Author Topic: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.  (Read 26465 times)

georgiaboy

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #150 on: 02 December 2023, 18:29:30 »
Also remember that special weapons release on the active unit requires two or three person physical activation. So usually the CO and XO(or Weapons Officer), or a third control being a Political/Higher Command Officer.
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nerd

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #151 on: 02 December 2023, 18:50:27 »
I'm avoiding certain discussion here on the nature of Emergency Action Messages. It's for my own good.

I'd require nuclear variant capital missiles to have an atmospheric failsafe. A electronic or mechanical internal system that prohibits firing when too close to a world. It's a check that would be ignored in vacuum, but would fail closer in system. Maybe a detecting a massive change in external temperature due to re-entry would work.
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wolfgar

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #152 on: 02 December 2023, 19:20:35 »
and in my book Herr Kapitan needs to shut the frag up and listen to someone who actually knows what the frag they are talking about. You don't run ship to ship weapons on a "Higher" release like that, as there is rarely time to get that release, because feces happens
Wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies, his fangs locked on the throat of his opponent.

Artifex

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #153 on: 02 December 2023, 19:34:41 »
I'm with wolfgar here.

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #154 on: 03 December 2023, 12:16:12 »
***

"...seasick?"  Arbuthnot leaned over the side of the fast-moving hydrofoil and vomited again.

"Definitely seasick, You know, if you'd mentioned it, we could've taken a Chopper." Duchess Ngo said helpfully, offering him a bottle of fresh water to wash the awful taste from his mouth, "Or hopped a suborbital from Nha Tranh, you didn't have to ride in a boat, General."

Golden Lake smells like sulfur all year 'round, and has a high acid content, making this allegedly 'fresh water' inland sea something almost too inimical to earthborn life to endure.

"I…wanted to see…" he said.

"Could've seen it from the comfort of an aircraft, we're almost there." Liz offered, "General Steiner, how're you doing with this?"

"It's not bad, Your Grace." Adam Steiner gripped a rail to stay steady as the fast boat clipped waves.  "Telling the truth, I kind of like this. It's soothing…aside from Herr General's discomfort, anyway."

“Here.  Try and get this down.”  An Able Seaman said as he handed Arbuthnot a small cube.  “It’ll help sir.”

In the early morning summer mist, with only one sun up, their destination loomed.

"What's it called again?"

"We never named it to my knowledge." Liz admitted, "but it's where Tranh Truk Ngo organized the '67 uprising, and it's the last bastion of the pre-conquest Kowloonese Republic, so naturally, it's a tourist destination for a certain kind of tourist."

"The kind that want to see submarine pens." Adam agreed.

"Yep.  We had to rebuild them from scratch-the ones the pre invasion government stored here were rusted out by the acidic waters, but we have better alloys than my ancestors did, and better materials over-all."

The 'mini-cutter' banked on the surface and they were swallowed into a tunnel under the strange stone reef that barely poked up above water level here.

In the gloom, four shapes the size of small dropships loomed.

Well, medium sized dropships, anyway.

"U-One, Two, Three, and Four." she told her guests, "My ancestors copied the American Ohio classes with twenty second century tech updates, if we'd had more than the original U-One, we might've been able to Stop the Rimjobs from landing for another six to eight weeks."

"And these?"

"We pulled most of the missile silos and replaced them with commo gear and sensors, we kept a few, but the odds that a surface to orbit missile will do a damn bit of good aren't high-they're a desperation ploy if we lose the orbitals and help is still months out." she allowed.  "The payload on the launchers are basically dumbed down Peacekeepers, but they'll fit a laser-triggered warhead if AFFC decides they need to."

"What do they have right now?"

"Conventional White Shark warheads." Liz said, "We thought about giving them the same warheads the Guard has, or rockbreakers, but the risk is far too high of fallout, so these are just High Energy Conventional stuff, they'll still smack a dropship, but forget killing anything bigger unless you get REAL lucky."

“Better than nothing.  Which is what a lot of worlds have.”

"Yeah, but now that AFFC's taken over the Guard, I can ask for a Luftenberg." Liz said, "which will be even better for the mission than a quartet of obsolete ballistic missile subs."

“Those are popular items right now Liz, difficult to produce, and one hell of a wait list.”

"We have shipyards, let me license build a copy and in ten years or so we'll have one." she said without a flicker of remorse.  "Heck, it's another angle of business in the region, if we start fabricating parts for the prime contractors we can maybe shorten the time it takes for everyone else to have one too."

“You’re eventually going to hit the limit of what you can do Liz.”

"Yep.' she sighed sadly, "I will…but if I increase productive capacity and spread it around, it'll take a lot longer to reach that limit.  I've still got two hundred million people who're out of work, or under-employed, and could use the jobs, and that's just on Kowloon, never mind the rest of the system, or neighbors like Winter, Jessenice, Hood IV…"

“We’ll see what we can do to get those people working.  But that’s a later problem.  Right now I get the feeling there’s something else you want to show us.”
"Right you are, and right this way." She led them off the cutter onto the dock.  The Militia here were dressed similarly to the Coast Guard spacers-enlisted in blue, officers in a tan-Khaki, a few infantry in rust-and-green camouflage that matched the local plant life and soil patterns.

She strode ahead of them, returning salutes until they reached a stairwell.

Past the stairwell, were a pair of armored doors, which slid open with that well-maintained silence you get when something like them is properly lubricated and maintained, instead of neglected.

"Welcome to the real Planetary defense command." Liz told Adam, "Not that office in the capital, this is where we do the real business."

“You’ve really been holding out Liz.”  Adam said as he took in the command center.

"My grandfather, really." Liz said.

“For what it’s worth I get it.  Growing up on Somerset, there was a lot of fear the Archon would want to strip away resources from the Academy.”  Adam nodded.

“But because of a screw up it is happening here, and now.”  Elizabeth said flatly.

“Since you’re so close to the front and in raider territory I’ll do what I can to make sure we don’t take too much from you but yeah.”  Adam nodded.

"Evelynn, Guests."

Arbuthnot gasped when he saw Evelynn Mosovich's face, but Adam just said, "Colonel, Now I know why you weren't at the port when we arrived."

"General sir."  Evelynn greeted him, "Liz, I know you're proud of the base, but you know next to nothing about how it works."

"I defer to your superior knowledge, Colonel." Liz said formally.

"Don't stare, it's rude." Adam prodded Arbuthnot.

"I'm used to it." Evelynn Mosovich's 'face' was mostly medical myomers and implants, her voice was a badly tuned vox-box, and she looked like a half-eaten cadaver with cameras for eyes as a result.

"Okay, we've got close orbit Air monitoring along the west wall, the main situation board shows both active Coast Guard, and ground forces Militia in as close to real-time as we can manage."

"The base itself?"

"Give it five megatons to get through the overburden before we burn." Mosovich said, "It's not where you want to be standing if it actually drops in the pot, but you saw on the approach-a force of 'mechs would have one hell of a hard time getting into the door, this is the top of a sea-mount and the seabed drops away at about a seventy degree angle to a depth of two kilometers right outside."

“Not bad. What's your backup plan?"

"Command and coordination in a war situation will shift to the submarines and to mobile units, or to the distant orbitals if we've got time for it, either way the Clanners won't be able to pull a 'surprise we've vertically enveloped you' scam without knowing where the boats are, or where the mobile headquarters units are moving to."  Evelynn gestured, "This, is peacetime coordination and the second helping of the burglar bait, despite what Lizzie here thinks it could be."

“Something to add to your planning, we’re pretty sure the Clans can track active fusion engines from orbit.  Not sure how deep you’d have to run but they’ve tracked us pretty solidly.”

Evelynn laughed, a grating sound.  "Yeah.. neutrino detection, the Rimjobs did the same.  They have a harder time picking up ordinary neutron sources though, especially under shielding.  The subs are running fission piles, and unlike the 21st century versions, ours have good shielding and quiet operation with fuel-cell backup…and a two kilometer dive range before you start worrying about pressure on the envelope, so they'll have to penetrate quite a lot of water to shut them down."

“Don’t know how good at it they really are but they’ve come damn close to my HQ too many times.”

"Presume they're perfect, and plan accordingly-U One through Four are the third helping of burglar bait." Evelynn said, "they focus on those, it lets the rest of the Militia, or the garrison, get things done until they die.  I was at Tamar, I saw what relying on any single strong point gets you." she looked at Arbuthnot, "it's where I got this pretty face, during the retreat.  Hopefully you'll add a few layers between so we can do more than die slower waiting for relief, but right now the strategic plan is to draw out any invader until help can arrive, and I hate that plan.  Castles have a habit of falling."

“We’ll also do our best while we’re here to wargame and teach you how the Clans fight.  So you can be better prepared.”

"General, I need to know how many of my boys and girls you're taking with you when you leave, so I can figure out how many replacements we need in the pipeline to stay viable."

“I’m hoping we can get away with only taking the Warships from you.”

Evelynn didn't frown, because her face couldn't.  "So more, we need to make up for the outer layer defenses with more bodies..."

"I wish I had better news.  I know a bit about being left hanging out here on the front lines with insufficient assets.  I don’t want to inflict that on your people.  But the reality is it might not even be my final call.”  Adam nodded.

Arbuthnot still looked shocked, and this time, Elizabeth tapped him..gently…on the foot.  "General, you have something useful to add?" she prodded him.

"...more bodies?" he finally stammered.

"Yeah.  see, we're here-" Elizabeth tapped a display and a map of the Truce appeared.  "This, is significantly above the Tukayyid truce-line, we're an industrial world, with a history, and we just nuked one of their battlewagons.  Her Majesty asserted control, because if she asserts control, then the Clanners have to account for HER displeasure, not just a jumped up bunch of hicks in the back end of beyond." she said crossly, "She sent THE Adam Steiner, one of the most competent combat commanders in the Lyran State, to head this mission up, and you, as a logistics man, to help him."

“And knowing the Clans like I do, we may have some chance at reprieve if we do assert control.  Because there is no way the Red Corsair wasn’t a Clan effort to try and provoke us into destabilizing the Truce as the aggressors.  Despite what they may seem on the surface they are not completely guileless when it comes to politics and public perception.”

 
Liz turned to her maimed sister in law, "Evvie, could you bring out the war plan files and let the Generals examine them? It's easier than me trying to explain something I barely have any knowledge of to pros who know much more than I'll ever learn."

Evelynn nodded at an aide who stepped forward with several large tubes.

"Now, as Duchess I'm supposed to be here, but I'm going to defer to expertise and get out of the way." Liz told them, "once you've reviewed the planning, our logistics, distribution and units, then you can explain to me what I need to sign to make it work." Liz said, "I don't tell a plumber how to plumb, or Generals how to Officer, and if I'm out of the way, there's significantly less chance of my yap opening and stupidity flowing out. I'll be upstairs at the lighthouse, reading quietly."

She turned, and walked out of the command center.

"Did I offend her?" Arbuthnot asked.

"No, Lizzie's just being…uncharacteristically mature." Evelynn said, "I don't know when or how it's happened but she's finally growing up."

“Newton Square.  She’s coming to grips with the fact that she actually needs to be a Duchess.”  Adam nodded.

"You mean, that she's going to have to live with it." Evelynn nodded, "Maybe…but this is the most hands-off I've seen her since she was a little kid."

“It’s good she’s not meddling but at the same time as Duchess she should be involved.  This needs to be part of her education too.  So that she knows what is being asked of her people and how to spot a good plan versus a bad plan.  She’ll figure out the balance eventually.”

"She did give me a directive, so I think she wants US to present HER with your critiques whole. It's something she might've learned from Helena." Evelynn suggested, as aides brought out several color-coded data storage devices.

"What's all this?" Arbuthnot asked.

"War Plans by color code.  Speculations on likely and even unlikely hostile conditions.  There's Sapphire, which is the newest one and it's based on what she picked up on the subject of the Steel Vipers, Green, which is Clan Jade Falcon, Purple is an unexpectedly deep Marik incursion, Red is the Combine pulling a deep raid, Blue is a civil war in the Lyran Commonwealth, Brown is if the Federated Suns turn from ally to conqueror…and White is a plan of action if comstar decides to go bigger than Scorpion and try to take us all."

The logistics officer paled, "A civil war?"

"We're a paranoid bunch, somewhere in the back archives we've got plans for what to do if the Rim Worlds re-forms and tries a stab." Evelynn stated, "Most of these, except the Clan ones, date back to her Grandfather's time, but with updates for current events as best we can learn them.  They're all incredibly flawed, but that's what you get, when you're out in the boonies."

"What's the current 'blue'?" Adam asked.

"Stay out of it, focus on fighting external enemies and hope whoever wins isn't feeling vengeful today." Evelynn stated, "it's a shit plan but it's what we've got."

Adam perused the data blocs, "We can do better." he said.  "Let's look at your general defense posture and you can explain what it's intended to look like, before we make serious changes."

Arbuthnot looked pale all of a sudden.
“You okay?”

“You’ve planned for all of this?”  Arbuthnot stated.

“Of course.”  Evelynn answered.

“General Steiner, you have nothing to say on the matter?”

“Actually I’m shocked in a refreshing way.  Prefer peace but always be ready for war.”  Adam smiled.

"That would lean heavy on whether we're really prepared, or just deceiving ourselves." Evelynn commented, "Jury is still out-nobody recognized that one of ours would fight the enemy without first calling home until it happened."

“That you even have plans is a huge step up from what I’m used to.  How often do you drill to the plans?”

"Training and upkeep cycles are quarterly, we usually pull ops from the books about every three months on the whole, People still have their regular jobs except the Coasties, they usually squeeze in tactical and scenario training every couple of months between repair and maintenance cycles, so…not too terribly different from my time in the 26th, though we're short on 'mech assets and we usually have to use live-fire exercises because we don't have enough simulator capacity…and there's the random drill cycle, which we decide using dice rolls, so a given regional company or battalion might find their beepers going off at weird times for a Bandit Drill, or the ever reducing chance of actual bandits.  I mean, sure the Duke of Tamar was kind of slack until the Wolves were literally at the door, but doesn't everyone do it that way?"

“You’d be surprised.  I’ve toured worlds where they didn’t even test their comm lines from the monitoring stations to HQ and so when things did happen the militia commanders didn’t even get word until it was almost too late.”

"Yikes…" Evelynn visibly shivered, "that's pretty bad.  Why does AFFC allow it?"

“Take a bucket out to a range.  Empty an autorifle clip into it.  Take a one milimeter by one milimeter piece of tape at a time to plug the holes.  And it’s constantly being filled by water.”

"We're going to have to plug a lot of holes." Evelynn nodded, "Which tells me I'm going to have to ride the Assembly for more budget…"

“And just to make it worse, you have to fill out a form in triplicate between applying each piece of tape.  Stating how much tape you used, explaining why the tape doesn’t always stick despite it being well known that the bucket is constantly being filled with water, and why you need more tape.”
"So we've been incredibly lucky…" Evelynn speculated.

Arbuthnot chimed in, "and the bucket's not just filed with water, it's filled with swimming organisms who want OUT of the bucket, or want to eat the tape, or who…corruption, Colonel, I know you only made Hauptmann in the regulars before you were maimed, but corruption is making all those holes bigger, and we can't do without the organisms causing it…or do away with them."

“Not just corruption.  A supply chain that has to handle hundreds of different variants and chassis of mechs, aerofighters, and conventional forces.  Lack of standardization, lack of production to make that standardization possible, and all the bureaucratic nightmare it all entails.”  Adam nodded.

"That's why she ordered the WHOLE Coast Guard, isn't it?" Evelynn asked, "because they're standardized, they're trained, and we can make more of them….and it's why you're going to have to draw on our Militia-because you know we can resupply them.  Isn't it?"

“As cold blooded as it might sound, if we’d done things the way you have the Clans would have been drowned in bodies and never gotten a foothold.”  Adam admitted.

"Then, General, we need to work on one thing first." Evelynn stated, "Before the Coasties are all gone, except the training and part timers, and before you leave…we need to design a deployable formation.  War Plans Red, Brown, Tan, and Green, only a new version-one that gives the Realm a unit that can slow and delay the enemy until we can manage better."

“It’ll entail a lot of ‘We regret to inform you’ letters and for that I know I’ll have a lot to answer for but yes.”

"General Steiner, do you know my people's history?" Evelynn asked, and removed a cloth patch from her pocket.  "Three million dead fighting Amaris right to the gates of Terra, General.  There isn't a world short of Earth itself that sent as many to defeat the Amaris Empire.  'We regret to inform you' is practically my people's motto, the originals.." she laid the patch on the console in front of him, "Were wiped out trying to relieve Kentares when nobody else would go.  There won't need to be a draft, but there will be.  I guarantee there won't need to be one…but the law, is the law."

“Then let’s roll those maps out and start reviewing the plans.”  Adam nodded.

***

My Dearest Arthur,

General Adam Steiner and Colonel Mosovich presented me with War Plan Azure, and explained the needs to me.  I can't help wondering if this wasn't your mother's plan all along. 
I'm not sure how I feel about it, but it feels righteous.  Hopefully, you are safe and well and doing well.  For my part, I have signed and drafted ducal decrees and General Steiner has laid out the levies required by the Realm for this situation.

We remain unmolested for the moment, but when my people are on the front, facing the Clans, it will take no time at all for them to be on our doorstep.

With luck, perseverance, and courage, we may yet weather this coming storm.  I miss you though, and think of you often, especially in the rare quiet moments.  Stay Safe, remember I love you, and come home to me.

Elizabeth


-Archived item from the papers of Arthur Steiner-Davion, dated December 18, 3055

To Be Continued

Daryk

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #155 on: 03 December 2023, 13:28:53 »
Elizabeth managing that sweet a letter in those circumstances is amazing...

wolfgar

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #156 on: 03 December 2023, 16:03:37 »
The saying that when a person knows that they are to die within a fortnight, it focuses the mind is very true, this is Elizabeth having that realization and focus
Wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies, his fangs locked on the throat of his opponent.

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #157 on: 04 December 2023, 09:18:10 »
Chapter 11:Interactions of Light and Shadow

"Vladimir Ward took control of the 'jade Wolves' and turned it back into Clan Wolf.  He then proceeded to humiliate and destroy two Jade Falcon Khans, placing Marthe Pryde at the head of THAT clan by election and default…"

-"Chapter 33, 'The Clan Wars era' (excerpt from the unit history of the 171st Volunteers Division, AFFC)  Helena Cameron


The lesser troops weren't breaking.  The Missisauga Militia's 'mechwarriors had already given up, and the lesser troops-tankers and infantry from…well…elsewhere…were still stubbornly holding on and trying to counter-attack.

Sometimes, they would even succeed.  Nicholas Icaza stood this morning in what had been a battle last night, while techs brought forward in the aftermath worked to remove a vibroblade bayonet from the chest of his armor, where it had penetrated just short of penetrating HIM.

The man who did it, was chunks of red on the ground in a pattern.  A common soldier who, faced with defeat, out of ammunition and alone, charged with a fixed bayonet to try and kill one more invader.

"The Lyrans found someone to give them a backbone after all…" he unsheathed from his damaged armor, and walked to where the other survivors of his Nova were gathered.

There were fewer than he'd grown accustomed to in previous campaigns, and the ones he joined at the kitchen vehicle were…shocked looking. Traumatized by the night's combat in ways he'd never have imagined when he left the Homeworlds.

"Well??"

"They killed the Galaxy Commander, sir, you are the senior most warrior left for nearly four hundred kilometers.  What are your orders?"

"I must report in to the Khan and the Council, we need to know who these new opponents are, where they came from, and why they are here helping the Lyrans."

“I think I know who they are ovKhan.”  Marcus had been a Goliath Scorpion before the harvest trials.

“Who?”

“The 171st Kowloon Volunteer Regiment.  During the Amaris war they were called the ‘Lunatics’ because of their level of sheer insanity.  They practically buried Castle Brians in their corpses.”

Nicolai looked over the shattered mess of what had been their Galaxy Headquarters on world.  "Interesting…mercenaries?"

"Neg, not lucrewarriors.  Ralliers but none joined Exodus."  Marcus explained, "They fought Amaris because they hated the Rim Worlds, not because they loved the Star League.  Other nicknames were 'The Impalers of Elbar'."

That tripped a memory from sibko… "oh? How are they not extinct?"

"I do not know the answer to that one."  Marcus shook his head.  “But it seems clear that someone has opened the history books and found a history that they wished to emulate.”

In the distance, now unimpeded, dropships were getting away.

Mississauga belonged, however maimed, to Clan Jade Falcon.

***

"It's slowing them down, Helena." Victor Ian Steiner-Davion, Achon Prince of the Federated Commonwealth, reassured his chief Naval commander.  "Adam's initiative and the extra levies are at least slowing them down enough to get your plan fully in action."

“So it seems.”  Helena nodded.

"DO you have enough to start Operation Harmless Animals?" he asked.

“Between  what we have from the RX-79 program and our other efforts, yes.”

"Planning thinks their target for this incursion is Coventry.  I want you to make it cost them…hell, I want to make it cost them, I want to hurt them badly enough they don't think it's a good idea to repudiate the truce and stay.  You've got your green light, Helena."

“Yes Majesty.”  Helena bowed and began walking out.

As the cool air outside bit into her face Helena was joined by Jakob.

Bertha had the groundcar waiting for them as they reached the secure garage.

Helena sat in the groundcar and buckled in.  She stared out the window.

They’re asking too much of her and it’s starting to show.  Jakob thought to himself.  She’s shutting down more and more of herself to do what’s expected of her.  She’s never going to recover like this.

“We’ve been working together long enough I know that look Jakob.”  Helena broke the silence.  “I’ve got a mission.  That’s enough.”

“I’m not a shrink but I know you too.  We spent a lot of years together Helena.  You’re getting in a funk again.”

“You’ve always been able to see through my facade.  My persona.  Don’t worry.  This isn’t like those first few weeks or after Running Deer.”

“Those were some sleepless nights for me too.”

“But for a different reason.”

“Someone had to protect you from yourself.”

“And you’re worried you’re going to have to do it again.”

“Yes.”

“I can’t promise you won’t have to.  But once the operation is underway and past the first objective I’ll be able to hand it off.  I’ve already scheduled the leave time and everything.”

This is the part the history nor the legends talked about.  How she never carried a gun or a knife.  At least she’s self aware enough to continue going without.  Jakob let the silence creep back into the ground car.

***

“We’re terrible people.”  Victor looked at his mother.  “And I’m not sure which one of us is worse.  You’ve read her records and evals.  Put me in a position of if I dismiss her for cause, which I really should do, it’d shatter what little is left of her confidence.  But I’m still going with it.”

“People like Helena and Elizabeth don’t come along very often.”  Melissa answered.

“No they don’t but I’ve seen what Helena really is.  She isn’t a real person anymore.  She’s a marionette that puts on a performance to satisfy us.  The job we’ve given her, even Elizbeth’s university program, it’s all a way for her to keep herself too busy to actually face her traumas and truly heal.”

“The Clan front.”  Melissa nodded.

“Yeah.  I’ve seen too many people go down the exact path Helena is taking.  The worst part is as terrible as it is, we need to keep letting her.”

“Your sessions with Doctor Moore are going well then?”

“Better than Helena’s.  He sees the same thing I do and I know it.”




***

The Boojum shipyard complexes have one customer, well that isn't exactly true.  Line 1 continues to produce saleable Merchant and invader class jumpships, and the AFFC lets them be sold, on occasion.

Lines 2 through 12 have only one customer. The bulk of the production lines have only one customer, the bulk of the Germanium processing, foundry, and forge lines have only one customer now.

It's a good thing that currently, the Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth (Naval branch) are actually paying their bill on time.

And in full.
It was easy for Elizabeth to see Helena’s influence in making this happen.

From her office in Nha Tranh on Kowloon's surface, of course, Liz only saw the balance sheets and the orders.  The Ducal Offices had been relocated from the old, Star-League constructed former Palace of Government that was now a University grounds to a somewhat less intrusive building in an otherwise underutilized office park near the Northeast side of town, in the suburbs, with a satellite office in the former Futbol Stadium that was now the meeting place for Kowloon's Assembly-that Bicameral legislature she'd seen her grandfather rely on and the Regency outlaw before restoring herself.

House of Lords, and House of Commons.

As Duchess, she had nominal authorities she could delegate under the Planetary Charter-so most of her daily governance tasks were whatever the Speaker of the Assembly couldn't, as Prime Minister, actually legally do.

Her intent when she re-established it in '53, was to have a government for her people that didn't need her.  That idea was demonstrating itself to be as fictional as any other ideological madness dreamt up by teenagers.

“Names.  The problem is names have power.  Always have.  Always will.  Yours means a lot Liz.”  Evelynn said.

"Evvie, this isn't about names, it's about my word." Liz pushed the pile of papers aside, "I'm not educated, or fit, to serve as a Theater or Provincial Noble."

“Education can be fixed and I’d argue about fit.”  Evelynn shook her head.

"Today is February nineteenth, Thirty-Fifty Six, Evelynn, I"m 20 years old, I've been trying to catch up since I was fourteen, I see the boy I'm going to marry once every most-of-a-year, at my age normal Nobles are just finishing their college, or just starting their five year military path!!  They're talking Margrave of the Theater, I'm not even qualified to apply for that.  Adam Steiner is..."

"You caught Bryan's backhanders."

"That was an accident!!" Elizabeth insisted.  "Victor rose to office after Melissa stepped down, he asked me to have a look at the finances, which I did…but it was supposed to be a look to see whether he needed to increase taxes and duties, and whether there was enough slack in the economy to handle that without crippling the Military Reforms."

“In trying to make yourself irrelevant you’ve made yourself indispensable instead.”

"If you can't afford to lose it…"

"I know.  'You can't afford to use it'...so how are you going to answer your future brother in law?"

Elizabeth cleared her throat, "’I am not presently qualified to hold the post, your Highness, but General Adam Steiner is qualified to hold the post'." she laid a hand on the paperwork on her desk, "Then Victor will come back with the job he really wants, and I won't be able to beg off.  The guy is entirely too smooth."

"And which job is that?"

"Office of the Exchequer.  I get to be the least popular woman in the realm…but, at least I know how to do that job already."

“This is politics during war time.  There’s actually an argument to be made that if you’re not using irreplaceable people to their best potential you’re actually doing it wrong.  You have a gift.  It may not be the gift you dreamed of as a little girl but it is one nonetheless.”

“How’d you get so wise about all of this?”

I traveled a lot and saw how a lot of other Dukes and Duchesses make their planets work.  Some do have representative democracies, others constitutional monarchies, and a few other forms out there.  You just have the misfortune of being a particularly legendary Duchess now and perhaps a bit of impatience.  Your idea for delegating governing responsibilities will eventually work itself out as both sides find their balance and adjust.  But don’t do too many changes in too short of a time frame.  That shakes the confidence of the common person.”

“Maybe I should make you Duchess after all Evvie.”  Liz smiled.

“Yeah I could do it and the people would even accept me doing it but I’m not you Liz.  My gifts and my strengths wouldn’t allow me to be as good of a Duchess as you or Helena.  We all know it.”

"I'm honestly not sure Helena wouldn't be wasted on being a Duchess." Liz said, "She's smart-better educated than I am, anyway, but when I try to use the mental lens?"

"Yeah?"

"Helema Cameron is not a political animal-She's the General all the edited histories credit Kerensky as being, only she's got an actual moral center." Liz stated.  "She's brilliant at all the jobs we need Generals to do."

“Yeah, she’s got a gift too.  Maybe more than one.”

"Here's my 'dream team'." Liz said, "YOU, are hell on wheels as a leader and a trainer, you've managed to turn what the Clanners did to you  when they took Pat away from both of us, into raising, training, and motivating multiple regiments, Adam sings your praises as a doctrine writer and combat strategist, so I know you have more chops than I've asked of you, and you're a good leader-you can do my job as Duchess,without making a dog's dinner out of it, thus, why you've been my designated successor since I got you back…" Liz laid a card on the desk,  Queen of Spades.

"Helena's a logistician and Strategist-at-scale.  She can do every job they're asking of the current Marshall of the Armies, only she's actually competent to do those jobs.  She's brilliant, and routinely overcomes traumas that make what I struggled with look like a comfortable spin in the spa…"  she laid down the Jack of Spades.

"Adam's right in between you two-you're who people should expect me to be, Helena's a national authority, Adam's the Province." King of spades, "Corps commander at the smallest."

"Who's your ace?"

Liz bit her lip.  "I don't know yet." she finally admitted, "The Ace has to be the wild card-worth one, or worth more than the rest, but not all the time in either role, has to be someone who creates opportunities, not just recognizes them, but not a national leader, because an ace can also be the lowest card in the suit."

“You.  You could be the ace if you really wanted.  Maybe you already are.”

"I don't do anything special, Evvie, I'm just trying to do the job I was given.  Bring Prosperity, Progress, and Profits to the People whose loyalty PUT me here."

“In the process you’ve brought us all together, created opportunities for all of us, and have no aspirations to be something more.”

Elizabeth snorted, then chuckled, "Evvie, until last year I didn't plan for my future, because I didn't have one-sometimes I'm still thinking that way…We're opening the school on time.  Victor sent me a shipment of books-copies from the NAIS library, and a stack of resume's of academics we can afford that are pretty good.  We'll have an Economics department, History department, and several Science and mathematics departments."

“Sounds like the next time Arthur has some leave you two finally need to tie the knot and talk about what you want.”

"Next time Arthur has leave, I'm dragging him up to the Ia Drang Cabin and I'm going to shag his brains out until we can't walk." Elizabeth swore, "Now that I've Tried it with him, I 'get' why people have been writing songs, poems, and novels about it from about the time there were people to do it."
“I expect copious, graphic, dirty details.”

"Then make sure you bribe his bodyguards." Liz stated, "The only real irritant is that we don't get to have any goddam privacy-too many people think whacking a Royal Scion or kidnapping his main squeeze is a good idea."

“Leave it to me.  I’ll make sure you two have alone time.”

"You're going to chew out Klaus Bennetton for doing his job??" Liz scoffed, "I don't LIKE it but I get why it's NECESSARY."

“No.  But I’ll make sure you both are safe but are actually alone.  My only sex life is vicariously through friends.  So consider me motivated.”

Elizabeth checked the clock, "board meeting tonight." she said,  "Now that Mary Vanh's officially handed off to Charlie, and Li's visiting Kowloon, you'll need to attend, even if it's by secured remote, and have your shares lined up.  Defiance went with Krupp on their upgrade, Krupp's delayed, and I don't think Danny's running the company-so I want to address the board about undercutting their corporate governance and removing the foreigners via hostile stock activities and maybe lawsuits for unpaid fees.  Lockheed CBM's dragging their feet again on the Fox program and it's not because of tooling or production delays-Haranshire's nephew is trying an end run to soak for delay money while he's in negotiations with Norinco to try and rook us on the Yard upgrades, I want to launch a hostile corporate governance strike on them too-force the imbecile out and maybe get someone who can read a ****** map and has an actual appreciation for how totally and completely in danger we all are of being overrun."

“I know.  I’ll be ready…but what's got you suddenly in 'corporate raider' mode?"

"Diego." Elizabeth spat.  "It's time to take out the trash, I need the distractions so we can.  I'm calling his notes…all of them."

“All right Liz.  I’ll back you.  Which means I really should get ready.”

"Good, I don't know if Helena will, she's got the whole Dual Monarchy to protect and Diego's a 'mover' in the Estates General, pro FedCom alliance and somehow has a good rep, but he's DIRTY and he's become obstructionist again…and to do what I need to do, we need six out of eleven votes on the board, and I don't have as many proxy shares since I brought Helena up and gave her Henry's."

“She is devoted to you but she also sees the big picture in ways that defy reason.  Definitely a wild card that will be impossible to predict.”  Evelynn nodded.

The clock chimed, and Elizabeth stood up, "Time for my daily." she said, "How many this time?"

"Four hundred were recovered before the bug-out." Evelynn said, "the rest are going to be empty caskets and flags."

Elizabeth nodded, "They'll be landing soon, I don't suppose you'll loan me a driver?"

"I'll drive."

The Daily.  Every day since War Plan Azure Sea began, Elizabeth has gone to the military spaceport outside Nha Tranh, to meet the returning dead before they are shipped to their families.

Sometimes it takes all day, sometimes it's just a few, but their Duchess meets them on their final leg home forever.  It's the least she can do, for men who were only out there, because she made the decisions, and made a mistake.

Once a week (this week, on Friday, four days from now) she will go to the other side of the port, where another shipment of replacements bound for AFFC service gathered to board their dropship out.

It's been months since she's met any solid number of returning veterans who weren't already dead.

In the car, Elizabeth asked, "How many for friday?"

"Five thousand." Evelynn told her, "mostly from my part of the continent, but we've got a battalion from New Saigon and an aviation section from Brigham on the Plateau-chopper pilots."

"Where are they going?"

"Coventry."

"You're going with?"

"No." Evelynn shook her head, "Camh Moskowitz."

"The Rabbi?"

"He's a reserve Colonel and AFFC's jumping him to General for this op.  He's good. Smart, cautious.  He'll bring them home alive as many as he can, Liz."

"Your words to god's ears." Liz nodded.

“It’s still hard, you know.  Part of me wants to go but the selfish part, the part that likes being here is glad to be staying.”

"That's when you grab the selfish part, and remind her that she's got to make sure there are trained replacements for the boys and girls who'll be coming home on the daily." Elizabeth said, "that's how I keep the bit of me that is glad to be draft-exempt under control.  I remind her that she's got to make sure they live, and send more into the furnace who won't."

“Yeah.  That’s where you have an advantage though.  I’ll train them no problem.  But I feel like I should be out there with them too.”

"So do I, and I'm not even trained." Liz confessed, "Maybe especially because I'm not trained…but I'd be a liability when the logic kicks in.  You would be an asset, but I can't afford to lose you like that."

“This is the worst.  Now I’m somehow both depressed and horny.  ******.”

"Don't skip the doctor's appointment next time I make it for you then." Liz told her,  "I told you, sooner or later I'll get your life back for you.  I meant it, Pat wouldn't want you to die alone or lonely, it's not his way, he'd want you to have that 'somebody' in his absence…besides, how am I supposed to spoil your kids if you don't have any?"

“For that, Lil'bit, I promise you,  'aunty Evvie is going to curse your children with all the toys that make all the noise!"

"I look forward to it." Liz promised as the car passed through the official vehicles gate at the rebuilt spaceport and headed up the West ramp to where a Mule class military cargo transport was being sprayed down to cool the hull from re-entry.

“We have a bit of time yet.  Bar for some liquid courage?”

Liz nodded, "Then we check on the caterers for the crew, and maybe bar for after."

“Yeah.  After.”  Evvie nodded.

***


"...I don't understand, your Majesty-transporting dead bodies is a lot of wasted logistics!" 

Victor scowled at the head of Transport Command.  "The realm made a commitment when Kowloon was annexed, even our worst Archons kept that commitment.  Kowloonese who fight and die in the service of the Realm, are to be returned to their homeworld! PERIOD!! Find the ****** transports and stop wasting my time."

This argument was brought about, by the need to move several RCT's worth of troops, equipment and materiel to try and outrace the Jade Falcons to Coventry.  In particular, it was because Transport Command was insisting that 'return flights' be suspended or ended.

Victor, Archon Prince of the Federated Commonwealth, was having none of it.  "Piggyback military cargoes and transport when you can, but those dead men are going home to be put to rest, and it's a National Promise that is the word of the nation that they are brought home!!"

“Yes Majesty.”

"Admiral Cameron, where is the progress? Will they make it in time?"

"No." Helena said, "if we'd started two weeks earlier, or if they'd jumped off two weeks later? Sure, but the relief will arrive at Coventry between two weeks and two months behind the Jade Falcons, and I wish I could promise you better, I really do.  I have failed to deliver what you commanded."

"No, I failed." Victor told her, "You did your job, I was late giving it to you.  That's why it says 'Archon Prince' on the letterhead, and yours says 'Admiral'-you couldn't move before I said we were ready, and I was late, it's my fault, not yours, you're DOING your job…unlike some senior command officers headquartered at Mount Asgard."

“Yes Majesty.”  Helena bowed.  “Is there something more of me that you need?”

"..." Victor hesitated, then, he said, "in your opinion as a naval officer and admiral, is the Home Fleet you've been compiling ready to deploy?"

“I have been doing all I can to make it so.  So yes.”

"If they're ready-as in up to what you consider operational standards, I want them raising hell along the Wolf border and the most terra-ward sections of the Jade Falcons, in the Arc Royal area in particular, because we do NOT need for this to be the diversion before the main attack.  I want you using all the dirty tricks you've been proposing for the last two years on this, and think of a few new ones while you're at it.  We're moving serious force to save Coventry, I don't want that to be an invitation for full-court-press from the Clans as a whole."

“Yes Majesty.  I’ll make sure they have to move everything under the cover of big iron or it’ll burn.”

Victor took something out of his pocket, "You'll need to pass this info to your field officers in the Home Fleet. Some of Wolf Clan are at Arc Royal, they want to defect, so don't kill them just yet, okay?"

“I obey your Majesty.”  Helena bowed.

"See that you're ready." Victor told her, "because I'm going to need you and Jane for Coventry, I hope you've got a decent second to send with Home Fleet.  Someone devious."

“Majesty, if my second doesn’t earn their own nickname before I return I will cashier them personally.”

“Good.  I may be Archon Prince but I do hear some of the variations of yours that some people come up with.  Some have replaced ‘W’ with ‘B’.”  Victor smiled.

“Bar Witch?”  Helena said flatly.

“Wrong ‘W’.”

“Then I’m doing my job.”

***

FCS Wendy Rose, Bloc III Mako variant…

Sat in the yard above, almost complete.  She was a 'stretched' alteration of the original design, nearly fifty thousand tons heavier to accommodate expanded fighter and small-craft bays, additional cargo space, and a significantly larger crew-the expansion being mainly shipboard marines meant for offensive work.

"Admiral Wells, you have a sick and devious mind, you know that?" Giao Pham commented as she watched the yard crews prepping the hull for coatings.

"Oh, pshaw, Pham.  You didn't think the AFFC would let you continue wallowing in poverty and dangerous improvisations once the Guard was implemented into the regular forces, did you?"

"It happened that way before…"

"Yah, well, I'm not Alessandro's fighter boss.  I brought you out here for a reason, you ready to come back to the uniform?"

"Ma'am?"

"Your retirement-I'm canceling it." Wells said, "you don't get to go be a digger in a space mine, I need Captains, you're qualified, you're reactivated…and we're renaming 'Mary Rose'."

"To what?"

"Cartwright." Wells told her, "Your bandit-hunting boss's son of a bitch predecessor who strapped capital missiles onto Merchants and killed half of Henrik Grimm's fleet in 3021-see, I looked that shit up when you handed me the office keys.  We're keeping the Orca Rampant roundel too, it's just going to be next to the Fedcom, and used as a fleet group identifier…and you're going to take the Cartwright out once she's finished."

“Heh.  And people said I was making a mistake.”

"You were, I could've had this done months ago if you'd stuck around." Wells told her, "as it is, I'm having to play catch-up ball, you've got three weeks to find officers and sign them up from the personnel files, get your crew sorted out, get your ship loaded, and get ready for a six month deployment."

“Beats knitting sweaters.”

Wells handed her her packet.  "We'll do the pinning tomorrow morning, tonight you're buying drinks at the O-club…Korvettenkapitain."

“Yes ma’am. Now you’ll get to see just how drunk I can get while still being able to stand at attention the next day.”

"We have hooks for that." Wells said with a chuckle.  "I'll have some of the deck-apes mount them in the ceiling so you don't have to totter, but in three weeks, you're going to war."

“That would be cheating.”

"If you're not cheating, you're not trying." Wells told her, "I've got four more of those to hand out, they're going to have more time because…" she gestured at the rest of the gantry row, "their boats are weeks to months behind yours."

“I’ll be sure to get every once out of her and make the Clans regret ever turning bandit.”

"You do that…but first, get your officers collected and start shaking out your crew-you'll need the crew shook out before you shake the defects out of the ship."

“Yes ma’am.”

“And hug your kids somewhere in there too.”

“They’re with their father.  We split some time ago and turns out he was a better father than I was a mother.”

"Hug them anyway.  I'm sending you out into the war, you might not get the chance to do it again." Wells said seriously.  "My father was estranged, and then, he was dead.  I regretted that for a long time.  A flag on the mantlepiece and an empty casket aren't a replacement for a lost family member."

“Yes ma’am.”

To be Continued

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #158 on: 05 December 2023, 08:35:54 »
Chapter 12: The Coventry War

"...The Falcons brought their best, and they brought the rest.  Wayne Waco got his command killed showboating when he should've been listening to the recon section he didn't bother bringing with him…"

-General Moskowitz, Camh
Kowloon MTM, 1st Regiment, 171st Volunteers


Coventry 15 March 3056

The supersonic aftershocks of the air-support would have been crippling without the protection he was wearing, and Sgt. Edward Vanh of the Kowloon MTM (Marine Corps sub-branch) was damned glad he had it.

"Lock-ping." 

The bombs the SB-27's released fifteen kilometers back, streaked in like munitions themselves, 'gliding' as they shed velocity until the ****** flaps opened.

The five Jade Falcon 'mechs were facing the wrong way when the bombs hit-they were trying to shoot down the fighters who'd crossed their formation at Mach 2.1, 70 meters AGL.

"Everybody duck." Eddie said laconically.  His unit were playing 'FAC' for the fighters, marking targets for bombs and strafing runs, reporting BDA, and mostly finding ways to make the Jade Falcon stay on Coventry as painful as humanly possible when your main transport is a Jeep with a TAG unit on a pintle mount.

The job here, wasn't that different from training in the Brownwater, except that AFFC gear was generally nicer, more expensive, and more advanced…and he was working out of a jeep, instead of a fast boat.

The boats were still being assembled near their LZ, mostly because Coventry doesn't have the tangle of rivers and waterways Kowloon has.

BDA showed two of the enemy's 'mechs were still standing, but they were skinned right to the understructure in multiple places.

"Wish they'd get the tanks down here soon." corporal Vien muttered, "there's enough understructure showing that a couple tanks would have field-days with them."

"Yeah, but we don't.  Not yet, and when we do, they'll be using those adrenaline junkies in the choppers for this kinda work instead of us." Eddie noted, "any movement on the enemy casualties otherwise?"

"I see a caved in cockpit on that weird looking Stinger or Valkyrie copy, and the one that looks for all the world like someone put a Wolverine through the laundry and shrank it, he's not going anywhere."

Eddie nodded, keyed his mic and called in an artillery strike from the Landing Zone anyway. 

Just to be sure.

The 155's began landing among the enemy survivors, "okay, guys, rev it up, we're moving." Eddie ordered.

The trick is to keep moving.  Light infantry with spotting gear doesn't win showdowns with battlemechs or armored troopers, so you find them, call in the shot or airstrike, and bug the ****** out while they're distracted. Let the 'mechwarriors and Tanks coming up behind do the work of finishing them off.

There was supposed to be one hell of an enemy concentration somewhere near here.


***

Mila Cu'ong was from That family-in particular, the branch of the family that didn't marry into the Ngo bloodlines back when The Old Duke was a young man.

Twisted rocks in a natural maze rolled under her fighter.  The AFFC has specific designs they like, but Mila's with the Kowloon MTM's Coast Guard attachment, technically she's Navy now.

"Two, you're skylining.' she drawled over the squadron's channel, her wingman wasn't bad, just a poor bastard who learned his flying somewhere else, "bring it in a little huh? They've got the good radars on those mutant Rifleman copies and I don't feel like breaking in a new wingman, Over."

One of the first things she was going to have to do when they got back, was talk to the Tech Chief about Two's TFR arrays still carrying the ****** nanny-state limiters.

"I've got it Three." was the reply, which was just as frustrating as it sounds.  why in the name of ****** did they partner me with a Pandora Pussy? she fumed silently.

The maze of rock formations gave way to the edge of forested area, and her passive thermals picked up heat sigs.

Idly she bounced a ping to the targeting queue and her HUD lit up, matching terrain maps to what her milimeter wave was showing through the trees.

She got the confirmation-none of the Relief forces or remnant Coventry units had a dropship grounded there.

"Pass-pass, Two, watch my six."  she banked as hard left as she could afford, pulling eleven gees using the flaperons with the thrusters into a curving up-angle to lob five one-ton bombs from her hardpoints in a ballistic arc that would confuse the ****** out of the enemy's ADA 'mechs.

"Boss, we've got hostile tracks incoming suborbital, They'll be in Visual in one minute, forty seconds."

"Rajadat, Two." she tripped a link to squadron, advising them of her awareness of the incoming threat.

The Clanners were sticking high…well, High by her standards, anyway.  They didn't want to tumble in the Jungle with a Fursnake, but that's okay…

It's not like an SB-27 could ever be seen as an air superiority bird, that job belongs to the Lucifers…

She passed over the enemy landing site ahead of her bombs…just.

And surprised their code-identified Galahad 'mech by passing less than a wingspan past his cockpit…at eye level.

Not that he'd enjoy the look at her, not when she was passing him close enough for the compression waves of her passage to knock him back a step as 27 tons moving at speeds normally seen with ballistic projectiles flashes past on a screaming trail of fusing helium.

Which let Two open up with the rocket-pods on his rear, before dropping the empty pods to bounce, bound and smash into things like dud bombs.
One of the enemy fighters got confident enough to come down and play, only he was still building up to the potential energy she was already at.  She flashed wing-over-wing in  her immelmann turn, coming down on his tail in time to see the ropes of tracers pass by both their cockpits from that modded rifleman.

The Clanner must've realized he'd ****** up, he tried to break with an aeleron turn to the right, to shake her.

She pumped all three medium lasers into his aft section and held on like she had a tow-rope on him, barely dodging bits of armored airframe that were flaking off.

HIS wingman wasn't doing the dude any favors, not when she was this close and Two had her six.

The big cylinder of his engine pack flashed yellow-then-red, the fusion coils powering his thrust giving way, she skimmed treetop close enough green stuff flaked off her leading edges as she hit afterburner and went into a rolling climb to get the dude's wingman off of hers.

The second enemy fighter went into a spin as something jammed in his flaps, or maybe his aelerons, he fishtailed wildly and she peppered his rudder and engine pack with more medium laser fire, weaving and bobbing in time to his more advanced, heavier, fighter's gyrations.

She pulled up when he didn't, and his forward motion was ceased by way of an involuntary lithobraking maneuver, his forty ton beast of advanced technology becoming one with the stone, trees and rocks of a hillside.

"Deuces." she reported, the Air superiority fighters were dealing with the rest of the enemy's fighters, and didn't need help this time.

"Bringing it back to the barn for refuel and rearm."  she advised.

"What do you think Hans?"

"I think the Captain's going to have your ass, Cu'ong, we're not supposed to go below one hundred fifty metres AGL."

"It worked, didn't it? That Rifleman copy potted three from the Cecil Marsden this morning….THEY left the ****** governors on their TFR. he saw them coming.  He didn't have TIME to see US coming."

FCS Canberra, Leopard CV…

VFA 211 was divided up between two carrier dropships by the simple frustration that you can't put twelve fighters in combat ready condition on a single Leopard no matter HOW you arrange the decks.

You can, however, give them a nice temporary base, with braided mesh preafbricated landing strips and fast-erect structures to serve as hangars.

Captain Vincent Wyse Luvon shouldn't smoke.  His wife made sure he understood that…but he can still chew an unlit cigar to deal with the nicotine cravings ramped up by the stress of having been put in charge of thirty six adrenaline juiced lunatics in now-officially-substitute-standard SB-27's that make up VFA-211's oversize squadron.

The Coastie pilots were a source of gray hair, and they were so unfailingly polite and courteous and even mild when they weren't doing things that give Squadron Commanders nightmares or Academy Instructors hives.

The 211 kept the Orca Rampant roundel on the opposing surface to where the FedCom identifier was, and decorated the vertical stabilizers of their fighters with the image of a snake-like marsupial predator from their homeworld, which also gave the Squadron their official nickname.

Fursnakes.

The light fighters came in with nice, orderly pairings, wheels down like an airshow team, touch-down simultaneous, roll under APU power off the runway, to the fueling lane on the tarmac, ground crews already coming out of their temporary shelters with fueling vehicles and ordnance lifts.

Backup pilots, because the fighter pilots might get to eat, and shit and sleep, but the tempo from the Relief commander was 'High tempo'.

Fuel was being fed into fighters whose engines were on idle, while rapid PMCS was being run by the relief pilots, who got hot-handed condition briefs from the pilots coming off the flight.

The lead bird, with the relief pilot from 'day shift' was already closing her canopy as ground crew disconnected hoses and de-chocked the wheels.

The process was less than an hour for all twelve active fighters, including armor replacement and damage assessment.

The rosy fingers of dawn were shifting to gold, reflecting off the clouds of a storm system gathering somewhere to the south.

VFA-211's fighter squadron was taking the air on another series of strike missions, scout sorties, and general hell-raising by the time the third shift aviators were at the line building.

***

"I warned you." Helena Cameron said, "The more things change, the more the similarities stand out."

Last night, one of the ground attack pilots from VFA-211 hit a Falcon Landing zone using the same methods their ancestors had used during the Amaris war.

This morning, another pilot, from VFA-111, made a slight error running a similar attack.  That pilot was dead, as was the Clan heavy 'mech that happened to step into their way.

There aren't a lot of things that can handle 25 tons of Aerofighter using them as a braking surface at mach two, and apparently, one of the things that can't is a Codename Daishi assault 'mech.

Observers from that hit, near Lietnerton, noted that debris scattered from the impact and damaged two Thors and took out a Loki.

Which isn't entirely a bad outcome, except that the pilot's wingman insisted that the collision was not a suicide attempt that succeeded, but a navigation error made under pressure.

The pressure in this case, being that the two Coastie squadrons were pulling 24 hour operations cycles instead of getting the rest they needed, hot-swapping aviators every twelve hours on station, flying ground attack and air support missions on-call while AFFC Regulars were having problems keeping up in their bigger, heavier, better suited for the role airframes.

And that in turn, wasn't the fault of the aviators, or the command. 

It was because the Coastie units would, if they didn't take off with a specific target, respond to anyone's call for air support-at least anyone in radio range.

It was like old times to Helena, only instead of overeager amatuers, these were skilled, hardened pilots flying somewhere to the edge of their machines as a matter of course.

With expected, predictable losses.

The problem was less finding bodies to give them rest and rotation, more finding people who could perform to that level at that tempo.

Not everyone could.  Even from Kowloon.

But there were hundreds of worlds to pull from.

"Where do they come up with this?"  Prince Victor asked.  "I mean, I get the idea-fly low, avoid radar to the last second, pop up and the bombs are falling before they even know you're there, but HOW do they come up with it?"

"Fire seasons." Helena commented, "VFA 211 and VFA 111 are drawn from the Golden Lake Valley, near the iron hills, they have wildfires annually down there, and the smoke columns can block visual to thirty thousand feet-so they fly water-bombers in at a few feet above the treetops.  They fly their fighters the same way when they're bringing in the ordnance." she grimaced, "the air's clearer closer to the fires, see?"

“Seems like they’re begging for more incidents that way, one good downdraft at the wrong moment and into the ground they go.”

"At Elbar, day one Anh Cuong had to be recovered from a tree that was taller than she'd been flying-she'd been lucky, her wingman rearranged a cliff-side, and they lost seven out of twelve pilots flying attack runs, only three to enemy fire.  That was…a long time ago, this generation is better at it."

“These are different worlds, different gravities, different weather patterns.”

"Should I pull the Coasties and let the Royal Guards regimental air-cover take over? We'll lose the help on air superiority…" Helena offered.

“No.  Just try and figure out a way to keep the loss rates manageable.  People to put in them and Aerospace fighters are almost harder to find than mechwarriors and mechs.”

"Which is why we're drawing from the MTMs." She nodded, "Inarcs is sending reinforcements, but they don't have air cover integral to their formations, I need you to sign another draft order."

“We’re buying time with bodies.”

“Yes.  But we have terribly little other choice.”

'Who am I pulling in?" Victor asked.

"LCS Cartwright and their strike wing.  The ship's in shakedown, but they have 24 more light fighters and a six-pack of electronic warfare enabled shuttles. They're not rated at 'Regular' but it's the kind of bodies we need to free up other squadrons."

“Do it.  We need the time and rotation.  Does no good if we can’t replace our losses with people who have learned lessons from experienced people.”

Helena waited for him to sign the order, and hit 'send'.

In orbit, Jane got the missive, and forwarded it immediately. 

Return traffic from Spider Moon included listings of incoming supply convoys and dates, including two Mules filled with spare parts for the Coasties and the MTM.

"Speaking of replacements." Helena showed him the 'good' news.

Cuerpos De Marinas de Arluna-24 pilots with fifty year old LCF-1Rs, surplus birds the Diegos initially didn't want to buy until Liz Ngo applied the kind of brutal pressure on the personal fortunes of the rulers of Arluna with a series of financial attacks on the planet's tourism industry that got Duke Diego unseated in favor of his much more open minded son…

Who was bringing a lance of Classix indeed-salvaged Land Air 'Mechs, too rare for regular service, and ridiculously expensive…but they were fighting machines of a sort.  The surplus birds would be more use.

WInter's Militia was coming with more battlemechs-also succession war and earlier designs, but at least the Von Schrakenbergs had paid attention to Helena's letters on doctrine and supply-they had two companies-but the Light company were COM-2D commandos, and the Heavy were Zeus units.  Their fighters, Seydlitz, were the kind that she recalled Annie Cu'ong calling "short legged missiles with a laser for a warhead" and mocked constantly, but those interceptors were good for more jobs than her long-dead friend would ever admit.

The bigger surprise, was coming from closer.

New Capetown was sending a battalion of 'mechs, two of armor, and 36 Chippewa heavy fighters.  Beast ships, good for dropship popping and not much else, but they were going to be a big help with maintaining air superiority in the low orbitals.

"How long do we keep it up?" she asked.

"Until the Clanners give up and leave." Victor stated.  "They're here for a reason."

“Then I have a bloody minded idea to really drive the point home.  Something easier to replace and train pilots for.”

“Conventional fighters.”  Victor assessed.

“We use those to move the mud, it frees the real birds for air superiority and orbitals work while if we really need extra mud movers they can come back to that work in a pinch or when we have total air superiority.  And since we don’t have to train the pilots for microgravity or stellar navigation that opens the pool of candidates considerably and shortens training time.”

“Add them to the list.”  Victor nodded.

The sheer nightmare that was the FedCom logistical chain was something Helena was doing her best to chip away at, removing extraneous and unneeded gear where possible and finding places where standardization and economy of scale could make up for any loss of battlefield capability with sheer numbers, for that was the real terror of the SLDF, and she was bringing it back.

Conventional fighters were already in that logistical chain and Helena would prefer to use only ASF but in this war it was a tool the Clans did not seem to use at all and that meant it would give them an edge.  Even if the bodycount would rise.

“All right Helena.  Time to see your plan in action.  Dismissed.”  Victor nodded.

“Yes Majesty.”  Helena bowed and left.

She’s doing the job better than anyone I could replace her with, but I still worry that she’s putting on masks for all our sakes and we’re all asking too much of her.  Victor shook his head.

***

The relief of Coventry wasn’t just about sending forces there to face the Falcons.

It was also about exploiting the gaps in Falcon forces created by the Refusal War, their spat with Clan Steel Viper, and launching an offensive against Coventry.

"The biggest advantage the Clanners had, was initiative."  General Moskowitz  sat in a darkness.  He wasn't the image of the man she'd known centuries ago.  That Moskowitz was born in a Floridian Arcology and was one of the Star League's special forces operators.

THIS Moskowitz, was a descendant, and sometimes he almost resembled the other man's expressions,  But Camh was Kowloonese from the jewish community centered near Brigham on the Ia Drang Plateau, and unlike his illustrious ancestor, he was religiously a Jew, not just ethnically.

Though, like his ancestor, he would never describe himself as being particularly good in that respect, but he had that same kind of analytical mind.  Not really that much of a surprise, for a man whose day-job prior to being reactivated was as a High school physics, chemistry and calculus teacher who sometimes subbed to the history department in a town on the Plateau with only four thousand people in the higher end of the highlands.

"Initiative?" Jane asked.

"Nobody knew they were coming, then nobody knew anything about them when they arrived, they had complete control of where and when they attacked, and they had inside information-but it was the fact they could force us to react, instead of acting-they had the initiative." the aging man said it as if it were perfectly self-evident.  "That was the real advantage-controlling when, where, and how a fight would go down."

"And now?"

"Prince Victor's still letting the Clanners call the tune.  It's not his fault, really.  I'm back in a uniform I haven't worn since I was in my twenties, with a rank I never expected to achieve when I bowed out after '39. You don't make Flag Rank as a cannon-cocker, engineer, or grunt, I've got about zero neural conductivity with a neurohelmet, there's a glass ceiling there-if you can't pilot a 'mech you won't make Flag in the LCAF, or the AFFC.  It just doesn't happen…or didn't, before Melissa hired Helena and Victor expanded her scope."

"You're a rarity-you were career." Jane noted, "everything I've heard, that makes you unusual for Kowloonese."

Cham chuckled, "I had a lot of nervous energy to burn off as a younger man, and there's only so many hours you can stare at a field of Barley and Winter Wheat between going to Temple and all the rest of life.  I took my retirement in '41 and rolled it over into teaching school, but I was the chem teacher who shows the kids how to make the fun stuff."

He tabbed a display for his own benefit-the Remote was getting fed from the ship in orbit, where her actual mind was already seeing the data.  "Some of those troops are kids I taught.  Not sure how I'm going to face their parents after this."

On the display, the Volunteers were grinding a hole through the Falcon encirclement of Lietnerton.  "Alpha Battery adjust curtain battery six degrees north-northwest."  he ordered, "There's an opening, Second Battalion is to advance."

Jane monitored the general with her 'spare'-a true Dustball special with enhanced communications installed inside the torso, because Cham reminded her of one of the few human friends she'd made, that weren't also Helena's.

The Volunteers weren't lending the Clanners the initiative.  When an assault stalled, the brutal logic of the man in this command-post modified tracked vehicle shifted assets to find another angle of attack, and kept advancing, as if he were using Zhukov's playbook mixed with Patton's aggression.

He kept enough reserves to react to enemy probes-but he usually just left that to the other units-slower units, or units that hadn't been investing the training time the Kowloon MTM had.

This tended to put the man in bad odour with the Mercenaries, and some of the other Lyran units, units whose normal habit patterns did not include such vicious aggression by their conventional 'support' troops.

IN the last week, he'd shifted emphasis four times, never on the hard, dug in concentrations, his forces were probing the Falcon lines for weaknesses until they responded, then hitting wherever they responded from with massed salvoes of artillery, air strikes, tank charges and infantry.

His tactical losses were grueling, but the strategic side of the ledger was hard to ignore-a curve of blue,biting into a sea of red on the map, Strategically, the Kowloon MTM was chewing through the Falcons faster enough, that they were holding the enemy in a vise that was moving, narrowing, pinching.

It wasn't the Lyran 'wall of steel' this was more like a sea of fire ants.

"Send to VFA-112, direct airstrikes on these highlands." he marked on the map.  "That's where the bastards are going to try and counterattack next-they're going to try to wedge between 3rd battalion and first."

"How do you know?"

"It's the easy win." he said simply.  "If they punch through there, they can roll up two flanks and penetrate to the artillery batteries, if they do that, they'll be in our headquarters area in less than four hours.  You know why they need to do that?"

"Because if those batteries aren't shut down, they can't airmobile."  she agreed.

"Bingo.  I've got the bastards focused, they need to get us off their butts if they're going to take on Wolf's people and do to them, what they did to Waco's people."

"You should move."

"Why? I want them in that corridor." he said firmly.  "Tell Helena the enemy's following her thinking, that means they're going to change up soon."

Expose a vulnerability, because it's an ambush.  "Engineers fall back by the numbers." he added, "we're going to see if these 'warriors' can read a map."

"You're inviting them to turn your flank…?"

"Yes." he said, "I am practically laying out the silverware and pouring the wine…of course, it's rat poison and the vintage sucks, but I expect they'll take the invite.  Mech Battalion, you're up, array along ridge 24 in doggo."

***

These were not the Coventry militia, and they were not fighting the way the Skye Rangers had.  Star Captain Severus had been waiting for them to make a mistake…and they finally did.

"They're out of position!"  He knew what to do, what he HAD to do.  He led his cluster forward-there was a five kilometer gap between the conventional troops, a hole that would let his cluster turn their flank.

Once that flank was turned, he and his sibkin would finally face real warriors, instead of this insulting chaff of infantry, tanks and air-support backed by dezgra artillery.

Twenty five 'mechs, seventy five Elemental warriors-would be enough to break, he was certain, the harassing conventional troops and their lucrewarriors.

At first the sporadic flash of land mines detonating under the feet of the mechs was just an annoyance, just another obstacle for them to overcome.

The Falcons powered forward, sometimes slowing just enough to allow a point or star of Elementals to clear a particularly ugly minefield obstacle.

The problem happened when they cleared the tree line.

The forest behind and to their sides ignited into a firestorm.

And that's when the artillery batteries began dropping shells…but even those were expected.

What wasn't, was a battalion of Battlemechs rising from dug in positions in among the advancing Jade Falcons while all this was going on.  Range advantage? What's that?

The sensor absorbing netting fell aside with the light covering of soil as more and more of the Battalion sprang up from their holes.

At this distance, Dezgra physical attacks were mixed with a rain-like fall of cluster bomblets, the Spheroid machines had more structure, and thicker armor as a result of that more structure, to make up for their deficiency in ranged firepower and gunnery skill.  This type of fighting is a nightmare for Clan warriors-it was a point-blank melee, and among the titans, the Elementals couldn't afford to help their larger trothkin-because among the Spheroids, were primitive, but still usefully dangerous, Inner Sphere battlesuits more than happy to bring the fight to the invaders.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face, except ours is to be the people punching faces.”  It came over an open channel.

In the mass melee there was no way to know for sure which enemy transmitted the message.  But a particularly ugly Grasshopper was now closing in.

The fist loomed large as Severus worked his throttles and torso gimbels to take it in the shoulder instead of the canopy.

He didn’t even see the Battlemaster with the leg of his second as giant club until it was too late.


***

Helena found General Moskowitz on ridge 122.  The man was wearing his arm in a sling and his helmet barely covered a bandage.  "Ma'am, I'd salute but there might be snipers." he said laconically.

The Ridge 122 ambush had accounted for most of a Clan Cluster, at the cost of nearly a thousand dead soldiers, a trashed Headquarters, and the artillery were still firing.

“The day the Clans get that smart is the day we really need to worry.”  Helena chuckled.

"Yeah, well, the plan worked. It's a clear shot to relieve Whitting." Cham said calmly, "I don't suppose you've got hospital beds open? I've got a lot of wounded and our field arrangements are getting overloaded."

“Seems there’s never enough of them, but yeah.  I’ll work on getting some more.”  Helena nodded.

"We didn't know we'd need so many, I think." Cham agreed amiably, "I think we might actually have more wounded than dead for a change, I've had to reassign Morticians to assist the Corpsmen, Your plan worked."

“Had a lot of help forming it up.”  Helena smiled weakly.

"You did good, ma'am." he assured her, "back in the war of '39 we took worse for less, and the less said about working for Nondi Steiner in the Fourth war the better."

“Truth be told I let Tranh Truk Ngo and Anh Cu’ong do a lot of the heavy lifting on the planning back in the war, I just paid attention and kept asking what I could get them to help make it work.”  Helena smiled.

Cham chuckled grimly, "funny how the good ones always say that-'someone else did the work' when we win, but not when we lose.  We came close to losing here, it went right down to the razor, Ma'am."

“Well this one will be on me.  You can hold me to that if we do wind up losing this somehow anyway.”

"If that happens we'll just talk about it in the afterlife." he stated, "because we'll likely both be dead."

“Indeed.  No way in hell will I let these bastards take me until I’ve killed at least ten of them for trying and save one last bullet.”

"Second Battalion was advancing last time I checked, same with first.  I'm afraid we're going to have to pull in HHC and whatever scraps we've got to fill third-I've got maybe four hundred effectives who aren't walking wounded, and that counts the cooks and clerks."

“I’m combing through the Militias in the unengaged areas, away from the pirate areas, to pull in what I can.  Should have some units to relieve you here in a week or two.”

***

Marthe Pryde saw the casualty reports-the after-action, from Ridge 122 remotely-there were no Warriors who returned, and few of the Techs…but enough to get a singular picture of a meatgrinder mixed with a bloodbath.

Then she got the call from Vlad this morning, boasting of his new offensive.

"This is untenable."

It was time to negotiate an honorable withdrawal.

“The Lyrans and their Davion allies have made us pay a terrible price.  What more will they demand of us to allow us to pull back I wonder.”  Marthe muttered barely above a whisper.

“My Khan, surely there is a way to salvage this situation.”

“Here…”  Martha gestured to a stack of reports.  “...is what we’ve lost just on Coventry.”

She then pointed to another deeper stack of reports. “This stack is what they cost us in other systems while we were bogged down at Coventry.  We blooded our warriors, and drew a net loss from the exercise."

"Then…."

"Our option is to obtain Hegira." she asserted.

Daryk

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #159 on: 05 December 2023, 09:05:43 »
I could have sworn this was the section where Google let me back in, but it seems not...

DragonKhan55

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #160 on: 05 December 2023, 11:30:32 »

It's not like an SB-27 could ever be seen as an air superiority bird, that job belongs to the Lucifers…


Sabres are good interceptors, but in no world will the Lucifer ever be fit for air superiority. Not even the up-engined Kurita variant because of how trash the armor is, unless those LCF-1Rs referenced swapped the LRM rack and ammo for a bigger engine and more armor.


New Capetown was sending a battalion of 'mechs, two of armor, and 36 Chippewa heavy fighters.  Beast ships, good for dropship popping and not much else


See if you can do a field refit to the CHP-W10 variant. Drops a Large Laser off of each wing to add 10 more tons of sorely needed armor. It solves two problems in one - makes the Chippewa's heat actually manageable in a fight AND adds enough armor for it to be as survivable as a Thunderbird or a Stuka.


These were not the Coventry militia, and they were not fighting the way the Skye Rangers had.  Star Captain Severus had been waiting for them to make a mistake…and they finally did.

"They're out of position!"  He knew what to do, what he HAD to do.  He led his cluster forward-there was a five kilometer gap between the conventional troops, a hole that would let his cluster turn their flank.


A Star Captain leading a Cluster? I gather that the Star Colonel went to see Kerensky earlier then, given that his entire cluster consists of a Supernova Trinary with another Binary of mechs.


The Ridge 122 ambush had accounted for most of a Clan Cluster, at the cost of nearly a thousand dead soldiers, a trashed Headquarters, and the artillery were still firing.


Half of a Clan Cluster (five Omnimech stars and three Elemental stars) at the cost of less than a thousand dead is a loss rate that sounds brutal, but is extremely favorable in the long run. As cold hearted as it sounds, it is easier for Kowloon/the AFFC to replace dead tankers and infantry along with a handful of mechwarriors and pilots than it is for any Clan to replace what is essentially an entire sibko of mechwarriors and Elementals.

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #161 on: 06 December 2023, 12:16:01 »
***

The meeting was arranged.  "Eventually, you have to talk." Victor assured Helena, "That's really it, isn't it? That eventually, you have to stop the killing and talk."

"You have an idea in mind."

"I do." Victor told her, and nodded to a Hauptmann whose uniform saw better days, "While you were crushing their flanking force.  I'm going into this meeting with winners."

"Yeah, that's part of it, what's the other part?"

"You'll see." he said, "It might not work…but it might."

The chopper landed, and they disembarked as five Clan omnimechs knelt and their warriors climbed out.

Helena felt her fists clench as she saw their uniforms.  Not Star League gray but the influence was still clear.

"They look like a Marik Opera." Cham Moskowitz commented by her side.  "How much time do you think it takes them putting those doofy capes together? I swear the gal in the middle should be in school still."

“Too long but they certainly seem rather practiced at it.”  Helena tried to keep her tone neutral.

The older man snorted.  (*younger? No, older.  Mileage counts)

"I present the victors at Lietnerton and Ridge 122." Victor was already talking.  "Before I make the offer, you deserve to know who beat your warriors.  This, is General Cham Moskowitz of the Kowloon MTM, the field commander at Ridge 122, and this is Kommandant Caradoc Travena, of the 10th Skye Rangers, who beat your ass at Lietnerton twice…and this is the real mastermind of the current counteroffensive, Helena Cameron, and I don't mean a descendant."  His tone was full of challenge.

Marthe Pryde recognized her.  Helena realized she was recognized by the Clan Officer.  Even Phelan Kell, when he showed up on Tharkad to plea for sanctuary for his Wolves, hadn't had that stark recognition in his eyes, and something else…

"You do not mean-"

"Misjump, she's agreed to work with the Federated Commonwealth.  Your Crusader philosophy entails restoration of the Star League, and you're all proud of your heritage with the SLDF that left with Kerensky." Victor stated, "She is your rightful sovereign, come a bit delayed, but then, she's been gone a while.  If you are truly the Star League Defense Force in Exile, you owe her your allegiance...or you can admit you're the degenerate descendants of the largest act of mutiny in history."

Helena had expected something like this ever since she revealed herself to Melissa.  But now that it was here she found herself dreading what the Clan Officer might say next.

But then, Helena realized what she'd caught in Pryde's eyes.

Fear.

They know I'm here, they know who I am, and they're afraid…  She realized, They're afraid of ME!

Helena found she didn’t know how to react to that, enough so her face showed surprise instead of the mask of emotionless logic she had been wearing until now.

"Doc?"  Victor said, as the Clan Warriors stood, stunned.

Kommandant Travena spoke, "We're going to offer you hegira to go home now, and think about this."

"Clan Jade Falcon…accepts." Marthe said, "Prince Victor, we will need to talk soon about this…unusual event. Quiaff?"

"Yes."  Victor agreed grimly, "We will need to talk about this."

Helena watched in silence as the Clan Officers withdrew to their mechs.

"I'm sorry I had to do that, Helena." Victor told her, "but this war? It needs to end.  I'm grasping at straws to find a way to do that.  I should've warned you, but I was afraid you'd…" he looked aside, ashamed.

“I swore the power of my name to your mother and you used it as is your right as Archon-Prince.  I knew it would eventually happen.  It’s true I wanted to punch them in the face for being the descendants of cowards and traitors but that look.  They’re more terrified of me than I am of what they represent.  If they offer to make me First Lord though I am going to tell them to shove it.”  Helena shook her head.

"That's another conversation." Victor told her, "one we're going to have to have eventually, Helena."

“That Star League is dead.  It dies a long time ago.  If you want to make a new one go for it.  I’ll even help as much as I can.  But I have no interest in running it.  You and the other House Lords will have to figure that out on your own.”

"Helena, I'm going to need to do something you might not have considered." Victor said, "do you know what that is?"

She looked at him hard, "what is it you think you'll need to do?"

"Make a lasting peace." Victor told her,  "you saw the mistakes happen in real time, you're the best bet anyone has, of knowing how to spot them being repeated.  Even if we never stick you on a throne, I need your help, because nobody but my parents managed a peace that lasted more than a decade between Great Houses since hte last Star League fell, and I don't have enough beds for that many marriages."

“That is the other reason I gave your mother the power of my name.  It just might get people to the table for peace.  But Victor we both know what I went through has changed who I am at a fundamental level.  I can’t be a First Lord.  Not anymore.  But I’ll do my best to end this.  However you want it ended.”

"First, you're going to take some time off." Victor told her, "You've built your staff system, the reforms are working, let them work, and take a few months personal time, maybe go visit your farm or something, but it's the least you deserve, before we get to the truly dirty, hard, unpleasant work."

“As you command Majesty.”  Helena bowed.

To Be Continued

DragonKhan55

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #162 on: 06 December 2023, 13:15:49 »
BRAVO. Oh boy, this is going to set off ripples like nothing else.

Artifex

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #163 on: 06 December 2023, 13:28:08 »
Only as long as the convo was actually recorded. Because no way in hell those traitor's descendants would accept recountings at face value.

Zakharra

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #164 on: 06 December 2023, 15:10:21 »
Oh boy is this flipping the table. If the information is released to the Clans (Clan Council, Khans and bloodnamed warriors), it will cause one hell of a crapstorm. Because if the Clans take up the offer and swear allegiance to her as the Cameron/First Lord (which they would insist she become), they will have to give up a lot of the Clan ways; no trials for everything, no Clan way or the highway, no 'only Warriors can be the leader' crap, no caste system. They will -have- to change to fit in as a part off the SLDF. Anything less doesn't work.

What I expect to happen is the more reactionary Clans/Khans will show up, demanding a Trial of Possession for Helen Cameron and her sister/warship. They would be looking to take control of Helen and force her into a Clan mold regardless of what she thinks about it. Because they will not want to give up their culture or ways. So it's either total victory with a violent warrior based culture ('I punch you good! Hur hur') in charge, or as Victory said, their entire history has been the depraved descendants of the largest mutiny in history looking to impose a twisted and heavily warped version of the Star League on the entire IS (and all of humanity). There's the right thing to do, then there is the Clan thing to do (scream and attack).

That said, awesome story guys. It's interesting how this one has differences from previous Ngo stories. I'm not too sure Helen would like being used as a broodmare though, if that's how I'm reading Victor's intention though. She has enough problem with just close proximity of men, getting married and having children could very well be a step too far for her.

Euphonium

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #165 on: 06 December 2023, 18:16:55 »
[snip] I'm not too sure Helen would like being used as a broodmare though, if that's how I'm reading Victor's intention though. She has enough problem with just close proximity of men, getting married and having children could very well be a step too far for her.

It's practical to disconnect sex & marriage from reproduction in a variety of different ways though, all the way from simple donor sperm all the way up to iron wombs. If Helena is willing to donate eggs, there can be a Cameron heir of the old line without her needing to come within a thousand lightyears of a man, or without her having to go through the preganancy.

Yes that means other issues have to be handled if enough people are going to accept the heir, but it's not insurmountable.
>>>>[You're only jealous because the voices don't talk to you]<<<<

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #166 on: 07 December 2023, 13:44:27 »
Chapter 13: A Pause for Breath

"The Whitting Conference was convened shortly after the Jade Falcon withdrawal from their Coventry campaign.  Victor wasn't the core driver of this-that job, fell on his mother, Melissa, drawn out of her retirement to serve as the 'face and voice' calling for a unified, united Star League response…"

-Ngo, Elizabeth Anne,
Diplomacy, Economics and Government, a Challenge to the Nobility
Kowloon University Nha Tranh, 2nd printing, 3060 (reprinted with permission)

October of 3058 saw a wedding in Hue.

"I, Arthur Steiner Davion, do promise to Love, Honor and Cherish you, come life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth, for the rest of my life and beyond."

Helena watched him slide the ring on the finger of Duchess Elizabeth Ngo.

Lizzie was in white, a stark contrast from her habitual blacks, and someone had actually done her hair.

Helena’s hand was wrapped around Jane’s remote’s hand like an iron vise.  A human would be howling in pain.  But Jane just sat there smiling.

"I, Elizabeth Anne Ngo, do promise to Love, Honor and Cherish you, Arthur, come life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth, for the rest of my life and beyond."

Lizzie slid a ring onto his finger.

The magistrate said, "I pronounce this union forged, let none divide it…you may kiss now?"

The girl kissed the boy, and the witnesses cheered.

"Okay!!" Liz announced after they spent far too long exchanging spit, "Reception's in Peace Park, bring your appetites, the food's already there!!"

It lacked the pomp of a Royal wedding as Helena remembered it, and while there WERE security agents, they were well out of sight.

But then, this wasn't Tharkad or New Avalon…or Unity City a cold voice whispered in her mind.  For one thing, there were enough weapons in the crowd of witnesses to give a Black Watch fits.

Spring time in Hue, and the ceremony had been kept small, no doubt recordings would be sliced apart by Media who were quite deliberately not told in time to actually get more than a few stringers into the system.

Helena was picking through the bar for her favorite traditional Kowloon delicacies.  As she finished loading her plate she walked with Jane to their assigned table.

Katherine, in her Commander's mess dress uniform, was conversing with one of Elizabeth's senior officers by the second roasting spit.  It was a little strange-Arthur had taken the reserve commission and gotten put on inactive to teach at the University, while Katherine had charged headlong into a Naval Regular's position. 

“I sense some light nepotism.”  Evelynn chidded as they sat.

"She's got some chops." Helena stated, "Commerce raiding in the Falcon rear during Coventry, and she's kept it up.  So maybe some nepotism but she's got the chops to back up the rank."

“You know I meant letting Arthur reserve his commission like that.”  Evelynn chuckled.

"Do we really NEED an engineering officer, or do we need a professor of advanced physics?"  Helena asked, "if we're going to be more than grubbing at scraps, as Liz puts it, we need him in the professor slot, not fixing the core of a raiding ship."

“Geez, okay I give up trying to get you to not be so dour.  It’s supposed to be a party.”  Evelenn frowned.

“Sorry Evvie.  I know you’re trying.  I really am happy for my friend.  I promise.”  Helena sighed.

“Don’t worry I talked Liz out of the traditional bouquet toss.”  Evelynn smiled.

“Thanks, I appreciate it.”  Helena smiled.

“Still you’re doing great.  You’re not breaking out in hives, not running off somewhere to hide, nor puking your guts out.”  Evelynn reassured Helena.

“It’s easier since so many people here are now people I’ve gotten to know and that I’m here for my friend.”  Helena nodded.

“Speaking of.”  Evvie warned.

“Helena, do me a solid.  Since we’re not doing a bouquet toss hang on to these for a minute.”  Elizabeth lightly tossed the flowers at Helena.

Helena caught them by reflex.

“Totally counts.”  Elizabeth chuckled.  “Now I’m going to dance with my husband.  Go mingle, maybe find someone to dance with.”

“Not sorry.  Now that my face is not a complete horror show I’m going to go find myself my own dance partner.”  Evelynn walked off.

“Traitor!”  Helena mocked anger as she smelled the flowers.

Helena realized her mistake a little too late.

“Give them over and let’s get you somewhere private.”  Jane picked up immediately.
Jane found a vase for the flowers on their way to a small office.

“You’re thinking of Richard’s wedding aren’t you?”  Jane asked.

“I liked her.  She was getting Richard away from Amaris.  And now I’m thinking about how I was an Aunt despite everything else that was going on.”  Helena nodded.

She could be honest with Jane in a way she couldn’t be honest with anyone else, not even Elizabeth or Doctor Huyn.

“Go ahead.  You know you need to.”  Jane nodded.

“I’m not sure I can.  I had to turn that part of me off to do the job.  I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to cry again.  Because if I do I might not be able to stop.”

“You can.  You’re not a victim anymore nor are you a monster.  So go ahead and cry.”  Jane countered.

Helena nodded as tears began to form in her eyes.

Jane stood watch at the door for the next half hour.

A slight touch up to Helena’s make up and they were able to rejoin the party.

“I’m still not dancing with anyone.”  Helena said quietly.

"That's fine." Jane said.

Outside, however, just past the windows, they could see, and through their bones and the floor, they could hear the dancing.

It wasn't ballroom style dancing, this was far more energetic in the reddish light of the second sun, a crowd that seemed to be growing, thanks to the public nature of Peace Park.

But Jane and Helena were in the cooled, air conditioned hall, with those who weren't interested or participants in the ritualized revelry going on outside.

Evelynn wasn't dancing, she was currently half-crouched, facing a girl who was maybe eight at the oldest, one of Elizabeth's flower-girls.

They were conversing in sign-language, and the conversation was fast.

“You catch that Jane.”

“Of course but it would be rude to repeat what they said without permission.”

"So private then…"

"The girl misses her parents." Jane broke her self-described confidentiality, "The father died during the landings.  I don't know what happened to the mother, she calls Evelynn 'Auntie Evelynn'."

“I…Oh no.  You really shouldn’t have broken your own rule Jane.”

"The fact you're focusing on that, and not on your self-destructive guilt is proof you're healing." Jane stated.  Evelynn straightened and the little red-haired girl took her hand, and led her to the shelter building.

“But I am feeling even guiltier now.  My orders, my victims.  She’s one of my victims now.”

"Your heroes." Jane said.

Helena felt that in-the-headlights panic as the silent girl walked arrow straight to where she and Jane were standing.

"I'm sorry Lady Helena, Phoebe can be very insistent!"

“It’s okay.  What do you want to say to me Phoebe?”

The flower girl, Phoebe, signed something with an insistence, then pointed at the vase, then at Helena.  She crossed her arms like a scolding teacher.

“I’m sorry I never learned sign language.”

Phoebe was reading her lips?

The girl signed to Jane. 

Twice, then made the same gestures.

"You're supposed to keep one to wear, for luck.  She wants to know what's wrong with the flowers she helped…grow? I don't know that word." Jane admitted.

“I’m sorry.  I got distracted.”  Helena was fighting the need to cry again.

Phoebe sighed, strode fussily over to the vase, collected it, and brought it over.

"She wants you to choose one."  Jane said.

Helena carefully pulled one of the flowers out.
 
Phoebe put the vase down, and grabbed Helena's hand, with the practiced ease of childhood games, she wrapped and tied the stem to Helena's wrist.

“Thank you.”  Helena smiled.

The girl had seen her face, and brightened. Then she tugged, signing something one-handed, followed by a beckoning gesture.

Helena let the little girl lead her wherever she wanted.

They went past the celebrations, down to the river-side, where a booth stood, next to a vending stand.

"Oh.  Yeah. She would think of that…" Evelynn dug into her handbag, and produced three Kroner coins, for the vendor.

"What?"

"Darts or hatchets?"  Jane translated as the girl fed coins into the machine.

"What?"

"She wants to know if you want to throw the darts, or the hatchets.  Phoebe-" Evvie signed something. 

The girl adamantly shook her head, and made an insistent gesture.

"She says you lost your family, she thinks you'll feel better.   It's an old game-usually popular during Freedom days, but this one's open all year."  Evelynn explained, "you get three tries with hatchets or darts, to kill Amaris again."

“Oh.  I’m sorry Phoebe.  I’ve been incredibly dense.  Thank you.  Last time I did this was some time ago but it was with hatchets.”  Helena smiled again.

Helena’s dress made her throwing motion somewhat awkward but all three hatchets went into Amaris’ face.

The girl was delighted a raspy sound that wasn't quite a voice issued from her as she clapped and stomped her feet with the biggest, brightest smile as the modular dummy of Stephan Amaris fountained red-colored fake blood and shook down into the reset position.

Then it was Phoebe's turn, her darts weren't as precise, and from where she stood, Helena could see why.

The girl's joints were slightly deformed, and she was visibly underweight…and just as delighted to hit the target at all as she'd been at Helena's gruesomely lethal strikes.

Jane caught the voice coming from the direction of the party.  "...have you seen this girl?"

She spotted a muscular girl who was as broad as Phoebe was narrow, and nearly as brutishly ugly as the deaf girl was achingly pretty.  "Over by the water? Thanks."

Evelynn tapped Phoebe's shoulder, and pointed.

Phoebe waved frantically and gestured 'come'.

The bigger girl hurried without looking hurried. 

"I'm sorry Your Grace, Phoebe…"  The girls went into a rapid fire sign-language conversation.  "...You're supposed to Ask." 

"Who's this?"

"Lenora O'Malley, Phoebe's twin-they're fraternal."  Jane recalled it from the database without thinking about it. 

"You're twins?"

"Mom had problems while we were in utero.  Radiation and chemical exposures."  Lenora said, "Phoebe, I'm sure Lady Cameron has more important things to do- what do you mean? Slow down! I can't keep up!"  There was genuine confusion on that brutish, almost neanderthal face.

"Okay, I'll ask…but don't be a brat if she says no.  she's a Proper Lady, she's busy and important…" she looked up, "...she wants to know if you'll join us at dinner, with the other kids from The Home.  She thinks it's important, but my sister gets funny ideas sometimes and I get it if you don't-Stop!"  Phoebe's fist pulled back from her sister's side, "You can't hit hard enough to hurt me, but you might hurt yourself, Phoebe!" Lenora waited as her sister signed very slowly, a clear emphasis and insistence.  "She really thinks you should eat with us, Milady." Lenora said, "She's gonna be a…fine. FINE…" Lenora inclined her head toward Helena, "please?"

“How can I say no?”  Helena smiled.

I’ll wear whatever mask she needs me to, I owe her that.

There was a confidence in Phoebe's expression, not just a victory there, and her heavier, bulkier, clearly vastly stronger sister had a resigned sort of confusion. Along with resignation.  "When you figure out how to say no to my sister, can you tell me how?" Lenora asked.

“Sure.  But I suspect that will be quite difficult to do.”  Helena nodded.

"I'll tag along." Evelynn said, "that way someone can talk to Dietrich when the time comes."

"Dietrich?"

"Child Services." Evelynn said, "we've got forty kids here tonight, tough placements.  I've already contracted for as many as I can handle at the Ranch…but there are things on the ranch too dangerous for a deaf girl who can't scream for help, and those two are a package deal."

“I see.”  Helena nodded.

"Are they all war orphans?" Jane asked.

"Nope.  People have accidents, or they get sick, or crimes happen.  We don't have the BEST social services there ever was-several of the kids we've got, have living parents who maybe ought to have been put down by the courts-kids with traumas and losses and damage."

“I can make some calls.  Find some other planets that might be able to take in some of them.”

"Helena, we take care of our own as best we can." Evelynn said, "Lenny and Phoebe's mom was an outer-belt Rockjack who married a shuttle pilot from Ia Drang. She…couldn't adapt to life down here and she went hard and slow.  Their father wasn't just on the landings, he was crew on one of the supply drops that the Falcons intercepted-a Civilian Contractor, not Coast Guard."

THAT wasn't Helena’s fault, she'd had the officer who set it up cashiered for his negligence.

But not before two shuttles and a dropship's worth of civilian contractors bringing relief supplies to the refugee camps had been shot down with no survivors.  She'd almost had to have the military police detachment stop the lynching party from the Coasties over it.

“You’re right Evelynn.  Tell me how I can help.  Any resources you need.  I can work my magic on bringing in anything we currently lack.”

"Well, tonight, we'll sit at the kiddie table, tomorrow we can look at solving all the problems in the world." Evvie said, "Might watch yourself, some of these kids are a handful, and some of them will hit you with studied adorableness-Kara in particular, it's a coping mechanism she developed to deal with the abuse by her brother and father."

“Sadly there is a steel cage around my heart.  But I’ll help as much as I can.”  Helena nodded.

"That's all anyone can dare ask." Evelynn said.

The omniscience of Jane's data access let her see the forty or so 'kids'.  Most  were older-between eight and thirteen, had some form of learning disability or medical history, and a shocking number of them were in 'court's care' due to abusive family situations.

A few of which, were almost line-for-line what Richard had done to Helena repeatedly while they were growing up.

"You're reading the files, Jane?" Evelynn asked sotto-voce.

"Yes."

"There are thousands of them." Evvie said, "We try and get free as many as we can, and we try like hell to place them in better situations, tonight's group are some of the harder cases. Lizzie doesn't understand, not really."

“Helena does.  She’s conflicted though.  Part of her is quite willing to adopt some of them herself but she’s also afraid she’ll turn them into herself.”  Jane almost whispered back.

Phoebe tapped her sister, in that special language siblings sometimes develop, and Lennie picked her up and put her on her shoulders with barely a grunt.

"Look at us." Lennie joked, "Now we're one whole person-brains AND brawn!"

Jane caught the file reference instantly.  Lenora was big, and strong and not unintelligent, but she had a string of learning disabilities-ADHD, Disnumeria, Dyslexia…while the deaf girl's tested IQ was well into the upper range for human potential at their shared age of thirteen.

Helena chuckled lightly at the display.

“Them becoming like Helena doesn’t seem such a bad thing to me.”  Evelynn commented.

“Helena might get angry with me for sharing this but she wears masks for you, Elizabeth, and most everyone else.”

"Jane? Look at me." Evelynn said, "the only reason I don't wear masks for other people, is that I've been given a permanent one, that never comes off."

“Yes.  But with Helena, she’s using them to keep from properly facing her trauma.  You’ve faced yours.”  Jane nodded.

"Who would we be without our traumas, Jane? I grew up knowing about kids like these, and sighing and pretending I cared-then…" Evelynn gestured at her face, "...then I got to find out what life is like on the other side of things.  That's trauma, you learn from it, by learning how to cope with it.  Your sister's still learning, so theres' still hope."

“Yes, slowly and surely.  But she is in danger of becoming a sociopath if we don’t take great care.  Some of her masks have been demanding she shut down parts of herself.  You have to have noticed it by now Evelynn.  She has trouble saying no to people even when it would be reasonable to do so, she shows you the approximation of whatever emotion she thinks is appropriate for the situation.  Quite simply put she is faking being functional and overcoming her trauma, because that is what is expected of her.  She’s bad enough that if Victor or Elizabeth asked her to, she would marry whoever they matched her with, even have their child.  All despite how much it would make her uncomfortable and likely lead to her completely shutting down.”

“But you keep letting her go on doing this.”  Evelynn countered.

“Yes.  Because look at her.  You’re right that there is hope still.  But before that we have to help her realize her current path is unsustainable, which I think is starting to sink in ever so slightly.    We can help nudge and hint, but in the end she needs to be the one who actually comes to that conclusion.”  Jane nodded at Helena who was laughing with the girls and completely distracted from their conversation.

***


"I was asked, 'why is the university free of charge, yet the degree program is so costly' recently.  I believe it was My younger sister-in law Yvonne who asked."

Liz was in full-blown 'Lizzie Ngo' mode tonight.  "What is a degree, or a certification? It's proof you can take the tests, write the dissertation, that you can obey The Rules, I'll point out my juvenile record for an example of someone who found few, if any, rules she would willingly obey."

This brought some laughs.

"Even when they made sense." she added.  "But ignorance is dangerous.  George McClellan, the banker, corporate head of Rowe-McClellan's Coventry operations, almost had a horrible accident, due to ignorance.  He was lucky enough to cross the path of Lady Helena over there-" she raised her glass, "Who stopped him from accidentally releasing one of those classic nightmares…because knowledge of it, was hidden once, forbidden, concealed.  There are those in the DME, that's 'department of Military Education' who will tell you some knowledge must be hidden away, that some science, some basic understandings of the universe, must be concealed, for the public good.  If he'd met one of those people, instead of our Lady Helena?  Well…billions would have died-because they would no more know what his people had stumbled across, than he did, since they'd hidden it so very, very well-even from one another."

She set her stem-glass aside, "not finished yet." she said. "This morning, as we were coming here, to the City of Hue, Kowloon's oldest remaining city, in beautiful Hue County at the feet of the Ia Drang Plateau, word arrived.  A scientist in the Duchy of Andurien has replicated my husband, Arthur's, experiment exactly as published in our University Magazine.  This is confirmation of Arthur's Conjecture, we have a new Hypothesis!"

Arthur half-stood, "it's not Nobel prize material yet, Liz."

"It's more than we've had for three hundred years, my dearest love!" she smiled at him like a cheerleader, "Far more is yet to come…which goes to the reason I chose the funding structure and tuition design for Kowloon's first non-military studies university.  The open spread of Knowledge is the only protection humanity has, from the encroaching darkness of ignorance! As the Rockjacks say, 'Knowledge isn't dangerous-only Ignorance is dangerous'-and they would know, ignorance is lethal in space!"

She's drunk. actually occurred to Jane.  Elizabeth Ngo-Steiner-Davion was hammered.

“Conundrum Evvie, Liz is drunk but so far she hasn’t actually embarrassed herself yet.  Should we launch a rescue operation?”

"Wait to see if it's funny." Evelynn suggested, "She's apparently a happy drunk, which is a stark contrast to her mother, who turned poison-mean when she licked the bottom of a bottle."

“Well I suppose that is an improvement for sure.”

"Hey! Hey I was…Oh yah, TOAST!! To Janey, Helena's very best girl!! An' Helena!..kay I'll sit down now…"

Helena’s face turned red unexpectedly.

“You two…”  Evelynn started.

“No.  We never crossed that line but Liz’s joke did remind her of some of those discussions.  Because they did come up.  Inevitable really.”  Jane shook her head.

Arthur stood next.  "My brother, Peter, can't be here tonight.   My oldest brother, Victor, was also unable to come-Which is what happens when you get stuck with Dad and Mom's job.  My older sister, Katherine, Lieutenant Commander, Naval Officer, decorated, respected, honored, blew her entire leave accrual just to attend.  Kate, we love you.  You know that right? All of us, even Victor.  And Dad would be proud as hell of what you've accomplished!  I know I am!! A round of applause for my big sister!!  Raise the Glass, may she have Fair Winds and good sailing!"

Obligatory glasses were raised, including Elizabeth's.

"Now, My wife and I will be taking some days off, so for god's sake, don't burn the planet down while we're away!"

***

"This is a Humiliation!!"  Perigard Zalman thundered, "Your Clan is-"

"Clan Jade Falcon is the rightful heir to the Star League Defense Force, you would be too, if you bothered to step up when it wasn't to your own selfish gain!!" Marthe Pryde thundered back  across the ad-hoc Hall of Khans.

"Diplomacy??" Zalman spat.  "You're talking to them??"

"We are not the only ones, and it bears finding out things." Marthe stated, "I was told by a captured enemy something we all should have known immediately after the Reconaissance Force made their report!" she stood firm, angry, "We came as invaders."

She strode around the room, "We came as attackers...we came, as enemies...and brought war to people who would have welcomed us, listened to us, had we come not as invaders, and not as enemies or conquerors, but as what we all style ourselves to be-the Star League Defense Force Returned!"

She paused, "Not all of them, of course, but enough.  Far more than we have gained in support by coming under cover of darkness with weapons bared seeking to wage war on them.  The Crusade has made a misstep, and endangered our very reason for existing!!  That reason? To rekindle the light of civilization and restore the Star League!!"

“There is an important question we need to resolve as well.”  The Khan of the Cloud Cobras spoke.  “Are we still the rightful heirs?  Or more precisely because the Traitor Lords did vote to disband the Star League are we still truly bound by those oaths?”

"One vote was not cast." a Goliath Scorpion said.  "So long as the Star League had a single member, it still existed, and one member-state did not vote to disband the League…also they voted to dissolve the council, not the League, every single traitor lord has, and continues to have, the appellation 'True First Lord of the Star League' attached to their titles…well, until recently, anyway.  They dissolved the Council, not the League…that is two ongoing myths I can disprove using the historical documents.  There is a league, but the government is fractured and at war with itself."

Lincoln Osis looked like he was about to say something, then, it was as if a lightbulb lit behind his eyes.  "There is a League, and the government of the League, is engaged in civil war!" he began to smile as the realization sank in.  "Marthe, are you saying that you intend to pick up that ancient duty, to restore order in a time of civil strife?"

"It would fit, with our claimed identity, for the Star League's Defense Forces to put down a rebellion and restore order.  Which also fits with the stated goals of the Great Crusade." Marthe enunciated.  "Naturally, of course, this would require us to Be and Behave as Liberators, not oppressors, to move in the Open, instead of relying on a corrupt ministry of communications that turned into a cult... and, there is something else-something that might bring a Warden Clan, such as the Goliath Scorpions, over to the Crusader cause…The Steiner-Davions no longer claim to be the rightful First Lords, because they have…A Cameron.  Time-lost, Helena shelters among the Lyrans, The last scion, my Fellow Khans, and I think those of you with a working imagination can imagine how she may even now need to hear the other side of things-our side, before she is irrevocably poisoned against the Clans as a whole."

"You can confirm this, quineg?" The Coyote Khan asked.

"We have confirmation.  And an address, which is why it should be Clan Jade Falcon who makes the first contact on behalf of the Clans of Kerensky-Perigard, her hosts shot down your warship at Newtown Square-the world of Kowloon."

Zalman's fist clenched, his lips pulled back in a sneer, "NO, We will go fetch her from the barbarians!"

Marthe inclined her head, and said, "If the Grand Council chooses, Clan Jade Falcon will not contest your right to try...but since they have defeated your warriors without help? You must also achieve victory…without help from any of the rest of the Grand Council.  That is our condition for acquiescing to your request."

Vlad Ward stood, "Clan Wolf supports the Jade Falcon motion, let the Steel Vipers seek the Glory of recovering this…'Helena Cameron', alone, the glory, or the failure, will be entirely theirs."

"Clan Smoke Jaguar would contest this, if we were not…occupied far away, so I will likewise pass my support for the motion. Let the Steel Vipers prove their worth by returning the Cameron Bloodline to the Star League!"

"Clan Ghost bear objects to this mission, but supports the stipulation that if this mission IS to be done, it must be done by only a single Clan, without aid from the rest…whichever Clan claims that Dubious Honor."

“Clan Ghost  Bear does offer an observation.  All evidence is that Helena Cameron is not a prisoner and could easily have come to us willingly.  There is certainly a reason.”

Three Homeworld Clans, sitting more than a year and a half from the Inner Sphere, contested, bid, and lost the Viper claim.

The vote for the mission itself was largely passed by way of Moderate clans eschewing the vote, including the Diamond Sharks.

The majority vote held.  Clan Steel Viper was given six months to take the Kowloon system, and with it, Helena Cameron.

An accompanying vote, this time barely passing and only because the Burrocks opposed it, (thus, shaking the Blood Spirits out of their silent fuming) authorized Clans Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and paradoxically, Smoke Jaguar to front a diplomatic effort aimed at establishing rules of conduct for the end of the Tukayyid truce, with a secondary, but possibly achievable mission, of reducing the opposition to a drive on Terra once the Truce expired.

The proposal, being that the House Lords of the Draconis Combine, Lyran Commonwealth, remains of the Rasalhague government, should be offered the chance to stand aside and let the Clans contest with Comstar..or Word of Blake, directly in the Sol system.

Things would get complicated before then however.

DragonKhan55

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #167 on: 07 December 2023, 13:53:52 »
In the words of the youth these days:

On god, them Steel Vipers finna FAFO on this frfr.

Euphonium

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #168 on: 07 December 2023, 14:28:17 »
An accompanying vote, this time barely passing and only because the Burrocks opposed it, (thus, shaking the Blood Spirits out of their silent fuming) authorized Clans Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and paradoxically, Smoke Jaguar to front a diplomatic effort aimed at establishing rules of conduct for the end of the Tukayyid truce, with a secondary, but possibly achievable mission, of reducing the opposition to a drive on Terra once the Truce expired.

The proposal, being that the House Lords of the Draconis Combine, Lyran Commonwealth, remains of the Rasalhague government, should be offered the chance to stand aside and let the Clans contest with Comstar..or Word of Blake, directly in the Sol system.

Things would get complicated before then however.

I kind of want to see how that proposal might play out if things didn't "get complicated" first...
>>>>[You're only jealous because the voices don't talk to you]<<<<

Artifex

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #169 on: 07 December 2023, 14:37:11 »
On god, them Steel Vipers finna FAFO on this frfr.

Gonna try to translate this lingo:

Oh got, them Steel Vipers are finally Feth Around Find Out on this for real, for realz!

DragonKhan55

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #170 on: 07 December 2023, 16:55:26 »
On god, them Steel Vipers finna FAFO on this frfr.

Gonna try to translate this lingo:

Oh got, them Steel Vipers are finally Feth Around Find Out on this for real, for realz!

Now for more formal English:

"Oh dear, the Steel Vipers are about to truly discover that their halfwitted interference in this will result in catastrophically negative consequences for them."

drakensis

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #171 on: 08 December 2023, 04:59:28 »
One step forwards by the Clans as wisdom wins out...

Then two steps back as stupidity and arrogance cast their votes!
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #172 on: 08 December 2023, 08:21:03 »
***

“We’re doing it Helena, we’re putting together a new Star League.”  Victor Steiner-Davion’s image on the holoprojector flickered slightly.

"I guessed that was possible, Victor, has there been an agreement on…?"

"Comstar's on board, you can say it here, Helena.  Bulldog is a go, we're planning to take it to the Smoke Jaguars, their ilKhan's Clan, they're the weakest, we have a lot of the necessary staging already in place."

“After what happened at Turtle Bay, good.”  Helena nodded.

"Helena, I know you wanted in on this, but…" Victor hesitated.

“I’m compromised.  I know it.”  Helena said quietly.

"You're working on that, but this could go very badly in a hurry, so stay safe." Victor urged, "We'll see you when I get back.  In the meantime, try to get along with Peter, he's not me, he's a little stiff, and socially not as smooth as Kate, but I need Kate running a Cruiser for Second Fleet."

“I’ll do my best Majesty.  I know we’ll have a lot to discuss about this second Star League and who is going to be the First Lord.”

"We're thinking of an elected position, with time limits, and term limits." Victor told her, "the Liaos and the Mariks won't be on board if we don't...hell, some of the Lyrans wouldn't be on board with the new League if we didn't have those."

“As good of an idea as any other.”

"Just keep in mind, Helena, I'm still going to hit you up for advice when I get back, to prevent some of the factors that led to the collapse of the original."

“Of course Majesty, I did promise I’d help.  Stay Safe Majesty.”  Helena bowed.


***

"HE WHAT??"  Elizabeth almost threw her coffee at the wall,  "what the ****** over?? Victor should be On Tharkad!! NOT haring off to fight in an invasion, he's the everloving Archon in the name of god whatthehellwhydidn'tanyoneargue aboutthis!!??"

"Honey, he's not just the Archon, he's the first prince.."

Liz scowled as she vented her frustration, "and what happened to your uncle Ian again??  Am I the only person in the Nobility who understands that a ruler is not a grunt soldier? that the job is to make strategy and policy??"

“Counterpoint.  He’s able to do this and he doesn’t want to be the kind of leader that doesn’t do themselves what they expect of others.  A little something I believe you have some familiarity with.”

She looked at her hands, and Arthur recognized that look.  "Christ, you're right." she said.

“If I was a bit rough in how I worded it…”  Arthur embraced Liz.

"No." she shook her head, "You did fine, Arthur…it's just… we need him on the throne here, not fighting in some foreign war…and I'm scared.  Scared of what happens if your brother doesn't come back, what it means if his strategy fails…"

“They’ve got a lot of the best of the best with them.  As many experienced Clan front veterans as they can without putting the realm in a bad spot.  Everything that could be done is done.  The rest is up to god.”

She clung to her husband, until first sun set.

She already knew what was going to come down.

She would be meeting boxes at the spaceport again.

It might be a bad idea and despite how horrible the timing is, it is now or never.  Elizabeth felt nervous.

“Arthur…”

“I know.  I knew you stopped taking them a while ago.”

“Tonight’s the night if we’re going to do this.  But if…”

“I love you and despite everything I couldn’t be happier.”  Arthur kissed his wife.

***


Despite being 'on Leave of absence' Helena found that the demands of the job were still here-albeit, in a much muted form.

Rear Admiral Wells greeted her at the AFFCN center on Spider Moon with a briefing report on the performance of the Mako III Prototype (Surprise, you don't want to put a gun that big on a ship that small after all).

There were also her duties as Baroness Spider Moon and owner of productive farmland that had items that needed her personal attention. Her Farm managers  met her with a new variety of vine-grown oranges developed off an aside comment, and the representatives from the Co-ops each had 'welcome home' gifts practically piled against her door…and a list of requests that needed, in their opinion, to be pushed with the Duchess.

Helena dutifully sorted the requests into piles, ones to be ignored, ones to deny, ones she could handle, ones that really required Elizabeth.  The last stack she made sure took their time being forwarded to give her and Arthur as much time to enjoy themselves that she could grant them.

"There's one more."

“There's always one more.”  Helena countered.  “Out with it.”

"Dr. Huyn has requested you schedule an update appointment to go over your progress."

“Let’s see…”  Helena checked her calendar.  “Tuesday, next week.  I have an opening there.”

"That takes care of your official duties…except…there's always one more isn't there?"  Jane offered, "Helena, when was the last time I wanted something from you for myself?"

“It’s been a while I admit.  What do you want Jane?”

Jane's remote touched a display, and then sat back.  "That's what I want. Technically, I have to ask your permission, and it's going to be complex getting through the paperwork, but sis? I never said I didn't want more, and it's not like I'll be getting pregnant."

“I know and you deserve something for you.  I’ll take care of it.  I know you’ll make a great mom.”

"Just so you understand, this means I can't go gallivanting across the Inner Sphere as your bodyguard anymore…at least, most of the time.  I'll have children on my decks and those kind of places are not for children."

“I know sis.  I know I promised we’d never be separated again but look at how often we’ve been apart and it worked out fine.  I don’t even have panic attacks about it anymore.  So I understand.”  Helena smiled.

"Do you? Or is this the mask again?" Jane demanded.

“You know I don’t use my masks with you.  It’ll suck for me still, yeah, but because I know it’s by choice not because someone has forced us apart, I think I can honestly handle it.”

"I will expect a great many noisy toys, Helena." Jane said, "Unlike others, I don't require sleep."

“And you can turn down your audio receptors too.  I only regret you’re tied to that core.  I wish it were more mobile.”

“I knew you were thinking about it at the reception.”  Jane smiled.  “You thought about adopting too.  That is huge progress.  Even if you don’t do it right away.”

“I’ll admit something stirred deep in my soul that hasn’t stirred in a long time.  But the thing that would scare me..does scare me, Jane-I'm afraid I'd do it the WRONG way."

“A fear we all have.  There are no promises, anyone who says there are guides are idiots, and really the only thing required is that you listen and love.”

“I still don’t know if I’m ready for that or if I ever will be.  I have a lot of damage Jane.  I don’t want it to affect them.”

"You think I don't have a lot of damage, sis?  Remember, Richard didn't target you, until I was big enough to be out of reach and inconvenient." Jane confessed, "I should have done more, maybe that would have stopped him? Or maybe I should've stopped him?"

“You did as much as anyone could expect.  You weren’t that much older than me and it was really Amaris that made him worse.  Only she seemed to get through to Richard about that fact.”

Jane was silent, then, "We don't know that, either.  She may have been simply his next victim."

“Amaris had us under his thumb pretty solidly by then either way.  Even if it was by Richard’s invitation.”

“Still you’re doing better than you give yourself credit for.  I do understand that you’ll come out on your own path eventually.  Anyone who tries to force you into their preconceived notion of normal is an idiot.  So try and let yourself show more, okay?”

“Yeah.  I need to let someone else in.  To see the real me.  She’s earned it.  I’ll call it a wedding gift.”  Helena slid over her diary.  “I’ll trust you with when to give that to Elizabeth.  She’s seen enough cracks anyway she might as well get the full view.”


***

Static-positioned detectors using position-keeping electric-ion thrusters picked up the emergence waves first.  The former Rim Worlds colony of Herbania had become a 'watch station' and refueling point for 7th AFFC Fleet (Periphery), a big name for a collection of a dozen or so Merchant class vessels and a bare handful of Corvettes (less than five, but more than two) tasked with the seemingly impossible job of commerce protection along the Commonwealth's antispinward border.

“They’re not being subtle.”  Helena looked at the flash alert.  “What do we know about this force?”

Right now, the LCS Jeri Cogswell, was relaying imagery from the Herbania system from a position laying doggo in that dead place's outer system.

"We know that Melissa was about four years late on the response she expected after Newtown Square."  Elizabeth said in a tone slightly warmer than liquid nitrogen.  "I count more warships than we've got ships, Helena.  We're screwed.  Even if I issued a Margrave's order and drew off every system in sixty light years…"

“In a stand-up fight, absolutely.  So we need to be sneaky as all hell.”

Arthur studied the imagery. "You know,  Liz, this could be an opportunity to do some Empirical Research."

“What you got Arthur?”  Helena asked before Liz had a chance to speak.

"No magic cure, but I've been playing with some engineering simulations, a compact LF capacitor system we can refit those junker Type 51's currently too limited for nationalization-and that pair of Aquilas currently waiting to be broken up by the Snark yards." he said, "Lizzie's loaned me enough of her industrial engineers we can rush the fabrication and installation, and a few…tricks.  Stuff that's in theory, but nobody's done it in a while, give me four weeks with the gunboats, that could give us at least something resembling a squadron."

"They'll be here before that." Liz noted,  "We've got two Mako Twos in the yard, both with engines installed, but they're waiting on final fit-outs and they're customer birds for the AFFC's Navy, I can't release them early." she looked at Helena, "and we've got that huge wedding-cake Cruiser core you approved, we have maneuver drives for it, but…I think the parts for that ship might be better used finishing the Makos."

“I’m reasonably certain Victor won’t mind if we borrow the ships and do a little horse trading given the circumstances.  Still first things first, let’s get everything moved to the outer system we can.  Clans are not good at thinking about anything other than the primary, so let’s use that as best we can.”

Admiral Wells clasped her hands, behind her back, "Duchess Ngo? Lady Helena?  I've lived here for four years now.  Would you claim I've gone native?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"Civil Defense Plan Emerald, version two." Wells said, "It'll slow metals production two years from now, but I'm thinking we may want to get the Co-ops to start assembling missiles with the Rock-Hammers I didn't confiscate…and most of the ones I did."

"That plan involves drawing them into Kowloon orbit and hitting them from behind." Liz said with a scowl, "It also assumes the Wet-navy's systems will actually work-we've never live fired those submarine launched ballistic missiles with live warheads."

“It’s a bit of a gamble but we’ve trained for it.”  Wells countered.  “Besides, what are our other realistic options?”

Elizabeth was silent for a moment.  This very morning, she'd seen Evelynn off with the full complement of the 171st, they were bound for the staging grounds for Bulldog, and had most of the experienced officers from the MTM, along with the Coast Guards who'd participated in Coventry.

"Helena, you're the Naval Minister for the Federated Commonwealth, that means you outrank me on military matters." Liz finally said, "I'm JUST the Mainstreet Theater Margrave.  It's on you, what's the plan?"

“Make ready for War Plan Emerald version 2.  Just in case they don’t take the bait, fallback option two.  We’ll make them bleed as much as we can before they scrag the yards that way.”  Helena nodded.

Elizabeth kissed Arthur, "be safe in the outer system, Honey…I get to spend the next few months in a submarine…christ, I'll be cargo, I haven't kept up my dive certifications since I got HOME…"

“What if you’re already, you know…  Will they even let you on those nuke boats?”

"We have better shielding than they did in the 21st century, as long as we don't crash-dive to negative two thousand meters I should be fine." Liz said with a confidence she clearly didn't feel.  "At least, according to the engineering boffins."

“Helena, maybe you should…”  Arthur stopped himself.

“She’ll be safer in the sub than on Jane.  Especially if she’s already pregnant.  What you really think I wouldn’t figure out what you were dancing around?  Congrats if it’s true.”  Helena smiled.

Liz blushed, "We've been trying.  My medical says there's a good chance this try succeeded."

“Makes me want to stuff you in a bunker instead but we both know that would be torture and a target that could be hit.”

"Bunkers are a testimony to the optimism of fools." Elizabeth quoted her ancestor, "in this modern age…or that one, anyway.  If I'm mobile, there's a CHANCE not to be penned in and burned."

“I’ll be sure to give them an earful.  Hell, maybe they’ll be stupid enough to follow their silly honor rules once they hear who they’re facing.  Then I’ll really ram something uncomfortable up their asses.”  Helena smiled.

"Just make them get off my lawn." Liz said, "I don't need the neighborhood going to hell, I've got children on the way.  I'd as soon they didn't grow up in a state of fascist poverty…or socialist poverty for that matter."

“Now who’ll let me kiss them for luck?”  Jane asked.

"We'll take any luck we can get, Jane, warm up those lips, that's a mess coming down our throats and our best men are already far away."  Arthur said, "No offense, Wells, but…"

"None taken, I spent most of my career as a staff puke." Wells said, "I never expected to fight a desperate defense out here."

“So did I really.  But look at us now.”  Helena nodded.

“I could almost go bi for you Arthur, so you’ll do.”  Jane’s remote pecked Arthur on the cheek.

“Okay now that the rituals are taken care of, time for us to all get where we belong.”  Helena smiled.

***

In mid-summer, December of 3058, the call went across the Kowloon system, Raise the Ban, Raise the Arriere-Ban.

Stockpiles were opened, caches unburied, and forces began to mobilize.

Helena also took no chances, arranging for copies of everything that could be copied in time to be moved to other systems so the archives and university would not disappear completely if the worst were to happen.

Some legacy of Kowloon would always live on.

Helena was with Jane for this fight.

By the time the Steel Viper force appeared in system the SAF of the Taurian Defense Force from the Reunification War would give grudging respect to the Kowloon defenders and everything they had managed to get ready in the limited time they had.



To Be Continued

paulobrito

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #173 on: 08 December 2023, 09:05:47 »
Lots of canned sunshine ready for delivery, I see.

Daryk

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #174 on: 08 December 2023, 09:43:52 »
The Steel Vipers have NO idea what they're in for... >:D

wolfgar

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #175 on: 08 December 2023, 14:10:44 »
*Settles in with a bucket of popcorn and a case of Live Wire Mountain Dew*

This has been good so far, but its about to get, EPIC.
Wolf wins every fight but one, and in that one he dies, his fangs locked on the throat of his opponent.

Luciora

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #176 on: 08 December 2023, 14:14:05 »
I hope Dawn isn't involved. I still kind of like her character.

Paladin1

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #177 on: 08 December 2023, 19:52:50 »
All things considered, I think this is a good time to resurrect a song that Cannonshop first used over a decade ago in a situation much like this.

I swear, I think the Ngoverse is tailor-made for this song.

MARCH OF CAMBREADTH
Music & Lyrics: Heather Alexander

Axes flash, broadsword swing!
Shining armor's piercing ring!
Horses run with polished shield!
Fight those bastards 'till they yield!
Midnight mare and blood red roan
Fight to keep this land your own!
Sound the horn and call the cry:
"HOW MANY OF THEM CAN WE MAKE DIE!"

Follow orders as you're told
Make their yellow blood run cold!
Fight until you die or drop!
A force like ours is hard to stop!
Close your mind to stress and pain!
Fight 'til you're no longer sane!
Let not one damn cur pass by!
"HOW MANY OF THEM CAN WE MAKE DIE!"

Guard your women and children well!
Send these bastards back to Hell!
We'll teach them the ways of war!
They won't come here any more!
Use your shield and use your head!
Fight 'til everyone is dead!
Raise the flag up to the sky!
"HOW MANY OF THEM CAN WE MAKE DIE!"

Dawn is broke, the time has come-
Move your feet to a marching drum!
We'll win the war and pay the toll-
Fight as one in heart and soul!
Midnight mare and blood red roan
Fight to keep this land your own!
Sound the horn and call the cry:
"HOW MANY OF THEM CAN WE MAKE DIE!"

monbvol

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #178 on: 08 December 2023, 20:02:33 »
Translated properly to Viet and yes, very much yes.

Daryk

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Re: Beyond Hope: a featurette brought to you by Cannonshop and Monbvol.
« Reply #179 on: 08 December 2023, 20:22:24 »
100%!