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Author Topic: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic  (Read 72950 times)

Chris OFarrell

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So I've had this lying around my HDD for years now - I was originally inspired back when drakensis started posting the absurd yet absurdly awesome idea of a Battletech SI ... of a singing Texas class Battleship and wrote it a bit at a time.

I've never written an SI before and wasn't ever really sure about it - it's a whole new thing to me. To the point that the SI doens't even use my name despite you know, using my real name on most forums, just because I couldn't take it seriously for some reason when I did.

Also to note; this story is a straight up, unapologetic FEDCOM, ****** YEAH! story. As while they don't get everything their way all the time, it was a bit of a reaction to the fact that various people clearly made the decision to use it and its successor states as a punching bag from the 3040s onwards while blatantly handwaving the crap out of other powers by nerfing it in every possible way ... so yeah.

But a few people who knew about it have poked me to post it over time and others I ran it past encouraged me to post it. So I did so on SB and got a quite approving reaction, so I thought I'd also post it over here.

This is Book 1 of what I plan to be 5 books in total.

---

Chapter 1. Spun out of Quantum Bullshit.

For a lot of people, there is a moment when you wake up from a dream where your dream is overlaid on the real world. You see things that aren't actually there – at least until you can kick the lights on, bring everything into sharp focus and your brain catches up with reality. I’ve noticed in recent years this happens a lot with me; I wake up and think there is a ****** spider dropping down on my head or something, wave wildly to bat it away while clawing for the light switch, then feel like an idiot afterwards. Also known to happen; muscle cramps. Especially if I’ve probably pushed exercise too hard. Really ****** annoying to wake up with your leg or foot cramping like a ******.
Still, it’s always just been just an annoyance rather than a fright to me – most of the time anyway. A half second of instinctive confusion and panic followed by my brain catching up and presto, hit the lights. Or in the event of a muscle spasm, gritting and swearing incredibly profusely and stretching it out.


So when I woke up feeling pretty extreme muscle cramps just about everywhere while tasting the colour purple, it wasn’t exactly something out of context for me to comprehend. At least for the first few seconds. But after a few moments as my eyes and focus tried to adjust as I took notice of a noise I vaguely realized was me screaming in pain, it dawned on me that this was actually quite unusual as left became up, right became a diagonal perpendicular to reality while up and down told me to go ****** myself.

Bit by bit it dawned on me through everything that something was horribly horribly wrong … and this was no dream, trapped in a hellish warped and twisted nightmare

And then just as suddenly as that, it was over and I seemed to fall back into my bed. I gasped for air and promptly screamed in pain once more as my muscles continued to fire off randomly but through sheer willpower I managed to impose some kind of control and hold my body still by stretching out – which also seemed to cut out no small amount of the pain as my mind told my muscles to shut up and start behaving, I continued gasping for air, opening my eyes to look straight up –

Huh. This was not my bedroom.

I mean my bedroom wasn’t exactly small, but it wasn’t the size of a warehouse with bright fluorescent lights and bizarre things on the roof that looked like a massive array of aerials or dishes and what not, with thick power cables going everywhere. Struggling to sit up on my bed, my mind was furiously debating with itself if this was still a dream despite how real this felt – as that would seem infinitely more logical than what I was seeing.
Around me was my bed that I was sitting on, the back wall of my house behind – oh wait, it was falling down now, thankfully away from me. The chest of drawers next to my bed – ah good, my iPhone and iPad. I reached through the agony on a single thought;
call help. Despite my muscles complaining very painfully again, sweating as I insisted my arm move I made it do so. I mean, I had no idea exactly what I would do; call the cops and insist that reality just flipped me off, but I certainly wasn’t operating on a level much beyond fight/flight right now. My hearing also seemed to be returning – didn’t even notice that it had gone- and I could make out some crazy klaxon going off and possibly the sound of people shouting as I finally managed to grab the phone and hit the home button through the pain.

No service. No WiFi. Joy!

I struggled myself to a sitting position – and then suddenly there were people around me. People in HAZMAT gear of a sorts waving all manner of stuff at me and shouting – and then it was all just too much and I collapsed back into the blissfully painless darkness.

My last brief thought noting how real this dream was…

 

***
******
***


It was a full two days before I woke up. So I’m told anyway.

The first thing I heard was the steady ‘Beep … Beep … Beep’ of a heartbeat monitor. Just like the kind you see on TV. For a good five or ten seconds I had a deliriously happy moment of utterly forgetting the craziness that had taken place earlier without even really noticing the sound. Then I stretched and frowned as I heard and felt the sort of crinkle of plastic under a sheet that was definitely not my bed. Then the impact of that Beep-Beep-Beep came to me and ever so slowly I opened my eyes.
I was pretty clearly in a hospital. Glancing around I saw I had an IV in my upper arm, which was somewhat annoying but presumably pumping good things into me. Extending my gaze I did a quick survey of the room … which looked, rather unsurprisingly, like a room in a hospital. With all the sort of portable machines around the bed one might expect. And a nice window on the far wall letting in a cheery amount of light suggesting it was well into the next day. A private room it looked like.

Huh. Was not expecting that.

Groaning slightly as I belatedly discovered I felt as stiff and tender as if I had tried to run a marathon (or what I thought it might feel like, having never done anything as crazy as that) I forced myself to sit up slowly. As I did so, I noticed that the cheap hospital sheets common to such places were not there. Instead the sheets felt rather good. Like very high quality sheets...and the mattress itself actually felt surprisingly comfortable under. Not the ‘stiff as a board’ kind of bed that was typical of such places in my limited experience of them.

Well, I can see where the health department's budget is going these days…

Swinging my legs down to the cool vinyl floor I noted my IV was hooked into a bag on a stand that ran off the bed frame itself - but it was just hanging there and could be removed. I didn’t think it would be a very good idea to do so though; I just wanted to stretch and so I very carefully started to stand … and promptly flopped right back onto the bed as my legs buckled. With pain shooting from my feet to my head to punish me for trying.

Okay. That hurt.
Mental note, don’t try to stand anytime soon.
On the plus side, I could feel the horrible pain and my limbs were working, so I wasn’t paralyzed or anything. Always a plus!

The sound of a door opening behind me caused me to force the pain off my face as best I could and drag my legs back onto my bed in a sitting position on the bed.

“Good afternoon mister Smith” a man in what looked like pretty typical medical scrubs said, followed in my a number of other people dressed similarly.
The mans accent was … English perhaps? I couldn’t exactly pick it, but it was not mainstream Australian - if such an accent could even be said to exist anyway. Although it was hardly unusual for English medical professionals to run to Australia for a few years once the rain and cold got too depressing…

But no, English wasn’t quite right ...

“Good afternoon” I replied back, trying not to wince too much at the pain from my aborted attempt to stand up. Although it was I noticed somewhat dull in that way that I knew meant I was on painkillers. Which made me very glad; if it hurt this much on drugs I didn’t want to even think what it would feel like without them.

“Careful now. Your nervous system has been badly overloaded - in simple terms you suffered a major electric shock and corresponding strain to your neural system” the man said, striding quickly over to ease me back down before hitting some controls and causing the bed to shift up to a sitting position as others carefully pulled my legs back and eased me into the sitting position, checking the IV and otherwise fussing. “You’ve been asleep for two days while we dealt with the damage - and I’m pleased to say we’re well on the way to getting you back on your feet”.

“Oh” I blinked, feeling slightly shocked at that, the causal statement of the loss of two days of time like that. Thoughts about work, family and the world moving on crashing into me.
As if he could sense my thoughts, the man however raised a hand.

“After we check you out, we’ll head downstairs and talk about all the questions I’m sure you want to ask” he noted, retrieving a stethoscope that had been hung around his neck. “Now if you’ll just sit up and we’ll check you out?”

At that I glanced down - and tried not to blush at what I saw. Clearly someone had undressed me at some point and put me into hospital garb.
Well, might as well get it over with I thought with a sigh and leaned forward as the doctor efficiently pulled the back of my gown open via some well placed velcro straps...


***
******
***

 
Next came an hour of poking, prodding and checking things. Asking me to do this and that with my limbs and joints in a systematic inspection from head to toe testing strength, reflexes, power and so on. I wasn’t given a clean bill of health exactly but I was told I was well on the way to recovery and, give or take a week, I’d be good as new. Which, I thought, was pretty incredible given that I’d apparently been zapped hard enough to hallucinate some really weird shit that had seemed so vivid at the time.

I did try to ask some questions about exactly where I was, but was told that all questions would be answered soon. And that given the possibility of nervous system damage, they didn’t want to ‘contaminate’ the memory testing that would take place shortly. That I should just stay as relaxed as possible.
It sounded rather absurd to me - but mentally I shrugged and went with it. It wasn’t as if I exactly had much of a choice anyway - having relatives as medical professionals had taught me well that Doctors, Nurses and specialists of all kinds were exceptionally good at ignoring their patients when they were not cooperating and demanding they just do as they were told. And the faster you just got it over and done with the faster you got out.

Soon enough I was in a wheelchair and being pushed out of the rather plain room. I kept looking around trying to find hints of which Sydney hospital I was in, but one hospital really looked like any other on the inside I suppose to people who didn’t actually work in them. Although, I did note that this building looked … well, new I suppose would be the best word? Almost like a next generation office space in a lot of ways with its glass walls, polished metal fixtures and styles with surprisingly little of the organized clutter I would normally expect.
Perhaps this is a private hospital? I wondered, although it seemed unlikely given that they didn’t really do emergency care work. But perhaps I had needed some kind of specialist treatment?
I didn’t have too long to wonder though, the trip was pretty short, just down a few passages to wide door at the end of a corridor. A small touchpad/flat screen combo mounted on the wall next to it (again not something I’d expect to see in a hospital) said ‘Conference Room 4-1A’ noting that the time was apparently just before two thirty and a meeting was going to run here for a few hours. Trying pathetically to straighten up and make myself slightly presentable- in a hospital gown with an IV in one arm- the door was opened and I was wheeled through by the Doctor behind me.

I looked around in some surprise as I entered the room. It was crowded with a lot of very serious looking men and women. At least what, twenty? More? The rectangular table in the middle of  the room only had a dozen or so seats, meaning several people were standing clustered around the far end. Only a few were wearing hospital scrubs, most were wearing lab coats or even suits of a somewhat odd cut. One bizarrely even looked to be in what suspiciously looked like some kind of military uniform - but certainly not an Australian defense force uniform which was more than a bit confusing … and concerning.
I didn’t see any family members though and the sense of unease I had been feeling since waking up grew a little. At the least I knew they were safe; none of them had been in the house with me when I was asleep…

Presently after pushing me up to the nearest end of the long table which had been left open - presumably for me- and checking my IV with a reassuring smile, the Doctor handed over some paperwork to the man sitting opposite me on the table before quietly leaving and closing the door behind him.

“Mister Smith, welcome. My name is Doctor Charles Stewart - head of the neurological department” the older, somewhat dignified looking man said. “I apologize for the lack of information you have received thus far, but we wanted to be sure first and foremost of your health before proceeding. And it would appear” he noted, flicking through a number of printouts on the table, “that you are recovering and responding very well to treatment”.

“Glad to hear it” I responded, the uneasy feeling growing slightly at both the fact that this man also had the slightly ‘wrong’ accent … and the sheer number of people in the room watching me closely.
So I decided to get straight to the point.
“If you’ll forgive my directness; what the hell happened to me and where am I?”

“Understandable questions. In simple terms” Doctor Stewart said, leaning forward slightly before pausing slightly and then pressing on. “You were exposed to a high-intensity but highly focused and localized EM field. One that was generated as a result of certain highly-classified science experiments regarding … long range communications. The field was never, of course, meant to materialize around you and your bed while you were sleeping, but a chaotic event … well suffice to say, it materialized on you. Speaking frankly, it's something of a miracle you survived - let alone survived with no permanent damage”.

“...right” I responded to the man after glancing around the room and taking a note of the deadly serious expressions on the faces there as my sense of unease grew rapidly. I was hardly a scientist, but was wondering what in the hell kind of experiment could direct an EM field without line of sight over such a long distance (as I was emphatically sure there wasn’t any such facility anywhere near my house) and what exactly was being done with it-
Then, suddenly, the alarm bells started to ring in my head as the last thoughts of in my bed hit me with a terrifying clarity. In some kind of warehouse yet on my bed with part of my room around me and a wall that collapsed-

“The last thing I remember as I woke up after the … event … was seeing a massive looking warehouse or structure around part of my room” I said very carefully, my tension creeping just that more as several of the people exchanged glances. “As if it along with me had been sliced out of my house and transported somewhere else”.
It was utterly insane, but I said it anyway. Waiting for everyone to suggest that I needed to go lie down again for a while.

They didn’t.

The not-quite accusation hung there in the air for a good three seconds before finally another man, a somewhat younger man who couldn’t quite meet my gaze spoke up in a stutter-

“That … that is because, in essence, you and that part of your room were, um, well, you see -”

Doctor Stewart stepped in at that point with an annoyed look at the other.

“Our ‘communications system’ works, in essence, by opening a hole through space from point to point to send transmissions through. Due to a freak one in a trillion series of events, the system overloaded and became a bridge for not simply energy, but matter. You and everything in a flattened sphere approximately three meters in diameter and two in height, were, … well, transported here through that bridge”.

At that I blinked and worked my jaw trying to say something.
It was completely, utterly, absolutely insane.
And yet … the lack of straight answers, no family or friends when I woke up … and the utterly serious looks on the faces around me oddly convinced me that I had just become part of human history. The first man teleported? Yay me?

I tried to force myself to calm down with only partial success and only deal with the facts as they stood.

“Okay … “ I managed to swallow that and accept the statement on its face value as I again took a good long look around the room and started to slowly add things up. “Based on your accents, your slightly … odd ... sense of fashion and uniform I don’t recognize” I nodded at several people in a row and took the plunge. “I’m … not in  … where am I?”
Then before anyone could answer my eyes bulged as the vivid memory of seeing my bedrooms back wall behind me go falling over. “Wait - my house, what happened to my house! And my-”

“Please calm down Mister Smith” a young woman with a sympathetic face sitting next to me cut in. Glancing at her I noticed that her tablet computer (an odd model I had never seen before that I’m guessing was some kind of MilSpec custom job, looking more like an older laptop than anything else) and it had what looked like medical readings flashing over it. I guessed she was somehow monitoring my vital signs on it - huh guess this wheelchair was more than just a seat. “You’re safe, everything is going to be okay. Please just calm down and listen” she said, reaching out to firmly take my hand. The sudden contact jolted me a little - but it also seemed to help ground me.

“Please” I swallowed to clear an annoyingly hoarse voice after a time. “My house? My family?”

“To the very best of our knowledge, both are perfectly fine. In fact they should not have noticed your departure”.

My brain gave a ‘Flat What’ at that and I looked around somewhat incredulously at the still utterly serious expressions directed at me.

“Give them some credit; I think they would kind of noticed a significant chunk of the house going missing with me in it” I bit back almost instinctively, clutching the arms of my wheelchair for some kind of support as much as I clung to the sarcasm as I wondered if I was utterly misunderstanding them on some level.

“Alright Mister Smith, the Truth” the military looking man finally joined the conversation with a deep, direct sounding voice.

“General, I don’t think-”

“He deserves to know what you people” -although from the tone of his voice I would have guessed he really meant ‘idiots’ - “did” he snapped, turning to face him. “Son they’ve told the truth, but not the whole truth. The … technology … we were using didn’t pull you from there to here. It copied what was inside the field, exactly to the quantum level, duplicating it inside an identical field in our laboratory. The original ‘you’ is probably completely unaware of what happened”.

“It … I … what?” I managed to get out - even though in a strange way, I found it horribly clear exactly what he was saying. Even as my mind screamed denial. “You’re saying … I’m not … I’m just a …”

‘Copy’ my mind supplied the word I couldn’t possibly say.

I’m not John … I’m just a copy of him … just a ****** copy ...

I heard the general still talking, vaguely but didn’t really pay attention. Everything just seemed to stop as the entire fundamental truth of my existence collapsed in on itself until from somewhere I heard my name being called (My name? Was it?) several times and I managed to drag my attention back.

“General, enough; you’re pushing him too hard!” the woman next to me protested, shooting him a look of pure murder as my mine chased itself around in small circles as I desperately tried my very best to ignore the implications to my life and my existence, before finally latching onto, rather pathetically and desperately, something in the phrasing.

“You said … said It’s been days since this happened. And you just said … you just said you think that I … me … him - the other me, is fine and the house” I managed to stutter out through the numb shock and disbelief raging in my head. “You think. How could you not know? I mean, I’m sure it's all over the news - a chunk of the house and someone inside it goes missing in the middle of the night, if it happened. And if it didn’t, you’ve had plenty of time to have someone go around and take a look! So why don’t you know?!” I finished in a half shout half sob half whatever.

I knew somehow, distantly, that I was just grasping at straws. And that it was even entirely possible that wherever I was and whoever these people were, they didn’t have ‘assets’ in place to go around and take a look at where I lived…

But I didn’t expect the answer they gave.

“I’m afraid that isn’t possible Mister Smith” Doctor Stewart replied gently, shooting one final glare at the General, before taking a breath. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this - but I won’t like to you. The technology we were testing did not simply transmit across space … but also, in this case, seemingly uniquely across time. When you went to sleep two days ago the year was twenty fifteen … the year is now thirty twenty six. And you’re not on Earth anymore - this planet is roughly three hundred light years away from mankind's homeworld”.

“Oh” I responded. “Well … that would explain it, I guess”.

Then I threw up. Before passing out.

***
******
***

 
So that was how I ended up in the universe of Battletech.

The next few months were, well, lets just fast forward through the five stages of grief? Denial was how I spent most of the time though. At first, Janace - who was my assigned therapist - had to try and get through my understandable shock and numbness. A regime of very advanced antidepressants and so on helped me, although it’s all still a bit of a blur in my memory. Mostly I was both simultaneously grateful that as far as NAIS knew, the ‘real’ me was still going fine without having noticed anything. Which also meant that no matter how much I missed them, my family and friends at least would be spared the horror of me simply vanishing one night with a chunk of my house forcing them to bury an empty coffin or something.

Eventually, I was was well enough to actually start to ask questions about the future … starting with why everything looked so suspiciously like the present to me rather than Clark’s law being fully in effect.

And so it was explained to me that science with a few exceptions had broadly remained much the same as it was in my timeframe - even if impressive strides had been made in applied engineering. I was not entirely convinced but finally I was sat down in a room for a history catch up … which had quickly made me blink and sit up in disbelief.

Because this ‘future’ sounded familiar.
Suspiciously
familiar, in fact.
Unbelievably familiar, in fact.

Some part of me firmly in denial mode about all of this still kept my mouth shut at the absurdity presented to me. That I was not simply in the future, but had transitioned to a ****** fictional universe and was crashing at the New Avalon Institute of Science in the wonderful world of Battletech, in the best imitation of a Self Insertion fanfiction.

My knee-jerk denial (even if I kept my mouth shut my skepticism was clear) had lasted 24 hours more until Janice had taken me outside for a walk … and five minutes later I had stood there dumbfounded as a lance of Battlemechs (a Jagermech, two Enforcers and a Locust I recall rather vividly) casually strolled past when they got a green light as they threaded their way down the road to the College of Military Sciences.

My brain promptly went into an infinite loop chasing itself as it tried to determine if Occam's Razor made ‘someone with a ****** of money on Earth is simply replicating a known tabletop game after kidnapping me’ was more likely than ‘I transitioned to a reality version of an entirely fictional universe’.
I mean, one would require a ****** crapload of technology and countless billions of dollars and powerful people to put in an obscene effort to try and trick me for motives I couldn’t come close to guessing, far more assumptions and moving parts … but didn’t require what amounted to the impossible. That
everything I knew about physics was wrong and somehow, a paper and tabletop work of fiction was now a real universe.

Then there were other fun ideas like me being in some kind of matrix VR world based on Battletech - but quickly I realized that if that was the case I wouldn’t be able to determine it anyway, so…

Then the next day as I was still clinging to the thin argument of a massive trick … I saw a dropship launch.

No actually, I saw about thirty of them launch, from the roof of the hospital where a nice little cafe was situated. From both a military sportport attached to NAIS and other more distant locations around the lights of Avalon City and Castle Avalon. It was spectacular, loud and in your face. On a scale of one to ten, this rated Michael Bay. And as the fusion drives briefly turned night into day across the entire region as the massive objects told gravity to go suck a higgs boson, the truth of my situation became oddly, calmly, undeniable.

I was in Battletech. Cira the 3025 era.

It sounded insane every time I said it, but there it was and here I am.

In the days that followed I consumed damn near Every history book I had scoured matched up identical to what I recalled - if far more detail, but this wasn’t ‘close’ or ‘near’ Battletech, but as far as I could tell, exactly matched it.
Still, I kept enough sense to keep my mouth shut because I needed to consider my position carefully -
very carefully.

The one thing I could do and did do however was make it clear that I was not from their reality either. In discussions with a gaggle of various academics from NAIS, I laid out in detail many of the geopolitical and historical changes in my timeline from theirs, narrowing down some kind of divergence in the 1970s, well before I was born.
Which was to be frank a rather clear relief to the people talking to me, who had clearly been terrified of the idea of plucking me from
their timeline and somehow having contaminated it in a butterfly effect.

And that solved, now there was just the small matter … of building a new life.

Medically NAIS were, as you would think, very good at what they did. And they dealt with the physical damage from my creation quickly enough. Plus even a few medical improvements of minor ailments which was nice of them to do - as well as massive testing to make sure I wasn’t going to be a Typhoid Mary, followed by vaccinations and more testing which I thankfully passed without incident. Somewhat disturbingly, I suspect that a lot of the scientists were sort of hoping for a medical reaction from my body to the vaccinations to examine the differences in physiology over a thousand years, but it seems my DNA was depressingly normal enough. Evolution didn’t seem to have left any surprises after all over such a short timeframe.

Material wise there was good news and bad news for me. The bad news was that I had very few possessions to my name anymore. My bed (which had been thrown out) and some things around it and under it had come with me - luckily a lot of my more sentimental items had been stored under the bed and had come with me, but few clothes or other bits and pieces.

But my iPad and iPhone had come through fine. Even better, my bedside draw had piles of cables and a couple of adapters for recharging them. Which, thanks to 21st century safety standards, had etched into the plastic the exact power inputs and outputs making it child's play for the NAIS School of Engineering as a sort-of apology for the whole ‘creating you and dumping you in a brave new world’ thing to slap together an adaptor for their standard ‘offworld travel power adaptor’ kit, so I could recharge the apple devices.
Although frankly, it was clear they mostly went to the effort of building a USB adapter because they
really wanted to play with the ‘ancient’ computers … and were not expecting what I showed them.

Suffice to say they were stunned that my 21st century was building things like that! And more than a few seemed mildly exasperated and disheartened how a thousand years later in their timeline, well…

Anyway, after showing off the interface and some of the apps on it, said engineers immediately offered a rather large amount of cash for me to turn them over … but money was not an immediate issue. Someone high up - they wouldn't say who - in the Fedsuns had arranged a lifetime pension comparable to a living wage. Partially as an apology for my circumstances, partially as a ‘keep your ****** mouth shut’ incentive to neither talk about how I came into being or anything inside the NAIS I had seen.

And I accepted those terms rather quickly - last thing I wanted was MIIO thinking I was a security threat and that it would be quicker and cheaper to just toss me into a fusion disposal unit or something.

Anyway, I simply kept my mouth shut for now. And a couple of months of physical therapy and crash courses about the Federated Suns later, I was dumped at my cheap but clean and well stocked with history books apartment in downtown Avalon City to see what I could make of myself.
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

  • Warrant Officer
  • *
  • Posts: 569
Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #1 on: 08 July 2018, 19:26:30 »
Chapter 2: The Cake is (not) a lie.


***
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I settled in well enough over the next two weeks, unpacking into my smallish but nice enough apartment overlooking the Albion River I had been issued for the next year to help me to cover my basic needs. It had very little furniture; just a cheap but functional bed and a basic chair and table setup with some shelves here and there, but I felt that might have been deliberate. To force me to go out and interact to buy stuff and so on. Rather than just hide up in here.
Janice could really be quite ruthless when she wanted to.
I explored the local area as I brought some of the things I’d need, coming to grips with things like new chains of supermarkets selling both different and familiar food under different brand names. Although I found it both hilarious and heartwarming in equal measure that the Cola wars were
still going strong between Coke and Pepsi 1000 years later, bursting out laughing upon seeing both product lines glaring at each other across an aisle, earning me some strange looks from other customers.

I shied away from thinking about the big picture, instead focusing on my more immediate needs. I picked up some equipment; a local cell phone that looked like distant steroid enhanced son of a Nokia 3310. Compared to my iPhone it was clunky at best and highly limited in the functionality (very much ‘future of the 80s’) … but this ‘civilian’ device beat out 21st century Milspec hardening. Seriously, it was rated for crazy levels of abuse to the point that extended warranties just weren't a thing!
I also picked up a computer terminal best described as ‘quaint’ compared to my gaming rig back home and got it set up. With my existing skills I was able to figure out how to use it quite quickly, although I found it was genuinely
was a terminal with little local processing power, with a subscription based business model for access to various mainframes on the planet. It really reminded me of an old school Videotex/Teletex system, just with far rather better graphics.

Nonetheless I was dearly missing google after the first few hours. Cloud computing this was not. Internet it was not. Sigh!

Still it sufficed for my purposes as I continued to do my very best to not make a decision or address the elephant in the room.
My Knowledge.
Knowledge that in the hands of various actors could change the lives of
trillions of human beings for decades to come, if not longer. With consequences I could scarcely imagine or theorize.

And it didn’t help I could see history ticking over simply by turning on my Vid.

Local TV was and wasn’t much the same as back home. WIth a mixture of entertainment, news, current affairs and sports. The ten dedicated Solaris channels were extra and NAIS hadn’t shelled out for that package for my vid. And if you thought the Brits were bad about stalking the Royal Family for news and scandals, you ain't seen nothing compared to paparazzi in the Neo-Feudal digital age!
All the major vid stations also had subsidiary stations on distant worlds and/or a whole web of alliances with local stations who fed reports up the HPG chains - some of it even useful. Predictably, a great deal of the real news at the moment was centered on the surprise military exercises Hanse Davion had kicked off, with talking heads either condemning it as an unnecessary expense of theater that risked more conflict, or praising it as a strong message to their enemies.


There seemed little doubt Liao and Kurita would already have a pretty clear picture on what units were being deployed from press reports alone ... but then I remembered that Hanse Davion had encouraged reporting on Galahad (and later Katrina on Operation Thor), making the Capellans and Combine go crazy with paranoia … only for nothing to happen as they played the ‘boy who cried wolf’ card in reverse.

And yet, perhaps selfishly, I had been going out of my way to avoid having to make any decisions about what I would do. I like to think I was simply frozen into indecision over the sheer scope of this; the responsibility of so many lives, innocent and not, who would be impacted by any action I took seemed to become more and more clear, the more I came to accept that this was real for me now.

But that all changed two days later.

***
******
***
Three weeks had now passed since I left NAIS and I was still mostly spending the days exploring the city, playing tourist and feeling my way forward. Most recently I had spent a considerable amount of time going through the House Davion War Museum. It was, unsurprisingly, massive; with patronage from the ruling family and AFFS making it feel almost a temple to the Federated Suns martial might that the population went to worship at.

No, actually, that's exactly what it was come to think of it.

Even more cool, it had a number of real Battlemechs (very carefully disabled of course with their fusion reactors removed but otherwise authentic) that people could interact with. I had to wait in line for an hour before a retired member of the 1st Davion Guards sat me down in the Jagermech cockpit and it was a 50 pound fee … but it was totally worth it as it ran through a simulated engagement. Although I also wanted to have a go with the ASF simulator and Tank simulator, both were closed down while they were being upgraded, to my disappointment. Still, there were other things to geek out over. Example, the big dome shaped building in the middle of the museum? It housed an honest to god Union - albeit one with significant chunks of the outer hull opened up with this whole scaffold erected around it to allow movement in and out of the ship. It was pretty damn fascinating, let me tell you that. I mean, it's a real honest to god SPACESHIP I was walking all over! And I’m not too proud to admit that I totally waited in line to have my picture taken sitting in the Captain's Chair.

The displays celebrating the war history of the AFFS were extensive and reasonably honest. Even to the point of critiquing the AFFS’s poor showing in the earlier 1st Succession War - until Kentares had made them stand up and start fighting like real soldiers, with wall after wall of interactive displays showing enraged AFFS units blasting the DCMS off world after world. No more than a few scant words of course about how the DCMS had half collapsed out of shame when ComStar exploded the news about the massacre across the Inner Sphere. After all, that would have ruined the narrative of the horrified AFFS shaking it off and pushing them back with pure guts and determination alone!
Still, other displays were a little less one sided. Even the reunification war hall, while showing and talking up how brutally the Taurians fought using every dirty tactic in the book, acknowledged that the whole thing had been a mistake on the part of the Great Houses. Best of intentions and all that. With a significant chunk of the blame for the questionable war neatly foisted off onto House Cameron, who were conveniently no longer around to object.

There were also entire chambers filled with trophies of war. Everything from captured unit standards to pieces of equipment from enemies of the AFFS. Examples of everything from captured ISF sneak suits to a Capellan Thrush salvaged from the ‘Great Lee Turkey shoot’. Even a handful of examples of SLDF gear from the Pitcairn legions little shadow war with the infamous General Forlough were on display here, with a very much ‘david vs goliath’ vibe presented about that little side war. Although it really wasn’t hard to play the ‘white knights’ when you were up against ****** Forlough; his very name still a vile curse word in Periphery to this day - according to the displays. Apparently calling someone a ‘Forlough’ in the Concordant was a good way to be punched in the face.

Anyway, I didn’t just play tourist, I also was starting to work on some more practical things. For example, trying to learn French. I regretted I had forgotten pretty much everything from my years of learning it in high school - but it wasn’t a time critical activity either. As far as I could tell, everyone spoke perfect English on New Avalon, it was just that if you couldn’t speak French it pegged you instantly as both offworld and/or not a member of the nobility or upper-middle class aspiring to become part of it.
Today, after four hours of halting progress with various vid lesson tapes driving me nuts and the time around lunch, I finally decided to hell with it and decided to get some fresh air.

Davion Peace Park was a popular place for people to amble around in Avalon City. It was quite large, similar in concept to something like Central Park in NYC, just much bigger. It wound around the side and back of Mount Davion, separating NAIS, the Davion Palace and Avalon City proper from each other. It also served a dual role as a security barrier for the first two and was often the site of public ceremonies for the ruling family to present awards or announce policies.

Mostly though, it was just a public park.

There were large hillsides for families to throw down a rug and have a picnic or for kids to run around playing games on any number of sport grounds - or clamber over some pretty expansive and extensive playground equipment. There were areas for pets to be let off the leash to run free and lakes for people to play with small little two person boats and such. Inevitably there were any number jogger hoards, mostly in military PT gear it seemed, proudly wearing their units sweatshirts.

I had no intention of exercising though.

I had always enjoyed going to local parks to just sit and relax. Grab some lunch from a nearby joint, find a space and just clear my mind and put aside my worries with some comfort food in the fresh air. I’d never quite had this level of ‘worries’ to deal with mind you - but the theory was the same. So here I was, having finished my lunch and just chilling on a bench looking out on the artificial (but perfectly natural looking) lake that covered this part of the park. Watching as a people went rowing around in a number of quaint little rowboats and other recreational human powered craft. Married couples, dating couples, groups of family and friends. All enjoying their time here on Friday afternoon.
All utterly unaware how in forty years they or their children or their children's children would watch as their capital was turned into a massive wasteland by the ****** phone companies inbred evil step brother, petulantly raining fire and nukes from orbit because their vaunted clockwork soldiers were simply not good enough to defeat the battle hardened garrison below.

And the troops too, who were everywhere running along the numerous jogging paths wound through the grounds. How many of them would die in the 4th Succession War? Or the 3039 War? Would some survive these tests only to fall as the Clans came rampaging in or live to finally retire … and watch the aforementioned holocaust take place on the heads of their children and grandchildren, after Katherine Steiner threw the mother of all temper tantrums that irrevocably shattered the greatest nation since the Star League?

Unless of course, I decided to do something about it.

Sighing, I pulled a small rock from next to the seat and flung it into the water. It made quite a splash and then the ripples ringed out to have their short lived effect running into further ripples from other activity, all impacting and pushing and changing each other … it was a childish metaphor perhaps yet it seemed to fit my mood right now of the impossibility of knowing if actions taken for the best of intentions were going to make things better or worse. Or if in the long term everything would just even out to nothing.

This really was a hell of a lot easier on the tabletop-

“Good morning Mister Smith!”

Uh ...okay. That was unexpected...
Turning away from my brooding introspection, I looked up at … a stunning young woman. And oh boy do I mean stunning.
I mean think of a young Olivia Wilde as a blond and you’d actually be pretty damn close to who I was staring at right now.

“Good morning Miss…” I fished for a name to buy time as I tried to rally. Two different alarm klaxons were screaming in my head at the same time as she smiled and sat down next to me. After all, very few people knew me on this planet … and none of them looked like they had just walked off the set of New Avalons next top model.
Huh, wonder if that was actually a thing-

“Kym” she again shot me a smile of perfect white teeth as she sat down next to me just a little too close and I inched away, earning a slightly playful smirk and flick of her hair that made my heart jump involuntarily. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite”.

“I’m glad to hear that” I replied even as another four different alarms joined the cacophony in my head. Young, hot, blue eyes, goes by the name of Kym..
No. It couldn’t be … it seriously couldn’t be … could it?
“Kym…” I hinted carefully and she laughed lightly.

“Sorenson” she smiled at me with devastating dimples.

...crap.

“Ah. John” I held out my hand and she took it, trying to ignore the most pleasant spritzy perfume she was wearing as I wrenched my thoughts distracted by this stunning woman back into the crisis room where they belonged, thinking rapidly. Kym Sorenson - later Kym Sorenson-Hasek. MIIO agent and Countess. Future wife of Morgan Hasek-Davion, whom she had been assigned to watch before falling in love with him after establishing his ironclad loyalty. Unless of course I just butterflied that to hell by having Quintis or Hanse assign her to watch me instead of (eventually) Morgan. Although that wouldn’t take place for another year, would it?

Why? Why the hell was she here?

Almost immediately the answer came. The same reason as she was dangled in Morgan's path a year or so down the road.
Honeypot.
A test of loyalty. Or at least, how seriously I took my security warnings-

“Yes I know who you are” she nodded as she studied me - and clearly mistook the the panic in my eyes as my terror that she was about to ‘compromise’ my secret identity. “I was at NAIS when the … incident happened” she breathed in a secret sort of thrilling way. “I never had any chance to meet you in person afterwards and I’ve really wanted to talk to you”.

Her performance was flawless, I’d give her that. If not for the fact that I already knew who she was, well, I would have probably been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Even so, I knew what I was supposed to do. One. Stick to my cover story like glue. Two. Head home and report her at once to NAIS security via the number Janice had given me. Three. Understand it never happened.
Wasn’t a bad idea, Gods the butterflies that might result from this-
And then, all at once, as I was thinking about the disruption this could -had!- cause/caused, it hit me.

It was blindingly obvious really.

History - the future- had already been changed. By definition. Kym had just proved that. Perhaps only small changes thus far, but who knows what they might cause in the long run? Granted I could try to minimise them … but I could hardly guarantee them - and paradoxically I could only really exert influence to keep the future ‘as is’ by changing it anyway. And the right butterfly like this one could have second and third order consequences I couldn’t possibly anticipate.
And perhaps it was just pure hubris to to think I must.
Watching the lake again as the last of the ripples I had created faded to nothing … I finally came to the only conclusion I know I could have made. Perhaps I had just been pushing it off because I was scared of moving from the ‘certainty’ of the game universe I knew into the real world. Full of uncertainty. But it was increasingly becoming clear that said ‘certainty’ was little more than an illusion now.
So. What was holding me back?
Would I be willing to sit on this same bench forty or so years from now, watching as naval weapons fire rained from the sky on NAIS, Mount Davion and Avalon City, followed by hordes of fanatic toaster worshipers unleashing the mother of all tantrums over the fact that the human race didn’t bend the knee to their glorious ‘Master’ plan? Knowing I could have done something but refused to try?

Honestly, the answer was surprisingly clear when I put in those terms. Maybe i was just justifying the decision on some BS grounds … but almost without realizing it I made my choice and set the ripples loose with another stone cast into the water.

“Can I ask you a question Agent Sorenson?” I asked almost casually, regarding the lake and not daring to look at her as I irrevocably started down my chosen path. ”Why did you join MIIO? I mean, you’re a Countess. Your father is pretty damn rich from his business ventures. You’re young, smart, confident, connected and rather more than ‘pretty’. You could have easily gone into business. You could have joined the AFFS. You could have gone into politics. But you chose the path of a field agent. So … why?”
To tell the truth, I was actually interested in her answer. But there was also no question that I was really just trying to get her attention (and that of her superiors)  in a direct yet -more or less- safe way by casually talking about things I damn well couldn’t possibly know.
Still, credit where it was due, it only took her five seconds of dead silence by my count to recover her wits and take up the gauntlet.

“Several reasons actually” she admitted freely, offering me a seemingly casual shrug as I turned back to face her. Kym’s gaze and presence were no longer ‘airhead’, but neither was her gaze suddenly deadly or super serious, affecting a studied nonchalance as if this was merely a mildly amusing turn of events.
Although from the way her eyes were utterly locked onto mine and not moving a fraction of an inch, I had the feeling that casually blowing her cover and identity wide open had gotten her complete and undivided attention. And yet, she was taking a refuge in an equal level of audacity to mine to deal with the situation, facing me on my chosen ground.

But then I shouldn’t have been surprised that someone personally tapped by Quintus Allard and Hanse Davion for critical spy work would be bloody good at it.

“My family actually has a proud and long history back through the centuries of working for the intelligence services of the Federated Suns” she continued, swinging around to straddle the bench and fully face me (and get her incredible pencil skirt covered legs in the ideal position to let her launch at me if she needed to, I tried not to notice). “I grew up hearing family stories of their exploits, of the unsung heroes who changed the course of history without anyone ever knowing and all that”. Then she actually laughed lightly, at herself. “Although to tell you the truth, when I was younger I got hooked on ‘skulk team’; a vid series about a fictional Rabid Fox team fighting week to week battles against Liao and Kurita. I must say I was pretty disappointed that on day one of our training we were made to watch an episode and then write down at least fifty things ‘wrong’ with it to progress. But then again” she tilted her head at me, “sometimes reality is stranger than fiction”.

“Or reality is fiction” I muttered, earning a curious eyebrow from her as I tried to think of how to approach this with her now that I had lit off a nuclear signal flare.

“Perhaps so” she nodded at me. “So Mister Smith, here we are. I think you know the questions I’m going to have to ask you now”.

“How?” I guessed and she rolled her eyes almost mockingly to heaven.

“Hardly” she chided me, crossing her arms “The fact that you know things completely impossible for you to know is, of course, rather interesting. And the ‘why’ is clearly to get the attention of myself and those I work for. Which leads us to the most pertinent question; What do you want?”
Somewhere in the Multiverse, a Shadow was giving her a standing ovation while a Vorlon facepalmed, I just knew it.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re as smart as you are stunning?” I asked her with a slightly wry smile.

“Frequently - but you missed your chance for me to practice my seduction techniques when you blew my cover, caveman, so it's too late for flirting” she sniffed, then proceeded to frown and crossed her arms in annoyance with a brief puff of air fluttering her fringe in a distracting cute way. “Which is really quite vexing actually; I spent most of the this morning on standby while we figured out if you were going to come outside where I could casually get to you in public”.

“Well I would offer to reschedule for tomorrow, but I have a guess that my free time might have just become slightly restricted. But to answer you question succinctly; I need you to deliver something to Ardan Sortek for me”.

“Ardan Sortek” she looked at me, her face clearly faintly amused at the idea of delivering something to Hanse Davion's closest friend and man with probably the greatest soft power in the entire realm. “Really”.

“Yes, really” I nodded before glancing down at my bag. “If I might just get it out of my bag?”

“Of course. But, carefully” she advised in a tone that was friendly - and yet edged with seriousness as she uncrossed her arms. Making no sudden movements, I reached down and unzipped the bag, feeling her gaze burning on my neck as I found what I was looking for and slowly, carefully, pulled out my iPad, her gaze following me the whole way (and, I suspect, some crack sniper somewhere up on Mount Davion too…)

“Do you know what this is?” I asked her as I started the iPad powering up.

“Your noteputer - I believe you called it an ‘iPad’?”

“Just so” I agreed, angling the screen so she could see easily. “The unlock code is six four three three” I showed her as it finished booting and she nodded once evenly.

“Well I’m sure it's a very impressive bit of hardware - NAIS offered you a considerable sum of cash for it after all. But why would Colonel Sortek want this?”

“It’s not the hardware in of itself” I explained, showing her carefully as I opened my ebooks and the single entry that was present. I had systematically transferred everything I could off it and onto my iPhone via BlueTooth (I left the movies and a few TV episodes there for space reasons, hopefully Hanse and Ardan would get a kick out of Game of Thrones), making room by deleting most of the applications on my Phone. Until such time as someone figured out how to transfer files onto a Battletech computer from these things, I had to carefully manage my space.

On the other hand, these two devices were intrinsically secure in a way no other electronics were right now for me. The architecture of the technology was clearly alien to NAIS. I’m sure that the locals could reverse engineer the technology and probably even crack the encryption, but it would take considerable time and effort. Until then, if I locked the iPad with its password engaged, unless someone tortured me, the damn thing was more or less entirely secure.
I did wish that I had more Battletech material of course, but I had hardly known this was going to happen to me. It was mildly vexing; all that money spent on novels, sourcebooks and games and when I needed it...
Still. I had participated in so many Battletech quests and read so many fanfics that I was pretty sure I had most of the key steps down pat in my head (and had been writing copious notes on my iphone, equally secure behind a password).
And this iPad and the single document on it that I had been carrying around with me, in the vague crazy hope of a situation just like this that I knew would never happen. An express postal delivery service to the very top..

“Just go here” I showed her the documents folder “and open this file. It's the only file there. In fact it should be open already when I lock it like so” I said, hitting the lock button at that point and then unlocking it to demonstrate the app already open before I locked it again and handed it out for her to take.

Her eyes for perhaps the first time utterly serious, she regarded me for long seconds before finally, almost grudgingly, she reached out to carefully take the iPad from me.

“Once again” she stated after a slightly uncomfortable silence. “Why exactly would Colonel Sortek want to read this?” she tapped the iPad with a perfectly manicured fingernail, her gaze locked with mine and deadly serious, saying without saying that she needed an answer now before anything happened.

“It's not so much a question of if he wants to read it” I explained carefully, feeling that this question would make or break how this all went. “It’s that I need him to read it, without knowing what he is reading in advance. And then afterwards, for he - and probably Hanse Davion too - to make a judgement on if I am utterly crazy or if I am the only sane man in an insane universe”. I could see i hadn’t exactly convinced her, so I simply shrugged. “I’m sure Quintus will want to review this before he even thinks about placing this in front of those two - and I have no objection. But I feel he also would agree after doing so that it would be better if they reviewed this without any hints. And” I added before it looked like she was about to reply, playing my last card to get the maximum attention. “If none of the above people are convinced by what they read that they think it's worthy of a further meeting with me, then please let me know that they can keep the ipad and do with it as they will as an apology for wasting their time”.

That got her attention I could see. In this age of Lostech (even if my iPad really wasn’t Lostech per se) simply giving away something like that was a statement of how serious (and how confident) I was about this whole thing. And feeling that there really wasn’t anything more to say, I reached down and zipped up my bag, swinging it onto my back and offering her a final, slightly forced smile.

“If they want to meet with me, I’m at their disposal … I’m sure they know exactly where I live” I noted.

I half expected at that point for her to simply wave a hand and half a dozen MI5 or MI6 agents appear from behind bushes or pop out of the lake in scuba gear or something to drag me off to the palace. Or for her to ‘invite’ me to join her there for further questions. Or that she would play for time for a team to come as she kept frantically hitting some invisible panic buzzer or something.

Instead, almost anticlimactically, Kym Sorenson casually got to her feet, offered me a completely non-committal nod and smile before she started to stroll off, humming casually to herself and instantly looking again like some NAIS college kid out for a stroll.

I wondered a little at that - but then decided not to take any chances. I also left, turning back to head out of the park towards my apartment. I deliberately also forced myself to not look around lest I started to try and pick out anyone following me. Indeed, I made it home without anything abnormal happening, which was slightly surprising given the size of the rock I had just thrown in the general direction of the most powerful people in the Federated Suns.
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #2 on: 08 July 2018, 19:27:26 »
Chapter 3: Truth to Power

***
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***

And then followed the longest 44 hours of my life - to that point anyway. I have to admit I half expected to be brought in that afternoon, then evening, then night and didn’t sleep much, waiting for the knock on the door.
Then I was frantic most of the next day even as I slowly grew more tired (although I was careful to lay out the only good suit I owned), not leaving the apartment and just watching vids. After a light dinner I finally decided that if the powers that be
wanted to talk to me, I don’t think they would let a closed door or fact that I was asleep stop them, so I might as well get some when I could. I managed to finally crash at the end of that day, slightly confused that nothing had happened.

The next morning after a surprisingly decent sleep I seemed to have needed, I tried to force myself to get back into a somewhat normal routine - as much as possible anyway as I was wondering if my ipad and its contents were being dismissed as some joke - or was sitting on someone's desk and winding its way through some vogon esque chain of bureaucrats who had forgotten the password or something. Even if I told myself it was highly unlikely, the thoughts remained.
Still, I managed to mostly convince myself to keep my expectations under control. Even if my little gift had been taken seriously, it could simply mean that Quintus Allard was examining everything with a fine tooth comb because the obvious conclusion was utterly
crazy. And that it might be days or even weeks before he even brought it to his liege for review. I mean he was the bloody ruler of a big chunk of the Inner Sphere after all.

So early in the second morning, I decided that things were in motion and all I could do was wait. Which in turn meant finding things to do while I waited.
To that end, I went downstairs. The apartment complex had a nice little gym on the ground floor for the use of the residents I hadn’t checked out yet and now was as good a time as any. I spent a few hours trying to work off the nervous energy there - although I was equally careful to not exhaust myself just in case I needed my wits about me.
And with that edge at least dulled, I returned to my room for a quick shower. And then exited the bathroom (thank God with a towel around my waist) into my living room to find Kym Sorenson casually sprawled on my lounge...


***
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***

“If this is revenge for the lake … well done” I finally managed after at least five seconds of standing there clutching at my towel with a death grip to make damn sure it stayed in place as I rather pathetically stood there … dripping on the cheap carpet.

“Well no, it isn’t” the MIIO agent smiled before, deliberately, running her gaze from my feet to my face with an look best described as ‘considering’. “But I have to admit, the NAIS does quite decent work these days”.

I really hoped that the hot shower I had just finished was hiding the flush I felt at her words, not quite sure how to take them. Mostly annoyance I suppose, given the sheer amount of screaming pain my muscles had endured at the hands of a somewhat sadistic military instructor from the College of Military Sciences in between semesters, to get body into the shape it was in during my recovery.
Then again, to be brutally honest, the drugs had probably done more...

“Would you mind if I, you know, get dressed?” I jerked my head towards the bedroom. Her smirk only grew at that question.

“I’m not stopping you” she pointed out, looking entirely at ease (and stunningly professional) in a well cut business suit from her position on the other side of the room.

“Right” I muttered an answer and turned to walk out of the room, trying to regain my composure as I shut the door on her. I gave myself of the luxury of a half second to take a deep breath and remind myself this is what I wanted to happen before drying off and getting dressed, forcing myself to not rush things as I put on the suit that I had painstakingly laid out. Brushing my hair and finishing up quickly by selecting a brand new tie I had brought, I headed back into the living room. Kym was still patiently waiting for me as I came back in, starting to struggle with the new tie that was I noticed a little thicker than the ones I was used to. “So, Agent Sorenson, any particular reason you decided to break in today?”

“Because the key Quintus Allard gave me was the wrong bloody one and I had to pick the lock” she said with a perfectly straight face, making me pause in my struggle for a long moment to regard her.

“Well done” I congratulated her after a few seconds of consideration as I got back to work on my tie. “I genuinely can’t tell if that is sarcasm, truth or both at the same time”.

She actually looked pleased at that somewhat backwards complement.

“Anyway” Kym said in a more businesslike tone, “I’ve been sent to extend an invitation to the Davion Palace. There are some people who would really like to have a chat with you”.

“Right now I take it?”

“Not hardly” she snorted before she glanced at her watch. “We’ve got at least an hour or so before we’re expected”.

“Stop that” I deadpanned - although the twitch of a smile on my face betrayed my enjoyment of her snarking.

“You were much more fun in the park” she sighed before standing and stretching (in an extremely distracting way that earned her another mental roll of my eyes as I continued to try to struggle with the tie. “What are you doing?”

“Dressing” I grunted as the knot slipped into a horrid mess and I ripped it apart again. “I’ve done a tie thousands of times, but these bloody cravat-ties you people love…”
After a few seconds silently watching me struggle, the Countessa rolled her own eyes … and stepped way inside my personal space. Then, with quick, efficient motions and an exasperated sigh, she ripped my tie knot open and started to redo it.

“Did MIIO” (I had learned it was pronounced Mee-ohhh by the locals) “teach you how to do this?” I asked after a moment of adjustment for the fact that she was all but pressing up against me as she briskly went to work. Her cool blue eyes met mine for a second before focusing back on the tie with a look of concentration.

“Uh-uh” she shook her head, biting her lip in a rather cute way as her hands moved with great dexterity “My father is equally clueless with ties and I learned how to do it for him after my mother died”.
My initial thought to protest her categorization of me as ‘clueless’ clashed with the revelation of her mother's death, leaving me momentarily without a reply. By the time I had something to say however, it became impossible as she tightened the tie and cheerfully cut off my airflow for precious seconds, before it slackened back again. So I decided to just shut up and leave it at that.
“There. Adequate” she decided as she stepped back, reaching out a finger to sample my suit jackets lapel in curiosity. “Hmm. You actually look quite sharp in this cut of jacket. Simple and plain compared to quite a few of the things men call fashion these days, very much less is more. You might kick off a whole new fashion trend if you’re seen around the right people wearing it”.

“Wouldn’t that be somewhat counterproductive to keeping a low profile? Are you sure you’re a spy” I asked her with a slightly arched eyebrow.

“Somehow, given the way my boss and his bosses reacted to whatever the hell was on that iPad of yours, I doubt staying low profile is going to be much of a concern for long” she (almost too cheerfully) told me before she brushed some lint from the jacket and nodded. “You got everything you want to take with you?”

“Uh, yes” I replied. My heart had skipped a beat at her casually dropped warning at the shitstom I had unleashed - before I realized it had clearly been anything but casually dropped.
Was that a warning? Or, perhaps she was just screwing with my head?

Who knew the future Mrs Morgan Hasek-Davion was such a troll?
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

  • Warrant Officer
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  • Posts: 569
Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #3 on: 08 July 2018, 19:27:38 »

***
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***

I expected the ride to the Davion Palace to seem to be either very slow or very fast but it turned out to be neither. Instead it seemed surprisingly … normal. The unmarked car we were driving in moved steadily with the traffic and without any theatrics of flashing lights, escorts or anything of that sort. The three other agents in the car with me were silent and normal looking men. The world (and Inner Sphere) outside the window continued on normally, entirely unknowing of the changes to fate and destiny I was about to throw at it.
As for me, I was stuck in something of a loop in my thoughts. Suddenly aware of how serious this shit was getting for me and how powerful the people were whose attention I was drawing … only to then note that these were exactly the people whose attention I wanted, weren't they?
Honestly, the enormity of this whole change in my life and change in my very universe was still sinking in - and I had just doubled down. Things were in motion now that I could no more stop than I could win an arm wrestle with an Atlas.
Still. Perhaps that was a good thing, all things considered. If Kym hadn’t shown up that day, perhaps I would have just fretted myself into a corner and done absolutely nothing. One way or the other, the die was cast. The rubicon was crossed - and add any number of other analogies from Ancient Rome here.

Well I was probably going to meet a guy named Quintus after all..

Thankfully, no-one in the car tried to engage me in conversation, leaving me to my brooding introspection until Kym noted that we were here. I blinked and refocused outside, seeing indeed that Mount Davion loomed overhead as we turned into one of the entrances. We were briskly waved through the outer gate and directed through a second checkpoint in turn, that diverted us away from what seemed to be ‘public parking’ outside. In moments we turned past some discreetly placed shrubbery and trees that screened a smaller outside parking area I thought we were going to stop in - no, we turned instead through a massive open blast door in the side of the mountain and into a large tunnel beyond.

We were stopped at an inner checkpoint here and Kym handed over some paperwork. The guards read it, seemed to do a double take and then with a salute, gestured us onwards. I have to admit I was surprised at the somewhat lax security, but didn’t have much time to mull on it as the car turned into a one of a number of large rooms set equally around an open circular space, a large mesh grate rattling closed behind us.

I had just enough time to look around and wonder what was going on when with a clunk, the ground under the car shuddered - and suddenly we were falling. Okay we were in a giant elevator. And judging by the scale of both it and the tunnel leading into it above...
My hunch was proven right when the elevator stopped a minute later, opening into a mirror of the circular space above. Except as we drove out of it, we entered a vast, well lit artificial cavern filled with Battlemechs. All in the dress paint of the 1st Davion Guards.

Wow.

It was a pretty ****** awesome sight - the kind of moment that a good movie soundtrack would fill with something awe inspiring and martial as we passed Battlemech after Battlemech standing tall in various gantries on either side of the ‘road’ - many with technicians working on - or even in the bigger ones. Hmm, something from Hans Zimmer or Brian Tyler perhaps? Damnit I could have cued up something on my iPhone if I had known this was coming...
We had driven past probably a couple of battalions worth of war machines when we finally turned off down a ‘side street’ and then quickly off into a much smaller sub-cavern.
In here was what looked like luxury cars, limos and the like. My guess was that this were where the VIP transport fleet for the First Prince was stored - but I didn’t have too much time to look around as we stopped and the car doors were opened almost at once and I was prodded to get out.

A welcoming committee was waiting for us here, a half dozen people including a quartet of troopers in the same ‘ghost recon’ setup I had seen at NAIS, wielding what I recognized now as laser rifles linked to backpack powerpacks. My slightly distracted air this morning thus vanished, as fast a hundred kronor bill floating around the sidewalks of Tharkad City.
Shit just got real.

Kym confidently stepped up to the lead member of the welcoming committee and pulled the same piece of paper out she had shown earlier. This time I could see that as she handed it over, she was pressing her thumb to a golden strip on the bottom of the paper - and when she let go, it caused a part of the paper to seemingly illuminate. I realized that it could only be a verigraph embedded document - like the infamous note Morgan Kell had from Katrina Steiner. An almost impossible to forge biometric verification technique that could be embedded into the paper to confirm someone's identity.
I didn’t know what the paper said, but clearly it was correct and/or expected. The man actually saluted Kym after carefully examining and scanning the document, dismissing the troops and Kym in turn gestured me forward as the other agents who had come with me, got back into the car and drove it off back to who knows where.

Never even got their names. Oh well. I’m going to call them agents Jackson, Johnson, and Thompson. They damn well looked like those guys from the Matrix at any rate.

“John - your ID please?” Kym asked as I stopped next to her. Without saying anything, I opened my wallet and handed over the ID I had been issued at NAIS. I found it slightly amusing to think that it was simultaneously both perfectly real and perfectly fake, but I decided pointing that out here and now would be a bad idea as Kym handed it on to the person in charge.
Then I was led to a security screening station. I emptied my pockets into a tray which was taken to be fed through an X-Ray machine (I mentally winced a moment later as I saw the tray pass into the machine, hoping that this wouldn’t fry my iPhone, which was probably far more fragile than the electronics they were used to poking with radiation here even when turned off) before I stepped through the gate. There I was patted down very thoroughly and had several portable scanners run over, around and on me.
Well, at least, they were genuinely professional about it. Airport Security they were not.

The head security type returned a short time later while Kym was busying logging us in on some kind of electronic clipboard. I was given a sort of temporary plastic pass on a lanyard, with a current today photo of me I hadn’t even noticed had been taken as well as my details and a whole bunch of codes, barcodes and so on that I guessed said where I could go and where I should be shot on sight.
Hanging it on my neck, I recovered my things (the iPhone seemed unaffected and powered back up normally thank God and/or the engineers at Cupertino) and Kym and I were on our way.

An elevator ride was next, one that moved quickly but still took some time to ascend up through the mountain past literally dozens of galleries filled with smaller floors like some kind of Toyko-3 labyrinth from Evangelion. The glorious palace on top was merely the tip of the iceberg as it were, with vast spaces inside filled with thousands or tens of thousands of people serving House Davion.
On reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised given that this was, really, the central hub of an interstellar nation.
Another security foyer (one fortified with see through but thick glass I suspected was Battlemech cockpit grade) greeted us when the door finally opened but a quick scan of the barcode on my guest pass (and Kyms MIIO ID badge she was now also wearing) and we were escorted through the checkpoint by the guards on duty … into another elevator. This one rising fast enough to force me to pop my ears.
This time when it opened and we were (again) scanned in through a security checkpoint, we exited into the palace proper. Marble floors, wooden paneled walls, plush furniture and antique tables, huge oil paintings of Battlemechs furiously firing and portraits of previous First Princes and Royal Families … everything screamed ‘expensive and powerful’.

Not to mention the gaggles of nobles moving with purpose in an eclectic mixture of semi-formal noble dress and the highest quality of business suits mixed with AFFS personnel in the local equivalent of Class-A uniforms.

Kym led me from the elevators, ignoring what seemed to be a large reception and waiting area to instead move past more guards to an empty enclosed balcony that circled the main tower. Apparently we were going to have to wait here for five minutes or so because we were a bit early - but I didn’t really mind.
The castle grounds spread along the ridge line in the shadow of the mountain and its terraces of office block like levels looked nice enough but I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed at first glance. Given that this was the seat of power for House Davion, I had frankly expected a slightly more grandiose scale to things … and that was when I happened to notice that the things walking on patrol on the top of the castle's outer wall were not people ... but Mechs.
Okay. Readjusting my scale from that, I realized what I had taken to be narrow paths between buildings were in fact broad avenues and I was much higher up than I thought. Small guest houses dotting the land quickly turned into self-contained mansions and a well tended ‘park’ became a well tended mini forest...and what looked like a mini spaceport to boot instead of a large helipad.

Okay. Right. Not half bad digs!

An odd sense of recollection-that-wasn’t came over me as I took in the vista, recalling that at the end of the FedCom civil war, Katherine Steiner-Davion (please let me butterfly her) had stood at a window in the Palace Throne room and looked down on this same view. Watching as Victors troops blasted her dwindling loyalists backwards up the slopes to the Castle, her empires span having shrunk from across the Inner Sphere to mere kilometers as her brother implacably pressed forward with his RCTs, leading from the front as always. As she had watched, an entire company of her dwindling troops had suddenly thrown themselves into a desperate one-way suicide run to try and bring her brother down, only for the man I was hoping to see now to shove his Omnimech in front of Victors and sacrifice himself in his place as her doomed troops were shot to pieces. Katherine of course had been utterly indifferent to their sacrifice - as after all, they had failed her. ‘Only’ managing to kill just one more good man who willingly and without hesitation gave the last thing he could after a lifetime of service, to protect his best friends son one last time.
A good man, who had died - with far far too many others - because The Bitch had let greed, ego and obsession consume her.

THAT was why I was here.

“It’s time” Kym suddenly broke into my mussing. I took a final look at the peaceful vista that might or might not be one day turned into a heaving mass of Battlemechs and Tanks, before turning to follow her into the palace itself.

This part of the palace was clearly more of the ‘working’ part, the core of an Interstellar Empire. Hundreds of people were coming and going through the open areas, including people who appeared to be AFFS Flag officers and a number of people I suspected were senior nobles in senior roles. Kim however led me with unerring precision through the chaos … to yet another guard station. Where I was searched.
Again.
And scanned.
Again.
Okay. I take back everything I had said about them not being diligent.

We were eventually cleared through the door behind it and two turns later I found myself in a richly appointed but empty hallway come waiting room, with a surprising number of heavily armed guards (in full field gear this time) standing around looking surprisingly alert.
Especially the pair in front of a rather nice looking wooden door at the end of the corridor. One that above it had the crest of the Federated Suns mounted in gleaming style. The sword looking like it had been cast out of solid silver and the sunburst in solid gold, with polished red woods around it.

Oh hell. I had a rather good idea whose office this was … and it wasn't Ardan Sorteks or Quintus Allards...

“This is where I leave you” Kym spoke up with an apologetic smile, perhaps taking pity on me for how I was simply standing and staring at the door - clearly realizing I had just comprehended who was behind it. “Just take a seat” she gestured at a number of plush looking seats lining the wall “and they’ll call you in when ready”.

“They?” I asked, unabashedly fishing for information.

“They” she confirmed. “I have no idea what was on that ‘iPad’, but you’ve certainly stirred up a bit of a hornets nest Mister Smith”.

“I hope that I didn’t get you in any trouble” I replied, it suddenly hitting me that my casual ‘outing’ of her identity like that had probably caused some rather pointed questions to be asked around her.

“Well my debriefing after our little fun in the park went for eight hours” she replied in a deadpan voice and I winced. “But” she added with a wry look, “I got a commendation logged in my file from Quintus Allard himself for quick thinking and adaptability in a highly unusual situation. So I guess it evens out”.

“You’re welcome” I smirked - and she rolled her eyes and swatted me somewhat playfully on my arm at that. “I take it you have a new assignment now?” I asked.

“I do. I’m actually headed offworld” she explained with a grin, clearly happy about her new mission. “I can’t say where of course”.

“Of course” I agreed, my thoughts instantly flashing to the area at Solaris. It was a bit early … but it took time to cross interstellar distances - and probably even more to carefully establish her cover well in advance of the events I knew were coming (unless I was about to butterfly them away).
Solaris … you know, I really wanted to visit there someday. Granted, I wasn’t exactly a big fan of the whole blood sport side of things. But as it turned out, fatalities in the arenas were quite rare. As a rule, shooting for the cockpit was considered a cheap shot on the order of going for a nads punch or something in a boxing match and would get you dropped by your sponsors faster than an Stalker could overheat so it was rare indeed. Deaths generally only occurred because two people who genuinely wanted to kill each other took advantage of the legal way to do so - and as both knew the risks going in, well...

“Good luck on your mission then” I said sincerely, extending my hand to her. “Until we meet again”.

“It’s certainly been … interesting” she noted, taking my hand and giving it a firm shake. “It’s unlikely we’ll bump into each other again I’m afraid”.

“Oh, I don’t know” I offered her my best ‘I know something you don’t know’ smile that had her narrow her eyes slightly. And a part of me smugly delighted in this final victory. “But in the end, come what may … we’ll always have the Peace Park”.
Her expression softened at that, actually becoming almost … fond?

“Casablanca - one of my mother's favourite old vid-films” she identified the line to my surprise. “And yes, we’ll always have the Peace Park. And the near heart attack you gave me when you blew my cover like that”.

“I can assure you I was almost having one myself, wondering if you were going to have me dragged off and strapped into some interrogation chair” I admitted.

“Kinky” she noted with a … honestly, I don’t know what to make of that smirk. “But I’m not the kind of girl who goes for that on a first date”.

“Then I’m very glad we never went on a second” I retorted.

I have the privilege of getting in the last word - because at that point with a loud click, the door at the end of the corridor opened and a middle aged man in an AFFS uniform stepped out.

“Mister Smith?”

“Yes” I said, stepping away from Kym to face him. “I am he”.

“If you will please come with me Sir” the other gestured me forward. I nodded and with a final glance at Kym, I turned away to walk through the door, the man closing it behind me.

Inside was what seemed to be an outer office of a sorts, with a half dozen civilian and military personnel were hard at work. None of them acknowledged me so I didn’t interrupt them as I was quickly led across to a smaller leather covered door. The aide pressed a buzzer and then, without waiting for a reply, opened it and stepped just inside.

“Highness, Mister John Smith” he announced me.

“Thank you Tony, that will be all” a voice called back. “Please, come in Mister Smith”.

That voice had quite a tone of command in it and almost without realizing it I was walking into the room as ‘Tony’ let me pass, then closed the door behind me.

The ‘office’ was quite a large size. Not ridiculously so like a Bond Villain's Lair or something, but certainly spacious, carefully divided up into different sections by cunning use of slightly raised or lowered sections and constructed with polished dark woods. There was what was clearly a large working desk; an almost ‘office inside an office’ to the right. Over on the left was a bunch of video screens and a holo projector and various computers and so on. Beyond it was what looked like a sort of dining area, probably for casual ‘working dinners’ with staff and so on with a few doors beyond it to other rooms.
Oh and yes, raised up against the far wall directly opposite the door, under the angled windows on the ceiling, was a table that looked like it could have come from a boardroom, two-dozen leather chairs around it. With three people sitting on the far side.

The First Prince of the Federated Suns looked somewhat similar to the various pictures I recalled from Battletech sourcebooks, if only in general terms. He seemed younger and fitter - and perhaps it was just me projecting again, but God he had a presence. Even just sitting casually in what seemed to be a pretty plain 31st century business suit he seemed to dominate the room. Letting everyone know that this was the ruler of hundreds of worlds and perhaps the greatest First Prince in the history (past or known future) of the Federated Suns.
Tearing my gaze off him as I crossed the room, I noted that to his left was a man in an AFFS duty uniform that I identified as Ardan Sortek from some public pictures I had found when doing some research and the man on the right and to his right in a perfectly nondescript looking business suit, was Quintus Allard. Arguably the troika that ran the Federated Suns.

Well, I think it was safe to say that my copy of ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ had gotten their attention.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice” Hanse Davion greeted me as I climbed the three steps to where they were sitting, feeling like I was ascending Olympus to be judged by the Gods of this setting, as Hanse gestured to the chair on the opposite side of the table from him.

“Thank you, Prince Davion. For the invitation - and your time” I replied as politely as I could as I approached the table with a nod that wasn’t quite a bow, pulling out the chair opposite him and sitting down - and placing my iPhone carefully on the table in front of him.
Then it hit me.
Holy shit. I’m sitting across from Hanse ****** Davion.
Damn
I wish I could take a selfie and post it on Spacebattles...

“After your little gift to us” he said, gesturing at my iPad that I now noticed was sitting in front of Quintus mixed in with plenty of folders and paperwork, “I thought that it would be useful for us to sit down and have a little chat. As I’m sure you can anticipate, we have quite a few questions we would like to put to you”.

“I do understand. Before that though I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done for me since I was … well … created I suppose”.

“It’s certainly the least we could do given the situation” Hanse waved away my thanks.

Ohh, opening. Well, let's get started.

“Actually the least would have been to simply terminate me as a major security risk” I said glancing at Quintus for a moment. “And given that I was created because NAIS was most probably trying to build a HPG, it would have been entirely understandable if you simply had me shot and buried in an unmarked grave to ensure ROM never found out from me”. I offered them a slightly wry smile. “Personally, “I’m rather glad you didn’t”.

Neither Hanse nor Quintus expressions shifted even one micron, remaining friendly and polite - which I have to admit was impressive given that I had just dropped A) The fact that I figured out roughly what they were doing (which could just mean I was observant and made a good guess, except for) B) I knew about ROM who I’m sure MIIO also had a generally good idea about - but ComStars ****** were sure as hell not public knowledge.
Ardan though, good old Ardan, seemed to actually twitch slightly making me hope I was on the right path.

“I have the feeling” Hanse said, leaning forward with that famous smirk I had seen on the vids, “that I am going to be increasingly glad I never genuinely considered it either”. Glancing at Sorrek he nodded once. “Ardan however was the person though who insisted on a pension to ensure you were looked after for the rest of your life”.

“Then I owe you quite a debt Colonel” I nodded at the other, who offered me a nod in exchange.

“No debt is owed Mister Smith - as his Highness stated, it was the least we could do honestly given the situation.
I got the distinct feeling he was speaking to Quintus when he said that and I wondered just how on the money I might have been about some of the people in the room toying with simply killing me … yeah, better not go down that path. And anyway, as I had said, the man wouldn't have been doing his job if he didn't consider the option.

“At any rate” I continued, pretty certain I had their attention now and deciding to press on, turning my attention to Hanse Davion's head of intelligence. “I take it you’ve read ‘The Sword and the Dagger?’”

“All three of us, yes” Quintus answered. “I agreed with your suggestion of presenting it to Colonel Sortek without any hint of what it was about to gauge his reaction after I did so”. Now Quintus turned to offer a slightly wry look at the other. “I have to admit I’ve never seen him go for a stiff drink like that before”.

“It was more than a little shocking” the AFFS officer said quite candidly and quietly. “To put it mildly. Utterly impossible”.

Completely impossible” Hanse put in almost cheerfully. “And yet here we are. And with your rather blunt name dropping, I’m taking it that you know rather more than this single document suggests about things you really should not?”

“That statue on your desk” I hooked a finger over my shoulder back in the general direction of his desk and the distinctive statue I had eyeballed walking across the room, “is of you and Dana Stephenson, based on a picture taken on Christmas day. It’s made out of some of the glass salvaged from her cockpit after some Kuritan ****** stepped on it and has the engagement ring you offered to her in its base - and you were looking at it the moment Katrina Steiners peace proposal arrived”.
Oooookay. Perhaps that was a little too much showing off - from the way Hanse’s face actually tightened with emotion, Ardan’s eyes widened and Quintus shifted forward slightly with the changing air of someone going from ‘polite interest’ to ‘absolute attention’.
“I’m sorry” I added after a moment, feeling like a dick and glancing away for a moment before looking back up. “That was probably far too personal an example to use Prince Davion - put rather crudely. My apologies”.

“Accepted” Hanse said, recovering his poise in a heartbeat, a new rather focused gleam coming into his eyes. “But … it certainly seems to have cut to the heart of the matter. You know things Mister Smith. Things you should not, could not, possibly know” and God strike me down if I was lying, but the man just assumed the Gendo Pose! “Of course, although we have our theories based on that novel, fantastic as they are, we’d like to hear you lay it all out for us. So please Mister Smith. Take your time and walk us through it”.

“This may take some time. But to start at the beginning, in nineteen eighty five, in my reality, a team led by a man named Jordan Weisman developed a tabletop game known as ‘Battle Droids…’ “
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

  • Warrant Officer
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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #4 on: 08 July 2018, 19:28:56 »
Chapter 4: The Scarface Methodology.

***
******
***


That was one of the most exhausting days in my life. Slowly, I laid out things for them. Battletech in my reality, its history as developed by a bunch of people over decades with the game and then the massive expanse of the universe that was fleshed out by sourcebooks, novels, computer games and even a cartoon series. The broad scope of ‘Classic Battletech’ which was around this time period and went back and forth of expanding both the history and future of the universe.

They took the news that their lives and choices has essentially been entertainment made up by a group of game designers … surprisingly well really. All three men - including Quintus!- even showed sympathy towards my position, genuinely seeming to appreciate my questioning of what reality was given my story. But in the end with the -abbreviated- version given, the First Prince got down to the core issue, asking me simply what I intended to do about all of this now that I was here.
I thought about it for a long moment ... and I gave him my answer.


It was part speech, part verbal diarrhea that embarrassingly played out for a good five minutes or so that could have been summarized far more verbrosly as ‘I believe in you, Katrina Steiner and the idea of the Federated Commonwealth as probably the best hope for mankind at this point in time. Thus I want to put a finger on the scales of history and tilt the result a little to make damn sure this time, it works’.

The three men opposite me took it in silently but intently until finally I ran out of words feeling like a bit of an idiot; a stirring movement of glorious words it was not. But I think it was perhaps all the more real for that, an honest venting if you will. Finally I finished and Hanse Davion looked at me for a long, long moment after that with a gaze rather hard to meet. So much so I was really having to put effort into not squirming, before he turned to Ardan who nodded once and then to Quintus. I noted that the spymaster had a noteputer running in front of him then and I would bet it was linked into some kind of biometric lie detection system pointed at me, probably built into this room. At any rate, he too gave Hanse a nod. And with that, Hanse stood and headed over to a small sidebar and returned with a bottle of … something … and four glasses.

“It is tradition in my family, Mister Smith, that when House Davion makes pacts of such gravity, we seal it with a drink” he stated, pouring a few fingers into each of the four glasses and passing them out. That done, he screwed the top back on the bottle and lifted his glass, Ardan and Quintus following suit. I too matched their gesture as a gaze more intense than anything so far was leveled at me and his tone turned totally up to full ‘First Prince’ levels. “So I offer you this pact John Smith. Swear to me your allegiance as a citizen of the Federated Suns - and then Commonwealth. Offer me your personal service as an advisor and your knowledge and I promise you both my protection and my best efforts from now until my last day. I promise your service will be rewarded, both personally and in the advancement of the vision of the future you seem to share with Katrina Steiner and I”.

Wow that was … heavy. Very formal - and very direct.
And there was only one possible answer to give. So I took a deep breath and stood, the three men opposite standing too as I lifted my glass and unerringly looked into the eyes of The Fox.


My Prince” I said to him putting a slight edge on the pronoun, “I accept”.

“Smashing” he smiled and with that, shot the drink back with the other two men and I joined them.
I didn’t choke
too much either.
What
was that, Mech coolant?!

After I got my breath back I continued, pulling my iPhone out and navigating a few sub menus to hit a command. Across from me the iPad beeped and Quintus quickly activated it with a raised eyebrow at me. “

Just accept the file transfer” I asked and he pressed the indicated buttons, establishing the Bluetooth link and letting the data flow. “I just copied over the other ‘Battletech’ primary sources I had on my person when I got here” I explained to their curious looks and instantly Quinus’s full attention was on the documents listed. “Wolves on the Border is a novel watching the Dragoons in service to the Combine - from start to finish. Both internally inside the Dragoons and the Combines political machinations around them, Takashi and other Warlords. Right up to their eventual flight from the Combine in thirty twenty eight into the Draconis March and starting their own private war against House Kurita. And then there are the three other books. They are known as the ‘Warrior Trilogy’ .. and detail the events leading into, during and immediately after the Fourth Succession War from the end of this year to the end of thirty twenty nine. Including a great many internal points of view of ComStar at the First Circuit and their manipulations against the Inner Sphere as a whole and the Federated Commonwealth in particular. Also a great deal from Michael Hasek-Davions point of view, his plotting and scheming and from similar people on the Lyran side of the fence and of course, a birds eye view of Sian”.
Ah, charming, Hanse Davion’s face trying to fight off a look of with numb disbelief. I must be one of a
very few people to have ever done that to him. The moment broke as the iPad chirped happily as the file transfer completed and I pushed the iPhone across the desk to join it.
 “The iPhone has the same unlock code” I added and my voice seemed to jolt them out of their stasis. “And the same files are present on it – as well as a number of 21st century TV shows, music and other media”


Quintus recovered first - although I’d take an oath that for a split second I had seen pure shock flash through his otherwise poker-perfect eyes- and started to pack the iPad, iPhone and his various notes and folders into a secure briefcase.

“I’ll have preliminary summaries on your desk in forty eight hours Highness” Quintus promised his liege simply. “If I have your leave - and with Mister Smith's permission, I have a handpicked team on standby in the palace with whom we can start a full scale debriefing on these issues and apartments you can move into through this process”.

“By all means” I agreed. I had little doubt that what few possessions I actually cared about could be quietly packed up and shipped here.

“Excellent” Hanse agreed turning to face me as he stood, followed by the rest of us. “John, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship” he smiled, extending his hand, which I took after a slightly shocked pause.

Okay. Now that was just showing off.

***
******
***


So. How would Scarface have put it?
Probably something like ‘In Battletech … first you seize the Helm cache. Then you hit New Dallas. Then you troll the Wolf with weather reports!’

Well ... here was step one then I suppose.

Point of order, when I came clean to Hanse Davion I have to admit I did not expect to be put into the field. Firstly, I wasn’t field trained - or trained in general for that matter. Second and more pertinent, with minimal ego, I could state I was clearly a critical strategic asset for the Federated Suns. And potentially catastrophic security threat to said Federated Suns if I was to fall into the wrong hands. I had fully expected to be locked in something of a gilded cage for quite some time and had accepted that as the price for making a difference on a Sphere-Wide scale. But that was fine by me; said gilded cage would give me a front row seat to events as they played out. I hoped and expected that eventually, when my knowledge was no longer relevant, I’d get a nice junior noble title, a bank account containing many zeros to the left of a decimal point and an estate to retire to and enjoy the rest of my life in neo-feudal luxury. Which was, again, pretty spectacular if my ‘basic guest apartments’ in the palace were any indication!

Although honestly compelled me to note that I did hope to call in some favors to dance on the unmarked graves of Myndo Waterly, non-fake Thomas Marik and Romano Liao someday.
With an Assault Mech. Using Triple Strength Myomers.
And yet, here I was, watching New Avalon slowly recede as our shuttle burned for the Zenith point...

The reason I was here, being honest, was my own damn fault. I had made a stupid comment to Ardan -who had shown up at quite a few of my debriefings- as I had traced out the Clan Invasion corridors as I remembered them onto a map; noting how easy it was on New Avalon for me to keep thinking of units and politics like a giant chessboard. To forget of the millions or billions of lives who would be impacted by the decisions that were being made and would be impacted by my choices. Wondering if that was fundamentally how Katherine Steiner-Davion had gone wrong. Never having served on the front line or really even put herself at risk.

Oh yes - such comparisons were actually understood now by Ardan, Quintus and Hanse. It had taken a month of intense work to drain me dry of most of what I knew about Battletech, but finally I had unloaded what I recalled. A team of crack debriefing experts sworn to secrecy had worked me day in - day out, systematically recording everything before indexing, cross checking and expanding on it. Fleshing out every detail they could.
It took time and a hell of a lot of effort that left me with headaches, but eventually it was all over and I was confident I had laid out as much knowledge of Battletech as I could easily remember. Although some of it was less than useful, on the whole combined with the four e-books being ripped apart it was an asset beyond measure. I mean I suspected they were still taking my future knowledge with large grains of salt and at least for now, carefully looking for supporting evidence, but...

Even so, Ardan Sortek (who had actually become something of an almost-friend to me as I saw much more of him than either Hanse or Quintus) had made it clear that my layout of the failures of the more distant future had hit Hanse hard. Even if he barely showed it, the failures of his offspring had clearly stung him. Which on reflection I should have anticipated. After all, superhuman genius or not, as their Father it was only natural for him to be heartbroken at how his children would turn out.
He was heartened, again according to Ardan, that Victor had at least had honestly tried his best; always fighting for the people of the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth - never giving up no matter what.
Even if he had all the political smarts of a Gauss Rifle slug; Hanse had apparently needed a stiff drink when he had gotten to my notes on Omi Kurita.
But if he had needed a stiff drink for Victor, he had needed a ****** distillery when he got to Katherine.

I really hadn’t held back about why she, despite any number of ‘evil’ characters throughout its history, was known in Battletech circles simply as ‘The Bitch’. With a capital T and B. I hadn’t pulled any punches when I had laid out her matricidal, regicidal reign of destruction as she tore apart everything he and Katrina had tried to build because if she couldn't have it, no one could. Laying out the lengths she had gone to to gain and then hold onto power...

Well, what Father wouldn’t take that badly?

It was the first time, Ardan had quietly told me over a casual dinner in my apartment one night when we caught up, that he had seen Hanse genuinely seem to doubt himself and his abilities and it had shaken Ardan a little.
With that said, a few hours later Hanse had snapped out of it, accepted the failings and already started to plan (read scheme) how to better prepare any future children for their future roles and avoid such failings. And a determination to sit down with Katrina, honestly discuss the situation and look for ways to strengthen the alliance on a more fundamental level, give it the ‘inertia’ I had noted the FedCom had lacked.

His reaction to my diatribes on ComStar on the other hand ...

Apparently after reading that report on everyone's favourite phone company and their antics from Holy Shroud to their future mutant stepchild and their temper tantrum, Hanse had walked down to the Mech Bays and taken his Battlemaster out for a walk on ‘The Gauntlet’ - the NAIS military college training and testing grounds. The poor simulation masters had a great deal of work to clean up that afternoon after their Prince invoked his ‘I’m the ****** First Prince’ authority and used live ammo on the fake targets to work out some … issues. And it wasn’t entirely an exaggeration to say that Ardan and Yvonne Davion had to apparently do some fast talking to convince him to not change his wife's wedding present to the Terran system.

Still, planning was underway to deal with everyone's favourite phone company. Revenge being a dish best served cold and all that - and even though I didn’t have a need to know about it, I could guess at some of the more immediate actions being taken to ensure ComStars long term downfall and the ascendancy of the Federated Commonwealth.

Case in point; Helm.

An advanced team of some of his best MIIO and DMI personnel had already been dispatched to get the ball rolling shortly after I had exhausted my knowledge of that whole deal, on what was there and what would be need to be done to access it. Another more military team equipped for hostile environment recon had also been dispatched to New Dallas, but my knowledge on where the hell that core was had been somewhat less precise despite my best efforts. Helm on the other hand ... well, spend enough time around Spacebattles BROB threads, fanfics and Quests in the 3025 era and EVERYONE made a run for Helm, so I happily recalled a rather large amount of useful information.

Even more happily for Hanse and typical of his ‘why deal with one thing when you can deal with three at the same time?’ attitude, he had apparently decided that this was an excellent opportunity to accelerate the building of ties with the Lyran Commonwealth. Logistically, staging from Lyran space to hit Helm and then retreating back into it would be significantly easier than trying to jump from the Terran Regions and fight through the FWL. Further, having Hanse magnanimously share the spoils … well, political currency was arguably worth more than C-Bills on this level. Katrina would owe him one, the public of both realms would be given a clear, initial and shockingly dramatic example of what the two states working together could do and the Archon would be able to effectively isolate and marginalize nobles in the Estates Generals not exactly happy with the whole FedCom treaty by showing a spectacular success for the first joint operation.

Pretty typical Hanse Davion really.

Ardan had been chosen as the leader of the expedition, built around the Davion Heavy Guards RCT, as well as a handpicked NAIS technical team … and me.

To get back to the reason why I was bouncing through hyperspace, Ardan had (on his own without me asking) decided after my reflections that I needed to get out and participate in this venture, vouching for both my safety and security personally. To my mild surprise, Hanse had agreed without any hesitation, noting that it was an acceptable risk and there was always the chance that I would remember something on Helm at a critical moment.
And he had directly said that he trusted me. Which was rather touching really.
Of course, I had little doubt that Quintus had put people in place to make sure there was no chance I’d fall into enemy hands during this trip ... but I tried not to think about it much. More critically, I was fully aware that this whole thing was something of a test and act of faith on the part of Prince Davion. If my knowledge was wrong, he would be putting one of his finest RCTs at considerable risk with this deep strike.
On the other hand if this all panned out and my knowledge proved true … well, counting chickens and all that. No need to get ahead of myself.

The trip out was agreeably speedy, we emulated a command circuit of sorts by having our shuttles hop small craft bays on jumpships and dropships as they moved from system to system without needing to divert traffic, quickly reaching the Heavy Guards whose Jumpships had been waiting at the Errai Zenith point. They had been involved in Operation Galahad and had been scheduled to move back to their original garrison station as that exercise wound up. Instead, a press release was issued that they were proceeding to the Lyran Commonwealth for further -if much smaller scale- ‘goodwill joint exercises’ for the next six months. Carefully placed leaks had been generated, suggesting that this was in fact a cover for them prowling up and down the Combine border on the Lyran side, just looking for tempting targets to hit or raids to squash.
And if the Combine happened to nervously start looking over their shoulder as a result? Well, so much the better.

Marshal Ran Felsner, commander of the Heavy Guards, was an interesting sort of fellow. He was actually technically the commander of the entire Brigade of Guards now, but that position it seemed was half ceremonial, with a half dozen senior officers in the Brigade seemingly rotating through it. In his absence, 1st Guards CO Stephen Davion was tagged into the Field Marshal hat -and was distinctly unhappy according to Ardan about not being selected by Hanse to go play Laura Croft - but even so it left Ardan rather outranked Colonel to Marshal.
With that said, ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ had been on the money about both their friendship and easy ability to work together. And Ardans low rank was increasingly a technicality; he was already well recognized through the Guards Brigade as the First Princes ‘shotgun’, almost a second Prince's Champion in some ways. And that was before he and a handful of 1st Guards Mechwarriors had single handedly foiled the whole imposter Hanse plot. Even if the whole truth about those events was a tightly kept secret, the Brigade as a whole knew enough that they were almost worshiping the ground Ardan Sortek walked on these days.

Anyway, on this mission Ran remained in change of the Guards and would deal with any military issues while Ardan was appointed by Hanse as the overall expedition commander. I had little time to shake hands after we docked; the Heavy Guards jumped out inside of fifteen minutes, riding a pseudo command circuit of jumpships across the border to a cordial if surprised greeting from the authorities in Skye, who had just barely been warned we were coming. Apparently one-time-pad messages between New Avalon and Tharkad had been flying -they actually DID use them it turned out, mixed in with regular encryptions. Not to defeat ComStar (that was just a bonus it seemed) but apparently to keep critical information out of mid-level personnel in political and military circles. Where most spy activity took place.

Even so, all Hanse had said to Katrina was that the AFFS wanted to launch a hit, hold and run raid on a high-value FWL target and he requested an accompanying Lyran unit to go with his men. One whose loyalty was unquestioned ... and a whole bunch of empty dropships and jumpships to haul away an undetermined amount of loot - with the promise of a straight split down the middle. Hanse even put up the money to fund covering raiding into the FWL, using some of the Mercs on the border to obscure the target in the middle of a bunch of distraction attacks.

That alone had probably gotten the Archons curiosity piqued. After all, when did people offer to pay the Steiners money?

And so I found myself somewhat unsurprised when we jumped into GR-4239-8876A. An uninhabited system with a yellow dwarf star about six light years inside theoretical Marik space ... and twenty nine point three two zero light years from Helm.

Uninhabited … but not empty.

“Is Katrina showing off?” I asked the cramped war-room on board the Excalibur class Iron Fox - command ship of the Heavy Guards as I counted off the ships on the sensor feed. I was relieved to see twelve Jumpships with the indicators I had learned to read indicating that their parasites were all also in the green meaning we were all accounted for.

“Undeniably” Ardan smiled gently. “A casual display of her logistical might to her new allies who are bringing one of the best units in the Inner Sphere to the party”.

One of the best?” someone protested in the rear and I couldn’t help but smile at the faux outrage.

Ardan offered only a twitch of a smirk in response to the snark though, as he refocused the ship's external sensors on a more distant cloud of Jumpships, coded blue for allied-non AFFS waiting for us at the agreed non-standard jump point beyond the proximity limit. According to their transponder data, two of the Jumpships were impossibly rare Monoliths whose spines bristled with Mammoth and a few Mule class dropships. By my count there were eight of the latter and sixteen of the former! The largest ships capable of grounding in the Inner Sphere - with enormous cargo capacity.
Huh. That might just be enough to haul away the shinies.
I mean sure, the memory core might be the key and, objectively, worth vastly more than the SLDF military gear stashed there … but hey, I’m sure no-one would object to hauling away a whole bunch of wargear while we were at it, right? I wondered exactly what Hanse had said to her in his message to get this response...

“But it does seem the Archon has taken this whole thing pretty seriously” Ardan continued.

“Oh?” I asked - suddenly feeling a tad nervous as I turned back to glance at him. No matter how certain I was, the possibility of annoying Katrina Steiner with a wild goose chase if for some reason I was wrong was not a happy one. “Why do you say that?”

Ardan simply nodded towards the projection as he straightened, releasing himself from his jump chairs restraints.

“Because she sent the ‘Hounds”.

---

As an aside, the Battletech materials given to da boyz are quite literally what was on my iPad when I started writing this. I have them all in dead tree format of course, but its a hell of a lot easier to use the digital version, lucky me :p
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

marcussmythe

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #5 on: 08 July 2018, 21:18:50 »
Watched.  And thank you.  Getting caught up with the FC Civil War Timeine, and everything since, has left me with a taste for some FedComYay.

ThePW

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #6 on: 08 July 2018, 21:42:16 »
This is seriously *&^%ing awesome... Moar please?

Iron Grenadier

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #7 on: 09 July 2018, 01:21:35 »
Chapter 4: The Scarface Methodology.

 “Wolves on the Border is a novel watching the Dragoons in service to the Combine - from start to finish. Both internally inside the Dragoons and the Combines political machinations around them, Takashi and other Warlords. Right up to their eventual flight from the Combine in thirty twenty eight into the Draconis March and starting their own private war against House Kurita.

I'm looking forward to more of the whole story, but how Hanse treats the Dragoons and the clans as a whole should be really interesting.

Dave Talley

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #8 on: 09 July 2018, 01:35:59 »
Dude


seriously good stuff
but leaving Sorenson speechless and then Davions reaction to "The Bitch" was epic, but completely sensible as he is/will be her father
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

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #9 on: 09 July 2018, 02:50:16 »
Did you mention the dark nebula and Camalot command? Or the ruins of Gabriel? While the later is currently occupied by Comstar the warships cached in both locations could make fedcom unstoppable.

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #10 on: 09 July 2018, 03:00:29 »
Chapter 5: Release the Hounds!
***
******
***


My first thought of Patrick Kell was that he was a recruiting posters wet dream. He cut a rather striking figure in his BDUs, certainly looking the part of an elite Mechwarrior. And given that he had almost single handedly held what was left of the Kell Hounds together after Morgan had his nervous breakdown, fired two thirds of his Mechwarriors and run away; he was not someone I was inclined to underestimate.
With the younger Kell brother came a number of officers, including Dan Allard, who clearly both knew and was happy to see Ardan again and to whom Ardan passed on a hug from his father (in a kind of adorkable manly way) that got a chuckle from everyone present. The rest of the officers names were vaguely familiar to me but the only one I recognized was Salome Ward. The future wife of Morgan … and mother of Phellan Kell.
Everyone's favorite traitor.
On the other hand, her first reaction to seeing Morgan return in the original timeline wasn’t to gush over him like the other idiot Mechwarriors, but to punch him in the face and storm off, so bully for her. She could hardly be held accountable for her son’s actions I suppose.


Enough people were in the briefing room on the jumpships grav deck that we were rather tight for space. I squeezed in between the commander of the Guards Jump Infantry and the leader of the technical team handpicked from NAIS on a fold out seat. A few lower ranked officers (as in one star Generals) seemed a little surprised to see me in the room but as none of the top brass even blinked at my presence, they kept their mouths shut as the briefing started.
 

***
******
***

“Alright” Ardan started the briefing with a nod after the hatches into the room were dogged down. “Our mission for the First Prince and Archon is an objective raid on the Stewart Commonwealth world of Helm”. The holoprojector engaged as the lights dimmed. A map of the Inner Sphere showing the Lyran/League border and the relative positions of the fleet and Helm flashed for a few seconds, before it zoomed ‘in’ to show first the star system, then in on the planet itself. “The secondary target of this raid” Ardan continued, “is a cache of SLDF Mechs, vehicles, equipment and other such supplies we strongly suspect are in a depot under the Nagayan Mountains” and with that, a part of the globe flashed with a red circular targeting marker on a mountain range just barely visible on the hologram, zooming into a 3D map of the region.
Damn that was cool. Sure it was probably not as high-def as something ComStar or the Clans might have … but it was a free standing holograph! Awesome!

“How big a cache are we talking about?” Patrick asked, clearly doing the sums on the cargo hauling capacity the Archon had sent along...

Ardan then glanced at me and all my geeking out vanished behind a stab of sudden nerves. He knew the answers of course, but he insisted, firmly, that he wanted me to lead the briefing on these questions.
Apparently he thought I had a strong future ahead of me in this kind of staff work after some of the conversations and insights I had offered. Which I thought was bullshit; having unique insights into people thanks to foreknowledge didn’t make me any less a complete armchair General, but who the hell was I to tell a man the Guards thought could walk on water -with an Assault Mech!- that?
Clearing my throat, I gave the best answer I could remember from Gods knows how much speculation on Spacebattles about what could have been there, based in turn on Carlyle's too few observations in the book and probable SLDF unit structures.

“Best estimate is probably between two and six Regiments of Mechs and a comparable or greater number of armoured vehicles” I said clearly and steadily as every eye in the room snapped to me in surprise. “We can expect late Star League SLDF regulars equipment in all probability, but there will probably be a considerable amount of advanced Star League weapons technology nonetheless given its vintage. Also an undetermined number of supporting units, infantry gear, general supplies and logistics support, spare parts and so on…”

“As I recall, Helm was heavily hit in the opening battles of the First Succession War” Patrick noted into the slightly stunned silence evenly. “Something about a logistics base raid?”

Huh, man has a good memory. I mean, there were a lot of planets blasted to hell in the first two Succession Wars, sad to say...

“Correct I nodded. “Helm had been a key base of operations for the SLDFs Army Group Marik during the civil war, with a major logistics hub on the ground. After the SLDF jumped out of the Inner Sphere and while Free World League factions were squabbling over who had the legal rights to it, Minoru Kurita quickly sent a heavy strike force to seize and make off with the supplies, citing the precedents of ‘Might makes Right’ and ‘Possession is nine tenths of the law’”.

Ha! Got a number of smiles at that joke!

“However” I continued, “he found nothing there. Kerensky, it was assumed, had loaded up the contents onto his fleets and left nought but empty warehouses. True to form, Minoru decided to throw a temper tantrum at the wasted trip and launched a saturation nuclear bombardment that killed about eighty percent of the planetary population before leaving” and with a gesture at the tech, the holograph of the world vanished to show a scattering of stills and vid pictures of the destruction from archives I had been able to find prior to leaving New Avalon.

Well that killed the mood. Variations of ‘****** snakes’ echoed around the briefing room at that from both Guardsmen and Hounds. Heartwarming the way hate for the Draconis Combine could bring everyone together so easily from opposite sides of the Sphere...

“So I guess this ‘apparently’ was not quite accurate?” Patrick continued, unerringly drilling down into my briefing in a way that was just slightly unsettling, but kept things moving.

“To the best of our intelligence” I started and I didn’t miss the eye rolling from some others as I pushed forward quickly “the officer in charge of the Freeport logistics base, Major Edwin Keeler, did not join Kerensky on the exodus. Instead he decided that with the SLDF going, total war was more likely than not to break out. Accordingly, with remarkable foresight, he decided to hide what Kerensky did not take. Keeping it safe for the SLDF to use when they returned, presuming I suppose that Kerensky wouldn’t be gone long. But just in case he was …” I paused here, to glance at Ardan.

Partially for effect I admit. I did have some sense of the dramatic after all.

“Suffice to say this next information is absolutely need to know. It will not be discussed outside this room” Ardan said, looking everyone in the room in the eye and getting an acknowledgement from them and raising the tension in the room a notch that he was taking this so damn seriously, before he turned back to me and nodded. “Proceed agent Smith”.

“Major Keeler also placed in the cache a Star League library core” I said slowly and clearly.

I wanted to make damn sure no-one missed or misunderstood this.

“A database containing civilian and Military information across most every key field of human knowledge. We’re talking both the complete scientific and engineering data to, from first principles, build the tools to build the factories to build the tools to build late Star League era technology. From advanced weapons to Jumpships and Warships. From the most basic to impressive civilian hardware such as terraforming technology and biomedical tech that House Cameron held close to its chest. Knowledge chosen specifically as a doomsday record of last resort to ensure humanity could recover the Star Leagues complete knowledge should the war Keeler thought was coming do … well, exactly what it did do. In short; you may consider this the ultimate anti-lostech device”.

The room had gone dead silent as I carefully laid out exactly what we were going after. It took a good five seconds for some Guardsman in the back to sum up the general thoughts of everyone in a low whisper.

“Jesus H Christ...

“Our primary objective is thus to recover this core and evacuate it - along with any other salvage we can without compromising extracting the core - to Tharkad” Ardan took back the briefing smoothly, wrenching the shocked gazes back to him and snapping them out of it with his crisp tone, kickstarting their military discipline. “Specialist Rastcor” Ardan gestured to one of the other civilians in the room, “from the New Avalon Institute of Science and his team are probably the best Star League era computer experts in the Federated Suns. They will be responsible for finding, securing and extracting the core. Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen” Ardan looked around” with a pointed gaze. “For the sake of getting this core -or at least a complete copy- to safety, the First Prince considers this entire task force, if need be, expendable”.
I expected an uneasy ripple at that but got nothing but dead silence. Either they were all still in shock at what they were going after … or they all grimly agreed with that conclusion given the sheer stakes of this mission they were now aware of.

“Sir” General Lawrence, commander of the 14th Lexington Armored Regiment asked into the silence as the officers digested that statement. “Where on Helm are we hitting?” Again Ardan nodded to me and I took the hint.

“AO will be in the vicinity of the Nagyan Mountains - exact location will be slightly dependant on some specific … intelligence ...we’re waiting on” I said, expecting to get another eye roll at that, but a clearing of a throat directed my attention to the back of the room.

“I can speak to that” a man in civilian clothes who I had noticed leaving the Kell Hounds shuttle spoke up. I blinked, not even having seen him enter the room, but confidently he stepped around to the front near Ardan and Marshal Felnser.

“Ah, Agent Williams, good” Ardan noted, glancing around to quickly explain. “Prince Davion sent a number of MI5 and MI6 teams into the Free Worlds League to lay the groundwork for this operation some months ago. Your report?”

The other straightened at that - his civilian sort of air vanishing as I recalled that unlike MIIO, DMI were in fact serving members of the AFFS. “Got back from Stewart two weeks ago via Helm, Sir. While at the Jump point posing as a commercial freighter passing through, we got an encrypted update from the ground team there - it was a hefty burst, but it contained the second package you were waiting for”.

Ardan shared an intense look with me before turning back and I felt that kind of butterflies in the stomach deal hit me as this got more and more real. “You have both?”

The other smiled faintly and moved forward to the thin table that ringed around the holoprojector, placing his briefcase carefully on it. He then worked the combination locks very carefully, before retrieving a key from a pocket and, with it in place, carefully opened the armored case.
Inside, carefully placed into a foam insert, was a small black rectangular device about the size of my iPhone with a faded purple eagle drawn on it that I recognized as a memory chip. Essentially a portable solid state hard drive.

THE memory chip … I hoped.

The Colonel accepted it before he carefully handed it off to the technician with a few muttered orders, the NCO inserting it into a slot on his console and getting to work.

“Any problems stealing it?” I asked in a tone that could best be described as ‘forced casual’. The DMI agent actually laughed at that, a short bark of contempt.

“SAFE are hit and miss at the best of times” the other didn’t quite roll his eyes. “This time the coin came up tails; most of the Stewart family are offworld on vacation on Marik -probably plotting takeover attempt number six of the Captain Generalship- and took their best security with them. Everyone left was pretty much asleep. We got into the archives past three rent-a-cops who didn’t even leave their break room and swapped the chip for something that looks the same, without anyone the wiser. Short of plugging it into a machine, no-one will ever know the difference I’d bet. And most likely they’ll just assume the old thing finally kicked the bucket”.
I got the distinct feeling that the spy was mildly insulted at his crack team, probably one of the very best in the entire Federated Suns used to daring missions against deadly, competent enemies, being sent in a priority one rush … to steal a worthless trinket from a planet that was asleep,

“Okay, I’ll bite. What is this?” General Felger, XO of the Mech Regiment (and more typically its CO when the Marshal was busy leading the RCT) asked. And again Ardan nodded to me.

“In part, this is in essence a badge of office for the noble invested into the land hold of Helmfast. Which is basically the whole planet minus the capital. The chip should contain a Star League era high resolution map of the entire planet - before the Snakes blasted it that is” I added as the map in question loaded onto the screen.
It was hard to not grin like a madman right now.
“And if we combine it with the requested current maps...” I left the hint hanging and with a smile, Agent Williams retrieved another item from inside his case, this time a standard holo-disk. Looked exactly like a CD, but I knew its data storage was on the order of hundreds of terabytes, with data stored in multidimensional holographic constructs rather than the 2D laser etched storage used in CDs/DVDs/BlueRays back in my time.

“The locals idea of flight control is ‘just don’t bother us until you’re ready to ground at Helmsdown” Williams grunted as he passed the disk over. “The inbound team were able to make multiple passes at multiple angles over the target area with a high resolution imager before landing to conduct trading for our cover and put a ground team into play”.

“And their cover is?” Ardan asked with a raised eyebrow. I recalled he had very little time for the cloak and dagger side of things, only slowly growing to understand that not all battles were fought on the open field. The events of ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ at least had seemed to make him understand that Hanse had to play those games - and play them better - or else he’d lose everything...

“Selling stolen top of the line Lyran medical equipment at a very very cheap price. Not that they say it's stolen of course, they are just a ‘free trader’ who jumped the border for some reason and are selling it at five percent market price on a planet that wouldn’t even get close to being able to afford it normally. Locals get their hospital in Helmsdown up to standards you might actually consider near acceptable equipment wise and our team has no questions asked as they sit around waiting for the next free jumpship collar to wander through - which is about two weeks away”.

I nodded in approval of that. The people of Helm - hells the Free Worlds League in general - were hardly Kurita or Liao. And I knew the locals would never have gotten so much as one eagle if they had found the cache; the Duke of Stewart, Captain General and probably every other province would have shown up wanting a piece. And Comstar would have probably just slipped in and nuked it (and framed the Lyrans for the dead of course) while they were busy arguing over the thing.
A refurbished hospital in exchange for the cache might sound like a rather dud deal … but to be brutally honest, it was a step up from what they got in the past - which was a little civil war on their planet followed by a whole load of nothing. And the locals probably couldn’t care about wider geopolitics, just delighting in the fact that they didn’t have to fly to another system to get an MRI now or wait for the very infrequent mobile hospital dropships that showed up to rent their services.

“Any military activity?” Ardan brought my attention back

“Zip according to the report” the man said shrugged. “No line units, just the local militia who barely know one end of their rifles from the other and would be hard pressed to stop a scout Lance, let alone what you’ve brought. The latest LIC reports of activity on the border are also on the disk, complements of Simon Johnsons people”.

“Anything else to report?” Ardan asked.

“No Sir”.

“Very well. You’re dismissed for now Agent Williams, we’ll debrief in full later. And I remind you this briefing is classified”.

“Roger that Sir” the other saluted and left. When the door closed behind him, then Ardan nodded to the tech.

The holographic projection split at that point, the left hand side showing the old map from the Star League era chip, the right the map scanned by the Stealthy Foxes dropship as it orbited. Apparently the Star League standards for topography and mapping were still fully in force and it allowed a quick calibration to the point that each map was showing the same location to the same scale. And the difference between the verdant world on one side and the one with only patchy signs of greenery on the other was slightly depressing. ****** snakes.
Gods, I was starting to sound like a local. And to be slightly fair, Kurita were hardly the only party guilty of ****** over entire planets in the succession wars…

“What else is in the chip Agent Smith?” General Felger cut into my thoughts as the tech recalibrated the maps.

“Pardon me General?” I asked turning to face the other.

“You said in part it's the maps, what else is on it?” he insisted, his eyes narrowed.

“Ah. In essence, that chip contains a secondary command layer, either in the firmware or its software. Undetectable if you plug it into just any computer. But when the chip is interfaced with a specific ‘gatehouse’ computer outside the cache, it will authenticate us as authorised personnel, open the gate and shut down the security systems”.

“And how could you possibly know that?” the General pressed, sounding unconvinced.

That is classified level Sword-One ” Ardan answered for me - causing the General to immediately shut up and almost cringe back into his seat as if a child scolded. ‘Prince’s Eyes Only’ meant that they did not need to know and that Hanse had made judgements on my knowledge personally. Ergo, questioning it would be questioning their Prince; end of discussion. “As for where the cache is; Agent Smith?”

I nodded, standing up and feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on me as I gestured to the tech working the computers. “Sergeant, can you mark out the locations of Helmsdown, Freeport and Helmfast please?” I asked and in seconds the barely visible urban center of Helmsdown, rubble of Freeport and invisible landhold of Helmfast (seriously, no creativity in the names here) were tagged on the main continent on the current map.

Oriented, I nodded. Showtime. Gods I hope this was correct - but on the plus side this was also a nominal abort point if my information was way out of whack.

“Okay, first, you can all note a few things changed after the bombardment. Can you please refocus in on Freeport? Scale one to one thousand”.
The pictures both swirled and dove through the ‘sky’ until the city of Freeport in all its former glory with the gleaming green/blue sea … and the ruins of freeport on the grey and dead seabed were side by side.
The signature of orbital bombardment and major nuclear detonations were also painfully clear.

“Please note that Freeport and the inland sea that used to be there are several hundred meters above the planetary sea level. Suffice to say that entire area was searched pretty heavily by Kurita for his loot before he gave up and more than one Lostech prospector has searched since without any trace. But our information was that while the cache was moved, it was not moved far. Without Jumpships, the people on the ground didn’t have the ability to do so” and with that I stabbed a finger at the bloody red river snaking away from the town towards the south west. “The river is the key to the cache. Follow it please and cut back out to one to ten thousand?”

Obediently the viewpoint on both screens started to follow the line. On one, despite its red colour (as I recalled some algae or what not caused that), it was a healthy river, full of water bouncing along as it cut its way through the region. On the other screen … it was no longer a river, just a dry riverbed. Dried up, yet still faintly red even after all these years.

“The Vermillion river cuts across the planes, through the foothills of the Nagyan Mountains and into deeper canyons until … there, right there” I smiled with a sudden surge of confidence as, just like in the original novel, the river took a sharp turn and vanished under what looked like a massive overhang after the tech zoomed right in.
On the original picture that was.
On the right, while the riverbed was still visible and distinctive the river itself no longer flowed. But more interestingly, a large boulder in the first had seemingly of its own will, stood up on its side to block that end of the canyon and cave where the river had apparently vanished. And, had been rather clearly to my eyes, squared off. Also sitting off to the side was the truncated pyramid of the ‘gatehouse’ as I thought of it, an artificial structure not present in the past.
Which wasn’t really proof of anything, it could have been anything after all. But for me it was the first real evidence that this WAS exactly like in Battletech and not a wild goose chase.

“Zoom back and move to the west … okay hold it” I said as the crimson line re-emerged, three or four klicks away in a straight line distance, on the reverse slope and side of the mountain. “And now, the river re-emerges and eventually winds its way into the sea. And clearly has other sources of water, although it's still almost dry today. So. How did it get from one side to the other. Anyone?”

“Probably just an underground cave system” Daniel Allard responded first with a shrug. “There are plenty of examples across the Inner Sphere of rivers digging under and through mountains or terrain to reemerge on the other side. I know on Kestral there is a river that goes about two klicks under a mountain before coming out and some crazy people like to put on scuba gear...” he started to tell a story when suddenly his words caught up with him and he straightened slightly, his eyes widening in sudden revelation. “An underground cave system…”

Ah, with the repetition and emphasis, suddenly everyone in the room started to shift and glance at each other. Now they were getting where I was going with this and I smiled as I started to explain…
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

  • Warrant Officer
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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #11 on: 09 July 2018, 03:05:37 »
Chapter 6: We’re not looting, we’re salvaging...

Okay … so that went well.

I mean Murphy was still absolutely a thing that held 100% true in this universe, no-one taunted murphy. But the whole ‘no battle plan survives contact with the enemy’ … is predicated on the enemy showing up or having a clue what the hell you were doing.

I have to say it was in its own way, a heartwarming ****** YOU to ComStar; given the events of The Price of Glory where 12 million people were casually killed by ROM as part of their plan to deny the cache to mankind. It had actually struck me when I remembered that and that it would surely not happen this time around, that if I was worrying about butterflying events that didn’t happen before, meaning deaths that I would be responsible for … well, there was a whole other side to that ledger as well.

Anyway, so, we jumped in…
 
***
******
***

My fears were that we would see a fleet of military Jumpships waiting for us or a ComStar warship or hell, even a civilian with a fully charged core who would run the hell away to sound the alarm in a panic …

But there was nothing. Not even a basic satellite inside the jump zone that was programed to sound the alarm when something dropped in. Helm was that much of a backwater right now - and technology still scarce enough that it wasn’t worth wasting it on a place like this.

With the kind of ease that spoke of their elite status, both units dropships detached and started their runs as the jumpships unfurled their jump sails, the Kell Hounds accelerating a tad faster to get ahead of us. A coded transmission to the Rabid Foxes giving them their targets and timeframe raced out, the transmission making it to the planet in minutes as we crawled along the four day trip.
Oh yeah. Sleeping at 1.3Gs? Uch! I was in awe of the ability of the seasoned troops to casually sleep in such conditions - and hell, I had what passed for a stateroom, shared with Ardan while they had tiny racks in their bays. Spaceflight without inertial dampening technology was way overrated. What was worse was the waiting though. My part was done for now and even as all the units and subunits found useful busy work to occupy themselves with as they completed pre-drop checklists and briefed, all I could do was wait and second guess myself.
Not exactly pleasant. I would have killed for my iPad or iPhone but both were probably stuck in some NAIS lab in dozens of pieces. On the plus side, I was enjoying reading McMannons Military Guide 3025 - the ‘Janes’ of the 31st century in the Federated Suns. It had a lot of information on Mechs and units of all the Successor States - the sad truth was that there was very little ‘classified’ about the capabilities of the platforms in use by all sides after centuries of war.
Although I swear to God, the 31st centuries idea of an ebook reader...uch!

Anyway. The Hounds dropped on schedule half a day ahead of us. Their relayed transmissions - as well as a more subtle one from the Rabid Foxes on the ground - had confirmed that the ‘attack’ had been a complete success so far. The sensor network had not even been cut off but hacked to show a sensor loop. It was a very old trick but with the lack of traffic in space around Helm, a perfectly viable one so that the first clue the locals had of what was going on was when a flotilla of Dropships appeared on the short range ATC radars, raining ‘Mechs. Then, as morning broke, a lot of people were first terrified … then scared … then uncertain … then really confused.
I mean it's one thing for a Battalion of Battlemechs to show up in the middle of the night. On a raid. This is the 3rd Succession War after all.
It’s another thing for them to do little more than just walk around town amusing themselves. Literally, walking down the streets … and obeying the traffic lights and stopping at pedestrian crossings as early morning walkers found other far taller walkers out for a stroll. I mean, the Hounds were broadcasting pictures in the clear that were being re-transmitted by the local media for God’s sake! Most hilariously of a Wolverine casually walking up to an utterly clueless Industrial Mech doing early morning work on the city outskirts and clearly completely in the dark about the planetary invasion, to tap it on the shoulder. Causing the other dented and well-used machine to clunk and turn around … and then drop the steel girder it had been holding in pure shock when it saw the lance pointing guns at it, frantically raising its arms straight up in a panic like it was being mugged.
Salome Ward was clearly enjoying herself.

We on the other hand we're having a very different kind of fun.

Our insertion over the sea was timed perfectly, taking place in the brightest part of the local day so our fleets drive flares would hopefully be lost in the glare of sunlight. We crossed the coast at thirty thousand feet over a nuked minor city and slowly descended in tight formation over the clouds, above the mountains. The Kell Hounds Jump Infantry and the command Lance of Patrick Kell departed from their dropship as we passed over the objective (have to admit, it was spectacular seeing the massive war machines on the vid ‘step out’ above the spectacular cloud covered mountains like giant parachutists) even as the rest of our Dropships brutally converted from supersonic angled flight to vertical flight in a wild series of maneuvers that had us skidding to a halt over the LZ.

At which point we dropped like stones.

I’m pleased to say I did not throw up and congratulated myself on my foresight of eating very lightly at the final meal an hour before we hit the atmosphere. Without a fixed reference point and only the tiny repeater screen on the bulkhead to look at while strapped into my acceleration couch, it wasn’t pleasant.
All the more because of the wild cheering and whistling from the Guardsmen around me who clearly thought this was awesome.

Even as we dropped the last thousand feet Battlemechs started departing the fleets’ ships on jump jets or jump packs; a full Battalions worth was on the ground and fanning out to secure the LZ before we were, with the rest disembarking within ten minutes of grounding. Swarms of armour followed and in less than an hour three mixed regiments of armor, Battlemechs and some supporting units (almost 3070s LCTs I had thought idly) were moving off to their chosen defensive choke points around the cache region; each with enough firepower to stop a hostile Mech Regiment dead in its tracks.
It was all in all a pretty remarkable feat of organization. Granted none of this was under fire, but even so you got the feeling that this was the kind of evolution the Guards practiced for constantly in Garrison and it showed.

So. With the main defensive force deployed and the camp guards standing first watch, it was time for for the RCT Command Company to push to the cache itself. The three regiments of infantry going with us loaded into their APCs with only minor grumbling; clearly wanting to enjoy the fresh air and open spaces for a while longer before getting back into enclosed spaces.

I however would not be riding with them as I expected.
No; I would be riding in Ardan Sorteks Victor to get there.
Which was ****** awesome!

I mean the jump seat was rather cramped as I was decently tall, but not more than an economy airline seat - and we weren't walking far.

The first few minutes were a little hair raising I’ll admit. A Battlemech was unlike any other underway vehicle I had ever sat in and the feel of it walking rather than driving …
Best analogy I could think of was those two or three seconds when a landing aircraft had its rear wheels hit the ground and it felt like the pilot was really fighting to keep it on the runway as he dropped the nose? The Mech seriously felt like it was on the verge of falling over with every step!
I slowly got used to it as we moved onwards - or at least learned to ignore it and just geeked out over the war machine. My jump seat was actually offset from the command couch so I could look past Colonel Sorteks chair and out the tiny window - or more usefully at the compressed holographic display. We were moving as part of the RCT command company, with Felsner beside us in his Cyclops with a pair of Jaggermechs on point. A flight of Ferret class scout VTOLs were doing the main scouting, zigging and zagging above us on overwatch supplemented by a lance of jumping mediums (yes the Heavy Guards did have limited numbers of Mechs in other weight classes for tactical flexibility) pacing us up on the ridge line.
I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride as Ardan stomped his way down the river, half listening to the radio chatter on the command net, which was actually pretty minimal and limited to line of sight laser coms so as to not alert any FWLM listening posts that might be somewhere in the region. Unlikely, but clearly Felsner was neither a risk taker nor a micro-manager.
Which was a good sign and fine by me. And soon enough, we arrived.

“Okay, we’re here” Ardan called back and I looked up as we stepped around a curve in the Canyon and dry riverbed winding its way into the mountains. Ardan was being cautious I noticed, gripping the controls, ready to unleash the gigantic autocannon in the Victor's arm as needed as he moved up to flank the Marshal, before he relaxed at what he saw.
It was a pretty typical box canyon, I suppose. The dry riverbed was perhaps ten meters wide at this point, rising to a bank on each side a few hundred meters across of mostly gravel with a few bits of tough shrubs stubbornly holding position through it. Directly ahead, the river had seemingly run into a mountain in the same way a sentence runs into a full stop, a sheer brown/grey rock face rising hundreds of meters into the air before sloping back out of sight, the ‘wall’ wrapping around to form the canyon itself. The riverbed terminated in the ‘boulder’ although the outline where the cave used to be seemed pretty clear to me. Even so, the ‘boulder’ had been positioned exquisitely; looking for all the world like a lump of sheer cliff that had snapped off and slid down to embed itself in some avalanche, sealing off the cave.
The work was so damn good that despite everything I knew I still had slight doubts. For all the complaints I used to (and still occasionally did) make about the future of the 1980s in terms of the technology around me, the Star Leagues mega-engineering skills could have had the discovery channel doing Megastructure specials for a century back home.

“Welcome all” Patrick Kells voice came over the command net. “We’ve scouted the entire area and we’re clear of any indigenous presence” the other said. Squinting past Ardan I finally picked out the Kell Hound lance loosely strung across the left hand side of the valley near the gatehouse, with what looked like Infantry dotting the grounds in rather good cover to screen them. From there the Hounds would have been able to catch any hostiles in a pretty damn withering firepower concentration, even as the bend would have blocked any easy attempt to return the favor. “Situation is secure here and we’re ready to move in”.

Felsner replied cordially to him and things moved quickly from there. More and more people arrived until the area looked more like a parking lot than anything, with the Mechs stacked up like some SWAT team outside a door near the head of the valley and the infantry grouped up too, but everyone on my advice was far enough back just in case the opening dislodged any debris or anything from the cliff above. I didn’t pay that much attention until suddenly Ardan called my name probably a good half an hour later.

“John? We’re ready. No change in your instructions?”

“Nope” I replied with a shrug I knew he couldn’t see, feeling a little stiff in the seat I was strapped tightly into. It hadn’t really been designed for long term occupancy, but it beat walking from the dropships and I tried to focus. “Power up the terminal in the gatehouse, patch in the chip … and let's see what happens.

“Alright. And … here we go” he said (I winced, recalling Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’ saying that) and I held my tongue as the techs in the gatehouse carefully powered up the computer - and resisted the urge not quite at gunpoint to start poking at it and its software; instead just slipping the memory chip into the slot.

For a heart stopping five seconds, nothing happened.
And then something did.

The first thing was the sudden launching into the air of a flock of birds, squawking and fleeing from a tiny perch in the cliff face above the boulder. Moments later, a light rain of debris showered down the cliff as everyone staring at it held their breath … then there was a jolt.
One that I felt even though the ‘Mechs shock absorbing feet and knee joints.

A rectangular door was now visible inside the ‘boulder’, appearing as if by magic out of the solid stone as it slowly retracted into the mountainside. A wave of dust billowed from the area around it as it eased backwards, the Mech’s external audio pickups relaying a stone-on-stone grinding noise. I could see the Infantry much closer seemed to be having slight difficulties staying on their feet until finally the stone with another jolt stopped moving back. And then it started to slide off to the side, revealing the dark cave behind.

“Keith you magnificent bastard” I snarked, “I read your book!”

“Patton, 1970” Ardan laughed from in front of me and I blinked at the back of his neurohelmet.

“You still watch those movies?” I asked, slightly amused.

“As it so happens, 20th and 21st century cinema is still incredibly popular, to this day over most other years, for various reasons. But the Davion Guards as a whole do have a bit of a soft spot for Second World War movies, I’ll admit”.

Moments later, the door seemed to have completed opening. With a simple hand gesture from Kells Thunderbolt, the ‘Hounds infantry swarmed, leaping forward in a blur and hiss of jump packs, vanishing in pairs into the darkness. There was an agonizing wait of ten minutes or so with only brief code words coming back before the all-clear came back and the Mechs could move, easing up into the cache one at a time.
I felt myself wincing slightly as Ardan had to sort of duck into the doorway for the rather tall Mech to fit in, but soon enough we entered the darkness - and Ardan flicked on his Victors ‘headlights’.

The cavern inside wasn’t very big (well, from a Battlemechs perspective) and was featureless except for two things. Firstly, a tunnel ahead that descended off further into the darkness. Secondly, what amounted to a small building extending out from the cave wall. With a tap on Ardans shoulder, I directed him there. A quick radio transmission later and our Mech was carefully backed up against the wall just outside the ‘building’, slumping as it powered down to a standby status. We were joined by the Mechs of the Marshal (who left a ComTech working his Mechs Command Console to keep him linked to the RCT) as well as Patrick Kell himself, who clearly did not want to miss this, with the remaining Mechs standing guard at the only two other access points into or out of this initial area.
Of course, this position meant I had to descend a chain ladder from the Victors cockpit. Downside of an Assault Mech; It was a long way to the ground -a very solid ground- no matter how Godlike it made you feel. And even with a couple of Kell Hounds infantry holding the bottom of the ladder (and no doubt thinking snarky thoughts about how awkward I was on it for a vaunted Mechwarrior) it wasn’t exactly pleasant to descend.
Still, I made it with my body if not dignity intact and we met up with the other Mechwarriors at the door, as well as a squad of troops - who were holding back the dozen computer experts from NAIS. They had followed us in and were impatiently shuffling from one foot to the other like kids on Christmas morning, waiting to see what Santa had put under the tree.

I could understand that, based on the literal writing on the wall I could see in the glare of Mech mounted floodlights.

Star League Field Library Facility, Helm. DE890-2699.

Well, this was it.

Felsner thus flatly refused to let anyone in until it was swept no matter how much the techs were threatening to start hyperventilating and so we all waited (some with more grace than others) as the Hounds carefully checked it out. The three Mechwarriors took the time to pull on jumpsuits over their cooling vests and shorts - while I tried not to fiddle with my AFFS field BDUs and combat webbing. I still wasn’t really comfortable wearing the uniform but Ardan assured me MIIO personnel in the field in my situation would also have to wear the uniform without rank - and if anything, he actually seemed pleased that I expressed how uncomfortable I was wearing a uniform I hadn’t earned in an army I wasn't actually part of.
Hadn't stopped him from telling me to shut up and wear it though.
With that said, the laser pistol on my hip I had been issued at Ardans instance was absolutely real and I had three weeks training with it to know that. Although I had to keep fighting the urge to pull it and make blaster noises by reminding myself that the ray gun wasn't a toy...

Anyway. Lights had come on inside the building as soon as the Kell Hounds troops had stepped inside and when the First Lieutenant in charge (whose team were one of the few briefed on what was in here and so took things very carefully) finally green lit the room as secure, Ardan insisted I take point. Probably to stop the Techs from charging in first and starting to press buttons. Inside and appreciating the warm light compared to the harsh spotlights of the cavern, I found myself in a small hallway with a very large workstation facing an entire wall sized screen at the far end.

“And it probably still can’t play Crysis” I muttered as I started down the hall towards it.

“What was that?” Ardan asked as he moved up behind me and I shook my head with a distant smile as I again felt that odd disconnection from my old life.

“Nothing” I said, moving in and looking over the console. It was a relatively simple affair; a keyboard, trackball and a number of auxiliary control panels, a few monitors and I/O slots that were this centuries (or the 28ths) equivalent of USB ports. It wasn’t really any more impressive than the computers back on New Avalon at NAIS … but it wasn’t the hardware that made this place a secret House Lords would depopulate entire worlds to get their hands on.
Turning back I looked at the crowd of people in the hallway. “Who has the chip?”

“I do” Specialist Rastcor spoke up in an awed, hushed voice like he had just entered a temple as he edged in.

“Here” I gestured him to the console and the external chip input slot. With incredible care (again, probably unnecessary because by God the SLDF had built things to last!) he took the chip back out of its tough case and slotted it into the data port prominent above the keyboard as he sat down. I stood behind him, crossing my arms and trying to look that confident that I knew what the hell I was doing.

Then the screen (really it was a wall sized projection) came on and white text flashed up.

‘The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty’. James Madison.

“Well, he’s not wrong” I shrugged as the interface bloomed to life on the screen followed by what seemed to be a massive table of contents that started to scroll. Then I paused as I heard no response, turning back to see that everyone, even Ardan, had their faces locked into expressions of stunned awe and it was only then that it really hit me what this was to them. Compared to me; a child of the Google Generation.

Knowledge.

The lost knowledge of the Star League; the ‘golden age’ of mankind whose heights humanity had fallen from and desperately wanted to returned to was now digitally displaying itself calmly for all their eyes. Freely available for the taking.
Merry ****** Christmas indeed.

“My God. It’s real. It’s really real” Fensler muttered in clear shock, the first time I had seen him lose his composure. He shivered in a way that I was sure had nothing to do with the residual temperature of the coolant vest he was wearing before he gathered himself with almost physical effort to face me and give a nod of genuine respect I doubted he gave very often to people he presumed were REMF spooks … and I felt distinctly uncomfortable all of the sudden.
Like a fraud.
Someone who had taken the works, risks and sacrifices of others and taken credit for them. I recalled from ‘The Price of Glory’ that the Grey Death Legion had fought a near constant stream of running battles for days to protect this find. Battles that had very nearly broken them and WOULD have broken a lesser unit. For all their later glory, Helm was pretty much considered their finest hour by the Inner Sphere well into the 3050s. The risks taken and sacrifices made to keep the knowledge safe and get it away from ComStars attempts to destroy it...

Granted that sacrifice would never happen now, meaning it was really only a Battletech novel and nothing more … and yet...

The younger Kell Brother broke me out of my musing (or perhaps brooding) as he just barked in triumph, startling me for a moment as he slapped me on the back - with I felt enough force to send me into low orbit - causing me to stagger forward a half step.

“Well then. It would appear congratulations are in order Agent Smith” Patrick said, offering me an almost boyish grin that I couldn’t help but sort of shyly return as he held out his hand for me to shake. Dammit he was just so … charismatic – ouch!
Also turns out he has quite a grip.

“I’ll accept congratulations when we have copies of the core” - with secondary and tertiary backups - “safely on Tharkad and New Avalon” I cautioned him as I released his hand and tried not to visibly work the feeling back into mine. “But I rather think with a little luck, we might just be able to make this year's Christmas celebrations at The Triad. Be a rather nice present for the Archon and First Prince”.

“Now that would just cap this off, wouldn’t it?” the Mercenary chuckled. Behind him, I could hear Fensler quietly taking on his headset radio via his Battlemech outside; alerting the most senior officers that the Primary Objective had been located and to standby for deployment orders. Turning back to the massive screen still cheerfully scrolling through its table of contents, I regarded Rastcor and stepped up to him carefully.

“Rastcor, you still with me?” I asked him quietly. I don’t think he had even blinked since we turned the thing on.

“Of course” he said after snapping out of it with a glance around, swallowing slightly as he looked back up at the screen and it seemingly hit him that this was as real as it gets and not just a theoretical exercise back at NAIS. This was something that made the legendary find at Halstead station look like nothing; the figurative Holy Grail that NAIS had been searching for since its founding … and he was the man on the spot.
Meaning he was also the man every one of his peers across history would look at as ‘that guy’ for the rest of his life if he managed to ****** this up.
« Last Edit: 09 July 2018, 03:37:45 by Chris OFarrell »
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Chris OFarrell

  • Warrant Officer
  • *
  • Posts: 569
Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #12 on: 09 July 2018, 03:05:53 »
“Ignore the databases for now” I instructed him gently but firmly. “This system should have both a map of this facility and an inventory. I’m not sure if you’re going to be able to bring them up without a lot more time learning this system, but...”

The implied challenge that he wouldn’t be able to do so brought him out of his slightly stunned state as I hoped it would.

“Hmm. Let’s see” he said, reasserting himself and tapping some commands. “Standard later Hegemony SLDF interface. I should be able to just bring up a terminal window if I … ah!” There were a trio of smaller screens on top of the command console, looking much like widescreen computer monitors back on Earth in my time. All of them now activated as secondary displays, including what looked like a pretty classic command line interface popping onto them which he started working. Thirty seconds later the scrolling index on the big screen vanished, replaced with a massive topographical map of the entire region instantly familiar as identical to that in the memory chip. However this one also had in bright red, the outline of the entire complex.
I couldn’t help but whistle at it as Rastcor zoomed in slightly. The complex straddled the Mountains, reaching far to the South East where the Vermillion plains started to edge between the equatorial sea and mountains. A dozen green dots marked the edges of the red shadow which I presumed were access doors given that one was exactly on our position, with more detail filling in with distinct levels, chambers and passages connecting them as the image slowly tilted and panned.
It had taken Grayson hours as I recalled to bring up the map using the pretty ‘idiot proof’ user interface. This man had done it in two minutes flat, with a command line.

Okay, perhaps he did know his stuff regarding Star League computers. So much the better.

“Okay then. Now, is there any way that you can export this for upload into the navigation computers of our units? So they can make their way around this place?” I asked with a considering tilt of my head.

The other considered the question, before rapid typing a series of commands, getting screens of text back and then switching to the GUI screen to open something that looked like a file tree which he scrolled through quickly, blinking as he found something. “Actually Agent Smith, it looks like whoever was here anticipated that request. The facility map has already been exported to a standard SLDF tactical map format” and with a quick flick of a trackball, the map was translated to the screen.

Now this looked exactly like the kind of maps I had seen running on Ardans computer screens in his Mech. Very cool. Tags and data flowed over the map in great detail seemingly showing preset navigation points and the like. Without looking away, the technician put a hand back over his shoulder and one of his subordinates without asking slapped a similar looking memory chip to the security one we were using. He pushed it into a free slot and with a blurred series of keystrokes and a brief ‘file transfer’ window that popped up on the big screen and then vanished before I could even really read it, he then pulled it back out.

“Done” he confirmed, turning and passing it to the waiting Marshal. “Inventory file is embedded into it as well”.

Felsner looked at the chip in his hands and took a deep breath to settle himself before his years of military discipline kicked back in as he turned to face Colonel Sortek.

“Right. Ardan, I need to get teams to start scouting and securing the facility. I’ll be on Tac-6 if you need me”.

“Copy that Sir” Ardan saluted him and had one returned quickly enough. The Marshal then offered me a military nod and left, leaving Ardan turning back to me with a sudden grin on his face. “You have things under control here John, so you’re in charge. I’m going to explore the immediate area a little more” Sortek decided without even bothering to ask me.

Wait. He expects me to run point on the most critical part of this entire ****** operation?

Oh hell no-

“I’ll come with if you don’t mind - I’m rather eager to explore this place” Patrick said, his gaze going somewhat distant and forlorn for a moment as he traced his eyes across the trove of Lostech. “Morgan would have loved to be here” he added wistfully. “When we were kids we were always talking about building a Merc unit to go and sail the stars, fighting bad guys and coming home with all the lost Star League treasure…” Shaking himself out of it almost at once, the younger Kell brother offered me a nod and headed out after Ardan.
Well perhaps if your brother wasn’t busy sulking and crying himself to sleep - I shook off that instinctive thought to have some pity and empathy for Patrick.
In his own way, he had lost his family when Morgan had run off, and I could relate to that.
Besides, there was some evidence that the whole Phantom Mech process caused major mental health issues to those who ‘broke into’ it … so I didn’t need to be a dick to the guy.
 
Anyway. It seemed I had a whole gaggle of over-excited techs to ride herd on. Better make sure they get on task before they do something stupid.

“Alright, let's get down to it” I tried to say in something like a commanding tone. “If the Major had any sense, given the purpose of this place, he should have set up a copy program to duplicate the core contents onto external media” I stated, knowing he had done exactly that.

“Already found it” one of the other techs working the secondary monitor chipped in, their confidence seeming to slowly return as the shock wore off and they started to focus on the smaller issues rather than the minor fact that this thing was going to at a stroke change the course of human history. “Just … hmmm”.

“Define ‘hmm’?” I asked.

“Well the copy program seems to build an index of the core, then dump it into a compressed archive which it then throws onto the external media. In fact it's already built the archive file and is ready to copy it across. The problem however-”

“It’s in a format that is no longer in use, or, was proprietary to this site and we would have no way of extracting the data again afterwards” I guessed as something clicked for me. “Not without building software from the ground up to data mine and index it manually which, given the scope of this, would be like giving a person a million piece jigsaw puzzle and no final picture” I added as my brow creased in thought.
Suddenly things made sense. The data here, inside the cache, was clearly accessible and fully indexed and linked. At a keystroke, you could bring up anything using an interface that looked roughly analogous to hyperlink markups and web pages. And yet I knew in the original timeline it had taken considerable effort to get at the data from the copies, with different states pulling different things out in different order bit by bit and byte by byte.
Although to be perfectly fair, the poor Grey Death Legion tech who had made the copy of the core wasn’t a handpicked NAIS computer expert with an RCT to hide behind, but a Mech Tech trying very hard to copy the core while House Marik Battlemechs were knocking on the front door …

“Well … yes actually” the tech said, all of them exchanging surprises glances, seemingly nonplussed at my casual commentary on computer matters I guess not that many ‘lay’ people were trained in.
Which said a lot of sad things about education in the Inner Sphere.
****** you Comstar.
“However the command program actually has a number of extended options” he said, gesturing back to the screen and a text file of some kind showing what looked like a manual page for the software. “One of them is to build the archive export using any number of different formats, including a standard Star League format that is still in use today. But the program will have to re-index and create the archive file from scratch”.

“Any idea what kind of timeframe we're looking at for that?” I asked. “I just need a rough guesstimate…”

The tech and Rastcor exchanged a glance, seemingly communicating telepathically before the later spoke up.

“Based on the amount of data here … six hours? Although after the archive is built, copying onto external media should only take half an hour or so per copy. The data transfer system built into this workstation is top notch” he finished on an upbeat note and I nodded at that. Alright if Ardan wanted me in charge, then fine I’d be in charge.
We were bloody going to do this the safe way.

“Okay, here's the plan” I spoke up, looking around to make sure I had everyone's attention before continuing. “Before you do anything else, copy the existing archive file onto two separate memory cores - and run concurrency checks to make sure their data is identical. I'll organize to have one loaded onto our ship, one onto the Kell Hounds command ship. They’re our failsafe so even if it will be a pain in the ass to extract it, the raw data is secure in case anything goes wrong or we have to evacuate in a hurry for some reason. Then you can run the commands to build a new archive in a format our systems can work with and copy that onto the remaining spare cores … which will be how many?”

“Of the size needed?” Rastcor considered the question, conferring quickly with his people before turning back. “Probably four. The existing archive file is over two fifty exabytes and we have six three-hundred exabyte cores. And frankly, I doubt the size is going to be very different using the more mainstream algorithms - if anything it might be smaller”.

“There may also be spare cores locally in storage around here somewhere” I added “but let's not count on that. Only make the copies from the original source and be sure to test these copies against each other. Let me know immediately when you’re done - or if you run into any problems. I'll have instructions where to store these cores for you later once I've conferred with Colonel Sortek. Then, our final goal is to pull the original core out of here without damaging it or setting off any security systems - which might include a self destruct sequence for the entire complex if the core is interfered with, so don’t even think about doing anything outside what we've discussed without the green light from myself or Colonel Sortek”.

Happily the techs all seemed to be nodding firmly at that, not eager to risk blowing themselves up. I paused to reflect for a moment, but decided that about covered it. And that I didn’t need to issue any threats about screwing around - I think they had focused in well now on the importance of the task in front of them - and dangers they were playing with.

“One last thing; remember if you need anything, you have first and absolute priority on personnel, supplies, equipment, whatever you need to get this done. In in doubt, call me. Anytime. Or if you can’t reach me, either Colonel Sortek or Marshal Felnser are ready to take your calls. Clear?”

“Very clear Agent Smith. We won’t let you down” Rastcor nodded to me, with a pleasingly determined yet serious expression on his face. Just about the right ratio of caution to determination I think.

“I know you won’t” I assured them with a tight smile. “Prince Davion handpicked each of you for a reason” I added to their clear shock and surprise. “So I have complete confidence in both your abilities and that you appreciate what this” I pointed at the screen “means. Good luck”.

Outside, I found the cave a bustle of activity. A constant line of APCs were driving through the door and vanishing down into caverns. Two Goblins wearing Kell Hound colors had been parked in the cave with two Mechs from Patrick Kells command lance standing nearby and a platoon of infantry busy around the cave fortifying both entrance and exit - with a couple of burly looking chaps standing guard outside the door to the library itself. I guessed they had orders that no-one not on ‘the list’ got inside … and I also guessed that they were far from happy with standing around the building while everyone else (including their CO) was playing Tomb Raider in a Star League cache. But they were clearly far too professional to complain as I walked past them and made my way outside the great doors (which on foot, I had to admit, were far more impressive).

The Mobile HQ vehicle of the Guards had arrived and set up while I was busy inside, parked up on the bank just outside the ‘gatehouse’. Two flagpoles with the standards of both the Kell Hounds and Davion Heavy Guards had been raised and the HQ itself had been ‘unfolded’. Now the vehicle formed one wall of a large semi-rigid field tent, with the stationary titan of the Marshals Cyclops standing silently next to it along with the paired Jaggermechs. Inside the tent was a pretty cramped command centre, with two dozen communications techs busy on tiny desks coordinating the Regimental Combat Teams operations across the battlespace. The Mobile HQ design was quite clever really. Lacking the kind of lightweight and compact C4i technology of the Star League era, it had been designed to provide a basic ‘on the move’ capability but otherwise was designed to rapidly unfold into a far less cramped portable command centre. A gaggle of senior officers at a slightly raised section were busy around Marshal Flenser, so I started to walk over that way.

“...some time tomorrow” one of his officers was saying, a small group of them standing over a map table showing the contemporary satellite image overlaid with a wireframe of the cache and hoards of unit markers. Dan Allard was there as well - in what I presumed was the Hounds field BDUs rather than a Mechwarriors combat gear, so I guess he was here to play liaison while Patrick and Ardan played Lara Croft. And he looked about as happy as his comrades in the Cache had been about that fact.

“Fine. We’ll need to confirm that with Major Ward as soon as the SatCom uplink is active…” and with that Flenser noticed me standing off to the side and gestured me in. “Ah Agent Smith, good, I was just about to call you for a status report. What’s the situation at the library?”

“Optimistic Marshal” I answered him, coming to something like parade rest. It surely couldn’t hurt to be as professional as possible after all. “Phase one is underway; we’re pulling a direct copy of the existing archive file and should have full copies of the core onto our dropships inside an hour or two. This data format is far from ideal to work with mind you; it would take years to decrypt it, if not a decade or more. But that’s our safety net to ensure that even in the worst case scenario before we start fiddling, we’d still have the entire database even if it took some time to make use of it”.

“Sound thinking” the other agreed and a flurry of nods agreed from around the table - clearly no-one wanted to even chance the loss of this priceless treasure. “What happens after that?”

“Luckily for us, it seems the library systems can export the database into more standard Star League formats that are still in use today. It’ll take something on the order of six hours or more to build this export file but once that is done, making new copies should only take half an hour. And the data on these cores would be fully accessible from the outset. We have sufficient cores to make four copies of this format and I’d like your permission to split these copies - and the first two backups for that matter - onto different dropships assigned to different jumpships under lock and key. To eliminate any single point of failure risk if we lose a dropship or jumpship”.

The Marshal turned to a Major waiting off to the side and made a ‘get on with it’ gesture, causing the other to salute and then hurry off to get things organized.

“Finally” I continued as he left, “after we’ve confirmed the data has been completely secured and duplicated to a sufficient level of redundancy” - although I found it hard to credit there was such a thing- “my instructions are to inspect the computer core and see about the possibility of removing it to take it with us. Failing that, if it cannot be removed, once we’re certain we’ve got all the data precisely duplicated and have finished all salvage activity; on the authority of Prince Davion, Colonel Sortek will give the order to destroy it”.

There was something of a shocked intake of breath around the table at that bombshell, as I had more or less expected. In this time period of Battletech, destroying Lostech items such as factories, jumpships and terraforming equipment was considered pretty much a flat out war crime.
Destroying the ultimate anti-Lostech device probably reached the level of ‘crime against humanity’ in their eyes - even if nothing would be lost given the backups. Indeed it was probably only that fact combined with me noting it was an order from Hanse Davion himself that their knee jerk outrage had been controlled.

“That is of course, the worst case scenario” I added, which seemed to ease up the tension a tad. “But we cannot leave this data intact for Marik - and more pertinently Liao and Kurita who will no doubt insist they share”.

“Thank you Agent Smith - I think we’ve all realized the strategic ramifications of leaving it intact” the Marshal pointed out - but he did so at least with a smile and nod that suggested he wasn’t trying to rebuke or dismiss me - and his words subtly reinforced my position with his authority. “Alright, can I call it twenty four hours to be able to completely download and secure the data for planning purposes?”

“Conservatively, yes sir” I nodded. “In all honestly, probably less than that”.

“Outstanding” he nodded before considering me and gesturing me to join them - slightly surprising me. “You might as well stay for the rest of the briefing then” he added before he turned to a man in a field uniform whose brown rank insignia I recall meant he was from the logistics branch. “General Flanders, you have a report?”

I admit to disappointment that he didn't declare ‘Hokaly-Dokaly MarshelReno!’

“Yes Sir” the officer said in deep rumble of a voice that was about as far from Ned Flanders as it was possible to get. “Preliminary analysis of the manifest file is completed, we have a listing of what’s in the cache - at least as of the last inventory. We don’t have eyeballs on it all yet, but the reports we’re getting from the scouting teams seem to match up so far”.

There was a sudden air of eager anticipation around the table at that as everyone leaned forward. The core was worth vastly more than the entirety of the equipment stored here, everyone knew that of course.
But the shinies!
Oh God, the shinies!!!

“The short version; on paper we have over five hundred Battlemechs, two thousand combat vehicles, another thousand various utility and support vehicles, twenty thousand SLDF field infantry kits and close to fifty thousand tons of various spare parts, supplies and equipment. The Mechs…” the man hesitated for a second, seemingly steadying himself. “Eighty percent of the Mechs are Assaults”.

The entire command tent -who were clearly not supposed to be listening in but everyone knew were listening in anyway - went almost silent. Felsner turned to glare at them and as if a switch had been thrown, they hurriedly went back to work with barks of orders from the junior officers overseeing them as the legendary professionalism of the AFFS reasserted itself.

Eighty percent” the Marshal stated quietly - not even he able to keep the shock out of his eyes.
General Flanders simply nodded - clearly having had more time to digest this bombshell.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” I muttered in a sing-song voice under my breath as I wracked my brain. I didn’t remember anything like that being noted from The Price of Glory. Then again, the descriptions of the Mechs had been pretty much limited to Carlyle being understandably frustrated that even as his units machines were getting blasted to pieces in fight after fight and being glued back together for the next, he had hundreds of gleaming SLDF machines sitting there he couldn’t use as it would take far too long to get them combat ready. Like a man dying of thirst being given a bottle of water impossible to open.
Assault Mechs were indeed the rarest of beasts in the Inner Sphere these days according to what I had read in McMannons Military Guide. The LCAF deployed the most - memes about them were exaggerated, but they still boasted almost a fifth of their Mech fleet in that class - with Heavies around a quarter more making them pretty top heavy. House Davion conversely could barely scrape up ten percent in Assaults, with seventy percent of their Mech Regiments TO&E made up of Lights and Mediums and the rest Heavies. House Kurita sat between the two - but with fewer regiments than the AFFS in total - almost like someone had been world building everything into a nice balance…
This many Assault Mechs could actually change the balance of power for House Davion in a small but real way. Only question being if you gave the Crushers a sibling or two … or attached a company each of the machines to sixteen or so RCTs for a breakthrough firepower boost in key units...

“Right then” the Marshal drew my attention back to the here and now. “What kind of tech are we looking at?”

“Agent Smith's information seems, as always, right on the money” the officer noted with a nod at me that made me fight off the urge to blush at the unabashed complement, probably very rarely given from line officers in whose minds ‘intelligence agent’ was an oxymoron. “We’re looking at late era SLDF regulars. Most of the mechs have one system or weapon that’s Lostech balanced out with standard current issue weapons, which should make maintaining them easier logistically speaking but a few according to the specs are high-end Royal builds. There are a lot of spare parts as well. And I mean a lot. For example according to this, there are at least a thousand Freezers sitting in one of the warehouses - still in their original packaging”.

“And before anyone asks” the Marshal added, “dibs rules are not, I say again not, in effect”.

There was a good humored chuckle at that that seemed to put the meeting back on an even keel, getting everyone to knuckle down and focus.

“So. Question number two; assuming the inventory is accurate, how long will take to load up this stuff and can we carry it all? Even with the Mammoths, that is a lot of gross tonnage…”

“The Mules are each carrying a full recovery crew with a platoon of prime movers, a couple of dozen industrial exoskeletons and some mobile lift hoists. Throw in my boys to help and we should be able to load up Battalion or so worth of platforms with each round trip. This is going to be a multi-day affair in all honesty” the officer shrugged helplessly - at which point I stepped in, recalling some information from the book.

“I might have some good news there” I spoke up, getting everyone's immediate attention. Possibly because so far I only seemed to bring good news. “We’ll probably have to get the infantry to do a full sweep to make sure, but according to our intelligence about this place, there should be fusion powered flatbed haulers in the cache. If we can get them working, we should be able to increase our movements of salvage quite a bit - if we can find people to drive them”.

“Make that a priority for your people to confirm Colin” Flenser ordered swiftly with a look at the commander of the infantry. “I want to hit the ground running on this one”.

“Understood sir” the other nodded, making a notation in a small noteputer.

“If need be, we can stand down the 14th Lexington from their reserve position and put their crews to work running them” the Marshal continued in consideration, lightly drumming his fingers on the holotable before nodding sharply. “In fact, on that note Felger I want you to pull two companies worth of Mechs with hands off the line to assist with the loading and unloading operations. Karen, as soon as we’re in position to start the recovery, round up all the loadmasters from our dropships and send them over to help. Once we start, we run non stop, which means rotations. I do not want to lose a grounded Mammoth filled with Lostech because some idiot decided crew rest was for losers, pushed it too far and caused a catastrophe. Everyone clear on that?”

“Yes Sir!” came back immediately and my respect for the man went up another notch. He was perfectly willing to use his Mechwarriors as glorified industrial mech drivers where I strongly suspected other unit commanders fully into the Cult of the Mechwarrior would reject the idea out of hand. He was also clearly seeing the timeframe for getting this done wasn’t going to be a few hours of smash and grab like Halstead Station had been, but that a sustained effort would be needed. And was smart enough to use his people accordingly and ensure they didn't burn out.
Well I suppose you didn’t get to be put in charge of Hanse Davion's favorite RCT without proving yourself significantly beyond merely ‘competent’.

“Now, the second question” he moved on. “How much of it can we take? I’m loathe to either leave things behind for the leaguers or have to destroy them. But I’d like it even less to find stuff we left behind pointed back at us a few years down the line”.

“We’re crunching the numbers” the logistics man stated, glancing at his own noteputer. “Best estimate for now is that we can load up all the Mechs, Vehicles and just about all the lostech gear if we use our own dropships to take the excess and if we triage for things we can leave behind like standard ammo, gauss rifle slugs and the like. But no question that we’re going to have to dump some stuff to make room on our ships”.

“Right. Start with our ammo stores - I don’t think House Davion is going to run out of autocannon shells anytime soon” he noted to a brief chuckle around the table. “Then if we still need room, the APCs can be tossed and we can store lighter vehicles from the cache in their place to free up more cargo space”.

The logistics officer nodded at that and make a notation - although the other General who I recalled was in charge of the Mechanized Infantry brigade didn’t look terribly happy at the idea. And understandably too. But then, his APCs were one of the cheapest and easiest military vehicles to make. One that could be replenished in bulk, even in 3025.

“Next question. LZs. Where do we load up from?”

“I think we’ve found an LZ for the Mammoths and Mules Sir” another officer, Karen I recalled, said, wearing the uniform of someone in the Naval arm of the AFFS. Clearly she led the RCTs aerospace elements, with a few keystrokes switching the holotables map around to focus on the western side of the range. “Based on the map, there is another access door here” and a green dot flashed on the southern edge of the mountains, where they edged away from the coast, creating a narrow spar of the Vermillion Planes right where the Vermillion river emerged on the other side of the range. It looked small on the orbital scan, but seemed more than large, wide and flat enough to bring the heavy ships in. “It’s defendable, but open enough for the loading and the ground looks ideal for the cargo ships”.

“Good work” Felnser said as he studied the map grid indicated. “We’ll have the infantry spend the evening finishing the sweep of the inside of the cache, then they can bunk down for the night. We’ll move the fleet across the mountains at first light - except McCloud's company. They stay here, with Wolli Pride, just in case someone comes looking for what all the noise is about and to defend the computer team” and with that he straightened and looked around his officers. “Any concerns or questions?” he asked and got a negative shake of heads. “Good. Now, Lieutenant, you have an update from Major Ward?”

Daniel Allard now stepped forward.

“Yes Sir” the younger Allard brother replied and he gave a straight forward yet amusing report of all the ways the Kell Hounds some distance away were amusing themselves, leaving the locals bewildered and trying to determine if this was a raid, occupation or some giant practical joke on behalf of the Lyran Commonwealth. The really good news was that the ComStar HPG hadn't broken its transmission schedule - it was due to send out the first batch of messages since we landed in just under 90 minutes. It suggested the locals were so damn confused about the situation that they hadn't seen a need to pay Comstars exorbitant fees for a priority message to Stewart. Which was excellent news indeed - for once ComStars greed was working against them. After all if a Class-B station could casually send an emergency transmission simply because the local Precentor wanted to, questions might get asked about why then they charged such a silly amount of money when others asked.

That decision might well cost the local Precentor his life. I did feel slightly bad for the local stations personnel though who would no doubt be caught up in the aftermath. I recalled that some idealistic ComStar adept had been critical to getting the Grey Death Legion out of their desperate situation and spreading the news about ComStars involvement in the war crimes on Sirius. A poor fool of an Adept who honestly believed the Precentor in question was an aberration and that ComStars inner circle were noble people with a noble mission. He had, at great risk, defied said Precentor and exposed his heinous actions (promptly disavowed as the actions of a rogue man by the ‘horrified’ First Circuit of course) and allowed the Grey Death Legion to get out with their precious cargo.

I doubted fate would be kind to him this time.

I suppose it was a good sign I could still feel guilty about such things … but I pushed it out of the way. After all, if I was going to stay my hand against ComStar because some of their ignorant low level personnel could get caught up in events, I might as well have stayed at home and started praying to my toaster.

Brooding as the briefing broke up, I made my way outside and found a nice rock to sit on across from the Cyclops, watching as dusk slowly gave way to evening as the sun set behind the canyon wall as I fished out a ration bar and tried not to wince at the taste.
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

Siden Pryde

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #13 on: 09 July 2018, 04:04:10 »
Liking this so far.  Quite enjoyable.

worktroll

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #14 on: 09 July 2018, 05:50:59 »
Definitely.

Me, I would have asked to see the League ambassador, but then to each their own.

Well written genre fiction with a nice twist.

W.
* No, FASA wasn't big on errata - ColBosch
* The Housebook series is from the 80's and is the foundation of Btech, the 80's heart wrapped in heavy metal that beats to this day - Sigma
* To sum it up: FASAnomics: By Cthulhu, for Cthulhu - Moonsword
* Because Battletech is a conspiracy by Habsburg & Bourbon pretenders - MadCapellan
* The Hellbringer is cool, either way. It's not cool because it's bad, it's cool because it's bad with balls - Nightsky
* It was a glorious time for people who felt that we didn't have enough Marauder variants - HABeas2, re "Empires Aflame"

DOC_Agren

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #15 on: 09 July 2018, 14:22:41 »
 :thumbsup:
Well done
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

ckosacranoid

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #16 on: 10 July 2018, 00:19:07 »
This sir is one hell of a story and can not wait to see more of what you have in mind of this SI and this is cool that he is not really big or super powered or anything. he is still just a normal human with something to offer a group of people to try to stop the coming idiots from other space and the dark age after that. The clans and then the rogue phone company.

DoctorMonkey

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #17 on: 10 July 2018, 06:08:46 »
Really enjoying this
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marauder648

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #18 on: 10 July 2018, 07:26:59 »
Just read through this, really really enjoying it! A great mix of humor and character interaction as well as world building!  Its a really good read and I hope it continues :)
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #19 on: 10 July 2018, 08:04:56 »
Chapter 7: Always the last place you look...

***
******
***

It was amazing how efficiently armies worked when operations were ruled over with an iron fist by competent NCOs.

Like most professional armies, one of the key pillars of the AFFS was the training and skill of its non-commissioned officer corps. I had heard the role of NCOs once defined as being the lubricant through the machinery of officers and men. Without them, if you were lucky, you would have a poorly running machine that would seize up at the first sign of trouble. Or, more likely, you would find a machine that refused to start at all or ended up exploding spectacularly if you tried to force it to.
The Heavy Guards were clearly firm believers in applying generous amounts of lubricants to all the pieces of their machinery and were, to my delight, clearly a group who mostly shunned the whole ‘Way/Cult of the Mechwarrior’ BS that permeated the Inner Sphere. Not to say that Mechwarriors
didn’t think they were Gods gift to mankind, but here they kept that attitude firmly in check and ‘offstage’. When on duty there was a real teamwork attitude … and the NCOs were undoubtedly the coaches of these athletes.

I watched, amused, as a Sergeant waved one arm to direct an Archer while screaming invective to the infantry running around. The sum total of all these efforts being that the Battlemech carefully lowered the cargo container exactly as directed onto the back of a flatbed truck, before backing away as Infantry jumped up and lashed it into place with the others already there. Eventually satisfied, the Sergeant gave a gesture to the driver and the flatbed jolted into motion, making its way to join the never ending convoy of flatbeds, recovery vehicles and APCs making the trip to the local exit doors as a new empty flatbed moved up and the Archer walked over to pick up the next container - this one filled with spare Streak SRM-2 missile launchers.

It was slightly surprising to me that the RCT could turn into such an efficient transport machine at the drop of a hat, with frontline soldiers turning into expert logistics personnel and tank drivers hauling around cargo on trucks like they did it for a living. Ardan Sortek had put things into perspective for me though, reminding me that salvage operations were a critical thing in the 31st century. Battlefield salvage was often the only thing keeping a military unit running really. And accordingly, the better units had become very good at jumping the battlefield -often while the guns were still firing! - to drag ‘shinies’ off with a determination the Blood Ravens would have applauded.
And when people were not shooting at you and the ‘salvage’ was mostly loaded up in standard shipping containers … well, that was just gravy then, wasn’t it?


The progress was slower than I would have liked, with the current ETA for finishing looting the cache of everything even remotely valuable another seven hours, but inside of two hours everything on the ‘alpha’ high priority list would have been stowed. For my part, the six copies of the core were all locked away - even better ‘my’ team had found both the software to read the first two cores we had copied and in turn made a copy of that, as well as the spare memory cores stashed in the cache late last night. Accordingly I had simply given orders to keep copying right up until the last minute and Arden had backed me to the hilt. Call me paranoid, but if every military Dropship didn’t have a core under lock and key by the time we dusted off, I didn’t think enough redundancy was in place yet.

I made my way back to the command centre just outside these doors - enjoying the salt air from the sea only a half dozen klicks away beyond a distant line of grassy sand dunes. The Iron Fox had landed closest to the doors with its command centre serving as a traffic control point for the vehicles driving all over the place and there I stopped to report in on the status of ‘my’ team, having just come from the library down one of the incredible Mech sized rail-transports that ran through the mountain. Said report amounting to ‘They’re getting some sleep not quite at gunpoint, having stayed up all night browsing through the masses of data the core contained and would continue copying more cores later’.
No I was NOT taking any chances.
The Helm Core was the key to the technical renaissance of the Inner Sphere. As far as I recalled, the New Dallas Core, while incredibly useful in military matters, didn’t have anything like the fundamental science and engineering data critical to rebuilding the Inner Spheres infrastructure. If I ****** this up, the consequences …


Huh. Consequences. I wonder what he would have made of all this back on EssBe?

Snorting after a moment, I couldn’t help but imagine him popping up as a ‘shoulder devil’ cackling, telling me I had done well and to move onto phase two; framing Myndo Waterly for abducting and killing Romano Liaos favorite pet turtle. THEN, encouraging me to have Jamie Wolf kidnapped, tied to a chair and slapped with a hardcopy of his Khans final orders, repeatedly, until he absorbed them through some kind of osmosis process.
The ‘shoulder angel’ version of him that popped up then of course proceeded to say the
exact same thing … but at insisted on at least using an ergonomic chair.

Shaking that thought off and with nothing better to do, I wandered to the nearest logistics controller and offered myself as a pair of hands, correctly anticipating that they could find a use for me. And so I found myself attached to a scratch platoon of infantry and dismounted tankers who were busy unloading cases of infantry gear from the back of the flatbeds into Star Barge IX - a Mule class dropship - for the rest of the day...

***
******
***

Sortek was present in the command centre when I squeezed through the bulkhead hatch that evening. I felt exhausted - but in a productive sort of way having spent the day lugging stuff into dropship cargo holds (note; Mauser-960 rifles were too ****** heavy for a standard issue rifle!). Sortek also looked exhausted; he had been up all night and most of the day first working out the plan and then helping to run it on coffee and stim-pills. Full credit to the staff officers of the Heavy Guards, the operation had gone incredibly smoothly and I told him as such, earning a tired smile in exchange but otherwise I just kept out of his way as he directed me to sit at a tiny mission specialist seat, taking the opportunity to log in and start to read over the status reports directed to the HQ while we waited for the final Mechs of the LZ guard to trudge into the Mech bays and headcounts to be confirmed that no-one had been left behind.

It seemed that the loadmasters had lived up to their projections, managing to squeeze just about everything of any value on board the fleet. Even the mobile gantries the Star League Mechs had been standing in had been collapsed and shoved onto the dropships; apparently the computer controlled diagnostic and repair systems built into them could be adapted to drive parts of Star League era factories long mothballed and replaced by 31st century kludges - and were thus possibly again worth more than the Battlemechs they had enclosed.
Defiance would probably pay a pretty penny for them, although Katrina would be more likely as not to just give her share of them away to boost production on Hesperus II I guessed.
Also as anticipated, with so much loot the cargo dropships had proven to not quite have enough storage - a question more of volume than mass it seemed. So the Heavy Guards had been forced to dump more than a bit of gear that could be replaced for Lostech that couldn’t. Starting with almost all their auto-cannon and missile ammo … which had been shoved inside two Regiments of APCs the RCT had also abandoned to make room for vehicles from the cache. With demolition charges rigged to blow them all sky high once they were clear.
The Infantry were agreeably indifferent to blowing up their rides. If anything, the Combat engineers seemed to be gleefully looking forward the explosion they were going to make when they pressed the button.
And I mean disturbingly gleeful. Bunch of bloody pyromaniacs.

I somehow doubted Mechwarriors would have been so casually happy with blowing up their rides…****** silly Cult of the Mechwarrior. Not that I dared say that out loud of course!

So, at exactly 22:33 local, the Iron Fox rose from the ground along with the two dozen and change other dropships that made up the RCT. The Mammoths and Mules of the cargo force were already underway for the jump point, having lifted an hour ago and soon enough we would burn hard after them to overtake … but not quite yet.
There was one final act to the Helm story yet to play out.
And it wasn’t the APCs blowing up - which I have to admit from 30,000 feet at night was pretty bloody spectacular.

“We’re in a stable geosynchronous position over the cache” one of the officers on the very cramped command deck called out half an hour later, relaying data from the ships bridge. “All ships are in formation”.

“Kell Hounds report a successful launch” another officer called from off to the right. “Twenty minutes behind schedule - apparently the Castelan wanted to make a farewell speech” the officer added, generating a snicker from the crew and at that, I flipped over to the Kell Hounds reports...huh.
Well now. It seems that the Kell Hounds had ‘stumbled onto’ the MI5/MI6 team that had been ‘hiding out’ in Helmsdown (in a dive of a bar of course where they had been busy racking up a ‘mission expenses’ bill) after finding their dropship sitting empty at the spaceport. At that point they had arrested them for theft of several hundred million kroners worth of medical equipment and seized their dropship, all simply to confuse the FWL just that much more and provide a seemingly valid reason for this whole raid - Mercs often were hired for ‘repossession’ missions and to recover stolen property. That in turn had caused the locals to freak out, concerned that all the shiny new medical equipment they desperately needed was about to be taken away. With appropriate showings of concern for the locals after touring the hospital, Major Ward had formally waived the claims of the Commonwealth on the medical equipment, stunning the local officials before sending them into celebration. With her even sending a HPG message to Tharkad saying as much on her authority. And plenty of posturing that the Lyran Commonwealth is not the Draconis Combine and is not going to loot medical gear that is clearly desperately needed.

Good propaganda, even if probably blatantly untrue. On the other hand, it did let Ward send a message to Tharkad which, contained in the specific phrasing entirely innocuously, a report that we were withdrawing from Helm with our Primary and Secondary objectives accomplished and no enemy contact. Gave me a warm feeling to have ComStar unknowingly pronounce the beginning of its doom to the Inner Sphere...

“Very well” Felsner acknowledged the update about the Kell Hounds from his station, turning to glance at Ardan and nodding.
The Colonel then turned to me.

“John, we good to go?” he asked directly and I final check of my board. The reports from the tech team seemed to be indicating they were ready … and there was nothing else I could think of.

“Good to go” I agreed.

And with that Ardan made a brief transmission to the surface. There was a static filled but intelligible military acknowledgement and with that all we could do was wait, everyone staring at the long range camera which was currently showing an IR picture of a lone dropship sitting on the ground just outside the doors we had only opened up yesterday.

Man was it only yesterday? It felt like it had been a week since we touched down … although that might be my muscles protesting from the strain I had put them under today. Mental note; never try to match the pace with the 31st century equivalent of paratroopers. Although I'd like to think I had earned enough respect from them to graduate from ‘REMF weiny’ to REMF weiny at least willing to get his hands dirty’.

Still I had no idea how long this would take, so I keyed up the loadmasters reports that had been compiled for each dropship, entertaining myself by reading through the haul we were taking away. Some interesting things in there. Example; there was a bloody Devastator in the cache - apparently one of the only six built, some Gunslingers ride they were forced to leave behind for more colony supplies I’d guess.
Too bad I wasn't a Mechwarrior or I would have been all over that. I allowed myself a few moments thinking of it painted bright green with purple highlights, a Decepticon logo on its chest as I kicked in the front door of Hilton Head shouting ‘PREPARE FOR EXTERMINATION!’ before I turned my attention back to the list. There were some other impressive finds. No mobile HPG unfortunately or Exterminaitors with Null-Sig technology or Nighthawks or anything like that. Nothing bleeding edge or super classified …  but we did find half a dozen SLDF mobile command vehicles that made the one the Guards used look like a kids toy. With holotanks and augmented reality command systems I recognized as the same tech Focht had used (would use? might use?) on Tukayyid.

Anyway, I was just looking over the listings -ohh, four Kanga tanks, nice!- when a sudden crackle of transmissions came over the repeater speakers and my gaze quickly shifted to the large flatscreens on the bulkhead. Down below a tiny little hovertruck was skidding out of the cave entrance and I watched fascinated as it bounced along leaving a cloud of dust. The picture zoomed in and refocused on it, the IR resolution poor but good enough to see that in the back of the open truck were a couple of industrial exoskeletons, with a large refrigerator sized box between them still glowing with residual heat. Said truck skidded up the ramp of the waiting dropship and barely a second after the ramp closed behind it the Dropships thrusters ignited, almost flushing the picture with light before the computers compensated, zooming back out to show the ship slowly clawing its way into the sky.

“Sirs” a Com-tech put in, turning from her console to catch the Marshals eye. “Transmission from Wolli Pride; Code Firefly”.


A relieved and happy sort of sigh passed through the command centre at that news and I personally had to squish the urge to raise a fist in triumph. Firefly meant that the original core had been extracted, as far as the ground team knew, safely and intact. Combined with the half dozen copies onto the cores we brought with us, the extra dozen copies that had been made using the spare cores we had found in the cache … well that might be just about enough redundancy.
Not a bad days work I reckon-

“Sirs” the man said in a sharp tone that got attention at once. “Stay behind sensors are reading a seismic disturbance building across the region. Scale four and rising”.

“Give me a close up of the door” Ardan ordered … then I spoke up without thinking if protocol even let me speak up.

“Can we also get a shot of Freeport and the area around it?”

The tech hesitated and turned to look at the Colonel and I felt a twinge of sudden unease as I remembered, belatedly, that I was not part of the command staff-

“Why exactly are you looking at me instead of putting it up, Sergeant?” Ardan gave the junior NCO a look that had the other instantly hammering his keyboard and seemingly firming my rather nebulous place in the chain of command rather substantially.
Awwww. That was sweet of the guy.
The main screen split now, with one shot on the cache door and one on the ruined city, both in the green of faint green of night vision. The picture quality was poor; this was not FLIR let alone synthetic aperture radar technology -bloody future of the 80s - but it was still detailed enough blended into a visual light picture that you could make out features of a ruined city easily.

“Center it on that dam on where the sea becomes the Vermillion River” I clarified and the picture shifted to do so, focusing and zooming in… and I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried. The dam wasn’t small, it stretched for at least a couple of kilometers and was a solidly built structure, to put it mildly. Which made the fact that even from hundreds of kilometers in the air, it was clearly rocking and moving rather odd.

Then things escalated to Michael Bay Grade.

The ground opened under the dam, causing it to buckle and start to collapse into a great rift, of which little could be seen in the IR picture. Moments later the dam was airborne, hundreds of fragments the size of office blocks exploding back into the air. A wall of water was rising -literally rising vertically into the sky- and despite having a rough idea of what was coming, I felt my jaw drop at the sight before I gained control. The picture zoomed back out hastily and stabilized to show that explosion of water slow and finally fell apart tens of thousands of feet in the air, spraying out in all directions to rain back down over the entire region as an opaque fog started to form.

“Mother of God” one of the officers said for the room. Yup, that about summed it up.

“What in the hell is that Smith?” Felsner asked in shock, turning to look at me followed by most of the rest of the officers.

I tried to be as nonchalant as possible under their gaze, most of my attention remaining focused on the force that was turning much of what was left of Freeport into … well, not rubble as it was already trashed to all hell, but it was doing a fine job of spreading the rubble out over a much wider area.

“I believe that’s the Yehudan Sea” I noted after a pause. “You know, I have to admit I was wondering where the SLDF put that thing. Always the last place you look…”

Marshal Felsner stared at me for a long, long moment before turning his gaze upon Ardan. A gaze that said without saying ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ and Ardan just shook his head with a smile, having grown more used to my eccentricities.
Or perhaps just giving me a lot of slack given that he knew I was not military or even intelligence, despite this costume I was wearing. Or perhaps I had just broken him with how everything I had said about Helm had come to pass.

“Sirs - at the cache” the tech called and switched the feed back to show a massive cloud of steadily thickening dust pouring out of the ‘front door’ followed by the entire cliff above it seeming to crack and implode, collapsing the entrance and burying half of that canyon around the gatehouse in shale and rubble. Zooming out we could ridgelines and peaks of the hidden complex seemingly shudder, some of the mighty mountains sagging and even sliding in slow motion as the massive network of caves under the region collapsed.

Well, scratch one Star League cache.

In theory, we could have disabled the self destruct sequence that had started as soon as the techs yanked the core from its mount - the techs had in fact isolated that code mid-morning after cracking the system to take complete control (with the admin stick of doom, it wasn’t exactly hard). However doing so would have left the FWLM a perfectly intact psudo Castle Brian that they could slap guns all over and suddenly find themselves with an ideal forward theater logistics base. One that a single garrison regiment could hold against probably a dozen if the FWLM engineers did their job correctly, which would be ideally placed to support massive attacks against the Steiner border.
Patrick Kell had been given the job of making the call, given that he was representing Katrinas interests. He had decided in the end that while it was a true shame and sad loss, the strategic threat of such a complex was just too great to leave intact.
Ergo, boom.

Even so despite the impeccable logic, I couldn’t help but feel that something ancient and incredible had just died as I watched the complex slowly collapse on itself. I made a mental note to get Hanse to at least put a statue of Edwin Keeler up in NAIS somewhere -his service jacket including a holographic representation had been in the computer core. A monument so the Federated Commonwealth would always remember who they owed this priceless second chance to.

The return of the Yehudan Sea was the final act in this chapter of the story. Shortly after that, our ships ignited their drives as the Woli Pride slotted into formation, breaking orbit. The Kell Hounds squadron merged before we were even a light second out, the combined fleet now burning hard as we accelerated away from the planet. No need for stealth now, just speed. Our fleet expanded once again as we caught up to the Mammoths and Mules by the end of the day and folded into their formation, reducing our acceleration somewhat. Then came the waiting game as we slowly but steadily chewed up the distance to our Jumpships.
 
This part of Battletech that was so much easier to read about than live.

Travel in Dropships and Jumpships sucked, no question as far as I was concerned. All I could do was sit in my tiny rack (and keep firmly in mind that it was tiny in comparison to my bed back on New Avalon; it was positively palatial compared to the troops living arrangements) and watch various vid shows and movies - the dropships memory core at least contained a pretty huge library of media - even if in the common areas only Solaris ever seemed to be shown. Possibly because current popular entertainment was pretty damn horrible, making me wonder if I could make some cash selling some of the content on my devices as ‘lostech’ movies from the 21st century or something. I had a feeling the AFFS would be able to relate to Generation Kill...
The troops at least were kept busy cleaning their field gear that had gotten little use - and poking at a handful of examples of the Star League technology they had salvaged and been allowed to play with, like children on Christmas day. The officers started to catch up with paperwork, reports and what not. Ardan - the bastard - even asked me to write a report, blithely ignoring my protests that A) I was not in the AFFS B) I didn’t have the first clue how to and C) It would be classified so high that no-one bar he, Quintus and Hanse would be able to read it anyway...
Nonetheless he insisted and so I humored him, working out three pages that described the actions of ‘my’ team and noting they had all performed well under quite high pressure. I added in a couple of pages of suggestions for the use of the materials we had looted based off future and past knowledge, but otherwise left it there. I’m sure Hanse had entire buildings full of people to work these things out after all.

Still it starved off cabin fever and helped the days pass.

All ships went to Battle stations as we closed in on two hours to the jump point, the fleet decelerating hard at 1.5Gs, the maximum the massive Mammoths could safely take. My mind was working overdrive now about worst case scenarios, starting with Yorinaga Kurita applying Phantom Mech to an Achilles class ship. Then came ComStar giving one of their Warships a test drive after someone panicked and ending with the Perigard Zalman being ripped through time and space thanks to a K/F butterfly ****** I had somehow induced. Culminating in its Star Admiral deciding to shoot up as many Freebirth Jumpships as they could see because, you know, why the hell not…

It was thus a very welcome anticlimactic outcome when … nothing happened. No incoming, no surprises, no malfunctions. Our dropships simply decelerated hard into the jump point and in a chaotic yet well-coordinated ballet, linked up with their jumpships who had long furled their sails with fully charged drives.

Then bare seconds after the final CAP birds had landed, there was an explosion of exotic particles and in a blinding flash of light, the fleet gave the middle finger to causality, the concept of Lostech, Jerome Blake and the Concord of Kapteyn and flung itself out of the system. Leaving behind a bunch of highly confused locals wondering exactly when the Yehudan Sea had come back...
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang

marauder648

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #20 on: 10 July 2018, 09:43:19 »
Thats one hell of a successful salvage op, and there's no way the Robes can get their hands on all the Cores, and as you said 'so many shinies!' and I chuckled at the 'dibs rule' idea :p  Superbly written and very very very good!
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Dave Talley

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #21 on: 10 July 2018, 12:42:10 »
the only thing that would be better, is to have that comstar jackass who was to implicate the grey death, read a dispatch about this,

all my plans, all that tech, in the hands of Davion???
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

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #22 on: 10 July 2018, 13:55:34 »
Might I suggest adding kidnapping Teddy K and his family to your list of things to get done.

Sir Chaos

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #23 on: 10 July 2018, 14:45:32 »
Might I suggest adding kidnapping Teddy K and his family to your list of things to get done.

Teddy K is one of the smarter and saner leaders of the Draconis Combine. You wouldn´t want to do anything that might possibly discredit him as future Coordinator.

If anything, the protagonist (and Hanse Davion) should consider bringing Teddy in on at least part of the conspiracy, because having the DC on their side when the Clans strike or ComStar realizes that Hanse is onto them would be a great advantage - and Teddy would be honorable enough not to exploit the situation to Hanse´s detriment.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

mighty midget

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #24 on: 10 July 2018, 17:35:38 »
This is both hilarious and fantastically written.  When I read the intro I started thinking my way through what I'd do... Helm, New Dallas, Comstar and the Dragoons were the first things I thought of.  I'm looking forward to learning what I didn't think of.  Keep it going and we'll all keep reading.
Slavish adherance to formal ritual is a sign that one has nothing better to think about.

ThePW

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #25 on: 10 July 2018, 20:41:41 »
questions... now this takes place in 3026 or 3027. Was Helm owned by the GDL at this time or not until 3028? Were their dependents on planet at this time? Clearly the ripples of AU are expanding here as the GDL will NOT become famous for the Helm Memory Core but will this occurrence cause them to RTB back to Helm to at least investigate?


and Precentor Emilio Rachan… where is he when this capper raid goes down?
« Last Edit: 10 July 2018, 20:43:35 by ThePW »

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #26 on: 10 July 2018, 22:55:28 »
Teddy K is one of the smarter and saner leaders of the Draconis Combine. You wouldn´t want to do anything that might possibly discredit him as future Coordinator.

If anything, the protagonist (and Hanse Davion) should consider bringing Teddy in on at least part of the conspiracy, because having the DC on their side when the Clans strike or ComStar realizes that Hanse is onto them would be a great advantage - and Teddy would be honorable enough not to exploit the situation to Hanse´s detriment.

At minimum he needs removed from the equation. At best he could be made a powerful ally but I doubt it.

ThePW

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #27 on: 10 July 2018, 23:03:17 »
OI? Send Teddy K a telegram outing ALL the known gems would make him greatly indebted to the FEDCOM (as well as ELIMINATING a major danger to the Draconis Combine)

hpackrat

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #28 on: 10 July 2018, 23:10:39 »
The problem isn't Teddy K, its everybody else in the Combine. The only way he's going to change that House is if the Combine suffers through its version of Japan's WW2. The Combine needs to lose so badly that it renounces foreign adventurism & turn mercantile. Helping Teddy K simply isn't worth the headache.

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #29 on: 11 July 2018, 09:06:37 »
And so we come to the end of Book 1 .

I hope to have more written soon given the very positive responses I've gotten to this, but this is a natural stopping pointing for the first part of this story me thinks :)
Enjoy!


Chapter 8: Jump! Go ahead and Jump! Might as well Jump! Go ahead and Jump! Jump!


***
******
***

After that came a week of recharging boredom in a relatively safe uninhabited system, followed by another jump that had us appearing in the Launam system, the Lyran Commonwealth proper where Snords Irregulars of all groups were waiting for us. The Mercs had withdrawn from their own raids on the FWL to here and we swiftly received verified orders that Katrina had ordered them to move with us at least as far as Clinton, for just a bit of extra security.

Cranston Snord was eccentric, not idiotic. One look at the Monoliths, their cargo Dropship parasites and the Davion Heavy Guards heading to Tharkad with the Kell Hounds would surely led him to the natural conclusion that we were what this whole crazy campaign had been about - he was smart enough to know when he was being used as a diversion. He was also smart enough not to make a fuss of it, simply welcoming the Heavy Guards and Kell Hounds back and inviting the senior officers over to his dropship for a private dinner with his command staff - having picked up a load of fresh food from the recharge station only yesterday.
I
would have liked to go. Snord and his people were genuinely people I’d be fascinated to meet -and FRESH FOOD!- but I didn't ask and Ardan didn't offer. There was no reason to have Wolfnet open a file on me just yet and if any alcohol was involved, well, there was a better than even chance I'd probably find it too damn hard to avoid snarking about weather on the Clan Homeworld after I got drunk.

Thank you EdBecerra.

So I sat in my quarters that night chewing on the military rations we still had in plentiful stock. I was brought up to speed the next day at breakfast - Ardan (who aside from me was the only one on the ships who knew of the Clans and Cranston’s full story) noted that Cranston hadn’t pressed anyone on the question of what they had been doing when it was made it clear we couldn’t talk about it. Instead he had regaled them with tales of his little raid on behalf of Katrina.
It was at least
possible the Merc had just wanted to brag. And kudos to him; he had more than earned both the right and his pay from what I heard later.

Snords little war with the FWL (seriously what was it with the original Dragoons starting private wars with Successor States?) had always been I think more about trolling and embarrassing the hell out of Janos and the FWL than trying to kill people or destroy things like Jamies future feud with Takashi. Accordingly, when offered the chance to launch a raid and be paid to troll his nemesis by Davion on top of his Steiner retainer, the predictably cash poor Cranston had leapt at the offer with both hands. His assigned target had been Nestor - a planet they had infamously hit before and one guarded with no less than two Regimental sized units that should have dissuaded any raid.
But while his daughter Rhonda had led the 21st Centauri Lancers and 5th Defenders of Andurien on a wild goose chase with COMINT hints they were after some old Star League cache (talk about irony) in the boonies, her father's command company had moved undetected to emerge above the undefeated capital on the massive rock cliffs that dominated the skyline … and start an art class.


Efficiently, the Mechs had unfolded giant Mech sized stencils before using a fluid gun one of his techs had somehow crammed into an Enforcer, spraying the stencils with a special neon green paint normally used on the exterior of Zero-G installations that was apparently all but impossible to remove short of ripping the rockface out.
Said stencil had then been removed half an hour later, leaving a work of art that would surely go down in history. A giant 30 meter tall figure easily recognizable as Janos Marik. It would no doubt would have been a rather stirring sight … if not for the fact that he was on a knee bowing to a grinning Maximilian Liao, with a smirking ghostly Anton Marik hovering behind the Capellan Leader. With text simply saying ‘The Concord of Kapteyn’


Well, that was about as subtle as an Atlas.

The Irregulars had then packed up and hastily beat a retreat as the chagrined and bewildered Defenders had hurried back to the capital, allowing Rhonda to give the Lancers the slip and for the Mercs to run to their Jumpships, chased by two lances of Aerospace fighters who seemed disinclined to press any attack, probably out of confusion over what the hell was going on.
Then as night had fallen the hilarity had increased by a factor of ten as the paint started to glow rather brightly in the dark, local authorities trying to find some way to cover it up even as hoards of news VTOLs circled overhead and beamed the news out into the wider FWL and tourists showed up snapping pictures.
It probably didn’t help that the CO of the Defenders Regiment was clearly trying not to laugh his ass off in a TV interview about the little raid and the message it pushed that he probably completely agreed with.
Gotta love Free World League politics...


Anyway, our yet again expanded fleet jumped again, slowly moving deeper into the Commonwealth and further away from any realistic pursuit. Jump drives might be slow, but once you were a couple of jumps ahead and committed to keep moving, it was damn near impossible to be caught so I started to feel increasingly secure. Snord tried several more times to get casual conversation going about the raid as the weeks passed - and his questions seemed to cannily zero in on Helm and the legendary cache without explicitly asking. I mean if anyone was likely to have a hint about the cache it would be Snord, but discipline held and no one said anything.
I frankly doubted he knew about the memory core itself, although he probably knew about the Fleet Base and possibly even what was left behind. The memory core however I was pretty sure had only been put in place
after the Exodus fleet left...but why take chances?
At any rate, his ships broke off at Clinton with many promises made to visit his famous museum that was
totally not on a Castle Brian turned Brian Cache he had ‘neglected’ to tell Katrina about (it was a really good thing I had been kept away I think) and we carried onwards on the final leg of our journey.

***
******
***

 
One didn’t, couldn't, have a real appreciation for how horrible space travel was in Battletech until you were stuck in a tin can for two months. Floating around as the ship recharges, jumps, then recharges again over and over. I had never suffered from claustrophobia, but damn if I didn’t come closer than I wanted to admit a couple of times on that ship.
I had to admit some grudging respect for Clanners at that point in time, their trips down the Exodus Road would have been Gods damned nightmares for me.
Maybe because they were born in cans they had no problem with living in them?
Anyway, Katrina managed to set up a command circuit from Clinton to cover the rest of our trip. No small order given the number of dropships we were carrying, but then again what we were carrying pretty much entirely justified getting us to ground sooner rather than later and I wasn’t going to complain about cutting three or four weeks from the trip!

We materialized at the Zenith point at Tharkad to find an Achilles class dropship from the 2nd Royal Guard waiting for us. Greetings were exchanged (along with current AFFS recognition codes) and the usual ballet of ships undocking and forming up into a convoy took place. It did take some time to crawl out of the zenith point however, perhaps unsurprisingly. This was the economic center of gravity of the Lyran Commonwealth and priority clearance or not, it was a seriously busy place with space stations and Jumpships and dropships in every direction and no-one wanted to send a spray of debris through hundreds of billions of kronor worth of Jumpships.
Still, it only took a few hours before we cleared the Zenith perimeter and throttled up for our burn in system, bringing the glorious return of simulated gravity.

Morale was already rather high given what we had accomplished, but it only perked up as we headed for some well-deserved R&R and solid ground. Locally, the arrival of the pride of the Federated Suns alongside the famous Kell Hounds had clearly created a great deal of excitement in-system on the local media. Our unannounced yet officially expected presence was causing no end of excitement. Smarter talking heads seemed to be starting to connect the dots with the confused and bizarre ‘raiding’ on the FWL border, although they only got the same disinterested ‘We neither confirm nor deny these reports’ responses from LCAF press officers when they asked, with the only real statements from the Triad being that the Archon had invited the Davion Heavy Guards who were ‘in the area on joint operations’ to spend Christmas on Tharkad as a gesture of friendship and gratitude to their gallant FedSuns allies bla bla bla.
Still it didn’t take a genius to realize something had happened. The media were quick to point out that one of the finest units in the AFFS and Katrina Steiners personal ‘fix-it guys’ escorting a massive cargo convoy suggested someone was getting a Christmas present this year – which was true enough I supposed. That every other major power would know where the Helm cache had ended up was also inevitable … but I have to admit I took a sadistic pleasure in the fact that a great many Christmas dinners for people in ROM, the ISF and Maskirovka were sure to be completely ruined as they were called into all night crisis meetings...

We reached Tharkad as dawn was breaking over the capital and while the Kell Hounds had gone right in with barely a pause, the Heavy Guards had been held in orbit with the loot for a few hours while final preparations were made and paperwork signed by various players. I mean we were bringing a fully armed RCT of a foreign power down onto the soil of the capital world of the Lyran Commonwealth after all so it wasn’t really surprising … but I suspected that the given reason was mostly an engineered one, to give Katrina politically acceptable cover to get a report from Patrick Kell in person on what had gone down on Helm, given that we had been ‘black’ all the way here. It was really too bad I wouldn’t be able to see the look on her face when Patrick revealed what we had brought her for Christmas this year.

On the plus side, it also let me finally just sit and watch a planet from space in all its glory – with a sunrise over the horizen no less! And it was really something special.
From my recollections, I had half expected Tharkad to look like Hoth. I shouldn't have of course; such a biosphere wouldn't exactly be viable for billions of people to make it their home - it’s kinda hard to photosynthesize when you have no plants after all. So while the planet's polar caps and arctic regions certainly looked quite a bit bigger from orbit than Earth's, most of the planet was actually shades of green and brown with the dark blue of oceans mixed in. Apparently the equatorial regions - mostly reserved for food production on factory farms owned by Megacorps - were quite pleasant all year round thanks to the planets minimal axial tilt, but the capital and most of the population heavy cities were in the ‘snow zones’.
It wasn't exactly the Lands Of Always Winter with White Walkers sulking in the arctic regions dodging patrols of Firestarters or anything, but it was chilly all year round, with only three or so months a year in the capital where there temperatures could be considered even remotely non-freezing. Come to think about it, the location of Tharkad City said a lot about the Lyran mindset in its own way. That there was no such thing as ‘cannot be done’ - just ‘throw resources at it and then throw some more until it works!’

Screw the cost, we would put nature in its place!

Our fleet of dropships when finally cleared didn’t however follow the Kell Hounds in or land at any of the civilian or military spaceports in the capital proper. Instead we were directed by flight control to land a few hundred klicks to the North on the far side of Mount Wotan. This was the ‘Victoria Steiner Military Reserve’; a military staging ground used by the LCAF for both major exercises and to house visiting units swinging through the capital for this or that reason. The entire region was under a no-fly zone from ground to orbit and totally secure on the ground, with underground warehouses on a Star League Lyran scale more than sufficient to hold our loot and house the troops, making it both protected from observation and somewhat more discreet than plonking down in Tharkad City.
I for one was looking forward to the whispered stories of real beds and real food and real showers that awaited us in the Promised Land … when Ardan took me aside and told me to get dressed formally, the shore party to go and meet the brass had just been announced.

And it was minimal. Very minimal. As in just Ardan Sortek, Ran Felnser … and me.

I had protested initially at my inclusion - until I was told that the request had come from the highest authority. Ergo, it really wasn't a request.
Not good.
The only reason Katrina Steiner would ask me to tag along would be because Hanse had sent her secure messages about me – probably even hand delivered. So I really hoped he hadn’t forwarded everything to her. My less than flattering comments about her sister's future loyalty might make things a tad awkward…oh God, what if Nondi Steiner herself was present?

I tried not to think about it as I waited in the airlock, fiddling with my cufflinks. The new suit I was wearing was, I felt, a very nice piece of work. It was the work of the Davion Palace tailors (yes they had a permanent tailor team on staff) who had taken my 21st century business suit and closely copied it with just a few 31st century flourishes -and far superior luxury fabrics. It fit like a glove and I thought looked rather slick … but it also ensured I stuck out like a sore thumb next to the two AFFS officers in their dashing dress uniforms, medals and spurs.

Oh well, nothing to be done for that now. There was a clunk and a hiss from the other side of the airlock we were standing in and a status board went from yellow to green as a gantry in the docking ring wall locked onto the ship's hatch - a feature I was rather grateful for given the snow I had seen outside on the ships monitors. The hatch now opened and agreeably warm air mixed with ours as we stepped out and I could just make out a single figure waiting for us-

“Roman!” Felnser greeted the figure in surprise and pleasure, stepping forward and extending a hand with a broad smile. “Didn’t think you’d be here to greet us! I thought Katrina had sent you back to the border with the Third Guards?”

“That was the original plan, yes” the man said in perfect if mildly accented English, taking the hand and shaking it firmly. “But the Archon seems to have other ideas for me” he noted turning to smile at Ardan and offer him his hand - although it was hard to see through the two towering Mechwarriors. “Colonel Sortek, a genuine pleasure to meet you at last”.

“Likewise General” Ardan agreed, stepping forward to take the hand and shake it firmly. “Ran speaks very highly of you and your men. That flanking attack down the Whitecap River you pulled off was put into the textbooks at NAMA and Albion almost as soon as we heard of it”.

“The Marshal is perhaps too modest of his own performance in that battle” the General downplayed his own actions with a tolerant smile. “But that was quite the engagement I must say”.

“Indeed” Ardan agreed before stepping forward into the docking arm to the dropship to make room for me as I stepped forward, Ardan gesturing at me. “And this is-”

“Herr Smith, I presume” the LCAF General smoothly broke in as he turned to appraise me, smoothly clicking his heels and offering me a bow before offering his hand. “It is a true pleasure - there has been a great deal of talk about you in the Archons inner circle over the last week”.

Well that was a warning if I had ever heard one.
I wasn’t taken aback by his reaction and recognition, after all Katrina Steiner had insisted I come along. But it sounded like a great deal of information about me had made its way to Katrina Steiner-
Wait.
Hang on.
Roman? That had to make this-

“The pleasure is mine General Steiner” I responded smoothly as I wracked my brains for what I could remember of Roman Steiner, which wasn’t much. Except that he had been a very competent officer in the LCAF and then AFFC. Always nice to see someone from the LCAF side of the fence kicking ass and all that.

“Welcome to Tharkad, all of you. If you’ll follow me” Roman continued after releasing my hand, clearly unphased by my revelation of his identity (or perhaps thinking I had simply read the silver and gold name plate on his chest I belatedly noticed) as he gestured down to the docking bag proper.
"I, the Baron of Strang, care not for your new names. Clans? Jade Falcons? I call you by your true name: Scum of the Star League, traitors of free will, persecutors of the Periphery come back to lord it over freedom-loving people. Come ahead, you steel-eyed robots! Come ahead and taste what a million like-minded people think of you and your damn Clans!"

-Baron Stepan Von Strang