Author Topic: Opalescent Reflections  (Read 66241 times)

Gorgon

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 841
  • The little duchy that could
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #870 on: 18 May 2024, 14:03:07 »
Atsuko's and Minoru's honorable suicide, combined with the disaster that was the Alshain Avenger's little AWOL adventure may convince regiments that are leaning BDS to sit this one out or throw their support behind Franklin, once he's winning. But who knows, fanatics gonna fanatic, I guess.
Jude Melancon lives!

Moriarty74

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 37
    • Dreams of 3025
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #871 on: 18 May 2024, 18:10:22 »
One of the issues that I see is that it is going to force the AFFC to divert some troops to shore up the Combine border just in case.  It's going to make life much harder for the OA as well.  It will be interesting to see what Omi does and what Victor does to support whatever that decision is.  That they destroyed the Ryuken who were being honored for their sacrifices for the Dragon will put pressure on many of average members of the Dragon to not side with the BDS as well.  That they were willing to so casually destroy not only the Coordinator but also common soldiers in such an honorless way won't play well.
"Like spirited Eridani stallions chasing after fat, clumsy Luthien cows" Anonymous Rasalhague Journalist, 2749

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #872 on: 18 May 2024, 18:24:21 »
With Omi out of the line of succession, maybe Victor has a chance with her... ;)

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 25202
  • Dang it!
    • Battletech Fanon Wiki
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #873 on: 19 May 2024, 13:52:51 »
This is heavy.   Franklin wasn't groomed to be successor, it won't be easy and could end up being lead if he not careful.
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants
-Editor on Battletech Fanon Wiki

Sir Chaos

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3113
  • Artillery Fanboy
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #874 on: 19 May 2024, 14:21:58 »
This is heavy.   Franklin wasn't groomed to be successor, it won't be easy and could end up being lead if he not careful.

If he´s being lead, it´ll be by Subhash Indrahar and Chandrasekhar Kurita. It could be much worse - they´re both loyal to the family and to the Combine, and on board with the reforms Minoru started.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

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

Gorgon

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 841
  • The little duchy that could
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #875 on: 19 May 2024, 15:43:29 »
If he´s being lead, it´ll be by Subhash Indrahar and Chandrasekhar Kurita. It could be much worse - they´re both loyal to the family and to the Combine, and on board with the reforms Minoru started.

Subhash is dead, died off-screen (during the battle for New Samarkand, IIRC). Ninyu is head of the ISF now, but your argument still stands.
Jude Melancon lives!

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #876 on: 21 May 2024, 01:25:15 »
Opalescent Reflections

Full House
Chapter 17



Hilton Head, North America
Terra, Sol System
1 March 3059


There were a few unusual additions to the DRUM meeting. Normally it was attended by the four heads of the departments that served as ComStar’s eyes and ears, perhaps as many members of the First Circuit and then the Primus and Precentor-Martial if either or both of them could spare time from their other duties.

Today the room was almost full, with observers from various Star League members lining the seats along one wall. Precentor-Advocate Shaffi of Irurzun wasn’t usually among the First Circuit attendees but he was here today, wearing the signs of the hastily organized command circuit that had brought him here from the Combine capital.

Morgan Hasek-Davion sat at the table beside the Precentor-Martial, representing the SLDF, and Danai Centrella was on Wei’s own left - attending on behalf of her mother. The Chair of the Star League Council was on Canopus IV, and didn’t plan on rushing the hundreds of light years to Terra unless a face-to-face meeting of the council was called for.

“I believe we’re all here,” Wei decided, looking down the table. “I hope everyone remembered to get a full night’s sleep? I don’t hold with the idea that exhaustion makes people more efficient. Possibly happier, depending on the nature of the exhaustion, but not more efficient.”

“Thank you, Primus. I have reminded my analysts to take a full day off now that they’ve handed in their assessments,” Elswick Cameron declared.

Shaffi shook his head. “I hate sleeping on dropships,” he explained. “I’ll be going to bed after this meeting though, my body clock isn’t lined up yet.”

“Alright. Why don’t we start with your account then.”

The precentor raked one hand through his hair. “I haven’t been to the Imperial City since before the events in question, so I’m not sure how useful I can be. On the eighteenth, we noticed communication issues with their comm centers - there are civil and military facilities. It’s not unusual for one to be delayed in responding - usually due to someone thinking they can throw their weight around - but both is unusual. A little over an hour later, there was a planetary security lockdown. At that point I ordered all staff to return to the HPG station and we carried our our own lockdown.”

“Do you have an enclave around the HPG station?” asked Danai.

“Not really,” Shaffi admitted. “Irurzun’s not that near to the border - Hanse Davion’s Galtor campaign in the mid-3020s brought the border fairly close but that only lasted a few years. Besides the HPG station proper we have an informal shared administration over the hospice, a housing district for our staff and the park between them. It’s just part of the old planetary capital though, not even two square kilometers with no barriers to entry except to the HPG itself.”

The Canopian princess seemed satisfied so the precentor continued: “The Voice of the Dragon made an announcement that the Ryuken barracks had been attacked and that the lockdown was expected to end the following day except in the vicinity. However, at around the same time we got reports that there had been explosions at the Imperial City.” He paused. “On the way to the jump point, we got some long range images of the Imperial City. A large portion of the core palace is gone.”

He took a deep breath. “That was when I sent the first priority message to Terra. The following morning there was an official declaration that the Coordinator had been assassinated by his brother Franklin. Angus Kurita formally stated his succession to the office immediately afterwards. We don’t know exactly where the broadcast came from, but it almost certainly wasn’t the Imperial City.”

“I don’t recognise the name,” Wei admitted. “Who is he?”

“A third cousin, once removed,” Elswick Cameeron told her. “That’s not as distant as it might seem - besides his sister and half brother, Minoru Kurita’s next nearest relative is a female second cousin. Angus is the only great-grandson of the late and unlamented Marcus Kurita, which does make him the senior member of the cadet branch descending from Hugai Kurita’s younger son Undell.”

“Does he have any accomplishments of note?”

“None.” The speaker was Dahlia Erin of humint. “He was due to attend Sun Zhang academy but after the loss of the academy he completed military education via private tutors and has no combat record. Since then he was mainly found around the fringes of the court.” The head of ComStar’s human intelligence specialists smiled thinly. “There are no thoughts in Angus Kurita’s head except those put there by his great-grandfather’s traditional allies in the conservative fringes of the Combine’s nobility.”

A puppet ruler, Wei thought. “Is this a first hand report, Dahlia?”

“From one of our adepts who met him a few years ago.” The peaceful-looking woman spread her hands slightly. “He wasn’t judged important enough for me to take a personal interest.”

“So you’re a field operative?” asked Morgan Hasek-Davion curiously.

Dahlia’s eyes twinkled. “I used to be a food reviewer for CNN. It’s a good way to meet members of the nobility and a wide range of connections is useful in diplomatic circles.” She paused and gave him a consoling look. “The world of intelligence gathering is often shockingly mundane, Marshal.”

“Moving on?” Wei asked politely and looked over at Shaffi.

The precentor sighed. “I left for Terra the next day. No one tried to stop the shuttle but there was a polite request to inspect it in case any fugitives were aboard. We declined, of course.”

“Do you have any idea who they are looking for?”

Shaffi smiled at Danai Centrella. “I do. Our jumpship received a tightbeam message from another shuttle, one the crew wisely did not retransmit. The message was from Chandrasekhar Kurita - an even more distant cousin, but one who made rather more of himself than Angus - and Director Ninyu Indrahar of the ISF. They sent a copy of a message from the Coordinator where he formally abdicated in favor of his half-brother Franklin, charging him to purge the Combine of traitors who had him trapped within his own palace.”

The two royals in the room both pulled identical faces, perhaps seeing their own families in those shoes.

The Precentor-Martial simply steepled his fingers. “That does cast significant doubt on the accusations against Franklin Kurita. Besides which, I believe he is currently commanding DCMS forces on Sverdlovsk - part of the wider campaign for Galedon V. Not precisely the position of someone attempting a coup.”

“We are not here to decide the succession of the Draconis Combine,” Danai pointed out. “What are the implications for the Star League?”

Wei held up her hand. “Elswick, what has happened since Shaffi left Iruzun?”

“A flood of messages from both Irurzun and two sources traveling across the Combine,” the head of DRUM’s analysts reported. “Usually with a similar list of recipients Angus Kurita is naturally seeking endorsement and support from the nobility and the military, while we can safely say that his opponents are doing the same. Chandrasekhar Kurita headed for Hachiman first, that being his personal stronghold, but we believe he will move on to join forces with Franklin shortly.”

“Not to make his own bid for power?” asked Morgan curiously.

Dahlia laughed quietly. “No.”

“You’re quite sure?”

“Absolutely. Unlike Angus Kurita, I have met Lord Chandrasekhar and while his palate is superb, he is entirely focused on enriching himself and the Combine. Make no mistake, he is a patriot, but he lacks the traditional military virtues and cannot even pretend to have them. He will be a valuable ally for Franklin, particularly because he could never amass the support to become a rival.”

Elswick nodded. “That is our own assessment. While Warlord Li Dok To is broadly conservative, he is also intensely loyal to Minoru Kurita and has an excellent working relationship with Franklin. It is unlikely that he will support an usurper.”

The commander of the SLDF smiled slightly. “A soldier of the old school. So Franklin will have economic and military support from Galedon military district.”

“At the moment, we believe that is largely going to be the case. Benjamin district is currently leaderless, with Warlord Petrov believed to be dead - likely each world and regiment will be deciding their loyalties on their own. The second source of messages is moving towards Dieron. Most probably this is Director Indrahar and it is likely he will have a warm welcome from Daniel Sorenson.”

“Then Angus’ faction is caught between Galedon and Dieron?”

“Not so clearly,” Elswick admitted. “Warlord Sorenson has a good hold on the rimwards worlds of Dieron military district, but the new Vega and Kessel prefecture are conservative strongholds and we expect the nobles and military forces there to support Angus Kurita - it is entirely possible that this is where the conspiracy sprang from. We expect the district to be a major conflict zone between the two sides.”

A war on Terra’s doorstep, and just as serious progress was being made against the Clans. Wei shook her head in despair. “What are the military implications?”

“It essentially removes all pressure from the Diamond Sharks and Ghost Bears,” admitted Hasek-Davion. “There have been reports from Task Force Ruby that DCMS regiments have ceased all action and are consolidated. Most likely they are preparing to pull back and take sides.”

“With the loss of the Alshain Avengers, is that a huge blow?”

“It depends on the mercenary contingent and the Shin Legion. It could be as much as a third of Task Force Ruby.” The marshal raked his long hair back. “Under the circumstances, I intend to issue orders disbanding the Task Force and rolling them into Task Force Emerald - we have to assume that their supply lines will be affected. For that matter, we cannot count on any supplies going through Dieron District now, so we’ll have to direct everything through the Isle of Skye.”

“And that also leaves us the problem of securing worlds already liberated,” Focht noted. “The Combine is hardly in a position to uphold their previous offer of protection to the Rasalhague government, perhaps not even to their own worlds in the salient.”

“I may have to reorganize a task group out of Emerald for that purpose,” Morgan agreed. “I see no option but for me to go there in person. If we can keep the Kungsarme, the Wolf Dragoons and the Shin Legion in position then we have the core of a force to cover that flank of our advance into the Wolf Occupation Zone. Even so, this is going to slow progress.”

Wei looked over at Danai. “Please ask your mother to put the issue of reaching out diplomatically to the Bears and Sharks to the Council. We cannot reasonably pursue military action against either Clan, so keeping them from taking advantage is our next best option.”

“I’ll do that,” the younger woman agreed. “But the question of which Coordinator casts the Combine’s vote may take precedence.”



The Triad, Tharkad
Donegal March, Federated Commonwealth
8 March 3059


While the Triad referred to the three main buildings of the royal court, there were hundreds of buildings, large and small, across the grounds. The Combine embassy was one of the larger ones, a guest house intended for visiting ducal houses. Save for the flag that flapped from the pole outside, it would have been hard to tell its current purpose - the presence of a member of House Kurita on Tharkad was tolerated but not popular.

It had been a long walk from Victor’s own quarters out here and the snow that had fallen along the way clung to his great-coat. His boots were coated in it and despite scraping them at the door, a servant politely forced slippers on him once he entered, whisking the boots away to dry somewhere.

He found Omi Kurita leaving her rooms, servants visible inside and packing her possessions away. “Victor,” she said quietly and closed the door behind her. “I wasn’t sure you would return from Melissia before I left.”

“Nor was I,” he admitted, drinking in her presence. Sorrow hung over her and he was reminded of his mother when he was a boy, when gramma Katrina was no longer with them. “I heard. I’m so sorry.”

Omi looked away. “Let’s find somewhere we won’t be in the way.”

She said nothing to him as they walked the short distance to one of the small lounges. Victor noted a few changes to the decorations, and realized that this room had already been stripped of the small reminders of home that Omi brought with her. “Are you going to Galedon?” he asked, hoping guiltily that she would not be heading for Hachiman: the industrial world had been raided by Angus Kurita’s forces and it was likely it would be the next battlefield between the two rival Coordinators.

“Dieron,” she said simply. “Franklin cannot be present there and someone must keep the prefectures from thinking they are fighting just for their new privileges. I am supposed to be Keeper of the House Honor but my duties here have left me little time for the Order of Five Pillars… I must take them in hand.”

“Daniel Sorenson is a good man. He is clever and he has principles.”

“And distant kin. House Sorenson’s ties to us go back to before the Star League.” She looked up at him and he saw the beginnings of tears. “But he is not a Kurita.”

Victor was halfway to extending an arm to her when she drew back and walked to one of the armchairs.

“I would offer to go with you, but we both know I can’t do that.” He went to the chair next to hers, angled so that they could easily look at each other.

“Your handling of the Nova Cats was well done,” Omi told him sincerely. “I think you will find that their ambitions make them a problem in the long run, but for now the Jade Falcons are your priority.”

“That’s true, but I was thinking more that Angus is appealing to those who are suspicious of the Star League. Having a Steiner-Davion fighting for him would likely taint Franklin in the eyes of your people.”

Omi closed her eyes, face pained. “You speak the truth.”

“I’m sorry,” Victor said, feeling the words inadequate.

“Do not apologize for a hard truth.” Omi paused and gathered herself. “My head tells me that you did what you must, that to think you would - much less should - place the Combine ahead of those you have sworn oaths to protect, is to commit to the same arrogance as the Black Dragons. That you would not be the man I care so much for if your duty did not drive you.”

He heard the implied but, and watched in silence as the usually eloquent Omi searched for words.

“My heart believes that had you not swayed the Star League to commit forces against the Wolves, Minoru’s position would have been stronger. That the Black Dragons would not have dared to strike a Coordinator who had seen the Bears crushed and the Diamond Sharks humbled.”

Victor opened his lips to speak, found no words. Closed them again.

Omi reached out and touched his hand briefly. “My heart is wrong, but it is hard.”

The prince tried to see it from her perspective. Imagined some fanatic blaming his parents for a large AFFC deployment to help the DCMS win back Luthien, of one or both of them choosing death over captivity. A shiver went through Victor. “I would probably feel the same way.”

She managed to smile. “And then there is a part of me that hurts twice over, because I am still drawn to you. How can I not love a man with such steel… and a heart of gold?”

Now Victor looked away, embarrassed. “I’ll do what I can for you. I can’t claim the credit, but mother has spoken to Duchess Aten and Duke Sandoval. The garrisons along the border are being spread out to cover against raids, at least near the prefectures that stand for Franklin. It should free more of their forces for him.”

Vega and Kessel were still a threat to the SLDF’s supply lines, but Dieron and Algedi stood strong for Minoru’s chosen successor. Across the border in Benjamin district, the Proserpina Hussars had seized their homeworld from attempts to sway them and proclaimed a Proserpina prefecture that Franklin had granted the same privileges he had to Sorenson’s reformists.

Rumor had it that An Ting and the worlds near it were pushing for the same under the lead of the surviving An Ting Legions. How Franklin handled that and any potential rift with Li Dok To would be critical to the stability of his fledgling government - An Ting was part of Galedon district and the Coordinator could not afford to alienate the warlord, but nor could he move against the reformists that were the core of his political support.

Of course, Franklin also couldn’t afford to alienate the Federated Commonwealth. He had already promised generous trade agreements that would open the autonomous prefectures to traders and other soft influence from Victor's realm. If he didn’t manage to resolve things quickly, more would likely be asked. Politely, but with a mailed fist held in reserve. Seizing Combine worlds might shatter the new Star League, but there was a point where that risk could be deemed worthwhile...

“Your parents want us to remain a bulwark against the Diamond Sharks,” Omi said evenly. Then she laughed darkly. “They are right to fear them - the Sharks are not only artists in warfare. Did you know the ISF still cannot determine if the O-Same is orchestrating the fighting around Galedon V or fighting other Clans beyond Pesht? They are learning the arts of government… and they will not be easily dislodged.” She drew her hand back from Victor’s “I do not think I will see Luthien again.”

“I’m sure that that’s part of the decision,” he admitted. “But sometimes the personal and the political do align. They both respect you and thought highly of Minoru.” Victor hesitated once. “My grandmother told me when I was young… I’d gotten into a fight with another boy.” He shrugged in embarrassment. “She told me that the golden age of the Star League was because the great lords learned that they didn’t need to fight with each other and that we didn’t deserve it back until we learned the same.”

Omi sat back in her seat and glanced up at the ceiling. “And here we are. Part of a new Star League.”

“Until that is forgotten again,” he allowed. “All I can offer is to rule my people when that time comes and try to pass that lesson on to the next generation.”

“And wisdom as well.” A tear crawled down her cheek. “Do you have to be so desirable, Victor?”

He rose to his feet, meaning to give her space but she also stood and then their arms were around each other. Omi was warm in Victor’s arms. He felt the salty tear against his own cheek and thought he could hear her heart beat as fast as his own.

Temptation dangled between them.

And they both stepped back, Omi’s smile sad but some of the darkness gone from her gaze.

“I have been told,” Victor said carefully, “That one’s first love is not always the last. My father lost his first love on the battlefield, long before he met my mother.”

She nodded. “I do not know how much of his heart my father gave to Franklin’s mother. Or her to him.”

“If our feelings cannot survive these partings or…” He gestured helplessly to indicate the complicated emotions she had confessed to. “Then public attention would certainly kill them.”

“There is no knowing if we will ever meet again.”

Victor nodded jerkily. “But if you need me, I’ll be with Task Force Emerald, a staff posting. ComStar will get word to me.”

Omi nodded in understanding. “Victor, whatever we feel in the future, I want you to know…”

He looked at her questioningly, and then her arms were around him again. Her lips touched his, pressed against them and in the searing heat of the moment he almost crushed her against him, tried to hold onto her against all the pressures of the universe.

Then she released him and he knew that she knew. Breathless, he watched her whirl and flee the room. Afraid, as he was, that otherwise they might forget all reason, all caution…

Victor Steiner-Davion straightened his collar and checked his reflection in a small mirror to make sure there was no obvious evidence to betray them, before going to collect his boots. Perhaps the cold of Tharkad’s weather would chill the heat of his passions to something that he could carry with him without it boiling over. “From what I’ve tasted of desire…” he murmured to himself as he walked, then chastised himself for giving voice to those thoughts.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #877 on: 21 May 2024, 01:25:33 »
Orbit, Arc-Royal
Donegal March, Federated Commonwealth
1 April 3059


Horse was, for once, looking shocked as he eyed the holotank in the middle of the command deck. “Everyone on this side of the Inner Sphere decided to use Arc-Royal as a staging post, quiaff?

The display showed the entire system and there were dozens of icons that marked entire flotillas rather than individual vessels. “Or a rallying point, or a supply base… And some simply came here because it is home,” Aidan pointed out, indicating a little cluster of dropships heading for the planet from the zenith jump point. The small fleet was marked with the black and red badge of the Kell Hounds mercenary regiment.

The Turkina’s Pride had arrived via a proximity point, a risk that it was clear few jumpships were willing to take, followed by an escort of warships and transports for the rest of the Gyrfalcon Galaxy. They didn’t have the only warships in the system though.

“My khan,” the commtech reported respectfully. “We have not been able to make contact with Khan Mattlov on the system. However, Khan Cooper of Clan Snow Raven is requesting that we use our HPG to contact him.”

Aidan looked at where the Snow Raven naval star was moving away from Arc-Royal, apparently attempting an intercept on one of the inbound convoys. “Respond,” he ordered quietly. It seemed almost wasteful to use an HPG to communicate within a single star system but the distance between the two Clans’ forces was measured in light minutes and it would be far more convenient not to work around those delays.

“You are live, my Khan.”

Aidan turned to the screen. “Khan Cooper. I see the situation has changed here since the last report to reach me, quiaff?”

The junior khan of Clan Snow Raven laughed grimly. “What did you last hear?”

“A wave of attacks hitting worlds from New Capetown to Garrison,” Aidan replied. Those worlds covered most of the border between the Federated Commonwealth and the Jade Falcons. There was also the pocket of worlds against what had once been the Steel Viper Occupation Zone, but they were entirely irrelevant: he and Khan Mattlov had agreed that the garrison forces there would be needed elsewhere so they’d recalled the galaxy stationed there to take over the job of defending Twycross and the border with Clan Wolf.

Arc-Royal was one jump beyond the attacks, which suggested that they were now facing a second wave of attacks. “We are facing a new wave of attacks by the Federated Commonwealth and their allies, quiaff?”

Cooper grimaced. “A little worse than that. There are two clusters of Nova Cats on Arc-Royal.”

“Right now I would take help from a Steel Viper.”

The look he got from the other Khan told him that this was not good news. “Take a look at this.” The khan’s face was cut off by the emblem of Clan Nova Cat. “You see what is wrong, quiaff?”

Aidan frowned. There was something different about it, but he could not put his finger on it.

“The nova around the cat’s head,” Horse exclaimed. “It’s like the sunburst of the Federated Commonwealth!”

“Exactly like it,” Cooper confirmed. “The Nova Cats have defected!”

Aidan paled. That could not be true. It was… unthinkable. What could possibly have been offered to any Clan that would be worth breaking the unity?

“Sargasso,” hissed Horse. “I thought it was a coincidence that they claimed the Steel Viper enclave there right as the Inner Sphere attacked the Vipers, but if it was coordinated then they could have been working with them the whole time.”

“Why would they ever do that?” Aidan exclaimed. “It makes no sense.”

“If you do not believe me then ask your warriors on the planet. But ask quickly, your Vau Galaxy is being mauled.”

Aidan gestured to indicate surrender. “I do not challenge you, Khan Cooper. It is simply… hard to comprehend. And we have not yet -” He looked over at the commtech who shook his head in failure. “- heard from Khan Mattlov.”

Cooper’s face reappeared. “I have not heard from her in three days. I suspect that the reason is simple.”

“The dead do not use radios,” Aidan concluded. He turned to the commtech. “Forget reaching Vau Galaxy’s headquarters. Reach out to their Star Colonels - to Star Captains if you have to.”

“I have contact,” Diana told him from where she had taken over one of the stations around the holo display. Aidan could hear a mix of pride at being ahead of him mixed with sobriety at the circumstances. “Star Colonel Evak Mattlov, this is Turkina’s Pride. The Gyrfalcons are in orbit, what is your situation?”

Evak Mattlov, that meant the Fourth Falcon Velites. Aidan recalled that the man was one of Angelina Mattlov’s proteges, elevated to lead the Velites in her place when she rose to lead Peregrine Galaxy. A proud man who might rise to take over the Peregrines if the Khan chose not to remain in direct command of them. He knew Jezebel Pryde was hoping for that, if only because she had a good chance to lead the Cluster if it happened.

The channel crackled for a moment and Aidan had just long enough to wonder if Diana had made a mistake before Evak’s voice came through.

“-kina’s Pride, this is St- … -nel Mattlov. We are delta-g- … -peat, delta-golf.”

A shiver went down Aidan’s spine at the words. The code was almost as old as their Clan, so old the exact meaning had been lost. But the essence survived: delta-golf meant that whoever gave the code was facing annihilation.

He was at Diana’s side almost before he knew it. “Mattlov, I have an entire galaxy here.” Signal tracing pointed at a location near the southern edge of Gerechtland, the smallest of the planet’s continents. “Can you give me a full sitrep for the Peregrines?”

Mattlov coughed, the sound crackling and breaking as the technician tried to clear up the signal. “Eighth Regulars got caught between the Nova Cats and some Free Worlds force I don’t know about. Legionnaires, if that helps. They are chasing us down. I have not heard from Fourth Talon or the Striker Clusters since the Khan was killed. Our satellites are down and I do not have access to undersea cables to Gutheim.”

Gutheim was the larger continent, where the important factories and the planetary capital were. Where Angelina Mattlov would logically have been headquartered. “Can you confirm that, Evak? Is there any chance the Khan is still fighting?”

“I did not see the body but Devinnia Guili would not lie,” the Star Colonel responded flatly.

Aidan nodded grimly. That meant that he was in command of the Clan. Under better circumstances that would be thrilling. Right now, he had inherited a crisis. “You have access to dropships, quineg?”

“Neg,” Mattlov admitted bleakly. “And sea transport would be too slow.”

“Have Taman pull his troops out of their dropships,” Aidan ordered Horse. “We can cram them into the Pride. Evak, we will send down our dropships with aerospace cover to get you out.”

“That wou- … -reciated.” Evak Mattlov’s signal crackled and broke off again for a moment. “Pryde,” he continued, once the channel was clearer. “We have had no news from offworld in days. I thought the entire Clan was delta-golf. I only hope you are not the disgrace that Jezebel believes.”

“We will get in touch with rendezvous details,” Aidan promised and looked back to where Khan Cooper was still on the main screen.

“I am not in position to help you,” the Snow Raven said bluntly. “I suspect the convoy we are after was calculated to draw us out of position but there are four warships with them. That is not a threat we can ignore.”

“Agreed.” There was no point trying to keep Cooper from the most glorious battle his lineage had faced in a hundred years. “Once you are victorious, or if they break off,” Aidan was no great naval expert but he knew that in such a high speed engagement either side could avoid action easily, at a cost of taking a vector well away from their original destination, “make for the Antares zenith jump point: that will be our main path of retreat.”

“An obvious choice,” warned Cooper.

“I know. But if the Nova Cats focus there, then those who cannot reach Antares have a chance to use less obvious routes.” The old SLDF star charts provided many uninhabited systems that could be used for jumpships to recharge as they crossed the Nova Cat Occupation Zone. Unfortunately, the Nova Cats had the same charts.

Cooper frowned. “Perhaps wise,” he allowed. “Do you have any further instructions?”

“You know better than I how to fight a naval battle. I will count on you.”

The other Khan’s image vanished and a moment later, Aidan saw that his own camera was off.

“So we are leaving?” Horse asked.

“Arc-Royal is lost,” Aidan replied simply. “Try to contact the other clusters of Peregrine Galaxy, we will need to extricate them if possible.”

“Right, get on with that Diana,” his old friend ordered.

Aidan had disbanded the original Turkina Keshik as part of the reorganization after Crichell’s death, citing the need for experienced officers to lead the new crop of young warriors. But  with Crichell no longer around to micromanage the Clan and its holdings, he could no longer command the Gyrfalcon Guards as well as the galaxy and carry out his duties as Khan. Say what you would about the older khan, he had been a very capable administrator.

Horse led the new Keshik, a single supernova trinary with Aidan and Diana each commanding a star. The other twelve mechwarriors and the seventy-five elementals had been chosen from older warriors to act as Aidan’s staff. “You have something in mind, Aidan?”

Aidan gave his daughter a nod to carry on the mission that had been delegated to her. “Try to establish contact with Clan Nova Cat’s forces,” he ordered the commtech.

“You hope they will offer hegira, quiaff?” Horse asked before answering his own questions: “If they do seek our annihilation then it is unlikely.”

“It costs nothing to try and they are no more immune to arrogance than we are.”

It was several minutes' wait and Aidan studied the spinning globe of Arc-Royal in the meantime. Kael Pershaw’s people were doing their usual good work, collating reports and data intercepts to paint an image of the forces deployed.

Gerechtland bore markers indicating elements of Clan Nova Cat’s Sigma Galaxy and of the First Free Worlds Legionnaires. The purple bird would have indicated their allegiance if the name had not. Despite centuries of enmity with House Steiner, the Captain-General had sent forces to fight for them. This new Star League had substance! Aidan silently cursed Crichell’s caution and his own slow pace in dealing with it.

“My Khan.” The technician caught his attention. “I have a Star Colonel Santin West who is willing to speak to you.”

Aidan raised an eyebrow at that. Most Star Colonels, even of another Clan, would be excited to have the attention of a Khan. But West was merely ‘willing’ to speak to him? “How generous of him. Put him through.”

The face and shoulders of a mustachioed elemental in Nova Cat field fatigues appeared in the holotank. His eyes were sharp and Aidan set any hope for foolishness aside. “Star Colonel,” he greeted the man.

“Khan Pryde.” West replied neutrally. “I do not believe that you or your forces were bid by Khan Mattlov to defend Arc-Royal.”

“And I did not believe that Clan Nova Cat had contracted to be bid by the Federated Commonwealth, but I admit my error.”

West reached up with one hand and stroked his mustache. “If you seek safcon to join the fighting, I must disappoint you. And nor will I offer hegira. My orders are clear.”

“I am aware that not all Clans hold our traditions in such respect as we Jade Falcons,” Aidan allowed. “But there is one question that I must pose: Why are you fighting for the Inner Sphere?”

Santin West stared at Aidan for a moment and then smiled slightly. “Perhaps the better question, Khan Pryde, is: why are you fighting against the Star League?” Then he cut the channel, leaving Aidan staring at the blank display.

“Aidan?” Horse asked after a moment. “Are you alright?”

“I am just… thinking.”

“You cannot join the Nova Cats in this madness, quineg?”

He shook his head slightly. “Neg, the Clan Council would kill me - and rightly so. No, but perhaps I have been looking at this the wrong way…”

Aidan’s old friend sighed and looked over at Diana. “Find something to hold onto,” he warned the younger officer. “When your father is like this, there is no predicting what he is up to.”

Aidan chuckled. “I will need to do some planning. For now,” his voice sharpened as ideas fell into… not into place, but into a shape that suggested where they would need to be. “Contact every unit we can by HPG and have them spread the word Fighting on these worlds, surrounded by the Nova Cats and the Federated Commonwealth, will accomplish nothing. Our touman will withdraw into the other half of our Occupation Zone where we can refit and prepare for the future.”

“You have a plan, quiaff?” asked Diana. There was hope in her voice, a search for belief that their Clan could survive this crisis. “The Nova Cats will give them free passage, so it does not buy much time.”

“I have the beginnings of a plan,” he admitted to his daughter. “I only need a little time.” Aidan turned and looked at the markers of units scattered across the system. “If it works, then we can rise from this reverse, like a phoenix from the fires of its own demise.”

Horse scratched his chin, looking dubious. “And if it does not work?”

“Oh, in that case we are all doomed,” Aidan said cheerfully. “Since that is what we face already, there is nothing to lose, quiaff?”

“I must be crazy,” the freeborn admitted. “Because that made sense to me!”

“Start checking our supply bases,” the Khan continued. “Any that we have lost control of are to be targeted for orbital bombardment. I will not leave them to be used against us.” Millions of tons of equipment and consumables that could have been used to seize Tharkad, to seize the momentum… Part of Aidan screamed at the waste, but there was no way that the material could be recovered, only denied to others.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

PsihoKekec

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3160
  • Your spleen, give it to me!
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #878 on: 21 May 2024, 03:19:50 »
Damn, Victor and Omi will not be together. I guess it was to be expected though, OTL with fairly stable succession within Combine, their relationship could be tenuously possible, TTL the obstacles proved insurmountable and they are too dutiful to just abscond.

Millions of tons of supplies on Arc Royal, while some of it was produced in Inner Sphere, just how many of it had to be shipped all the way from Homeworlds? Given the capacities of cargo dropships, this must have occupied Falcon and contracted Raven shipping for quite some time. And it's not like they will be able to save much from the depots still under their control, both due to limited dropship space and issues of loading and securing cargo in combat dropships.

Shoot first, laugh later.

DragonKhan55

  • Master Sergeant
  • *
  • Posts: 298
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #879 on: 21 May 2024, 09:41:48 »
This is gonna get ugly for the Clans. FedCom RCTs or even units like the FWL Legionnaires that have organic armor and infantry support have a preponderance of firepower over Clan clusters but lack mobility. With the Nova Cats now serving on the front lines, you have the classic hammer + anvil combo: Nova Cat clusters prosecute and pursue while using the RCT in massed formations to hammer strategic targets on a given world.

Sir Chaos

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3113
  • Artillery Fanboy
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #880 on: 21 May 2024, 10:01:26 »
Damn, Victor and Omi will not be together. I guess it was to be expected though, OTL with fairly stable succession within Combine, their relationship could be tenuously possible, TTL the obstacles proved insurmountable and they are too dutiful to just abscond.

I can see one way they could still end up together - if the reactionaries defeat Franklin, but Omi survives and goes into exile in the FedCom. Let´s hope it doesn´t come to that, though.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

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

Moriarty74

  • Private
  • *
  • Posts: 37
    • Dreams of 3025
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #881 on: 21 May 2024, 10:58:00 »
It is interesting that while Minoru was slowly implementing changes to the Combine in order to best harness the Dragon's strengths to repel the Diamond Sharks and Ghost Bears, the Black Dragons are now basically forcing Franklin to make far greater and wider reaching reforms.  They hated the papercuts so signed up for amputations instead.  Also, having had to suffer the Combine take over large portions of the FedSuns for "plot" all these years, it's nice to see the Combine being turned into a second rate power for a change.  I hate it had to happen to Minoru but the Kuritans have had this coming for a long long time.
"Like spirited Eridani stallions chasing after fat, clumsy Luthien cows" Anonymous Rasalhague Journalist, 2749

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #882 on: 21 May 2024, 17:55:50 »
For a minute there, I thought West broke a khan... ;D

nerd

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 2337
  • Nunc Partus-Ready Now
    • Traveller Adventures
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #883 on: 21 May 2024, 20:34:26 »
These are some interesting complications.

Keep up the good work!
M. T. Thompson
Don of the Starslayer Mafia
Member of the AFFS High Command

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #884 on: 24 May 2024, 00:55:58 »
Opalescent Reflections

Full House
Chapter 18

ComStar Military Hospice, Camlann
Benjamin Military District, Draconis Combine
9 May 3059


Where there had been tents and prefabs back in 3051, Wei found that the island hospital was now a permanent facility. The island had been ceded to ComStar by Minoru Kurita in token of their victory over the Clans on Camlann. Isolated in the middle of Midland Sea, surrounded by the ruined industrial cities and battlefields, the facility had lacked a purpose, until ComStar found one for it.

As Wei walked the hallways, she heard clipped and precise Star League English mixed with terms that had never been known on Terra. Her escort of ComGuards infantry watched the patients warily, conscious that every one of them had combat training that included extensive practice in unarmed combat. Men and women who had in some cases already killed with their bare hands.

All of them were broken, mostly in body but others in mind. Defeat could do strange things to the mind and Wei had authorized a budget for psychologists that was almost as high as that for reconstructive surgeons.

There had been a motion placed before the First Circuit to forbid her this trip. No vote had been called when Wei told them that she was going, whatever the outcome of the vote, and if they didn’t like it they could elect a new Primus.

She had done enough at this point, been Primus for thirteen years. That was below average for the position, but she wouldn’t have the shortest term of office. And it had been a very intense thirteen years.

Double doors led into a theater - not an operating theater, a performance venue. Keeping patients - and staff - entertained was important, this far from towns and cities. If history was any guide, there might be a town here in the future. ComStar meant stability for many people.

Both doors were swung open by guards and Wei walked through without touching them, down into the aisle leading to the stage. Seats on either side were occupied, sometimes replaced by wheelchairs for those who could not walk here. She heard the doors close and the guards who’d held them fell back into step at the back of her escort.

Up on the stage, the soldiers spread out in a single rank at the back - three on either side of the podium, and now Wei had no excuse not to look at those who had been gathered here.

Her first impression was the same one she’d had when meeting ComGuard wounded here during the Battle of Camlann: they are so young!

The second was also the same: the number of arms and legs isn’t right!

Wei looked at over two hundred wounded warriors and told them: “Some of you know who I am. For those who do not, I am the Primus of ComStar. I am the woman who called out Lincoln Osis, Leo Showers and Perigard Zalman.”

“You are no warrior,” a one-legged giant at the edge of the room accused.

“No,” she agreed. “But you cannot fathom how many warriors are dead because of me. I am a peaceful woman. And because of that, when I do go to war I do not pursue glory. I will seek to end the war in such a way as to avoid further wars. I will offer reconciliation, but never appeasement. My victories are not in lives lost, but in lives saved.”

A woman with her head covered in bandages squinted up at Wei with her one visible eye. “Then you are at the mercy of those warriors.”

“How well is that working out for your Clans?” Wei asked gently. She considered listing the Clans and their current states, but that would be gloating. “There may be enough of you here that you could storm this stage and kill me, despite what would no doubt be horrendous casualties.” The primus gestured lightly to the soldiers behind her. “What would that accomplish? To convince billions of people that the Clans are so savage and barbaric that they will kill an unarmed woman who is offering them a second chance at life?”

“It would avenge my Clan,” the bandaged woman hissed.

Wei tilted her head slightly in thought. “Are they still your Clan? I believe that the Clans have a custom of… bondsmen, is it? That once defeated, you are the responsibility of the victors, not of your previous Clan.” She tapped her left wrist. “It is not quite our own custom, but there is a reason all of you wear a bondcord.”

The giant - an elemental - laughed sourly. “You did not defeat me. That was… the FedCom, not ComStar.”

“The Star League defeated you,” Wei corrected him. “And by agreement among the Star League Council, warriors taken prisoner are being placed in the custody of ComStar. There is some exception for senior officers, if they are captured.” She chuckled lightly. “And no one is giving up scientists or technicians, I can assure you. But warriors? I am sorry, but no one seems to want you…”

A man towards the back of the crowd pushed himself wobbly to his feet. “Then why take us as bondsmen in the first place?”

“And let you go back to your Clans?” She shook her head. “Because we are not stupid. The small size of the warrior caste is one of the Inner Sphere’s advantages, we would be fools to give it up. We are unlikely to offer hegira to any Clan during this war, and if we allow anyone to return then it would only mean that they were such a disaster that their own Clan would do well to execute them as more of a threat in their ranks than against them.”

Then Wei leant forwards over the low podium. “There is no way back for you. But there may be a way forward, if you have the courage.”

“You assume that our Clans will not find us?” the woman asked.

Something about the way she held her head looked familiar and it took Wei a moment to place the recollection. “I very much doubt that Clan Steel Viper would come here,” she said drily, not willing to gamble this was the actual woman she was thinking of and not just a relative. The Clans did have relatives, even if they didn’t generally acknowledge it. “And if they did, I am fairly sure that we could reinforce the garrison quite easily.”

It would also mildly impress Wei if Clan intelligence was good enough to know that captured Clan warriors were here, given the intentionally isolated location. But they were getting better at that. DRUM had recently updated reports saying that it was now very probable that Clan Diamond Shark’s Epsilon Galaxy wasn’t involved in the fighting around Galedon V at all and was somewhere up on the border with what remained of the Smoke Jaguar Occupation Zone, meaning that Franklin Kurita would have had a good chance of pushing further if it weren’t for the Black Dragon Society.

“Other Clans at least have some presence left in the Inner Sphere,” she continued, “But they have been pushed back quite a way, so it would be rather more challenging for them to get here now. And given their own losses, I suspect that they would not want to return you to their original Clans, just to claim you for their own ranks… which I imagine would displease those of you not from whatever Clan stumbled across us here. That being the case, you may wish to make the best of your situation.”

“What are our alternatives?” the elemental on the edge of the room asked bluntly. “You said that no one wants us.”

Another of the Clanners raised his hand. “You are committing significant resources to treat us if that is so.” He was missing an arm and a leg, which explained why his wheelchair was one of the powered models.

“Not as you are,” Wei told them. “Not as long as you cling to your old identities and ways. Not unless you are willing to change. But if you are able to adapt, then you do have alternatives to…” She paused and then reluctantly finished. “‘Bondsref’.”

“You want us to abandon our customs,” the bandaged woman accused harshly. “It is the right of a warrior to end themselves rather than face dishonor.”

“It is more bother than it is worth to stop you if you insist,” the Primus said bleakly. “I am of the personal belief that while life prevails it is worth living, but there are those who think otherwise. Each of you has the choice to refuse food - let the doctors know that is your wish and we will refrain from providing that level of care.”

“Starvation?” the Steel Viper exclaimed in horror.

“I do not have these guards here as decoration. There are reasons we do not trust you with weapons. Nor am I obliged to let you die with dignity.” If someone was stubborn enough to refuse food for weeks then there really was no saving them.

“So what are these alternatives?” the elemental asked skeptically. “Join the Nova Cats?”

The news of the Nova Cat’s decision to join the Federated Commonwealth had been made public recently. Wei thought it was excellent news, but there were a number of people being quite vocal about their disapproval of the idea. Usually without having any say in the matter.

“You have already refused that option,” Wei reminded them. A Nova Cat recruiter had visited the hospice - without being told where they were going - the previous week. There hadn’t been much take up, perhaps because there were no current Nova Cat prisoners. A dozen patients had been transferred to a dropship that was currently on its way to Melissia by a circuitous route. “The Nova Cats do not plan to extend the offer again.”

Before any of them could ask again, she extended her hand. “For those of you who feel fit to continue in a combat role when your treatment is over, the ComGuards are willing to take you on as acolytes. You will be required to retrain from the beginning, as the ComGuards are soldiers, not warriors, but there is precedent with those who joined our order after Camlann. Those of you not fit for war can be retrained for other roles: I believe such retirement is not entirely unheard of among the Clans.”

“It is unusual outside of the Diamond Sharks,” the warrior who had mentioned resources informed her. “And they have the option to return as warriors, which is not what you are offering.”

Wei nodded in acceptance. “Very well, a new experience for those in that position. Your old lives are over. That is a closed matter - Clan Nova Cat was your only chance to remain a part of any Clan.”

“They are traitors!” shouted the woman who Wei was increasingly certain was the previous Khan of Clan Steel Viper.

“If you say so,” Wei admitted. “But that is no longer relevant to you. If you were bondsmen in another Clan, my understanding is that you would be used as laborers at first. I can offer you more prestigious positions in society, if you can earn them.”

“Joining your ComGuards would at least give me a chance to die in battle,” the one-legged elemental grunted thoughtfully.

All too many of them have, Wei thought sadly. And elsewhere on the island she would be meeting with the long-term wounded of the ComGuards, those who had already been deemed too badly injured to continue their service. That would probably be a harder meeting than this.

“That is a possibility. Or you may wish to start a family,” she said instead. “We do not have a breeding program, so if you want to pass your genes to the next generation, you will have to do the actual work though.”



Landing, Polcenigo
Diamond Shark Dominion
17 May 3059


Enough HPGs had been repaired or replaced that a quorum of the Clan Council could meet. Despite the expense, Khan Sennet had allowed time for the warriors to meet and speak with comrades that they had often not seen or spoken to for months.

“Do you have a clever solution to our vote?” Bikendi Vewas asked Ace once they finished comparing their experiences fighting Clan Smoke Jaguar. “There is genuine concern in the homeworlds that their votes count for almost nothing compared to the number of voters in the Inner Sphere.”

The saKhan was one of the very few bloodnamed attending from the actual Council Chamber that they were all being projected into, the vast chamber where Ace had once made his petition to be allowed to compete for a bloodname. Many of the faces from back there were gone, but despite a year of battles there were still more bloodnamed warriors than there had been - the influx of Burrock bloodnamed had not yet evened out.

Ace looked around the room. “Khan Sennet asked me to think about the matter. And obedient to her commands…”

“Good. I hope you are not still waiting to spring the matter on her.”

“We have had some time to confer between battles with the Hells Horses.” Unlike the Hellions, the other Clan were still clinging to a few worlds near Polcenigo and Ace thought that Sennet was reaching the point where she would rather let those worlds go than continue to focus on them when there was the ongoing risk that the Draconis Combine might resolve its civil war. The Watch was fairly confident that Franklin Kurita would defeat Angus Kurita - the former had won victories against the Sharks and the latter had not - but how long it would take and how much it would cost was in doubt. “She dislikes my plan, but I do not know if someone else has had a better idea.”

Bikendi sighed heavily. “As the one who had to calm Khan Survorv down after you claimed her Seekers, I could wish you were less disruptive, but you do produce results.”

“I am not apologizing.” They had needed the troops.

“There may be enough opportunities in the homeworlds to keep the Goliath Scorpions happy,” the Khan observed. “Rumor has it that Clan Steel Viper may be absorbed before their remaining frontline forces can return to the homeworlds… and I am not sure Clan Smoke Jaguar is in better condition.”

Ace nodded. “We live in turbulent times.”

“We do indeed.” Bikendi glanced up at some signal. “Time for us to begin, I am needed on the dais.”

The two parted ways, the saKhan joining Barbara Sennet and Loremaster Semi Kalasa at the front of the great hall while Ace went up into the seating and joined the other officers of Epsilon Galaxy. Seeing the Khans taking their places, warriors began to find places to sit. Kevin Nagasawa and a number of warriors from Omega moved over to join Ace’s group, one of the female mechwarriors giving Michel Bukannon a little wave.

Ellison Enders walked over to Ace and smacked him in the shoulder (which did nothing since both were present as holograms). “One of these days I will be there to see you kill a Khan in person.”

“Perhaps, but not today,” he managed to say before the Loremaster struck her gavel against the desk.

“I call the Clan Council to order!” Kalasa announced. “We meet under the martial code, in a time of war.”

The room fell silent and Barbara Sennet rose from her throne to face the Diamond Sharks. “We have swum through dangerous waters for a year, my trothkin, but the Clan has emerged triumphant.”

There were cheers from around the hall, proud but also anticipatory.

“I know that the vote is foremost in your minds, but there is other news that may not have reached everyone.” The Khan squared her shoulders. “The Inner Sphere has struck at the homeworlds. While Clan Smoke Jaguar boasts to have beaten off an attack on Huntress, the fact is that they faced a raid not an invasion. Nonetheless, this raises concerns about the security of our own homeworlds.”

Most of the room were already aware, but at least someone had fallen behind on reports from an outraged cry that died awkwardly once the speaker realized she was the exception.

“Those homeworlds now include all of Vinton,” Sennet continued, “Since Khan Vewas was contesting the Smoke Jaguar enclaves at the time of the attack.”

There were cautious cheers as Bikendi Vewas rose and bowed slightly. “Following this, Khan N’Buta of Clan Star Adder met with me on Strana Mechty,” the saKhan reported. “He raised the matter of Absorption to me - to my surprise, the Smoke Jaguars were not his proposed target. He reports that following the loss of their Inner Sphere holdings, Clan Steel Viper’s touman has been reduced to only a third of its former number and their bloodnamed have been reduced to less than a hundred.”

“This is not a matter to be decided by the Khans alone,” Sennet took up the threads of the matter. “My own view is that the Steel Vipers are trading partners not allies. Their conduct gave ComStar an excuse to interdict all the Clans, hampering us greatly over the last year. I do not oppose their absorption but nor are we in any position to bid for the right. However, this is not a time for disunity so I put this matter to the Clan: Khan Vewas and I will vote as this Council decides.”

“Votes will be aye to support the Star Adder’s motion of absorption, and nay to oppose,” declared Kalasa.

Ace thought back to the clashes with the Steel Vipers back before the Invasion, and then of the equipment produced with their help for the touman. “I think ComStar would have interdicted us anyway,” he murmured to those around him.

“They are still fools,” pointed out Angus Labov. “Calling for genocide over one lunatic.”

“You make a good point.” Ace tugged on the lobe of one ear and then voted aye. The Star Adders were probably the strongest single Clan in the homeworlds at the moment: cold-bloodedly, they were a more valuable ally than the Vipers.

For whatever reasons, the majority of the Clan Council seemed to agree and the vote was closed with a mandate to back Sennet’s position. No one on the dais seemed moved.

“Loremaster, present the results of the vote on our Clan’s name,” Sennet ordered and almost nine hundred bloodnamed warriors leant forwards in anticipation.

Kalasa touched a control and a single pie chart  appeared above the dais. One wedge was marked as Diamond Shark… but it was only a wedge. Three quarters of the display bore the words Sea Fox. “Overall, the vote of the Clan comes to seventy-five point nine for Sea Fox,” she announced quietly.

There was a outcry, from the far side of the hall. Ace was fairly sure that it was Annika Enders who used the word refusal.

“Enough!” Vewas shouted, voice amplified by the systems of the hall. “The loremaster has not finished her report. There will be time for debate later.”

The loremaster remained unruffled, tapping another control. The pie chart shrank and others appeared, breaking down the vote by caste and location. Each caste had a smaller display next to it, representing the caste’s leadership - the count was not entirely anonymous: Clan custom was that a leader was accountable for their votes.

“Oh that is interesting,” Ellison whispered as he, like everyone else, examined the disposition.

Every caste had a majority favoring the name change, with the Warriors and Scientist numbers lowest… but every leadership poll was almost even between the two. And every single enclave in the Clan homeworlds had a strong swing towards the Diamond Shark name. Even the three worlds Sennet had mentioned to Ace were at most forty-percent in favor of being Sea Foxes.

“This could get ugly,” Angus Labov agreed. “If the Council were all attending in person I would expect blood on the floor.”

“The results are clear, but contentious,” Kalasa announced once everyone had had a chance to absorb the data. “The majority who favor a change back to Clan Sea Fox - and the associated policies - is centered in the worlds of the Diamond Shark Dominion. The homeworlds, on which we depend for the great process of spreading the way of the Clan across the Dominion, oppose the change.”

“I request permission to speak.”

Kalasa turned towards the source of the voice and then nodded. “I recognise Galaxy Commander Seth Margyar and invite him to speak on this matter.”

The commander of Delta Galaxy, a former-Burrock, stood up. “If it were not Galaxy Commander Enders, the people of the Dominions would not have had a chance to weigh the vote in favor of Inner Sphere ways. I call on him to account for causing division within the Clan.”

Ace was about to push himself upright when Ellison Enders pre-empted him. “I will have you know I had no hand in that decision!” the older warrior shouted, bolting to his feet in outrage.

Margyar stared at him for a moment, mouth working, and then growled “The other Enders,” in irritation.

“Well be clearer! There are two of us, you know.”

“Be seated, both of you,” Kalasa ordered. “Galaxy Commander Ace Enders, you may speak in your own defense.”

Ellison gave him a little wink as he settled back into his seat and Ace grudgingly admitted that the little byplay had burned off a little of antagonism within the Clan Council.

“Chalcas,” he said once he was sure he had everyone’s attention. “Challenge caste, to use the full term. The first sin of the Not-Named, if not the one that had them annihilated. If the people of the Dominion are not part of our Clan, part of our Castes, then what are they? To rule over them without responsibility to them challenges the dictates of the Founder. When the Pentagon worlds were conquered by Nicholas Kerensky and the first warriors of the Clans, those conquered were brought into the Clans. They did not become a sixth caste, barred from participating in their new Clan’s affairs. To do so would be chalcas. An easy path, because it takes us off the way of the Clans.”

Ace looked around the room. “But that leaves us the hard way, the hard choices. Because you are right, Seth Margyar. There is division within our Clan.” Thoman Clarke was trying not to draw notice, he saw. Probably the Star Captain was hoping no one would remember that he was the one who had first raised the idea of changing the Clan’s name back to Sea Fox. “Ignore this and it will become a rot that could destroy us.”

He turned to the dais and caught Barbara Sennet’s eye. She hesitated uncharacteristically and then nodded, tapping a control built into the arm of her throne.

“I have a proposal to resolve this,” Ace continued as the vote totals were replaced in the air by the emblem of the Diamond Sharks and the long abandoned banner of Clan Sea Fox. “A way that respects both sides of this debate. Let us replace the Diamond Shark Dominion with the Diamond Sea Dominion, a state shared between two Clans!”

“Are you mad?!” Evangeline Clarke bellowed, the galaxy commander leaping to her feet. “Did Ulric Kerensky’s folly teach you nothing?!”

“Ulric was a wolf,” he shot back. “He acted with speed and fury, which led to embittered exile and a lust for revenge. I do not take him as an example. My proposal is that our Clan be divided carefully and patiently, that we offer choice to every member of every caste. That, where possible, those who find themselves out of step with their home enclave will be given a chance to relocate to one held by the clan of their choice. When Khan Ulric created the Zeerga he condemned millions of his Clan to a name they never wanted. Our own division must be one where each of us takes up the banner of the Clan that they believe in!”

Murmurs spread around the hall as warriors exchanged opinions over the idea. No one was screaming, which was a good start.

Bikendi Vewas rose to his feet and gestured for Ace to sit. “I have not heard this idea before, but I believe it has merit. In the homeworlds there has been great fear that a sweeping majority from the Dominion would disempower them within the Clan. This will allow those of us who believe in our current ways to continue, while those who wish to adapt to the Inner Sphere can do so without dragging us along.”

“It will cost our Clan all that we have gained in the Inner Sphere!” protested Annika Enders. “The Diamond Sharks will become just another homeworld Clan, impoverished by all that has been invested here.” Ace was amused to see the former-Burrock identifying herself as a Diamond Shark.

“Neg,” Khan Sennet did not stand but at her words the saKhan retreated to his own throne. “There were more votes to be Diamond Sharks here in the Dominion than all the votes cast in the Homeworlds. Clan Diamond Shark will retain enclaves in the Inner Sphere, totalling at least a fifth of the Dominion. And Clan Sea Fox will be ceded territory within the homeworlds - perhaps Priori, Vinton and Albion, whose total population is not far removed from the total votes in the homeworlds to be Sea Foxes.”

“The exact disposition of how each territory is assigned would need to be debated,” Semi Kalasa allowed cautiously. The loremaster had been present when Ace first suggested the idea to Sennet, but she was acting as if it was new to her. “And we cannot hold anyone to the votes they cast before, this is a new idea and not what we were voting for beforehand. I was unconvinced at first, but Ace Enders is correct. There is no requirement that the division be done in haste, we can take five or ten years - time enough for everyone to make up their minds and for those wishing to move to do so.”

“Ten years is reasonable,” agreed Sennet. “Clan Zeerga were tiny, too small to be viable when compared to other Clans. But by that time both the Diamond Sharks and Sea Foxes might have as many as ten galaxies, which is enough that each could hold their own.”

“And together,” Angus Labov offered from his seat near Ace, “Our Clans will have the strength to hold the Diamond Sea against all our shared foes. Whatever our differences, we would remain trothkin, the heirs of Karen Nagasawa and Damon Clarke.”

With the united support of both Khans as well as the loremaster, conversation shifted to how such a division of the Clan might take place. Ace sat down and gave Thoman Clarke a wink. The two of them might survive this without being lynched… and Clan Diamond Shark might avoid a civil war like that tearing the Combine apart along their rimward border.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #885 on: 24 May 2024, 00:56:15 »
Sol City, Crimond
Liberated Territory, Federated Commonwealth
1 June 3059


There were no words to express Victor’s joy at seeing two of his cousins alive and well. Mostly because with these two cousins, joy was not his first reaction.

Crimond was one of the worlds in the Nova Cat Occupation Zone that they had agreed to withdraw from in order to maintain a more defensible territory as a province of the Federated Commonwealth. That didn’t mean that they were gone, there were a number of civilians to evacuate - Nova Cats from the homeworlds and locals who didn’t feel entirely safe to remain without the Clan due to what could be unkindly (if accurately) be considered collaboration.

The news that Ryan was headed to Crimond with a private regiment of ‘mechs had set off alarms as far away as Mount Asgard and Victor had been in motion before orders from his mother arrived. As one of the relatively few people with the social and military rank to squash the older Steiner, Victor had orders to rein the duke in. Diplomatically, if possible, but there was leeway if it was not.

The unexpected presence of a slightly more distant cousin convinced Victor that a direct confrontation would be unwise. “Phelan,” he said in greeting, not touching on the delicate matter of family names for the moment. “This is a surprise. What brings you to Crimond?” The prince tried to avoid contractions that would inflame the temper of the Clanners.

His scapegrace cousin - booted from the Nagelring, captured as a mercenary and now somehow wearing the rank pins of a senior Clan officer on his gray leathers - didn’t have the grace to look abashed. “Would you believe that I have diplomatic credentials, Victor?”

“I believe you,” he assured his cousin, taking a seat at the end of the conference table. He had found Ryan and Phelan in the planetary governor’s mansion, more recently used by the Nova Cat’s administrator. That worthy had greeted Victor at the drop port, sounding more bemused than angry at being pushed out of the building earlier than expected and let him know where to find Ryan. “I would like to see it, just to find out who was desperate enough to assign you such a mission.” The four stars on Phelan’s collar marked him as a galaxy commander, which was more than a little surprising.

Then again, the fighting against the Zeerga - Clan Wolf's equivalent of Free Skye, perhaps? - had likely opened space in their leadership. Some reports said that as much as a quarter of the Wolves' frontline strength was lost in the fighting and after such bitterness, there had been no sign of defeated Zeerga in the Wolf touman.

One of Phelan’s aides produced a folder and Victor studied the documents inside. “Natasha Kerensky herself. That explains a lot.” Then he reached the part that explained Phelan’s presence. “And you were even invited. That does seem in order… from your end.” He turned towards Ryan whose initial surprise at Victor’s presence was now under control. “I did not know you were in the diplomatic service, cousin.”

“This is a matter of the Tamar Pact,” the duke defended himself. “I am acting on behalf of my lady wife. Crimond is part of the Pact, after all.”

“I would say her authority is rather questionable until the civilian government is reconstituted,” Victor observed tersely. “But for now, I accept that she has an interest in the progress of the war. So what have I interrupted?”

“Duke Steiner was just reconsidering his initial bid for a Trial of Possession,” Phelan told him with a barely restrained air of mischief.

Feeling somewhat as if he was umpiring a match of tennis, Victor looked back at the Duke of Porrima. “Oh? What were you bidding for?”

“All of the occupied worlds of the Tamar Pact.” Ryan glowered at the Wolves. “I was hoping for a proxy battle, such as that fought for the Nova Cat’s occupied worlds.”

“I am sure you were, but you are not offering us anything worth that gamble.” Phelan smirked irritatingly. “Our touman is no longer divided between threats. If you want half of our Occupation Zone, you will have to fight it.”

Ryan looked frustrated. “You are not being reasonable.”

“I would be inclined to say that you are the one who lacks reason.” The smirk grew wider. “You declined to offer stakes worthy of your bid, Duke Ryan. And your forces are inadequate. Prince Victor has the credibility of fair dealings with the Nova Cats, but your challenge borders on the insulting.”

Victor shook his head in annoyance. “Do I want to know?”

“They demanded that I offer the return of all the worlds they have lost to our counterattack!”

“Not happening,” he said flatly. The border had been pushed back fifty light years, liberating eighteen worlds from the Wolves. “I will not say it is an unreasonable stake against the return of the Tamar Pact worlds, but we have no need for such a deal when we are already making good progress.”

Crimond and the other worlds given up by the Nova Cats were already being readied to act as staging areas to take back the narrow tip of the remaining Jade Falcon occupation zone, that would serve as a springboard for attacks further into the Jade Falcon’s holdings or to drive into the Wolves flank.

“It seems you have come here for nothing,” Victor told Phelan briskly. “Perhaps you can take the opportunity to contact your family while you are here.”

“First thing I tried, do you think ComStar will accept you telling them who I am? They would not authenticate me to use family funds to pay for a message.” Phelan shook his head irritably. “I even quoted my social security number and they said it was invalid.”

Understanding swept through Victor. “Oh.”

His cousin’s eyes narrowed. “What do you mean oh?”

There was a low laugh from Ryan. “Your social security number was retired, Ward.” He emphasized the bloodname cruelly. “That’s what happens when your citizenship is stripped.”

Phelan went white. “You what?!”

Victor raised his hands. “Sit down,” he ordered, voice snapping with authority.

Ryan sneered but settled back down. After a betrayed look, Phelan sank back into his own chair. More importantly, the Wolf warriors with him also relaxed.

“By agreement among the Star League Council, bondsmen recovered from the Clans are to be treated as prisoners of war,” Victor explained. “But those who chose to enter the Clans’ warrior caste are another matter. Anyone doing that is deemed to have given up their existing citizenship.”

“You have no idea what I went through, Victor,” Phelan said coldly.

He shook his head. “No, but I was part of the debrief for Tyra Miraborg.”

Phelan’s jaw went slack. “What are you talking about? What happened to Tyra?”

Victor exhaled slowly. “She was captured by Clan Smoke Jaguar on Camlann and spent more than four years as a bondsman.”

“...how is she?”

“I don’t know,” he admitted. “She’s with the force that we sent to the homeworlds. We haven’t heard back from them yet.” Victor hoped that they did soon. The Explorer Corps jumpships that had been acting as scouts for the force had made contact with an outlying base and sent their reports via HPG chain, but the attack force itself had yet to return.

“Tamar,” Ryan cut in and both Victor and Phelan jerked their attention back to him. “If you can’t offer a bargain for the entire pact then what about the capital - the world and transit rights?”

Victor was about to snap that this wasn’t the time, but he saw he’d be wasting his breath. Ryan could tell Phelan was shaken and he was taking advantage intentionally.

Faced with a verbal attack though, Phelan came back into focus almost immediately. “As long as it is not used as a base for further attacks, that could be done,” he allowed. “I will bid one galaxy of Clan Wolf in its defense - if Victor is willing we can use Orkney as a proxy battleground - if you win there then both worlds are ceded back to you.”

“My Tamar Cavaliers are too few,” Ryan admitted, but raised his hand. “But the Fourth Fed-Com and Eleventh Lyran Guards are here on Crimond.”

Orkney was the nearest world in Wolf hands to Crimond, earmarked for Task Force Emerald’s next wave. “That seems reasonable,” the prince allowed cautiously. The Eleventh Lyran Guards were a crack regimental combat team, rated as equal to the Tenth Lyran Guards that he had served with - and the Fourth FedCom were a solid, reliable force. Combined with the Tamar Cavaliers, they would have rough parity with a Clan galaxy. “But what do you want if you win?”

“I want the same thing the Nova Cats asked for in their trial,” Phelan told him, a wicked smirk crossing his lips. “If we win, the Federated Commonwealth will nominate Clan Wolf for equal membership of your new Star League.”

Victor paused, caught off guard. There was certainly precedent, but he couldn’t approve that.

“Done!” Ryan exclaimed and stood before Victor could stop him, extending his hand across the table. “Or rather, bargained well and done!”

“Exactly,” Phelan agreed, shaking the older man’s hand. “I will report this to my Khan. Allowing for travel time, I suggest that the Trial begins on the first of next month. I offer safcon for your bid forces to make landing unmolested.”

“On what authority are you commiting the entire Federated Commonwealth,” Victor questioned the older of his cousins in a warning tone.

“On that of the Duchess of Tamar,” the man declared confidently. “She sits on the Commonwealth Council with authority to negotiate on behalf of the Archon.” There was a little emphasis at the start of the sentence, a reminder that Victor was not a member of that body. In fact, he wasn’t sure either way if Ryan’s claim was correct.

The thought of forbidding this anyway crossed Victor’s mind, but the looks on the Wolf warriors convinced him that all it would do was convince them that the Federated Commonwealth was bargaining in bad faith. Dammit! However annoying Phelan was, the worst of it was that if the Nagelring hadn't kicked his cousin out then he'd have been a huge asset. He might have had a regiment in the AFFC by now. Instead he was pulling things like this for a Clan!

It is only our vote, he thought. I can’t see them getting many more votes… although Sun-Tzu Liao might vote in favor just because it would be a loss for us.

I should have shut down talks when I arrived, got Ryan aside and talked to them seperately, he thought. Or I could have just punched Ryan before he shook Phelan’s hand - that would have been satisfying and the Wolves wouldn’t have cared! Alas, Ryan could make a lot of political points of that.

Phelan swept out, saying he would have to communicate the agreement back to Khan Kerensky - and that left Victor alone with Ryan and the older man’s aides.

“You had better win this, Ryan,” he warned. “The Archon will not be pleased.”

“Liberating Tamar will galvanize the Commonwealth,” the duke assured him smugly. “I know what I’m doing.”

“If you lose, and somehow they get the votes to join the Star League, then any further attempt to reclaim Tamar would be aggression against another Star League member,” Victor reminded him. “If you win, you’ll be a hero. If you lose, you’ll have lost your wife’s patrimony.”

“I was fighting wars before you were born, your highness.”

“Not against the Clans.” Victor pushed back his seat. “The Clans believe a battle begins with the bargaining; and you did not bargain well, at all.”
« Last Edit: 24 May 2024, 12:16:42 by drakensis »
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #886 on: 24 May 2024, 04:03:52 »
I thought Ryan didn't have the authority to make that bargain??

PsihoKekec

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3160
  • Your spleen, give it to me!
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #887 on: 24 May 2024, 06:36:40 »
Commonwealth politics are complicated, so Ryan can wield a lot more power than he is officially entitled to.
Ryan hasn't fought in decades and will be overall commander of force arrayed against battle hardened Wolf force, commanded either by Phelan or Natasha, both well versed in IS style of warfare. Ryan is beyond himself at the thought of political capital that the victory will bring, so he doesn't realize that he gave to the enemy the choice of ground and the choice of defending force, Phelan did not say which galaxy will face them in trial, while he already knows Ryans ORBAT, so Wolves can tailor their force to the battle they intend to fight.
Hopefully he dies during fiasco, because if he doesn't, he will move heaven and earth to pin the blame on Victor, Melissa and Davion part of the realm.

Let's see if Diamond Shark - Sea Fox divorce goes Czechoslovak way or Yugoslav way.

Was Breen wounded and captured, or was that just someone similar to her? I'd reckon at the time of capture intelligence services would be quite interested in such knowledgeable prisoner.
Shoot first, laugh later.

paulobrito

  • Warrant Officer
  • *
  • Posts: 768
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #888 on: 24 May 2024, 06:43:57 »
Yep, the Wolves can taylor-made a force (omnis are a bitch, and the Wolves don't have bias against arty, so Nagas are going to be present) to defeat Ryan. With Natasha at the helm, they have way more experience than Ryan can ever dream of getting.

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #889 on: 24 May 2024, 08:16:49 »
I thought Ryan didn't have the authority to make that bargain??
He's claiming the authority of his wife, Morasha Kelswa, who is the Duchess of Tamar and political head of the Tamar March (such as it is right now)
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Sir Chaos

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3113
  • Artillery Fanboy
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #890 on: 24 May 2024, 08:26:16 »
Yep, the Wolves can taylor-made a force (omnis are a bitch, and the Wolves don't have bias against arty, so Nagas are going to be present) to defeat Ryan. With Natasha at the helm, they have way more experience than Ryan can ever dream of getting.

Indeed. Ryan may have been fighting wars since before Victor was born. But Natasha has been fighting wars since before Ryan was born.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

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

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #891 on: 24 May 2024, 08:37:07 »
What authority does Kelswa have over the 11th Lyran and 4th FedCom?

croaker

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 872
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #892 on: 24 May 2024, 10:05:18 »
What authority does Kelswa have over the 11th Lyran and 4th FedCom?

He's speaking as a representative of a March Duke, to whose March they're currently assigned. Sortakinda. At this point his authority is "as much as Victor is willing to let him get away with and isn't willing to show division in front of the Clanners over".

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #893 on: 24 May 2024, 10:59:35 »
That makes sense... thanks!

Wrangler

  • Colonel
  • *
  • Posts: 25202
  • Dang it!
    • Battletech Fanon Wiki
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #894 on: 24 May 2024, 21:00:47 »
Love the story so far.   

I splat this together
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants
-Editor on Battletech Fanon Wiki

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #895 on: 25 May 2024, 00:16:11 »
That's pretty accurate.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Daryk

  • Lieutenant General
  • *
  • Posts: 37898
  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #896 on: 25 May 2024, 05:13:03 »
Nice work Wrangler! :)

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #897 on: 26 May 2024, 23:55:06 »
Opalescent Reflections

Full House
Chapter 19

Hilton Head, North America
Terra, Sol System
15 June 3059


While there was nothing unusual in the Precentor-Martial visiting Wei’s office, today it felt surreptitious. Anastasius Focht waited until they were alone before he began his report.

“If Ulric Kerensky did survive the fighting against the Zeerga, then his Clan is committing to the deception. Natasha Kerensky is behaving in exactly the way I’d expect if she was responsible for such a large force.”

Wei considered everything she had ever heard about the famous mercenary. “Losing her mind?”

“I would say so. I am surprised she accepted promotion to the role.” Focht sat down facing Wei. “I suspect she is waiting for someone with a suitably strategic mind to make their name so she can resign in their favor.”

“Then Ulric’s death may have hurt Clan Wolf more than we thought,” Wei said thoughtfully. “Which isn’t to say that they are doing poorly.”

“Given the Zeerga’s behavior towards our enclaves, I cannot fault our soldiers for volunteering to fight them, but it might have been better strategically if they had been allowed to do more damage to the Wolves.”

Wei sat back in her chair. “It’s done, there is no point worrying too much about things we cannot change. Is she serious about releasing the ComGuards?”

“The first detachment returned with me,” Focht confirmed. “Will we have any problems with the Star League Council over bringing them back? They did technically fight for Clan Wolf.”

“They never swore allegiance to the Wolves,” she said firmly. “Fighting alongside them against a common foe is not the same thing. They were contracted, as if they were mercenaries.”

“You do not have to convince me,” the soldier told her. “Granting citizenship back to Nova Cat warriors who once served in the AFFC is already causing strains. Can you convince the Star League Council that working around the stripping of citizenships is acceptable?”

“I had better. I owe these men and women,” Wei confessed. “I ordered them to remain in the enclaves, knowing that many would die or be captured.”

Focht’s one eye was merciful. “With reason. Our officers are trained to deal with leading the ComGuards into danger, and then we have to train them over again to send them without leading them.”

“Maybe I should take that class.”

The old man leant forwards. “Perhaps, but you know the core. You asked it of them only because it was needed. We train leaders to spend lives, knowing that it is a dreadful balance against the lives that will be saved and that we will not know if we have chosen well, until it is too late to take the decision back.”

Wei squared her chin. “Well, these people have been returned to us. I will not give them back.”

“And that is why so few hesitated at your orders.” He relaxed back into his chair. “Take the class if you can find the time, Primus.”

“Ah.” She laughed. “Yes, that is the problem, isn’t it? What else did Kerensky have to say?”

“She is not inclined to give assurances that our enclaves will be left alone as long as we are using them as bases against her Clan.”

“I didn’t think so,” Wei sighed. For every enclave that had been stormed by the Zeerga, there were twice as many that Natasha Kerensky had struck at to remove garrisons that complicated her efforts to hold back the Star League’s attacks. The Black Widow had been far more surgical, and Wei could not say she had done more than she had to. For the most part the enclaves had then been left alone - the goal had been the forces there, not controlling the people or land.

“With that said,” the one-eyed man continued, “She said that the remaining enclaves along the Periphery are in systems she doesn’t expect us to liberate so she is willing to leave those alone.”

“How generous.” Those were most of the remaining enclaves in Wolf space, between those liberated and those that had been disarmed by Clan Wolf already.

“Not really. Most of the worlds belonged to Rasalhague so they are less of a priority for the Federated Commonwealth. Besides that, our garrisons provide some security against pirates and other raids. With their losses, the Wolves can afford to thin their protections along that region by counting on us for that.”

Wei cupped her hands together in her lap, trying to get inside the head of Natasha Kerensky. “The khan is aggressive,” she speculated slowly. “Could she be amassing forces for a counter to our counter-offensive.”

Focht gave her an approving look. “Yes, a riposte is likely if we do not come to some terms. I believe her loremaster and perhaps the new junior Khan - whoever they are - may convince her of another strategy; but, by instinct, Kerensky will want to take the initiative.”

She moved her hand and drummed her index finger against the desk. “There is news from Crimond.” At his curious look, she continued: “The Duke of Porrima, Ryan Steiner -”

“I know him,” Focht said sharply.

“...yes. He met with an emissary of Clan Wolf, acting in his wife’s name. He appears to have struck a bargain for a Trial of Possession for Tamar. The world, not the entire region, although I imagine he would have been happy for a chance at the latter.”

“Something the Wolves are unlikely to give up,” the Precentor-Martial concluded. “Do we know the terms?”

“A trial fought on Orkney next month. Two AFFC regimental combat teams and Ryan’s personal forces, against a galaxy of Clan Wolf.”

“Foolish of him,” Focht concluded.

Wei gave him a curious look. “Victor Steiner-Davion managed to defeat Clan Nova Cat twice with similar odds.”

“Prince Victor is a leader in the mold of his maternal grandmother. He might win this, but my nephew is not half the commander. Even worse…”

“Wait,” Wei raised her hand and looked at him curiously. “Your nephew?” She knew little of Ryan Steiner’s family tree, but she was sure there was no one named Focht among the upper nobility of the Lyran Commonwealth.

The old man adjusted his eyepatch. “I… I apologize, Primus. I had assumed that you were aware, given the opening of so many records earlier in your reign.”

“Aware of what?”

“When I joined ComStar, I elected to leave my old life behind and begin anew. I had had ample time to consider my past and my mistakes, leaving them behind seemed to be the better choice. I was born Frederick Steiner, grandson of an Archon. I was even, briefly, the likely successor to my uncle.” He shook his head. “Ryan is my sister’s son, but as much as I loved the boy, the man he has grown into is arrogant and far more power hungry than even I was at his age. There is little chance of him defeating Clan Wolf.”

“So a useless waste of lives,” Wei concluded.

“Not quite. It will tie down one of the Wolves’ galaxies and they will inflict some losses. I would prefer that he had not done this,” the Precentor-Martial admitted. “But it also busy us some time for the other forces of Task Force Emerald to make repairs and prepare for the next wave of fighting.”

“That’s something.”

“Khan Kerensky did make an offer for the return of ComGuards bondsmen who had not been willing to fight against the Zeerga,” Focht said, returning to the previous topic of conversation. “It’s not within my authority to approve, though.”

Wei tilted her head in curiosity. “What does she want?”

“She suggests that we nominate Clan Wolf to join the Star League.”

There was a sinking feeling in Wei’s guts. “What?”

“I am aware that this is essentially her using our soldiers as hostages,” Focht admitted. “And the political implications are beyond my remit.”

“Why would she think I’d do that?!”

The old man exhaled. “You have something of a reputation as a peacemaker, Primus. It would also turn Clan Wolf from one of the largest of our enemies into a bulwark against Clans like the Zeerga. And…” He paused and shook his head. “Natasha Kerensky’s domination of the battlefield is not just because of her skill as a mechwarrior. She is also excellent at getting inside her opponent’s heads. It is likely she realizes that there is a strong bond of loyalty between you and the members of our order.”

Wei closed her eyes. Dangerous woman! she thought to herself. “One vote,” she agreed. “Tell her that she will have her vote. But I doubt the rest of the Council will favor the idea.”



Hammarr, Sudeten
Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
30 June 3059


The shuttle that landed the AFFC commanders also unloaded three squads of battle armor. Aidan eyed the suits cautiously. They were rougher-edged than their Elemental counterparts and lacked the missile launchers, but they did not have to be as good as Clan battle armor, they just had to be good enough and built in large numbers. If there was any one lesson that the Clans had to take away from the last few years, it was that - unbound by the conventions of bidding - quantity had a quality all of its own.

The three officers who entered the terminal building to meet him were young and in good shape. Aidan had seen officers not worthy of the name during earlier actions but it seemed that some of the dross had been burned away in the fighting. Somewhat stereotypically, they were all blonds, but the leader was notably shorter and… if Aidan was reading the rank badges correctly, not the most senior in rank.

“I would welcome you to Sudeten,” he greeted them, “But I will not be insincere, we all know I would rather that you and your forces found something else to do.”

“I’m sure you would,” the one wearing a Marshal’s insignia responded. “But we are here, and we will take Sudeten from you.”

“Perhaps,” Aidan allowed, letting the sloppy language pass. “But no one can count on the outcome of a trial unless it has been fought.”

“As I understand it, the bidding is the first part of the trial,” the shorter one pointed out. “You are Khan Aidan Pryde?”

“Aff. And you are Prince Victor Steiner…-Davion.” Aidan hid his annoyance at stumbling over the name. Steiner was at least a proper bloodname, even if this warrior had never earned it the way Aidan had earned his.

“Steiner-Davion,” the prince said, as if just correcting the pronunciation. “My comrades are Marshal Adam Steiner and Leutnant-General Galen Cox.”

Aidan gestured to his own companions. “Star Colonel Kael Pershaw is our Loremaster and Star Commander Diana Pryde is my aide.”

They all exchanged greetings and Aidan gestured towards the side-room he’d ordered prepared. “Shall we begin?”

“I assume from your presence that the Gyrfalcon Galaxy will be the core of your defense,” Adam Steiner probed as they entered and took their places facing each other across the table. “After the last year, your other frontline galaxies were both shredded.”

“Not so badly as you might think,” Diana disagreed, boasting as she had been asked to. “The Peregrine and Jade Falcons are back to full strength, and Turkina Galaxy is…”

“Turkina is not being bid here,” Aidan cut her off. He looked over at the Lyrans. “However, you need not fear that we are lacking in troops to offer battle. Another year or two and we will have more forces ready than we ever have had before.”

Galen chuckled. “Then we are attacking at the proper time. You won’t have the time to finish rebuilding your units before you’ve been driven from the Inner Sphere.”

“I can see why you might think that,” Kael Pershaw grated. The cyborg reached out and rapped on the table with metal knuckles. “Our ground forces may take time to recover but our warship strength remains greater than yours.”

The truth was that other than his own Galaxy, the other frontline forces were still integrating new warriors. The replacements had less experience than Aidan could hope for and while elevating Zeta Galaxy to its new status as a frontline force had already been ongoing, the reserves of fresh omnimechs and other war machines had been almost exhausted. On paper, the four galaxies were ready for battle, but it had also meant stripping the best personnel from second line units. The touman was brittle enough that using warships might be their only chance against the Inner Sphere’s numbers.

Both of the other officers looked alarmed at the prospect, but Victor took it calmly. “Are you sure that you wish to escalate in that manner?” he asked, conversationally. “We have warships of our own.”

Aidan nodded. “It would be an escalation, and one that our way of war encourages us to avoid. But there are times, such as the recent fighting on Arc-Royal, where they are a necessary tool. The question is whether they will be necessary now… or not.”

“Arc-Royal was a defeat for you.”

“Aff,” he admitted. “You cost us quite a number of warriors, several fine officers and a considerable stock of supplies. On the other hand, only one of our warships was lost compared to three of yours.” The clash between the Snow Ravens and the ComGuards squadron had been abortive, and he had some reason to hope that they were unaware two more Snow Raven warships were beyond repair in the Inner Sphere and were already making their way towards the Exodus Road back to the homeworlds. “We have more than thirty warships available, which may be fewer than those of ComStar, the Nova Cats and your own fleet, but the ComGuards have had to divide their forces across the borders with several Clans and the Nova Cats’ fleet is currently tied down escorting convoys away from the homeworlds.”

Victor nodded in agreement. “That is true, but equally, we are closer to our repair yards. The early Succession Wars taught us how rapidly fleets can be consumed in warfare if both sides fight without restraint.”

“Our ships are -”

Aidan cut Diana off again, he would probably need to apologize to her later but she was doing her job well. “If our fleets are cut loose, then both of us will likely see those warships destroyed - after they each do great harm to both side. There is no ComGuards officer here to confirm whether they are willing to see their fleet smashed in such a fashion, but let us say that they are… that leaves Clan Wolf’s fleet, reinforced by that of the Zeerga they have taken back, and the Diamond Sharks and the Bears.” He paused. “In time you can replace those losses, but it would take time, and resources. Just as we can replace our own losses over time. You wish to face that cost, quineg?”

“It seems your honor code doesn’t mean very much to you,” Adam accused.

Diana bristled but it was Kael who spoke out. “You are the ones pushing us, do not be surprised if we push back.”

Aidan shook his head. “Calmly, everyone. It matters less how we reached this point than how we go forward.”

“Is this where we open bidding?” Galen asked shrewdly.

“I think that we already have.” The prince eyed Aidan thoughtfully. “What are you bidding for, Khan Pryde? Not just Sudeten, I think?”

“I offer an alternative to a campaign that would cost us much,” he agreed. “I am not prepared to join your Federated Commonwealth, as the Nova Cats have, but I am willing to offer a proxy trial over our interests.”

“I am listening.”

“If we win the trial, then this becomes our border up until, oh let us say 3066 - the date when the ceasefire agreed on Coventry would have expired,” Aidan suggested. “You broke that ceasefire but I cannot entirely blame you and I think the Nova Cats would restrain you from doing so again. And they hold most of our current border with you, so it would be difficult to work around them.”

“As you said, how we got here matters less than what happens now,” Victor conceded, without apologizing for the abrupt end of a ceasefire that should have had years to run.

“You’d only be ceding worlds that you’ve already lost,” Adam Steiner pointed out sharply.

Aidan gave him an amused look. “That is why it would depend on our victory, Marshal Steiner.”

“And if we lose, you leave the Inner Sphere.”

Kael Pershaw snarled, a truly horrifying look on his artificial face. “Never!”

“More than I can offer,” Aidan admitted. “However, I can offer a border much more favorable to you. Clan Jade Falcon would withdraw to Twycross and other worlds corewards of that system, in an organized fashion so that you can reclaim the worlds smoothly. And with a truce until 3066, you would have a long border against Clan Wolf, one that opens the opportunity to reach worlds like Tamar. I think this is a better offer than your Ryan Steiner had from the Wolves, quiaff?”

“Better does not not necessarily make it good enough.” But the prince sounded interested. Reports suggested that Ryan Steiner was a rival of the current Archon - not a serious threat now but at least of sufficient note that he could not easily be removed. The chance to outshine him was a useful card to play, Aidan thought cynically. Crichell’s advice of learning to play poker was paying off.

Adam Steiner shook his head. “I’m not leaving Somerset under your rule, Pryde.”

“Somerset?” A fairly minor world on the edge of the occupation zone, notable mostly for its military academy. Then realization dawned. “Ah, you are that Adam Steiner - Nikolai Malthus’ nemesis. He saw that children’s show about you and he, it was most amusing - his reactions, not the show itself.”

That got a chuckle from Galen and even the prince looked amused, although he hid it as his kinsman looked accusingly at the junior of the three officers.

“The exact borders are negotiable,” he continued. “However, Somerset is quite a way past the border. If you want that level of concession, I would want something more from you.”

“Isn’t that why it would depend on our victory?” demanded the older of the two Steiners.

“Touche. However, I am not asking you to cede back worlds like Benfled that you have recently regained. There are limits on both of us.” Aidan sat back in his chair. “I will stake additional worlds - let us say between the Nova Cat border and Wotan - if you are willing to fight under less than favorable terms.”

Adam seemed about to speak up again but Victor clasped his arm in restraint. “What trial do you have in mind, Khan Pryde. We have considerable forces at our disposal.”

“Since we are embracing restraint,” Aidan offered with a confident smile, “How about unaugmented.”

“What do you mean, unaugmented?” Galen frowned in confusion.

“Here and now, the six of us,” Diana clarified.

“I will bid away Kael Pershaw,” Aidan corrected her. “To fight with even numbers would be too unbalanced, but two on three is still better than even odds for us.”

“Are you telling me you want to stake dozens of worlds on a fist fight?” exclaimed Adam.

“Including your homeworld,” Aidan agreed. “It would be acceptable to my people, and it keeps your forces fresh to fight the Wolves.”

Victor pushed back his seat. “No weapons,” he proposed.

“That is what unaugmented means,” Diana told him contemptuously.

“And no killing anyone who can’t fight back.”

“I ought to punch you out and drag you to the shuttle,” Galen protested. “We could send for one of the escort.”

“By that logic,” Kael pointed out, “We could send our Khan away and replace him with an elemental.”

Victor started removing his uniform tunic. “No, I think I like these terms as it is.” He indicated Pershaw’s cybernetics. “I would have second thoughts if you were fighting, but three on two seems reasonable given the stakes.”

The old warrior huffed in a proud way. “Do you accept me as oathmaster for this?”

“There is no need to draw a circle,” Aidan declared. “The whole room is suitable - leaving serves as disqualification, as does use of a weapon. I accept the prince’s restraint on harming the helpless - and whatever the outcome, both sides are free to leave under hegira, so there will be no taking of bondsmen.”

“Agreed.” Victor extended his hand over the table and they shook hands.

There was a brief moment as the three FedCom officers removed their tunics for freedom of movement. Aidan and Diana removed their ceremonial helmets, cloaks and jackets as well. Meanwhile Pershaw pointedly moved all the chairs into a corner. “Improvised weapons are still weapons,” he pointed out. “Unfortunately, we are not getting the table out of here in a hurry.”

“Make sure the door is closed,” Aidan instructed him. “It would probably offend the people of the Federated Commonwealth to see their prince beaten by a Khan.”

“You assume that you won’t be the one beaten,” Victor snorted.

Aidan assessed the three opponents and then nodded slightly in the prince’s direction.

Pershaw retreated to the door and stood with his back to it. “You may begin,” he directed.

Diana was across the table like lightning and Victor cried out in surprise as he was sent sprawling.

The khan was slower off the mark and found the leap more than he was entirely comfortable with, but he managed to pivot on his hands and kick Adam Steiner in the chest with both boots.

The Marshal staggered back and Aidan managed to land before Adam was back on balance. Catching a clumsy punch with his forearm, Aidan jabbed the other man below the ribs, then caught him by the shoulder, ramming him into the table. He heard the man’s nose break and the cry of pain.

Diana was tangling with Galen Cox but the prince was back on his feet and went for Aidan, feinting for the older man’s face and then landing two blows against his ribs.

Using his greater reach, Aidan turned and delivered a side kick that hurled Victor across the room. Diana saw him coming and managed to turn a block into a throw that didn’t get Galen off his feet but did put him in the projectile prince’s path.

The two crashed into each other, the larger man on top. Aidan heaved him up and then tried to drive him face-first into the wall.

Recovering his wits, Galen threw his feet up and braced them against the wall. He straightened them sharply and the pair of them tumbled to the floor, barely missing the table. Aidan was vaguely aware of Diana stepping on Victor as she went for Adam Steiner, who was back on his feet.

Galen rolled on top of Aidan, getting one hand around the Jade Falcon’s throat. Lights seemed to flash in front of Aidan’s vision as he felt the strong hand tighten. They were under the table, he realized and got one knee up and between them.

With a sharp cry and all the breath left in his lungs, Aidan kicked and managed to force Galen up far enough that the Leutnant-General’s head crashed off the table. Wriggling free, Aidan saw that the other man looked groggy but wasn’t entirely out of the fight.

Victor took advantage of Aidan’s distraction and kicked him sharply in the side, snapping a rib.

Fighting through the pain, Aidan swept the prince’s legs out from under him and then grabbed Galen’s shoulder and upper arm. Wrenching sharply put the joint out of its socket. The man screamed in pain and Aidan hoped that leveled the numbers.

There was a yell of pain from the corner with the chairs and Aidan rolled under the table to get out and closer. He came out on hands and knees, seeing that Diana had been thrown against them by Adam Steiner.

The larger FedCom officer was about to hit her again but Aidan came up like a sprinter and cannoned into him, slamming the man against the wall with his shoulder. His ribs protested loudly, but with a scream of rage, Aidan grabbed Adam by shoulder and belt, hoisting him up onto both shoulders.

Adam clawed for Aidan’s face, but the khan had enough energy left to run across the room and heave.

Fortunately for the commander of the Twelfth Donegal Guards, they were fighting on the ground floor because the conference room windows weren’t armor glass. He crashed through it, landing on his back, out of the fight.

That was when Victor Steiner-Davion popped up and clubbed Aidan across his back with paired fists. He screamed in pain and dropped to his knees.

“Leave my father alone!”

Victor turned in time to catch a punch to the face from Diana that sent him staggering.

Aidan was left on the floor, trying to breath as the two young warriors pounded on each other. Victor’s lesser reach seemed to be offset by greater durability and both wore visible contusions before the Khan managed to get his feet under him, leaning heavily on the wall.

Seeing that he was about to be outnumbered again, the prince grabbed Diana by the front of her shirt and dragged her towards him. Two hard heads collided and Aidan saw both of them topple backwards onto the floor.

“I believe that decides it,” Pershaw declared, somewhat smugly.

“Is he out?” Aidan staggered over to the Prince. It could not be over like that, surely?

That was when Victor’s leg swung around sharply and Aidan’s own legs were swept out from under him. Fortunately he fell away from the table, but he barely caught himself on his hands.

Diana screamed something more animal than human and hauled herself upright to cannon into Victor. The short man half-caught her and spun the pair colliding with the table. Aidan saw the prince grab his daughter by the back of her head.

“Would -” Slam! “- you -” Slam! “- stay -”

The sequence was cut off when Aidan got his feet under him and drove a punch into the side of Victor’s face. He thought he might have broken a finger, but the younger man went reeling.

Diana slid bonelessly to the floor.

Aidan caught Victor by his shirt front and gave him a shake to make sure he had his attention. With the eye that was out of Pershaw’s view, he winked once and then drew back his right hand for the most telegraphed punch he could manage.

He wasn’t entirely sure if the message got through because the next moment he was doubled over in agony as the prince drove his knee up between Aidan’s thighs. Keeling over sideways it was all he could do from cracking his head on the carpeted floor.

“Any… anyone else?” he heard as if in the dim distance.

“Apparently not,” Pershaw rasped. “I acknowledge your victory. As Khan Pryde will, if he survives this.

“...am not dead,” he whispered. “Jus’ beaten.”

“Yes.” The old loremaster stepped away from the door. “I will call for medics, Prince Victor. Perhaps you could reassure your escorts.”

The prince wiped his mouth, blood coming from a split lip. “Yes, yes I will do that.”

Pershaw stalked over to Aidan and offered him a hand up, the cold metal digging into the flesh of Aidan’s fingers.

“What was that about?” he hissed. “I have seen you fight, my khan.” The title was heavy with sarcasm. “You could have finished him.”

Aidan leant heavily on his old enemy. “We could not afford to win,” he whispered. “The Council would not accept that, though.”

Pershaw dragged him out of the room and pushed him towards a bench outside. “The Council may kill you anyway. You have lost us an empire.”

“We can win another,” Aidan told him as he accepted being laid out on the bench. “Bryn Cooper agreed to help - there are periphery realms we bypassed on our way to the Inner Sphere. Conquer them and we will have the basis for an empire across a thousand light years. We will own the Exodus Road.”

“... clever,” the loremaster admitted. “You were always clever, Pryde. Too clever, much of the time. We will talk more about this in private.”

Medics entered the hallway, accompanied by the prince and two of his escort, still in battle armor. “The other guy,” Victor declared a little smugly, gesturing to Aidan.

It hurt to laugh. It hurt so very very much.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

  • Lieutenant
  • *
  • Posts: 1515
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #898 on: 26 May 2024, 23:55:21 »
New Hampshire City, Orkney
Clan Wolf Occupation Zone
16 July 3059


The race back to Orkney from Sudeten by command chain was never going to be a pleasant experience, but doing it with two fractured ribs (among other injuries) had made it much less pleasant. The way Phelan’s eyes went wide at the sight of him didn’t quite make it worthwhile, but it did lift Victor’s spirits.

“Blake’s Blood, Victor, what happened to you?”

Victor remembered not to touch the bruising around his eye. “I had a frank exchange of views with the Jade Falcon Khan.”

His cousin shook his head in amusement. “Did you win?”

“Yes, actually.” He wasn’t completely sure he had, that wink bothered him, but there was no way he was letting Phelan know that.

“...you might be surprised how popular that makes you. Even with the Jade Falcons, actually. Ulric was astonished he was elected as Khan, much less managed to keep the rank.”

“I got that impression,” Victor admitted. “He was not what I expected. But that is not what I’m here for.”

“Mind the contractions,” Morgan Kell’s son warned him in sing-song fashion. “You have no idea how long it took me to get used to it, but it really helps.”

“Somehow I do not think it was rigorous adherence to grammar that defeated Ryan Steiner.” He still wasn’t going to give Phelan the satisfaction of catching him out verbally if he could avoid it.

“The Archon is unhappy.” With him, as much as with Ryan - reading between the lines, his mother would have been happier if he had been in a fist fight with the Duke of Porrima over the Tamar bargain than with the Jade Falcon Khan, even if the latter had liberated far more worlds than Ryan's loss could cost them. “But we will honor the bargain. We are offering a ceasefire until the next meeting of the Star League Council so that she can make the nomination.”

“I hope that Ryan’s abject failure alleviates at least a little bit of Aunt Melissa’s anger,” Phelan joked. “When are they meeting?”

“The second half of August,” Victor told him. Which bought time to move up forces to secure worlds that had been held by the Jade Falcons - taking control of them would tie up jumpships and regiments for long enough that opening up the Wolf flank would have to wait until the end of the year at best. “And I will admit, the way everyone who was touting Ryan as being the grand defender of the Commonwealth and the savior of Tamar is suddenly trying to avoid acknowledging that they ever had an opinion about him does offset some of her annoyance.”

The Wolf officer chuckled. “I bet it does. So, you would not come here in person just to tell me this. Do you want something to drink?”

“Do you have any decent beer?”

Phelan raised an eyebrow and then went to a fridge at the side of his office, producing half a six-pack. “I assume this will not interfere with your painkillers?” He separated each of the cans in turn from the plastic holding them together, returning one to the fridge and tossing the plastic onto an overflowing waste bin.

“It is fine.” Victor had taken painkillers on the jumpships and after the experience of four jumps on them, he’d stopped taking the drugs. He accepted one of the cans and jammed his thumb under the ringpull.

Both cousins put the cans to their lips to catch the head of the beer as it frothed out.

“My dad taught me how to open beers like this,” Phelan said seriously. “Mom was pretty mad when she found out.”

“He did the same with me, the summer before I went to the Nagelring,” Victor reminisced. “Said nothing short of God could keep cadets from drinking on their time off, so I should know how to do it right.”

Phelan held the beer in both hands. “It is still hard to believe he died, Victor.”

Fighting the Clans, he thought, but didn’t say it. However mad Phelan made him, he wasn’t going to do that. “A lot of families are dealing with that. I do not think all that many people in the Clans understand what that means.”

His cousin sat back, eyes distant. He lifted the can and sipped from it. “Maybe not,” he allowed after a moment. “The Wolves did not want the invasion. They fought a trial of refusal against it. After Camlann, Natasha fought another against letting the Clans advance into the flanks.”

Yes, but they didn’t win. Your clan may be principled, Phelan. Or at least you think that they are. But they’re not effective at reining in the other Clans. “The reason I am here is to ask that you grant hegira to the soldiers you captured. I know being a bondsman is considered an honor among the Clans, but that is not how it is seen for our people.”

“Your people,” Phelan corrected quietly.

Victor nodded in acceptance. “My people.”

His cousin considered that. “Would that include Ryan Steiner?”

“As much as I’d like,” Victor saw Phelan smirk and realized he’d slipped again. “As I would like to leave him here, mother is less worried about his spinning perceptions of this debacle than she is about him being painted as a martyr.”

“Hmm. Well, your mother is pretty smart, and it would be her problem…” The younger of the pair took a long drink of his beer. “We interrogated him.”

Victor lifted his own beer. “I hope that he did not enjoy it.”

“He is conspiring to murder your mother.”

A mouthful of beer was spat out across the desk. “Dammit, Phelan!”

“Sorry,” the Wolf said insincerely. “I thought you would want to know.”

“I do!” He stopped and thought it through. “Can you prove it?”

“I am not a lawyer, but we do still have them here on Orkney. I hunted one down and asked a few questions, no specifics.” Phelan shrugged. “You probably have better lawyers, but as best I can tell our recordings would not be enough for a conviction under Lyran law, but it would be enough for warrants to start digging for evidence that was.”

“What is he after? Killing mother won’t make him the Archon. I’d inherit, or if he got me too there’s Katherine… Dad would take steps if someone tried to get rid of all of us!” Victor shook his head. “I can’t even remember off hand the last time we were all on the same planet.”

Phelan spread his hands. “Best I could tell - and I’m no politician, most of the Clan are worse, is that he figured that your father isn’t all that popular on Tharkad and won’t be an issue for much longer. That leaves you as an inexperienced Archon-Prince, your sister as heir and him in a prime position to move in as the political advisor for you or military advisor for her - maybe both. Where he goes from there, I don’t think he even had a fixed plan.”

Victor looked at his beer and set it aside. He didn’t think that the plan would work, he certainly wouldn’t have trusted Ryan as far as he could throw the man. But would Katherine have done so? She’d already shown poor judgment a few times on New Avalon.

“I don’t have the right to decide that,” he said at last, realized he’d missed a contraction and then that he’d stopped paying attention to it for a while. Never mind. “Whatever happens, it’s going to have to go to my mother and her advisors. I’m not the Archon-Prince yet, hopefully I won’t be for a while.”

“I think,” Phelan told him, “That it would be easier to convince the Khans to release those bondsmen after your mother has followed through with her promise. I am not saying that they do not trust her, but they do not know her. I do not think Natasha has even met Aunt Melissa, and Katya certainly has not. Even if the vote fails, the fact that the Archon keeps faith would count for a lot. And if that keeps Ryan out of play while you discuss this with your mother and get the investigation going…”

Victor nodded. “I think I need to see recordings of that interrogation.”

Phelan opened his drawer and produced a datastick. “Here.”

“You just kept it here? That drawer isn’t even locked!”

The Wolf shrugged. “I can get another copy if I need one. And keeping people from seeing this is not my problem. I had to talk to Ryan, it does not bother me if his reputation is tarred across the entire Commonwealth because that recording reached the media. That would be a bonus, in my view.”

Victor yielded the point. “I suppose this also means you have another month or two to recruit warriors from your prisoners.”

“If someone wants to join us, in full knowledge that we will probably let them go if they stay stubborn, and that they would lose their citizenship… do you really want them?”

“Fair enough.” Victor pushed himself to his feet, wincing as his ribs complained.

“Come and have dinner with my officers,” Phelan offered. “Half of them are ex-Rasalhague and the rest think you are almost respectable, there was a Steiner among the founders of the Clans. Not a Wolf, but you cannot have everything.”

“And I kicked Khan Pryde in the balls.”

“You see!” the Wolf exclaimed. “You will be more popular with them than you are with debutantes at a court picnic!”



Canube, Pesht
Diamond Sea Dominion
21 August 3059


There was no hall yet for Clan Sea Fox’s bloodnamed to gather in. Design work had not even begun.

With few options available that had sufficient holo projectors, they had requisitioned the facilities of Busan Entertainment, the largest media studio in Canube. The studio had helpfully dressed up a film set and thus the first Clan Council meeting took place in a large wooden hall with balconies on three sides (one of them interrupted by a broad staircase that forked at head height to reach the corners).

There was plenty of room for just over two hundred warriors to attend in person, brushing shoulders with an almost equal number of holograms for those who could not arrive.

Ace saw familiar faces, some expected and some not. Bloodhouses had been divided by the split and loyalties had been drawn on by both sides. Some warriors who had voted to be Diamond Sharks had decided that there would be more opportunities to rise in Clan Sea Fox. A larger number, in Ace’s estimation, had decided that while they would be willing to be Sea Fox if the whole Clan went, they would rather remain Diamond Sharks in the event of a split.

Besides the ‘power trio’ of himself, Abigail and Ellison, most of the Enders had formed up around Annika and remained in Clan Diamond Shark.

A surprising number of Hawkers and Polcyzks had joined Clan Sea Fox, but the only bloodhouse that had moved across entirely was bloodhouse Oshika. It ensured a solid elemental bloodline for the future of the Clan, but Ace was amused that their main reason was apparently that they had heard there was a planet in the Dominion that shared their name.

There were ten years for most members of the two Clans to commit to which they were part of, but the Bloodnamed had been given just months. Their rank came with responsibilities, and this was one of them.

“Trothkin!” called one of the surprises. Semi Kalasa was the highest ranking Diamond Shark to choose to be a Sea Fox. “We stand as the founders of a new Clan. Our first decision must be the election of Khans to lead us into this era - to work with Khan Sennet and Khan Vewas in establishing the Diamond Sea Dominion. To command our touman as it is established as an independent force from that of the Diamond Sharks. To speak for the Clan Council as the other castes establish their own leadership.”

“I nominate Semi Kalasa,” called Steven Hawker from the balcony on the left, where the holograms of officers from Epsilon galaxy, Upsilon galaxy and others in the New Samarkand region had gathered - those physically present were congregating on the main floor. Warriors in the homeworlds had generally positioned themselves on the opposite balcony. “Her experience as loremaster of the Diamond Sharks would serve us well as a Khan.”

Kalasa spread her hands slightly in refusal and bowed towards the balcony. “I am honored, Star Colonel, but I decline. I aspire to be Loremaster of the Sea Foxs, not a khan. I know my strengths and I would shape the roots of Clan Sea Fox, to ensure that in the changes we agree must be made, that the core of who we are is not lost.”

There were murmurs of approval from around the floor and Ace liked her chances of taking the post. While everyone here had chosen to adapt their ways to the Inner Sphere, very few wanted to lose those ways entirely. A conservative sentiment against going too far was inevitable and the office of loremaster was its obvious voice.

“You are the logical choice,” Kevin Nagasawa offered quietly, moving up next to Ace. “You are the reason there is a new Clan to begin with.”

Ace glanced sideways. “Perhaps, but I have fairly limited experience.” He stepped forwards from the crowd though. “I nominate Angus Labov as Khan,” he called out. “When SaKhan Horn fell, he stepped up to win the trials that won us our right to invade the Inner Sphere and establish the Dominion. He spent years as a Merchant, giving him great understanding of the demands that will be placed on our civilians. And when House Kurita struck at our rear in recent months, Labov showed excellent leadership and strategy in the handling of the limited forces available.”

Kalasa looked up at the balcony again. “Star Colonel, do you accept this nomination?”

“I would be honored to lead Clan Sea Fox,” Labov called down. “Or to serve another, if the Council finds another worthier.”

“Vote aye for this nomination,” the loremaster-elect invited, “Or nay if you would have another.”

Ace approved of course, and a flood of votes joined his. It quickly became clear that only those who were Angus Labov’s particular rivals were opposed - after more than two hundred and fifty votes favored the commander of the Twenty-First Assault Cluster, most of the undecided warriors decided to add their votes to this and he ended with almost a hundred additional votes.”

Labov’s hologram ‘walked’ solemnly down the stairs and space opened in the middle of the hallway until he had ascended the dais alongside Kalasa. Many of the warriors, Ace among them, saluted the new Khan as he took his place.

“Our unity speaks well of Clan Sea Fox,” Angus declared once he was facing them. “Clan Sea Fox will be a powerful part of the Diamond Sea Dominion, but it must also be a proud clan in its own right. With the support of all of you, we will establish officers and officials to bring the enclaves under our rule into the proud prosperity that they enjoyed under the first Star League. In the homeworlds, we face the challenge of proving to the other Clans that we are their equals and worthy of respect, in the Inner Sphere we must give a new direction to those oppressed under the boots of House Kurita.”

Cheers went up from the council but the new Khan was not done. “The wisdom of the Founder told us that each Clan should share the burdens of leadership between two Khans. The policies proposed for Clan Sea Fox include the establishment of a new office of urKhan to deputize for the Khans over the vast expanse of our Dominion. In addition to the posts of saKhan and Loremaster, I call for the election of four urKhans to manage the homeworlds as well as administrative districts to be governed from Luthien, from New Samarkand and also from here on Pesht.” Labov gave Semi Kalasa a small nod as he mentioned the loremaster, indicating his support for her aspirations to the role. “For the post of saKhan, I nominate Galaxy Commander Ace Enders, whose qualifications should be well known.”

Ace was staggered slightly as Kevin Nagasawa slapped him approvingly on the back.

“Well known, but also contentious,” a striking young mechwarrior called out. Ace needed a moment to identify her as Lara Hammond, one of Thomas’ sibkin. She had been nominated for, and won, a bloodname immediately before the interdiction after performing well in the homeworlds. “I have never met the Galaxy Commander, but how will the other Clans react to a Khan who is bandit-born?” To her credit, she made it sound like a query rather than a complaint.

Angus Labov flashed a sharklike smile. “They will be terrified. Ace has already killed five Khans and now he would be in their midst.”

“The Galaxy Commander is an inspiration to the people of the Dominion,” added Michel Bukannon from the crowd on the main floor. “He rose from nothing to become one of our leaders. If we want to embrace the people we rule, what better symbol is there of our openness.”

Ellison Enders moved directly through the holograms of two other officers to get to the front. “Most importantly, then there will only be one Galaxy Commander Enders! Much less confusing!”

“Thank you for the nominations,” Ace growled, wishing they would shut up. Several of Upsilon Galaxy’s officers were laughing at Ellison’s joke.

“All in favor of Ace Enders as my saKhan?” called out Angus Labov. “Say aye!”

“AYE!” a chorus of shouts went up from around the hall, many of them transmitted across the light years.

“And is anyone bold enough to say nay?”

There was conspicuous silence.

Angus nodded. “That’s what I thought. Join me on the dais, saKhan Enders!”

Cheers went up from the balcony and Ace trotted forwards, going up the steps to stand between Labov and Kalasa.

“You were my commander,” the Khan whispered as Kalasa was nominated for the post of Loremaster. “Now that has been reversed. Is that a problem, quineg?”

“Neg,” Ace answered, remembering having much the same conversation years before. “You have more than earned your rank while I was away from Epsilon. Now, if I believe you are being truly stupid, I will challenge you…”

Labov chuckled. “Do not worry, Ace. I have no intention of refusing to hear advice from my officers.”

“I am glad to hear it.”

While they had been speaking, Semi Kalasa had unsurprisingly been elected as Loremaster of Clan Sea Fox by a clear majority. The woman stepped closer and was about to speak when the comm console set up on the dais chimed to indicate a high priority call.

All three of them turned at the sound. Priority messages during a Clan Council were highly unusual - unless Kalasa had mis-set the comm, it would almost have to be a message from a Khan or the Grand Council.

“A recess,” Ace suggested quietly and Kalasa nodded.

Angus took their advice. “Trothkin, the next task will be to select the urKhans. I propose a short recess to allow those seeking office to make themselves known to their peers.”

Unleashed on the important matter of politics, the bloodnamed began to cluster as the ambitious started to reach out for support. Meanwhile Kalasa went back to the comm console and accepted the call.

“Semi,” Sennet’s voice came from the speakers at a low volume. “It is not my wish to disturb the Sea Foxes’ first Clan Council but there is a matter of some urgency to be dealt with.”

“We have just completed the first round of elections,” the loremaster advised. “Khan Labov is with me now.”

“Angus Labov?” The Diamond Shark Khan’s voice warmed noticeably. “Permit me to be the first outside your Clan to congratulate you on your election.”

“What is the urgent matter?” Ace asked bluntly.

Sennet exhaled heavily. “Natasha Kerensky has made a clever ploy, one worthy of Khan Ulric. She is seeking to bring Clan Wolf into the Successor Lord’s new Star League.”

“Would they accept that?” Ace asked. “The Wolves still hold a large number of worlds, quiaff?”

“Aff. But most of their worlds belonged to Rasalhague, which has no representation on the Star League Council. It may be that the attempt will fail, but if they succeed then the Inner Sphere will be free to focus on other Clans.”

Ace considered the map of the occupation zones. “The Jade Falcons agreed a new ceasefire, quiaff? That leaves ourselves and the Ghost Bears.”

“Aff. The Nova Cats are an effective counter to the Falcons or Wolves reconsidering their position, and the Smoke Jaguar corridor worlds left are relatively inaccessible. We would have as long as it takes for the Combine’s infighting to end, but that is not long enough to be sure of withstanding them.”

Labov grunted. “Aff, this could make the Sea Foxes as short-lived as the Zeerga.”

“The solution is obvious,” Ace said. “If Clan Wolf joins the Star League then we must do the same.”

“You are as quick as usual,” Sennet agreed. “It is best if our application reaches the Star League Council at the same time as Kerensky’s. The chances are that if one of us is accepted, the other will be.”

“But how do we convince the Clan Councils?” Kalasa had drawn in on herself. “How do we tell the Grand Council without being abjured for breaking the unity?”

“For the latter, we would at least have the Wolves as allies,” Labov noted. “And they have considerable support from the other Clans. You wish to apply as the Diamond Sea Dominion, quiaff?”

“That seems the best way,” confirmed Sennet. “If we send the message now, it will likely be voted on in late August. President Avellar of the Outworlds Alliance will be eager to secure his border, and we can sway him with offers of further support for the infrastructure work he pledged to continue for us.”

Ace chuckled, drawing looks from Kalasa and Labov. “I believe I can persuade the Clan Council. After all, we came all this way to rebuild the Star League, quiaff? Is it not natural that, having succeeded, we should be part of it?”

The loremaster looked stung. “That is utter sophistry!”

“The Grand Council is already facing calls to absorb the Steel Vipers,” he pointed out. “And the Smoke Jaguars are likely next, once it becomes clear how badly they have been savaged. None of the other invading Clans can afford to take us on - including the Hell’s Horses and the Ice Hellions in that count. The Cloud Cobras and Snow Ravens lack the ground forces…”

“And have other commitments to worry about,” Sennet agreed. “The Coyotes and Goliath Scorpions will likely back Clan Wolf, and by extension ourselves. That leaves the Star Adders, Fire Mandrills and Blood Spirits as the only Clans likely to pose a threat to us, and the Adders are focused on trying to absorb the Steel Vipers.”

Labov chuckled. “And then there are the Nova Cats. I doubt that they will get off lightly. The Mandrills and Spirits will probably prefer to go up against weaker targets than ourselves and Clan Wolf.”

“It is not assured,” Ace admitted. “But I like our chances against the Clans better than I like our chances against the united Inner Sphere. And consider this, loremaster: if they do accept our application then we will be in position to dominate trade between the homeworlds and the Inner Sphere.”

For all that she was a warrior rather than a merchant, that prospect caused Kalasa’s eyes to glitter with avarice.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

PsihoKekec

  • Captain
  • *
  • Posts: 3160
  • Your spleen, give it to me!
Re: Opalescent Reflections
« Reply #899 on: 27 May 2024, 03:36:48 »
All of the sudden, Inner Sphere equivalent of Vince McMahon cried out in anguish, the great disturbance in the wrestling force triggered a downright existential crisis in him, some time later he will learn that it was due to most important brawl in decades happening without him being there to promote, choreograph and monetize it.
« Last Edit: 27 May 2024, 05:34:01 by PsihoKekec »
Shoot first, laugh later.