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Author Topic: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic  (Read 72940 times)

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #30 on: 11 July 2018, 09:06:54 »
-CONT-

We followed the General from the ramp to a lift that dropped us to below the tarmac level and from there we hopped onto an internal tramline of sorts along which we rolled to the main HQ building. The three officers made small talk as they went, with Roman confirming a grand ballroom at this base sufficient to fit the entire RCT was ready and waiting to give all RCTs troops a five course meal, in about three hours. And that a luxury barracks had been prepared to ensure every man and woman would have a real bed to sleep in with unlimited hot water showers and so on because the LCAF did like their comforts at home.
God I would kill for one of those beds right now…
Felnser thanked Roman on behalf of his RCT, with Ardan noting dryly that after months of dropship rations, he suspected the troops would have gladly charged the 2nd Sword of Light armed with sticks and rocks to get their hands on a decent meal and good bed.

Soon enough small talk shifted to more strategic matters. No questions came about our mission, but again, Patrick Kell surely briefed Katrina and her staff on everything already. Instead Roman kindly spent the time filling them in on what they had missed while out on the raid. It seemed that the diversionary attacks had gone off even better than I could had hoped; civilian damage and combat losses both negligible, with the FWLM caught flat footed by the attacks that had been carefully aimed away from critical strategic targets and wildly uninterested in really shooting much up at all. Our little raid had thus been counted as just one more until reports of a missing sea reappearing on Helm had started to appear on Atraus and Stewart. First earning flat ‘WTF’ responses and then a slowly growing investigation eventually stumbling onto the landing zones of our dropships and multiple regiments of burned out APCs in neat little clusters and SAFE coming in to investigate. By which point our units were already two jumps into Lyran space and moving deeper.

When it worked in your favour, 3025 Battletechs OODA sloth on the strategic scale was a glorious thing.

Roman had also brought news from the Federated Suns. The Wolf Dragoons Alpha Regiment had attempted a raid on Barlow's End, alongside elements of a new DCMS unit known as the Ryuken. They had skirmished for a time with the elite Eridani Light Horse and white Witches along with a couple of other small detachments such as the Fox’s Teeth before pulling out. Word from DMI passed to LIC was that the Mercs and DCMS units had been surprisingly sloppy, uncoordinated in a way that suggested friction between command elements.
That sounded about on the money for the events as described in Wolves on the Border … except that I did not remember anything about the Fox’s Teeth being involved. Or any other units for that matter other than the two Merc commands.
Conclusion; Hanse Davion was plotting something. Shocking, truly.

I was broken out of my musing when the tram came to a halt and we double timed it up some stairs into a large atrium. Here the base bustled with activity but Roman led us through the crowds smoothly, nodding at the flurry of salutes he generated in passing as we headed for the skyscraper at the core of the base. We passed through a security checkpoint in front of a bank of lifts, but the guards just waved us through, clearly expecting us. A quick elevator trip up thirty floors to one clearly labeled ‘VIP receiving lounge’ and we stepped out into a richly decorated anteroom filled with officers … including one in the olive-green uniform of an AFFS Field Marshal who stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of Steiner blue.
Salutes flew everywhere and I belatedly recognized the man across from me as Stephen Davion, the acting commander of the Davion Guards Brigade.

Was he was the man Hanse had sent out to brief Katrina?

In a whirlwind of orders, Ran and Roman split off to join Stephen and a gaggle of other flag officers, leaving Ardan and I behind as they moved to a door at one end of this little antechamber which slid open at their approach. A roar of conversation flooded out (along with the distinct smell of cigars) and I spied what seemed to be a large officer's filled to capacity inside. Moments later, a thundering round of applause started - cutting off a second later as the doors shut.
But before I could ask what was going on, I found myself ushered forward with Ardan through the heavily guarded doors directly in front of me guarded oddly by-

Ah. That was why 1st Davion and 1st Royal soldiers were standing around outside this door.

Hanse Davion was casually lounging in a not-quite-throne chair chatting animatedly with a very striking woman, who was also at ease in a not-quite-throne chair next to him. A quartet of other people in a mixture of uniforms and civilian clothes were sitting around the table in polite silence - but otherwise the room was empty of people despite the table being big enough to easily fit a dozen. Flawless floor to ceiling glass walls to the left and right offered a spectacular view of the military spaceport and hoard of dropships dotting the place … and that was about all the time I had to take in the situation as I braced myself.

Well, here we go again...

“Ah, Colonel Sortek, welcome back to Tharkad” Katrina Steiner greeted Ardan with a warm smile at the AFFS officer who stepped forward to offer her a bow and state how happy he was to be back. Sounding entirely genuine about it too.
Okay, I couldn’t help it as I stood there watching the two exchange greetings. My entirely inappropriate first thought upon seeing the ruler of the Lyran Commonwealth as she and Ardan renewed their acquaintance … was that she really was a Mega-MILF.

I immediately gave myself a mental Gibs Slap.

While Ardan was talking, I took a second to note the presence of the various people present on the other two sides of the table. Patrick Kell was sitting two seats down on ‘Katrinas’ side of the table and he was studying me a lot more closely than before - I suspect if he was in here with this group he had been led in on ‘the secret’. Nonetheless he offered me a reassuring smile. Next to him was a woman wearing an LCAF duty uniform, whose glitzy Steiner Cross and clear resemblance to Katrina -to say nothing of the way her eyes narrowed in not quite hostility at me - meant two things.

One. This could only be Nondi Steiner and Two, Hanse had provided the full report.
Joy.
Perhaps I should have used language other than ‘Later will blindly follow whoever waves the TRUE STEINER banner hardest even if said person first carefully covers said banner in excrement’…

On the other side of the table was Quintus Allard and next to him was a man looking equally as nonchalant in a business suit, whom I guessed was probably Simon Johnson, the head of the Lyran Intelligence Corps.
And I had this rather select group’s complete and undivided attention. You know, short of standing in front of the First Circuit doing standup comedy about a war between blenders and toasters, I couldn’t think of many crowds tougher than this one…
Having finished exchanging pleasantries with his host, Ardan saluted his Prince and then took the seat he was gestured to, opposite the ruler of the Federated Suns, leaving me the sole focus of the entire room

“And Mister Smith - our welcome to you as well” Katrina called to me as her icy blue eyes settled upon me.

“Archon” I offered her a respectful sort of bow as we studied each other for a moment. I didn’t move, feeling that I had not been invited to sit down as yet as she studied me and I studied her.

Yup, total MILF - damnit John, STOP THAT! Bad mind! Bad!

“Prince Davion has told me a great many things about you” she continued after a moment, her eyes focused like lasers that burned away any happy thoughts in a flash. “Things that are utterly impossible and yet” she gestured to the window where our dropships were starting to gather a light dusting of late afternoon snow on their hulls, “here we are”.

I considered that not quite statement, not quite question, for a moment, wondering if she wanted some kind of sign from me. I toyed with several before deciding that it would be far better to keep my mouth shut and simply inclined my head briefly, which earned me in turn a simple gesture to the remaining empty chair next to Ardan, opposite both rulers. I gave Hanse a nod of greeting that was returned and I sat down, determined to keep my mouth shut and present the smallest possible target.

“Colonel Kell” Katrina nodded at her cousin-in-law, “has briefed us on the events on Helm. Prince Davion and I will be holding a joint announcement of our operation tomorrow at midday. However I wanted to take the chance to reflect on the events and how they pertain to our future strategies”.

“Has the Free World League retaliated to our raids?” Ardan asked first.

“Not as yet, no” Nondi said. They still seem to be trying to figure out exactly what happened. They’ve moved the 23rd Marik Militia to Helm and they are maintaining a defensive alert on the border, but right now there is just confusion bouncing back and forth between Atreus and the provinces”.

“Any reaction from ComStar?” I asked then - my number one concern.

“Officially, no” Katrina shook her head once, which did highly distracting things with her blond hair - stop that! “Although it would be rare as a matter of policy for ComStar to comment about these kinds of skirmishes between the Great Houses”.

Unofficially” Simon Johnson joined the conversation, “Precentor Tharkad and Precentor New Avalon have both been recalled to Terra for a ‘routine meeting of the First Circuit’ which suggests that ComStar have figured it out - or at least strongly suspect what happened. Quintus and I” he nodded at the head of MIIO who nodded back “are already carefully placing information that, with a little investigation by ROM, will show that while we took considerable war material, we failed in our primary objective of recovering the data core. And that the self-destruction of the cache was the result of a failed attempt to disarm the security systems. Hopefully, it will preclude any immediate action from ComStar, but we will be taking precautions none the less”.

“Any plans for the military hardware as yet?” I asked the Archon in curiosity before wondering if I was overstepping my grounds here. After all when you really got down to it, I was really just a source of information for these people, not advice. She was the ruler of hundreds upon hundreds of worlds and hundreds of billions of people and at least in Battletechs point of view, perhaps the greatest ruler of a Successor State in history - present company included.
Nonetheless, my question elicited no negative reaction from anyone in the room.

“Nothing solid as yet - I expect after tomorrow when news inevitably leaks, I’ll have most of the flag officers on Tharkad pounding on my door to ask for everything, probably accompanied by half the Estates Generals trying to advance this or that agenda” Katrina sighed. Then she considered me and tilted her head a fraction. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“I always have suggestions - even when I should keep my mouth shut” I noted, earning a raised eyebrow from Katrina and grin from Hanse Davion.

“Given that you’ve proven your unique bonafides in a rather spectacular fashion Mister Smith, I’d certainly submit that if anyone has earned the right to give me suggestions on what to do with the haul, it would be you” the Archon noted as she leaned back, gesturing me to continue.

I cleared my throat before deciding that Katrina was, from what I ‘knew’, one hell of a straight shooter who appreciated honest and direct advice and abhorred both kiss asses and indecisive time wasters. So...

“Use the gear to rebuild and recommission the Fourth Royal Guards as a new Regimental Combat Team” I said straight up and the slightly amused look vanished from her face. Nondi seemed to recoil slightly before getting control of herself as did Patrick - although Simon Johnson remained as neutral as ever, while Hanse looked genuinely intrigued.
In for a penny…
“Bring back the Pride of the Commonwealth to symbolically ‘complete’ the LCAF before you go into the alliance with House Davion” I continued. “Use the action to draw a line under the declines of the Succession Wars and make it clear that the LCAF will rise on their own to become worthy peers to the AFFS, not be dragged up by them. And as a bonus, cause Takashi Kurita some sleepless nights thinking that an elite unit with Royal grade SLDF technology and an enormous hateboner for the Combine is now sitting on his border, biding its time...”

My rather bold suggestion seemed to have stunned the room into silence for a long, long moment.

“Rebuild the Fourth…” Katrina finally said softly, her gaze distant as she carefully took the idea and started to examine something she had probably dismissed as nonsense at first and I could guess where she was coming from. The 4th had been a symbol for the LCAF for almost two centuries now - almost to the point of being a minor sacrilege to even consider touching it … and yet that could make it an even more powerful gesture - if used correctly.
And if there was anyone who understood the value of ideas and how to use them, it was Katrina bloody Steiner.

“It would be one hell of a symbol” Patrick took up the discussion, his eyes focused intently on Katrina, his voice sounding as if the idea had caught his imagination. “And even more of a statement. Not to mention providing a bulletproof reason to keep control of all the advanced technology - concentrated in a way not even Lestrade would dare whine about”.

“The LCAF would love it - and that’s putting it mildly” Nondi joined the conversation, her own eyes gleaming with a sudden intensity as the idea seemed to take hold of the room. “No-one in the Estates Generals would dare speak against the idea - and the news would indeed probably scare the pants off the Dracs if we made it clear that these are going to be the best people you can find for the job”.

Well Nondi was more optimistic than I - there would always be an idiot who spoke against things, but I think it was safe to suggest that doing so would be a very bad idea.

Katrina though just sat in silent thought through the exchange before she glanced at me once again, her eyes impossible to read.

“This happened in the … original timeline?” she asked me carefully.

“Yes” I nodded - “although not until quite some time in the future” I noted, without telling her it was in fact sixty years in the future. But the gesture had scored Adam Steiner huge kudos from the LCAF and civilian population, so, why not give it a shot? “Suffice to say it was a wildly popular gesture and they became the flagship unit of the LCAF”.

“You certainly think big, Mister Smith” she finally said “and are not shy about turning over tables” as her eyes bored into me making me feel about an inch high. “Perhaps because you still see this, all of this, as a ‘table-top’ game … but damn me if the idea doesn’t fire the imagination” she said, releasing me from her stare as she turned to her sister decisively. “Put together a working group, quietly, to look at how we would make this work”.

“I know just the person” Nondi nodded confidently as she scribbled a note in her papers. “I’ll tap Edward Regis - and he would also be my recommendation for command if we did go ahead” Nondi said. “It would nominally be a demotion from his current position ... but the chance to rebuild the 4th Royal Guards and then lead them? Using them as a showpiece for what the LCAF can do? He’ll be on his knees begging you for the chance. Otherwise I’d suggest Fredrick, but…” she finished with a glance at me for a brief second, clearly having read my notes on that wonderfully contradictory man's future.

Katrina nodded, then turned to face Hanse.

“If I’m going to use this unit as, as Mister Smith suggests, it would be rather counterproductive to rebuild forth entirely out of Assaults. So I’ll trade you … let's say a company of Assaults for the Battalion of mixed lights and fast mediums you got from the cache”.

“Three companies for four Lances” Hanse immediately countered her offer.
Katrina smiled like a loan shark.

“The full battalion for five lances - and I can borrow Andrew Redburn and another dozen handpicked Light Guards officers for the next four years as exchange officers” she said with a sweet smile.

“Done!” Hanse agreed with a sharp nod and Katrina took his extended hand and shook it firmly.

“Thank you Hanse” she smiled again. “Now” she continued, turning her attention back to me, “any more out of the box thinking for us, Mister Smith?”

Discarded pizza boxes are an invaluable source of cheese I wanted to snark for no clear reason. Probably stress. Holy hell that single look from Katrina had intimidated me more than the entire first meeting with Hanse Davion. But then she wasn’t considered a political mastermind beyond even Hanse for no reason.
“Plenty - but none pertinent to the current discussions Archon” I said instead.

“Very well - next on the agenda is strategic threats” and now Katrina's gaze bore into me in a way that finally killed even the slightest desire to snark. “Mister Smith; we are going to start with the planet Odessa and the ‘Ruins of Gabriel’. I have quite a few questions around the ruling family of a world who would bow to Tharkad … and kneel to Terra…"

Thus ends Book 1 of ‘This Was Easier on the Tabletop’.

Book Two – ‘Your toast appears to be on fire…’
"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 #31 on: 11 July 2018, 09:24:34 »
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?


This is taking place in later 3026. If I'm correct about the timing (I could be wrong) the Grey Death Legion RIGHT about this time are back on Galatea flush with salvage and rebuilding themselves and negotiating for a landhold.

They are probably as of the end of this chapter on their way to Helm to take formal possession of their landhold (now with plenty of new Beach Front property!) and will arrive right into the middle of a shitstorm of locking gates to keep horses that have long since bolted inside. But their dependents will be at least happy that the planets main hospital in Helmsdown is surprisingly well equipped for such a backwater planet!

Quote

and Precentor Emilio Rachan… where is he when this capper raid goes down?

Carefully putting the finishing touches to execute his plans in some nice corner office in Cairo. Unaware that in twenty minutes, he is going to get a sudden 'report to Hilton Head, your presence is requested by the Primus and a drop shuttle is waiting at Pad-8'. And these nice people from Rho/Omicron will escort you there!
"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

Sir Chaos

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #32 on: 11 July 2018, 09:59:17 »
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.

The problem isn´t Teddy K. That is correct. The problem is the extremists, such as the Black Dragon Society.

Teddy K would be a massive obstacle to removing the DC from the Succession Wars equation - which isn´t a problem if that is not your goal. Teddy K is the perfect Coordinator to face the Clan Invasion, however, if you do not want the DC to collapse (which it probably would have, had Hanse not sent the Hounds and Dragoons to defend Luthien).

A Teddy K who owes Hanse his life, his throne and his realm, because Hanse warned him about the Black Dragon Society´s machinations and the impending Clan invasion, could be a powerful ally. At worst, he would be a guarantee that, as canonically, the DC would not backstab the FC while the threat of the Clans remains. At best, he might be the next step to the end of the Succession Wars.

So, give him all relevant information about the Black Dragon Society and about ComStar´s intentions right now, ideally in a way that allows him to verify enough of it that he trusts it all. Maybe also tell him how certain people are trying to screw with Wolf´s Dragoons, so that perhaps he can avoid all the unpleasantness towards the end of "Wolves on the Border".

That sort of information will be urgent, useful and verifiable enough that, when you someday tell him about the impending arrival of the Clans, he´ll be inclined to believe you.
"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

Dave Talley

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #33 on: 11 July 2018, 14:40:20 »
"My entirely inappropriate first thought upon seeing the ruler of the Lyran Commonwealth as she and Ardan renewed their acquaintance … was that she really was a Mega-MILF.
I immediately gave myself a mental Gibs Slap"


LOL!!!
glad i was alone when that popped up
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
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Tegyrius

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #34 on: 11 July 2018, 19:13:34 »
Hilarity ensues.  :)  Keep it up - this is entertaining as heck.
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

Sir Chaos

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #35 on: 12 July 2018, 16:04:57 »
I just had another idea... what about contacting Jaime Wolf and letting him know, firstly, that Hanse is completely aware of who the Dragoons really are, and secondly, what the DC has in store for them?
"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

DOC_Agren

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #36 on: 12 July 2018, 16:33:32 »
But would Jaime Believe it?

No the next stop should be Outreach and look for the "sites" that we know the Wolf's wanted.
"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!"

Sir Chaos

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #37 on: 12 July 2018, 16:59:28 »
But would Jaime Believe it?

No the next stop should be Outreach and look for the "sites" that we know the Wolf's wanted.

Jaime might not believe what he is told about the events of "Wolves on the Border", because there is no way for Hanse to know that. But if he is told that Hanse knows about the Clans, which Hanse has no way of knowing about, either, he´ll take the other stuff seriously, I think. Furthermore, there should be something on "Wolves on the Border" that gives the Dragoons a starting point for verifying the rest.
"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

marauder648

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #38 on: 12 July 2018, 17:07:39 »
Damn excellent writing! You nail the characters and the humour and snark of the SI is a wonderful counter to the oppressive courtly goings on and horse trading.
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

chongobongo

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #39 on: 12 July 2018, 21:16:10 »
don't often say much on the forum but , WOW what a great story keep it up .  :clap: :clap: :clap:

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #40 on: 13 July 2018, 14:42:55 »
I just had another idea... what about contacting Jaime Wolf and letting him know, firstly, that Hanse is completely aware of who the Dragoons really are, and secondly, what the DC has in store for them?

That's kinda a rock and a hard place. The Dragoon fued with the combine went a long way tord making the 4th war possible especially since Michael held back the Cappelan march troops. Acting now might preserve some Dragoons strength but could make the overall coming war much harder. Besides without Misery the Riuken will be at full strength for the 4th war.

paulobrito

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #41 on: 13 July 2018, 15:31:25 »
Amazing SI. :thumbsup:
Please, please continue.

So - points of interest / future visits: New Dallas (Hegemony Core), Odessa - very dangerous place because Comstar is present and most probable have operational warships there. And after SW4 - before 'gifting' Outreach to WD, extract all of the nice toys that exist there.Don't forget about Niops Association - they have a lot of useful data.
Question - the Hegemony core have the blueprints of the Nighthawks ? If not, the Niops Association have - and is a very useful thing to have against ROM.
« Last Edit: 13 July 2018, 15:46:06 by paulobrito »

Sir Chaos

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #42 on: 13 July 2018, 16:00:36 »
That's kinda a rock and a hard place. The Dragoon fued with the combine went a long way tord making the 4th war possible especially since Michael held back the Cappelan march troops. Acting now might preserve some Dragoons strength but could make the overall coming war much harder. Besides without Misery the Riuken will be at full strength for the 4th war.

That feud might still exist - but enough forewarning, the Dragoons might be able to get their dependants out of the Combine in time. I assume that neither the dependant nor the transport capacity needed to move them are strictly speaking under contract with the DC, so the Dragoons could quietly evacuate them into the Federated Suns before the shit hits the fan.

Besides, with both the carrot of enough forewarning to evacuate their dependants, and the stick of exposing the Dragoons as Clan spies, Hanse just *might* be able to get them to break their contract over how the DC has treated them, and accept a new contract from him - *that* will definitely get the feud going.


Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.
« Last Edit: 13 July 2018, 16:02:41 by Sir Chaos »
"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

Dave Talley

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #43 on: 13 July 2018, 17:44:27 »
a fleet of jumpships pop into needed system
a message from Davion, we can help, will explain later
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 #44 on: 13 July 2018, 18:43:04 »
That feud might still exist - but enough forewarning, the Dragoons might be able to get their dependants out of the Combine in time. I assume that neither the dependant nor the transport capacity needed to move them are strictly speaking under contract with the DC, so the Dragoons could quietly evacuate them into the Federated Suns before the shit hits the fan.

Besides, with both the carrot of enough forewarning to evacuate their dependants, and the stick of exposing the Dragoons as Clan spies, Hanse just *might* be able to get them to break their contract over how the DC has treated them, and accept a new contract from him - *that* will definitely get the feud going.


Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.

The feud centers on Tetshauras death. No Misery no death no feud.

ThePW

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #45 on: 13 July 2018, 21:57:58 »
Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.
can you say Daishi-spam? I think Outreach has manufacturing capacity, not stored Battlemechs...

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #46 on: 13 July 2018, 22:07:24 »
can you say Daishi-spam? I think Outreach has manufacturing capacity, not stored Battlemechs...

Yep it wasn't in perfect condition but it was a factory.

Red Pins

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #47 on: 14 July 2018, 01:50:31 »
Tagged.

...And you had better remember to post this as a pdf after you finish it.  This is on a par with Drakensis' 'Davion and Davion (Deceased) story.
...Visit the Legacy Cluster...
The New Clans:Volume One
Clan Devil Wasp * Clan Carnoraptor * Clan Frost Ape * Clan Surf Dragon * Clan Tundra Leopard
Now with MORE GROGNARD!  ...I think I'm done.  I've played long enough to earn a pension, fer cryin' out loud!  IlClan and out in <REDACTED>!
Glitter - the herpes of the craft supply world.

mikecj

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #48 on: 15 July 2018, 06:45:46 »
It would have been fun to see Snord after hearing Smith say how Helm used to be a land of dreams... and such a pleasant place to visit on behalf of the Davion clan... and such a trial to see such a place brought low...
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

snakespinner

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #49 on: 18 July 2018, 05:08:53 »
Just read through chapter 1. Great read, really looking forward to chapter 2. :beer:
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

wolfcannon

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #50 on: 20 July 2018, 17:50:20 »
tagged
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
                                        Omicron Galaxy
Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #51 on: 20 July 2018, 17:56:01 »
Need more

mikecj

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #52 on: 20 July 2018, 22:48:18 »
Nondi's reaction and Smith's evaluation of her were great
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Starfox1701

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #53 on: 21 July 2018, 03:50:08 »
I'm still laughing at the mental Gibbs smack.

Motsognir

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #54 on: 25 July 2018, 18:06:33 »
This is excellent work, I love a good SI. I’m looking forward to the next book.

Chris OFarrell

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Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
« Reply #55 on: 10 August 2018, 21:59:36 »
TLDR version I decided that I couldn't end Book 1 *there*
So I decided to tie it up a bit better, then go for a bit of a timeskip of a few years.

Then mission creep of course set in.

So this is chapter 9 which is half of the 'end' of Book 1, which in the next few days hopefully will be followed by Chapter 10.

Enjoy!

***

Chapter 9: Hell Hath no Fury...

‘And so this is Christmas’, as the song went.
Or just about.
December 3026 to be specific.
But … this
wasn't Christmas.

Christmas was the Australian summer. Gloriously hot days with a family BBQ running around the backyard as a kid, followed by presents and cousins and all that fun stuff. It had been dressing in shorts and a T-shirt and spraying super soakers and hoses around if it was one of those REALLY hot days. It was about good food and a million little things from Christmas carols to various well-loved movies and TV shows that came on.

And now I had none of that.

I had felt homesick at different times of course. But Tharkad really drove that home for me in a way it hadn’t exactly hit me before. Which was ironic because if there was a place that was as unlike an ‘Australian’ Christmas as possible, it was Tharkad.
I mean,
Elsa would have taken one look at city and handed over her title of Snow Queen to Katrina on the spot had she seen this much powder.

Most of all though, snow and temperature aside … it wasn’t Christmas because I didn’t have any family, didn't have anyone to share it with.

But then, perhaps for all my secret knowledge about BattleTech, I might be somewhat blind for seeing what was in front of my face.


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


The meeting with the Powers that Be extended for another three hours, of which I stayed for two as we discussed the raid on Helm, its after effects and some of the more pressing issues Katrina wanted to bring up.
ComStar were a major -arguably the major - topic of conversation, which wasn’t terribly surprising given that Katrina had just found out one of her worlds was in essence under ComStar de facto control. So much so the order was able to operate a naval base deep in the outer system with near impunity.

Unfortunately there were not any really good options for dealing with the ‘Ruins of Gabriel’ as the former SLDF base was called (seriously who the ****** named it that?). I simply didn’t know enough about the structure of the Hidden Worlds at this point in time to give her solid intelligence on how they fit in with the rest of the order - especially communications lines and probable response times. I knew the Primus was ultimately in command of them and surely the current Precentor ROM had his part to play too. But how much of an active link there was with the rest of the order as opposed to the implied extreme compartmentalization the order practiced ? Well, their guess was as good as mine. I mean there was a solid chance ‘Gabriel’ was in mothballs with just a caretaker crew and being used as a ROM transit station with 90% of the ComGuard fleet in mothballs … or it could be a major hub of the explorer corps, who knew?

Could the LCAF chance a special forces blitz to sneak in, seize the base and loot the hell out of it without word getting out?
Possibly.
Could I offer any guarantees over it?
Hell no.

Accordingly, Katrina was convinced to let the system and its secrets be for now, as much as it clearly grated on her to leave ComStar so flagrantly violating her realm. The cold truth was that, for now, we had to just grin and bare it dealing with the toasters although Simon Johnson and Quintus Allard assured their bosses they were working on short, medium and long term answers to the ComStar conundrum, so the phone company issue was parked for now to discuss other more immediate I might be able to offer commentary on, starting with the Genyosha and re-emergence of Yorinaga Kurita … which bizarrely everyone at the table seemed to take as a grave threat.

I think I actually earned, possibly against her will, a grin from Nondi Steiner by daring to roll my eyes when asked about the threat, scoffing that one Mechwarrior was hardly an existential threat to the Federated Commonwealth nations. And that if you had to face him, there were perfectly valid workarounds to the so-called Phantom Mech ability. From the brute force approach of dedicating a headhunter lance of fast brawlers (Chargers if you could find them) to chase him down and rip his Warhammer open with their bare hands while you dealt with his support, to simply performing grid square removal with artillery and air strikes while he was inside said grid square.
I didn’t bother to go into deeper options that had been speculated in far too many threads on the internet - like my favorite of turning sidecar medium lasers on Marauders into glorified targeting laser pointers a GM in an RPG had allowed me once - or finding a half competent programmer to reprogram the targeting system to do optical reference targeting. And I knew the latter was possible because Dan Allard managed to jury rig such a solution on the fly (and seemingly never bothered to tell anyone about it) but honestly, I got the feeling I was arguing uphill here against a room full of Mechwarriors who saw Yorinaga as the devil and Morgan as their savior.
So, I was unsurprised when Patrick announced he would have Salome take the Hounds back to Pacifica after the New Year but he would go to see Morgan and bring him back to lead the Hounds into this long delayed showdown.
His grave decision got the expected solemn nods from around the table.
I, meanwhile, was proud that I didn’t roll my eyes at the whole air of ‘You cannot escape your destiny; you must face Darth Vader again!’ ... but a pointed look from Hanse -who was clearly reading my mind- kept my mouth firmly shut.

And yet … I had to admit feeling happy for the idea of Patrick being the one to go and get his brother this time. Instead of the duty falling to Dan Allard who also got to tell Morgan his brother died fighting the fight he ran away from.
Now this was a butterfly; Patrick and Morgan Kell together once again; the two Kell Hounds facing down the DCMS together and beyond into the future. Hell, perhaps Christian and Patrick could take Phelan more in hand-

Oh ******! I had totally forgotten about Christian Kell!

Did I butterfly him - no, he was conceived at the start of this year, I think, before any butterflies from me should have hit. But glancing across at the troubled expression on Patrick’s face at the thought of his brothers nemesis coming out of retirement, I decided to hold on that thought for now until I could quietly discuss it and the implications of springing an illegitimate son on Patrick, on far wiser people than I.
Shaking off the implications, I heard Katrina ask me if there were any other issues I felt needed addressing here and now and I took the opportunity to inquire about the New Dallas operation status.
Memory cores! Gotta catch’em all!

The response was both disappointing and yet satisfactory at the same time. The simple answer was that no-one expected any outcomes on that mission for at least another few months at the earliest, more likely half a year. Apparently due to my annoyingly vague memory that there was some kind of sensor tripwire and automated HPG in-system that would scream ‘INTRUDER ALERT!’ to Terra if someone came in obviously to the planet, the DMI team sent were taking a very covert entry method that could best be described as ‘pretend to be space junk and drift your way in cold' from a nonstandard jump point. It was a technique apparently incredibly effective against the kind of passive systems they were expecting to come up against. But equally, it was incredibly slow.
Having just been trapped on a dropship for months, I really felt for the poor bastards, but was assured these people were professionals who could handle it. And they had one of the few FAX machines NAIS had painstakingly hand built that LIC and DMI were listening for if they needed help, so I suppose now we just had to wait and see what they came up with.

Anyway, by this point in time the sun had well and truly set outside the massive windows as time rolled on and so my participation in this conference was ended. The other people in the room had quite a few other things to talk about for the next hour or so until the bigass feast took place, so I was ushered downstairs to wait in a secure but comfortable room with some more light snacks. An hour later the power duo swung by to visit me on their way to get changed into uniform for the RCT feast … to tell me I wouldn’t be part of it.
But not to worry, the Archon was extending me an invitation for me to stay at the Royal Palace: one of the three buildings that made up ‘The ‘Triad’! Or, to put it more accurately, I was going to be put on ice there until after the chaos of Christmas had passed. At which point I would be formally debriefed by a chosen LIC team.

It made me feel a bit like one of Hanse Davions toys that his friend was asking if she could play with, I must admit. Sure Katrina did technically ask me for my agreement, but it was sort of a Hobson’s choice really. Like I was going to say no to her!
Okay, I admit it - the woman intimidated me! How the ****** morons like Lestrade and her cousin thought they would ever get away with crossing her after meeting her in person…

Anyway, Hanse and Katrina had remained to go celebrate with the rest of the task force that evening - after a brief face to face with all the people in the task force who knew about the memory core to, inside a shielded room, make it jointly clear (after profusely congratulating them on getting the memory core out clean and safely) that there was no memory core….
I meanwhile was shuffled off quietly onto an unmarked fusion-jet due to fly back to Tharkad City by Simon Johnson and Quintus Allard. An LIC special, the VTOL took the difficulties of trying to bug a noisy aircraft and quite deliberately increased them with passive and active countermeasures to the point that the cabin was so noisy we had to put on ear protectors - which doubled as a closed direct hard link comms system which was switched on when we reached cruising altitude.

“John, I haven't had the opportunity yet so I’d like to add my congratulations to those of the Prince and Archon for what you accomplished on Helm” Quintus started as he reached over to pull his folio folder deal out of his locked attaché case ... and begun the process of carefully unlocking it in turn.

“And my congratulations too” Simon Johnson added. “We have validated the memory cores authenticity and sheer scope of its database; suffice to say you have just casually altered the course of history and changed the balance of power in the Inner Sphere. Very, very well done”.

“I wouldn’t go that far” I said, gesturing with a hand quickly. “Even in the original timeline, the NAIS got a copy of the core less than five years from now. I just ‘fast forwarded’ things a bit really - and I had a lot of help, my presence was mostly superfluous in the raid”.

“Perhaps, perhaps not” Johnson shrugged, studying me with a practiced ease that was as penetrating as it was nonchalantly friendly. “Although based on your statements on New Avalon, reports from Helm and those of the NAIS tech team; the ‘original timeline’ core would have taken considerable time and resources to extract data from revived ‘raw’ as it were. Not to mention” he added with a cold smile and gleam in his eye, “that while in that ‘original timeline’ all the Great Houses eventually got their hands on a copy of the core ... this time, it’s ours alone and without anyone knowing we even have it”.

“Precisely” Quintus agreed, sharing a sinister smile with Johnson that made the interior of the VTOL feel a tad chilly as the two spymasters engaged in some very rare and unprofessional gloating before their masks kicked back in and their expressions smoothed back out. “And we’re going to run with that edge you’ve given us for a while. The Archon and First Prince have both decided that 3027 will be the ‘year of silence’. Simon and I will be spending the time quietly scattering multiple redundant offline backups of the core across the Federated Commonwealth. Ultra-secure locations, black sites and rather more unassuming places that will make absolutely sure there can be no Holy Shroud type scenario against us. Meanwhile, NAIS will be getting to work with a focus on reproducing proof of concepts of Star League era machine tools, computers and fabrication techniques from the cores data before we even start looking at mass production or distribution scenarios”.

“Crawl, walk, run?” I suggested and Quintus nodded sharply.

“Well put” he agreed with another thin smile. “Once NAIS have confirmed the proof of concepts as viable, we’ll start quietly building the factories to build the tools to repair and refit production lines and factories across the Federated Suns, with a parallel but coordinated effort in the Commonwealth. We can actually do a surprising amount of work ‘under the radar’ to reach a breakout capacity before we move to mass manufacturing at a level that will draw notice. This will also let us do studies into the Federated Suns infrastructure and the optimal long term rebuilding strategies. MIIO has been doing preliminary identification and prioritization along those lines while you were on the way to Helm and LIC” he gestured at Simon, “is going to start in the new year. Although some of the machine tools and computer equipment you picked up on Helm have already been identified as perfectly suited to upgrading some of Coreans New Avalon plant and Defiance’s production lines on Hep-”

“Kwangjong-ni!” I suddenly blurred out as I remembered.
What the hell triggered it I wasn’t sure, but suddenly as they talked about production lins and lostech, that little detail from the Jihad timeframe struck like a lightning bolt from the sky.
Memory was a strange thing really. Bits and pieces of other Battletech lore had slowly come to the surface over time, most of it pretty much useless, but this…

The two spymasters meanwhile exchanged cagey glances before turning quite focused gazes on me, clearly interested in why I had just said that.

“Kwangjong-ni?” Simon asked very carefully and I nodded, screwing my eyes shut for a second and holding up a hand that silenced them as I wracked my brains to pull everything I could … which wasn’t a much as I hoped.
But hopefully it was enough so I opened my eyes to find both men watching me with expectant curiosity.

“Sorry, the mention of Defiance clicked something in me” I apologized, taking a breath to get my thoughts in order before starting, facing Simon Johnson. “I just remembered that during the 3070s and 3080s, when Defiance lost Hesperus II for a few years, they relied on satellite factories to keep the company going until it was taken back. And one of them was on Kwangjong-ni!”

“There isn’t a Defiance factory on Kwangjong-ni - not right now anyway” Simon noted in confusion before his eyes narrowed as he realized where I was going. “You're saying they found an old one?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying” I nodded and I could see that had gotten the attention of both men with Quintus making a notation in his noteputer silently off to the side. “It was one of the ‘hidden factories’ that ****** Stefan Amaris had running to help build up the Rim World forces for his secret army. The Star League had suspected it was there during their taking of the Rim Worlds but could never find it. Defiance, on the other hand, did”.

“Very interesting and, potentially, very useful of course” Simon agreed, rubbing his chin in thought. “But a planet is a rather large place to search Mister Smith and it sounds like the factory is very well hidden ... unless you happen to know exactly where it is?” he suggested in hope.

“No” I shook my head, causing him to sit back, looking slightly disappointed “But” I added quickly, “I know where it’s not. The primary reason the factory escaped detection was that it was built entirely under the ocean”.

“Under the ocean?” the two spymasters said in perfect unison, before blinking and glancing at each other, then back at me with near identical expressions of disbelief turning into grudging admiration as the implications sunk in.
“Under the ocean” Simon repeated in a softer tone, his eyes calculating and his brain clearly working hard. “A secure production site, made up of late Star League automated production lines … yes I can think of some uses for such a facility deep inside Lyran space” he smiled coldly looking back at me and inclining his head.
“It would seem I owe you my thanks once again Mister Smith. I must admit, this makes me quite eager to get to work debriefing you”.

“Yeah about that … we’re … not talking Narco Interrogation are we?” I frowned at that, trying to not show too much how understandably nervous the idea made me feel. My reading up on the process back on New Avalon and recollections of how incredibly unpleasant it was for the characters going through it made me very much want to avoid such questioning, even if it seemed to give quite impressive results for pulling information out of people they had quite possibly forgotten they knew...
And seriously, that cold smile, blue eyes and German accent, was giving me, probably unfairly, major ‘Zou are being very foolish! Ve ‘ave vays of making you talk!’ vibes right now....

But happily, said vibes vanished behind a display of professional disquiet from the man.

“Of course not” he protested with a not quite ‘hurt’ frown. “The Archon has made it very clear you are to be treated as an honored guest during your stay. We simply intend to see if any new ‘thoughts’ about ‘Battletech’ have shaken loose, ask some of our own questions and expand on some information you have provided. I’m certainly not handing you over to LOKI”.

I gave Simon a look at that but -predictably- found absolutely nothing but a perfect poker face with a look of earnest politeness staring back at me … and as his words sunk in, I realized I had forgotten a minor little detail … until it was literally looking me in the face.

And that, was Heimdall.

Officially ‘denounced as terrorists’ and unofficially the ‘who watches the watchers?’ arm of the Lyran Intelligence Corps; Heimdall held a somewhat unique position in the Inner Sphere. Made up of a mixture of ‘sane’ LIC personnel who detested LOKIs often brutal tactics, military officers, politicians and ‘normal’ people who saw themselves as guardians against LOKI and LIC excesses (and had often been their victims), Heimdall had a presence vertically and horizontally across all of the Commonwealth, but was very decentralized in command and control. The exact nature of the organization changed with the times too; against Katrina’s moronic and brutal predecessor the organization had been openly at war with LOKI, who were engaging in state sanctioned terrorism all over the place to silence critics.

Which made the fact that Alessandro Steiner had promoted Simon Johnson, secretly a key Heimdall agent, into the position of LIC head with orders to crush Heimdall one of those glorious historical ironies.

The organization had been critical to Katrina Steiner first surviving the attentions of and then deposing her Uncle. Katrina in turn upon assuming power had rapaid their faith in her by yanking on LOKI’s choke-chain until they understood they did not wag her and their previous tactics would no longer be tolerated under her reign.
Heimdall had become somewhat inactive as a result. Had even, in some places, formed cells that were almost an open secret among the locals. In the current time period, the biggest impact they had made was one cell trying to be too clever investigating why someone wanted to sour the growing relationship between the Commonwealth and Suns, stumbling right onto Melissa Steiner traveling incognito to meet Hanse Davion and unknowingly putting her in terrible danger (and showing themselves as flawed humans in their cheerful willingness to sacrifice one unwilling innocent life for hundreds if need be), playing politics games they really had no business playing.
Of course, all of that mess with the Silver Eagle shouldn’t happen this time, as I’m sure Hanse and Melissa would be -probably already were - spending time together now. And that in turn would save Patrick Kell’s life … probably.
Unless he gets killed another way, hardly unlikely for a Mechwarrior after all. Oh how the butterflies started to flap…


Presently, I took a breath and noted the others were clearly waiting for my reaction, but even as I opened my mouth to speak, Quintus read my mind (it got really annoying when all these people kept doing) and pre-empted me.

“Only you, Simon, Prince Davion and myself have read the complete copy of Warrior: Coup” the Minister said quietly, drawing my attention back immediately. “The copy that was ‘officially’ given to the Archon was almost the same, but with six key lines carefully changed and removed after the Prince and I discussed the implications, a decision Simon here backed”.

Oh ****** joy, now I was apparently keeping secrets from Katrina Steiner? And just so happened to be the only one of said quartet she could probably shoot if she got miffed about that and wanted to vent? Great! Just great!

“I’m guessing you’re talking about where Morgan Kell exposes that Simon here is a key member of Heimdall?” I suggested, pushing the ‘bad thoughts’ to the side as both men nodded -clearing watching my reaction closely- so I took a deep breath in and out before nodding grudgingly. “It’s understandable and I’ll keep the secret too” I said, choosing my words carefully but honestly. “I can certainly understand why; I’m sure that you don’t want to put the Archon in a difficult position Minister Johnson … and the long term security and effectiveness of Heimdall is clearly linked to it being loyal to, but outside the direct control of Katrina and her Heirs”.

“I’m pleased to hear you see it that way” Simon thanked me, his eyes seeming to bore into mine in a way that I tried to tell myself wasn’t him saying ‘Forget this promise and you will not like the consequences’. “LOKI, despite what I can see you might think of them from your debriefing on New Avalon, are often a necessary evil for the Commonwealth … but I’m also aware of just how easy it is to abuse their capabilities and that a counterweight is needed outside official control, but vetted and loyal”.
I simply nodded my acceptance of that, hardly convinced but keeping my mouth shut on the subject. LOKI had been, with the ‘Germans in Space!’ theme of Battletechs Lyran Commonwealth, something disturbingly akin to the Waffen SS or Gestapo in a lot of ways. Beholden only to the Archon and trusted delegates, ruthless and with very little in the way of checks and balances. Heimdall did not exist in a vacuum but was a direct reaction to that reality.
On the other hand, the Rabid Foxes didn’t get their name because they limited their actions to leaving flaming bags on the front porch of various enemies of the Federated Suns...

My train of thought was cut off as the aircraft jolted under me, banking and starting to descend. I glanced at bulkhead mounted map readout and was surprised to see we were already over the greater Tharkad City region, descending quickly towards our destination. One of the perks of hanging out with these kinds of people, I generally only touched the best stuff, like supersonic personal private transports on priority clearances, which sure as hell beat flying wedged into a seat on a 737.

“Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we land?” Simon asked at that point, looking at me expectantly and I considered the question carefully. Most of what I might have wanted to ask or check about had been touched on in the meeting with the Prince and Archon, but...

“Yes. Christian Kell”.

Christian Kell?” Simon echoed after a glance to Quintus who only shrugged.

“Patrick Kell’s Son” I clarified and that earned me a surprised reaction from both men who clearly did not know of this. “He would have been born at some time this year to a woman named Takara? I think that's it. Anyway, they had a liaison nine months ago and Takara should have given birth to his son by now. She in the original timeline kept it a secret, so…”

“Patrick Kell died defending Melissa Steiner - without knowing he had a son?” Simon Johnson queried and I nodded, continuing the story.

“Christian would later seek out Morgan after finding a letter from his mother explaining things. After confirming his identity, Morgan called in a favour from Jamie Wolf to have him trained personally by the Dragoons, the man earning his place - even serving under Kerensky for a time - and later joining the Kell Hounds and becoming one of their best officers”.

“Impressive - but irrespective of what he becomes, I’d certainly agree that Patrick Kell has a right to know about his Son” Simon noted, pausing to consider the situation for a few moments in thought before coming to a decision with a small smile.
“I’ll have Heimdall contacted to look into it. The Styx cell can quietly make contact, extract her and her son to Arc Royal and let Patrick know through those channels - I need to take the Holsteins in hand anyway”.

“Thank you” I said gratefully, feeling I had actually accomplished something worthwhile today with that one action, but Simon just shook his head, dismissing my thanks.

“The man has more than earned such consideration - and the Archon would be … displeased if she found out I knew about this and didn’t do whatever it took to reunite father and Son. Especially given Melissa’s lack of a Father...” he trailed off with something of a wince in his expression and defining whole new level of subtext in the word ‘disappointed’...

Well, good to know I’m not the only one terrified of earning Katrina’s disappointment.

The final thing was talked about as we dropped altitude and airspeed was confirming my suspicions of what the Fox’s Teeth had been doing playing with Alpha Regiment of the Wolf’s Dragoons on Barrows End, which hadn’t come up back with the leadership. It seemed that Hanse and Quintus, having known exactly where and when a Dragoon raid was going to hit thanks to ‘Wolves on the Border’, had decided to go Christmas shopping early.
I wasn’t sure if Jamie Wolf would be pleased with the news that McKinnon's boys had helped themselves (with the help of an expanded Rabid Fox team and the Eridani Light Horse) to ‘three Badgers looted, two salvaged Bandits and a partridge in a pear tree’ … but he’d probably have liked Blackwells facilities on New Valencia getting seized and shut down by MIIO even less. Which, in all seriousness, was apparently the next option on the table, given that they exclusively supplied the Dragoons alone (who were in full service to the Draconis Combine right now) and House Davion had a whole slew of legal solutions to use when a company didn’t ‘correctly’ hedge its bets by supplying its host nation and allied merc units too.

Anyway, we landed at the palace and it was there I parted ways with the two spymasters who were off to Simon's office to put a late night of work in while I was escorted swiftly to my room after declining the offer of dinner. With every step I took into the palace following some servant, my final emotional and physical energy reserves seemed to rapidly dry up, finding myself barely even taking note of the spectacular building I was walking through which seemed to go on forever.
Hell, the only thing I really remembered was the glorious queen sized bed in my room a servant showed me before hastily exiting as I started to undress, barely remembering my manners to thank him for his help.

And so I dumped my clothes on a convenient chair, dragged myself into the nest of blankets and was fast asleep for the first time in months in a real ****** bed in a real ****** gravity well.
"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 #56 on: 10 August 2018, 22:00:23 »
    ***
    ******
    ***

    Ten hours later I woke up slowly. And it was glorious to do so.

    For months, living with Ardan Sortek late nights and early starts had been the order of the day. Sleeping in was just not something that was going to happen on a military dropship of the Davion Guards - let alone in a room with him dictating rising and sleeping. Complaints had fallen on deaf ears as I was dragged off to morning calisthenics to fight off Zero-G muscle wasting with the rest of the sickeningly fit guards who looked like their muscles were made out of liquid metal for how rock solid their abbs looked. Apparently with all members of the brigade ‘encouraged’ to pump iron in their off hours until they only vaguely looked human when in gym clothes.

    But today?

    Today I could just kick back in bed and slowly wake up, enjoying the paradoxically soft yet firm mattress and silky smooth yet warm sheets and thick blankets as opposed to zero-g wrappings brought from the lowest bidder for the AFFS.
    Eventually however I got myself up, washed and dressed (my clothes and a whole wardrobe in my size had been delivered into a walk in closet from an outside door in it at some point during the night it seemed) and with a little searching, I found the room's phone to call and see exactly where one went to get food around here. My stomach impatiently reminding me I hadn’t really eaten much in about eighteen hours.
    The exceedingly helpful man on the other end of the phone however almost sounded amused when he told me that there was no need for a menu; simply to ask what I wanted and it would be delivered. Part of my mind immediately declared ‘Challenge accepted!’ and I placed an order for far too much food that was far too rich, having grown thoroughly sick of dropship rations since leaving New Avalon.
    I regretted that decision an hour later as my body made its displeasure known at me shoveling incredible food down my throat like some Season One Homer Simpson in front of an All You Can Eat sign.

    Decadence. Noun.
    [LIST=1]
    • Moral or cultural decline as characterized by excessive indulgence in pleasure or luxury.
    • The lives of Neo-feudal nobility in the Lyran Commonwealth.
    Still a few hours after that and my stomach had finished its protests, more or less, and I migrated to the sort of living room/office next to the bedroom. Turning on the vid I worked my way to the news channels - of which Tharkad had plenty - and unsurprisingly found them either all talking about or had bright news banners announcing that Katrina Steiner had called a 1PM press conference for this afternoon.
    As that was still an hour or so away, I moved past them looking for something else to watch and found the ComStar News Network. Unable to help myself, I turned up the volume, morbidly curious about what the toaster worshipers were saying, but it wasn’t a live feed. Instead, some show called ‘Around the Rim’ was starting. Apparently, a weekly show summing up the ‘going ons’ in the Periphery … and it seemed this week they were leading off with a news report on the … Rimward Frontier?

    Huh. Never heard of that

    Helpfully the map zoomed in and defined it as the region of space between the Taurian Concordat and Magistracy of Canopus and I leaned forward in curiosity. I had never seen anything on Battletechs maps in that region of space … but in hindsight, that was probably just because the writers hadn’t bothered to write anything about it. After all, with two Periphery powers glaring at each other across it plus the Confederation and Free Worlds League forming a ‘Northern’ border of that region, it made sense that there would be something there.
    Muting the TV  -and switching it back to Tharkad City News from the ComStar rep evangelising about how much good the order was doing in the Illyrian Palatinate  - I walked over to the desk against the wall and powered the terminal there with only a little grumbling at its clunky interface.

    Gods, who thought I’d so dearly miss Microsoft a thousand years of the future? Have pity on me, oh Great God Gates and provide me a GUI worthy of the 1990s!
    There was no answer from the multiverse, so I sighed and carried on with what I had.


    The mainframe in the Triad this terminal was connected to was unsurprisingly massive; with data from across the Inner Sphere. Say what you will about Battletech computers, storage space was not something they had any issue with and were light years ahead in, meaning the Triad had masses of captured data on anything and everything. Quickly enough I had isolated a number of public and Government fact sheets, briefings and historical texts on the region and went to work digging into them.

    My first impression was that I had discovered the Chaos March thirty years early given the number of factions, major powers backing said factions and independent and micro-states with rapidly changing allegiances, alliances, back stabbings and mercenaries of less than reputable rating working for the highest bidder on a day to day basis...

    Of course, unlike the Chaos March which had been formed around some of the most productive, populated and valuable worlds in the Inner Sphere. Most of the worlds were barely a step away from being a failed periphery colony with their only value being Jumpship recharge points where help would eventually come by if you blew a helium seal. The planets often only held tiny populations of peoples with no other option but ‘survive or die’.
    This was figuratively the ass end of the Inner Sphere … that everyone crapped on.

    One exception seemed to stand out though. The ‘Aurigan Reach’ region which seemed to be a large microstate, but one in the middle of a civil war …  damn it, why did that sound so familiar?

    But even as I started to dig deeper into it, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the vid had switched to what seemed to be a shot of the Throne room and after a glance at the clock showed it was almost twelve fifty, I closed down the terminal and reached for the phone. Guest services were as efficient as before and at twelve fifty five a bottle of champagne and a very generous bowl of popcorn had arrived. And now properly equipped, I kicked the sound back on to listen to the talking heads as they speculated wildly for the remaining minutes until the Archon was due to appear.
    Unsurprisingly given the lack of any ‘official leaks’ (Katrina was clearly holding her cards close they noted), most of the attention was on the two Griffins standing on either side of the Archons Throne and the message they were sending. Which was that instead of wearing the normal gold and blue of the Royal Guards Regiment, they had been repainted into the distinctive dress colours of the Kell Hounds and Davion Guards.

    As the experts pointed out, it was far from unprecedented for the Griffins in question to be temporarily painted in the colours of another Commonwealth unit or even Merc unit under contract. It was considered one of the greatest tributes that could be paid by the Archon of the Commonwealth to a unit that had distinguished itself on the field of battle...
    But for one of them to be repainted in the colours of the bodyguard unit of the First Prince of the Federated Suns?
    One of the talking heads, an older one and apparently the appointed ‘Conservative/Traditionalist’ strawman was sputtering in shock and disapproval at such a ‘sacrilege’. Ranting about the tradition and horror of the Throne, bla bla bla.
    One of the other talking heads though, who actually seemed to have his head screwed on straight and had the moral authority of being a former NCO in the Royal Guards, pointed out the obvious. Saying flatly that Katrina Steiner was a Mechwarrior who would never insult the LCAF and a politician of great skill - which meant she had a very good reason for this choice of paint.

    That shut the old fart up and I toasted the old soldier with a tip of my champagne flute.

    The shows host smoothly stepped into the slightly tense moment to take note another thing; pointing out that there were two podiums sitting in front of the Archons throne. Meaning she was going to share the stage with someone. Opinion quickly seemed split between the CO of the Davion Guards regiment or Patrick Kell and I couldn’t help but chuckle in a slightly sinister fashion as they went back and forth about which of the ‘two’ it was going to be.
    Boy were they going to get a surprise … right about … now!

    A deep bell, almost so deep it sounded like a gong, rang and shimmered through the air of the throne room at exactly 1PM. Vibrating through the air of the Throne Room, it silenced the general hub hub into a respectful yet tension filled air of anticipation as everyone turned to face the Throne as a man in full court regalia whom subtitles helpfully identified as Franklin Hecht, Minister of Protocol (that was a thing apparently) moved to stand in front of the throne.

    “The Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth!” he called loudly, his words captured by some microphone to come across cleanly. And with that the crowd of thousands of people stood and bowed as Katrina Steiner emerged from behind the throne to curve past it … then a collective choked gasp come from the crowd as they came back up and saw that a precise half second later, coming around the other side of the Throne, was a man they had not expected.

    And judging from the sudden jerked zoom in on him that wasn’t exactly smooth, neither was the cameraman or his producer.
    Surprise right up until the last moment, it seemed, had been achieved and I grabbed a handful of popcorn with a grin as a non-G rated profanity slipped out on someone’s hot mic.

    “The First Prince of the Federated Suns!” Hecht added to drive the point home to the stunned Royal Court as the two rulers reformed and walked the last few steps side by side to the lectern looking exactly as grand, powerful and confident as you would expect.
    House Lords Twin Powers Activate! Form of; A Press Conference!

    Katrina welcomed everyone, then without further ado asked (commanded and obeyed) them to sit as she announced that she and Hanse would now brief them on the recent events leading up to his surprise presence on Tharkad, the audience looking absolutely rapt in attention with the press in the front rows frantically writing notes on notepads and noteputers as Hanse gave his famous smile and started to talk.

    This had all started, according to The Fox, with MIIO coming into some startling intelligence from ‘A Few Good Men’™ in the Combine. Specifically, reports that a highly ranked noble was planning to raid the Free Worlds League world of Helm. Somehow this noble (and I had no doubt MIIO and DMI were busy laying a trail for the ISF to follow right to the Red Dukes front door) had found clues to suggest the legendary SLDF depot had not been taken by Kerensky as thought, simply moved, hidden and then lost in the chaos of the Succession Wars. A frantic exchange of messages with LIC had turned up twist; LIC had also just heard some nobles on Irian of all places were also looking into Helm and the ancient cache with their own clues.
    Katrina then took a moment to hang a lantern on the obvious; it was highly suspicious that both powers had suddenly came onto this information at the same time, even if the Suns and Commonwealth had not yet discovered a connection between the two. She left it at that, but I was sure even that would be enough to have A) the Kapteyn powers glaring suspiciously at each other and B) ComStar looking suspiciously at itself.
    Hopefully involving Precentor Rachan finding himself in a dark room with his balls hooked up to jumper cables as ROM vented ComStars fury that he might have caused this disaster.

    Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bastard really.

    I could also live rather easily with the heat no doubt about to come down on Duke Ricol. As I recalled, his little operation had been run without the knowledge or approval of either Takashi or Theodore or his Warlord, which meant he had sinned. Twice.
    Firstly, he had been preparing for a raid into an allied state. The Concord of Kapteyn might be a bit of a joke, but it was still Kurita policy and would have been a huge loss of face for House Kurita if, as Hanse and Katrina were insinuating, the Red Duke was preparing to invade their ally and seize a priceless storehouse.
    Yet, far worse as far as House Kurita was concerned, there was the question of exactly what he was planning to do with a massive storehouse of Star League military gear he wasn’t telling his Liege, Lieges Heir or Warlord he was going to get. And in that situation, House Kurita would 8 times out of 10 conclude that he had been planning to use it against them - and hardly without precedent.
    Accordingly, I gave it 50/50 odds that the Red Duke would be invited to ‘use the garden’ within the next six months, if the ISF followed the trail back to him and jumped to the ‘correct’ conclusions. And good riddance to Black Dragon rubbish.
    Amusing, that the Kurita’s would owe MIIO and LIC one for getting rid of a long term threat for them...

    Anyway, Hanse continued the story that after LIC and MIIO had put their heads together, they realized they each had pieces of the puzzle and putting it all together, had very good information on the possible location of the cache. Adding, with that famous grin, that while it would have been amusing to see the Concord of Kapteyn fighting it out over the cache, he had forgotten to do his Christmas shopping, so...
    That earned an actual ripple of laughter from the crowd and I too raised a salute with my wine glass, shaking my head with a smile. It was amazing really, the two of them were laying out a perfectly viable story that I actually believed watching it, even if I know it was complete bullshit. If anything it came off as them simply wanting to gloat and rub it into the other nations that they had given up the cache and the FedCom powers had then swiped it out from under them!

    And the best part? There was more than enough truth in the key parts that when the ISF, SAFE and ROM did their digging into it, they would hit the paydirt and ‘prove’ it! Really the only thing more that was needed for this to - ah there we go; Katrina just casually dropped a reminder of the Minoru Kurita’s original blasting of Helm for no other reason than being a giant crybaby because he couldn’t find the cache, where as ‘our’ people got in and out and donated a brand new hospital in their wake, with her and Hanse Davion’s complements!
    I mean, everyone in the Succession Wars unleashed hell on each other of course, but most of the time it was at least nominally hell targeted at military and industrial targets, with civilians simply collateral damage. Not blasting an entire planet into a smoking cinder because you looked like an idiot in front of your troops for going on a wild goose chase!

    Well, most of the time anyway.

    And as for the Free Worlds Leagues internal fun? Katrina yesterday had hinted that LIC was already planting suggestions to point SAFE right to Lord Garth, Duke of Irian who wanted the cache to build an army to overthrow the Captain General.
    Which was of course, absolutely true. And true 9.99 times out of 10 in the FWL.
    And if that knowledge just so happened to cause a spat between Irian, Stewart and Atreus...well, that would just cap off this little operation, wouldn’t it..

    The dynamic duo gave limited details about the actual mission to Helm. Noting mostly that it had been all done in haste with the Davion Guards and Kell Hounds sent purely due to being in the strategic neighborhood as it were, adding not quite smugly that it was an excellent sign of how well the Suns and Commonwealth could work together ‘on the fly’ as it were. A military briefing would be following this one and so they would leave such questions to the officers following, but they did round out their conference by Hanse noting that the Archon had very graciously invited him and a few close friends to spend Christmas day with her family - which he had of course accepted.

    And with that done the Archon had asked the still furiously writing press in the front rows if there were any questions before they turned the stage over to the military briefing team, who would go into more details about the operation on Helm and covering raids on the border?

    A forest of arms shot into the sky so fast I expected sprained shoulder blades to be a thing among the press corps tomorrow.
    "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 #57 on: 10 August 2018, 22:00:40 »

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

     
    Knock Knock Knock.

    The knock on the door came just after seven thirty PM and I glanced up from the book I was reading in no small amount of surprise. There was one hell of a shindig going on across in the Royal Court right now and anyone who might have any interest in me was down there tonight while I brooded in my room, reading an unclassified intelligence briefing about the Arano Restoration the palace had arranged for me at my request.
    Seriously, I could really get used to having a hoard of people on hand ready to do your bidding on demand.

    The report had finally clicked with me that this region of the Inner Sphere had been the setting for the Battletech video game Kickstarter back home. Even if I could barely remember anything about it beyond the cool concept art and how awesome the backer jacket was … that I would never get.
    On the other hand I was, you know, staying in Katrina Steiners palace on Tharkad … so I don’t think the people I had left behind who had jackets were really getting more than I was.
    Still, it was a bit weird the more I thought about it. A video game still under development when I departed … was playing out in front of me in the Periphery. I mean ******, was one of these people I was reading about supposed to, from a meta ‘player character’ point, me?!

    Mind. Blown. Hey, new thought; I wonder if I could meet Jason Youngblood at some point...

    Such mental conundrums were excellent distraction for me, keeping me from thinking too much about what day it was. Christmas Eve celebrations were in full force across the capitol, having reached a peak  in a massive carols by candlelight extravaganza in the Triad District. That would last for a few hours, with a ‘who's who’ of the Commonwealths singers lining up to sing songs, broadcast around the planet. The Archon had made a brief appearance at the start to set things off, but otherwise left it to the celebrities to carry this celebration from evening into night. All very touching ... and all hitting me where I really didn’t want to be hit.
    It didn’t help that everywhere I had looked outside my room it was Christmas Christmas Christmas and so rather than explore the palace or anything I had, after Katrina and Hanse’s conference wound up, found as many things as possible to distract me. Distantly hoping perhaps that I could chain enough things together through the night to forget.
    It had proven a little harder than I thought, as crazy as it sounded for me to distract myself being in the Battletech universe, a room (even a luxurious one like this) was still somewhat limited in what you could do with it.

    And after the Carrols finished and darkness started to fall, the commoners had moved onward to enjoy the final night of Christmas displays through the District before they were taken down for the New Year's Eve work to start. The nobility however, were otherwise occupied as Katrina was hosting the annual Christmas Eve soiree in the Royal Court; an event considered much more ‘casual’ and ‘informal’ than the massive New Years Eve ball scheduled for a week from now. It also held a focus on the local nobility and invited VIPs from Tharkad itself rather than the power-players from across the Commonwealth - at least in theory.
    The presence of Hanse Davion as the Guest of Honor had, unsurprisingly, thrown that ideal out the airlock with  anyone who was anyone desperately gate crashing to rub shoulders with two House Lords, something that didn’t exactly often since the Star League had crashed and burned.

    And yet, it was still all wrapped up in Christmas. Thus, I just didn’t want anything to do with it. Locked up in this room, I could just pretend it wasn’t Christmas Eve. And pretend that somewhere in the multiverse, the ‘real’ me and all my family were not gathering for the now traditional ‘watch the next generation go hyperactive as they leapt for the presents and ripped them open’ ceremonies...
    But back to the here and now, with Ardan Sortek, Patrick Kell, Marshal Felnser, Dan Allard and his Father all down at the Archons shindig … it kinda begged the question of who the hell was knocking on my door?

    Knock Knock Knock!

    Shrugging and deciding that the knocks implied they wouldn’t accept me ignoring them, I rolled off the bed and made my way to the door, having a very brief look in a mirror next to it to make sure I was at least presentable before opening the door.
    And doing a double take as I found a teenager, dressed impeccably in what I had come to know as ‘Formal Event Court Dress’, standing outside my door with a quartet of suits who screamed ‘bodyguards’ behind her-

    “May I come in Mister Smith?” she asked and, without waiting for an answer, she swished past me into the room with a rustle of her long dress, followed by two of her bodyguards, leaving me standing there staring into the corridor beyond like an idiot.

    Okay ... so now this is happening.

    “Sure, come right in …” I muttered to the empty corridor before shaking it off and turning to follow my unexpected guest as she moved into the lounge room, making herself at home as her bodyguards did a perfunctory sweep before nodding to her and heading back out. Leaving me alone with her as I very slowly sat down on the chair next to her trying to get my bearings at this unexpected guest.

    Melissa Arthur Steiner.
    The only child of Katrina Steiner and Arthur Luvon. Archon Designate of the Lyran Commonwealth and, known only to a very select group, the fiancé of Hanse Davion … was sitting in my room across from me.

    Okay, what the ******?

    “Shouldn’t you be across in the Royal Court, Lady Steiner?” I asked aloud, carefully, as the silence became deafening after five or six seconds.

    “I did my work on the receiving line earlier” she shrugged easily, kicking off her heels and sighing -in full view of me- as she wiggled her stocking covered toes, making a content noise … and completely ignoring my incredulous stare at her incredibly casual behavior.

    I had never met her - never seen her before in fact - and here she was, bounding into my room and acting like this?

    … once again. The ******?!

    “People are used to me dodging in and out of these events and, frankly, Hanse is drawing by far most of the attention this evening so it was surprisingly easy to slip out for a while” she continued as she put her feet back down, smoothing out her dress carefully, yet I got the impression her casual air was just that, a act she was putting on for my benefit.
    Okay Princess, you want nonchalant snark? Lets do nonchalant snark I thought as I managed to regain some sense of balance and decided to lightly test the waters.

    “So … you’re on a first name basis with Prince Davion now?” I returned fire and was pleased to see it knock her back slightly, a flush passing across her face for a moment.
    After all, I had no idea if she was ‘in’ on the-

    “Jordan Weisman”

    And boom, headshot! There is still something fourth wall mind breaking about Melissa ****** Steiner saying that name...

    “Well, that's direct enough” I muttered, abandoning my snark as I both relaxed and tensed up, while Melissa's expression became almost impish. That name was the current codeword for the compartment about me, meaning perhaps unsurprisingly, she had been briefed by Hanse and Quintus and her use of it meant I was free to talk. “I hope both your mother and fiancé are aware you are here with me, My Lady?”

    “Call me Melissa” she insisted as she tilted her head slightly. “And of course, but why do you ask?”

    “Call me John” I returned the gesture before glancing down at the table we were sitting around and stuff all over it. “And it’s just a question of context. If, for example, either of them were to hear that you had walked into some mans room alone, unchaperoned with alcohol present and left your bodyguards left behind, well...” I shrugged, extending my glance to the outer wall of the room with only slightly exaggerated suspicion. “Then the only question would be if the fist about to break through that wall is going to be attached to a Battlemaster or a Zeus”.

    The younger (as in near half my age) woman actually giggled lightly at that one as I continued to patiently watch the far wall … with some part of me not entirely joking here...

    “Relax John” she shook her head with a smile. “They know I came here specifically to talk to you”.

    “Okay…” I blinked, leaning back into the chair and trying to relax as I asked the obvious. “Um, why?”
    She seemed to consider that for a few moments before seeming to sigh and not quite slump forward.

    “You know, don’t you John, that until Hanse turned up here last week I had only ever met him once before?”

    Well duh, it was kinda a huge plot point driving much of ‘Warrior: En-Garde’. Involving you indirectly putting a large number of people at risk and getting a chunk of others killed pulling your ass out of the fire I thought silently.
    “Yes, on Terra, during the FedCom treaty signing” was all I said out loud, chiding myself after a moment for judging Melissa that harshly. Frankly, more blame needed to rest on her mother for not taking a hell of a lot more care organizing the trip with appropriate precautions.

    “When I was only twelve” she confirmed. “He was very nice to me, didn’t talk down to me and the whole thing was all sort of fairy tale and romantic” she said with a distant sort of smile on her face as she seemed to drift back to that momentous meeting. “I don’t think I really understood the sphere shattering consequences of that agreement then - not sure I even really understand it now. I was going to marry a man I had barely met and start an entire new dynasty that was going to change the history of the Inner Sphere. All these expectations on both of us and I had so little to go on about him, how we would make this actually work…”

    I didn't offer any response as none seemed called for, simply waiting silently as she took a breath and continued, bringing her attention back.

    “We sent messages back and forth and Ardan, bless him, told me so much about him when he was on Tharkad. All the private and secret things about a person you never find in the vids. And Mother did what she could … but this was still a man I was going to marry; a man I felt I barely even knew. Worse, only a handful of people actually knew it, meaning I had to deal with all the young men trying to court me and win my hand without giving the truth away”.

    “For what it’s worth...” I said slowly as I tried to frame my thoughts in a way that wouldn’t sound insulting or condescending, “your marriage to Hanse Davion, from ‘my’ side of the fence’, noted those difficulties. The role you had to play, what was expected of you” I said causing Melissa to look up to me with an expression I couldn’t place, wordlessly encouraging me to continue. “I mean, Hanse Davion was the designated hero of the setting and the only House Lord to not talk about marriage with you as a prerequisite for any kind of peace ... yet he and your mother decided to try for it. Which left you, well …”

    “Being sold off to a man two and a half times my age with enormous peer pressure -for the best of intentions of course - to make it work regardless of my own wishes on the matter?” Melissa asked with a sort of sad smile that struck my heart.

    “Essentially? Yes” I replied with a sympathetic smile back … and instantly found out that was the wrong answer.

    Oww!
    What the…
    did … did she just kick-
    Ouch!

    Yes she did - damnit! She just did it again!

    “So you’re why Hanse was going out of his way to tell me that I didn’t have to go through with the marriage” she accused me darkly as I rapidly slid down the lounge out of range, her glare tracking me and instantly making me regret said lounge wasn’t longer as I crashed into the armrest while she stood up, the goofy teenager nowhere to be seen and in her place nothing less than her mother's daughter.
     

    Heimdall! Save me! Crazy Archon at twelve o’clock!

    “We spent quite a bit of time together over the last few days, the first two or three hours of which I had to spend convincing he and my Mother that I really did want to get married to him. Hanse seems to have gotten the impression from someone” she grated with a look that could have critted a Dire Wolf, “that I might not want to get married to him!”
    Her glare seemed to double in intensity.
    You seemed determined to ruin my wedding plans Mister Smith...” she said, her tone deepening ominously.


    “For the record” I defended myself, words spilling out quickly as the clearly pissed off young woman stepped around the table to glare down at me, fighting to keep some composure as I found a way to return her gaze, “it all just came out of a conversation with Ardan Sortek noting that hypothetically if you trusted Morgan Hasek-Davion’s loyalty, a match between the two formal heirs, you and he, would purely from a public sense make sense if …” and I let my rambling trail off as I saw her face was twitching.

    Then the moment shattered

    The cold Steiner winter promising death by frostbite vanished in an instant as she burst out laughing, covering her mouth with her hands as she was wracked with mirth. I stared dumbfounded as she flopped back down to the lounge next to me … and I realized she had just trolled the hell out of me.

    Melissa Steiner had just trolled the hell out of me.

    Okay, I admit it, did not see that one coming.

    “You’re screwing with me” I deadpanned and her ear to ear grin answered that question as I leaned back into the soft leather, closing my eyes and feeling my heart pounding in my chest. I gave thanks for the fact that my cardiovascular system was apparently in excellent shape according to the geeks at NAIS because honestly, I felt my stress levels were ramping blood pressure right up every time a Steiner decided to talk to me here.
    I opened my eyes again with some of my composure back, Melissa also having calmed down to be regarding me in a composed manner, if with a bit of a smile on her face.

    “I was. Mostly. But I … well …” she trailed off before taking a deep breath and meeting my gaze squarely. “I’m here mostly because I wanted to thank you, John. It meant a lot to me that you were willing to challenge Hanse on my agency in Federated Commonwealth accords” she explained as she gathered her impressive and no doubt incredibly expensive dress to sit down carefully next to me - and I’ll admit I felt my face flush slightly at the sheer sincerity in her bearing before her expression shifted once again as she turned away to look off into the distance, her body language turning almost …vulnerable?
    If nothing else it was the first time since she barged in that she actually looked to to be sixteen going on seventeen as she brought her hands together, clasping them tightly as if to steady herself. “Thanks to your little trip to Helm, Hanse and I had the opportunity to get together and talk. A lot” she mused with a bit of a faint smile. “But only after he gave me the copies of your ‘Battletech’ books to read and a day to take it all in”.

    “That must have been … something” I noted with sympathy and hidden shame - marveling that she was able to face me like this knowing full well that I had, after a fashion, invaded her most personal and private thoughts. “When Ardan Sortek, Quintus Allard and Prince Davion read just the first book I sent them as my, for lack of a better word, bonafides … well, Ardan told me later he went for the nearest bottle without even bothering to read the label”.

    “Mother had a similar sort of reaction” she agreed, her smile turning somewhat wry as her gaze came back to me. “Hanse insisted I read them -and some of your notes- before we talked. Saying that as they had let him see inside so much of my mind, I damn well deserved to see inside his before we talked about the future. And after that, well, looking into the face of a person who had seen deeper into me than I would ever let alone … and looking into his eyes and seeing behind ‘The Fox’ to the man I had read behind the legend? I don’t think I can quite describe what that was like. But then, just like that, we started talking. And talking and talking more and more about anything and everything. All of my masks, denials and excuses gone until suddenly it just hit me …” she trailed off, her gaze elevating to the roof for a moment … then back down to me … and I felt I would be lucky to get off with third degree burns from the fire blazing in her eyes now.
    “It hit me right then, right there that I wanted to take Hanse Davion’s hand, seize history by the throat and face down all the problems you warned us about and take up the challenge in front of me. To make things turn out better for everyone this time around” she said in a tone that left not even a Heisenberg Uncertainty worth of doubt that she meant what she said.
    Then she paused and her expression took on more than a tinge of exasperation.
    “And then, in that moment as everything was so clear, Hanse told me he would never force me into anything I didn’t want and he would absolutely and fully support me and Morgan-Hasek Davion if I wanted to look towards a union of the Realms in that manner” she deadpanned before expelling air in a huff that said ‘Men!’ without needing to actually say it.

    “I take it you, uh, let him know how that proposal made you feel?” I felt very carefully, trying to avoid the glower being redirected at me.
    Instead, at my question it faded away back to a smile. A happy, girly almost giddy smile as she shook her head, her eyes dancing.

    “That’s the thing John … I didn’t need to” she said in wonder. “I didn’t need to say a thing. I just stared into his eyes and he stared into mine. It must have been good, I don’t know, twenty seconds? Maybe a minute? We didn’t say a word, not one word - even my Mother kept absolutely silent, just watching us. But I knew that I wanted this … and I knew that he knew I did. And then” she said, her smile growing and the young woman seeming to almost want to burst, “he kept looking straight as me as he slid the chair back, came around the side of the table, got down on one knee in front of me and, well …” she trailed off as her hands untangled and she lifted her left hand up to show off -

    “Jesus H Christ, look at the size of that rock!” I spluttered in unabashed awe at the diamond sitting in pride of place on a golden band on her left ring finger.
    I mean holy crap it was huge, a diamond worthy of a Lyran Princess I suppose. Somehow capturing the rooms light, sucking it in and expelling it in a rainbow halo around her hand in an refraction effect I had never seen before ...
    Clearly, the Neo-Feudal nobility of the Inner Sphere had not let advanced jewelry fabrication technology fall into Lostech if they could make that!

    “So, uh, did you say yes?”

    Kick.

    I’m totally gonna have a bruise there tomorrow for sure. But even so, this time the kick was more playful, the sheer happiness on Melissa’s face … well, it just seemed to burn away my ‘Bah Humbug!’ attitude of the night with a terrifying ease, speaking casually to the adoration this woman had earned across the Federated Commonwealth over her life in the Battletech universe.
    And very clearly, one who was more than capable of standing up for herself and determined enough to get what she wanted.
    “Melissa, I’m happy for you - both of you. Congratulations” I said after I found my voice, knowing that sure the marriage was already long arranged, but technically Hanse had only just proposed and she had only just accepted ... so it felt appropriate to say as much.
    It was confirmed as the right choice second later as she beamed at me with a smile that I reckoned had a fifty-fifty chance of bringing a dead puppy back to life.

    “Thank you John” she said simply before her smile turned slightly mischievous. “And thus, you join the conspiracy”.

    “... Which one? I seem to have become entangled in several since I materialized in this universe” I pointed out with a confused blink and she rolled her eyes as if it was obvious.

    “My Fiance and I are having a very exclusive engagement party tonight!” she explained. “And you’re invited!”

    “Uh, aren't you both at the whole Christmas shindig thing tonight?” I noted. “And isn’t the engagement an absolute state secret of the same order as me?

    “Yupppp!” she agreed with a grin and hard ‘P’. “But what only I, Mother, Ardan, Patrick, Hanse and now you know is that, in reality, this Christmas party is actually a celebration for our engagement cunningly disguised as a Christmas party to avoid attention!”.

    The claim was so absurdly crazy and delivered with such a straight face that I couldn’t help but laugh and reach up to facepalm, shaking my head.

    “And besides” she added, her voice softening and lowering in volume, “no-one should be alone on Christmas Eve if they have people who want them around, no matter how much they might think they want to be alone” she said in a tone that caused me to sharply glance up in a reflexive defensiveness … that smashed straight into the full force of that ‘Melissa Steiner 8D6+10 charisma gaze’ and promptly put up the white flag.

    “Didn’t take you that long to psychoanalyze me down to the core” I muttered in what tried to be a miffed tone but honestly, came out as more embarrassed than anything, feeling like I was a child sulking in my room … being called out on it.
    By a teenager. Half my age.

    “Actually it was Ardan Sortek” she corrected me, as she carefully but with a distantly regretful expression carefully removed her incredible engagement ring and placed it into a velvet pouch. “He was, frankly, worried about you being alone this Christmas and, well, so was everyone else who knows you’re here”.

    “I don’t think exposing me to the Royal Court is exactly a subtle-”

    “John” her exasperation cut me off like a switch had been thrown, her eyes rolling in a gloriously dramatic way, “there are thousands of people packed into the court and about half of them are assorted -if you’ll please forgive me such a horrible word- ‘commoners’. You’ll be perfectly anonymous. Besides” she said, her smile turning into a smirk, “my Mother is expecting you in” she checked a watch on her wrist that probably cost as much as a Locust from all the bling I could see on it - “twenty minutes at my extremely exclusive celebration of my engagement and if you don’t show up...”

    Melissa Steiner Rolls Intimidation Check;  6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6 + 10 = 58, against John; 1, 1, 1 + 2 = 5;
    Melissa Steiner critical success!


    “Okay, okay!” I held up my hands in surrender, finding myself on my feet without even realizing I had stood.
    Man, was the thought of Katrina Steiner getting pissed at me that much of a intimidating threat?


    Yes. Yes it was.

    But at the same time, deep down where I would deny it, there was something that made me almost want to start crying for the fact that some of the most powerful people in the Inner Sphere … well; they cared enough to want to drag me out of my sulking room to celebrate Christmas Eve with them under this silly pretense of an engagement party.
    I had to turn for a second, hastily clearly my throat until I controlled my composure that had started to slip at that, Melissa in turn very tactfully busying herself in carefully putting her engagement ring away into a cunningly hidden pocket in her dress, charmingly right over her heart.

    “Good” she said when I turned back and with that, the Archon designate carefully slipped her elegant heels back on and swished back to her feet, striding confidently across the room to the walk in closet as I slowly gathered myself and followed.
    She dove inside without hesitation, emerging scant seconds later with what seemed to be the 31st century equivalent of a tuxedo, placing it onto several convenient hooks before turning to give me a pointedly commanding look.

    Nineteen minutes, ten seconds - don’t be late” she said with a charming yet commanding superior smile before turning to vanish down the hall with a smile.

    I heard the door open, close, then I was alone.
    Brat I dared to think in my head as I took a breath, centered myself and started to get dressed.
    "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

    worktroll

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    Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
    « Reply #58 on: 10 August 2018, 23:00:04 »
    Nicely done, and great to see more!

    In what condition is Book 2 - scattered files on your phone? ;)
    * 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"

    mikecj

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    Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
    « Reply #59 on: 11 August 2018, 03:32:26 »
    Very nicely done!
    There are no fish in my pond.
    "First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
    "Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
    Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

     

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