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Author Topic: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little  (Read 33531 times)

BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #330 on: 08 December 2022, 15:47:05 »
Could the 1st Sword of Light be in on the coup too?
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #331 on: 08 December 2022, 19:07:44 »
Unlikely, but I'm totally with Gorgon on this one!  :thumbsup:

Wrangler

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #332 on: 08 December 2022, 20:45:32 »
That coup was big surprise to me.  I do wonder if Max feels bad that tech he help get may have cost Katrina's life.
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Kujo

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #333 on: 08 December 2022, 22:43:17 »
That coup was big surprise to me.  I do wonder if Max feels bad that tech he help get may have cost Katrina's life.

The Irony is that the OTL her cause of death might be the item that saves her (and may save her long term).  All the stress and strain may have her cancer show up 'early' and Steiners being Steiners it has to be a rare form of the disease that is easily traced to her direct relations while dolpoKat fails to have that and all the spoofed dna in the world can't save Max Liao.  Or at least thats the cover story while Hanse works with the Lyran doctors to treat her, cause the Red Corsair proof would be bad in so many ways to let out (and the cancer would strongly reinforce Katrina's authenticity anyway...).  Thank you
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PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #334 on: 09 December 2022, 01:15:55 »
I don't think Luthien is the only strike in the Black Dragon coup, killing Coordinator's wife and heir but leaving Coordinator himself alive would be a terrible strategy, so there is surely also an attempt at Theodore's life as well, either by assassin or battlefield betrayal.
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #335 on: 10 December 2022, 02:31:50 »
Chapter 7

Duhr Prime, Zosma
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
2 May 3024


After losing Zosma to the Lyran Commonwealth in the Second Succession War, the Iron Guard had spent thirty-two years in exile from their homeworld. Marik support in retaking it was probably why they were so fanatical in their support of the Captain-General.

Frederick had heard that their Colonel Bradford Holmes had proclaimed he would die rather than dishonor the regiment by retreating again. If so he’d probably lived up to it.

“Colonel Hansen,” he greeted the mercenary commander as the last of his subordinate commanders arrived. “How are your men doing?”

“We’ve had worse butcher’s bills, but not since Matheran,” the commander of Hansen’s Roughriders reported. “You should see the other guy though.”

“I believe I did,” Frederick admitted. “Running away, tails between their legs? Is that the one?”

They both laughed, but Frederick knew that Colonel Hansen hungered for more. Smithson’s Chinese Bandits had fought for Janos Marik during the Marik Civil War, a decade before. Hansen’s Roughriders were made up for the most part of members of the Twelfth Atrean Dragoons, who had fought for Anton Marik and fled the Free Worlds League after his death. Matheran was where the two units had fought during that war, and the grudge was alive and burning.

The Roughriders had baited Frederick’s trap - the Bandits had seen a chance to catch their old enemies and destroy them, a cause Colonel Holmes had been all too happy to commit the Protectorate Guards to. The three regiments had sallied from Duhr Prime’s defenses and found themselves encircled by not only the Roughriders, but all of Frederick’s ‘mech forces.

It should have been a battle of annihilation, crushing three-quarters of the Marik forces on Zosma as they ran the gauntlet to get back to Duhr Prime. That wasn’t quite how it had worked out though, and a part of Frederick wished - as Hansen did - that they'd accomplished more.

The five Lyran commanders of them were meeting in the planetary governor’s office. That worthy had decided to depart the planet with its defenders rather than face the people he ruled without the Iron Guard and Steel Guard being there to support him.

Gerhardt Hansen sat between Sarah Joss of the Thirty-Second Lyran Guards and Ed Smith of the Eleventh Lyran Regulars on the couch, leaving the armchairs to Frederick and to Stephanie Stirling of the Fourth Commonwealth Jaegers. The Third Jaeger’s commander wasn’t present - Duhr Prime wasn’t quite secure enough to risk every senior officer being in the same room. If they got bombed, Lieutenant Colonel Jonny Wurtz would inherit the burden of holding the task force together until a new command group could be formed.

“It’s looking increasingly unlikely that the Mariks were faking their withdrawal offworld,” Frederick began. “But it’s not assured yet, so what are your statuses?”

“Jonny and I are both running at about seventy percent effectives,” Stirling reported. “Not so much casualties as equipment that needs repairs. Given two weeks, everything that wasn’t a total loss should be fit for use again.”

“Price of lighter gear,” Joss noted. “We’re closer to eighty percent, projecting ten days to get about half our losses restored.”

Frederick gave the Guards commander a repressing look. She wasn’t wrong, but the mobility of the Jaegers had let them push through the rough terrain of the right flank and link up with the Guards, who’d had much better terrain to work with. “Ed?” he asked, rather than poking at Joss though - her father commanded Wyatt theater, so he’d need more justification than this to slap her down. And she was a fighter, he’d give her that.

“We were mostly engaging at longer ranges so we’re in the best shape, I think. Most of our ‘mechs took no more than armor damage but those that took the brunt will take about as long as the Jaegers to be fit. Call it eight-five percent operational right now.”

Hansen made a face. “I can put a battalion in the field right now, and most of them would still need some repairs,” he admitted.

“You took their attack right in the teeth,” Frederick admitted. “Your men fought with great courage.” Using mercs as bait was a tricky thing, no sensible commander wanted a reputation for treating them as expendable.

“Give me a month and I’ll have two battalions really fit for battle,” the colonel continued. “I probably shouldn’t have closed in on the Steel Guard,” he admitted after a moment. “The blood was up, but in hindsight, pulling back would have left them in open ground with a crossfire between us and your Regulars.”

“With the Iron Guard shattered, I can see the temptation to try repeating the feat against the Steel Guard. Unfortunately their heavier ‘mechs could take the pounding,” Frederick admitted. “They might have reached the heights behind you and broken out that way.”

Hansen shrugged. Something told Frederick that the other man would be refighting the battle in his head for some time to come.

“Our best estimate is that the Bandits and the Steel Guard were operating at about fifty to sixty percent of their paper strength by the time they reached Duhr,” he continued. “If the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia hadn’t broken our encirclement, we might have finished them off but with the Iron Guard functionally destroyed, that still left them outnumbered almost two to one so their decision to cede Zosma was a smart one.” Ochombo’s sally had been unexpected - they still weren’t sure how much of the Twenty-Fifth had even been in the area - but with Hansen getting mauled and the Jaegers on the edge of a combat loss grouping, Frederick hadn’t been prepared to risk the tables turning and allowed the enemy to leave, satisfying himself with picking off those troops who couldn’t keep up with the retreat.

“You have the first pick of the salvage,” he told the Roughrider’s commander. “There are more than enough salvageable ‘mechs out there to replace all of our losses and Kommandant Alexander will make sure you have the parts to get your troops up to strength. With that said, time is going to be in shorter supply than I’d like.”

Everyone was already looking at him but now they were giving him their full attention. Joss didn’t even argue over Hansen getting the pick of the recovered ‘mechs, which was one reason he’d timed the information in this way.

“Good news first.” He leant back, forcing himself to look relaxed. “Senior Colonel Ridzik reports that Pollux has been secured, with little left of the First Sirian Lancers. That means that both we and our allies have secured all our objectives for this offensive.”

The first wave of attacks had left the Free Worlds League without a single inhabited world in reach of Terra. The shortest route they had to reach their allies in the Draconis Combine would require three jumps across Lyran space, not exactly safe for routine traffic. If they were pushed much further back, ComStar might need to route HPG transmissions from the League via Capellan or Lyran stations.

“I’m not sure how that leaves us short of time, sir,” Stirling asked. “Are we expecting a counter-attack?”

Frederick shook his head. “No. Unfortunately someone has a case of victory-disease and we’ve been ordered to move on. Castor has been added as our next objective, and Colonel Ridzik’s forces will move on Devil’s Rock.”

“Do we have the supplies for that?” asked Joss. “I’d have thought Tamar would be top of the list for everything.”

“There was an attempted coup on Luthien last month. The Combine tried keeping it quiet, but they haven’t quite managed that. The official analysis is that the pressure on Tamar will be greatly reduced as they deal with that.” It was hard for him to avoid sounding less convinced. A non-specific accusation of ‘victory-disease’ was already further than he should have gone.

And Max’s messages, while cryptic enough to make it hard for ComStar to figure them out even if they had cracked the codes, suggested that someone in Katrina’s inner circle had been compromised. He didn’t want to even consider the disaster if it was the Archon herself, but the amount of data from all across the Commonwealth was too vast for any one person to handle - Katrina required a small army of trusted staff members to process the data, make decisions that didn’t need her attention and to break the critical matters down for her so she had time for them. A single malicious actor in her senior staff could just as easily explain some of her recent decisions.

“Yorioshi went for the throne?” asked Smith thoughtfully. “He’d have needed a Kurita for legitimacy, but he could have married a distant cousin.”

“Wrong Warlord,” Frederick corrected him. “It was Elias Kurita who made the attempt. Apparently he’d inherited some support from his brother Marcus and thought he could play Taragi.” Theodore Kurita’s great-great grandfather had overthrown his uncle and cousin to take the throne of the Combine. “He was wrong.”

“How widespread was it beyond Luthien?” Joss’s eyes were narrowed. “Pesht is a rear-area, but it’s still a full military district.”

“That is unclear,” he admitted. “If there was significant support then it’s possible the conclusion is correct, but if it fizzled then Theodore might press the invasion further to distract attention within the Combine from the matter. Given that Elias didn’t manage to take Luthien, I’m personally leaning towards the latter but obviously someone at Mount Asgard disagrees.”

Hansen looked pained. “Even with your generosity, general, my Roughriders can’t move on Castor right now.”

Frederick made a dismissive gesture. “I wouldn’t expect you to. I want the Regulars and the Guards ready to embark in two weeks, repairs can be completed on the way to Castor. Your Roughriders are going to be needed in a garrison role - unless the FWLM can pull together a counterattack, that should give you time to recover and if they manage that then I’ll pull back from Castor to support you immediately.”

“And the Jaegers, sir?” asked Stirling. “We’re in the best shape.”

“Diversionary raids,” Frederick told her. “Stay with me after the meeting and we’ll discuss the details.”

The rest of the meeting was focused on administrative matters and it was more than an hour before Smith, Joss and Hansen left, satisfied that they understood what Frederick wanted from them. Stirling remained in her armchair and looked at Frederick. “Where are we going to hit, sir? Both borders are still lit up to keep Marik from pulling forces away from them, so it sounds like a deep raid.”

“Wait until Wurtz is here,” Frederick told her. He’d arranged for the other Leutnant-Colonel to be sent over once the meeting was over, so he could get the same briefing. As a result there was barely time to refresh their coffee mugs before the other Jaeger battalion commander arrived and Frederick could fill him in.

“Connaught,” the man suggested. “It’s in reach, and it’s got a ‘mech factory. Or Irian - Janos Marik can’t ignore an attack there.”

Frederick shook his head. “You’re not wrong about the thinking, but you’re going in the wrong direction. The logical expectation for Janos is that we’ll be digging in and shifting resources to face the Combine. If he’s taking raids deeper inside the League then he’ll know that we’re not done.”

Stirling shrugged. “By the time we reach much further, he’ll know you’re on Castor, sir.”

“Perhaps. But I want to present what he expects - units visibly pulled away from fighting him.” Frederick pulled up a map of the Terran region. “I’m ordering you to cross Skye and raid worlds on the Combine border. I don’t think we can convince anyone we’re going to widen the Dieron pocket, but it’ll at least make it harder for Kurita to shift reserves away from that region.”

“Do you have the authority to send us out of the Theater, sir?” Wurtz enquired cautiously. “I mean, we’re operating under Wyatt Theater, aren’t we?”

“I have expeditionary authority to operate against the Free Worlds League and the boilerplate on that covers ‘allied and subordinate forces’.”

The Jaeger officers exchanged looks. “Doesn’t that mean mercenaries and provincial forces?” Wurtz was obviously trying not to sound like he was challenging Frederick’s authority.

“That might be how it was intended,” he agreed cheerfully. “But I can only be held to account for the letter of my orders and the Combine is allied with the League, so I’m clear to wage war on them as well. If my cousin disagrees then I’m sure she’ll correct me. What’s the worst that can happen? The Combine decides to retaliate for your raids by invading the Commonwealth?”



Dali, Tamar
Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
14 May 3024


Samsonov’s headquarters were in what was probably the heart of some Lyran noble’s estate. The mansion stood in what had probably been rather nice gardens before scores of military vehicles set up there, Theodore Kurita thought as the VTOL carrying him swept down to land on a lawn that had been kept clear for the purpose. His father was a poet… had been a poet… but his mother took a broader view of the arts and while she primarily preferred the traditional Japanese arts, she had encouraged him to at least recognise other traditions… and gardening was an art.

Stooping slightly in an instinctive reaction to the blades still turning above the helicopter, Theodore crossed to the entrance of the mansion surrounded by a squad of the Otomo. While the soldiers were wearing full combat gear, the Coordinator wore a DCMS officer’s uniform, bereft of rank markings, and a sleeveless mantle of subdued dark red with the black dragon of the Combine woven into the heavy silk. He paused, kicking a few bits of dirt from his boots before entering, letting one of the guards adjust the fall of the mantle slightly for maximum effect. The Otomo’s service required many skills beyond the obvious.

Inside, pre-warned guards discreetly pointed Theodore to one of the reception rooms. Furniture had been pushed aside or removed entirely, making room for display screens (less fragile and easier to move than holodisplays) and tables. One of the largest displays was prominently displaying all of Tamar, with units marked out in red and blue. Theodore hoped they didn’t usually display that sort of overview so obviously and it was just for his own ease - usually he found larger monitors more practical for tactical displays, leaving the broad strokes of strategy to a secondary display if he needed a reminder.

Everyone stopped and bowed deeply to him as he entered. Theodore took in the array of personnel - techs at their stations, Samsonov flanked by two regimental commanders while two Tai-sa waited on the far side of the room. Out of favor? It was possible.

“Carry on,” he instructed them. “The war waits for no man, not even the Coordinator.”

“My congratulations on your victories over Sevren and Laurent,” Samsonov offered as Theodore joined him before the largest table. “I had hoped that I could offer you Tamar upon your arrival, but progress has not been everything I had desired.”

Theodore glanced at the monitor and then smiled. “You have high expectations of your troops, Warlord.” More than half of Tamar was in the hands of the Combine already, despite the markings of several Lyran troop formations that should in theory have given them a numerical advantage over Samsonov’s invasions. “I don’t disapprove, but I would have been satisfied if you had merely secured a stable foothold. If those maps are up to date, your progress is in line with what the plans called for.”

The Warlord scowled. “If the Rasalhague Regulars had broken past Steiner’s mercenaries then we would at the least be besieging the planetary capital by now.”

Neither of the officers with him flinched, which confirmed Theodore’s memory that they were the commanders of the Second Drakons and the First Proserpina Hussars. The first had been stacked by officers Samsonov chose - a concession made to him when he was Warlord of Galedon, letting Theodore have a free hand with the other regiments of the newly formed brigade. The other was among the most elite of the DCMS’ regiments outside of the Sword of Light.

“You’re disappointed in their performance?” he asked, keeping his voice down.

“Cherenkof let the rot get deep there,” Samsonov grumbled. “They lack drive and purging their officers would have set us back even further.”

The ISF historically maintained a very high level surveillance of the Rasalhague Regulars, fearing that they would side with insurgents if the district attempted a serious revolt. It wouldn’t surprise Theodore if that had led to a lack of initiative among the regiments, but Samsonov was their warlord. His disdain for them must be wreaking havoc on what was left of their morale.

It was a disappointment - Samsonov had maintained a high level of support within the Galedon Regulars. The young Coordinator had hoped he might have a similar effect here, but instead it seemed he was focusing on building up ties with the new Drakons and the more established elites.

“Despite their losses, the Twelfth Star Guards remain four regiments - twice as many as have been committed to hold them in place,” Theodore said out loud. Technically true, even if their losses made it a much more even match. “And while we mostly use mercenaries in garrison and supporting roles, the Steiners’ military weakness has had them use such troops as offensive spearheads - as on Dieron. Holding the Twelfth Star Guards in place was a critical part of our strategy and in doing so, the Rasalhague Regulars have done everything we have asked of them.”

The two tai-sa at the far end of the command centre straightened slightly at the words.

“Perhaps I have allowed my frustrations to outweigh my decorum, tono.” Samsonov managed a somewhat graceful retreat. “The Lyran Guards have fought well, and their commander is not known for suffering fools so if she relies on mercenaries for the northern flank then I must assume she has faith in them.”

“In addition to the Seventh Sword of Light and the First Drakons, I have brought officers and warriors from Galedon who volunteered to serve under you, warlord,” Theodore told him. “We have sufficient salvage from our battles so far that I am establishing a new regiment of the Rasalhague Regulars.” That would be help cover the interior of the district with so many units moved forwards. “If you wish to transfer or promote officers from the Ninth and Twentieth regiments to this new regiment, then you may of course replace them with your choices from these new arrivals.”

If Samsonov was wise he’d make most of the assignments promotions, giving him a regiment of the Regulars that would be loyal to him. If not… well, Theodore’s supply of suitable officers to lead a military district was finite but he hadn't reached the bottom of that bucket just yet.

“Thank you, lord.”

“Will you be leading us to victory over Nondi Steiner?” the commander of the Proserpina Hussars enquired politely.

Theodore wasn’t sure if it was sycophancy on the part of the woman, but a moment later Samsonov hopped onto the comment with such alacrity that he suspected it may have been staged. “The Coordinator is at the hub of all things, General Langley. His concerns are larger than one world.”

“Walk with me, Warlord,” Theodore ordered, gesturing towards the door. “I would have your thoughts on the campaign so far and we should not distract your officers from their labors.”

Put like that, Samsonov had no choice but to join Theodore and they exited the room back into the corridors. “Would you like to use my office, tono?”

The younger man flicked his hand dismissively. “We can walk outside, if your perimeter is sufficiently secure. I have spent too much time behind a desk or crammed inside a transport, I wish to stretch my legs.”

“No one besides the DCMS is within two kilometers and there are no vantage points overlooking us.” The warlord was surely thinking of how one of Theodore’s more distant ancestors had been shot by a sniper when he dismounted from his ‘mech on a world that had not been pacified.

The reprisals had signally failed to produce the desired pacification. Indeed, the actions had so damaged morale that a previously wildly successful campaign had collapsed. The regiments who boasted of Kentares on their battle honors were, in Theodore’s view, completely missing the lesson of that occasion. Still, he didn’t want a bullet through his head any more than his ancestor presumably had.

Outside, Theodore didn’t look directly at the warlord. “The Lyran Guards fight well?”

“They do. Tamar’s planetary militia were poorly led at first, but General Steiner has drafted the best to replace losses in her regular regiments and purged the commanders of the other units.”

“Hmm. And you mentioned the Twelfth Star Guards were holding off the Ninth and Twentieth.”

“They have four regiments on paper,” Samsonov allowed. “But they are little more than half that in reality. The Twentieth Rasalhague Regulars in particular have failed to take sufficient advantage.”

Theodore nodded. “An inexperienced regiment. Those who have risen to the occasion here will be valued, those who do not can be reassigned.”

“Thank you, sir. I assume that the other unattached warriors may be used to replace casualties.”

“Of course. General Bergen and I have assigned a few to the regiments of our task force but the rest are yours to assign as you will.” The coordinator saw what was left of an ornamental maze after a pair of air defense vehicles had parked on it and tsked. That would have annoyed even his father. There was sufficient space to park next to it and the bushes would have added a tiny bit of cover.

Samsonov cleared his throat. “The situation on Pesht…”

“You have your sources, I assume.”

“My attention has primarily been focused upon my own district,” the warlord lied, rather transparently. “Though I understand that your treacherous cousin has been captured.”

“That is so,” Theodore agreed. Having failed to capture Luthien when the First Sword of Light proved not to have yielded to his blandishments, Elija Kurita had unimaginatively fallen back on Pesht and called for the Regular regiments scattered around the fringes of his district to reinforce him. Seeing the writing on the wall, none had done so and the Second Sword of Light had raced across the Combine via a command circuit to join their brother regiment in bringing the rogue warlord to justice.

They’d also captured evidence that his cousin had been foolish enough to accept support from sources they now knew to have been compromised by the LIC. In short, the coup had been nothing less than a distraction by the Lyrans, an attempt to slow the attack on Tamar without committing more forces directly.

He looked at Samsonov. “I will hear your advice, Grieg.”

The use of Samsonov’s personal name hopefully reminded him of how Theodore had done the same before removing Cherenkoff, months ago. He certainly hesitated before speaking. “One man alone cannot create such a conspiracy, sir. And while your warlords can command on the border, only you can bring order to the heart of the realm.”

In other words, Theodore thought ‘go away and stop taking all the glory’. Predictable. “Ivan Sorenson said much the same when I appointed him as the new Warlord of Pesht. I have been displeased by the Pesht Regulars’ low standards and he has done well in bringing the Dieron Regulars back up to my expectations.”

If that sounded like a slight on Samsonov’s issues with the Rasalhague Regulars, then it would only prove that the warlord had a mote or two of awareness.

“A reliable choice,” the older man agreed. “May I ask who will be taking over Dieron?”

“You may be aware of Kester Hsuin Chi?”

The warlord had to think a moment. “I have some recollection of your father promoting an officer by that name after Cherenkoff had demoted him. Before the latter’s rise to be a Warlord but it was clear that the Coordinator found merit in both of them. He kept them apart, of course.”

Theodore hid a smile at the effort to cast Chi in the likeness of the former Warlord of Rasalhague. “I have some hopes for him. In any case, I will accompany Sorenson to install him at Pesht before returning to Luthien. I am sure that you will be able to complete our plans for Tamar.”

“Of course, sir. With two additional regiments and the LCAF unable to easily reinforce General Steiner, I expect victory to follow before the year ends.”

“Good. Although it is possible that further reinforcements will be forthcoming for Nondi Steiner. Her cousin Frederick has not been notably slowed down by the Mariks, so it would be sensible for the Archon to send him to rectify matters here.”

“It would be the first sign of an intelligent response I have seen from Tharkad,” Samsonov agreed. “If that happens though, we may be able to destroy two of House Steiner’s best generals with a single stroke. Depending, of course, on what forces he can field.” The qualfication of his initial statement was obviously an afterthought.

Theodore smiled. “It would be a happy day.” It would also give Samsonov enough standing that he’d rival Yorioshi once more, restoring the balance of power between the two men that had let his father dominate the high command. Or if it failed, Theodore could bring in another of his own choices for the position.

Taking Tamar would be an excellent first victory for his reign, but the Coordinator always had to remember that the biggest threat to him was within the Combine not outside of it. The Lyrans and the Suns could push the border back occasionally but neither had the strength to seriously threaten the Combine’s existence.

Even together, they couldn’t accomplish that, Theodore thought. Not yet, at any rate. I have Mariks’ technical data and the alliance between Steiner and Davion is crumbling. Things are going almost too well.

The temptation to change his mind and take over the campaign dangled before him but a voice that sounded like his father’s reminded him that he could claim as much credit for the victory on Luthien. If a disaster was looming, to balance the karma of the current good fortune, better he was not here to carry the blame.

Besides, Tomoe had alerted him that Anastasi was aware of their affair. That was not a situation he could afford to leave unattended. His wife had little hard power, but she was still the product of a political dynasty and… what was the old chinese saying about two women under one roof? Or was that apocryphal?

He shook his head. Perhaps the western toast said it best: ‘here’s to our wives and the women we love: may they never meet!’

“I have been indulging myself here,” he admitted. “You are correct, my duty lies on Luthien.”

“I would not say an indulgence, tono.” Samsonov dipped his head politely. “It is important the Combine know that their Coordinator is a warrior, with victories to his name. But now you have won those duties, there are other matters of state that only you can tend to.”

“As you have advised me, I must also counsel you,” Theodore told him. “While I am pleased with the Drakons, the Rasalhague Regulars are the backbone of your forces. If a rift is forming there then I will be concerned.”

“I will heed your wisdom,” the warlord promised with about as much sincerity as Theodore expected.

Does he realize how isolated he is out here? The coordinator shook his head slightly. Moving Samsonov from Galedon may have wrecked him. On the other hand, it cut his empire-building there short. Who knows how things might have gone if I’d left him in place…?
"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 #336 on: 10 December 2022, 02:32:03 »
Curitiba, Summer
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
25 May 3024


“I should really stay at the Castle in case there are any last minute security issues,” Clovis complained from the passenger seat of the groundcar they’d rented.

Max had indulged and picked a rather sporty little number. He wasn’t a huge fan of driving generally, but if something went wrong then the option to run away would at least make him feel better, even if he’d probably be up against aircraft that no reasonable groundcar would escape from. And he could afford it, which still felt bizarre - particularly when he was back on Summer where all his memories were of poverty.

“If things go wrong then we’re probably just going to skip to the shooting people phase a bit sooner than expected,” he pointed out, driving fairly sedately through the city streets and paying careful attention to the speed limit. Getting pulled over probably wouldn’t be disastrous, but it really wouldn’t help. “And your mother wanted me to keep you clear of that part.”

The teenager jerked his chin. “I’m not useless.”

“I’m aware. Unless, of course, you’re not confident that you’ve spoofed the security sensors around the castle correctly?”

“Of course I got it right!” the eighteen year old asserted. “They won’t pick up the infantry until they get to the castle itself. The security cameras are working on looped data and I’ve set them up to match any weather changes, so no one will notice anything until the ‘Mechs arrive.”

“I suppose hiding a couple of heavy ‘mechs would be too much to ask.”

Clovis gave him a disparaging look. “I think that if they can feel the ground shaking, the security will realize that something is out there whatever the cameras are reporting.”

“Sounds to me as if you’ve got everything under control with that, so there’s no reason not to help me with this side of the operation.”

The boy turned and looked out the window.

“Or are you worried you messed up this part of the preparations?” Max added lightly.

“Oh I got it right. Why do you think I don’t want to be anywhere near this. One mistake, or even just the wind changing and this will get really ugly.”

“Well, I can’t do anything about the weather,” he admitted, “But at least you can keep me from making any mistakes. I can be a bit fumble-fingered at times.” Pulling a street map out of the glove pocket, he passed it to Clovis. “Do me a favor and navigate, would you? I haven’t been here in about fifteen years and I didn’t have a car at the time.”

The teenager looked at the map and then squinted around. “I don’t have the slightest idea where we are,” he admitted. “I grew up on Bifrost. I can make astronomical sightings, but I’ve never tried getting a groundcar through a city before.”

“I’m sure the principles are basically the same,” said Max, who wouldn’t have had the slightest idea how to navigate a dropship and for whom interstellar navigation might as well be black magic.

It ended up taking them forty-five minutes to find their destination, which had been about three blocks from where they were when Max handed Clovis the map.

“This never happened,” Clovis warned him, handing the map back. “If you tell anyone…”

“Tell them what?” Max asked, checking his watch. They were still ahead of schedule, he’d allowed a full hour to get here. “We’ve been parked here thirty minutes while I took a nap.”

“Exactly!” The teenager went around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. Two bags held a number of poles and cables, each with screws and bolts threaded just enough that they’d stay in place. Besides them a small crate was wrapped in plastic.

Max joined him and the pair began assembling the poles. By mutual consent, neither of them touched the crate. Clovis winced the one time Max knocked it lightly with the end of a pole as he got it out of the trunk.

“Be careful.”

“Sorry,” the older man apologized. He had no firsthand knowledge of the contents but he was the one that had asked Clovis to prepare it. If the teenager felt that seriously about the consequences of an accident then he was prepared to accept Clovis’ assessment.

They’d found a place on a side-street that mostly provided service access to offices in the area. The chances were pretty good that no one would be looking at them and the chances of passersby at this time of day were minimal. Still, if anyone did investigate then the explanation for why they were building a miniature trebuchet would have to be quite creative. (The ancient roman trebuchet, that was. Not the ‘mech that shared the name). Max was personally leaning towards just using a taser in place of any explanation, assuming they were far enough along to finish before anyone followed up on that.

Clovis did most of the assembly, while Max simply held poles in place and let the dwarf work the screws and make sure everything was angled correctly. The teenager worked carefully but quickly, not making a single mistake that Max could spot. Less than five minutes after they started, the assembly was complete and Clovis reached for the winding mechanism.

“I’ll do that,” Max offered. “You get the canister ready.”

“You think I want to even touch it?”

“Butterfingers,” Max reminded him, holding his hands up.

The boy sighed. “I swear, you’re a mechwarrior. If I find out you’re actually an amateur juggler or something in your spare time, my revenge will be epic.” But he let Max take over the crank and opened the crate with a delicacy and care that exceeded that he’d shown with the trebuchet.

Max didn’t want to say but the other reason he was doing this was that with his longer limbs he was winding the catapult up faster than Clovis could. He wasn’t kidding about not wanting to be the one holding their ammunition though. By the time the handle clicked and refused to turn further, confirming it had reached maximum tension and locked, Clovis was opening the fifth successively smaller layer of packaging around the contents of the crate.

“Let me get this aimed right before you load it,” Max offered.

“No rush.” Clovis was actually sweating.

There was actually a bit of a schedule - it was theoretically possible that a warning could reach their target as soon as the attack on Lestrade Castle began. But it was a soft limit not a hard one, and the last thing Max wanted was to cause a careless mistake.

There were markings on the trebuchet frame so that he could confirm the direction was right and the range wasn’t really a variable - it was set to fling its ammunition a distance prepared based on them firing from here. Fortunately the target wasn’t that small - a few meters here or there weren’t all that serious a problem.

“Ready?” asked Clovis.

Max backed up. “Go ahead.”

Cradling a canister of plastic about the size of a soft-drink bottle in both hands, Clovis took short, slow steps towards the trebuchet and delicately placed it in the clamp at the far end of the sling. Or rather, he tried to. It didn’t fit.

They exchanged panicked looks and then Max took a deep breath. “Okay, we have it upside down.”

Clovis slumped slightly in relief and turned the canister over. This time it fit perfectly.

They both backed up and looked it over.

“Ready?” Clovis asked seriously.

Max licked his finger and held it up to the wind. Yeah, the wind was blowing in the desired direction, which was the prevailing direction for this time of year. “Not getting any readier. Can you think of anything we’ve missed?”

“No.”

“Do you want to fire it?”

“Are you nuts?” Clovis asked. “I loaded it, I’m not going anywhere near it. You do it.”

“Fair,” Max admitted. He walked over, careful not to knock the apparatus, and reached for the trigger cord, then moved back and away until there was no more slack in it. He looked back and couldn’t see Clovis. Then the passenger door of the car closed and he realized the teenager had taken shelter.

The man shrugged and tugged the cord lightly, hoping that was enough.

It was.

The central hub of the trebuchet spun repeatedly, the canister whirling at the end of the sling until, after what seemed like eternity but was probably only a second or two, the sling released and the canister arced off into the distance. Max followed it with his eyes until it dropped behind the wall of the HPG station.

“Are you going to just stand there forever?” Clovis called from the car.

Breaking out of what had almost been a trance, Max ran to the car and hopped in. “Okay, good work,” he declared and started the car. They left the trebuchet behind - it wasn’t going to be needed any more and disassembling it would take time.

Before they reached the first corner, Max could hear a klaxon sounding in the distance. He focused on driving. Most likely a lot of people would be on the road shortly and they’d be lost in the crowd but it would be much better to be ahead of the rush.

“Can you see the HPG station?” he asked, seeing Clovis was adjusting the wing mirror on his side to get a view behind them.

“Yeah…” The teenager squinted. “People are trying to get out. I think… Okay, first sign of a gas mask. They must keep them close at hand.”

“I can imagine a lot of possible reasons they might want masks,” Max muttered.

“They’re going to need mops too,” Clovis told him, a little triumphantly. “It’s vomit city back there.”

“Okay, just let me drive. We don’t want to get caught.”

“Do you think the authorities will trace the catapult to us?” the teenager asked.

“I hope not. I don’t think anyone in Curitiba today will be enthusiastic about protecting us from the lynch mob.” They’d just flung a small quantity of Thioacetone into the HPG compound, and the walls wouldn’t do a thing to contain the legendarily horrific odor. Anyone within a few kilometers downwind of the place for would be having a really bad day and if the wind changed that would just spread the unhappiness around.

Max decided that the speed limit was more of a suggestion and edged the car up to just above it as he headed for the main junction onto the highway leading up to Lestrade Castle.

“Was this really necessary?” asked Clovis.

“Aldo Lestrade is unfortunately not a fool. Assuming we’re remotely on target about what the others will find in his home, the moment he learns he’s been raided he’ll respond. That could be running for his life, but he’s well connected enough that it could be anything up to a full scale insurrection against the Commonwealth. Taking out the HPG is our best bet for slowing the news until we can get to Skye ahead of it.”

“Nothing we’ve done will stop the HPG working,” the teenager protested. “I mean, the staff would need chemical warfare gear until they can get it cleared - which will be weeks - but it’ll still function.”

“In theory, yes. But ComStar isn’t exactly tolerant of attacks on HPG stations, even if it’s chemical warfare on the scale of a college prank. They can’t let this pass - it’s one of their core policies, so the first thing the local Precentor will do after he’s done throwing up is report in and then shut the entire place down. Summer will be interdicted until they think they’ve made their point.”

The boy frowned. “That’s going to hurt a lot of people’s livelihoods.”

Max nodded, signaling before he started overtaking a truck. “It is. And if we’re wrong then we’ve done it for nothing. But if we’re right then it might turn out to be the price of saving the entire Commonwealth. We’re just going to have to take the chance.”

“I hope you’re right then.”

The driver grunted. “I kind of hope I’m wrong. Otherwise he’s had Katrina Steiner in a dungeon for months.”
« Last Edit: 10 December 2022, 15:33:38 by drakensis »
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #337 on: 10 December 2022, 03:00:48 »
One heck of a cliffhanger there!  8)

David CGB

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #338 on: 10 December 2022, 03:28:45 »
One heck of a cliffhanger there!  8)
Such an understatement, it has been a wild ride….
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PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #339 on: 10 December 2022, 05:15:58 »
Quote
They’d also captured evidence that his cousin had been foolish enough to accept support from sources they now knew to have been compromised by the LIC. In short, the coup had been nothing less than a distraction by the Lyrans, an attempt to slow the attack on Tamar without committing more forces directly.

Thus Black Dragons have nicely diverted attention from their little brotherhood.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Wrangler

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #340 on: 10 December 2022, 15:33:20 »
I'm surprised their doing this as a two-man operation to get into the castle.
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BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #341 on: 10 December 2022, 15:49:28 »
I'm surprised their doing this as a two-man operation to get into the castle.

Max and Clovis are just two people in a larger operation.  I believe Morgan Kell brought at least a platoon of infantry with him.  Maybe some battlemechs?
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PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #342 on: 10 December 2022, 15:58:27 »
The two of them only did the Comstar stink by themselves, in their discussion they do mention infantry and couple of heavy mechs for the castle part of the mission.
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Gorgon

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #343 on: 10 December 2022, 17:10:56 »
Now that's a creative way to disable a HPG!
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #344 on: 10 December 2022, 17:14:31 »
Creative, but still a chemical weapon.  They can only hope they don't fall into ComStar's hands...  ::)

Tegyrius

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #345 on: 10 December 2022, 19:36:42 »
ComStar: Geneva Convention?  Never heard of her!
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Kujo

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #346 on: 10 December 2022, 22:48:20 »
ComStar: Geneva Convention?  Never heard of her!

More like 'Comstar' "you have violated the Geneva Convention, Not Comstar, see the Comstar Customer Manuel page 35883 (praise Blake) on how Comstar follows all Star League and Members laws, regulations and traditions with regard to chemical weapons going all the way back to the initial Central Powers and Allied informal truces and sanctions on such weapons.  Comstar compiles with all Relevant sections, exceptions and set asides.  As a Strictly Neutral agency of the former Star League we hold our agency and our devoted agents beyond reproach and will enforce all Comstar, League and Member laws, rules and regulations to ensure neutrality, value and protection of all assets, ect...'  In essence they know every letter of every law, treaty, agreement ever reached and will use those 'letters' to twist, gaslight and warp the information (and sprit) of those 'blessed' documents.  As all actions are justified in seeing 'Blessed Blake's' vision become a true paradise!

Comstar all the charm of a Interstellar communications monopoly, combined with a fanatical cult (especially their 'tech enforcement section' aka ROM) and bolted together by a warped communist ideology not espoused to the extent of 'holy writ' by Blake but by his killer/most devoted 'fan' in Toyama (Lenin/Stalin).  BTW great chapter!  Thank you.
« Last Edit: 10 December 2022, 22:50:11 by Kujo »
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drakensis

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #347 on: 12 December 2022, 02:48:30 »
Chapter 8

Lestrade Castle, Summer
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
25 May 3024


Three flashes from a flashlight were visible in the distance and Ardan looked at Morgan, signaling with one arm of the Orion that it was time to go. He saw the Archer making the same gesture and then the two heavy ‘mechs stepped off, heading up the switchback road leading to Lestrade Castle’s main entrance.

The only reason they could even get this close without raising alarms was that there was a major highway near the castle so heavy good haulers like the flatbeds they’d hired to get the two battlemechs near were nothing out of the ordinary. But once they crossed the property line, sentries would be sounding alarms and it would take several minutes to scale the slope.

It was the evening and Lestrade Castle was already lit up, but the electronic sensors of Max’s Orion could pick up increased activity already. Ardan had offered to carry out the mission in Curitiba and leave this part to Max, but the balding man had insisted they needed the best mechwarriors for this. The Orion was lighter than his usual Victor and he reminded himself again not to try jumping - it lacked the jump jets he was used to. It wasn’t lacking in armor though, which might help.

Ardan was in the lead as they ascended. Ahead of them, the Kell Hounds infantry would be entering the palace, following the plans provided by Danica Holstein and updated after Clovis’ electronic intrusions. He watched the turrets that should have turned the road into a killing ground but none of them moved.

“They must have taken out the power relays,” Morgan told him.

In response, Ardan broke into a run. The roadway wasn’t ideal traction for ‘mechs but if he wasn’t going to have to worry about avoiding incoming fire then he could afford to pick up the pace. Behind him the Archer stayed perfectly placed, no more than thirty meters behind his borrowed ‘mech.

Speed was now the essence. As the duke of Summer, Aldo Lestrade was also titular commander of the planetary militia, and for all his electronic wizardry, he was shrewd enough not to place all his faith in computers. No unmanned defenses would hold indefinitely, not even the incredible Space Defense Systems around Terra under the Star League had been completely without human involvement.

Clovis had confirmed that a lance of battlemechs was stationed in the castle and with their firepower turned on the infantry part of their attack, the Kell Hounds would be in severe danger. There was no doubt that Lestrade would be far more forgiving of broken walls and furniture than he would of his secrets coming out.

Two more switchbacks… one more…

Ardan reached the final turn and saw a Whitworth battlemech soar over the curtain wall that secured the castle to land neatly on the plateau outside the gates. Outmassed as it was, the ‘mech squared off to face them - hoping to buy time by keeping them on the narrow road until the rest of the lance could scramble?

Opening up with autocannon and lasers, Ardan’s shots passed return fire from the defender’s lasers and SRMs. Most Whitworths were fire support ‘mechs similar in general role to Morgan’s Archer. This one must be a rare survivor of the older production runs, or it might have been refitted to the same specifications for use here.

The autocannon did the most damage of either’s fire, but even the relatively thin armor of the Whitworth could take a single salvo from it. Ardan wished for a moment he had the mighty Pontiac 100 mounted on his Victor - that would have torn deep into the Whitworth from any angle.

A salvo of LRMs from Morgan soared over Ardan’s head. The Kell Hounds commander was technically within the arming range of his missiles, but he’d bent his Archer back and fired at a higher angle than he had to, arching the missiles up and extending their flight time just enough that the Whitworth almost disappeared beneath for a moment under the explosions of dozens of the small warheads, sending it staggering on the smooth road-surface.

Ardan took advantage of the pilot’s pre-occupation and charged forwards. His borrowed Orion was more than half again as heavy as the defender so the collision was brutally effective and sent the Whitworth sprawling onto the ground outside the gate.

There was no time for offers of clemency. Ardan knelt and wedged both blunt arms of the Orion under the fallen ‘mech and flipped it down the slope.

The sheer side of the mountain worked against the militia mechwarrior and the Whitworth bounced several times as it tumbled like a child’s toy, sprays of shattered armor and internal systems marking every impact. When it landed, the Whitworth lay still.

Behind Ardan, Morgan began kicking the gate. Every impact of his Archer’s foot cratered the thick metal panels inwards and he was playing his arm mounted lasers over the center-line, weakening the interlocking plates there.

Ardan joined his own lasers to the last effort and in less than a minute they were through. Undamaged and the larger of the pair, Morgan rammed his Archer through the hole they’d made first, widening it.

Beyond the portal a Vulcan backpedalled, spraying the Archer ineffectually with fire from its machineguns and autocannon. The flamer belching plasma at Morgan was probably more dangerous, but the Kell Hound wasn’t running hot anyway - the close confines of the castle yards were too tight for LRMs to be much good.

Ardan followed, leaving Morgan to engage the Vulcan as he saw a Griffin extend its PPC from inside a hangar door to draw a bead on the Kell Hound. “Oh no you don’t!” he shouted and fired his autocannon at the limb. The shells ripped into the armor plating, driving the arm off-line and the PPC shot went wild.

Barrelling into the hangar, Ardan and the Summer militiaman brawled at point blank range - smashing their arms against each other’s, preventing them from using the weapons in them. The Griffin’s missile pod vomited LRMs at the larger ‘mech, hoping perhaps that the blunt impacts of unarmed warheads would do enough damage to shake Ardan’s focus.

If so, he was disappointed. The Orion’s autocannon was mounted just above one hip and it was almost brushing the Griffin’s chest as Ardan fired over and over again with it. He used up almost a ton of ammunition before the smaller ‘mech collapsed, ‘bleeding’ coolant fluids from a torso that he could almost see out the back of.

The scarecrow-like shape of a fourth ‘mech was still in one of the hangar-bays. Another Vulcan. Breathing heavily, Ardan looked around for any sign of the mechwarrior but no one was moving and the ‘mech’s cockpit was open. Better to be safe than sorry, he thought and fired two shots from his laser through the open hatch. No one would be using that ‘mech again without rebuilding the cockpit first.

Might be easier to salvage from Morgan’s opponent, he thought reflexively and then remembered that they weren’t going to be salvaging any equipment from this raid.

“Mycroft, this is Watson,” he declared on the radio. “Hangar clear. Two mechs down here.”

“One down here, which makes four with your first partner,” Morgan Kell replied. “Is there any sign of more than four ‘mechs?”

Ardan looked around the small hangar. “There’s only room for a single lance here,” he reported. “I think we’re clear.”

“Baker Street,” Morgan continued. “This is Mycroft. What’s your situation?”

Richard O’Cieran, the barrel-chested infantry commander of the Kell Hounds, sounded short of breath. “Still rooting the staff out of the corners, Mycroft. One of the lads found the cryo-capsule in a store room but it’s empty.”

Ardan grimaced. If the Archon had been done away with, buried in a grave somewhere, she might never be found. That would have been the smart play if Lestrade wanted to keep his hands clean… smart, but not catering to his towering ego.

“Have you found the dungeons?” he asked.

“Nothing, Watson.”

No surprise there. Ardan moved his borrowed Orion over to the gantry and powered it down. He had a flak vest and a laser rifle stashed behind his seat, pulling the first on before he exited and slung the rifle. Slamming the hatch closed, he trotted towards where he remembered the castle’s library was on the plans. His neurohelmet left him with an uncomfortably narrow field of view, but if not all the staff were accounted for then he might need the head protection.

He obviously wasn’t the first to think of this, for as he entered the book-lined room, Morgan Kell was already there and being verbally abused by a gray-haired woman who Ardan guessed was the librarian.

“- hunted down like animals for this, Colonel! Attacking the home of the rightful Duke of Skye shows that the Kells are mad dogs, not the faithful hounds that the Steiner’s claim.”

“You can believe that if you want,” the colonel said with forced calm, “But I’ll have what I came here for and we’ll see what does for your master’s claims on Skye.”

“Trouble?” asked Ardan.

Morgan indicated the floor and now that he looked down, what was left of a familiar set of circuit boards was scattered on the floor. Chips and wires had been torn away. “The lady here hit me with a chair,” the dark-haired mercenary admitted. “I’m fine but she hit the codebreaker.”

Ardan nodded and produced his own from the flak vest’s side-pocket. “Fortunately we have a spare then.” Clovis Holstein had built three of the devices actually, O’Cieran had the last.

The librarian tried to block Ardan from reaching the library’s computer console but Morgan pulled her aside, trying not to be rougher than he had to be.

Slotting the device in where Clovis had told him to, Ardan watched the screen light up and cycle through the boot-up sequence several times. Then it opened up with a set of prompts and options. “Let’s see what dun-sec-cam gives us,” he murmured and selected it.

The screen split into six windows, each displaying the interior of a different cell. Bare stone, bench seats and a drain in the corner of each. They made his own imprisonment under the Triad look humane by comparison.

Five of them were empty, but one of them had a single occupant. Long blonde hair over a haggard face, only a hospital smock and a thin blanket. Even sleep didn’t take the lines of pain and fear from the woman they were here for.

“It’s her,” Ardan said flatly.

“Good.” And then Morgan let his anger out for a moment. “Now find a way down there or I’ll raze the castle level by level until we’ve unearthed her!”



Tamar City, Tamar
Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
1 June 3024

Tai-i Jerry Akuma hid a scowl as the Second Drakons who had been leading the advance during the night pulled aside to let his company through.

He’d been pleased when he was assigned to the Seventh Sword of Light as a replacement officer. Getting transferred out of the Second Sword of Light and into the Galedon Regulars had been a slap to the face, even if it had come with promotion to command a lance. No doubt Tetsuhara had pulled strings to get rid of him. But the Seventh was a very different regiment and he was beginning to think he might have been better off if he’d entered the Drakons. The new regiments had the favor of the Coordinator and seemed more practical in their approach.

Twice he’d had to watch Lyran armor scuttle away from his company as Yodetobo insisted that his regiment focus entirely on the Lyran Guards, disdaining to pursue and destroy what would have been easy kills. Granted, inflicting heavy losses on the Tenth Lyran Guards would have been more glorious and probably advanced the campaign further, but the Teak Dragon hadn’t inflicted those heavy losses. The Tenth Guards had been forced to give ground time and again but they weren’t using the same clumsy tactics Akuma remembered Lyran units had employed the last time he fought them.

The Drakons weren’t behaving the same way. Both the First and Second regiments were reporting significant kill counts when it came to Lyran conventional regiments, and it was clear that Warlord Samsonov approved of their aggression.

Perhaps today would be different, he thought and signaled the Drakons company commander that he was rotating to replace. “Are there any changes overnight?”

The Rasalhague officer’s name was Horn - his family name, anyway. Akuma didn’t care what his personal name was. “We haven’t seen any new units, but several dropships arrived overnight. That could mean reinforcements.”

Akuma looked ahead at Tamar City. “Or they could be getting ready to evacuate the leadership from the city. But you may be right.” Why hadn’t that been in the intelligence report earlier?

His company pulled forward in a loose line, Akuma keeping his Grand Dragon slightly ahead. He had to show himself to be taking the lead, which was one more bit of nonsense the Seventh insisted on. He was the commander, he should be behind a recon lance so that he can respond to a developing situation, not be the first one under fire. But the one time he’d tried that, the Chu-sa had taken him aside and had a quiet word. That word hadn’t been ‘cowardice’ but it had been the substance of the warning.

With nothing currently in sight, Akuma opened the regimental net. “The Drakons report dropships arrived in the city overnight,” he passed on. “There is a possibility of enemy reinforcements.”

To his surprise, it was General Yodetobo who responded. “There has been no new traffic at the jumppoints, Tai-i. You are correct to relay the report, but at most the Lyrans are moving supplies or preparing to retreat. Our aerowing is holding ready to intercept if the latter is true. Continue the advance.”

I haven’t stopped, you overbred idiot. But he said, “Hai,” and shut down his microphone.

The edge of Tamar City was dotted by warehouses and small factories - the sort of terrain that would break up lines of sight more than small suburban homes that ‘mechs towered over. “Stay in lances,” he ordered his company. “Just because a Lyran claims to be offering an honorable duel, doesn’t mean he’ll keep his word.” He knew there was no point expecting these honor-bound idiots to decline such an order, but at least he could try to keep them from scattering in response to provocations.

Honestly, it was like the entire regiment except him was of the Tetsuhara-mold. He amused himself for the next half-hour by tagging each and every one of his company with nicknames of that ilk.

“Target, Valkyrie!” a shout went up from the Chu-i of his recon lance. Tetsu-topknot according to Akuma’s little mental list, given the slavish imitation of the general’s interpretation of a ‘traditional samurai hairstyle’.

Looking aside, Akuma saw the Chu-i’s Spider bouncing forwards and satisfied himself that the rest of the lance was following their leader - the Jenner and two Wasps bouncing after it like ducks after their mother. “Where there is one there will be more,” he warned and cycled through his sensors to try to pick out ambushers.

His diligence was rewarded by the sight of a Hetzer trying to hide inside a small workshop. “Drop that building,” he ordered sharply and fired the PPC mounted in his Grand Dragon’s right arm.

The two Dragons and the Lancelot behind him followed suit, although the autocannon of the Dragons didn’t do much. Fortunately the Lancelot’s lasers were much more effective and the entire roof collapsed in on top of the armored vehicle. Akuma gave himself a little pat on the back for securing one of the new Grand Dragons. Losing the firepower he was used to from his previous ride, a Panther, would have been a problem.

“Tai-i, there is an armored vehicle in the wreckage,” ‘Tetsu-mustache’ proclaimed. (It was a wretched thing, like a caterpillar crawling over the man’s upper lip.)

“I know that.” You idiot. “Why do you think I ordered you to demolish the building?” Akuma marched his Grand Dragon over and kicked the Hetzer until the side split out and spilled what was left of one of the crew.

The samurai appeared disappointed. “An entire lance to destroy a full tank?”

“It was not an honorable foe,” Akuma spat back. “He was lurking in ambush. Would you rather I left him to shoot you in the back?” The Hetzer had one redeeming feature: the massive autocannon that would severely hurt even a battlemech in close quarters like this.

With that distraction taken care of, he returned his attention to his recon lance. “Chu-i T… Tamati, what is your situation?” Fortunately the man’s name began with about the right syllable so he was able to correct his near-slip. Calling another officer by a nickname would probably lead to an honor duel or a complaint to the Chu-sa of their battalion.

“Sir! We are engaging the enemy!”

“What enemy and where?!” Akuma tried working out the location from Tetsu-topknot’s radio signal.

“A light lance.” The young officer seemed to have determined nothing more useful. “There is a plaza.”

That was useful at least. Akuma checked his map and directed his fire support lance to work around and flank the retreat route the Lyrans would likely use. “If the Lyrans retreat they are either cowards who deserve to be cut down, or have defeated your comrades and proved themselves worthy foes,” he directed, hoping this would prevent any complaints. “In either case, destroy them.”

“Hai!”

At last, some enthusiasm. Akuma drove his Grand Dragon forward, constrained only by the slow speed of the Lancelot. The ‘mech was slow and poorly armored but at least its energy weapons mean that it wasn’t going to run out of ammunition.

“Now, if I was using a light lance to bait out the advance, where would I put my fire support? ”he mused to himself. There had been a lance of Sturmfeur heavy tanks harassing his company the day before with their LRMs. It wouldn’t surprise him if they were lying in wait now to engage Tetsu-topknot if he was pulled into a pursuit.

A double line of warehouses that screened wide loading bays seemed ideal for tanks to lie in wait and Akuma closed in on them. “Go through the warehouses,” he ordered, indicating one door tall enough for ‘mechs to enter. “It is a likely hiding place for the cowardly Lyrans.”

The outer door of the warehouse crumpled under the fist of one of his Dragons and the mechwarrior bowed to indicate Akuma should take the lead. Cursing Tetsu-cow (the only woman in his company), he took the hint and raced his Grand Dragon through the shadowy lane between the warehouse’s crates that led to the loading bay door at the far end.

Sixty tons of ‘mech hitting the rolling door’s thin metal slats had a predictable effect and he was out in the sunshine again instantly.

The Tai-i was vaguely aware of his lance following him, but his eyes were widening in alarm as he saw what awaited them.

He had found the Sturmfeurs, but they were not alone. A full company of battlemechs were standing in the sun, buttoned up and ready to fight.

How did our air cover miss them? Akuma raged privately, spinning his Grand Dragon and looking for a way out. No one had fired yet but it was only a matter of mutual surprise.

…the aerowing was watching for dropships taking off. He didn’t have air cover, he remembered suddenly.

“Kell Hounds,” he heard Tetsu-cow declare in excitement and her Dragon twisted to open fire on a Centurion, which sidestepped the autocannon but not the laser aimed, before turning to return fire.

A Thunderbolt stepped forwards, closing the way to the loading bay’s entrance route. It was in gray and black urban camouflage, not the proud red and black of the famous mercenaries, but now that he looked for it, Akuma saw the angular dog’s face that was their badge.

His finger stabbed down on a command channel. “Chu-sa, we are engaged by the Kell Hounds at my current location!”

“Excellent, we will advance and -” The signal cut off in a squeal of jamming so fierce that it made Akuma’s head ring. He cut the channel.

All of his lance were engaged in fighting now, each having picked out a single Kell Hound to fight. Mysteriously, the mercenaries were otherwise holding back from firing.

“Thank you, Tai-i.” The voice was a man’s and it boomed from the speakers of the Thunderbolt facing him. “We appreciate you baiting the rest of your battalion in.”

“...what?”

And then the world seemed to fall on Jerry Akuma as the Thunderbolt opened up on him with everything it had. Missiles, lasers, even the machineguns mounted in the slightly larger ‘mech’s arm ripped into the right shoulder of his Grand Dragon.

Not everything hit there, but the mechwarrior was shaken like a rag doll by the impacts, barely keeping his ‘mech upright. He tried to jerk up the PPC to return fire but to his horror, the arm was limp - the armor had been pierced already and something critical must have been damaged.

Then he realized that the thunder of guns wasn’t just from the Thunderbolt. The rest of the Kell Hounds had also opened up, catching his lance from every angle. One of the Dragons simply exploded, the mechwarrior ejecting at the last minute.

The Lancelot fell, legs swept out from under it as a Sturmfeur rammed into its ankles. The angular ‘mech hit the ground and a second tank literally drove over it and started swiveling back and forth on its tracks.

Akuma closed in on the Thunderbolt, swinging the left fist of his Grand Dragon at its cockpit. If he could knock it aside then he might be able to get clear and -

The Thunderbolt’s right hand caught hold of his ‘mech’s and pinned it in place. The three lasers mounted in the Kell Hound ‘mech’s chest fired, shaving armor away from his own frontal armor.

“None of that,” the enemy said chidingly and drove his own right fist right into the domed cockpit around Akuma.

The armor held, somehow, but consoles sprayed sparks as wires were jerked free from them by the impact.

“No!” Akuma cried and reached for the ejection handle as he saw the Thunderbolt pull its fist back for another punch.

The rocket under his seat worked correctly, hurling him upwards with great alacrity.

The explosive bolts that should have opened the cockpit roof for him, however, were not so compliant after the blow to his cockpit and only two of them functioned as intended.

The last thing to go through Tai-i Jerry Akuma’s head was the roof of his own cockpit.
"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 #348 on: 12 December 2022, 02:48:51 »
Alfagemini, Castor
Free Worlds League
1 June 3024


“I hate this,” Alexander Zander said for the third time.

Ochombo had got the message on that the first time the commander of the Third Sirian Lancers said it, but he could understand the desire to give voice to frustration. “The decision was made and now we have to live with it,” he said instead, folding himself onto the padded bench-seat of what had once been a restaurant booth.

Technically it was still a restaurant booth, it was just that no one had used the penthouse level of the skyscraper that housed the restaurant since the Second Succession War. The liftshafts had been shattered in fighting over Castor close to two hundred years ago and the parts needed for repair hadn’t been made since the 2770s. Human ingenuity could have overcome that… but the owners of the building didn’t really have the funds and with only the revenue for renting out the lower floors that was unlikely to change.

Other than security, and techs scavenging replacement fittings over the years, probably no one had been up here ever since. Still, it was structurally sound and the original damage had at least been rendered weatherproof so for an isolated meeting place, it worked.

“Steiner is taking more of a risk than we are.” Colonel James Stroud was senior among the three of them - the commander of the Steel Guards and, by default, of the entire Protectorate Guards brigade. “He’s coming onto our turf.”

“Isn’t there still a warrant out on him over Helm?” Zander asked Ochombo.

The (still technically acting) commander of the Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia winced at the recollection of those hearings. “It’s in abeyance while the matter is debated by a Parliamentary committee,” he told them. “If Steiner is lucky, he’ll live long enough for it to get out of that limbo.”

“If we’re lucky, he won’t.”

He stretched. “You haven’t fought the man,” he asked Zander. “Why so personal?”

“He’s working with the Capellans. And he’s a Steiner.”

“I suppose that’s fair.”

Stroud straightened and walked over to the window. “He’s on this way.”

Sure enough, a helicopter came into view a moment later, the whomp-whomp of its rotors clearly audible as it settled in to land on the reinforced pad set amid the small rooftop garden. The man who emerged was tall and broad shouldered, wearing plain fatigues and carrying only a sidearm.

“One shot,” Zander grumbled, “And the Lyrans are leaderless.” But his hand was nowhere near his sidearm.

“One bomb,” Stroud said, “And so are we.”

It wasn’t ideal, Ochombo thought, to have all three regimental commanders here. But they represented the federal government and two different provinces, none of which were happy to be hands-off.

The door swung open and he recognised the face of the man who entered, from countless images. Neither of the provincial officers stirred and thus Ochombo stepped forwards and saluted on their behalf. “General Steiner. We have never met, but I am -”

“Colonel Azi Ochombo.” Frederick returned the salute with parade ground precision. “Given we’ve crossed swords so often, it’s almost strange that this is our first time meeting in person.”

He shrugged. “I’d always assumed it would be over one of our dead bodies if we did, but…”

Steiner nodded sharply. “I don’t ascribe to the idea of ‘worthy adversaries’, but you are an honorable foe. It’s our good fortune that we can meet without that.”

The evident respect was disarming. Ochombo covered himself by half-turning to his companions. “Permit me to introduce Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Zander, representing the Sirian Lancers, and Colonel James Stroud, commanding our forces here.”

Both men saluted and the Lyran general responded crisply, before being invited to sit on the side of the booth away from the trio. The bench was barely long enough for all three, but none of them were going to sit next to the Lyran. It left Ochombo all too conscious that he was perched precariously at the end, while Zander was halfway into the curve of the booth.

“You requested the meeting, General Steiner,” Stroud began. “And we’ve accepted a ceasefire for its duration. What is it you want?”

“Right to business then.” Steiner leant forwards. “I’m proposing a truce. Both of us could fight now, but the numbers are a little too neatly balanced between our available forces - it’s likely to be inconclusive and bloody. I don’t see that as being necessary.”

“You’re the one who invaded us!” Zander snapped. “And you have the gall to ask for a truce? Why shouldn’t we push you off Castor right now?”

“If you’re confident that you can, no reason at all.” The big Lyran paused to let them consider that.

He was right about the numbers, Ochombo thought. The Twenty-Fifth Marik Militia had about eighty ‘mechs left, but the Third Sirian Lancers had been understrength before they had to fight to get what was left of the First and Second Sirian Lancers off Procyon. And even after absorbing the few remains of the Iron Guard, Stroud had barely two battalions to his command.

Their best read of the Lyran invasion force was that both the Thirty-Second Lyran Guards and the Eleventh Lyran Regulars were at almost full strength - so just short of two hundred ‘mechs on both sides. The balance in supporting forces was similar.

Taking their silence for an admission that they weren’t confident, Steiner nodded slightly. “I imagine you’re hoping for reinforcements from the Silver Hawks Coalition? I’m afraid they’ve invoked the Home Defense Act and are declining to send either of their regiments, so you’ll need to wait for the Captain-General to find someone further away he can spare. Buying yourselves a few months - until the New Year, shall we say? - gives you a chance at them arriving.”

“What’s in it for you?” asked Zander suspiciously.

He got a shrug in reply. “I might be able to beat your commands without reinforcements of my own, but then again… I might not. It’s a little too close to call; and I don’t see the need to kill good soldiers on such a proposition.”

Stroud frowned. “And if we accept and then shift our forces to Devil’s Rock to deal with Colonel Ridzik and his invasion there, would you still hold back?”

“No.” Frederick Steiner didn’t hesitate. “The deal includes the Capellans - and your comrades on Devil’s Rock. Colonel Ridzik has agreed to cede me the right to negotiate on his behalf.”

Ochombo pursed his lips. “I believe you would keep your word, General, but are you sure you can keep the Capellans from breaking such a truce? The Chancellor is not renowned for his sincerity and Colonel Ridzik is his creature.”

He saw the point hit home and the man across the table exhaled slowly. “I won’t pretend I expect you to keep this in confidence, but the Capellan’s advance has outpaced their supply lines. In the short term, they are depending on supplies from the Lyran Commonwealth to keep fighting. That’ll change in time, but right now I can restrain them.”

Stroud looked thoughtful. “We’ll need a moment to confer, General.”

“Of course.” Frederick sat back in the booth, obviously not planning to move.

Ochombo recognised the power play, but got out of the booth anyway. “I’m afraid the restaurant is closed so we can’t offer you any coffee while you wait.”

“War is hell, isn’t it,” Steiner shot back.

Stroud led the three of them across to the far side of the restaurant - not out of sight, but far enough away they couldn’t easily be overheard. “Your thoughts?” he asked quietly.

“I hate to say it but we need the time,” Zander replied bitterly. “The Capellans aren’t the only ones short on supplies. I could get another company running if I could get the parts out of the federal forces.” He paused. “Not a slight on you, Azi. I appreciate you forwarding my requests to the Quartermaster-General.”

Ochombo nodded in understanding. “For what it’s worth, I think his word is good. Steiner knows he might have to make deals in the future - a reputation for honest deals matters and we’re just not important enough for him to tarnish his name over us.”

“Perhaps. But if we look weak then he could be replaced - the Chancellor is on Skye, meeting his Archon,” Stroud mused. “They both seem keen on pushing this invasion and with the limited response the Captain-General has made, they must be thinking they can go further.”

“He’s the Archon’s cousin, and one of her best generals,” Ochombo muttered.

“And Anton was Janos’ brother.”

“That’s what I mean, Alex. Until Katrina overthrew their uncle, he was a strong contender for the throne. If Katrina Steiner replaces him, she might be creating a potential usurper in her own family. I don’t think the Archon would overrule him lightly.”

“Point,” the Sirian admitted. “It’s not just the machines either. Months for our wounded to recover and be fit for service too.”

Stroud nodded. “He’s right. The time is something we want if we can get it. But if we show weakness now, that may invite him to press harder.”

Ochombo considered what Frederick had said so far. “I don’t think he cares about Castor,” he said slowly. “He talked about beating our commands, not about taking the planet. And when you talked about pushing him off Castor he wasn’t bothered. The Archon and the Chancellor might want this campaign… but I don’t think he does. Not any more, at any rate. He still has the Commonwealth Jaegers in reserve - if he brought them forwards he’d have a good chance of beating us, but he left them behind with the Roughriders.”

“For someone who doesn’t want to fight us, he’s battered us on three too many worlds.”

“Yes, but maybe it’s not his idea, Colonel.” Ochombo inhaled sharply. “He doesn’t actually have much of Castor yet, save for his dropzones. Let’s see what he makes of a counter-offer.”

Stroud nodded slowly. “I think I see where you’re going. Alright, make your offer.”

The three of them filed back into the booth and Frederick nodded politely. “Your decision, gentlemen?”

“I’m willing to offer you a twelve month truce, from midnight tonight, applicable to your own forces and the Capellans,” Ochombo declared. “But there is a condition.”

The Lyran looked intrigued. “I’m listening.”

His throat was dry. Ochombo licked his lips nervously. “We require that you withdraw from Castor and Devil’s Rock. Having your forces here in proximity to our own is too likely to have hotheads break the truce.”

The Steiner stared at him, gray eyes focused on him with unsettling intensity. And then he smirked slightly. “Done.” He extended his hand across the table.

Feeling numb, Ochombo took the hand and shook. Stroud did the same and then  Zander.

Steiner sat back. “It’ll take me a day or two to get everything loaded, but I’ll give the orders as soon as I reach my camp. Colonel Ridzik will follow suit as soon he has my message by HPG - I assume that you can inform Smithson’s Chinese Bandits and the rest of the Sirian Lancers of our terms.”

Stroud nodded. “That’s acceptable. If we send an urgent HPG message then they will be aware within a twenty four hours.”

“Then shall we say a seventy-two hour deadline for my own forces and Colonel Ridzik’s to be offworld and heading to our jumpships?”

“Yes.”

Steiner nodded and climbed to his feet. “Let’s be about it then, gentlemen.”

They exchanged salutes again and Steiner exited onto the patio. He’d been there less than twenty minutes.

“Did we just lose the war?” asked Zander plaintively. “I can’t tell.”

Twelve months, Ochombo thought. Anything could happen in that time. “We survived it,” he said decisively. “Anything else is for the politicians to worry about.”



The last scene was somewhat inspired by Cray's classic ...And Please Sign In Blood
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #349 on: 12 December 2022, 04:23:07 »
Poor Jerry, goosed so soon. Not that he will be particularly missed or anything...
If Kell Hounds manage to crush a full battalion from the 7th Sword of Light it will give the defenders some space to breathe as Samsonov will surely take time to reassess the situation, before setting up to avenge the loss and heal the damage to his prestige.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #350 on: 12 December 2022, 04:43:18 »
Posts from all fronts!  Awesome!  :thumbsup:

wolfgar

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #351 on: 12 December 2022, 06:57:06 »
It also clears out a bit of Samsanovs dead wood at the cost of a minor officer everyone was destined to hate.
Wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies, his fangs locked on the throat of his opponent.

Gorgon

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #352 on: 12 December 2022, 13:31:14 »
Wow, the Sword of Light Brigade is having a rough couple years. But good for Ochombo, that's almost a victory on Castor... 
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BATTLEMASTER

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #353 on: 12 December 2022, 13:49:25 »
I'm glad they found Katrina, but now they'll have to figure out how to get her out of there.

Where's Aldo in all this commotion?  I can't remember if he's off-world or hiding somewhere.
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Sir Chaos

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #354 on: 12 December 2022, 13:51:01 »
Wow, the Sword of Light Brigade is having a rough couple years. But good for Ochombo, that's almost a victory on Castor...

It´s the best result, with the least bloodshed, anyone´s achieved against Frederick Steiner over the last decade or two.
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PsihoKekec

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #355 on: 12 December 2022, 14:36:36 »
Where's Aldo in all this commotion?  I can't remember if he's off-world or hiding somewhere.

He is on Skye, with Mad Max and doppelKatrina, formalizing the alliance and getting himself confirmed as the Duke of Skye.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Gorgon

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #356 on: 12 December 2022, 18:08:09 »
On a random side note, someone having the last name Akuma in the Combine always struck me as odd. So my head-canon is that Jerry's family originally had a German last name, either Teuffel or Teufl (Teufel = Devil). As the Succession Wars raged on and anything German would be seen with increasing suspicion, they tried to show their allegiance to the Combine by japanising (?) their last name. Only to do a very poor job.
Jude Melancon lives!

ANS Kamas P81

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #357 on: 12 December 2022, 18:21:11 »
Either that or he thought naming himself that was cool when he was a kid, so he got his name legally changed.  It's like changing your name to Jerry Badass; it's great when you're six...

Started reading this on Daryk's insistence and damn this is some good story.  It feels like it could be proper setting for Battletech, and the technical end of the writing is fantastic.  Very much worth reading.
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Tod und Verzweiflung flammet um mich her!
Fühlt nicht durch dich Jadefalke Todesschmerzen,
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Daryk

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #358 on: 12 December 2022, 18:36:03 »
I'm glad you like it!  Just by way of warning, Davion and Davion (Deceased) is about 800 pages, but of the same quality...  ^-^

It's available in pdf too... I don't remember where the links are here, but I can send you the files if you PM me an e-mail address.  :)

As far as how to get Kat out, I'm sure she'll be riding in Morgan's Archer...  8)

Iron Grenadier

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Re: Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little
« Reply #359 on: 12 December 2022, 19:25:35 »
Here's the links for Davion & Davion (Deceased), just for anyone else that has missed that story -

https://bg.battletech.com/forums/fan-fiction/davion-davion-deceased/msg1406200/#msg1406200