, but the other mechwarrior’s lasers must have also hit given how little protection was left on the left leg.

Max fired again, locking the autocannon and lasers into a single trigger. He had to bet in single concentrated impacts - hopefully doing enough damage to blast into the internals of the Champion. He succeeded in scoring a hit now but it was the Champion’s undamaged arm that took the impact  - reduced to little more than a stump, a sacrifice Stolze was no doubt entirely content with.

He was taking hits in return - the entire damage display flickered, reporting damage all across the Orion. Stolze must have switched to using his LB 10-X autocannon’s cluster rounds. Between that and the SRMs, his Orion was being hammered all across the front. It was less likely to cause deep penetrations, but the chances of exploiting existing damage was much higher.

Twisting, Max tried to protect the damaged left leg. It was a predictable move but he had few options.

The angling made it harder to bring his autocannon to bear, the Champion was on the edges of its arc of fire and Stolze was jinking around, threatening to move not only out of the arc but also to fire on his rear and hit the left leg from that angle.

Max didn’t think his autocannon struck home, he saw glowing armor plates marking where his lasers had struck and the energy-transfer had heated them.

Shots smashed back and forth - his damage display was amber and red for armor - the leg flared up again and he display showed that it was now functionally bare of protection. Max could feel the Orion growing sluggish as the heat build-up began to impact on the myomers.

The Champion was scarred but functional, still spitting fire. Its thermal signature was vivid against the chill of the desert night, but Stolze didn’t hesitate to keep firing furiously - now he was close enough that even if the ‘mechw was slowed by overheating, it could match the Orion.

Reversing course, Max lunged in to try to exploit the Champion’s lack of any functional arms.

Stolze realized the danger though and turned, backpedaling just far enough to avoid the punch Max threw.

For a moment Max’s rear armor was taking hits but he managed to turn around. His autocannon hit home and for once he saw the Champion stumble. Was Stolze not entirely comfortable with the ungainly ‘mech? It was possible.

Then he felt a hammer-blow and heard a warning tone. At point blank range, Stolze had gone back to high explosive shells and the muzzle of the Orion’s autocannon had been the target.

Whether it was skill or luck didn’t matter. Max was down half his firepower.

At least now keeping the autocannon on target wasn’t a factor so he could twist and turn as much as he needed. But the Champion was still on him, always peppering him with missile and the autocannon, forcing him to guard where the armor was thinnest. Laser fire wasn’t in evidence, perhaps Stolze letting himself cool off.

I can’t drag this out much longer, Max realized grimly. He had barely any armor left.

Flipping the safety off the manual ejection control, he eyed the Champion and charged at it once more, lasers firing as he swung the arms up high.

Stolze dodged, not wanting to take a blow to his own armor - which might not survive a hit.

Max kicked out with the damaged leg, missing the Champion and overbalancing the Orion deliberately. Then he tucked his limbs in on himself and yanked the bar mounted in between his knees.

The canopy blew open and a moment later, a tremendous force - he knew intellectually it was a rocket - hurled him up and into the sky.

Max was screaming. He’d never done this before. Even practise on Duran had been on a hydraulic ram that only raised you a few meters, if just as fast.

But now he’d been lofted hundreds of meters up, high enough to see what seemed like the entire battlefield.

Most of the ‘mechs were still fighting. Well, he’d not thought he was among the best or even the average combatant.

There was another jerk as the parachute deployed, grasping the air as Max reached the apex of his brief flight. His shoulders complained as he reached up and grabbed the grips of the parasail type arrangement.

Steering the thing was another thing that he couldn’t have done, but the wind was carrying him away and that was all he could hope for. For a moment, Max saw the Champion standing over his poor abused Orion. Then he was turned around by the wind and caught what looked like Kurita’s Excalibur, still dueling Frederick.

The ground rushed up and Max bent his knees. It hit him before he was ready and he folded up, sprawling on his face. The parasail dragged him along the dirt and sand for a few meters. Then he managed to find the part of the grip that severed half the cords and let air escape from it.

The middle-aged man rolled onto his back, managed to detach himself from the parachute. It was tempting to simply lie on his back, but he knew the battle was still raging. It would be easy to get crushed underfoot.

Somehow he forced himself upright, forced the neurohelmet off, so he could at least see around himself and started staggering in what he hoped was the right direction.

The hills were far larger when you were on foot than they were in a ‘mech. And the night was much much darker. Despite the drastically different colors of each regiment, it was hard to see which was which.

Throwing himself into the shelter of a ditch, Max dug into the small survival kit attached to his desk and pulled out a compass barely the size of a coin. Establishing that he was moving in the right direction, he took a deep breath and crawled out of the ditch.

There was an explosion in the distance as a ‘mech’s ammunition detonated.

He saw a Zeus crumple, lifelessly. Max froze and stared at it until he saw that it had the canopy of a normal Zeus, not the distinctive wolfshead of Frederick’s with its full-head ejection system.

A Mongoose raced past, trying to get past a Commando, then tumbled and crushed a gnarled tree after one out of a salvo of SRMs cracked against its knee. The light ‘mech rose and kept fighting, but it was limping now and the Commando was unrelenting.

After what seemed like an eternity, Max stumbled up against a wall, which he understood only on second-look was the flank of a Goblin tank.

It took the man longer than he’d like to remember where the hatch was. By the time he reached the handholds to climb up on top, the tank commander had opened the cupola and was pointing a side-arm at him. “Affold!”

The challenge! What was the response…? “Abacus.”

“Zymase!”

“...Bezant?” He hoped it was bezant. He wasn’t sure anymore.

Fortunately he must have been right, because the sergeant lowered her pistol. “Who are you?”

“Sledgehammer Seven.” He swallowed. “I ejected.”

“Okay, go round the back, I’ll open the infantry hatch for you.”

Oh. Oh yes, the Goblin carried a squad of infantry normally. So much had happened that he hadn’t managed to keep that in mind.

The narrow hatch entered an equally cramped compartment but no one else was inside it and being within the armor of the tank felt much much safer than outside. Max sprawled on the bench and forced himself to take deep, calming breathes.

“Are you injured?” the sergeant asked. She was a woman, he couldn’t tell much about her looks under the coveralls and helmet.

“No. Just tired and scared.”

She laughed. “Not used to being out of your ‘mech?”

“I don’t even get shot at that much generally,” Max confessed. “What’s going on?”

“I’m not sure. Looks like most of the duels are winding down.” She sat opposite him. “Why are we even doing this? The Sword of Light have us outnumbered. Why stand here and not keep withdrawing? I know they’re faster than us, but we could have played it out until more forces gathered, fought them more evenly.”

Max laughed wearily. It hadn’t occurred to him that she wouldn’t know, he was probably too used to being near the top of the information chain.

“We needed them inside our jamming,” he told her. “We’re pinning the Sword of Light in place, and out of contact with the rest of their force.”

“I hope it’s worth losing half the Tenth Guards,” she told him grimly. “More than thirty of our ‘mechs are down… and if they just use their fresh ‘mechs then we’re in a lot of…”

“Sarge!” someone shouted from the turret.

The woman swore and squirmed forwards to reach her position in the turret. Max moved up so he could look into the turret as well, squinting at the holodisplays to get a distorted view of what was happening.

“Someone’s dropping right on us,” the sergeant confirmed. “I don’t see transponders…”

“Transponders would be picked up,” Max said in relief. “They’re coming in quiet.”

“But they should be visible! That much metal and heat…”

“Only if someone’s alert and looking. With a battle in front of them and cut off from the command vans and so forth… Well, they’re pretty sharp,” Max admitted. “But I guess we got lucky.”

“They’re going to have to light up to land though. I’d say… around now.”

Max couldn’t see a thing to reflect that, but a few moments later there was audible thumping as hundreds - perhaps thousands - of tons of metal hit the ground.

“What… what is this?” Marcus Kurita’s voice boomed out across the landscape.

It wasn’t Frederick Steiner’s voice that replied.

“Major Salome Ward Kell, Third Battalion Kell Hounds.” The major sounded amused. “I gather some of your force don’t have dance partners, warlord? Well, we can’t have that…”

“Not you, Kurita.” Now Frederick’s voice could be heard from outside the tank. “You’re mine!”

Any response from Takashi’s cousin was lost as weapons fire crashed out with renewed vigor.
"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 #202 on: 16 August 2022, 06:58:53 »
With the scale of what's going on, I'm just waiting for someone to call the 4th Succession War officially in session!  8)

BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #203 on: 16 August 2022, 07:53:16 »
I like how the honor duel across the armies was a delay tactic.
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #204 on: 16 August 2022, 08:05:11 »
That's 100% Frederick Steiner right there...  8)

Really hoping we get the AAR on this fight today...  :popcorn:

Wrangler

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #205 on: 16 August 2022, 11:07:10 »
Yet another twist, Kell Hounds to the rescue.  Third Battalion no less!
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #206 on: 18 August 2022, 05:28:33 »
Chapter 9

Iscariot, Ashio
Dieron District, Draconis Combine
9 September 3019


Takashi Kurita’s eyes were heavily lidded as he looked down from the dais. Once again, General Koutri and General Toshirov stood before him… but the set of their shoulders betrayed that they knew the extent of their failures.

And - though it would never be spoken - of his own failures.

The Coordinator could never admit such weakness. He would be torn apart and the Combine would fall into civil war between the warlords. But in his heart, Takashi knew he would have to live with this as well. Who was that ancient queen who had said that when she died, the name of a fallen city would be on her heart? Well, Dieron would be his scar.

Ivan Sorenson stood to one side of the two generals. Solid, unimaginative, but also loyal. Very unlike Marcus. Perhaps he would do better.

“Generals,” Takashi said quietly. “You were not witnesses to my cousin’s… defeat?”

Toshirov shook his head sharply. “I had been drawn north, hunting some of the Commonwealth’s Jaegers.”

“Another of Frederick Steiner’s innovations. He is proving a most able foe.” The coordinator glanced at General Koutri.

“Steiner’s Seventh Lyran Regulars were contesting the Rock of Genghis,” the officer replied simply, referring to one of the lesser fortifications that dotted Dieron. That one controlled a major pass through the Spine of the Dragon mountains. “I heard too late.”

“Brion’s Legion, smashed by the Lyran Guards,” Takashi summarized. “My cousin’s counter-stroke - his own regiment and Dexter Kingsley, the majority of our lostech machines, against the Lyran Guards.”

“The Lyrans had not employed their own offensively,” Toshirov reported. “And we knew the Kell Hounds had been detached by Hanse Davion to support Frederick Steiner. The goal was to strike before they could get here. There was no way to know they would arrive so soon.”

“Another impressive victory for them.” Takashi frowned. Mercenaries who failed him, mercenaries that thwarted him… “Though it was daring - not only the use of a proximity point but also a high velocity transit to low orbit. The admiralty found it hard to believe the Overlord that dropped their Third Battalion wasn’t lost.”

“Aerobraking in the upper atmosphere - it had almost certainly expended its full fuel load.” Koutri looked reluctantly impressed. “It hadn’t landed when we departed, most likely orbital refueling was waiting until we were too distant to take advantage.”

The Dragon knew ferocity, and daring. Takashi also understood the trust that must exist between the Kell Hounds leaders and their transport crews to carry out such a desperate drop. “The other two battalions were more moderate, not that it helped the Twelfth Sun Zhang.”

“Cadets,” offered Toshirov. “Against proven and deadly warriors. It was well done to see as many of them evacuated.”

“They may be ruined for service.” Sorenson’s voice was distant. Unfeeling.

Both generals looked up, shocked.

The new warlord of Dieron - the district name could not be changed without admitting the extent of the defeat - continued: “We must salvage all we can.” Takashi knew the man and recognised that the tone was one of distraction not dismissal. “Their confidence may be shattered, and other warriors may look poorly upon them.”

The same, of course, was true of two regiments of the Dieron Regulars who had escaped the world from which they took their name. And the handful of the Fifth Sword of Light to join that flight.

Dexter Kingsley and his Third Dieron Regulars had apparently died to the last man, caught between the Fourth Royal Guards and the Eleventh Lyran Guards. There was some consolation that Kingsley had apparently managed to mortally wound the Royals’ commander before he fell.

A Steiner for a Kurita. It was not an equal trade, though Takashi darkly thought that each House would count themselves the more wounded.

“We shall form a new brigade,” he said out loud. “Two regiments: the Dieron Avengers. A statement of purpose, and a home for those veterans of this battle you feel can still be made use of. Those unwilling may, of course, assuage their guilt as they see fit. That is for them to decide, not us.”

And he would need to rebuild the Fifth Sword of Light somehow. That would be an interesting challenge, the number of potential candidates was not all that large. Still, the officer ranks could be filled out by the ambitious in the other four regiments…

He shook his head. “General Koutri. General Toshirov. You understand that you must set an example for your men.” Retreat had been the correct choice, but there had been no orders to do so, and that made the decision their responsibility.

“Sir.” Koutri stepped forwards, causing the Otomo guards to tense up. “General Toshirov has - until now - been unaware that the sealed orders to retreat were of my invention.”

Takashi raised an eyebrow. He saw the other general’s jaw sag in disbelief.

Sorenson’s hand caught Toshirov before he could speak up. “You deceived your comrade, general?”

“Sir, with the supply bases in the hands of the Kell Hounds and your cousin dead, I judged it my duty to save all that could be saved… To retreat without orders is a crime punishable by death, so I informed Simlin that the Tai-Shu had left me sealed orders to retreat off-world if his gambit at Deber City failed.”

Takashi eyed the two men for a moment and then inclined his head. Simlin Toshirov had children and grandchildren. Fassen Koutri’s wife was dead and his sons had both fallen in battle, years ago. “The punishment for falsifying orders is death,” he reminded them both. “In light of your distinguished previous service, I shall permit you to visit the garden, General Koutri, before a firing squad is assembled.” If Koutri elected to apologize to his ancestors while he was out there, well, that was a samurai’s privilege.

“Thank you, lord.”

Toshirov looked mortified.

“For your gullibility, General Toshirov, I reduce you in rank to Brigadier. You will serve with the First Dieron Avengers until you perish or until Dieron is returned to the Dragon.”

The man swallowed and studied the floor. “I am… rightly chastised.”

Sorenson relaxed his grip on the demoted officer and stepped back slightly.

Koutri knelt. “Before I make my last visit to the gardens, lord. I have one further message to convey.”

“Oh?” Takashi leant forwards. In a bad drama, this would mark some suicidal attack on him. Unlikely, given the Otomo guards and if for some reason they failed… Well, the Coordinator bore his swords and Koutri did not. And even if he had, kendo mastery was not among the man’s accomplishments.

“Frederick Steiner transmitted before we jumped,” the disgraced officer reported. “He has the body of Marcus Kurita and offers to exchange it for the body of a comrade of his now in your possession.”

“A comrade of Steiner?” Tai-Shu Sorenson frowned in irritation. “Who do you mean?”

“Davion,” Takashi deduced. “He wants Ian Davion’s body.” The corpse of a defeated First Prince for that of a fallen failure of House Kurita.

“Yes.”

Damn him. That was cunning. Takashi had planned a mausoleum to hold Ian Davion’s body, an honorable burial to a valiant foe… one that would be a constant goad to the Federated Suns simply by its location. A silent boast to all who saw it.

Would he give that up for the body of a man who had plotted to take Takashi’s throne from him?

Takashi grit his teeth. And yet, Marcus had his blood.

A casket containing a few score kilograms of bones, flesh and ash would help reknit the bonds of alliance between the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns. But if he declined this offer, Marcus’ brood would remember it every time they grieved.

Unity within House Kurita could be bought only by accepting unity among the dragon’s foes.

And yet, enmity at home was always the most deadly. He thought of his son, soon to be bound in marriage to a suitable lady from Rasalhague. An assurance from House Kurita that Rasalhague remained valued alongside New Samarkand and other key worlds. A commitment of Theodore to the future - something that might inspire him to be more dutiful.

Takashi Kurita thought of his wife, far away on peaceful Luthien. How could our son, someone with so much of her grace, be so feckless? But Theodore was his heir. His duty. His responsibility. The dragon’s foes would do what they would, he could not govern them. Only the dragon’s own choices were his… and Takashi would not splinter House Kurita.

He opened his eyes, only then aware he had closed them in thought. Only Sorenson remained, quietly waiting for him.

“Koutri asked Brigadier Toshirov to join in viewing the gardens,” the officer reported with rare delicacy.

“Ah.” So Koutri had chosen not just to spare his comrade but also asked him to be his second. Well enough. “I have messages to send,” Takashi concluded. To Dieron, to accept Frederick’s terms. To Luthien, to have his trophy brought here for the exchange.

Given the transit times, Sorenson’s staff would have to oversee the matter. Takashi and the warlord would be halfway to Rasalhague by the time Ian Davion’s casket reached Ashio, much less Dieron. It would also distance the two of them from the exchange, which would be for the best.

San Martin, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
12 September 3019


“One of these days, Frederick, you’ll play fast and loose with your orders - or ignore them completely - and it’ll not work out well for the Commonwealth. And on that day you will find me unforgiving.” Katrina Steiner’s gaze was icy in the holographic display. Then she sighed. “But today is not that day.”

A second royal visit to Dieron was out of the question, so this was a recorded message - sent days ago.

“Simon Johnson agrees that Takashi Kurita will not expend more resources when there have already been two major failures on Dieron. No doubt the DCMS will return, but not soon. If nothing else, the ISF cells that were rolled up clearly make up the lion’s share of their presence of Dieron. The Coordinator is no fonder than I am of having to operate blind.”

Frederick paused the replay and turned to Max. “Better than I expected.”

“She can hardly openly condemn you for defending Dieron. Or the Fourth Royal Guards for their part in that.” The balding man made a face. “If she is planning to remove you, which seems unlikely but not impossible…” He broke off.

“I’d suffer an ‘accident’ like uncle Alessandro?”

“No. All evidence would point to an ISF assassin.You’d be a martyr.”

Frederick paused and considered the likely consequences of that. Besides his own death. “And she’d not warn me if that was her intention.”

“Of course not. Then again, it took more than that before she moved against your uncle.”

The  general thought back to his own part in provoking that decision and winced. The Archon’s predecessor was a warning to those who suspected Katrina’s hand, of how ruthless she could be when it was called for. Which was not necessarily a flaw in an Archon. “So I get to live this time, probably.”

“Unless an actual ISF agent gets near you,” Max said with more cheer than was probably wise. He could easily be collateral if an Internal Security Forces assassin took Frederick out in a messy fashion.

That was going to be a security risk on Dieron for a long time. ‘Most’ of the local ISF having been employed against the garrison during the recent invasion didn’t mean all had. Subhash Indrahar was as much of a threat to the Lyran Commonwealth as his master, and he wasn’t one to have bet everything on victory.

Frederick started the message again.

“I have no doubt you’ll find your reward to be a punishing one,” Katrina’s voice continued. “You’re promoted to Kommandant-General and I’m assigning you as Margrave of the new Dieron Theater. Setting up the administration of that  Theater - and establishing what it includes will mire you in more bureautrivia than you can imagine, but much less than you’ve made for me.”

The Archon’s gaze softened slightly. “I wish Pete was still with you to be similarly chastised. Losing his mother’s support on the Commonwealth Council right after Athur died was a terrible blow,and now another of the Borge-Steiners has fallen in service to the Commonwealth. I had to break the news to Pete’s son personally. He asked me for permission to transfer from the Second Royal Guards to his father’s command and I’ve granted that. He’ll be leading a company of replacements for their casualties, but it’ll be months before they arrive. Soldiers for your other commands will come from closer so the Fourth will likely be last to reach full strength.” She paused. “I won’t currently accept nominations to join the Fourth from line units - only transfers from the First and Second Guards.”

Max frowned and gestured to the remote. Frederick paused the replay and looked at him. “What?”

“Why do you think that she’s specifying that?”

The younger man thought for a moment and then shook his head. “Loyalty screening. She wants the Fourth - and maybe the Third Royal Guards as well - as her own bastion of support. So they’ll only be filled out by those who’ve already proven their loyalty through serving on Tharkad with the two Royal Guards regiments there.”

Max nodded. “It would appear that her concerns about your loyalty are still active, even if she’s not planning to get rid of you. I wonder if she expects you to understand that.”

“She’s within her rights,” Frederick pointed out. “The Archon is the direct commander of the Royal Guards brigade.”

“Just as you’re commanding the rather larger Lyran Regulars.”

“We don’t have the lostech and,” his lips curled into a grimace. “We don’t have the personnel. My soldiers are brave and skilled, but the Royal Guards are highly selective. Besides, the Regulars are scattered across the Commonwealth. We’re no realistic threat to her control of Tharkad.”

Max arched an eyebrow. “And if the Commonwealth Jaegers were counted? They’re intended to be quickly and easily relocated without needing a major transport commitment. That would let you move quite a significant force to join whatever was in range, while the other Regulars stalled Katrina’s loyalists. Then there’s two of the best regiments in the Lyran Guards…”

“I’m not at war with Katrina!” Frederick half-shouted.

They locked gazes and Max smiled slightly. “I know that and you know that, but does she?”

The Steiner lowered his gaze first. “I think so. But I see your point. She can’t afford to fully trust me.”

“Just as her rapid rise fuelled your rivalry, now your own victories are spurring her to take precautions. Neither your rise nor hers was a bad thing, but until you can really trust each other…”

“I’ve taken Dieron for her! And held it! What more can I do?!”

The balding man sat back in his chair. “Good question. She knows you’re an able general, so military victories aren’t going to heal this. Something we’ll need to think about though.”

Frederick scowled at the devil who’d been clinging to his shoulder. “You’re a pain in the ass at times, Max.”

“Better a pain in the ass than a dagger in the back.”

And at least you’re taking my side, not favoring the ‘greatest Archon of all time’, the duke thought as he thumbed the remote to resume the message.

“Morgan tells me that the Kell Hounds took little losses, but I’ve authorized them to replace those they did take from the DCMS supplies they captured. The rest is for you to use - between that and the Suns’ generosity, you shouldn’t be short again for a while.” Katrina shook her head. “But once the Fourth have replaced their equipment losses, all other lostech salvage is to be shipped back to Tharkad. I trust you to understand why I’m asking that, Frederick. I’d love to equip more units in the same way, but this isn’t the time.”

“More distrust?” he asked Max.

The other man hesitated, then shook his head. “With the Fourth still here, you already have a quarter of the LCAF’s lostech-equipped units here. If she was redeploying them as well, it might be…”

“Yes, I thought the same. I guess that production of replacements isn’t going as well as we’d hoped.”

While Katrina was broadly happy with Frederick getting his hands dirty in expanding production of new equipment within the limits of current technology, the reverse-engineering of more advanced systems - even that using the texts Frederick had recovered - was slapped with the highest levels of security and Frederick quite simply had no need to know where those programmes were taking place, or how well they were progressing.

But the proliferation of Battlemech technology, back in the twenty-fifth century, had been mostly the result of Lyran failures in security. Having successfully stolen it from the Terran Hegemony, they’d then been successfully targeted themselves by agents of both of their neighboring realms. And there were carefully covered up hints in some of House Steiner’s most private archives that Max had confirmed, showing that House Davion’s purchase of the data hadn’t been without some degree of espionage in turn. Only House Liao hadn’t obtained the technology from the Steiners.

If that happened again, then the Combine and League would commit everything they had to fielding lostech armies. Sooner or later, that would happen anyway but every year - every day - that they couldn’t do that, was a day that the Lyrans had an advantage.

“Where do you think the Combine got their equipment?” he asked Max. “ComStar?”

“Almost certainly. Not that we can prove it. And I suspect that they offloaded some of the less desirable samples in their stores.”

Frederick nodded, amused slightly that for all their vaunted technology the SLDF had been just as vulnerable to being co-opted by ambitious contractors and greedy supply officers as the LCAF. As a case in point, the Fifth Sword of Light’s armor battalion had been equipped with SLDF Magi heavy tanks and Kanga jump tanks - the latter, an ambitious attempt to fit hovertanks with jump-jets. While both designs could keep up with the fast moving ‘mechs of the Golden Dragon, they’d proven severely lacking in other respects.

While Lyran Condor and Drillson hover tanks had dueled the Scimitar, Saracen and Saladins of the DCMS on the flanks, the heavy tank regiment backing the Tenth Lyran Guards had been free to drive home in support of Salome Ward Kell’s battalion and the other Tenth Guards. The outnumbered DCMS tankers had tried to do the same only to find their undergunned Magi and unreliable Kangas badly outmatched by the older but better designed Manticores.

“I can believe it,” he said out loud. “If only Pete had enjoyed a similar advantage.”

The Third Dieron’s armor battalion had been equipped with slower and more sensible examples of lostech combat vehicles, and slower but generally heavier ‘mechs. Like the King Crab that had closed with and brought down Pete Steiner’s Emperor. The two lostech machines had essentially destroyed each other - a brutal cost since reading between the lines of Katrina’s message suggested that replacing or even rebuilding them might prove impossible.

Frederick hadn’t even learned that his cousin was dead until they’d finished off enough of the Sword of Light forces to break their jamming. Of course, by the same virtue, the Sword of Light hadn’t realized that their allies were being crushed until well after Marcus Kurita was dead.

It had been a very satisfying kill, Frederick thought. Not worth losing Pete, but satisfying. Hopefully Kurita’s body would be worth something in diplomatic terms.

And there was one other pleasant death, if not one that was publicly celebrated the way Marcus Kurita’s was.

Among the insurgents killed trying to disrupt the garrisons at the start of the attack had been a University of Dieron student by the name of Myndo Waterly. The future Primus of ComStar from Max’s visions wouldn't be rising to that role now unless the organization turned to necromancy.

Reykjavik, Rasalhague
Rasalhague District, Draconis Combine
28 November 3019


A fiery sword had been driven into the port control building.

Not literally, but as Theodore Kurita watched the flames rising, his imagination painted the smoke as rippling steel. No doubt the superstitious at court - or those who found the pretense politically valuable - would murmur that this was divine retribution for the shattering of the Fifth Sword of Light.

The young Kurita held himself very still, testing his self-control to the limits. When razor sharp steel hovers at your throat, the undisciplined can kill themselves unless the man holding it has preternatural reflexes and precision.

Let his raging emotions loose, move without thought…

And the glittering arc of steel reflected in the window would open his throat.

The young Kurita had once thought that Sun Zhang Academy was demanding in its discipline. Enough to realize that perhaps his father’s gruff complaints about how much his mother spoiled Theodore weren’t completely in error. Not entirely or mostly, but partly. Now, keeping his grief inside him by sheer will… Now he knew that the academy had only been the beginning. That the additional training arranged for him by the ISF had been a trivial step further.

With every fiber of his soul crying out for the father who had unintentionally - perhaps even unknowingly - ridden the dropship Startreader into the spaceport at supersonic velocity, Theodore Kurita met his own gaze in the windows… and when he was sure there was nothing but darkness beneath his brow, he gestured subtly with the fingers of one hand.

“Tono.” His aide bowed sharply and opened the double doors leading into the grand hall Theodore was standing in.

The advantage of the light of the fires outside and the vast glass wall intended to let onlookers see what happened inside without being able to shoot at those within, was that Theodore got to see the reactions of Jarl Ottar Sjovald and Duke Hassad Ricol to seeing the new Coordinator stood stock still for a barber to shave off his mustache and stubble, a white cloth covering the throat and shoulders of an otherwise immaculate DCMS general’s uniform.

Sjovald didn’t quite hide his bemusement. Ricol had no visible reaction at all.

“Lord Kurita,” the duke greeted him formally, bowing precisely.

The Jarl - governor of Rasalhague military district, second in power only to the warlord and the Coordinator himself - approached Theodore exactly as close as relaxed court protocol allowed and: “Coordinator. I… I regret to inform you that we have found no trace of any survivors from the Startreader. It will be some time before we can enter the wreck to search there for your father.”

“Jarl Sjovald,” Theodore paused intentionally and then lowered his tone slightly. “Ottar, we are to be family from tomorrow. Vasily will advise me if this is the start of a military campaign, but I ask you: what is the mood of the people of Rasalhague?”

The older man blinked at the implicit statement that tomorrow’s wedding ceremony would take place even under these circumstances, then answered: “At the moment there is shock. Your father was not always popular, there are always dissidents unfortunately. But he was respected. There are those who do not know you who may expect… there will be those who will fear that you will retaliate in the manner of your grandfather.”

“I am not Hohiro Kurita. Nor am I Takashi Kurita, or even my great-grandfather Hugai.” Theodore stared at Sjovold for a moment, the older man dropping his gaze first. “But I am the Coordinator. Where I lead, you will follow.” Or die. Father-in-law or not.

“Of course, Tono.” Sjovold backed away, sensing impatience.

Theodore looked back to the window. “See to your family. I realize there are many details to tend to, particularly under these circumstances.”

“It would be possible to rearrange the ceremonies for a later day,” Ricol suggested quietly. “Merely until the court has had a few days to adjust. This may seem hasty.”

Shifting his gaze to the ‘Red Duke’, the Coordinator stared down the nobleman. “This wedding has been planned and scheduled for over a year. There is nothing hasty in maintaining that schedule. The Dragon is not deterred by threats. Or accidents. Or even attacks.”

“But it may adjust to new circumstances.”

“The logic of House Kurita wedding back into the Rasalhague nobility, one that my noted ancestor Siriwan McAllister-Sorenson was born from, remains as politically advisable as it was yesterday.” He didn’t feel particularly strongly about Anastasia Sjovold, but that could grow with time.

It took him the same discipline that held him back from falling over in grief and fear to keep from looking over at his aide. Tomoe Sakade was someone he did feel strongly for. Too strongly, to be honest. He was an obedient son, but… there had been the temptation to refuse Sjovold. If only Tomoe’s background would have met his father’s requirements.

If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. And the Coordinator had more power but far fewer options than a junior officer. Duty demanded that he tie Rasalhague to him. As did survival. Marcus Kurita was not the only member of his House who might see a suddenly vacated throne as an opportunity. It had happened before.

Ricol nodded in acquiescence to Theodore’s decision. “There is also the matter of Ian Davion’s body. Returning it was not a popular decision by your father. It may have contributed to…”

Something in Theodore’s eyes stilled him. “Perhaps you missed when I said that the dragon is not deterred by threats, Ricol?”

“I did not, lord. But the body is symbolic of a great triumph at a time when there have been reverses. Losing Ian Davion to regain Dieron would be well worth it. For the body of Marcus Kurita…” The duke shrugged slightly.

“Ian Davion was my father’s foe. If he judges that the First Prince’s carcass is worth no more than the remains of a warlord then I see no need to second-guess that decision.” Theodore looked at the flames and smoke. “Bring me Hanse Davion’s body and I may decide otherwise.”

“Sir.” Ricol bowed stiffly.

“Don’t let me detain you.” Theodore gestured again, this time at the hall. “I will see you both here in a few hours.”

Both men backed away, just as the barber finished his work and whipped the clothes away from Theodore’s neck and shoulder. Something about the move drew Ricol’s eyes and this time he didn’t entirely hide his shock.

Subhash Indrahar was not smiling but he did incline his head slightly towards the pair as they departed.

Yes, Ricol. Theodore nodded slightly. I do trust my father’s closest advisor to literally hold a knife to my throat. Even if he failed to secure my father’s life this time.

And of course, the Smiling One was his own mentor as well. Eventually they would disagree - just as his father had. But Theodore wouldn’t consider one failure sufficient grounds to discount decades of successes. And there was an implicit statement: while not all the warlords even knew that his father was dead yet, much less had offered their formal pledges of support, the ISF was (on the whole) behind Theodore’s reign.

Vasily Cherenkof, here on Rasalhague, and Ivan Sorenson, whose dropship had been forced to divert when Startreader began to fall, had pledged themselves to Theodore already and they controlled almost the entire Lyran border - a border much less dangerous now that the Wolf’s Dragoons had accepted terms for their next contract.

“I cannot yet confirm if your father-in-law or Ricol have any part in your father’s death,” Indrahar warned quietly.

“The difficult, I expect quickly. The impossible, I merely expect as soon as it becomes possible,” Theodore told him. “Once I’m married, all honeymoon plans will go to the wayside. I will trust you to ensure travel arrangements to Benjamin first.”

Rasalhague was inconveniently far from the center of power. Theodore needed to get to Luthien, and the nearby Pesht, before anyone acted on ambitious ideas. But that in itself would be predictable.

Benjamin wasn’t on the way, but it was the most central of the military districts and its resources and industries made it critical. Obtain the support of the most experienced of the warlords, Syovo Yorioshi, and Theodore’s position would be almost as secure as his father’s had been.

He looked at the blazing inferno again and allowed himself a very slight shrug. Security was relative.

“Orders are being issued for jumpships,” the spymaster confirmed. “Precise disposition of dropships will be made later, to allow precautions against a repeat of today’s failure.”

“Failure.” Theodore nodded. “A good word for it.”

“I am reminded of a quote from Chancellor Barbara Liao,” mused Indrahar. “‘It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake’.”

The Coordinator smiled grimly. “Teaching me statecraft, sensei?”

“With discretion, sire. But as swiftly as I may. We may have very little time.”

“There is never enough time. War has already taught me that.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #207 on: 18 August 2022, 07:53:13 »
Well, that's one way to put someone down for a dirt nap.
BATTLEMASTER
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nerd

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #208 on: 18 August 2022, 08:14:41 »
Takashi dying ingloriously in a DropShip crash? That's the risk you take when running around the Inner Sphere in centuries old space craft often held together by happy thoughts.
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paulobrito

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #209 on: 18 August 2022, 08:20:30 »
That also places the WD under Theodore. Now the real question is how Ted manages the mercenaries. Alienate them or not?

 

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