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Author Topic: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)  (Read 4320 times)


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #30 on: 05 December 2022, 00:39:01 »
And now for some romance. Or at least drama  ;D

I always go with both. So indecisive


“Kuan-Yin, Chancellor Tormano’s Niece?”

“Doctor Riva Allard’s too. I overheard her talking to you yesterday and I thought you might,”
She paused for a momentary flutter of eyelashes, “like a tour. We don’t get a lot of interesting people this far into the Confederation.”

“It is the farthest I have ever been from the Combine. Is Doctor Allard on the station?”

Ryunn slapped his forehead with his free hand as Aria and William exchanged glances to one another behind Minoru. Dereck whispered, He’s hopeless, should we help him?”
“I think he’ll be safe. This station’s probably wired up with a direct line to Quintus. He didn’t even try to make a move on Tsubasa and she had her hands all over him.”

“Minoru, we’re headed out to find some pork belly!
Enjoy your tour.”

Minoru turned to wave at his departing companions. Kuan-Yin looked confused for a moment, “No, she’s groundside in her lab. It’s just me.”

“Je m'excuse. Enchante’ Kuan-Yin Liao.”
Minoru grasped her free hand and kissed it, “I seem to find myself abandoned in unfamiliar territory. Would you like to get something to eat before we look around?”

Kuan-Yin blushed at the gesture but paused again before gently withdrawing her outstretched arm, “Ummm, there’s a dim sum place nearby.”
“What is dim sum?”
“Steamed dumplings…filled with soup.”
“That sounds delicious, let’s go.”

Minoru tapped something on his smart bracelet which emitted a small holographic arrow from the crystal face. She balled her fists as he turned and pushed off the floor toward their destination. Streaks emerged on her palm where her red fingernails pressed down.
“Am I getting played? No one plays Kuan-Yin Liao.”

The pair strapped themselves into a private booth with a view screen presently linked to the station’s observation deck. Victoria’s star rose with a prismatic light illuminating the world’s tenuous atmosphere that caused the lens to flare. “Kuan-Yin, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a sunrise from orbit. It’s beautiful, I should write it into a poem.”
“You are a poet? I thought you were a scientist.”
“The two are not mutually exclusive. I suppose I have become a scientist, poet, and soldier recently.”
“Right, you are a Sappy.”
“It’s just Sapper. It’s an important part to understanding my work here on Victoria with your Aunt.”

A waitress arrived with covered cups of warm tea and to take their order of shrimp and scallion dumplings with all ingredients taken right from the station’s aquaponics.
“What do you do?”
“Business school. Someone has to put the Confederation back together after a lifetime of discord.”
“You didn’t want to join the military like your brother and sister?”
“The CCAF has taken enough from me. I don’t want to give anything back to them.”
“I didn’t want to join either, but I needed the skills for this project; and didn’t really get a choice in the matter. I guess I could have just refused but I wouldn’t want to disappoint everyone counting on me to get SILVERBACK operation and the Confederation safe from future tragedy from its recent past.”

“That’s very noble of you Minoru.”
“Thank you, I never thought blowing stuff up could be done for humanitarian reasons, but I was wrong.”

She only just avoided spurting out tea with her laughter, “That’s funny. You spent a lot of time on Hachiman, right?”
He leaned in to show the HTI Tiger Sharks logo on his jumpsuit, “I sure did. I had a great time there; we were reigning planetary champions when I left.”
“My uncle told me an interesting, possible exaggerated story about how Chandrasekhar got the money to buy out Hachiman Taro after no one would loan him money.”
“Uncle Chandrasekhar was always up to shady stuff. I heard he got the money from investors in the Lyran Commonwealth.”

Her smile turned mischievous, “You could call it that. You see they were from the Lyran Commonwealth, but they weren’t investors.”

05/18/3023 | 21:22 Cathay Marina Club, Solaris City

Tormano Liao and Justin Xiang watched cigarette smoke drift over a Solaris River which reflected enough light that it seemed to be made of it. Behind them men played cards or dice while ladies in tight qipaos watched (some counted cards, others distracted the others while some were just there for ‘companionship’). A small yacht trimmed in gold and bright red drifted toward the quay. Justin tapped Tormano on the shoulder, “Not this joker again. Doesn’t he still owe you money Tormano?”
“Chandrasekhar…That Hundan owes me two million Yuan.”
Tormano checked his gold and jeweled watch, “right now. It goes up to three in less than three hours.”
“Think he wants another extension?”
“The only extension he’s going to get is of his neck if he doesn’t pay back the Wo Shing Wo by the end of this week. If they get him, I won’t get anything.”

The well dressed deck crew tied off the rope as Chandrasekhar Kurita stepped his sumo bulk across the gangway while waving a fan across his face. A buxom Rasalhague blonde following close behind all dressed in fine kimonos. Tormano and Justin waited dockside, “Just the people I was looking for. Nice night, don’t you think Tormano. Justin looking sharp as usual, keep up the good work in the Arena Champion.”

“That boat or your girl’s bust better have my money onboard. I won’t have you getting into even deeper trouble with the Wos before I get paid.”

“You’re a bottom feeder like me Tormano. I can get your money, but you need to give me some time.”
“You have until midnight.”
“That’s plenty of time.”
“Qu ni de Chandrasekhar.”
“I don’t know what that means Gesu Yaro, but you said it in your language, so I presume its naughty.”
Chandrasekhar bumped Tormano aside and reached back for his blonde, “The problem is of course that I like naughty. Let’s go Astrid.”


A well-dressed man released a steel ball onto the roulette wheel as Chandrasekar settled behind the ‘no-limits’ table beside Tormano and Justin. Fourteen Million Yuan plates clapped to the velvet table, “Double of nothing Tormano?”
Tormano looked down at his significantly smaller stack of Five, “What are you talking about? and where did you get that kind of cash?”
“Baccarat, it’s almost all the house’s money. So double of nothing Tormano?”

Chandrasekhar put the two plates next to Tormano’s five, “You can have two now,” he tapped the two plates onto Tormano’s stack as Astrid’s leaned into his chair, “or I can almost double your wee’ little stack there.”
“You want me to gamble with the money you owe me?”
“I have a really good feeling about this.”
“What are you going to do put it on red? You Drac, or Black? Must be a difficult choice.”
“Well, I am still waiting, double or nothing Tormie’?”
“You know what whatever, do it!”

Chandrasekar signaled something to the pit boss and his goons who were carefully watching him and their money. The pit boss nodded to the croupier with a smile.

“Fourteen million on double zeros for the gentleman in black.”

Such a huge bet on a single number drew onlookers from across the gambling hall as the croupier slung the ball onto the roulette wheel. It spun and settled on green ‘OO’ to the shock of those assembled. Chandrasekhar got up with a shout and almost knocked seven people over the process. “Yeah Astrid! Baby, daddy is going to get you a dropship.”

The Triads surrounded the table, “Why don’t you guys keep the hundred I owe you.” More Triad gangsters surrounded the table, “You know what I’ll just take two hundred with me. It’s all I need. You can keep the rest.” Four of the original fourteen plates dropped onto Tormano’s stack, “We’re square now Ironheart,” and two ended up next to Justin, “Little help here Champion.”

Justin pocketed the plates before cracking his knuckles and standing up, “I’ll give you the premium service Chandrasekhar.”

Minoru slurped the soup from the dim sum dumpling as she finished the service, “I don’t think Tormano made any of that up Kuan-Yin. Pretty sure the Chancellor and Chandrasekar are still in it.

Now how bout I tell you about when I almost died in a Tikonov mob hit.”

“You were almost killed by the mob?”
“Yeah but I had a friend there to take care of them.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #31 on: 05 December 2022, 01:39:23 »
Friend, who just happens to be a half-brother, with a big gun. Can't go wrong with a big gun, it's that kind of universe.
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #32 on: 05 December 2022, 23:22:26 »
Friend, who just happens to be a half-brother, with a big gun. Can't go wrong with a big gun, it's that kind of universe.

Something Franklin Sakamoto is of course well versed in, although he never told Minoru about that.


Minoru and Kuan-Yin watched prismatic light refracting off hail high above Barns with their low powered rented telescope. Although appearing to be filled with windows each bay had a viewscreen with a link to the space station’s sensors. When not in used it projected a particular steradian hyperspectral composite from around the station with the illusion of depth. “Fist sized hail! Regularly? No way.”

“It’s true, at least once a week, they can be lethal too. There are shelters beside the main roads in case you get caught out in a storm. I’ve seen basketball sized hail. Fortunately, you don’t have to go outside often since it’s an arcology.”

He opened a picture in picture on the local display screen to display the four twenty story brutalist arcologies of Leeward that looked miniature when compared with Mount Lee behind them. Its starport and power plant sprawled out beside it as curving semi-underground buildings like concrete whales emerging from a purple lichen and gray talus sea.

“Just like Skytower City on Luthien. Although optimized for withstanding hail rather than warship fire.”
“I guess. I’ve never been there. It’s basically only been St Ives, or Victoria after that was under threat during the war.”
“Is that why you chose to stay?”

She leaned into him while pulling her arms and knees in for warmth, “I could have gone somewhere else like Arc-Royal, but I think of Victoria as home.”
“Rather cold, desolate, and dangerous don’t you think?”

“Outside maybe, but its different inside. Each tower in Leeward has a central park at ground level, so much so that they call it Park level instead with a shallow dome above it. The internal passages have an ever changing lineup of vendors. Each day I find something new from somewhere else in the Inner Sphere.”

“Sounds exciting. I can tell you are passionate about your home. I always seem to be traveling for work. It will be nice to stay in one place for a while.”

His companions arrived on the Observation Deck sitting just at the edge of visual range where they too looked down on the planet. Live updates to their comm-pads showed that the Draconis Combine’s charter shuttle was on time for its originally scheduled departure. He did some quick math in his head based on the Combine citizens aboard the Hachiman Benkai destined from Victoria as well. “Kuan-Yin, There are a few extra seats on our charter. I can get you on the manifest if you want.”

She checked her phone and tapped it forcibly in annoyance before returning it to her bag, “That would be great. Mine’s been delayed for three hours. Due to bad weather. Should’ve figured.
When does it depart?”

“We have to head to customs within the hour.”
“Mind if we just stay here until then? I don’t get many opportunities to get off-world.”
She leaned her head back resting her neck on his shoulders while her hair tickled his neck, “You can work on your poem.”

“You’re leaning on my writing arm Kuan-Yin.”
“Oh? So, I am.
Well, then just tell it to me Minoru.”

The Victoria Home Guard waited for them at the departure terminal with noteputers in hand and revolvers full of frangible rounds on their vests. Magnetic boots held them to their posts while a train of carts attached to the overhead rail accompanied each group. 24 Cosby Myomer Engineers, 10 Brotherhood Physicians, 10 DCA Espatiers, 5 HTI students, and a single VIT student.

Questions were asked about the contents of vials of unusual liquids, weapons were impounded for later transfer to Leeward’s City Constabulary, questions were asked about Ryuun’s ‘bag of medicinal tea,’ Aria’s ‘desert resins,’ and William’s ‘Incense pyramids’ although all managed to clear the checkpoint.

Their ST-46 had been modified to function more like a normal airliner meant to carry passengers and some cargo from space station to surface or between surface points. Loaders ensured their luggage was secure in the cargo compartment and all straps on their uncomfortable seats were tight. Kuan-Yin sat adjacent to Minoru and put her soft yet cold, shaking hand into his, “I’m really not good with flying.”

“Well, we won’t be flying right away, we plunge through the atmosphere at hypersonic speeds creating incredible heat from the friction involved.”
Her hand tensed in his as he continued, “The MetWatch predicts calm skies at our designation. So, don’t worry about the flying. You're in good hands.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #33 on: 06 December 2022, 01:28:57 »
''I have a fear of flying.''
''Oh this is more of crashing down in flames rather than flying.''

Minoru really does have a certain way with ladies.

only Miya and Theodore know (as far as he knows).

He knows that the cyborg also knows and the organisation behind him, presumably Comstar.

Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #34 on: 06 December 2022, 22:09:49 »
08/17/3044 | Court of Celestial Judgement, St Ives, Capellan Confederation

Chancellor Tormano Liao’s green robes swished as he returned from his recess chambers to sit behind judge’s bench made from Highspire hardwoods. A pale and worn woman with disheveled black hair and gray prison clothes stood before him flanked by black and green uniformed Jie Fang Legionnaires with their right hand already on their sidearms. Others armed with automatic shotguns manned the doors while demonstrators shouted “Death!” outside. A skeleton crew of ministers and functionaries occupied the benches behind them.

“Romano Liao, former Duchess of Highspire and Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation, after careful consideration I, Chancellor Tormano Liao, Mandrinn-in-Exile of Capella, find you guilty on all counts.”

Tormano flicked his hand out as the monitors showed the incredible number of charges against her ranging from High Treason, Terrorism, Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Intentional Massacres of Civilians, Crimes against Humanity, and hundreds of similar Ares Conventions’ violations.

Romano bowed her head before raising it again, “Sister, before you continue.

I know you didn’t start this conflict, but we can’t put the actual people that did and continued it on trial. We were both victims of Maximilian’s machinations and events beyond our control.

Yet you will have to pay for your crimes. If there is any justice left in the universe those others will face judgement as well, if not in this life, then in the next.

Your title will transfer to your daughter, Kali, whom we have recovered from Highspire,”
Romano’s heart seemed to drop thinking on how that might have been, “She surrendered to us willingly in exchange for a cease fire with the Thugees. Before you are exiled to Brazen Heart you will have some time with her, to say goodbye. She can visit but you cannot leave, that is the best I can do.

As an innocent Kali will live free, and no retribution meant for you will befall her.
I swear it.

Once more Romano looked upward, “If you have anything else to say know it will be taking time away from your daughter.”

She gave a courtly bow although tears formed in her eyes, “I accept your judgement, Chancellor.”

One of the functionaries presented the Chancellor with an edict scroll with the sentence scribed upon it. Tormano removed his Mandrinn’s seal from its box and stamped it with a bloody red ink. He waved to the Bailiffs, “Legionaries, take the prisoner to her grace, Kali Liao. After getting her more appropriate clothes.”

The Chancellor watched his sister depart for likely the last time. Thinking of what he could have done wouldn’t get him anywhere and he had more work to do before him. He wiped the ink of his seal and returned it to the box.

“Guards, bring in the next group of prisoners.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #35 on: 07 December 2022, 01:24:38 »
Letting Romano and Kali live surely won't bite anyone in the ass.
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #36 on: 07 December 2022, 14:10:38 »
Letting Romano and Kali live surely won't bite anyone in the ass.
of course not, this 1 accepted a ceasefire and surrendered to save the Thuggees
"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!"


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #37 on: 16 December 2022, 08:07:28 »
Chapter 6 - VITAL Operations
Buraddianguru’s hip hop thumped from the speakers within the small, dimly lit gym as Minoru pummeled the heavy bag with controlled ferocity. The lights increased gradually as the clock above read ’06:00’ and his alarm blared from his nearby half-opened bag. Minoru stopped the track, hugged the bag still and began to wipe it down while drinking down the last of his breakfast between breaths.

Ryuun and Dereck walked in as he was putting the last of his things away, “Hitting the gym early today huh Minoru?”
“It’s going to be a long day setting up the lab and I wanted to have time to prepare for my meeting with Doctor Allard.”
“Just saying, you got a lot of energy for someone who walked Kuan-Yin back to her place after the night market. Anything happen?”
“She made it to her room without incident.”
“Nothing else?”

Minoru’s turned red as he paused for a moment, “I’m embarrassed to say that I got lost for ten minutes looking for my room before I had to check the directory. Leeward is a maze. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need a shower.”

As he departed Dereck slapped Ryuun’s shoulder, “Give it up Ryuun.”
Ryuun passed a folded wad of Ryu to his companion, “I had a lot of hope on that one.
One of these days, it’s gonna be different Hatomuchi.”

His unopened luggage almost tripped Minoru as he entered the room. Leeward’s female AI voice welcomed back “Minorrue Currita,” in a Catarina Patois accent complete with soft trilling rs. An accent he only heard from Aurelia Centrella, the Canopian Ambassatrix to the Draconis Combine, and her people. He removed the black and white tablet computer from its charging dock, “Sidney,”
“At your service.”
He preferred his name be correct and have some iron in it rather than being purred. “Declaration, It is Min-o-ru Ku-ri-ta, strong stress on both rs and the k.”
“Processing…” the Apple logo disappeared in a psychedelic rainbow swirl before reforming, somehow the voice sounded sterner as it said, “Minoru Kurita.”
“Much better, save and update.”

After preparing for the day, he picked up the tablet again, “Sidney, I need directions to vital labs.”
“Uploading route to your bracelet.”

A ding confirmed that the route was uploaded onto the sleek white bracelet/smartwatch nearby, “Explain, What can I do with this bracelet again that I can’t with my HTE phone?”
“Your HTE devices have no service on Victoria. The bracelet is a digital identification, tracking, and communication device; payments can also be processed through it, and it syncs with the earbuds inside and my interface consoles throughout the arcology for a seamless experience.”
“So, if I don’t bring it with me, I need physical copies of everything?”
“Affirmative. Signal fidelity fluctuates between towers so some important functions may be unavailable if you choose not to use the bracelet.”
“Well then let’s give it a try. I’ve never interacted with an AI before.”
“I look forward to working with you as well, Minoru Kurita.”

He waited for the icon to dissipate before whispering, “You say that with enough feigned emotion that its almost believable.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #38 on: 16 December 2022, 17:55:19 »
All that little world building going on in this story is so great. I especially liked your depiction of the Sahara Reclamation Project.
And here's to Tormano sparing Romano's life. Maybe it can start the Confederation down a slightly softer path.
(Probably not though, with Kali and Thuggees still alive and well. We'll see, I guess)
Jude Melancon lives!


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #39 on: 19 December 2022, 23:53:41 »
A distinct disinfectant smell of ozone and bleach filled the air of Leeward’s Hospital Tower. It spread broadly among arcology’s western arc allowing sunlight to flood into the hospital’s two domed atriums. The courtyard below Minoru bustled with patients and staff from across the Capellan Confederation sitting amidst dark green leafed trees and pools surrounded by dancing water. Beyond the composite of materials in the dome was a snowcapped Mount Lee with smaller domes poking out from the white, gray, and purple gravel fields that surrounded the settlement.

“I thought this hospital didn’t come with a view.
Sidney, who built these domes?”

“Both quarter-dome atriums are gifts of the Magdalean Catholic Church’s Interstellar Sisters of Mercy to the Victoria Institute of Technology’s Leeward Medical Complex.

‘To allow those seeking and receiving medical care access to god’s illumination and blessings.’

You may contribute to their continued upkeep and other charitable causes at Saint Hildegard’s Church, within the hospital tower, located next to the northern dome.

Mass will be celebrated within the Northern Dome at, oh nine hundred, and noon, today,
Sunday, June, Eighteenth, Thirty Forty Eight, Terran Harmonized Time.
All are welcome regardless of religious affiliation.

Minoru tapped his watch to stop Sidney before checking his location against the real time updated hospital directory located on a nearby glass console, “Thank you for the very in depth information Sidney.”

He turned and headed back into the broad well-lit corridors that formed the arteries of the hospital complex. The hospital staff seemed drawn from the central casting of a Canopian hospital drama although they wore more practical clothing and significantly less makeup. They spoke among themselves in popping Portuguese and to patients or others in Standard, Federation French, Capellan Cantonese, and Tikonovian Russian.

Some of the Portuguese he could guess at but much of it was medical jargon in standard that he would probably pick up on eventually during his tour. “I knew I should have paid more attention to Franklin on our trip to Luthien.” His hand reached inquisitively to his freshly shaven face as he thought of recent events, “On maybe a lot of things.”

Patient monitors chirped as their gurneys and wheelchairs passed Minoru in the hall. Most of the wheelchair bound had suffered lower limb injuries that he knew were mine or combat related. Others had suffered arm, eye, or facial injuries and that was just what he could see. There was no doubt in Minoru’s mind that there were plenty more with brain or nerve Injuries, respiratory damage, or any number of other debilitating effects brought on by decades on brutal conflict and deprivation.
Minoru took an elevator full of exhausted nurses down into the hospital’s lower levels. One of the young female nurses looked at him dressed up in a sedate black Gakuran style suit and her fellow students did the same, “There are no patient rooms downstairs. Are you working in the lab?”

“I will be working in a lab.”
“That’s great. Those guys always take forever to process our samples. They need all the help they can get.
Bem, boa sorte.”

The elevator door opened as the nurses disembarked toward their locker room. Minoru stood there for a moment watching them depart before stepping out onto the textured concrete corridor. He looked down at his arms, pale from to much time in space since Capella. “Do I really look like a lab guy?
Is that a bad thing?
Are there tanning booths in this town?”

Sidney chimed in as his watch was in the proper location to summon her, "I have found four tanning services within Leeward. All are in the East Tower, Building Four.
The most popular, Rising Sun Tanning, has five out of five stars, and is on sub-level six.
It has a two for one Summer Special active, until Tuesday, June, Twentieth, Thirty Forty Eight.
‘Share the sun and save your spare change.’
Would you like to book an appointment, Minoru Kurita?


“Yes, Minoru Kurita.”
“Unless I explicitly summon you, please stay in passive listening mode.”

“Understood Minoru Kurita, updating personal preferences.”

His watch face dimmed slightly before returning to showing date and time. “Here I thought interacting with an AI would be fun. Although I wonder if…
Nah, she wouldn’t want that…
I guess I could ask. I do like saving money.”

Two sharp turns brought him to the Vital Laboratory’s intake desk. A young man in loose scrubs sat behind it tapping away at the keyboard as he scanned in vial trays. “Can I help you, Sir?”

“Yes, I was looking for Doctor Riva Allard. I have a meeting with her this morning.”

He stood up and bowed slightly to him, “I’m terribly sorry sir but you are at the wrong laboratory.
You are looking for Victoria Institute of Technology’s Augmentations Laboratory.
This happens a lot because she likes to abbreviate it to V. I. T. A. L. but it is in Building Two and is part of the University, not this Medical Complex.
We have pressed a complaint against her, but she has big money behind her so is allowed to continue hazing her new colleagues with fool’s errands at our expense.”

Minoru returned the bow with a slight head nod and stepped away, “Why do I think that this is going to be a long few months?”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #40 on: 20 December 2022, 01:22:38 »
Is it me or did Riva pick up a habit or two from a certain doctor Banzai?
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #41 on: 21 December 2022, 20:05:12 »
Is it me or did Riva pick up a habit or two from a certain doctor Banzai?

You can't be an eccentric roboticist without thinking a little off.


Leeward’s Central Circus (in the Latin variation) smelled of fresh baked bread, pastries, and poached eggs as Victorians sat down for Sunday brunch. Minoru looked upon the now bustling street dining scene that was only last night filled with university students, off-duty workers, Midway games, Discos, Clubs, and funky food best consumed alongside copious amounts of alcohol that brought back memories of Masamori’s Neon Arcade.

His stomach rumbled as he passed a food cart entranced by the sizzling dough cooking on its circular hotplate. Written characters on the cart’s side read as ‘Senbai’ (in Japanese Kanji) but it wasn’t a rice cracker. The other writing was, like most signs in Leeward, in Romance languages rather than Standard.

He checked his watch, “Ten minutes extra. Should be enough time, good thing I got started early this morning.
Excuse me sir, what is this?”

The cook didn’t deviate from his task, flipping the dough, then filling it with savory ingredients, and passing the steaming dish to a waiting customer. “Jianbing, like crepe. Which style you want?”
“Whatever he had.”
“Fine choice, sir.
Super Special Shandong Deluxe! Coming right up.”

With Sidney’s assistance he located Victoria Institute of Technology’s Augmentations Laboratory beneath the University shortly after finishing his breakfast and cleaning up at a nearby washroom. Two armed Leeward City Constables (BCJ) with their distinctive Shako hats (inherited from the New Syrtis Fusiliers that occupied Victoria for almost ten years) barred his way, checked his papers, and confirmed them with the Draconis Combine’s Charge de’affaires of Victoria Ogawa Hideji still aboard the orbiting DPA Hachiman Benkai.

“Prince Minoru, we apologize for any inconvenience. VITAL is a heavily restricted area and we do our due diligence to make sure nothing is amiss. We were told you would arrive in the afternoon.”

“I appreciate your dedication, Constables.”
“Be careful in there, our guns have dropped more out of control robots than intruders.”

‘Out of Control Robots’
Minoru paused for a moment imagining such things, “Thanks for the warning.”

One of the Constables spoke into the intercom, “Buzz him in.”

An electronic buzz sounded as the other Constable opened the door to admit him through. Two more Constables were just inside, one standing and the other sitting behind their desks. “Doctor Allard is in The Pit. There are only two entrances and exits to the lab and one of them is an elevator, so you can’t miss it.”

Peculiar fractal art and glossy symposium posters from its researchers decorated the walls of VITAL. Rooms marked with curious names like ‘Limb Lab,’ ‘Neurological Interface Fabrication,’ and ‘Myomer Implantation Theater’ buzzed past him. Short disk-like cleaning robots vacuumed the path but paused and wheeled away from him like scared rodents into shuttered holes. Minoru crouched to inspect one of the shuttered portals, “Am I scary to these robots?”

A strange staccato of impacts and the sweet smell of caramel heralded his arrival to The Pit. Four people sat on an extended couch watching a pair of tracked, single armed robots furiously battle one another in air hockey. “Come on down Minoru, the popcorn is still hot.”

He stepped down into what appeared to be the lab’s break area, most of the tables and chairs were folded and put away but the espresso machine, electric kettle, and microwave were still readily accessible.

She waved her hand toward her compatriots, “Doctors Anya Smirnova, Lucas Cardosa, Chao-Xiang Zhou, Prince Minoru Kurita has decided to join our Sunday brunch and munch.”

Chao-Xiang, a very tan Capellan, watched the robots fumble with picking up the puck that had fallen onto the floor, “Riva thought you would be late, but I had faith.”

Minoru stood behind the plexiglass wall with the others, “Thank you, Doctor Zhou. I did get lost but got an early start this morning.” They all nodded in understanding. He noticed an alcohol flame burned, and a metal object steamed atop the table nearest their couch. “Is that a percolator? I don’t think I’ve ever seen one.”

Anya responded, “No, it’s our cannon kettle, for the popcorn. We use French presses or the espresso machine for coffee and tea, like civilized beings.”

“A cannon kettle?”

Riva chimed in, “You heat it up, steam pressure increases, then the popcorn explodes out into a bag upon opening, like a cannon.
Amazing invention that I never saw until I came to Victoria, it makes great caramel corn.”

She offered him a bowl of the caramel kettle corn, “Want some?”
“I just ate but appreciate your offer, Doctor Allard.
Doctors, why are your robots playing air hockey against one another?”

Lucas spoke now, “I’m testing the robots' dexterity and ability to deal with unexpected losses of an object in a controlled setting. It has a lot of utility in factories, but I was hoping to use it for space applications. My group copies and clears the learned behavior each time so we can adjust Heuristics.”

One of the pushers crashed into the plexiglass screen drawing everyone’s attention as it twirled and settled on the floor. Its robot ‘Azul’ drove back, raised its hand, activated a strobe, and sought out the reflective object with its camera constellation bending in unnatural ways. It picked up the object with its four fingers, “They get a little faster every time, but the fumbles in the beginning are the most entertaining. Dangerous though, hence the plexiglass.”

Minoru watched the robot return to its position and drop the puck before sparring with its twin. He sat down on a nearby chair, “You know what I will give the popcorn a try.
I don’t know how to make espresso, but it sounds delicious.
We used a batting cage to evaluate SILVERBACK.”

“Your robot suit?”
“That’s brilliant,”
the tempo of the robots increased to a frenzy, “a very inspired choice.”

“I know!
Ryuun and Dereck thought it was a bad idea though!”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #42 on: 22 December 2022, 01:25:09 »
Mad scientists league assemble!
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #43 on: 22 December 2022, 21:36:16 »
Minoru and Riva stood next to a loom-like machine with strands of gray polymer attached to insidious looking apertures. He more closely inspected the wicked looking hooks and felt a chill run down his spine imagining how they might feel. “This is your Myomer Implantation Machine?”

She responded in Japanese, “Yes, although this one doesn’t work. I am hoping that your Cosby Myomer Engineers might be able to fix it. I lost a lot of my funding and some collaborators from NAIS when the Chancellor cut his latest deal with your father. The Canopians were able to help me source a replacement, but this one is Lostech junk right now.”

“I didn’t know you spoke Japanese.”
“My post-doc was at Kyoto College on New Kyoto, working on medical Myomer research.”
She stroked her vacant ring finger. “Came back with a rudimentary understanding of Japanese, my now ex-husband, and two publications in Cybernetics.”

“Knowing you speak my language puts me at ease. I have to say that I wish that I had learned Standard earlier, but my mother was very traditional. Comprehending the signs in Leeward is proving difficult and Sidney is little help.”
“Sidney is helpful if you are looking to buy something or need medical or security assistance, but it’s wanting in other aspects.”
“I noticed. I had to tell it how to pronounce my name.”
“When Apple was installing it most of Leeward’s population were foreign nurses from the Magistracy of Canopus. So that is why it has an accent. I’m afraid they didn’t include a Japanese pronunciation module. Typical Federated Suns.”
“I had wondered why it sounded so odd.”
“You can request it speak plainly, but many people don’t. Robot voices don’t win over many users compared to an exotically accented man or woman would.”

The pair walked through VITAL before stopping at a large suite of empty rooms. “This should give you plenty of space to work on SILVERBACK. I look forward to seeing it in action when it arrives.”

“Thank You Riva, I hope that my people can help yours as well.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #44 on: 23 December 2022, 21:03:44 »
Chapter 7 – Complications

The Victoria Institute of Technology’s cafeteria was packed with students from across the Capellan Confederation and Magistracy of Canopus. Minoru and his fellow Dracs occupied one of the stainless steel tables as they had since their arrival.
Ryuun looked around the crowds speaking among themselves, “We’ve been here a month. You’d think a few more people would talk to us.”
William put down his chopsticks and looked around as well, “I think you scare them Ryuun.”
“Have they talked to you Yoshimara?”
“Not many in person. Just virtually in the pre-game lobby. I’ve been busy setting up the lab so haven’t gotten out much yet.”
“How about you Aria?”
“A few Canopians that appreciate my fashion sense. I gave them a catalog.”

Dereck spoke, “And in doing so did a great disservice to every male student here at VIT.” Aria adjusted her scarf at the mention. “They weren’t going to be walking around in bikinis or short skirts, its cold on this planet.”
“Maybe you are just looking in the wrong place Sugawara. Perhaps spend more time at the Circus.”
“Most of those places kicked me out. They felt ‘intimidated.’”

“Perhaps a softer approach might be necessary then.”
Minoru laughed, “Perhaps you need a makeover.”
Large hands clutched his dreadlocks, “No one touches my hair. They’ll mess it up.”
“There is probably someone in Leeward that can. You’re not the only person with dreads here. Or we could let Hatomuchi give it a try.”

Dereck ran his hands through his coarse box braids, “We can braid each other’s hair and gossip late into the night. Wouldn’t that be lovely?”
“We are not talking about this anymore.”

Their table erupted into laugh, “Why? I could keep going for hours.”

Kuan-Yin sat across from Minoru in the table’s only empty seat. “Did I miss something funny?”
“Just Dereck and Ryuun talking about their complicated emotions toward one another.”
“What’s so funny about that?”
“They’re bad at it. We were just talking about how not many people are willing to talk to us.”
“They’ll warn up eventually. Unfortunately, the Draconis Combine’s alliance with my Aunt and subsequent occupation has given you a bad reputation, despite what my Uncle says.”

“Yet, you talk to us. You were the first person we met.”
“Well, I’m on the outs too. My parents didn’t win a lot of fans while they were in charge.
Our Civil War caused a lot of damage and that is going to take time to repair, if it can.
My older brother and sister are fighting uphill at SIAMS as well.
It gets lonely, but at least we have each other.”

“Then I suppose we will just have to focus on making a good impression. It’s been a tough month between training, class, and setting up the lab.”
“That’s great news. Will you be at Riva’s tonight?”

Minoru looked around the table, “I think we’ll all be there. Right?”
Aria paused for a moment, “As long as this ‘Paella’ is Halal.”
“I’ve been assured that Max will make it so. It’s harder to get sausage than aquaculture seafood on Victoria.”
“Should we bring something? I’m not exactly sure what they might like.”
“I’m sure it would be appreciated but I don’t think Riva or Max expect you to know what they’d like after only a few weeks.”
“Can you give us a hint?”
“Wine or Vodka are always good.”

A tram took them to one of the housing blocks between Leeward Arcology, the still rebuilding former SLDF base of Fort Lee, and the Carlos Dagmar Lee Battlemech Factory that when discovered catalyzed the Victoria Institute of Technology’s initial construction. The block was like Leeward’s towers but was much smaller and possessed a different population, of families, rather than students and hospital staff. Children scampered in a colorful playground while peddlers hawked diverse goods to motley collections of people from their carts. Federated Suns chain stores and Capellan Confederation co-ops occupied the central arched boulevard with smaller corridors branched toward residential units, isolated from noisy, crowded streets.

Kuan-Yin answered the door looking different in an apron with her hair tied up. Minoru handed her the co-op bag. “We brought three bottles of wine, two white, one red and a bottle of Vodka.”
“Covering all your bases I see. I’m sure Max and Riva will appreciate it. Come on in.”

She ushered them in, the smell of rice and seafood wafted from the kitchen within the living room decorated with soft lighting, bold colors, and intricate geometry. Kuan-Yin disappeared into the kitchen and a woman with wavy hair and blonde highlights came out shortly after, “You must be Kuan-Yin’s friends. I’m Maxine, Doctor Valle if you’re naughty, or in need of Maxillofacial surgery.”

The Dracs were silent for a long moment, with Ryuun and Aria nudging Minoru who sat between them. “Nice to meet you.
Dinner smells great and this apartment is beautiful. Riva said you have been away for a while.”

“Humanitarian mission through the Fronc Reaches and Capellan Rim, mostly cleft palates and medical education, had to do some midwifing too, but every Canopian learns that in medical school before we specialize.
I don’t know if they do that in other realms. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of hidden knowledge in the Confederation that we hope to correct at Leeward’s Medical College.”

“I don’t know either. Have you had a chance to compare notes with our Brotherhood Physicians at the hospital?”
“I haven’t. Feel free to give me an invitation Prince Minoru.”

Aria chimed into the casual discourse, “So what are your rates, Doctor Valle? In case I wanted to get some work done.”
“You’re far to pretty to worry about that young lady.”

In the kitchen Riva put a paila tray piled high with saffron rice and seafood across from Kuan-Yin opening the wine bottles, “I know what you are playing at Kuan-Yin, and I don’t approve.”
“You’re not my guardian anymore Aunt Riva.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, and you know it. I still don’t want you to get hurt.”
“If it doesn’t work out a broken heart won’t kill me. Not as fast as being alone. No one at school talks to me or them. It’s the first time I’ve had a set of friends my own age.”
“It’s not a broken heart I’m concerned about and you’re not alone, I have a similar problem.
Don’t do anything stupid.
Things are more complicated than that and you know it.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #45 on: 25 December 2022, 23:22:17 »
07/16/3048 Office Palatine, Castle Davion, New Avalon
“Quintus this, Quintus that. Have you your own mind Tancred?”

First Prince Ian Davion and Count Tancred Sandoval passed through the large double doors opened by white gloved members of the 4th Huron Huscarls of the Davion Heavy Guards into the First Prince’s Office Palatine on the upper levels of Castle Davion. “Secure the doors behind us Sergeant.”

With a sharp salute and pull on the ornate doors the room was sealed, “What is your opinion on this situation Kym? You are our subject matter expect on all the parties involved.”

Kym Sorenson stopped playfully swatting her husband’s auburn clubbed ponytail, “Oh does the mighty First Prince finally want my opinion on a matter of state importance?”

“Don’t be like that Kym. You know that I have always respected your opinion, just as my father had before me.”
Ian spread his palm out across his chest, and he bowed ever so slightly to her, “It’s just that Morgan and I are such handsome scoundrels, prone to exciting hijinks, and you won’t tell me any stories from your misspent youth as a Quintus Allard’s top lady spy.”

“Quintus would try to kill me if I did.
That said I am uncertain; the Riva I knew certainly wouldn’t betray the Federated Suns but that was years ago.”

Riva Allard’s MIIO (Ministry of Information, Intelligence, and Operations) File appeared on the projected screen showing her archived appearance in 3022 when she acquired a Top Secret security clearance before working on Formulation 512. The file aged and filled out over the years until it stopped in the present with notes on her guardianship of Kuan-Yin Liao after her mother’s death and the founding of V.I.T. Aug Labs.

Tancred uploaded a recent press release from the Victoria Institute Examiner that talked about Minoru Kurita’s powered exoskeleton for mine clearing and explosive ordnance disposal and Riva Allard’s continued work on advanced myomer prosthesis and haptic control technologies. “Well, this Riva is working on a Draconis Combine grant with the Coordinator’s son while living with a MIM asset under her roof.”

“But it is not on a weapon system, it even says that parts of the design will be open source, and there is no evidence that Doctor Valle is GHOSTKNIFE.”
“Everything in the Draconis Combine is tied to their military-industrial complex. If they didn’t fight us, they would have no economy.

You would have me believe that the Coordinator wouldn’t love to have access to one of his rival’s top minds on dual-use technologies. One with intimate details on dozens of DMI and MIIO Special Access Programs. Right next to a cutting edge Battlemech Engineering facility that we spent millions of Federated Suns Pounds developing, only to hand it over to Chancellor Tormano, for nothing.
She knows too much; we can’t allow her to continue operations on Victoria.

Ian paused and looked at the dozens of patents, publications, and SAPs attached to Riva Allard’s file. Nearly 30 years at the top Think Tanks in the Federated Suns meant that this woman was one of the most coveted assets in the Federated Suns intelligence ecosystem for reasons other than she was the daughter of its most polarizing figure.
“You’re not listening, Tancred. Presently I would not approve of a rendition operation, and I have little intention of changing that decision. One that only I can issue and that would jeopardize our relationships with at least two Great Houses.

Talk like that is why Quintus has been cut off from the Suns intelligence community, that was a difficult decision for me since he is the one that helped build it. He’s not thinking about this logically because his family and Tormano are involved. Talk like that is dangerous and it will not leave this room. Understand?”

All gathered nodded slightly in approval to the First Prince’s orders, “Perhaps she is running a double con, surely the ISF attempted to vet her already and she must have been neutral on the whole matter. They wouldn’t have accepted it otherwise, particularly after what Justin did.”

Kym whispered strongly enough to move her curly brown hair, “and that’s just the stuff you know that he did.”
“They wouldn’t have let Prince Minoru work in her lab otherwise. For all we know she is collecting intelligence that we can use to gain some advantage if the DCMS or ISF intends to weaponize it or the Draconis Combine has branched out into something approaching humanitarianism.”

Tancred ran his fingers across the facial scar reaching toward his torn ear, an injury given to him by the DCMS eight years ago. “The most humane thing the DCMS did for me was give MY lancemates a quick death! They thought I was already dead when they searched my Warhammer or they would have given me the same treatment!”

“Don’t go off the chain Tancred. Ambassador Halla has started to give me diplomatic cables with Theodore’s seal still on them. It is a major improvement and one I don’t want to jeopardize. We have a real chance to change something here.

I know how much it hurts to lose men under your command and I know this will be difficult for you to accept, but we must try. Be patient.”

“I will be vigilant, but not patient. As I always am.

Am I dismissed Your Royal Highness?”

“You are dismissed Count Sandoval.”

Tancred Sandoval knocked on the doors and was released to the wider confines of Castle Davion by the Huscarls. Ian sat behind the desk with his back to the portrait of his father ‘The Fox’ Hanse Davion that hung upon the wall. “Before we go back to being a loving family of Davions do you two have anything unpleasant you want to report to me?”

Morgan and Kym both leaned forward on the couch, “Unfortunately we do. Espinosa is active again.”

Ian slammed his fist on the desk shaking the model replica of ‘Golden Lion’ off its mount and breaking one of its arms. “Merde! I thought I killed that bitch on Zangul. What’s the damage?”
“Areas on four worlds, water purification and power plants. Based on their distribution it looks like she moved her operations to the Badlands.”
“Or is trying to trick us into thinking that. We haven’t been able to establish a presence in the Badlands for decades. Normally they’re a minor threat.
How did she regenerate so quickly? I spent two years fighting pirates on the Rim including her crew. There shouldn’t have been anything left for them to rebuild with that wasn’t left over from the Restoration that Rampart couldn’t handle.”

Kym pulled up an old picture of Victoria ‘Vicious’ Espinosa, daughter of the short lived leader of the Taurian Concordat recognized ‘Aurigan Directorate’ before her father was killed by her cousin and she fled to escape justice for her many criminal actions.
“We wanted to wait for Tancred to leave as it seems like she was getting smuggled gear from Theodore’s rogue Ghost Regiments. Lots of old SLDF and DCMS designs, in poor repair.”
“Let me guess. The Fusiliers couldn’t trace anything definitively?”
“On the money as usual Ian. Same sorts of people that attacked Corrine’s captors and your Armored Cavalry on Zanzibar.”

Ian took a deep breath thinking about how many times he had almost died and lost men to white primer painted mechs on the Rim. “We will beat them like always.

I’ll talk with High Command and see if we can free up more AFFS and MIIO assets to cover the Capellan March. It’s going to be scant pickings unfortunately.
I don’t want to believe Tancred, but something is going on and we need to be ready to handle it. I can use Espionosa’s raids to camouflage this latest MIIO deployment in case I do need to quickly rendition Riva."


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #46 on: 26 December 2022, 03:53:05 »
Just because you killed someone it doesn't mean that Comstar can't resurrect them via plastic surgery and peroxide.
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #47 on: 26 December 2022, 13:12:04 »
02/17/3042 Zangul, unclaimed world
The eight Battlemechs of the 2nd Federated Suns Armored Cavalry, C Company, and supporting arms from the Coalition and Canopian attaches approached the perimeter from their dropships. Their running lights and spotlights reflected off icy rime and bare metal of the darkened spaceport. Concealed within this windswept complex was Victoria Espinosa, her Catapult ‘Petard,’ and pirate crew of Directorate Security Forces.

“Captain Ian Davion, if you’ve come to be the knight in shining armor set on saving anyone you are ten years to late. Everyone froze to death when your mercenaries damaged the reactor that kept them warm. This world is as dead as you will soon be.”

“You’re stuck on this world Espinosa; my forces have captured your jumpships. Surrender now and face justice for your atrocities.”

Petard powered up melting the ice that clung to its flat surfaces and suffusing Victoria’s vest with warmed water. “Not one for the carrot approach I see Ian.”

“I hate carrots almost as much as pirates.”

Weak targeting signals emerged from the remote sensors scattered throughout the complex as Petard’s missile boxes shifted skyward. “To much family resemblance?”

Long Range Missiles arced across the warehouses falling amid their Battlemechs like explosive hail. Imperator-B autocannons roared from the arms of Urbanmechs and shoulders of Hunchbacks as the Armored Cavalry returned fire. Gendarme and Coalition forces flushed the Directorate tanks and mechs from their reinforced positions. Starport structures fell into each other with ragged screeches as the tempo of battle increased within.

Petard and Golden Lion faced each other on the desolate sea ice which cracked in wicked spiderweb patterns beneath their Battlemech’s mass. Victoria eyed her Catapult C4’s ammunition count and the Marauder’s damage across from her nervously. Her mech was already damaged from previous encounters that couldn’t be repaired. Cold air drafted through seals that couldn’t be replaced without time in a proper maintenance depot. “I’d rather die than let Kamea parade me through her kangaroo courts on Coromodir.”

Golden Lion’s PPCs glowed a dull red as the capacitors recharged and flushed the heat from the latest volley. Its reverse jointed legs were spread as widely as her own Catapults for stability on the undulating mass of sea ice. “That can be arranged.”

“You’re right it can.”

Victoria aimed the missile boxes down at the ice which shattered under the explosive payload of 40 missiles. Her jump jets fired, and the now empty Catapult plunged beneath the ice into the freezing water below. Cold water seeped through the hastily repaired cockpit, multiple alarm systems blared before their sub-systems were disabled by infiltrating water.

Within Golden Lion Captain Davion felt the ice mass buckle beneath his Marauder and the DI computer blared out stability warnings, “High Caution Charlie, Victoria took the plunge. I am going back to solid land ASAP. Tagging this location for a salvage crew.”

Beneath the waves Victoria couldn’t feel her legs as the deep green water filled her cockpit illuminated only by bloody red emergency lighting. Petard’s fusion reactor was still operating with enough power to stave off hypothermia by piping warm water to her cooling vest. Life support was also operational meaning she would drown before dying of the cold unless she turned it off and went to sleep. “I choose when I die, not Kamea or Ian.”
She patted the pistol slung across her vest, “If they send anyone to get me, I’ll kill them too,” before wrapping her arms around herself as the shivering started. “As long as I can keep my hands warm enough to pull the trigger.”

Petard released a wired signal buoy when it detected the flatlining of its pilot, standard protocol for the recovery of drowned mechs. Just because pilots die doesn’t mean Mechs are allowed to stop fighting.

Even the Mechs knew Meat is Cheap, Metal is Expensive

07/12/3048 Norman’s World, Taurian Concordat
Victoria Espinosa woke with a start as chill gripped her within a dark yurt. She looked over to the snoring man beside her wrapped up in a TDF general issue wool blanket. A firm hammer fist pounded his shoulder like brisket, “Vendel! You greedy bastard! Give me that blanket back!”

“Oww, damn Victoria. Here have it.”

She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders as she stoked the stove within her ‘winter quarters,’ that almost made living aboard a dropship seem worthwhile, almost. Bitter coffee warmed her hands as she donned her boots and stepped outside to look around and replenish the wood supply. Petard stood just outside crouching against the winter weather. Its massive metal body creating a windbreak that saved her quarters from the worst of the tempest.

Lights bobbed in the distance of the pre-dawn darkness visible through the flat, stable fields of Norman’s World that served as her base. She ducked back into the yurt and powered up the tabletop radio, “Precentor Brett, doesn't the Blessed Order have any appreciation for the weather?”

“Captain Espinosa, don’t you know that COMSTAR always delivers on time, regardless of local conditions. Its something we pride ourselves on.”

The bitter coffee galled her tastebuds, “You better have brought the coffee I requested.”

Photon Brett looked over to the vacuum sealed foil pouches he had in his cockpit, “Only the best for our friends.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #48 on: 29 December 2022, 12:44:27 »
Chapter 8 – Practice makes Perfect
07/20/3048 | VIT Meal Hall A

Kuan-Yin sat down as Dereck Hatamouchi finished applying a large Draconis Combine sticker to the steel tabletop. “Claiming your territory? Will I have to go through customs and declare my lunch?”
Everyone around the table laughed, “I’m sure we can give you an exception. How about an ambassadorship?”

She picked up her chopsticks and pinched a floret of broccoli from the bowl. “I’ll have to hear it from Prince Minoru first. Where is he?”

The table shook their heads, “Sometimes he disappears for a time without telling us.”
“Learned from his mother, the kunoichi.”

Ryuun massaged his bulked arm, “She’s terrifying. Supposedly Tomoe-sama mastered Ansatsuken otherwise known as The Dim Mak. She can stop your heart with a single blow.”
“There’s no scientific basis for death touches Ryuun, stop being so dramatic.”
“You haven’t been on the receiving end of her, Yoshimara. I believe she could do it if she wanted to.”
“If you will excuse Ryuun’s hysterics. We haven’t seen Minoru since yesterday Kuan-Yin. He’s probably just working in one of the smaller labs on campus.

In addition to our research with Doctor Allard. Aria and I have computer work,”

Aria looked up at the mention of her name, before nodded to Kuan-Yin and returning to furiously writing something on her touchscreen. “While Dereck and Ryuun are procrastinating on their differential equations homework.”

Both men leaned back with her arms crossed, “That’s not true William. We are diligently working on them.”

“In between battles in the Circus’ Mech Pods, against all of Victoria?”

“They don’t accurately portray the Daikyu or Dragon’s rate of fire!”
“The Vindicator, Cataphract, and Enforcer are OP and need to be nerfed. “
“It’s rigged against us!”

A slap echoed off the multi-level meal hall’s tile walls as they high fived one another, “but we still manage to place in top five. It’s our patriotic duty.”

William lifted a woolen shawl from Minoru’s empty seat and placed it over Aria’s shoulders. “One we all must get back too. Enjoy your lunch.”

Her friends stood up, cleaned up, and departed for their respective tasks as she finished her meal. She looked at her watch without distractions from the exchange students she had finished lunch early, “Plenty of time till my next class. I bet I can find him.”

A nearby terminal came to life as she approached it, Kuan-Yin tapped on a hidden icon built into the UI and illustrated the characters zhèng dè (Correct Ethics) with her stylus on the small white box that appeared. The hidden icon appeared in red at the request allowing higher level access than student credentials would allow, “Sidney, can you tell me where Minoru Kurita is?”
A man’s voice answered in its accent which was fainter than the female version, “Minoru Kurita’s location is…”

3-d cross-sections of Leeward appeared on screen displaying the locations of its various sub-divisions,
“Shengli Advanced Technologies Stadium,
Sports Training Sub-Level Three,
Batting Cages.”

“What is he doing there?”

The terminal paused for a moment before responding in a mildly raised pitch, “Presumably batting.”

She stood next to the console and stared intently at Sidney’s input wave, “Are you sassing me Sidney?”
“I am unable to answer that query, Kuan-Yin Liao. Please restate the question.”

“Is he by himself?”
“Minoru Kurita’s reservation only includes himself and ends in, one and a half hours.”

After an extended pause the terminal spoke again, “is that all?”

“Yes, close instance and scrub inputs.
” Sidney’s exposed icon disappeared back into its window as the latest news updates repopulated onto the feed. Kuan-Yin looked toward the neatly arranged plastic lunch to-go boxes. “One and a half hours by himself.” She walked over and pulled one off the conveyor belt, “Who knows what might happen.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #49 on: 02 January 2023, 00:33:37 »
Minoru dug deep into his swing slamming the baseball into the net barrier between him and the pitching machine. The screen showed the trajectory and speed of the pitch and landed deep into the virtual midfield. A girl’s voice came from behind him. “Thirty two meters per second. That seems fast.”

Turning he saw Kuan-Yin standing next to the terminal outside the cage. “Kuan-Yin? How did you find me?” As he turned the screened grey out as the batting cage paused, he returned to the batting position. She hesitated, meekly looking away from the Prince’s gaze. “You mentioned something about baseball at Riva’s and weren’t at lunch.
I figured your friends would never look for you here.”

He rubbed his temples, “I don’t remember mentioning that, but yeah that was my plan.”
“Are you going to try out for the team?”
“With all my spare time?”
He chuckled, “I don’t think so, I think it can be spent better elsewhere.”

‘Like with me?’
Kuan-Yin hoped as he removed the helmet showing a strong jaw, defined features, and black hair glistening with sweat, cradling it between his bicep and chest hinted at through the damp shirt.

“Can you show me how?”
“To bat?”
Minoru clicked his bat on the ankle protector as he released his grip, “I don’t know if I’m that good.”
“Well, I’m probably terrible. I haven’t done any sports. Never got a chance.”

An uncomfortable pause grew between them until she lifted up the insulated metal pail. “I brought lunch.”
“Okay, I’ll help you find a helmet. I think the women’s team has a storeroom nearby.”

She barely restrained her excitement as they walked over to the women’s locker room, Kuan-Yin confirmed it was clear and beckoned Minoru forward. None of the helmet’s fit, “I think you need to change your hair to fit inside a helmet. This one might be the right size.” Minoru selected a fuchsia helmet with the same type of jaw guard as his own.
“I can do that while you eat. Although knowing how fast you can eat it might be a race.”

Minoru chuckled, “Eating fast is an important part of my military training. I wouldn’t have survived crush school otherwise.”

Her hair cascaded from it's bun before she combed her back length hair with her fingers and began braiding it as Minoru chowed down on the stew tying them with ribbon when she finished. “What is crush school anyway? I’ve heard you mention it before.”
“Admiralty Fleet Infantry training. Basically, you must live and work at two gees for a month. It’s intense, I had to do a lot of preparation, it does build you up quickly, if it doesn’t kill you.”
“Do people die in training?”
“Fewer than you’d expect. It takes a lot to even get the invitation. Lots of injuries though that wash you out.”

“How do I look?” Kuan-Yin looked side to side coyly wrapping her hands atop her pale cheeks bringing attention to her black hair, maroon fingernails, and lipstick.
“Very sporty.”
‘Sporty’ Kuan-Yin tensed her jaw slightly, ‘Why won’t he just tell me!?’

“Now we just need a find a bat for you.”
“They’re not standard?”
“All of them are basically built the same but if you try to swing to heavy a bat you might hurt yourself.
I was a lightweight before training but now I can swing a much heavier metal bat and you saw how much power that can generate.”

He looked her over from her choker to the bottom of her capris, “Since you are so petite maybe we should start with a youth sized bat.”

‘Petite’ Kuan-Yin’s jaw tensed again in frustration at whether that was a good or bad thing as she held her arm out for Minoru to get an idea of how long a bat to select.

Now fully equipped Minoru stood behind Kuan-Yin, his chin rested slightly on her helmet as every hands-on adjustment brought shivers to Kuan-Yin. “Don’t be nervous Kuan-Yin.” He pulled her back into him, “You have really good posture.”
A slight smile came to her face although she hoped she couldn’t see her blush into the monitor that waited for the ‘go’ signal.
“Do I now? Well, I am a noblewoman’s daughter.”

Kuan-Yin did a test swing cradled in his arms, clumsily shifting her weight throughout. He put his hand on her hips to adjust her position sending more tingles through her. ‘I am going to keep being terrible at this.’
“So how did you get into baseball Minoru?”
The second swing was less clumsy but still needed adjustment.
“My parents insisted I do sports. I preferred Kyudo but they wanted a team aspect. Since I am smaller than my older brother, Hohiro, and was weaker than my sister Omiko they suggested baseball.”

A third practice wing brought them closer as she synchronized better with the motion of his hips and arms. “Your parents insisted.”
“Absolutely, I can’t be a Warrior Prince if I am afraid of a baseball. We all played catch at the school yard on Vega when my father was stationed there so it didn’t seem so scary although Omiko did try to do some tricky stuff.

Batting is a very zen experience, action, reaction, focusing only on the pitcher and trying to read their intention so you can best them.”
A fourth practice swing went much smoother, “Do you feel confident enough for a pitch?”

She nodded as he gestured to the screen with an outstretched hand and stepped back. The light bar above began the countdown to the pitch while also showing the general aiming zone. A fiery fastball rushed past Kuan-Yin streaking over arms perilously close enough to her face that she could feel the air racing behind it. Her bat fell to floor as she threw herself backward into Minoru who crashed into the walls of the batting cage holding the hyperventilating Kuan-Yin. Behind them the fastball bounced about in the catching net.

“That was so scary!”
Her sudden collision with him knocked the air out of him as well, “I’m so sorry! I didn’t change the settings.
Are you okay?”

Kuan-Ying tensed in his arms catching her breath while letting the adrenaline pass through her. Minoru didn’t seem to be in a hurry to release her and that made her heart pump as much as her terrifying experience.

“Much better now.”

08/01/3048 Location – St Ives Academy of Martial Sciences, St Ives, Capellan Confederation
Kai and Cassandra Liao looked over the sheaf of homework they did jointly in one of SIAMS’ empty briefing rooms. He flipped the matte Ceres Slasher Combat Knife he used to open a letter addressed to his sister delivered during the afternoon mail call from her sister on Victoria. “Hmmm,”

“What is it Cass?”
“Our sister has apparently taken up baseball with great vigor. She won’t stop talking about it in this letter.”
“Kuan-Yin never seemed interested in athletics. What might have brought about this sudden change?”

Cassandra folded the letter in her hands, “She doesn’t say, but I sense that it’s a boy.”
“You know Cass. It has been a while since we’ve seen our beloved Aunt Riva.”
“We are due for a technical rotation anyhow Kai.”
“I think I can convince the Commandant that we should do it at Shengli.”
“Shengli, of course. What better place for such excellent cadets to do their rotation?”

They nodded as Kai sheathed the knife before the door closed behind him.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #50 on: 02 January 2023, 08:35:22 »
Your Kai seems a lot more... Liao... I like it
Jude Melancon lives!


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #51 on: 02 January 2023, 17:26:30 »
Your Kai seems a lot more... Liao... I like it

It doesn't really make sense for him to be anything otherwise, he did grow up in a war-torn world so no room for insecurity or inaction.

Shengli Advanced Technologies
Beneath the Mountain of Thunder

The Carlos Dagmar Lee Battlemech Research Facility, now known as Shengli Advanced Technologies, along with the Victoria Institute of Technology house the most advanced engineering and technical education facilities in the Capellan Confederation. First rediscovered in the 3020s by servitor miners along with the remains of the SLDF's Fort Lee. Presently the Victoria Home Guard and CCAF Prefectorate Guard are stationed at Fort Lee which protects the blast doors and airstrips leading deep into the imposing rocky faces of Mount Lee.

Its discovery was seen as one of the inciting events that led to the Federated Suns invasion of the Capellan Confederation. Subsequent expeditions after Victoria’s occupation by the AFFS led to the discovery of a variety of lostech machinery only matched in complexity by Corean Enterprise’s roboticized Valkyrie factory on New Avalon. Massive investment by Candace Liao’s short-lived St Ives Compact, the mercenary unit McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, and the Federated Suns, configured two lines to manufacture the Firebee and different loadouts of Thunderbolt for the war effort and sale. The first Firebee walked off in 3032 followed in 3039 by the first Thunderbolt. Serial production of each was scheduled to begin five years after initial production as technical crews, supply chains, and machinery were developed under constant pressure from Romano Liao’s CCAF.

In addition to its Battlemechs Shengli Advanced Technologies manufactures a wide range of Star League era equipment for both the civilian and military markets. Their advanced weapons are mated to a diverse range of platforms in CCAF service on Victoria or nearby Menke although there is suspicion that some leaks out to the black market through the bazaars on Zanzibar. This diverse production capability allows Thunderbolts made by Shengli to be made in many different configurations, with the 5LS being the default. Ever since Victoria’s return to the Capellan Confederation Chancellor Tormano Liao has reinforced the AFFS trained and sympathetic Home Guard with politically reliable Prefectorate Guard.

Unfortunately, Victoria is isolated in an increasingly dangerous corner of the Capellan Confederation with the Taurian Concordat on the ascent and tensions rising between Chancellor Tormano Liao, First Prince Ian Davion, and Protector Thomas Calderon. Quick Reaction Forces composed of McCarron’s Armored Cavalry on Menke are always on alert as are their longtime rival mercenaries the Illician Lancers on Mendham within the Federated Suns and the elite Red Chasseurs on Laconis within the Taurian Concordat.

Solaris VII bets are that the Mountain of Thunder and Victoria has a better than even chance of becoming the flashpoint that consumes the diminished wreckage of the Capellan Confederation and starting a major conflict between the Federated Suns and an expansionist Taurian Concordat. A Concordat that resents the economic might of the Capellan March and sees the return of stable leadership to Capella as a threat to their continued influence along the Rim.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #52 on: 02 January 2023, 21:02:30 »
Two green-gray-ivory painted Battlemechs, a Thunderbolt 9SE/L ‘Sinister’ and Hunchback 4SP/2 ‘Boxcar,’ bearing a kicking horse slowly struggled through bubbling mud. Hidden within the rocky hellscape were two bone white Battlemechs, the Kyabaria ‘Giko’ and Charenja CGR-SB ‘Taikobara,’ blending into the sulfurous steam emanating from the fumaroles.

Both pairs of mechs came together at close range, missiles launched forth from their boxes generating whorls in the steam clouds as they passed. The Thunderbolt rose high above the muck its lasers burning holes into a Chanreja that struggled to get its four larger lasers on such an evasive target.

Inferno fuel blazed across the chest of the Kyabaria from the Hunchback’s dozen missile tubes as its lasers cut deep into its peer machine. Sweat ran down its operator’s neck as he forced the machine onward despite the conflagration, he found himself in. His missiles and autocannon rounds went critical in the magazine causing the whole machine to explode outward as the pilot ejected only to fall into the toxic muck below, to his death.

Despite the superior mass of his machine ‘Taikobara’ could not sustain enough firepower to contest his foes succumbing to his own heat lock. ‘Boxcar’ shoved the larger paralyzed mech which collapsed into the muck as ‘Sinister’ smashed the cockpit in.

Ryuun’s screen blinked, ‘Mechwarrior, You have been killed by KAl,’ as he slammed his fist on the interior of the mechpod.

A voice outside shouted at him, “Hey you break you buy!
No hitting my pods, you ruffians!”

Dereck lifted the pod door and looked in, “Sorry Ryuun, I couldn’t help you there. CAl got me good with those infernos.”

Both looked at the after-action replay in the lobby of the arcade as the Circus changed over to its late night configuration. Students and hospital workers started arriving for their evening entertainment and a snack.
“Where did these ringers come from Dereck?
We were crushing all of Victoria together in double deathmatch.

We even had mass on them.”

He paused the replay and zoomed in on the logo. “If I’m not mistaken, they were in St Ives ArmCav livery. Maybe some off-worlders.
They had custom config files so they must be using their service loadouts.
I’ve never seen a Southpaw Thunderbolt before, but they were fighting a war while we were playing games.”

The wizened gamemaster crept forward on his cane, “You fellas want another game?”
“No, I don’t think so Mister Chang. I think we are going to see if that karaoke bar is open,”
“and if there are any hot nursing students there yet.”

“Happy hunting then. Come again soon.”

Kuan-Yin walked beside Minoru, William, and Aria as they passed through the Central Circus of Leeward all of whom were dressed in casual clothes. Minoru checked his watch, “Dereck and Ryuun are done playing Mech sims for the night. They’re heading for the karaoke bar.”

William tsked, “The poor citizens of Leeward. Once those two get going it gets crazy real fast. Ever since Masamori. To think they still manage to pass their classes. Just think of what they could do if they applied themselves.”
Aria chuckled, “They have been very helpful to me.”
She looked over the Kuan-Yin who was only slightly shorter than her, “Who else is going to get things off of tall shelves for us?”

Minoru chuckled as well, “I’ll put you on my shoulders so you can reach Kuan-Yin. I can’t get any taller, especially not after crush school. Although maybe not, anyhow I doubt I’ll match William.”
“Look at that, my Hafu heritage comes in handy once in a while.”

A familiar symbol, the white stallion of the St Ives Armored Cavalry on a green-grey hat, caught Kuan-Yin’s attention bobbing toward her through the crowd. She pulled down her VIT Vanguard baseball cap to hide herself. A young man with tousled black hair briskly collided with Minoru's shoulder breaking their strides, and causing both to face one another with restrained agitation. His companion, a young woman with pixie cut dark hair under her hat, a pretty face, an athletic body under her cropped denim jacket circled around as the crowd parted around them pink bubblegum popping from her lips.

“That was very clumsy of me. I beg your pardon. Can I buy you a drink to apologize?”
“No that won’t be necessary. It happens to all of us. Big crowds.”
“Are you certain?”
“Very well then. Enjoy your evening, Sir.”

Deep fear took root in Kuan-Yin as the two of them disappeared into the crowd and Minoru urged her on with a firm grip.
‘What are they doing here?’


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #53 on: 03 January 2023, 01:24:40 »
I see siblings are not particularly close
Shoot first, laugh later.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #54 on: 03 January 2023, 07:36:46 »
Doctor Riva Allard looked out the window of her office in VIT’s College of Biomedical Engineering toward a frosty expanse reflecting the blue sky and sun above. She leaned forward to inspect her latest paper due to be peer reviewed by colleagues from the Central College of Capella, which had officially reopened after a hiatus due to DCMS occupation, and the St Ives Science Institute, where many of them had taken refuge. The cursor blipped over a chart measuring the time delay of her latest Aerospace control configuration in milliseconds. “Shouldn’t this one be a different color?
Will it be clear enough in the rough copy?
I should have gotten Lucas to look at it beforehand, but he’s so busy down there.”

Her phone rang so she put it on speaker, “Doctor Allard, Kuan-Yin is here to see you.”
She minimized the window returning it to her desktop background of NAIS’s Quad, its observatory dome arcing proudly into New Avalon’s sky. “Send her in.”

Kuan-Yin walked in, closed the door behind her, and took a seat across from Riva where she could see the red in her face. “You don’t normally come to my office Kuan-Yin. What’s the matter?”
“Kai and Cassandra are on Victoria.”

Riva waited and tapped her nails on the desktop, “Is that all?”
“What do you mean is that all!”

Kuan-Yin leaned forward, “What are they doing here?”
“I don’t know. Did you expect that I might have received their transfer papers?
That’s CCAF’s internal bureaucracy that I have nothing to do with.

You are just going to have to be a big girl and talk to them yourself.”

She pushed off Riva’s desk to stand toppling the chair in the process as she growled and slammed the door behind her. The framed degrees and accommodations on that wall tilted under the shock as Riva entwined her fingers and stared at the aftermath, “Yep, I’ve been there before. You’ll just have to get over it sweetheart.”

The office assistant opened the door and looked at the chaos within, then toward Riva, before he could say anything she answered, “Everything is fine Damon. Just teen drama.”

He closed the door as Riva reopened her manuscript.


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #55 on: 03 January 2023, 22:21:23 »
Interlude – Frosty Relations

Kuan-Yin shivered despite her fur lined parka and winter hats as Victoria’s capricious winds chilled her to the bone. Yellow chevrons marked the ferrocrete walls of Fort Lee rising from the frosted purple-grey rocks that she precariously balanced upon that along with Mount Lee blocked out the gray sky. An access door opened from within revealing two individuals stepped out their orange hi-vis winter coats reflecting a white strobe. The sounds of their cleats on the rocks echoed off the imposing edifice behind them between gusts.

Kai and Cassandra pulled their balaclavas down their cheeks reddening in the wind, “Well, well what have we here? Our little sister meeting us in secret away from her new friends.”
Cassandra’s balisong clicked menacingly with each flick of her wrist, “And snake boyfriend. I suppose treason does run in the family, just like Uncle Tormano says.”
“He’s not my boyfriend.”
“But you want him to be.”
“And why shouldn’t I?
Why can’t I be happy with my silly dreams?”

“You’ll be happy when we are.
You are the one that abandoned us for a life of comfort here on Victoria.
Meanwhile Cassandra and I had to fight for everything we have on our own mother’s world, and we are not happy. The Chancellor has seen to that.”

“You made your choices when Uncle Tormano gave us the option.
He didn’t have to; he could have done anything with us! We could all be on Brazen Heart with Romano as nameless exiles wandering the wastelands.

Kai, You could have gone to Uncle Daniel and Aunt Megan on Arc-Royal.
Joined the Kell Hounds, been a celebrity, lived off our father’s image for the rest of your life. Maybe you could get a stable slot on Solaris to show off like you always do.

Cass, you could be the gentle girl you used to be in Grandfather’s mansion on Bristol playing with our little brother, who we may never see again.

Instead, you both show up here to selfishly interfere with my life after four years of absence.”

She held her hands out palms up tearfully imploring her siblings, “I thought we could still be friends.”

Cassandra pocketed the folded knife, “Things changed.”

“No, you changed! Look around you.”

Kuan-Yin made a sweeping gesture on the dead rocks and icy wind slicing around Mount Lee. “You’re cold, dark, and dead just like this planet where everything is sharp and unstable.
I never wanted this for us. I never regretted my choice to stay with Riva.
Why can’t you be happy with yours?”

She turned and started to walk away brushing off frosty tears that fell to the rime coating the rocks as her cleats dug into the ice, “I’m going back to Leeward to live my life. You go back to your barracks to think about yours.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #56 on: 06 January 2023, 23:43:51 »
Chapter 9 – Tabula Rasa

Angry hip hop burst from the lab where Minoru boxed his shadow cast by the light of a single desktop lamp and his noteputer screen. He paused panting from his excursions as he let out a muted grunt before turning to see Riva Allard’s underlit face and tight drawn hair in the dim light. She jumped forward as he readied a startled roundhouse only to have her catch it and drive her fist deep into his thigh. Lightning pain arced up his numbing leg, he only avoided smashing his chin on the desk edge at the cost of bruised forearms.

Riva dropped out of a fighting stance and reached out to him, “Doctor Allard, how did you?”
“It’s not the first time someone has attempted to attack me in a lab.
If you knew my father, you would understand.”
“I didn’t…”
“No worries, Minoru, I should have said something first. Especially on a Friday the Thirteenth in October no less. Damn, if I had gotten kicked it would be my own fault.”

Feeling unfortunately returned to his leg as Riva helped Minoru ease himself into the chair as he attempted to combat the hollow aches. She triggered the room lights and saw a baseball bat shattered by a blow across the gray coated SILVERBACK. “You seem frustrated. Care to talk about it?”

His head leaned forward guarded by his upraised arms which displaced print outs of telemetry from his latest tests, “I can’t get it to work Riva.”
“You’ve only been working at it for a few months here, not even full time, and it’s only the five of you with some outside help. You’re bright but, well, you are still a student, and this is your first project.
You can’t expect a breakthrough without putting in the time. That is the nature of research.”
“It’s been more than two years since Uncle Isoroku was almost killed by one of these and I’ve worked on it at some level since then.”
“These things,”
Riva carefully lifted up the broken baseball bat and swung it slowly in his direction, “This unit right here?”
“No, we’ve gone through three prototypes already.”
“Thus, you must have made changes between generations. So, it’s not the same type of machine.”
“Well, no, this one was made by Cosby.”
“The Mech Engineers?”
“Yes, what are you getting at Doctor Allard?”

“Something we should talk about tomorrow.”
She dropped the bat in the trash can and gently placed her hand on his shoulders, “Right now you need to get some sleep young man. The present is almost tomorrow. I’ll walk you out.”

Minoru walked beside her as they walked through the darkened halls of V.I.T.A.L. where chirping cleaning robots engaged in their endless task. “Who taught you martial arts Doctor Allard?”
“Some Rabid Foxes. I could tell you their names, but then I’d have to kill you…losing all your grant money in the process.
Since I prefer to remain a working academic, I’d rather not do that.”

In the morning Minoru arrived at one of the unsecured meeting rooms which smelled of French press coffee and fresh croissants. Riva daintily cut into the croissant in front of her loaded down with jam and butter. “Your eyes look terrible Minoru; have you been sleeping? Or drinking?”

He drank the coffee almost as fast from his mug as one could have from the press itself. “I haven’t been sleeping or drinking lately. There’s just to much work to do.”
“Young man, you need to learn how to delegate tasks or ask the right questions to the person that already knows the answer.”

“I don’t understand.”
“You’re not supposed to understand it,”
Riva tapped her head, “here. You must experience it. There just hasn’t been enough opportunity for you to have done so yet.

I don’t presume to speak for your father but, if he is anything like my father then he is full of secret wisdom and diverse experiences but sparse with words. Like a private collection of books and artifacts of great interest hidden behind ferro-steel doors.

He can’t have the experiences for you, so he sent you out on this project where you will learn something more important than anything I can teach you and if it turns out good that’s great, but he would be uncomfortable with failure.

You are here on Victoria to learn,
and Resilience.”

“I haven’t had enough coffee for a deep philosophical discussion Riva.”

“Well tough.
The way I see it, you perceive that your brother Hohiro possesses a great number of traits that you value but don’t see within yourself.

I had a similar experience with my brothers. They were in the military, so they commanded soldiers and overcame many difficult challenges on their own and with their units.
I didn’t get a chance to experience that until I led my first research group which consisted of, like you, four colleagues who I still consider close friends. After that I led a larger one of ten, those four plus six more that I didn’t know as well. Both of those projects took a few years and lots of hard work and difficult communication to complete.

Now, more than thirty years later I have a commercially viable research lab of three hundred dedicated scientists, their postdocs and techs, VIT graduate students, and fellow professors while remaining in communication with almost a thousand people that I have at least exchanged correspondence with or socialized with at a symposium over the years, which now includes two Princes.”

Minoru’s eyes went wide with an epiphany, “That’s what you think he wanted me to do!”
Riva ate a morsel of her breakfast her head angled slightly as she started at him, “I just spent five minutes explaining it to you."
She sighed, "You teenagers are all the same, not listening to your elders. Well I will not repeat myself.”

“But the project…”
“Maskirovka, this is your government issued Grand Tour of Duty Minoru. The objective of which is to teach you how to be a Prince. Anything beyond that is extra to Luthien and Capella.”

“But it’s a failure! I can’t get SILVERBACK to work like it is right now.”
“No, I don’t think you can.”
Riva put her cutlery down and put her hands parallel to one another before squishing them together, “unless you find a really small pilot.
SILVERBACK is a perfectly adequate teleoperated drone. If you removed the complicated legs and internal volume that Cosby reserved for an inhumanly small pilot it would be even better.

It has applications elsewhere, but it will never be a suit that can be worn in its present configuration.

Your mech engineers built it like a mech not a suit of armor. Something it was never meant to be.”

“Two years wasted,”
Minoru cradled his head in his hands, “So much time.”

Riva laughed inappropriately loud enough that Minoru’s eyes narrowed with displeasure, “Sorry, its just that if you ever did a defense contract before you’d realize that’s actually a very short time to realize that the tender won’t work, and procurement doesn’t really understand what they need.

Some of my previous projects took five years and three reboots, only to fail in the final qualification for something small that we overlooked.

You’ll get used to it.”
“So, what can we do now?”

“Sidney, please open a new white sheet for Minoru and I. Filename – New Project.”

The honeyed tones of Sidney’s male voice responded, “As you wish Doctor.
A projected blank sheet appeared behind her, “Minoru, have you ever heard the term Tabula Rasa?”
“I haven’t.”
“Well, you are going to hear all about it after I finish my breakfast.
She pointed her fork at the bowl of pastries, "Dig in before they get cold. You and I are going to have a long discussion,
So I hope you don’t have any other plans for today.”

Author Note-
Drone Better


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #57 on: 09 January 2023, 13:45:02 »
Meal Hall A of the Victoria Institute of Technology paused in silence after Ryuun and Dereck stood and shouted something in Japanese to Minoru. Kuan-Yin looked in either direction food tray in hand unsure of what to do as her friends gestured menacingly toward each other around the table. She meekly slid in as they settled down although the stress was palpable between them as they righted and returned to their seats. “Did I miss something?”

Aria and William were both uncharacteristically animated, “Minoru says we have to start over on the project. Completely scrapping a year’s worth of work and more since Hachiman.”

Minoru’s eyes tensed under the withering stares of his compatriots, “We are starting a new project, Aria. We can’t take this one any further toward our objective.
SILVERBACK is a tele operatable humanoid drone, it can’t be a suit, we’ve tried.
So that project is finished and now a new one begins.”

Dereck spoke next firmly pressing his finger into the worn Draconis Combine sticker on the tabletop. “Doctor Allard was just supposed to provide finishing touches to our control system, not oversee a complete rework. She just wants more of our budget to be spent on this planet. We don’t have enough right now after Crosby built the latest prototypes.”

“Dereck, I am a Prince of the Draconis Combine, if I want a larger budget, I can get it and spend it on whatever planet I desire.

She made a very convincing case to me that Shengli and other suppliers on Victoria can get us an eighty percent prototype from available commercial systems. The other twenty percent will have to be custom made by VIT or some other specialist. It won’t be bespoke but it should work adequately enough that we can pass it to more experienced teams to finalize.

As for the control system it needs to be built from the ground up and integrated into the machine from the beginning. So that’s our first challenge, Riva says that she can get an invitation to Shengli for Dereck and I.”

The other three leaned forward, “Hey what about us!”

“Sugawara, you can’t get in due to your priors.”
“Those were only accusations and even then, I only stole from and/or killed bad people… ‘allegedly.’”

“Yoshimara, you can’t get in due to your priors.”
“It was only two million Ryu.”
“William, it was the twenty you defrauded from Focke-Achgelis. Remember, this is your work release.”

He looked shyly to the side, “There were just so many I get them confused sometimes.”

“Aria, you can’t get in due to trade secret restrictions.”
“I am going to register formal protests to the Charge de’affairs on behalf of the Azami Caliphate and my father!”
“Ogawa-sama would dismiss them on principle.”
“I feel attacked.
I wanted to see the robot factory.”
“Well, sorry but presently they won’t let you.”

She sat back, huffed, and folded her arms indignantly.

Kuan-Yin sat in silence as her friends ate lunch in silence, “William, you stole twenty million Ryu from an auto company. You?”
“Yes, me.
I’m brilliant but got greedy, was doing good for a while. They caught me with the twenty mil but I had amassed almost a hundred before then. I had to give it all back after I cut a deal with the ISF.”

“My program perfectly mimicked Combine bureaucracy except that it was efficient. Secure mailers and all, even had COMSTAR confused for a while. Phi Branch eventually audited me and told the ISF.”

“What happened to the program?”
“It disappeared mysteriously, and I got,”
William winked at her, “absolutely nothing from it.”

Minoru produced a hardcopy of potential suppliers on Victoria and passed it over to Aria and William. “Dereck and I need to talk with Shengli and see which of their suppliers might have what need. Can you two, and Kuan-Yin, establish contact with them and negotiate terms?”

The other couple looked toward him and then her, “Wait Kuan-Yin?”
She sat ultra-straight and gripped her utensils tight enough that her knuckles went white, “Yeah, what do you mean Kuan-Yin?”
“Well, we aren’t from here or speak the languages. We can communicate in standard, but we are outsiders whereas you are from here. I’m certain we could convince the college of business that you are interning with us for credit.”

It was all that she could manage to not collapse in under their stares, “Yeah, that is exactly what I’m doing. I can’t wait to get started.”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #58 on: 12 January 2023, 23:17:39 »
Chapter 10 – Children of Thunder

Minoru Kurita and Dereck Hatomuchi were two faces out of hundreds, big and tall, dark and light, a representative cross-section of the Capellan Confederation’s population. Their trolley passed by rail-loads of ergonomic containers leading into and from the mountain like a vast ouroboros beginning and ending at Fort Lee’s Aerospace Port and Railyard.

“Stand clear of the door.”

Their trolley came to a halt at the base of two large mostly open blast doors painted with Shengli Advanced Technologies logo and motto. Everyone disembarked and joined the queue under the watchful eyes of Victoria Home Guard and Shengli Corporate Security within a tunnel voluminous enough to fit an eight lane highway with the rails chiseled into the ferrocrete.
Dereck translated the Cantonese quicker than Minoru could, “When you move, fall like a Thunderbolt. Sun-Tzu, if I recall correctly.”
“You are really picking up on the language here Dereck.”
“I did some pre-study,”
Dereck looked over Minoru, “while you were getting jacked. It has come in handy; I’ve had better luck than Ryuun.”
“He should have learned Portuguese.”

They looked over at one of the railcars cradling a supine Thunderbolt 5LS while gray camo’ed Corporate Security rode onboard, their submachine guns at the ready.
“Well, that explains the Thunderbolts.”

Another railcar contained a pair of the CCAF standard light mech, the Firebee, clearly showing its ancient pedigree but like the Wasp or Panther the ‘Firebug’ was cheap and had survived throughout the Successor Wars. “Not the Firebees however.”
“Doesn’t Sun-Tzu have a whole chapter on the use of fire?”
“It does, in fact. I stand corrected Minoru.”
“I suppose this explains why it is known as the Mountain of Thunder.”

(Author note – Mountain of Thunder in Chinese, ‘Léishān,’ Official BT name – Mount Lee or is it, Lei?)

A towering man with a beard and beret the color of dried blood stood before them, “Glad you accepted my invitation Minoru Oji-san and Dereck-kun.”
Both Dracs cringed at the Highlander’s poor grammar, “You can speak plainly Major McCloud, please just Minoru.”
“If you insist laddie.”
He guided them through the Home Guard checkpoint, who searched everyone for recording devices and made certain the rules regarding these were firmly understood. As he continued onward Minoru noticed that Magnus McCloud walked with a slight limp, “When you’re done make sure to put in a good word for me with Riva and Maxine.”
“Did Doctor Allard make your prosthetic Magnus?”
“I was wondering how long it would take you to notice. Crushed during the Coup.”
“Romano’s Coup against Maximillian?”
“Aye, wish we had done it sooner.”
He lowered the leg and tapped it with his knuckles, “Might have saved some lives.”
“How did you end up on Victoria?”
“The Northwind Highlanders have a history of serving the Confederation whomever is in charge. Although I would never share the field with the Thugee if I had the option. We Highlanders fight hard but with honor, they do not, but Maximillian didn’t deserve it, so I overlooked it once.

I ended up on Victoria because I was medically discharged. That’s how most of us ended up working for Shengli. Being at war for almost thirty years limited the labor pool but there were plenty of medically discharged folk that could still serve the effort. Leeward had its big fancy hospital and was right down the road, makes logical sense.”

After Magnus mentioned it both Minoru and Dereck noticed that many of the Shengli uniformed workers were outfitted with prosthetics and labor-saving devices. Side-lifter cranes and heavy exoskeletons loaded yard-dog trucks and smaller transport who transferred containers, crates, barrels down narrow tunnels returning from the opposite side to load the continuous flow of cargo.
“Are we taking one of these trucks down Magnus?”
“Nah, lads we are going to use the funicular like all pedestrians must, to dangerous down those tunnels for men.”

Dereck scratched his head, “A what?”
“Cable car.”
“Then why didn’t you just say that? We had those in Masamori, remember Minoru?”
“Yeah, they went right past campus. Wow, it has been so long since I’ve thought of that city.”

The trio joined a mass of workers as the funicular drifted downward into the mountain’s heart.
“You never forget your home. I can still see the misty moors of Northwind, and the fine lasses of its pubs. Ah those were the days, Clyde and I caused so much trouble for the bonnie girls…”


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Re: Scars of Victoria (Golden Lion AU)
« Reply #59 on: 13 January 2023, 09:05:07 »
The funicular car slowly descended to a final assembly area where battlemechs in various states of assembly, from a skeleton with reactor installed to ready units. Many more exoskeletons and other vehicles zoomed below the walkways and small buildings made of repurposed containers suspended by the ceiling where ducts and power cables were firmly and neatly attached.

“…and then me dog Angus ran off into the woods with Blair’s bloomers. Twas a cool, windy day as she had to head on back to the village.”

Minoru and Dereck nodded affirmatively as to not offend their guide as they walked out toward the viewing pavilion/break area, “That was a very long descent.”

“Aye, and there’s more too, this facility can take a Class-P nuke detonated above. Right now we are just in the final assembly area where it all comes together before being transferred topside. Shengli makes many of our own components but there is no way we could do it all in this facility. It only got up to speed the year Tormano came into power, and it’s been slowing down since the AFFS left. Peace dividend and all after so many years of conflict.

We keep most of the staff employed in R&D and fabrication. Most of our new orders are coming from mercenaries, you can’t beat our rates, delivery times, or the customization options we offer. If there is a Thunderbolt variant you desire, it can be made here.”

Dereck looked through the viewfinder onto the factory floor, “Magnus, is that Thunderbolt in the middle a southpaw Nine-SE?”
Magnus looked through the same viewfinder, “’Tis does appear to be so. Very curious variant, haven’t see many of those since the St Ives Compact merged back into the Confederation, certainly not an off-handed one.”

Minoru did the same, “I don’t hear of many left-dominant Mechwarriors.”
“Sometimes a Merc or Gladiator will try to surprise a foe with an off-handed variant. You can mirror the controls of a Mech to match your handedness if you’d like, although most designers prefer symmetrical layouts. Although that one is in Lancers colors so it’s probably a SIAMS cadet’s mech. We get some in for their tech rotations each quarter.“

Dereck clenched his fist, “I knew it had to be a cadet!”
“What are you talking about Dereck?”
“Ryuun and I got wrecked in our Double Death Match by that exact mech in the same colors. Initials were K. A. I. if I remember correctly.”

“Kai Liao, yep that would be the Chancellor’s nephew, he’s a lefty, and SIAMS cadet. His sister, Cass, is here too, I think I’ve seen her Hunchback Four-SP, with dice painted up on it, walking around Fort Lee. She’s a little young to be taking it out on maneuvers but kids have no choice but to grow up quick in a warzone.

Alright you lads wait here while I get us a car for the tour and call up the boneyard for a demo of our suits. Don’t stray or Security will get ja if the knockers don’t.”

Their guide departed down the swaying stairs toward the factory floor leaving Minoru and Dereck in the corner of the viewing platform. “Knocker?” Dereck lifted his wrist but found it empty of his smart watch, “you know Minoru there are times where I’d actually like Sidney to be here, but it isn’t, and then it shows up when I don’t want it.”

“I disabled it on my first day after it couldn’t pronounce my name.”
“It just needed some coaching, but it only slightly butchers my last name now. I find it cute. Hey aren’t Kai and Cass…”
“Kuan-Yin’s siblings, yes, she didn’t tell me they were on planet though.”
“Does she know?”
“I don’t know, I don’t think we have run into them yet.”
“Its just kind of strange that…”
Minoru recalled Chancellor Tormano’s parting words on Capella as he looked toward the floor at a SIAMS jumpsuit’ed figure at the foot of the Thunderbolt, “I agree.”