Author Topic: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star  (Read 40354 times)

Sabelkatten

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #240 on: 29 November 2023, 04:05:08 »
Thirded; the words look out of place. It’s also a very weird name with both "association" and "hegemony" in it? I'd just keep calling it the Niops Association!

An idea for the flag: it's three orbitals for the three planets, I assume? How about adding one more for each planet that joins? And to make it really nerdy, add them in "shells"?

Artifex

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #241 on: 29 November 2023, 12:27:32 »
Quadrupled.

Flags don't need words to project their meaning in my opinion.

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #242 on: 03 December 2023, 12:58:00 »
As regards the flag you've got to think about it in in-universe terms, this is a flag designed by committee in the Niops way of doing things.

Imagine the discussion:


- We want to signal our connection to the star League on our flag

Let's put a Cameron Star on it.

- We want it to be distinctly Niops though

Make the star red

- We're astronomers

Have planets orbiting the star

- We're not just astronomers, we're all about science generally

Why not make the planetary orbits look like the old model of the atom?

- Okay, so how about three planets/electrons, because Niops has three habitable worlds

Good idea, we're also three societies that came together, the original scientists, the capellan refugees and the SLDF

- Nobody is going to recognise the flag. Even people that might have heard about us by now

Yeah, better put our name on it


Aesthetics aren't really all that high up on the list of criteria.  :wink:
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


Hazard Pay

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #243 on: 03 December 2023, 13:07:09 »
Remove the words and move the Star + Atom to the left more, also background could be a different color. The blue kind of contrasts badly.

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #244 on: 03 December 2023, 13:31:29 »
Flags are for the people who know who you are.  For those that don't, a flag's only function is to NOT look like theirs... :)

Kujo

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #245 on: 04 December 2023, 23:37:02 »
Since they are the 'bastards' of the Star League just have a black Cameron star on a silver background, that or have Jon Stark's banner...  Just for S&Gs and breaking the wheel without breaking worlds :grin:
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Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #246 on: 05 December 2023, 10:12:25 »
Part XXVII - Section 1 of 2

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"She might be be the one missing an eye, but the ilKhan is the one who is blind if he cannot see how completely deranged that woman is."

Stephen Cage, Khan of Clan Ice Hellion - 2834CE

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Hall of Khans – Strana Mechty – 2835

Sat in the ilKhan's chair Nicholas Kerensky looked around the Great Hall, regarding not only the faces of the nineteen Khans all faithfully in attendance but also the building itself. Not for the first time he judged that the engineers who had rebuilt the place after its destruction over a decade ago now had not quite gotten it right. There was, in his opinion, definitely something off, despite his explicit instructions that it should be restored to the state exactly as it was before the spite of Franklin Hallis had reduced the original hall to rubble.

The problem was that he just couldn't figure out what was different from before, other than the vacant chair at the table where Sarah McEvedy had once sat everything was exactly as he remembered, so he couldn't get it fixed.

It vexed him, as did a great number of other things these days, but that particular vexation should have been something that was easily remedied, but annoyingly wasn't.

Pushing thoughts of the inexplicably imperfect building aside Kerensky leaned forward in his chair, striking a serious pose as he meshed his fingers together on the table in front of him. "My Khans" he began to speak in an authoritative voice, a tone he had secretly practiced with his late lamented wife who had coached him on how he should present himself. "I assume you have all read the intelligence reports our scouts brought back from the Inner Sphere, quiaff?" he checked, rightly assuming they all had from their grave expressions. Usually before these meetings there was a some boisterous banter between the Khans, levity even, along with good-natured, or not so good-natured insults and ribbing, but today that had been entire absent as they filed in.

"Aff" they all chorused.

"Good. Then you all know why this may well be the darkest day of my life" Kerensky stated. "Darker than when I lived through the occupation of Terra by the foul usurper Amaris, darker than when the Chalcas Clan escaped justice, darker than when my beloved wife Jennifer died or even than when my own father, the Great Father, died" he told them. "My father was a visionary, he knew that when he led the SLDF into exile that in his absence the Traitor Lords would engulf the Inner Sphere in fire and blood, a new Age of War, but I cannot believe that he would not have stayed and fought if he had known then how large the scale of slaughter was actually going to be."

Most of the Khans nodded their agreement as Kerensky looked near to weeping, more than one of the Khans rightly assuming however he was just putting on an act, though naturally they would never voice such dangerous thoughts aloud. "Billions dead, nay tens, hundreds of billions" Kerensky resumed speaking. "WMD employed against civilian targets so often that I can only believe that these monsters, for monsters is what they surely are, were simply blasé about raising whole cities with thermonuclear fire or poisoning entire worlds with chemical or biological weapons" he declared. "Even Amaris, Amaris, was not so cavalier when it came to unleashing his strategic arsenal."

"Savages" Khan Ellie Kinnison of the Steel Vipers responded, shaking her own head in apparent dismay though as ever her gaze was possessive regarding the ilKhan. There was a time that she had looked at him with her one working eye with fawning adoration instead, but it was self-evident to anyone paying attention that at some point she had clearly gotten her fangs into him. Those of a cynical nature assumed that she had exploited the death of the ilKhan's wife in a tragic accident to her own ends, his brother-in-law certainly thought so, but even the more naïve of observers was pretty sure she was sharing the ilKhan's bed these days.

It was generally considered a crying shame that Andery Kerensky, the ilKhan's younger brother, had fallen in battle during Operation Klondike, not least because in his absence there was nobody to tell Nicholas bluntly that regardless of whether or not the woman concerned gave off vibes that she ****** like a crazed weasel, and Ellie Kinnison very much did that, you just don't stick it in the crazy.

To be fair it wasn't like Jennifer Winson had been particularly well-liked either. The rumours that she was actually Jennifer Amaris certainly didn't help, and she was undeniably ruthless and calculating with great influence over her husband, but at least she wasn't completely unhinged like her replacement and as a result her stock in the public's affections seemed to rise with each year that passed.

Continuing his address to the Khans Nicholas Kerensky leaned forward. "Our intelligence analysts inform me that not only was this so-called 'First Succession War' the bloodiest in history, if you were to include the multitudes who perished due to indirect consequences, such as hunger, environmental collapse and an inability to obtain medical care, more may have died than in all other wars humanity has ever fought…" he paused for emphasis, "combined" he said sounding genuinely aghast.

Elizabeth Hazen the Khan of Clan Jade Falcon had a stony expression but her eyes were full of fury. "Aaron was right" she said. "We should have placed Aleksandr on the throne in 2781 and beaten back the barbarians when they sought to invade the Terran Hegemony" she continued, everyone knowing who she meant. As the rumoured lover of General Aaron DeChavilier before his death in the Pentagon Civil War she was perhaps not the most unbiased judge of the man and his opinions, but several other khans nodded their agreement, including surprisingly Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf who was usually a bitter rival of both Hazen herself and her clan as a whole.

"I long believed my father would never have accepted the role, but if he had known what we do now I am no longer so sure" ilKhan Kerensky responded. "If only we could turn back time" he added wistfully. "I must say however at this juncture that the news I personally found hardest to believe is that after slaughtering each other on an industrial scale for thirty-five years, many of their own worlds rendered as lifeless as those of the Hegemony, that the ceasefire between the Traitor Lords lasted less than a decade before they started right up again where they left off!" he exclaimed incredulously. "This insane 'Second Succession War' was already in full swing when our scouting parties arrived in the Inner Sphere and only seemed to be escalating when they set out for home with their findings."

"It is naught but madness" Khan Stephan Cage of the Ice Hellions firmly agreed. A reasoned, compassionate man with a strong sense of justice, as well as being a skilled warrior proven in the field, what had occurred during their absence completely appalled him.

"At least we now know why we never heard of the Chalcas Clan again" Kesar Jerricho of Clan Coyote interjected. "They must have arrived at the Inner Sphere and realised that there was no prospect of rallying the Great Houses together against us" he suggested.

"They would have arrived during the peace, or should I say temporary ceasefire, between the Succession Wars" Raymond Sainze of the Fire Mandrills noted.

"What of it?" Jerricho asked rhetorically. "After over three decades of unleashing thermonuclear fire upon each other I doubt they were on good enough terms to suddenly bury their differences" he said wryly. "They were still skirmishing with each other throughout it seems."

"I assume we are all in agreement that this so-called 'Canada Tribe' was in fact the Chalcas Clan gathering intelligence and supplies, quiaff?" Kerensky asked the room, once again responded to by a chorus of 'Aff' in reply. "They only seemed to raid the Kuritans for supplies from what our scouts could ascertain, I have my own theory as to why but am interested in hearing the views of others" the ilKhan requested.

"It may have simply been because the Draconis Combine lies closest to the Exodus Road" Stephen McKenna of the Snow Ravens replied, "although if they learned of this 'Kentares Massacre' as we now have that may have also played a role" he suggested. "Even amidst all the other horrors that episode stood out to me as an act of utter barbarism" he opined.

"You think the Chalcas Clan would be so bothered by civilian deaths that that would seek a measure of vengeance in their name after what they did you your own Snow Ravens at Dehra Dun, quineg?" Sandra Tseng of the Ghost Bears asked, frowning.

Before looking to Tseng to reply McKenna's gaze briefly met that of Nicholas Kerensky. Both knew that it was not a Wolverine nuclear device that had initiated over Dehra Dun despite the official record. "Pushing a button to incinerate people from afar is not the same as looking an unarmed man, woman or child in the eyes before you cut them down with a sword" he told her. "The Combine murdered, no perhaps I should say they butchered tens of millions of people on Kentares in a way that seems to have horrified even the other Traitor Lords" he said. "I have even more reason to hate the Chalcas Clan than the rest of you, but even I will credit them with enough humanity that when they learned of Kentares it would have made raiding the Combine for supplies a guiltless, nay satisfying, course of action" he said. "If I was there with my fleet when the people of Kentares were being slaughtered I would have smashed my way to Luthien and bombarded the Imperial Palace from orbit until the rubble itself was reduced to dust" he stated through gritted teeth.

Several of the khans beat their fists on the table in thundering agreement. "The blood of the first Director-General still flows true it seems" Mitchell Loris of Clan Mongoose spoke up, he and McKenna nodding to each other in what seemed like mutual respect.

Kerensky frowned. Quite how or why the Snow Ravens and Clan Mongoose had grown so close in recent years was a mystery that even the Watch had failed to ascertain. After the Wolverine's escaped it had seemed initially that Loris was planning to take advantage of the weakness of the Snow Ravens to expand his clan's holdings on Circe but then suddenly they became great allies instead. Did McKenna have something on Loris perhaps, the ilKhan wondered? Jennifer had seemed to think so before her death and he had learned to trust her instincts as regards dark deeds and political machinations, if so what was it?

"Yes. Kentares" Seth van Houten of Clan Burrock now spoke. "Surely a proof that the so-called honour of the Draconis Combine, and that of the bushido code of the samurai class in particular, is a mere fiction" he said, smirking at Raymond Sainze of the Fire Mandrills who visibly bristled at the remark. Sainze was himself born in the Combine to a noble samurai family and would have demanded a Trial of Grievance against van Houten for this clearly deliberate public insult if he wasn't having to deal with so many internal problems and divisions within his own clan at that moment. In some ways factions within the Fire Mandrills hated each other nearly as much as they collectively hated the Burrocks, and it was a constant chore trying to keep them all in line. Despite Sainze himself being raised in a culture of unthinking obedience and deference to authority the clan he built was anything but that, others joked that the Fire Mandrills were so fragmented internally that they were effectively the Free Worlds League of the clans and Sainze himself was the Captain-General with a Combine accent.

"In the light of this information do we still fear an attack by the Great Houses or are we to stand down much of our naval strength again?" Jason Karrige of the Widowmakers queried. "Returning most of the capital ships to the Norfolk and San Diego boneyards would free up considerable manpower and resources" he pointed out. "The ilKhan was wise to mobilise us against possible invasion by the Traitor Lords when he, I mean we, lost track of the Chalchas Clan but battlemech production suffered as a result and that meant we could not fight trials in the number and scale we did before."

Nicholas Kerensky narrowed his eyes at Karrige, yearning for the day he had the opportunity to get rid of the man for good. It was only a shame that the Wolverines had not rid him of the conniving, odious creep before they escaped. "It was to learn if we could do that safely that I chose to dispatch our scouting parties to reconnoitre and investigate the Inner Sphere" he responded. "While it is true that battlemech production dropped off as resources were devoted towards our naval assets, I made sure that Research and Development continued as before, with no reduction in funding so the long-term impact should be minimal."

"Indeed, ilKhan Kerensky" Elizabeth Hazen loyally backed him up. "In fact, by not building more of the older designs that were going to be rendered obsolete almost immediately, the average quality, if not the quantity of our ground forces is rising steeply" she said, ignoring the old adage that quantity has a quality all its own. "My clan's new Wakazashi assault mech is superior to any Star League era machine in the same weight class, and I will freely admit that the Ghost Bear's Minsk and the Nova Cat's Vision Quest are superlative, to name but two."

Jerome Winson nodded. "Even the up-gunned and up-armoured versions of the Marauder and Battlemaster that turned them into assault mechs puts the machines we rode during Operation Klondike not so long past firmly in the shade" he agreed. "To think we once considered our lighter and more compact improved versions of SLDF weaponry as the pinnacle of military science" he continued, smiling. "What I would not give to have a few of our latest model ERPPC, Gauss Rifle and Pulse Laser designs back when we fought Amaris" he said, acknowledging the Khans of the Snow Ravens, Burrocks and Coyotes in turn, their clans having developed those particular weapons.

"I would rank the Bane assault mech that my own clan developed as a match for any other" John Fletcher of the Hell's Horses interjected, feeling left out.

"If the fight took place at extreme range and finished in less than ten minutes before the ammunition ran out perhaps" Elizabeth Hazen responded sarcastically. "Assuming that most of the autocannons did not jam after only a few salvos" she added dismissively. Only an infantryman like Fletcher with little understanding of battlemech warfare would come up with a machine that mounted ten ultra AC/2 autocannons as its main armament she thought. True, in ideal circumstances they would sandblast the armour right off you at ranges where you could barely hit back, but the Bane only carried four tons of autocannon ammunition, ultra-autocannons chewed through ammo like it was popcorn, and they were not nearly reliable enough to entirely depend upon for her tastes anyway.

"The Bane is intended as part of a combined-arms formation, it is not a toy for one-on-one trials against a single foe" Fletcher replied, his tone similar to what you might use to lecture an ignorant child. "If the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere come for us, or the Wolverines return, neither are going to play by our rules" he said. "Why do you think the ilKhan prefers us to call them the Chalcas Clan?" he asked rhetorically.

"Your words verge on praise for the ways of the Chalcas, Khan Fletcher" Ellie Kinnison told him, glaring with her one good eye. "A dangerous position to take" she warned coldly.

"Failure to recognise that an enemy is formidable is more dangerous" Fletcher retorted. "I defeated many a battlemech unit of the Rim Worlds Republic because they thought little of infantry and tanks and paid the price for their hubris" he stated from experience.

"The Khan of the Hell's Horses makes a valid point" Nicholas Kerensky interjected. "We learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and we underestimate our foes at our peril" he said. "Although for the sake of decorum at least it behoves all to not mention the Chalcas Clan by the name they had when they still had a seat at this table" he added.

Kinnison appeared hurt that Kerensky had not sided with her completely and Stephen McKenna fought back a smile not only at her expression but the thought that the ilKhan might have to metaphorically sleep on the couch tonight. It may have been politically expedient to go along with Kerensky's lies regarding what had happened at Dehra Dun, but the lack of remorse shown by the ilKhan regarding the whole affair meant that the leadership of the Snow Ravens was never going to trust the man again. His saKhan, Joyce Merrell, had been a close friend of Khan McEvedy and it was through that connection that McKenna discovered that McEvedy herself was not the only Khan that had issues with the way the ilKhan ran things. In fact when Mitchell Loris had tried to exploit the temporary weakness of the Snow Ravens after the nuclear destruction of much of Dehra Dun he had been 'motivated' to change his plans when presented with a recording of a conversation between him and Sarah McEvedy where they both criticised the ilKhan harshly.

While it was a threat of exposure that made Mitchell back down to begin with, both clans quickly realised that since neither of them were apparently deluded enough to blindly follow Nicholas Kerensky like the more sycophantic clans did, both would greatly benefit from cooperation between the like-minded rather than competition between them. When let in on the Snow Raven's darkest secret, that it was not the Wolverines who had struck Dehra Dun but the Raven's themselves by accident when one of their aerospace fighters carrying a nuclear strike package was shot down, Mitchell had been understandably shocked for a moment, even more so when McKenna added that in retrospect he was now by no means certain who was responsible for the earlier destruction of Great Hope.

It would certainly explain one mystery if the nuking of Great Hope was a set-up by either the ilKhan himself or a clan that was particularly hostile to the Wolverines. When Franklin Hallis hijacked the battleship McKenna's Pride in orbit over Strana Mechty, with the notable exception of blasting the Hall of Khans, all the targets he struck with orbital bombardments were military ones as he covered the withdrawal of his people from Bearcat and their other holdings on the planet. With the firepower he had at hand it would have been trivially easy for Hallis to devastate much of the planet, but he refrained from doing so.

A ruthless willingness to destroy one of your own cities to prevent it falling into enemy hands was difficult to square with a reluctance to destroy enemy cities, and although they did not know this Stephen McKenna and Loris Mitchell were not the only khans harbouring suspicions about the whole thing.
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #247 on: 05 December 2023, 10:14:59 »
Part XXVII - Section 2 of 2

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The ilKhan once again looked around the room, gauging the mood of the khans. "I believe that we have come to a crossroads as to what direction the cans will take in the future, and indeed what it is that we fundamentally stand for and why it is so important that we do not fail" he said. "My father upheld what we have come to know as the 'Hidden Hope' doctrine, a philosophy in which we needed to stand apart from the Inner Sphere, not involving ourselves in their petty squabbles, but also stand ready to defend it from an external threat if one ever arose" he continued. "I believed in my father's vision, created the clans as a means to not only reunify the SLDF-in-exile but also to create a strong, selfless warrior society that could be the shield of humanity if the day ever came one were needed, but looking at what has befallen the Inner Sphere since we left I confess to be unable to imagine what greater threat to humanity there could actually be than the fiends who falsely claim the title of First Lord" he declared.

"My ilKhan, you do not mean to lead us in a crusade to liberate the Inner Sphere surely, quineg?" Sandra Tseng asked in shock.

"Neg" Kerensky responded to her relief. "At least not yet" he added more concerningly. "Even if the Traitor Lords were not even more nuke-happy than Amaris or the Taurians at their worst, our prospects for victory in a conventional war would be small. Our technological superiority gives our war machines a significant edge over anything they have, and the skill and valour of our warriors is unparalleled, but their numerical superiority is so great we would be eventually be ground to dust against them if we launched our crusade now" he said with feigned sadness. "If we are ever to be able to liberate humanity from the darkness than has befallen it we will need to still further widen the capability gap between our equipment and theirs, and also expand our armies by at least an order of magnitude, realistically far more unless their technological regression becomes truly absurd."

The Khans looked shocked. "Supporting a military of that size will require a massive increase in our industrial base and a population increase far beyond what we were expecting to manage" Stephen McKenna responded. "I cannot see how we could achieve such a thing this century, perhaps not even by the end of the following one" he said doubtfully.

"I am under no delusions that I myself will live long enough to see the Inner Sphere liberated, Khan McKenna" Kerensky told him honestly. "The glory of that achievement will rest on the head of a future ilKhan and the leadership of the clans of that era when they march triumphantly through the streets of Terra and raise the Cameron Star over the homeworld of humanity once again" he said. "It may not even be necessary, if the Great Houses come to their senses and stop slaughtering each other then the clans can once again embrace the Hidden Hope doctrine rather than the Crusader doctrine as I call it, but cognisant of the facts presented can any here say in their heart-of-hearts that our duty lies elsewhere than ending this seemingly eternal carnage, quineg?"

The Khans looked to each other before eventually responding 'neg' one after another.

Kerensky smiled. "I am gratified we are all in accord" he said. "I propose we send a second expedition at some point, this timed so they can report back another five years on how things are developing in the Inner Sphere" he said. "The First Succession War lasted thirty-five years so I do not envision the Second coming to a halt anytime soon, but I do not claim omniscience and the Traitor Lords might yet surprise me and seek a peaceful resolution to their petty, though bloody, disputes."

Kerensky audibly sighed and shook his head sadly. "To be honest however, if the destruction wreaked by the First War was not enough to make them see sense I do not hold out much hope of any of them having a Road to Damascus moment any time soon" he said regretfully.

"What of the Chalcas Clan? I assume our reconnaissance and intelligence-gathering missions will continue to watch out for signs of them, quaff?" Jason Karriage checked.

"Aff" the ilKhan confirmed. "If, for example, one of the Great Houses were to sudden field clan weaponry of the previous generation, that which the Chalcas would have the ability to produce, I would deem that worthy of a more detailed and thorough investigation."

"If they aligned themselves with one of the Traitor Lords they could certainly tip the balance in their favour" Jerome Winson observed. "Given that they previously raided the Draconis Combine it might be wise to keep a particularly close eye on the Lyran Commonwealth and the Federated Suns as the powers most at odds with Kurita."

"Their liberal ideals would align closer to that of Steiner or Davion than certain others" Ellie Kinnison concurred, saying the word 'liberal' as if it were distasteful in the extreme.

"If they truly lived up to those professed ideals Circe would have two fewer large craters on its surface" Colleen Schmitt of Clan Blood Spirit observed wryly, "but given their evident antipathy towards the Combine I would have to agree, at least in principle" she continued. "I feel I must state at this juncture however that as fundamental a shift in the core principles of our society as to abandon the Hidden Hope doctrine for a more interventionist one is a decision that should not be made lightly. I for one would wish to discuss it with my saKhan and others before throwing my support behind it."

ilKhan Kerensky nodded, the Blood Spirits were nothing if not traditionalist and conservative in their views and he had not expected even the more radical clans to accept such a fundamental paradigm shift in their societies without time to contemplate what it might mean. "Not only do I understand your position Khan Schmitt, if anything I would encourage all here to do likewise" he responded. "Until I became privy to the wretched state of the Inner Sphere in these dark times I would have never considered veering so far away from the course my father laid out for us but knowing him as I do I cannot believe he would have expected us to dogmatically stick to his exact instructions regardless of circumstances."

"I believe we all expected the Age of War to resume after the Exodus, in the worst case scenario the Age of War as it was before the Ares Conventions when nuclear weapons were employed against civilian targets, if not routinely, but it seems we were all wildly optimistic" Seth Van Houten said glumly.

"The question I pose to you all, one that I do not expect you to be able to answer with absolute certainty without first consulting with your subordinates, is whether our people will support a crusade to free the Inner Sphere from the murderous tyrants who rule there" Nicholas Kerensky asked the khans. "This will not be a simple undertaking. It will require decades of planning and hard work, requiring a unity of purpose and a collective will that we have not truly enjoyed since Operation Klondike, but I cannot see how we can stand idly by knowing what we now know."

"All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing" Stephan Cage quoted something he had read once.

"The armies of the Successor States are not merely numerous, supported by vast populations from which they can replace their losses, we must assume that you cannot fight each other for this long without learning something of the art of war" Elizabeth Hazen said thoughtfully. "They hone their skills against each other with every battle, if we are not to lose our own edge then we cannot allow ourselves to neglect our trials against each other" she opined. Hazen had always been among the most outspoken proponents of holding as many trials as possible, perhaps due to her viewing them as the Gunslinger Program reborn, something her old regiment the Black Watch had strongly embraced. Behind her back however other khans liked to joke that a decade ago when she had to put her money where her mouth was in the trial against the Wolverines over ownership of the Brian Cache found on their territory her Jade Falcons were brutally hammered and instead of accepting the loss of the trial with good grace she went crying to the ilKhan saying it wasn't fair.

"Particularly as an expansion in our forces would otherwise risk greatly diluting the quality of our forces when we need both quantity and quality to achieve the goal the ilKhan proposes" Ellie Kinnison added for herself. The Steel Vipers had long advocated an internal policy that advocated keeping standards as high as possible, hence the reason a smaller proportion of their sibko trainees eventually made it into the warrior caste than in any other clan, so some reluctance on her part to shift the balance from quality to quantity was understandable.

Kerensky smiled. "We will never have the sheer weight of numbers required to bring the two thousand inhabited systems of the Inner Sphere to heel" he said. "We will surely need the finest of warriors and the most advanced of weaponry to make up what we lack in manpower, so I recognise that we cannot allow a narrowing of the gap in skills and technology even as new clusters and galaxies are formed and rates of battlemech production are increased."

Hazen and Kinnison seemed to accept that, and as Kerensky bade the khans to talk among themselves as to how they might wish to proceed from here he felt a sense of relief it seemed to be going as well as he had hoped.

Twelve years prior making an example of the Wolverines had seemed to be a good way to strengthen his hold over the clans and consolidate his power-base, and indeed if events had panned out differently it might well have worked, but their successful escape had instead ended up weakening his position and severely diminishing his previous aura of untrammelled authority. In retrospect perhaps it would have been better to make an example of Clan Widowmaker for the unscrupulous and murderous actions of their khan and his loyalists for nuking Great Hope and pinning the blame on the McEvedy's people themselves, but having gone along with it at the time it was too late afterwards to backpeddle.

His temporary solution to shoring up his wavering power and influence had worked for a few years, drumming up fears that Franklin Hallis and the Wolverines might return any day leading a coalition of the Great Houses to crush the clans, but as time passed and the feared invasion by the Inner Sphere never happened the ilKhan's tight grip on clan society started to weaken and people started to openly criticise his rule.

The fact was McEvedy had outwitted Nicholas Kerensky. Her 'Operation Switchback' had not only successfully extracted her people, the masterstroke of using McKenna's Pride to cover their withdrawal from Strana Mechty and just how hard and effectively the Wolverine rearguard units had fought was quietly admired as tactically brilliant even as the destructions of Great Hope and Dehra Dun were reviled. It was also hard to ignore that the Wolverine's had been ahead of the pack when it came to introducing new weaponry and equipment, though the other clans had since overtaken them, so was the ilkKhan's perfect society truly the best model?

Clan Wolverine, now known as the 'Chalcas Clan' in polite society, were surely odious and dezgra but they had quite blatantly taken on Kerensky and won, despite just how heavily the odds had seemingly been stacked against them. For all the ilKhan's propaganda portraying their escape as craven, the fact they somehow actually brought their industrial base and workforce with them when they left made it look far more like a planned strategic withdrawal than it did a cowardly retreat.

Sending an expedition to the Inner Sphere to investigate what had happened to the Wolverines had been a 'Hail Mary play' of sorts for Nicholas Kerensky, but it had turned out better than he might have ever hoped. Despite expecting to find it war-torn the sheer scale of destruction wrought by the First Succession War, and now seemingly being repeated in the Second, provided the ilKhan with something he could use to distract the masses and reassert his authority.

The Hidden Hope doctrine was one thing but it didn't stir the blood like the prospect of joining a righteous crusade against evil did, and with billions upon billions dead and multiple worlds aflame it should be an easy task to get everyone angry with the murderous Great Houses not him. Given how many people in clan leadership positions had been born in the Terran Hegemony, how many of them had now learned what horrors had befallen their homeworlds, all he needed to do was portray himself as the man to follow to achieve justice.

Fortunately most of the khans had fought against Amaris in a full-scale war, one in which numbers and logistics mattered, so they knew it wouldn't just be a matter of loading up all their battlemechs on jumpships and heading back to the Inner Sphere. They knew they needed to build up their forces to have any chance of success, and they knew that it would take years, decades, to do so, this affording the ilKhan plenty of time to work with.

If he could stay on top long enough to be lying in his grave after a death due to natural causes that would be a successful outcome for Nicholas Kerensky, if he could leave a legacy that would see him long remembered as a Great Man like his father was as well that would be even better.

It was a shame his wife Jennifer was no longer at his side, he did miss both her company and her counsel greatly, but he had found some degree of comfort with Ellie Kinnison. Despite her tendency towards clinginess annoying him, and his occasional doubts as to her sanity, the woman did ****** like a crazed weasel making it considerably easier to overlook her flaws.

There was no way in hell he was going to agree to producing a child in the Iron Wombs with himself as gene-father and her as gene-mother though. He knew both himself and Kinnison well enough to know that no good whatsoever would come of those genes being mashed together.


----------

Note from the Author:

And we finally get a glimpse into what's been happening back in the Clan Homeworlds all this time with a look into the Hall of Khans. Lots of butterflies here, and a lot of people who were dead by now in canon but are still alive here (and one that was alive but now isn't). With the Woilverines very much not annihiliated they do not become known to the clanners as the 'Not Named Clan' but rather the 'Chalcas Clan' (in clan speech 'chalcas' means those that challenge clan society and the caste system).

We'll start with Jason Karrige, Khan of Clan Widowmaker, who in canon was killed by Franklin Hallis at the Battle of Barbados in 2824 (ilKhan Kerensky set it up to happen). This of course did not occur in this timeline and the ilKhan kept it secret what had really happened at Great Hope (he was concerned that the Wolverine's sucessful escape weakened his position so keeping the Widowmakers in his pocket was useful).

Originally Nicholas Kerensky was killed (perhaps by accident) during a Trial between Clan Wolf and Clan Widowmaker that took place in 2824, with Khan Cal Jorgensson of the Widowmakers executed as a result. This trial never takes place in this timeline so Kerensky is still alive (and with Karrige still alive Jorgensson is only the saKhan of the Widowmakers... and also still alive). In canon Clan Widowmaker itself was absorbed by Clan Wolf in 2834 (because of what happened to the ilKhan) but here they're still going strong. Because there was no Trial of Absorbtion it means that Cyrus Elam, khan of Clan Goliath Scorpion is also still alive incidentally.

Another khan who is still alive here that wasn't by now in canon is Sandra Rosse of Clan Nova Cat. She was originally killed during a series of trials after the annihiliation of the Woverines (the Nova Cats had voted that the Brian Cache found on Wolverine territory should belong to them) but with the Wolverines still out there such trials were suspended because the clans feared a Wolverine-led Inner Sphere invasion.

In canon after the destruction of Dehra Dun the khan of Clan Mongoose, Mitchell Loris, tried to take advantage of the weakness of Clan Snow Raven but was threatened with tapes the Snow Ravens had of Sarah McEvedy talking to Mitchell about the ilKhan (McEvedy was good friends with the saKhan of the Ravens). This made Mitchell back off fast (his comments about the ilKhan must have been pretty critical) but here things have progressed even further into an alliance between the two clans (neither trust the ilKhan one bit for good reason and they don't want to be the next clan to be made an example of).

There is plenty more I could say but if I did these author's notes would be novella length, but I'll finish with Ellie Kinnison of Clan Steel Viper. In canon she became obsessed with Nicholas Kerensky to the point she tried to assassinate his wife Jennifer Winson/Amaris/Cameron (delete according to your preferred theory as to her identity) and take her place. Here she was still very much obsessed but she's the one still alive and Jennifer is not... I'll let the readership work out what might have happened dureing all the confusion and turmoil after the Wolverine's escaped.

Butterfly effects or heavy aerospace fighter effects? Please feel free to speculate and comment!
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


drakensis

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #248 on: 05 December 2023, 12:31:02 »
Interesting that the saKhans aren't in attendance. Normally, at least in the 31st century, both Khans of a Clan attend the Grant Council. It's possible this was different initially but I don't know anything to that effect.

Also Jerome Winson (or his replacement if he's died) is rather conspicuously not mentioned. He was both Nicholas' mentor and his heir as ilKhan so it's odd that he's quiet.
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Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #249 on: 05 December 2023, 12:36:36 »
At least it seems Niops doesn't have to worry about threats from that direction for a while...

PsihoKekec

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #250 on: 05 December 2023, 12:48:57 »
So Ellie Kinnison managed to eliminate her competition and everything went as planned?

Interesting that the saKhans aren't in attendance. Normally, at least in the 31st century, both Khans of a Clan attend the Grant Council. It's possible this was different initially but I don't know anything to that effect.

Also Jerome Winson (or his replacement if he's died) is rather conspicuously not mentioned. He was both Nicholas' mentor and his heir as ilKhan so it's odd that he's quiet.

Perhaps the omnipresent fear of Wolverines doing something underhanded is influencing them to leave saKhans as designated survivors during such meetings, in case of decapitation terrorist strike?

Also Jerome Winson is mentioned

Quote
Jerome Winson nodded. "Even the up-gunned and up-armoured versions of the Marauder and Battlemaster that turned them into assault mechs puts the machines we rode during Operation Klondike not so long past firmly in the shade" he agreed. "

When Clans will embark on their great crusade, they will be much better prepared for IS warfare than OTL, the help of Terran Hegemony In Exile will be crucial if the IS is to withstand the onslaught.
Shoot first, laugh later.

EAGLE 7

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #251 on: 05 December 2023, 13:51:49 »
 Thanks for the Clan view of your storyline.
Keep up the good work, much appreciated.
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DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #252 on: 05 December 2023, 15:11:10 »
Great update here. I wonder if this will affect Clan combat doctrine here too, since all of the Khans still remember vividly Operation KLONDIKE and the Amaris campaign. This could very well mean that while Clans will Trial against each other and hold other Clans accountable to zellbringen, they will revert to classic SLDF tactics when facing off against the Inner Sphere or against Niops.

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #253 on: 05 December 2023, 15:31:46 »
Their reduced numbers preclude classic SLDF tactics, though...

drakensis

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #254 on: 05 December 2023, 16:43:35 »
Also Jerome Winson is mentioned
My bad for missing that.
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Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #255 on: 05 December 2023, 16:47:55 »
No worries, it happens to all of us now and then... :)

mikecj

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #256 on: 05 December 2023, 18:32:36 »
Not a nitpick but my son just read Betrayal of Ideals and we've been discussing the period- where was the source of:

"In canon after the destruction of Dehra Dun the khan of Clan Mongoose, Mitchell Loris, tried to take advantage of the weakness of Clan Snow Raven but was threatened with tapes the Snow Ravens had of Sarah McEvedy talking to Mitchell about the ilKhan (McEvedy was good friends with the saKhan of the Ravens). "

Thanks!!!
He's coming in fresh and I haven't read that period in years.
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
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Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

cawest

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #257 on: 05 December 2023, 20:27:11 »
so alot of the clan warships are going to be more ready for recalling.  maybe this time the Dragoons will get some bugeyes for scouting.  i do have to wonder what would happen if the wolverines captured a bugeye that Nicky sent to spy on the IS> 

DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #258 on: 05 December 2023, 21:17:54 »
so alot of the clan warships are going to be more ready for recalling.  maybe this time the Dragoons will get some bugeyes for scouting.  i do have to wonder what would happen if the wolverines captured a bugeye that Nicky sent to spy on the IS>

The Tracker and Nightwing are other viable options as well.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #259 on: 06 December 2023, 01:36:30 »
Their reduced numbers preclude classic SLDF tactics, though...

However Nicholas did say they will need a lot more troops for the war on Inner Sphere, so their numbers will be higher, but their obsession with duelling will influence their planning, even if they brush up their SLDF manuals before the invasion.
Shoot first, laugh later.

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #260 on: 06 December 2023, 01:59:12 »
Not a nitpick but my son just read Betrayal of Ideals and we've been discussing the period- where was the source of:

"In canon after the destruction of Dehra Dun the khan of Clan Mongoose, Mitchell Loris, tried to take advantage of the weakness of Clan Snow Raven but was threatened with tapes the Snow Ravens had of Sarah McEvedy talking to Mitchell about the ilKhan (McEvedy was good friends with the saKhan of the Ravens). "

Thanks!!!
He's coming in fresh and I haven't read that period in years.

Other than Betrayal of Ideals the relevant source is Field Manual: Warden Clans which contains a couple of interesting passages from Stephen McKenna's personal journal.

The first passage speaks of no longer trusting the other clans in the wake of Dehra Dun, and his Snow Ravens facing absorption by Clan Mongoose, and the second how he got Loris Mitchell to back off. I'll quote the second because I find the phrasing hilarious (McKenna seems to have a very wry, sardonic sense of humour).

"Loris proved most understanding when I presented our case to him this afternoon. He was also most appreciative that rumors of tapes describing his association with the Khan of the Not-Named proved false. As he so vehemently told me. any claim that he was in league with that treacherous woman is preposterous. He is lucky that we intercepted the tapes and prevented them being presented to the Grand Council."

 :cheesy:


« Last Edit: 06 December 2023, 02:00:50 by Hotpoint »
"A dread fear rests deep in the heart of Clan Coyote that one day a lawyer will arrive on Tamaron talking about intellectual property rights, the Mercury II and the Coyotl omnimech and this will herald the end of the Clan as the Not-Named sue their asses into bankruptcy for patent infringement" - The True History of the Clans (Dark Caste Press: 3050)

Hunted Tribes - Hotpoint's Battlestar/Battletech Crossover Series


DragonKhan55

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #261 on: 06 December 2023, 11:23:40 »
However Nicholas did say they will need a lot more troops for the war on Inner Sphere, so their numbers will be higher, but their obsession with duelling will influence their planning, even if they brush up their SLDF manuals before the invasion.

True, but also from this passage, I got the impression that at least Nicky and Jake Fletcher were fully aware that the IS was not going to play by Clan rules at all in an actual conflict, and that the Clans would not either. Keep in mind, even though these are Clan Khans now, all of them are Amaris and KLONDIKE veterans who distinctly remember how to run an actual war.

Clan trial/dueling culture is starting to settle in but hasn't taken over completely yet unlike the Clans of 3050 who were written so poorly and idiotically that none of them even tried to explain who they were or how Trials worked before issuing challenges to IS regiments that had never even met them before.


"The Bane is intended as part of a combined-arms formation, it is not a toy for one-on-one trials against a single foe" Fletcher replied, his tone similar to what you might use to lecture an ignorant child. "If the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere come for us, or the Wolverines return, neither are going to play by our rules" he said. "Why do you think the ilKhan prefers us to call them the Chalcas Clan?" he asked rhetorically.

"Your words verge on praise for the ways of the Chalcas, Khan Fletcher" Ellie Kinnison told him, glaring with her one good eye. "A dangerous position to take" she warned coldly.

"Failure to recognise that an enemy is formidable is more dangerous" Fletcher retorted. "I defeated many a battlemech unit of the Rim Worlds Republic because they thought little of infantry and tanks and paid the price for their hubris" he stated from experience.

"The Khan of the Hell's Horses makes a valid point" Nicholas Kerensky interjected. "We learn more from our mistakes than our successes, and we underestimate our foes at our peril" he said.



D-Rock

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #262 on: 06 December 2023, 16:01:50 »
I would counterargue that once some of these old Star League era legacy characters phase out there's still potential for doctrinal drift. The Clans may still go full dumb, especially if there's enough of the next generation that's bought Kerensky's Kool-Aid. That being said, I'm interested in seeing how the flavor changes ever so slightly...

Also, awesome that you mentioned the Carmichaels a couple chapters ago. I can't wait to see what unfolds for their legacy.

mikecj

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #263 on: 06 December 2023, 16:51:50 »
Other than Betrayal of Ideals the relevant source is Field Manual: Warden Clans which contains a couple of interesting passages from Stephen McKenna's personal journal.

The first passage speaks of no longer trusting the other clans in the wake of Dehra Dun, and his Snow Ravens facing absorption by Clan Mongoose, and the second how he got Loris Mitchell to back off. I'll quote the second because I find the phrasing hilarious (McKenna seems to have a very wry, sardonic sense of humour).

"Loris proved most understanding when I presented our case to him this afternoon. He was also most appreciative that rumors of tapes describing his association with the Khan of the Not-Named proved false. As he so vehemently told me. any claim that he was in league with that treacherous woman is preposterous. He is lucky that we intercepted the tapes and prevented them being presented to the Grand Council."

 :cheesy:

Thank you very much!  And a perfect capture of the Snow Ravens' machiavellian nature.   I hope we get some more backstory from his POV.   :smilie_happy_thumbup:
« Last Edit: 06 December 2023, 17:00:06 by mikecj »
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.

Artifex

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #264 on: 06 December 2023, 17:18:01 »
Hoo boi, how they'll be goggling to discover in the 31st millenium, that the Wolverines survived and thrived in an society that will match if not overmatch their own by that time with equipment on par if not better to their own...

georgiaboy

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #265 on: 06 December 2023, 20:29:32 »
I can see one major set of goals that NIOPs and the SLDF will have. That is to have a Navy, Army, and enough replacement programs to fight the whole Clan forces.
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crestrunner

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #266 on: 08 December 2023, 18:53:23 »
I can see one major set of goals that NIOPs and the SLDF will have. That is to have a Navy, Army, and enough replacement programs to fight the whole Clan forces.

What's going to really piss the clanners off is that the new NIOPS Hegemony with a Wolverine/SLDF military is on the wrong side of the IS. It would take at least another 18 months to over two years to circumnavigate the IS completely to attack them, so they're effectively unassailable unless they somehow steamroll through everyone.  That's extremely unlikely with NIOPS most likely playing the role of well armed arsenal of democracy er freedom er the people less bad than Nicky's cult.

Trying to get at them by going around the IS would just about double their supply lines, and while theoretically they could try going through abandoned or empty systems within the IS, it would be extremely risky given that there could be pirates, smugglers or other unregistered/off the grid colonies in some of those systems, and the various Great Houses probably have some occasional patrols through those systems or some hidden military, intelligence gathering or other clandestine resources that have been kept off the official maps.  Even worse, the phone company has similar assets throughout, and it would only take tripping over one to blow the whole operation.  It's not like anyone has forgotten that the SLDF and Hegemony routinely hid things in uninhabited systems frequently.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #267 on: 09 December 2023, 03:00:00 »
Clans: First we take Terra, then we take Niops
Comstar: U WUT M8?!
Shoot first, laugh later.

Daryk

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #268 on: 09 December 2023, 06:23:18 »
They always had the misconception that taking Terra would magically make the rest of the Inner Sphere fall in line... ::)

Hotpoint

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Re: Guided by the light of a (Red) Cameron Star
« Reply #269 on: 12 December 2023, 10:30:46 »
Part XXVIII- Section 1 of 2

----------

"Given that we weren't going to let them take over running our Hyperpulse Generator stations, but we did want to take advantage of the new C-Bill to conduct long-distance trade deals, a decision had to be made on how we were going to handle that. After some negotiations I offered to send the Precentor back home to Hednesford where he was based with a shipment of germanium that he would effectively convert into a credit note for C-Bills that we could use. I don't think he expected us to hand over a billion dollar's worth judging by the expression on his face but I suspect his superiors weren't too unhappy. We were certainly unhappy ourselves though when ComStar put an interdiction on the Free Worlds League a couple of years later because all our transmissions were routed through the stations there and not only were we effectively cut-off too, ComStar was holding a lot of our money we now couldn't spend."

Samantha Hollister - 2845 CE

----------

Zenith Jump- Point – Niops System – 2835

The Invader class jumpship Hikyaku was in a better state of repairs than most of its type these days, ComStar was wealthy enough not to skimp on regular visits to a shipyard for routine maintenance checks, and as a result Precentor Alan Stockdale was a little less nervous than he was when he was when forced to travel on a vessel belonging to someone else, but it nevertheless came as a great relief to him when they arrived intact at their intended destination.

Statistically jump-ship travel was supposed to be perfectly safe as long as you didn't do something stupid like try to jump more than thirty light-years, quick-charge your drive, or use a pirate-point, but Stockdale knew those statistics dated from the Star League era and standards had slipped since then. As a nervous interstellar traveller that it had only taken two jumps to get from Hednesford to their objective had also helped his mental wellbeing, every additional jump was another chance for something going wrong, and the fewer the jumps the easier it was to try and ignore them.

Having no desire to end up collateral damage from someone else's war being handed a cushy job as Precentor Hednesford had come as a great relief to Alan Stockdale, even if the long journey to get there from Terra in the first place had been hellish on his nerves. Hednesford was situated on the outer edge of the Free Worlds League a long way from the frontlines, and not much ever happened out there which would require him to get on a jump-ship either. Thanks to having the reasonably well-trained and well-equipped twenty-seventh Marik Militia regiment as its garrison force people on Hednesford didn't even have to worry about the pirate raids that were an all-too-common part of life that far out, pirates liked to keep clear of anyone that could shoot back.

Life had, in fact, been pretty sweet and uneventful for Precentor Alan Stockdale until the day an HPG signal arrived at Hednesford from a station that had been completely dark since the early days of the Amaris War, triggering a series of events that led to him being ordered to go make contact in person since he was the most senior member of ComStar available in the region.

As ComStar continued its program of restoring the Hyperpulse Generator network, so many of the old SLCOMNET stations having been lost over the years for various reasons including sabotage, lack of spare parts or even outright military action, there were always a few ComStar vessels travelling around the Inner Sphere and the closest of these was re-directed to Hednesford to collect Stockdale and ferry him to where the First Circuit ordered him to go.

Professional enough to do his research Stockdale had requested to be sent everything ComStar had on file about this old Star League scientific research colony that called itself the 'Niops Association' and he had made sure to learn all there was to know about the place before arriving. Basically just a bunch of astronomy nerds way out in the boonies, it was pretty obvious why they had remained in hiding all these years trying not to attract anyone's attention, the only mystery as far as Stockdale was concerned was why they had been starting to make their presence felt more recently. Over the last couple of years there were reports that they had been sending ships out to trade with neighbouring systems, and now they had seemingly decided to switch their HPG back on, and the authorities on Terra were somewhat curious as to why.

That was the problem with systems without a ComStar presence. It was a lot easier to know what was going on there if you could secretly read all their outgoing mail and there were also a few ROM agents disguised as technicians working in the local ComStar controlled HPG compound.

The first indication that there was a lot going on in Niops that ComStar wasn't aware of, and that the files the organisation had on the place were far from complete, was that when the ComStar jumpship arrived it was immediately hailed by an Olympus class recharge station at the Zenith point that had not been there during the Star League era and the second indication was a Blake-damned Essex class destroyer floating nearby, the warship transmitting an IFF signal that identified it as the former SLS Cape Bon now operating under Niops registration.

"What the ****** have I gotten myself into?" Stockdale asked himself quietly, trying to collect his thoughts as everyone else on the ship's bridge looked to him for guidance as to what they should do now. The ship's captain said he would analyse sensor data and check the records for anything on the 'Cape Bon' and he was soon at work while Stockdale collected himself.

Stockdale cleared his throat. "Open a channel to the Olympus" he ordered. "And do please let me know if that warship points its guns in our direction" he added sounding considerably more blasé about the situation than he felt. As well as the station and the warship there were also a half-dozen transport jumpships nearby, two of the Invader class like his own vessel, a Tramp, a pair of much larger Star Lord vessels and a gigantic Monolith, the latter more than a little surprising in itself as they were very, very rare and equally expensive.

"This is the ComStar jumpship Hikyaku, Precentor Alan Stockdale speaking" he began in a clear, unwavering voice. "We are here on the orders of Primus Conrad Toyama to make formal diplomatic contact with the Niops Association and to respond in person to your HPG transmission requesting access to the ComStar network" he said, fighting back his desire to ask about the station and the warship in particular because it would be an admission he had no idea they would be there. ComStar liked to project an aura of omniscience, not dumbfounded ignorance, so acting like you weren't surprised was following standard ComStar protocols for behaviour when you actually were.

"Welcome to Niops, Precentor Stockdale, this is Niops Traffic Control" a woman's voice replied. "Given that recharging your jumpdrive from our system's M5V Red Dwarf will take a while you are welcome to approach and we will beam additional energy from our emitters directly to your jump-sail to speed up the process" came the reply. "As you are on a diplomatic mission, not a commercial one, there will be no charge for the service" the transmission continued. "It's a free-of-charge, charge" they added after a pause, laughing. "Our station commander, Captain Horatio Petroni, is requesting to talk to you so you'll be dealing with him from now on. Have a nice day. Niops Traffic Control Out" the woman added.

Stockdale breathed a sigh of relief, despite the extremely unexpected presence of the warship the locals seemed friendly enough, generous even, ComStar controlled recharge stations in the Terran system would have wanted to be paid. "We appreciate your magnanimous offer of free access to your recharge service and will accept" he replied, grateful that it meant he would be able to return back to Hednesford quicker than he had feared. The problem with jumping into systems where the star was as small and dim as Niops was that it took noticeably longer to recharge your Kearny-fuchida drive than the usual week or so. "According to our files your capital is, or was, on Niops VII, if that is still so I would be grateful if you could arrange for me to be met by a representative from your government when my dropship arrives.

"Captain Petroni here" a man's voice from the station responded this time. "My apologies Precentor but foreigners are not permitted to land on any planet in the Niops system", sounding apologetic about it. "Given what has befallen the other worlds of the Terran Hegemony the Niops Association is a little paranoid about giving anyone the opportunity to mark civilian or industrial targets for orbital bombardment, or possibly learn the location of our orbital and ground-based defences" he explained. "Any negotiations or discussions will have to take place here at the Zenith jump-point though fortunately, given the compactness of our system, you should not find the light-speed communications delay between here and our capital nearly as grating to deal with as in most places" they continued. "You can't go get lunch and watch some TV while waiting for a reply here" he said humorously.

That would be annoying, Stockdale thought to himself, face-to-face negotiations were always to be preferred, and he was about to respond asking if he could talk to someone more senior about that when the man on the Olympus station started talking again.

"Speaking of television, I'm afraid that in order to minimise possible interference with equipment related to radio astronomy, our television and audio-only entertainment signals are all carried via cable, not over the airwaves, so your crew won't be able to tune into local media if they get bored" Petroni said. "It's one reason we were able to stay under the radar all these years, Niops was always a lot quieter than most inhabited systems across that part of the electromagnetic spectrum. If you stay still too long around here then I swear someone will build a Faraday cage around you" he joked. "You should read the letters of complaint in the newspapers from irate radio astronomers every time someone in the military switches on their radar. Trust me If anyone gets painted by a targeting array in Niops they had better take it seriously because nobody wants to fill out all the paperwork for the sake of bluffing."

Stockdale frowned. "Some allowance will have to be made to your rules eventually due to the need to allow ComStar technicians to take over the running of your Hyperpulse Generator anyway, so I'm sure your government will make an exception in my case if you check with them" he suggested, not entirely sure if that last part had been a veiled threat or not given its good-natured delivery.

"Why would we need ComStar to run our HPG?" the commander replied, sounding confused.

"In order to ensure it is properly maintained, they are extremely complicated devices that require great expertise and careful handling" Stockdale explained. "It's something of a miracle that yours still worked when you switched it back on after so many years."

"Actually we didn't switch it off so much as it went wrong back in the early 2770's and given the political situation at the time, what with Amaris and everything, we decided not to fix it until we actually needed it running again" Petroni replied. "When we did we just found the old SLCOMNET people that used to run the thing and put them back to work, replaced the parts that weren't working and fired it back up."

"You made your own replacement parts?" Stockdale asked incredulously.

"It's not difficult if you've got the complete blueprints and the right manufacturing facility" Captain Petroni replied conversationally. "I heard that making a whole new HPG from scratch took them a while the first time but they've gotten better at it since" he added.

Precentor Stockdale blinked and looked around the bridge to gauge the expressions of the other ComStar personnel around him, they looked as perturbed as he felt. "You made your own complete HPG?" he asked dubiously.

"Well yes, what would be the point of getting the one of Niops running again if there was nobody to talk to on it" Petroni replied. "Wait. Did you think we got our HPG here running again recently so we could talk to you?" he asked rhetorically. "No, we got it running ages ago so we could talk to our colonies over NHCOMNET. We just never got around to talking to you until now because we didn't need to until we started visiting the Inner Sphere for trade as much."

"NHCOMNET? What in the name of Blake is NHCOMNET?" Stockdale demanded to know.

"Niops Hegemony Communication Network, you know like SLCOMNET, but on a smaller scale of course" the station replied. "Not all our colonies have an HPG yet but we're getting there. Much less of a pain-in-the-ass than having to send jumpships as message couriers all the time."

Stockdale closed his eyes and took a deep breath to steady himself. "You have your own colonies out here and they're linked by their own HPG network?" he asked slowly. This situation went well beyond normal protocols of pretending to know all of this already, if he feigned to do so they would wonder why ComStar had not turned up before to take over the running of this 'NHCOMNET'.

"Well yeah, I mean it's the twenty-ninth century not the nineteenth. Did you think we were using two cans and a piece of string to communicate with each other out here or something?" the man on the station asked sardonically.

Precentor Alan Stockdale fought back the urge to loudly reply 'YES' and opted for a slightly less abrasive approach. "We were not aware of anyone producing Hyperpulse Generators other than ourselves" he said flatly instead. "At this juncture I must advise you that the Communications Protocol of 2787 places all HPG facilities under the control of ComStar with a guarantee of our neutrality towards all as regards control of the Hyperpulse network. As such each of your HPG stations will need to be placed in the custodianship of ComStar as soon as is practicable in order to comply with the protocol" he informed the man.

"Niops is not a signatory to the Communications Protocol of 2787, and I sincerely doubt my government is stupid enough to add its signature to the others after what happened in 2823 when you shut down your HPG on Tharkad just because you didn't want to pay your taxes" Petroni replied scornfully.

Stockdale was taken aback. "How do you know about that?" he asked.

"They talked about it on the News Channel. Just because you don't know what's happening out here doesn't mean we didn't keep a close eye on what's happening in the Inner Sphere, we even monitor the ComStar News Network even though your commentators self-evidently spin the news like a compact battlemech gyro" Petroni replied wryly. "I might not like what the people at NHCOMNET charge me to send a message to my daughter working on Copernicus, but at least their news agency has some concept of journalist integrity, they pay their damn taxes and they're not owned by a foreign power."

Stockdale turned to the ship's navigator and mouthed the word 'Copernicus' to him, the navigator checked the local star charts and then shrugged to indicate he had no idea where that was.

"I'm not sure there is much to be gained in continuing our conversation at this time Captain Petroni" Stockdale told him, it seemed like the man was not a fan of ComStar for some reason which the precentor attributed to either misinformation or considerably less probably out here from being very well informed. "I look forward to hearing from your government."

"If you think you'll get a better reception from the organ grinder on Niops VII than the monkey sat here then your timing stinks because it's an election year and there's not a politician in this system that wants to look weak on either national sovereignty or allowing tax dodging right now" Petroni told him, audibly chuckling. "I'll notify the authorities that you want to talk and they'll get in contact presently, but I'll warn ya that if you want a treaty with us it'll have to be on much better terms than the Great Houses agreed to. Petroni Out."

Alan Stockdale turned to the captain of the Hikyaku, the next most senior ComStar official aboard whose expression indicated he was also totally nonplussed by the situation they now found themselves in. "Do you think they'd let us borrow their HPG to send a message back to Terra asking what we should do next?" the captain of the jumpship suggested, unlike many ComStar vessels the Hikyaku had not been upgraded with a mobile HPG of its own as yet, the organisation was still prioritising resources towards getting as many of the old SLCOMNET stations running again as possible. "We could encrypt it" he added.

"It's worth considering but I would prefer not to start negotiations with their government with us seemingly owing them a favour in return" Stockdale replied. "Anyhow, for ComStar to have to ask somebody else to send an HPG transmission for them would be embarrassing for us, verging on humiliating" he added, shaking his head sadly.

"They still seem to regard themselves as affiliated to the Terran Hegemony in some way despite its demise" the captain observed thoughtfully. "I've taken a close look with optical sensors and the recharge station itself, the warship and the transport jumpships are all painted up in Star League colours and with insignia and markings matching those of the SLDF and Terran Hegemony, as well as the Red Cameron star we had heard rumours they used to identify themselves."

"Have you learned anything else useful about these people?" Stockdale asked.

The ship's captain nodded. "Boy, have we" he responded knowingly. "That warship, the Essex class destroyer, the external markings on her match her IFF, that being the SLS Cape Bon, and according to our database the last thing we have on file about her is that she was attached to the 295th Battlemech Division and was with them when they went chasing after Kerensky after being left behind in 2785."

"The 295th?" Stockdale queried, "didn't they turn merc after they failed to find Kerensky?"

"Perhaps some of them did, and ended up working for the Lyrans, and the rest chose to come here?" the captain suggested. "That merc group, I think they call themselves Raymond's Redcoats, sure as heck aren't division-sized and don't have the warships the 295th did" he said. "If so, that could explain why Niops isn't what we expected. They inherited most of an SLDF division plus their transport and warship assets."

Stockdale groaned. "And because they were a scientific research colony set up to be self-sufficient, one that was chock full of people with advanced degrees in physics and chemistry and whatever, they were able to keep a lot of that equipment running" he said, groaning again.

"Plenty of smarts, plenty of space lift and enough firepower that they didn't have to worry about anything short of a full-scale invasion by one of the Great Houses, and you end up with what we might be looking at right now. A little piece of the Terran Hegemony still going strong out in the periphery" the captain theorised. "You know, if we're right then they're not really so different than us."

"How so?" Stockdale asked.

"If it wasn't for General Lauren Hayes leading her SLDF divisions to Terra in support of Jerome Blake would civilisation have survived and prospered there?" the ship's captain asked rhetorically. "I doubt it was just the Communications Protocol of 2787 that stopped the Great Houses invading Terra when they did the rest of the Hegemony, the notion of having to deal with eight SLDF divisions would have given them pause for thought too."

"Maybe if we play up that we're also a Star League remnant, SLCOMNET rebranded, and push the line that we had SLDF support in establishing ourselves on Terra that could help things run more smoothly" Stockdale said thoughtfully.

"That was my thinking Sir" the captain replied. "Was it not Blake himself that said you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?"

Not originally, Stockdale knew, but under Conrad Toyama's rule ComStar had being increasingly less secular and prone to ascribing Jerome Blake with even more wisdom than he had in real life. It was of course dangerous to say anything that might be seen as denying the man's supposed omniscience, so Stockdale nodded instead. In the wake of the so-called 'Purification', as Toyama's purges were known, only an idiot did anything that might lead to ROM investigating them for signs of disloyalty or a lack of belief in the divine plan as set out by Blake and implemented by his successor.

The chances that there wasn't a ROM agent aboard the ship were extremely slim, perhaps there was more than one, and given that a significant proportion of the rest of the crew were potential informers that would pass along anything they heard to ComStar's intelligence branch it was vitally important to always keep to the straight and narrow. Precentor ROM Michelle Dupreas had eyes and ears everywhere, and the woman was dangerously competent and completely ruthless as well as being utterly loyal to Toyama.

"If this an election year, as the man said, then presumably they maintained a democratic system as was the norm in the Terran Hegemony" Stockdale mused aloud. "That may present the possibility of an alternative course of action than in other places where we seek to sway the authorities to see things our way" he suggested. "Public opinion matters more in such a society than it would in the Capellan Confederation, for example, this may be a situation where the Primus might be best served by advice that we should not try and force the issue regarding the Communications Protocol since an opportunity exists to exert pressure from below should we be able to appeal to the masses."

"I would be happy to endorse such a proposal if you wished me to do so" the ship's captain responded, not just because he agreed but because it would see his name on a document presented to the Primus himself. "We could deny them access to the ComStar network, refuse to forward on any HPG transmissions they send out, but that would antagonise them without cutting off their access to the other systems they profess to control. The Lyran Alliance folded quickly when we placed an Interdiction or Tharkad because they could not easily govern their nation without HPG communications but that would not be the case here."

"That is what makes this situation such a potential powder-keg that must be treated gingerly" Stockdale concurred. "We find ourselves in a situation where the thoughtful and careful employment of soft power is the safer course of action. For one thing we still need to learn more, far more, about these people, their capabilities and their intentions" he said before smiling as he considered the great benefit that could be gained by allowing communications from Niops to be forwarded on via the ComStar network in the interim before any agreement was actually finalised, ROM could potentially learn a great deal from reading them as they already did everyone else's mail. For that matter investigating what these additional systems the locals professed to control could be very useful, particularly if they did not hold to the same regulations regarding letting people from elsewhere land. "Given that the Primus and the First Circuit will surely wish to make the final decision anyway, then perhaps it behoves me to downplay my authority still further" he pondered aloud, smiling. "Vagueness and procrastination tinged with an aura of what looks like fair-minded reasonableness while we fill in the blanks."

"Caution and prudence is usually the wisest course of action when dealing with the unknown" the ship's captain agreed. "Spend enough time out here at the edge of civilisation and you learn that lesson well" he continued. "As Blake said, 'knowledge is power'" he quoted the great man once again.

"And what is ComStar but that aphorism incarnate?" Stockdale asked rhetorically, agreeing with the sentiment although he knew it was actually Sir Francis Bacon who wrote that centuries before the birth of Jerome Blake.
« Last Edit: 12 December 2023, 12:57:40 by Hotpoint »
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