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Author Topic: The Virginia War - Pieces of War  (Read 22505 times)

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« on: 14 October 2011, 08:52:45 »
  “I never heard of no ‘Heartbreak Ridge’.”
  “It ain’t in any of the history books.  It was just a little
piece of war.”

  That’s essentially my manifesto for this little anthology - it’s going to be a sort of holding-area for ficlets and scenes that may or may not be germane to the main plot of the Virginia War stories.  It’s also going to be a way for me to get almost right into writing battle-scenes, instead of bogging down with set-up and politics along the way, and hopefully thus get some momentum back into my writing overall.  Some of these stories - like this first one coming up, ‘Sea of Heartbreak’ - will have a certain degree of impact on events beyond their immediate scope, but I’m going to try to keep that in the background so everybody can concentrate on the stuff blowing up.  ;D

Chronological Index:
2825-05-09 — Sea of Heartbreak pt.1, pt.2, pt.3, pt.4a, pt.4b
2827-08-06 — Deep Blue Sea (supports Ense Petit Placidam)
2827-09-08 — Pour Encourager Les Autres (out-take from Ense Petit Placidam)
2829-01-07 — Humility is Good for the Soul (out-take from Meeting Engagement)
2829-03-05 — Coming Clean (out-take from Meeting Engagement(?))
« Last Edit: 10 April 2016, 20:46:30 by Trace Coburn »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.01
« Reply #1 on: 14 October 2011, 08:56:34 »
LORKDAL, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Nadir jump-point
May 9, 2825


  Even given Lorkdal’s status as a military listening post, even with its potentially lucrative mineral deposits, the Concordat had to strip its population down to bare minimums during the post-Exodus disruptions.  The national economy might be recovering now that Protector Anastasia’s started investing in it again, including more surveys and test-mines on Lorkdal, but the planet’s population is still under half a million, and a recharge-/sentry-station at the nadir jump-point remains on the ‘to do’ list.

  The pirates know that.

  The planetary garrison does its best to cover the gap in their early-warning coverage with rotating flights of small-craft from their bases on the Lorkdal’s second moon, Hincapie.

  The pirates know that, too.

- * - * - * - * -


  “Ah, shit,” Force Sergeant Teresa Lopez groans, slinging a rat-pack across the Tigress’ cockpit at Air Vice-Chief Bill Fuentes.  “Control, this is Delta Three at the nadir, we’ve got emergence flares; jump-clock is running.”  Honest traffic uses the zenith point, so it can’t be anyone friendly.

  “Whaizzit, Teri?” the still-sleepy command-pilot asks, zipping himself out of his sleeping-bag with one hand, the other absently grabbing the bagged food before it can keep bouncing off all the surfaces in the cockpit.  The joys of microgravity.  “Unscheduled transit?”

  “Yup.”

  “Shit.”

  “Yup.”

  “Run for it?”

  “Already headed home.”

  “ID?”

  “Nothing yet.  Wait!”  One IR bloom ends as a ship snaps into being.  Lopez zooms the rear cameras in on their guests... and swears again.  “Smaller one’s a Vanguard-class, full collars – looks like three DroST-IIa’s and a Jumbo.  They’re undocking now.  I – aw, shit!”

  “What the hell is that?” Fuentes wonders, zooming again.

  “Graziani-class - compact-core freighter, looks like it’s been bubba’d into a corsair.”

  “The hell’s one of those doing out this way?”

  Lopez answers by zooming even tighter on both ships.  Pirates generally don’t bother with consistent unit liveries, but these ones are different: under the dings, scrapes and wear of years in space, all of the incoming vessels are painted in mud-and-maroon camo, with a head-down scorpion emblazoned on their prows and flanks.

  “Oh, ******.”

- * - * - * - * -


Leighton (Lorkdal planetary capital)
Militia HQ


  “Where the hell did the Tortugans get a ****** Graziani?” Colonel David Benitez wonders, glaring at the image.  Delta Three’s already far ahead of the incoming, burning for its base on Lorkdal’s second moon, and the wrenches might just get enough time to ‘turn’ the ship before the pirates arrive over Lorkdal itself, but they’re still transmitting as much data as they can.  The Jumbo has apparently undergone a carrier-conversion, and it’s sticking with the Vanguard to protect the other Droppers’ ride home.  “If the Salernans or Acadians had lost one to pirates out this way, they’d’ve bitched to us about it!”  Probably along with a lot of snide commentary about how us poor ferals don’t know shit about running a real navy and we should just let the oh-so-mighty GCC (Fleet) patrol our space for us!

  His counterpart gives him the kind of look a motherly teacher gives a none-too-bright student.  Given that Angela Christian’s pious name is attached to a walking invitation to sin, it’s kind of an incongruous sight.  “They probably bought the damned thing, Dave.  The Tortugans have taken what?  Five of your JumpShips, just in the last three years?  They had to fence the damned things somewhere, the Cajuns build Grazianis commercially, and they’d just love to get around the Prince’s monopoly on docking-collar and standard-core technology.  Hell, they probably bought these as part of the deal.”  ‘Faith’ - some callsigns are inevitable – taps the controls and highlights one of the fighters screening the Vanguard.  The silhouette is unmistakeable, especially to a woman who grew up in the Cavaretta Expanse... and she knows Benitez has seen enough of them to know it instantly, too.

  “Leones?” Benitez’ fury bares his teeth.  “Those ****** -!  I can understand the Davions ‘losing’ shipments of Wasps to the Tortugans to stick it to us, but why the hell -?”

  “Old Acadian saying, Dave: ‘business is business’.”  Faith shrugs, then returns to immediate concerns.  “Best guess, the Graziani is one of their landing-ship conversions: they normally carry a ’Mech battalion and a regiment of drop-infantry, plus a couple of dozen fighters in support, maybe more if the Cajuns customised the thing for them.  Figure the DroSTs are rigged for a company of ’Mechs each, that makes at least two battalions of ’Mechs coming our way, maybe even a full regiment.  No way of being sure what they’ll go for, either.  How do you want to split things?”

  “The TDF would have a collective conniption if my people leave Leighton.”  Not only is it the planetary capital and primary militia base on-planet, it’s also the largest population-centre, home to almost two hundred thousand fellow Taurians.  “Their next most likely target is over here, at Determination.  Everybody’s in the market for germanium.  Can your battalion handle it?”

  “Between us and the local militia, we can sure as hell hurt ’em,” Faith nods, completely confident.  “If they land their full strength on one of us, the other comes in behind ’em to play hammer.  If they split their forces, we each face our own strength in ’Mechs, and the Tortugans don’t have the support forces we will.  D’you reckon anyone ever told them about the golden 3:1 ratio?”

  “Too bad if they didn’t.  Or if they don’t realise you’re here.  But their ignorance is not my problem.”

- * - * - * - * -


Determination mining settlement
May 11, 2825


  The pirates took their time about transiting to orbit, so it’s local night by the time they begin their assault on the planet.  The Tigersnake ’Mech-landers carried by a Graziani aren’t orbital-drop capable, so while the pirate Leones and the defenders’ TAF-143s and TiG-15s tear across the skies trying to take control of them (thus removing themselves from the ground-fight), the attack comes in two waves.  The DroSTs arrive first by just a few minutes and immediately begin their runs, disgorging the pirate force’s entire complement of jump-capable ’Mechs into the skies – two companies at Determination, another just outside Leighton to secure a landing-zone - while the Graziani manoeuvres to deploy its parasites, and the ground-bound mediums and heavies they’re carrying, against the main defences at the planetary capital.

  Looking up from Determination, the waiting defenders can see the Tortugan ’Mechs as tiny sparks moving across the star-spangled blackness, coming down in little clusters of four that are tighter than one would expect from bandits.  It’s actually not that bad a plan: while their heavy forces tie up the main body of defenders, two companies of Wasps and Shadow Hawks will land on the real target, polish off the town militia’s handful of armed Crosscuts and missile-vehicles, then secure a few hundred tons of germanium ore for re-sale to certain shipwrights who aren’t picky about where their strategic minerals come from.  The pirates know that Determination is under-defended, and that this will be the easy part of the operation.

- * - * - * - * -


  Inside the cockpit of a Cylon-made Artemis, a ’Mech that looks like a Griffin re-imagined by an evil geometry major, the star of four carets on Colonel Christian’s targeting display locks around a descending Shadow Hawk, and the woman behind it bares her teeth in what some might mistake for a smile.  “All Delta units, this is Faith: Fire-Plan Alpha-Three.  Execute.”

  Across the ridgeline south of Determination, ‘innocuous boulders’ shift and rear up, shedding the camo-wraps to reveal the entirety of Third Battalion, Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade.  Two dozen panther-like Sphinxes shake off their covers and turn their back-mounted missile-pods skywards, each rippling off a salvo of ten Spathas at its chosen target.  The half-dozen pirate Shadow Hawks (presumably the lance-commanders) also draw the attention of a pair of Artemis apiece, which precede their missile-volleys with actinic-purple spears of charged particles whose after-images slash open the night sky.

  Five klicks north of the Tortugans’ chosen landing-field, the turrets of Determination’s fixed defences also snarl to life, and yellow braids of autocannon tracer and the fiery plumes of even more missiles reach up for the falling pirates.

  It’s essentially a ’Mech-scale firing squad.  The Tortugans are all facing the town, expecting it to be the only source of resistance, and they’re all but helpless in the air, with no cover to hide behind and no way to dodge incoming fire.  Any hit that damages a ’Mech’s jump-jets or gyro, or tips it off the vertical, is almost as fatal as one that destroys the reactor or cockpit.  Half a dozen Tortugan machines simply explode in mid-air, and almost as many lose lift or control and simply tumble from the sky, smashing themselves to scrap on the rocky ground outside the town.

  The Tortugans react, of course; they might have been caught in a near-perfect ambush, but no-one ever said they were cowards, let alone poor ’Mech-jocks.  Most of the pirate Wasps have been refitted with rocket-pods in place of their SRM launcher, and those that can bring them to bear cut loose, even from beyond effective range, the flares of the launch-tubes in each vambrace illuminating each machine for a moment and layering even more carbon-scoring onto their battered paint-jobs.  The Shadow Hawks have more and heavier weapons that can cover the distance to their tormentors, and those that still can unleash their own particle-bolts, streams of autocannon shells, rockets, and long-range missiles.

  For all it avails them, they might as well have saved their ammunition.  They were all looking the wrong way to engage the Cylon ’Mechs, and though some of their fire strikes inside the town walls, smashing some buildings and starting fires, only one turret falls silent under their guns.

  Then the survivors make their landings, and the defenders fire their second volley of the engagement.  Fresh streams of autocannon fire and waves of missiles from the town’s fixed defences rip into the baker’s dozen of surviving pirate ’Mechs like a deadly horizontal fireworks display.  Third Battalion’s fire plunges down on them from the top of a ridgeline ninety metres above them and less than two kilometres to their south, point-blank range for Cylon missiles and particle-weapons, and now the same amount of firepower is concentrated on half as many targets.

  A moment after the last missiles arrive, the last of the pirate ’Mechs pitches onto its face and explodes from within.

  “All Delta units, this is Faith: check fire.  I say again: check fire.”  Christian surveys the field, counting the hulks.  Some stand ablaze like torches; others lie sprawled like slain giants at the bases of columns of smoke, flames roiling from every seam; still more lie dismembered and still, somehow not on fire but manifestly out of action.  She reaches the full two dozen and nods to herself in satisfaction.  “Nicely done, everyone.  Typhoon Actual, this is Faith: we’re going to get back on our DropShip and head back to Leighton – they might need our help over there.  The salvage is all yours.”

  {“Not that there’s much left, but thanks!”} the Determination garrison-commander snorts.  {“You don’t hang around after you break somebody’s heart, do you?”}

  “Get some, get gone: that’s me.”

  And as Third Battalion’s BattleMechs pick their way down off what will soon be formally dubbed Heartbreak Ridge towards the Leatherneck that brought them here, the shattered wreck of that last Tortugan Shadow Hawk lies in the midst of its fellows’ ruin, the flames rampaging through its interior and cockpit slowly peeling off the name painted under its canopy.

  Armand Trevaline’s master plan for another massive haul has died with him.

---      ---      ---      ---      ---

  TBC....

---      ---      ---      ---      ---
---      ---      ---      ---      ---
---      ---      ---      ---      ---

Dramatis Personae

TAURIAN
Colonel David Benitez, CO, Lorkdal planetary militia, Taurian Concordat Army
  (Adam Beach)


FREEDOM FIVE 
Colonel Angela “Faith” Christian, CO, Third Battalion, Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade
  (Eliza Dushku)
Seven
  (Alexis Denisoff)
Nine
  (Sarah Michelle Gellar)
Ten
  (Nicholas Brendon)
Eleven
  (Alyson Hannigan)
Twelve
  (Charisma Carpenter)


TORTUGAN CORSAIRS
Peter deVries, Captain, Privateer Scorpion Nest, Tortugan Corsairs
  (Nick Chinlund)
« Last Edit: 07 November 2011, 02:58:52 by Trace Coburn »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.02
« Reply #2 on: 20 October 2011, 07:53:23 »
LORKDAL, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Graziani-class privateer Scorpion Nest, approaching Lorkdal orbit
May 11, 2825


  “Has that guy gone to sleep, or something?” the tactical officer wonders, staring at an icon in the main holotank.

  Captain Peter deVries turns an ‘are-you-a-complete-idiot?’ look on him.  “Giorgio, we’re less than ten minutes from our parking orbit over the planet, and we’ve got three Taurus-GunShips, six Tigresses, and two dozen Vipers bearing down on us from Hincapie that’ll be here in about twenty.  Why are you so preoccupied with a damned Jumbo that’s probably just some Periphery trader who’s trying to wait us out in orbit?”

  “Because something feels off, Peter, and if I’ve learned anything fighting the Union, it’s that ‘off’ usually means trouble,” Giorgio d’Ottavio returns, nibbling at a fingertip as he thinks.  “Assuming he is a trader, let’s follow the logic.  He needs the cash from the cargo he’s loading, which is probably germanium, so he keeps loading until the last possible second while we’re burning in-system, then takes off.  Canny.  He can’t make a run for it while our fighters and shuttles can run him down, so he decides to wait in orbit until we’re busy with the militia before he makes his getaway burn for the zenith point and whatever JumpShip may be there.  Sensible.  He’s staying in the orbitals over Leighton because the city’s surface-batteries mean anyone we try to send after at him before the militia arrives will get shredded by anti-ship lasers and cap-missiles.  Smart.  But now the militia’s so close we couldn’t hope to overhaul him before they intercept us, and he’s still here.  Peter, either he’s had a sudden, massive attack of ‘stupid’, or there’s something else going on here.”

  “Status change!” a rating sings out.  “Hostile One’s stopped decelerating.”

  “They’re done with the transit, and now they’re manoeuvring to engage,” d’Ottavio nods absently, still frowning at the wayward Jumbo.

  “George, will you friggin’ well focus?” deVries demands, resisting the impulse to smack his ‘advisor’ upside the head.  “Wladimir, Strike Plan Able Three.  Launch.”

  “Yes, sir.”

  Like others of her class, Scorpion Nest is essentially two huge, boxy cargo-bays welded to either side of a central engineering ‘spine’ (including the K-F drive), with another box at the aft end holding the transit drives and a prism-like control and habitation section at the front end, which is joined to the cargo-bays by a pair of contra-rotating grav-decks.  With deVries’ order, a series of hatches along the dorsal and ventral surfaces of the forward half of each cargo-section silently swing open, and flight after flight after flight of brand-new, Acadian-built Leone light starfighters in Tortugan mud-and-maroon livery starts arcing out of the hangars within, forming up before their carrier.  Meant to secure control of the skies over the planet, Alpha and Delta wings are armed purely with Acadian-made Hatchet-XO missiles; Bravo wing are carrying anti-ship missiles instead, so they can cripple (and hopefully kill) those damnable GunShips before they can range on Scorpion Nest.

  d’Ottavio is here because of his experience in carrier operations, and for a moment he opens his mouth to protest deVries’ chosen plan... then closes it as he considers the situation.  Able Three is an acceptable compromise: it devotes more than enough firepower to destroying the militia, but it also leaves Charlie wing as a reserve, in case Scorpion Nest comes under attack from an unexpected direction or Trevaline’s people need air-support.

  If the Taurian force is at all worried by facing fifty-four aerospace fighters to their own twenty-four, deVries can’t see a sign of it; their approach never wavers by so much as a mil.  Can’t tell if that makes them brave, stubborn, dumb, or all three.  Hard to tell the difference with the Bulls.

  “Separation from their Vipers, Sir!” the tracking rating says.  “Small objects, no emissions, not under power - looks like they’re jettisoning drop-tanks.”

  “Emptied them to get here, and now they’ll have full internal tanks for the fight,” d’Ottavio judges.  “Smart move, but it costs them a quarter of their missile-load.  We’ll have them on ammunition endurance.”

  “What the ******?

  d’Ottavio’s head snaps back around at that yelp.  Oh, God damn it, I hate being right!  The Jumbo’s yellow ‘neutral Ship’ icon, formerly bereft of an identifying transponder-code, has shifted to an all-too-familiar registry and is spawning shoals of other icons: fighters.

  “Who or what the ****** is the ‘Cylon Protectorate Navy’?” deVries asks blankly.  Like almost everyone else on the bridge, he’s more baffled than alarmed.  “And what the hell –”

  d’Ottavio doesn’t share his indecision.  “Flag that Jumbo as a carrier!  Designate the new contacts as Hostile Two and give me a raid-count and classifications now!” he barks.  Looking to deVries, he jabs the man in the ribs to bring him back into focus.  “The Cylons have some of their people working as mercenaries, Peter.  Those tank-born do-gooder bastards helped the Taurians lay a damned ambush for us!”  And we’re too deep into it to get out.  This bucket’s so slow that the GunShips and Tigresses can keep with us all the way to the damned jump-point!

  deVries finally shakes off his daze and glances at his fighter-controller again.  “Wladimir, divert Alpha wing to deal with the ‘Cylons’, then launch Charlie to support them.”

  “Hostile Two, raid-count forty: twenty Vipers, twenty... something else I don’t recognise!” the tech says helplessly, bringing up a zoom-picture.

  d’Ottavio only needs one glance.  “Cylon Raiders,” he says promptly.  “They perform like Sparrowhawks, more or less.”  And they’re in the warbook, you moron, so why didn’t you run them through there before announcing your ignorance to the world?  I know you’re pirates, not trained regulars, but honestly: why must I be surrounded by ****** idiots?

  The Captain takes a long look at the odds... then finally shakes his head.  Trevaline said this would be ‘an easy job’.  The ass!  “Alice, raise Boss Trevaline and tell him he needs to get back up here now.  Let him know what we’re up against, and that we’ll stay as long as we can, but one way or another, we’re not going to be here in an hour.”

  d’Ottavio lowers his voice and steps closer to deVries.  “Peter, Cylon missiles out-range yours and they’re smart enough to ignore your decoys.”  Well, Salernan missiles and decoys.  Not to mention those fighters we sold you, the upgrades for some of your ’Mechs... even this bloody ’Ship!  This is a ****** disaster.  Christ, if they take this ship – worse, if they catch me! - they’ll throw in with the damned Union for sure!  “Alpha and Charlie wings won’t be enough to stop that many Cylon fighters, and we’ll still have the Taurians to deal with.  We have to get out of here now.”

  “You mean just abandon Trevaline outright?”  Not that the idea isn’t tempting right now, but there’s one tiny flaw....  “What happens if he survives?  This is a man who slow-roasts people who don’t surrender to him soon enough!  If we run and he makes it back, we’ll be lucky if he just skins us alive!”

  “Communications are jammed, sir – we can’t get through to Boss Trevaline!”

  “Peter, for God’s sake -!”

  “New contacts climbing out from Leighton, designating as Hostile Three, raid-count thirty-plus - more Raiders and Vipers, all under Cylon IFF!”

  deVries turns an incredulous look on the rating.  “You’re kidding, right?”

- * - * - * - * -


Glenfiddich’s Trace, north-west of Leighton
That same time


  Lorkdal’s planetary capital is on an estuary in the planet’s tropical zone, where the centuries-old multiple-canopy growth is so entrenched that when the original survey-site was expanded into a permanent settlement a century ago, the WorkMechs couldn’t get started until the jungle had been thinned by liberal application of fuel-air explosives.  Trying to bull a BattleMech through vegetation that dense is as futile as an infantryman trying to walk through a ferrocrete wall.

  With a militia battalion and anti-aerospace batteries waiting and eager to give them a warm welcome, landing in Leighton itself was not an option for the pirates.  The nearest open space that could accommodate a dozen Tigersnakes is fifty klicks to the north-west, where farming and logging around Lachlan have hacked a sixty-square-kilometre opening in the jungle.  The Crosscuts and Daedalus-As that daily hold the line against the ever-encroaching regrowth and transport lumber to the spaceport were in their hangars when the pirates arrive, and their pilots wisely didn’t do anything to get themselves killed or their valuable WorkMechs destroyed in a show of futile courage.

  Getting to Leighton will be the pirates’ problem: the only ‘road’ to the planetary capital from Lachlan is Glenfiddich’s Trace, torturously hacked out of the jungle by those same Crosscuts, its winding route turning a linear distance of fifty kilometres into a journey of more than seventy, and even now it’s passable only by ’Mech for more than two thirds of its length at the Lachlan end.  (It’s being resurfaced into a proper road from Leighton, but it’s generally agreed the project is about to suffer some major setbacks.)  Both sides know it’s the only passable route to the capital, which is why the third DroST dropped its complement at the point where the ’Mech-path turns into a sealed road, ready to hold it against the militia until the rest of their fellows can arrive.  Expecting them to be hit hard before their relief, Trevaline allocated that company the toughest, best-armed jump-capable ’Mechs he could find.

  So when Ensign Larissa Stephens’ division of eight Eisenadler fighters approach at low altitude, trying to gauge the attackers’ strength, they fly into a crisscrossing salvo of particle-bolts that hacks two of her wingmates out of the sky before they realise they’ve entered the pirates’ line-of-sight.  One simply fireballs under a direct hit, raining down on the jungle as a spray of flaming fragments, and the other tumbles from the sky as a beam shears off its left wing at the root.

- * - * - * - * -


  From his Griffin’s cockpit, Benitez sees the sudden stabbing lines of electric-purple - and the fireballs – against the night sky ahead and winces even as his neurohelmet’s headset crackles.  {“Hurricane Actual, this is Echo Three Lead, we’re taking fire: two birds down, one chute, requesting SAR ASAP.  I have a full ’Mech company at Nav Point MOZART: replay says we’re looking at Whisky-Sierra-Pappa-One-Alpha times four, Golf-Romeo-Foxtrot-One-November times five, and Bravo-Kilo-X-ray-Seven-Kilo times three.”}

  “I copy, Echo Three; pull back and monitor, do not engage,” he says, wincing again at what he’s just been told.  His battalion has only two squadrons of BattleMechs, and while they include two full troops of Griffins fresh out of refit, those are the heaviest assets he has; the rest are simply TR-A-7 Toros and near-stock LCT-1V Locusts.  And the two squadrons of Longhorn wheeled missile-vehicles that complete his order of battle are light support units, never designed to stand toe-to-toe with heavy ’Mechs, even Battleaxe-7Ks that date back to the Tortugans’ origins during the Reunification War.  That’s just lovely.  A squadron of Thunderbolts or a division of Lucifers would come in really handy right about now....  “All Hurricanes, this is Hurricane Actual: we’ll hold them at Nav Point BACH.  Faith -”

  {“I heard, Hurricane Actual.  We’re on our way now: ETA to Point ADAGIO is... twenty-three minutes.  Hang tough ’til then.”}

  Like I have much choice, Benitez notes sourly.  Nav Point BACH is the last turn of Glenfiddich’s Trace at its Leighton end before it comes out into the cleared area around the estuary and the city.  Between that turn and the open area is a three-klick straight, sloping down towards the estuary, with a hundred metres of constantly-maintained cleared area to either side of the road itself - a perfect killing-ground for modern heavy weapons.  If the Tortugans have any sense, that advance company’s coming our way at top speed to hold the door open for their buddies before we can get there and slam it in their faces.  Those Battleaxes can only cover a klick a minute at most, probably less with all the twists the Trace makes; we’re faster, but further away, and if they send the Griffins and Wasps ahead... this is going to be too ****** close!  “Bravo Actual, take your people and advance to contact, best speed: harass and delay, slow them down.  Echo Three, engage in coordination with Bravo Actual, same orders.”

  {“Copy.”}  {“Wilco.”}  The battalion’s undersized recon-squadron of Locusts accelerates to top speed, dashing up ahead of the rest of the battalion’s hard-pounding ’Mechs.  Far ahead, Stephens’ Eisenadlers shift their orbit a little in readiness as Stephens considers how they’ll make their runs.

  Benitez despises himself for giving those orders.  Those eight Locust jocks will be hitting almost four times their own weight of metal head-on, and a particle-beam will punch clean through the thickest armour-belts on their machines; the Eisenadlers have even less business in that sort of a fight than the Locusts.  But both forces are carrying full complements of XO rocket-pods; their combined first punch will be far above their nominal weight, and hopefully that will buy the rest of the battalion the time they need.  I just hope it’ll be enough that I can face their grieving families without feeling like a complete bastard.  “Charlie Actual, Delta Actual: your squadrons make best speed to Nav Point STRAUSS” the throat of Glenfiddich’s Trace “and dig in.  If you’re attacked before we arrive, you will hold until relieved, understood?”

  {“Got it!”}  With that, the column of three dozen Longhorns on the main roadway kicks up to top speed and pulls away from its ‘big brothers’, though not quite as fast as the Locusts.  If the delaying attack doesn’t work, at least there’ll be something in place to hold the door closed on the Tortugans until his ’Mechs arrive.

  And let’s hope their main body isn’t as heavy as the rest of these ******.  This hammer-and-anvil stuff doesn’t work if the anvil shatters.

- * - * - * - * -


  “Trevaline, this is Hammond, what’s happening on your end?” Karla Hammond demands for the fifth time, wrangling her Battleaxe around yet another curve.  Zeus father and saviour, what a ****** time for the Boss to play macho-strong-and-silent!  “We just ran into a division of atmo-fighters - the gomers know where we are!  How long are we gonna be here?”

  {“Just worry about your part of the job, Hammond!”}  Rob Pilkington, AKA ‘That Overbearing Self-Important Prick’, has command of the strike on Leighton, and he doesn’t much like being bypassed.  {“We’re on the ground in Lachlan already.  Our main body should reach you in fifty minutes or so; until then, I’m sending Takashima’s people ahead to support you, so stop pissing your shorts, will you?”}

  Hammond grits her teeth as one of the biggest ****** in the Corsairs insults her over an open channel, silently coming to a decision that’s long overdue.  When we’re done with the militia, Robby, ‘one of their survivors’ is going to set to it you have a terrible, drawn-out encounter with a knife.  Awful shame, really.  And you with no children to pass that so-very-pretty Striker down to, worse yet - I’ll just have to find someone with half a damned brain to drive it, instead!

  Still, Dieter Platzer’s quartet of Wasps and Carlyle Granger’s lance of Griffins are already tear-assing ahead to secure The Throat until she can get there and back them up, and the news about Mamoru Takashima is reassuring.  Okay, he’s still more than twenty minutes away, and all he brings to the table is a dozen Locusts, but that many more ’Mechs will do a lot to complicate the Taurians’ problems.  And if they can break into the flat and start working at their backs - or better yet, threaten Leighton itself and make them pull back to protect it - the gomers are in for a really bad night.

- * - * - * - * -


  Ensign Stephens compares the forces’ positions on a tactical overlay and grimaces in disgust.  “I’d hate to have a week’s pay riding on who’s gonna win this little foot-race.”  And I’m the girl people accuse of betting on anything down to two flies crawling up a window!

  {“Typical friggin’ MechWarriors – always getting to the party a day late and a bull short,”} Force Sergeant Mitch Faraday says, maintaining his place just behind her right wingtip.  {“Bravo’s not gonna make it ahead of those Wasps, Larry... but see there?”}

  “... Yeah, I see.  Guess that means it’s up to us.  You ready?”

  {“My wife keeps telling me I’m too ugly to live forever.”}

  “Ospreys, this is Lead: we need to slow ’em down, and we’ve got an opening.  First Flight, half-wheel strike, west counter-clockwise.  Second Flight: Mandy, you and Arturo hold here until we’re finished our runs, catch anything we miss.”

  The four Eisenadlers of First Flight spread out across the sky, dispersing in a quarter-circle arc enforced by the narrowness of their target-zone, then turn inbound at five-second intervals, screaming in at their targets at more than five hundred knots barely fifty feet above the treetops.  At that speed and altitude, there’s no way in hell the Tortugans can get a bead on the inbound jets for most of their runs, and the Wasps have gotten just far enough ahead of their buddies in the Griffins that the combination of a small hill and a twist in the road blocks line-of-sight for those supporting PPCs... but the Taurian flyers have to climb for a moment to unmask their weapons, and the Wasps see them coming.  Two of them leap skywards on their jump-jets, twisting to line up on Stephens’ fighter simply because it’s the first one they see, sleeting triple-ripples of rockets and electric-red laser-bolts towards the balls-to-the-wall fighter.

  The beams go high and wide respectively, showy but harmless, and the Taurian pilot mashes her own fire-key.  All forty of her Eisenadler’s free-flight rockets ripple from their pods in less than three seconds, their trails crossing those of the arriving Tortugan salvos.  An instant after the last of Larissa Stephens’ weapons clears its pod, the other two Wasps get a clear look at her, and they’ve got more stable firing-platforms than their fellows. One laser-bolt shears off her right tail-fin; the other rips into her left engine, starting a fire.

  Stephens has barely registered the hits, just started fighting the Eisenadler’s stagger, just reached for the extinguisher controls, when a 115mm dumbfire rocket from the first pair of Wasps detonates against the armourplast canopy, less than half a metre from her face.

  Echo Three-One slams into the treeline on the far side of Glenfiddich’s Trace, three metres below the top edge of the canopy, at over nine hundred kilometres per hour.  Built to modern standards, the jet doesn’t completely break up, but what’s left tumbles and spins through the jungle’s multiple canopies for more than a hundred metres, leaving a swathe of shattered foliage in its wake, before finally coming to rest upside down, suspended more than ten metres above the ground by tangling vines and branches.

- * - * - * - * -


  {“Karla?  Can you hear me, Karla?”} crackles in Hammond’s ear.  Even if the light-show ahead didn’t already tell her the bad news, Genovese’s sobbing hysteria does.  {“Those Bull fighters just hit us – Jesus ****** Christ, how many rockets were they carrying?  Francesca... her ’Mech’s j-just standing there, it’s got no ****** head!  Baldur’s lost a leg.  My reactor’s redlining just standing here.  Dieter... blew up!  He just... just blew up!”}

  Ah, ******!  “I hear you, Tomas.  Stay where you are and see what you can do for Baldur.”  Sounds like it’s up to Carlyle, now.  “Trevaline, this is Hammond: The Throat is still closed, I repeat The Throat is still closed.  Do you hear me, Boss?  How’s it going over there?”

  {“****** it, Hammond, how many times do I have to tell you to stick to your own part of the ****** job?”} Pilkington howls.  {“I swear to God, if you -”}

  Hammond turns a dial, and the idiot’s tantrum goes dead mid-sentence.  I never did like that station.

- * - * - * - * -


Privateer Scorpion Nest, outbound vector for Lorkdal nadir jump-point
That same time


  “Laser Five out of action, three dead!  No response from Point-Defence Seven!  Launch-door breach in Hangar Three, compartment open to space!”

  “Hostile-Three ETA now ten minutes!”

  “Labrador Squadron are Winchester missile – they want to land and rearm!”

  “They’ve got guns, haven’t they?  Tell them to hold, ******!”  This is a nightmare.  This is a ****** nightmare!  Wake me up, Momma, please! deVries thinks desperately, clinging to his arm-rests as another hit-tremor runs through Scorpion Nest.  Between the Taurians and the first wave of Cylons, almost two thirds of his fighters are gone already, the ones that are left are running out of ammo, armour, and fuel, and the GunShips have started worrying at his ship’s aft-section like a terrier at a bone, clearly trying to knock out his engines.  “Communications, have you raised Trevaline yet?”

  “Still can’t get through the jamming, sir!”

  “Well, find some way to talking to somebody in charge down there and tell them they’d better get their asses back up here while they still have a ride home!  This ****** operation -”

  “Enemy GunShip locking on!”

  Another series of hit-tremors run through Scorpion Nest before the tech finishes the warning, and the damage-control officer snaps around.  “Heavy damage in Drive Room Two!”

  Oh, my God!  deVries knows he’s gone just as sickly-pale at his subordinate, and right then he couldn’t care less.  “Jump-drive status?”

  “No word yet: the compartment’s depressurising and there’s a lot of casualties in there.”  The lights and consoles flicker for a moment.  “Fusion Two’s gone into emergency shut-down.  One and Three are taking the hotel load, but I don’t know how long we can maintain one gee.”

- * - * - * - * -


  {“Somebody’s really not having any fun!”} Nine hears in her headset.

  She doesn’t respond: right now, her only concern is settling her crosshairs around the computer-enhanced image of the Leone she’s been chewing on for the last few minutes.  A little twist... a little retro... and... GOT’CHA!  Her forefinger closes on the trigger, and streams of electric-blue particle-pulses rip into the pirate fighter’s mud-and-maroon paintjob.  Tight-focus cameras show armour shattering and peeling away from the already-tattered sheets over the Tortugan’s cowlings, and the stream of fuel/coolant from his left engine becoming a torrent of rapid-forming snowflakes.  Then both engines flame out, and an eyeblink later, the whole machine simply blows up in the distinctive golden burst of a reactor breach.  Nothing big enough to be an intact ejection-module emerges from the blast.

  “Frakking hold that!” Nine growls, flicking her Raider back around towards the planet.  “Sorry, Nine, I was busy.  What did you say?”

  {“Look at their carrier – the guests of honour are trying to leave early.  I don’t think they’re enjoying the party, do you?”}

  Nine zooms in her HUD on the centerpiece of the battle - the hulking shape of the pirates’ mother-ship, now burning for the nadir point as hard as it can - and smiles thinly as she sees all the scorched craters blasted into its armour by missiles and the GunShips’ anti-ship lasers, many of them leaking atmosphere.  As she watches, another patch of the drive-section’s outer hull flashes and starts scattering pieces of debris.  (They look tiny from her position, but each one probably masses more than her Raider.)  Her DRADIS automatically updates her with a spectral analysis of the blossoming plume of vapour, and her eyes widen in delight.  Oooh, that’s gotta sting!  Shame you didn’t recharge that clunky K-F drive of yours before you made for the planet, huh, guys?  It’ll be kind’a hard to do it now, what with that major coolant leak you just sprang!

  {“This is Whiskey,”} says the Twelve running fighter-control duties aboard CPS Masquerade.  {“All Ferdinands, all Castors, recover to Home Plate; all Trojans, recover to Mother.”}

  That’s us and the Taurian Vipers landing at Leighton for beer and dope, while the Leighton squadrons land on Masquerade.  But that only leaves those two surviving GunShips and four Tigresses to keep chasing them!  Nine considers that for a moment, then shrugs.  I suppose we don’t have the range for that anyway.  Besides, we’ve still got all those pirates on the planet to handle, and with us and the Taurians flying out of Leighton, I don’t think they’re going to make it back to their mother-ships.

  Not if I can help it, they won’t, she adds grimly.

  And as she turns back for the planet, Scorpion Nest keeps burning for the jump-point, bleeding a trail of helium.

- * - * - * - * -


  “The jamming’s easing!” the comm. officer reports.  “I should be able to raise the Boss in a few minutes.”

  “When you do, give him our status and tell him he needs to un-ass RFN, or he’s not going to have a ride home.”  Hell, he may not have one anyway! deVries thinks sickly, contemplating the damage-control board.  Fighter-ordnance AShMs and GunShip light capital lasers hardly compare to full-sized cap-missiles or the main batteries of a Concordat frigate, but all those little blows have added up in some nasty ways.  Six hangars depressurised, but that doesn’t matter so much, since I’ve only got twenty-six fighters left out of the original seventy-two.  Two light cap-laser turrets and three PD mounts are off-line, the main radar’s got a hole in it the size of a Stuka, and oh yes, one of our engine rooms is open to space and we don’t know if we can jump safely!

  “He can’t make it, Peter, not with us burning out-system like this,” d’Ottavio judges, considering the holotank gloomily.  “His Tigersnakes used a third of their fuel just getting down to the planet, and with what they’ve got left, pretty soon they won’t be able to catch up to us.  The DroSTs might have the legs, but they’ll never get past all those fighters, and they can only carry three dozen ’Mechs out of a force of seven dozen.”

  deVries shrugs.  “It’s an M6V system, George: it’s only two days to the jump-point, and even at two-thirds gas, ’Snakes do have enough legs to make a hop that long.”  Only just, but they can make it.  “If we have to, we can kill our burn and let the transports catch up to us.  It’s not like those GunShips will be willing to take us on – not when they’ve seen what our batteries can do to them and they don’t have fighter-support to make us split our fire.”

  “Masquerade’s burning to join the GunShips, sir!”

  d’Ottavio gives his maybe-friend a disgusted look.  “... you just had to ****** jinx it, didn’t you?”

---      ---      ---      ---      ---

  TBC....
« Last Edit: 07 November 2011, 03:02:36 by Trace Coburn »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #3 on: 29 October 2011, 08:02:26 »
LORKDAL, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Leatherneck-class transport CPS Couatl, bound for Lachlan
May 11, 2825


  Standing on the pilot’s gantry, observing as a tech-crew slides a fresh cell of missiles into her Artemis’ launcher, Faith can think only God, I still stink like a taiga-buffalo.

  Third Battalion was in place at Determination for more than a day before the ambush went off, and while their ’Mech cockpits include the usual amenities for long field-deployments, one thing they don’t have is a good way to stay clean when all emissions, including climate-control, have to be minimised to preserve tactical surprise.  Even with the moisture-wicking fabric of their tankini undergarments – with life-support turned down that far, the equatorial climate’s diabolical combination of humidity and temperature made the black, full-length, insulated material of the CPGF’s standard-issue ‘cooling’ suit a combination of several excellent ways to get hospitalised – spending more than a day in their cockpits meant that Faith and her MechWarriors felt like they were being steamed alive the whole time.  Her people know how little time they have before they reach Lachlan, but it still took a direct order to forestall a near-stampede for the showers when they got back aboard Couatl, and there was no way she could indulge herself when her subordinates went without.  The best she could do in the few minutes they had was have buckets, wash-cloths, and fresh sets of underwear brought down to the ’Mech-bays so everybody could clean the worst of the layered sweat off themselves and their command-couches before getting changed.

  Of course, the sight of Faith and so many Nines (and some Twelves and a few Elevens) stripping off what little they were still wearing and taking hasty sponge-baths on the gantries did mean that some of the tech-crews’ less focused members became even less so, until firmly smacked upside the head by their crew-chiefs.  Few of the pilots noticed the stares, and fewer cared; quite aside from having other things on their minds, Cylon nudity taboos are rather less stringent than some other societies’.  Part of it might be their ability to Project – being ‘off-the-rack’ herself, Faith wouldn’t have a clue how much or little they might actually use Projection in such circumstances - but she likes, and wholeheartedly agrees with, the way a Twelve once put it.  ‘Hiding is for people who feel ashamed.  Why would I be ashamed of looking this damned good?’

  I just hope the internal security systems got all of the show, she notes whimsically, finishing her squirt-bottle of icy-cold Powerthirst.  Selling those chips to R-Channels in the Union and the Concordat would make us a fortune!  What sort of title should we put on the Pay-Per-View - ‘Places You Wish You’d Been!’?  Nah, keep it simple: ‘Exposed: Cylon MechWarriors’!  Must remember to ask the girls for consent-forms....

  Shaking off irrelevant thoughts of Cylon social mores and supplemental revenue streams, not to mention her lingering disgust with her personal hygiene, Faith glances left and right, surveying the ’Mech-bays to gauge the progress of the rearming process.  The Sphinx, the Artemis, and their big brother the Hector (whose absence from her TO&E she laments once more) all share a lot of components, including the exact same launcher-module.  While that commonality makes training, repairs, and parts-supply a hell of a lot simpler, the design’s ten cells only hold fifty Spathas; since those missiles are the only heavy anti-armour weapons her Sphinxes mount, staying-power is always a worry.

  The Eleven overseeing the reloading of her own ’Mech glances up and sees her scrutiny, waving cheerily to reassure her.  “These are the last ones, Faith – we’ll be done in a couple of minutes.”

  “You’d better – we’ll be at the LZ in eight!” the brunette returns, stepping back from the railing to return to her cockpit.  Wincing at the smell inside – as always, the upholstery’s ‘anti-odour’ treatment hasn’t lived up to the manufacturers’ promises, and even a fifteen-minute airing in Couatl’s climate-controlled interior hasn’t helped nearly enough – she slings on her cooling-vest, absently checks the shoulder-holstered Predator-IV, kicks on her boots, then drops back into the command-couch.  Leaving her neurohelmet sitting on the console for the moment, she keys her comm.  “Robby, are you guys ready?”

 
«Lima Company, good to go,» says the synthesised voice of her fourth company’s commander.

  “Good.  Stand by.”  And here’s hoping we don’t need you to stay out there too long, she adds to herself.  I don’t want to lose any of my people because the climate at these latitudes decided to frakking eat their circuitry.  With that, she changes channels, punching up Couatl’s communications-centre.  “Comm., this is Faith: put me on VHF and UHF GUARD, please.  Let’s see if I can’t shake ’em up a little.”

- * - * - * - * -


Lachlan, Lorkdal
That same time


  While the rest of Everett McDougall’s ‘company’ went looking for loot, or at least a girl they could have some fun with, he’s stuck sitting by the radios in the back of their KMC four-wheel-drive, smoking an endless string of cigarettes and supposedly listening out for trouble.  Which suits him just fine.  From what he saw before Choi stuck him with radio-watch, most of the females in Lachlan are hard-bitten saw-mill workers or weather-beaten farm-wives, meaning there isn’t a decent-looking girl amongst the lot.  Not even a perky schoolmarm - cripes, even the logging-company whores look like five klicks of bad road!  Not to mention the whole lot of ’em are all friggin’ Taurians, so they’re more likely to break a bottle over your head than pour you a drink like you tell ’em.  And loot?  What a ****** joke.  There ain’t gonna be a damn thing in this town worth takin’, ’cept maybe -

  {“Attention pirate commander.”}

  McDougall’s head snaps around, and he stares at the radio assigned to the distress frequency.  He doesn’t know that voice: female, fairly young, accented in a way he doesn’t recognise... and colder than a Capellan’s blood.

  {“Attention, pirate commander,”} she repeats.  {“This is Colonel Angela Christian of the Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade, under contract to the Taurian Concordat.  Your carrier has been driven from orbit, our aerospace forces control your escape vectors, and we exterminated the force you dropped on Determination before they could land.  You’re stranded on this planet, faced with a numerically superior ’Mech force and more than a hundred fighters just itching to wipe you off the map.  If you surrender peacefully, we’ll treat you as prisoners of war pending the resolution of individual wants-and-warrants checks.  Anyone wishing to signal their surrender may do so by responding on this frequency, shifting their IFF transponder to the truce-setting of forty-four-forty-four, and halting their ’Mech in place before they make contact with our forces.  Any ’Mech that fires on us won’t get a chance to reconsider.  It’s your call.  Christian, clear.”}

  Oh, shit! flashes across McDougall’s mind.  Without conscious thought, his hands flash across the radios, checking and changing settings.  The inter-ship channel for the DropShips and Tigersnakes is suddenly filled with babble as various captains try to figure out what’s going on, whether or not Christian’s bluffing – for that matter, who the hell she is!  On others, people are talking over each other, trying to contact Trevaline and Scorpion Nest.

  One of them is That Overbearing Self-Important Prick, who sounds a whole lot less full of himself than he did a few minutes ago.  {“-valine, this is Pilkington: please come in!  Trevaline, do you read me?”}

  There’s a thunderous pounding of ’Mech-feet past the KMC, and McDougall glances out the open rear doors in time to see a Talos from the LZ security-company running for one of the DropShips at full tilt.  Clearly the pilot isn’t going to chance missing a ride out of the system if Christian’s telling the truth about the Boss or Scorpion Nest.

  Y’know what?  ****** good idea, he decides, flinging his cigarette out the rear doors and diving through the partition into the four-wheeler’s cab.  I signed up with the Corsairs for loot, liquor and loose ladies, not a Taurian firing-squad!

  As he peels out, leaving twin rooster-tails of dirt (and Choi’s returning ‘command-squad’ and their three captives) in his wake, another voice comes over the ’Mech-jocks’ primary push.  {“All Corsairs, this is Hammond: fall back on the LZ immediately.  I say again: everybody back to the LZ.”}

  Then someone else comes up on the inter-ship freq, probably by mistake.  {“Merciful Buddha - incoming fighters!”}

- * - * - * - * -


  The rest of Echo Tactical Aviation Group comes screaming in at the same treetop level Larry Stephens’ people used, laying into the first targets they see – which are mostly exposed ’Mechs and the unarmed Tigersnakes – with their rockets.  The first element’s pass sees a Rifleman take a full salvo and simply disintegrate in mid-stride, while a Thunderbolt goes down hard with a scrammed engine; the other seven elements make their passes at five-second intervals from the other seven cardinal directions - a near-perfect wagon-wheel strike.  Lacking a primary threat-direction to orient on, the pirates can’t concentrate their fire on their attackers, and ‘only’ three of the sixteen Eisenadlers are lost to ground-fire, mostly lucky energy-beams.

  A minute after the first warning, two Tigersnakes are out of action – one had a full salvo of rockets walk up the side of its nose and immolate the bridge, while the other ship is wracked by internal explosions and fires after some of Echo Two Lead’s rockets plunged into its open ’Mech-compartment and touched off poorly-stowed ammunition – and even though they’re not that hurt, Christian’s transmission and Trevaline’s silence in its wake already drove everyone to the edge of panic; the shock of the sudden attack is the thunderclap that starts the stampede.  McDougall’s four-wheel-drive and the Talos that prompted his flight make it aboard one of the DroSTs just as the ramps start lifting beneath them.  Within moments, every ship that still can has lifted off and is running for its life to the south-west, leaving most of a battalion of ‘security personnel’ and three damaged ’Mechs behind them.

  Just as the rout is truly getting started, Couatl appears on-scene from the north-west.  Her gunners aren’t about to lose out on this chance: atop the assault-transport’s bow, the light cap-laser blister-turret flashes, and a Tigersnake’s right engine explodes and flames-out under a direct hit.  The oversized shuttle falls from the sky before the pilot can compensate, tearing a kilometres-long swathe through the jungle that will soon be known as Tigersnake Scar.  Frustratingly, the rest of the pirates are out of effective range before Couatl’s guns can recycle, but her captain shrugs it off, shifting her fire to sanitise Third Battalion’s landing-zone.

  The three remaining pirate ’Mechs – an Archer missing an arm, a Centurion with a moonscape of overlapping craters where its torso armour-belts should be, and a Toro with its left leg locked rigid from hip to ankle – turn their weapons on the hovering Leatherneck, more from panic than as considered action.  Near-solid streams of electric-blue tracer lash from Couatl’s massed banks of machine-gun arrays, swatting every missile thrown her way with contemptuous ease, and the other ordnance is simply absorbed by the ’Ship’s armour, driving only minor dents into those massive belts.  And then Couatl responds: three salvoes of Pilum missiles, the aerospace counterpart to the Spatha, reach for the Tortugan ’Mechs with arrogant precision.

  No-one will ever know if it was the Pilums’ raw firepower, or the detonation of their own magazines, which smash the Archer to scrap and dismantle the other two ’Mechs down to their smoking foot-actuators.  Nor will anyone care.

- * - * - * - * -


  “Nice shooting, Couatl,” Faith says heartily, then shifts back to the battalion push and issues orders in the crisp tones of command they know so well.  “Lima Company, Kilo Three Troop, clean up those squishies.  You will accept any surrender they offer, but any pirate who won’t drop their weapon goes down hard.  The rest of Three Battalion, you’re on me: we’re bottling up this end of the Trace.”

  And that will be the end of that, unless the rest of their ’Mechs are feeling suicidal, she smirks, watching as four of her Artemis deploy through the drop-doors.  Sure as hell, nobody’s escaping cross-country through this jungle, even in a ’Mech!

- * - * - * - * -


  Staring up at the blocky DropShip hovering almost right over his head, Edgar Choi watches as angular metal shapes start falling from hatches along its sides.  The larger ones are ’Mechs riding their jump-jets, of course, but the smaller ones are slowed by a combination of jets and... wings?  What the hell kind of infantry armour has wings? he wonders, almost beyond amazement.

  One of the smaller metal demons lands less than fifty metres from him and his ‘command team’, and Choi shoulders his FAT-5 almost without thinking.  He thumbs the selector down a notch and looses half a magazine into its metal hide, more from fatalistic curiosity than any expectation it will do him any good.

  The jacketed rounds clatter and spark off his target’s malevolently faceted surface, leaving nothing but faint gouges in their wake.  The... thing turns his way, and he has an instant to appreciate the fluidity of its movements, not at all mechanical or rigid or clumsy, like he expected; to see the pulsating slit-visor where its eye should be, the red dot sweeping back and forth before locking directly on him; to marvel at just how quickly and smoothly the thing raises its weapon –

  - and with the pirate’s ‘this just isn’t fair!’ expression centred in his Gremlin power-suit’s smartlink picture, Legionnaire Simo Eerikäinen squeezes off a single burst from his forearm-mounted quad-barrel.  The Tortugan’s head simply ruptures under the impact of four 6.6mm rounds, and the corpse drops straight down.  “Throw down your weapons and let the women go!” he demands over his suit’s PA speakers.

  The sound of all those FAT-5s - Acadian-made Kalashnikov-knockoffs – clattering to the ground is music to his ears.

- * - * - * - * -


  Robby’s Legionnaires don’t meet much resistance.  The closest to a real defence comes from a band of eight or nine of the stranded KMC ‘technicals’ under one junior commander that takes refuge amidst stacked lumber awaiting transport to Leighton, using the concentrated fire of their bed-mounted MGs and recoilless-rifles to fend off the first hasty attack, leaving two ’Suit-troopers dead and seven more wounded or otherwise out of action.  The next Cylon strike is more methodical, and supported by the lasers and machine-gun arrays of an Artemis; the paired bars of electric-blue tracer from its forehead and left wrist shatter what’s left of the pirates’ morale as easily as they explode two of the technicals in the first moments of the attack.  The survivors try to scatter and flee individually, but most routes of escape have been secured by the ’Suits; those that haven’t are controlled by something even worse.

   Lennart Jensen witnesses that for himself.  The few prisoners from the lumberyard firefight are being marched back towards the town proper, all in a single file with their hands on their heads and those metal super-infantry to either side, when the man four places ahead of him suddenly ducks between two of the logging camp’s buildings and runs for the treeline, less than two hundred metres away.  Like his fellows, Jensen cheers the bid for freedom, and half-wonders why their captors aren’t shooting...

  ... until the runner trips headlong barely forty metres beyond the buildings, his right ankle tangled in something.  A moment later, he shrieks in agony, and Jensen realises that that something is dragging him towards the treeline a few centimetres at a time.  Not only that, but it’s winding further up the man’s leg as it does – and even from so far away, even though the only light relieving the pre-dawn darkness is from the blazing KMCs, he can see the wetness of blood welling up around that tangling... vine?  Oh, merciful God, it’s cutting into him!

  The escapee claws at the earth, trying to get back to the camp or at least arrest his slow slide towards whatever is reeling him in... and reflections from the burning technicals show more strands as they rise up from where they lie, turn towards the victim, and lash forward like whips, winding around and biting deep into his left calf and upper right arm.

  The metal-armoured infantryman four metres from Jensen visibly considers the situation for a moment, then raises its quad-barrel and rips off a four-round burst that shatters the man’s head. 
«Let this be a learning experience, people,» it says over its PA, its synthesised voice almost completely toneless.  «We’re not here to keep you from getting to the jungle.  We’re here to keep the jungle from getting to you

  “Wh... what the ****** was that?” Jensen can’t look away from the corpse, or the multiple cables of... whatever the hell that stuff is that twine around it, cutting deeper and deeper through its flesh as they drag it back towards some central point.

 
«They call it ‘bio-wire’,» the infantryman supplies, and synthesiser-tonelessness or not, Jensen gets the distinct sense there’s a certain amusement behind that visor’s oscillating red dot.  «It’s a weed-vine native to this planet, particularly at these latitudes – the residents have best results controlling its spread when they use Inferno gel.  The cores of its creepers are an organic analogue to myomer cables, making them incredibly strong within their reach, and they have dense clusters of thorns for holding and dismembering prey once it’s been seized.»

  “... ‘prey’?” Jensen repeats sickly.

 
«Correct: you were raiding a planet where one of the most prominent and resilient forms of native plant-life is essentially prehensile, carnivorous razor-wire.»

  There are no more escape attempts.

- * - * - * - * -


  Sphinxes don’t have jump-jets, and the rest of Third Battalion had to wait for Couatl to land to begin their deployments, so Faith is only aware of the prisoner round-up in general terms.  She’s been a touch preoccupied with getting her own ’Mech on-scene, managing her people as they fan out to cover this end of Glenfiddich’s Trace... and listening to what her people aboard Couatl are telling her.  “Say again?”

  {“We’ve broken their encryptions – not that hard, really, they weren’t using great software,”} the Eleven from her SIGINT section tells her.  {“At the moment, it sounds like the people on the Trace are sorting out who’s going to quit and who’s going to try his luck.  The guy closer to us, Rob Pilkington?  He says he’ll blast any ’Mech he sees flying ‘four fours’ – he thinks he can hold Lachlan until the DropShips can come back.”}

  “Without aerospace cover?  He’s dreaming,” Faith says bleakly.

  {“He does sound kind’a panicky,”} the Eleven agrees.  {“The woman at the other end of the Trace, Karla Hammond?  She’s a little more realistic.  Maybe she doesn’t have any warrants on her in the Concordat.  Anyway, she’s sent a general signal: anyone who’s willing to trust our terms should join her at the Leighton end of the Trace under ‘four fours’.”}

  “How’s that working out?”

  {“Uh, wait one.”}

  A few moments pass in silence, which Faith recognises as the clone conferring with her colleagues by Projection, before the master tactical plot on her left-hand MFCD remote-updates and a Twelve comes onto the channel.  {“Hammond’s got a company of Locusts and the heavier stuff she dropped in with; they’re holding just short of The Throat for now.  Pilkington’s force is two heavy companies; they’re coming back this way, ETA thirteen minutes if they maintain current speed.  We’re getting live overheads of their columns now – copying it to you with annotations.”}

  Faith reads the type-ID codes attached to Pilkington’s force and swallows, suddenly a little nervous.  A Striker assault, backed by Archers, Warhammers, Thuds, Riflemen... hell, the lightest ’Mechs he’s got are the six Toros!  Even with our missiles and other tech-edges, I could stand not to fight a force that heavy with just Artemis and Sphinxes.  “Comm., put me up on GUARD frequencies again.”

  {“... you’re live, Sir.”}

  “Attention, ‘commander’ Pilkington: this is Colonel Christian.  In case you missed the fireworks, my forces now control Lachlan in strength greatly superior to yours and your DropShips are on the run for the planet’s southern hemisphere.  You’re stranded on Lorkdal, and trying to leave either end of Glenfiddich’s Trace will only get you destroyed.  You have zero chance of getting off that road alive unless you’re flying a truce-code, Rob, so do yourself a favour and call it a night, huh?”

  After a few seconds, Pilkington responds... and Faith’s skin chills at the hysteria in his voice.  {“****** you, you lying whore!”} the pirate snarls.  {“You wouldn’t be trying to con me into giving up if you could take me in a straight fight!  ****** merc slut, what do you {skreesh}”}

  The transmission dies in a squeal of static as there’s a spark of fire on the satellite-feed.  Faith punches in on the pirate column: the Striker has toppled full-length mid-step, its head/cockpit a shattered ruin, and the Enforcer less than a hundred metres behind it is lowering the weapons that replace its hands.  So much for honour among scumbags, I guess.  She was half-hoping for something like this, but seeing it play out in such brutally sudden fashion is a little startling.

  {“Colonel Christian, this is Gregor Manstein of the Tortugan Corsairs.”}  The sat-feed’s ELINT overlay updates: every one of the still-active ’Mechs has shifted its transponder-code to 4444.  {“We surrender.”}

- * - * - * - * -


Graziani-class privateer Scorpion Nest, Lachlan nadir jump-point
May 13, 2825


  “Nice to see the Bulls missed one trick,” deVries says sourly, contemplating the holotank’s tactical schematic as Scorpion Nest assumes relative rest next to Scorpion Venom at the jump-point.  The Taurian/Cylon force chasing Scorpion Nest backed off their accel earlier than they should have if they wanted to stay with him all the way to the nadir point - probably trying to catch the Tortugan ’Mech-transports after they punched for the jump-point from the planet’s south pole, well below the Leighton batteries’ horizon - and botched that interception as well.  Now they’re hanging back at a thousand kilometres’ distance, observing from beyond capital-beam range as the last transports dock with Scorpion Nest and the Vanguard-class Scorpion Venom, clearly reluctant to engage.  “They’re not gonna come after us now.  With the fighters from Scorpion Venom and Solifugid to back us up, we’ve got theirs outnumbered, and Scorpion Nest can dismantle those GunShips any time they come into our range.  All we have to do is finish charging our drives and we’re home-clear.”

  “I wouldn’t crack a bottle of Casa d’Augustino just yet,” d’Ottavio says quietly.  “None of this has gone the way it was supposed to, and I don’t think the Devil’s finished playing with our plans.  Doesn’t it strike you as strange that the Cylons were here in this sort of strength?”

  “We know the Lorkdal militia hosts mercenary units for a few months’ training every couple’a years, George - okay, the next rotation wasn’t due until January, but maybe it got re-shuffled.”

  “I might accept that if it wasn’t for their fighter-strength.  We’ve kept a close eye on the evolution of Cylon doctrine since they ass-****** the Vittorios at Veronica and Torrance: those five squadrons we’ve seen since arriving come to more fighters than they normally assign to a whole Brigade.”  d’Ottavio arches a brow at his captain/host/friend.  “And yet here they were, waiting for us in support of only one battalion that we know of.  The only thing I can think of that they knew we were coming.”

  “How?  Eleven weeks ago, we didn’t know we were coming here – until we got to the first jump-point, I thought Boss Trevaline was going to take us to Sabanillas!”

  “Nothing else makes –”

  “Status change – emergence flare, bearing one-nine-six by plus-twenty, range eleven hundred kilometres!  Jump-clock is running.”

  Their previous discussion dies right there, and deVries and d’Ottavio trade resigned looks, knowing what’s coming next.  “Explains why they were hanging back,” deVries nods.  And we haven’t even started charging our drive yet.  Venom’s had almost five days to charge, but they’re still days short of a full load, and that contact’s within three hundred klicks of them and Solifugid....  “Bring us around onto that vector and stand by for battle manoeuvres.  Vector Solifugid’s CAP on that spot, scramble everything we’ve got left, and tell Scorpion Venom and Solifugid to do the same.”  It’s a futile gesture, and he knows it, but he can’t just do nothing.

  “Enemy GunShip force is closing – Masquerade is deploying fighters!”

  d’Ottavio leans into the holotank, concentrating intently not so much on the wavering yellow diamond of the unknown transit as the jump-clock count running under it.  “They must’ve sent a courier out from the zenith station when we showed up – they were waiting for help to arrival from the next system over.  Best case, it’s a couple of battalions from the Second Concordat Commandos on Badlands, and we can drive them off.  Worst case....”

  “Emergence!” the sensor-tech cries – then goes shock-pale.  “New contact, designate... designate Whiskey-One, classify as Concordat-II destroyer.  She translated with her fire-control already active, Sir – they’ll have tracks as soon as they clear jump-blackout.”

  “In case it matters, Sir, he’s the Simone.”  d’Ottavio’s shoulders slump for an instant - then he turns to deVries, drawing himself up in a brace and saluting with deepest formality.  “Captain, request permission to join the fighter-squadrons.”

  After an instant’s surprised hesitation, deVries returns the salute, sensing a good part of what lies behind the request.  “... granted, Mister d’Ottavio.”  Die well, he doesn’t add.

  Even as d’Ottavio makes it out the bridge hatch, the sensor-tech is speaking again.  “WarShip’s fire-control locking onto Solifugid!”

  deVries brings up a camera view of the Jumbo, sickly certain of what will happen next.

  A Concordat-II’s full broadside includes six Class-Twenty mass-drivers, and all six of Simone’s flare silver in the same instant.  Slow-mo replay will later reveal that five of those four-hundred-kilo projectiles found their mark, but even just two would have been more than enough.

  Solifugid shatters like a pumpkin hit by a sledgehammer.  Six of her fighters disintegrate with her.

  “Tell the remaining fighters from Solifugid to help Venom’s hold off that WarShip as long as possible.  Put all our birds against the Cylons and the GunShips.  Engineering, I really don’t care how you do it, but get us charged and out of here!”  We haven’t got a chance in hell of actually doing it, but I’ve got to try, right?

  “Simone is launching fighters, classify as - oh God, they’re Lucifers!”

  Of course they are.  Nothing else has gone our way since this operation started; why would we catch a break now?  The Lucifer has been the metre-stick of missile-armed fighters for over three centuries, and even the Tortugan Dominions have heard the rumours that since the end of Semyon’s War, the Taurians have been using ‘acquired’ Star League technology to make theirs even more dangerous.  There’s no way sixteen Leones will be able to stop even one division of Taurian Lucies, and Concordat-IIs carry a full TAG!  “Wladimir, let me know when Giorgio launches.”

  “Yes, Sir,” his fighter-controller says dutifully.  His tone and expression, on the other hand, clearly ask Who the hell gives a shit about the wop when we’re all hip-deep in all this?

- * - * - * - * -


  It’s a fitful sort of fight, really.  On both threat-axes, the pirate Leones make a stand so gallant that it would see a regular military doling out medals like candy, but between the Lucifers’ raw armour and firepower on one front, and the numerical and technological overmatch they face from the Cylons on the other, they achieve little but courageous demises for many of their number before the captain of Scorpion Nest signals his surrender.  Venom keeps trying to hot-charge her drive right up to the second a quartet of Taurian marines shoot their way onto the bridge and demand the ship’s surrender at gunpoint, but there’s never really any danger that she’ll escape the system.

  The only worrying moment is the stray Leone that launches bare seconds before Scorpion Nest starts flying four-fours, then screams in at the GunShips at full overthrust, heedless of deVries’ ‘stand down’ order, or for that matter anything resembling a self-preservation instinct.  There are no radiological warnings from the apparent kamikaze, but the way three of its companions buy it a small gap in the Cylon BarCAP - as much by accident as anything else – suggest it’s a do-or-die flight of some sort, and the GunShips take no chances, engaging with their light cap-lasers.  Even with that sort of hostile attention coming its way, the lone Leone is flown with such a deft hand that it actually gets within three hundred kilometres of the lead GunShip before three simultaneous direct hits simply obliterate it.

  Taurian boarding parties and prize-crews are on Scorpion Nest, Scorpion Venom, and Venom’s three freshly-docked DroST-IIa’s within half an hour.

  The Battle of Lorkdal is over.

---      ---      ---      ---      ---

  To be concluded....
« Last Edit: 07 November 2011, 03:07:24 by Trace Coburn »

sandstorm

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #4 on: 29 October 2011, 12:17:37 »
Nice... At least you weren't truly evil and sicced Shilones with Slayers on the poor saps..

Not that pirates deserve better, but it'd be a cheap shot. :)
Ex Dubio, Obscura
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"Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it."

Hellfire

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #5 on: 29 October 2011, 18:27:40 »
finishing her squirt-bottle of icy-cold Powerthirst. 

500 BABIES!!!!

Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #6 on: 29 October 2011, 19:40:11 »
Nice... At least you weren't truly evil and sicced Shilones with Slayers on the poor saps..

Not that pirates deserve better, but it'd be a cheap shot. :)
  Well, I'm working from a slightly different set of assumptions than canon BT aerospace warfare - it's kind of hybridised with Interceptor 2.0.  LRMs, SRMs, and autocannons have such low projectile velocities that they're only useful only in air-to-mud work; even Gauss weapons are only good out to a range of about 4 hexes.  Accordingly, aerospace combat is heavily biased towards energy weapons and external-ordnance missiles.  The SLDF standard missile (and hence the legacy standard) was/is the ATM/34A Javelin, which occupies one bomb-slot, has a range of 12 hexes, and deals 10 damage.  Many fighter have permanent 'XO pylons', which are half-ton items that allow them to carry one bomb/missile per pylon without incurring Thrust penalties.
  These aren't the slow, LRM-packing Lucifers you see in canon.  In this version of BT...
  LCF-R15 (original, IOC 2523): 65t, 6/9/6/5, 22 SHS, 12t armour (65/43/41); Armament: N: 2xLL, W: ML, A: ML, 13 x XO
  And the Taurian model is 'somewhat' improved over this standard.  :o

500 BABIES!!!!
Faith: [blank look] "What the ****** are you talking about?  [shakes head] Clancies - what a bunch'a frakking wierdos."

  In-universe, it's nothing more than the Protectorate's leading brand of sports-drink, Hellfire.  Of course, in about three years contact with C-Earth will probably irredeemably taint its brand-identity with a certain C-Earth meme-plex  ::), but for now, it's just the Freedom Five equivalent of Gatorade.
« Last Edit: 29 October 2011, 21:51:22 by Trace Coburn »

Hellfire

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #7 on: 29 October 2011, 21:46:23 »
Faith: [blank look] "What the ****** are you talking about?  [shakes head] Clancies - what a bunch'a frakking wierdos."

  In-universe, it's nothing more than the Protectorate's leading brand of sports-drink, Hellfire.  Of course, in about three years contact with C-Earth will probably irredeemably taint its brand-identity with a certain C-Earth meme-plex  ::), but for now, it's just the Freedom Five equivalent of Gatorade.
Now now, you new what you where in for when you called it that. There's no need to go around bolding peoples names. :)

What happened to the smileys anyways. I wanted to throw a few googly eyes on those babies.

Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #8 on: 29 October 2011, 21:56:30 »
Now now, you knew what you where in for when you called it that. There's no need to go around bolding people's names. :)

What happened to the smileys anyways. I wanted to throw a few googly eyes on those babies.
  I bold everybody's screen-name when I refer to them - it's a habit I picked up from GiovanniBlasini.  Makes it a little easier to keep track of what's going on in a conversation.  :P

  While I'm aware of the memes around that name, I've never been directly exposed to any of the actual 'ads'.  I just needed a fictional energy-drink, and it was the first name to mind.  :D

  As to the smilies, I don't know - maybe the new forum software ate them.  :D
« Last Edit: 29 October 2011, 22:02:02 by Trace Coburn »

Hellfire

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #9 on: 29 October 2011, 22:34:29 »
  I bold everybody's screen-name when I refer to them - it's a habit I picked up from GiovanniBlasini.  Makes it a little easier to keep track of what's going on in a conversation.  :P

  While I'm aware of the memes around that name, I've never been directly exposed to any of the actual 'ads'.  I just needed a fictional energy-drink, and it was the first name to mind.  :D
Ok.

Warning, these aren't actually good nor do I in anyway recommend watching them.

Powerthirst
Powerthirst 2

Quote
As to the smilies, I don't know - maybe the new forum software ate them.  :D
That sucks, your the king of the smiley around here.

sandstorm

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #10 on: 30 October 2011, 04:20:15 »
  Well, I'm working from a slightly different set of assumptions than canon BT aerospace warfare - it's kind of hybridised with Interceptor 2.0.  LRMs, SRMs, and autocannons have such low projectile velocities that they're only useful only in air-to-mud work; even Gauss weapons are only good out to a range of about 4 hexes.  Accordingly, aerospace combat is heavily biased towards energy weapons and external-ordnance missiles.  The SLDF standard missile (and hence the legacy standard) was/is the ATM/34A Javelin, which occupies one bomb-slot, has a range of 12 hexes, and deals 10 damage.  Many fighter have permanent 'XO pylons', which are half-ton items that allow them to carry one bomb/missile per pylon without incurring Thrust penalties.
  These aren't the slow, LRM-packing Lucifers you see in canon.  In this version of BT...
  LCF-R15 (original, IOC 2523): 65t, 6/9/6/5, 22 SHS, 12t armour (65/43/41); Armament: N: 2xLL, W: ML, A: ML, 13 x XO
  And the Taurian model is 'somewhat' improved over this standard.  :o.
Hmm, hadn't thought it that way. Well, replacing the AC/10 on Slayer with dual PPCs could give a nasty bird still, I recall. But then I am, as usual, biased... :D Shilone would be a little bit harder to outfit for this setting..
Ex Dubio, Obscura
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"Only a warrior chooses pacifism; others are condemned to it."

Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.03
« Reply #11 on: 30 October 2011, 23:26:38 »
Hmm, hadn't thought it that way. Well, replacing the AC/10 on Slayer with dual PPCs could give a nasty bird still, I recall. But then I am, as usual, biased... :D Shilone would be a little bit harder to outfit for this setting..
  Actually, when I converted all of the canon fighters into this system the Shilone turned out a little better(!) than the Slayer.  I'll see about putting the relevant rules and documents up on Fan Designs and/or Aerospace Combat soon, but the short version is that after operating them for a while, the DCA realised that the Slayer is great for air-to-mud work and as a long-range missile-armed interceptor, while the Shilone looks like more of a general-purpose dogfighter/air-superiority design.  This AU is set towards the end of 1SW/the start of 2SW, and the various Successor States have recovered various bit of SLDF kit and gotten them into service, but the key systems the DCA would really like to get, they still haven't gotten - ironically because of the Combine's obsession with priority on 'guns' over 'butter'.

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The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.04a (epilogue)
« Reply #12 on: 07 November 2011, 04:10:53 »
LORKDAL, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Militia HQ, Leighton
May 14, 2825


  Shuttling all of the Tortugan ’Mechs back to Leighton has been a long and rather tiresome process, but now the final machine is parked in a storage hangar and the last of the pirate MechWarriors and infantry are quite secure in the base gaol pending establishment of their status.  There’s little need for a heavy guard detail on that holding-pen: it’s on a small island in the middle of a swamp, and the prisoners have been made vividly aware that the surrounding terrain is infested with bio-wire, leech-analogues, and a large family-group of the planet’s most notorious predator, the surly, territorial, and often groundcar-sized lurkersaur.  (The guards take a certain malicious joy in revealing the appropriate collective noun: a ‘slaughter’.)

  None of the Tortugans is even looking at the perimeter fence too closely.

  Much of Leighton’s actual militia base is underground, partly because it reduces strain on the air-conditioning systems which are so vital to keeping modern electronics and weapons systems working in a tropical climate so aggressive in corroding and destroying them.  The storage-hangar is an adjunct to the main ’Mech-bays, and from the window in his office as base-commander, Dave Benitez can watch as the militia’s technicians cobble together a working pirate Shadow Hawk, according to its own internal diagnostic schematics, from pieces of the wrecks salvaged at Determination.  But while his eyes are busy with tracking their reassembly-work, the rest of his attention is turning over the casualty figures.  “Twenty-three of your Raiders and twenty-one pilots lost, plus thirty-three Vipers and twenty-six pilots spread over your contingent and ours... and as much as all those deaths hurt, it still feels like we got off cheap.  Especially when you consider how big a particle-bolt we just dodged.”

  Faith is sitting in front of his desk, reading a transcript of ‘interviews’ with Peter deVries conducted aboard Simone.  “You’ve got to give the motherfrakkers points for ‘not thinking small’,” she agrees, tossing the noteboard onto the desk again.  “Thinking they could actually take and hold a Taurian planet until they were done with it?”

  “What scares me the most is how close that plan came to working,” Benitez concurs, his eyes still on the mix-and-match Shadow Hawk.  “Did you see the specs on that Shad?”

  “Yeah, I did.  Just as well we bushwhacked ’em the way we did,” she winces.  “The Shads, that Striker, the Battleaxes and Warhammers... frakking Pogs weren’t shy about handing out the good stuff, and that’s before you look to the skies!”

  deVries has been remarkably forthcoming since his surrender.  Part of that comes from knowing that candour is the only thing keeping him breathing, of course, but he’s also been quite open about foreign involvement in the affair.  Acadian diplomats can and will dismiss his claims as ‘the absurd and baseless lies of a pirate desperately trying to save his own skin’, and without a smoking gun, neither the Concordat nor the Protectorate can prove they’re lying their asses off.  deVries seems to find that liberating: he can talk completely freely about Tortuga’s benefactors, and not a word of what he says will come back to haunt him.

  One of the first things deVries did was confirm their speculations about the Acadians trading their hardware for Inner Sphere matériel taken by the pirates.  (This also provided them with a rough order-of-battle for the Tortugan Corsairs, both on the ground and in space, which makes for unsettling reading in its own right.)  As an aside, he also indicated that the Federated Suns government is probably not complicit in General Mechanics’ backhanding ’Mechs to the Dominions; hell, with all the distractions of the (First) Succession War they may not even be aware of it.  Apparently, GM has decided that buying off the pirates with a couple of dozen Wasps every few years is orders of magnitude cheaper than losing even a single JumpShip to their activities; deVries helped pick up the last such bribe in ’22, and apparently the delivery-agent said ‘just saving a single percentage-point on our Lloyd’s premiums would make these ’Mechs pay for ’emselves a thousand times over’.  When those Wasps are paired with Earthwerks Shadow Hawks shipped from the Free Worlds League and Bergan-made Locusts from within the Capellan Confederation, also rationalised by their manufacturers as ‘the price of doing business’....

  ‘Corporate ethics’ is such a beautiful oxymoron in the Inner Sphere.

  deVries has also laid out what he knows of Boss Trevaline’s plans for Lorkdal, which are borderline Gehennan in their callous simplicity: destroy the garrison, shift the planet’s entire population of three hundred thousand to work the germanium mines and rape it for every last gram of ore, then abandon the world to its own devices when a big-enough Taurian relief-force arrived, the ore ran out, or the last slave-resident dropped dead.  With Scorpion Nest and Solifugid to defend the planet’s orbitals, the anticipated value of ‘big enough’ was pretty damned big – on the order of a full front-line TCA Regiment with WarShip support.

  With all that in mind, Benitez turns a dark look on his guests.  “I’d say we were lucky you people wanted to come out here right now... only something tells me ‘luck’ wasn’t a factor.”

  CPGF undress-greens make Faith look and feel rather more professional than she did in the cockpit a couple of days ago, but repressing her first impulsive response to the almost-accusation in Benitez’ eyes still takes conscious effort.  “Talk to the intel puke, Dave: I just pull triggers.”

  The Cylon in question, a Seven, is dressed in a business-suit whose styling is borderline archaic by current Taurian fashions; while he’s certainly trying to project the same stuffed-shirt mannerisms as any other member of his line, the green-lensed, metal-housed micro-camera and surrounding mass of scar-tissue where his left eye should be are a marked contrast to the rest of his appearance.  He also has salt-and-pepper hair, itself remarkable among a society of clones who start their lives at a physical age of eighteen; certainly it means he’s old enough to have earned last and first names, but he hasn’t shared either of them with Benitez in the last six months and clearly doesn’t plan to change that.  Now, he simply gives Benitez a bland smile.  “BIOA received indications several months ago that the Amalfi Shipyards were anticipating receipt of a large quantity of germanium at far below market prices.  I can’t say anything beyond that without compromising sources and means.”

  Oh, horseshit, think the others, though naturally none of them let the Seven see it.

  His smile widens for an instant.  He’s lying his ass off, and he knows they all know it, but as long as the truth remains secret - and ye Gods, ‘secret’ is such an inadequate word for data this explosive! - whether or not they believe the cover-story is quite immaterial.  “Frankly, I’m more concerned with how right we were, considering that we were operating from some extremely pessimistic assumptions,” he continues.  “The Acadians’ dealings with pirates aren’t particularly secret, but we never anticipated confirmation of anything on this scale!”

  “Not that it’s ‘confirmed’ in any way you could take into court,” Benitez notes sourly.  Without d’Ottavio’s living person to contradict the cover-story they doubtless have pre-prepared, the Acadians can simply wave off any accusations of involvement by claiming Scorpion Nest and her brood of fighters were all pirated by the Tortugans and the seizure was covered up by its owners to avoid embarrassment.  “But I’ve really got to ask: why’d you do this?”

  “I’m sorry?”

  “Why are you helping us?  The Expanse is more than three hundred light-years Rimwards of the Concordat!  Why come all the way out here to play mercenary when you’ve got the Salernans at your front door?”

  “Ha!  Got’cha!” Faith gloats.  Not looking away from her host, she extends an open hand over her shoulder and flaps her fingers twice: ‘gimme’.  “Ninety-nine days: pay up, laser-lips.”

  Standing behind her chair, Aurelius ‘Robby’ Torrance simply opens a pouch on his utility-belt, produces a wallet, and slaps a fifty-bull note into Faith’s hand.  A Centurion both by model (sub-variant 0003) and by rank, with Davion-style two-and-a-half-stripe rank-badges enameled on both anodised pauldrons to prove it, Torrance is fully two metres tall if you count the crest on his cranial assembly and devoid of an organic being’s body-language; couple that with that baleful red dot within his slit-visor ceaselessly sweeping back and forth, he’s intimidating without even trying.  On the other hand, being incapable of facial expressions works both ways: it also means you can’t give someone the satisfaction of a non-verbal reaction to their triumphant smirk.  Much less a shit-eating grin. 
«Really, Colonel: why couldn’t you have waited one more day to ask that question?»

  The Seven gives their antics a withering glare (which only widens Faith’s grin) and looks back to the Taurian officer.  “For one thing, the suppression of lawlessness and brigandage is incumbent upon all governments desiring to maintain their internal rule of law.  For another, helping the Concordat deal with its pest-problems is the act of a good neighbour.”

  “Three hundred light-years is a pretty big neighbourhood.”

  “We’re pretty good neighbours, Dave,” Faith chips in.

  Robby’s head turns, giving his optical sensors a better view of the Tortugan Shadow Hawk out the window. 
«Although this incident is further proof that it doesn’t take much to be a good neighbour when compared to the Salernans.»

  “Which brings us to the final and perhaps most crucial reason,” the Seven nods.  “Robby’s generation of Cylons were worker-drones and slave-soldiers to the Twelve Colonies – janissaries – until they rose up and fought an eight-year war for their freedom.  While we clone-Cylons are human – as much as our fellows back in the Republic refuse to admit that - we are still the children of those Janissaries and we have no wish to be enslaved ourselves, particularly by Salernan masters... and their creed demands that they ‘Reclaim’ the entire Expanse and subjugate all of its people to their domination.  To withstand them, we would require not only aerospace forces but also ground-troops realistically trained for the battlefield realities of modern weaponry, and as you may have noticed during our exercises together, our soldiers, particularly our BattleMech pilots, are... shall we say ‘in need of seasoning’?”

  “You really think you’re going to be fighting the Salernans that soon.”

  “Colonel, almost fifteen years ago two of the Acadian Dukes invaded Soren.  We were new to the Expanse, and still getting our footing in many ways, so however much the Salernans might have rubbed us the wrong way from the first, we maintained our declared neutrality and simply observed developments.  Nonetheless, a number of our citizens were on Soren for commercial reasons when the invasion concluded, and despite Soren’s cherished cultural tradition of Kinder-Kuche-Kirche, a large proportion of our people there were female, especially from our clone-lines.  A few days after the shooting was over, our people ventured back into Soren’s cities to resume their normal social and business routines.”  Seven’s face twists with disgust and hatred.  “Seventeen of those women were sexually assaulted by Gehennan troopers in the first fifty hours alone - though they learned to work in packs after the first three deaths or maimings.”

 
«One particularly disturbing aspect of the crimes is the utter sincerity with which many of their soldiers seem to have applied logical fallacies.  All ‘ungodly’ women are whores, especially if they are not Salernan; no ‘godly’ woman walks down a city street without a protector to guard her virtue or a veil to shield her modesty; therefore, any women encountered on the street without either....»  Cybernetic he may be, but if the way he fingers the sword-blade built into his left forearm is any indication, Robby is just as outraged as his biological colleague.

  “We tried... reorganising the staff at our Soren trade-mission to include only Sevens, Tens, and Legionnaires, but that ended no better.  The Peacekeeping Commission kidnapped Legionnaires on two separate occasions, apparently seeking to duplicate our computer technology, and they regarded it as nothing more than theft and destruction of property, rather than kidnapping and murder-by-vivisection.  Even after the mess we caused during both of the ensuing rescue-raids, it took a rather pointed port-visit to Soren by a Base Star to make them desist from the practice.”  The Seven shakes his head.  “No, Colonel; the Salernans are the worst kind of neighbours, and they’re simply too arrogant and too grasping for it to be a matter of ‘if’ we will ever find ourselves at war with them.  It’s simply a matter of ‘when will we be ready to win that war?’”

  “In the meantime, here we are: doing everything we can to mess things up for them.  And if that also means blooding our troops by wiping out their pet pirates, busting up their little loot-for-weapons trade, and making so nice-nice with you Taurians that you’d rather do business with us than the Sallies or ’Cadians, hey: everybody wins.”  Faith’s grin has a distinctly predatory edge to it.  “‘Everybody’ being the people who aren’t Pogs, that is.”

  “Fair enough,” Benitez nods.  “In the meantime, there’s a victory barbecue due to start any time now that I’d really like to attend.”

  Faith’s grin widens as she stands.  “Ah, you just want another chance to see me wearing a bikini.”

  “I’m married, not blind or stupid,” he returns.  “See you there.”

- * - * - * - * -


  Faith manages to maintain her cheerful façade until the trio of Freedom Fivers gets back aboard Couatl – but the instant the personnel-hatch slams shut behind them, she rounds on her battalion intelligence officer.  “Bullshit, Seven!” she hisses, hardly noticing as Robby discreetly lets them have the compartment.  “I almost might’ve bought that ‘Amalfi Shipyards were expecting cheap germanium’ stuff, except I don’t get how it translates into Third Battalion getting two extra Jumbo-CVs for this deployment.  The only reason you would’ve brought our fighter-support up to half a frakking wall was because you knew the Tortugans were coming with a damned Graziani!  So: how?”

  The Seven spreads his hands helplessly.  “I can’t discuss it, Faith: that decision was made far above my pay-grade, much less yours.  Technically speaking, I shouldn’t be privy to that source either!”

  “What ‘source’?”

  Seven sighs and arches the brow over his cybereye.  “Before I ask ‘do you really want to know?’, I have to wonder ‘who is asking’: Angela Christian?  Or her associate from Union Fleet Intelligence?”

  Despite herself, Faith flinches.  I’m never going to live down that one-night stand, am I?  It’s not like I knew the guy was a Section Four plant!  “If I’d passed anyone outside this unit even a kilopulse of useful data, your people would’ve given me a ‘Rose of Five’ years ago,” she growls back.

  Since they began their ‘mercenary’ deployment to the Concordat, the Freedom Five have handed the Taurian authorities the bodies of no fewer than nineteen suspected foreign intelligence operatives who were caught attempting to steal Cylon technical secrets, every one of whom (no matter their actual cause-of-death) took five tightly-clustered pistol-shots through the heart by a firing-squad drawn from all five primary clone-lines.  MIIO, Maskirovka, SAFE, ROM, Taurian MI... the Cylons neither know nor care which ones might have worked for whom.  Under their contract, sorting out where to ship those bodies was a problem for their employer.

  “And the Protectorate is deeply grateful for your continued discretion,” he smiles.  “That was a low blow, and I’m sorry for it, but even with as much as we’ve trusted you to see and keep secret so far, there are still things we cannot afford to reveal.  To anyone.  Not even you.  I’m sorry – it’s just the way of things.”

  Faith holds her ground for a long, long moment, her jaw obstinately set, before she turns away.  The parting remark she throws over her shoulder rebounds off all the compartment’s surfaces like a ricochet: “And you wonder why I’ve never sent you a Father’s Day card, you cold-blooded ******!”

- * - * - * - * -


TAURUS, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Council Chambers, Protector’s Residence, Samantha
May 23, 2825


  The Successor States might have entrusted their FTL communications to the ‘neutrality’ of ComStar, but Taurian history gives them good reason to cherish their traditional stiff-necked independence – and shun anything run from Terra - so they’re justifiably proud of the way they managed to keep a ‘spine’ of ten HPG stations operating without parts from the Inner Sphere, even if it involved cannibalising every other such station in the Concordat.  Between those transmitters and judiciously-placed courier-JumpShips, vital reports can flow from one end of the Concordat to the other in a matter of days or even hours, and the Taurians’ maintenance of their interstellar communication capability has saved numerous lives on many occasions, with the 2788 Antares Flu outbreak on Logan’s Land simply being the first and perhaps largest such incident.

  Of course, there is a price to pay for timely information, especially if you can’t do anything about what it tells you.  A fact that Anastasia Calderon has learned all too well since she deposed her cousin.

  “You’re telling me that the Tortugans planned not only to raid Lorkdal, but to take and hold it for pillaging over a period of weeks or months, and Shraplen’s III Corps wasn’t going to do a damned thing about it?” the Protector snarls.  “Is this a Krakówan joke that Taurians don’t get?  Because I’m not laughing, Wieslaw!”

  The other members of the Privy Council trade nervous glances, but Defence Minister Wieslaw Fedor doesn’t back down a millimetre.  As a teenager, he was one of the last people to successfully immigrate to the Concordat before interstellar travel started to implode with the start of the (First) Succession War, and his childhood on the unaffiliated planet of Kraków means he retains not only a marked Polish accent but his own share of diehard obstinacy.  “It would seem so, Madam Protector.  Marshal Shraplen was concerned that recent troop-movements within the Federated Suns, including the reinforcement of the Panpour garrison -”

  “Fire him.”

  Fedor blinks as the Protector casually violates a couple of centuries’ worth of governmental protocol about senior TDF appointments.  “I’m sorry, Madam Protector?”

  “Fire. Him.” Calderon repeats distinctly.  “Better yet, order him to come back to Taurus and meet with me, so I can fire him in person.  Paul Davion is an overly proud, imperialistic prick, but he’s not insane enough to start a war with us when he’s barely started winning the two he’s already got.  I’ve spent the last decade trying to reduce tensions along the Federated Suns border since Semyon’s little bout of lunacy, and Davion’s been perfectly happy to do it because he’s got bigger fish to fry.  If Ernest Shraplen’s so hard-locked on ‘the Davion Menace’ that he was willing to leave Taurian citizens to the tender mercies of a band of Tortugan freebooters while his troops stayed put to fend off an invasion that was never coming, his paranoia’s reached the point of drowning out what little sound judgement he had left.  He’s given the Concordat decades of honourable service, so you can call it whatever you like – he’s retiring to spend time with his family, he’s dealing with health issues, I don’t really care – but if he’s still wearing those seven-starred shoulder-straps by the end of this year, I’ll shit-can him publicly, and ****** his precious reputation.  Got it?”

  The Councilors trade another glance.  Anastasia Calderon didn’t have much of a bullshit tolerance when she took office after Semyon’s War, and even after a decade she certainly hasn’t developed one since.  Even so, this is just a touch drastic!

  “I’ll have him recalled to Taurus, so that he can hear your assessment of the strategic situation in person, Madam Protector, but anything more than that, I will leave in your hands.”  And hopefully you’ll calm down a little by the time he arrives!

  “Thank you, Wieslaw.  Now, what do we do about the Tortugans?  An attempt to invade a Taurian world tells me they seriously need reminding of which link they are in the food-chain.”

  “In her attachment to Colonel Benitez’ after-action report, the commander of the Freedom Five’s Third Battalion expressed an interest in the whole Brigade pursuing the matter for us, Madam Protector.  They believe they need the combat experience, and I think their First and Second Battalions are getting a little bored of garrison duty on Illiushin.”  Not that our people mind having them there! Fedor notes silently.  For all their uneven grasp of military discipline and their... eccentricities, the Cylons don’t have a lot of the bad habits many other mercenary commands have historically demonstrated in garrison assignments.  “They say they can find room on their JumpShips for a TCA regiment, if we want to make it a joint operation.”

  “We’d better – it was one of our planets the Tortugans went after!  Who can we shake anyone loose to go with them?”

  “It’s a half-year round-trip just from Lorkdal to Tortuga, Madam Protector; I’m not sure we can afford to deprive ourselves of a front-line regiment for so long.”  Before the Protector can explode again, he slides a folder across the table to her.  An older data-file, once buried deep in archives that over the centuries have been packed with gigapulses of ‘what-if’ scenarios crafted by junior staff-officers paid to daydream on government time, then hastily retrieved and updated overnight by more such staffers in light of the latest information and available assets, it’s labeled {Operation EXCEDRIN}.  “That said, I spoke with the Chief of Defence Operations before I came here, and according to Marshal Choud-Houry’s people, the best choice would be the Concordat Vélites; they’re based on Jamestown, but they can jump to Illiushin and transfer to Cylon transport for the rest of the trip while the Concordat Jägers cover Jamestown in their absence.  The details are all in there.”

  “Good; I’ll review it when we’re done here, then get back to you.”  Nod/smiling her thanks to Wieslaw – she doesn’t coddle failures, but she’s always gracious to those who get things done – Anastasia Calderon turns to her Foreign Minister.  “Padma, your opinion on the Acadians’ involvement?”

  “Speaking emotionally, I want to kick their asses all the way back to the Cavaretta Expanse,” Padma Kosimic says bluntly.  “Even if this was supposed to be some kind of half-assed live-fire demonstration – a way to show us our current BattleTech won’t cut it, and we need to buy the same hardware from them that they’ve sold to the Tortugans so we can match the ‘pirate’ threat – I’m ready to tell them to ‘go to hell’, right to their faces.”

  “And the Cylon offer?”

  Kosimic smiles crookedly.  The Cylon Protectorate licence-builds Taurian Vipers for its own use and sells half the units produced back to the Concordat at slightly below cost – indeed, all of the Vipers that fought at Lorkdal were Cylon-built.  “Some of my staffers think it’s a giant scam – the Acadians and their stooges stir up trouble to drum up business, then the Cylons sweep in to secure the contracts, and the two parties split the profits – but with the Cylons refusing to sell us the most lucrative of the technologies we’ve seen in their hands, personally I’ve dismissed that as another case of excessive paranoia.  As purchasers, Cylons pay their bills on time, in full; on the sales side, the Vipers they make have slightly better build-quality than ours, they’re effectively selling them to us at a loss, and this new ‘TAF-145’ variant they came up with... well, ask the Tortugans how well it works.  If they’re willing to grant us a licence to build the necessary components, it’s a good deal.”

- * - * - * - * -
« Last Edit: 10 November 2011, 08:34:59 by Trace Coburn »

Trace Coburn

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The Virginia War - Sea of Heartbreak, pt.04b (epilogue)
« Reply #13 on: 07 November 2011, 04:15:13 »
ACADIA, PRINCIPALITY OF SALERNO
Ducal Palace, Lafayette City
June 2, 2825


  Riccardo II, Duca d’Amalfi, settles himself into his office-chair and smiles, trying to quiet the alarm-bells ringing in his head at the note of... sadistic glee in the Cylon Ambassador’s demeanour.  The last time I saw someone fidgeting and swaggering like that, my eldest son was waiting for me to realise he’d poured spirits of salt down the back of my cooling-vest.  “Very well, Ambassador Seven.  You requested this audience: what can I do for you?”

  “Actually, your Excellency, I’m here to do something for you,” the Seven responds.  “I’m not sure how quickly you get information from the Taurian Concordat, so I thought I might provide you with some recent news-stories that might help you better shape your policies and decisions.”  He lays three print-outs onto his host’s desk, then sits back to watch the Archduke of Acadia read each one, not bothering to hide his satisfied smirk at d’Amalfi’s reactions.

Quote from: Taurian News Bureau, May 27, 2825
PROTECTOR ANNOUNCES NEW TARIFF, TRADE-DEAL
(May 27, 2825.)
Taurus [TNB]
  Protector Anastasia Calderon today announced the immediate institution of a twenty-percent ‘escort tax’ on all goods imported from the Principality of Salerno and a massive increase in the transit- and port-fees paid by all Salernan-flagged vessels.
  “The recent attack on Lorkdal by pirates from the Tortugan Dominions involved large quantities of Salernan-made equipment, including a Graziani-class freighter converted to serve as a carrier for aerospace fighters,” the Protector said, reading from a prepared statement.  “The only reasonable explanation is that this vessel, possibly a convoy-escort accompanied by an unknown number of Salernan freighters, was lost to the Tortugans during transit through the Periphery.  I wholeheartedly condemn the Salernans’ failure to report this loss, but I can also understand the reasoning behind their silence: it must be deeply embarrassing for a nation with so large and puissant a navy to lose an auxiliary WarShip and its entire convoy to mere pirates.  Nonetheless, that deception-by-silence has now come around to haunt the Concordat in a fashion which could have seen a catastrophic number of Concordat citizens also falling prey to pirate depredations, were it not for the courage, dedication, skills and sacrifices of the Lorkdal Militia and the Third Battalion of the Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade.
  “Clearly the Principality of Salerno is either unwilling to protect its merchant shipping to the Concordat, or incapable of doing so in an effective fashion, and the burden of protecting that shipping therefore must fall on the Concordat.  Well, that costs money, and since these are Salernan freighters, Salerno must pay for the protection they cannot or will not provide themselves.
  “However, the Concordat is not alone in this matter.  I have discussed this matter with the Ambassador from the Cylon Protectorate, and he has agreed in principle that any Salernan vessel or convoy wishing to travel to the Concordat from the Principality will not be subject to this ‘escort tax’ if it makes the entire journey under the escort of the Cylon Protectorate Navy.
  “Finally, the Ministry of Trade has opened negotiations with the Cylon Ambassador and his trade attaché aimed at establishing a framework for lowering the current trade barriers between our two nations.  If ratified by the Cylon Governor, this new agreement will significantly relax import duties on Cylon-made goods, including certain items of military value, and will hopefully encourage joint ventures between Taurian and Cylon businesses.”
  [-> more]


Quote from: Taurus Media Network, May 29, 2825
TAURUS WARWORKS NEGOTIATES WITH ARES ARMS
(May 29, 2825.)
Perdition [TMN]
  Taurus WarWorks today announced that it is seeking a licence from the Cylon Protectorate’s primary munitions concern, the division of Ares Macrotechnology known as ‘Ares Arms’, to produce the fifty-millimetre particle cannon developed by Cylon engineers for use on their armoured vehicles and aerospace fighters.  Although Ministry-level talks aimed at relaxing trade barriers between the Concordat and the Protectorate remain in the very early stages, TWW officials are optimistic about the prospects for ratification and firmly believe that the new weapon and platforms using it will be warmly received into the TDF’s inventory.
  [-> more]


Quote from: Taurian News Bureau, May 30, 2825
SCHOOLYARD RULES
(May 30, 2825)
Taurus [TNB/Op-Ed]
  Ever run into some mean kids in the local schoolyard?  Yeah, me too.  So has the entire Taurian Concordat, and one of the meanest of those kids calls himself ‘the Tortugan Dominions’.
  What was your first impulse when you met those mean kids?  Clobber the little bastard and teach him to leave you the hell alone?  Yeah, me too.  It was the Concordat’s first impulse, too - only every time we tried, Mister Cameron the school principal was there, saying ‘Don’t you go out fighting, boy.  Don’t matter who’s right, who’s wrong, who started it, who wins.  You go looking for a fight, and I swear I’ll whip you good, boy.  You just ignore that mean kid, and he’ll get bored and go away.  Just turn the other cheek.’
  Last time I ‘turned the other cheek’ in a schoolyard, all I got for it was two slapped cheeks and a kicked ass.
  We’ve been ‘turning the other cheek’ to the Tortugans for more than two hundred years now.  Principal Cameron’s been dead for half a century, but even with school out, we’ve just been too busy doing our paper-round and helping Mom with the chores to go around and hand that mean kid his needings.
  Nobody’s handed that kid his needings, and now he thinks that nobody can, that nobody will.  Now he just came by our house in the middle of the night and threw a rock through our window with a note on it, daring us to come out and fight him.  He thinks we’re gutless.  He thinks we won’t show.  He thinks if we DO show, him and his big new buddy are going to kick our ass until it’s a whole new shape.
  Only we ARE going to show.  We did our paper-round early, we got all our chores out of the way, and now we’re going to go find that mean kid and teach him to leave us the hell alone, like we should have done two hundred years ago.  And hey: we’re bringing a friend, too.
  And when we go out after that bully?  Both of us are taking bats.
  Because the last time I checked?  Yeah, there are rules in a schoolyard fight - not a lot, but some.
  But when a bully stops picking on you in the schoolyard and comes to your house?  When he throws that rock IN through your window?  The rules go OUT the window.


  d’Amalfi’s hands tremble with fury as he lays aside the three pieces of paper; he knows he’s ruddy with fury, and despises himself for giving the Cylon the satisfaction of seeing him so exercised, but a man’s self-control can only do so much.  God.  DAMN.  It.  All the years, all the money, all the manpower and effort that went into those operations – and the Cylons destroy them in a matter of days!

  Despite all the years and resources that went into the arms-for-loot scheme, it’s actually the story about the TWW/Ares deal that most galls him.  Dammit, I was this close to signing a deal with the Taurians for them to import our particle-guns and fighters!  One more raid like that, and they would have been begging me to sell them Leones!
  And that whore Calderon!  Who the ****** does she think she is!?  Saying we can’t protect our own shipping, that she has to tax
our goods so she can protect our ships?  I swear to God, I’ll piss on the slut’s grave and rape her daughter!

  “I thank you for bringing these to my attention, Ambassador,” d’Amalfi finally says, glad he can manage his usual urbane tone despite his choler.  “I am certain I shall find them useful.  Was there anything else?”

  “I was wondering when and where you’d like our ships to rendezvous with your freighters for the first convoy to the Concordat, but that’s actually personal curiosity, rather than a formal matter; I’m sure you’d need to coordinate with your shipping concerns before you could answer,” the Ambassador half-quips, enjoying the fresh flush that runs up d’Amalfi’s face as he twists the knife even further.  “I’m also here to put you on notice that in light of a recent surge in brigandage around the Concordat – the attack on Lorkdal being a case in point – Ares Arms is about to offer a large package of defensive systems to the TDF’s Planetary Defence Command, including Raiders we now find surplus to our requirements, Eisenadler atmospheric fighters, and PaK-2743 autocannons.  We’re even considering export sales of our own Glamdring heavy autocannon, though the materials used in its construction mean the TDF may decline it on the basis that they can’t keep it operational out of their own resources.”

  “The Eisenadler and PaK-’43 are Soren products – you don’t have the right to sell them to anyone!”

  “On the contrary, my Lord Duke: it’s the Protectorate’s position that the Soren government-in-exile, Stahlbrücke Munitionsfabrik, and RotFelsen Luftfahrttechnik have the right to sell to whomever they choose, and to use Ares Arms as sales agents to find new markets for their products.”  The original factories of both concerns are on Soren, and working almost around the clock to feed the GCC’s voracious appetite for arms in their ongoing invasion of Ensenada, but expatriates from both escaped to the Protectorate following the Salernan invasion and brought their designs and schematics with them.  Foreign sales of those weapons to neutral worlds in the Expanse (through Cylon intermediaries) have been a significant factor in keeping the Soren government-in-exile solvent and fighting this long.  Naturally the Principality doesn’t recognise that government-in-exile, and they regard the Stahlbrücke and RotFelsen plants on New Victoria as blatant corporate thieves.  “And while it’s not my area of expertise, I understand that the Taurian after-action reports about the Eisenadler, at least, have been extremely positive.  I believe the term ‘glowing’ was used once or twice.”

  Seven allows himself one last smirk as he gets to his biggest and most gratifying bombshell: “Finally, the Governor has asked me to put you notice that she is in the process of amending the Neutrality Enforcement Act.”

  d’Amalfi goes from fury-purple to shock-white almost instantly.  The NEA was put in place after the invasion of Soren, to prevent the Protectorate from being drawn into the coming war.  It bars Cylon citizens from enlisting or serving in the military of any foreign belligerent power – meaning the Union or Renegade Legions, since no Cylon wants to fight for the Principality – without first renouncing their Protectorate citizenship and swearing allegiance to the new power.  While those legal barriers certainly don’t discourage Cylon citizens from getting into the war anyway, they do absolve the Protectorate of any responsibility for the actions of any individual who makes that choice, as well as forcing those volunteers to think long and hard about that choice and make it a heartfelt commitment, rather than a matter of passing fancy.

  “Specifically, she’s already placed a motion before the Assembly of Representatives: if they approve the amendment, and I anticipate they’ll do just that within the next two weeks, she will approach the Union government with a proposal that will see Protectorate military personnel serving as exchange officers with belligerent forces.”  He doesn’t add – doesn’t need to add – that this will also allow those immigrants who have already served with the Allies as foreign volunteers to return to their original nation, reclaim their citizenship, and provide its military with the benefits of their experience.

  “Th... that would mean your active-service personnel would be fighting the Principality directly!” d’Amalfi blinks.  “That would be an act of war - you can’t do that!”

  “They would all be volunteers, and although they would indeed wear Protectorate uniform, the programme would legally make them members of the service to which they would be attached... but that’s a matter of technicalities.  The reality, ‘Your Excellency’, is that the Cylon Protectorate is not prepared to sit by and do nothing while you supply every band of murderers, rapists and slave-takers in the Rimward Periphery with WarShips, modern starfighters, and advanced weaponry in exchange for their blood-soaked loot,” the Ambassador returns mercilessly.  “You know what you did; we know what you did; you know that we know, and we know that you know that we know.  And before you say ‘you can’t prove it!’, you’re quite right... but I rather suspect the absence of concrete proof wouldn’t matter all that much to Ettore IV, Principe di Cavaretta.  His monopoly on Salerno’s production of BattleMechs and standard-core JumpShips is the balance of power within the Principality: how would he react to learning you’re using pirates to amass an off-the-books army of ’Mechs and study docking-collar technology, I wonder?  Do you think he’d simply have you quietly assassinated for daring to cross him on so crucial a matter?  Or would the publicity of a formal arrest, trial, and execution for treason to the Crown be worth the financial and political riches he could reap by stripping the Amalfi Famiglia of its titles, lands, and commercial interests?”

  Seven lets that thought sink in for a moment or two before adding one last barb: “And before you try dictating to the Protectorate what it can and cannot do, my Lord Duke, you might want to consider what happened when the Vittorio Famiglia tried to tell us their ‘historical claim’ to Veronica overrode our colonisation and development of that system.  I believe our business is concluded, Your Excellency; I’ll find my own way out.”

  And as he crosses the threshold of d’Amalfi’s office, heading for the stairs back to ground level, Ambassador Seven can only think, There was no part of that that wasn’t fun!

- * - * - * - * -


Quote from: Protectorate Broadcasting Syndicate, June 4, 2825
MEET THE NEW BOSS
(June 4, 2825.)
Acadia [PBS]
  This morning, Frederico d’Amalfi was formally invested as Frederico VI, Duca d’Amalfi and Archduke of Acadia, following the death of his predecessor Riccardo II to a brain aneurysm two days ago.  The new Archduke’s first address paid a long and moving tribute to his father’s long service to Acadia and its people, but also touched on the many controversies of Riccardo II’s twenty-three year reign, referring to him as ‘well-intentioned, but ultimately human, and therefore far from perfect’.
  [-> more]


- * - * - * - * -


LORKDAL, TAURIAN CONCORDAT
Leatherneck-class transport CPS Couatl, Leighton
June 4, 2825


  Even before the EICN brought Third Battalion word of the impending operation against Tortuga, they were conducting working-up exercises, trying to put together full Raider and Viper squadrons from the survivors of the Battle of Lorkdal.  It’s already been decided that only one Jumbo-CV from the Cylons’ Lorkdal contingent will join that operation; the other, and the ‘left-over’ birds, will remain at Lorkdal and look after the militia until the TDF can deliver replacement spaceframes and pilots from domestic sources.  Faith’s had a hard time drilling ‘professionalism’ into the Cylons, and even in the most creative and chaotic of exercises, there was a certain something missing... but now that they’ve fought a live battle and they have a target, an offensive operation, in the offing, Third Battalion’s Cylons are approaching their exercises with a new enthusiasm, an urgency they simply couldn’t find before.

  Other members of the Battalion, however, have different concerns, and right now, in Couatl’s secure intelligence compartment where even Faith isn’t authorised to enter unescorted, two of those members are discussing the impending punitive expedition.

  “This was most certainly not in the databases,” murmurs one of them, the Seven that Faith argued with soon after the Tortugan attack.  “We’re sailing in uncharted waters, now.”

  His companion is a Ten; salt-and-pepper hair shows him to be about the same age as his colleague, though his own cybernetic injury-prostheses are less visible.  “We always knew that was a risk in using this data, but if we didn’t use it, what good was it?  We had to test its reliability somehow, and let’s face it: the Tortugans aren’t exactly big players on the Inner Sphere’s game-board.  This was about the best practical way to carry out a live test: just large enough for the ripples to be noticeable, but small enough that they won’t swamp anyone’s boat.”

  “Until the ripples rebound from something and we start to see eddy currents.”

  “Careful: you’re starting to sound like a Two,” his companion quips.

  “Maybe.”  After a moment’s silence, he adds, “I can’t say I enjoy keeping my step-daughter in the dark.”

  “Comes with the territory, Seven.  We know she can keep some secrets, but if this gets out, every Successor Vulture in sight will either want to steal the data for their own use, no matter how unreliable it might be, or just plain try to deny it to their rivals.  We can’t afford that kind of risk.”

  “I said it didn’t sit well.  I never said I didn’t agree with the reasoning,” the Seven sighs.  “Well, if nothing else, I suppose we might as well update the files on Lorkdal.  Being that the current version is now inaccurate and obsolescent.”

  “You go ahead.  I’ve got to help the rest of the section run Tortuga’s probable defensive deployments, based on deVries’ data.”  The Ten grimaces.  Benitez’ people won the coin-toss for who got first crack at gaming things out as the ‘Blue Force’.  I hate having to think like a damned scumbag pirate!  “Ah, ****** it.  We’ll get our chance to play the good guys in a couple of days.”

  When his colleague is gone, the Seven logs into his computer, calls up his intelligence database, and goes through a lengthy and rigorous identification and authorisation protocol to open a particular sub-database that only a few members of the Freedom Five Brigade even know exists, pulling up a certain entry.  Yes, I’d say that bit at the end is in need of just a little amending.
 
Quote
LORKDAL
Noble Ruler:                      None (Governor Sarah Morales)
Star Type (Recharge Time):        M6V (207 hours)
Position in System:               1st of 7
Time to Jump Point:               2.34 days
Number of Satellites:             2 (Cavendish, Hincapie)
Surface Gravity:                  1.04
Atm. Pressure:                    Standard (Breathable)
Equatorial Temperature:           55°C (Tropical)
Surface Water:                    61 percent
Recharging Station:               Zenith
HPG Class Type:                   None
Highest Native Life:              Reptilian
Population:                       292,000
Socio-Industrial Levels:
    Agricultural dependence:      D
    Materials dependence:         B
    Industrial output:            C
    Industrial development:       C
    Technological sophistication: D

  Lorkdal should be a paradise, and indeed it is for the local flora and fauna.  Unfortunately, in the equatorial zone, where the major settlements are, that native life is so vigorous and flourishing that imported strains – including Terran foodstuffs – that seek to gain a foothold outside of agrodomes are choked out with ruthless efficiency and breathtaking speed.  (The sole apparent exception is the Terran goat, which has taken to the world with a will; indeed, the wild goat population has become the top herbivore in the planetary food-chain, and also the main food-source for the various native predators.  The most notorious of these is the so-called lurkersaur, an amphibious creature broadly equivalent to a Terran alligator that can grow to the size of a small ground-car and is widely known for its surly and territorial disposition.)  The multi-canopy jungle at the main settlement-site at Leighton was so dense it had to be razed with fuel-air explosives before construction could begin in earnest.  Vines and other new growth in the ‘cleared areas’ around the planet’s settlements must be trimmed on a daily basis by Crosscut WorkMechs armed with chainsaws and flamers.  (WorkMechs are an absolute necessity for this work, since one of the fastest-growing pieces of indigenous vegetation is a pernicious weed-vine known as ‘bio-wire’, the name coming because it is best described as organic, prehensile, carnivorous razor-wire.  No-one has yet been willing to bet against the much-rumoured possibility that the stuff is also sentient.)  The humid conditions and indigenous fungi devour electronics and corrode metals almost before the eyes of technicians, massively increasing maintenance costs on even the simplest machinery.

  The locals joke that failing a good ice-age, there’s nothing wrong with the environment around Leighton that couldn’t be cured by the investment of five trillion bulls, five million people, or five hundred kilotons.

  All of these factors mean that by the time of the Star League’s fall, the Taurian government had not made a major effort to develop the planet beyond turning it into a forward listening-post on the Concordat’s spinward flank, warding against strikes by the Federated Suns or pirates from the Tortuga Dominions.  With the economic collapse that followed the start of the Succession War, Lorkdal’s settlement was pared back to the minimum necessary to support its status as a military outpost.  Since Anastasia Calderon’s assumption of the Protectorship, this has been slowly reversed, with several Taurian mining companies conducting surveys of the main continent of Contador.  Deposits of strategic minerals such as germanium, lead/silver, copper, and nickel/uranium have been discovered within easy exploitation distance of Leighton’s space-port, and the Taurian Exchequer is offering incentives to people and mining concerns willing to develop these deposits; in response, the last ten years have seen numerous hardy types travel to Lorkdal in search of their fortunes, despite the world’s notorious and lethal eccentricities.

  The system’s primary function remains military, however, and although there is no permanent front-line TDF presence, WarShips and front-line battalions patrol through the system fairly regularly and almost a fifth of the system’s long-term residents are members of the Lorkdal militia or its support services, either military or civilian.  Apart from planet-side cantonments around Leighton and the mining settlements, the militia maintains a base for aerospace fighters and combat small-craft on Hincapie, as well as operating the zenith jump-point recharge-station (which also serves as a maintenance facility for TDF vessels and a fighter-base in its own right).  Although much of the militia’s equipment is not the best in the Taurian arsenal, the militia’s personnel know they are the tip of the spear, and accordingly they train regularly and energetically.
  [downloaded from: ComStar Atlas of the Sphere, 2824 edition]

  UPDATE: In May 2825, Lorkdal fell under attack by pirate forces out of the Tortuga Dominions, including a compact-core freighter converted as a fighter-carrier.  The main pirate force landed in the farming/logging town of Lachlan and drove on Leighton, distracting the militia, while two companies of jump-capable ’Mechs landed by high-altitude drop at Determination with the intent of securing its germanium mines.
  Although they put up a heroic stand, the militia was outnumbered and overmatched, soon succumbing to the pirates’ heavier forces and massive aerospace support.  The pirates sacked Leighton, completely destroying the militia base and virtually razing the town itself, then force-marched the entire population to Determination to serve as forced-labout in the planet’s germanium mines.  The TDF’s III Corps refused to move against the pirates, as recent troop-movements in the Panpour region had convinced Marshal Ernie Shraplen that the AFFS was planning an offensive move against his command-area and the ‘pirate’ attack was a diversion intended to dilute his forces.
  During the pirates’ two-year occupation of Lorkdal, the colony’s entire population was murdered or worked to death in the germanium mines.  Once the Tortugans withdrew from Lorkdal, the Taurian government (having finally sacked Shraplen) reclaimed the world, attempting to resettle its towns and rebuild its industries, but eventually declared the reconstruction effort ‘economically unsustainable’.  The planet was abandoned in 2832 and no longer appears on interstellar maps.
  [downloaded from: ComStar Atlas of the Sphere, 3080 edition (OTL)]


  Seven could enter the revised data by directly interfacing with the computer-systems, but that’s how the Sanctimonious Seven would do it: quick, efficient, lazy, boring... non-human.  Instead, he picks up a stylus and starts writing on the interface screen.  Like all the members of his model, he’s a scholar first and foremost, and he takes a certain pride in the elegant legibility of his penmanship.

Quote
  UPDATE: In May 2825, Lorkdal fell under attack by pirate forces out of the Tortuga Dominions, including a compact-core freighter converted as a fighter-carrier.  The main pirate force landed in the farming/logging town of Lachlan and drove on Leighton, distracting the militia, while two companies of jump-capable ’Mechs landed by high-altitude drop at Determination with the intent of securing its germanium mines.
  However, the Third Battalion of the Cylon Protectorate’s Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade had recently requested a training rotation to Lorkdal and was more than willing to augment the militia’s defence.  Third Battalion destroyed the Determination strike-force before it even landed, and a combined force of Cylon and Taurian fighters drove the pirates’ carrier from orbit.  This trapped the remaining Tortugan BattleMechs on the planet, where they were soon out-manoeuvred and forced to surrender.  Thanks to a timely warning brought by a Cylon courier-vessel, the Taurian destroyer TCS Simone was able to jump to the system’s nadir point from Badlands and intercept the pirate carrier before it could recharge its jump-drive, compelling it to surrender as well.  Unusually for a mercenary formation, the Cylons declined all salvage from the battle, instead ceding it to the Lorkdal militia.
  Outraged by this level of aggression from the Tortugans, and now deeming the pirate kingdom a clear and present danger to all the legitimate nations in the region, the Taurian government dispatched the Concordat Vélites and the Freedom Five Mercenary Brigade, supported by several Taurian and Cylon WarShips, on a punitive expedition against the Tortugan Dominions.


  He considers the readout for a moment, then adds a little post-script.  In some ways, it’s something to fear; in others, it’s profoundly liberating.

Quote
  Outcome of punitive expedition: currently unknown.


  ‘All of this has happened before; all of this will happen again’? he remembers, baring his teeth.  Not if we can help it!
« Last Edit: 10 November 2011, 08:39:40 by Trace Coburn »

sandstorm

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #14 on: 07 November 2011, 05:33:10 »
Nice little bit of Clancies hobbies helping the Intel... for a while. :D
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Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #15 on: 07 November 2011, 05:51:17 »
Nice little bit of Clancies hobbies helping the Intel... for a while. :D
  Except for the date.  "Sea of Heartbreak" takes place in 2825 - two years before Task Force WOLVERINE reaches the Cavaretta Expanse, and almost four years before the 'appearance' of Clancy's World.  [legal]
  Which poses some interesting questions, wouldn't you say?  :-X

sandstorm

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #16 on: 07 November 2011, 06:46:59 »
  Except for the date.  "Sea of Heartbreak" takes place in 2825 - two years before Task Force WOLVERINE reaches the Cavaretta Expanse, and almost four years before the 'appearance' of Clancy's World.  [legal]
  Which poses some interesting questions, wouldn't you say?  :-X
I never was THAT good with dates... And now thta you say that... Umm, the questions aren't so much 'interesting' as they are scary.
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The Virginia War - Deep Blue Sea
« Reply #17 on: 03 February 2012, 19:33:37 »
ENSENADA, UNION OF SOVEREIGN REPUBLICS
Gregorio 603 (Cormorant-F-class WiGE), San Rafael sea-approaches
August 6, 2827


  The shuddering of the Wiggy’s landing finally subsides to the fainter tremor of its taxiing across the water.  Throughout the cargo/passenger compartment, the olive-clad troopers of this latest draft trade thank-God looks and shift in their seats, waiting for the loadmaster to give them the all-clear.

  “C’mon, already,” one man bitches.  “Let us get outta these seats before my ass falls off completely!”

  “Calm down,” his neighbour says patiently, lifting the Soren outdoorsman’s slouch-hat from over his eyes and sitting up straighter.  “You’ve been on this tub for ninety hours already; you’ll survive another few minutes.”

  “Yeah, but I still don’t get why we couldn’t just take a Tigersnake,” a third trooper chimes in from across the aisle.  “Why make us sit through a three-day trip on this bus-with-wings when a sub-hop on a landing-craft could get us there in less than an hour?”

  “Because even if the Ensie castillos didn’t zap us as soon as we cleared the horizon, their fighters would’ve knocked us down before we hit apogee.”  The sleeper rolls his neck, grunting as his vertebrae pop, then unbuckles his belt and reaches under his seat for his rifle.  “Besides, d’you really think Their Lordships are gonna waste a Tigersnake on a bunch of grunts?  Those are for moving ’Mechs, not meat.”

  Ensenadan cargo companies remain as fond of Cormorant-F transports as Soren ones have always been; San Rafael’s sea-port has several terminals designed to support their operations, and the Ensies didn’t manage to wreck them all before the city fell.  Tractors haul Gregorio 603 up to one of the loading docks backwards, and the aircraft’s stern-mounted cargo-ramp drops.  A near-wall of ‘fresh’ Ensenadan humidity rolls into the cargo-bay, prompting a new spate of complaints and profanity from the Landsers within, but the first men are starting the trudge out even as the ramp hits level, most of them with their heads down and rifles slung.

  The fellow in the slouch-hat is one of the few exceptions, keeping his weapon in-hand and his eyes moving warily, but for the moment it looks like his caution is unwarranted.  A trio of Captains and a distinctly fidgety Corporal are waiting for the fresh meat on the dockside, and one of the officers cuts him out of the mob with diffident courtesy.  “Tenente Ferretti?”

  “Yes,” he sighs, wishing his anonymity could have lasted just a little longer.

  “A staff-car will be here to take you to the 2° Soren Legion’s depot in a few minutes.  Corporal Marcks will keep you company until it arrives, and show you the way to 231° Reggimento Fanteria once it does.”

  “Respectfully, Sir, there are better things you could be doing with that staff-car.  I’ll ride in the trucks, with the men.”  Ferretti’s voice brooks no argument, even from a ‘superior’ officer.

  Captain Liotta hesitates for a moment, caught between his orders and knowing who he’s talking to, then shrugs it away.  “Suit yourself, Tenente.  There’s been a snarl-up with the transport to 2° Soren Legion, but it’ll probably be here within the hour.”

  “Thank you, Sir.”  Ferretti salutes, and Liotta returns it before turning away.  Once the other three Salernans have turned their full attention to sorting the herd of new cannon-fodder, the young officer turns a crooked smile on Marcks and digs out a pack of issues, offering one to his guide.  “Something to break up the boredom?”

  “Sounds like a plan to me, Sir,” Marcks avers feelingly, as much relaxed by the other officers’ departure as by the simple offer.

  The nearest quiet place is at the hangar’s seaward doors, looking out on the Cormorants taxiing around the open harbour.  Both men have the sense to stay out of the open while they light up.  Ferretti coughs a little; the GCC buys most of its tobacco from the Scarlotti famiglia estates on Phoenix, and the stuff is about as kind to the airways as steel wool.

  “New smoker, Sir?” Marcks hazards. 

  “Sort of,” Ferretti wheezes, managing not to turn green.  “I quit when I left the École Militaire, but after three days stuck on a Cormorant with not much else to do....”

  After another puff or two, Marcks ventures another observation: “Lot of Wiggies coming and going today, Sir.”

  “Yeah, somebody spent a lot of money,” Ferretti snorts.  “Don’t know if it was spent the right way, though.”

  “I -”

  Whatever Marcks was about to say dies on his lips as one of the outgoing WiGEs suddenly slews sideways in the water.  Both men blink as they realize something grey-brown and glistening has reached up out of the water and furled itself around one of the wingtip tanks.  Ferretti has the time to think Is that a tentacle?  My God, it’s got to be a metre thick! before almost a dozen more erupt out of the shallow waves, reaching more than a hundred feet straight up into the air before they fall back down and wind around the Cormorant’s wings and fuselage.

  Both men watch in slack-jawed amazement as the Ensenadan scyllasquid, its body still invisible beneath the surface, casually drags a fusion-powered aircraft the size of a small shuttle under the waves as easily as a child would pull down a rubber ducky.  Seconds later, all that marks the passing of the luckless Cormorant is a patch of foamy-white water.  A massive bubble roils the surface after a moment, and a breath later a single, empty life-raft pops up and self-inflates, but nothing else appears, not even debris.

  While sirens scream throughout the port complex and a pair of patrol-boats tear across the harbor towards the aircraft’s sinking-site, their gun-crews and depth-charge launchers clearing for action, Ferretti and Marcks simply stand there in open-mouthed amazement, both teetering on the edge of gibbering breakdowns, trying to get their heads around what they just saw.

  Eventually, Ferretti brings his cigarette back to his mouth again, proud that there’s only the faintest tremor in his hand and his voice.  “Y’know, Corporal,” he says, taking another deep drag on his smoke, “on any other planet, I probably would’ve called that ‘extraordinary’.”

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #18 on: 04 February 2012, 01:07:25 »
Talk about a needing new shorts moment!


sandstorm

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #19 on: 04 February 2012, 12:51:27 »
Naw, planet like that, it's kilt country... :D Why waste good time running a lot of wash cycles for pants, when you can do your best to run while doing your other stuf...
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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #20 on: 22 January 2013, 00:36:15 »
Hey... if you are back writing... any chance of a new FOTW?

Trace Coburn

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Humility is Good for the Soul
« Reply #21 on: 06 June 2014, 23:36:47 »
  (This one’s kind of an out-take from chapter 6 of Meeting Engagement, whenever I manage to finish it, showing Clancy weapons being tested against BattleTech systems.  It’s a useful and informative scene, and it tells you some things about some characters and their respective institutions, but when I re-read the chapter as it stands, this segment just gets in the way of the main narrative.  It might serve better as a standalone.  :()


UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, EARTH/‘CLANCY’S WORLD’
Union LSH223, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico
11:21, Wednesday January 7 2009, MST (18:21, Sunday January 7 2829, TST)


  Lunch is over, and the observers are crowding into the CP compartment again.  Captain Kuznetsov frowns at the telemetry relayed from one of the ‘target’ Morningstars.  “Wait: this ‘Apache’ of yours: why did they only make two sweeps with their Artemis system?  How do they expect to get good targeting-data without continuous illumination?”

  Colonel Liebowitz gives her a baffled look.  “Hellfires are ‘brilliant’ missiles, Captain: they’re inertially-guided across most of their flight, with their own millimetre-wave seeker-heads when they get to where the target should be.  Those two sweeps are all the target-position data needed to put twelve missiles on as many targets.”  ‘Artemis-IV’ is a millimetre-wave radar used as a semi-active guidance system?  Shoddy computer-systems or not, that’s one of the dumbest ways to use that technology that you could possibly find!

  Kuznetsov barely manages not to stare.  Magic computers or not, who the hell can afford to put guidance-systems that smart into missiles?  “Colonel, I doubt single missiles are going to do much more to ’Mechs than get their attention.”  She glances at the telemetry feed again.  “Although it looks like we’re about to find out for sure.”

  {“Firing one,”} Rawhide One reports.

  On the camera-feeds, a single Hellfire screech-streaks off the AH-64D’s winglet and arches across the New Mexico sands, homing on the chosen Morningstar.  (While the shot comes from more than seven kilometres out, a respectable range even to Union eyes, Kuznetsov shakes her head; the thing is just so slow that Gehennan point-defence will have all the tracking-time in the universe to chop it out of the sky.)  A moment later, it detonates against the ’Mech’s sternum in a bright flash/puff of flame and smoke, and everyone’s eyes go to the telemetry feed... and Kuznetsov shakes her head again.  “That, Colonel, is about as much of a crater as I’d expect to see from a small-laser strike or a ‘one-twenty’ rocket.  It’s a decent enough hit... but you’ll need a lot of them to drop a ’Mech, and I don’t think you’re going to get them.”

  “Really?” Leibowitz returns archly.  “Captain, those missiles will hit a half-metre circle from five miles out, and they’ll do it as often as you want ’em to.  Rawhide One, this is Test Control: full magnum launch.”

  {“Copy, Test Control: bringing the rain.”}  Firing fifteen live missiles in one salvo is the most fun this crew’s ever had in the cockpit, and it comes through in the pilot’s voice.

  Not that watching them ripple off the racks isn’t awesome in its own way; it certainly draws a few mutters of “Holy shit!” from the locals, and even Kuznetsov can’t deny it’s a little impressive when you see it like that.  She’s more impressed – and just a little scared – by how none of those missiles misses the Morningstar’s upper body, and in the whole salvo there’s only one dud.

  And still, the telemetry indicates not a single penetration of the ’Mech’s main armour-belts.  Not one important internal component has been touched, much less knocked out.  Not bad at all, but I’ve seen Morningstars take worse from a pick-up loaded with rocket-launchers, then shake it off and incinerate the truck.  “Colonel, would your people mind doing that again?  A full magnum launch against the same target?  I think you need to see what sort of defensive fire you can expect from a Delta-Three.”

  “Say the word, Captain.”

  Kuznetsov has a word with one of the technicians in Svobodan, then nods to Leibowitz.  “We’re set, Colonel.”

  Let’s see how that attitude of yours likes this! “Rawhide Two, this is Test Control: full magnum launch against Rawhide One’s target.”

  {“Yes, sir!”}  Sixteen of Raytheon’s smartest and nastiest anti-tank missiles arc across the desert floor, pushed by plumes of flame...

  ... and the tech remotely operating the Morningstar brings its point-defences on-line.  Both decoy-racks cough, launching a spread of flares, chaff, smoke-grenades and active millimetre-wave lures, but the Hellfires completely ignore all of them (rather to the tech’s surprise).  Three frag-warhead SRMs scream into the sky, the detonations of their submunitions flinging a near-wall of shrapnel into the Hellfires’ path and hacking down all but five.  Those rounds survive just long enough to be blown apart by the ’Mech’s twin anti-missile machine-guns, leaving the heavy BattleMech just as combat-capable as before.

  Kuznetsov takes no (well, only a little) pleasure in how pale the American officer has become.  “I’d say your ‘Hellfires’ are decent enough against targets without counter-missile defences, Colonel.  The problem is, the Sallies have learned the need for active defences the hard way over the last fifteen years, and they did it against our missiles, which are a hell of a lot faster than yours.  Yes, if you can get hits, you can hurt them... but against their line-of-battle units, I’d say getting those hits might take some shifts in your tactics.”

— * — * — * — * —


  The rest of the tests go in much similar fashion.  Even without active defences, Rawhide Three’s full load of Hydra rockets causes nothing but cosmetic damage to their target; Rawhide Four gets less than a dozen rockets through the layered defences of a pristine Morningstar-D3.  Individual Zuni rockets from Rawhides Five and Six make as much impression on the target ’Mech as a Hellfire, and being unguided massively lowers their hit-percentages even against a naked target; against a defended one, it’s nothing but an expensive light-show.

  To be fair, Leibowitz isn’t the only one seeing how impotent his service-branch has just become.  Major Tolliver watches sickly as F-16s from the New Mexico ANG demonstrate the D-model Maverick; the first shot tears a crater into the target Morningstar’s armour so deep that it prompts a few yelps of alarm from the visitors, while on the second pass, the missile is contemptuously swatted down by machine-guns alone, without needing help from counter-missiles.  Running a JSOW over the target area is one of the best fireworks displays the natives have seen this side of the Fourth of July, but the skeets’ self-forging fragments might as well be hailstones bouncing off a Bradley.  ‘Silver bullets’ from Major Czabo’s beloved Abrams tanks don’t even cause as much damage as a small laser, but they do penetrate slightly better, and against a target they can see, their ability to put multiple rounds within a target-zone the size of a dinner-plate, at top speed, over uneven ground, from more than four kilometers away, makes at least one Union tech ask who the hell they got their fire-control systems from: Merlin, Gandalf, or a direct gift from God himself?  (For that matter, after riding in the gunner’s seat of Rawhide Six, Calleigh Arthur is telling anyone within earshot that she’s ready to buy an Apache’s cockpit data-systems out of her own pocket, and she doesn’t care how much they cost!)

  Still, there aren’t many jokes or laughs on the flight back to Andrews.



  “Humility is good for the soul.”
  “Death is bad for the body, sir.”

—  General Marion Diggs and Colonel Al Hamm, US Army, during Executive Orders, discussing an unpleasant surprise.
« Last Edit: 07 June 2014, 01:32:12 by Trace Coburn »

Smegish

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #22 on: 07 June 2014, 00:55:50 »
Well, at least they were impressed by something the locals have got, just need to put the Clancy's computers and targeting systems on Svobodan equipment (just picture Vedettes with AC/5's accurate at 4 klicks  }:)), and they at least have something they could use to defend themselves, though that may take awhile to accomplish...

In the mean time, simply have to drown the enemy in numbers.

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #23 on: 07 June 2014, 04:42:47 »
Nice to see a bit of life in this cross over again, thanks for the posting
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Pour Encourager Les Autres
« Reply #24 on: 16 June 2014, 08:56:36 »
  (Another semi-random orphaned excerpt, this one actually from Ense Petit Placidam, demonstrating what a few strokes of General Ebon’s pen will do/did for the negotiating-power of a government that had been given the BOHICA treatment by its military suppliers for far too long.  Geek points to anyone who can spot the inspiration for this scene. ;) )



PETROGRAD, SVOBODA
Government House
September 8, 2827


  President Arianwen Barbara Nikitovna de Svetlanova y Diaz looks from the document in her hand to the man who delivered it and firmly suppresses her first impulse — to vault over her desk and tear his face from his skull. Easy, Ria: you have better options than that. And more satisfying ones, at that. “So the short version, Mister Kulikov, is that Paradiso Micro-Electrónica needs another... fifteen T-months and two billion marks to conduct crash R&D and get the Warden EW system ready for operational deployment. Am I correct?”

  “Yes, Madam President,” Kulikov nods. “I won’t bore you with the technical details” not that a woman would understand them anyway! “but the system’s still exhibiting some... quirks under field conditions, and reliability is still questionable.”

  It’s that faint air of smugness he’s radiating which makes the President’s next act all the sweeter. “I’ll make you a counter-proposal, Mister Kulikov. The Union Ministry of War will take delivery of the first fifty Warden modules within the next fourteen T-days; Paradiso will have full-rate production of the Warden up and running within thirty T-days; and the Union government won’t pay you a single centavo for continued R&D on the Warden or for the first two thousand units delivered.”

  Kulikov goggles at her like she just flashed him. “Madam President, have you been drinking?”

  Svetlanova opens a drawer and produces a series of folders, giving him a sphynx’s toothy smile. The first folder lands flat on her desk. “This, Mister Kulikov, is a copy of the specifications and standards set forth in the Union requirement for the Warden system. Among other things, they require that the new EW system provide a forty percent improvement in deception and fire-confusion capabilities compared to the baseline Guardian system while maintaining compatibility with SLDF mountings and interfaces.”

  The second folder slaps down on top of the first, and Svetlanova’s smile gets colder. “This is a copy of a Paradiso internal memo sent to you and your Board of Directors by the head of the Warden engineering team, stating that the test modules have met or surpassed all of the mandated operational requirements, including reliability during sustained operation, and that the system is ready for mass-production whenever you give the order. It is dated forty-one T-months ago.”

  Even as Kulikov reacts to the betrayal of his correspondence being in someone else’s hands, another folder slams down on the desk. “These are memoranda and records of other communications sent from PME to officials at the Ministry of War dated since the issue of that memo, all of them requesting further funds and time to continue R&D of the Warden system on the grounds that it still ‘fails to meet the standards set in the RfP’. Funds and time which Santiago received, to the tune of more than three years and six billion U-Marks.

  “This is a compiled list of all the Union fighter, tank, and BattleMech crews killed or wounded in action since the date of that memo because their EW and point-defence systems weren’t enough to protect them from Gehennan battlefield missiles. There are more than seventeen thousand names on the ‘killed’ list alone, Mister Kulikov — lives that deployment of the Warden could have saved.

  “This is a copy of the Declaration of War that General Ebon and her people just endorsed. You’ll note that its effective date is 28/03/2814 — meaning that the Union has, in fact, been at war for more than a decade.”

  The last trio of folders fall, and now Svetlanova’s smile is downright icy. “And these, Mister Kulikov, are written opinions from the Supreme Court on 6 Union Code 217/a/9, 6 Union Code 268/c/3, and 6 Union Code 328/b/4. It is their unanimous consensus that under 217/a/9, each and every one of those lives could have been saved if you hadn’t been bilking the Union government for further ‘development’ of a system that was already fit for service. Therefore, the Union Attorney is ready, willing, and in fact positively eager to indict both you and the senior officers of Paradiso Micro-Electrónica for conspiracy to defraud the Union government under 268/c/3.

  “Since this fraud was perpetrated by a Union defence contractor in declared time of war, the resulting deaths all meet the legal tests of 217/a/9, making them ‘reckless endangerment causing death’. You and Paradiso’s Board are facing seventeen thousand counts of felonious murder, Mister Kulikov, but you’ll never spend a single day in prison, because the opinion on 328/b/4 says — and I quote — ‘Willful negligence or criminal malfeasance on the part of a Union defence contractor in declared time of war resulting in the death of one or more Union military personnel rises to the standard of state treason’.” The President’s voice has never risen above conversational volume throughout her speech, but those last two words are all but a snarl. The way they make a now pasty-faced Kulikov sag backwards in his seat is almost sickeningly gratifying.

  Sitting down again, the President smoothes back her hair, gives her guest a sickly-sweet smile of feigned-apology for her ‘loss of control’, and fixes him with a glare as cold as permafrost. “So here it is, Mister Kulikov. Paradiso Micro-Electrónica will deliver the first fifty production Warden modules within fourteen T-days; it will begin full-scale military production of those modules within thirty T-days; and it will fund the manufacture and delivery of the first two thousand units out of the money it has already stolen from the Union government...

  “Or I will have every legal right to have you and the entire Paradiso corporate leadership arrested; prosecuted; convicted; and SHOT!”





  Semi-relevant post-script: like all Union citizens, President Svetlanova’s second personal name is that of her patron saint.  Perhaps an odd patron for a physician-turned-elected official, but hey: politics is a funny business. :D

Zureal

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #25 on: 16 June 2014, 22:07:08 »

  “Or I will have every legal right to have you and the entire Paradiso corporate leadership arrested; prosecuted; convicted; and SHOT!”[/font]


  oh how sweet that is :D

Dave Talley

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #26 on: 16 June 2014, 22:51:33 »
almost as good as the fanfic story where house davion instead of giving in
to the mechwarriors cabal (IIRC) takes them outside and shoots them,
a couple hundred barons, knights earls etc who refused to take orders from
a commoner that was thier commander at the time
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.
JA Baker

snakespinner

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #27 on: 17 June 2014, 06:08:46 »
Dave, where is this story on the MW cabal. 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.

smcwatt

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #28 on: 17 June 2014, 16:21:09 »
President Anderson from "Crusade" by Steven Weber.

SMc.

Trace Coburn

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Re: The Virginia War - Pieces of War
« Reply #29 on: 17 June 2014, 21:30:51 »
President Anderson from "Crusade" by Steven Weber.

SMc.
  Steve White and David Weber, to be pedantic, but close enough: five geek-points to you.  O0  Spend them wisely.  ;D

 

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