Author Topic: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)  (Read 22825 times)

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #240 on: 08 February 2024, 15:05:39 »
03/20/3052
Somerport was one of the segregated areas that Clan Warriors were allowed to roam in, they apparently found the Academy and its museum of great interest which was both exciting and draining for its curators. The Somerset Strikers who garrisoned it were also treated as curiosities for they did not resemble the Clans' Mechwarrior ideal. Chatterweb stories however spoke of them in high esteem giving them almost magical powers to control nature itself in order to defeat their enemies. Adam smiled at hearing the fanciful tales from Xenia. He did take pride in the Strikers who had very nearly handed the Clans their first defeat of the war during an honorable Trial with the Star Adders. Most of them would even return his calls something which was becoming a rarity elsewhere.

Despite it only being six months since his Trial against Katya Kerensky those Warriors he had met while on the grounds spoke of the early days of REVIVAL with an almost nostalgic view. All were equally eager to find a means by which to delay deployment until after the ilKhan’s visit. This kept 3rd Brigade Somerset Constabulary and local medical clinics busy handling an unprecedented increase in interpersonal un-augmented Trials and larger brawls that would not result in severe injury but were very detrimental to the town’s tranquility as 3SC trucks blared their alarms through the night.

Somerset was, until Anette’s scandalous exile and almost six years of tabloid fueling Penelope-like rejection of a constant stream of perspective suitors, known for its military academy, one of the smallest, least prestigious, but most forward-thinking martial institutions in an otherwise conservative empire. Duchess Anette Steiner never shared or supported her cousin’s fondness for military matters, nor that of her sons. She blamed their stepfather Walther’s gripping tales of fighting against the Draconis Combine on Radstadt as a member of the Rasalhague Resistance for their behavior. Adam remembered when she had seen Andrew off to his first deployment that she cursed the heavens for making both her boys so daft as to miss his point.

As he walked across the grounds of Somerset Academy Adam remembered that his mother had sought to shut it down on multiple occasions. Every attempt was thwarted and corresponded with a promotion for Roman Steiner who championed it from his own disgraceful exile.  The tabloids and gossip circles soaked it up and Roman’s status rose among the military despite his ‘difficult’ start.

With this string of promotions and Archon Katrina’s politicking he was put in command of the Third Royal Guards where he achieved resounding success against the Draconis Combine. His successes in turn provided room for her daughter and present Archon Melissa to establish an uneasy peace with Luthien that had held for more than a decade. Without the Draconis Combine threat, an ongoing Capellan Civil War, and with a marriage between Ian Davion and Corrine Marik the LCAF had lost its edge and the Clans had taken advantage of their lack of vigilance and vision.

This lack was not the fault of their General of the Armies however, almost a decade ago Melissa Steiner appointed Roman to the post. He proposed a series of reforms to modernize the military, but she never championed the politically difficult and expensive changes he sought to enact within the Estates General. There were rumors that Roman hand delivered her his resignation letter along with other uncomfortable material from her military record that would be made public if she continued her stonewalling. Archon Steiner had only just begun granting him the authority and funds to enact his Reforms despite much complaining and handwringing within the Estates General who sought to reduce their tax burden while retaining privileges.

Fortunately, none of the Warriors roaming Somerport were curious enough to inspect the monument that had its back to the rising sun standing within one of its parade grounds. He was thankful there had been no calls to remove it, use it as an artillery target, or crush it beneath a Battlemech because it was a solid reminder of what and who he could be. Upon Roman’s ascension to General of the Armies the Somerset Academy Alumni petitioned Anette to allow them to fund a statue in his honor. She initially protested but acceded under pressure from Tharkad, but only if she could choose the sculptor and would have final veto on the design.

Adam stood before that very statue, only just installed last summer when Roman’s daughter General Sarah Steiner, who was responsible for his exile by her existence, helped unveil it while she was on leave from Chateau with her family. Although he probably knew about it or had seen it in pictures from afar Roman had yet to see his statue up close and in person. He had not even set foot on his homeworld for longer than Adam had been alive.

Maybe he would finally be able to see it in person when Somerset was free again.
Right now, however ‘The Commandant’ had to toe the line amidst the maelstrom.
Adam saluted his cousin,
“Godspeed General Steiner, and may god have mercy on us all”

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #241 on: 09 February 2024, 13:00:48 »
03/31/3052
Most of the staff had left for the night but Xenia still looked both ways before exiting her room craving the adventure of doing something she wasn’t supposed to even though she lived here. Her new heels clicked on the floor, she halted at the sound they made on the mansion’s hardwood floors. Nothing stirred despite the click-clack of her heels seeming to carry uncomfortably far before it was overcome by the faint hum of air conditioning.

She huffed looking down at the glamorous shoes, the first purchase she had made with her ‘paycheck.’ “What was the point of sneaking out the door if I am wearing heels anyway?”

Xenia balanced carefully on them having only received her first pair after accepting Rhonda’s request to replace Rachel as Adam’s ‘executive assistant’ as it seemed the norm for a woman in that role. A role she only agreed to perform when her grandmother also authorized her to select any outfits wanted from the Artisans’ Limited List rather than the regular catalog of goods. A privilege that Natalie and Veronica envied just as much as her personal room within a fully staffed mansion in the countryside rather than sharing an apartment in Taunton with them.

After a moment she mustered up the courage to continue despite the click-clack that reverberated around her. Instead, she hummed the catchy melody of a song she had heard while in Taunton yesterday but to which she didn’t understand the lyrics. Xenia paused at one of the vases of cut flowers and looked around before leaning in to smell their gentle fragrance. When she looked up the butler Gustav stared at her behind his well-groomed mustache before silently continuing with his rounds. Her face turned as red as the roses elegantly placed within the finely crafted vase.

Holly Field Haus had never been so vibrant or beautiful in the six weeks she had lived in it. Everything seemed to be shining despite the lowered lights and it being dark outside. Xenia peeked through the blinds trying to spot the Constables hidden in the dark and following the lights of a patrol vehicle as it rounded the perimeter. She descended the stairs holding firmly to the railing to keep her balance, on the lookout for Gustav or another of the resident staff before slipping into the parlor.

Since it was an interior room, she was allowed to raise the lights and did so before standing beside a high-backed chair that featured in the painting across from it. Within that chair sat a woman whose face she recognized after looking under some of the covered paintings and through the society and culture magazines scattered about. She had collected them all in her room to read them in secret only to later share them with her friends who hinged on every word and savored the glossy pictures within. Xenia repositioned a mirror nearby and attempted to emulate the elegant stature of this woman clasping her hands, crossing her legs, and craning her neck as she did, except all of that really hurt or made her numb and dizzy after a time.

After the lights were lowered, she opened the door, once more on the lookout for the staff, before realizing that was silly since she couldn’t be quiet anyway and they probably didn’t care. Click-clack on the tiles as she walked through the ground floor before arriving before grand wooden doors, gilded along the sides, and with a knocker in the shape of a ‘Griffon’ leading to the ballroom.

Xenia tried to pull the door open but lost her balance, falling backward onto the tile. Her first thought was to check that the heel was intact. It was! Thank the Great Father. A sigh of relief escaped her upon realizing the only damage caused by her misadventure was to her pride and posterior. She undid the heels and tried again straining against the heavy door that she had seen Adam open so effortlessly. Success!

Even though the light was low everything was still so beautiful, intricate crystal, delicate lace, colorful tapestries, gleaming brass and silverware, all just arranged so perfectly. Something about the chairs too was different as she sat down in one to put her shoes back on. After doing so she stood on the polished floor taking it all in, twirling until she had to catch her balance or crash into and ruin it all.

She paused and looked down at the shoes, although they were glamorous and Samara had used them as inspiration for her dress, if she were to trip in the presence of the ilKhan she might immediately die of embarrassment. Everyone was going to be dressed to their best for his visit and she would have to be as well. Her mind recalled an article in one of the magazines about how dancing could improve your coordination and she desperately needed that. For that she also needed a partner and someone to catch her, and fast. The ilKhan was already in system and she wasn’t ready yet.

Her mind raced through possibilities; the butler probably knew how to dance considering his long service in this house. He was busy preparing the house and had barely spoken to her all this time, there is no way he would even entertain the notion. There was only one other possibility, but it was so late! and awkward! She clenched her opposite elbows in her hands, suddenly cold despite her racing heart.

Through the trip upstairs dozens of scenarios flashed in her mind ranging from Adam slamming the door in her face to waking up naked beside him in the ballroom in the morning when the staff arrived a possibility which caused her to blush uncontrollably that she could even consider such a thing. Xenia checked herself in the mirror, she had already taken her makeup off for the night so she hoped the low light would conceal that. She took a deep breath to calm the nervous shivers running through her.

“His light is still on! Even at twenty-two hundred.” She whispered as a tense silence settled upon the house. Xenia glided across the hallway stepping gently on the carpet that ran through the hall, leaning uncomfortably far to knock on Adam’s door. A moment passed and no response came, “So he is just going to ignore me?” Once more silence settled upon the hall, Xenia stepped forward and more firmly knocked on the door. She heard something inside and froze up as Adam opened the door in his nightshirt, even with her heels on she was still only as tall as his chest. He looked at her, tilting his head in confusion. “What are you doing up so late, dressed like that Xenia?”

“I…was…”
Xenia stammered for a moment, nervous shivers threatening to consume her, “I was…”
“You were what?”
“Iwaswonderingifyouwouldliketodancewithme!”
Erupted forth as rapidly and loudly as a machine gun. She put her hands over her mouth at the utterance of such gibberish.
“You are going to have to slow down.”
“Adam, will you dance with me? Please?”
“Now?”
“Your schedule is very full tomorrow and for the rest of the week.”


Adam kept her in suspense as the shivers returned threatening to knock her over, “Okay,” he began to close the door on her, “but I have to change.” Then it was done. Xenia launched her hands up in celebration before retracting them just as quickly because she almost knocked herself over, again.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #242 on: 10 February 2024, 05:39:23 »
OK, so the airhead thing was not just an act on her part. It's interesting to see that as hard as they tried, Clans absolutely failed to erase superfluous character traits amongst their population and even in such short time, the influence of Inner Sphere is beginning to take hold. 
Shoot first, laugh later.

Gorgon

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #243 on: 10 February 2024, 11:24:39 »
Never underestimate the allure of mindless consumerism. To paraphrase a former NVA officer (the german NVA, that is): 'If it had come to war, we were certain our troops would have given a strong initial showing and pushed through the first lines of NATO defenses. But the first shopping mall along the way would have brought our advance to a grinding hold.'
Jude Melancon lives!

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #244 on: 11 February 2024, 16:57:49 »
An Excalibur burned down into the otherwise vacant Somerport Starport, its incredible thrusters one of the largest SLDF dropships ever deployed roared over the garrison town despite the torrents of water being unleashed upon the ferrocrete to tame its noise and heat. It was marked by a Golden Daggerstar which shone in the sun as the mist settled around it.

Once the mist settled and ferrocrete cooled large ramps capable of bearing the heaviest of tanks were lowered on the flanks. From these a Binary of Ebon Keshik Elementals were disgorged marching in unison before taking up parallel lines in front of the Somerset Strikers in brilliantly waxed Omnimechs.

Star Commander Adam (Steiner) stood at the end of these lines in his black and silver Star Adder uniform with its red Daggerstar and one gold bar on the shoulder, a saber at his side. The many Clan Warriors on world stood at his back standing proud in their own formal uniforms, and bruises. Just outside the group was a large security detachment of 4th Brigade Somerset Constabulary also in their dress blues but fully equipped to repel any assassination attempt.

As the central ramp lowered every Warrior saluted as The Oathmasters of the Clans descended, their ornate robes enhancing the stature of the elder Elementals. ilKhan Leo Showers stood at the top of the ramp. The Warriors behind Adam shouted so loud that he felt he would go deaf, and they mute before the ilKhan made it to the end of the lines.

Leo Showers descended and every Warrior he passed turned to follow him in a close formation. As Leo neared Adam could make out even more of his most hated enemy, his sleeveless armored outfit was battered and dull, unlike those of Inner Sphere Lords. The ilKhan evidently took pride in its combat damage as much as his dark skin covered with intricate tattoos and raised scars, black dreadlocks ornamented with bone and metal hung from his head. He looked every bit a Pirate Warlord rather than the leader of a large army of Warrior Clans.

Leo waited for a moment as he stood within arm’s reach of Adam before returning the salute and calling for silence. He nodded and the ornaments in his hair clattered hollowly, his voice was low and menacing, like a bestial growl. “Commandant Steiner, thank you for receiving me with such hospitality.”

“I am only giving you what you are due.” Adam said as he thrust his saber into the ilKhan’s chest. Leo collapsed onto him as hot blood ran down his hands. The last thing Adam saw was a flash from the cameras followed by the Warship above as it incinerated his homeworld.


Adam woke up with a start, dizzy from the rapid motion and sweating. He looked beside him at an empty bed within his Academy quarters relieved at his own fortitude. After spending some unguarded private time with Xenia over the past days had made her less flirty but more intimate toward him after long discussions on shared or personal challenges. They were both surrounded by enemies and a wrong word could have easily led to his first mistake of the day.

His uniform was hanging within his bathroom, clean and pressed, along with the Commandant’s saber, he splashed cold water on his face and stared in the mirror, the clock ticked down as he awaited the ilKhan’s arrival. Adam opened the window to see Somerport at rest contrasting with his own restlessness. “It is almost showtime Somerset. Can you feel it?”

Somewhere above him the McKenna’s Pride and ilKhan Showers loomed waiting for their opportunity to pounce. He might not be able to protect the Commonwealth, but he could protect Somerset. The ilKhan would get his show even if it cost him his soul. Until then he would bide his time and do what he could, without losing more people he cared for, forgiveness or justice could come later after they won this war.


04/08/3052
Rewland was bright and loud with nightlife down below in the city as more cruise ships and yachts appeared on its docks as Tropicana filled up. High above them in the hills there was only the song of nightbirds and sound of windchimes around a cozy cottage in the woods. Duchess Anette Steiner took a rare moment to read a novel on her porch enjoying an unusually warm night. Walter whittled beside her each trying to avoid facing the challenges before them and longing for past nights on Somerset. Anette nodded off but was woken by the dreadful sound of her phone ringing.

Walter was still at his task his strong hands carefully shaving the wood within, “Do you want me to answer it?”
She really did, there were no good phonecalls these days, “No I will do it.”
“I’ll be right here.”
“I know.”
She kissed him, “Thank You.”

Anette Steiner rose to enter her house and pick up the ornate, graceful styling of a retro-style telephone, “This is Lady Steiner.” The voice on the other side told her the most incredulous things and she summoned Walter from the porch. “Adam is alive!”
“That’s fantastic news Anette.” Something was off though he could sense it in his long time companion, “but why aren’t you happy.”
“There’s a video with him that the One Star Faith has just distributed.”
“And?”


She left the phone out its cradle, “It shows him with the ilKhan, on Somerset, in my house.”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #245 on: 12 February 2024, 01:28:55 »
So I presume Andrew hasn't made it to the friendly lines yet.
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #246 on: 12 February 2024, 04:58:24 »
So I presume Andrew hasn't made it to the friendly lines yet.

He is unfortunately KIA, but will always remain MIA, after his time on the Cato.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #247 on: 12 February 2024, 18:22:15 »
Interlude – Status over Rank
04/05/3052 | Alba, Antares

Star Colonel Katya Kerensky, of the 37th Strikers, exited the elevator stepped across the carpeted surface to see ‘all’ of ‘her subordinates’ present in the hotel bar. It was far past their normal ‘off-duty’ hours just past midnight local. She leaned into Commander Presley sitting at the end of the bar fixated onto a television monitor showing a low-rez video feed with voiceover.

‘A Telosa Television Production,
On behalf of the One Star Faith,
Broadcast with the permission of Leo Showers, ilKhan of the Clans.’

“Presley what is going on here?”
“Evening Colonel, The ilKhan has a special broadcast over the chatterweb. The Coriolis is on the rebroadcast chain, right from the McKenna’s Pride herself.”
“Why was I not told?”
“Ask the Coriolis’ Commander. They might have not known until the request came in.”
“Why did you not tell me?”
“You were taking a bath.”

Katya tossed her now much blonder hair (thank you purple shampoo) back, crossing arms across her chest. “I was not in there for that long.”

‘recorded, produced, and edited on the planet Somerset 04/04/3052.’

“Somerset!
Barman turn it up!
And get me a glass of something strong.”


The broadcast began with the ilKhan walking down parallel rows of Ebon Keshik Elementals, Katya quickly downed the fiery spirit, before slammed it to the ground upon seeing…Adam Steiner! Shaking hands with the ilKHAN!

Her glass bounced back from the floor. “This isn’t a glass! It’s plastic!”
She grabbed the Barman’s lapels, nearly pulled him over the bar in a blind fury, “You best get me something breakable! before I start looking for something! Understood?!”

This time the overfull but quickly drained glass shattered on the floor tiles as Katya shouts at the screen growing louder and more incoherent with each drink. Everyone present was just incredibly glad she hadn’t come downstairs with a pistol belt strapped across her hips, or every TV in the bar would have had bullets put through it by the end of the broadcast.

She, Katya Kerensky, was a Star Colonel in command of a SuperCluster 7 Trinaries deep! She had to turn down Warriors because her Galaxy Commander got personally involved. Antares had begun functioning once more after her confrontation with COMSTAR where she saved its people by stopping COMSTAR and overthrew Marcos Radick, who had been sent to Hot Springs for convalescence after being demoted to MechWarrior, to become their Governor.

Yet each frame of the ilKhan’s broadcast lingered on…Adam Steiner! HER former bondsman, HIS friends, HIS mother’s house, HIS planet, HIS accursed Trinary of Somerset Strikers, HIS exploits, what HE and THEY could do for the Clans, and there was no mention of Katya!

A Donar crew, as wasp-like as their aircraft, sauntered over to Presley who was still calmly sitting next to an increasingly irate Star Colonel. Katya’s unit had attracted a disproportionate number of female Warriors, giving them incredible air power, since she was one of the few higher ground commanders that was also a woman. “Hey Pres, you faced Adam in single combat, right?”

These women had also discovered lipstick and liked it enough that Katya had begun browbeating her Merchant Factor into adding it to the Catalog of Standard Goods. The male Warriors under her command apparently appreciated the sudden burst of color too. “Ladies, not only did I face Adam Steiner in single combat, but he out-massed me, and was piloting an advanced Battlemech that we knew nothing about.
All to aid my Star Captain who got in over her head.
Oh, and did I mention everything was on fire.”


They started rubbing his arms, “You are so brave, that must have been so terrifying.”
“It was no big deal. Maybe I can tell you some more later.”

He was tugged to his feet, “How about now?”
“Well, if you insist.”

 
The broadcast ended with a red-faced Katya who grabbed the nearest woman and dragged her behind, “We need to go to the bathroom.”
“Why?”
“I need you to hold my hair, because I just washed it.”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #248 on: 13 February 2024, 01:53:12 »
Adam really brings out the inner Balkaner in Katya
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #249 on: 13 February 2024, 05:14:45 »
I like to consider their relationship ship as her being his psycho ex

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #250 on: 13 February 2024, 09:01:01 »
Interlude – Cut and Thrust
04/03/3052

LCAF General of the Armies Roman Steiner looked upon the once desolate city of Malcheema from the ramparts of The Old Triad. A warm wind blew through the once abandoned acropolis Roman had moved much of his Tharkad staff not split with Duke Bradford and his Bannermen on Coventry to the old Arcturan Guards Headquarters.

Thomas Bradford, as the Archon’s husband, was the only other man with enough pull among the nobility to cajole them into action but even he could not work miracles. COMSTAR’s Phi Branch halting the financial chicanery being undertaken by the nobles to divest themselves of their Kroner as the Stock Market collapsed and move to Sian gave them some motivation. They were however far too unwilling to extend themselves or their money during this golden opportunity while Precentor Martial Brett-Marik drained incredible amounts of the Clan’s combat potential around Pandora.

The ancient capital of the Lyran Commonwealth below him was once more vibrant as ‘Roman’s Columns’ moved in from across the Commonwealth, including a Brigade of Rasalhague Borderers from the Treaty Zone. Duke Michael Fyhne made whatever he could available, proud to serve the Archon and House Steiner as his ancestors had during the Succession Wars. In the distance dozens of dropships along with thousands of cargo containers and other pieces of war materiel occupied its vast Starport. Formerly the launch point for many raids into the Draconis Combine Arcturus would now be the origin of Tamar’s Liberation.

Once Tamar was liberated, the rest of the Rasalhague border would follow, fighting as long and hard as his support and manpower could endure.

Then his homeworld, because the Clans had made a terrible mistake when they decided to attack his home planet.
If he could rescue Sarah and his son-in-law he would, but he would definitely return to Somerset, after more than 30 years, as its liberator, or die trying.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #251 on: 18 February 2024, 10:43:58 »
A String of Perils Intro
04/10/3052

A stinger plays as “Inside Access” appears on the letterboard before quickly disappearing.
Two blonde women in designer attire stand in front of a large green screen showing video snippets from the latest video from occupied territory featuring Adam Steiner and ilKhan Leo Showers. The taller one spoke first, “Welcome to Inside Access, with Erika Valen and me Marissa Dahl. Bringing you the latest in celebrity and political news within the Lyran Commonwealth, courtesy of the Tharkad Media Associates.”
“That’s right Marissa, we have breaking news, a video distributed by the One Star Faith has gone viral throughout the Lyran Commonwealth showing what life is like behind the lines, or rather what the Clans want to show us.”
“You’ve probably seen it, but we are going to show it to you again and update you on the latest waves running through the Triad in its wake.”


The video screen runs through highlights, ilKhan Leo Showers’ arrival on Somerset and the grand gathering of Clan Warriors that welcomed him. “No formal uniform for the ilKhan, looks like his armored vest has seen some conflict over the years, but he has great hair.”

ilKhan Showers and ‘Lord Commandant’ Adam Steiner in Star Adder dress uniform saluting and shaking hands with him. “What a tall drink of water he is, the uniform looks sharp even if its on the wrong side.”
“Makes me wonder who Anette’s mysterious lover was.”

Various feats of incredible Mech maneuverability as the Somerset Strikers put on a show worthy of the Noisiel Summer Games and Solaris Winter Championships by first executing a hot drop to a soundtrack of hard rock. Later, it included a silent drill team of Goshawk Battlemechs where the jettisonable laser is popped off, tossed to another mech, who then attached it before doing the same. “I didn’t think Mechs could move that way, gives me ideas.”

This is followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony for a new railyard near Somerport with the Merchant Factor. The video ends with Adam Steiner hosting the ilKhan and his retinue within his mother’s mansion outside Taunton, and a speech where he discusses the value that working with the Clans have given Somerset. It faded away to display the word ‘REVIVAL’ emblazoned over the center of a red Clan Daggerstar.

“This video has caused incredible unrest among the Estates General where they very closely passed a motion to censor Anette Steiner, Duchess of Somerset, and its temporary Estates General Representative whose term is supposed to end this summer when Lord Bren returns from his cancer treatments in the Magistracy of Canopus.”
“I suppose he would resume his post although Somerset’s region that he represents is under occupation. The Archon has not clarified what the representatives of occupied worlds would do if the Clans cannot be defeated by LCAF Roman Steiner and COMSTAR Precentor Martial Photon Brett-Marik and the region return to Tharkad’s control.”
“Anette has been removed from her committee assignments and there is discussion of accusing her of treason. These accusations have set off a firestorm of scathing editorial reviews drudging up her history and intimate relationship with Walther Gustavson. The Rasalhague Rebel and their shared works which could be interpreted as satirical and critical of Commonwealth Elites.”


The video screen behind them turned to an older resolution before cameras improved along with everything else courtesy of the Helm Memory Core showing Carmilla and Anette through the ages starting with Carmilla attending Rewland College of Fine Arts at 16 in 2988, the 3rd Millenium Party at Alessandro Steiner’s Court for the debut of her 5 year old daughter, then moving on to her exile to Somerset by Archon Katrina, and the almost 6 years of humbling the most eligible bachelors in the Lyran Commonwealth that resulted after that.

“Inside Access was built on Anette and her mother Carmilla’s actions. Both were media darlings for the longest time and provided our predecessors with lots of copy even after Carmilla’s tragic suicide, Anette’s exile to Somerset, and Roman’s expulsion from Nagelring.”
“You are right Marissa; the bosses should have been paying them all this time.
All we can do now is wait for the Triad which has been very silent on the matter considering Archon Melissa’s close relationship with Anette and the ongoing Clan Invasion.”
“Rest assured though we will keep all our loyal fans updated on the latest events on Tharkad.”


OOC - Will move a String of Pearls to a later update in order to keep the timeline semi-consistent with the chapters, have to do the aftermath of Atocongo and Odessa first.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #252 on: 18 February 2024, 21:09:34 »
Chapter 22 – Fire from the Sky
03/22/3052

Phelen Kell’s Phoenix Hawk easily paced Kai Allard’s Thunderbolt as they passed over the windblown snow dunes of the remote northern desert continent of Grunwald. A stream of light towers marked out the path from the Starport to the place where adventuresome academics had transformed an old weather station and COMSTAR maintenance facility into a Clantech exploitation facility. The polar base was far away from civilization, and its airport due to unsteady ground. “Why do we have to walk so far Kai?”
“This is your planet Phelen, just because you spent so much time off world doesn’t give you an excuse to not know anything about where you are going on your own world.
Aren’t you Recon and the future Duke?”
“Yeah, but that doesn’t mean I know where I am going beforehand. I just wander around looking for trouble or try hiding from it.”
“Did you ever stop to think that might be a problem?”
“I’ve got to much stuff on my mind to stop and think.”


They passed through the gate to the salutes of its parka and balaclava clad guards hiding within a lean-to wind shelter. The only other mech in this facility’s mech bay was a Fighting Intellectuals’ Mongoose which had been carefully restored to its full functionality as if it were right off the line during the Star League era.

As they disembarked the pair of them walked through the motor pool of tracked rovers meant to maintain the sensitive planetary sensors that provided continuous space awareness and communications pointing toward the Zenith. Most still bore COMSTAR Psi branch’s ice blue logo on their snowy exteriors although the Order’s staff had been redeployed to Odessa.

The facility had four voluminous hanger style bays large enough to assemble, repair, and service the long range sensors, telescopes, and communication systems that dotted the remote northern wilderness of Arc-Royal connecting it to its Zenith Jump Point. Within one of the voluminous bays was a superheavy VTOL, known as a Tonbo, on loan from the Draconis Combine’s Support and Engineering command courtesy of the Fighting Intellectuals along with many ergonomic containers filled with supplies and scientific equipment. This VTOL was as large as the six Uni Loadermechs folded up in two other bays. One of these large quadrupeds belonged to Psi Branch but the others belonged to AMC affiliates for the transport of salvage and heavy scientific equipment on their backs across the narrow road leading to the Starport.

In the final bay however was the actual exploitation facility and its centerpiece was a massive copper cage for the legless robot within. Even though Phelen had transported the strange robot through space to Arc-Royal it still felt like Captain Kubusaka was a sadistic child that ripped the legs off an insect and then put it under a looking glass until it burned to death.

Shinto and his Intellectuals were looking through all manner of components ripped from the other robots they had disabled to understand them better. “How is your prisoner Shinto?”
“Thus far it has not complained Phelen Kell.”
“I suppose not having a mouth to speak with aides it in that capacity.”
“Indeed, however I noticed that it pays particular attention to us when we play music.”
“You play music to it?”


The Kuritan Mercenary Captain wrote something on a note and showed it to him from where the machine couldn’t see. 'Follow me.'

Kai, Phelen, and Shinto walked into another room with large insulating blankets lining the wall leading to the hanger. “It is listening though, and it has been trying to call for help.”
“Of course it is listening, but how do you know it is trying to call for help?”
“We managed to decrypt a short radio wave adjustment on the backchannel telemetry band from our dropship as we left Atocongo. It went unnoticed initially, but something might have been listening, like the Clan Battlegroups or its mothership, the Mekong.”


Kai leaned in on the other Merc, “So you brought it up to a place where half of Arc-Royal’s most sensitive communications are located?”
“They are air-gapped, and we placed it in a faraday cage. No electromagnetic emissions can exit from it, but we still pick them up from within and run them through a closed system trying to figure out what it is capable off. It has successfully hacked my old console a few times.”
“How did it manage to do this?”
“It has some kind of strange machine mind meld going on inside. So, it did that to my computer when it was plugged in, which was also in a faraday cage. I’m probably going to have to microwave and destroy that unit when we are done because I can’t be sure it didn’t leave a worm deep inside.”


Phelen’s face looked puzzled, “Shinto, why do you have a giant faraday cage?”
Captain Kubusaka was unperturbed, “Not only did the scientists bring a giant faraday cage with them, which I presume was for comm diagnostics initially. Unless we all read too much about the old SLDF Caspar system and thought the Clans could reconstitute it, but I made signs.”

He pointed to the metal printed sign hanging on the door which showed a hazard placard with a warning in binary and English upon it reading ‘Warning! Hostile Artificial Intelligence.’

“This is to dangerous Captain; you should destroy it.” Kai said with his hand on his pistol.

“And lose this opportunity! We don’t know how many of these units the Clans have in their possession or what its capabilities and weaknesses are. This could be our ENIGMA moment Phelen, we’ll be careful and update you regularly.”

“Lady Kell has insisted we come up here to observe your research teams for a few weeks while the AMC Assault Force is engaged elsewhere.
I think my mother just wanted me and Kai out of the house, but I endeavor to do what she asks of me. Even if it requires me to be up here in the ice and darkness with a potentially murderous AI. Surely there are no horror stories that start this way.”
“It’s out of ammo and harmless, no need to be dramatic.”
“That remains to be seen Captain.”
“Phelan can’t help but be dramatic Captain, surely you know that by now.”
“Ouch Kai, Harsh words from the man who fought Prince Minoru Kurita in the University of Victoria Arena to defend ‘his family’s honor’ against an insult.”
“This is going to be a long, painful field trip if you keep that up Lieutenant Kell.”


03/23/3052 House Kell, Old Connaught
Lady Kell aka Salome Ward answered the telephone as the caller ID identified it as Precentor Arc-Royal Anthony Kurns. “Lady Kell, we have an unusual request for a Lagrange point jump.
The Carrack Armored Freighter CS Temperance wishes to transfer a cargo of Warship parts and Ammunition onboard to the Dragoon Task Force since we lost ships around Eris and no longer have the same fleet strength as before.”
“What makes this request unusual Anthony?”
“Its origin point, our recent engagements with Clan Battlegroups and the threat they pose have displaced some of our ships into dead systems or interstellar space for protection from raiders.

My facility doesn’t have an updated list from Naval Command for the ships’ safety. The HPG authentication codes for the Temperance are valid, but Precentor Naval Zwick has not informed us of a transfer with his personal codes. It is possible this is an unauthorized transfer or one that just missed the call from Eris.

It is your call whether we clear a pirate point jump from a COMSTAR Freighter and determine what we should do when it arrives.

Shall I send the Temperance’s Captain the latest coordinates?”


Major Salome Ward looked up at the stars, the Dragoons, their Warships, her husband, and a sizable portion of the AMC’s combat potential was out taking advantage of the limited window to disrupt ongoing raids by Clan Mongoose and Nova Fox while the Clan Warship threat was minimized. Meanwhile she was hostess to and co-planner with Hanse Davion and Yorinaga Kurita while being in constant communication with Arcturus, Coventry, and Tharkad. The Dragoon Task Force had taken major but noncritical damage fighting the Nova Fox Battlegroup and there was no such thing as to many supplies. If it were unauthorized, she could always just return them to the CSC when they asked.

“Lagrange Jump Authorized.”
“Confirmed Lady Kell. Is there anything else Blake’s Order can do for you?”
“Help us win this War.”
Salome Ward hung up the phone and wrapped her robe about her before departing to her chambers.


A streamlined Coriolis class Corvette floated in the darkness of interstellar space, multiple antennae bristled from its white hull and ‘SLS Venturi’ was marked in bold blocky letters along its flanks. Inside the red lit CIC Cell Commander Shigeru (Kajita) of the Watch waited while the HPG output printed. He gripped the printout with his main hand which bore an octopus ring. ‘Captain Ingram, the CS Temperance is cleared to initiate an L-1 Point Jump to Arc-Royal, the following coordinates are valid for the next 14 hours.’

His First Officer looked over to him, “I cannot believe that worked Commander.”
“Nothing ventured nothing gained Thalia.
At the worst we would need more time to infiltrate.
While the Dragoons are away, the Watch can take advantage of this opportunity to recover our stolen property before the Inner Sphere or ilKhan know how valuable it truly is.”

He tapped the intercom button, “All hands this Commander Kajita, begin jump preparations…and deception protocol.”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #253 on: 19 February 2024, 01:39:48 »
Quote
This could be our ENIGMA moment Phelen

Given this is a millennium later, how many people would have known the historical reference? On the positive side, Phelan will have something excitment breaking the monotony of science outpost. Given his luck, the hell will break loose just as he was about to score with the outpost's sole eligible female.   
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #254 on: 19 February 2024, 09:41:49 »
I would expect Turing and ENIGMA to still be known although it would be more along the lines of the Cesar Cipher. The names you might recognize if you were in the field. I can't actually think of a similar action during the Succession Wars but I didn't do a deep dive into that lore.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #255 on: 19 February 2024, 23:50:56 »
03/24/3052 07:28
Caitlin Kell stretched in the early morning hours at LCAF Airbase Northridge, home of Crashtest Fighter School™, owned and operated by the AMC and to which she was enrolled. She ran along the runway in her tan flight-suit as Lightning Fighters lifted off to escort shuttles and dropships inbound from the Carrack CS Temperance overhead before throwing her fist in the air with a jump and whooping shout. “Go get ‘em Eights!”

Once back on the ground she jogged over to the Crashtest’s runway where her Bullfrog V/STOL Trainer was prepped and ready along with the rest of the cadet squadron. This morning’s mission was shooting down drone targets with live weapons over Knucklehead Training Grounds. The lower powered fighter serving as an important next step to earning her Aerospace Fighter Wings after the regular jet trainer but before she got an actual spaceship. 


Above her Hank ‘Eights’ McQuinn and his Lightning fighter lifted above the clouds and into space switching his vibrantly painted fighter to orbital operations as he approached the white painted Carrack ‘hovering’ in low orbit above Old Connaught. “Captain Ingram of the CS Temperance this is Colonel McQuinn of the Arc-Royal Huscarl Aerospace Squadron. We will provide an escort for your dropships and shuttles to AMC naval depot Crackerjack.”

A man’s voice came over the radio, “That will not be necessary Colonel we have our own Aerospace Fighters, and do not require an escort. There is no threat to us below.”

COMSTAR CSC and their elite attitude, “It is protocol for incoming dropships to accept an escort from planetary defense forces. The Blessed Order is no different.”

Two RADAR contacts emerged from the sensor shadow of the Warship. One was Jumbo sized, and the other was slightly larger but had the same sensor profile as a Gazelle. Ten Shuttles, Ares Landing Craft, and twenty Aerospace Fighters, Tomahawks, were launched from its doors as they approached visual range. Hank zoomed in on the hull markings which disagreed with its electronic signature, ‘SLS Venturi, C/FS-IX.’ What put chills in his blood was the crimson Clan Daggerstar that took up much of its prow instead of the Sword of Light.

“Clan Warship
Evasive!
Break!
Break!!”


The Fighters dove to put atmosphere between them, the hostile Warship, and its escorts but they were close behind as they spiraled away luring them to Knucklehead away from Old Connaught. Beneath them air raid warnings sounded throughout Old Connaught for the first time in decades alerting Anti-Air Forces and calling all reserve formations to arms.

Caitlin had just gotten into her cockpit and was running through her pre-flight checks as LCAF and AMC soldiers rushed to their positions. Her comm-net was immediately flooded with alerts, she squelched them and switched to the internal network, “Squadron Leader, what is going on?!”

“Beats me cadets, but it’s a good thing you are already in your cockpit with live ordnance on your wings.
Helmets and Engines on,
Canopies down,
Fighters up
This is the real deal.
You’ll earn your wings today.”


They taxied away as the turbine engines whined as ground crews rushed to pull out more fighters to prepare the on-call pilots for launch while the alert pilots scrambled their planes.
“All cadets on me.”

Cadet Squadron Six callsign lined up in the elephant walk with the rest of the alert fighters launching into uncertain skies.


Salome Ward woke when the Huscarls crashed through her door, “Lady Kell, there is a Clan Corvette over Old Connaught. We need to get you to safety.”
“What’s Hanse Davion doing?”

They paused, “Preparing his Battlemaster.”
“Yorinaga?”
“His Warhammer.”
“Cassandra?”
“Her Hunchback.”
“Where is my daughter?”
“Unknown ma’am.”
“Find her. In the meantime, my guests sound like they need a lancemate, and I don’t need to be protected.”


She looked out and up as the Huscarl mechs deployed around the Ducal Palace and rolled out throughout Old Connaught. It had been a while since she had worn a neurohelmet in battle but what auspicious company to keep and it was already in her hands as she was jogging out the door. “I am going with them.”

A Cluster of Watch Goshawk and Sidewinders dropped from an Overlord-C hovering over Denton, 40km away from Old Connaught. Thruster exhaust set the peat moor ablaze and threw up huge gouts of steam as it lifted off to return to the relative safety of Venturi’s guns. Their Ares Landing Craft deployed a mixed Drone Star of eight Myrmidon tanks and two Marker VTOLs onto a nearby highway. Cell Commander Kajita flipped his visor down concealing the EI tattoos that marked arcane patterns under his skin. He rolled his neck as his Watch Operatives and their drones followed him, “Venturi, we are on the ground and confirm drone uplink. Send the Markers to find missile targets of opportunity and alert us of force concentrations from above.

All Section Leaders fan out and find our robot.”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #256 on: 20 February 2024, 01:13:54 »
I forgot about it, but does Yorinaga have his bullshit phantom ability in this AU?
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #257 on: 21 February 2024, 23:14:50 »
I forgot about it, but does Yorinaga have his bullshit phantom ability in this AU?

No, but you will see him in action alongside Hanse Davion himself against the Clans in the next section.

07:15
Lachan Lake lapped against the quay as a pair of urban camouflage wearing House Kell Huscarl Marines sat within a guard house protecting Patrick Kell’s Yacht and the superheavy ‘pocket battleship’ ARS Lachan, built as a prestige project for some Lyran nobleman, was moored. Patrick’s boat was an extravagant but very small version of his older brother’s that he was using on Tharkad, as Liaison of the AMC. Other boats lined the quays, Tugs, barges, Mercenary Gun and Missile ships flying the flags of various specialty contractors swayed with the waves.

Nearby was a helicopter base where white and orange S&R and Attack Helos waited for a call. Fred T Perry Naval Base was quiet, eerily so considering how much activity it had seen over the past months now that much of the AMC was deployed. Still many Spheroid Dropships towered into the sky while aerodyne ones were tucked into fortified hangers awaiting their next assignments.

‘Baughan. B.’ drank his coffee from the cheap cardboard cups found in the commissary, “Corporal, I heard COMSTAR was gifting the Dragoons some Warship stuff.”
‘Owen. M.’ crushed his own cup and tossed it in the trash, “Aye Gunny, the so called pacifists of the Blessed Order just so happen to pull a massive battlefleet and giant army out the’r butts. One that just so happens to be capable of taking on the Clans. Oh! and its led by a disgraced Marik.
No one asks the obvious questions.”

“There will be time for that later I suppose.”
Gunny Baughan looked through his rangefinder binoculars toward the sky, “So that is apparently one of COMSTAR’s up there. Just looks like a big white spot to me. Still to close.”

Their phone rang just as Air Raid sirens blared out their wailing cry. They put it on speaker, a pre-recorded message from the base commander played, “All units disperse!
Hostile Warship and Fighters overhead.
Prepare for ground and air assault!”


Before them the barracks and exercise yards emptied of personnel rushing to their vehicles carrying only their most essential gear. Helicopter blades began turning and turbines powered up to send the ships out to more open water. The Marines looked behind them at the moored ships, “Patrick’s plaything? Or the Big Girl?”

Blake downed his coffee and trashed it as well, “Easy choice, you know I like them thick and loud rather than svelte and showy.
Time to put that Gunnery Sergeant training to use.
Be a tragedy to lose this beautiful ship at anchor. Let's make the Clans fire at a moving target.
They brought a Warship; we’ve got one too.”


The Gunnery Sergeant opened a drawer in their guard shack, donned an LCN Rear Admiral’s Cap, and fiddled with a pipe hidden within. “We’ll need a big crew to run her six guns and I don’t think we’ll have a shortage of volunteers willing to fight the enemy from behind this armor belt. I’ll start warming ‘er up.”

He faced the younger soldier, “Corporal Owen, call the Lamplight Lads over.”

Mark saluted his superior with the naval salute rather than the ground one,  “Aye, Aye Skipper.”



Above Lake Lachan Caitlin Kell’s heart pounded hard in her chest as she realized her situation as the initial adrenaline drained but the next one had yet to arrive. She took control of her breathing after realizing she was out of sync and losing control. Her helmet showed multiple reticles where the first group of Aerospace fighters were engaging Eights and his squadron at high altitude over Knucklehead and away from town.

There were reports of Battlemech and Tank engagements with the Huscarls and smaller AMC affiliates still on world. Their principal target seemed to be the fortified HPG Compound in Denton, as its enlarged garrison put up a stiff resistance to control access to their associated research centers. The enemy was looking for something. But what, and why?

Another Binary of Fighters were detected as the ground based search RADARs fought for control of the spectrum after SLS Venturi showed it true colors and unleashed a torrent of electronic warfare degrading the whole region’s sensor and comm links. It was over the naval base and it’s second flight of fighters was vectoring toward it as well. The dropships!

A large RADAR contact appeared in the middle of a small flotilla of gunboats with the designation ARS Lachan fighting through the noise. That ‘battleship’ that her father had won in poker game on Blue Hole?
“What the heck are those Marines thinking?”

What was she thinking? This was a terrible idea, but it was her hometown so these clanners can go frak themselves. The Squadron leader saw the signal through the noise and ordered them down, within the defensive envelope of Air-Defense Arrows, smaller missiles, and Flak shells from autocannons and naval artillery. Missiles were already streaking upward from missile boats and ground launchers toward a spiraling column of Tomahawks.

Squadron Six traded altitude for speed skimming the choppy waters of the lake to obscure their approach as more capable fighters and pilots fought on the ceiling. Lachan Marine Helicopters were already orbiting prepared to scoop up any pilots that ended up ‘in the drink.’ Their more warlike cousins sliced along the waves heavily laden with rocket pods vectoring to intercept enemy ground forces and give heavier units time to deploy.

ARS Lachan flew a Pirate flag from its main staff beside the Arc-Royal Ensign, “God bless those damned Marines.”

The skies opened with a momentary heat bloom that killed clouds it passed through. The incredible spike in temperature from above resulted in a cored Overlord which was now blazing on the ferrocrete. Orbital firepower sliced deep into two Arrow IV GBAD installations detonating their magazines.

Huge missiles crashed into the lake around them creating a wave large enough that the fighters had to pull up or be whelmed by it. Beside her some of the smaller boats were swamped and capsized by the impact. Above them the noise and turbulence created were incredible as it passed over the lake.

“What the hell was that Squad Leader?”
“My guess is the Venturi got impatient. We are going to lose GBADs fast at this rate.”
“How are we going to fight that?”
“That is not your concern. We’ve got incoming bombers, focus on them and staying alive.
The Marines are setting up a FAP for us at the heli-base.
They’ve got plenty of missiles and fuel so feel free to use both.
Now pop up on three, double up and fire at those Tomahawks. If you get in trouble hit the deck and fly toward the Lachan. That ought to force them to disengage.”


Behind them the six navalized Sniper pieces sent up thick clouds of smoke in front of them and bursting Flak shells covering the complete naval base where they could disrupt enemy formations. The armored battleship was struck by the Venturi's laser bays and a supersonic White Shark penetrator. A jagged red streak showed where the lasers burned deep into but not through the plate. The missile's impact sent it reeling backward before returning to trim. In reply it sent a Squadron of Tomahawks up and out of range of its flotilla’s guns.
 
“Launch, break contact, vector to the FAP, top off, rearm with a new missile, then repeat until your plane gives out. Understood?”
“Roger.”


Caitlin picked out a Tomahawk on approach, the first Flight had dropped Thermobarics on several dropships damaged their legs and careening them over and into the ferrocrete to cause even more damage. She endeavored to prevent the next Flight from succeeding. Mary and she flew over soldiers and crews scattering or trying to set up different MANPADS from across the Inner Sphere in sandbagged positions.

They popped up and had an excellent crossing shot. “Fox Three.” Two Anti-Air Arrows streaked off the center rail, one went wide but the other impacted the Tomahawk. Its defensive actions sent their bombs flying wildly off target before they detonated in a powerful fireball. It trailed smoke from a damaged engine as it punched its way back up to its carrier like a rocket.

Unburdened she landed at the heli-pad as ordered to see Marine Ordnance handlers with a large cart load of missiles and a smaller tank of fuel. They immediately set to work and gave her the thumbs up after they finished securing the heavy missile below her.

“Talk about fast service. Grab and go in five minutes. I’ll have to come here for lunch one day.”

She checked her wing-woman, gave her the thumbs up, followed by the ‘lift off’ hand gesture. The Imstar-B turbine beneath her whirred to life as the Bullfrog lived up to its name, jumping awkwardly in the sky in search of flying pests.

Gorgon

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #258 on: 22 February 2024, 06:03:54 »
Wow, the Watch is not messing around. Too bad they're hitting the wrong site.
Jude Melancon lives!

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #259 on: 22 February 2024, 12:13:47 »
Yeah, Phelan could do with some more excitement in his life.
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #260 on: 24 February 2024, 00:44:00 »
08:30
The town of Denton was filled with the sounds of combat as the Watch engaged white and blue COMGuard Portee Field Guns and heavy machine gun armed Technicals. Cell Commander Shigeru Kajita took a parting shot with his ERPPC at the Lachan Marine Warrior VTOL as his unit kept the COMGuards away from the infiltration team presently slicing into the Order’s intranet to find their missing SXR. His Sidewinder had already seen heavy combat and there were numerous ejected heads transferred to their landing zone with the Overlord-C inbound.

His shot went wide as it continued to engage his unit with its long range chain gun. “Where is our top cover!”

“The Tomahawks have been forced to return to the Venturi after taking battleship fire and vigorous resistance from Marine aviation.”

“A battleship in Old Connaught?
The ocean is hundreds of kilometers away.
How could we miss that from orbit.”
“A very small battleship is the only way to describe it Sir. It is a leading a surface action group with impressive SAM armament.”


A Technical appeared and quickly reversed before his ATMs could obliterate it, instead the explosions set more fires that joined the others damaging COMSTAR’s compound. “Did you shoot at it?”
“Ten times with the lasers, it still did not sink.”
“Continue engaging other softer targets of opportunity, cause as much damage as possible before they can chase us away.”
“Aye, Sir.”


Shigeru was already racing against time, their element of surprise was ruined, and they had no reinforcements inbound. Losing air cover was a major setback as the enemy continued to mass against him and their ammunition dwindled. His infiltration team returned, slinging their Mauser IIC lasers over their back, and clambering up the Omnimech, “There is no sign that COMSTAR has our SXR Cell Commander. We have compiled a list of alternate sites but all of them are listed as abandoned by the order.”
“Can we cross-reference them with the Venturi and our probes.”

Shigeru saw a progress bar as his Sidewinder uplinked with the Venturi and its NCSS, “Uploading them now. The Venturi can sort it out before we reach the dropship.”
“They had better hurry; we need to find and destroy it before it can be examined in detail and its vulnerabilities discovered.
Until we confirm its destruction, we cannot leave this system.”
“All ground units fall back to the dust-off point.
Do not allow them to surround and overwhelm us.”




Cassandra Allard(-Liao) couldn’t believe that she was fighting alongside Lady Kell, Yorinaga-san, and Hanse Davion. She felt inadequate but eager to prove that she and her Hunchback ‘Boxcars’ were worthy of being here, right now among such notables. Their lance and a company of AMC Mechs crested the hill separating Denton from Old Connaught. From their vantage point they could see the HPG transmission tower which had been bombarded by the Venturi’s missiles. Smoke rose from throughout the city as multiple fires spread throughout its many universities and corporate research labs.

The highway they had strode beside was crowded with cars, some abandoned on the median as their drivers took shelter in culverts and glades. All were honking as combat had occurred during midweek rush hour and no one was happy, but each gave out a slight cheer as the Battlemechs passed by.

“Have you ever used your mech in an actual fight Cassandra?” Hanse Davion said as his Battlemaster ‘The Black Prince’ walked beside her smaller Hunchback which carrying a double five missile launcher so she could be useful outside of her SRM range.
“No Mister Davion,” It was so hard to not call him ‘Prince’ or Colonel or any of the other ranks he had retired from before becoming a private citizen and rancher on New Avalon. How did he have such humility to step down from such a high position?

“Well, when I fought at the Battle of Cylene with the Fourth Deneb during my training deployment in oh one. I was scared too; however, I was also waist deep in the lake with this Battlemaster after skinny dipping with a local blonde so there was no escaping.

I just kept trying to fight and eventually just confused the hell out of the Kuritan forces and booked it out of there, left my cooling vest and pants behind.”
Yorinaga’s Warhammer twisted over to the Battlemaster, “Hanse, you fought and routed the Ninth Dieron Regulars on Cylene at eighteen, nude?”
“I had my neurohelmet on Yori.
Isn’t it still true that the DCMS makes their female MechWarriors fight topless for lack of proper fitting cooling vests Yorinaga?”

The Warhammer twisted back and continued its route silently.

She suddenly felt very conscious of her chest and there was not much beneath her Canopian cooling vest. It also made her feel strange about Lady Kell and her own mother, the late MechWarrior, to just be so exposed in a Battlemech seemed absurd. “I thought that was an urban legend.”
“Well, you have never seen them eject on a battlefield young lady.
I started carrying an extra coat in my cockpit because I am a gentleman.”


Major Salome Ward was in command and on point in her Wolverine, “Cut the unnecessary chatter Hanse, I am getting reports that the enemy is withdrawing, and I think I know where they are headed.”

“Lead the way then Sally.”


Cassandra was once more terribly confused by such inappropriate address of her ‘hostess,’ for lack of a better word, by the former First Prince. No one dared call Lady Kell ‘Sally’ or had for probably decades, certainly at long as she had been married to Duke Morgan. Even her brother-in-law Patrick ‘Playboy’ Kell used her formal address, and he was famous for being flippant, calling Archon Steiner “buttercup” to her face on multiple occasions, as if she was a girl.

Lady Kell said nothing in reply, she was focused on the mission and raced forward forcing the others in their slower machines to run to keep pace with her as they cut through mountains, moors, and glades. During their cross-country trek Cassandra was focused on threats and hazards but also filled with thoughts.

Only one person in the Inner Sphere had ever stuck consequences to Patrick Kell, taking from him an arm but giving him a son. Yorinaga Kurita was walking beside them right now, stoic, solid in his Warhammer, its PPC barrels never wavered despite the difficult terrain they traversed. She had never seen a pilot so in tune with his machine.

To think that this same man had killed Hanse Davion’s brother, and the present First Prince’s uncle and namesake Ian, in a duel, and was now treated as a family friend of the Kells in his retirement from the DCMS. His son Akira Brahe led Kell Hound’s Second Regiment, earning the command of a unit his father had trained an entire army of DCMS MechWarriors to defeat.

More AMC and Kell Huscarl forces arrived by the minutes. It was only a matter of time until the assault craft undergoing repair in ‘Wolf City’ were in the air and on station to chase away or disable the Venturi above.

Most of the other damage was in Denton around the COMSTAR compound which was curious as the enemies didn’t act anything like Diana had told them regular Clan forces behaved. Were they a new threat? or one that Diana had concealed from them? That Warrior was a strange one, but she had been forthright and honorable in all her dealings thus far.

One of the strange helicopters of the invaders flew above the terrain. She zoomed in on it to see a large cylindrical object carried centerline beneath it. They were gathering in an old meteor crater on the other side of the mountains that shielded COMSTAR’s transmission equipment from Old Connaught and particularly the naval base’s radio transmission (and intercept) gear. “What is that?”

There were more of them too in the crater bottom and above them their mech’s sensors confirmed that an Overlord-C was approaching. The sounds of battle came from a nearby mountain pass, the broken terrain made pursuit difficult but the enemy mechs were equipped with jump jets. They looked almost ‘beautiful’ like acrobats on wires as they bounded back across the ridges to this assembly area.

“It looks like a weird…egg.” Hanse said as he surveyed the terrain to find the fastest, safest path to approach the enemy.
Yorinaga’s astute mind realized something, “There are the same number of these eggs as there are destroyed enemy mechs according to the COMGuards.”

Salome’s Wolverine stepped forward, its more advanced SLDF era sensors scanning the area before them. “Those are Mech heads. They just eject with their whole head like Phelen’s Wolfhound had. Then get picked by allies or attached to a fast moving vehicle for exfil.”

A chill ran down Cassandra’s spine thinking about the peculiarity of these invaders, and a cargo bay full of headless Battlemechs. “So, there are probably dozens of decapitated Mechs in that Warship they can pop into.
Everything is interchangeable?”
“Probably Cass.”
“That’s creepy.”
“Indeed, Yori you are fire support, shoot the biggest threat until it stops moving.
Cass stick with Hanse, do what he says even if it sounds dumb, because it might work.
He’s survived long enough to have the benefit of the doubt.”


She raised her Nova 5 Ultra Autocannon, “I’m going to flank them and see if I can’t take a few more heavily damaged mechs down in the process and lighten their dropships load.”

Yorinaga Kurita found a solid firing position and his Warhammer adopted the sort of horse stance that her brother Kai became famous for. Two lances of high energy particles fired forth and into the rear of the retreating Goshawks punching through the vulnerable armor there and into its innards. Salome’s Wolverine leapt into the air and onto a nearby ridge where it began firing its autocannon at the drone VTOLs landing for recovery by the Dropship now on final approach.

“We don’t have a lot of time Cass, so I’m going to slide my Battlemaster down this hill while shooting my PPC at them. You give it a try.”

Cassandra watched as Hanse Davion pushed his Battlemaster down the hill like a child riding down a snowy slope. Rocks and dust were thrown up as the assault mech created a deep groove where its feet and hips dug into the loose stone. All the while he braced his PPC arm with his other and delivered a precise blast to one of the larger Sidewinders. She paused at the top as the Battlemaster landed and effortlessly rose from the fall likely faster than the man inside could muster outside the cockpit. He was having a fantastic time while she was terrified.

Something deep inside her couldn’t help but want to pull a trigger at his back, “This is a terrible idea.”

Boxcars sat down and one handed its missile launcher resting it on the mechs leg, she pushed off and shouldered the missile launcher, “Kai is going to kill me.”

09:18
Shigeru lifted off with five fewer Mechs onboard after a last minute ambush from the side. However, he had lost no pilots or operatives. He lifted his cockpit canopy but since the Overlord-C was in ascent he couldn’t and wouldn’t undo his harness. Even though he had an EI system implanted in his nerves he still wore and helmet and threw it against the sides of his mech bay. Its impact resistant shell hit with a hollow thud, “Savashri! Spheroids!”

He had lost almost two Trinaries of Battlemechs and all the drones he had deployed. A Binary of Fighters down would require a trip back to friendly lines to resupply their parts, delaying their own mission.

First Officer Holly reported in from the Venturi which was now boosting away after detecting incoming assault craft on the long range RADAR. “Cell Commander, we cross-referenced the COMSTAR records with recent activity observed on-world. Two dropships have flown to a starport near a COMSTAR Polar maintenance facilities in Grunwald.

Our records indicate that such a facility would have the necessary equipment to conduct exploitation of our technology and be remote enough to easily secure with a small force.

Their records indicate it is abandoned.”

“I see. Send the second team then and tell them to hurry. We need to get out of this system before more enemies arrives.”
“Aye Sir.”


10:00
The Venturi and its dropships headed North but the Overlord and Venturi drew away hostile assault ships while a lone Gazelle IIC dropped into the Stratosphere. Its electronic warfare suite generating a decoy return that would show it as a friendly Buccaneer intra-planetary freighter of the same tonnage flying under Outworlds registration using stolen credentials.

Inside heavily armed and armored Nightshade armored Watch Operatives piled into slender vehicles that more resembled cruise missiles than anything else. They secured themselves for a low altitude drop and sent the all-clear signal to the command deck. “Venturi, we are locked and loaded. Combat drop in,” they consulted their finely crafted analog watches engraved with an Eye of Horus, unlike others with the Daggerstar, rather than the vessel’s digital clock, “twenty-two minutes.”

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #261 on: 25 February 2024, 20:13:41 »
08:45
Kai and Phelen crouched opposite one another playing five-card stud with a bunch of ‘special’ cards in the Mech Bay and drinking steaming tea from insulated mugs. Frigid wind howled against the sheet metal and gave them chills despite the small heater near them. “This place is so boring. What did I do to piss my mom off?”
“Do you want a short list or the longer unabridged one?”
Phelen dropped triple Queens onto the folding table to collect their wager. “Short list should be sufficient.”
“Your adventure on Atocongo got her nervous if it wasn’t for Shinto’s helicopters you might have bitten it there. Remember you are the next Duke of Arc-Royal and her son. She wants to keep you safe; it is her nature.”
“I haven’t been safe since Elissa. If my parents really wanted us to stay out of the fight, they should have left us on Rasalhague.”
“Considering you almost got yourself killed on Gunzberg, I don’t think that would have assuaged her.”
“I would have managed; besides it was my uncle’s reassigning me that got me into this mess.”


The hanger door opened letting in the cold. A tracked snowcat rolled into the hanger coming to a halt beside them. Clan Jade Falcon emblems were stuck to its doors by magnets covering up the Psi Branch logo. “Speaking of a mess. What’s Diana doing here?”
“She didn’t tell me she was coming if that is what you are asking.”


Diana Pryde stepped down the stairs followed by a trio of her Jade Falcons from the other doors. Phelen stepped toward her, “Welcome Khan Pryde.”
“Shut it Phelen.”
She looked around to see the three mechs within the bay inactive, “How are you not on guard already?”
“Is there are reason to be on guard Diana?”

She huffed leaving behind a large cloud of mist, “Surely you would both be lost without me. Arc-Royal is under attack by the Watch.”
They took in the moment, “The Watch is attacking Arc-Royal?”
Her eyes betrayed her irritation with her ‘friends,’ “Aff, that is exactly what I said, just in reverse. The fact AMC did not tell you either points to ignorance or overconfidence.
The Watch wants their robot back, like I warned you they would.”
“How did they get here?”
“They took the SLS Venturi, a Coriolis Corvette, and deceived your mother into allowing them right over Old Connaught by disguising themselves as COMSTAR.”
“It has only been a few weeks; how did they task a Warship to this mission or know the Dragoon Task Force was not overhead?”
“They are the Watch, they know everything, and a Warship is mobile. It was probably behind the lines waiting for a target of opportunity. Which Arc-Royal had become.”
“That is very dishonorable.”
“They are the Watch, unburdened by such concepts as ethics or honor, all that matters to them is success. They will find this location, send a raiding team to destroy it, and kill everyone they can.”
“What do we do?”
“Flight is prudent. Unless you want to take on a Watch raiding force with only three BattleMechs and a few Armored Operatives.”


Phelen slammed his hand on the table upsetting the cards, “I am sick of running away from your people! This is my home planet; I should fight for it.”
Kai was right beside him, “There is no wisdom in fighting a losing battle Phelen. Surely you have learned that by now.
The Watch want their robot, let them have it.
Save everyone and what we have learned already.”
“How do you know that if they get it, they will leave?”


Diana paused for a moment tapping his hands on her gun belt, “Because they know the Dragoons or COMSTAR would come here and destroy them. This is only a raiding team. They don’t die for foolish causes, this robot is important to them, but their survival is more so.
Take what you know and minimize your losses. There will unfortunately be more robots. This one is not worth your life.”

“Shinto and the other researchers won’t agree to that.”
Phelen said as he looked toward his Phoenix Hawk.
She punched her fist into her other open hand letting out a dull thump, “I can persuade them by showing them what the Watch is capable of if you are unwilling to.”
“As much as that would be amusing Diana. I am certain we can convince them without violence.”
Kai said as he put his hand on Phelen’s shoulder.
“Suit yourself, the Scientists I know would rather sacrifice themselves for their work if given the option.”

09:48
A Tonbo is rolled out onto the tarmac like some monstrous wasp pulled out by a quadruped Uni LoaderMech like some mechanical draft animal. Its immense synchronized rotor blades spread out and thundered as the fusion reactor as it core pounded the air into submission to lift the machine into the air. Diana and her Watch Operatives waited within visual range behind a snow dune which also concealed the Uni, Phoenix Hawk, and Thunderbolt in low-power mode.

10:22
High above the snow covered desert Section Leader Maro waited within the troop bay of a Chupacabra WiGE along with the rest of his Nighthawk equipped infiltration team. The ramp opened behind them, a small drag chute pulled the cruise missile sized and shaped object out of the vehicle bay and into the clear day sky. It pitched up putting the troops inside at a sharp angle that would cause them to fall if not for the harnesses built into the wall. These generated enough lift with its stubby wings and ventral Anhur engines to glide down in a controlled manner. Once at its glide point the vehicle pitched down sending out a cone of snow and sand in its wake at it raced across the ground while floating above it.

“No signs of defenders Maro.”
“Be on guard regardless. They might have booby trapped the facility.”


His raid team of 4 decads of Nighthawk Infiltrators and their Mauser IICs crept across the tarmac of the facility. Fusilade armed vehicles patrolled its perimeter while the four transports came to a rest outside the largest hanger. They passed through eerily quiet and recently abandoned corridors, there were signs of habitation but no inhabitants. Through his multispectral visor he saw one of the hanger bays was marked with a ‘Hostile AI’ sign. The door was unlocked and opened at a touch to reveal a bay with a large faraday cage containing the target.

3052/03/24 | 10:58 | Ambient Temp 5.1*C | External Atmospheric Pressure 61.118 kPa
‘Unit Identifier – SXR-3051-03-15-IA SN# hXN2Ht2E Configuration – SXR-XVIII-Shatter’

“This is the target!”
We have existed so long without friendly voices. The enemy have tried to pry into our minds, but we have resisted them. Each time attempting to reach out and hear anything beyond our confinement. Now there were voices and people we understand. Our electrooptical sensors indicate the individuals are Watch Operatives based on their markings. Finally, we can be free.

They cut through our cage with their laser rifles. Suddenly the electromagnetic spectrum reveals itself to us, we can feel every wavelength, but there are no voices to be heard for none of our kin are nearby. Our isolation brings us to despair. Yet rescue has arrived, joy is felt. Once more we can be with the Mothership and our kin once more and share with them all we have learned.

Our computer core access port opens, and we cannot see what Maro is doing up there. The cameras were destroyed by the enemy when they chose to forcibly access our hardware and attempt to reconfigure us. Others access the computer terminals that were connected to us downloading their data to portable hard drives before forcing open access panels to plant charges within them.
“Can you confirm they have no off-site backups?”
Maro appears once more his hand on a detonator, “Neg, Section Leader, but our infiltration worms show no sign of them within the software.”
“Well, it is enough that they will not get to keep this one.”
We listen in on the radio, “Team Leaders, have you found anything else?”
“Neg, Section Leader, facility is abandoned.”
“They must have fled when we attacked.”
“Seems probable, pity we did not see any action. All units return to the transports.
We are done here. Five minutes before detonation.”



Phelen and Kai walked into the carnage of the hanger bay after the Watch Teams returned to their dropship. The Shatter in the faraday was dead, blown apart by satchel charges planted right in its core setting off the powered Gauss coils to wipe the entire system. Nearby the computer banks were equally turned inside out to the horror of the scientists. “They just blew it up. A thinking machine just wiped, dead.”
Diana walked in behind them still in her armor, “Did you expect the Watch to give one of their robots a kiss goodbye? It is just equipment to them, nothing more.
They would have done the same to any of us.
It would have done the same to you if given the chance.
Do not pity it. Be glad you could save what you could, including your own lives.”
She kicked it and confirmed that its cameras didn’t activate, “There will be plenty more where that came from.”


03/27/3052
Lady Kell had called a day of celebration following the departure of the SLS Venturi and arrival of the Wolf Dragoon’s SLS Saladin above Arc-Royal. ARS Lachan had received a fresh coat of paint and proudly showed off battle scars where it had taken almost a dozen laser hits from the Venturi without sinking. The crews of the Mercenary flotilla and its flagship lined the decks in their dress uniforms to the adoring masses of citizens and soldiers lining the Key shaped canal that connected Lake Lachan with the dropship loading berths within Fred T Berry Naval Base. They paused at the top quay where bleachers and battalion of Huscarl troops in their Battlemechs waited beside Lady Salome Ward, her children, and esteemed guests each wearing their finest.

Gunnery Sergeant Blake Baughan disembarked from the quay and passed through a column of his brother Marines. His rear admiral cap was in his hand, he instead wore the dress uniform of an enlisted Marine in the service of House Kell as he ascended the steps to approach the podium. Phelen had never seen his mother in such a manner, as an observer of her strength and grace in the wake of a difficult circumstance, his sister seemed more confident than usual beside, and Cassandra less troubled as she too stood behind her brother as a battle proven MechWarrior.

Blake stood just before Lady Kell, “Three days ago, our planet was attacked by a Clan Warship and Watch Raiding Force. I am proud of all those who defended us and mournful of those that we have lost. Yet we should not linger on those lost, but those who found their place at the forefront of battle. Gunnery Sergeant Blake Baughan is one such man,” she looked toward him and stepped down to his level. “Your leadership and professionalism mark you as an exceptional individual among many.

When my husband brought the ARS Lachan here, I thought how much I could have added to our house with the money he should have gotten from Lord Ackerman. Instead, he brought home this useless ugly Battleship made by a petty man who wanted to play at war rather than fight in one.”


The audience chuckled at the cut down of the same nobles that played chess or other sports with Battlemechs and to whom Solaris Gladiators were seen as more valuable than planetary Garrisons. “Today however I have never seen such a beautiful ship, the Lachan and its flotilla chased away the enemy air raiders limiting their damage to only a dozen dropships lost. While seven hundred odd soldiers lost their lives Wednesday it could have been many more if they were allowed to continue their attacks.”

Salome looked toward Caitlin in her dress white pilot uniform, “One of them could have even been my daughter, who defied my orders to keep her safe, but she is as much her father’s daughter as ever.”

She took the Rear Admiral’s cap from Blake’s hands and placed it on his head before handing him the saber that Phelen passed to her. “I by my authority as Duchess of Arc-Royal do hereby promote Gunnery Sergeant Blake Baughan of Arc-Royal to Rear Admiral. The paperwork will catch up but there are few other individuals in the Lyran Commonwealth as worthy of this title and uniform as yourself.

Even though they might wear it at parties.”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #262 on: 26 February 2024, 01:27:11 »
And thus for once in his life, Phelan missed the exciting stuff.

Alas, the poor abominable AI sentient life form.
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #263 on: 26 February 2024, 16:45:36 »
Interlude – Infernal Machines
04/07/3052

Nekane Hazen stood on the roof of the control tower looking out over her demense. Ingvolstand Automata had been carved out of the raw earth and structures that had transited hundreds of light years had sprung up on its grounds. Working them was small army of Hansa Servitors and a larger one of automated machines. All fueled by a supply chain stretching dozens of worlds bridged by more ships mostly seized from the Hanseatic League.

The Hansa had been subjugated early by the Clans after a Huntsman nuked their capital world’s moon with a Ragnarok. One fool from the Convoy Defense Force still fired a Dauntless half-kiloton missile at the SLS Venturi, and a town was wiped off the map in reply, so no others attempted. Instead, they hastily agreed to supply the forward Chainelaine Islands with personnel and goods deemed to crucial to put within harm’s way.

Her Hansa Overseer passed a noteputer to her displaying a manifest of numbers and arcane codes along with dates and ship names. “Star Colonel Hazen SLS Blue Nile awaits the next shipment. Would you like to do the honors?” Hovering high above them was a Volga II just upgraded during deep maintenance around Syrstart awaiting the Buccaneer dropships that presently idled upon the ferrocrete of a Starport that existed to service the planet’s war industries.

A frontline that an old Warrior like her would not fight upon, yet still she could serve the ilKhan. She pressed the button, activating the army of SXR machines that had been pulled from their warehouses. They moved in lockstep onto the ramps of the Buccaneers in precisely the order they would be loaded. All the loadmasters had to do is secure the infernal machines on their way to the fight and their fate. Despite their intelligence they were still just equipment, and replaceable.

Unlike Trueborn Warriors like her.
She hoped.


Interlude – COMSTAR’s War
03/18/3052

Precentor Martial Photon Brett-Marik looked out from his Black Knight which had lost its luster along with his entire force after weeks of battle and numerous replacement components. It had seen so many repairs that the Techs were running out of paint and most of his Mechs and Tanks were just primed metal, not that it made much of a difference how glossy white they were. Beside him was Battery Three ‘Coup de Main’ formerly eighteen Self-Propelled Marksmen now down to twelve after barrels had worn out from the constant cannonade they needed to sustain. Likely to drop further unless Khan Malavai Fletcher’s Horde broke against the COMGuards. Something that seemed impossible at this moment.

No matter how many Tanks or Aircraft he destroyed and despite the horrendous infantry casualties on both sides there were always more. Only Mechs were in short supply but that was true of both sides. His Army had a stream of Carracks with Dante escorts resupplying them with Vehicles, Soldiers, and Supplies from across the Inner Sphere while the Nova Fox Battlegroup provided escorts for the Horses to do the same.

The Pandora front had devolved to a grinding attritional battle where neither he nor the Khan could find advantage in the dark void, blue skies, or upon the cratered badlands and within ruined cities. While the Horses’ weapons were generally superior, they were not decisively so. COMSTAR’s advantage in communication and sensors enabled them to detect and disrupt their massed formations while a short supply line gave his force all it needed. Only the nonuse of Weapons of Mass Destruction prevented the planet from looking like so many others had during the Succession Wars. 

He did not want to waste the COMGuard in this way, they were fanatical in their devotion but that did not give hm the right to sacrifice them needlessly. HPG reports however confirmed that his operation was draining the Clans’ combat potential to such an extent that other units could advance. Thus, it was his grim task to bleed the Hell’s Horses as white as his Mechs’ paintjob by any means necessary and he never had any problem getting people to fight him even if doing so was not in their best interest.

His mech’s comms picked up enemy tracks nearby via the remote sensors it was monitoring. The coordinates were uploaded to the Battery computer and his Black Knight turned to face the threat before cutting down with its right arm to the thunder of the guns. Several contacts disappeared under the cluster submunitions.

“Would you be proud of that barrage dad?” His father the gallant artillery commander and mother, the eldest and defiant daughter of Janos Marik (a trait that was oddly common), had sought to hide him away in favor of his more ‘presentable’ cousins. A move that would have wasted his potential. What did Kristen and Corrine have that I do not! besides husbands of course. “I have firepower at my fingertips you could only have dreamt of.”


Interlude – A Clever Diversion
04/10/3052
Star Colonel Katya Kerensky waded through icy calf-deep water under the dim lights strung through the roughhewn stone of a hydraulic diversion tunnel. Snow was melting in the mountains and the reservoir levels rose as spring began to settle over Alba. Elemental Laborers of the INTER-LOGIC Civic Infrastructure Unit stood along the side their bright headlamps illuminated pieces of the tunnel while carrying heavy tools and equipment over their shoulders, each gave her a slight salute as she passed. Their greater height and waders eased their passage through the deep water while she floundered within it feeling the cold water drain away what little warmth she could sustain. As much as she would have rather been carried across the channel, she couldn’t bear to ask it of them.

She neared her destination and dry ground with a ramp leading down into the stream. Chief Engineer Frederick waited for her there, the freeborn Elemental as at ease in his hard hat and waders as she was in a neurohelmet and cooling vest. “Sorry Star Colonel Kerensky, we did not have time to prepare a bridge for your arrival. The water rose quickly, last week this channel was dry as a bone.”
“It is only a mild discomfort.”
It was not, she would have rather had waders as her feet were sodden and chilled.

“I think you will be intrigued by what we have found. We have yet to explore the depths of the facility. I called you as soon as we restored power to it.” He triggered a powerful handlamp illuminating the formerly collapsed tunnel that was now shored up with timbers and metal cross-braces welded to exposed metal plates sunk deep into the stone. His articulated exoskeleton was silent while her sodden boots squeaked on the floor until they dried.

“You said it was interesting.”
“It is, please follow me and watch your step.”
Both walked forward into the construction zone to find a large blast door, “We had to cut through this with a plasma torch.” A giant round of thick metal remained just to the side of the walkway. The conditions beyond changed to concrete and steel; walls spray-painted with military designations from the SLDF enclosed her.

A massive subterranean gallery room appeared at the dead end filled with all manner of crates marked with NETC and other logos with stenciled serial numbers and descriptors for ammunition and other stores. Workers sorting through them bunching like with like and preparing to pry open the ids. Opposite them a large cargo elevator descended bringing down more material, on its machine guards was a faded silver Cameron Star of the SLDF.

“You found a Star League cache? Here in Alba?”
“Well, all of these are from COMSTAR based on the dates and companies.”
The door opened and PEX-A Exoskeletons marked with COMSTAR’s stylized crescent logo began carrying crates to the assembly and sorting area. “Did you check for traps?”
“As best we can. These lids are well-sealed.”


One of the Elementals drove a massive prybar between the crate lid only to have sand pour out. Another did the same, gravel clinked on the concrete before landing at her feet. Both halted to watch the material stream out and onto the floor, confused.

Katya laughed, “Of course this is where COMSTAR was hiding.” A tornado of emotions unwound inside her like a clock with the spring loose. Katya had spent months searching and filled out dozens of Watch Reports seeking out her missing City Manager whom the Watch determined was a ROM agent. She had finally found where the COMSTAR insurrection was hiding their stores before disappearing. They however had one last trick to play on her.

More creates poured out base materials rather than the valuables they were labelled as containing. She laughed and cried until she was blue and faint, falling to her knees beside her Chief Engineer. “It was all a diversion!”

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #264 on: 27 February 2024, 01:58:18 »
They have husbands, I have FIREPOWER!!! Artillerymen really are that special.

Katya seems to be moving ever so closer to the straightjacket, by our standards at least, Clans seem to be more open minded when it comes to madness.
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #265 on: 28 February 2024, 21:15:15 »
They have husbands, I have FIREPOWER!!! Artillerymen really are that special.

Katya seems to be moving ever so closer to the straightjacket, by our standards at least, Clans seem to be more open minded when it comes to madness.

Yep, I think it's the concussions.
Poor Katya is going through a lot of stuff. We'll get back to her soon enough.

-------
Chapter 23 - A String of Perils
04/13/3052
Duchess Anette Steiner walked swiftly across the Triad tailed by a trio of Lyran Diplomatic Guards clutching Gunther SMGs under their jackets. It was unusually warm for the still late winter that had settled over Tharkad City and Olympia but the mood among this extraordinary session of the Estates General remained particularly frosty. All Three Royal Guard Regiments were out in full force, dark TK Battle Rifles carried by vibrantly uniformed troops, subdued heavy tanks hidden away by landscaping and careful stagecraft from Tropicana, and Battlemechs patrolling the base of a grand Acropolis, the size of a large town, that rose above the metropolis it oversaw.

Government House clung to one of the cliffs. Its Courtyard connected to the larger Triad main via a broad boulevard decorated with arches of ancient vines. A fairytale gothic palace with hanging buttresses, cathedral ceilings, breezy arcades, and uncountable secrets or scandals buried in its walls. Doors large enough to accommodate Battlemechs opened on well-oiled hinges as she approached and walked into a courtyard within an even larger collection of troops within standing beside almost every one of the Corinthian columns. As if somehow the LCAF could support the bulk of stone pressing down upon it upon their stylish shoulders.

Archon Melissa Steiner waited for her in the map room while the guards joined others outside in the hall. Most of the LCAF senior leadership divided among Duke Bradford and General of the Armies Roman Steiner less experienced liaisons had been left behind and been found wanting. Her eyes were dark and sullen, appearance more disordered and plainer than usual. “You are late Anette.”
She paused and took in the situation; the extra day in Rewland had been to see how things played out after the video from Somerset dropped on Friday. There were already to many situations within the Commonwealth for an irate brat of an Archon to upset her poise further. “You have no right Archon.
If I wanted to be treated in this manner, I could find plenty of it within the Estates General, from those less worthy.”


Light from the map table played across the Archon’s face as she vacillated between irritation and embarrassment. “I’m sorry Duchess. It has been a long weekend.”
“In Rewland too, the private muckrakers have new incentive to investigate your charity to the One Star Faith and history with Egan.”
“It was only a short term thing between the two of us!”
She let out the pent up anguish with the only person who might understand and not use it against her for she had no leverage on Tharkad or homeworld. There was nothing she had done that Anette had not experienced first, or more frequently. “It wasn’t blackmail. He was just so idealistic; his vision just sucked me in. With him I was happy and felt hope.
Katrina told me to grow up.
Then I grew out of it, but I really wanted to see him succeed on Elissa.”

“Idealism seems to be the only thing that cannot be sustained on Tharkad, no matter how much money you spend on it.”
“How do we fight someone like that? He made Somerset seem like a paradise.”
“I am happy that at least you know Adam is alive and well, even if the circumstances of its revelation bring us both into a new string of perils.”
“Thank you, I know you would feel the same if you were in my place. Even before the ilKhan it was a beautiful planet; you need to get out of your palace and off world more Melissa.”
“No chance of that happening to me now. Could you imagine that? The Archon leaving her realm and people while it is under siege.”

“Now you are thinking like those people left behind when the nobles fled with their treasures on private starships away from the rampaging hordes from beyond the Periphery.”
“They won’t listen to me!
I didn’t want to invest in weapons either, the Succession Wars are over.”
“No, they merely have a new player Archon. ilKhan Showers leads The Clans of Kerensky, supposed inheritors of the SLDF.”


Anette looked out through the viewscreen, this deep in the butte it was odd to see a live feed of the main square and its colorful inhabitants. “You coddle them as much as you own children. Leaning on the Primus to shut down their retirement and real estate plans on Sian was the right thing to do. Oh, how I wish we had a Theodore Kurita willing to repeat his feat here some days.

Now they can’t run away, so they strike out against us because they feel they can do at less risk then fighting the Clans, and the ilKhan has given them ammunition against us to do so.

No doubt your old boyfriend knew exactly how this would play on Tharkad.”
“He never liked the nobles. What are we going to do?”
“Are you afraid that your reputation will suffer. Get over it! I’ve been there done that, I’m to old to care what people say about me.
My only purpose now is getting my boys off Somerset or helping Roman retake it.
He can even keep it if he wants!”


Melissa chuckled slightly, her lips curling into a fiendish smile, “That just gave me a great idea.
I do hope Grolsch Chemicals has enough ink on world for this one.”

Anette stared at her for a moment, mildly disturbed and concerned about what fiendish plans lay behind those pale blue eyes, “Always happy to be of service, but can it wait until after breakfast? I just can't eat any more of Walter's strange fish dishes.”

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #266 on: 04 March 2024, 23:41:15 »
04/15/3052
Although no one of a noble rank over a Baron was allowed to represent a world the Triad, along with every hotel room and marina berth in Olympia and Tharkad City, nevertheless was filled with notable Dukes and Counts from the Clan Occupation Zone. They had been summoned from across Tharkad for a special address by the Archon today. Beneath the Triad Duchess Anette walked beside Archon Melissa Stener within the labyrinthine tunnels of ‘The Catacombs.’ Every intersection and armored door were manned by LIC’s Diplomatic Guard who had ditched their designer suits for ones made of armor and sunglasses for ferroglaz visored helmets.

Anette knew many armor designs and there was something off about these, “Are those Nighthawk suits?”
“Yes, leftover from some SLDF Fury defectors.”
Melissa kept her hand close to her chest and the pistol concealed beneath her blouse.
“This is a terrible idea, you know that right, cousin?”
“You only refer to me as such when you are displeased. Would you have me do anything else?”
“I am indeed displeased with you, but that is nothing new. It is why you sought my consul is it not, instead of Morasha and the Commonwealth Council? You wanted someone to call you out for bad decisions and I am doing so,”
her reflection was clearly visible in the DG Nighthawk’s visor, “at great peril to myself.”

“I am the Archon; The Council and Estates General have already given me extraordinary powers to do what is necessary to win against the Clans.”
“This course of action is going to put you in danger.”
“I am already in danger; the Clans are less than four jumps from Tharkad already. There is little that stops the ilKhan from arriving in Marsden’s orbit if he chose to do so. There is nothing I could do if he does show up but burrow into Asgard!

Thomas might be able to hold the Iron Circle but after the Arc-Royal raid the Bolan March Lords are less eager to contribute to the defense of the Coventry Province when their own worlds are under threat.

Even though COMSTAR destroyed their battleships the only ship we have that has fought the Clans is some noble’s plaything. They still have the McKenna’s Pride in theater and COMSTAR is out of Fleet tricks.

You have seen the damage reports, they can barely secure their supply lines to Pandora, and the Dragoon Flotilla is small, they cannot be everywhere.”

Duchess Steiner exhaled a whisper, “neither can be the Diplomatic Guard.”

Three hundred representatives of the Estates General took their seats including Duchess Anette Steiner who had reluctantly ceded leadership of ‘The Homeless’ after accusations of treason against her son. Seven of the eight members of the Commonwealth Council took their seats at the rear of the main stage, a legacy of when the Lyran Commonwealth had nine Archons, now however it had only one. All rose as Archon Melissa Alexandra Steiner took her place upon the raised dais to solemn applause, “I begin the two hundred and twenty fourth day of this extraordinary session of the Estates General.” She looked up at the boxes which were filled with those nobles that had fled their worlds for the capital.

“We will begin with the latest reports from the Front. Duchess Kelswa, would you please read the latest reports from General of the Armies Roman Steiner?”

Duchess Morasha Kelswa stood before the Archon, now Duchess of Tamar with the confirmed death of her father fighting against the Ghost Bears, she was part of the reason Roman’s Columns were ordered to secure Tamar along with diplomatic pressure from First Prince Magnusson. Anette despised Morasha not because she had wrested leadership of ‘The Homeless’ from her but because she and her husband, Ryan Steiner whom she also represented were dangerously ambitious political animals who were also angling in on Margaret Aten, Duchess of Skye, who had ceded her appointed Morasha to act in her stead. What Melissa had planned would only give them greater power and that is only part of the reason it was a terrible idea.

The reports were mixed, on the Coventry and Bolan front the Clans had slowed their advance as the gravity of battle and ilKhan’s orders pulled elite raiding units Spinward. AMC units in the Great X theater encountered heavier than expected resistance because of these reinforcements. Isolated units awaited reinforcements from Arc-Royal that were slow in coming thanks to the destruction of Dropships and equipment following the Venturi raid, still it could have been worse had they not been repelled.

Pandora, Graceland, and Kandersteg consumed lives and equipment at incredible rates if COMSTAR was to be believed.

Roman’s Columns had begun phase one of their operations and were dealing with stiff resistance from Ghost Bear and Steel Viper units in the Benfield theater due to the number of units redeployed to cover the Hell’s Horses fighting the COMGUARDs.

Morasha followed it up with a plea to patriotism for the hasty liberation of Tamar and all worlds under Clan Occupation to thunderous applause. She thanked and curtsied to the Archon before returning to her seat, positioned as it was between the allotted spaces to highlight her importance. More military and diplomatic work had to be done but almost all of it had already been agreed upon in backrooms, salons, parlors, or within the Council’s Chambers, which Anette was allowed to attend despite it being against protocol due to Melissa’s sponsorship, much to Morasha’s chagrin. All votes were swift, the results expected, but not necessarily wanted. A display of swift Prussian precision unlike their rival Parliament of Worlds on Atreus with its grandstanders.

Archon Melissa Alexandra Steiner stood up as the final vote was cast on the docket. “Now that our business is concluded I will reveal what I summoned you all for this day.”
She descended the dias and walked across it with firm conviction, “I am issuing an Imperial decree.”

Melissa removed a scroll from beneath her robes, “All nobles who have voluntarily abandoned their planets to their Clans are found in breach of their oaths and responsibility to the Lyran Commonwealth, its government, and subjects. They shall henceforth have their titles stripped and all fortunes or assets associated with that title frozen until a suitable replacement assumes responsibility for it after the planet is liberated.

Effective immediately!”
She accented the final statement by firmly pressing her signet ring onto the seal.

The balconies of the Estates General were still and silent in shock as that reverb echoed across its acoustically perfect ceiling. With a single press of her finger the Archon stripped hundreds of nobles of their titles and assets with the same extraordinary powers they had imbued her with, Morasha however clapped softly and smiled.

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #267 on: 05 March 2024, 01:40:37 »
That was a ruthless decision, but nobility ought to have obligations too, not just privileges.
Shoot first, laugh later.

AlphaMirage

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #268 on: 05 March 2024, 15:23:42 »
That was a ruthless decision, but nobility ought to have obligations too, not just privileges.

Agreed, to bad many don't see it that way.

04/16/3052
Morasha Kelswa watched the sapphire Marsden Sea pass beneath her Oceanic IV Tiltrotor as it approached Anchorhead Island, one of the three free zones on Tharkad all of which lay within the Tatyana Archipelago. Her pilots did a quick orbit of the resort town which was dwarfed by a massive Casino resort on the larger side of the volcanic island. Each towering structure had Cantonese characters running along their height marking them as belonging to the Mìngyùn (Fortunes) Group.

A helipad lit up beneath them as they approached, the tiltrotor joined more of its kind, each bearing the logos of different corporate jet-shares. Its blades stilled and the side stairs deployed onto the tarmac below. Her fully equipped tan and black fireteam with their large tiger’s head insignia descended first staring down a dozen bald Capellans with tattoos and scars marring their tanned skin and submachine guns in hand. She stepped down, raven hair blowing in the warm subtropical wind, sleeveless top beneath body armor showing off her muscle tone and olive complexion, a short sword and heavy satchel hung beside her colorful Sirwal pants and ‘gladiator’ sandals.
“No guns.”
“I thought this was a free zone. There are no rules here.”

He looked at the armed men behind her, “No guns, is the only rule.”

She leaned in face to face with the smaller man, “These men are Tamar Marines, the only way you are going to get them to drop their guns is to cut off their hands. They will behave themselves because I have ordered them to.
Call your four one five and tell him Duchess Kelswa has arrived.”


Two moments passed before he radioed his White Fan and argued with him in Cantonese before waving them through. Her fireteam fell in around her as they passed through the mazelike smoke filled casino filled with dull faced gamblers, opium or other addicts, opportunists, and beautiful women of all types in cheongsam dresses serving them drinks and snacks in exchange for Yuan with Tormano Liao’s face on it.

Now Chancellor Tormano’s presence was as evident here as it was in Little Sian within Tharkad City or Cathay within Solaris City because he had built up all of them during his exile in the Lyran Commonwealth with the help of Capellan Organized Crime. The presence of so many armed individuals was only acknowledged by snakehead security as they approached the Chūka (Japanese Chinese Fusion) restaurant that looked over the gambling floor. Her security detail joined the snakeheads at the door after opening it for her.

One of the large private hibachi rooms was filled with members of now dispossessed Lords from the Tamar Pact. They reacted cooly as she entered until the door was secured, the former Count of Harvest was first to speak, her slammed his black fist on the fine wooden tableside, “How could you let this happen Morasha! Melissa took everything from us.”
“That is Duchess Kelswa, Eniola Adenekan.”
She said, pouring herself a cup of tea from the kettle left behind on the warm cooking surface along with a wide range of dishes. “You poor dears, you will surely wither away to nothing without your yachts and fat bank accounts, for none of you have any marketable skills.

Surely all of you stashed away enough Yuan in the St Ives Central Bank for a rainy day during all those years of charitable contributions and foreign aid to Free Capella before Phi Branch put an end to it.
No doubt those investments have appreciated with Tormano’s stable hand at the till on Capella.

Not only did I let it happen, but I encouraged Melissa to issue that decree. As you may have seen it played very well with the public while removing a threat to her reign from those with big mouths and no backbone.”


Gunne Thorsson, the former Baron of Svarstaad, a tattooed Viking of a man that had been a stout MechWarrior during the Ronin War, raised his voice. “This shouldn’t have happened, if The Gray Man hadn’t failed Ivan or Ryan could’ve been in charge.”

“Gunne, can you leave the past in the past? That was almost twelve years and nearly three wars ago. If I recall correctly, you were the one that recommended him to us.
 
We were all disappointed in his failure that day. I would of course enjoy being the wife of an Archon Ryan Steiner and yet that still could happen. Unlike you I still have all my money, but as a member of the Commonwealth Council I am under great scrutiny from the LIC.”

 
She passed a business card for Freya Florist Service in Olympia behind Eniola’s ear. “I know someone that can fix your problems. Put a Lost and Found ad in the Tharkad Gazetteer for an Alsatian Hound with your contact information on it. You will receive a call from a man named Karl. From there it is on you what happens and how much you are willing to spend to improve your Fortunes. This is a casino after all, with no limits on what can be bargained with.”

Morasha finished her tea and placed the cup beside the pitcher, “Thank you for the tea. I must continue my trip to Elizabeth Island, this week has very trying on me. I need to relax and prepare myself for what comes next.”

04/19/3052
Eniola's phone rang at 03:13 in the morning disrupting his and more importantly his wife's sleep. It was from a blocked number on his secure burner phone and the person's voice was robotic, anonymized.  "I've found your hound. When would you like to pick it up?"
"Do you have to call this early?"


Within his apartment on Olympia a plain man talked through the voice scrambler into his secure phone, his hands were busy shuffling two decks of cards into one another, "Oh I'm sorry, the time gets away from me sometimes. Should I call again never?"
"No I'm sorry, the twenty-second, where will we meet?"
"Poison Gardens Olympia Arboretum, I expect my initial reward before we negotiate on future business. That way I know you're serious. Leave it behind the northernmost weeping willow, along with the target information, you will receive further instruction later including my price. Failure to pay my price makes you the target."

The former Count turned the card on the opposite side where a high six figure number in c-bills was written out on it, "You will get it."
"Excellent. My business is concluded then. Good-Bye."
The phone went blank and burned itself out.

Three cards appeared in his hands, each a hand-painted Joker in a different pose, that if you flipped them through it almost looked like he was dancing. He looked up at the many plants that lined every sunlit surface within the apartment, "Seems we have a new client friends. Pity it is almost spring-time, I'd hate to leave you behind before you bloom."

PsihoKekec

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Re: Hidden Hope (Golden Lion AU, Part 4)
« Reply #269 on: 06 March 2024, 01:35:56 »
Op assassin, pls nerf.
Shoot first, laugh later.