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Author Topic: The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours  (Read 6876 times)

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
« on: 19 February 2012, 17:51:36 »
  The Sorens I met in Schwarzwald were pretty good to us.  Granted, a lot of them were borderline stuffed shirts, but they’d try to follow you when you mangled German before correcting you in English (or Spanish or Russian, as needed), the shopkeepers didn’t try to screw you with that weird non-decimal money of theirs, and nobody raised a stink if you went around in civvies, even off-world fashions.  A lot of us didn’t, though: most of the bars gave Legionnaires their first drink free if they were in uniform, just the same as they did for the Baron’s Landesschützer [Home Guard] guys.  You still felt like a guest in someone else’s home, but they tried to make you feel welcome.
  I was transferred to our base in Große Prärie in ’02, and compared to my tour in the Black Forest, that was like... being posted on the dark side of a moon.  You needed written advance approval from the local Waldgraf and his uniformed enforcement thugs (sorry, his ‘Militia’!) to leave the perimeter.  When you did go into town, you had to wear uniform, or the Militia would revoke your Ausweis on grounds of ‘public indecency’ or ‘clear criminal intent’ and march you straight back to the gates under guard.  Great Plains civvies that saw you coming crossed the street to get away from you, when they weren’t cursing you to the heavens as a barbarian, a heathen and a ‘paid murderer’.  Saying a single word in a language that wasn’t German could get you jailed.
  We’d been on Soren for seventy years.  We were there to defend those people!  You’d think they’d at least act like we were a necessary evil, instead of treating us like walking blights on their ‘blue and pure world’.
-- Warrant Officer Conal O’Bannon, Christian’s Legion, UBC documentary 24/05/2806

  ... The Legion’s relations with [Große Prärie] were never what you’d call pleasant, but the Baron’s agents had started really cranking up the harassment more than a year before things finally hit the fan.  Sandy and I both knew the crisis-point was coming, but there wasn’t much we could do about it except position ourselves to contain the damage once things finally blew up.  We didn’t realise exactly how big and bad the explosion would be - or what would finally set things off.
  If I had to name one incident that truly armed the circuit before the Cylon Affair, I’d have to say it was the matter of Corporal Irina Perez, a recruit from Ensenada on her first tour with the Legion’s base-defence component.  In October of ’03, she was one of five Legionnaires invited to the Grey Hawk Tavern in Präriestadt to celebrate her platoon-sergeant’s engagement to the daughter of a local baker...
-- The Sinners Are Much More Fun: Remembrances of a Star League Mercenary, Oberstleutnant Dieter Christian (ret.), Habana Publishing of Ensenada, 2813

CPL. PEREZ: “... three heavily-armed cases of testosterone poisoning putting one woman in handcuffs and taking her out to an empty dacha on the edge of town, instead of the jail?  They sure as shit weren’t planning to ask for decorating tips!”
-- Post-incident debriefing by Christian’s Legion MP detachment, morning of 17/10/2803

  One Präriestadt Militiaman lies dead and two others are fighting for their lives in hospital this morning following a vicious and unprovoked shooting spree by a member of Christian’s Legion overnight.  Subjected to a brutal and murderous assault in the course of their duties, the three men were struck down before they could defend themselves...]

-- Präriestadt Anzeiger [Plains City Gazette], October 17, 2803

  ... despite the party’s itinerary being pre-approved by the Große Prärie authorities, Cpl. Perez was turned away from the Graufalke Bierstube, and she was understandably vocal about being refused entry purely on the basis of her gender.  She was then detained by three uniformed members of the Präriestadt Militia for creating a public disturbance.
(Funny – this is the sixth time in four months the Miliz has ‘just happened’ to be right on the spot to jam up our people!  Christian)
  Instead of transporting Perez to the Präriestadt jail, however, they removed her to a remote location just outside the city limits.  Realising that this site lent itself to no legal purpose, Perez chose to employ her escape-and-evasion training, despite being manacled and under arrest by notionally ‘friendly’ authorities.  Choosing her moment carefully, she relieved one of the Militiamen of his sidearm and opened fire, fatally wounding the weapon’s owner and injuring the other two badly enough that they could not pursue her.  She then made her way to E&E Cache GP5 and summoned Legion CSAR assets from its resources.
(Kid’s got brains, nerve, and heart.  We need all three – must discuss accelerated promotion with her section commander.  Christian)
-- Legion AAR on events of night of October 16, 2803, issued 18/10/2803, contemporaneously annotated by Oberstleutnant Cassandra “Sandy” Christian, OC Christian’s Legion

... Sie werden diese Mörderin unverzüglich meiner Gerichtsbarkeit überstellen, damit sie für ihre Verbrechen zur Verantwortung gezogen werden kann!
  [... you will immediately turn this murderess over to my judiciary so that she can be called to account for her crimes.]

-- Excerpted from Baron Große Prärie’s three-page démarche demanding Cpl. Perez’ extradition, 19/10/2803

Drop dead.
-- Complete text of Colonel Christian’s response to said démarche, 19/10/2803
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 03:59:49 by Trace Coburn »


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #1 on: 20 February 2012, 02:35:43 »
I like Col Christian's long winded reply to the demarche. ;D
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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #2 on: 20 February 2012, 02:43:52 »
Think only way to improve on that would have been to have said Baron comply with the order with suitably placed large hole in the carcass.
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Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, Part One
« Reply #3 on: 06 April 2012, 06:16:47 »
Bifrost, stationary orbit over Soren
February 12, 2804

  Bifrost Station isn’t much to talk about, either aesthetically or in comparison to the orbital works of other worlds.  Built by the Star League Navy in the early twenty-seventh century to facilitate travel and commerce in Soren’s orbit, it’s just over six hundred metres long, consisting of a brick-like central section of cargo-bays, admin spaces and business complexes, with docking ports at either end.  Grav-wheel living-quarters flank the middle of the brick’s long sides, and the fusion reactors rise from either edge like blisters.  The station is definitely starting to show its age in a lot of places, but Soren’s five obstinately autonomous Baronies have neither the money, technical capability, nor most importantly the inclination to build anything larger or newer.

  The station’s central command node is a reflection of the station as a whole.  Worn, cramped, and dated in its equipment and layout, nonetheless it suffices to handle the bare handful of interstellar transports which stop at Soren every year.  By mandate of the Assembly of Barons, the station is staffed and administrated by civilians drawn from across the five Baronies, most of them trained by off-world mercenaries to use the equipment Soren can’t build and maintain itself, but some of its functions are military in themselves.  So it is that the station’s ‘commander’, Chief Administrator Richard Giulio, is wearing a Soren-style tweed business suit when he snags a grab-bar and comes to a halt over the main traffic-control display, but the two men seated at that console, staring intently at a single green box on the car-sized main holotable, are wearing different uniforms.  One is in the white-trimmed grey-asparagus peculiar to the aerospace arm of Christian’s Legion; the other, to whom Giulio addresses his remarks, wears rifle-green, with the rampant-griffin badge of Sorenische Landesschützer under an arc saying {‘NORDGEBIRGE’}.  “How long until our new neighbours dock, Bernard?”

  “About two hours, Sir,” Unterfähnrich Weiss says over one shoulder, then looks back to the light-bead that holds everyone’s attention.  It doesn’t represent a particularly big craft, not even as big as one of the old DroST-IIAs; the sidebar data marks its class as ‘03-K64’ and the ship’s name as Tranquility, neither of which means anything to the personnel of Bifrost, but the seemingly-innocuous registry prefix ‘CS’ is what has everyone atwitter.  Few people have seen that code in the six months since its owners first showed up in the Expanse, and now, with little more than a call ahead to check someone would be home, the Cylons have finally decided to drop by and meet the neighbourhood’s prior residents.

  It’ll be... ‘interesting’ to meet the new proprietors of New Victoria, Giulio muses.  ‘Whoever’ blasted that planet back in the Seventies basically executed modern civilisation there, but from the little I’ve heard, in the six months since they simply appeared out of the interstellar wilderness at the system’s nadir point, these ‘Cylons’ have not only rebuilt its infrastructure from scratch, they’ve actually welcomed the surviving Victorian homesteaders into their own society.  After a moment, he dismisses the thought.  Ha – let them, as long as they don’t bring their Godless ways anywhere they can pollute my world!

- * - * - * - * -

Stahlbrücke, Baronie Schwarzwald
February 15, 2804

  The port-city of Stahlbrücke is the oldest settlement in the Black Forest Barony, and its centuries-old wood-and-hewn-stone architecture is as sombre as the dark tweed suits or ankle-length dresses worn by the people on the streets.

  Well, most of the people.  Peter Eismann and his team have been watching two of the exceptions for some time, and now Eismann steps down from the electric-driven trolley three spots behind his targets, carefully not staring at them.  Fortunately, they’re not that hard to track: the grey-haired man’s uniform of firebrick-red tunic over tan slacks stands out in the crowd like a flare on a dark night... not to mention the sickening amount of respect the Schwarzwalders show the murdering off-world heathen in their midst.  Clinging to his hand obediently, her head swiveling this way and that, a young girl chatters to her Opa.  She, at least, had the decency to wear a Soren-style dress that covers her collar-bones, ankles and elbows, though the fact that it’s bright sky-blue, rather than a less eye-catching shade, makes her just as visible – and visibly foreign.

  Well, she still has some concept of decorum, and so much the better.  It means it’ll be easier for her to learn proper conduct when we get her fostered to a family of God-fearing Sorens, Eismann decides, as he stops next to Petersen to wait for the others to get into position.

  Wait a minute: who are these bastards? flashes across his mind a moment later.  The targets have spotted someone new among the pedestrians, and the old man’s chosen to introduce himself to a group of two young men and three women.  Judging by their dress, Eismann can only conclude that it’s a band of off-worlders: a pimp, his enforcer, and his employees.  Dear God!  What kind of immoral lunatic approaches whores on the street, in broad daylight, with his granddaughter at his side?  The sooner we get that girl out his clutches, the better!

  Outrage overrides operational considerations, and he motions to his team.  To hell with delaying until the targets are more isolated: they go as soon as everyone is in place, and the panderer and his troupe can either come along as well, or be left as bodies in the street.  He doesn’t much care.  Not my fault they chose such a perilous trade.

- * - * - * - * -

  Even without the clearly off-world clothing, Dieter Christian could have spotted the small band of newcomers from ten metres away just by their clear air of ‘wide-eyed, slightly lost tourist’.  One of them, a small redheaded woman in a cranberry-red denim jumpsuit, sees the uniform approaching and relaxes as she spies salvation in its wearer.  “Bitte, OffizierSprechen Sie Englisch?”

  “Better than you do, I suspect,” he smiles, offering a hand.  “But then I’m with Christian’s Legion, so it goes with the territory.  I’m Dieter, the Legion’s adjutant.  I presume you’re with the Cylon delegation?”

  “Yeah,” she says, blushing a little.  “I, uh, I’m Eleven.  This is Nine, that’s Ten, she’s Twelve, and he’s Seven.”

  Standing next to her Opa, Angie Christian bridles.  “Aw, no fair!  I’m seven, too!  How can he be so much bigger than me if he’s only seven?”

  As always, laughter is one of the best ways to break the ice, and when the small group stops sharing it, Dieter smiles down at her.  “Seven is his name, enkelin.”

  “At least until I do something that matters and earn a real one,” the bespectacled man says, with his own gentle humour.  Of the knot of five Cylons, he’s the only one dressed in near-native style, though Dieter suspects that sombre shades of tweed are his natural preference.

  “You have to earn your name?  That’s weird!” Angie declares, with all the imperious certainty you’d expect from a child.

  “Well, that does it,” cracks Ten.  His jeans and brown leather aviator’s jacket (complete with a growing collection of colourful unit-patches sewn to its back) aren’t much less of a contrast to the local fashions than Eleven’s jumpsuit or Nine’s fuschia sundress, and the blocky pistol strapped to one thigh makes him the only visibly armed member of the Cylon party.  “Everybody we’ve met since we’ve arrived on Soren thinks we’re weirdoes, and when a seven-year-old kid says it, it’s official.”

  “Ignore dweeb-o,” Twelve says patiently.  She’s dressed in unadorned midnight-blue fatigues, but they’re tailored just well enough to be flattering.  “The clone-bank goofed and installed three sarcasm generators when they assembled him.”

  Dieter gives Ten a long, considering look, then shakes his head.  “Then it sounds like I’d be doing all of us a favour if I never introduce him to my daughter.”  Letting Ten’s eyeroll (and the sniggers of his companions) pass, Dieter looks back to Eleven.  “You all have the ‘Tramgaffer look’, like you don’t know where to go or what to do first.  I take it the Baron offered you an escort, but you declined?”

  “We, uh, wanted to see the city without the Militia’s presence walling us off from everyone we might meet,” Eleven nods, blushing again.  “Seven said he didn’t need a guide, because he had a map!”

  “Well, as a long-term resident of Soren, I happen to know a few things about Stahlbrücke myself, and my granddaughter and I were about to find a place to have morning tea.  Perhaps you’d care to join us?  That way, you can pick my brain while we eat, then carry on about your day.”

  “Sounds good to me,” Twelve nods, and the others follow her lead.  “Where –?”

  She never finishes the sentence; her gaze goes past Dieter, her eyes narrow, her hand snatches for her hip.  Dieter himself is turning, reaching for his holstered Browning, when the first concussion grenade arcs past his shoulder and explodes amidst the group.
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 04:05:31 by Trace Coburn »


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #4 on: 07 April 2012, 05:15:12 »

That's extreme!

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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, Part Two
« Reply #5 on: 16 April 2012, 20:03:25 »
Schloss Schwarzwald, Stahlbrücke, Baronie Schwarzwald
February 15, 2804

  The Schloss was built ‘in proper Germanic fashion’ more than five centuries ago, and its outward aesthetics are accordingly archaic, but its internal spaces are a mix of the medieval and the modern.  Baron Schwarzwald’s office is furnished with lovingly turned pseudo-maple tables, bookshelves and chairs; crossed boar-spears, a deactivated G47/J sporting rifle, and a snarling cougar’s head are mounted over the fireplace, while a bear-skin rug lies before it; yet his desk is topped with a heavy bakelite dial-telephone of native make, a Svobodan-made computer terminal, and a stack of papers awaiting his attention and the stroke of his fountain-pen.

  Mind currently awhirl with six different problems, all of them potentially disastrous, Stefan Klein sees little of these trappings.  A tall blond man in his late thirties, Klein has been Baron Schwarzwald since his father abdicated in his favour fifteen years ago, soon after Stefan returned from his off-world schooling.  Few things could be better designed to butcher a Soren aristocrat’s unconscious, sanctimonious chauvinism than attending Ensenada’s University of San Rafael, so when the last of his guests to arrive bursts through his office-door like a Warhammer through a brick wall, heedless of his secretary’s attempts to slow her down, he sees her first as a close friend and a trusted advisor on military matters, and second as a colossal political headache.  Her gender is of little concern in itself, but it often massively complicates things concerning the first two definitions... like it is today.

  “Do you know where they are?” Oberstleutnant Christian demands, her eyes hard as emeralds.

  Colonel Cassandra Christian’s many friends call her ‘Sandy’, though among her myriad Soren detractors she’s usually ‘that Lyran harlot’.  Her grandmother Margaret founded Christian’s Legion on Kaumberg and accepted the Star League contract to defend Soren and train its indigenous forces; she’s buried outside Stahlbrücke, killed by ‘pirates’ who had Salernan-made hardware, to the end true to her sworn duty.  Her father Dieter passed command of the Legion to her twelve years ago; a MechWarrior zorched when more ‘pirates’ shot him out of his Shadow Griffin can’t command a BattleMech unit in the field, though he’s still invaluable in his current roles of administration and public-affairs.  Sandy was born on Soren and has lived here most of her life; she speaks Soren German as fluently as her father’s Steiner dialect; her late husband was Schwarzwald-born Landesschützer, her daughter was born not thirty kilometers from this spot; her entire military career has been in service and defence of this world.

  All of this notwithstanding, to reactionaries like Patrick Zoeller, Baron Große Prärie, she’s nothing but a woman, and indeed a woman who was raised so far outside ‘proper society’ that she has no idea of her ‘natural’ place.  The fact that the robustly-built brunette has just barged into the office of Schwarzwald’s absolute monarch, wearing an immaculate firebrick-and-dust military uniform complete with holstered sidearm, and demanded information from him would be more ‘validation’ of their bigotry against all things foreign.

  For his part, Klein expected nothing less from his friend; indeed, he would have been astounded if she hadn’t attacked matters head-on.  “Believe me, Sandy, I wish I did know almost as much as you do.  Fortunately, it seems that this was always intended as a kidnapping: according to the witnesses, stun-grenades were used to incapacitate them before they were bundled into a truck.  Leonard’s Militiamen tried to pursue or stop the vehicle, several times, but the attackers were armed with KG53s and they used them freely.  They left almost fifty dead and wounded in their wake, Militia and civilians both.  The truck was stolen ahead of time, of course, and it’s already been recovered, burned out.”

  “Was this Große Prärie’s people?”

  “It’s only been three hours: I don’t know yet!” the Baron says helplessly.  Between the off-world intelligence agencies and the five Barons, virtually all of Soren is awash with covert operatives.  And as much as he wants to identify which group is responsible, there’s little for his investigators to go on thus far: the witness accounts are predictably vague and inconsistent, the Stahlbrücke Militia’s limited forensics capabilities just are not up to this, even the most repressive of Soren’s Barons has no public surveillance networks, only the Adel or the authorities can obtain (or afford!) pocket-sized communications devices...  “This didn’t come from any of the spy-networks or extremist groups we’ve identified.  They could be Salernan agents, domestic radicals, paramilitary types from one of the other Baronies -”

  “Or perhaps it is an elaborate manipulation by the Union of Sovereign Republics,” offers Leonard Hansen, Waldgraf Stahlbrücke.  Klein’s chief minister is a lean, grey-haired man with a dour demeanour even by Soren standards, but he’s learned to make allowances for Christian’s essentially off-world attitudes.  Not that it saves him from her laser-like glare.  “I do not believe it is, Oberstleutnant, but we cannot rule out anything at this stage.”

  Sandy doesn’t stop burning holes in him. “Lenny, just vape the devil’s advocate routine, all right?  The Unis aren’t this ****** stupid.”

  “Indeed,” the third man in the office says, in accented Soren German; unlike Hansen, he doesn’t flinch or squirm when Christian’s glare pins him.  “Moral concerns aside, I’m quite certain that Union agents would have aborted any ‘snatch’ operation once they recognised that several of their prospective targets were, in fact, my people.  They wouldn’t want to complicate their lives by provoking us in the process of trying to discredit someone else: they’ve learned enough about us to know better.”

  “Colonel Christian, I believe you met Ambassador Seven soon after his party landed?” Klein prompts.

  “He was in the waiting room yesterday, just before he presented his credentials to the Assembly of Barons.”  And shortly before I told Große Prärie – for the fourth time in as many months – that he was out of his ****** mind if he thought I’d hand Perez over to his hangmen.  Christian gives the Cylon a curt nod, unapologetic for her gracelessness but acknowledging his position and their shared plight.  “Which of yours did they get with my father and daughter?”

  “Five junior members of my delegation - one from each of our primary clone-lines.  They’re like many of us: bright, eager, inexperienced, but capable and creative.  And don’t let the word ‘clone’ fool you, Colonel.  We do not regard any one of us as ‘expendable’ or ‘replaceable’.  I will get my people back.”

  After a moment’s steady appraisal, Sandy gives him another nod, this time slightly approving.  He might just do.

  “Until we get more information, Colonel, I don’t know that there’s anything more that can be done,” Klein says, trying to calm his friend’s notorious temper.  “I’ve requested a meeting of the Assembly of Barons tomorrow morning to discuss the matter.  I’ll keep you as well-informed as possible, and if we find a target within Schwarzwald’s borders, you have my authority to launch a rescue attempt at your discretion” Not that the lack of my go-ahead would stop you anyway, but we must observe some formalities! “but other than that, I can only recommend that you look to your duties until the situation develops further.”

  It’ll be a cold day in hell before I sit still for this shit, Stefan! she glares at him.

  I know, Sandy, his eyes return sympathetically.  But we don’t yet know enough to do anything else!

  After a long moment, the commanding officer of Christian’s Legion steps back from Baron Schwarzwald’s desk, straightening and saluting with deliberate precision.  “By your leave, Herr Baron.”
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 04:01:16 by Trace Coburn »


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #6 on: 17 April 2012, 01:08:44 »
Very nice. This is an amazing 'verse you've produced, and I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

By the way, any chance on getting a look at the stats of those Cylon 'Mechs?
« Last Edit: 17 April 2012, 11:04:10 by gladius »


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #7 on: 17 April 2012, 01:12:51 »
I'm having chills running all over my backside from this...

No matter what, it's going to be a bad day for whoever did this.
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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #8 on: 20 April 2012, 23:18:55 »
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, Part Three
« Reply #9 on: 19 January 2013, 07:50:57 »
Greifburg, Soren
February 16, 2804

  The Council of Barons can’t meet on the territory of any given Barony without creating the appearance of bias, so despite being within Schwarzwald’s borders, the Greifburg stands at the centre of a seven-hundred-square-kilometre reservation sold to the SLDF early in the twenty-seventh century.  (Naturally, ‘Soren’s sacred soil’ being alienated into the hands of off-worlders has been turned into another rod for Schwarzwald’s back by the reactionaries – one wielded with especial vigour since the SLDF’s departure.)

  The Council Chamber is arranged with the curved table for the five Barons on a raised dais, the flag of each Barony hanging above and behind each seat.  Who sits where is randomly generated before each session, though in the case of an emergency meeting like this, the central seat and chairman’s role goes to the Baron making the request – in this case, Stefan Klein.  Intended to avoid the outward perception of fixed power-blocs (which, naturally, exist nonetheless), the randomisation of the seating has cut both ways today: Klein finds himself flanked by Barons Österreich and Nordgebirge, the other moderates, while Patrick Zoeller and his fellow-traveller Ferdinand Westfluss are at the far ends of the table.

  But are they divided and easy pickings, far from the centre of power, or ambushers waiting to catch the rest of us between them and pounce on any supplicant who appears before us?  The thought prompts an inward grimace as he takes his seat.

  Those with business before the Council sit in the serried pseudo-maple pews facing that table, with a podium for supplicants.  As the reason for today’s session, Colonel Christian and an aide are sitting in the front row.  Klein hides a flicker of a smile as he sees a jolt run through the Baron Große Prärie: clearly the man wasn’t expecting to see the third person sitting in that row.  Since Kerensky’s recall almost forty years ago, the white-over-purple uniform Commander Misato Nikolaichenka is wearing has been a rare sight indeed, especially outside of the Union of Sovereign Republics, but if Zoeller forgot that the Legion was entitled to have their liaison from the SLDF’s Administrative Command present at any meeting or negotiation likely to have an impact on their contract, he’s only got himself to blame.  Not that he’d ever admit it.  Indeed, the fulminating glare Zoeller focuses on the Commander seems to blind him to the trio of suited civilians sitting a couple of rows further back, on the other side of the aisle.

  Klein raps the gavel twice.  “This session of the Soren Council of Barons is called to order.  May God grant that our resolutions best serve the interests of our demesnes and our world.”  After the ‘amen’, he clears his throat and looks around the table.  “In case any of you haven’t heard yet, there’s been an incident in Stahlbrücke.  A group of armed men, as-yet unidentified, attacked two dependents of Christian’s Legion in the street in broad daylight and kidnapped them and several other visitors to the city, killing a large number of civilians and Schwarzwald Militia both in the process and during their escape.  I’d like to request the cooperation of your Militias and other agencies in tracking down these criminals and rescuing their victims.”

  “Cooperation I’m afraid I can’t provide,” Zoeller cuts in.

  Everyone present, Cassandra Christian included, blinks and stares at Baron Große Prärie.

  “Quite apart from the fact that allowing your agencies to operate on Große Prärie soil would be an unconscionable affront to the sovereignty of my Barony, there’s a more immediate concern.”  Zoeller’s expression is almost perfectly impassive, bland and innocent.  Almost.  “Two hours ago, my staff in Präriestadt received a video communique from a group of my subjects calling themselves ‘Blue Soren’.  In that message, this band of patriots regretfully declared that their outrage at the abuses committed against the subjects, authorities, and state of Große Prärie in the course of the illegal occupation of its soil by the Star League’s hired murderers had finally driven them to extreme measures.  They announced that Dieter and Angela Christian would remain in their custody until their demands were met.”

  Klein takes a deep breath to control his temper – and his alarm, when he hears Sandy’s teeth grinding from ten metres away.  “And what ‘demands’ do these ‘outraged patriots’ have, Patrick?”

  Still with that merest air of smugness, Zoeller opens a folder and reads from the papers within.  “‘Corporal Irina Perez is to be surrendered to Große Prärie authorities within fifty hours to stand trial for her senseless attack on three blameless Große Prärie Militiamen.  Christian’s Legion will forfeit and refund all of the moneys extorted from the Barons and people of Soren since their arrival and pay a further weregeld of ten million goldmarks to the Baronie Große Prärie, which will distribute these moneys to the families of the men killed and wounded during Perez’ rampage.  The contingent of Christian’s Legion currently defiling Große Prärie with their presence will depart within two weeks; their Mannerheim Valley base and all of its chattels, including the aerospace fighters currently operating from the spacedrome, will be surrendered to the Barony in recompense for the deaths, abuses, and distresses inflicted on the Crown and people of Große Prärie during their illegal occupation of its soil.  And as Oberstleutnant Cassandra Christian’s judgement has so demonstrably failed since she assumed command of Christian’s Legion, she will resign her commission and cede command of the Legion to an officer approved by the Council of Barons.’”

  “These ‘patriots’ of yours are out of their ****** minds!” blurts Thomas Falke.  “I hope you’ve told them to burn in hell!”

  “Considering I’ve wanted that murdering slut extradited since October, I can understand their anger – though I do denounce and condemn such grossly excessive actions,” Zoeller adds piously.  “Of course, my Militia will undertake every measure within their power to locate these extremists and return the captives to their family, but there’s no way to know if they’ve actually taken them anywhere within my reach, and even if they have, the size of my demesnes mean I can give no assurances that they will located before harm befalls them.  Unless God guides my people to the right place and time, it would seem that the safety of Colonel Christian’s family is contingent on her good behavior and prompt compliance with the demands of their captors.”

  Klein’s fists are hidden beneath the table, clenched so hard his shoulders are shaking, and it takes him a moment to get his voice under control.  “The Chair calls Oberstleutnant Cassandra Christian.  What say you in this matter?”

  Sandy’s face is almost as ruddy as her uniform as she comes to the podium.  “Christian’s Legion does not negotiate with terrorists, and it does not accede to demands exacted under threat of force,” she grinds out, and she actually manages a thin, predatory smile when Zoeller rocks back in his seat in shock.  Expected me to answer like a weak woman instead of a soldier, did you?  “Even if we did, what these bastards are demanding is impossible.  Sergeant Irina Perez is on Highside completing NCO school, and even if I was inclined to hand her over to Große Prärie for a show-trial, I couldn’t get her back into this system before the deadline.  The Legion can’t ‘return’ money it doesn’t have: most of our contract-fees have been spent right here in-system, and the rest went to the Union to cover recruitment and other supply costs.  I’m sure-as-hell not going to pay blood-money to the families of three attempted rapists because their intended victim got the better of them.  Baron Nordgebirge is quite right: these ‘rogue actors’ of yours are completely insane if they think I’ll resign in these circumstances.  And I can’t hand over the Legion’s combat-systems or the Mannerheim Valley base, because they’re not the Legion’s property to start with!”

  That makes Zoeller blink outright.  “What?”

  Commander Nikolaichenka comes up beside Sandy, her face locked into professional rigidity.  “Colonel Christian’s right, and if ‘Blue Soren’ wanted that equipment, ‘they’ should have read the Legion’s Status-of-Forces Agreement more closely.  The Legion’s fighters and ’Mechs are SLDF surplus-on-loan, which cannot be handed to another power without the approval of the SLDF.  It would be a breach of contract to do that without clearance from the Legion’s duly appointed Liaison Officer, and as her Liaison officer, I am categorically forbidding her to do so.  The Mannerheim Valley base was built by the SLDF Corps of Engineers on land ceded to the Star League under a non-revocable ninety-nine-year lease signed by Baron Erich Zoeller in 2729, and as such, that land and every single pfenning’s-worth of improvements made on it since the lease was signed remains inalienable property of the SLDF.  She can’t hand them over to anyone without the SLDF’s permission, and as the SLDF’s representative, I’m telling your ‘rogue patriots’ to ****** off.  Any attempt by any Soren government to annex or seize the Legion’s equipment or bases constitutes a breach of contract by that government, and is subject to stringent punitive measures.”

  After a split-second, Zoeller actually chuckles at that.  “And even if the Star League still exists, Commander – and where are they, since we haven’t seen them for almost forty years? - what is it going to do, send lawyers after me?  Große Prärie is a sovereign state, and I am the Baron Große Prärie; within Große Prärie’s borders, your precious ‘contract’ is a worthless piece of paper and that ‘status of forces agreement’ means whatever I say it does!”

  Misato shoots Sandy a millimetric nod, and the Legion’s commander opens her secure comm., punches in a specific recipient-code, then deliberately shifts to ‘speaker’ mode so all present can hear the ensuing conversation.  “Colonel Jones, is Mannerheim Valley still in lockdown?”

  {“Yes, ma’am, ever since you gave us the word yesterday.  All aircraft have been grounded and all personnel restricted to base to preclude any more ‘incidents’, per your orders.”}

  “Change to rules of engagement, Priority Red Alpha.”

  {“... Yes, ma’am.  Authenticate: Romeo—X-Ray—Seven—Nine—Golf.”}

  “I authenticate: Sakhalin White.”

  {“Authentication confirmed; proceed.”}

  “ROE alteration as follows: one hour from my mark, Mannerheim Valley will set Condition FERAL.  I say again: Condition FERAL.  Read-back and confirm.”

  {“Mannerheim Valley will set Condition FERAL one hour from your mark: confirmed.”}

  “Very good.  Mark.”
  Knowing her friend needs a moment to get herself under control again, Nikolaichenka speaks to the onlooking Soren nobles as Sandy folds her comm. closed.  “Since I can see you want to know, Baron Große Prärie, that conversation means that the Mannerheim Valley Spacedrome is now under wartime rules of engagement.  Your Baronial Militia forces have fifty-nine minutes to get beyond the ground-perimeter and airspace markers established by the Status of Forces agreement.  After that time, ‘sir’, any Große Prärie personnel, aircraft or vehicle offering imminent threat to the Spacedrome or any Legion-flagged unit operating in its vicinity, or which crosses the dividing-line into the Mannerheim Valley reservation, will be destroyed.  Without warning.  Without exception.  Without quarter.”

  Even as Zoeller’s eyes widen, Sandy finishes running him over.  “I think you need to call back to your demesnes and warn your troops that my people now consider the Valley a free-fire zone, ‘Herr Baron’.  And while you’re on the phone, you might want to pass a message to these ‘rogue patriots’, or whoever’s talking to them.  Tell them that if they release all seven of their captives right the ****** now, completely unharmed, and surrender themselves to the Schwarzwald Militia or the Sorenische Landesschützer, they’ll get warm and comfortable jail-cells, scrupulously fair trials, and perfectly clean hangings.  But if the hostages aren’t released before sunset in Stahlbrücke tonight, or they have so much as a hangnail when they return to their loved-ones —” Sandy’s eyes burn into the Soren aristocrat like a pair of Magna II lasers “— there will not be a pit in Hell deep enough to hide those responsible!”

  Pale-faced, Zoeller suddenly bolts up from his chair and runs for the door into the antechamber, screaming for his aide and a telephone.  Baron Schwarzwald sighs and palms his face at the man’s hasty departure; by its own rules, the Council can’t deliberate without all five members present.  “This session of the Council of Barons is adjourned until... until this time tomorrow.”  Dammit, the meeting didn’t even last long enough to get to the major issue around this incident!

  As he gathers his papers to leave, Klein can’t help noticing that the trio of suited civilians who watched the entire proceedings in silent fascination rise and follow closely behind Colonel Christian and her party.
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 04:19:38 by Trace Coburn »


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #10 on: 19 January 2013, 16:53:50 »
Nice update. O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #11 on: 19 January 2013, 19:10:59 »
I do so very love this universe and world you've created.

As this clearly pre-dates the arrival of the 331st, the SLDF presence presumably only consists of the naval base, their various territorial holdings and the CASPARs.

But even so, the SLDF mentality of not taking any shit remains!

Love it!


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #12 on: 21 January 2013, 13:39:48 »
Considering that "the major issue surrounding the events" is that certain Barons and most of their staff, bureaucracy, military, and police force also need to be shot and/or hung, I think some of them will be glad of the recess. :)


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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #13 on: 21 January 2013, 21:27:14 »
I'm wondering if these "rogue patriots" realize just who they've kidnapped? Sure, they must figure the little girl is the daughter of the merc unit's CO, and the old man the father of said CO, but do they realize that the other hostages are diplomatic representatives of an off-world political entity? Hell, would they even care if they were told?
« Last Edit: 21 January 2013, 23:52:03 by Terrace »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, Part Four
« Reply #14 on: 04 July 2014, 02:42:32 »
Governor’s Council chambers, Freedom Hall
February 16, 2804

  The transport that carried Tranquility to Soren jumped back to New Victoria less than an hour ago, and the report it transmitted to the government is still hot from the printer in Governor Nadezha Doolan’s hand.  Her clenched, shaking hand.

  “Nadya, please, calm down,” Vera (Six) Divać says hastily.  “If we do something rash, we could end up in a full-scale war with the Union or the Principality, and we would lose!”

  “Vera’s right, Madam Governor,” adds Martin (Seven) Drummond.  “We settled here less than a year ago — our people are still getting used to breathing air that hasn’t been reprocessed ten thousand times!  Most of our capital ships are thirty light-centuries past mandatory overhaul, and even the few ships and fighter formations that are technically ‘combat-ready’ don’t have the tylium stocks to support sustained operations.  We’ve barely gotten the housing and agricultural situations on their feet — munitions production is out of the question.  We just don’t have the economy, the industry, or the population to support a full-scale war-effort!”

  That last-most is a near-insurmountable obstacle in itself.  When their refugee fleet arrived at New Victoria, it carried less than one and a half million Cylons, barely a third of them human models, and most of their combat-designed vessels were operating with skeleton crews.  The old-style Base Stars, the so-called Ares-class built by Tauron and its ‘Valtor Alliance’ for their Janissaries, are the most egregious offenders: for all their massive armour-belts, fearsome armaments, and sky-sweeping Raider complements, the authorised crew for just one of those juggernauts runs to over twenty thousand personnel, not counting the air-wing, and the logistical and industrial footprints to support them are just as horrendous.  The Colonial Fleet could build and crew five Columbia-class BattleStars and all of their air-wings with the same amount of resources and manpower, which was one of the major reasons why the Cylons had found themselves steadily losing the strategic initiative after the second year of the Revolt.  Quite apart from the economic factors, five ships can be in five different places.

  The Governor takes several deep breaths, reining in her temper, before she looks back to the Seven and grinds out, “How long until the first classes of human-models are ready, Marty?”

  “Not for another year, ma’am, considering that we only brought the first womb-banks on-line last week.”  He doesn’t need to mention that even when they’re decanted, those first batches will be made to the old templates and possessed of the same genetic defects.  “Re-starting the Base Stars’ onboard production-lines would let us manufacture several cohorts’ worth of new Legionnaires in a couple of weeks —”

  “— but their colleagues would start a Third Schism if we went back on our word and started treating them like slaves and cannon-fodder again,” the Governor says, shaking her head at the gold Centurion seated at the table.  “Don’t worry, Tiberius Aurelius: I meant that promise when I made it, and I will not break it.  Whatever happens, the Legionnaires are full members of this new society and will be treated like it.  You’re already doing more than your share of the construction and military work.”

«Reassuring to hear, Madam Governor, but renewed production of Legionnaires may become necessary regardless of your best wishes.  If we don’t react to this outrage with enough vigour, the other local powers may believe that we are powerless to respond, which would encourage increased predation against our holdings and shipping.  At the same time, Martin is correct: too robust a reaction could escalate into a conflict we currently are not in a position to survive, much less win.»

  “Okay, Martin: how long until we are ready, then?”

  The Seven grimaces and thinks hard, referring to several documents before he answers.  “My best estimates are that if you mean fighting the Cylon Republic, based on the holes we left in their infrastructure when we left, perhaps twenty-five years; thirty, if we want to be sure of winning.  With what we know of the Union and Principality militaries and tech-levels at the moment, the timescale falls to twenty to twenty-five years.  Those latter two estimates could be high or low by as much as a decade, depending on what we learn through our embassies, and if the SLDF comes back in any meaningful strength, all bets are off.”

  “So we need to make them think they can’t take us until we’ve built up to the point where they actually can’t take us,” the Governor nods.  “And we also need to make them think we’re sane enough that they don’t have to wipe us out for their own survival, while still presenting a credible threat if they start looking our way.  Sounds like what this situation needs is tact and a temperate, measured, proportional response.”

  ‘Tact’, ‘temperate’ and ‘proportional’... as defined by a Twelve?  Barry (Ten) Shaw buries his face in his hands.  Oh God, oh God: we’re all gonna die.

— * — * — * — * —

That same time

  Pacing the inside of the cargo container’s walls for what must be the hundredth time, Dieter Christian can’t help a small, crooked smile as he catches sight of his grand-daughter and Nine curled up together on one of the two canvas camping-cots, the Cylon’s chin atop the little girl’s hair.  Both of them are out like lights.  “Does she worry about anything?”

  “Not as a rule,” Seven says ruefully.  “Nines are very... energetic, especially when they really focus, but they don’t have a firm grasp on the concept of ‘fear’.  Don’t worry: when the time comes, she’ll be ready to do her part and more.”

  “Any idea where we’re going?” Ten wonders.  “You said we’re probably on a Cormorant WiGE, so that means a transoceanic flight....”

  “Probably to somewhere in Große Prärie or Westfluss, where these pricks can get Militia back-up if they need to fight off a rescue attempt.  I couldn’t tell you where exactly, though; for all I know, they could be planning to stay in the air until they get an answer to their demands.”

  “How dangerous would the Militia be in a fight?” Twelve asks.  “The way I heard it, your Legion operates the only GunShips, ’Mechs and aerospace fighters in the system.”

  “Depends on which Militia you’re talking about,” the former MechWarrior shrugs.  “The Sorenische Landesschützer — the planetary-defence command?  They’re recruited from all five Baronies and they cross-train with us all the time; come to mention it, they’ve fought a fair few ‘pirate’ raids over the years, so on average they’ve got a good clue.  Same goes for the Schwarzwald, Österreich and Nordgebirge Militias — all those places been raided by ‘pirates’, so they’ve seen what works and what doesn’t, and they’ve been smart enough to create separate Polizei agencies and cede internal-security tasks to them.  Westfluss and Große Prärie?  They haven’t fought off-world forces since before the Star League left.  Frankly, their wet-navies might be all right, and the Torrent and Eisenadler units have some practice bombing and strafing ‘rebels’, but for the most part, their ground-forces are built for controlling their own populace, not open-field engagements.  Throw in the fact that promotion is based on connections to the Adel and not saying anything that upsets the Baron....”

  The four Cylons currently awake trade glances at that; it’s Twelve who says what occurs to them all.  “Which doesn’t mean much, does it?  The Militia doesn’t have to win that fight — they just have to delay a rescue and buy time for these frakkers time to execute us all.”

  Dieter’s grimace is answer enough.

  Another shared glance (and perhaps something else?) runs around the knot of Cylons, and this time it’s Eleven who says it, soft but sincere.  “For whatever it’s worth, Colonel Christian, no-one’s going to hurt Angela while we’re still breathing.  Children are... sacred to us.”

  “Thank you.”

  A creak at the forward end of the container gets the adults’ attention; Angela doesn’t stir, but as he turns, Dieter notices that while the rest of her hasn’t shifted a millimetre, Nine’s eyes have gone from closed to slitted and intent.  Beyond the bars and door which separate the prisoner enclosure from the small antechamber those bars create at the container’s forward end, one of the doors has been swung out and open.  Two men are outside, one of them armed with a KG53; the other’s glare would be a lot more intimidating if his nose wasn’t mashed and his left eye swollen half-closed.  (Seeing that, Twelve smirks and massages the bruises on the point of her elbow.)  With the gunman covering the captives, this second man shoves seven fresh L-rat packs through the bars.

  They stocked this box with a week’s worth of MREs and water for an adult and a child, but bringing along the Cylons skewed the maths.  These idiots threw away their own script in the middle of the first act — God help us all, we’re being held by amateurs!  Dieter clears his throat.  “Do you realise who these people are?  You’ve kidnapped a party of Cylon diplomats.”

  “And I’m the First Lord of the Star League,” the bruised one snorts, taking hold of the container’s door again.  “I know it’s probably fellow-feeling that compels you to protect this whoremaster and his employees, but you need to come up with more believable lies, mercenary.”

  The clang of the door closing doesn’t quite drown out Twelve’s snarl of incredulous outrage.  “Can you believe what he just said about us?” she asks Nine and Eleven.  “Oh, I am so gonna enjoy kicking his ass!”

  “Save it until it counts, Twelve,” Ten says patiently, though he’s clearly doing a slow burn of his own as he distributes the rat-packs.  “The thing that confuses me, Colonel, is why these people are doing this?  What do they hope to gain?”

  Dieter sighs and sits back against the container-wall, framing his thoughts.  “I need to lay some foundations before I answer that.  When the news about the Coup reached us in ’67, almost the whole SLDF contingent in the Expanse was pulled out to fight the Amaris Empire.  The DRUM chain connecting the Expanse to the Inner Sphere’s HPG network was cut the week after the SLDF left, probably by the Salernans or their proxies, and oddly enough, the only ships that come back from trips Coreward fly Salernan flags.  That meant that every system out here that the League had developed to the point where it was dependent on League support had to try to survive without that support, or on what fraction of it they could get from the Union.  ‘Pirates’ stole or destroyed a lot of what aid did get dispatched, and four of those worlds basically imploded — New Victoria, Dalton, Rhodesia, and Bianca all collapsed, a couple of them with a few ‘anonymous’ nudges.  Rhodesia and Dalton have ongoing internal conflicts, Bianca reverted to neo-barbarism, and you saw New Victoria for yourselves when you, uh, settled there.”

  “Got it.”

  “Now, the Sorens’ ancestors came out here to try and create a ‘truly German’ society, untainted by outside influences.  Even without seeing what happened to other worlds when they became too dependent on foreign support, they didn’t want to import any technologies that would undermine their culture and take them away from ‘who they are’ — you know, people who know that men should be men, children should be seen and not heard, and women should be loyal housewives.”  Dieter ignores Twelve’s snort of laughter.  “They’re not all that bad, but the isolationist lobby’s always been fairly strong, and there’s always been a silly few who think if Soren stays true to itself, and not-coincidentally looks poor and harmless enough, nobody will gobble it up and add to their empire.”

  “And that means getting rid of foreign influences, like the Legion,” Nine nods.

  “Oh, there’s another reason to try to get rid of the Legion: simple internal dominance.  Each of the Baronies is its own sovereign state, and while Klein and his supporters have accepted that they’re Sorens, not Germans, that change and progress are inevitable and good things, and they’re trying to modernise, the isolationists want to ‘save Soren’s soul’ by bringing everyone back into line with their interpretation of what ‘true German’ culture was, is, and always should be.”

  Seven rolls his eyes.  “Mark 8:36 — ‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’”

  “In the xenophobes’ minds, that is the question.  Though I’m intrigued that a man whose society that’s been isolated from the Inner Sphere so long it’s developed its own unique language is so quick with a Biblical reference.”

  “Quite apart from the New Victorian situation, we’ve... had reason to study the various Spheroid scriptures at length.”  Seven’s smile is a little rueful, but doesn’t add any useful meaning to his words.

  A response that answers the question, yet gives away nothing of real informative value.  Dieter digests that for an instant, cocking an eyebrow at the Cylon in a silent question: Diplomat?  Spook?  Or both?

  Seven’s return gaze gains a certain smirking mischief.  That’s for me to know, and you to speculate about.

  That’s what I thought, Dieter nods, then moves on.  “The Legion... well, on paper we’re here to support the Landesschützer and the Baronial militias with systems and capabilities they can’t operate or maintain themselves, but everybody knows that we’re also here to keep the Baronies from breaking into open war with each other.  The USR is a protectorate of the Star League, and everybody with two neurons to rub together knows that unless the SLDF returns in the very near future, the Salernans will try to conquer the Union.  They’d love to have a forward base to do that, preferably one with decent industry; Soren’s the natural choice, and if the Barons smash each other’s forces in a planetary war, the Sallies will be able to walk right in.  Even before the Coup, a garrison from the UMF or SLDF was never going to fly —”

  “— ooh, so they hired the Legion!” Eleven chirps.

  “‘Formed’ might be a better word, but yes.”  Dieter pauses to order his thoughts again.  “At best, these people just want to drive us out of Große Prärie and Westfluss, so the native forces can take the lead in defending them, the way it’s ‘supposed’ to be — though if that’s their goal, they don’t realise how little chance their forces have against aerospace fighters and BattleMechs.

  “But I’ve been here long enough that I’m not that optimistic.  Große Prärie and Westfluss can’t hope to drive the Legion completely off-world, but they can force us out of the bases within their territory, and with us no longer ‘interfering’ with their militaries or internal affairs, they can prepare for a war against Nordgebirges, Osterreich and Schwarzwald to ‘bring Soren back into line with the desires of their founders and forefathers’.  When it starts, the Legion won’t have much choice but to fight for the loyalists, and with luck, the hardliners won’t figure out how overmatched they are until they’ve felt the wrong end of a reinforced BattleMech regiment and almost three hundred TAF-143(U) Vipers.”

  Seven arches an eyebrow.  “Which rather assumes that the Salernans won’t intervene to ‘restore order’ and ‘support the legitimate authorities’ on Soren.”

  “Welcome to our nightmare, Seven,” Dieter nods.  “If the hardliners wake up to the overmatch before the shooting starts, or the Salernans decide to ‘offer’ them material support and ‘military advisers’ before then —”

  “— the Union will have no choice but to counteract them by supporting Nordgebirges, Osterreich, and Schwarzwald with more than just Christian’s Legion.  Creating the perfect pre-conditions for a proxy war that leads into a larger one.”  Seven sighs and shakes his head.   “So these clowns think this whole gambit is aimed at keeping the coming war against the Union off of their ‘blue and pure Soren’... but the Salernans are manoeuvring to ensure that its first battles will be fought here.  Does Große Prärie not realise the Salernans are using him as a stalking-horse?”

  “He’s seen enough of us to know how ‘evil’ and ‘immoral’ we are, but I don’t think he’s ever spent much time around Acadians or Salernans.  He may not care that he’s being used; he may think the Salernans are the lesser of two evils for Soren society.”

  Twelve snorts.  “Or maybe he’s just a whole frakload dumber than he thinks he is.”

  “Someone once told me that the biggest mistakes are made by intelligent men, for what seem like the best of reasons.”

— * — * — * — * —

Baronial apartments, Große Prärie embassy
February 17, 2804

  {“The Miliz has two Luftsturmjäger regiments watching Mannerheim Valley, Herr Baron,”} reports Waldgraf Präriestadt, Reichkanzler von Große Prärie.  {“3rd Wing has a full squadron of Vipers on aerial patrol, and the rest of the wing must be on standby.  It doesn’t look like they’re planning any sort of offensive move yet, but that could change easily enough.”}

  “If even a single Viper crosses the line, blow it out of the sky!” the Baron tells his man back in Präriestadt, then slams the phone down.  “God damn that mercenary harlot!  Why doesn’t she see sense?  Doesn’t her daughter’s life mean anything to her?”

  “Respectfully, Herr Baron, I did warn you that you’d based this plan on a misjudgement of her character,” his companion says smoothly, with a faint smile.  “Lieutenant-Colonel Christian’s ancestors have been soldiers since the Reunification War.  Many of them mercenaries, perhaps, but professional soldiers nonetheless, and she was steeped in that tradition of service.  She will not be swayed from her perceived duty simply on the basis of threats, either to her or to her family.”

  “And ‘I told you so’ is so very comforting and helpful to hear!” Zoeller snaps back.

  “On the bright side, there are no direct lines of communication between you and the snatch-party, nothing concrete to link them to your forces.  If necessary, you can abandon them to their fates and no-one will be able to prove they acted on your behalf.”  The second man carefully doesn’t add his real opinion: Not that the claim will deceive Christian’s Legion for a minute — or forestall their response if either of the hostages is harmed.

  “Forgive me if I’d rather things go just a little better than that.”  The phone rings again, and the Baron snatches it up.  “What?”

  {“Herr Baron, there’s a press-conference starting in Stahlbrücke that I really think you need to see.”}

  Growling at this fresh aggravation, the Baron snaps his fingers at his butler/bodyguard to turn on the TV (to Great Plains Broadcast News, of course).  It takes a few moments for the CRT to warm up, but the audio comes through almost immediately.

  {“... the personal safety of diplomats is a basic requirement for the conduct of civilised discourse between sovereign powers.”}  Zoeller doesn’t recognise the speaker, a dark-haired man in his late twenties, but his accent is unfamiliar, and the fact that he’s closely flanked by Baron Schwarzwald, Commander Nikolaichenka, and Oberstleutnant Christian tells Baron Große Prärie all he needs to know about his origins.  Another damned foreigner who doesn’t like being treated the way God intended.  {“Solemn treaties and interstellar conventions have, time and again over the centuries, reiterated that all persons holding diplomatic credentials are sacrosanct.  That being so, the gross outrage that ‘Blue Soren’ has perpetrated by kidnapping of five members of my team cannot and shall not be allowed to stand.”}

  Wait, what?  “What the hell is this?”

  {“The Cylon Governor has confirmed my full authority to resolve this matter as I see fit.  As her Ambassador to the citizens, world, and Baronies of Soren, I now say this to the gangsters calling themselves Blue Soren, and anyone who offers them shelter or support:

  {“You currently hold five Cylon citizens seized through violence.  If you think you can dictate to the Cylon government in return for their release or continued safety, you are wrong.  We will not bargain.  We will not negotiate.  We will not treat with terrorists who seek political ends through hostage-taking and murder, and we will not allow thugs to coerce us into any course of action.

  {“If all seven of the hostages seized yesterday are released at the earliest possible moment, alive and unharmed, the Cylon government will have no further cause to seek out Blue Soren at this time; you will be a problem for the Soren authorities.  But if you do not, then as the directly-appointed representative of Governor Nadezha Doolan, I will authorise any and all actions I deem necessary to effect their recovery and the punishment of those responsible for their captivity —”}  The dark-haired young man pauses for an instant, looking to the skies.  {“— using any and all means placed at my disposal.”}

— * — * — * — * —

Space-station Bifrost
That same time


  The sudden shriek from his desk-top comm. makes Chief Administrator Giulio jump right out his chair in the microgravity, and before he can grab hold of his seat again, he goes rigid and cold at hearing what follows: a pre-recorded message he’s never heard before in his two-year tenure.  {„Auf Gefechtsstationen!  Auf Gefechtsstationen!”}

  Who the hell thought they could sound ‘battle stations’ without clearing it through me first? He snarls to himself, flinging aside his napkin as he kicks off for the door.  I swear, I’ll have somebody’s job for this!

  He passes knots of men scurrying in all directions as he weaves through the corridors, some of them in Legion grey-asparagus, others in Landesschützer rifle-green, many of them half-dressed.  He knows that several decks away, the Legion’s personnel will be boarding the six Pentagon GunShips and wing of Vipers based on Bifrost, and at other positions around the station, Home Guard gunnery crews are manning the controls for the point-defence batteries.

  “Getting IFF data now, Sir,” he hears as he comes through the hatch.  “All prefixes are Cylon Warship.  Reading five Independence-class vessels, designate probable heavy cruisers; eight supporting vessels, destroyer-sized, hull-profiles suggest compact-core merchantmen or escort carriers, currently assuming a modified arrowhead formation ahead of the heavies —”

  Giulio’s jaw drops open.  God defend us, even the Star League never put that much metal into this system at once!  “What the hell is going on?” he asks, knowing even as he speaks that it’s a damned stupid question.

  “I guess you didn’t hear,” someone drawls behind him, in the lilting accent of an Island Commonwealth Highsider.  Captain-Lieutenant Esteban Rhydderch, Commanding Officer of 6th Aerospace Wing, Christian’s Legion, has never made a secret of despising Giulio or the manner he came to replace Wilhelm Trachtenburg, once calling him ‘a windbag bloated by ego and privilege, finagled into position through politics instead of aptitude’ to his face.  (Giulio reported the incident immediately, of course, and how Rhydderch wasn’t cashiered for it escapes the Soren.)  “When Blue Soren snatched ‘Opa Dieter’ and ‘das Engelchen’, they grabbed a party of Cylon diplomats, too.  Nation-states tend to have something to say about that kind of thing, and now... well, sometimes the message is in the medium.”  He nods to the IFF-tags now appending themselves to the cruisers.  “ImpatientImplacableInflexibleIntractableIntransigent.  It might just be me, boyo, but I suspect ships with names like those didn’t just stop by for cocoa and strudel.”

  “They’re invading us for the sake of a handful of people?” the Chief Administrator gapes.

  Rhydderch turns a ‘don’t be dumber than you can help’ look on him.  “Like the Taurians say, Herr Giulio: ‘You ****** with the bull, you get the horns’.  Which means I have a job to do.”  He pushes past the Soren to float behind the controllers.  “Have they said anything yet?”

  “No, KaLeu.”  A bleep proves Weiss wrong.  “Uh, strike that last: transmission incoming, audio-only.”

  “Then let’s hear what they have to say.”

  What emerges from the speakers sounds like a badly-tuned voice-synthesiser.  {
«This is Commander Aquila of the Cylons, aboard the strike cruiser Implacable, addressing the planetary authorities of Soren and all units of Christian’s Legion and the Sorenische Landesschützer.  My task-force has been placed at the discretion of Ambassador Seven and his party, with specific authority to undertake any and all measures necessary to effect the rescue of the hostages currently held by Blue Soren and the punishment of those who took them.  If your forces do not attempt to obstruct our operations, we will not be forced to kill them.  Implacable, clear.»}

  “Well, that’s blunt enough, I suppose,” Rhydderch muses.

  Before he can say anything more, another transmission comes up on the channel, this one from the flagship of the Legion’s Pentagon squadron.  Captain 2nd Rank Gabriella Vorobeyova has to be as mad at Große Prärie as any other member of the Legion, but if that’s causing her any doubts or hesitation, no-one can hear it any hint of it in a voice that rings like steel.  {“Cylon task-force, this is Captain Vorobeyova, Legion GunShip Bulldog.  Be advised that Christian’s Legion is contracted to defend the Baronies of Soren against any and all off-world aggression.  Unless and until I get orders to the contrary, any hostile move towards any region of the planet of Soren will be met with lethal force.  I strongly recommend that you stand off until the situation groundside is clarified.  Bulldog, clear.”}

  As the channel breaks, Giulio finds himself gaping at the speaker.  “Is she insane?  Six GunShips and a single wing of fighters can’t hope to fight a full battle-squadron!  They’d be committing suicide!”

  Rhydderch turns another scathing glare on him.  “Oh, no surer form of it,” he nods coldly.  “But in case nobody told you, boyo, that’s the job.  You see, we’ve accepted Soren coin, Herr Giulio.  You bought our service, so we don’t have to like you; we just have to die for you, if the need comes by.”

  “Bu- I — that’s the job for soldiers, and you’re... you’re mercenaries!”

  “And right now, you’d better pray that ‘mercenaries’ are enough to protect your world.”  Rhydderch’s eyes flick to the holotable again, tracking the Cylons’ progression towards Soren’s moon.  “Because we’re the only thing standing between you and them.”
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 04:09:15 by Trace Coburn »

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Greifburg, Baronie Schwarzwald
16:41 local time, February 17, 2804

  “All Landesschützer formations and installations are at Alarmstufe Zwei, Colonel,” an aide reports, handing Christian a folder.  “Nothing official from Große Prärie or Westfluss, but our networks report that their Torrent squadrons are going to Alert Tier One, and at least a dozen Plainer and Westie carriers and Raumabwehrfregatten just left port and scrambled for open water — two of them flat-out cut their mooring-lines to get out of Präriestadt.”

  “Can you blame them, Andreas?” she asks, her attention still fixed on the recording from Bulldog as the man goes back to his post.  About twenty minutes ago, the Cylon task-force reached orbit of Thuringia, Soren’s moon, and one of the escort-ships split off from the rest to launch a single spread of missiles at its barren surface.  Gabby said all sixteen weapons performed almost exactly like White Sharks... including when all sixty-four physics packages initiated, at two hundred kilotons apiece.  Just as well no-one lives up on Thuringia — but then, that was why they targeted it to start with.  I wonder if the Cylons have read up on my grandmother?  She certainly would have liked their style.  “Remember, Sandy: tact and diplomacy have their uses, but when you want to make a lasting impression, use a PPC.”

  The quick analysis of the initiations says some interesting things, too.  Do they not have the tech-base to make lasered-lithium physics-packages, or is using old-style fizzy-fuzzy nukes a deliberate statement — like the Taurians?  It’s not like fallout is an issue in space-combat, but you have to wonder if they’ll be so eager to use warheads that dirty on inhabited biospheres....

  “Any chance the Union or the Salernans will send a task-force of their own?” Baron Schwarzwald wonders.  “That’s a lot of heavy metal.”

  He’s been spending so much time with us that he’s starting to pick up our slang, as well as the jargon, Commander Nikolaichenka notes, before shrugging to the noble.  “Possible, but it’ll take a while.  Even with the new-generation transceivers, the message won’t reach Highside for hours yet, and they still have to put together enough hulls to deal with a squadron of CAs and whatever the Salernans decide to send.  I wouldn’t be on seeing Union ships for at least ten days.”  Assuming they’re even allowed to come, she doesn’t add, sourly remembering the Llanelli Accords’ restrictions on Union military deployments.  “The Salernans won’t hear about it for even longer, none of the Ducal Militia Navies have enough throw-weight to take on that much firepower without showing off how many ‘merchant carriers’ they actually have, and unless Ettore IV has had a spine transplant I haven’t heard about, I can’t imagine a squadron from the Royal Navy taking a hand.”

  Sandy’s lips quirk.  “What do you think of the Independence class, Misato?”

  “I’ll take half a dozen, Sandy,” the SLN officer says wryly.  “That hull is all business.  They’re light on large turrets, which suggests a beam-and-missile weapons mix; they maintained a good two gees on their way to Thuringia orbit; and I suspect they didn’t skimp on the armour or PD either.  I’d rather not meet one on its own terms.”

  “And the escorts?”

  “We’ve seen that at least one of them is a missile-barge; at best, they all are.  Well, that or escort carriers.”

  Stefan Klein goggles at her.  “Pardon me, Commander, but how are those the best possibilities?”

  “Either of those means they’re looking for a stand-up vac-fight.”  A fight they all know the Legion’s GunShips and fighters have not a prayer of surviving much less winning, but that’s beside the Commander’s point.  “But they’re here looking to conduct a rescue, so I’m betting that at least two of those ships are assault-transports.  If all seven of the unidentified ones are ‘gator freighters’, we could be looking at as much as a short division of troops — certainly enough to establish a secure invasion spacehead, if not take the planet outright depending on their force-mix.  Worst possible option?  We’re looking at two missile-barges, two troop-ships, and four fleet tenders, which would mean they plan to be here a long time; that could imply an intent to wait out Blue Soren... or to invade the planet and occupy it for a long period, in the face of any possible relief.”

  “Colonel!” Andreas the aide is back, and offering her a headset with an excited expression.  “Another transmission from Implacable, Ma’am!  They want to send a delegation down on a shuttle to meet with Ambassador Seven — and you.”

  “Unexpectedly polite of them, under the circumstances,” Baron Schwarzwald laughs bleakly.  Perhaps also an attempt to split your loyalties? his eyes add silently.

  “Indeed, but let’s hear what they have to say,” Sandy returns evenly.  You know my motives were already mixed, Stefan, but perhaps they need not be opposed, she returns with an eye-roll.  “Cylon WarShip Implacable, this is Colonel Christian.  The Schwarzwald Spacedrome is open to receive your shuttle.  Be advised that we will consider an escort of more than four fighters to be evidence of hostile intent, and that Legion aerospace fighters will shadow yours throughout the evolution.”

  {“Understood, Colonel,”} a crisp, female, human voice answers.  {“We’ll play nice with you.  Anyone else needs to stay well clear, though.”}

  “Very well.  Have your pilots contact Schwarzwald Approach Control when they reach an orbital altitude of one thousand kilometres.”

  As she hands the headset back to Andreas, Nikolaichenka cocks an eyebrow.  “They’re playing unexpectedly nice.”

  “They just expended a twelve-megaton ‘sel-rel’ to make absolutely sure we were listening — they can afford to speak softly right now.”

  It’s Baron Schwarzwald who asks the eight-million-Goldmark question: “Yes... but do they have Blue Soren’s undivided attention?”

— * — * — * — * —

Blauhafen, Nordgebirges, Soren
That same time

  Their final destination seems to be a working logging camp, and the structure the captives find themselves shoved into looks like a former drunk-tank that started life as a bunkhouse.  Each room/cell has three double-bunks and even its own plumbing, which is better than Dieter was half-expecting.  The Cylons are all in the room across the corridor from him and Angela — Probably trying to keep Angie from being further contaminated by contact with ‘the whores’! — but they can talk across the way through the bars of the cell-doors.

  All five of the clones have been paying close attention to their surroundings ever since they disembarked from the Cormorant — as close as Dieter himself, for that matter, cementing his opinion that ‘diplomats’ or not, they’re all trained operators of some stripe — and now Seven is the one leaning through the bars, chatting to the mercenary.  “I noticed there wasn’t a lot of machinery being used out there.  Why in heaven’s name would you run a logging camp that doesn’t even have electricity, then load hand-sawn lumber onto a fusion-powered WiGE transport to bring it to market?”

  Dieter shrugs.  “Because that’s just how it’s done here?  Remember, the Sorens’ ancestors thought that using too much technology was sapping society’s will to do an honest day’s work, so they deliberately didn’t allow it; after so many centuries, substituting man- and muscle-power for machinery is the accepted norm.  Besides, skimping on ‘small things’ like that is probably what let them buy the Cormorant in the first place.  ‘Goldmark wise, pfennig foolish’ isn’t all that uncommon.”

  “Fair enough, I suppose... in an idiotic backwards hillbilly kind of way.  But I notice it doesn’t strike you as strange.  You’re originally Lyran, aren’t you?  Aren’t most Inner Sphere worlds better-off than this?”

  That prompts a snort of laughter.  “I was born in the Inner Sphere, but Mother came out here before I was old enough to remember anything about it.  From things she said before she was killed — and she had some pretty strong opinions! — it was the same kind of thing all over the place back there: one of the traits a lot of the nobility back there have in common with the Barons and the Salernan aristocracy out here is their blind assumption that money and technology are ‘wasted’ on the ‘peasantry’.  It wasn’t until she arrived in the Union that she saw the establishment paying real attention to tools and comforts for the working-class.  Same for education: outside of Schwarzwald and Osterreich, if you can’t pay for a year’s private tuition up-front, clearly you don’t really need to learn how to read and write.”  He manages a crooked smile.  “You see, once you invest in making your populace educated and tech-savvy, they tend to come up with ideas on their own.  Innovation upsets the system.  Empowered people demand to become enfranchised people, and the ones who already hold all the power generally don’t want to share it.”

  Seven shakes his head, clearly baffled.  Ten chips in a comment, in the Cylons’ own language, and Dieter catches a word that sounds like ‘Sagittarius’ or ‘Sagittaron’(?).  Why is he referencing a constellation that’s only visible from Terra?

  The jailhouse’s outer door swings open.  Three or four goons come into the corridor, compact machine-pistols in hand, and Dieter stifles his reaction when he recognises the design.  The leader — not one of the gunmen from the kidnapping, as none of the captives recognise him — waves Seven back from the door of the Cylons’ cell, then looks in at them silently.  After a long moment, he points out Nine with the muzzle of his weapon.  „Sie — die Blonde.  Kommen Sie hier.“

  “Ooh: are we going somewhere?” Nine chirps, smiling brightly, for all the world looking like a brainless ditz.  “Goody!  This whole ‘being cooped up’ thing was getting so boring!”

  Dieter can see Ten and Twelve past the gunman: their expressions tell him they know what’s going on just as well as he does, and they’re just as outraged — and helpless.  Ten stands up, about to say something —

  Then Nine glances back at him.  Her voice is calm and even.  “Guys, it’s okay.  I know what I’m doing.”

  The Cylons all trade significant glances, cocking their heads as if listening to something no-one else can hear, and again Dieter has cause to wonder what’s going unsaid.  Nonetheless, they step back and let their small blonde friend in the fuchsia sundress be led out of the cell by their captors.  As the group reaches the exit, Nine looks back over her shoulder and waves cheerfully.  “See ya later!  I’ll try to bring back something nice for everyone!”

  When the outer door slams shut, Dieter snarls in rage and slams a fist against the wall, livid at his own helplessness.  “******!”  Those ****** scum — this is what happens when you leave amateurs without adult supervision!

  “I don’t think these pricks ever had mothers to frak,” Seven says, clearly just as worked up.  “At least none that would care to acknowledge them.  But Nine’s got things in hand.”

  “How so?”
  Seven hesitates for a moment, then lowers his voice.  “We came here in daylight, so even though we got a decent look at the camp layout, we couldn’t get any sense of where it is.  Now it’s dark, she’ll be able to see the stars to get a location-fix, and that will let us know where to send the rescue-team.  From what we saw, they have to load the logs onto that Cormorant by hand-crane, so it’ll be here for a while.  Even if we can’t fly it, it has to have a wireless of some kind — unless Soren’s maritime safety laws are more lax than I imagine.”

  That prompts a wolf-like smile from Dieter Christian.  “Oh, they do go that far.  Indeed, they’re almost as firm as the planetary laws regarding rehabilitation of rapists.”

  Behind the bespectacled Cylon, Eleven perks up.  “How ‘firm’?”

  “Oh, they has a zero recidivism rate after conviction: the treatment involves a twelve-step programme, a meeting with a minister, and a two-metre drop.”

  “Good.”  The redhead’s jaw is set, her eyes blazing.  “No mercy.”

  “So say we all,” Twelve growls.

  “Opa?”  Woken by the thump of Dieter’s fist, as much as by the venom in the adults’ voices, Angela’s sitting up on her bunk, wiping her eyes.  “What’s going on?  Why’s everyone so upset?”

  “... nothing to worry about, Angie.”  Somehow, Dieter manages to keep his voice calm and soothing.  “The other people just wanted to... talk to Nine for a while.”

  Across the way, Ten waves Seven back to a seat, then sits on the floor and smiles across at the young girl.  “But since there’s so little to do right now, how about I tell you a story?  It’s a film I saw once, about a man who fought in a war, then tried to make a new life for himself when it was over, with a new group of friends he made along the way.”

  “Okay!” Angie chirps, sitting down opposite him, eyes almost comically wide and attentive.  “How does it start?”

  “With a song, actually,” Twelve chips in, leaning against the doorframe.  She and Ten share a look for a moment, that same odd non-verbal conversation going on, then she clears her throat and starts to sing, her voice a little unsteady.  “‘When the stars shine bright through the engine’s trail, and the dust of another world drops behind....’

— * — * — * — * —

Grünenhohl, Nordgebirges, Soren
That same time

  Peter Eismann slams the door of his utility and firmly locks it before he heads into the Wildschwein Bierstube, grumbling to himself as he goes.  Security is all well and good, but after all that time on a Cormorant, getting straight into a truck to drive the two hours to the nearest telephone is a pain in the ass.  Literally.

  The barkeeper has known him for years — admittedly as a petty thief named ‘Franz Vogel’, but that’s a small detail — and waves him over to the pay-phone from long habit.  Eismann drops in five Silberschilling and dials the pre-arranged number.  „Hallo, Onkel Eduard?  Franz hier. Ich habe mir die beiden Pakete, die Sie wollten abgeholt. Wo wollen Sie mir, sie zu nehmen, und wann?“
[“Hallo, Uncle Eduard?  It’s Franz.  I’ve picked up those two packages you wanted.  Where do you want me to take them, and when?”]

{„Ich weiß, dass Du die Pakete hast — und noch fünf extra!“} the man on the other end snaps.  {„Was zum Teufel hast Du Dir dabei gedacht?“}
{[“I know you picked up the packages — and five more, besides!  What the hell were you thinking?”]}

  Eismann blinks.  „Äh...ja. Die sind ein Bonus. Kleinigkeiten, nichts besonderes, niemand wird sie vermissen.“
[“Uh... yes, they were a bonus.  Small things, nothing addressed, nothing anyone will miss.”]

  {„‚Kleinigkeiten‘?! Du verdammter Idiot, hast Du auch nur die leisteste Ahnung wieviel die wert sind?“} ‘Uncle Edward’ near-shrieks.  {„Mach ein Radio an und finds raus! Und dann bring sie zurück — alle Sieben, ungeöffnet, unversehrt. Und zwar gestern. Und bete zu Gott dass Sie Dir niemand in Rechnung stellt!“}  He slams down the receiver before Eismann can respond.
{[“‘Small things’!?  You ****** idiot, do you have the slightest idea of how much they’re actually worth?  Turn on a radio and find out!  Then return them — all seven, unopened, undamaged.  And do it yesterday.  And pray to God that no-one takes their price out of your hide!”]}

  What the hell? he wonders, absently hanging up the handset.  Five months of planning and prep-work, six hours conducting the actual operation, two days on that damned flying bus — and now we’re just supposed to hand them all back before the off-worlders meet even the least of our demands?  What the hell happened while we were under communications silence?  “Gerhardt?  Radio, bitte?”

  Minutes later, after the leading story of the hourly news, he’s running from the Wild Boar like the legions of hell are at his heels.

OOS: Many thanks to walkir and GeshronTyler of for improving my German - with an axe, where necessary. ::)
« Last Edit: 26 March 2016, 04:10:48 by Trace Coburn »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours, Part Five
« Reply #16 on: 26 March 2016, 04:28:55 »
Blauhafen, Baronie Nordgebirge, Soren
21:56 local time (17:56 Stahlbrücke time), February 17, 2804

  One last ‘freedom fighter’ swaggers out of the bunkroom, refastening his trousers and sharing a leering laugh with his fellows.  As Walther Schneider goes past him, his leading shoulder encounters the Blausorener’s chest like a truck’s ram-bars hitting a boar, slamming him back against the door-frame.

„Du ungeschickter Idiot! Pass auf, wo Du hinläufst, Holzfäller!“ the gunman snarls, levering himself upright again.
[“You clumsy idiot!  Watch where you’re going, lumberjack!”]

  Walther doesn’t look back at him, his attention solely occupied with the only other person in that small room.  Even by the flickering light of the oil-lanterns, he can see the blonde girl kneeling on the lower bunk of the rear set, her wrists tied to the headframe crossbar with scarves, wearing only her sandals.  Her sundress and underwear lie on the upper bunk, placed there with incongruous neatness.  Did they let her remove them herself?  I didn’t know these Arschlöcher could be so polite and patient!  „Ihr seid fertig. Hau ab.“
[“You’re finished.  Get out.”]

  „Ach ja, richtig: Du bist der, der sich bemüht, höflich zu seiner Hure zu sein.  Wir entscheiden wann wir fertig sind, Herr Pfarrer!“ the snarler tells him, swinging his arms into his suspenders.
[“Oh, that’s right: you’re the one who insists on being polite to his whore.  We’ll decide when we’re finished, ‘Pastor’!”]

  His fellows stir, but don’t move to intervene either way.  Their comrade is taller and older than the Cormorant pilot, but also unarmed; Walther, on the other hand, may have a freckled face that still puts people in mind of impish schoolchildren, but he also has the scars and muscles of a man who spent ten years hewing down metre-thick ferro-maples with an axe before he changed careers.

  Walther ignores them all, still concerned only with assessing the girl’s condition.  He sits on the bunk next to her, swallowing as she flinches away.  It doesn’t look like they’ve beaten her at all — she must have been playing along to keep them from getting unruly.  Her eyes are red with the aftermath of tears, and he can see the lantern-light glinting off the mess the Blue Soreners have left on her face, back, and thighs, but she’s not bruised or bleeding that he can see.  „Jemand geh und hol eine Schüssel Wasser und einem Waschlappen.“
[“Someone get a bowl of water and a washcloth.”]

  One of the other thugs — Günther, he vaguely remembers — plays to his fellows with a crude snigger.  „Warum sollte sie Wasser brauchen? Wir haben sie die letzte Stunde mit Milch und Bratwurst gefüttert!“
[“Why would she need water?  We’ve been feeding her milk and bratwurst for the last hour!”]

  “No.”  The girl’s voice is faint and unsteady, but when Walther looks at her, he sees that even red-rimmed as they are, her hazel eyes are clear and... intent.  “Don’t clean me up.”

  The Blue Soreners understand enough of that to laugh uproariously, and the one Walther shouldered aside smirks.  „Sehen Sie, Herr Pfarrer? Sie weiß dass Huren natürlich schmutzig sind.“  His temper seemingly restored by the ‘joke’, the thug claps two of his fellows on their shoulders and urges them out, leaving only a single guard.  „Oskar, stell sicher dass er sich daran erinnert sie zu ihrem Zuhälter zu bringen wenn er mit ihr fertig ist.“
[“See, Pastor?  She knows that whores are naturally filthy.  Oskar, make sure he remembers to take her back to her pimp when he’s finished with her.”]

  „Du verdammter Arschficker,“ Walther mutters after them.  When the guard glares at him, he returns the foul look, silently daring the man to make something of it — with or without the MP, whatever he pleases.  Oskar’s the first to look away first.
[“You ****** ******.”]

  He’ll probably gun me down when I leave here.  So be it.  Dealing with these bully-boys grew tiresome weeks ago, and after seeing this, I will be happy to have nothing more to do with their thuggery.  Dismissing the ‘freedom fighter’ from his attention, Walther looks to the girl again.  Settling a gentle hand on her shoulder, and stifling a fresh wince as she cringes again, he tries to dredge up what English he remembers from his time in the Rotfelsen orphanage.  “Fräulein, after... after this, why do you not want to wash?”

  “Evidence.  DNA.”  Again, her voice is soft and unsteady, but her gaze is neither.  Traumatised, naked, tied to a bed... but the girl is as confident as if she was the one holding an automatic weapon.  “I will survive this.  And I will see them dead.”

  I admire your optimism.  Even if it may be misplaced.  “Please, be still.  I untie you now.”

  „Danke.“  As he gets to picking away at the ridiculously layered and tight knots in the scarves, she cocks her head.  “You’re not one of them, are you?  Uh, du nicht ein Aktivist, ja?

  “No.  I drive Cormorant.  Once, I work here as Holzfäller — cut trees.  I learned first-aid also, to help Holzfäller and camp Prostituierten.”

  “Why are you helping me?  Warum du hilfe mir?

  Walther half-chuckles, as much at the question’s intent as its mangled German.  “I hear this always from Holzfäller.  ‘Walther, why are you so nice to die Prostituierten?’ I tell you as I tell them: ‘Prostitution is a job; Prostituierten are women, people’.  As God commands, ‘hate the sin, love the sinner’?  Even if the job you can not respect, the person you should respect.”

  As her left wrist comes free, the young woman gasps in relief and flexes her fingers, then turns those unnervingly steady eyes on him again.  “I’m not a prostitute, Walther.  Ich bin ein Cylon Diplomat.”  That phrase is impeccably pronounced, exquisitely well-practiced.  “We were kidnapped for Blue Soren’s politics.”

  „Wiederholen Sie diese Geschichte so oft wie sie wollen, Schlampe. Es wird nicht glaubwürdiger,“ Oskar chips in scornfully.
[“Repeat that story all you like, slut.  It won’t get any more believable.”]

  Walther’s hands falter for a moment at hearing her declaration.  He heard radio reports about the ‘annexation’ of New Victoria by ‘walls of unidentified WarShips’ just before he started his current contract-tour here at Blauhafen, and the news stuck with him.  Mainly because it was so ****** alarming.  “Oh.”

  “Yeah, ‘oh’.  Mainly ‘Oh, Scheiße!’ for anybody with half a brain,” she adds, with a shaky laugh.

  Indeed.  The lumberjack-turned-pilot returns to untying her, finally getting her right hand free.  “What is your name?”

  “Oh, I’m Nine!” she chirps, massaging the reddened flesh on her wrists.  „Mein Name ist ‚Neun‘!“

  “‘Nine’?”  Well, I always thought off-world naming customs were strange.  Why should the Cylons be any different?  He stands up, giving a visibly surprised Nine room to stretch a little and sit down properly, and hands down her panties.  “My name is Walther.  And for what it is worth, Nine, I am deeply sorry about... this.  Please, know that not all Sorens are swine.”

  She says nothing, concentrating on re-donning her underwear.  When Walther offers her dress to her, she shakes her head and motions for him to step back, so she has room to stand up and stretch some more, seemingly heedless of Oskar’s renewed leering.  Sitting down again, she slips off her sandals, fiddling with the heels for a moment, and looks up at Walther with an odd smile.  “I’m glad you’re sorry, Walther.  It means I might not have to do something I’d be sorry about.”

  Then Nine stands again, dropping her shoes.  Walther has an instant to register that the sandals’ fall left something in each hand —

  — she takes a half-step forward and whip-spins on that spot, backhanding something at the guard —

  — a dull thunk as Oskar’s head hits the wall.  After a second or two, a thin trickle of blood starts running from his open mouth.

  Even as Walther goggles, realising that the Blausorener is dead where he stands — nailed to the wall like a moth — the Cylon lets her left hand fall back to her side and turns back to him.  She’s bouncing a razor-keen fifteen-centimetre knife in her right hand with deceptive idleness, still with that odd little smile.  “Walther, I’m leaving now.  Will you stand aside, or do I have to kill you after all?”

  Staring into those level eyes, now as hard and cold as gun-barrels, Walther finds himself lost for words for a moment.  When he finds them, they surprise them both: “I will drive you.  Just tell me where.”

— * — * — * — * —

  Thuringia is high overhead, but waning, so the pinkish light bathing the snow-strewn camp is dim.  Anyone who looks outside at the pair crossing back to the bunkhouse-turned-prison can see the girl’s bright pink dress well enough, though; the bulky figure right behind her, clad in a slouch-hat and oilskin duster, armed with a machine-pistol and ammunition-belt... well, he must be Blue Soren, escorting her back into captivity, ja?

  Certainly this is how it appears to the guard outside the cell-block.  He doesn’t seem to realise anything’s amiss until the girl comes within arm’s reach — and even as he starts frowning, Nine ends his puzzlement by driving her knife through his left eye.  She catches the crumpling body without visible effort, and Walther marvels at that even as he helps her haul it inside.  He hands her the keys off the dead man’s belt and shakes his head indulgently as she positively scampers down the corridor.  She is far stronger than she first looks, in so many ways....

  “Toldya I’d bring you back something nice!” she chirps to her friends, quickly unlocking the door to the other Cylons’ cell.  “I even got us a ride.  Anybody not having fun here, you can thank Walther when he gets us back to Schwarzwald.”

  Knowing a cue when he hears one, Walther comes up to them and offers the freed Cylons a slightly sheepish smile, as well as the guard’s MP and ammo-belt.

  “And he even knows the quick way to a woman’s heart: firepower,” the brunette — Twelve — grins fiercely, all but snatching the weapon off him as Nine unlocks the other cell.  “Let’s keep him.  Hey, Dieter, you know this design?  Anything I should know?”

  “Shh!  Angie, keep quiet, we’re leaving,” the mercenary breathes to his half-asleep granddaughter, bundling a blanket tightly about the girl before lifting her up in his arms.  “Tagliaferro Series-19 Machine-Carbine — Acadian knock-off of a Dalton weapon.  Pretty straight-forward as SMGs go: thirty-two-round magazine, selector settings go rear-to-front safe/single/full-auto, fires from an open bolt, cocks and ejects to the right.  Rate of fire’s about seven hundred r.p.m., so go easy on the trigger.”

  “Here.  I... never shoot.”  For his part, Walther gives Oskar’s MP and ammo-belt to the tweed-clad Cylon, Seven, then shrugs off the liberated hat and oilskin coat and extends them both to Nine.  “To look like Holzfäller, until we reach Cormorant.”

  Nine seems about to refuse when Eleven says something in their own language.  An exchange of looks follows — Nine surprised and ‘are you sure?’, Eleven nodding with that same firm surety Nine displayed back in the bunkroom — before the blonde accedes, hands her knife to the redhead, and takes the garments from Walther’s hands.

  For her part, Eleven shoots her friends a wicked smirk and croons something more in Cylon before slipping out the door, blade in hand.

  Seeing the quizzical frowns both Walther and Dieter send after her, Ten translates in a dry tone: “Loosely?  ‘Bored, now!’”

— * — * — * — * —

Schwarzwald Spacedrome, Baronie Schwarzwald, Soren
That same time (18:12 local time), February 17, 2804

  As it first appears through the low overcast that brought the dusk early, Sandy’s first impression of the Cylon shuttle is of a vaguely saurian midnight-blue brick with thruster nozzles at one end and cockpit-windows at the other.  She can’t make out much detail about the oval-winged fighters flanking it, but their overall shape puts her in mind of warbook wireframe-graphics of an HCT-213B or an MM-1 — though the absence of the Hellcat II’s vertical stabilisers or a Dragonfly’s V-tail makes a good distinguishing feature.  As the flight approaches the runway threshold, a pair of her grey-asparagus Vipers come into view, tailing the Cylon craft from several kilometres back, and they stay on the Cylon fighters’ tails as they peel off to the left and start climbing out again, leaving the shuttle to continue its landing.  Being tailed by potentially-hostile fighters would make most pilots uneasy, but it doesn’t seem to be bothering those Cylon pilots.  Speaks well to their discipline and temperament.

  Several minutes later, the shuttle’s stopped before the reception party; the side-hatch comes open, and a quintet of figures emerge.  Sandy manages to hold her response to a sudden widening of her eyes, but she can hear a stirring around her as people take in the leading pair of figures, all gleaming chrome plating, angular helmets, and sleek but fiercely functional-looking heavy automatic weapons.  Those bodies and limbs and joints have no room to hold human ones — those are automata, not battle-armour!

  Beside her, Stefan Klein’s composure is even more unflappable, though he does find himself voicing a thoughtful murmur.  “Tachikomas.  My, isn’t that interesting.  Tell me, Ambassador, are they remotely-operated, or autonomous and sapient?”

  On the other side, Ambassador Seven was expecting more hubbub, so he’s struck by the natives’ lack of astonishment.  His eyes narrow intently; poor diplomatic form, but in that instant he’s too interested to care.  “Our term for that model is ‘Legionnaires’.  You’ve seen automata before?”

  “A few,” Sandy nods, giving away as little as she can.  You wanted to see our reactions to this?  Two can play that game.  “The type I’m most familiar with are ‘Tachikomae’, an off-shoot of the SLDF’s Caspar project.  Though they’re not built on a humanoid body-plan.”

  Despite the Ambassador’s visible burning desire to press the issue, further discussion along that line is forestalled by the new arrivals reaching them.  Apart from the bodyguards, two are human-models — a Seven in a midnight-blue uniform, and a Ten in dark green fatigues — flanking a gold-plated Legionnaire whose collar-assembly bears three gold oak-leaves on a gold-edged silver backing-panel.  A Brigadier or naval Captain, if I remember the briefing-packet correctly, Sandy notes.

  It’s the Legionnaire who speaks, turning its visor on Ambassador Seven and rendering a precise salute.   His(?) synthesised voice is deep and resonant, yet carries a surprising degree of emotional undercurrent, and Sandy is struck by a semi-random thought that could be either a good omen or a horribly bad one: This is a being that has both feelings and self-control.  Most of all, it knows how to hate. 
«Ambassador Seven: Task Force Implacable, by your command.»

  “Thank you, Commander Aquila,” the Ambassador says gravely, returning the salute, then nodding to the others.  “I’d like to introduce you to Lieutenant-Colonel Cassandra Christian, commander of Christian’s Legion, and Stefan Klein, Baron Schwarzwald.”

  Aquila offers a hand for Sandy to shake, cocking his head in a remarkably fluent imitation of human body-language. 
«I’ve been meaning to confirm something since I first heard your rank.  Your order of battle resembles an understrength SLDF Division; I presume that limiting you to a colonelcy was a political concession to Soren authorities?»

  “Yes, Commander,” she nods, silently pushing up her estimate of Aquila’s intelligence several notches — and a little chagrined that she let herself set it so low to start with.  The grip of his metal fingers is cool, but no more than firm, obviously carefully calibrated.  She doesn’t let herself wonder exactly how much strength he’s holding in reserve.  For now, I’ll assume just ‘enough’ and go from there.  “I believe General Aleksandr Kerensky once said that politics is supposed to be humanity’s second oldest profession.”

«And then suggested it bore a close resemblance to the first.  Which always puzzled me: I have never understood how political activity could be compared to knapping flint,» he nods, turning to Klein and bowing in Soren fashion before addressing the Baron by his formal honorific.  «Ihr Erlaucht.  I would rather be visiting your demesne as a tourist, but I believe it would be more productive to direct that disappointment at Blue Soren.»

  There’s an undeniable note of dry humour in those remarks, and Klein finds himself laughing in agreement.  A Tachikoma on a charm offensive?  These days we live in are strange and full of wonders.  “Indeed, Commander.”

«Please let me present my officers: Centurion (Seven) Kenway, my Aide-de-Camp, and Lieutenant-Colonel (Ten) Rebais, from my ground-forces contingent.»

  “As the Commander does, I wish all of you could have come to Soren under better circumstances,” Klein says evenly.  “Please, come inside.  We can’t give you direct access to Landesschützer facilities, you understand, but we’ve had a secondary traffic-control room repurposed so we can all work from a common appreciation of the situation.”

  A jerk of Aquila’s head sends the bodyguard Legionnaires back to the shuttle, and Sandy leads the group past a pair of hastily-stationed Landesschützer sentries into the jerry-rigged Op-Centre.  Inside, her aide Andreas looks up from the holotank, snaps to attention and salutes her, then turns back to intently studying the projected globular map of the planet.  “This is getting more complicated by the minute, Oberstleutnant.  A crew from Schwarzwald Television News just made a live report on a demonstration in Präriestadt.  It looked pretty ragged, so it’s probably genuine grass-roots stuff.  The spokesman I saw more-or-less said they were calling for the release of the hostages, the suppression of Blue Soren, and basically anything that keeps the Legion and the Landesschützer between Soren and the Cylons.”

  “So how did Große Prärie take that?” she wonders, accepting the inevitable noteboard from a yeoman.   A couple of steps behind her, Ambassador Seven has drawn aside the newly-arrived Cylon officers so they can have a quick, quiet conversation in their own language, presumably mutual status updates.

  “The Präriestadt Miliz broke up the ‘illegal assembly’.  With live rounds from KG53s and MG32s,” he answers, voice heavy with revulsion.  “The camera-crew are off the air for now — dead or in custody, for all we know — but we’ve got confirmation of at least fifty deaths amongst the protestors.  For now, there’s no way of knowing whether the ‘riot-suppression’ orders came from Waldgraf Präriestadt or the Baron himself.”  He pauses for a moment, then gets to the really bad news.  “We also have SIGINT that suggests at least one company of Miliz that was moving against the demonstrators got ambushed before they reached the perimeter.  It appears they were marching down a street near the city centre when ‘unknown insurrectionists’ popped out of the upper-storey windows and mowed them all down with automatic weapons.”

  “Scheiße.  Blue Soren trying to discredit us?”

  He shrugs, but his expression is dubious.  “Maybe.  Or maybe someone who wants this whole thing to cook off as spectacularly as possible.”

  ****** Salernans!  “‘Complicated’ is not the word I would choose, Andreas,” she notes sourly.

  Their brief conference finished, the knot of Cylons approach the holotable, and the locals standing about it.  The Ambassador seems about to speak, but a radio-technician pre-empts him by whirling to face Sandy.  “Oberstleutnant, das Engelchen am Apparat!”

  “What?” she blinks, snatching the offered handset from him.  “Angie?”

  {“It’s me, Mama!”} responds a child’s voice distorted by static and anxiety... and Sandy’s heart freezes in her chest as she hears the sporadic, muffled crackle of small-arms fire in the background.  {“We managed to get to the Cormorant, but the baddies are chasing us and Opa and the Cylons are ‘keeping them away’ until we can take off.”}

  At a glance from Christian, the techs reconfigure the holotable to show the relevant portion of Soren and its airspace and low orbitals, with the signal’s back-traced route-path in orange.  It bounced through two of the Legion’s comm.-satellites on its way from —

  Well, Scheiße! flashes across her mind.  They took them to Nordgebirge?  Oh, you dirty, rotten, tricky, cunning ******!  “Angie?  What are you supposed to say if someone tells you I sent them to get you?”

  {“Um... uh... oh, right, now I remember: ‘****** you with Kerensky’s Scorpion!’”

  Sandy feels her shoulders sag a little in relief.  “‘Don’t be stupid: Kerensky rides an Orion!’” she replies.  It’s her, all right.  The holotable’s being updated again, a secondary screen showing real-time satellite IIR video of the camp: she can make out the heated huts, the Cormorant in its slip, the hot-spot of its reactor cycling up to operating temperatures — and at least three men firing towards it, with more running to join them, one of them carrying what looks like a recoilless rifle.  Even as she watches, one of the gunmen collapses sideways and goes still.  “Angie, we’ll come to get you as soon as we can, but tell whoever’s driving that you need to get out of there as soon as possible, okay?”

  {“Okay, Mama.  Oh, uh, Nine wants to talk to you and the Mabassador, if he’s there?”}

  Despite herself, Sandy smiles a little; Angie’s always had trouble pronouncing that word.  “He is.”  She hands off the receiver and keeps half an eye on the overhead imagery as Ambassador Seven shares a brief conversation with Nine.  She doesn’t understand the words, but the staccato, information-dense rhythm of battle-language is unmistakeable.

  Once Nine signs off, the Ambassador returns the handset and nods to the holotable.  “This is another complication, isn’t it?  As I recall, Nordgebirge favours Schwarzwald and Österreich, but not overwhelmingly so.  Launching a rescue operation on their territory will, erm, hurt that.”

  “It gets better, Sir,” Andreas snorts, pulling up another function.  Even as the Cormorant on Sandy’s screen starts pulling away from the dock, heedless of the small-arms fire sent after it — and the rocket that explodes in the water five metres behind one wingtip — Andreas is waving a hand at the cloud-formations on the map-projection.  “Weather’s turning to dogshit over that region of Nordgebirge: we’ve got a late-spring cold-front coming up off the South Pole, set to dump a half-metre of snow on that camp in the next six hours, and it’s already started a massive oceanic storm to the west and north-west.  The Cormorant being a Wing-in-Ground-Effect craft, flying over fifteen-metre waves is not an option.  Their pilot will have to turn north-east, and the only place they can land safely to ride out the weather before it actually catches them is here.”  One finger pokes at the legend ‘Barmherzigkeitsinsel’, hovering over a small green blob in the southern Matheson Sea.  “Technically, Compassion Island is uninhabited, but that just makes it a perfect waypoint for the smuggling-routes into Große Prärie.”

  “Smugglers?” the Ambassador asks.

  “You’d be surprised how much the Große Prärie Adel will pay for consumer electronics,” Andreas shrugs.

  “Not to mention ‘literature and recordings of dubious moral content’,” Sandy adds, her tone dry, but absent; her focus is on the screen showing the Cormorant, now beyond the range of the gunmen ashore and picking up speed, and on the map showing the local geography and weather.  “Whether that’s history-texts printed on Highside or the latest seasons of their favourite Ensenadan telenovelas explicitas.”  Dammit, that snow-storm’s going to clobber Totenkopf Spur before 4th Wing can launch a CAP to the island, and Mannerheim Valley’s got its hands full with the Große Prärie Miliz.  It’d be faster to get Vipers and troops down from Bifrost than the other ground-bases, and even so, the rescue-party’s shuttle won’t get there before the weather closes the airspace!  “We need to keep friendly skies over that Cormorant, Andreas.  Baron Klein, could I prevail upon you to contact your counterpart in Nordgebirge?  Tell him that we’ve located the aircraft currently carrying the hostages, and that in three hours, I’ll be enacting and enforcing a three-hundred-kilometre total exclusion zone around Compassion Island — Condition Feral.  His forces will not be an exception.”

  Baron Schwarzwald arches a brow at her.  Compassion Island may be a godforsaken, windswept fly-speck, but it’s still Nordgebirge territory, and the STATFOR agreement requires that the Landesschützer or the Legion secure prior approval from a Baron to undertake major activities within his borders.  Normally it’s a rubber-stamp approval, especially from Nordgebirge, but these are hardly ‘normal’ circumstances!  Thomas Falke’s going to have a hard time swallowing that, Sandy.  And there’s no evidence that any of his people are complicit in this.

  She returns a level look.  There’s no evidence that they aren’t, either.  This is happening, Stefan, and Thomas knows that he can’t stop me doing it.

  He’ll order his people to fight yours, if he feels he has to.  The icons of a Nordgebirge naval task-force are visible on the holomap, barely a thousand kilometres east of Barmherzigkeitsinsel: six ‘Landherr’-class anti-aerospace frigates, escorting an aircraft carrier and a helicopter-carrier full of Luftsturmjäger.

  And God forbid he tries, because I don’t want to slaughter that many of his men for the sake of his pride!

«Colonel, if I may?»  Aquila has been trading a silent conversation of his own with Ambassador Seven, and now he steps forward.  «I have a shuttle-load of troops standing by on Intransigent, including an emergency medical team.  I can have them on this ‘Compassion Island’ ninety minutes from giving the word — they’ll arrive before the storm can.  If nothing else, they can protect the escapees from any intervention by these smugglers.  And most of those troops are Legionnaires — immune to most environmental concerns and needing little by way of supplies, so what they do carry will go further towards supporting the escapees.»

  Oberstleutnant Cassandra Christian considers that for a long, agonising moment, weighing the political fallout of that against...  Against the safety of my daughter and father!  There is no choice.  “One shuttle, Commander — no more than thirty people aboard.  My fighters will escort them down; if they deviate from approved course, I’ll be obliged to shoot them down.  Once they land, my fighters will remain to fly CAP over the island, above the weather.  Hopefully that compromise will help soothe the Barons’ hurt feelings.”

«Agreed on all points.»  He nods to Centurion Kenway, who speaks into a hand-comm. for a moment.  For her own part, Sandy has Andreas contact Cougar Peak, so the Österreich-based 2nd Wing can get their Vipers in the air, then personally updates 6th Wing on Bifrost.

  As she finishes, she looks back to the holotable, seeing a utility truck pull into the logging camp.  A single man gets out, looking about at the whole place roiling like a kicked ant-hill, his body-language speaking to deep bewilderment.  I can hear you now, my friend: ‘I wasn’t gone all that long!  Why is everything on fire?’

— * — * — * — * —

Blauhafen, Baronie Nordgebirge, Soren
That same time (22:33 local time)

  “What the hell is going on?” Eismann asks no-one in particular.  He could hear the shooting and rocket-fire when he crested the ridgeline three kilometres away!  One of his men scampers around the corner of a building, headed for the dock with a CAT-19 in his hands, only to stop short when he sees his commander.  “Wilson, what happened?”

  “The hostages — they got loose somehow,” Wilson blurts.  “They took the Cormorant, it’s gone, they’re gone, all of them.”

  And the churning mass of horror in Eismann’s stomach drops through his feet.  “Oh, for the love of God,” he mutters sickly, sagging against the truck’s engine-bay.  We had such a perfect plan.  Why is everything going so wrong?  “Wilson, find every one of ours who can still move.  Gather everything you can at the docks — warm up the launch and be ready to leave in twenty minutes.”

  “What?  But there’s a snowstorm coming up from the south —”

  “They’ve radioed for help, you ape!  In two hours, this place is going to be so full of Legion goons you’ll think it’s Saturday night in a Bierstube!” Eismann returns sharply.  “We have to get out of here before they arrive!  Now move, God damnit!”

  As Wilson makes to run past him, a thought occurs to Eismann and he grabs the other man’s arm.  “No, wait: have them come here.  We can’t risk trying to get to Schwarzfisch — right now, Große Prärie’s got as much reason to want us dead as the Legion.”  No need to complicate matters by mentioning the Cylons before this cluster gets at least a little ******.  “Get all our people to the five-ton, then load as much material as you can in the next fifteen minutes.  After that, meet me at the boiler-house with two boxes of gelignite and detonation gear.”  These damned woodcutters can identify us, and we don’t have time to hunt them all down with small-arms.  But if Wilson’s right about the storm....

OOS: Many thanks to walkir and GeshronTyler of for improving my German.
  For those who may care, the Carbine, Automatic, Tagliaferro, Series-19 looks and performs very much like an M11/9 with an after-market Lage Manufacturing MAX-11 Mk.1 upper, including fixed iron sights and (integral) fixed foregrip:
  The main difference is that instead of the MAX-11’s non-reciprocating cocking-handle on the left, the CAT-19 has an M1A1 Thompson-style circular cocking handle integral to the bolt assembly, mounted on the right side of the receiver.
  Funny thing is, when I outlined this chapter in my head, Walther was actually a young Blue Sorener, a True Believer who suddenly found himself confronted by the differences between what his cause extolls, what his comrades encourage, and what his conscience demands.  He would’ve come down in favour of being showing another human being an ounce of simple decency, untied Nine — and promptly been shanked in the face by her cyberspur at the start of her escape.  When I started writing it, however, he came out as a late-twenties long-haul trucker who realised he’d taken a contract for the wrong cargo, one of those humble men whose simple decencies derail the ambitions of tyrants and despots.

Siegfried Marcus

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Re: The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
« Reply #17 on: 09 April 2016, 17:20:13 »
Wow, a story 4 years in the making.  I like it, but so far I think it could stand alone just as easily as in the Battletech universe.  I like how it builds from small scale toward, what you've indicated will be a much larger conflict.
Here is my AU story set in the Free Rasalhague Republic.

Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
« Reply #18 on: 10 April 2016, 20:13:43 »
Wow, a story 4 years in the making.  I like it, but so far I think it could stand alone just as easily as in the Battletech universe.  I like how it builds from small scale toward, what you've indicated will be a much larger conflict.
  Good Fences is actually a prequel of sorts, set some six years before the war ‘really’ starts.  The first story I wrote in this particular AU is Ense Petit Placidam, set in 2827, followed by Meeting Engagement in early 2829.  The Pieces of War anthology jumps all around the timeline, mainly providing background details to other ‘main’ fics in the setting.  Stories like Sea of Heartbreak (in the anthology) or Ense Petit Placidam are a little more clearly BT-based than this one, since they actually feature Giant Stompy Robots.  :D  Whether Good Fences will... well, that kind of depends on what Große Prärie and his underlings/allies do while I’m writing the next part.  The smart move would be to quit while they can still salvage the situation, but some people just refuse to obey Healey’s First Law of Holes....


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Re: The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
« Reply #19 on: 11 April 2016, 08:07:17 »
These were all great stories. I still go back and read them now and then. I know I'm not the only one who'd love to read more from you, Trace.  O0


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Re: The Virginia War - Good Fences Make Good Neighbours
« Reply #20 on: 16 April 2016, 19:22:07 »
now to really go in and do some serior reading of this setting which what i have read is kinda cool though very weird to say the least.