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Author Topic: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little  (Read 33357 times)

DOC_Agren

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #270 on: 28 November 2022, 21:38:30 »
I wait to pop in because I was afraid it was just someone asking "Is there more"

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

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #271 on: 29 November 2022, 04:29:27 »
... OK, where did the ISF get the very Idea for the Hamamoto?
In canon, the Hatamoto-Chi happened because the DCMS had received an 'anonymous' donation of Thugs and LAW had the Charger lines they'd acquired and didn't want to really use, so they modified the lines to build something with Thug parts.

Here the DCMS had received their Thugs earlier and had the same basic idea. The result is rather more primitive but it's still an 80 ton 4/6 'Mech with two PPCs and enough heatsinks to use them relatively often, with decent armour for the size.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

marauder648

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #272 on: 29 November 2022, 07:35:03 »
Great updates! Utterly superb writing as always!
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Project Zhukov Fan AU TRO's and PDFs - https://thezhukovau.wordpress.com/

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #273 on: 29 November 2022, 18:30:10 »
Indeed!  And that explanation for the Hatamotos is totally logical.  :thumbsup:

cawest

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #274 on: 29 November 2022, 18:36:01 »
well LAW did see what the CC did to make the Challenger. 

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #275 on: 29 November 2022, 19:16:21 »
Also a fair point...  :thumbsup:

mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #276 on: 29 November 2022, 21:32:19 »
Thanks for returning to this!
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.

drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #277 on: 30 November 2022, 02:35:45 »
Chapter 2

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 September 3023


“Welcome, Ambassador!” Hanse Davion, First Prince of the Federated Suns, had come to the door of his office to greet Gregor Eisner warmly.

Despite the crisis around his accession to the throne, relations between his realm and the Lyran Commonwealth were better than they had been since the fall of the Star League. Ambassador Eisner had been an inspired choice to represent his nation: a native of Arcturus and veteran of the Arcturan Guards, he’d left military service for a diplomatic role after losing his leg fighting the DCMS. His natural good humor had made him a popular guest on holovid shows and he’d even played celebrity soccer one-on-one against Duke Aaron Sandoval (himself a double-amputee) for charity last year.

Eisner accepted the offered hand and shook it, but he did so stiffly and his face was far from its usual warmth. “Your Highness. Thank you for seeing me on short notice.”

“You said it was important,” Hanse replied, gesturing to the seats. “Coffee?” Behind a veneer of bonhomie, the prince’s mind was working furiously. Was something wrong - some crisis on Tharkad?

“I think that that would be inappropriate.” Eisner accepted the seat, leaning forwards. He opened his attache case and produced an envelope. “I have been instructed to deliver the following note with all due urgency.”

Hanse stared at him and then accepted the envelope. “I only sent my reply to your Archon’s Peace Proposal last night,” he mused. “Unless ComStar have broken with their usual inefficiencies, I’d be amazed if it’s arrived on Tharkad by now. Much less for there to be a response.”

“This message follows from the Peace Proposal, your highness.”

“...should I ask, or should I simply read it, ambassador?”

Eisner swallowed. “Since you have asked, I believe I am free to interpret my instructions with some latitude.”

“Well spit it out! Whatever it is, surely we can deal with it with the same goodwill our nations have shared for years now!” Hanse was opening the envelope as he spoke though.

“On the evening of the thirty-first, only a few hours after the Peace Proposal was sent,” the ambassador began, “Colonel Sortek of your armed forces was the Archon’s guest at the graduation dinner of the Nagelring.”

“Late in the year… ah, yes I forgot that your academic year doesn’t quite match ours.” Hanse shook his head. “Has something happened to Ardan? Is that what this is about?” His friend - almost his younger brother! If he’d come to harm, then Katrina might well send a personal message. But a formal note?

Eisner shook his head. “I regret to inform you that Colonel Sortek was apprehended attempting to access the Nagelring’s vaults, sir.”

“What?! That’s ridiculous!” Hanse forced himself to remain seated, but Eisner sat back sharply at the force of the denial.

“I cannot claim direct knowledge of the events. I can confirm, as a graduate, that the vaults hold not only valuable and historical artifacts of the academy, but also serve as a back-up data center for sensitive information.”

“I’m aware,” the prince said sharply. “Including back-ups of the Star League computers recovered by Duke Frederick Steiner over the last few years, or so I have been told.”

“Correct, your highness. I don’t believe that there is any way that the Colonel could have tried to enter them by accident.”

“Ardan isn’t a spy!”

“Having met Colonel Sortek, I would not make such an accusation, sir. Nonetheless, he was found there under suspicious circumstances and the Archon was present in person. I believe she was angered considerably.”

Hanse opened the letter sharply and started scanning it impatiently. The ambassador remained diplomatically silent, watching as the First Prince felt his cheeks flush with anger…

When Hanse Davion looked up again, it was only after he had fought to keep that fury under control. “I read here, ambassador, that my good and trusted friend Ardan Sortek has been detained for questioning at the Archon’s pleasure.” He raised one hand when Eisner started to reply. “My good friend who has diplomatic credentials has been detained, one might even say arrested.”

The Lyran exhaled slowly. “Yes, your highness.”

“This treads very closely towards the line of exceeding diplomatic practices, ambassador.”

“I am aware, your highess.”

For a very long moment, the two men stared at each other.

Hanse broke the silence. “I understand this to be a preliminary message. I obviously have no firsthand knowledge of what may have happened at the Nagelring, but please relay to Archon Steiner that I expect a full account once one is available to her - as she would expect of me if the situation is reversed.”

“I will do so, your highness,” Eisner said in relief.

“For now I will refrain from issuing anything that could be construed as a threat. We may, after all, very soon receive news that this is all some terrible misunderstanding. And I am sure that once Colonel Sortek is back at the Federated Suns embassy, I will receive notification and his own account. However, if he is not back in the embassy - intact and unharmed, and within a reasonable span of time - then I may find it necessary to circumscribe the movements of Lyran diplomatic personnel.”

“That, uh…”

Hanse shook his head. “I devoutly hope that this is no more than a misplaced overreaction by the Archon to a perceived betrayal of trust. And if I have completely misunderstood Ardan and he has in fact attempted something so outrageous, then I will accept responsibility for him as my officer. But as you must understand, ambassador, when one’s diplomats are used poorly by the host nation it is the obligation of a ruler to reciprocate, lest other diplomats be similarly mistreated.”

Eisner dipped his head. “I am sure that, were the situation reversed, that you would not exceed the exact limits of diplomatic practises and that the Archon would be similarly disciplined.”

The prince sighed. “Is there anything else, ambassador?”

The man pushed himself back onto his feet. “Only my deep regrets that this situation has arisen and my hope that it will, as you say, quickly be proven to be a misunderstanding.”

“Thank you, Gregor. Don’t let me detain you.”

It was only when the ambassador paled that Hanse realized that the words had been poorly chosen. It was too late to take them back though, and he watched Eisner walk out.

God, poor Ardan! Whatever had happened? The First Prince slumped back in his chair. What could he do? What should he do? Tharkad and New Avalon were separated by over five hundred light years, direct action was out of the question… What insanity would have Ardan try to access a Lyran secure vault? He knew that the alliance was the most valued diplomatic asset the Suns had!

Straightening, Hanse checked the clock and saw that he had twenty minutes before the appointments pushed back to make time for Eisner needed to be dealt with. He stalked to his desk and thumbed his intercom. “I need to speak to Olivia Fenlon before my next appointment. And Nelitha Green-Davion in the same timeframe.”

The secretary was on the ball. “I’m alerting their staffs now, your highness. Do you wish to speak to them separately, together or does it not matter?”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Understood.” Hanse could almost see the secretary’s face focused in concentration. “Countess Fenlon is in a meeting and being contacted. Countess Green-Davion is currently in transit from Brunswick, a call is being patched through to her now.”

“Thank you.” Hanse released the intercom, recovered the diplomatic note and was back in his chair right before the vid-phone lit up and displayed his distant cousin’s face.

“Hanse?” she asked. “Is something the matter?”

“Yes.” He paused. “I need to get a back-channel message to Frederick Steiner. I hate to use your personal relationship for state business, but Ardan’s in trouble on Tharkad.”

Nelitha blinked. “In trouble that the Archon isn’t willing to help him with? You know they get on like a house on fire.”

“Right now, the house is on fire and Katrina appears to be pouring oil on it. It’s… uncharacteristic. I’ll get you the details and if anyone can get through to the Archon and fight Ardan’s corner, it’s your boyfriend.”

“I’ll certainly ask,” she said slowly, “But I don’t believe he’s on Tharkad at the moment. According to his last letter, he was heading back out to the Periphery - one of his industrial investments paid off. I’d be amazed if word gets to him in less than a week. It could be longer, you know what ComStar’s like for the further fringes of the Inner Sphere.”

Of all the times! “Please let him know anyway. I’m going through formal channels but I have a bad feeling about this. Ardan’s been accused of espionage and Katrina’s handling, at least so far, has been… clumsy. I might even go so far as inflammatory.”

“Can you tell me more?”

“She invited him to the Nagelring and he allegedly tried to access their secure vaults.”

“...that doesn’t sound like Ardan at all,” Nelitha admitted. She frowned in thought. “Katrina doesn’t take betrayal well. She might be taking this personally… I don’t know her as well as he does.”

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned. Is this the diplomatic equivalent? I hope our ambassador has a handle on this by now. “Thank you, Nelitha. Just ask Frederick to do what he can.”

With the call ended, Hanse turned and looked out over the city below Castle Davion as he waited for his foreign minister to become available. Did Ardan blunder into someone else’s plot? he wondered. Something incidental to him… or was he framed by someone who knew exactly how Katrina would react? He didn’t know, but his gut told him that this wouldn’t end quickly or cleanly.

-

The Lost Sea, Kwangjong-ni
Protectorate of Donegal, Lyran Commonwealth
7 October 3023


Max knew that the creaking above him was water in the ancient plumbing of the Weigel Armory and Munitions factory, not the dome separating them from the ocean. That wasn’t enough to keep him from looking up nervously at every sound.

For once, Frederick seemed to share his unease with the situation. The younger man was hunching his shoulders and had the fixed expression of mild irritation that Max knew was his default was of hiding discomfort with a situation. “It’s in better condition that I’d hoped,” he said out loud.

“I wasn’t sure myself. My guess is that the SLDF never found it so no one’s shot it up, stripped it or done anything but abandon the place.”

Official records claimed that Weigel Armory and Munitions’s factory on Kwangjong-ni had been destroyed by the SLDF in 2767, early in their occupation of the Rim Worlds Republic. That had seemed odd - the factory had supplied Amaris’ forces for the coup, but it could have also been used to build equipment for Kerensky’s drive to liberate the Hegemony. It could have been that the factory was razed by the defenders to prevent it from being used by Kerensky, and no one had found anything to suggest it still existed for centuries… but Max’s memories told him that something would have been discovered someday.

It had taken over a decade of underwater surveying, but now there was proof that the factory had just been lost, not destroyed. Built under the planet’s oceans, it wasn’t going to be found by accident. Only a few workers had probably known where it was and most likely they’d died in the chaos of that era, or lived out their lives without telling. Others, brought in and out without being told that it was underwater rather than the more common underground, might have simply had no way of finding it again.

Whatever the truth, here it was.

“It’s a self-contained factory,” Max reported. “Raw materials come in, ‘mechs come out. We’re still checking the tooling but it looks as if we’d only need modest repairs to be able to build Rampages again. Assuming we want them.”

“On the one hand, they’re pretty decent assault ‘Mechs,” Frederick observed, “But on the other, it’d be rather obvious we found a factory for them. No one builds them, but they’re recognisable. And the association with Amaris…”

“Mmmm.” Max shrugged. “How bad an impression would it make?”

“A ‘mech is a ‘mech. I don’t think it would be too bad in the Commonwealth, but the SLDF made a point of getting rid of Rim Worlds exclusive designs. The hatred lives on. And from what you say about the Clans…”

“Ah.”

Frederick looked at some of the tooling. “It’s pretty similar to the Zeus structurally.”

“Ja, there’s a suspicion that Defiance Industries used the design as a basis when they developed the Zeus during the First Succession War. If they’d found the place they could convert it to build them rather than Rampages.” He didn’t say that he was talking about what would have happened in that future history. They had practise talking around that detail, rather than possibly be overheard discussing such politically inappropriate things as visions and dreams. “We don’t have a license though.”

“And Defiance would send armies of lawyers after us. I’d be nibbled to death. Can we buy one?”

Max spread his hands. “We can ask. It’d take time unless we use the HPGs, but…”

“Basic security, we’ll want this to be face to face,” decided Frederick. “It’ll take time to reactivate this place anyway.”

“We can start by putting the component lines back in service.” Max opened his noteputer. “The Royal Guards only have a trickle of replacement parts to add to what we found on Helm. The lines here don’t build everything, but what they do build will be welcome.”

“Good thinking. And it’ll score points with Katrina, which is never a bad thing. That’s probably more valuable than more ‘Mechs.” The general shook his head. “I never thought I’d be saying that. More valuable than ‘Mechs. Still, if Defiance Industries decide they don’t want to license the Zeus at a reasonable cost, what can we do with this?”

“There’s the Striker, I suppose. We have the design data and no one’s building it. Or both Red Devil and Trellshire Heavy Industries have licenses for the Battlemaster, which is the right weight to use the reactors built here. If we partner with one of them, we could start building a lostech version.”

Frederick grinned. “And play them off against each other for the best deal.”

“You’re sounding like a businessman,” Max said and then flinched at another groan from the plumbing.

“I’m a proud Lyran patriot,” his boss told him. “There’s nothing shameful in understanding business. Anyway, the Battlemaster process sounds better than the Zeus, but Defiance may get shirty if we don’t at least make them an offer.”

“There’s more than one assembly line, so we might be able to do both.”

“That sounds…” Frederick’s comm pinged and he reached down to pull it off his belt. “Both is good,” he finished quickly before accepting the call. “Steiner here.”

There was a crackle of someone speaking, too distant and tinny for Max to overhear.

“Right,” the general said crisply. “Retransmit down to our ship. It’ll take us hours to get back, there’s no point waiting.” He cut the comm. “Apparently I have mail.”

“Who from?”

“Tharkad and New Avalon. The former is official, but that’s all the new boy knows.” Frederick had taken on a new secretary, since Max was no longer available on a day to day basis.

“I think d’Alembert is about the same age you were when we first met,” Max told him wryly. “If that makes him a boy in your eyes, how old am I?”

“About a thousand years, give or take.”

They both laughed as they retraced their steps to the factory’s dock. The small cargo submarine that had brought them was floating in the dock, dwarfed by the infrastructure that was clearly intended to deal with bulk shipments in and out. At least the yellow paint was cheerful in comparison to the industrial grey.

The two men climbed the gangway and entered the cramped control room, where Jules d’Alembert was sitting at the communications panel, being pointedly ignored by the young woman who was monitoring the submarine’s status - most of the crew were resting or had joined in exploring the factory.

“Two messages, sir.” The heavyset young man held up a headset. “ComStar want your voiceprint authorization to retransmit. The one from Tharkad is official LCAF, the other they probably don’t need the authoriziation but the adept is being shirty.”

Frederick sighed. “Bureaucrats.” He donned the headset. “This is General Steiner. Are you ready to check my authorization?”

Max crossed to the printer and waited as Frederick mildly roasted the officious ComStar representative. Sure enough, the messages were released and the printer came to life, clicking and whirring before spitting out several pages. Checking the top page of the first, Max saw it was indeed from New Avalon and who had sent it. “Message from Nelitha,” he reported and handed the papers over to Frederick.

It took him a moment for the second message to finish printing and when he looked up he saw that his friend’s face had gone from eager anticipation to confusion. “Is something wrong?”

“Perhaps,” Frederick admitted. “This has been on the way for over a month, but apparently Ardan Sortek’s been detained on Tharkad. Arrested or as near as you can with diplomats.”

“Why?” Sortek was fairly inoffensive, and on good terms with two Successor Lords. That made him pretty bulletproof against accusations of anything.

“He’s accused of espionage. Hopefully that’s been cleared up, but it’s still a scandal. If we weren’t on the far end of the Commonwealth I’d have thought we’d have heard something in the time it took this to catch up.”

“It may have come in with the same batch of messages as this,” Max muttered thoughtfully. “Or there could be something here.” He quickly and shamelessly started reading Frederick’s other message.

“Do you want me to check if there’s anything in the media, sir?” asked d’Alembert.

“Go ahead, Jules.” Frederick went back to reading Nelitha’s message. “It could have blown over, but I’d better head for Tharkad in case it hasn’t. Something’s wrong here.”

Max grunted. “You can’t.” He handed the other letter over. “You’re officially recalled to active duty - orders from Mount Asgard. Not Katrina’s signature but Regis signed them so she can’t be unaware. Jumpships are being arranged to get you to Wyatt by command circuit.”

“Wyatt?”

The world was well known to Max and Frederick, it was where he’d taken command of his first regiment, the Seventh Lyran Regulars. But few worlds in the Commonwealth were further from Kwangjong-ni: Wyatt was in the Isle of Skye, on the border with the Free Worlds League while they were currently in Coventry province, near the Periphery.

“A five hundred light year command circuit?” Frederick continued. “For just one man? If it’s that urgent, surely someone else is closer!” Dozens of jumpships would be delaying or altering their schedules to get him from one ship to another, letting a single dropship (or more probably a small shuttle) cross vast distances with multiple jumps each day. The expense was prodigious, as other shipments were delayed.

Max shrugged. “No details I can see, I guess it’s too important to send via ComStar.”

D’Alembert looked up. “I just got a DBC update from Tharkad, sir.” Donegal Broadcasting Company was one of the major news networks. “Relationships with the Federated Suns are collapsing - apparently the Federated Suns have confined our diplomats on New Avalon to their embassy.”

“Reasons?” Frederick demanded.

“Nothing official, sir. But apparently a high level Feddie representative tried something at the Nagelring.”

Frederick and Max exchanged looks. “Katrina can’t possibly want you in the area in case of war with the Suns, can she?” asked Max incredulously.

“Wyatt’s not that far from the Terran corridor, but she’d probably send me to Dieron if that was it.” The general shook his head. “I don’t have any choice though.” He looked at the submariner, who was trying to pretend that she wasn’t listening. “Recall your captain please. We need to get back to the surface as fast as possible.”

“It’ll take a day or so for the decompression,” she reminded him, reaching for her own comm. “We’re rather deep.”

“I’m aware, so we should start right away.” Frederick turned back to Max. “None of this makes sense, but someone has to get this fixed. Nelitha asked me to look into this and see if Ardan’s being framed. She doesn’t say so, but that has to come from the First Prince.”

Max nodded. “And you can’t chase it up when you’re on Wyatt.”

“I know. It’s a tough job, but you’re going to have to go to the richest, most luxurious and sophisticated court in the Inner Sphere and try to talk sense into the Archon before this gets further out of hand.”

The older man sighed. “I would rather face a thousand deaths.”

D’Alembert’s face showed that he thought they were joking. Perhaps calling him a boy wasn’t unfair.

-

Castle Roark, Wyatt
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
13 November 3023


Dozens of jumps would have been a strain for anyone, and Frederick was self-aware enough to realize that it was hitting him harder than it would have a decade ago. I’m getting older, he thought. Is this how Max felt chasing me around?

At least official instructions had been waiting for him and he wasn’t going into this meeting entirely unprepared. Otherwise the man waiting for him in the drawing room at Castle Roark would have been a complete shock.

“General Steiner!” The man in CCAF dress greens clicked his heels as he saluted him. “It is a delight to meet such a highly reputed soldier.”

Frederick returned the salute. “Senior Colonel Ridzik. Your own name is hardly unknown to me.” For competence, but also for a certain brutality. And while the ranks might seem disparate, there was no higher rank than Senior Colonel in the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces. Pavel Ridzik was the Chancellor’s most trusted general, so far as such things went - closer to being Edward Regis’ counterpart than Frederick’s.

The servant who’d guided Frederick here withdrew, leaving the two men in privacy. Hopefully meeting here in the stronghold of House Roark rather than Wyatt City would translate to some degree of security for the meeting. It wasn’t a worthless precaution, but Frederick doubted it would hold up for all that well.

“I never expected to be standing here for this conversation,” Pavel Ridzik continued, “But it’s my honor to work with you upon this joint enterprise our lords have set us upon.”

“That’s our duty.” Frederick’s words weren’t precisely agreement, and he thought the other man was canny enough to notice. “Let’s get down to business.”

“Of course.” Ridzik had been here long enough to familiarize himself with the holo-display. Less charitably put, he’d made himself at home. He activated it, bringing up a map of the central regions of the Inner Sphere. Five pie wedges radiating from the Terran system, the neutral hub where ComStar was headquartered. The red wedge marking the Draconis Combine didn’t quite reach the center though, the tip replaced by Lyran blue as a result of Dieron and neighboring worlds changing hands.

Ridzik indicated the other side of the Commonwealth, where it bordered the purple of the Free Worlds League. “The Chancellor and your Archon have agreed on a joint operation to repeat your success in pushing the Combine away from Terra. Driving our mutual enemy, House Marik, back will create a secure corridor between our realms.”

“As if we didn’t already have multiple worlds within a jump of each other’s,” grumbled Frederick, pointing at Dieron and New Earth - Lyran worlds in easy reach from Capellan worlds like New Home.

“Only a few worlds would need to change hands to remove those links,” the Capellan pointed out placatingly. “You’ve done it yourself, you know how quickly such things can change. Pushing the League back gives us much more security.”

“Those are our orders, anyway.” Looking at the map, Frederick indicated the four worlds of the Sirian Concordance, right at the tip of the Free Worlds League. “That means taking these worlds - a province with three regiments of their own. I believe the Third Sirian Lancers are away on federal service.”

Ridzik nodded. “The current government of the province are not supporters of the Captain-General. My understanding is that the ruler, Louis Grise, has concentrated his resources on the First and Second Lancers, so two well supplied regiments will defend the province. Sending the Third Lancers back would change the balance of forces very little - they’re short of supplies and don’t contain the best warriors. The main concern is that Janos Marik could send substantial reinforcements if Grise makes concessions and switches factions within their Parliament.”

That seemed like an accurate assessment to Frederick. Ridzik was no fool. “Either of us could crush the Lancers, given the time. Working together we could even do so quickly - unless your available forces are much weaker than I’ve been led to believe. But federal reinforcements are another matter.”

Spreading his hands, the bearded Capellan sat back in his seat. “Let us clear up any confusion in our forces first then. See what tools we have at our disposal?”

Frederick nodded curtly. Calling troops tools rankled with him but for now he'd let it pass. “The Eleventh Lyran Regulars are here on Wyatt and the 32nd Lyran Guards are stationed on Denebola and free for this operation. In addition, two reinforced battalions from the Commonwealth Jaegers are being quietly moved into the area. Close to three regiments of ‘Mechs and a dozen conventional regiments to support them. We have about as many more second line conventional regiments available for use as garrisons, but they’re not suited for invasions.”

“I would say about the same for conventional forces,” Ridzik offered. “In battlemech forces, my own regiment - Stapelton’s Iron Hands - are in position with Lothar’s Fusiliers on Outreach. The Second Kearny Fusiliers regiment will be moved up to support us once we have a plan in place - eight battalions, about the same forces that you are contributing.”

That was more or less what Frederick had expected. The Kearny Fusiliers were long-time mercenaries and very good, even if they were understrength - part of the famous Northwind Hussars. While they might number less than the available Commonwealth Jaegers, in effectiveness they were probably about equal.

“If we don’t want Lord Marik to commit to defending the Sirians then we should present a separate threat that he has to respond to,” he said out loud. “He might appreciate picking up Sirian votes in Parliament, but he’s too canny to do so if it means losing votes from one of his existing supporters.”

“I see,” Ridzik stroked his beard. “So attack another province, one nearby, so that the available federal reserves go there. Zion and Ohrenson provinces were carved out of Capellan space recently and lack strong provincial forces, but they are not reliable allies to House Marik.”

Frederick nodded and indicated another pair of Marik worlds, clinging to the Lyran border. “The Border Protectorate are under tight military control by a pro-Marik government. They have two ‘Mech regiments of their own and would likely make them available to respond to an attack on Sirius if the Captain-General asked. But if I launch an attack on their own worlds, then they’d almost certainly receive support. We took Denebola off them recently, they’d not want to lose the rest of their territory.” He’d personally led that campaign.

“I see. And it makes for an easy division of any worlds taken,” the Capellan observed. “We take the Sirian worlds and you take the Border Protectorate, easy to understand and no cause for confusion.”

“Counting prizes before we’ve even begun operations is optimistic.” And it would mean four worlds for the Capellans, if they could take them, compared to two for the Lyrans. “But for us to quarrel over conquests we haven’t made would hardly be what the Archon wants out of this co-operation.”

And what was Katrina thinking by accepting Chancellor Liao’s proposed joint invasion of the Free Worlds League? Maximilian Liao was widely known as a treacherous snake, he’d backed Anton Marik’s revolt against the sitting Captain-General and from what Max told Frederick, was also reaching out to Michael Hasek-Davion - the allegedly-loyal opposition to Hanse Davion.

Frederick forced himself to try to be objective. The Capellans were the weakest of the five Successor States, keeping their neighbors off balance with internal strife was a valid strategy for survival in the crab-pit of the Succession Wars. It was possible they might be a reliable ally for the Lyrans… but it could cost Katrina the alliance with the far stronger Federated Suns.

“You make good points,” Ridzik agreed calmly. “If we cannot take the worlds then arguing over who holds them is foolish, but if we each have our own targets then there is less cause for… frictions, shall we say.”

“Well said.” Frederick studied the map again. “I believe that we have a broad outline of how to proceed, and that would match our master’s goals. Do you agree?”

The Capellan nodded. “I look forward to our cooperation. Perhaps this will be the first of many glorious victories for Lyran and Capellan forces.”

He nodded slowly. “Perhaps. I think we can hold Zosma, Alula Australis… perhaps take Oliver as well.” That world wasn’t part of any larger province but it would be essentially cut off if the Border Protectorate and the Sirian Concordance fell - and it was a valuable industrial world. “The Border Protectorate’s population aren’t supportive of their own leaders or of House Marik - and we’ve governed them before. That’s something you may wish to learn from.”

Ridzik’s eyes narrowed. “I don’t follow your point, general.”

“Worlds that leave the Capellan Confederation have an… unfortunate habit of becoming strongly loyal to their new rulers after a generation or two. And while you’ve taken worlds back, they’re almost always slow to fall in line.”

“We know how to deal with insurgencies,” Ridzik said flatly.

With atrocities, Frederick didn’t say. “If you’re having to put them down behind you, that will slow your advance. I’m confident I can take our targets unless Janos Marik throws a major portion of his strategic reserves at me, stripping other border regions. But if I do that and you’re bogged down fighting for every town then the Concordance could hold out and the corridor you want to create won’t be formed.”

“And you feel better able to keep restive civilians under control than I am?”

“I managed quite well on Dieron,” he replied coolly. “And I did so without using the heavy-handed tactics you’ve had to employ in your own career. I strongly suggest that you consider why so many people who’ve known Capellan rule are reluctant to return to it.”

“We are allies now, General Steiner. Perhaps you are unfamiliar with such relationships? What you say could be considered an insult to patriotic Capellan Citizens.”

Frederick glared at Ridzik. “We are allies because my cousin and your Chancellor have agreed to try to work together. My past experience of working with allies is that being forthright avoids later misunderstandings.”

“I see.” Ridzik visibly forced himself to lean back. “Please, share your wisdom.” His voice was edged in sarcasm.

“You mentioned Capellan citizens, but a large portion of your population aren’t citizens. The people you’re conquering know that they can only expect servitor status - which is close enough to slavery.”

“And you find that offensive?”

“Slaveowners are like cannibals, Colonel Ridzik. Both reduce the value of others from people to property. I find that deeply offensive and I really don’t understand why anyone wouldn’t feel the same way.”

Ridzik nodded slowly. “Obviously, I don’t agree with that comparison. And I find it deeply offensive. But, as you say, we are now not going to misunderstand each other. You will work with us despite that.”

“I am loyal to my Archon and she has ordered me to. Just don’t imagine I’m doing this out of any fondness for the Capellan state.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

worktroll

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #278 on: 30 November 2022, 03:08:05 »
Betcha I know what's happening ...
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paulobrito

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #279 on: 30 November 2022, 04:37:07 »
Betcha I know what's happening ...

Like someone selected another target, this time?

The Wobbly Guy

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #280 on: 30 November 2022, 05:47:13 »
Hmmm... Katrina is a harder target than OTL Hanse, but still easier than the alternate TL Hanse, who has a wife and kid.

The question is whether Max (not Liao) can put the pieces together - hey, somebody is acting out of character... isn't that supposed to happen about now?

Cannonshop

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #281 on: 30 November 2022, 06:05:31 »
I'm kinda suspecting the doppelganger is Sortek, not Katrina, because her response is absolutely in-character given the circumstances, while Ardan's claimed actions are completely OUT of character.  Transit and Distance and remoteness from people who know the original well and intimately make him a better mark for replacement by a copy, they only need to catch him on the way to Tharkad, though a superior team might be able to sneak him in once ON tharkad, because the deception would be significantly easier to carry out, than Katrina, whose court would absolutely notice a change in behaviors and who has a daughter old enough to notice if "Mommy's acting funny".
« Last Edit: 30 November 2022, 06:07:43 by Cannonshop »
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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #282 on: 30 November 2022, 12:54:01 »
Even if Ardan was doppelganger, making an alliance with Capellans on such short notice is very much out character for her. My guess is that Aldo reached out to Max for help and then doppelKat tricked Ardan to the vaults, where she ''caught'' him and accused him of spying. 
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Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #283 on: 30 November 2022, 14:34:32 »
The question is, did Max tell Frederick about the doppelganger plot, and does Frederick remember?
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georgiaboy

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #284 on: 30 November 2022, 17:45:51 »
The real question you should be asking, is if Max knows of the Doppelganger plot?

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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #285 on: 30 November 2022, 18:45:04 »
Doppelganger is what I was thinking even before I read that last post (work intervened... again!  ::)).

And my first thought was exactly Cannonshop's: Sortek has been doubled...  ^-^

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #286 on: 30 November 2022, 22:33:57 »
There could be a double-doppleganger (doubleganger?) happening here too.  Maybe both Katrina and Ardan had been swapped and the doubles are conspiring to make trouble  :))
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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #287 on: 01 December 2022, 00:04:15 »
First Prince Hanse Adriaan Davion is no one's fool!  However he is a Davion, though not to the degree of his brother Ian the man is 'battle born'.  Before he was 'nerfed' for the purposes of 'game balance' (and Battletech's bottomline....) he was a genius who could read the room and the people in it without issue.

His tactics/operational art/strategy were bold, unconventional and even experimental, once he gained some respect for 'normal' parallels he was borderline invincible and he learned politics well.  So, what I would love to see is Hanse getting 'stupid' taking a command circuit with Nelitha link up with Fredrick and 'storm' off to Tharkad on a shoe-string plan, half making up as he goes along, if it's Sortek Hanse will know, if it Katrina Frederick and Melissa will out her, if it's both and some Mask, well we will have a very entertaining mech/running gun battle while a Davion and a Steiner attempt to save an Archon and a Colonel :-).

If they succeed, well Max Liao is going to have a very 'interesting time' of it!

Also I think Melissa may be a key player regardless of the Doppelgänger for 'reasons'  :D
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Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #288 on: 01 December 2022, 07:49:05 »
There could be a double-doppleganger (doubleganger?) happening here too.  Maybe both Katrina and Ardan had been swapped and the doubles are conspiring to make trouble  :))

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #289 on: 01 December 2022, 08:06:57 »
Double, double, toil and trouble!
Fires burn and cauldrons bubble!

Lo' and behold: double strength stew ....  ;D

Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #290 on: 01 December 2022, 09:06:36 »
Lo' and behold: double strength stew ....  ;D

I´m not eating that stew until someone has checked it for poison.
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #291 on: 02 December 2022, 03:03:37 »
Chapter 3

Hilton Head, North America
Terra, Solar System
28 November 3023


Julian Tiepolo would have really preferred it if the First Council could meet around a table. Standing for this long wasn’t doing his back any favors. But would probably be too corporate, abandoning traditions that went back to Jerome Blake or at least Conrad Toyama. That was what the conservatives would say if he suggested they relocate to a conference room.

Tempting as the idea was, that probably wasn’t a fight he wanted to expend political capital on. Even if possibly every Primus and likely every other member of the First Circuit going back two hundred years had felt the same way and made the same decision. Not today.

“Precentor Everson, could we begin with an update on the Lyran situation?” There was always a Lyran situation. They were by far the most irritating of the Successor States, edging gradually upwards on every metric except compliance with Blake’s vision since Katrina Steiner took office. Things were a little more serious right now.

Ulthar Everson stepped forwards slightly. “Ambassador Davidson has once again failed to secure the release of Colonel Sortek. After his vocal protests that two months is far in excess of any reasonable interpretation of diplomatic custody, we believe he is likely to be asked to leave the Lyran Commonwealth.”

Everson’s counterpart from New Avalon arched an eyebrow. “I hadn’t heard that.”

“Given the time needed for diplomatic pouches to cross the Inner Sphere, I imagine the news will take some time to arrive, Huthrin.” Everson shrugged wryly. “It’s not my fault they don’t trust our Blessed Order with such communications.”

“I think we’re all glad that relations between the Suns and the Commonwealth are collapsing,” Tiepolo interjected before Huthrin Vandel could speak further on the matter. The diplomatic issues were somehow leading to similar quarrels between the two Precentors, even though they couldn’t have happened at a better time. “Katrina Steiner’s Peace Proposal would have been a disaster for us if Hanse Davion had been able to take it up. A pairing of Lyran technology and industry to the Suns’ raw materials and military might would have been calamitous.”

“I’m not sure the Capellans stepping into that void is an improvement,” muttered Pedrigo Aliz.

The Primus sighed. “It’s certainly not ideal. I would have preferred that Chancellor Liao shoot himself in the foot the way that Captain-General Marik did with his own response.”

All eyes turned to Villius Tejh, who buried his hands in his sleeves. “Two years ago I’d have expected the same gaffe from him: proposing a dynastic marriage between his heir and Katrina’s,” Precentor Sian admitted. “The Archon would never accept using her daughter as a diplomatic counter in that way, at least by my read of her.”

“Certainly not in the way that Marik did it,” Everson agreed. “He didn’t even specify which of his potential heirs would marry the girl.”

Tejh shrugged. “The Chancellor’s position is essentially the reverse: his son’s illicit marriage and disinheritance meant he had no male heir to offer and he apparently wasn’t open to the idea of suggesting one of his daughters marry young Melissa. Since he couldn’t offer that, he apparently decided it would be better to be inside the tent if the plan somehow succeeded and agreed to the ceasefire and talks if at least one other Successor Lord was open to the idea.”

“The Blessed Blake’s guidance thankfully sparing us that,” the last of the First Circuit murmured. “Without the Sortek Scandal, Davion’s response might have led to a tripartite conference.”

“I think we could have reasonably hoped that Davion-Liao antipathy could have spoiled that, but better we don’t have to find out,” admitted Huthrin.

“Quite.” Tejh shook his head. “In any case, he did suggest that if no other House Lord was amenable then it might be possible to bring Marik to the negotiating table via a joint invasion: faced with the alternative of coordinated attacks on both fronts, his Parliament might press him to come to terms. From their point of view, if they have binding peace treaties with the Commonwealth and the Confederation then they can sit back and rebuild while the Lyrans and Capellans fight the other Successor States.”

Tiepolo frowned and looked at Aliz. “Is that realistic, do you think?”

“Twenty or thirty years ago, Marik might have backed the idea. Today it might have to be done over the Captain-General’s dead body. Then again, there may be people willing to arrange that.” Tiepolo’s successor on Atreus shook his head. “On balance I don’t think it will work, but I can’t rule it out.”

The Primus nodded in understanding. “I cannot disagree with your assessment. Let us finish our update on the Lyran situation before we discuss responses.”

“I understand that Demi-Precentor Rachan has been active,” Everson observed. “Perhaps it would be best if he reported directly on his activities.”

There was no dissent and Tiepolo gave orders to call in the head of ROM’s activities within the Lyran Commonwealth. His former aide had been summoned ahead of time, the need having been anticipated, so he was brought in without any wait.

“Demi-Precentor, I hope that you have good news to report about your activities than we’ve received over the last few years,” Vandel greeted him.

“I at least have more to report than previously,” Rachan replied confidently. “We’ve been working for a long time to obtain access to records held by the Tharkad Institute for Research On Lostech and since my last report, one of our agents has managed to enter the Nagelring vaults and view some of the back-up data the Institute stores there.”

“Is this related to the Sortek matter?” enquired Tejh.

“Unintentionally. The colonel’s presence was unexpected, but fortunately he provided a useful distraction. I wish I could claim credit for the resulting impact on relations with the Suns, but that was our good fortune rather than a planned part of the operation.”

“So what have you discovered?” Aliz demanded. “Do the Lyrans have a Prometheus core, as we feared?”

“It isn’t quite that bad, but if the summaries our agent extracted are correct then they do have an extensive collection of texts. Enough to pose a very serious threat to our Order’s monopoly on advanced technology, if they are able to fully exploit it. Fortunately, the challenges of this are something that they are struggling with.”

The face of Precentor Aliz paled. “Primus, surely we should reconsider the previous decision not to take direct action. Destroying this Tharkad Institute for Research On Lostech and their back-ups must be our highest priority.”

Rachan raised one hand. “Your pardon, Precentor, but that wouldn’t seriously hamper the Lyrans. Our analysts have established that while TIROL is a functional agency, it’s primarily administrative. Destroying their facilities and even the back-ups of their files would be a strictly temporary set-back. The actual research is being carried out at many different locations, few if any of them on Tharkad itself.”

“But there have been many announcements of laboratories and research bases on the Lyran capital,” Everson protested.

“Decoys, Precentor.” Rachan dismissed the criticism coolly. “Those sites are attacked with almost predictable frequency by other intelligence agencies, and even when they succeed they are wasting their efforts. We know that at least one entire DEST team has been lost chasing false leads on Tharkad. Lyran Intelligence is playing a very clever game. The only nation who we haven’t identified as making utter fools of themselves are the Canopians, and that’s because their only presence we’ve identified is the Tharkad Institute of Technology and Science.”

There was a pause as the First Circuit collectively translated that into an acronym.

“I refuse to believe that that’s a serious scientific establishment,” Vandel objected. “Is this a joke, Rachan?”

“Not my joke, sir. It’s the name of a bar outside Tharkad University, the Canopians have been collecting intelligence there for at least forty years. If the Lyrans are aware, they’re allowing it to exist as a way to feed data to the Magistracy. We do monitor their messages home, there’s occasionally useful information.”

“I trust that you can also exclude ROM from embarrassing themselves as well?” asked Tiepolo.

Rachan shook his head. “We haven’t lost any agents, but we did waste some time following up on failed raids before we realized what we were dealing with. I’ve assigned a few Delta agents to continue the investigation just in case LIC suspect that we’ve caught on to their deception.”

“I’ve no intention of questioning your methods, not being an expert in that field,” Tiepolo declared, hoping to deter his colleagues from doing that. “You’ve said that the Lyrans are struggling, could you expand on that?”

“Dispersing their efforts has made it much harder to decisively shut down their progress, but it also hinders communication between their scientists. At the moment, the majority of their projects are working to bridge the gap between what they know, the data in various texts that may or may not be applicable, and a functional application of that data to their goals. It would be grossly optimistic to say that they haven’t had successes already, and in the long run they can expect to make a great deal of progress but in the short term each breakthrough is isolated and even if it might help with other goals there’s a good chance that it will be missed. For example, while they’re working to understand the principles behind HPGs, these efforts are being handled entirely independently of other research into hyperphysics such as jump drives.”

“Which would you say is most advanced there?” asked Tiepolo warily. If the Lyrans had their own HPGs then it would be a disaster he’d not survive, at least politically.

Rachan shook his head. “As you might imagine, we prioritized evaluating that, sir. From what I can tell, they’re running down dead-ends that the Star League thoroughly explored back in the Twenty-Sixth Century.”

“That’s certainly a relief. I think we’d like to see a more detailed report on your discoveries, Demi-Precentor. Please have the data prepared for us to review independently and thank you for your hard work.”

“Yes Primus. Blake’s will be done.” Rachan bowed and retreated.

“The Lyrans are getting more and more dangerous,” Vandel muttered.

“Agreed. I’d appreciate you and Everson doing everything you can to see that the current rift with the Federated Suns has as much knock-on effect as possible on their commercial dealings. Sooner or later Sortek will have to be released, however angry the Archon is. The harder it is to recover from the current quarrel, the better it is.”

Both Everson and Vandel nodded in agreement. “And the Capellans?” asked Precentor New Avalon.

“Ideally the invasion will simply fail, but we can’t count on that. I believe that both nations have sent their best generals?” Tiepolo asked.

“Ridzik has many flaws but incompetence is not one of them,” agreed Tejh. “And we all know how dangerous Frederick Steiner is. We can only hope he suffers a fatal injury.”

Everson shook his head. “He’s survived this long. The good news is that our sources indicate that the two of them don’t get on, but neither’s willing to see the invasion fail because of it so they’ve simply arranged a plan that limits their need to directly interact. The details are being kept hidden but it’s fairly clear that each has their own targets and they don’t plan on requiring their forces to closely cooperate.”

“I see.” Tiepolo frowned. “So ideally their invasion should fail, but even if it succeeds we must assure that a defeat at their hands doesn’t force the Free Worlds League to make peace with their neighbors.” He looked at Precentor Luthien. “I believe the solution is obvious, Thomas.”

Precentor Thomas Marik nodded solemnly. “Hanse Davion must be aware that actively attacking the Capellans in support of the League would destroy any hope of rebuilding his relations with House Steiner. Therefore the only prospective ally my father can look to is Theodore Kurita.”

“Correct. As Precentor Luthien, you are ideally placed to act as an intermediary between them. Under the circumstances, do you believe that you can bring them together to the point of cooperating against the Lyrans?”

Marik considered the matter. “I believe that correspondence would not suffice in the timeframe we’re considering, Primus. However, if you would be willing to allow them the privilege of meeting directly upon neutral ground here on Terra, things could move much more quickly.”

Aliz made a face. “Anton Marik met with Maximilian Liao here on Terra and the Captain-General knows it.”

“Present it to him as an opportunity for revenge,” recommended the Captain-General’s son.

Tiepolo nodded in approval. “Will a foreign negotiation cause Kurita problems with his warlords?”

“Not directly, I believe. There is a long term concern that Warlord Yorioshi may have too much influence over the new Warlord Galedon; but, so far, he is supporting the Coordinator.”

Vandel nodded. “I am surprised that Kurita was willing to promote Shotugama to replace Samsonov under those circumstances.”

“It may have been a tradeoff for previous support. The young Coordinator cannot afford to be seen as someone who the high command cannot work with. If that happened, a more accommodating Kurita could be elevated - it has happened before,” pointed out Everson.

“The Combine has hardly been a friend to ComStar,” Tiepolo murmured, thinking back to the clashes between the Order and House Kurita in the late thirtieth century. “However, at the moment they are needed as a balance against the Lyran Commonwealth. I think that allowing the Warlord of Benjamin enough influence to cause a power struggle would only undermine those efforts.”

“I believe we can arrange for messages between Yorioshi and Shotugama to be… detrimental to a smooth cooperation,” Marik agreed smoothly. “Yorioshi is a proud man and it would be easy for him to seem overbearing. Not to the point of destructive rivalry, but certainly to the point Shotugama resents him.”

“Good.” Tiepolo looked around the room. “I’m no more comfortable than anyone is with the Lyran renaissance, but that isn’t a problem we can solve quickly or easily. Please take the time to review the data that Rachan has recovered and see if you can come up with suggestions to address the issue. Hosting two Successor Lords on Terra will require my personal involvement, but please don’t hesitate to bring any proposals to me.”

There were nods from the Precentors.

The Primus focused on Huthrin Vandel. “Hanse Davion is not going to risk his friend’s safety by targeting the Capellans while they’re allied with the Lyrans, however tentatively. However, I believe that the Duke of New Syrtis is less solicitous of Lyran feeling and of Colonel Sortek. It may not be possible to push him to action, but encouraging more ill-feeling towards his brother-in-law should be feasible.”

“In the Duke and in others within the Capellan March,” the other man agreed. “Should I arrange leaks of potential raiding targets to independently minded officers?”

“Yes, and if you have suitable targets for the Capellans, please let Villius know. If absolutely necessary, a small ComGuards detachment might be freed up for a deniable attack to get things rolling but I’d rather not risk that if we can get them to start without such intervention.”

“Probably not necessary,” Tejh agreed. “It’s not as if they’re at peace. Davion can order no invasions but stopping raiding would be as likely as stopping the tides outside.”

“And if he tries, he looks ineffectual,” confirmed Vandel. “He’s not such a fool as to issue an order that won’t be obeyed.”

“Alright. Things aren’t going as well as they could be, but with Blake’s blessing we’ve avoided what could have been a serious crisis. I think we can count on Maximilian Liao to be his own worst enemy in negotiations with Katrina Steiner, so if we can prevent any victories this will hopefully bring the entire matter to a close. In the best case, it might even lead to a downfall as dramatic as her uncle’s.”

-

Bueno Aires, South America
Terra, Solar System
17 December 3023


The vast sprawling city on the short of the Atlantic rivaled the cities of Luthien, but it was far older. Theodore Kurita felt the urge to take time to cross the globe and visit Japan, the ancestral home of his family. Alas, there would be no such opportunity. Just visiting Terra was riskier than it ought to be, after the fall of Dieron. He’d had to arrive via a ComStar jumpship and if news got out of his presence then even ComStar’s neutrality might not protect him. If a jumpship went missing, who was to say if it fell prey to the Steiners, the Davions or just mischance?

And so he stood quietly in the penthouse, lamps out as he admired the night-time illumination of a city that had been old before the world of his birth was first colonized. The bright, artificial lights contrasted against the darkness but could not push it back except locally. His father might have managed a poem on that topic and Theodore felt a pang of loss, of never getting to know Takashi on a more equal footing - man to man, not son to father.

The lights of the suite lit slowly, an attentive hand giving him warning that he was no longer alone. Theodore turned and let his eyes adjust. When the door opened he was unsurprised to see the Captain-General enter first and unescorted.

Janos Marik was tall and his long white hair marked his age and dignitas, just as the eagle tattooed across his forehead marked his allegiance. His eyes locked onto Theodore’s, taking his measure and perhaps jostling for dominance.

The Coordinator of the Draconis Combine smiled and did not yield. He might not be equal to Marik in age, but he was his peer in power. And what bird was feared by the dragon? Only the yellow bird, and that wasn’t a color associated with House Marik.

Instead, without shifting his gaze, he swept one hand towards the waiting table and the three chairs. “Lord Marik.”

“Lord Kurita.” Janos’ voice was dry and he crossed to the table, taking one seat without waiting.

Theodore seated himself facing the other House Lord and both looked with one accord as the robed figure of Julian Tiepolo entered. Neither stood or gave him any sign of respect.

“Gentlemen,” the cultist murmured. “I am here merely to mediate.” He sat and folded his hands before him, watching in silence.

Was the one who spoke first yielding advantage? It could be said. And yet, that would also be timidity. “Your son said that you wished to speak with me directly,” Theodore told Janos. “He claims that we have a mutual interest, which can be only one thing.”

“Steiner,” the aged ruler confirmed tersely. And then, as if it pained him to admit it. “She is able.”

“Some of my people find it hard to believe a woman can be dangerous.” The younger of the pair shook his head slightly. “That is foolishness. Even arrogance. She has yet to fail at anything of significance.”

“Ha. Negotiating with Diablo and expecting him to keep his word may be her fatal error.”

Theodore shrugged slightly.

“Her officers have beaten mine, particularly her cousin. And he also defeated your father’s generals. Together, we may be able to get a better result,” Janos offered cautiously.

Ah. “Captain-General.” He allowed a hint of reproach in his voice. “I know that she has sent Frederick Steiner to plan an invasion of the League, with Capellan aid. And I know that you know this as well as I do. The Hammer is coming for you first.”

For a moment he thought that Janos would strike the table but the older man controlled himself. “First, yes. But he will come for you as well. And as someone once said, if we do not hang together we will assuredly hang separately.”

“I have time to prepare, but yours is running out,” Theodore pointed out. “I recognise the logic of your argument, but the survival of the Free Worlds League is not my concern. If you would like my support, tell me why I should fight Steiner now and not when I have built up my forces. Losing Dieron cost my father precious regiments.”

“And you have the Dragoons on contract.”

Theodore blinked. “Are you asking me to transfer their contract?” They had cut short one contract before to work for a Marik and Janos could not possibly be ignorant of that.

“Don’t be ridiculous,” the Captain-General snorted. “But it more than makes up the troops you lost. I imagine they demanded not to fight against the Lyrans, but it frees up more regiments. And you have those Drakon regiments you created…”

“Let us say that I have the option of acting now… or not.” He leant forwards slightly. “I am not ashamed to act the merchant here, Lord Marik. If you want my support, it will not be without a cost.”

The Captain-General closed his eyes. Took a deep breath. “I remember being that young. That sure.”

“I may one day look back on now as you look back on your own youth.”

“What are you prepared to offer?” Janos ground out as if it pained him. “And what are you demanding in exchange?”

Well now. That wasn’t a blank cheque - he was sure that Janos would refuse if he asked for too much - but it was yielding the initiative. The old man was worried. Very worried. And Theodore was not sure he was wrong to be. “As you say, I do have regiments available for service. I can deploy them to strike at the Commonwealth, drawing their reserves and resources to fight me. It would mean striking sooner than I am comfortable with and it could cost me those regiments if Katrina Steiner decides that it is worth pulling away from the invasion to counter me.”

“You would have to strike at something of value, something she could not lightly lose.”

Theodore let his lips shape the name of a world, barely breathing it. “Tamar.”

Janos paused. “Yes,” he admitted. “That might do it.”

“You would still be facing the Capellans and I cannot assure that she would decide to fully abandon the invasion. Frederick Steiner has caused you significant reverses with only a single regiment, and he will have at least three.”

The Captain-General’s eyes narrowed. “I do not expect you to predict her actions. Yes, an attack on Tamar would serve my needs. If she ignores it, she would be weakening herself against her internal foes. I would begrudgingly accept her being bled like that even if I lose worlds to her and Diablo.”

“Very well,” Theodore agreed. “In exchange though, I am aware that you have made a recent find of lostech equipment, at around the same time that my father did.”

“True,” Janos admitted.

“Much of ours was lost on Dieron,” Theodore told him. That was hardly a secret.

The older man shook his head. “I won’t replace it. You know I’ll need it if the Royal Guards are deployed against me.”

“I understand. But since you’re no fool, you must be studying them. Looking to put them back into production.”

Both of them were very careful not to look at Tiepolo. There were only so many places the lostech could have come from but if they acknowledged that then a price might be demanded. And neither wanted to be indebted to ComStar. They needed the organization but they would never love it.

“As you say,” Janos replied. “I am no fool. You want to exchange research data.”

“I would like to have your research data.” Theodore paused. “But an exchange is acceptable.”

“Because you expect it to be advantageous to you.”

He shrugged at the accusation. “You didn’t expend much of your material fighting the Steiners, and I will admit that my people are more renowned for our soldiers than for our scientists.”

“For destroying, rather than building.” The Captain-General made a face. “But I am asking for the former from you, so it is unfair of me to complain. Very well, would you rather exchange the data by ship or by HPG?”

By ship, Theodore thought. “Both,” he said instead.

“To facilitate your alliance, ComStar will relay the messages without charge,” Tiepolo offered. He didn’t sound entirely pleased - the implication that there would also be a back-up data package by ship to cross-check what was sent could be construed as a challenge to his organization’s integrity.

But how could one challenge what didn’t exist?

Theodore had been tempted to simply ask for a shipment but that could be lost. The HPG communication would remove one possible cause for sabotage and the risk of the ships being captured was acceptable.

Janos nodded sharply. “Done.” He steepled his own hands. “I have considered coming to some arrangement with Hanse Davion - he must surely be infuriated by Steiner’s recent actions. Would you consider a three-way alliance with him?”

Theodore hadn’t expected that to be asked. Wasn’t the answer obvious? Or was this a test? “I have nothing personally against Hanse Davion, but that would be politically impossible for me to agree to,” he said out loud. “You saw how poorly an alliance with Liao was seen when your late brother attempted it - if anything, the hatred between my people and Davion’s is greater.”

“Unfortunate, but not unexpected,” sighed the older man.

Theodore raised his hand. “However,” he qualified. “If he is willing to assist you then, informally, I could order a cessation of offensive actions - to funnel supplies towards an attack on Tamar. The Wolf Dragoons would be restless, but if halting their raids on the Draconis March is a coin of value to you in negotiations, I am willing to extend it.”

Janos paused and then smiled coldly. “You are suddenly generous?”

“Doing nothing costs me very little, Captain-General.”

Besides, I have secured a healthy reward here already - a look at the League’s scientific advances at the cost of an offensive that is already being prepared is a great profit and it is unwise to be too greedy. If Davion can be persuaded to give me a free flank while I tear the heart out of Tamar and humiliate Katrina Steiner, so much the better. If he doesn’t, well it will give Yorioshi something to focus on other than any ambitions he may have towards my throne.

Theodore smiled coolly at Janos. “I believe that your custom is to shake hands on the matter.”

Tiepolo looked pleased as they did so. Theodore found the Captain-General’s hand sinewy and strong despite his age. He wondered what insights Janos might be drawing about him. This had been an interesting opportunity… almost enough to make him regret that he wouldn’t meet the other three Successor Lords in the summit that Katrina Steiner had proposed. Almost.
« Last Edit: 02 December 2022, 09:06:44 by drakensis »
"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 #292 on: 02 December 2022, 03:03:49 »
Gordon, Oliver
Free Worlds League
12 January 3024


“Keep going!”

The Awesome was visibly steaming, rivulets of coolant escaping from ruptured piping and out through broken armor plating, where it sizzled and vaporized.

Three lighter ‘mechs had fallen around the Awesome. A Phoenix Hawk and a Griffin in the green-and-khaki of the Lyran Regulars, but also a Hunchback in the same purple-red-blue that could be seen on the Awesome.

The assault ‘mech’s PPCs blazed again, only two out of three but the blackened crater above its left hip showed that it was a choice forced by battle damage rather than a decision intended to bleed off some of the heat burden.

Only one shot struck home, scarring the armor of another of the Lyran Regulars. It was a Starslayer, a ‘mech not seen in centuries, but this was all too real and it weathered the hit, firing back with a pair of large lasers.

The Awesome twisted, the mechwarrior within somehow managing to find intact armor to shield itself with. The turn showed that one of the legs had taken damage, forcing a limp.

The turn preserved the Marik Militia ‘mech against the Starslayer’s fire, but the Lyran was not alone. A Chameleon bounded forwards on its jump jets and landed behind the blocky Awesome, opening up on it with everything it had. Lasers flayed away the plating and sparks flew as machineguns chattered.

Even that wasn’t enough to break the Awesome - the mighty ‘Mech had as much armor on its rear as some light and medium designs boasted on their front. But then the Chameleon slammed one fist into the battered armor plating and its target lurched, the mark of damage to its gyro.

The mechwarrior kept his eighty-ton upright and even whirled, returning the blow with the battlefist mounted on its left arm.

The Chameleon was struck in the shoulder and took a step back, but the Starslayer closed up and this time it fired more than just the large lasers. SRMs exploded against the Awesome and its left arm went limp. Key actuators must have been damaged, leaving the limb out of control.

Lurching, the Awesome brought its PPCs to bear and fired them at point blank range into the Starslayer. The salvo was as destructive as could have been hoped, but it proved to be too much for the giant’s remaining heatsinks. The Slarslayer fell to the ground, crushing a groundcar in the parking lot where the battle was taking place, but the Awesome froze, the reactor safeties kicking in and leaving it unable to move or fight.

It couldn’t have happened at a worse moment. LRMs must have already been in flight, because volley after volley from what must have been an entire lance of LRM carriers struck it around the head and shoulders.

When the explosions cleared, it was obvious that the cockpit had been struck multiple times.

The holodisplay ceased the recording, the image of the defeated Awesome fading away slowly.

“We were ordered away,” Major Ernesto Cates reported shamefacedly. “The colonel said his Awesome couldn’t keep up.”

Azi Ochombo nodded in understanding. “Both of you were right.” He reached over and patted the battalion commander on his shoulder. “It’s never easy to lose an officer, much less your commanding officer. But you couldn’t have held Gordon without the rest of the regiment and we were too far away.”

“We’ve regrouped now.” Major Alexia Stevens clenched her fists. “If we hit Gordon now, we can catch them before they’re dug in.”

“That is one option, Major.” Ochombo pulled up a tactical map, showing the city of Gordon and the Brigadier ‘mech factory, the most important surviving element of Oliver’s once massive military production.

Cates looked thoughtful. “The Lyran commander transmitted that Colonel Garibaldi was mortally wounded and offered a twenty-four ceasefire to recover wounded and exchange prisoners. He might be trying to buy time.”

“I don’t think we can risk another urban combat,” Ochombo concluded. He indicated the outlying districts. “Our scouts report some of the Lyrans’ new heavy tanks are positioned here, in the west of the city. Unless we want to ram our faces right up against them - and reports are they have heavy autocannon, ideal for city fighting - we’d have to circle around and hit the east, which would cost us that day anyway.”

Stevens snorted. “Our ‘mechs can handle their tanks, sir. I know it’s Frederick Steiner over there, but he’s not invincible.”

“He isn’t,” Ochombo agreed. “But tell me, Major. Can our ‘mechs handle his tanks and his mechs? Because our armored support comes from militia regiments and their gear is not going to hold up in that sort of brawl.”

“Are you sure you’re not being a little overcautious, Azi?” Cates looked sympathetic, not skeptical. “I know our regiment has lost to him twice before, but this could be our chance to turn it around.”

Ochombo looked at the other two battalion commanders and hid a grimace. They were younger than him, junior to him… but he’d been demoted twice and only narrowly remained with the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia rather than be sent to a punishment posting in a planetary garrison on the periphery. If they refused to accept him as a commander, then they might be able to make it stick with the troops. High command might not like it, but victory would excuse any irregularity - if they could win.

“I have faced him before, and I can’t call either of them a victory,” he admitted. “But I managed to get the regiment through those defeats intact, which is more than most can claim. Right now, he wants us to bet everything on a decisive battle. I’m sure he doesn’t have a mountain to explode on us, but people who charge right at Frederick Steiner are just giving him a target to hammer. If we do that we might win, but we don’t have any advantage in numbers, and he definitely has more firepower. And if we lose then he’ll be able to get Oliver fully secured before reinforcements can reach us.”

The other two majors exchanged looks, before Cates pointed out: “And, if we don’t, he has a solid grip on the factory complex, sooner or later we have to go at him there. Isn’t it better now than when he’s got it secured?”

“You know as well as I do that if you want to hit a fortification, you want to be sending at least twice as many troops as you know are defending it. And less than three times the troops is a gamble. We don’t have that.”

“Alright,” conceded Stevens. “But if we can’t fight him, what do we do?”

They were listening, at least. Ochombo widened the map. “We’ll hit him obliquely. Right now our strategy is to buy time for reinforcements. The Sirian Lancers are only a jump away, the Protectorate Guards not much further away. Or if this is a major offensive we might be able to look at federal or Oriente reinforcements. We don’t know the larger picture. So we’ll take the ceasefire, if nothing else it gives us time for First Battalion to pull back to Warez and repair the damage you’ve taken. In the meantime, Stevens and I will take our battalions and feign an attack on his dropships. He’ll have to either shift focus to protect them or give up his dropsite.”

“He can move them to the dropport in Gordon,” she pointed out.

“Indeed. And that leaves him basically bottled up in the city. Which means he’ll have to come out because he can’t let us turn it into a siege. He needs to maintain his momentum.”

Cates frowned. “In which case he’ll push for our repair facilities at Warex.”

“I think you’re right,” agreed Ochombo. “So if we know that, we can bleed his advance - hit and run with small detachments, while other elements keep enough pressure around Gordon that he has to keep part of his force there to maintain his hold on the factory.”

“If we lose Warez then we’ll start running into problems maintaining our forces.” Cates grimaced. “We’ll have to stop him short of that.”

“Not if we evacuate the supplies and facilities from the city - slow his advance, buy time for that and even if he takes Warez we’re still a force-in-being and now he has another city to secure.” Ochombo clenched one fist and flicked it back and forth. “Leave him fighting ghosts. Spending his supplies, spending lives, spending time… and never giving him the concentrated target he wants, the one he can land a decisive blow against.”

“An attritional strategy,” observed Stevens. “We’re not trying to win, we’re just trying not to lose.”

“It’s not the usual approach to fighting the Lyrans,” pointed out Cates. “Normal doctrine is to pin them in place, then pick them apart.”

“Normal tactics assume they’ll have heavier, slower forces.” He moved the display back to Garibaldi’s last stand. “Look at what we’re seeing from the Eleventh Regulars: Phoenix Hawk, Griffin, Chameleon, Starslayer. All of them are fast mediums. He’s not going to stay pinned in place, so we need to be more mobile than usual if we’re going to keep him from being the one who has us pinned.”

The two majors looked at each other again, but this time it was Stevens who spoke. “What do we do if reinforcements don’t arrive? The scuttlebutt was that the Lyrans were looking at a wide offensive.”

“Then we keep Steiner and his command pinned down as long as possible, and hope the Captain-General can turn the tide on other worlds and free up reinforcements. We’re in this for the long haul - it’s a marathon, not a sprint.” Ochombo looked at the younger officers with an unspoken question: are you with me?

The nod from Stevens told him he’d won this point. “I’ll get my battalion ready to move on the Lyran landing zone, sir.”

Great. Now that he’d beaten his internal opposition, he might have a chance to beat the Lyrans. Colonel Garibaldi had been as good an officer as Ochombo had ever met - he was no Jarreau-Stewart. He’d lost anyway, so now it all depended on whether he’d read Frederick Steiner correctly.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Gorgon

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #293 on: 02 December 2022, 13:27:33 »
Good to see this story continued. I'm looking forward to the rematch between Frederick and Azi Ochombo. Poor guy, having to go up against Frederick again. Well, maybe three time's the charm.
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Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #294 on: 02 December 2022, 15:24:23 »
Good to see this story continued. I'm looking forward to the rematch between Frederick and Azi Ochombo. Poor guy, having to go up against Frederick again. Well, maybe three time's the charm.

He´ll have one thing going for him: He is not going into this with an overconfident "I am smarter than those idiots Frederick Steiner defeated" attitude.
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Gorgon

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #295 on: 02 December 2022, 17:39:03 »
He´ll have one thing going for him: He is not going into this with an overconfident "I am smarter than those idiots Frederick Steiner defeated" attitude.
And this time around he's managed to convince his fellow officers to take a cautious approach. I must say, as much as I enjoy Frederick's and Max' shenanigans, I wouldn't mind if this round goes to Ochombo. Poor guy's been through enough.
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #296 on: 02 December 2022, 20:03:34 »
I wouldn't mind Ochombo losing again... Frederick's more than smart enough to play him.  We'll see how it goes!  :)

BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #297 on: 03 December 2022, 06:59:27 »
I feel bad for Ardan Sortek.  I think it's going to be hard to prove that Comstar framed him, if it can be determined at all.
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Wrangler

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #298 on: 03 December 2022, 15:41:30 »
I was getting an impression that Archon arranged this "Arrest" of his.
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mikecj

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #299 on: 03 December 2022, 15:48:40 »
I'm going to wait and see... drakensis's story plotting is usually ahead of my best guesses but he never disappoints.
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