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Author Topic: Who Goes There?  (Read 45950 times)

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #270 on: 22 July 2020, 18:22:30 »
Time shenanigans and Event Horizon shenanigans? Yikes.
"“Eternity is a long time, especially towards the end.” -- Stephen Hawking

PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #271 on: 23 July 2020, 01:27:21 »
That reminds of that SCP derilict ship where time and space are... relative.
Shoot first, laugh later.

DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #272 on: 25 July 2020, 17:38:10 »
Okay I was a little behind...

Urban Legend was interesting, having clanners haunted and hunted down by a Ghost Urbie

Like your take on Cannonshop Hullsurfers

Dead World - Zombie super infection, and that kids is why "crawling around old failed colony is rough"
    Reminded me of a Tcar RPG my buddy Randy RIP ran years ago, the run away from the horde to the lander was interesting.  And like your guys we had someone ask what allow them to ignore being shot.

The Honour Of The Regiment -  saved by an ashtray  :-)

Beyond The Beyond - Iridium it's the catch all of hyperdrive oops?

Last Stand - gee that story sound familur from history...  Well done, so who got him from below?

Atomic Annie -  LOL damm coffee as a NUKE!!!  And for a second I was sure a Ngo was going to showup for her, after all she family.

Genius Loci - Interesting..  the ship is haunted by something that crossed over the Event Horizon ..  Who cares.. but it needs to be deepsunk somewhere



"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!"

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #273 on: 26 July 2020, 16:10:29 »
Not the first person to suggest this: I think that the "theory" is even canon, but this is my take on it

...From A Certain Point Of View

Please state your name for the record.

Fang Singh.

Occupation?

School teacher.

And before that?

I was an Adept of the Word of Blake.

Designation?

Ghost Beta Singh.

You were a Manei Domini?

Would I be chained up like this if I wasn't?

A fair point. Why were you working as a school teacher?

Good a job as any.

It just seems... unusual, for someone of your background.

War's over, right? Got to make a living somehow.

That's unusually, rational, for a Manei Domini.

What? Expecting me to be all frothing at the mouth and promising doom upon you?

Truthfully? Yes.

Sorry, but I'm just not that kind of cyborg. I was recruited because I was loyal to the cause and yet able to blend in easily. Hence why I only had the most basic of enhancements...

Cybernetic Eye, left: inferred vision. Cybernetic Ear, right: signal pickup. Secondary power supply of unknown type, embedded in your liver...

Liver is vat-grown, power pack put in place before implantation. Thankfully, they managed to cover up the scar pretty well, so I can still get away with a two-piece.

...monomolecular blade, hidden in right hand between the middle and ring fingers. Electromagnetic deployment/retraction system.

A lady can never be too careful, you know?

How exactly did you end up joining the Word in the first place? You don't come across like the more typical member...

The crazy, mouth frothing kind, you mean? Hate to tell you this, but any organisation over a certain size is going to have a few crazies: it's just the law of averages. The Order just made the mistake of putting some of them into leadership positions. But, for the most part, it was people like me. I'm nothing special: I grew up in the St Ives Compact, as was, and it was an odd place to be a kid. Not quite Capellan, but not exactly the Commonwealth, either. Kind of a toe in each, if you understand my meaning. Living like that give you a certain prospective on life. I had more freedom than I would have if we'd still been a part of the Confederation, and I could appreciate the advantages that gave me.

But, at the same time, there was a constant reminder that we only existed because our Steiner-Davion patrons allowed it. Almost prophetic, in away.

So, there I am, a school kid living under the constant threat of having my liberties taken away, when they start teaching us about The Clans. How, just beyond a line on a map, there was this horde of fanatical warriors just waiting for the opportunity to enslave everyone. And they were way worse than even the Confederation, because at lest the Capellans see you as human. But the Clans? Anyone not 'Trueborn' is little more than livestock to them. The Warrior cast tells you where to live, what job you must do, even who you can start a family with. And, if one of their little overzealous slap-fights gets out of hand and you find yourself caught in the crossfire... Well, that's just your bad luck.

As a kid, that terrified me: ComStar had grown everything they had at the Clans and nearly stopped them. What hope did the Compact have? And that's when someone handed me a leaflet.

The Word of Blake?

Yep.

When you're someone like I was, just another number on the census, it's easy to feel... insignificant. But the Word... the Word offered us the chance to not only be a part of something greater, but to change the face of the Inner Sphere through sheer force of will. It was that kind of dedication, not to self, nation or even the Order itself, that they were looking for in diplomatic espionage.

Excuse me?

Diplomatic Espionage. That was my specialty within the Manei Domini. I was never intended to see the front lines; there were plenty of people more suited to that kind of work, and I guess someone higher up didn't want to be too reliant on ROM. Also, my aptitude tests showed that I was better suited to a more subtle mission. Some forged papers here, a little hacking there, and I was bale to slip into pretty much any social gathering necessary. I've listened to rabble-rouses in vacant lots and rub shoulders with some of the most powerful people in the entire Inner Sphere, and not one of them ever guessed who I really was.

Truth is, I'm actually impressed that you caught me. I didn't think that SIS had it in them.

What makes you think that we're SIS?

Because I'm sitting here, taking with you. Maskirovka or LIC would be dissecting me to try and find out how my implants work, while ISF or MIIO would simply shoot me and dump the body in a shallow, unmarked grave. SAFE is too fractured to be any threat, and the Watch is overly reliant on drugs to get information. That leaves SIS, which makes you... what, a Grey Knight?

Not exactly.

But you are SIS?

Does it matter?

Not really: just wondering how much you, and your superiors, think you know.

In what way?

You think that being a Manei Domini makes me some kind of maniac, a religious zealot willing to let a cabal of mad scientists cut out my humanity. You think that I've got the blood of countless innocents on my hands, and that you're doing the universe a favour by black-bagging me off the streets. But you're overlooking one very important fact.

Which is?

I didn't resist. Not in the slightest. I realised immediately that it was a professional snatch job, and I did exactly as I was told and didn't hurt anyone. And, given you've just listened my enhancements, you must have some idea of what I'm capable of.

Okay, so assuming you're right, why didn't you resist?

Because you're going to let me go back to teaching literature, and pretend like this never happened.

And why would we do that? You've admitted that you were a member of the Word of Blake, a Manei Domini...

In all the time you've been watching me before today, have I committed any crimes? Do you have any evidence that I committed any crimes not covered by the general amnesty?

No...

Then you have no valid, legal reason to hold me. Unless you want to admit that my detention is illegal.

...

Exactly. I'm not a maniac, or a zealot, and, if anything, that makes me more dangerous to your superiors. Because I sound and act rationally, people would be more inclined to listen to what I say, rather than dismiss it out of hand. So, if I was to stand up in public and say that, in the end, that the Word of Blake won...

Bullshit!

Ah, is that a hint of hesitation I sense creeping into your voice there? The faintest doubt taking root?

In what way, exactly, did the Word of Blake win? Your armies were defeated, your leaders killed or captured, and Terra was liberated...

Do you even know what the reasoning behind everything the Order did was? All of the Shadow Divisions, the new weapons, even Manei Domini like myself?

To take over the Inner Sphere and...

No.

Excuse me?

We never wanted to take over the Inner Sphere... Okay, maybe some of the fringe elements did, but that was never our overall goal. We saw ourselves as a guiding light, a shield against the inhumanity of the Clans, and the sword needed to push them back once and for all. That's why they had all the troops and ships and everything ready in '67. We were hoping that the Star League would grant us membership, and we wanted to be ready to show them everything. We wanted to show them that they didn't have to live in fear of the Clans any more, that we could push them all back out into the Periphery, even destroy them, like they had the Smoke Jaguars, if needed.

But then, just as the Star League started to fall apart, the Wolf Dragoons attacked us. They fired the first shot, not us, and all because they didn't like what we were doing in the Protectorate. And you know what we were doing that angered them so? Building schools, hospitals, roads. Trying to undo three centuries of war.

Hell, we saved Paladin Victor's life during his little family squabble.

I don't follow.

When he went to secure Coventry in '63, his sister sent a warship, the Arthur Steiner-Davion, to intercept him. Only, we sent one of our own ships, the Immortal Spirit, to clear the way for him. Wasn't exactly my field, but I heard it was because certain people thought he was too important to the future of the Inner Sphere to risk him getting killed so easily.

Then how do you explain everything that happened?

I can't. Not really my area of expertise. I can make an educated guess, if you'd like.

Please do.

This is just me speculating, but I'd say somebody panicked. Maybe it was the AMC attack on Mars, or the Star League falling apart, or maybe someone got out of the wrong side of bed that morning. Whatever the reason, somebody overreacted, and things just snowballed from there. I'm sorry I can't give you a full breakdown of the inner workings of the Order, but agents like me were kept in the dark for the most part: operational security and all.

Anyway, I left as soon as it became apparent that the lunatics were running the asylum.

That doesn't explain why you think that the Word of Blake won the war.

Remember what I said about our true goals?

The Inner Sphere is at peace, probably the best peace it's ever known. Everyone's too exhausted to fight, even the Clans, so everyone has to take stock and rebuild.

Peace, stability and security. Everything that we wanted. And with one of our own in charge, none the less.

Bullshit! No, I'm sorry, but Bullshit! Exarch Stone is...

A mystery, supposedly even to himself. He just appeared right out of nowhere, in a prison camp on Kittery, pulled together a rag-tag coalition, and miraculously managed to defeat the Order, where everyone else failed. Then he goes all Peace, Bread & Land, and suddenly everyone, even the Clans, are falling over themselves to turn their swords into ploughshares, because we ain't gonna study war no more.

I swear, if one of my students handed in a story with a plot like that, I'd fail them on the spot.

You think there's more to it than that?

I think that anyone who believes the official story without question is seriously disconnected from reality. All I know is that pretty much everything that the Order wanted has been achieved, and nobody's asking too many questions about the man behind it all.

Not that I'm complaining; I actually like living in the Republic, I'm just not completely sold on the miraculous, mythical Devlin Stone. Be real interested to see if he had any enhancements.

The End
« Last Edit: 26 July 2020, 20:00:00 by JA Baker »
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Cannonshop

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #274 on: 26 July 2020, 16:26:38 »
NICE.
The core rules for interacting with me:

1.) I am not a moderator, game developer, member of Cryptic staff, relative of any members of cryptic staff, not close friends with anyone involved with the game, not a distributor of product, not an employee, employer, professional reviewer, or member of any powerful conspiracies.  What I think is my own and has no impact on the Battletech franchise in any way, shape, or form.

2) If you don't like something I've said, refer to rule 1.  If you do, god help you poor soul, you're screwed up.

JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #275 on: 26 July 2020, 16:36:54 »
NICE.
Well, I'd been bitching about how paper-thin a faction WoB was, with no real characterisation beyond "Evil for da lolz!", and decided I should maybe put my money where my mouth was.

Because what I've always loved about BattleTech is how everyone is some shade of grey.
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Sharpnel

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #276 on: 26 July 2020, 16:44:43 »
Consigliere Trygg Bender, ZEU-6BL Zeus, The Blazer Mafia
Takehiro 'Taco' Uchimiya, VND-1R Vindicator 'Taco', Crimson Oasis Trading Company
Tai-i Shizuko Lofgren, Third Infantry Company, Oniwaka

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"Of what use is a dream, if not a blueprint for courageous action" -Adam West
It's an Omni, so I can build it into whatever I please - JHB
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DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #277 on: 26 July 2020, 18:10:57 »
Quote
Not the first person to suggest this: I think that the "theory" is even canon, but this is my take on it

...From A Certain Point Of View

JABaker that is my theory and you have explained it much better then I ever could.  I assumed that Lear is his WOB Handler..

Thanks you   :thumbsup:
"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!"

nerd

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #278 on: 26 July 2020, 18:45:35 »
Sounds good. She could have been an Old ComStar ROM operative. Fanatically loyal to the Word, but not frothingly so.
M. T. Thompson
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JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #279 on: 26 July 2020, 19:53:16 »
Sounds good. She could have been an Old ComStar ROM operative. Fanatically loyal to the Word, but not frothingly so.
I suppose she's like the guy in Price of Glory: a true believer who's also not blind to the failures of the Order to live up to its own high standards. And I honestly think that a lot of people within the Word were like that. No organisation made up of just genocidal maniacs and psychopaths could get as far as they did before the Jihad started.
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


SulliMike23

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #280 on: 26 July 2020, 21:21:14 »
Interesting take on that. But it does put that into question, were all members of the Order just fanatics? Or did they simply join because they knew that their Jihad would bring peace to the Inner Sphere one way or another? Which makes me wonder the same about Amaris' bunch. I know that most of his high-ranking commanders were just maniacal and fascist as he was, but what about others? Did every soldier from the Rim Worlds Republic commit the atrocities Amaris ordered them to, or did some actually disobey these orders and no one even bothered to come forward with that? Or did they join his cause to see the collapse of the Star League? Either way, it does bring up some valid questions on some of the conflicts within the Inner Sphere.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #281 on: 27 July 2020, 01:56:54 »
Well, for many who joined either Comstar or WoB, the order was their escape from poverty of the world (Periphery or many worlds within IS) or opression (CC and DC) and such they were appreciative of it's fake message of uplifting the humanity.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Giovanni Blasini

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #282 on: 27 July 2020, 04:37:04 »
Well, for many who joined either Comstar or WoB, the order was their escape from poverty of the world (Periphery or many worlds within IS) or opression (CC and DC) and such they were appreciative of it's fake message of uplifting the humanity.

Was it really a fake message, though?  Or did both sides believe that the only long term way to uplift humanity was to do it under their auspices, after the fires of war had been thoroughly exhausted.

Even Holy Shroud could be seen through that lens: if the Successor States start to rebuild too quickly, then the end result would be an increase in the overall level of carnage.  Hell, Hanse Davion even proved them right in a way, in the Fourth Succession War.
"“Eternity is a long time, especially towards the end.” -- Stephen Hawking

PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #283 on: 27 July 2020, 08:53:27 »
They needed to crash the humanity first, this why generation after generation of adepts knowingly or unknowingly worked towards this goal, the uplifting of humanity never started, so their propaganda was a lie.
Shoot first, laugh later.

HFC05

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #284 on: 28 July 2020, 17:42:41 »
That was fantastic.

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #285 on: 31 July 2020, 16:05:08 »
Recommend putting on the Cowboy Bebop OST for this one. Specifically Digging My Potato, for atmosphere.

Down At The Crossroads

It was getting late, the second sun dipping towards the distant mountains, casting long, deep shadows across the open grassland. It was a pretty good place to meet up for a hand-off, with clear lines of sight off almost to the horizon in every direction. Certainly no way to sneak up on someone without being spotted, targeted and lit up like a Canopus whorehouse on pay-day.

Probably why Dink chose the place, but then again, maybe not. After all, he wasn't known for being the sharpest knife in the draw.

Local summer was just starting to give way to autumn, so it was still pleasantly warm, with just a hit of winter on the cool breeze wafting down off the mountains. Anywhere else in known space, and Hera would have been considered prime real estate, probably grabbed by some minor noble as a private retreat. But we were the ass-crack, so far off the beaten track that you couldn't even see it from here. Which made it all kinds of appealing to people looking to get lost. This, unfortunately, brought with it its own problems, as more than one, we'd found ourselves playing host to people who'd previously been on opposite sides in a conflict.

Hence the Compact, a series of rules that all newcomers agreed to abide by on pain of exile, enforced by an informal group of Lawkeeps, myself included.

It wasn't exactly hard work: we had maybe a a few hundred thousand people, on a planet that could probably sustain a couple of billion. But being so isolated kept immigration down, allowing everyone plenty of room to breath.

The closest thing we had to a capital, to a city of any kind, was Firstdown. Hardly original, I know, but to played host to our only spaceport, and it was usually where a Lawkeep would meet with someone looking to either join one of our scattered communities, our maybe found their own. As such, I was a little surprised when Dink reached out to me on behalf of a new arrival. Not too big of a surprise, as one of his main jobs was acting as a go-between, setting up meetings between people fresh off the boat and local authorities s they are, explaining customs and, if needed, acting as an interpreter. Dink may not be too smart, but he's a people person and has an ear for languages, which made him useful to have around.

Which is why, when he asked me to meet him and his latest client out at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, I'd agreed.

Not to say I wasn't taking any chances: leaving aside the heavy GyroJet on my right hip, the somewhat battered looking Rotunda I'd arrived in was actually in pretty good shape. At least, the weapons systems were ready to go and the armour wasn't patched together, like most military vehicles on Hera. We're somewhere people go to get away from fighting, after all. Pushing my old campaign hat back slightly, I looked down the road leading to Firstdown to the south, wondering what was keeping Dink and his new BFF?

The soft, mournful sound of an harmonica made my head snap round to the east, my right hand instinctively dropping to my holster. But I managed to stop myself just shy of drawing, when I saw the origin of the sound emerging from the gathering dusk. They were tall, their hight only enhanced by their slender build, hidden though it was beneath a old cloak and broad rimmed straw hat. A pack was slung across their back, a seemingly random assortment of items hanging from various straps and buckles, while their hands held the invisible harmonica in front of their still hidden face.

Something about the hauntingly melancholy tune they were planning was oddly familiar, but I couldn't place it.

They stopped just shy of the crossroads, holding the last note of the tune for a moment, then stopped. Hands still holding the harmonics in front of their mouth, they looked up for the first time, a single amber eye almost glowing in the dying light.

Suddenly I remembered where I'd heard the tune before: it had been in a bar over in Serenity Township, an couple of hours drive back down the way they'd came. I'd been catching up with another Lawkeep, and we'd been swapping 'war stories' for about an hour when I realised that the room had gone unusually quite. That had every hair on the back of my neck standing on end, but my colleague had assured me that it was all okay. And that's when I'd first heard it, a tune that seemed to cut to my very soul, speaking to me in a way that didn't need words. The room seemed to grow deathly quite, as if every ear was straining to hear every last note that came from the small, dimly lit stage in the corner. There she stood, half hidden in the shadows, hair the colour of spun copper pulled back into a loose ponytail that cascaded down over one shoulder. There had been nothing remarkable about the old shirt and denims she wore, and they certainly didn't do anything for her figure, but it was the damn music, and how she played it, that was so captivating.

Lot of people from a lot of places on Hera, so our culture is rather scatter-shot to say the least, but something about that melody just reached into my soul.

She finished playing, and I suddenly realised that I'd been holding my breath, not wanting to make even the slightest sound, and she turned to look out across the room.

Modern medicine and a good doctor can work minor miracles, and it was clear that she'd received the attention of the best of both... but there's only so much even the best can do. It was painful obvious that she'd been too close to either a fire of a laser blast, given the discolouration of her skin, as well as the lack of a left eye, ear and about a third of her hair. I've seen worse, a testament to just how good the surgeons had been, but Hera isn't exactly known for cosmetic surgery, so the chances were, she'd be stuck looking like that for the rest of her life.

"They say she's got other scars, not than anyone's had the chance to find out." my friend whispered in my ear, "Last guy who tried ended up looking worse than she does."

Back in the here-and-now, I found myself locking eyes with her, before she turned away, walking over to a makeshift shelter someone had put up by the side of the road. It wasn't much more than four walls, an open door and a roof, but it was better than getting rained on while waiting for someone to thumb a lift off. Placing her pack down in the doorway, she sat on a rough bench outside and started to play a soft melody on her harmonica.

The sound of grinding gears and a backfiring engine drew my attention back to the south, just in time to see Dink's much abused old truck rumble into view, the tired engine protesting. So, yeah, you can add bad driver and worse mechanic to the list of Dink's failures. I just leaned back against my car, arms crossed, and waited for it up pull up in a loud of dust and smoke, spluttering and coughing until it finally gave out with a wheezing hiss that spoke of significant time in the workshop in its near future.

The drivers door opened, and Dink stepped out into the evening air, a big, toothy grin framed by an unkempt beard. A shorter, nondescript man in what looked like a uniform that had had all of its badges and other identifying markings quickly removed stepped out of the passenger door, his rat-like eyes constantly darting about. He looked at me, then the woman still playing her harmonica, then back to me.

"Dink." I nodded in greeting, "This your client?"

"This is him." Dink sounded as unnecessarily cheerful as ever, "Mr Smith, meet Lawkeep Qu."

"Mr Smith." I nodded, ignoring the obviously made-up name. Seriously, has nobody any originality anymore?

"I'm to understand that you can get me to safety?" Smith managed to look down at me, despite being a good 5cm shorter.

And the accent. Unmistakable: Terran. Often emulated, but never quite matched. Not exactly unheard of on Hera, but not exactly common, either. Especially not now.

"I can see you to where you're going." I nodded, his obvious distain like water off a ducks back, "After that? So long as you keep to the Compact, ain't nothing to fear."

"With what I've been asked to pay, I'd expected more preferential treatment." Smith actually sneered at me. I didn't think that was something people actually did, "I have... enemies. Enemies who would very much like to see me dead."

"We don't allow Bounty Hunters on Hera." I assured him, "And, upon signing the Compact, anonymity is assured. We don't care what you did before you arrived, only what you do going forward."

"Very well." Smith seemed more resigned to the fact than genuinely happy.

He reached into the truck to get something from a bag, but my attention was drawn to the lady at the shelter: her previously tuneless melody had changed, and I felt a chill running down my spine. Smith obviously felt it too, as he suddenly stood rigidly strait, slowly turning to face her. I don't know if he'd intended to say something, because he didn't get a chance to say anything: the harmonica hit a particularly high note, and held it for a moment, and Smith slumped back against the side of the truck, a red stain over his heart.

The woman stood slowly, lifting her pack over one shoulder, then started to walk towards Smith, whose body was already starting to shut-down. She continued to play her tune until she was standing over him.

"Nemo me impune lacessit." she looked down at him, her voice strangely soft, yet her accent likewise unmistakably Terran, "It's a good death, General Peterson, far better than you deserve."

With that, she turned to walk away from the now clearly very dead man, but stopped and looked at Dink and I over one shoulder.

"House Cameron thanks you for your service."

With that, she returned her harmonica to her lips and walked off into the night.

"...the ******?" Dink managed to sound both surprised, scared and indignant at the same time, which was quite the achievement, "You just gonna let her walk off like that?"

"Yeah." I nodded, looking down at the body, "I kinda think I am."

"But... The ****** Compact!" Dink complained, waving wildly in the general direction of where the woman had dissatisfied off into the darkness, "You can't just let her..."

"Wake up and smell the coffee, Dink!" I snapped at him, "You know damn well who 'Smith' was, which means even you should be able to guess who she" I gestured off into the same direction, "was, who she works for. And if you know that, then you know damn well that, Compact or not, they wouldn't just sit there and smile while he was walking around. And considering that, if they sent just one message off-world, we'd have an entire army dropping down upon us, I think we got off lightly. Unless you want people looking a little closer at just who live here, 'Dink'? You ain't the only one with a price on your head if you ever leave here."

"...shit." Dink muttered after the cogs had stopped turning, "Well what do we do with the body?"

"We grab a couple of shovels out the back of your truck, and we start digging." I suggested, unbuttoning my jacket, "And, if anyone asks, Mr Smith just walked off into the mountains to get some solitude. And we sure as shit didn't hear nothing about House Cameron, got it?"

The End
« Last Edit: 31 July 2020, 19:28:06 by JA Baker »
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


wolfcannon

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #286 on: 01 August 2020, 01:09:54 »
interesting, set before the fall of the SL?
Daniels Avenger                Clan Coyote
General Jennifer Daniels    Galaxy Commander Jim Skyes
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Clan Wolf in Exile
328th Assault Cluster(the Lion Hearted)
Star Captain James Sword

croaker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #287 on: 01 August 2020, 01:32:25 »
Probably. The only solid time cue we have is the use of a Rotunda scout car, which was constructed from 2725-2775 or so.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #288 on: 01 August 2020, 03:51:22 »
The harmonica tune, is it the one from the Once Upon The a Time in the West?
Shoot first, laugh later.

Intermittent_Coherence

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #289 on: 01 August 2020, 05:55:58 »
Probably. The only solid time cue we have is the use of a Rotunda scout car, which was constructed from 2725-2775 or so.
One of the products of the thought process that went, "I have a sports car, what if I soup it up with a fusion plant and advanced armor plating?"

It's in the Periphery though, so either sold as surplus or changed hands repeatedly.


JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #290 on: 01 August 2020, 06:43:06 »
interesting, set before the fall of the SL?
Probably. The only solid time cue we have is the use of a Rotunda scout car, which was constructed from 2725-2775 or so.
One of the products of the thought process that went, "I have a sports car, what if I soup it up with a fusion plant and advanced armor plating?"

It's in the Periphery though, so either sold as surplus or changed hands repeatedly.
There are clues, if you know where to look.

The harmonica tune, is it the one from the Once Upon The a Time in the West?
I was thinking it'd be some more specific to the woman playing it, or who she serves, but I left it intentionally vague so that readers can plug-and-play whatever they think most suitable.
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #291 on: 07 August 2020, 06:58:09 »
Let's see what happens when I mix history and urban legends...

Mad Jack

There's an old saying: legends never die.

And it's true. After all, you can kill an individual, but it's almost impossible to kill the memory of the. And sure, plenty of people have tried throughout history, through one means or another. But, try as you might, there's always someone who remembers. Perhaps the most infamous example was the attempt by Stefan Amaris to completely erase House Cameron from the face of the galaxy. It is widely believed that he failed, that some unknown relatives of the First Lord were taken off-world by loyal forces, their eventual fates unknown.

But one... one refused to leave Terra. Refused to run and hide like a hunted animal. Refused to cower before the assembled might of the self-proclaimed Amaris Empire.

One, instead, chose to fight back.

John 'Jack' Aloysius McKenzie-Cameron was not your typical member of the Cameron Dynasty: the youngest of three sons, he was born to a minor cadet branch of the Royal Family in the Highlands of Ross-shire, Scotland. His father had been a Civil Engineer, his mother a School Inspector, and distant family connections aside, there was little to distinguish him from his peers. Excelling at sports, Jack would spend much of his free time hiking and fishing in the mountains and glens near his home. Many expected that he would seek the life of a Park Ranger or Gamekeeper, but instead, two days after his eighteenth birthday, Jack enlisted in the Hegemony Armed Forces.

Unlike most young recruits, Jack had no interest in becoming a MechWarrior, instead joining the infantry. While he attempted to his his lineage, it was soon uncovered, and he was sent to Sandhurst Royal Military College. More than a little annoyed at what he saw as unwanted and unwarranted preferential treatment, Jack attempted to have himself expelled on a number of occasions. However, once it became clear that this would not be allowed, he dedicated himself to proving that he was more than capable of earning his place through hard work and dedication. He would go on to graduate second in his class, something that even the only person to surpass him believed to be a calculated act on Jack's part, as her was certainly more than capable of taking the top spot.

First Lord Simon Cameron himself gave the commencement speech for the graduation, and shock Jack's hand, the only time that the two distant relatives are known to have met in person.

Several attempts were made to assign Jack to various staff or diplomatic postings, where his family name would be considered, useful. However, each of there had to be abandoned after a series of carefully planed and meticulously carried out 'incidents' on his part. These include, but are not limited to, the theft of John Davions BattleMech during a brief stint as assistant military attaché on New Avalon. Eventually, HAF High Command relented, and gave Jack the posting he wanted: joining a front line jump-infantry regiment assigned to the Fifty-sixth Royal Jump Infantry Division.

As soon as he was eligible, Jack applied for the little known infantry course that made up part of the prestigious Gunslinger Programme at the Military Academy of Aphros on Venus. This time, Jack did not hold back, and set several records that would stand until the fall of the Star League. Graduating top of his class, by a wide margin, Jack applied to join the elite Special Armed Services, the legendary Blackhearts, the SLDF's elite anti-terrorism organization. When asked why, he said it sounded 'dangerous', and therefore, 'fun'.

Despite passing the selection, impressing his instructors with his willingness to never ask another to do something he was unwilling to do himself, once again his connection to the distant First Lord, by this time, Simons son, Richard, came back to haunt him. Offered a teaching position with the SAS, Jack was told that he would never see active deployment: with the death of Simon Cameron, High Command had issued a directive that no member of House Cameron, no matter how distant, would be allowed to see active service until Richard came of age. This edict had been intended to protect the core of the Royal Family, but had been worded such that even Jack was caught up in it.

Jack requested, and was granted, a leave of service while he contemplated what to do with his life.

It was by this twist of fate that he avoided the strike that killed the rest of the McKenzie-Cameron line when the family landhold was overrun by forces loyal to Stefan Amaris. In the confusion and resulting fire, it was erroneously reported that Jack was among the dead, and the Usurper thought nothing more of it. But Jack was very much alive, and, after seeing the chard remains of his family where they had been left, he became very, very angry. Drawing a knife, he cut the palm of his left hand and swore a blood oath over the remains of his family that he would have vengeance upon Stefan Amaris. And that is where the official history ends: John Aloysius McKenzie-Cameron was declared dead, little more than another name to add to all the other victim of the insatiable greed of the Usurper.

But, where one story ends, another begins...

That said, I do hope you'll indulge me if I inject a history lesson here. Trust me, it will all make sense in due time.

London, 1837. A world so removed from our own that it would appear almost alien to us, over a thousand years later. Terra was just reaching the end of the first Industrial Revolution, reliant on steam, water and when all else failed, raw muscle power to drive the engine of progress. It would be almost seventy years before the first powered flight by a heavier than air craft, more than a century before humanity made its first timid steps into the wider universe. It was a very different time, with the mysticism of the past giving way to the dawning of the age of technology. But old superstitions die hard, so when people encounter something outside of their understanding, well, they fall back on what they know.

So, when stories started to circulate of a mysterious figure appearing out of the night to attack seemingly random victims across the city, it wasn't long before they were proclaimed to be a demon. More attacks followed, including one that saw an armed soldier standing sentry attacked by a grotesque figure with sharp claws and glowing red eyes, who was reportedly capable of inhuman feats of agility. Thus was born the legend of Spring-Heeled Jack, the Terror of London. Sightings would continue for almost seventy years, stretching the length and breath of the British Isles, with far too many witnesses to be discredited as simply mass hysteria.

But what, I hear you ask, has this got to do with a lone SLDF infantryman?

Well, six months into the new regime, the police chief for the city of Edinburgh was found dead, shot through the neck by an arrow. Upon examination, it was discovered that the name Bethany McKenzie-Cameron had been etched into the shaft. A search of local records showed only one match: the six year old daughter of Robert and Meredith McKenzie-Cameron, and the youngest niece of of Jack McKenzie-Cameron. It is important to note that the victim had been a vocal supporter of Amaris, eagerly using the emergency powers handed to him to rule his city in an iron grip.

More bodies followed, and at each scene, the name of a member of the McKenzie-Cameron family was found etched into an arrow, a knife or a bullet. Perhaps the most gruesome was the trou de loup, or wolf pit, that was dug on a stretch of forest trail often used by members of a Rim Worlds Army garrison. That trap was expertly set, designed only to trigger when a significant weight was placed upon it, allowing it to ensnare no less than six MechWarriors. Not only was the bottom of the pit lined with sharpened wooden spikes, but they had smeared with human excrement, meaning that those who survived being impaled found themselves facing the increased risk of infection. Inscribed on each spike were the remaining names of the McKenzie-Cameron family.

The attacks contained, all seemingly at random, with the names of other dead members of the Cameron dynasty found near every body. However, by this point, the placing of names had become public knowledge, and it is very likely that at least some of the killings were the work of copycats, inspired by the original. And indeed, a number of people were arrested and executed for the killings, even when there was overwhelming proof that they could not have been responsible for all of them.

But, if that was all there was to it, why did I bring up some story from a thousand years ago?

Because it wasn't long before a new terror started to stalk the cites and towns of Europe.

Most of Terra was still under curfew, with security patrols, made up of RWA paramilitaries and local recruits, enforcing harsh penalties on those who they caught out without a pass. The city of Copenhagen had become notorious for the harshness of its local police under the new regime, but all this would change when a mysterious assailant began to attack patrols. At first, it was assumed to be little more than local criminal elements testing the waters, or random citizens striking back against their oppressors.

That was until the night of December 26th, 2767, the first anniversary of the coup.

Several members of the local garrison had been out drinking, celebrating Amaris' rise to power, when a dark figure appeared in the street before them. The lone survivor described a tall, slender form, dressed in what looked to be some kind of customised battle dress. Their face was hidden behind a featureless mask that left only two glowing red eyes to be seen. It was upon them before they had a chance to react, a massive sword cutting though uniforms and flesh with equal ease. Some tried to run, others fight back, but all fell to the strange attacker. The only thing stopping the unknown attacker from finishing the job was the sudden appearance of a police VTOL, its powerful searchlight illuminating the bloody scene.

The masked figure looked up, then vanished into the night.

More attacks followed, leaving more dead troops and security forces in their wake. The unknown attacker, always described the same by the few survivors, seemed to be able to move abut Europe at will, striking seemingly random targets. Attempts to track or trap the mysterious attacker failed, but an investigation into their possible identity did bear some fruit.

A study of the few images of the attacker showed that they seemed to be using a customised variant of the type of sneak suite favoured by SLDF special forces. The mask, with its distinctive red eyes, was identified as a prototype multi-spectrum visor, believed to have been destroyed in a fire that gutted the Marconi Electronics factory not long after the coup. It also became clear that the individual was equipped with a MELCO 'Black Kite' jump pack, an extremely rare and expensive piece of equipment development exclusively for the SAS, due to its unique and still unmatched 'whisper' mode, that made it almost silent during operation.

The biggest clue, however, came from the sword they carried: a traditional Scottish claymore style, with an intricate pommel, into which was set a crest made up of a blue shield with a golden stag in its centre. This was quickly identified as being a crest associated with Clan McKenzie, and a search was made of surviving records to try and identify anyone linked with both the Clan and the SAS.

A single name came up: Captain John Aloysius McKenzie-Cameron, DECEASED.

Despite the best efforts of the security forces, this fact soon became public knowledge, and interest in the case exploded. By then it was almost three years since the destruction of the McKenzie-Cameron landhold, making it impossible to confirm if Jack had been among those killed there. A hurried inventory of supply depots and caches found vast amounts of weaponry and equipment missing, with no way of knowing just how much he may have gotten hold of. An examination of Jacks service record made it clear that he was a nightmare for security forces: more than capable of living off the land, on top of his existing skills and expertise, he had been trained in multiple forms of asymmetrical warfare. His time at Aphros had left him an expert in several forms of armed and unarmed combat, while his time training was the SAS meant he knew every strategy and tactic that might be used against him. He knew all their moves and counters ahead of time, was fluent in six languages and had a face and body that was, to be blunt, perfectly average.

Jack was a true worst case scenario for any security force: trained to the highest standards, fanatically motivated and, with his family and comrades all dead, with no apparent weakness to exploit. In utter desperation, they released his name to the public, trying to paint him as a dangerous lunatic, driven mad by the 'unfortunate and completely accidentally' death of his family. They tried their best to portray him as a rabid dog that needed to be put down for the good of everyone. They even went so far as to name him 'Mad Jack', in a bid to drum up public support for their hunt for him. It goes without saying that, by this point, they'd already burned through whatever goodwill they may have had with the general public. Years of living under an oppressive military dictatorship that insisted that every waking moment, every drop of sweat and every breath be dedicated to the cause of elevating and protecting the greater glory of Stefan Amaris. The authorities were trying to sell a bill of goods that no one was interested in. Instead, with every attack, every murdered Rim Worlder, and every failure to catch him, the legend of Mad Jack grew.

Especially after someone with a knowledge of history drew the comparison between him and the historic Spring-Heeled Jack.

Now he was more than a man out for revenge, more than perhaps the last member of the family that had for generations defined what the Hegemony, what the Star League, had stood for. No, now he was far, far more than that: he was now Mad Jack, an unstoppable, unkillable force of terror. A nemesis brought forth by the worst excesses of the oppressive, occupying Rim Worlds Army and their mercenary thugs. People would talk, in hushed voices, of the latest crackdown, that latest atrocity, and then call upon Mad Jack to see justice done. He may never have become as well-known as the Ghosts of the Black Watch or as wide ranging as the Four Horseman, but for those assigned to subjugate Europe, it was the seemingly omnipresent threat of Mad Jack that kept them awake at night.

But, the best as they say, is yet to come, with the Last Stand of Mad Jack.

In a desperate bid to end Mad Jack's campaign of terror, and under direct orders from Amaris himself, the leader of the task force assigned to hunt him down decided to create a trap, and bait it with something even Jack couldn't ignore. He had his troops roll up to Castle Leod, for almost two thousand years the seat of Clan McKenzie, distant kin of the McKenzie-Camerons. There they assembled every member of the Clan they could lay their hands on, totalling some 250 men, women and children. Then, they threatened to shoot them all if Jack didn't surrender himself.

It was a desperate move, and it was one Jack had seen coming: it was right out of the RWA playbook on counter-insurgency operations. So he sent them an invitation; he told them exactly where he was, and told them to come get him, if they 'thought they were hard enough'. The location he gave them was Nuclear Command Bunker No. K553/44FS, an ancient military complex outside the long abandoned town of Auchnacluchnie on the East Coast of Scotland. Originally built during the decades of tension between the Western and Eastern power-blocks of the twentieth and early twenty first century, it had been expanded, rebuilt and renovated several times before finally being mothballed by the Terran Hegemony in the twenty sixth century. It was, however, exactly the kind of isolated, fortified position that someone with Jack's upbringing and training would look for.

The security forces took no chances: they brought in a battalion sized force of specialists in counterinsurgency operations, including several members of the RWA's elite clandestine warfare division. There battle hardened and highly skilled troops were backed up by a full battalion of armoured vehicles and a company of light and medium BattleMechs especially chosen for their counter infantry capabilities. Every civilian within 100km was forcibly removed and a warship tasked to provide overwatch for the operation. The bunker complex was hardened against anything short of a direct, high-yield nuclear strike, but the authorities wanted Jack taken alive. They wanted him to stand trial and be found guilty of his crimes. They wanted the public to see that nobody could stand up to the unmatched might of the Amaris Empire.

But, most of all, they wanted to be sure that he really was dead this time, and that meant putting their hands on the body.

Jack, it goes with saying, had other ideas.

Despite his undeniable flair for the dramatic, Jack was detail orientated, always planning his attacks out in great detail, leaving no variable to chance. He had chosen the Auchnacluchnie bunker complex carefully, having weighed up all of the pros and cons. He knew the layout like the back of his hand, knew every possible entry point and avenue of approach. He had always planed for the day that Amaris' forces would track him home, would come looking for him.

The first clue that he wasn't going to go gentle into the good night was when a treeline vanished in a flash of light, and several hundred tons of wood came crashing down on the scouting BattleMechs. Those that weren't crushed immediately found themselves knocked over or otherwise incapacitated, just as the infantry stumbled into a minefield. Armour was brought up to cut a safe path through the mines, forcing them closer even as the surviving 'Mechs struggled to free themselves. Improvised defences made up of tripwires and motion activated sentry guns caused even more damage, but onwards the assault team pushed, determined that this time, there would be no escape for Mad Jack.

Reaching the main entrance to the bunker complex, they checked their gear and prepared to breach.

The resulting explosion was visible from orbit. It lit up the night sky and rattled windows as far away as Inverness. By the time the dust settled and a recon flight was able to get through the smoke, Auchnacluchnie had become a small bay, the shattered remains of the bunker complex having collapsed in upon themselves. Turns out, when you give someone with the training, creativity and access to military grade explosives Jack had time and motivation, they can build a really, really big bomb. It goes without saying that the RWA losses were total, seriously harming their counterinsurgency operations across a dozen worlds for years to come.

As for the hostages at Castle Leod? Turns out someone snuck into the castle through a secret passage, incapacitated the guards and rescued them all.

In an uncharacteristically intelligent move, the local garrison commander declared the operation successfully, claiming that Mad Jack had set off the bunkers self destruct to avoid capture, taking the Brave men and women of the assault force with him. No further reprisals against Clan McKenzie were made, and the file on Mad Jack was closed?

But, what really happened to him?

No body was ever recovered, but at the same time, no further attacks attributed to Mad Jack were reported for the remainder of the occupation. No surviving records indicate that he rejoined the SLDF during or after the liberation. Certainly, General Kerensky would have used a living member of the Cameron dynasty, no matter how distant, as a point to rally the rest of the Star League around. But even the surviving copies of his journals taken from Clan archives make no reference to any surviving members of the Royal Family.

There is however some evidence that an Aloysius McKenzie booked passage on a ship heading away from Terra, never to be seen or heard from ever again...
-Starling


The End
« Last Edit: 07 August 2020, 19:30:15 by JA Baker »
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


PsihoKekec

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #292 on: 07 August 2020, 07:41:53 »
Was Jack Churchill one of John's ancestors?
Shoot first, laugh later.

JA Baker

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #293 on: 07 August 2020, 08:02:04 »
Was Jack Churchill one of John's ancestors?
It's a possibility  8)
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


Cannonshop

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #294 on: 07 August 2020, 11:42:02 »
another excellent tale.
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SulliMike23

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #295 on: 07 August 2020, 12:45:52 »
A one-man army against the Usurper. I like it!

georgiaboy

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #296 on: 07 August 2020, 14:04:09 »
Only thing that would have made this better, would have been if he had gotten The Fat One, or come very close...


Also made me thing of the Original Don Pendleton, William Johnstone adventure series books.
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DOC_Agren

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #297 on: 07 August 2020, 20:17:52 »
the could have been turned into a great series   :thumbsup:
"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!"

mikecj

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Re: Who Goes There?
« Reply #298 on: 08 August 2020, 09:27:50 »
Nice!  Thanks.
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"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
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

JA Baker

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Who Goes There?
« Reply #299 on: 10 August 2020, 11:19:18 »
And again we try something different.

Follow The Money

Twenty-Four Quadrillion Dollars. That's the number twenty-four, followed by fifteen zeroes. With a dollar sign in front.

Sounds like a big number, right?

$24,000,000,000,000,000.

Still can't get your head around it?

Well, that was, conservatively, the estimated combined net-worth of House Cameron when Stephen Amaris decided to remove them from the equation, permanently. And that's before we consider exchange rates between Star League dollars and anything in use today, or inflation.

It took six generations, over two centuries, to accumulate that wealth. Six generations of investments, speculations, acquisitions and deals. All resulting in a bank balance that would put some nation-states to shame. And it wasn't all just cash money: the Camerons certainly had that to spare, but the vast bulk of their fortune came in less tangible assets. It was no secret that they owned vast tracks of land across the entire Inner Sphere, including countless residential and commercial buildings, farms, mines and ranches. They held shares in innumerable businesses, mostly through blind-trusts and holding companies, with so many cut-outs that untangling the web of trust funds and numbered bank accounts would take a lifetime. And yes, they owned artworks and antiques and all of the other entrapments of having enough money to just buy a small nation, but, in the grand scheme of things, all of the vaults and safety deposit boxes accounted for only a fraction of their wealth.

Sure, they spent a lot of money every year: even leaving aside their living expenses that weren't covered by the Hegemony government, they were patrons of hundreds of charities and foundations, funding everything from schools to hospitals and symphony orchestras. They endowed universities and research centres across the Inner Sphere, on top of countless smaller, more personal gifts and donations. But, even with all this taken into consideration, it was only a fraction of their income, and their wealth only grew with each passing year.

So, how much was left when General Kerensky liberated Terra?

Zero. Zilch. Nowt. Nothing. Bupkis. Nada. Diddly-squat. Nought.

The single biggest accumulation of personal wealth in all of human history... vanished.

Kerensky looked for it, certainly, as did Jarome Blake and countless others over the past couple of centuries. Most people assume that Amaris stole it, hid it away or spent it on the massive defensive projects and Wunderwaffe's that so fixated him during his brief tenure as self-proclaimed Emperor of the Star League. But, even then, much of the Cameron fortune had been spread out among the various nations of the Star League, outside of his direct control. And the House Lords didn't take it: they kept their hands off of it just incase a surviving member of the Royal Family was found, and by the time it became clear that no claimant was forthcoming, the money had already vanished.

All in all, it believed that Stephen Amaris was able to get his hands on and liquidate half the Cameron fortune, spending it all on projects that were destroyed during his war against Kerensky, or the first two Succession Wars. But that still leaves twelve quadrillion dollars unaccounted for, and thus was born one of the greatest mysteries of our time: what became of the Cameron Fortune?

Oh, people have spent their entire lives, and not an inconsiderable sum of money, looking for it down the years. Expeditions have been launched to abandoned colonies, distant Periphery bases and every major and minor financial hub in the known galaxy, but each and every one of them has ended up chasing their own tails.

So, what does any of this have to do with me?

Well, allow me to introduce myself: my name is Michael Ali, but as we are all friends here, you can call me Mickey if you like. I was born on the planet Goito, in what was then the Free Rasalhague Republic, and attended Gonzaga University, where I achieved my CPA, before moving on to become a CRFAC. Or, to put it another way, I am a freelance forensic accountant. I was fortunate enough to be away from home on business when Clan Ghost Bear invaded, and have spent the years since plying my trade across several worlds and nations. I have worked for individuals, companies, nobles, nations and even mercenaries on occasions, and have managed to build up a reputation as a dogged, and discreet, investigator.

And yet, I was somewhat surprised when I was invited to Hachiman to meet with Chandasekhar Kudita, old 'Uncle Chandy' himself. And, while he was every bit the gracious host someone of his standing and reputation would expect, he very quickly got down to business. One of his agents, he never gave any details as to who or where, had uncovered previously unknown information concerning the missing Cameron Fortune, and he wanted me of all people to see where it led. I don't think he was interested in the money itself; he was, after all, probably the richest man in the Combine at the time, arguably one of the ten richest people in the entire Inner Sphere, and already had more money than he could spend in a dozen lifetimes. No, if pressed he was more interested in who had taken control of the fortune, and to what ends where they using it?

Accountants are not, by nature, adventurous people. We generally prefer everything neat and tidy. Ordered, if you will. But, the chance to perhaps unravel the greatest financial mystery in human history? Well, I would have been a fool to turn him down, so I headed to the obvious place to start... Sian.

Okay, admit it: you all thought I was going to sat Tharkad, weren't you? Well, that's a little too obvious. Yes, House Steiner may well be known as the richest family in the Inner Sphere, but Alliance banking regulations are notoriously byzantine, and all but impenetrable to an outsider. No, Sian is where you go if you need to launder vast sums of money, no questions asked. Everyone, and I do mean everyone, makes use of House Liao's Chinese Laundry, with the Celestial Wisdom getting their 1% off the top. I know that 1% may not sound like much, but there isn't so much a river of dirty money flowing through Sian as there is an ocean. All those 1%'s really add up after a while, and it probably does more to keep the Confederation afloat than all of Sun-Tzu's reforms put together. Hell, even the Davions make use of Sian banks to avoid any unfortunate questions about where some of their money comes from.

War may be hell, but business is business, after all.

Well, the archives on Sian allowed me to pick up the trail of Lady Kodi Rosario, personal financial advisor to Simon Cameron before his death, and one of the people holding Richards purse strings. I was able to track one of her lesser known aliases, and link her to a director of the New Earth Trading Company who'd been visiting Sian on, shall we say, personal business, when the shit hit the fan back on Terra. Rosario gave him control over a number of blind accounts before she vanished, never to be seen again. Now, most people would think that this was an obvious double bluff: that the handover was an obvious fake, meaning that it was actually legitimate, and that Rosario was trying to set herself up as the obvious target before going on the run.

Well, that's why I'm the forensic accountant, not you.

No, the correct answer is that neither of them were the true bag-man, or bag-woman, in this particular heist. It was all just a shell game, write large: you think you're following where the ball is hidden, but it's already off the table. Rosario was just too damn obvious, too obvious to even be "hiding in plain sight". No, she was loyally doing her duty to House Cameron, running interference, and probably paying with her life. Same goes for the NETC executive, who was scoped up by Amaris' goon squad the moment he let his guard down. Surviving records indicate that he lasted two days before his heart gave out, and he gave them nothing of any use. People don't go through all that just for money, even enough money to gold-plate an entire star system. Which can only mean one thing: they were operating under the orders of someone they were willing to die for, and not die easily.

Insert your favourite "lost Cameron heir" conspiracy theory here. Doesn't really matter, because none of them are true.

So, why did I go to Sian if it was obviously a fake-out? Well, firstly, I've always wanted to go there, and this way I got someone else to pick up the tab, but mostly because it was the nearest of two possibilities, so I was on to Stewart.

If Sian is where the great and good, or at least rich and powerful, hide their ill-gotten gains, Stewart is where the criminal elements of the galaxy send their dirty laundry. Money comes in from all corners of the Inner Sphere, all the classic vices: theft, murder, extortion, prostitution, drugs, protection rackets, numbers games, backstreet bookmakers and pirates. And the banks on Stewart spread it out, send it out through countless investment funds, holding companies and credit brokers. Money made through selling drugs on New Avalon funds the building of a factory making consumer electronics on Atreus. People are usually too busy to ask where all this money is coming from, and the banks, or cause, have everything covered at their end. But, the truth is, nobody asks, because the entire economy of the Inner Sphere and much of the near Periphery is built on ensuring that money, no matter the source, keeps flowing.

Nobody ever wants to see how the sausage is made.

So, if you needed to hide vast sums of money, and Sian is just too obvious, Stewart is the next best place to start. And, thanks to Uncle Chandy, I had a name: Benedict Lamoureux. And oh boy, is that a big name for anyone in my profession. Lamoureux was essentially the evil twin of a forensic accountant, as while it is our job to find order in chaos, to uncover that which others had hidden, he made his name sowing chaos and generally muddying the waters. He was so good, in fact, that he became known by the alias Schrödinger's Cat, as it was said he could make the same money appear to be in two different places at once. It took the Hegemony more than ten years to find, arrest and convict Lamoureux, and even they admitted that they had probably only scratched the surface of what he had done. He had been imprisoned in an Ultra-Max prison on Epsilon Eridani at the time of the coup, and he simply vanished two days later.

It had long been assumed that some accomplice had used the resulting chaos to break him out, or that he had been recruited to work for Amaris. But, the newly uncovered records showed that his release had actually been the work of Rosario, who had evidently entrusted him with the task of hiding what he could of the Cameron family fortune, probably in the hopes that someone survived and would be able to reclaim it at a later date. I'm sure that the opportunity to pull off the single greatest act of financial misdirection in human history probably appealed to Lamoureux's ego, as he apparently accepted without reservation.

So, we have a planet full of shady bankers, a high functioning sociopath with about twelve quadrillion dollars to play with and a galaxy exploding into war.

Want to bet what Lamoureux invested in?

Anyone who said the arms industry, go to the back of the class: you're obviously not paying attention. No, Lamoureux was smart and he was thinking long-term. Nobody knew just how long the war was going to last, and just how much of the Hegemony was going to be left standing when it was all said and done. It's also clear that he was following instructions from someone, through probably not Rosario, who had to know that he'd days were numbered, and that there was the risk she'd crack under questioning. She was a banker, after all, and that's not a job that tends to include training in resisting torture for prolonged periods of time. No, someone was pulling the strings, someone who managed to cover their tracks pretty well. The only reason we even know they existed was because of the effects they had on others.

Think about a rock, submerged in a fast flowing river. You can't see it, but you can see the affect it has on the water.

You could spend a lifetime trying to track down every fund, every investment and project Lamureux poured money into. Not all paid dividends, for sure, but he could afford to lose billions, trillions, if it meant hiding where it had all come from. Some of the choices he made were obviously intended to fail, the economic equivalent of a smoke screen, but he was damn good at his job, as the surviving records I was able to access indicated that he actually made money rather than lost it.

But now we have to face the proverbial Elephant In The Room: even after Kerensky had Amaris put up against a wall and shot, no confirmed claimant to the Cameron throne came forward. Oh, sure, hundreds, thousands, of people have claimed that they are the rightful heir to the First Lords throne have come forward over the centuries. Most hare crazy, a few misinformed, many grifter and a few jokers. But each of the Successor States, not to mention ComStar and the Clans, have the Cameron family DNA profile on record, and nobody has ever passed the test.

Or have they?

See, after the war, Lamureux suddenly changed tactics: he started making long-term investments. Investments that could take decades, even centuries, to pay-off. He wasn't looking to hide the Cameron fortune, so much as to ensure that it would be there for centuries to come, a self replenishing fountain of money that would never run dry. All traces of Lamureux vanished about the time that the House Lords started their little game of "you and who's army?", but by then he'd put in place a framework flexible yet durable enough to not only survive the Succession Wars, but thrive amid the chaos.

To quote the original Sun-Tzu, in the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity.

So, the fund grows. Oh, sure, it takes a few hit, usually when something it had invested in took a hit from a NBC attack, but it was dispersed and diverse enough to always be able to not only survive, but provide the means to rebuild.

Enter everyone's favourite band of robes freaks, ComStar. And no, not the open, secular ComStar we know and love today. We're talking ComStar from the good old days, the bad old days, the all-or-nothing days, when they'd happily engage in a little extrajudicial violence to maintain their monopoly on technology. They made moves, attempted to seize the fund, only to suddenly back off and keep their distance. Almost as if they uncovered something they were afraid of. Just what could frighten ComStar like that and didn't go by names like Smoke Jaguar and Jade Falcon, I don't know, and don't care to.

I'm an accountant: I don't do brave.

The money is still out there. It's still nowhere near the same level it once was, but it's there, and all evidence is that someone is siphoning off the excess, but who and why? Again, I don't want to know. They cowered ComStar at the hight of their power, and have connections everywhere. So, I sent my report to Hachiman, and got the hell out of dodge. I don't know what he's going to do with the information I gave him: everything I found indicated that Mars was the centre of the Web, but I have no intention of digging any deeper.

Who knows; maybe Uncle Chandy knows someone willing to go all the way to the bottom of the rabbit hole, just to see what's waiting for them there?

The End
"That's the thing about invading the Capellan Confederation: half a decade later, you want to invade it again"
-Attributed to First-Prince Hanse Davion, 3030


 

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