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BattleTech Player Boards => Fan Fiction => Topic started by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:25:35

Title: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:25:35
So I've had this lying around my HDD for years now - I was originally inspired back when drakensis started posting the absurd yet absurdly awesome idea of a Battletech SI ... of a singing Texas class Battleship and wrote it a bit at a time.

I've never written an SI before and wasn't ever really sure about it - it's a whole new thing to me. To the point that the SI doens't even use my name despite you know, using my real name on most forums, just because I couldn't take it seriously for some reason when I did.

Also to note; this story is a straight up, unapologetic FEDCOM, ****** YEAH! story. As while they don't get everything their way all the time, it was a bit of a reaction to the fact that various people clearly made the decision to use it and its successor states as a punching bag from the 3040s onwards while blatantly handwaving the crap out of other powers by nerfing it in every possible way ... so yeah.

But a few people who knew about it have poked me to post it over time and others I ran it past encouraged me to post it. So I did so on SB and got a quite approving reaction, so I thought I'd also post it over here.

This is Book 1 of what I plan to be 5 books in total.

---

Chapter 1. Spun out of Quantum Bullshit.

For a lot of people, there is a moment when you wake up from a dream where your dream is overlaid on the real world. You see things that aren't actually there – at least until you can kick the lights on, bring everything into sharp focus and your brain catches up with reality. I’ve noticed in recent years this happens a lot with me; I wake up and think there is a ****** spider dropping down on my head or something, wave wildly to bat it away while clawing for the light switch, then feel like an idiot afterwards. Also known to happen; muscle cramps. Especially if I’ve probably pushed exercise too hard. Really ****** annoying to wake up with your leg or foot cramping like a ******.
Still, it’s always just been just an annoyance rather than a fright to me – most of the time anyway. A half second of instinctive confusion and panic followed by my brain catching up and presto, hit the lights. Or in the event of a muscle spasm, gritting and swearing incredibly profusely and stretching it out.


So when I woke up feeling pretty extreme muscle cramps just about everywhere while tasting the colour purple, it wasn’t exactly something out of context for me to comprehend. At least for the first few seconds. But after a few moments as my eyes and focus tried to adjust as I took notice of a noise I vaguely realized was me screaming in pain, it dawned on me that this was actually quite unusual as left became up, right became a diagonal perpendicular to reality while up and down told me to go ****** myself.

Bit by bit it dawned on me through everything that something was horribly horribly wrong … and this was no dream, trapped in a hellish warped and twisted nightmare

And then just as suddenly as that, it was over and I seemed to fall back into my bed. I gasped for air and promptly screamed in pain once more as my muscles continued to fire off randomly but through sheer willpower I managed to impose some kind of control and hold my body still by stretching out – which also seemed to cut out no small amount of the pain as my mind told my muscles to shut up and start behaving, I continued gasping for air, opening my eyes to look straight up –

Huh. This was not my bedroom.

I mean my bedroom wasn’t exactly small, but it wasn’t the size of a warehouse with bright fluorescent lights and bizarre things on the roof that looked like a massive array of aerials or dishes and what not, with thick power cables going everywhere. Struggling to sit up on my bed, my mind was furiously debating with itself if this was still a dream despite how real this felt – as that would seem infinitely more logical than what I was seeing.
Around me was my bed that I was sitting on, the back wall of my house behind – oh wait, it was falling down now, thankfully away from me. The chest of drawers next to my bed – ah good, my iPhone and iPad. I reached through the agony on a single thought;
call help. Despite my muscles complaining very painfully again, sweating as I insisted my arm move I made it do so. I mean, I had no idea exactly what I would do; call the cops and insist that reality just flipped me off, but I certainly wasn’t operating on a level much beyond fight/flight right now. My hearing also seemed to be returning – didn’t even notice that it had gone- and I could make out some crazy klaxon going off and possibly the sound of people shouting as I finally managed to grab the phone and hit the home button through the pain.

No service. No WiFi. Joy!

I struggled myself to a sitting position – and then suddenly there were people around me. People in HAZMAT gear of a sorts waving all manner of stuff at me and shouting – and then it was all just too much and I collapsed back into the blissfully painless darkness.

My last brief thought noting how real this dream was…

 

***
******
***


It was a full two days before I woke up. So I’m told anyway.

The first thing I heard was the steady ‘Beep … Beep … Beep’ of a heartbeat monitor. Just like the kind you see on TV. For a good five or ten seconds I had a deliriously happy moment of utterly forgetting the craziness that had taken place earlier without even really noticing the sound. Then I stretched and frowned as I heard and felt the sort of crinkle of plastic under a sheet that was definitely not my bed. Then the impact of that Beep-Beep-Beep came to me and ever so slowly I opened my eyes.
I was pretty clearly in a hospital. Glancing around I saw I had an IV in my upper arm, which was somewhat annoying but presumably pumping good things into me. Extending my gaze I did a quick survey of the room … which looked, rather unsurprisingly, like a room in a hospital. With all the sort of portable machines around the bed one might expect. And a nice window on the far wall letting in a cheery amount of light suggesting it was well into the next day. A private room it looked like.

Huh. Was not expecting that.

Groaning slightly as I belatedly discovered I felt as stiff and tender as if I had tried to run a marathon (or what I thought it might feel like, having never done anything as crazy as that) I forced myself to sit up slowly. As I did so, I noticed that the cheap hospital sheets common to such places were not there. Instead the sheets felt rather good. Like very high quality sheets...and the mattress itself actually felt surprisingly comfortable under. Not the ‘stiff as a board’ kind of bed that was typical of such places in my limited experience of them.

Well, I can see where the health department's budget is going these days…

Swinging my legs down to the cool vinyl floor I noted my IV was hooked into a bag on a stand that ran off the bed frame itself - but it was just hanging there and could be removed. I didn’t think it would be a very good idea to do so though; I just wanted to stretch and so I very carefully started to stand … and promptly flopped right back onto the bed as my legs buckled. With pain shooting from my feet to my head to punish me for trying.

Okay. That hurt.
Mental note, don’t try to stand anytime soon.
On the plus side, I could feel the horrible pain and my limbs were working, so I wasn’t paralyzed or anything. Always a plus!

The sound of a door opening behind me caused me to force the pain off my face as best I could and drag my legs back onto my bed in a sitting position on the bed.

“Good afternoon mister Smith” a man in what looked like pretty typical medical scrubs said, followed in my a number of other people dressed similarly.
The mans accent was … English perhaps? I couldn’t exactly pick it, but it was not mainstream Australian - if such an accent could even be said to exist anyway. Although it was hardly unusual for English medical professionals to run to Australia for a few years once the rain and cold got too depressing…

But no, English wasn’t quite right ...

“Good afternoon” I replied back, trying not to wince too much at the pain from my aborted attempt to stand up. Although it was I noticed somewhat dull in that way that I knew meant I was on painkillers. Which made me very glad; if it hurt this much on drugs I didn’t want to even think what it would feel like without them.

“Careful now. Your nervous system has been badly overloaded - in simple terms you suffered a major electric shock and corresponding strain to your neural system” the man said, striding quickly over to ease me back down before hitting some controls and causing the bed to shift up to a sitting position as others carefully pulled my legs back and eased me into the sitting position, checking the IV and otherwise fussing. “You’ve been asleep for two days while we dealt with the damage - and I’m pleased to say we’re well on the way to getting you back on your feet”.

“Oh” I blinked, feeling slightly shocked at that, the causal statement of the loss of two days of time like that. Thoughts about work, family and the world moving on crashing into me.
As if he could sense my thoughts, the man however raised a hand.

“After we check you out, we’ll head downstairs and talk about all the questions I’m sure you want to ask” he noted, retrieving a stethoscope that had been hung around his neck. “Now if you’ll just sit up and we’ll check you out?”

At that I glanced down - and tried not to blush at what I saw. Clearly someone had undressed me at some point and put me into hospital garb.
Well, might as well get it over with I thought with a sigh and leaned forward as the doctor efficiently pulled the back of my gown open via some well placed velcro straps...


***
******
***

 
Next came an hour of poking, prodding and checking things. Asking me to do this and that with my limbs and joints in a systematic inspection from head to toe testing strength, reflexes, power and so on. I wasn’t given a clean bill of health exactly but I was told I was well on the way to recovery and, give or take a week, I’d be good as new. Which, I thought, was pretty incredible given that I’d apparently been zapped hard enough to hallucinate some really weird shit that had seemed so vivid at the time.

I did try to ask some questions about exactly where I was, but was told that all questions would be answered soon. And that given the possibility of nervous system damage, they didn’t want to ‘contaminate’ the memory testing that would take place shortly. That I should just stay as relaxed as possible.
It sounded rather absurd to me - but mentally I shrugged and went with it. It wasn’t as if I exactly had much of a choice anyway - having relatives as medical professionals had taught me well that Doctors, Nurses and specialists of all kinds were exceptionally good at ignoring their patients when they were not cooperating and demanding they just do as they were told. And the faster you just got it over and done with the faster you got out.

Soon enough I was in a wheelchair and being pushed out of the rather plain room. I kept looking around trying to find hints of which Sydney hospital I was in, but one hospital really looked like any other on the inside I suppose to people who didn’t actually work in them. Although, I did note that this building looked … well, new I suppose would be the best word? Almost like a next generation office space in a lot of ways with its glass walls, polished metal fixtures and styles with surprisingly little of the organized clutter I would normally expect.
Perhaps this is a private hospital? I wondered, although it seemed unlikely given that they didn’t really do emergency care work. But perhaps I had needed some kind of specialist treatment?
I didn’t have too long to wonder though, the trip was pretty short, just down a few passages to wide door at the end of a corridor. A small touchpad/flat screen combo mounted on the wall next to it (again not something I’d expect to see in a hospital) said ‘Conference Room 4-1A’ noting that the time was apparently just before two thirty and a meeting was going to run here for a few hours. Trying pathetically to straighten up and make myself slightly presentable- in a hospital gown with an IV in one arm- the door was opened and I was wheeled through by the Doctor behind me.

I looked around in some surprise as I entered the room. It was crowded with a lot of very serious looking men and women. At least what, twenty? More? The rectangular table in the middle of  the room only had a dozen or so seats, meaning several people were standing clustered around the far end. Only a few were wearing hospital scrubs, most were wearing lab coats or even suits of a somewhat odd cut. One bizarrely even looked to be in what suspiciously looked like some kind of military uniform - but certainly not an Australian defense force uniform which was more than a bit confusing … and concerning.
I didn’t see any family members though and the sense of unease I had been feeling since waking up grew a little. At the least I knew they were safe; none of them had been in the house with me when I was asleep…

Presently after pushing me up to the nearest end of the long table which had been left open - presumably for me- and checking my IV with a reassuring smile, the Doctor handed over some paperwork to the man sitting opposite me on the table before quietly leaving and closing the door behind him.

“Mister Smith, welcome. My name is Doctor Charles Stewart - head of the neurological department” the older, somewhat dignified looking man said. “I apologize for the lack of information you have received thus far, but we wanted to be sure first and foremost of your health before proceeding. And it would appear” he noted, flicking through a number of printouts on the table, “that you are recovering and responding very well to treatment”.

“Glad to hear it” I responded, the uneasy feeling growing slightly at both the fact that this man also had the slightly ‘wrong’ accent … and the sheer number of people in the room watching me closely.
So I decided to get straight to the point.
“If you’ll forgive my directness; what the hell happened to me and where am I?”

“Understandable questions. In simple terms” Doctor Stewart said, leaning forward slightly before pausing slightly and then pressing on. “You were exposed to a high-intensity but highly focused and localized EM field. One that was generated as a result of certain highly-classified science experiments regarding … long range communications. The field was never, of course, meant to materialize around you and your bed while you were sleeping, but a chaotic event … well suffice to say, it materialized on you. Speaking frankly, it's something of a miracle you survived - let alone survived with no permanent damage”.

“...right” I responded to the man after glancing around the room and taking a note of the deadly serious expressions on the faces there as my sense of unease grew rapidly. I was hardly a scientist, but was wondering what in the hell kind of experiment could direct an EM field without line of sight over such a long distance (as I was emphatically sure there wasn’t any such facility anywhere near my house) and what exactly was being done with it-
Then, suddenly, the alarm bells started to ring in my head as the last thoughts of in my bed hit me with a terrifying clarity. In some kind of warehouse yet on my bed with part of my room around me and a wall that collapsed-

“The last thing I remember as I woke up after the … event … was seeing a massive looking warehouse or structure around part of my room” I said very carefully, my tension creeping just that more as several of the people exchanged glances. “As if it along with me had been sliced out of my house and transported somewhere else”.
It was utterly insane, but I said it anyway. Waiting for everyone to suggest that I needed to go lie down again for a while.

They didn’t.

The not-quite accusation hung there in the air for a good three seconds before finally another man, a somewhat younger man who couldn’t quite meet my gaze spoke up in a stutter-

“That … that is because, in essence, you and that part of your room were, um, well, you see -”

Doctor Stewart stepped in at that point with an annoyed look at the other.

“Our ‘communications system’ works, in essence, by opening a hole through space from point to point to send transmissions through. Due to a freak one in a trillion series of events, the system overloaded and became a bridge for not simply energy, but matter. You and everything in a flattened sphere approximately three meters in diameter and two in height, were, … well, transported here through that bridge”.

At that I blinked and worked my jaw trying to say something.
It was completely, utterly, absolutely insane.
And yet … the lack of straight answers, no family or friends when I woke up … and the utterly serious looks on the faces around me oddly convinced me that I had just become part of human history. The first man teleported? Yay me?

I tried to force myself to calm down with only partial success and only deal with the facts as they stood.

“Okay … “ I managed to swallow that and accept the statement on its face value as I again took a good long look around the room and started to slowly add things up. “Based on your accents, your slightly … odd ... sense of fashion and uniform I don’t recognize” I nodded at several people in a row and took the plunge. “I’m … not in  … where am I?”
Then before anyone could answer my eyes bulged as the vivid memory of seeing my bedrooms back wall behind me go falling over. “Wait - my house, what happened to my house! And my-”

“Please calm down Mister Smith” a young woman with a sympathetic face sitting next to me cut in. Glancing at her I noticed that her tablet computer (an odd model I had never seen before that I’m guessing was some kind of MilSpec custom job, looking more like an older laptop than anything else) and it had what looked like medical readings flashing over it. I guessed she was somehow monitoring my vital signs on it - huh guess this wheelchair was more than just a seat. “You’re safe, everything is going to be okay. Please just calm down and listen” she said, reaching out to firmly take my hand. The sudden contact jolted me a little - but it also seemed to help ground me.

“Please” I swallowed to clear an annoyingly hoarse voice after a time. “My house? My family?”

“To the very best of our knowledge, both are perfectly fine. In fact they should not have noticed your departure”.

My brain gave a ‘Flat What’ at that and I looked around somewhat incredulously at the still utterly serious expressions directed at me.

“Give them some credit; I think they would kind of noticed a significant chunk of the house going missing with me in it” I bit back almost instinctively, clutching the arms of my wheelchair for some kind of support as much as I clung to the sarcasm as I wondered if I was utterly misunderstanding them on some level.

“Alright Mister Smith, the Truth” the military looking man finally joined the conversation with a deep, direct sounding voice.

“General, I don’t think-”

“He deserves to know what you people” -although from the tone of his voice I would have guessed he really meant ‘idiots’ - “did” he snapped, turning to face him. “Son they’ve told the truth, but not the whole truth. The … technology … we were using didn’t pull you from there to here. It copied what was inside the field, exactly to the quantum level, duplicating it inside an identical field in our laboratory. The original ‘you’ is probably completely unaware of what happened”.

“It … I … what?” I managed to get out - even though in a strange way, I found it horribly clear exactly what he was saying. Even as my mind screamed denial. “You’re saying … I’m not … I’m just a …”

‘Copy’ my mind supplied the word I couldn’t possibly say.

I’m not John … I’m just a copy of him … just a ****** copy ...

I heard the general still talking, vaguely but didn’t really pay attention. Everything just seemed to stop as the entire fundamental truth of my existence collapsed in on itself until from somewhere I heard my name being called (My name? Was it?) several times and I managed to drag my attention back.

“General, enough; you’re pushing him too hard!” the woman next to me protested, shooting him a look of pure murder as my mine chased itself around in small circles as I desperately tried my very best to ignore the implications to my life and my existence, before finally latching onto, rather pathetically and desperately, something in the phrasing.

“You said … said It’s been days since this happened. And you just said … you just said you think that I … me … him - the other me, is fine and the house” I managed to stutter out through the numb shock and disbelief raging in my head. “You think. How could you not know? I mean, I’m sure it's all over the news - a chunk of the house and someone inside it goes missing in the middle of the night, if it happened. And if it didn’t, you’ve had plenty of time to have someone go around and take a look! So why don’t you know?!” I finished in a half shout half sob half whatever.

I knew somehow, distantly, that I was just grasping at straws. And that it was even entirely possible that wherever I was and whoever these people were, they didn’t have ‘assets’ in place to go around and take a look at where I lived…

But I didn’t expect the answer they gave.

“I’m afraid that isn’t possible Mister Smith” Doctor Stewart replied gently, shooting one final glare at the General, before taking a breath. “I’m sorry to be the one to tell you this - but I won’t like to you. The technology we were testing did not simply transmit across space … but also, in this case, seemingly uniquely across time. When you went to sleep two days ago the year was twenty fifteen … the year is now thirty twenty six. And you’re not on Earth anymore - this planet is roughly three hundred light years away from mankind's homeworld”.

“Oh” I responded. “Well … that would explain it, I guess”.

Then I threw up. Before passing out.

***
******
***

 
So that was how I ended up in the universe of Battletech.

The next few months were, well, lets just fast forward through the five stages of grief? Denial was how I spent most of the time though. At first, Janace - who was my assigned therapist - had to try and get through my understandable shock and numbness. A regime of very advanced antidepressants and so on helped me, although it’s all still a bit of a blur in my memory. Mostly I was both simultaneously grateful that as far as NAIS knew, the ‘real’ me was still going fine without having noticed anything. Which also meant that no matter how much I missed them, my family and friends at least would be spared the horror of me simply vanishing one night with a chunk of my house forcing them to bury an empty coffin or something.

Eventually, I was was well enough to actually start to ask questions about the future … starting with why everything looked so suspiciously like the present to me rather than Clark’s law being fully in effect.

And so it was explained to me that science with a few exceptions had broadly remained much the same as it was in my timeframe - even if impressive strides had been made in applied engineering. I was not entirely convinced but finally I was sat down in a room for a history catch up … which had quickly made me blink and sit up in disbelief.

Because this ‘future’ sounded familiar.
Suspiciously
familiar, in fact.
Unbelievably familiar, in fact.

Some part of me firmly in denial mode about all of this still kept my mouth shut at the absurdity presented to me. That I was not simply in the future, but had transitioned to a ****** fictional universe and was crashing at the New Avalon Institute of Science in the wonderful world of Battletech, in the best imitation of a Self Insertion fanfiction.

My knee-jerk denial (even if I kept my mouth shut my skepticism was clear) had lasted 24 hours more until Janice had taken me outside for a walk … and five minutes later I had stood there dumbfounded as a lance of Battlemechs (a Jagermech, two Enforcers and a Locust I recall rather vividly) casually strolled past when they got a green light as they threaded their way down the road to the College of Military Sciences.

My brain promptly went into an infinite loop chasing itself as it tried to determine if Occam's Razor made ‘someone with a ****** of money on Earth is simply replicating a known tabletop game after kidnapping me’ was more likely than ‘I transitioned to a reality version of an entirely fictional universe’.
I mean, one would require a ****** crapload of technology and countless billions of dollars and powerful people to put in an obscene effort to try and trick me for motives I couldn’t come close to guessing, far more assumptions and moving parts … but didn’t require what amounted to the impossible. That
everything I knew about physics was wrong and somehow, a paper and tabletop work of fiction was now a real universe.

Then there were other fun ideas like me being in some kind of matrix VR world based on Battletech - but quickly I realized that if that was the case I wouldn’t be able to determine it anyway, so…

Then the next day as I was still clinging to the thin argument of a massive trick … I saw a dropship launch.

No actually, I saw about thirty of them launch, from the roof of the hospital where a nice little cafe was situated. From both a military sportport attached to NAIS and other more distant locations around the lights of Avalon City and Castle Avalon. It was spectacular, loud and in your face. On a scale of one to ten, this rated Michael Bay. And as the fusion drives briefly turned night into day across the entire region as the massive objects told gravity to go suck a higgs boson, the truth of my situation became oddly, calmly, undeniable.

I was in Battletech. Cira the 3025 era.

It sounded insane every time I said it, but there it was and here I am.

In the days that followed I consumed damn near Every history book I had scoured matched up identical to what I recalled - if far more detail, but this wasn’t ‘close’ or ‘near’ Battletech, but as far as I could tell, exactly matched it.
Still, I kept enough sense to keep my mouth shut because I needed to consider my position carefully -
very carefully.

The one thing I could do and did do however was make it clear that I was not from their reality either. In discussions with a gaggle of various academics from NAIS, I laid out in detail many of the geopolitical and historical changes in my timeline from theirs, narrowing down some kind of divergence in the 1970s, well before I was born.
Which was to be frank a rather clear relief to the people talking to me, who had clearly been terrified of the idea of plucking me from
their timeline and somehow having contaminated it in a butterfly effect.

And that solved, now there was just the small matter … of building a new life.

Medically NAIS were, as you would think, very good at what they did. And they dealt with the physical damage from my creation quickly enough. Plus even a few medical improvements of minor ailments which was nice of them to do - as well as massive testing to make sure I wasn’t going to be a Typhoid Mary, followed by vaccinations and more testing which I thankfully passed without incident. Somewhat disturbingly, I suspect that a lot of the scientists were sort of hoping for a medical reaction from my body to the vaccinations to examine the differences in physiology over a thousand years, but it seems my DNA was depressingly normal enough. Evolution didn’t seem to have left any surprises after all over such a short timeframe.

Material wise there was good news and bad news for me. The bad news was that I had very few possessions to my name anymore. My bed (which had been thrown out) and some things around it and under it had come with me - luckily a lot of my more sentimental items had been stored under the bed and had come with me, but few clothes or other bits and pieces.

But my iPad and iPhone had come through fine. Even better, my bedside draw had piles of cables and a couple of adapters for recharging them. Which, thanks to 21st century safety standards, had etched into the plastic the exact power inputs and outputs making it child's play for the NAIS School of Engineering as a sort-of apology for the whole ‘creating you and dumping you in a brave new world’ thing to slap together an adaptor for their standard ‘offworld travel power adaptor’ kit, so I could recharge the apple devices.
Although frankly, it was clear they mostly went to the effort of building a USB adapter because they
really wanted to play with the ‘ancient’ computers … and were not expecting what I showed them.

Suffice to say they were stunned that my 21st century was building things like that! And more than a few seemed mildly exasperated and disheartened how a thousand years later in their timeline, well…

Anyway, after showing off the interface and some of the apps on it, said engineers immediately offered a rather large amount of cash for me to turn them over … but money was not an immediate issue. Someone high up - they wouldn't say who - in the Fedsuns had arranged a lifetime pension comparable to a living wage. Partially as an apology for my circumstances, partially as a ‘keep your ****** mouth shut’ incentive to neither talk about how I came into being or anything inside the NAIS I had seen.

And I accepted those terms rather quickly - last thing I wanted was MIIO thinking I was a security threat and that it would be quicker and cheaper to just toss me into a fusion disposal unit or something.

Anyway, I simply kept my mouth shut for now. And a couple of months of physical therapy and crash courses about the Federated Suns later, I was dumped at my cheap but clean and well stocked with history books apartment in downtown Avalon City to see what I could make of myself.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:26:30
Chapter 2: The Cake is (not) a lie.


***
******
***
I settled in well enough over the next two weeks, unpacking into my smallish but nice enough apartment overlooking the Albion River I had been issued for the next year to help me to cover my basic needs. It had very little furniture; just a cheap but functional bed and a basic chair and table setup with some shelves here and there, but I felt that might have been deliberate. To force me to go out and interact to buy stuff and so on. Rather than just hide up in here.
Janice could really be quite ruthless when she wanted to.
I explored the local area as I brought some of the things I’d need, coming to grips with things like new chains of supermarkets selling both different and familiar food under different brand names. Although I found it both hilarious and heartwarming in equal measure that the Cola wars were
still going strong between Coke and Pepsi 1000 years later, bursting out laughing upon seeing both product lines glaring at each other across an aisle, earning me some strange looks from other customers.

I shied away from thinking about the big picture, instead focusing on my more immediate needs. I picked up some equipment; a local cell phone that looked like distant steroid enhanced son of a Nokia 3310. Compared to my iPhone it was clunky at best and highly limited in the functionality (very much ‘future of the 80s’) … but this ‘civilian’ device beat out 21st century Milspec hardening. Seriously, it was rated for crazy levels of abuse to the point that extended warranties just weren't a thing!
I also picked up a computer terminal best described as ‘quaint’ compared to my gaming rig back home and got it set up. With my existing skills I was able to figure out how to use it quite quickly, although I found it was genuinely
was a terminal with little local processing power, with a subscription based business model for access to various mainframes on the planet. It really reminded me of an old school Videotex/Teletex system, just with far rather better graphics.

Nonetheless I was dearly missing google after the first few hours. Cloud computing this was not. Internet it was not. Sigh!

Still it sufficed for my purposes as I continued to do my very best to not make a decision or address the elephant in the room.
My Knowledge.
Knowledge that in the hands of various actors could change the lives of
trillions of human beings for decades to come, if not longer. With consequences I could scarcely imagine or theorize.

And it didn’t help I could see history ticking over simply by turning on my Vid.

Local TV was and wasn’t much the same as back home. WIth a mixture of entertainment, news, current affairs and sports. The ten dedicated Solaris channels were extra and NAIS hadn’t shelled out for that package for my vid. And if you thought the Brits were bad about stalking the Royal Family for news and scandals, you ain't seen nothing compared to paparazzi in the Neo-Feudal digital age!
All the major vid stations also had subsidiary stations on distant worlds and/or a whole web of alliances with local stations who fed reports up the HPG chains - some of it even useful. Predictably, a great deal of the real news at the moment was centered on the surprise military exercises Hanse Davion had kicked off, with talking heads either condemning it as an unnecessary expense of theater that risked more conflict, or praising it as a strong message to their enemies.


There seemed little doubt Liao and Kurita would already have a pretty clear picture on what units were being deployed from press reports alone ... but then I remembered that Hanse Davion had encouraged reporting on Galahad (and later Katrina on Operation Thor), making the Capellans and Combine go crazy with paranoia … only for nothing to happen as they played the ‘boy who cried wolf’ card in reverse.

And yet, perhaps selfishly, I had been going out of my way to avoid having to make any decisions about what I would do. I like to think I was simply frozen into indecision over the sheer scope of this; the responsibility of so many lives, innocent and not, who would be impacted by any action I took seemed to become more and more clear, the more I came to accept that this was real for me now.

But that all changed two days later.

***
******
***
Three weeks had now passed since I left NAIS and I was still mostly spending the days exploring the city, playing tourist and feeling my way forward. Most recently I had spent a considerable amount of time going through the House Davion War Museum. It was, unsurprisingly, massive; with patronage from the ruling family and AFFS making it feel almost a temple to the Federated Suns martial might that the population went to worship at.

No, actually, that's exactly what it was come to think of it.

Even more cool, it had a number of real Battlemechs (very carefully disabled of course with their fusion reactors removed but otherwise authentic) that people could interact with. I had to wait in line for an hour before a retired member of the 1st Davion Guards sat me down in the Jagermech cockpit and it was a 50 pound fee … but it was totally worth it as it ran through a simulated engagement. Although I also wanted to have a go with the ASF simulator and Tank simulator, both were closed down while they were being upgraded, to my disappointment. Still, there were other things to geek out over. Example, the big dome shaped building in the middle of the museum? It housed an honest to god Union - albeit one with significant chunks of the outer hull opened up with this whole scaffold erected around it to allow movement in and out of the ship. It was pretty damn fascinating, let me tell you that. I mean, it's a real honest to god SPACESHIP I was walking all over! And I’m not too proud to admit that I totally waited in line to have my picture taken sitting in the Captain's Chair.

The displays celebrating the war history of the AFFS were extensive and reasonably honest. Even to the point of critiquing the AFFS’s poor showing in the earlier 1st Succession War - until Kentares had made them stand up and start fighting like real soldiers, with wall after wall of interactive displays showing enraged AFFS units blasting the DCMS off world after world. No more than a few scant words of course about how the DCMS had half collapsed out of shame when ComStar exploded the news about the massacre across the Inner Sphere. After all, that would have ruined the narrative of the horrified AFFS shaking it off and pushing them back with pure guts and determination alone!
Still, other displays were a little less one sided. Even the reunification war hall, while showing and talking up how brutally the Taurians fought using every dirty tactic in the book, acknowledged that the whole thing had been a mistake on the part of the Great Houses. Best of intentions and all that. With a significant chunk of the blame for the questionable war neatly foisted off onto House Cameron, who were conveniently no longer around to object.

There were also entire chambers filled with trophies of war. Everything from captured unit standards to pieces of equipment from enemies of the AFFS. Examples of everything from captured ISF sneak suits to a Capellan Thrush salvaged from the ‘Great Lee Turkey shoot’. Even a handful of examples of SLDF gear from the Pitcairn legions little shadow war with the infamous General Forlough were on display here, with a very much ‘david vs goliath’ vibe presented about that little side war. Although it really wasn’t hard to play the ‘white knights’ when you were up against ****** Forlough; his very name still a vile curse word in Periphery to this day - according to the displays. Apparently calling someone a ‘Forlough’ in the Concordant was a good way to be punched in the face.

Anyway, I didn’t just play tourist, I also was starting to work on some more practical things. For example, trying to learn French. I regretted I had forgotten pretty much everything from my years of learning it in high school - but it wasn’t a time critical activity either. As far as I could tell, everyone spoke perfect English on New Avalon, it was just that if you couldn’t speak French it pegged you instantly as both offworld and/or not a member of the nobility or upper-middle class aspiring to become part of it.
Today, after four hours of halting progress with various vid lesson tapes driving me nuts and the time around lunch, I finally decided to hell with it and decided to get some fresh air.

Davion Peace Park was a popular place for people to amble around in Avalon City. It was quite large, similar in concept to something like Central Park in NYC, just much bigger. It wound around the side and back of Mount Davion, separating NAIS, the Davion Palace and Avalon City proper from each other. It also served a dual role as a security barrier for the first two and was often the site of public ceremonies for the ruling family to present awards or announce policies.

Mostly though, it was just a public park.

There were large hillsides for families to throw down a rug and have a picnic or for kids to run around playing games on any number of sport grounds - or clamber over some pretty expansive and extensive playground equipment. There were areas for pets to be let off the leash to run free and lakes for people to play with small little two person boats and such. Inevitably there were any number jogger hoards, mostly in military PT gear it seemed, proudly wearing their units sweatshirts.

I had no intention of exercising though.

I had always enjoyed going to local parks to just sit and relax. Grab some lunch from a nearby joint, find a space and just clear my mind and put aside my worries with some comfort food in the fresh air. I’d never quite had this level of ‘worries’ to deal with mind you - but the theory was the same. So here I was, having finished my lunch and just chilling on a bench looking out on the artificial (but perfectly natural looking) lake that covered this part of the park. Watching as a people went rowing around in a number of quaint little rowboats and other recreational human powered craft. Married couples, dating couples, groups of family and friends. All enjoying their time here on Friday afternoon.
All utterly unaware how in forty years they or their children or their children's children would watch as their capital was turned into a massive wasteland by the ****** phone companies inbred evil step brother, petulantly raining fire and nukes from orbit because their vaunted clockwork soldiers were simply not good enough to defeat the battle hardened garrison below.

And the troops too, who were everywhere running along the numerous jogging paths wound through the grounds. How many of them would die in the 4th Succession War? Or the 3039 War? Would some survive these tests only to fall as the Clans came rampaging in or live to finally retire … and watch the aforementioned holocaust take place on the heads of their children and grandchildren, after Katherine Steiner threw the mother of all temper tantrums that irrevocably shattered the greatest nation since the Star League?

Unless of course, I decided to do something about it.

Sighing, I pulled a small rock from next to the seat and flung it into the water. It made quite a splash and then the ripples ringed out to have their short lived effect running into further ripples from other activity, all impacting and pushing and changing each other … it was a childish metaphor perhaps yet it seemed to fit my mood right now of the impossibility of knowing if actions taken for the best of intentions were going to make things better or worse. Or if in the long term everything would just even out to nothing.

This really was a hell of a lot easier on the tabletop-

“Good morning Mister Smith!”

Uh ...okay. That was unexpected...
Turning away from my brooding introspection, I looked up at … a stunning young woman. And oh boy do I mean stunning.
I mean think of a young Olivia Wilde as a blond and you’d actually be pretty damn close to who I was staring at right now.

“Good morning Miss…” I fished for a name to buy time as I tried to rally. Two different alarm klaxons were screaming in my head at the same time as she smiled and sat down next to me. After all, very few people knew me on this planet … and none of them looked like they had just walked off the set of New Avalons next top model.
Huh, wonder if that was actually a thing-

“Kym” she again shot me a smile of perfect white teeth as she sat down next to me just a little too close and I inched away, earning a slightly playful smirk and flick of her hair that made my heart jump involuntarily. “Don’t worry, I don’t bite”.

“I’m glad to hear that” I replied even as another four different alarms joined the cacophony in my head. Young, hot, blue eyes, goes by the name of Kym..
No. It couldn’t be … it seriously couldn’t be … could it?
“Kym…” I hinted carefully and she laughed lightly.

“Sorenson” she smiled at me with devastating dimples.

...crap.

“Ah. John” I held out my hand and she took it, trying to ignore the most pleasant spritzy perfume she was wearing as I wrenched my thoughts distracted by this stunning woman back into the crisis room where they belonged, thinking rapidly. Kym Sorenson - later Kym Sorenson-Hasek. MIIO agent and Countess. Future wife of Morgan Hasek-Davion, whom she had been assigned to watch before falling in love with him after establishing his ironclad loyalty. Unless of course I just butterflied that to hell by having Quintis or Hanse assign her to watch me instead of (eventually) Morgan. Although that wouldn’t take place for another year, would it?

Why? Why the hell was she here?

Almost immediately the answer came. The same reason as she was dangled in Morgan's path a year or so down the road.
Honeypot.
A test of loyalty. Or at least, how seriously I took my security warnings-

“Yes I know who you are” she nodded as she studied me - and clearly mistook the the panic in my eyes as my terror that she was about to ‘compromise’ my secret identity. “I was at NAIS when the … incident happened” she breathed in a secret sort of thrilling way. “I never had any chance to meet you in person afterwards and I’ve really wanted to talk to you”.

Her performance was flawless, I’d give her that. If not for the fact that I already knew who she was, well, I would have probably been willing to give her the benefit of the doubt. Even so, I knew what I was supposed to do. One. Stick to my cover story like glue. Two. Head home and report her at once to NAIS security via the number Janice had given me. Three. Understand it never happened.
Wasn’t a bad idea, Gods the butterflies that might result from this-
And then, all at once, as I was thinking about the disruption this could -had!- cause/caused, it hit me.

It was blindingly obvious really.

History - the future- had already been changed. By definition. Kym had just proved that. Perhaps only small changes thus far, but who knows what they might cause in the long run? Granted I could try to minimise them … but I could hardly guarantee them - and paradoxically I could only really exert influence to keep the future ‘as is’ by changing it anyway. And the right butterfly like this one could have second and third order consequences I couldn’t possibly anticipate.
And perhaps it was just pure hubris to to think I must.
Watching the lake again as the last of the ripples I had created faded to nothing … I finally came to the only conclusion I know I could have made. Perhaps I had just been pushing it off because I was scared of moving from the ‘certainty’ of the game universe I knew into the real world. Full of uncertainty. But it was increasingly becoming clear that said ‘certainty’ was little more than an illusion now.
So. What was holding me back?
Would I be willing to sit on this same bench forty or so years from now, watching as naval weapons fire rained from the sky on NAIS, Mount Davion and Avalon City, followed by hordes of fanatic toaster worshipers unleashing the mother of all tantrums over the fact that the human race didn’t bend the knee to their glorious ‘Master’ plan? Knowing I could have done something but refused to try?

Honestly, the answer was surprisingly clear when I put in those terms. Maybe i was just justifying the decision on some BS grounds … but almost without realizing it I made my choice and set the ripples loose with another stone cast into the water.

“Can I ask you a question Agent Sorenson?” I asked almost casually, regarding the lake and not daring to look at her as I irrevocably started down my chosen path. ”Why did you join MIIO? I mean, you’re a Countess. Your father is pretty damn rich from his business ventures. You’re young, smart, confident, connected and rather more than ‘pretty’. You could have easily gone into business. You could have joined the AFFS. You could have gone into politics. But you chose the path of a field agent. So … why?”
To tell the truth, I was actually interested in her answer. But there was also no question that I was really just trying to get her attention (and that of her superiors)  in a direct yet -more or less- safe way by casually talking about things I damn well couldn’t possibly know.
Still, credit where it was due, it only took her five seconds of dead silence by my count to recover her wits and take up the gauntlet.

“Several reasons actually” she admitted freely, offering me a seemingly casual shrug as I turned back to face her. Kym’s gaze and presence were no longer ‘airhead’, but neither was her gaze suddenly deadly or super serious, affecting a studied nonchalance as if this was merely a mildly amusing turn of events.
Although from the way her eyes were utterly locked onto mine and not moving a fraction of an inch, I had the feeling that casually blowing her cover and identity wide open had gotten her complete and undivided attention. And yet, she was taking a refuge in an equal level of audacity to mine to deal with the situation, facing me on my chosen ground.

But then I shouldn’t have been surprised that someone personally tapped by Quintus Allard and Hanse Davion for critical spy work would be bloody good at it.

“My family actually has a proud and long history back through the centuries of working for the intelligence services of the Federated Suns” she continued, swinging around to straddle the bench and fully face me (and get her incredible pencil skirt covered legs in the ideal position to let her launch at me if she needed to, I tried not to notice). “I grew up hearing family stories of their exploits, of the unsung heroes who changed the course of history without anyone ever knowing and all that”. Then she actually laughed lightly, at herself. “Although to tell you the truth, when I was younger I got hooked on ‘skulk team’; a vid series about a fictional Rabid Fox team fighting week to week battles against Liao and Kurita. I must say I was pretty disappointed that on day one of our training we were made to watch an episode and then write down at least fifty things ‘wrong’ with it to progress. But then again” she tilted her head at me, “sometimes reality is stranger than fiction”.

“Or reality is fiction” I muttered, earning a curious eyebrow from her as I tried to think of how to approach this with her now that I had lit off a nuclear signal flare.

“Perhaps so” she nodded at me. “So Mister Smith, here we are. I think you know the questions I’m going to have to ask you now”.

“How?” I guessed and she rolled her eyes almost mockingly to heaven.

“Hardly” she chided me, crossing her arms “The fact that you know things completely impossible for you to know is, of course, rather interesting. And the ‘why’ is clearly to get the attention of myself and those I work for. Which leads us to the most pertinent question; What do you want?”
Somewhere in the Multiverse, a Shadow was giving her a standing ovation while a Vorlon facepalmed, I just knew it.

“Anyone ever tell you you’re as smart as you are stunning?” I asked her with a slightly wry smile.

“Frequently - but you missed your chance for me to practice my seduction techniques when you blew my cover, caveman, so it's too late for flirting” she sniffed, then proceeded to frown and crossed her arms in annoyance with a brief puff of air fluttering her fringe in a distracting cute way. “Which is really quite vexing actually; I spent most of the this morning on standby while we figured out if you were going to come outside where I could casually get to you in public”.

“Well I would offer to reschedule for tomorrow, but I have a guess that my free time might have just become slightly restricted. But to answer you question succinctly; I need you to deliver something to Ardan Sortek for me”.

“Ardan Sortek” she looked at me, her face clearly faintly amused at the idea of delivering something to Hanse Davion's closest friend and man with probably the greatest soft power in the entire realm. “Really”.

“Yes, really” I nodded before glancing down at my bag. “If I might just get it out of my bag?”

“Of course. But, carefully” she advised in a tone that was friendly - and yet edged with seriousness as she uncrossed her arms. Making no sudden movements, I reached down and unzipped the bag, feeling her gaze burning on my neck as I found what I was looking for and slowly, carefully, pulled out my iPad, her gaze following me the whole way (and, I suspect, some crack sniper somewhere up on Mount Davion too…)

“Do you know what this is?” I asked her as I started the iPad powering up.

“Your noteputer - I believe you called it an ‘iPad’?”

“Just so” I agreed, angling the screen so she could see easily. “The unlock code is six four three three” I showed her as it finished booting and she nodded once evenly.

“Well I’m sure it's a very impressive bit of hardware - NAIS offered you a considerable sum of cash for it after all. But why would Colonel Sortek want this?”

“It’s not the hardware in of itself” I explained, showing her carefully as I opened my ebooks and the single entry that was present. I had systematically transferred everything I could off it and onto my iPhone via BlueTooth (I left the movies and a few TV episodes there for space reasons, hopefully Hanse and Ardan would get a kick out of Game of Thrones), making room by deleting most of the applications on my Phone. Until such time as someone figured out how to transfer files onto a Battletech computer from these things, I had to carefully manage my space.

On the other hand, these two devices were intrinsically secure in a way no other electronics were right now for me. The architecture of the technology was clearly alien to NAIS. I’m sure that the locals could reverse engineer the technology and probably even crack the encryption, but it would take considerable time and effort. Until then, if I locked the iPad with its password engaged, unless someone tortured me, the damn thing was more or less entirely secure.
I did wish that I had more Battletech material of course, but I had hardly known this was going to happen to me. It was mildly vexing; all that money spent on novels, sourcebooks and games and when I needed it...
Still. I had participated in so many Battletech quests and read so many fanfics that I was pretty sure I had most of the key steps down pat in my head (and had been writing copious notes on my iphone, equally secure behind a password).
And this iPad and the single document on it that I had been carrying around with me, in the vague crazy hope of a situation just like this that I knew would never happen. An express postal delivery service to the very top..

“Just go here” I showed her the documents folder “and open this file. It's the only file there. In fact it should be open already when I lock it like so” I said, hitting the lock button at that point and then unlocking it to demonstrate the app already open before I locked it again and handed it out for her to take.

Her eyes for perhaps the first time utterly serious, she regarded me for long seconds before finally, almost grudgingly, she reached out to carefully take the iPad from me.

“Once again” she stated after a slightly uncomfortable silence. “Why exactly would Colonel Sortek want to read this?” she tapped the iPad with a perfectly manicured fingernail, her gaze locked with mine and deadly serious, saying without saying that she needed an answer now before anything happened.

“It's not so much a question of if he wants to read it” I explained carefully, feeling that this question would make or break how this all went. “It’s that I need him to read it, without knowing what he is reading in advance. And then afterwards, for he - and probably Hanse Davion too - to make a judgement on if I am utterly crazy or if I am the only sane man in an insane universe”. I could see i hadn’t exactly convinced her, so I simply shrugged. “I’m sure Quintus will want to review this before he even thinks about placing this in front of those two - and I have no objection. But I feel he also would agree after doing so that it would be better if they reviewed this without any hints. And” I added before it looked like she was about to reply, playing my last card to get the maximum attention. “If none of the above people are convinced by what they read that they think it's worthy of a further meeting with me, then please let me know that they can keep the ipad and do with it as they will as an apology for wasting their time”.

That got her attention I could see. In this age of Lostech (even if my iPad really wasn’t Lostech per se) simply giving away something like that was a statement of how serious (and how confident) I was about this whole thing. And feeling that there really wasn’t anything more to say, I reached down and zipped up my bag, swinging it onto my back and offering her a final, slightly forced smile.

“If they want to meet with me, I’m at their disposal … I’m sure they know exactly where I live” I noted.

I half expected at that point for her to simply wave a hand and half a dozen MI5 or MI6 agents appear from behind bushes or pop out of the lake in scuba gear or something to drag me off to the palace. Or for her to ‘invite’ me to join her there for further questions. Or that she would play for time for a team to come as she kept frantically hitting some invisible panic buzzer or something.

Instead, almost anticlimactically, Kym Sorenson casually got to her feet, offered me a completely non-committal nod and smile before she started to stroll off, humming casually to herself and instantly looking again like some NAIS college kid out for a stroll.

I wondered a little at that - but then decided not to take any chances. I also left, turning back to head out of the park towards my apartment. I deliberately also forced myself to not look around lest I started to try and pick out anyone following me. Indeed, I made it home without anything abnormal happening, which was slightly surprising given the size of the rock I had just thrown in the general direction of the most powerful people in the Federated Suns.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:27:26
Chapter 3: Truth to Power

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And then followed the longest 44 hours of my life - to that point anyway. I have to admit I half expected to be brought in that afternoon, then evening, then night and didn’t sleep much, waiting for the knock on the door.
Then I was frantic most of the next day even as I slowly grew more tired (although I was careful to lay out the only good suit I owned), not leaving the apartment and just watching vids. After a light dinner I finally decided that if the powers that be
wanted to talk to me, I don’t think they would let a closed door or fact that I was asleep stop them, so I might as well get some when I could. I managed to finally crash at the end of that day, slightly confused that nothing had happened.

The next morning after a surprisingly decent sleep I seemed to have needed, I tried to force myself to get back into a somewhat normal routine - as much as possible anyway as I was wondering if my ipad and its contents were being dismissed as some joke - or was sitting on someone's desk and winding its way through some vogon esque chain of bureaucrats who had forgotten the password or something. Even if I told myself it was highly unlikely, the thoughts remained.
Still, I managed to mostly convince myself to keep my expectations under control. Even if my little gift had been taken seriously, it could simply mean that Quintus Allard was examining everything with a fine tooth comb because the obvious conclusion was utterly
crazy. And that it might be days or even weeks before he even brought it to his liege for review. I mean he was the bloody ruler of a big chunk of the Inner Sphere after all.

So early in the second morning, I decided that things were in motion and all I could do was wait. Which in turn meant finding things to do while I waited.
To that end, I went downstairs. The apartment complex had a nice little gym on the ground floor for the use of the residents I hadn’t checked out yet and now was as good a time as any. I spent a few hours trying to work off the nervous energy there - although I was equally careful to not exhaust myself just in case I needed my wits about me.
And with that edge at least dulled, I returned to my room for a quick shower. And then exited the bathroom (thank God with a towel around my waist) into my living room to find Kym Sorenson casually sprawled on my lounge...


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“If this is revenge for the lake … well done” I finally managed after at least five seconds of standing there clutching at my towel with a death grip to make damn sure it stayed in place as I rather pathetically stood there … dripping on the cheap carpet.

“Well no, it isn’t” the MIIO agent smiled before, deliberately, running her gaze from my feet to my face with an look best described as ‘considering’. “But I have to admit, the NAIS does quite decent work these days”.

I really hoped that the hot shower I had just finished was hiding the flush I felt at her words, not quite sure how to take them. Mostly annoyance I suppose, given the sheer amount of screaming pain my muscles had endured at the hands of a somewhat sadistic military instructor from the College of Military Sciences in between semesters, to get body into the shape it was in during my recovery.
Then again, to be brutally honest, the drugs had probably done more...

“Would you mind if I, you know, get dressed?” I jerked my head towards the bedroom. Her smirk only grew at that question.

“I’m not stopping you” she pointed out, looking entirely at ease (and stunningly professional) in a well cut business suit from her position on the other side of the room.

“Right” I muttered an answer and turned to walk out of the room, trying to regain my composure as I shut the door on her. I gave myself of the luxury of a half second to take a deep breath and remind myself this is what I wanted to happen before drying off and getting dressed, forcing myself to not rush things as I put on the suit that I had painstakingly laid out. Brushing my hair and finishing up quickly by selecting a brand new tie I had brought, I headed back into the living room. Kym was still patiently waiting for me as I came back in, starting to struggle with the new tie that was I noticed a little thicker than the ones I was used to. “So, Agent Sorenson, any particular reason you decided to break in today?”

“Because the key Quintus Allard gave me was the wrong bloody one and I had to pick the lock” she said with a perfectly straight face, making me pause in my struggle for a long moment to regard her.

“Well done” I congratulated her after a few seconds of consideration as I got back to work on my tie. “I genuinely can’t tell if that is sarcasm, truth or both at the same time”.

She actually looked pleased at that somewhat backwards complement.

“Anyway” Kym said in a more businesslike tone, “I’ve been sent to extend an invitation to the Davion Palace. There are some people who would really like to have a chat with you”.

“Right now I take it?”

“Not hardly” she snorted before she glanced at her watch. “We’ve got at least an hour or so before we’re expected”.

“Stop that” I deadpanned - although the twitch of a smile on my face betrayed my enjoyment of her snarking.

“You were much more fun in the park” she sighed before standing and stretching (in an extremely distracting way that earned her another mental roll of my eyes as I continued to try to struggle with the tie. “What are you doing?”

“Dressing” I grunted as the knot slipped into a horrid mess and I ripped it apart again. “I’ve done a tie thousands of times, but these bloody cravat-ties you people love…”
After a few seconds silently watching me struggle, the Countessa rolled her own eyes … and stepped way inside my personal space. Then, with quick, efficient motions and an exasperated sigh, she ripped my tie knot open and started to redo it.

“Did MIIO” (I had learned it was pronounced Mee-ohhh by the locals) “teach you how to do this?” I asked after a moment of adjustment for the fact that she was all but pressing up against me as she briskly went to work. Her cool blue eyes met mine for a second before focusing back on the tie with a look of concentration.

“Uh-uh” she shook her head, biting her lip in a rather cute way as her hands moved with great dexterity “My father is equally clueless with ties and I learned how to do it for him after my mother died”.
My initial thought to protest her categorization of me as ‘clueless’ clashed with the revelation of her mother's death, leaving me momentarily without a reply. By the time I had something to say however, it became impossible as she tightened the tie and cheerfully cut off my airflow for precious seconds, before it slackened back again. So I decided to just shut up and leave it at that.
“There. Adequate” she decided as she stepped back, reaching out a finger to sample my suit jackets lapel in curiosity. “Hmm. You actually look quite sharp in this cut of jacket. Simple and plain compared to quite a few of the things men call fashion these days, very much less is more. You might kick off a whole new fashion trend if you’re seen around the right people wearing it”.

“Wouldn’t that be somewhat counterproductive to keeping a low profile? Are you sure you’re a spy” I asked her with a slightly arched eyebrow.

“Somehow, given the way my boss and his bosses reacted to whatever the hell was on that iPad of yours, I doubt staying low profile is going to be much of a concern for long” she (almost too cheerfully) told me before she brushed some lint from the jacket and nodded. “You got everything you want to take with you?”

“Uh, yes” I replied. My heart had skipped a beat at her casually dropped warning at the shitstom I had unleashed - before I realized it had clearly been anything but casually dropped.
Was that a warning? Or, perhaps she was just screwing with my head?

Who knew the future Mrs Morgan Hasek-Davion was such a troll?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:27:38

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I expected the ride to the Davion Palace to seem to be either very slow or very fast but it turned out to be neither. Instead it seemed surprisingly … normal. The unmarked car we were driving in moved steadily with the traffic and without any theatrics of flashing lights, escorts or anything of that sort. The three other agents in the car with me were silent and normal looking men. The world (and Inner Sphere) outside the window continued on normally, entirely unknowing of the changes to fate and destiny I was about to throw at it.
As for me, I was stuck in something of a loop in my thoughts. Suddenly aware of how serious this shit was getting for me and how powerful the people were whose attention I was drawing … only to then note that these were exactly the people whose attention I wanted, weren't they?
Honestly, the enormity of this whole change in my life and change in my very universe was still sinking in - and I had just doubled down. Things were in motion now that I could no more stop than I could win an arm wrestle with an Atlas.
Still. Perhaps that was a good thing, all things considered. If Kym hadn’t shown up that day, perhaps I would have just fretted myself into a corner and done absolutely nothing. One way or the other, the die was cast. The rubicon was crossed - and add any number of other analogies from Ancient Rome here.

Well I was probably going to meet a guy named Quintus after all..

Thankfully, no-one in the car tried to engage me in conversation, leaving me to my brooding introspection until Kym noted that we were here. I blinked and refocused outside, seeing indeed that Mount Davion loomed overhead as we turned into one of the entrances. We were briskly waved through the outer gate and directed through a second checkpoint in turn, that diverted us away from what seemed to be ‘public parking’ outside. In moments we turned past some discreetly placed shrubbery and trees that screened a smaller outside parking area I thought we were going to stop in - no, we turned instead through a massive open blast door in the side of the mountain and into a large tunnel beyond.

We were stopped at an inner checkpoint here and Kym handed over some paperwork. The guards read it, seemed to do a double take and then with a salute, gestured us onwards. I have to admit I was surprised at the somewhat lax security, but didn’t have much time to mull on it as the car turned into a one of a number of large rooms set equally around an open circular space, a large mesh grate rattling closed behind us.

I had just enough time to look around and wonder what was going on when with a clunk, the ground under the car shuddered - and suddenly we were falling. Okay we were in a giant elevator. And judging by the scale of both it and the tunnel leading into it above...
My hunch was proven right when the elevator stopped a minute later, opening into a mirror of the circular space above. Except as we drove out of it, we entered a vast, well lit artificial cavern filled with Battlemechs. All in the dress paint of the 1st Davion Guards.

Wow.

It was a pretty ****** awesome sight - the kind of moment that a good movie soundtrack would fill with something awe inspiring and martial as we passed Battlemech after Battlemech standing tall in various gantries on either side of the ‘road’ - many with technicians working on - or even in the bigger ones. Hmm, something from Hans Zimmer or Brian Tyler perhaps? Damnit I could have cued up something on my iPhone if I had known this was coming...
We had driven past probably a couple of battalions worth of war machines when we finally turned off down a ‘side street’ and then quickly off into a much smaller sub-cavern.
In here was what looked like luxury cars, limos and the like. My guess was that this were where the VIP transport fleet for the First Prince was stored - but I didn’t have too much time to look around as we stopped and the car doors were opened almost at once and I was prodded to get out.

A welcoming committee was waiting for us here, a half dozen people including a quartet of troopers in the same ‘ghost recon’ setup I had seen at NAIS, wielding what I recognized now as laser rifles linked to backpack powerpacks. My slightly distracted air this morning thus vanished, as fast a hundred kronor bill floating around the sidewalks of Tharkad City.
Shit just got real.

Kym confidently stepped up to the lead member of the welcoming committee and pulled the same piece of paper out she had shown earlier. This time I could see that as she handed it over, she was pressing her thumb to a golden strip on the bottom of the paper - and when she let go, it caused a part of the paper to seemingly illuminate. I realized that it could only be a verigraph embedded document - like the infamous note Morgan Kell had from Katrina Steiner. An almost impossible to forge biometric verification technique that could be embedded into the paper to confirm someone's identity.
I didn’t know what the paper said, but clearly it was correct and/or expected. The man actually saluted Kym after carefully examining and scanning the document, dismissing the troops and Kym in turn gestured me forward as the other agents who had come with me, got back into the car and drove it off back to who knows where.

Never even got their names. Oh well. I’m going to call them agents Jackson, Johnson, and Thompson. They damn well looked like those guys from the Matrix at any rate.

“John - your ID please?” Kym asked as I stopped next to her. Without saying anything, I opened my wallet and handed over the ID I had been issued at NAIS. I found it slightly amusing to think that it was simultaneously both perfectly real and perfectly fake, but I decided pointing that out here and now would be a bad idea as Kym handed it on to the person in charge.
Then I was led to a security screening station. I emptied my pockets into a tray which was taken to be fed through an X-Ray machine (I mentally winced a moment later as I saw the tray pass into the machine, hoping that this wouldn’t fry my iPhone, which was probably far more fragile than the electronics they were used to poking with radiation here even when turned off) before I stepped through the gate. There I was patted down very thoroughly and had several portable scanners run over, around and on me.
Well, at least, they were genuinely professional about it. Airport Security they were not.

The head security type returned a short time later while Kym was busying logging us in on some kind of electronic clipboard. I was given a sort of temporary plastic pass on a lanyard, with a current today photo of me I hadn’t even noticed had been taken as well as my details and a whole bunch of codes, barcodes and so on that I guessed said where I could go and where I should be shot on sight.
Hanging it on my neck, I recovered my things (the iPhone seemed unaffected and powered back up normally thank God and/or the engineers at Cupertino) and Kym and I were on our way.

An elevator ride was next, one that moved quickly but still took some time to ascend up through the mountain past literally dozens of galleries filled with smaller floors like some kind of Toyko-3 labyrinth from Evangelion. The glorious palace on top was merely the tip of the iceberg as it were, with vast spaces inside filled with thousands or tens of thousands of people serving House Davion.
On reflection, I shouldn’t have been surprised given that this was, really, the central hub of an interstellar nation.
Another security foyer (one fortified with see through but thick glass I suspected was Battlemech cockpit grade) greeted us when the door finally opened but a quick scan of the barcode on my guest pass (and Kyms MIIO ID badge she was now also wearing) and we were escorted through the checkpoint by the guards on duty … into another elevator. This one rising fast enough to force me to pop my ears.
This time when it opened and we were (again) scanned in through a security checkpoint, we exited into the palace proper. Marble floors, wooden paneled walls, plush furniture and antique tables, huge oil paintings of Battlemechs furiously firing and portraits of previous First Princes and Royal Families … everything screamed ‘expensive and powerful’.

Not to mention the gaggles of nobles moving with purpose in an eclectic mixture of semi-formal noble dress and the highest quality of business suits mixed with AFFS personnel in the local equivalent of Class-A uniforms.

Kym led me from the elevators, ignoring what seemed to be a large reception and waiting area to instead move past more guards to an empty enclosed balcony that circled the main tower. Apparently we were going to have to wait here for five minutes or so because we were a bit early - but I didn’t really mind.
The castle grounds spread along the ridge line in the shadow of the mountain and its terraces of office block like levels looked nice enough but I have to admit to being slightly underwhelmed at first glance. Given that this was the seat of power for House Davion, I had frankly expected a slightly more grandiose scale to things … and that was when I happened to notice that the things walking on patrol on the top of the castle's outer wall were not people ... but Mechs.
Okay. Readjusting my scale from that, I realized what I had taken to be narrow paths between buildings were in fact broad avenues and I was much higher up than I thought. Small guest houses dotting the land quickly turned into self-contained mansions and a well tended ‘park’ became a well tended mini forest...and what looked like a mini spaceport to boot instead of a large helipad.

Okay. Right. Not half bad digs!

An odd sense of recollection-that-wasn’t came over me as I took in the vista, recalling that at the end of the FedCom civil war, Katherine Steiner-Davion (please let me butterfly her) had stood at a window in the Palace Throne room and looked down on this same view. Watching as Victors troops blasted her dwindling loyalists backwards up the slopes to the Castle, her empires span having shrunk from across the Inner Sphere to mere kilometers as her brother implacably pressed forward with his RCTs, leading from the front as always. As she had watched, an entire company of her dwindling troops had suddenly thrown themselves into a desperate one-way suicide run to try and bring her brother down, only for the man I was hoping to see now to shove his Omnimech in front of Victors and sacrifice himself in his place as her doomed troops were shot to pieces. Katherine of course had been utterly indifferent to their sacrifice - as after all, they had failed her. ‘Only’ managing to kill just one more good man who willingly and without hesitation gave the last thing he could after a lifetime of service, to protect his best friends son one last time.
A good man, who had died - with far far too many others - because The Bitch had let greed, ego and obsession consume her.

THAT was why I was here.

“It’s time” Kym suddenly broke into my mussing. I took a final look at the peaceful vista that might or might not be one day turned into a heaving mass of Battlemechs and Tanks, before turning to follow her into the palace itself.

This part of the palace was clearly more of the ‘working’ part, the core of an Interstellar Empire. Hundreds of people were coming and going through the open areas, including people who appeared to be AFFS Flag officers and a number of people I suspected were senior nobles in senior roles. Kim however led me with unerring precision through the chaos … to yet another guard station. Where I was searched.
Again.
And scanned.
Again.
Okay. I take back everything I had said about them not being diligent.

We were eventually cleared through the door behind it and two turns later I found myself in a richly appointed but empty hallway come waiting room, with a surprising number of heavily armed guards (in full field gear this time) standing around looking surprisingly alert.
Especially the pair in front of a rather nice looking wooden door at the end of the corridor. One that above it had the crest of the Federated Suns mounted in gleaming style. The sword looking like it had been cast out of solid silver and the sunburst in solid gold, with polished red woods around it.

Oh hell. I had a rather good idea whose office this was … and it wasn't Ardan Sorteks or Quintus Allards...

“This is where I leave you” Kym spoke up with an apologetic smile, perhaps taking pity on me for how I was simply standing and staring at the door - clearly realizing I had just comprehended who was behind it. “Just take a seat” she gestured at a number of plush looking seats lining the wall “and they’ll call you in when ready”.

“They?” I asked, unabashedly fishing for information.

“They” she confirmed. “I have no idea what was on that ‘iPad’, but you’ve certainly stirred up a bit of a hornets nest Mister Smith”.

“I hope that I didn’t get you in any trouble” I replied, it suddenly hitting me that my casual ‘outing’ of her identity like that had probably caused some rather pointed questions to be asked around her.

“Well my debriefing after our little fun in the park went for eight hours” she replied in a deadpan voice and I winced. “But” she added with a wry look, “I got a commendation logged in my file from Quintus Allard himself for quick thinking and adaptability in a highly unusual situation. So I guess it evens out”.

“You’re welcome” I smirked - and she rolled her eyes and swatted me somewhat playfully on my arm at that. “I take it you have a new assignment now?” I asked.

“I do. I’m actually headed offworld” she explained with a grin, clearly happy about her new mission. “I can’t say where of course”.

“Of course” I agreed, my thoughts instantly flashing to the area at Solaris. It was a bit early … but it took time to cross interstellar distances - and probably even more to carefully establish her cover well in advance of the events I knew were coming (unless I was about to butterfly them away).
Solaris … you know, I really wanted to visit there someday. Granted, I wasn’t exactly a big fan of the whole blood sport side of things. But as it turned out, fatalities in the arenas were quite rare. As a rule, shooting for the cockpit was considered a cheap shot on the order of going for a nads punch or something in a boxing match and would get you dropped by your sponsors faster than an Stalker could overheat so it was rare indeed. Deaths generally only occurred because two people who genuinely wanted to kill each other took advantage of the legal way to do so - and as both knew the risks going in, well...

“Good luck on your mission then” I said sincerely, extending my hand to her. “Until we meet again”.

“It’s certainly been … interesting” she noted, taking my hand and giving it a firm shake. “It’s unlikely we’ll bump into each other again I’m afraid”.

“Oh, I don’t know” I offered her my best ‘I know something you don’t know’ smile that had her narrow her eyes slightly. And a part of me smugly delighted in this final victory. “But in the end, come what may … we’ll always have the Peace Park”.
Her expression softened at that, actually becoming almost … fond?

“Casablanca - one of my mother's favourite old vid-films” she identified the line to my surprise. “And yes, we’ll always have the Peace Park. And the near heart attack you gave me when you blew my cover like that”.

“I can assure you I was almost having one myself, wondering if you were going to have me dragged off and strapped into some interrogation chair” I admitted.

“Kinky” she noted with a … honestly, I don’t know what to make of that smirk. “But I’m not the kind of girl who goes for that on a first date”.

“Then I’m very glad we never went on a second” I retorted.

I have the privilege of getting in the last word - because at that point with a loud click, the door at the end of the corridor opened and a middle aged man in an AFFS uniform stepped out.

“Mister Smith?”

“Yes” I said, stepping away from Kym to face him. “I am he”.

“If you will please come with me Sir” the other gestured me forward. I nodded and with a final glance at Kym, I turned away to walk through the door, the man closing it behind me.

Inside was what seemed to be an outer office of a sorts, with a half dozen civilian and military personnel were hard at work. None of them acknowledged me so I didn’t interrupt them as I was quickly led across to a smaller leather covered door. The aide pressed a buzzer and then, without waiting for a reply, opened it and stepped just inside.

“Highness, Mister John Smith” he announced me.

“Thank you Tony, that will be all” a voice called back. “Please, come in Mister Smith”.

That voice had quite a tone of command in it and almost without realizing it I was walking into the room as ‘Tony’ let me pass, then closed the door behind me.

The ‘office’ was quite a large size. Not ridiculously so like a Bond Villain's Lair or something, but certainly spacious, carefully divided up into different sections by cunning use of slightly raised or lowered sections and constructed with polished dark woods. There was what was clearly a large working desk; an almost ‘office inside an office’ to the right. Over on the left was a bunch of video screens and a holo projector and various computers and so on. Beyond it was what looked like a sort of dining area, probably for casual ‘working dinners’ with staff and so on with a few doors beyond it to other rooms.
Oh and yes, raised up against the far wall directly opposite the door, under the angled windows on the ceiling, was a table that looked like it could have come from a boardroom, two-dozen leather chairs around it. With three people sitting on the far side.

The First Prince of the Federated Suns looked somewhat similar to the various pictures I recalled from Battletech sourcebooks, if only in general terms. He seemed younger and fitter - and perhaps it was just me projecting again, but God he had a presence. Even just sitting casually in what seemed to be a pretty plain 31st century business suit he seemed to dominate the room. Letting everyone know that this was the ruler of hundreds of worlds and perhaps the greatest First Prince in the history (past or known future) of the Federated Suns.
Tearing my gaze off him as I crossed the room, I noted that to his left was a man in an AFFS duty uniform that I identified as Ardan Sortek from some public pictures I had found when doing some research and the man on the right and to his right in a perfectly nondescript looking business suit, was Quintus Allard. Arguably the troika that ran the Federated Suns.

Well, I think it was safe to say that my copy of ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ had gotten their attention.

“Thank you for coming on such short notice” Hanse Davion greeted me as I climbed the three steps to where they were sitting, feeling like I was ascending Olympus to be judged by the Gods of this setting, as Hanse gestured to the chair on the opposite side of the table from him.

“Thank you, Prince Davion. For the invitation - and your time” I replied as politely as I could as I approached the table with a nod that wasn’t quite a bow, pulling out the chair opposite him and sitting down - and placing my iPhone carefully on the table in front of him.
Then it hit me.
Holy shit. I’m sitting across from Hanse ****** Davion.
Damn
I wish I could take a selfie and post it on Spacebattles...

“After your little gift to us” he said, gesturing at my iPad that I now noticed was sitting in front of Quintus mixed in with plenty of folders and paperwork, “I thought that it would be useful for us to sit down and have a little chat. As I’m sure you can anticipate, we have quite a few questions we would like to put to you”.

“I do understand. Before that though I’d like to thank you for everything you’ve done for me since I was … well … created I suppose”.

“It’s certainly the least we could do given the situation” Hanse waved away my thanks.

Ohh, opening. Well, let's get started.

“Actually the least would have been to simply terminate me as a major security risk” I said glancing at Quintus for a moment. “And given that I was created because NAIS was most probably trying to build a HPG, it would have been entirely understandable if you simply had me shot and buried in an unmarked grave to ensure ROM never found out from me”. I offered them a slightly wry smile. “Personally, “I’m rather glad you didn’t”.

Neither Hanse nor Quintus expressions shifted even one micron, remaining friendly and polite - which I have to admit was impressive given that I had just dropped A) The fact that I figured out roughly what they were doing (which could just mean I was observant and made a good guess, except for) B) I knew about ROM who I’m sure MIIO also had a generally good idea about - but ComStars ****** were sure as hell not public knowledge.
Ardan though, good old Ardan, seemed to actually twitch slightly making me hope I was on the right path.

“I have the feeling” Hanse said, leaning forward with that famous smirk I had seen on the vids, “that I am going to be increasingly glad I never genuinely considered it either”. Glancing at Sorrek he nodded once. “Ardan however was the person though who insisted on a pension to ensure you were looked after for the rest of your life”.

“Then I owe you quite a debt Colonel” I nodded at the other, who offered me a nod in exchange.

“No debt is owed Mister Smith - as his Highness stated, it was the least we could do honestly given the situation.
I got the distinct feeling he was speaking to Quintus when he said that and I wondered just how on the money I might have been about some of the people in the room toying with simply killing me … yeah, better not go down that path. And anyway, as I had said, the man wouldn't have been doing his job if he didn't consider the option.

“At any rate” I continued, pretty certain I had their attention now and deciding to press on, turning my attention to Hanse Davion's head of intelligence. “I take it you’ve read ‘The Sword and the Dagger?’”

“All three of us, yes” Quintus answered. “I agreed with your suggestion of presenting it to Colonel Sortek without any hint of what it was about to gauge his reaction after I did so”. Now Quintus turned to offer a slightly wry look at the other. “I have to admit I’ve never seen him go for a stiff drink like that before”.

“It was more than a little shocking” the AFFS officer said quite candidly and quietly. “To put it mildly. Utterly impossible”.

Completely impossible” Hanse put in almost cheerfully. “And yet here we are. And with your rather blunt name dropping, I’m taking it that you know rather more than this single document suggests about things you really should not?”

“That statue on your desk” I hooked a finger over my shoulder back in the general direction of his desk and the distinctive statue I had eyeballed walking across the room, “is of you and Dana Stephenson, based on a picture taken on Christmas day. It’s made out of some of the glass salvaged from her cockpit after some Kuritan ****** stepped on it and has the engagement ring you offered to her in its base - and you were looking at it the moment Katrina Steiners peace proposal arrived”.
Oooookay. Perhaps that was a little too much showing off - from the way Hanse’s face actually tightened with emotion, Ardan’s eyes widened and Quintus shifted forward slightly with the changing air of someone going from ‘polite interest’ to ‘absolute attention’.
“I’m sorry” I added after a moment, feeling like a dick and glancing away for a moment before looking back up. “That was probably far too personal an example to use Prince Davion - put rather crudely. My apologies”.

“Accepted” Hanse said, recovering his poise in a heartbeat, a new rather focused gleam coming into his eyes. “But … it certainly seems to have cut to the heart of the matter. You know things Mister Smith. Things you should not, could not, possibly know” and God strike me down if I was lying, but the man just assumed the Gendo Pose! “Of course, although we have our theories based on that novel, fantastic as they are, we’d like to hear you lay it all out for us. So please Mister Smith. Take your time and walk us through it”.

“This may take some time. But to start at the beginning, in nineteen eighty five, in my reality, a team led by a man named Jordan Weisman developed a tabletop game known as ‘Battle Droids…’ “
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 08 July 2018, 19:28:56
Chapter 4: The Scarface Methodology.

***
******
***


That was one of the most exhausting days in my life. Slowly, I laid out things for them. Battletech in my reality, its history as developed by a bunch of people over decades with the game and then the massive expanse of the universe that was fleshed out by sourcebooks, novels, computer games and even a cartoon series. The broad scope of ‘Classic Battletech’ which was around this time period and went back and forth of expanding both the history and future of the universe.

They took the news that their lives and choices has essentially been entertainment made up by a group of game designers … surprisingly well really. All three men - including Quintus!- even showed sympathy towards my position, genuinely seeming to appreciate my questioning of what reality was given my story. But in the end with the -abbreviated- version given, the First Prince got down to the core issue, asking me simply what I intended to do about all of this now that I was here.
I thought about it for a long moment ... and I gave him my answer.


It was part speech, part verbal diarrhea that embarrassingly played out for a good five minutes or so that could have been summarized far more verbrosly as ‘I believe in you, Katrina Steiner and the idea of the Federated Commonwealth as probably the best hope for mankind at this point in time. Thus I want to put a finger on the scales of history and tilt the result a little to make damn sure this time, it works’.

The three men opposite me took it in silently but intently until finally I ran out of words feeling like a bit of an idiot; a stirring movement of glorious words it was not. But I think it was perhaps all the more real for that, an honest venting if you will. Finally I finished and Hanse Davion looked at me for a long, long moment after that with a gaze rather hard to meet. So much so I was really having to put effort into not squirming, before he turned to Ardan who nodded once and then to Quintus. I noted that the spymaster had a noteputer running in front of him then and I would bet it was linked into some kind of biometric lie detection system pointed at me, probably built into this room. At any rate, he too gave Hanse a nod. And with that, Hanse stood and headed over to a small sidebar and returned with a bottle of … something … and four glasses.

“It is tradition in my family, Mister Smith, that when House Davion makes pacts of such gravity, we seal it with a drink” he stated, pouring a few fingers into each of the four glasses and passing them out. That done, he screwed the top back on the bottle and lifted his glass, Ardan and Quintus following suit. I too matched their gesture as a gaze more intense than anything so far was leveled at me and his tone turned totally up to full ‘First Prince’ levels. “So I offer you this pact John Smith. Swear to me your allegiance as a citizen of the Federated Suns - and then Commonwealth. Offer me your personal service as an advisor and your knowledge and I promise you both my protection and my best efforts from now until my last day. I promise your service will be rewarded, both personally and in the advancement of the vision of the future you seem to share with Katrina Steiner and I”.

Wow that was … heavy. Very formal - and very direct.
And there was only one possible answer to give. So I took a deep breath and stood, the three men opposite standing too as I lifted my glass and unerringly looked into the eyes of The Fox.


My Prince” I said to him putting a slight edge on the pronoun, “I accept”.

“Smashing” he smiled and with that, shot the drink back with the other two men and I joined them.
I didn’t choke
too much either.
What
was that, Mech coolant?!

After I got my breath back I continued, pulling my iPhone out and navigating a few sub menus to hit a command. Across from me the iPad beeped and Quintus quickly activated it with a raised eyebrow at me. “

Just accept the file transfer” I asked and he pressed the indicated buttons, establishing the Bluetooth link and letting the data flow. “I just copied over the other ‘Battletech’ primary sources I had on my person when I got here” I explained to their curious looks and instantly Quinus’s full attention was on the documents listed. “Wolves on the Border is a novel watching the Dragoons in service to the Combine - from start to finish. Both internally inside the Dragoons and the Combines political machinations around them, Takashi and other Warlords. Right up to their eventual flight from the Combine in thirty twenty eight into the Draconis March and starting their own private war against House Kurita. And then there are the three other books. They are known as the ‘Warrior Trilogy’ .. and detail the events leading into, during and immediately after the Fourth Succession War from the end of this year to the end of thirty twenty nine. Including a great many internal points of view of ComStar at the First Circuit and their manipulations against the Inner Sphere as a whole and the Federated Commonwealth in particular. Also a great deal from Michael Hasek-Davions point of view, his plotting and scheming and from similar people on the Lyran side of the fence and of course, a birds eye view of Sian”.
Ah, charming, Hanse Davion’s face trying to fight off a look of with numb disbelief. I must be one of a
very few people to have ever done that to him. The moment broke as the iPad chirped happily as the file transfer completed and I pushed the iPhone across the desk to join it.
 “The iPhone has the same unlock code” I added and my voice seemed to jolt them out of their stasis. “And the same files are present on it – as well as a number of 21st century TV shows, music and other media”


Quintus recovered first - although I’d take an oath that for a split second I had seen pure shock flash through his otherwise poker-perfect eyes- and started to pack the iPad, iPhone and his various notes and folders into a secure briefcase.

“I’ll have preliminary summaries on your desk in forty eight hours Highness” Quintus promised his liege simply. “If I have your leave - and with Mister Smith's permission, I have a handpicked team on standby in the palace with whom we can start a full scale debriefing on these issues and apartments you can move into through this process”.

“By all means” I agreed. I had little doubt that what few possessions I actually cared about could be quietly packed up and shipped here.

“Excellent” Hanse agreed turning to face me as he stood, followed by the rest of us. “John, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship” he smiled, extending his hand, which I took after a slightly shocked pause.

Okay. Now that was just showing off.

***
******
***


So. How would Scarface have put it?
Probably something like ‘In Battletech … first you seize the Helm cache. Then you hit New Dallas. Then you troll the Wolf with weather reports!’

Well ... here was step one then I suppose.

Point of order, when I came clean to Hanse Davion I have to admit I did not expect to be put into the field. Firstly, I wasn’t field trained - or trained in general for that matter. Second and more pertinent, with minimal ego, I could state I was clearly a critical strategic asset for the Federated Suns. And potentially catastrophic security threat to said Federated Suns if I was to fall into the wrong hands. I had fully expected to be locked in something of a gilded cage for quite some time and had accepted that as the price for making a difference on a Sphere-Wide scale. But that was fine by me; said gilded cage would give me a front row seat to events as they played out. I hoped and expected that eventually, when my knowledge was no longer relevant, I’d get a nice junior noble title, a bank account containing many zeros to the left of a decimal point and an estate to retire to and enjoy the rest of my life in neo-feudal luxury. Which was, again, pretty spectacular if my ‘basic guest apartments’ in the palace were any indication!

Although honestly compelled me to note that I did hope to call in some favors to dance on the unmarked graves of Myndo Waterly, non-fake Thomas Marik and Romano Liao someday.
With an Assault Mech. Using Triple Strength Myomers.
And yet, here I was, watching New Avalon slowly recede as our shuttle burned for the Zenith point...

The reason I was here, being honest, was my own damn fault. I had made a stupid comment to Ardan -who had shown up at quite a few of my debriefings- as I had traced out the Clan Invasion corridors as I remembered them onto a map; noting how easy it was on New Avalon for me to keep thinking of units and politics like a giant chessboard. To forget of the millions or billions of lives who would be impacted by the decisions that were being made and would be impacted by my choices. Wondering if that was fundamentally how Katherine Steiner-Davion had gone wrong. Never having served on the front line or really even put herself at risk.

Oh yes - such comparisons were actually understood now by Ardan, Quintus and Hanse. It had taken a month of intense work to drain me dry of most of what I knew about Battletech, but finally I had unloaded what I recalled. A team of crack debriefing experts sworn to secrecy had worked me day in - day out, systematically recording everything before indexing, cross checking and expanding on it. Fleshing out every detail they could.
It took time and a hell of a lot of effort that left me with headaches, but eventually it was all over and I was confident I had laid out as much knowledge of Battletech as I could easily remember. Although some of it was less than useful, on the whole combined with the four e-books being ripped apart it was an asset beyond measure. I mean I suspected they were still taking my future knowledge with large grains of salt and at least for now, carefully looking for supporting evidence, but...

Even so, Ardan Sortek (who had actually become something of an almost-friend to me as I saw much more of him than either Hanse or Quintus) had made it clear that my layout of the failures of the more distant future had hit Hanse hard. Even if he barely showed it, the failures of his offspring had clearly stung him. Which on reflection I should have anticipated. After all, superhuman genius or not, as their Father it was only natural for him to be heartbroken at how his children would turn out.
He was heartened, again according to Ardan, that Victor had at least had honestly tried his best; always fighting for the people of the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth - never giving up no matter what.
Even if he had all the political smarts of a Gauss Rifle slug; Hanse had apparently needed a stiff drink when he had gotten to my notes on Omi Kurita.
But if he had needed a stiff drink for Victor, he had needed a ****** distillery when he got to Katherine.

I really hadn’t held back about why she, despite any number of ‘evil’ characters throughout its history, was known in Battletech circles simply as ‘The Bitch’. With a capital T and B. I hadn’t pulled any punches when I had laid out her matricidal, regicidal reign of destruction as she tore apart everything he and Katrina had tried to build because if she couldn't have it, no one could. Laying out the lengths she had gone to to gain and then hold onto power...

Well, what Father wouldn’t take that badly?

It was the first time, Ardan had quietly told me over a casual dinner in my apartment one night when we caught up, that he had seen Hanse genuinely seem to doubt himself and his abilities and it had shaken Ardan a little.
With that said, a few hours later Hanse had snapped out of it, accepted the failings and already started to plan (read scheme) how to better prepare any future children for their future roles and avoid such failings. And a determination to sit down with Katrina, honestly discuss the situation and look for ways to strengthen the alliance on a more fundamental level, give it the ‘inertia’ I had noted the FedCom had lacked.

His reaction to my diatribes on ComStar on the other hand ...

Apparently after reading that report on everyone's favourite phone company and their antics from Holy Shroud to their future mutant stepchild and their temper tantrum, Hanse had walked down to the Mech Bays and taken his Battlemaster out for a walk on ‘The Gauntlet’ - the NAIS military college training and testing grounds. The poor simulation masters had a great deal of work to clean up that afternoon after their Prince invoked his ‘I’m the ****** First Prince’ authority and used live ammo on the fake targets to work out some … issues. And it wasn’t entirely an exaggeration to say that Ardan and Yvonne Davion had to apparently do some fast talking to convince him to not change his wife's wedding present to the Terran system.

Still, planning was underway to deal with everyone's favourite phone company. Revenge being a dish best served cold and all that - and even though I didn’t have a need to know about it, I could guess at some of the more immediate actions being taken to ensure ComStars long term downfall and the ascendancy of the Federated Commonwealth.

Case in point; Helm.

An advanced team of some of his best MIIO and DMI personnel had already been dispatched to get the ball rolling shortly after I had exhausted my knowledge of that whole deal, on what was there and what would be need to be done to access it. Another more military team equipped for hostile environment recon had also been dispatched to New Dallas, but my knowledge on where the hell that core was had been somewhat less precise despite my best efforts. Helm on the other hand ... well, spend enough time around Spacebattles BROB threads, fanfics and Quests in the 3025 era and EVERYONE made a run for Helm, so I happily recalled a rather large amount of useful information.

Even more happily for Hanse and typical of his ‘why deal with one thing when you can deal with three at the same time?’ attitude, he had apparently decided that this was an excellent opportunity to accelerate the building of ties with the Lyran Commonwealth. Logistically, staging from Lyran space to hit Helm and then retreating back into it would be significantly easier than trying to jump from the Terran Regions and fight through the FWL. Further, having Hanse magnanimously share the spoils … well, political currency was arguably worth more than C-Bills on this level. Katrina would owe him one, the public of both realms would be given a clear, initial and shockingly dramatic example of what the two states working together could do and the Archon would be able to effectively isolate and marginalize nobles in the Estates Generals not exactly happy with the whole FedCom treaty by showing a spectacular success for the first joint operation.

Pretty typical Hanse Davion really.

Ardan had been chosen as the leader of the expedition, built around the Davion Heavy Guards RCT, as well as a handpicked NAIS technical team … and me.

To get back to the reason why I was bouncing through hyperspace, Ardan had (on his own without me asking) decided after my reflections that I needed to get out and participate in this venture, vouching for both my safety and security personally. To my mild surprise, Hanse had agreed without any hesitation, noting that it was an acceptable risk and there was always the chance that I would remember something on Helm at a critical moment.
And he had directly said that he trusted me. Which was rather touching really.
Of course, I had little doubt that Quintus had put people in place to make sure there was no chance I’d fall into enemy hands during this trip ... but I tried not to think about it much. More critically, I was fully aware that this whole thing was something of a test and act of faith on the part of Prince Davion. If my knowledge was wrong, he would be putting one of his finest RCTs at considerable risk with this deep strike.
On the other hand if this all panned out and my knowledge proved true … well, counting chickens and all that. No need to get ahead of myself.

The trip out was agreeably speedy, we emulated a command circuit of sorts by having our shuttles hop small craft bays on jumpships and dropships as they moved from system to system without needing to divert traffic, quickly reaching the Heavy Guards whose Jumpships had been waiting at the Errai Zenith point. They had been involved in Operation Galahad and had been scheduled to move back to their original garrison station as that exercise wound up. Instead, a press release was issued that they were proceeding to the Lyran Commonwealth for further -if much smaller scale- ‘goodwill joint exercises’ for the next six months. Carefully placed leaks had been generated, suggesting that this was in fact a cover for them prowling up and down the Combine border on the Lyran side, just looking for tempting targets to hit or raids to squash.
And if the Combine happened to nervously start looking over their shoulder as a result? Well, so much the better.

Marshal Ran Felsner, commander of the Heavy Guards, was an interesting sort of fellow. He was actually technically the commander of the entire Brigade of Guards now, but that position it seemed was half ceremonial, with a half dozen senior officers in the Brigade seemingly rotating through it. In his absence, 1st Guards CO Stephen Davion was tagged into the Field Marshal hat -and was distinctly unhappy according to Ardan about not being selected by Hanse to go play Laura Croft - but even so it left Ardan rather outranked Colonel to Marshal.
With that said, ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ had been on the money about both their friendship and easy ability to work together. And Ardans low rank was increasingly a technicality; he was already well recognized through the Guards Brigade as the First Princes ‘shotgun’, almost a second Prince's Champion in some ways. And that was before he and a handful of 1st Guards Mechwarriors had single handedly foiled the whole imposter Hanse plot. Even if the whole truth about those events was a tightly kept secret, the Brigade as a whole knew enough that they were almost worshiping the ground Ardan Sortek walked on these days.

Anyway, on this mission Ran remained in change of the Guards and would deal with any military issues while Ardan was appointed by Hanse as the overall expedition commander. I had little time to shake hands after we docked; the Heavy Guards jumped out inside of fifteen minutes, riding a pseudo command circuit of jumpships across the border to a cordial if surprised greeting from the authorities in Skye, who had just barely been warned we were coming. Apparently one-time-pad messages between New Avalon and Tharkad had been flying -they actually DID use them it turned out, mixed in with regular encryptions. Not to defeat ComStar (that was just a bonus it seemed) but apparently to keep critical information out of mid-level personnel in political and military circles. Where most spy activity took place.

Even so, all Hanse had said to Katrina was that the AFFS wanted to launch a hit, hold and run raid on a high-value FWL target and he requested an accompanying Lyran unit to go with his men. One whose loyalty was unquestioned ... and a whole bunch of empty dropships and jumpships to haul away an undetermined amount of loot - with the promise of a straight split down the middle. Hanse even put up the money to fund covering raiding into the FWL, using some of the Mercs on the border to obscure the target in the middle of a bunch of distraction attacks.

That alone had probably gotten the Archons curiosity piqued. After all, when did people offer to pay the Steiners money?

And so I found myself somewhat unsurprised when we jumped into GR-4239-8876A. An uninhabited system with a yellow dwarf star about six light years inside theoretical Marik space ... and twenty nine point three two zero light years from Helm.

Uninhabited … but not empty.

“Is Katrina showing off?” I asked the cramped war-room on board the Excalibur class Iron Fox - command ship of the Heavy Guards as I counted off the ships on the sensor feed. I was relieved to see twelve Jumpships with the indicators I had learned to read indicating that their parasites were all also in the green meaning we were all accounted for.

“Undeniably” Ardan smiled gently. “A casual display of her logistical might to her new allies who are bringing one of the best units in the Inner Sphere to the party”.

One of the best?” someone protested in the rear and I couldn’t help but smile at the faux outrage.

Ardan offered only a twitch of a smirk in response to the snark though, as he refocused the ship's external sensors on a more distant cloud of Jumpships, coded blue for allied-non AFFS waiting for us at the agreed non-standard jump point beyond the proximity limit. According to their transponder data, two of the Jumpships were impossibly rare Monoliths whose spines bristled with Mammoth and a few Mule class dropships. By my count there were eight of the latter and sixteen of the former! The largest ships capable of grounding in the Inner Sphere - with enormous cargo capacity.
Huh. That might just be enough to haul away the shinies.
I mean sure, the memory core might be the key and, objectively, worth vastly more than the SLDF military gear stashed there … but hey, I’m sure no-one would object to hauling away a whole bunch of wargear while we were at it, right? I wondered exactly what Hanse had said to her in his message to get this response...

“But it does seem the Archon has taken this whole thing pretty seriously” Ardan continued.

“Oh?” I asked - suddenly feeling a tad nervous as I turned back to glance at him. No matter how certain I was, the possibility of annoying Katrina Steiner with a wild goose chase if for some reason I was wrong was not a happy one. “Why do you say that?”

Ardan simply nodded towards the projection as he straightened, releasing himself from his jump chairs restraints.

“Because she sent the ‘Hounds”.

---

As an aside, the Battletech materials given to da boyz are quite literally what was on my iPad when I started writing this. I have them all in dead tree format of course, but its a hell of a lot easier to use the digital version, lucky me :p
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marcussmythe on 08 July 2018, 21:18:50
Watched.  And thank you.  Getting caught up with the FC Civil War Timeine, and everything since, has left me with a taste for some FedComYay.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 08 July 2018, 21:42:16
This is seriously *&^%ing awesome... Moar please?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Iron Grenadier on 09 July 2018, 01:21:35
Chapter 4: The Scarface Methodology.

 “Wolves on the Border is a novel watching the Dragoons in service to the Combine - from start to finish. Both internally inside the Dragoons and the Combines political machinations around them, Takashi and other Warlords. Right up to their eventual flight from the Combine in thirty twenty eight into the Draconis March and starting their own private war against House Kurita.

I'm looking forward to more of the whole story, but how Hanse treats the Dragoons and the clans as a whole should be really interesting.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 09 July 2018, 01:35:59
Dude


seriously good stuff
but leaving Sorenson speechless and then Davions reaction to "The Bitch" was epic, but completely sensible as he is/will be her father
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 09 July 2018, 02:50:16
Did you mention the dark nebula and Camalot command? Or the ruins of Gabriel? While the later is currently occupied by Comstar the warships cached in both locations could make fedcom unstoppable.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 09 July 2018, 03:00:29
Chapter 5: Release the Hounds!
***
******
***


My first thought of Patrick Kell was that he was a recruiting posters wet dream. He cut a rather striking figure in his BDUs, certainly looking the part of an elite Mechwarrior. And given that he had almost single handedly held what was left of the Kell Hounds together after Morgan had his nervous breakdown, fired two thirds of his Mechwarriors and run away; he was not someone I was inclined to underestimate.
With the younger Kell brother came a number of officers, including Dan Allard, who clearly both knew and was happy to see Ardan again and to whom Ardan passed on a hug from his father (in a kind of adorkable manly way) that got a chuckle from everyone present. The rest of the officers names were vaguely familiar to me but the only one I recognized was Salome Ward. The future wife of Morgan … and mother of Phellan Kell.
Everyone's favorite traitor.
On the other hand, her first reaction to seeing Morgan return in the original timeline wasn’t to gush over him like the other idiot Mechwarriors, but to punch him in the face and storm off, so bully for her. She could hardly be held accountable for her son’s actions I suppose.


Enough people were in the briefing room on the jumpships grav deck that we were rather tight for space. I squeezed in between the commander of the Guards Jump Infantry and the leader of the technical team handpicked from NAIS on a fold out seat. A few lower ranked officers (as in one star Generals) seemed a little surprised to see me in the room but as none of the top brass even blinked at my presence, they kept their mouths shut as the briefing started.
 

***
******
***

“Alright” Ardan started the briefing with a nod after the hatches into the room were dogged down. “Our mission for the First Prince and Archon is an objective raid on the Stewart Commonwealth world of Helm”. The holoprojector engaged as the lights dimmed. A map of the Inner Sphere showing the Lyran/League border and the relative positions of the fleet and Helm flashed for a few seconds, before it zoomed ‘in’ to show first the star system, then in on the planet itself. “The secondary target of this raid” Ardan continued, “is a cache of SLDF Mechs, vehicles, equipment and other such supplies we strongly suspect are in a depot under the Nagayan Mountains” and with that, a part of the globe flashed with a red circular targeting marker on a mountain range just barely visible on the hologram, zooming into a 3D map of the region.
Damn that was cool. Sure it was probably not as high-def as something ComStar or the Clans might have … but it was a free standing holograph! Awesome!

“How big a cache are we talking about?” Patrick asked, clearly doing the sums on the cargo hauling capacity the Archon had sent along...

Ardan then glanced at me and all my geeking out vanished behind a stab of sudden nerves. He knew the answers of course, but he insisted, firmly, that he wanted me to lead the briefing on these questions.
Apparently he thought I had a strong future ahead of me in this kind of staff work after some of the conversations and insights I had offered. Which I thought was bullshit; having unique insights into people thanks to foreknowledge didn’t make me any less a complete armchair General, but who the hell was I to tell a man the Guards thought could walk on water -with an Assault Mech!- that?
Clearing my throat, I gave the best answer I could remember from Gods knows how much speculation on Spacebattles about what could have been there, based in turn on Carlyle's too few observations in the book and probable SLDF unit structures.

“Best estimate is probably between two and six Regiments of Mechs and a comparable or greater number of armoured vehicles” I said clearly and steadily as every eye in the room snapped to me in surprise. “We can expect late Star League SLDF regulars equipment in all probability, but there will probably be a considerable amount of advanced Star League weapons technology nonetheless given its vintage. Also an undetermined number of supporting units, infantry gear, general supplies and logistics support, spare parts and so on…”

“As I recall, Helm was heavily hit in the opening battles of the First Succession War” Patrick noted into the slightly stunned silence evenly. “Something about a logistics base raid?”

Huh, man has a good memory. I mean, there were a lot of planets blasted to hell in the first two Succession Wars, sad to say...

“Correct I nodded. “Helm had been a key base of operations for the SLDFs Army Group Marik during the civil war, with a major logistics hub on the ground. After the SLDF jumped out of the Inner Sphere and while Free World League factions were squabbling over who had the legal rights to it, Minoru Kurita quickly sent a heavy strike force to seize and make off with the supplies, citing the precedents of ‘Might makes Right’ and ‘Possession is nine tenths of the law’”.

Ha! Got a number of smiles at that joke!

“However” I continued, “he found nothing there. Kerensky, it was assumed, had loaded up the contents onto his fleets and left nought but empty warehouses. True to form, Minoru decided to throw a temper tantrum at the wasted trip and launched a saturation nuclear bombardment that killed about eighty percent of the planetary population before leaving” and with a gesture at the tech, the holograph of the world vanished to show a scattering of stills and vid pictures of the destruction from archives I had been able to find prior to leaving New Avalon.

Well that killed the mood. Variations of ‘****** snakes’ echoed around the briefing room at that from both Guardsmen and Hounds. Heartwarming the way hate for the Draconis Combine could bring everyone together so easily from opposite sides of the Sphere...

“So I guess this ‘apparently’ was not quite accurate?” Patrick continued, unerringly drilling down into my briefing in a way that was just slightly unsettling, but kept things moving.

“To the best of our intelligence” I started and I didn’t miss the eye rolling from some others as I pushed forward quickly “the officer in charge of the Freeport logistics base, Major Edwin Keeler, did not join Kerensky on the exodus. Instead he decided that with the SLDF going, total war was more likely than not to break out. Accordingly, with remarkable foresight, he decided to hide what Kerensky did not take. Keeping it safe for the SLDF to use when they returned, presuming I suppose that Kerensky wouldn’t be gone long. But just in case he was …” I paused here, to glance at Ardan.

Partially for effect I admit. I did have some sense of the dramatic after all.

“Suffice to say this next information is absolutely need to know. It will not be discussed outside this room” Ardan said, looking everyone in the room in the eye and getting an acknowledgement from them and raising the tension in the room a notch that he was taking this so damn seriously, before he turned back to me and nodded. “Proceed agent Smith”.

“Major Keeler also placed in the cache a Star League library core” I said slowly and clearly.

I wanted to make damn sure no-one missed or misunderstood this.

“A database containing civilian and Military information across most every key field of human knowledge. We’re talking both the complete scientific and engineering data to, from first principles, build the tools to build the factories to build the tools to build late Star League era technology. From advanced weapons to Jumpships and Warships. From the most basic to impressive civilian hardware such as terraforming technology and biomedical tech that House Cameron held close to its chest. Knowledge chosen specifically as a doomsday record of last resort to ensure humanity could recover the Star Leagues complete knowledge should the war Keeler thought was coming do … well, exactly what it did do. In short; you may consider this the ultimate anti-lostech device”.

The room had gone dead silent as I carefully laid out exactly what we were going after. It took a good five seconds for some Guardsman in the back to sum up the general thoughts of everyone in a low whisper.

“Jesus H Christ...

“Our primary objective is thus to recover this core and evacuate it - along with any other salvage we can without compromising extracting the core - to Tharkad” Ardan took back the briefing smoothly, wrenching the shocked gazes back to him and snapping them out of it with his crisp tone, kickstarting their military discipline. “Specialist Rastcor” Ardan gestured to one of the other civilians in the room, “from the New Avalon Institute of Science and his team are probably the best Star League era computer experts in the Federated Suns. They will be responsible for finding, securing and extracting the core. Make no mistake ladies and gentlemen” Ardan looked around” with a pointed gaze. “For the sake of getting this core -or at least a complete copy- to safety, the First Prince considers this entire task force, if need be, expendable”.
I expected an uneasy ripple at that but got nothing but dead silence. Either they were all still in shock at what they were going after … or they all grimly agreed with that conclusion given the sheer stakes of this mission they were now aware of.

“Sir” General Lawrence, commander of the 14th Lexington Armored Regiment asked into the silence as the officers digested that statement. “Where on Helm are we hitting?” Again Ardan nodded to me and I took the hint.

“AO will be in the vicinity of the Nagyan Mountains - exact location will be slightly dependant on some specific … intelligence ...we’re waiting on” I said, expecting to get another eye roll at that, but a clearing of a throat directed my attention to the back of the room.

“I can speak to that” a man in civilian clothes who I had noticed leaving the Kell Hounds shuttle spoke up. I blinked, not even having seen him enter the room, but confidently he stepped around to the front near Ardan and Marshal Felnser.

“Ah, Agent Williams, good” Ardan noted, glancing around to quickly explain. “Prince Davion sent a number of MI5 and MI6 teams into the Free Worlds League to lay the groundwork for this operation some months ago. Your report?”

The other straightened at that - his civilian sort of air vanishing as I recalled that unlike MIIO, DMI were in fact serving members of the AFFS. “Got back from Stewart two weeks ago via Helm, Sir. While at the Jump point posing as a commercial freighter passing through, we got an encrypted update from the ground team there - it was a hefty burst, but it contained the second package you were waiting for”.

Ardan shared an intense look with me before turning back and I felt that kind of butterflies in the stomach deal hit me as this got more and more real. “You have both?”

The other smiled faintly and moved forward to the thin table that ringed around the holoprojector, placing his briefcase carefully on it. He then worked the combination locks very carefully, before retrieving a key from a pocket and, with it in place, carefully opened the armored case.
Inside, carefully placed into a foam insert, was a small black rectangular device about the size of my iPhone with a faded purple eagle drawn on it that I recognized as a memory chip. Essentially a portable solid state hard drive.

THE memory chip … I hoped.

The Colonel accepted it before he carefully handed it off to the technician with a few muttered orders, the NCO inserting it into a slot on his console and getting to work.

“Any problems stealing it?” I asked in a tone that could best be described as ‘forced casual’. The DMI agent actually laughed at that, a short bark of contempt.

“SAFE are hit and miss at the best of times” the other didn’t quite roll his eyes. “This time the coin came up tails; most of the Stewart family are offworld on vacation on Marik -probably plotting takeover attempt number six of the Captain Generalship- and took their best security with them. Everyone left was pretty much asleep. We got into the archives past three rent-a-cops who didn’t even leave their break room and swapped the chip for something that looks the same, without anyone the wiser. Short of plugging it into a machine, no-one will ever know the difference I’d bet. And most likely they’ll just assume the old thing finally kicked the bucket”.
I got the distinct feeling that the spy was mildly insulted at his crack team, probably one of the very best in the entire Federated Suns used to daring missions against deadly, competent enemies, being sent in a priority one rush … to steal a worthless trinket from a planet that was asleep,

“Okay, I’ll bite. What is this?” General Felger, XO of the Mech Regiment (and more typically its CO when the Marshal was busy leading the RCT) asked. And again Ardan nodded to me.

“In part, this is in essence a badge of office for the noble invested into the land hold of Helmfast. Which is basically the whole planet minus the capital. The chip should contain a Star League era high resolution map of the entire planet - before the Snakes blasted it that is” I added as the map in question loaded onto the screen.
It was hard to not grin like a madman right now.
“And if we combine it with the requested current maps...” I left the hint hanging and with a smile, Agent Williams retrieved another item from inside his case, this time a standard holo-disk. Looked exactly like a CD, but I knew its data storage was on the order of hundreds of terabytes, with data stored in multidimensional holographic constructs rather than the 2D laser etched storage used in CDs/DVDs/BlueRays back in my time.

“The locals idea of flight control is ‘just don’t bother us until you’re ready to ground at Helmsdown” Williams grunted as he passed the disk over. “The inbound team were able to make multiple passes at multiple angles over the target area with a high resolution imager before landing to conduct trading for our cover and put a ground team into play”.

“And their cover is?” Ardan asked with a raised eyebrow. I recalled he had very little time for the cloak and dagger side of things, only slowly growing to understand that not all battles were fought on the open field. The events of ‘The Sword and the Dagger’ at least had seemed to make him understand that Hanse had to play those games - and play them better - or else he’d lose everything...

“Selling stolen top of the line Lyran medical equipment at a very very cheap price. Not that they say it's stolen of course, they are just a ‘free trader’ who jumped the border for some reason and are selling it at five percent market price on a planet that wouldn’t even get close to being able to afford it normally. Locals get their hospital in Helmsdown up to standards you might actually consider near acceptable equipment wise and our team has no questions asked as they sit around waiting for the next free jumpship collar to wander through - which is about two weeks away”.

I nodded in approval of that. The people of Helm - hells the Free Worlds League in general - were hardly Kurita or Liao. And I knew the locals would never have gotten so much as one eagle if they had found the cache; the Duke of Stewart, Captain General and probably every other province would have shown up wanting a piece. And Comstar would have probably just slipped in and nuked it (and framed the Lyrans for the dead of course) while they were busy arguing over the thing.
A refurbished hospital in exchange for the cache might sound like a rather dud deal … but to be brutally honest, it was a step up from what they got in the past - which was a little civil war on their planet followed by a whole load of nothing. And the locals probably couldn’t care about wider geopolitics, just delighting in the fact that they didn’t have to fly to another system to get an MRI now or wait for the very infrequent mobile hospital dropships that showed up to rent their services.

“Any military activity?” Ardan brought my attention back

“Zip according to the report” the man said shrugged. “No line units, just the local militia who barely know one end of their rifles from the other and would be hard pressed to stop a scout Lance, let alone what you’ve brought. The latest LIC reports of activity on the border are also on the disk, complements of Simon Johnsons people”.

“Anything else to report?” Ardan asked.

“No Sir”.

“Very well. You’re dismissed for now Agent Williams, we’ll debrief in full later. And I remind you this briefing is classified”.

“Roger that Sir” the other saluted and left. When the door closed behind him, then Ardan nodded to the tech.

The holographic projection split at that point, the left hand side showing the old map from the Star League era chip, the right the map scanned by the Stealthy Foxes dropship as it orbited. Apparently the Star League standards for topography and mapping were still fully in force and it allowed a quick calibration to the point that each map was showing the same location to the same scale. And the difference between the verdant world on one side and the one with only patchy signs of greenery on the other was slightly depressing. ****** snakes.
Gods, I was starting to sound like a local. And to be slightly fair, Kurita were hardly the only party guilty of ****** over entire planets in the succession wars…

“What else is in the chip Agent Smith?” General Felger cut into my thoughts as the tech recalibrated the maps.

“Pardon me General?” I asked turning to face the other.

“You said in part it's the maps, what else is on it?” he insisted, his eyes narrowed.

“Ah. In essence, that chip contains a secondary command layer, either in the firmware or its software. Undetectable if you plug it into just any computer. But when the chip is interfaced with a specific ‘gatehouse’ computer outside the cache, it will authenticate us as authorised personnel, open the gate and shut down the security systems”.

“And how could you possibly know that?” the General pressed, sounding unconvinced.

That is classified level Sword-One ” Ardan answered for me - causing the General to immediately shut up and almost cringe back into his seat as if a child scolded. ‘Prince’s Eyes Only’ meant that they did not need to know and that Hanse had made judgements on my knowledge personally. Ergo, questioning it would be questioning their Prince; end of discussion. “As for where the cache is; Agent Smith?”

I nodded, standing up and feeling the eyes of everyone in the room on me as I gestured to the tech working the computers. “Sergeant, can you mark out the locations of Helmsdown, Freeport and Helmfast please?” I asked and in seconds the barely visible urban center of Helmsdown, rubble of Freeport and invisible landhold of Helmfast (seriously, no creativity in the names here) were tagged on the main continent on the current map.

Oriented, I nodded. Showtime. Gods I hope this was correct - but on the plus side this was also a nominal abort point if my information was way out of whack.

“Okay, first, you can all note a few things changed after the bombardment. Can you please refocus in on Freeport? Scale one to one thousand”.
The pictures both swirled and dove through the ‘sky’ until the city of Freeport in all its former glory with the gleaming green/blue sea … and the ruins of freeport on the grey and dead seabed were side by side.
The signature of orbital bombardment and major nuclear detonations were also painfully clear.

“Please note that Freeport and the inland sea that used to be there are several hundred meters above the planetary sea level. Suffice to say that entire area was searched pretty heavily by Kurita for his loot before he gave up and more than one Lostech prospector has searched since without any trace. But our information was that while the cache was moved, it was not moved far. Without Jumpships, the people on the ground didn’t have the ability to do so” and with that I stabbed a finger at the bloody red river snaking away from the town towards the south west. “The river is the key to the cache. Follow it please and cut back out to one to ten thousand?”

Obediently the viewpoint on both screens started to follow the line. On one, despite its red colour (as I recalled some algae or what not caused that), it was a healthy river, full of water bouncing along as it cut its way through the region. On the other screen … it was no longer a river, just a dry riverbed. Dried up, yet still faintly red even after all these years.

“The Vermillion river cuts across the planes, through the foothills of the Nagyan Mountains and into deeper canyons until … there, right there” I smiled with a sudden surge of confidence as, just like in the original novel, the river took a sharp turn and vanished under what looked like a massive overhang after the tech zoomed right in.
On the original picture that was.
On the right, while the riverbed was still visible and distinctive the river itself no longer flowed. But more interestingly, a large boulder in the first had seemingly of its own will, stood up on its side to block that end of the canyon and cave where the river had apparently vanished. And, had been rather clearly to my eyes, squared off. Also sitting off to the side was the truncated pyramid of the ‘gatehouse’ as I thought of it, an artificial structure not present in the past.
Which wasn’t really proof of anything, it could have been anything after all. But for me it was the first real evidence that this WAS exactly like in Battletech and not a wild goose chase.

“Zoom back and move to the west … okay hold it” I said as the crimson line re-emerged, three or four klicks away in a straight line distance, on the reverse slope and side of the mountain. “And now, the river re-emerges and eventually winds its way into the sea. And clearly has other sources of water, although it's still almost dry today. So. How did it get from one side to the other. Anyone?”

“Probably just an underground cave system” Daniel Allard responded first with a shrug. “There are plenty of examples across the Inner Sphere of rivers digging under and through mountains or terrain to reemerge on the other side. I know on Kestral there is a river that goes about two klicks under a mountain before coming out and some crazy people like to put on scuba gear...” he started to tell a story when suddenly his words caught up with him and he straightened slightly, his eyes widening in sudden revelation. “An underground cave system…”

Ah, with the repetition and emphasis, suddenly everyone in the room started to shift and glance at each other. Now they were getting where I was going with this and I smiled as I started to explain…
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 09 July 2018, 03:05:37
Chapter 6: We’re not looting, we’re salvaging...

Okay … so that went well.

I mean Murphy was still absolutely a thing that held 100% true in this universe, no-one taunted murphy. But the whole ‘no battle plan survives contact with the enemy’ … is predicated on the enemy showing up or having a clue what the hell you were doing.

I have to say it was in its own way, a heartwarming ****** YOU to ComStar; given the events of The Price of Glory where 12 million people were casually killed by ROM as part of their plan to deny the cache to mankind. It had actually struck me when I remembered that and that it would surely not happen this time around, that if I was worrying about butterflying events that didn’t happen before, meaning deaths that I would be responsible for … well, there was a whole other side to that ledger as well.

Anyway, so, we jumped in…
 
***
******
***

My fears were that we would see a fleet of military Jumpships waiting for us or a ComStar warship or hell, even a civilian with a fully charged core who would run the hell away to sound the alarm in a panic …

But there was nothing. Not even a basic satellite inside the jump zone that was programed to sound the alarm when something dropped in. Helm was that much of a backwater right now - and technology still scarce enough that it wasn’t worth wasting it on a place like this.

With the kind of ease that spoke of their elite status, both units dropships detached and started their runs as the jumpships unfurled their jump sails, the Kell Hounds accelerating a tad faster to get ahead of us. A coded transmission to the Rabid Foxes giving them their targets and timeframe raced out, the transmission making it to the planet in minutes as we crawled along the four day trip.
Oh yeah. Sleeping at 1.3Gs? Uch! I was in awe of the ability of the seasoned troops to casually sleep in such conditions - and hell, I had what passed for a stateroom, shared with Ardan while they had tiny racks in their bays. Spaceflight without inertial dampening technology was way overrated. What was worse was the waiting though. My part was done for now and even as all the units and subunits found useful busy work to occupy themselves with as they completed pre-drop checklists and briefed, all I could do was wait and second guess myself.
Not exactly pleasant. I would have killed for my iPad or iPhone but both were probably stuck in some NAIS lab in dozens of pieces. On the plus side, I was enjoying reading McMannons Military Guide 3025 - the ‘Janes’ of the 31st century in the Federated Suns. It had a lot of information on Mechs and units of all the Successor States - the sad truth was that there was very little ‘classified’ about the capabilities of the platforms in use by all sides after centuries of war.
Although I swear to God, the 31st centuries idea of an ebook reader...uch!

Anyway. The Hounds dropped on schedule half a day ahead of us. Their relayed transmissions - as well as a more subtle one from the Rabid Foxes on the ground - had confirmed that the ‘attack’ had been a complete success so far. The sensor network had not even been cut off but hacked to show a sensor loop. It was a very old trick but with the lack of traffic in space around Helm, a perfectly viable one so that the first clue the locals had of what was going on was when a flotilla of Dropships appeared on the short range ATC radars, raining ‘Mechs. Then, as morning broke, a lot of people were first terrified … then scared … then uncertain … then really confused.
I mean it's one thing for a Battalion of Battlemechs to show up in the middle of the night. On a raid. This is the 3rd Succession War after all.
It’s another thing for them to do little more than just walk around town amusing themselves. Literally, walking down the streets … and obeying the traffic lights and stopping at pedestrian crossings as early morning walkers found other far taller walkers out for a stroll. I mean, the Hounds were broadcasting pictures in the clear that were being re-transmitted by the local media for God’s sake! Most hilariously of a Wolverine casually walking up to an utterly clueless Industrial Mech doing early morning work on the city outskirts and clearly completely in the dark about the planetary invasion, to tap it on the shoulder. Causing the other dented and well-used machine to clunk and turn around … and then drop the steel girder it had been holding in pure shock when it saw the lance pointing guns at it, frantically raising its arms straight up in a panic like it was being mugged.
Salome Ward was clearly enjoying herself.

We on the other hand we're having a very different kind of fun.

Our insertion over the sea was timed perfectly, taking place in the brightest part of the local day so our fleets drive flares would hopefully be lost in the glare of sunlight. We crossed the coast at thirty thousand feet over a nuked minor city and slowly descended in tight formation over the clouds, above the mountains. The Kell Hounds Jump Infantry and the command Lance of Patrick Kell departed from their dropship as we passed over the objective (have to admit, it was spectacular seeing the massive war machines on the vid ‘step out’ above the spectacular cloud covered mountains like giant parachutists) even as the rest of our Dropships brutally converted from supersonic angled flight to vertical flight in a wild series of maneuvers that had us skidding to a halt over the LZ.

At which point we dropped like stones.

I’m pleased to say I did not throw up and congratulated myself on my foresight of eating very lightly at the final meal an hour before we hit the atmosphere. Without a fixed reference point and only the tiny repeater screen on the bulkhead to look at while strapped into my acceleration couch, it wasn’t pleasant.
All the more because of the wild cheering and whistling from the Guardsmen around me who clearly thought this was awesome.

Even as we dropped the last thousand feet Battlemechs started departing the fleets’ ships on jump jets or jump packs; a full Battalions worth was on the ground and fanning out to secure the LZ before we were, with the rest disembarking within ten minutes of grounding. Swarms of armour followed and in less than an hour three mixed regiments of armor, Battlemechs and some supporting units (almost 3070s LCTs I had thought idly) were moving off to their chosen defensive choke points around the cache region; each with enough firepower to stop a hostile Mech Regiment dead in its tracks.
It was all in all a pretty remarkable feat of organization. Granted none of this was under fire, but even so you got the feeling that this was the kind of evolution the Guards practiced for constantly in Garrison and it showed.

So. With the main defensive force deployed and the camp guards standing first watch, it was time for for the RCT Command Company to push to the cache itself. The three regiments of infantry going with us loaded into their APCs with only minor grumbling; clearly wanting to enjoy the fresh air and open spaces for a while longer before getting back into enclosed spaces.

I however would not be riding with them as I expected.
No; I would be riding in Ardan Sorteks Victor to get there.
Which was ****** awesome!

I mean the jump seat was rather cramped as I was decently tall, but not more than an economy airline seat - and we weren't walking far.

The first few minutes were a little hair raising I’ll admit. A Battlemech was unlike any other underway vehicle I had ever sat in and the feel of it walking rather than driving …
Best analogy I could think of was those two or three seconds when a landing aircraft had its rear wheels hit the ground and it felt like the pilot was really fighting to keep it on the runway as he dropped the nose? The Mech seriously felt like it was on the verge of falling over with every step!
I slowly got used to it as we moved onwards - or at least learned to ignore it and just geeked out over the war machine. My jump seat was actually offset from the command couch so I could look past Colonel Sorteks chair and out the tiny window - or more usefully at the compressed holographic display. We were moving as part of the RCT command company, with Felsner beside us in his Cyclops with a pair of Jaggermechs on point. A flight of Ferret class scout VTOLs were doing the main scouting, zigging and zagging above us on overwatch supplemented by a lance of jumping mediums (yes the Heavy Guards did have limited numbers of Mechs in other weight classes for tactical flexibility) pacing us up on the ridge line.
I sat back and tried to enjoy the ride as Ardan stomped his way down the river, half listening to the radio chatter on the command net, which was actually pretty minimal and limited to line of sight laser coms so as to not alert any FWLM listening posts that might be somewhere in the region. Unlikely, but clearly Felsner was neither a risk taker nor a micro-manager.
Which was a good sign and fine by me. And soon enough, we arrived.

“Okay, we’re here” Ardan called back and I looked up as we stepped around a curve in the Canyon and dry riverbed winding its way into the mountains. Ardan was being cautious I noticed, gripping the controls, ready to unleash the gigantic autocannon in the Victor's arm as needed as he moved up to flank the Marshal, before he relaxed at what he saw.
It was a pretty typical box canyon, I suppose. The dry riverbed was perhaps ten meters wide at this point, rising to a bank on each side a few hundred meters across of mostly gravel with a few bits of tough shrubs stubbornly holding position through it. Directly ahead, the river had seemingly run into a mountain in the same way a sentence runs into a full stop, a sheer brown/grey rock face rising hundreds of meters into the air before sloping back out of sight, the ‘wall’ wrapping around to form the canyon itself. The riverbed terminated in the ‘boulder’ although the outline where the cave used to be seemed pretty clear to me. Even so, the ‘boulder’ had been positioned exquisitely; looking for all the world like a lump of sheer cliff that had snapped off and slid down to embed itself in some avalanche, sealing off the cave.
The work was so damn good that despite everything I knew I still had slight doubts. For all the complaints I used to (and still occasionally did) make about the future of the 1980s in terms of the technology around me, the Star Leagues mega-engineering skills could have had the discovery channel doing Megastructure specials for a century back home.

“Welcome all” Patrick Kells voice came over the command net. “We’ve scouted the entire area and we’re clear of any indigenous presence” the other said. Squinting past Ardan I finally picked out the Kell Hound lance loosely strung across the left hand side of the valley near the gatehouse, with what looked like Infantry dotting the grounds in rather good cover to screen them. From there the Hounds would have been able to catch any hostiles in a pretty damn withering firepower concentration, even as the bend would have blocked any easy attempt to return the favor. “Situation is secure here and we’re ready to move in”.

Felsner replied cordially to him and things moved quickly from there. More and more people arrived until the area looked more like a parking lot than anything, with the Mechs stacked up like some SWAT team outside a door near the head of the valley and the infantry grouped up too, but everyone on my advice was far enough back just in case the opening dislodged any debris or anything from the cliff above. I didn’t pay that much attention until suddenly Ardan called my name probably a good half an hour later.

“John? We’re ready. No change in your instructions?”

“Nope” I replied with a shrug I knew he couldn’t see, feeling a little stiff in the seat I was strapped tightly into. It hadn’t really been designed for long term occupancy, but it beat walking from the dropships and I tried to focus. “Power up the terminal in the gatehouse, patch in the chip … and let's see what happens.

“Alright. And … here we go” he said (I winced, recalling Heath Ledger as ‘The Joker’ saying that) and I held my tongue as the techs in the gatehouse carefully powered up the computer - and resisted the urge not quite at gunpoint to start poking at it and its software; instead just slipping the memory chip into the slot.

For a heart stopping five seconds, nothing happened.
And then something did.

The first thing was the sudden launching into the air of a flock of birds, squawking and fleeing from a tiny perch in the cliff face above the boulder. Moments later, a light rain of debris showered down the cliff as everyone staring at it held their breath … then there was a jolt.
One that I felt even though the ‘Mechs shock absorbing feet and knee joints.

A rectangular door was now visible inside the ‘boulder’, appearing as if by magic out of the solid stone as it slowly retracted into the mountainside. A wave of dust billowed from the area around it as it eased backwards, the Mech’s external audio pickups relaying a stone-on-stone grinding noise. I could see the Infantry much closer seemed to be having slight difficulties staying on their feet until finally the stone with another jolt stopped moving back. And then it started to slide off to the side, revealing the dark cave behind.

“Keith you magnificent bastard” I snarked, “I read your book!”

“Patton, 1970” Ardan laughed from in front of me and I blinked at the back of his neurohelmet.

“You still watch those movies?” I asked, slightly amused.

“As it so happens, 20th and 21st century cinema is still incredibly popular, to this day over most other years, for various reasons. But the Davion Guards as a whole do have a bit of a soft spot for Second World War movies, I’ll admit”.

Moments later, the door seemed to have completed opening. With a simple hand gesture from Kells Thunderbolt, the ‘Hounds infantry swarmed, leaping forward in a blur and hiss of jump packs, vanishing in pairs into the darkness. There was an agonizing wait of ten minutes or so with only brief code words coming back before the all-clear came back and the Mechs could move, easing up into the cache one at a time.
I felt myself wincing slightly as Ardan had to sort of duck into the doorway for the rather tall Mech to fit in, but soon enough we entered the darkness - and Ardan flicked on his Victors ‘headlights’.

The cavern inside wasn’t very big (well, from a Battlemechs perspective) and was featureless except for two things. Firstly, a tunnel ahead that descended off further into the darkness. Secondly, what amounted to a small building extending out from the cave wall. With a tap on Ardans shoulder, I directed him there. A quick radio transmission later and our Mech was carefully backed up against the wall just outside the ‘building’, slumping as it powered down to a standby status. We were joined by the Mechs of the Marshal (who left a ComTech working his Mechs Command Console to keep him linked to the RCT) as well as Patrick Kell himself, who clearly did not want to miss this, with the remaining Mechs standing guard at the only two other access points into or out of this initial area.
Of course, this position meant I had to descend a chain ladder from the Victors cockpit. Downside of an Assault Mech; It was a long way to the ground -a very solid ground- no matter how Godlike it made you feel. And even with a couple of Kell Hounds infantry holding the bottom of the ladder (and no doubt thinking snarky thoughts about how awkward I was on it for a vaunted Mechwarrior) it wasn’t exactly pleasant to descend.
Still, I made it with my body if not dignity intact and we met up with the other Mechwarriors at the door, as well as a squad of troops - who were holding back the dozen computer experts from NAIS. They had followed us in and were impatiently shuffling from one foot to the other like kids on Christmas morning, waiting to see what Santa had put under the tree.

I could understand that, based on the literal writing on the wall I could see in the glare of Mech mounted floodlights.

Star League Field Library Facility, Helm. DE890-2699.

Well, this was it.

Felsner thus flatly refused to let anyone in until it was swept no matter how much the techs were threatening to start hyperventilating and so we all waited (some with more grace than others) as the Hounds carefully checked it out. The three Mechwarriors took the time to pull on jumpsuits over their cooling vests and shorts - while I tried not to fiddle with my AFFS field BDUs and combat webbing. I still wasn’t really comfortable wearing the uniform but Ardan assured me MIIO personnel in the field in my situation would also have to wear the uniform without rank - and if anything, he actually seemed pleased that I expressed how uncomfortable I was wearing a uniform I hadn’t earned in an army I wasn't actually part of.
Hadn't stopped him from telling me to shut up and wear it though.
With that said, the laser pistol on my hip I had been issued at Ardans instance was absolutely real and I had three weeks training with it to know that. Although I had to keep fighting the urge to pull it and make blaster noises by reminding myself that the ray gun wasn't a toy...

Anyway. Lights had come on inside the building as soon as the Kell Hounds troops had stepped inside and when the First Lieutenant in charge (whose team were one of the few briefed on what was in here and so took things very carefully) finally green lit the room as secure, Ardan insisted I take point. Probably to stop the Techs from charging in first and starting to press buttons. Inside and appreciating the warm light compared to the harsh spotlights of the cavern, I found myself in a small hallway with a very large workstation facing an entire wall sized screen at the far end.

“And it probably still can’t play Crysis” I muttered as I started down the hall towards it.

“What was that?” Ardan asked as he moved up behind me and I shook my head with a distant smile as I again felt that odd disconnection from my old life.

“Nothing” I said, moving in and looking over the console. It was a relatively simple affair; a keyboard, trackball and a number of auxiliary control panels, a few monitors and I/O slots that were this centuries (or the 28ths) equivalent of USB ports. It wasn’t really any more impressive than the computers back on New Avalon at NAIS … but it wasn’t the hardware that made this place a secret House Lords would depopulate entire worlds to get their hands on.
Turning back I looked at the crowd of people in the hallway. “Who has the chip?”

“I do” Specialist Rastcor spoke up in an awed, hushed voice like he had just entered a temple as he edged in.

“Here” I gestured him to the console and the external chip input slot. With incredible care (again, probably unnecessary because by God the SLDF had built things to last!) he took the chip back out of its tough case and slotted it into the data port prominent above the keyboard as he sat down. I stood behind him, crossing my arms and trying to look that confident that I knew what the hell I was doing.

Then the screen (really it was a wall sized projection) came on and white text flashed up.

‘The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty’. James Madison.

“Well, he’s not wrong” I shrugged as the interface bloomed to life on the screen followed by what seemed to be a massive table of contents that started to scroll. Then I paused as I heard no response, turning back to see that everyone, even Ardan, had their faces locked into expressions of stunned awe and it was only then that it really hit me what this was to them. Compared to me; a child of the Google Generation.

Knowledge.

The lost knowledge of the Star League; the ‘golden age’ of mankind whose heights humanity had fallen from and desperately wanted to returned to was now digitally displaying itself calmly for all their eyes. Freely available for the taking.
Merry ****** Christmas indeed.

“My God. It’s real. It’s really real” Fensler muttered in clear shock, the first time I had seen him lose his composure. He shivered in a way that I was sure had nothing to do with the residual temperature of the coolant vest he was wearing before he gathered himself with almost physical effort to face me and give a nod of genuine respect I doubted he gave very often to people he presumed were REMF spooks … and I felt distinctly uncomfortable all of the sudden.
Like a fraud.
Someone who had taken the works, risks and sacrifices of others and taken credit for them. I recalled from ‘The Price of Glory’ that the Grey Death Legion had fought a near constant stream of running battles for days to protect this find. Battles that had very nearly broken them and WOULD have broken a lesser unit. For all their later glory, Helm was pretty much considered their finest hour by the Inner Sphere well into the 3050s. The risks taken and sacrifices made to keep the knowledge safe and get it away from ComStars attempts to destroy it...

Granted that sacrifice would never happen now, meaning it was really only a Battletech novel and nothing more … and yet...

The younger Kell Brother broke me out of my musing (or perhaps brooding) as he just barked in triumph, startling me for a moment as he slapped me on the back - with I felt enough force to send me into low orbit - causing me to stagger forward a half step.

“Well then. It would appear congratulations are in order Agent Smith” Patrick said, offering me an almost boyish grin that I couldn’t help but sort of shyly return as he held out his hand for me to shake. Dammit he was just so … charismatic – ouch!
Also turns out he has quite a grip.

“I’ll accept congratulations when we have copies of the core” - with secondary and tertiary backups - “safely on Tharkad and New Avalon” I cautioned him as I released his hand and tried not to visibly work the feeling back into mine. “But I rather think with a little luck, we might just be able to make this year's Christmas celebrations at The Triad. Be a rather nice present for the Archon and First Prince”.

“Now that would just cap this off, wouldn’t it?” the Mercenary chuckled. Behind him, I could hear Fensler quietly taking on his headset radio via his Battlemech outside; alerting the most senior officers that the Primary Objective had been located and to standby for deployment orders. Turning back to the massive screen still cheerfully scrolling through its table of contents, I regarded Rastcor and stepped up to him carefully.

“Rastcor, you still with me?” I asked him quietly. I don’t think he had even blinked since we turned the thing on.

“Of course” he said after snapping out of it with a glance around, swallowing slightly as he looked back up at the screen and it seemingly hit him that this was as real as it gets and not just a theoretical exercise back at NAIS. This was something that made the legendary find at Halstead station look like nothing; the figurative Holy Grail that NAIS had been searching for since its founding … and he was the man on the spot.
Meaning he was also the man every one of his peers across history would look at as ‘that guy’ for the rest of his life if he managed to ****** this up.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 09 July 2018, 03:05:53
“Ignore the databases for now” I instructed him gently but firmly. “This system should have both a map of this facility and an inventory. I’m not sure if you’re going to be able to bring them up without a lot more time learning this system, but...”

The implied challenge that he wouldn’t be able to do so brought him out of his slightly stunned state as I hoped it would.

“Hmm. Let’s see” he said, reasserting himself and tapping some commands. “Standard later Hegemony SLDF interface. I should be able to just bring up a terminal window if I … ah!” There were a trio of smaller screens on top of the command console, looking much like widescreen computer monitors back on Earth in my time. All of them now activated as secondary displays, including what looked like a pretty classic command line interface popping onto them which he started working. Thirty seconds later the scrolling index on the big screen vanished, replaced with a massive topographical map of the entire region instantly familiar as identical to that in the memory chip. However this one also had in bright red, the outline of the entire complex.
I couldn’t help but whistle at it as Rastcor zoomed in slightly. The complex straddled the Mountains, reaching far to the South East where the Vermillion plains started to edge between the equatorial sea and mountains. A dozen green dots marked the edges of the red shadow which I presumed were access doors given that one was exactly on our position, with more detail filling in with distinct levels, chambers and passages connecting them as the image slowly tilted and panned.
It had taken Grayson hours as I recalled to bring up the map using the pretty ‘idiot proof’ user interface. This man had done it in two minutes flat, with a command line.

Okay, perhaps he did know his stuff regarding Star League computers. So much the better.

“Okay then. Now, is there any way that you can export this for upload into the navigation computers of our units? So they can make their way around this place?” I asked with a considering tilt of my head.

The other considered the question, before rapid typing a series of commands, getting screens of text back and then switching to the GUI screen to open something that looked like a file tree which he scrolled through quickly, blinking as he found something. “Actually Agent Smith, it looks like whoever was here anticipated that request. The facility map has already been exported to a standard SLDF tactical map format” and with a quick flick of a trackball, the map was translated to the screen.

Now this looked exactly like the kind of maps I had seen running on Ardans computer screens in his Mech. Very cool. Tags and data flowed over the map in great detail seemingly showing preset navigation points and the like. Without looking away, the technician put a hand back over his shoulder and one of his subordinates without asking slapped a similar looking memory chip to the security one we were using. He pushed it into a free slot and with a blurred series of keystrokes and a brief ‘file transfer’ window that popped up on the big screen and then vanished before I could even really read it, he then pulled it back out.

“Done” he confirmed, turning and passing it to the waiting Marshal. “Inventory file is embedded into it as well”.

Felsner looked at the chip in his hands and took a deep breath to settle himself before his years of military discipline kicked back in as he turned to face Colonel Sortek.

“Right. Ardan, I need to get teams to start scouting and securing the facility. I’ll be on Tac-6 if you need me”.

“Copy that Sir” Ardan saluted him and had one returned quickly enough. The Marshal then offered me a military nod and left, leaving Ardan turning back to me with a sudden grin on his face. “You have things under control here John, so you’re in charge. I’m going to explore the immediate area a little more” Sortek decided without even bothering to ask me.

Wait. He expects me to run point on the most critical part of this entire ****** operation?

Oh hell no-

“I’ll come with if you don’t mind - I’m rather eager to explore this place” Patrick said, his gaze going somewhat distant and forlorn for a moment as he traced his eyes across the trove of Lostech. “Morgan would have loved to be here” he added wistfully. “When we were kids we were always talking about building a Merc unit to go and sail the stars, fighting bad guys and coming home with all the lost Star League treasure…” Shaking himself out of it almost at once, the younger Kell brother offered me a nod and headed out after Ardan.
Well perhaps if your brother wasn’t busy sulking and crying himself to sleep - I shook off that instinctive thought to have some pity and empathy for Patrick.
In his own way, he had lost his family when Morgan had run off, and I could relate to that.
Besides, there was some evidence that the whole Phantom Mech process caused major mental health issues to those who ‘broke into’ it … so I didn’t need to be a dick to the guy.
 
Anyway. It seemed I had a whole gaggle of over-excited techs to ride herd on. Better make sure they get on task before they do something stupid.

“Alright, let's get down to it” I tried to say in something like a commanding tone. “If the Major had any sense, given the purpose of this place, he should have set up a copy program to duplicate the core contents onto external media” I stated, knowing he had done exactly that.

“Already found it” one of the other techs working the secondary monitor chipped in, their confidence seeming to slowly return as the shock wore off and they started to focus on the smaller issues rather than the minor fact that this thing was going to at a stroke change the course of human history. “Just … hmmm”.

“Define ‘hmm’?” I asked.

“Well the copy program seems to build an index of the core, then dump it into a compressed archive which it then throws onto the external media. In fact it's already built the archive file and is ready to copy it across. The problem however-”

“It’s in a format that is no longer in use, or, was proprietary to this site and we would have no way of extracting the data again afterwards” I guessed as something clicked for me. “Not without building software from the ground up to data mine and index it manually which, given the scope of this, would be like giving a person a million piece jigsaw puzzle and no final picture” I added as my brow creased in thought.
Suddenly things made sense. The data here, inside the cache, was clearly accessible and fully indexed and linked. At a keystroke, you could bring up anything using an interface that looked roughly analogous to hyperlink markups and web pages. And yet I knew in the original timeline it had taken considerable effort to get at the data from the copies, with different states pulling different things out in different order bit by bit and byte by byte.
Although to be perfectly fair, the poor Grey Death Legion tech who had made the copy of the core wasn’t a handpicked NAIS computer expert with an RCT to hide behind, but a Mech Tech trying very hard to copy the core while House Marik Battlemechs were knocking on the front door …

“Well … yes actually” the tech said, all of them exchanging surprises glances, seemingly nonplussed at my casual commentary on computer matters I guess not that many ‘lay’ people were trained in.
Which said a lot of sad things about education in the Inner Sphere.
****** you Comstar.
“However the command program actually has a number of extended options” he said, gesturing back to the screen and a text file of some kind showing what looked like a manual page for the software. “One of them is to build the archive export using any number of different formats, including a standard Star League format that is still in use today. But the program will have to re-index and create the archive file from scratch”.

“Any idea what kind of timeframe we're looking at for that?” I asked. “I just need a rough guesstimate…”

The tech and Rastcor exchanged a glance, seemingly communicating telepathically before the later spoke up.

“Based on the amount of data here … six hours? Although after the archive is built, copying onto external media should only take half an hour or so per copy. The data transfer system built into this workstation is top notch” he finished on an upbeat note and I nodded at that. Alright if Ardan wanted me in charge, then fine I’d be in charge.
We were bloody going to do this the safe way.

“Okay, here's the plan” I spoke up, looking around to make sure I had everyone's attention before continuing. “Before you do anything else, copy the existing archive file onto two separate memory cores - and run concurrency checks to make sure their data is identical. I'll organize to have one loaded onto our ship, one onto the Kell Hounds command ship. They’re our failsafe so even if it will be a pain in the ass to extract it, the raw data is secure in case anything goes wrong or we have to evacuate in a hurry for some reason. Then you can run the commands to build a new archive in a format our systems can work with and copy that onto the remaining spare cores … which will be how many?”

“Of the size needed?” Rastcor considered the question, conferring quickly with his people before turning back. “Probably four. The existing archive file is over two fifty exabytes and we have six three-hundred exabyte cores. And frankly, I doubt the size is going to be very different using the more mainstream algorithms - if anything it might be smaller”.

“There may also be spare cores locally in storage around here somewhere” I added “but let's not count on that. Only make the copies from the original source and be sure to test these copies against each other. Let me know immediately when you’re done - or if you run into any problems. I'll have instructions where to store these cores for you later once I've conferred with Colonel Sortek. Then, our final goal is to pull the original core out of here without damaging it or setting off any security systems - which might include a self destruct sequence for the entire complex if the core is interfered with, so don’t even think about doing anything outside what we've discussed without the green light from myself or Colonel Sortek”.

Happily the techs all seemed to be nodding firmly at that, not eager to risk blowing themselves up. I paused to reflect for a moment, but decided that about covered it. And that I didn’t need to issue any threats about screwing around - I think they had focused in well now on the importance of the task in front of them - and dangers they were playing with.

“One last thing; remember if you need anything, you have first and absolute priority on personnel, supplies, equipment, whatever you need to get this done. In in doubt, call me. Anytime. Or if you can’t reach me, either Colonel Sortek or Marshal Felnser are ready to take your calls. Clear?”

“Very clear Agent Smith. We won’t let you down” Rastcor nodded to me, with a pleasingly determined yet serious expression on his face. Just about the right ratio of caution to determination I think.

“I know you won’t” I assured them with a tight smile. “Prince Davion handpicked each of you for a reason” I added to their clear shock and surprise. “So I have complete confidence in both your abilities and that you appreciate what this” I pointed at the screen “means. Good luck”.

Outside, I found the cave a bustle of activity. A constant line of APCs were driving through the door and vanishing down into caverns. Two Goblins wearing Kell Hound colors had been parked in the cave with two Mechs from Patrick Kells command lance standing nearby and a platoon of infantry busy around the cave fortifying both entrance and exit - with a couple of burly looking chaps standing guard outside the door to the library itself. I guessed they had orders that no-one not on ‘the list’ got inside … and I also guessed that they were far from happy with standing around the building while everyone else (including their CO) was playing Tomb Raider in a Star League cache. But they were clearly far too professional to complain as I walked past them and made my way outside the great doors (which on foot, I had to admit, were far more impressive).

The Mobile HQ vehicle of the Guards had arrived and set up while I was busy inside, parked up on the bank just outside the ‘gatehouse’. Two flagpoles with the standards of both the Kell Hounds and Davion Heavy Guards had been raised and the HQ itself had been ‘unfolded’. Now the vehicle formed one wall of a large semi-rigid field tent, with the stationary titan of the Marshals Cyclops standing silently next to it along with the paired Jaggermechs. Inside the tent was a pretty cramped command centre, with two dozen communications techs busy on tiny desks coordinating the Regimental Combat Teams operations across the battlespace. The Mobile HQ design was quite clever really. Lacking the kind of lightweight and compact C4i technology of the Star League era, it had been designed to provide a basic ‘on the move’ capability but otherwise was designed to rapidly unfold into a far less cramped portable command centre. A gaggle of senior officers at a slightly raised section were busy around Marshal Flenser, so I started to walk over that way.

“...some time tomorrow” one of his officers was saying, a small group of them standing over a map table showing the contemporary satellite image overlaid with a wireframe of the cache and hoards of unit markers. Dan Allard was there as well - in what I presumed was the Hounds field BDUs rather than a Mechwarriors combat gear, so I guess he was here to play liaison while Patrick and Ardan played Lara Croft. And he looked about as happy as his comrades in the Cache had been about that fact.

“Fine. We’ll need to confirm that with Major Ward as soon as the SatCom uplink is active…” and with that Flenser noticed me standing off to the side and gestured me in. “Ah Agent Smith, good, I was just about to call you for a status report. What’s the situation at the library?”

“Optimistic Marshal” I answered him, coming to something like parade rest. It surely couldn’t hurt to be as professional as possible after all. “Phase one is underway; we’re pulling a direct copy of the existing archive file and should have full copies of the core onto our dropships inside an hour or two. This data format is far from ideal to work with mind you; it would take years to decrypt it, if not a decade or more. But that’s our safety net to ensure that even in the worst case scenario before we start fiddling, we’d still have the entire database even if it took some time to make use of it”.

“Sound thinking” the other agreed and a flurry of nods agreed from around the table - clearly no-one wanted to even chance the loss of this priceless treasure. “What happens after that?”

“Luckily for us, it seems the library systems can export the database into more standard Star League formats that are still in use today. It’ll take something on the order of six hours or more to build this export file but once that is done, making new copies should only take half an hour. And the data on these cores would be fully accessible from the outset. We have sufficient cores to make four copies of this format and I’d like your permission to split these copies - and the first two backups for that matter - onto different dropships assigned to different jumpships under lock and key. To eliminate any single point of failure risk if we lose a dropship or jumpship”.

The Marshal turned to a Major waiting off to the side and made a ‘get on with it’ gesture, causing the other to salute and then hurry off to get things organized.

“Finally” I continued as he left, “after we’ve confirmed the data has been completely secured and duplicated to a sufficient level of redundancy” - although I found it hard to credit there was such a thing- “my instructions are to inspect the computer core and see about the possibility of removing it to take it with us. Failing that, if it cannot be removed, once we’re certain we’ve got all the data precisely duplicated and have finished all salvage activity; on the authority of Prince Davion, Colonel Sortek will give the order to destroy it”.

There was something of a shocked intake of breath around the table at that bombshell, as I had more or less expected. In this time period of Battletech, destroying Lostech items such as factories, jumpships and terraforming equipment was considered pretty much a flat out war crime.
Destroying the ultimate anti-Lostech device probably reached the level of ‘crime against humanity’ in their eyes - even if nothing would be lost given the backups. Indeed it was probably only that fact combined with me noting it was an order from Hanse Davion himself that their knee jerk outrage had been controlled.

“That is of course, the worst case scenario” I added, which seemed to ease up the tension a tad. “But we cannot leave this data intact for Marik - and more pertinently Liao and Kurita who will no doubt insist they share”.

“Thank you Agent Smith - I think we’ve all realized the strategic ramifications of leaving it intact” the Marshal pointed out - but he did so at least with a smile and nod that suggested he wasn’t trying to rebuke or dismiss me - and his words subtly reinforced my position with his authority. “Alright, can I call it twenty four hours to be able to completely download and secure the data for planning purposes?”

“Conservatively, yes sir” I nodded. “In all honestly, probably less than that”.

“Outstanding” he nodded before considering me and gesturing me to join them - slightly surprising me. “You might as well stay for the rest of the briefing then” he added before he turned to a man in a field uniform whose brown rank insignia I recall meant he was from the logistics branch. “General Flanders, you have a report?”

I admit to disappointment that he didn't declare ‘Hokaly-Dokaly MarshelReno!’

“Yes Sir” the officer said in deep rumble of a voice that was about as far from Ned Flanders as it was possible to get. “Preliminary analysis of the manifest file is completed, we have a listing of what’s in the cache - at least as of the last inventory. We don’t have eyeballs on it all yet, but the reports we’re getting from the scouting teams seem to match up so far”.

There was a sudden air of eager anticipation around the table at that as everyone leaned forward. The core was worth vastly more than the entirety of the equipment stored here, everyone knew that of course.
But the shinies!
Oh God, the shinies!!!

“The short version; on paper we have over five hundred Battlemechs, two thousand combat vehicles, another thousand various utility and support vehicles, twenty thousand SLDF field infantry kits and close to fifty thousand tons of various spare parts, supplies and equipment. The Mechs…” the man hesitated for a second, seemingly steadying himself. “Eighty percent of the Mechs are Assaults”.

The entire command tent -who were clearly not supposed to be listening in but everyone knew were listening in anyway - went almost silent. Felsner turned to glare at them and as if a switch had been thrown, they hurriedly went back to work with barks of orders from the junior officers overseeing them as the legendary professionalism of the AFFS reasserted itself.

Eighty percent” the Marshal stated quietly - not even he able to keep the shock out of his eyes.
General Flanders simply nodded - clearly having had more time to digest this bombshell.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…” I muttered in a sing-song voice under my breath as I wracked my brain. I didn’t remember anything like that being noted from The Price of Glory. Then again, the descriptions of the Mechs had been pretty much limited to Carlyle being understandably frustrated that even as his units machines were getting blasted to pieces in fight after fight and being glued back together for the next, he had hundreds of gleaming SLDF machines sitting there he couldn’t use as it would take far too long to get them combat ready. Like a man dying of thirst being given a bottle of water impossible to open.
Assault Mechs were indeed the rarest of beasts in the Inner Sphere these days according to what I had read in McMannons Military Guide. The LCAF deployed the most - memes about them were exaggerated, but they still boasted almost a fifth of their Mech fleet in that class - with Heavies around a quarter more making them pretty top heavy. House Davion conversely could barely scrape up ten percent in Assaults, with seventy percent of their Mech Regiments TO&E made up of Lights and Mediums and the rest Heavies. House Kurita sat between the two - but with fewer regiments than the AFFS in total - almost like someone had been world building everything into a nice balance…
This many Assault Mechs could actually change the balance of power for House Davion in a small but real way. Only question being if you gave the Crushers a sibling or two … or attached a company each of the machines to sixteen or so RCTs for a breakthrough firepower boost in key units...

“Right then” the Marshal drew my attention back to the here and now. “What kind of tech are we looking at?”

“Agent Smith's information seems, as always, right on the money” the officer noted with a nod at me that made me fight off the urge to blush at the unabashed complement, probably very rarely given from line officers in whose minds ‘intelligence agent’ was an oxymoron. “We’re looking at late era SLDF regulars. Most of the mechs have one system or weapon that’s Lostech balanced out with standard current issue weapons, which should make maintaining them easier logistically speaking but a few according to the specs are high-end Royal builds. There are a lot of spare parts as well. And I mean a lot. For example according to this, there are at least a thousand Freezers sitting in one of the warehouses - still in their original packaging”.

“And before anyone asks” the Marshal added, “dibs rules are not, I say again not, in effect”.

There was a good humored chuckle at that that seemed to put the meeting back on an even keel, getting everyone to knuckle down and focus.

“So. Question number two; assuming the inventory is accurate, how long will take to load up this stuff and can we carry it all? Even with the Mammoths, that is a lot of gross tonnage…”

“The Mules are each carrying a full recovery crew with a platoon of prime movers, a couple of dozen industrial exoskeletons and some mobile lift hoists. Throw in my boys to help and we should be able to load up Battalion or so worth of platforms with each round trip. This is going to be a multi-day affair in all honesty” the officer shrugged helplessly - at which point I stepped in, recalling some information from the book.

“I might have some good news there” I spoke up, getting everyone's immediate attention. Possibly because so far I only seemed to bring good news. “We’ll probably have to get the infantry to do a full sweep to make sure, but according to our intelligence about this place, there should be fusion powered flatbed haulers in the cache. If we can get them working, we should be able to increase our movements of salvage quite a bit - if we can find people to drive them”.

“Make that a priority for your people to confirm Colin” Flenser ordered swiftly with a look at the commander of the infantry. “I want to hit the ground running on this one”.

“Understood sir” the other nodded, making a notation in a small noteputer.

“If need be, we can stand down the 14th Lexington from their reserve position and put their crews to work running them” the Marshal continued in consideration, lightly drumming his fingers on the holotable before nodding sharply. “In fact, on that note Felger I want you to pull two companies worth of Mechs with hands off the line to assist with the loading and unloading operations. Karen, as soon as we’re in position to start the recovery, round up all the loadmasters from our dropships and send them over to help. Once we start, we run non stop, which means rotations. I do not want to lose a grounded Mammoth filled with Lostech because some idiot decided crew rest was for losers, pushed it too far and caused a catastrophe. Everyone clear on that?”

“Yes Sir!” came back immediately and my respect for the man went up another notch. He was perfectly willing to use his Mechwarriors as glorified industrial mech drivers where I strongly suspected other unit commanders fully into the Cult of the Mechwarrior would reject the idea out of hand. He was also clearly seeing the timeframe for getting this done wasn’t going to be a few hours of smash and grab like Halstead Station had been, but that a sustained effort would be needed. And was smart enough to use his people accordingly and ensure they didn't burn out.
Well I suppose you didn’t get to be put in charge of Hanse Davion's favorite RCT without proving yourself significantly beyond merely ‘competent’.

“Now, the second question” he moved on. “How much of it can we take? I’m loathe to either leave things behind for the leaguers or have to destroy them. But I’d like it even less to find stuff we left behind pointed back at us a few years down the line”.

“We’re crunching the numbers” the logistics man stated, glancing at his own noteputer. “Best estimate for now is that we can load up all the Mechs, Vehicles and just about all the lostech gear if we use our own dropships to take the excess and if we triage for things we can leave behind like standard ammo, gauss rifle slugs and the like. But no question that we’re going to have to dump some stuff to make room on our ships”.

“Right. Start with our ammo stores - I don’t think House Davion is going to run out of autocannon shells anytime soon” he noted to a brief chuckle around the table. “Then if we still need room, the APCs can be tossed and we can store lighter vehicles from the cache in their place to free up more cargo space”.

The logistics officer nodded at that and make a notation - although the other General who I recalled was in charge of the Mechanized Infantry brigade didn’t look terribly happy at the idea. And understandably too. But then, his APCs were one of the cheapest and easiest military vehicles to make. One that could be replenished in bulk, even in 3025.

“Next question. LZs. Where do we load up from?”

“I think we’ve found an LZ for the Mammoths and Mules Sir” another officer, Karen I recalled, said, wearing the uniform of someone in the Naval arm of the AFFS. Clearly she led the RCTs aerospace elements, with a few keystrokes switching the holotables map around to focus on the western side of the range. “Based on the map, there is another access door here” and a green dot flashed on the southern edge of the mountains, where they edged away from the coast, creating a narrow spar of the Vermillion Planes right where the Vermillion river emerged on the other side of the range. It looked small on the orbital scan, but seemed more than large, wide and flat enough to bring the heavy ships in. “It’s defendable, but open enough for the loading and the ground looks ideal for the cargo ships”.

“Good work” Felnser said as he studied the map grid indicated. “We’ll have the infantry spend the evening finishing the sweep of the inside of the cache, then they can bunk down for the night. We’ll move the fleet across the mountains at first light - except McCloud's company. They stay here, with Wolli Pride, just in case someone comes looking for what all the noise is about and to defend the computer team” and with that he straightened and looked around his officers. “Any concerns or questions?” he asked and got a negative shake of heads. “Good. Now, Lieutenant, you have an update from Major Ward?”

Daniel Allard now stepped forward.

“Yes Sir” the younger Allard brother replied and he gave a straight forward yet amusing report of all the ways the Kell Hounds some distance away were amusing themselves, leaving the locals bewildered and trying to determine if this was a raid, occupation or some giant practical joke on behalf of the Lyran Commonwealth. The really good news was that the ComStar HPG hadn't broken its transmission schedule - it was due to send out the first batch of messages since we landed in just under 90 minutes. It suggested the locals were so damn confused about the situation that they hadn't seen a need to pay Comstars exorbitant fees for a priority message to Stewart. Which was excellent news indeed - for once ComStars greed was working against them. After all if a Class-B station could casually send an emergency transmission simply because the local Precentor wanted to, questions might get asked about why then they charged such a silly amount of money when others asked.

That decision might well cost the local Precentor his life. I did feel slightly bad for the local stations personnel though who would no doubt be caught up in the aftermath. I recalled that some idealistic ComStar adept had been critical to getting the Grey Death Legion out of their desperate situation and spreading the news about ComStars involvement in the war crimes on Sirius. A poor fool of an Adept who honestly believed the Precentor in question was an aberration and that ComStars inner circle were noble people with a noble mission. He had, at great risk, defied said Precentor and exposed his heinous actions (promptly disavowed as the actions of a rogue man by the ‘horrified’ First Circuit of course) and allowed the Grey Death Legion to get out with their precious cargo.

I doubted fate would be kind to him this time.

I suppose it was a good sign I could still feel guilty about such things … but I pushed it out of the way. After all, if I was going to stay my hand against ComStar because some of their ignorant low level personnel could get caught up in events, I might as well have stayed at home and started praying to my toaster.

Brooding as the briefing broke up, I made my way outside and found a nice rock to sit on across from the Cyclops, watching as dusk slowly gave way to evening as the sun set behind the canyon wall as I fished out a ration bar and tried not to wince at the taste.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Siden Pryde on 09 July 2018, 04:04:10
Liking this so far.  Quite enjoyable.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: worktroll on 09 July 2018, 05:50:59
Definitely.

Me, I would have asked to see the League ambassador, but then to each their own.

Well written genre fiction with a nice twist.

W.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 09 July 2018, 14:22:41
 :thumbsup:
Well done
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ckosacranoid on 10 July 2018, 00:19:07
This sir is one hell of a story and can not wait to see more of what you have in mind of this SI and this is cool that he is not really big or super powered or anything. he is still just a normal human with something to offer a group of people to try to stop the coming idiots from other space and the dark age after that. The clans and then the rogue phone company.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DoctorMonkey on 10 July 2018, 06:08:46
Really enjoying this
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 10 July 2018, 07:26:59
Just read through this, really really enjoying it! A great mix of humor and character interaction as well as world building!  Its a really good read and I hope it continues :)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 July 2018, 08:04:56
Chapter 7: Always the last place you look...

***
******
***

It was amazing how efficiently armies worked when operations were ruled over with an iron fist by competent NCOs.

Like most professional armies, one of the key pillars of the AFFS was the training and skill of its non-commissioned officer corps. I had heard the role of NCOs once defined as being the lubricant through the machinery of officers and men. Without them, if you were lucky, you would have a poorly running machine that would seize up at the first sign of trouble. Or, more likely, you would find a machine that refused to start at all or ended up exploding spectacularly if you tried to force it to.
The Heavy Guards were clearly firm believers in applying generous amounts of lubricants to all the pieces of their machinery and were, to my delight, clearly a group who mostly shunned the whole ‘Way/Cult of the Mechwarrior’ BS that permeated the Inner Sphere. Not to say that Mechwarriors
didn’t think they were Gods gift to mankind, but here they kept that attitude firmly in check and ‘offstage’. When on duty there was a real teamwork attitude … and the NCOs were undoubtedly the coaches of these athletes.

I watched, amused, as a Sergeant waved one arm to direct an Archer while screaming invective to the infantry running around. The sum total of all these efforts being that the Battlemech carefully lowered the cargo container exactly as directed onto the back of a flatbed truck, before backing away as Infantry jumped up and lashed it into place with the others already there. Eventually satisfied, the Sergeant gave a gesture to the driver and the flatbed jolted into motion, making its way to join the never ending convoy of flatbeds, recovery vehicles and APCs making the trip to the local exit doors as a new empty flatbed moved up and the Archer walked over to pick up the next container - this one filled with spare Streak SRM-2 missile launchers.

It was slightly surprising to me that the RCT could turn into such an efficient transport machine at the drop of a hat, with frontline soldiers turning into expert logistics personnel and tank drivers hauling around cargo on trucks like they did it for a living. Ardan Sortek had put things into perspective for me though, reminding me that salvage operations were a critical thing in the 31st century. Battlefield salvage was often the only thing keeping a military unit running really. And accordingly, the better units had become very good at jumping the battlefield -often while the guns were still firing! - to drag ‘shinies’ off with a determination the Blood Ravens would have applauded.
And when people were not shooting at you and the ‘salvage’ was mostly loaded up in standard shipping containers … well, that was just gravy then, wasn’t it?


The progress was slower than I would have liked, with the current ETA for finishing looting the cache of everything even remotely valuable another seven hours, but inside of two hours everything on the ‘alpha’ high priority list would have been stowed. For my part, the six copies of the core were all locked away - even better ‘my’ team had found both the software to read the first two cores we had copied and in turn made a copy of that, as well as the spare memory cores stashed in the cache late last night. Accordingly I had simply given orders to keep copying right up until the last minute and Arden had backed me to the hilt. Call me paranoid, but if every military Dropship didn’t have a core under lock and key by the time we dusted off, I didn’t think enough redundancy was in place yet.

I made my way back to the command centre just outside these doors - enjoying the salt air from the sea only a half dozen klicks away beyond a distant line of grassy sand dunes. The Iron Fox had landed closest to the doors with its command centre serving as a traffic control point for the vehicles driving all over the place and there I stopped to report in on the status of ‘my’ team, having just come from the library down one of the incredible Mech sized rail-transports that ran through the mountain. Said report amounting to ‘They’re getting some sleep not quite at gunpoint, having stayed up all night browsing through the masses of data the core contained and would continue copying more cores later’.
No I was NOT taking any chances.
The Helm Core was the key to the technical renaissance of the Inner Sphere. As far as I recalled, the New Dallas Core, while incredibly useful in military matters, didn’t have anything like the fundamental science and engineering data critical to rebuilding the Inner Spheres infrastructure. If I ****** this up, the consequences …


Huh. Consequences. I wonder what he would have made of all this back on EssBe?

Snorting after a moment, I couldn’t help but imagine him popping up as a ‘shoulder devil’ cackling, telling me I had done well and to move onto phase two; framing Myndo Waterly for abducting and killing Romano Liaos favorite pet turtle. THEN, encouraging me to have Jamie Wolf kidnapped, tied to a chair and slapped with a hardcopy of his Khans final orders, repeatedly, until he absorbed them through some kind of osmosis process.
The ‘shoulder angel’ version of him that popped up then of course proceeded to say the
exact same thing … but at insisted on at least using an ergonomic chair.

Shaking that thought off and with nothing better to do, I wandered to the nearest logistics controller and offered myself as a pair of hands, correctly anticipating that they could find a use for me. And so I found myself attached to a scratch platoon of infantry and dismounted tankers who were busy unloading cases of infantry gear from the back of the flatbeds into Star Barge IX - a Mule class dropship - for the rest of the day...

***
******
***

Sortek was present in the command centre when I squeezed through the bulkhead hatch that evening. I felt exhausted - but in a productive sort of way having spent the day lugging stuff into dropship cargo holds (note; Mauser-960 rifles were too ****** heavy for a standard issue rifle!). Sortek also looked exhausted; he had been up all night and most of the day first working out the plan and then helping to run it on coffee and stim-pills. Full credit to the staff officers of the Heavy Guards, the operation had gone incredibly smoothly and I told him as such, earning a tired smile in exchange but otherwise I just kept out of his way as he directed me to sit at a tiny mission specialist seat, taking the opportunity to log in and start to read over the status reports directed to the HQ while we waited for the final Mechs of the LZ guard to trudge into the Mech bays and headcounts to be confirmed that no-one had been left behind.

It seemed that the loadmasters had lived up to their projections, managing to squeeze just about everything of any value on board the fleet. Even the mobile gantries the Star League Mechs had been standing in had been collapsed and shoved onto the dropships; apparently the computer controlled diagnostic and repair systems built into them could be adapted to drive parts of Star League era factories long mothballed and replaced by 31st century kludges - and were thus possibly again worth more than the Battlemechs they had enclosed.
Defiance would probably pay a pretty penny for them, although Katrina would be more likely as not to just give her share of them away to boost production on Hesperus II I guessed.
Also as anticipated, with so much loot the cargo dropships had proven to not quite have enough storage - a question more of volume than mass it seemed. So the Heavy Guards had been forced to dump more than a bit of gear that could be replaced for Lostech that couldn’t. Starting with almost all their auto-cannon and missile ammo … which had been shoved inside two Regiments of APCs the RCT had also abandoned to make room for vehicles from the cache. With demolition charges rigged to blow them all sky high once they were clear.
The Infantry were agreeably indifferent to blowing up their rides. If anything, the Combat engineers seemed to be gleefully looking forward the explosion they were going to make when they pressed the button.
And I mean disturbingly gleeful. Bunch of bloody pyromaniacs.

I somehow doubted Mechwarriors would have been so casually happy with blowing up their rides…****** silly Cult of the Mechwarrior. Not that I dared say that out loud of course!

So, at exactly 22:33 local, the Iron Fox rose from the ground along with the two dozen and change other dropships that made up the RCT. The Mammoths and Mules of the cargo force were already underway for the jump point, having lifted an hour ago and soon enough we would burn hard after them to overtake … but not quite yet.
There was one final act to the Helm story yet to play out.
And it wasn’t the APCs blowing up - which I have to admit from 30,000 feet at night was pretty bloody spectacular.

“We’re in a stable geosynchronous position over the cache” one of the officers on the very cramped command deck called out half an hour later, relaying data from the ships bridge. “All ships are in formation”.

“Kell Hounds report a successful launch” another officer called from off to the right. “Twenty minutes behind schedule - apparently the Castelan wanted to make a farewell speech” the officer added, generating a snicker from the crew and at that, I flipped over to the Kell Hounds reports...huh.
Well now. It seems that the Kell Hounds had ‘stumbled onto’ the MI5/MI6 team that had been ‘hiding out’ in Helmsdown (in a dive of a bar of course where they had been busy racking up a ‘mission expenses’ bill) after finding their dropship sitting empty at the spaceport. At that point they had arrested them for theft of several hundred million kroners worth of medical equipment and seized their dropship, all simply to confuse the FWL just that much more and provide a seemingly valid reason for this whole raid - Mercs often were hired for ‘repossession’ missions and to recover stolen property. That in turn had caused the locals to freak out, concerned that all the shiny new medical equipment they desperately needed was about to be taken away. With appropriate showings of concern for the locals after touring the hospital, Major Ward had formally waived the claims of the Commonwealth on the medical equipment, stunning the local officials before sending them into celebration. With her even sending a HPG message to Tharkad saying as much on her authority. And plenty of posturing that the Lyran Commonwealth is not the Draconis Combine and is not going to loot medical gear that is clearly desperately needed.

Good propaganda, even if probably blatantly untrue. On the other hand, it did let Ward send a message to Tharkad which, contained in the specific phrasing entirely innocuously, a report that we were withdrawing from Helm with our Primary and Secondary objectives accomplished and no enemy contact. Gave me a warm feeling to have ComStar unknowingly pronounce the beginning of its doom to the Inner Sphere...

“Very well” Felsner acknowledged the update about the Kell Hounds from his station, turning to glance at Ardan and nodding.
The Colonel then turned to me.

“John, we good to go?” he asked directly and I final check of my board. The reports from the tech team seemed to be indicating they were ready … and there was nothing else I could think of.

“Good to go” I agreed.

And with that Ardan made a brief transmission to the surface. There was a static filled but intelligible military acknowledgement and with that all we could do was wait, everyone staring at the long range camera which was currently showing an IR picture of a lone dropship sitting on the ground just outside the doors we had only opened up yesterday.

Man was it only yesterday? It felt like it had been a week since we touched down … although that might be my muscles protesting from the strain I had put them under today. Mental note; never try to match the pace with the 31st century equivalent of paratroopers. Although I'd like to think I had earned enough respect from them to graduate from ‘REMF weiny’ to REMF weiny at least willing to get his hands dirty’.

Still I had no idea how long this would take, so I keyed up the loadmasters reports that had been compiled for each dropship, entertaining myself by reading through the haul we were taking away. Some interesting things in there. Example; there was a bloody Devastator in the cache - apparently one of the only six built, some Gunslingers ride they were forced to leave behind for more colony supplies I’d guess.
Too bad I wasn't a Mechwarrior or I would have been all over that. I allowed myself a few moments thinking of it painted bright green with purple highlights, a Decepticon logo on its chest as I kicked in the front door of Hilton Head shouting ‘PREPARE FOR EXTERMINATION!’ before I turned my attention back to the list. There were some other impressive finds. No mobile HPG unfortunately or Exterminaitors with Null-Sig technology or Nighthawks or anything like that. Nothing bleeding edge or super classified …  but we did find half a dozen SLDF mobile command vehicles that made the one the Guards used look like a kids toy. With holotanks and augmented reality command systems I recognized as the same tech Focht had used (would use? might use?) on Tukayyid.

Anyway, I was just looking over the listings -ohh, four Kanga tanks, nice!- when a sudden crackle of transmissions came over the repeater speakers and my gaze quickly shifted to the large flatscreens on the bulkhead. Down below a tiny little hovertruck was skidding out of the cave entrance and I watched fascinated as it bounced along leaving a cloud of dust. The picture zoomed in and refocused on it, the IR resolution poor but good enough to see that in the back of the open truck were a couple of industrial exoskeletons, with a large refrigerator sized box between them still glowing with residual heat. Said truck skidded up the ramp of the waiting dropship and barely a second after the ramp closed behind it the Dropships thrusters ignited, almost flushing the picture with light before the computers compensated, zooming back out to show the ship slowly clawing its way into the sky.

“Sirs” a Com-tech put in, turning from her console to catch the Marshals eye. “Transmission from Wolli Pride; Code Firefly”.


A relieved and happy sort of sigh passed through the command centre at that news and I personally had to squish the urge to raise a fist in triumph. Firefly meant that the original core had been extracted, as far as the ground team knew, safely and intact. Combined with the half dozen copies onto the cores we brought with us, the extra dozen copies that had been made using the spare cores we had found in the cache … well that might be just about enough redundancy.
Not a bad days work I reckon-

“Sirs” the man said in a sharp tone that got attention at once. “Stay behind sensors are reading a seismic disturbance building across the region. Scale four and rising”.

“Give me a close up of the door” Ardan ordered … then I spoke up without thinking if protocol even let me speak up.

“Can we also get a shot of Freeport and the area around it?”

The tech hesitated and turned to look at the Colonel and I felt a twinge of sudden unease as I remembered, belatedly, that I was not part of the command staff-

“Why exactly are you looking at me instead of putting it up, Sergeant?” Ardan gave the junior NCO a look that had the other instantly hammering his keyboard and seemingly firming my rather nebulous place in the chain of command rather substantially.
Awwww. That was sweet of the guy.
The main screen split now, with one shot on the cache door and one on the ruined city, both in the green of faint green of night vision. The picture quality was poor; this was not FLIR let alone synthetic aperture radar technology -bloody future of the 80s - but it was still detailed enough blended into a visual light picture that you could make out features of a ruined city easily.

“Center it on that dam on where the sea becomes the Vermillion River” I clarified and the picture shifted to do so, focusing and zooming in… and I couldn’t have timed it better if I had tried. The dam wasn’t small, it stretched for at least a couple of kilometers and was a solidly built structure, to put it mildly. Which made the fact that even from hundreds of kilometers in the air, it was clearly rocking and moving rather odd.

Then things escalated to Michael Bay Grade.

The ground opened under the dam, causing it to buckle and start to collapse into a great rift, of which little could be seen in the IR picture. Moments later the dam was airborne, hundreds of fragments the size of office blocks exploding back into the air. A wall of water was rising -literally rising vertically into the sky- and despite having a rough idea of what was coming, I felt my jaw drop at the sight before I gained control. The picture zoomed back out hastily and stabilized to show that explosion of water slow and finally fell apart tens of thousands of feet in the air, spraying out in all directions to rain back down over the entire region as an opaque fog started to form.

“Mother of God” one of the officers said for the room. Yup, that about summed it up.

“What in the hell is that Smith?” Felsner asked in shock, turning to look at me followed by most of the rest of the officers.

I tried to be as nonchalant as possible under their gaze, most of my attention remaining focused on the force that was turning much of what was left of Freeport into … well, not rubble as it was already trashed to all hell, but it was doing a fine job of spreading the rubble out over a much wider area.

“I believe that’s the Yehudan Sea” I noted after a pause. “You know, I have to admit I was wondering where the SLDF put that thing. Always the last place you look…”

Marshal Felsner stared at me for a long, long moment before turning his gaze upon Ardan. A gaze that said without saying ‘Who the hell is this guy?’ and Ardan just shook his head with a smile, having grown more used to my eccentricities.
Or perhaps just giving me a lot of slack given that he knew I was not military or even intelligence, despite this costume I was wearing. Or perhaps I had just broken him with how everything I had said about Helm had come to pass.

“Sirs - at the cache” the tech called and switched the feed back to show a massive cloud of steadily thickening dust pouring out of the ‘front door’ followed by the entire cliff above it seeming to crack and implode, collapsing the entrance and burying half of that canyon around the gatehouse in shale and rubble. Zooming out we could ridgelines and peaks of the hidden complex seemingly shudder, some of the mighty mountains sagging and even sliding in slow motion as the massive network of caves under the region collapsed.

Well, scratch one Star League cache.

In theory, we could have disabled the self destruct sequence that had started as soon as the techs yanked the core from its mount - the techs had in fact isolated that code mid-morning after cracking the system to take complete control (with the admin stick of doom, it wasn’t exactly hard). However doing so would have left the FWLM a perfectly intact psudo Castle Brian that they could slap guns all over and suddenly find themselves with an ideal forward theater logistics base. One that a single garrison regiment could hold against probably a dozen if the FWLM engineers did their job correctly, which would be ideally placed to support massive attacks against the Steiner border.
Patrick Kell had been given the job of making the call, given that he was representing Katrinas interests. He had decided in the end that while it was a true shame and sad loss, the strategic threat of such a complex was just too great to leave intact.
Ergo, boom.

Even so despite the impeccable logic, I couldn’t help but feel that something ancient and incredible had just died as I watched the complex slowly collapse on itself. I made a mental note to get Hanse to at least put a statue of Edwin Keeler up in NAIS somewhere -his service jacket including a holographic representation had been in the computer core. A monument so the Federated Commonwealth would always remember who they owed this priceless second chance to.

The return of the Yehudan Sea was the final act in this chapter of the story. Shortly after that, our ships ignited their drives as the Woli Pride slotted into formation, breaking orbit. The Kell Hounds squadron merged before we were even a light second out, the combined fleet now burning hard as we accelerated away from the planet. No need for stealth now, just speed. Our fleet expanded once again as we caught up to the Mammoths and Mules by the end of the day and folded into their formation, reducing our acceleration somewhat. Then came the waiting game as we slowly but steadily chewed up the distance to our Jumpships.
 
This part of Battletech that was so much easier to read about than live.

Travel in Dropships and Jumpships sucked, no question as far as I was concerned. All I could do was sit in my tiny rack (and keep firmly in mind that it was tiny in comparison to my bed back on New Avalon; it was positively palatial compared to the troops living arrangements) and watch various vid shows and movies - the dropships memory core at least contained a pretty huge library of media - even if in the common areas only Solaris ever seemed to be shown. Possibly because current popular entertainment was pretty damn horrible, making me wonder if I could make some cash selling some of the content on my devices as ‘lostech’ movies from the 21st century or something. I had a feeling the AFFS would be able to relate to Generation Kill...
The troops at least were kept busy cleaning their field gear that had gotten little use - and poking at a handful of examples of the Star League technology they had salvaged and been allowed to play with, like children on Christmas day. The officers started to catch up with paperwork, reports and what not. Ardan - the bastard - even asked me to write a report, blithely ignoring my protests that A) I was not in the AFFS B) I didn’t have the first clue how to and C) It would be classified so high that no-one bar he, Quintus and Hanse would be able to read it anyway...
Nonetheless he insisted and so I humored him, working out three pages that described the actions of ‘my’ team and noting they had all performed well under quite high pressure. I added in a couple of pages of suggestions for the use of the materials we had looted based off future and past knowledge, but otherwise left it there. I’m sure Hanse had entire buildings full of people to work these things out after all.

Still it starved off cabin fever and helped the days pass.

All ships went to Battle stations as we closed in on two hours to the jump point, the fleet decelerating hard at 1.5Gs, the maximum the massive Mammoths could safely take. My mind was working overdrive now about worst case scenarios, starting with Yorinaga Kurita applying Phantom Mech to an Achilles class ship. Then came ComStar giving one of their Warships a test drive after someone panicked and ending with the Perigard Zalman being ripped through time and space thanks to a K/F butterfly ****** I had somehow induced. Culminating in its Star Admiral deciding to shoot up as many Freebirth Jumpships as they could see because, you know, why the hell not…

It was thus a very welcome anticlimactic outcome when … nothing happened. No incoming, no surprises, no malfunctions. Our dropships simply decelerated hard into the jump point and in a chaotic yet well-coordinated ballet, linked up with their jumpships who had long furled their sails with fully charged drives.

Then bare seconds after the final CAP birds had landed, there was an explosion of exotic particles and in a blinding flash of light, the fleet gave the middle finger to causality, the concept of Lostech, Jerome Blake and the Concord of Kapteyn and flung itself out of the system. Leaving behind a bunch of highly confused locals wondering exactly when the Yehudan Sea had come back...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 10 July 2018, 09:43:19
Thats one hell of a successful salvage op, and there's no way the Robes can get their hands on all the Cores, and as you said 'so many shinies!' and I chuckled at the 'dibs rule' idea :p  Superbly written and very very very good!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 10 July 2018, 12:42:10
the only thing that would be better, is to have that comstar jackass who was to implicate the grey death, read a dispatch about this,

all my plans, all that tech, in the hands of Davion???
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 10 July 2018, 13:55:34
Might I suggest adding kidnapping Teddy K and his family to your list of things to get done.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 10 July 2018, 14:45:32
Might I suggest adding kidnapping Teddy K and his family to your list of things to get done.

Teddy K is one of the smarter and saner leaders of the Draconis Combine. You wouldn´t want to do anything that might possibly discredit him as future Coordinator.

If anything, the protagonist (and Hanse Davion) should consider bringing Teddy in on at least part of the conspiracy, because having the DC on their side when the Clans strike or ComStar realizes that Hanse is onto them would be a great advantage - and Teddy would be honorable enough not to exploit the situation to Hanse´s detriment.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mighty midget on 10 July 2018, 17:35:38
This is both hilarious and fantastically written.  When I read the intro I started thinking my way through what I'd do... Helm, New Dallas, Comstar and the Dragoons were the first things I thought of.  I'm looking forward to learning what I didn't think of.  Keep it going and we'll all keep reading.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 10 July 2018, 20:41:41
questions... now this takes place in 3026 or 3027. Was Helm owned by the GDL at this time or not until 3028? Were their dependents on planet at this time? Clearly the ripples of AU are expanding here as the GDL will NOT become famous for the Helm Memory Core but will this occurrence cause them to RTB back to Helm to at least investigate?


and Precentor Emilio Rachan… where is he when this capper raid goes down?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 10 July 2018, 22:55:28
Teddy K is one of the smarter and saner leaders of the Draconis Combine. You wouldn´t want to do anything that might possibly discredit him as future Coordinator.

If anything, the protagonist (and Hanse Davion) should consider bringing Teddy in on at least part of the conspiracy, because having the DC on their side when the Clans strike or ComStar realizes that Hanse is onto them would be a great advantage - and Teddy would be honorable enough not to exploit the situation to Hanse´s detriment.

At minimum he needs removed from the equation. At best he could be made a powerful ally but I doubt it.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 10 July 2018, 23:03:17
OI? Send Teddy K a telegram outing ALL the known gems would make him greatly indebted to the FEDCOM (as well as ELIMINATING a major danger to the Draconis Combine)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: hpackrat on 10 July 2018, 23:10:39
The problem isn't Teddy K, its everybody else in the Combine. The only way he's going to change that House is if the Combine suffers through its version of Japan's WW2. The Combine needs to lose so badly that it renounces foreign adventurism & turn mercantile. Helping Teddy K simply isn't worth the headache.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 11 July 2018, 09:06:37
And so we come to the end of Book 1 .

I hope to have more written soon given the very positive responses I've gotten to this, but this is a natural stopping pointing for the first part of this story me thinks :)
Enjoy!


Chapter 8: Jump! Go ahead and Jump! Might as well Jump! Go ahead and Jump! Jump!


***
******
***

After that came a week of recharging boredom in a relatively safe uninhabited system, followed by another jump that had us appearing in the Launam system, the Lyran Commonwealth proper where Snords Irregulars of all groups were waiting for us. The Mercs had withdrawn from their own raids on the FWL to here and we swiftly received verified orders that Katrina had ordered them to move with us at least as far as Clinton, for just a bit of extra security.

Cranston Snord was eccentric, not idiotic. One look at the Monoliths, their cargo Dropship parasites and the Davion Heavy Guards heading to Tharkad with the Kell Hounds would surely led him to the natural conclusion that we were what this whole crazy campaign had been about - he was smart enough to know when he was being used as a diversion. He was also smart enough not to make a fuss of it, simply welcoming the Heavy Guards and Kell Hounds back and inviting the senior officers over to his dropship for a private dinner with his command staff - having picked up a load of fresh food from the recharge station only yesterday.
I
would have liked to go. Snord and his people were genuinely people I’d be fascinated to meet -and FRESH FOOD!- but I didn't ask and Ardan didn't offer. There was no reason to have Wolfnet open a file on me just yet and if any alcohol was involved, well, there was a better than even chance I'd probably find it too damn hard to avoid snarking about weather on the Clan Homeworld after I got drunk.

Thank you EdBecerra.

So I sat in my quarters that night chewing on the military rations we still had in plentiful stock. I was brought up to speed the next day at breakfast - Ardan (who aside from me was the only one on the ships who knew of the Clans and Cranston’s full story) noted that Cranston hadn’t pressed anyone on the question of what they had been doing when it was made it clear we couldn’t talk about it. Instead he had regaled them with tales of his little raid on behalf of Katrina.
It was at least
possible the Merc had just wanted to brag. And kudos to him; he had more than earned both the right and his pay from what I heard later.

Snords little war with the FWL (seriously what was it with the original Dragoons starting private wars with Successor States?) had always been I think more about trolling and embarrassing the hell out of Janos and the FWL than trying to kill people or destroy things like Jamies future feud with Takashi. Accordingly, when offered the chance to launch a raid and be paid to troll his nemesis by Davion on top of his Steiner retainer, the predictably cash poor Cranston had leapt at the offer with both hands. His assigned target had been Nestor - a planet they had infamously hit before and one guarded with no less than two Regimental sized units that should have dissuaded any raid.
But while his daughter Rhonda had led the 21st Centauri Lancers and 5th Defenders of Andurien on a wild goose chase with COMINT hints they were after some old Star League cache (talk about irony) in the boonies, her father's command company had moved undetected to emerge above the undefeated capital on the massive rock cliffs that dominated the skyline … and start an art class.


Efficiently, the Mechs had unfolded giant Mech sized stencils before using a fluid gun one of his techs had somehow crammed into an Enforcer, spraying the stencils with a special neon green paint normally used on the exterior of Zero-G installations that was apparently all but impossible to remove short of ripping the rockface out.
Said stencil had then been removed half an hour later, leaving a work of art that would surely go down in history. A giant 30 meter tall figure easily recognizable as Janos Marik. It would no doubt would have been a rather stirring sight … if not for the fact that he was on a knee bowing to a grinning Maximilian Liao, with a smirking ghostly Anton Marik hovering behind the Capellan Leader. With text simply saying ‘The Concord of Kapteyn’


Well, that was about as subtle as an Atlas.

The Irregulars had then packed up and hastily beat a retreat as the chagrined and bewildered Defenders had hurried back to the capital, allowing Rhonda to give the Lancers the slip and for the Mercs to run to their Jumpships, chased by two lances of Aerospace fighters who seemed disinclined to press any attack, probably out of confusion over what the hell was going on.
Then as night had fallen the hilarity had increased by a factor of ten as the paint started to glow rather brightly in the dark, local authorities trying to find some way to cover it up even as hoards of news VTOLs circled overhead and beamed the news out into the wider FWL and tourists showed up snapping pictures.
It probably didn’t help that the CO of the Defenders Regiment was clearly trying not to laugh his ass off in a TV interview about the little raid and the message it pushed that he probably completely agreed with.
Gotta love Free World League politics...


Anyway, our yet again expanded fleet jumped again, slowly moving deeper into the Commonwealth and further away from any realistic pursuit. Jump drives might be slow, but once you were a couple of jumps ahead and committed to keep moving, it was damn near impossible to be caught so I started to feel increasingly secure. Snord tried several more times to get casual conversation going about the raid as the weeks passed - and his questions seemed to cannily zero in on Helm and the legendary cache without explicitly asking. I mean if anyone was likely to have a hint about the cache it would be Snord, but discipline held and no one said anything.
I frankly doubted he knew about the memory core itself, although he probably knew about the Fleet Base and possibly even what was left behind. The memory core however I was pretty sure had only been put in place
after the Exodus fleet left...but why take chances?
At any rate, his ships broke off at Clinton with many promises made to visit his famous museum that was
totally not on a Castle Brian turned Brian Cache he had ‘neglected’ to tell Katrina about (it was a really good thing I had been kept away I think) and we carried onwards on the final leg of our journey.

***
******
***

 
One didn’t, couldn't, have a real appreciation for how horrible space travel was in Battletech until you were stuck in a tin can for two months. Floating around as the ship recharges, jumps, then recharges again over and over. I had never suffered from claustrophobia, but damn if I didn’t come closer than I wanted to admit a couple of times on that ship.
I had to admit some grudging respect for Clanners at that point in time, their trips down the Exodus Road would have been Gods damned nightmares for me.
Maybe because they were born in cans they had no problem with living in them?
Anyway, Katrina managed to set up a command circuit from Clinton to cover the rest of our trip. No small order given the number of dropships we were carrying, but then again what we were carrying pretty much entirely justified getting us to ground sooner rather than later and I wasn’t going to complain about cutting three or four weeks from the trip!

We materialized at the Zenith point at Tharkad to find an Achilles class dropship from the 2nd Royal Guard waiting for us. Greetings were exchanged (along with current AFFS recognition codes) and the usual ballet of ships undocking and forming up into a convoy took place. It did take some time to crawl out of the zenith point however, perhaps unsurprisingly. This was the economic center of gravity of the Lyran Commonwealth and priority clearance or not, it was a seriously busy place with space stations and Jumpships and dropships in every direction and no-one wanted to send a spray of debris through hundreds of billions of kronor worth of Jumpships.
Still, it only took a few hours before we cleared the Zenith perimeter and throttled up for our burn in system, bringing the glorious return of simulated gravity.

Morale was already rather high given what we had accomplished, but it only perked up as we headed for some well-deserved R&R and solid ground. Locally, the arrival of the pride of the Federated Suns alongside the famous Kell Hounds had clearly created a great deal of excitement in-system on the local media. Our unannounced yet officially expected presence was causing no end of excitement. Smarter talking heads seemed to be starting to connect the dots with the confused and bizarre ‘raiding’ on the FWL border, although they only got the same disinterested ‘We neither confirm nor deny these reports’ responses from LCAF press officers when they asked, with the only real statements from the Triad being that the Archon had invited the Davion Heavy Guards who were ‘in the area on joint operations’ to spend Christmas on Tharkad as a gesture of friendship and gratitude to their gallant FedSuns allies bla bla bla.
Still it didn’t take a genius to realize something had happened. The media were quick to point out that one of the finest units in the AFFS and Katrina Steiners personal ‘fix-it guys’ escorting a massive cargo convoy suggested someone was getting a Christmas present this year – which was true enough I supposed. That every other major power would know where the Helm cache had ended up was also inevitable … but I have to admit I took a sadistic pleasure in the fact that a great many Christmas dinners for people in ROM, the ISF and Maskirovka were sure to be completely ruined as they were called into all night crisis meetings...

We reached Tharkad as dawn was breaking over the capital and while the Kell Hounds had gone right in with barely a pause, the Heavy Guards had been held in orbit with the loot for a few hours while final preparations were made and paperwork signed by various players. I mean we were bringing a fully armed RCT of a foreign power down onto the soil of the capital world of the Lyran Commonwealth after all so it wasn’t really surprising … but I suspected that the given reason was mostly an engineered one, to give Katrina politically acceptable cover to get a report from Patrick Kell in person on what had gone down on Helm, given that we had been ‘black’ all the way here. It was really too bad I wouldn’t be able to see the look on her face when Patrick revealed what we had brought her for Christmas this year.

On the plus side, it also let me finally just sit and watch a planet from space in all its glory – with a sunrise over the horizen no less! And it was really something special.
From my recollections, I had half expected Tharkad to look like Hoth. I shouldn't have of course; such a biosphere wouldn't exactly be viable for billions of people to make it their home - it’s kinda hard to photosynthesize when you have no plants after all. So while the planet's polar caps and arctic regions certainly looked quite a bit bigger from orbit than Earth's, most of the planet was actually shades of green and brown with the dark blue of oceans mixed in. Apparently the equatorial regions - mostly reserved for food production on factory farms owned by Megacorps - were quite pleasant all year round thanks to the planets minimal axial tilt, but the capital and most of the population heavy cities were in the ‘snow zones’.
It wasn't exactly the Lands Of Always Winter with White Walkers sulking in the arctic regions dodging patrols of Firestarters or anything, but it was chilly all year round, with only three or so months a year in the capital where there temperatures could be considered even remotely non-freezing. Come to think about it, the location of Tharkad City said a lot about the Lyran mindset in its own way. That there was no such thing as ‘cannot be done’ - just ‘throw resources at it and then throw some more until it works!’

Screw the cost, we would put nature in its place!

Our fleet of dropships when finally cleared didn’t however follow the Kell Hounds in or land at any of the civilian or military spaceports in the capital proper. Instead we were directed by flight control to land a few hundred klicks to the North on the far side of Mount Wotan. This was the ‘Victoria Steiner Military Reserve’; a military staging ground used by the LCAF for both major exercises and to house visiting units swinging through the capital for this or that reason. The entire region was under a no-fly zone from ground to orbit and totally secure on the ground, with underground warehouses on a Star League Lyran scale more than sufficient to hold our loot and house the troops, making it both protected from observation and somewhat more discreet than plonking down in Tharkad City.
I for one was looking forward to the whispered stories of real beds and real food and real showers that awaited us in the Promised Land … when Ardan took me aside and told me to get dressed formally, the shore party to go and meet the brass had just been announced.

And it was minimal. Very minimal. As in just Ardan Sortek, Ran Felnser … and me.

I had protested initially at my inclusion - until I was told that the request had come from the highest authority. Ergo, it really wasn't a request.
Not good.
The only reason Katrina Steiner would ask me to tag along would be because Hanse had sent her secure messages about me – probably even hand delivered. So I really hoped he hadn’t forwarded everything to her. My less than flattering comments about her sister's future loyalty might make things a tad awkward…oh God, what if Nondi Steiner herself was present?

I tried not to think about it as I waited in the airlock, fiddling with my cufflinks. The new suit I was wearing was, I felt, a very nice piece of work. It was the work of the Davion Palace tailors (yes they had a permanent tailor team on staff) who had taken my 21st century business suit and closely copied it with just a few 31st century flourishes -and far superior luxury fabrics. It fit like a glove and I thought looked rather slick … but it also ensured I stuck out like a sore thumb next to the two AFFS officers in their dashing dress uniforms, medals and spurs.

Oh well, nothing to be done for that now. There was a clunk and a hiss from the other side of the airlock we were standing in and a status board went from yellow to green as a gantry in the docking ring wall locked onto the ship's hatch - a feature I was rather grateful for given the snow I had seen outside on the ships monitors. The hatch now opened and agreeably warm air mixed with ours as we stepped out and I could just make out a single figure waiting for us-

“Roman!” Felnser greeted the figure in surprise and pleasure, stepping forward and extending a hand with a broad smile. “Didn’t think you’d be here to greet us! I thought Katrina had sent you back to the border with the Third Guards?”

“That was the original plan, yes” the man said in perfect if mildly accented English, taking the hand and shaking it firmly. “But the Archon seems to have other ideas for me” he noted turning to smile at Ardan and offer him his hand - although it was hard to see through the two towering Mechwarriors. “Colonel Sortek, a genuine pleasure to meet you at last”.

“Likewise General” Ardan agreed, stepping forward to take the hand and shake it firmly. “Ran speaks very highly of you and your men. That flanking attack down the Whitecap River you pulled off was put into the textbooks at NAMA and Albion almost as soon as we heard of it”.

“The Marshal is perhaps too modest of his own performance in that battle” the General downplayed his own actions with a tolerant smile. “But that was quite the engagement I must say”.

“Indeed” Ardan agreed before stepping forward into the docking arm to the dropship to make room for me as I stepped forward, Ardan gesturing at me. “And this is-”

“Herr Smith, I presume” the LCAF General smoothly broke in as he turned to appraise me, smoothly clicking his heels and offering me a bow before offering his hand. “It is a true pleasure - there has been a great deal of talk about you in the Archons inner circle over the last week”.

Well that was a warning if I had ever heard one.
I wasn’t taken aback by his reaction and recognition, after all Katrina Steiner had insisted I come along. But it sounded like a great deal of information about me had made its way to Katrina Steiner-
Wait.
Hang on.
Roman? That had to make this-

“The pleasure is mine General Steiner” I responded smoothly as I wracked my brains for what I could remember of Roman Steiner, which wasn’t much. Except that he had been a very competent officer in the LCAF and then AFFC. Always nice to see someone from the LCAF side of the fence kicking ass and all that.

“Welcome to Tharkad, all of you. If you’ll follow me” Roman continued after releasing my hand, clearly unphased by my revelation of his identity (or perhaps thinking I had simply read the silver and gold name plate on his chest I belatedly noticed) as he gestured down to the docking bag proper.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 11 July 2018, 09:06:54
-CONT-

We followed the General from the ramp to a lift that dropped us to below the tarmac level and from there we hopped onto an internal tramline of sorts along which we rolled to the main HQ building. The three officers made small talk as they went, with Roman confirming a grand ballroom at this base sufficient to fit the entire RCT was ready and waiting to give all RCTs troops a five course meal, in about three hours. And that a luxury barracks had been prepared to ensure every man and woman would have a real bed to sleep in with unlimited hot water showers and so on because the LCAF did like their comforts at home.
God I would kill for one of those beds right now…
Felnser thanked Roman on behalf of his RCT, with Ardan noting dryly that after months of dropship rations, he suspected the troops would have gladly charged the 2nd Sword of Light armed with sticks and rocks to get their hands on a decent meal and good bed.

Soon enough small talk shifted to more strategic matters. No questions came about our mission, but again, Patrick Kell surely briefed Katrina and her staff on everything already. Instead Roman kindly spent the time filling them in on what they had missed while out on the raid. It seemed that the diversionary attacks had gone off even better than I could had hoped; civilian damage and combat losses both negligible, with the FWLM caught flat footed by the attacks that had been carefully aimed away from critical strategic targets and wildly uninterested in really shooting much up at all. Our little raid had thus been counted as just one more until reports of a missing sea reappearing on Helm had started to appear on Atraus and Stewart. First earning flat ‘WTF’ responses and then a slowly growing investigation eventually stumbling onto the landing zones of our dropships and multiple regiments of burned out APCs in neat little clusters and SAFE coming in to investigate. By which point our units were already two jumps into Lyran space and moving deeper.

When it worked in your favour, 3025 Battletechs OODA sloth on the strategic scale was a glorious thing.

Roman had also brought news from the Federated Suns. The Wolf Dragoons Alpha Regiment had attempted a raid on Barlow's End, alongside elements of a new DCMS unit known as the Ryuken. They had skirmished for a time with the elite Eridani Light Horse and white Witches along with a couple of other small detachments such as the Fox’s Teeth before pulling out. Word from DMI passed to LIC was that the Mercs and DCMS units had been surprisingly sloppy, uncoordinated in a way that suggested friction between command elements.
That sounded about on the money for the events as described in Wolves on the Border … except that I did not remember anything about the Fox’s Teeth being involved. Or any other units for that matter other than the two Merc commands.
Conclusion; Hanse Davion was plotting something. Shocking, truly.

I was broken out of my musing when the tram came to a halt and we double timed it up some stairs into a large atrium. Here the base bustled with activity but Roman led us through the crowds smoothly, nodding at the flurry of salutes he generated in passing as we headed for the skyscraper at the core of the base. We passed through a security checkpoint in front of a bank of lifts, but the guards just waved us through, clearly expecting us. A quick elevator trip up thirty floors to one clearly labeled ‘VIP receiving lounge’ and we stepped out into a richly decorated anteroom filled with officers … including one in the olive-green uniform of an AFFS Field Marshal who stuck out like a sore thumb in the sea of Steiner blue.
Salutes flew everywhere and I belatedly recognized the man across from me as Stephen Davion, the acting commander of the Davion Guards Brigade.

Was he was the man Hanse had sent out to brief Katrina?

In a whirlwind of orders, Ran and Roman split off to join Stephen and a gaggle of other flag officers, leaving Ardan and I behind as they moved to a door at one end of this little antechamber which slid open at their approach. A roar of conversation flooded out (along with the distinct smell of cigars) and I spied what seemed to be a large officer's filled to capacity inside. Moments later, a thundering round of applause started - cutting off a second later as the doors shut.
But before I could ask what was going on, I found myself ushered forward with Ardan through the heavily guarded doors directly in front of me guarded oddly by-

Ah. That was why 1st Davion and 1st Royal soldiers were standing around outside this door.

Hanse Davion was casually lounging in a not-quite-throne chair chatting animatedly with a very striking woman, who was also at ease in a not-quite-throne chair next to him. A quartet of other people in a mixture of uniforms and civilian clothes were sitting around the table in polite silence - but otherwise the room was empty of people despite the table being big enough to easily fit a dozen. Flawless floor to ceiling glass walls to the left and right offered a spectacular view of the military spaceport and hoard of dropships dotting the place … and that was about all the time I had to take in the situation as I braced myself.

Well, here we go again...

“Ah, Colonel Sortek, welcome back to Tharkad” Katrina Steiner greeted Ardan with a warm smile at the AFFS officer who stepped forward to offer her a bow and state how happy he was to be back. Sounding entirely genuine about it too.
Okay, I couldn’t help it as I stood there watching the two exchange greetings. My entirely inappropriate first thought upon seeing the ruler of the Lyran Commonwealth as she and Ardan renewed their acquaintance … was that she really was a Mega-MILF.

I immediately gave myself a mental Gibs Slap.

While Ardan was talking, I took a second to note the presence of the various people present on the other two sides of the table. Patrick Kell was sitting two seats down on ‘Katrinas’ side of the table and he was studying me a lot more closely than before - I suspect if he was in here with this group he had been led in on ‘the secret’. Nonetheless he offered me a reassuring smile. Next to him was a woman wearing an LCAF duty uniform, whose glitzy Steiner Cross and clear resemblance to Katrina -to say nothing of the way her eyes narrowed in not quite hostility at me - meant two things.

One. This could only be Nondi Steiner and Two, Hanse had provided the full report.
Joy.
Perhaps I should have used language other than ‘Later will blindly follow whoever waves the TRUE STEINER banner hardest even if said person first carefully covers said banner in excrement’…

On the other side of the table was Quintus Allard and next to him was a man looking equally as nonchalant in a business suit, whom I guessed was probably Simon Johnson, the head of the Lyran Intelligence Corps.
And I had this rather select group’s complete and undivided attention. You know, short of standing in front of the First Circuit doing standup comedy about a war between blenders and toasters, I couldn’t think of many crowds tougher than this one…
Having finished exchanging pleasantries with his host, Ardan saluted his Prince and then took the seat he was gestured to, opposite the ruler of the Federated Suns, leaving me the sole focus of the entire room

“And Mister Smith - our welcome to you as well” Katrina called to me as her icy blue eyes settled upon me.

“Archon” I offered her a respectful sort of bow as we studied each other for a moment. I didn’t move, feeling that I had not been invited to sit down as yet as she studied me and I studied her.

Yup, total MILF - damnit John, STOP THAT! Bad mind! Bad!

“Prince Davion has told me a great many things about you” she continued after a moment, her eyes focused like lasers that burned away any happy thoughts in a flash. “Things that are utterly impossible and yet” she gestured to the window where our dropships were starting to gather a light dusting of late afternoon snow on their hulls, “here we are”.

I considered that not quite statement, not quite question, for a moment, wondering if she wanted some kind of sign from me. I toyed with several before deciding that it would be far better to keep my mouth shut and simply inclined my head briefly, which earned me in turn a simple gesture to the remaining empty chair next to Ardan, opposite both rulers. I gave Hanse a nod of greeting that was returned and I sat down, determined to keep my mouth shut and present the smallest possible target.

“Colonel Kell” Katrina nodded at her cousin-in-law, “has briefed us on the events on Helm. Prince Davion and I will be holding a joint announcement of our operation tomorrow at midday. However I wanted to take the chance to reflect on the events and how they pertain to our future strategies”.

“Has the Free World League retaliated to our raids?” Ardan asked first.

“Not as yet, no” Nondi said. They still seem to be trying to figure out exactly what happened. They’ve moved the 23rd Marik Militia to Helm and they are maintaining a defensive alert on the border, but right now there is just confusion bouncing back and forth between Atreus and the provinces”.

“Any reaction from ComStar?” I asked then - my number one concern.

“Officially, no” Katrina shook her head once, which did highly distracting things with her blond hair - stop that! “Although it would be rare as a matter of policy for ComStar to comment about these kinds of skirmishes between the Great Houses”.

Unofficially” Simon Johnson joined the conversation, “Precentor Tharkad and Precentor New Avalon have both been recalled to Terra for a ‘routine meeting of the First Circuit’ which suggests that ComStar have figured it out - or at least strongly suspect what happened. Quintus and I” he nodded at the head of MIIO who nodded back “are already carefully placing information that, with a little investigation by ROM, will show that while we took considerable war material, we failed in our primary objective of recovering the data core. And that the self-destruction of the cache was the result of a failed attempt to disarm the security systems. Hopefully, it will preclude any immediate action from ComStar, but we will be taking precautions none the less”.

“Any plans for the military hardware as yet?” I asked the Archon in curiosity before wondering if I was overstepping my grounds here. After all when you really got down to it, I was really just a source of information for these people, not advice. She was the ruler of hundreds upon hundreds of worlds and hundreds of billions of people and at least in Battletechs point of view, perhaps the greatest ruler of a Successor State in history - present company included.
Nonetheless, my question elicited no negative reaction from anyone in the room.

“Nothing solid as yet - I expect after tomorrow when news inevitably leaks, I’ll have most of the flag officers on Tharkad pounding on my door to ask for everything, probably accompanied by half the Estates Generals trying to advance this or that agenda” Katrina sighed. Then she considered me and tilted her head a fraction. “Do you have any suggestions?”

“I always have suggestions - even when I should keep my mouth shut” I noted, earning a raised eyebrow from Katrina and grin from Hanse Davion.

“Given that you’ve proven your unique bonafides in a rather spectacular fashion Mister Smith, I’d certainly submit that if anyone has earned the right to give me suggestions on what to do with the haul, it would be you” the Archon noted as she leaned back, gesturing me to continue.

I cleared my throat before deciding that Katrina was, from what I ‘knew’, one hell of a straight shooter who appreciated honest and direct advice and abhorred both kiss asses and indecisive time wasters. So...

“Use the gear to rebuild and recommission the Fourth Royal Guards as a new Regimental Combat Team” I said straight up and the slightly amused look vanished from her face. Nondi seemed to recoil slightly before getting control of herself as did Patrick - although Simon Johnson remained as neutral as ever, while Hanse looked genuinely intrigued.
In for a penny…
“Bring back the Pride of the Commonwealth to symbolically ‘complete’ the LCAF before you go into the alliance with House Davion” I continued. “Use the action to draw a line under the declines of the Succession Wars and make it clear that the LCAF will rise on their own to become worthy peers to the AFFS, not be dragged up by them. And as a bonus, cause Takashi Kurita some sleepless nights thinking that an elite unit with Royal grade SLDF technology and an enormous hateboner for the Combine is now sitting on his border, biding its time...”

My rather bold suggestion seemed to have stunned the room into silence for a long, long moment.

“Rebuild the Fourth…” Katrina finally said softly, her gaze distant as she carefully took the idea and started to examine something she had probably dismissed as nonsense at first and I could guess where she was coming from. The 4th had been a symbol for the LCAF for almost two centuries now - almost to the point of being a minor sacrilege to even consider touching it … and yet that could make it an even more powerful gesture - if used correctly.
And if there was anyone who understood the value of ideas and how to use them, it was Katrina bloody Steiner.

“It would be one hell of a symbol” Patrick took up the discussion, his eyes focused intently on Katrina, his voice sounding as if the idea had caught his imagination. “And even more of a statement. Not to mention providing a bulletproof reason to keep control of all the advanced technology - concentrated in a way not even Lestrade would dare whine about”.

“The LCAF would love it - and that’s putting it mildly” Nondi joined the conversation, her own eyes gleaming with a sudden intensity as the idea seemed to take hold of the room. “No-one in the Estates Generals would dare speak against the idea - and the news would indeed probably scare the pants off the Dracs if we made it clear that these are going to be the best people you can find for the job”.

Well Nondi was more optimistic than I - there would always be an idiot who spoke against things, but I think it was safe to suggest that doing so would be a very bad idea.

Katrina though just sat in silent thought through the exchange before she glanced at me once again, her eyes impossible to read.

“This happened in the … original timeline?” she asked me carefully.

“Yes” I nodded - “although not until quite some time in the future” I noted, without telling her it was in fact sixty years in the future. But the gesture had scored Adam Steiner huge kudos from the LCAF and civilian population, so, why not give it a shot? “Suffice to say it was a wildly popular gesture and they became the flagship unit of the LCAF”.

“You certainly think big, Mister Smith” she finally said “and are not shy about turning over tables” as her eyes bored into me making me feel about an inch high. “Perhaps because you still see this, all of this, as a ‘table-top’ game … but damn me if the idea doesn’t fire the imagination” she said, releasing me from her stare as she turned to her sister decisively. “Put together a working group, quietly, to look at how we would make this work”.

“I know just the person” Nondi nodded confidently as she scribbled a note in her papers. “I’ll tap Edward Regis - and he would also be my recommendation for command if we did go ahead” Nondi said. “It would nominally be a demotion from his current position ... but the chance to rebuild the 4th Royal Guards and then lead them? Using them as a showpiece for what the LCAF can do? He’ll be on his knees begging you for the chance. Otherwise I’d suggest Fredrick, but…” she finished with a glance at me for a brief second, clearly having read my notes on that wonderfully contradictory man's future.

Katrina nodded, then turned to face Hanse.

“If I’m going to use this unit as, as Mister Smith suggests, it would be rather counterproductive to rebuild forth entirely out of Assaults. So I’ll trade you … let's say a company of Assaults for the Battalion of mixed lights and fast mediums you got from the cache”.

“Three companies for four Lances” Hanse immediately countered her offer.
Katrina smiled like a loan shark.

“The full battalion for five lances - and I can borrow Andrew Redburn and another dozen handpicked Light Guards officers for the next four years as exchange officers” she said with a sweet smile.

“Done!” Hanse agreed with a sharp nod and Katrina took his extended hand and shook it firmly.

“Thank you Hanse” she smiled again. “Now” she continued, turning her attention back to me, “any more out of the box thinking for us, Mister Smith?”

Discarded pizza boxes are an invaluable source of cheese I wanted to snark for no clear reason. Probably stress. Holy hell that single look from Katrina had intimidated me more than the entire first meeting with Hanse Davion. But then she wasn’t considered a political mastermind beyond even Hanse for no reason.
“Plenty - but none pertinent to the current discussions Archon” I said instead.

“Very well - next on the agenda is strategic threats” and now Katrina's gaze bore into me in a way that finally killed even the slightest desire to snark. “Mister Smith; we are going to start with the planet Odessa and the ‘Ruins of Gabriel’. I have quite a few questions around the ruling family of a world who would bow to Tharkad … and kneel to Terra…"

Thus ends Book 1 of ‘This Was Easier on the Tabletop’.

Book Two – ‘Your toast appears to be on fire…’
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 11 July 2018, 09:24:34
questions... now this takes place in 3026 or 3027. Was Helm owned by the GDL at this time or not until 3028? Were their dependents on planet at this time? Clearly the ripples of AU are expanding here as the GDL will NOT become famous for the Helm Memory Core but will this occurrence cause them to RTB back to Helm to at least investigate?


This is taking place in later 3026. If I'm correct about the timing (I could be wrong) the Grey Death Legion RIGHT about this time are back on Galatea flush with salvage and rebuilding themselves and negotiating for a landhold.

They are probably as of the end of this chapter on their way to Helm to take formal possession of their landhold (now with plenty of new Beach Front property!) and will arrive right into the middle of a shitstorm of locking gates to keep horses that have long since bolted inside. But their dependents will be at least happy that the planets main hospital in Helmsdown is surprisingly well equipped for such a backwater planet!

Quote

and Precentor Emilio Rachan… where is he when this capper raid goes down?

Carefully putting the finishing touches to execute his plans in some nice corner office in Cairo. Unaware that in twenty minutes, he is going to get a sudden 'report to Hilton Head, your presence is requested by the Primus and a drop shuttle is waiting at Pad-8'. And these nice people from Rho/Omicron will escort you there!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 11 July 2018, 09:59:17
The problem isn't Teddy K, its everybody else in the Combine. The only way he's going to change that House is if the Combine suffers through its version of Japan's WW2. The Combine needs to lose so badly that it renounces foreign adventurism & turn mercantile. Helping Teddy K simply isn't worth the headache.

The problem isn´t Teddy K. That is correct. The problem is the extremists, such as the Black Dragon Society.

Teddy K would be a massive obstacle to removing the DC from the Succession Wars equation - which isn´t a problem if that is not your goal. Teddy K is the perfect Coordinator to face the Clan Invasion, however, if you do not want the DC to collapse (which it probably would have, had Hanse not sent the Hounds and Dragoons to defend Luthien).

A Teddy K who owes Hanse his life, his throne and his realm, because Hanse warned him about the Black Dragon Society´s machinations and the impending Clan invasion, could be a powerful ally. At worst, he would be a guarantee that, as canonically, the DC would not backstab the FC while the threat of the Clans remains. At best, he might be the next step to the end of the Succession Wars.

So, give him all relevant information about the Black Dragon Society and about ComStar´s intentions right now, ideally in a way that allows him to verify enough of it that he trusts it all. Maybe also tell him how certain people are trying to screw with Wolf´s Dragoons, so that perhaps he can avoid all the unpleasantness towards the end of "Wolves on the Border".

That sort of information will be urgent, useful and verifiable enough that, when you someday tell him about the impending arrival of the Clans, he´ll be inclined to believe you.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 11 July 2018, 14:40:20
"My entirely inappropriate first thought upon seeing the ruler of the Lyran Commonwealth as she and Ardan renewed their acquaintance … was that she really was a Mega-MILF.
I immediately gave myself a mental Gibs Slap"


LOL!!!
glad i was alone when that popped up
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tegyrius on 11 July 2018, 19:13:34
Hilarity ensues.  :)  Keep it up - this is entertaining as heck.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 12 July 2018, 16:04:57
I just had another idea... what about contacting Jaime Wolf and letting him know, firstly, that Hanse is completely aware of who the Dragoons really are, and secondly, what the DC has in store for them?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 12 July 2018, 16:33:32
But would Jaime Believe it?

No the next stop should be Outreach and look for the "sites" that we know the Wolf's wanted.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 12 July 2018, 16:59:28
But would Jaime Believe it?

No the next stop should be Outreach and look for the "sites" that we know the Wolf's wanted.

Jaime might not believe what he is told about the events of "Wolves on the Border", because there is no way for Hanse to know that. But if he is told that Hanse knows about the Clans, which Hanse has no way of knowing about, either, he´ll take the other stuff seriously, I think. Furthermore, there should be something on "Wolves on the Border" that gives the Dragoons a starting point for verifying the rest.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 12 July 2018, 17:07:39
Damn excellent writing! You nail the characters and the humour and snark of the SI is a wonderful counter to the oppressive courtly goings on and horse trading.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: chongobongo on 12 July 2018, 21:16:10
don't often say much on the forum but , WOW what a great story keep it up .  :clap: :clap: :clap:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 13 July 2018, 14:42:55
I just had another idea... what about contacting Jaime Wolf and letting him know, firstly, that Hanse is completely aware of who the Dragoons really are, and secondly, what the DC has in store for them?

That's kinda a rock and a hard place. The Dragoon fued with the combine went a long way tord making the 4th war possible especially since Michael held back the Cappelan march troops. Acting now might preserve some Dragoons strength but could make the overall coming war much harder. Besides without Misery the Riuken will be at full strength for the 4th war.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 13 July 2018, 15:31:25
Amazing SI. :thumbsup:
Please, please continue.

So - points of interest / future visits: New Dallas (Hegemony Core), Odessa - very dangerous place because Comstar is present and most probable have operational warships there. And after SW4 - before 'gifting' Outreach to WD, extract all of the nice toys that exist there.Don't forget about Niops Association - they have a lot of useful data.
Question - the Hegemony core have the blueprints of the Nighthawks ? If not, the Niops Association have - and is a very useful thing to have against ROM.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 13 July 2018, 16:00:36
That's kinda a rock and a hard place. The Dragoon fued with the combine went a long way tord making the 4th war possible especially since Michael held back the Cappelan march troops. Acting now might preserve some Dragoons strength but could make the overall coming war much harder. Besides without Misery the Riuken will be at full strength for the 4th war.

That feud might still exist - but enough forewarning, the Dragoons might be able to get their dependants out of the Combine in time. I assume that neither the dependant nor the transport capacity needed to move them are strictly speaking under contract with the DC, so the Dragoons could quietly evacuate them into the Federated Suns before the shit hits the fan.

Besides, with both the carrot of enough forewarning to evacuate their dependants, and the stick of exposing the Dragoons as Clan spies, Hanse just *might* be able to get them to break their contract over how the DC has treated them, and accept a new contract from him - *that* will definitely get the feud going.


Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 13 July 2018, 17:44:27
a fleet of jumpships pop into needed system
a message from Davion, we can help, will explain later
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 13 July 2018, 18:43:04
That feud might still exist - but enough forewarning, the Dragoons might be able to get their dependants out of the Combine in time. I assume that neither the dependant nor the transport capacity needed to move them are strictly speaking under contract with the DC, so the Dragoons could quietly evacuate them into the Federated Suns before the shit hits the fan.

Besides, with both the carrot of enough forewarning to evacuate their dependants, and the stick of exposing the Dragoons as Clan spies, Hanse just *might* be able to get them to break their contract over how the DC has treated them, and accept a new contract from him - *that* will definitely get the feud going.


Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.

The feud centers on Tetshauras death. No Misery no death no feud.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 13 July 2018, 21:57:58
Also, regarding Outreach - what nice toys does Outreach have that an immediately accessible Helm Core does not have? And I imagine that after his revelations to them, Hanse might get away with telling the Dragoons that he knows why they want Outreach in particular, and that they can only have it if they share its nice toys with him.
can you say Daishi-spam? I think Outreach has manufacturing capacity, not stored Battlemechs...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 13 July 2018, 22:07:24
can you say Daishi-spam? I think Outreach has manufacturing capacity, not stored Battlemechs...

Yep it wasn't in perfect condition but it was a factory.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 14 July 2018, 01:50:31
Tagged.

...And you had better remember to post this as a pdf after you finish it.  This is on a par with Drakensis' 'Davion and Davion (Deceased) story.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 15 July 2018, 06:45:46
It would have been fun to see Snord after hearing Smith say how Helm used to be a land of dreams... and such a pleasant place to visit on behalf of the Davion clan... and such a trial to see such a place brought low...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 18 July 2018, 05:08:53
Just read through chapter 1. Great read, really looking forward to chapter 2. :beer:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: wolfcannon on 20 July 2018, 17:50:20
tagged
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 20 July 2018, 17:56:01
Need more
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 20 July 2018, 22:48:18
Nondi's reaction and Smith's evaluation of her were great
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 21 July 2018, 03:50:08
I'm still laughing at the mental Gibbs smack.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Motsognir on 25 July 2018, 18:06:33
This is excellent work, I love a good SI. I’m looking forward to the next book.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 August 2018, 21:59:36
TLDR version I decided that I couldn't end Book 1 *there*
So I decided to tie it up a bit better, then go for a bit of a timeskip of a few years.

Then mission creep of course set in.

So this is chapter 9 which is half of the 'end' of Book 1, which in the next few days hopefully will be followed by Chapter 10.

Enjoy!

***

Chapter 9: Hell Hath no Fury...

‘And so this is Christmas’, as the song went.
Or just about.
December 3026 to be specific.
But … this
wasn't Christmas.

Christmas was the Australian summer. Gloriously hot days with a family BBQ running around the backyard as a kid, followed by presents and cousins and all that fun stuff. It had been dressing in shorts and a T-shirt and spraying super soakers and hoses around if it was one of those REALLY hot days. It was about good food and a million little things from Christmas carols to various well-loved movies and TV shows that came on.

And now I had none of that.

I had felt homesick at different times of course. But Tharkad really drove that home for me in a way it hadn’t exactly hit me before. Which was ironic because if there was a place that was as unlike an ‘Australian’ Christmas as possible, it was Tharkad.
I mean,
Elsa would have taken one look at city and handed over her title of Snow Queen to Katrina on the spot had she seen this much powder.

Most of all though, snow and temperature aside … it wasn’t Christmas because I didn’t have any family, didn't have anyone to share it with.

But then, perhaps for all my secret knowledge about BattleTech, I might be somewhat blind for seeing what was in front of my face.


***
******
***


The meeting with the Powers that Be extended for another three hours, of which I stayed for two as we discussed the raid on Helm, its after effects and some of the more pressing issues Katrina wanted to bring up.
ComStar were a major -arguably the major - topic of conversation, which wasn’t terribly surprising given that Katrina had just found out one of her worlds was in essence under ComStar de facto control. So much so the order was able to operate a naval base deep in the outer system with near impunity.

Unfortunately there were not any really good options for dealing with the ‘Ruins of Gabriel’ as the former SLDF base was called (seriously who the ****** named it that?). I simply didn’t know enough about the structure of the Hidden Worlds at this point in time to give her solid intelligence on how they fit in with the rest of the order - especially communications lines and probable response times. I knew the Primus was ultimately in command of them and surely the current Precentor ROM had his part to play too. But how much of an active link there was with the rest of the order as opposed to the implied extreme compartmentalization the order practiced ? Well, their guess was as good as mine. I mean there was a solid chance ‘Gabriel’ was in mothballs with just a caretaker crew and being used as a ROM transit station with 90% of the ComGuard fleet in mothballs … or it could be a major hub of the explorer corps, who knew?

Could the LCAF chance a special forces blitz to sneak in, seize the base and loot the hell out of it without word getting out?
Possibly.
Could I offer any guarantees over it?
Hell no.

Accordingly, Katrina was convinced to let the system and its secrets be for now, as much as it clearly grated on her to leave ComStar so flagrantly violating her realm. The cold truth was that, for now, we had to just grin and bare it dealing with the toasters although Simon Johnson and Quintus Allard assured their bosses they were working on short, medium and long term answers to the ComStar conundrum, so the phone company issue was parked for now to discuss other more immediate I might be able to offer commentary on, starting with the Genyosha and re-emergence of Yorinaga Kurita … which bizarrely everyone at the table seemed to take as a grave threat.

I think I actually earned, possibly against her will, a grin from Nondi Steiner by daring to roll my eyes when asked about the threat, scoffing that one Mechwarrior was hardly an existential threat to the Federated Commonwealth nations. And that if you had to face him, there were perfectly valid workarounds to the so-called Phantom Mech ability. From the brute force approach of dedicating a headhunter lance of fast brawlers (Chargers if you could find them) to chase him down and rip his Warhammer open with their bare hands while you dealt with his support, to simply performing grid square removal with artillery and air strikes while he was inside said grid square.
I didn’t bother to go into deeper options that had been speculated in far too many threads on the internet - like my favorite of turning sidecar medium lasers on Marauders into glorified targeting laser pointers a GM in an RPG had allowed me once - or finding a half competent programmer to reprogram the targeting system to do optical reference targeting. And I knew the latter was possible because Dan Allard managed to jury rig such a solution on the fly (and seemingly never bothered to tell anyone about it) but honestly, I got the feeling I was arguing uphill here against a room full of Mechwarriors who saw Yorinaga as the devil and Morgan as their savior.
So, I was unsurprised when Patrick announced he would have Salome take the Hounds back to Pacifica after the New Year but he would go to see Morgan and bring him back to lead the Hounds into this long delayed showdown.
His grave decision got the expected solemn nods from around the table.
I, meanwhile, was proud that I didn’t roll my eyes at the whole air of ‘You cannot escape your destiny; you must face Darth Vader again!’ ... but a pointed look from Hanse -who was clearly reading my mind- kept my mouth firmly shut.

And yet … I had to admit feeling happy for the idea of Patrick being the one to go and get his brother this time. Instead of the duty falling to Dan Allard who also got to tell Morgan his brother died fighting the fight he ran away from.
Now this was a butterfly; Patrick and Morgan Kell together once again; the two Kell Hounds facing down the DCMS together and beyond into the future. Hell, perhaps Christian and Patrick could take Phelan more in hand-

Oh ******! I had totally forgotten about Christian Kell!

Did I butterfly him - no, he was conceived at the start of this year, I think, before any butterflies from me should have hit. But glancing across at the troubled expression on Patrick’s face at the thought of his brothers nemesis coming out of retirement, I decided to hold on that thought for now until I could quietly discuss it and the implications of springing an illegitimate son on Patrick, on far wiser people than I.
Shaking off the implications, I heard Katrina ask me if there were any other issues I felt needed addressing here and now and I took the opportunity to inquire about the New Dallas operation status.
Memory cores! Gotta catch’em all!

The response was both disappointing and yet satisfactory at the same time. The simple answer was that no-one expected any outcomes on that mission for at least another few months at the earliest, more likely half a year. Apparently due to my annoyingly vague memory that there was some kind of sensor tripwire and automated HPG in-system that would scream ‘INTRUDER ALERT!’ to Terra if someone came in obviously to the planet, the DMI team sent were taking a very covert entry method that could best be described as ‘pretend to be space junk and drift your way in cold' from a nonstandard jump point. It was a technique apparently incredibly effective against the kind of passive systems they were expecting to come up against. But equally, it was incredibly slow.
Having just been trapped on a dropship for months, I really felt for the poor bastards, but was assured these people were professionals who could handle it. And they had one of the few FAX machines NAIS had painstakingly hand built that LIC and DMI were listening for if they needed help, so I suppose now we just had to wait and see what they came up with.

Anyway, by this point in time the sun had well and truly set outside the massive windows as time rolled on and so my participation in this conference was ended. The other people in the room had quite a few other things to talk about for the next hour or so until the bigass feast took place, so I was ushered downstairs to wait in a secure but comfortable room with some more light snacks. An hour later the power duo swung by to visit me on their way to get changed into uniform for the RCT feast … to tell me I wouldn’t be part of it.
But not to worry, the Archon was extending me an invitation for me to stay at the Royal Palace: one of the three buildings that made up ‘The ‘Triad’! Or, to put it more accurately, I was going to be put on ice there until after the chaos of Christmas had passed. At which point I would be formally debriefed by a chosen LIC team.

It made me feel a bit like one of Hanse Davions toys that his friend was asking if she could play with, I must admit. Sure Katrina did technically ask me for my agreement, but it was sort of a Hobson’s choice really. Like I was going to say no to her!
Okay, I admit it - the woman intimidated me! How the ****** morons like Lestrade and her cousin thought they would ever get away with crossing her after meeting her in person…

Anyway, Hanse and Katrina had remained to go celebrate with the rest of the task force that evening - after a brief face to face with all the people in the task force who knew about the memory core to, inside a shielded room, make it jointly clear (after profusely congratulating them on getting the memory core out clean and safely) that there was no memory core….
I meanwhile was shuffled off quietly onto an unmarked fusion-jet due to fly back to Tharkad City by Simon Johnson and Quintus Allard. An LIC special, the VTOL took the difficulties of trying to bug a noisy aircraft and quite deliberately increased them with passive and active countermeasures to the point that the cabin was so noisy we had to put on ear protectors - which doubled as a closed direct hard link comms system which was switched on when we reached cruising altitude.

“John, I haven't had the opportunity yet so I’d like to add my congratulations to those of the Prince and Archon for what you accomplished on Helm” Quintus started as he reached over to pull his folio folder deal out of his locked attaché case ... and begun the process of carefully unlocking it in turn.

“And my congratulations too” Simon Johnson added. “We have validated the memory cores authenticity and sheer scope of its database; suffice to say you have just casually altered the course of history and changed the balance of power in the Inner Sphere. Very, very well done”.

“I wouldn’t go that far” I said, gesturing with a hand quickly. “Even in the original timeline, the NAIS got a copy of the core less than five years from now. I just ‘fast forwarded’ things a bit really - and I had a lot of help, my presence was mostly superfluous in the raid”.

“Perhaps, perhaps not” Johnson shrugged, studying me with a practiced ease that was as penetrating as it was nonchalantly friendly. “Although based on your statements on New Avalon, reports from Helm and those of the NAIS tech team; the ‘original timeline’ core would have taken considerable time and resources to extract data from revived ‘raw’ as it were. Not to mention” he added with a cold smile and gleam in his eye, “that while in that ‘original timeline’ all the Great Houses eventually got their hands on a copy of the core ... this time, it’s ours alone and without anyone knowing we even have it”.

“Precisely” Quintus agreed, sharing a sinister smile with Johnson that made the interior of the VTOL feel a tad chilly as the two spymasters engaged in some very rare and unprofessional gloating before their masks kicked back in and their expressions smoothed back out. “And we’re going to run with that edge you’ve given us for a while. The Archon and First Prince have both decided that 3027 will be the ‘year of silence’. Simon and I will be spending the time quietly scattering multiple redundant offline backups of the core across the Federated Commonwealth. Ultra-secure locations, black sites and rather more unassuming places that will make absolutely sure there can be no Holy Shroud type scenario against us. Meanwhile, NAIS will be getting to work with a focus on reproducing proof of concepts of Star League era machine tools, computers and fabrication techniques from the cores data before we even start looking at mass production or distribution scenarios”.

“Crawl, walk, run?” I suggested and Quintus nodded sharply.

“Well put” he agreed with another thin smile. “Once NAIS have confirmed the proof of concepts as viable, we’ll start quietly building the factories to build the tools to repair and refit production lines and factories across the Federated Suns, with a parallel but coordinated effort in the Commonwealth. We can actually do a surprising amount of work ‘under the radar’ to reach a breakout capacity before we move to mass manufacturing at a level that will draw notice. This will also let us do studies into the Federated Suns infrastructure and the optimal long term rebuilding strategies. MIIO has been doing preliminary identification and prioritization along those lines while you were on the way to Helm and LIC” he gestured at Simon, “is going to start in the new year. Although some of the machine tools and computer equipment you picked up on Helm have already been identified as perfectly suited to upgrading some of Coreans New Avalon plant and Defiance’s production lines on Hep-”

“Kwangjong-ni!” I suddenly blurred out as I remembered.
What the hell triggered it I wasn’t sure, but suddenly as they talked about production lins and lostech, that little detail from the Jihad timeframe struck like a lightning bolt from the sky.
Memory was a strange thing really. Bits and pieces of other Battletech lore had slowly come to the surface over time, most of it pretty much useless, but this…

The two spymasters meanwhile exchanged cagey glances before turning quite focused gazes on me, clearly interested in why I had just said that.

“Kwangjong-ni?” Simon asked very carefully and I nodded, screwing my eyes shut for a second and holding up a hand that silenced them as I wracked my brains to pull everything I could … which wasn’t a much as I hoped.
But hopefully it was enough so I opened my eyes to find both men watching me with expectant curiosity.

“Sorry, the mention of Defiance clicked something in me” I apologized, taking a breath to get my thoughts in order before starting, facing Simon Johnson. “I just remembered that during the 3070s and 3080s, when Defiance lost Hesperus II for a few years, they relied on satellite factories to keep the company going until it was taken back. And one of them was on Kwangjong-ni!”

“There isn’t a Defiance factory on Kwangjong-ni - not right now anyway” Simon noted in confusion before his eyes narrowed as he realized where I was going. “You're saying they found an old one?”

“That is exactly what I’m saying” I nodded and I could see that had gotten the attention of both men with Quintus making a notation in his noteputer silently off to the side. “It was one of the ‘hidden factories’ that ****** Stefan Amaris had running to help build up the Rim World forces for his secret army. The Star League had suspected it was there during their taking of the Rim Worlds but could never find it. Defiance, on the other hand, did”.

“Very interesting and, potentially, very useful of course” Simon agreed, rubbing his chin in thought. “But a planet is a rather large place to search Mister Smith and it sounds like the factory is very well hidden ... unless you happen to know exactly where it is?” he suggested in hope.

“No” I shook my head, causing him to sit back, looking slightly disappointed “But” I added quickly, “I know where it’s not. The primary reason the factory escaped detection was that it was built entirely under the ocean”.

“Under the ocean?” the two spymasters said in perfect unison, before blinking and glancing at each other, then back at me with near identical expressions of disbelief turning into grudging admiration as the implications sunk in.
“Under the ocean” Simon repeated in a softer tone, his eyes calculating and his brain clearly working hard. “A secure production site, made up of late Star League automated production lines … yes I can think of some uses for such a facility deep inside Lyran space” he smiled coldly looking back at me and inclining his head.
“It would seem I owe you my thanks once again Mister Smith. I must admit, this makes me quite eager to get to work debriefing you”.

“Yeah about that … we’re … not talking Narco Interrogation are we?” I frowned at that, trying to not show too much how understandably nervous the idea made me feel. My reading up on the process back on New Avalon and recollections of how incredibly unpleasant it was for the characters going through it made me very much want to avoid such questioning, even if it seemed to give quite impressive results for pulling information out of people they had quite possibly forgotten they knew...
And seriously, that cold smile, blue eyes and German accent, was giving me, probably unfairly, major ‘Zou are being very foolish! Ve ‘ave vays of making you talk!’ vibes right now....

But happily, said vibes vanished behind a display of professional disquiet from the man.

“Of course not” he protested with a not quite ‘hurt’ frown. “The Archon has made it very clear you are to be treated as an honored guest during your stay. We simply intend to see if any new ‘thoughts’ about ‘Battletech’ have shaken loose, ask some of our own questions and expand on some information you have provided. I’m certainly not handing you over to LOKI”.

I gave Simon a look at that but -predictably- found absolutely nothing but a perfect poker face with a look of earnest politeness staring back at me … and as his words sunk in, I realized I had forgotten a minor little detail … until it was literally looking me in the face.

And that, was Heimdall.

Officially ‘denounced as terrorists’ and unofficially the ‘who watches the watchers?’ arm of the Lyran Intelligence Corps; Heimdall held a somewhat unique position in the Inner Sphere. Made up of a mixture of ‘sane’ LIC personnel who detested LOKIs often brutal tactics, military officers, politicians and ‘normal’ people who saw themselves as guardians against LOKI and LIC excesses (and had often been their victims), Heimdall had a presence vertically and horizontally across all of the Commonwealth, but was very decentralized in command and control. The exact nature of the organization changed with the times too; against Katrina’s moronic and brutal predecessor the organization had been openly at war with LOKI, who were engaging in state sanctioned terrorism all over the place to silence critics.

Which made the fact that Alessandro Steiner had promoted Simon Johnson, secretly a key Heimdall agent, into the position of LIC head with orders to crush Heimdall one of those glorious historical ironies.

The organization had been critical to Katrina Steiner first surviving the attentions of and then deposing her Uncle. Katrina in turn upon assuming power had rapaid their faith in her by yanking on LOKI’s choke-chain until they understood they did not wag her and their previous tactics would no longer be tolerated under her reign.
Heimdall had become somewhat inactive as a result. Had even, in some places, formed cells that were almost an open secret among the locals. In the current time period, the biggest impact they had made was one cell trying to be too clever investigating why someone wanted to sour the growing relationship between the Commonwealth and Suns, stumbling right onto Melissa Steiner traveling incognito to meet Hanse Davion and unknowingly putting her in terrible danger (and showing themselves as flawed humans in their cheerful willingness to sacrifice one unwilling innocent life for hundreds if need be), playing politics games they really had no business playing.
Of course, all of that mess with the Silver Eagle shouldn’t happen this time, as I’m sure Hanse and Melissa would be -probably already were - spending time together now. And that in turn would save Patrick Kell’s life … probably.
Unless he gets killed another way, hardly unlikely for a Mechwarrior after all. Oh how the butterflies started to flap…


Presently, I took a breath and noted the others were clearly waiting for my reaction, but even as I opened my mouth to speak, Quintus read my mind (it got really annoying when all these people kept doing) and pre-empted me.

“Only you, Simon, Prince Davion and myself have read the complete copy of Warrior: Coup” the Minister said quietly, drawing my attention back immediately. “The copy that was ‘officially’ given to the Archon was almost the same, but with six key lines carefully changed and removed after the Prince and I discussed the implications, a decision Simon here backed”.

Oh ****** joy, now I was apparently keeping secrets from Katrina Steiner? And just so happened to be the only one of said quartet she could probably shoot if she got miffed about that and wanted to vent? Great! Just great!

“I’m guessing you’re talking about where Morgan Kell exposes that Simon here is a key member of Heimdall?” I suggested, pushing the ‘bad thoughts’ to the side as both men nodded -clearing watching my reaction closely- so I took a deep breath in and out before nodding grudgingly. “It’s understandable and I’ll keep the secret too” I said, choosing my words carefully but honestly. “I can certainly understand why; I’m sure that you don’t want to put the Archon in a difficult position Minister Johnson … and the long term security and effectiveness of Heimdall is clearly linked to it being loyal to, but outside the direct control of Katrina and her Heirs”.

“I’m pleased to hear you see it that way” Simon thanked me, his eyes seeming to bore into mine in a way that I tried to tell myself wasn’t him saying ‘Forget this promise and you will not like the consequences’. “LOKI, despite what I can see you might think of them from your debriefing on New Avalon, are often a necessary evil for the Commonwealth … but I’m also aware of just how easy it is to abuse their capabilities and that a counterweight is needed outside official control, but vetted and loyal”.
I simply nodded my acceptance of that, hardly convinced but keeping my mouth shut on the subject. LOKI had been, with the ‘Germans in Space!’ theme of Battletechs Lyran Commonwealth, something disturbingly akin to the Waffen SS or Gestapo in a lot of ways. Beholden only to the Archon and trusted delegates, ruthless and with very little in the way of checks and balances. Heimdall did not exist in a vacuum but was a direct reaction to that reality.
On the other hand, the Rabid Foxes didn’t get their name because they limited their actions to leaving flaming bags on the front porch of various enemies of the Federated Suns...

My train of thought was cut off as the aircraft jolted under me, banking and starting to descend. I glanced at bulkhead mounted map readout and was surprised to see we were already over the greater Tharkad City region, descending quickly towards our destination. One of the perks of hanging out with these kinds of people, I generally only touched the best stuff, like supersonic personal private transports on priority clearances, which sure as hell beat flying wedged into a seat on a 737.

“Is there anything else you’d like to talk about before we land?” Simon asked at that point, looking at me expectantly and I considered the question carefully. Most of what I might have wanted to ask or check about had been touched on in the meeting with the Prince and Archon, but...

“Yes. Christian Kell”.

Christian Kell?” Simon echoed after a glance to Quintus who only shrugged.

“Patrick Kell’s Son” I clarified and that earned me a surprised reaction from both men who clearly did not know of this. “He would have been born at some time this year to a woman named Takara? I think that's it. Anyway, they had a liaison nine months ago and Takara should have given birth to his son by now. She in the original timeline kept it a secret, so…”

“Patrick Kell died defending Melissa Steiner - without knowing he had a son?” Simon Johnson queried and I nodded, continuing the story.

“Christian would later seek out Morgan after finding a letter from his mother explaining things. After confirming his identity, Morgan called in a favour from Jamie Wolf to have him trained personally by the Dragoons, the man earning his place - even serving under Kerensky for a time - and later joining the Kell Hounds and becoming one of their best officers”.

“Impressive - but irrespective of what he becomes, I’d certainly agree that Patrick Kell has a right to know about his Son” Simon noted, pausing to consider the situation for a few moments in thought before coming to a decision with a small smile.
“I’ll have Heimdall contacted to look into it. The Styx cell can quietly make contact, extract her and her son to Arc Royal and let Patrick know through those channels - I need to take the Holsteins in hand anyway”.

“Thank you” I said gratefully, feeling I had actually accomplished something worthwhile today with that one action, but Simon just shook his head, dismissing my thanks.

“The man has more than earned such consideration - and the Archon would be … displeased if she found out I knew about this and didn’t do whatever it took to reunite father and Son. Especially given Melissa’s lack of a Father...” he trailed off with something of a wince in his expression and defining whole new level of subtext in the word ‘disappointed’...

Well, good to know I’m not the only one terrified of earning Katrina’s disappointment.

The final thing was talked about as we dropped altitude and airspeed was confirming my suspicions of what the Fox’s Teeth had been doing playing with Alpha Regiment of the Wolf’s Dragoons on Barrows End, which hadn’t come up back with the leadership. It seemed that Hanse and Quintus, having known exactly where and when a Dragoon raid was going to hit thanks to ‘Wolves on the Border’, had decided to go Christmas shopping early.
I wasn’t sure if Jamie Wolf would be pleased with the news that McKinnon's boys had helped themselves (with the help of an expanded Rabid Fox team and the Eridani Light Horse) to ‘three Badgers looted, two salvaged Bandits and a partridge in a pear tree’ … but he’d probably have liked Blackwells facilities on New Valencia getting seized and shut down by MIIO even less. Which, in all seriousness, was apparently the next option on the table, given that they exclusively supplied the Dragoons alone (who were in full service to the Draconis Combine right now) and House Davion had a whole slew of legal solutions to use when a company didn’t ‘correctly’ hedge its bets by supplying its host nation and allied merc units too.

Anyway, we landed at the palace and it was there I parted ways with the two spymasters who were off to Simon's office to put a late night of work in while I was escorted swiftly to my room after declining the offer of dinner. With every step I took into the palace following some servant, my final emotional and physical energy reserves seemed to rapidly dry up, finding myself barely even taking note of the spectacular building I was walking through which seemed to go on forever.
Hell, the only thing I really remembered was the glorious queen sized bed in my room a servant showed me before hastily exiting as I started to undress, barely remembering my manners to thank him for his help.

And so I dumped my clothes on a convenient chair, dragged myself into the nest of blankets and was fast asleep for the first time in months in a real ****** bed in a real ****** gravity well.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 August 2018, 22:00:23
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******
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Ten hours later I woke up slowly. And it was glorious to do so.

For months, living with Ardan Sortek late nights and early starts had been the order of the day. Sleeping in was just not something that was going to happen on a military dropship of the Davion Guards - let alone in a room with him dictating rising and sleeping. Complaints had fallen on deaf ears as I was dragged off to morning calisthenics to fight off Zero-G muscle wasting with the rest of the sickeningly fit guards who looked like their muscles were made out of liquid metal for how rock solid their abbs looked. Apparently with all members of the brigade ‘encouraged’ to pump iron in their off hours until they only vaguely looked human when in gym clothes.

But today?

Today I could just kick back in bed and slowly wake up, enjoying the paradoxically soft yet firm mattress and silky smooth yet warm sheets and thick blankets as opposed to zero-g wrappings brought from the lowest bidder for the AFFS.
Eventually however I got myself up, washed and dressed (my clothes and a whole wardrobe in my size had been delivered into a walk in closet from an outside door in it at some point during the night it seemed) and with a little searching, I found the room's phone to call and see exactly where one went to get food around here. My stomach impatiently reminding me I hadn’t really eaten much in about eighteen hours.
The exceedingly helpful man on the other end of the phone however almost sounded amused when he told me that there was no need for a menu; simply to ask what I wanted and it would be delivered. Part of my mind immediately declared ‘Challenge accepted!’ and I placed an order for far too much food that was far too rich, having grown thoroughly sick of dropship rations since leaving New Avalon.
I regretted that decision an hour later as my body made its displeasure known at me shoveling incredible food down my throat like some Season One Homer Simpson in front of an All You Can Eat sign.

Decadence. Noun.
[LIST=1]
Still a few hours after that and my stomach had finished its protests, more or less, and I migrated to the sort of living room/office next to the bedroom. Turning on the vid I worked my way to the news channels - of which Tharkad had plenty - and unsurprisingly found them either all talking about or had bright news banners announcing that Katrina Steiner had called a 1PM press conference for this afternoon.
As that was still an hour or so away, I moved past them looking for something else to watch and found the ComStar News Network. Unable to help myself, I turned up the volume, morbidly curious about what the toaster worshipers were saying, but it wasn’t a live feed. Instead, some show called ‘Around the Rim’ was starting. Apparently, a weekly show summing up the ‘going ons’ in the Periphery … and it seemed this week they were leading off with a news report on the … Rimward Frontier?

Huh. Never heard of that

Helpfully the map zoomed in and defined it as the region of space between the Taurian Concordat and Magistracy of Canopus and I leaned forward in curiosity. I had never seen anything on Battletechs maps in that region of space … but in hindsight, that was probably just because the writers hadn’t bothered to write anything about it. After all, with two Periphery powers glaring at each other across it plus the Confederation and Free Worlds League forming a ‘Northern’ border of that region, it made sense that there would be something there.
Muting the TV  -and switching it back to Tharkad City News from the ComStar rep evangelising about how much good the order was doing in the Illyrian Palatinate  - I walked over to the desk against the wall and powered the terminal there with only a little grumbling at its clunky interface.

Gods, who thought I’d so dearly miss Microsoft a thousand years of the future? Have pity on me, oh Great God Gates and provide me a GUI worthy of the 1990s!
There was no answer from the multiverse, so I sighed and carried on with what I had.


The mainframe in the Triad this terminal was connected to was unsurprisingly massive; with data from across the Inner Sphere. Say what you will about Battletech computers, storage space was not something they had any issue with and were light years ahead in, meaning the Triad had masses of captured data on anything and everything. Quickly enough I had isolated a number of public and Government fact sheets, briefings and historical texts on the region and went to work digging into them.

My first impression was that I had discovered the Chaos March thirty years early given the number of factions, major powers backing said factions and independent and micro-states with rapidly changing allegiances, alliances, back stabbings and mercenaries of less than reputable rating working for the highest bidder on a day to day basis...

Of course, unlike the Chaos March which had been formed around some of the most productive, populated and valuable worlds in the Inner Sphere. Most of the worlds were barely a step away from being a failed periphery colony with their only value being Jumpship recharge points where help would eventually come by if you blew a helium seal. The planets often only held tiny populations of peoples with no other option but ‘survive or die’.
This was figuratively the ass end of the Inner Sphere … that everyone crapped on.

One exception seemed to stand out though. The ‘Aurigan Reach’ region which seemed to be a large microstate, but one in the middle of a civil war …  damn it, why did that sound so familiar?

But even as I started to dig deeper into it, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the vid had switched to what seemed to be a shot of the Throne room and after a glance at the clock showed it was almost twelve fifty, I closed down the terminal and reached for the phone. Guest services were as efficient as before and at twelve fifty five a bottle of champagne and a very generous bowl of popcorn had arrived. And now properly equipped, I kicked the sound back on to listen to the talking heads as they speculated wildly for the remaining minutes until the Archon was due to appear.
Unsurprisingly given the lack of any ‘official leaks’ (Katrina was clearly holding her cards close they noted), most of the attention was on the two Griffins standing on either side of the Archons Throne and the message they were sending. Which was that instead of wearing the normal gold and blue of the Royal Guards Regiment, they had been repainted into the distinctive dress colours of the Kell Hounds and Davion Guards.

As the experts pointed out, it was far from unprecedented for the Griffins in question to be temporarily painted in the colours of another Commonwealth unit or even Merc unit under contract. It was considered one of the greatest tributes that could be paid by the Archon of the Commonwealth to a unit that had distinguished itself on the field of battle...
But for one of them to be repainted in the colours of the bodyguard unit of the First Prince of the Federated Suns?
One of the talking heads, an older one and apparently the appointed ‘Conservative/Traditionalist’ strawman was sputtering in shock and disapproval at such a ‘sacrilege’. Ranting about the tradition and horror of the Throne, bla bla bla.
One of the other talking heads though, who actually seemed to have his head screwed on straight and had the moral authority of being a former NCO in the Royal Guards, pointed out the obvious. Saying flatly that Katrina Steiner was a Mechwarrior who would never insult the LCAF and a politician of great skill - which meant she had a very good reason for this choice of paint.

That shut the old fart up and I toasted the old soldier with a tip of my champagne flute.

The shows host smoothly stepped into the slightly tense moment to take note another thing; pointing out that there were two podiums sitting in front of the Archons throne. Meaning she was going to share the stage with someone. Opinion quickly seemed split between the CO of the Davion Guards regiment or Patrick Kell and I couldn’t help but chuckle in a slightly sinister fashion as they went back and forth about which of the ‘two’ it was going to be.
Boy were they going to get a surprise … right about … now!

A deep bell, almost so deep it sounded like a gong, rang and shimmered through the air of the throne room at exactly 1PM. Vibrating through the air of the Throne Room, it silenced the general hub hub into a respectful yet tension filled air of anticipation as everyone turned to face the Throne as a man in full court regalia whom subtitles helpfully identified as Franklin Hecht, Minister of Protocol (that was a thing apparently) moved to stand in front of the throne.

“The Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth!” he called loudly, his words captured by some microphone to come across cleanly. And with that the crowd of thousands of people stood and bowed as Katrina Steiner emerged from behind the throne to curve past it … then a collective choked gasp come from the crowd as they came back up and saw that a precise half second later, coming around the other side of the Throne, was a man they had not expected.

And judging from the sudden jerked zoom in on him that wasn’t exactly smooth, neither was the cameraman or his producer.
Surprise right up until the last moment, it seemed, had been achieved and I grabbed a handful of popcorn with a grin as a non-G rated profanity slipped out on someone’s hot mic.

“The First Prince of the Federated Suns!” Hecht added to drive the point home to the stunned Royal Court as the two rulers reformed and walked the last few steps side by side to the lectern looking exactly as grand, powerful and confident as you would expect.
House Lords Twin Powers Activate! Form of; A Press Conference!

Katrina welcomed everyone, then without further ado asked (commanded and obeyed) them to sit as she announced that she and Hanse would now brief them on the recent events leading up to his surprise presence on Tharkad, the audience looking absolutely rapt in attention with the press in the front rows frantically writing notes on notepads and noteputers as Hanse gave his famous smile and started to talk.

This had all started, according to The Fox, with MIIO coming into some startling intelligence from ‘A Few Good Men’™ in the Combine. Specifically, reports that a highly ranked noble was planning to raid the Free Worlds League world of Helm. Somehow this noble (and I had no doubt MIIO and DMI were busy laying a trail for the ISF to follow right to the Red Dukes front door) had found clues to suggest the legendary SLDF depot had not been taken by Kerensky as thought, simply moved, hidden and then lost in the chaos of the Succession Wars. A frantic exchange of messages with LIC had turned up twist; LIC had also just heard some nobles on Irian of all places were also looking into Helm and the ancient cache with their own clues.
Katrina then took a moment to hang a lantern on the obvious; it was highly suspicious that both powers had suddenly came onto this information at the same time, even if the Suns and Commonwealth had not yet discovered a connection between the two. She left it at that, but I was sure even that would be enough to have A) the Kapteyn powers glaring suspiciously at each other and B) ComStar looking suspiciously at itself.
Hopefully involving Precentor Rachan finding himself in a dark room with his balls hooked up to jumper cables as ROM vented ComStars fury that he might have caused this disaster.

Couldn’t happen to a more deserving bastard really.

I could also live rather easily with the heat no doubt about to come down on Duke Ricol. As I recalled, his little operation had been run without the knowledge or approval of either Takashi or Theodore or his Warlord, which meant he had sinned. Twice.
Firstly, he had been preparing for a raid into an allied state. The Concord of Kapteyn might be a bit of a joke, but it was still Kurita policy and would have been a huge loss of face for House Kurita if, as Hanse and Katrina were insinuating, the Red Duke was preparing to invade their ally and seize a priceless storehouse.
Yet, far worse as far as House Kurita was concerned, there was the question of exactly what he was planning to do with a massive storehouse of Star League military gear he wasn’t telling his Liege, Lieges Heir or Warlord he was going to get. And in that situation, House Kurita would 8 times out of 10 conclude that he had been planning to use it against them - and hardly without precedent.
Accordingly, I gave it 50/50 odds that the Red Duke would be invited to ‘use the garden’ within the next six months, if the ISF followed the trail back to him and jumped to the ‘correct’ conclusions. And good riddance to Black Dragon rubbish.
Amusing, that the Kurita’s would owe MIIO and LIC one for getting rid of a long term threat for them...

Anyway, Hanse continued the story that after LIC and MIIO had put their heads together, they realized they each had pieces of the puzzle and putting it all together, had very good information on the possible location of the cache. Adding, with that famous grin, that while it would have been amusing to see the Concord of Kapteyn fighting it out over the cache, he had forgotten to do his Christmas shopping, so...
That earned an actual ripple of laughter from the crowd and I too raised a salute with my wine glass, shaking my head with a smile. It was amazing really, the two of them were laying out a perfectly viable story that I actually believed watching it, even if I know it was complete bullshit. If anything it came off as them simply wanting to gloat and rub it into the other nations that they had given up the cache and the FedCom powers had then swiped it out from under them!

And the best part? There was more than enough truth in the key parts that when the ISF, SAFE and ROM did their digging into it, they would hit the paydirt and ‘prove’ it! Really the only thing more that was needed for this to - ah there we go; Katrina just casually dropped a reminder of the Minoru Kurita’s original blasting of Helm for no other reason than being a giant crybaby because he couldn’t find the cache, where as ‘our’ people got in and out and donated a brand new hospital in their wake, with her and Hanse Davion’s complements!
I mean, everyone in the Succession Wars unleashed hell on each other of course, but most of the time it was at least nominally hell targeted at military and industrial targets, with civilians simply collateral damage. Not blasting an entire planet into a smoking cinder because you looked like an idiot in front of your troops for going on a wild goose chase!

Well, most of the time anyway.

And as for the Free Worlds Leagues internal fun? Katrina yesterday had hinted that LIC was already planting suggestions to point SAFE right to Lord Garth, Duke of Irian who wanted the cache to build an army to overthrow the Captain General.
Which was of course, absolutely true. And true 9.99 times out of 10 in the FWL.
And if that knowledge just so happened to cause a spat between Irian, Stewart and Atreus...well, that would just cap off this little operation, wouldn’t it..

The dynamic duo gave limited details about the actual mission to Helm. Noting mostly that it had been all done in haste with the Davion Guards and Kell Hounds sent purely due to being in the strategic neighborhood as it were, adding not quite smugly that it was an excellent sign of how well the Suns and Commonwealth could work together ‘on the fly’ as it were. A military briefing would be following this one and so they would leave such questions to the officers following, but they did round out their conference by Hanse noting that the Archon had very graciously invited him and a few close friends to spend Christmas day with her family - which he had of course accepted.

And with that done the Archon had asked the still furiously writing press in the front rows if there were any questions before they turned the stage over to the military briefing team, who would go into more details about the operation on Helm and covering raids on the border?

A forest of arms shot into the sky so fast I expected sprained shoulder blades to be a thing among the press corps tomorrow.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 August 2018, 22:00:40

***
******
***

 
Knock Knock Knock.

The knock on the door came just after seven thirty PM and I glanced up from the book I was reading in no small amount of surprise. There was one hell of a shindig going on across in the Royal Court right now and anyone who might have any interest in me was down there tonight while I brooded in my room, reading an unclassified intelligence briefing about the Arano Restoration the palace had arranged for me at my request.
Seriously, I could really get used to having a hoard of people on hand ready to do your bidding on demand.

The report had finally clicked with me that this region of the Inner Sphere had been the setting for the Battletech video game Kickstarter back home. Even if I could barely remember anything about it beyond the cool concept art and how awesome the backer jacket was … that I would never get.
On the other hand I was, you know, staying in Katrina Steiners palace on Tharkad … so I don’t think the people I had left behind who had jackets were really getting more than I was.
Still, it was a bit weird the more I thought about it. A video game still under development when I departed … was playing out in front of me in the Periphery. I mean ******, was one of these people I was reading about supposed to, from a meta ‘player character’ point, me?!

Mind. Blown. Hey, new thought; I wonder if I could meet Jason Youngblood at some point...

Such mental conundrums were excellent distraction for me, keeping me from thinking too much about what day it was. Christmas Eve celebrations were in full force across the capitol, having reached a peak  in a massive carols by candlelight extravaganza in the Triad District. That would last for a few hours, with a ‘who's who’ of the Commonwealths singers lining up to sing songs, broadcast around the planet. The Archon had made a brief appearance at the start to set things off, but otherwise left it to the celebrities to carry this celebration from evening into night. All very touching ... and all hitting me where I really didn’t want to be hit.
It didn’t help that everywhere I had looked outside my room it was Christmas Christmas Christmas and so rather than explore the palace or anything I had, after Katrina and Hanse’s conference wound up, found as many things as possible to distract me. Distantly hoping perhaps that I could chain enough things together through the night to forget.
It had proven a little harder than I thought, as crazy as it sounded for me to distract myself being in the Battletech universe, a room (even a luxurious one like this) was still somewhat limited in what you could do with it.

And after the Carrols finished and darkness started to fall, the commoners had moved onward to enjoy the final night of Christmas displays through the District before they were taken down for the New Year's Eve work to start. The nobility however, were otherwise occupied as Katrina was hosting the annual Christmas Eve soiree in the Royal Court; an event considered much more ‘casual’ and ‘informal’ than the massive New Years Eve ball scheduled for a week from now. It also held a focus on the local nobility and invited VIPs from Tharkad itself rather than the power-players from across the Commonwealth - at least in theory.
The presence of Hanse Davion as the Guest of Honor had, unsurprisingly, thrown that ideal out the airlock with  anyone who was anyone desperately gate crashing to rub shoulders with two House Lords, something that didn’t exactly often since the Star League had crashed and burned.

And yet, it was still all wrapped up in Christmas. Thus, I just didn’t want anything to do with it. Locked up in this room, I could just pretend it wasn’t Christmas Eve. And pretend that somewhere in the multiverse, the ‘real’ me and all my family were not gathering for the now traditional ‘watch the next generation go hyperactive as they leapt for the presents and ripped them open’ ceremonies...
But back to the here and now, with Ardan Sortek, Patrick Kell, Marshal Felnser, Dan Allard and his Father all down at the Archons shindig … it kinda begged the question of who the hell was knocking on my door?

Knock Knock Knock!

Shrugging and deciding that the knocks implied they wouldn’t accept me ignoring them, I rolled off the bed and made my way to the door, having a very brief look in a mirror next to it to make sure I was at least presentable before opening the door.
And doing a double take as I found a teenager, dressed impeccably in what I had come to know as ‘Formal Event Court Dress’, standing outside my door with a quartet of suits who screamed ‘bodyguards’ behind her-

“May I come in Mister Smith?” she asked and, without waiting for an answer, she swished past me into the room with a rustle of her long dress, followed by two of her bodyguards, leaving me standing there staring into the corridor beyond like an idiot.

Okay ... so now this is happening.

“Sure, come right in …” I muttered to the empty corridor before shaking it off and turning to follow my unexpected guest as she moved into the lounge room, making herself at home as her bodyguards did a perfunctory sweep before nodding to her and heading back out. Leaving me alone with her as I very slowly sat down on the chair next to her trying to get my bearings at this unexpected guest.

Melissa Arthur Steiner.
The only child of Katrina Steiner and Arthur Luvon. Archon Designate of the Lyran Commonwealth and, known only to a very select group, the fiancé of Hanse Davion … was sitting in my room across from me.

Okay, what the ******?

“Shouldn’t you be across in the Royal Court, Lady Steiner?” I asked aloud, carefully, as the silence became deafening after five or six seconds.

“I did my work on the receiving line earlier” she shrugged easily, kicking off her heels and sighing -in full view of me- as she wiggled her stocking covered toes, making a content noise … and completely ignoring my incredulous stare at her incredibly casual behavior.

I had never met her - never seen her before in fact - and here she was, bounding into my room and acting like this?

… once again. The ******?!

“People are used to me dodging in and out of these events and, frankly, Hanse is drawing by far most of the attention this evening so it was surprisingly easy to slip out for a while” she continued as she put her feet back down, smoothing out her dress carefully, yet I got the impression her casual air was just that, a act she was putting on for my benefit.
Okay Princess, you want nonchalant snark? Lets do nonchalant snark I thought as I managed to regain some sense of balance and decided to lightly test the waters.

“So … you’re on a first name basis with Prince Davion now?” I returned fire and was pleased to see it knock her back slightly, a flush passing across her face for a moment.
After all, I had no idea if she was ‘in’ on the-

“Jordan Weisman”

And boom, headshot! There is still something fourth wall mind breaking about Melissa ****** Steiner saying that name...

“Well, that's direct enough” I muttered, abandoning my snark as I both relaxed and tensed up, while Melissa's expression became almost impish. That name was the current codeword for the compartment about me, meaning perhaps unsurprisingly, she had been briefed by Hanse and Quintus and her use of it meant I was free to talk. “I hope both your mother and fiancé are aware you are here with me, My Lady?”

“Call me Melissa” she insisted as she tilted her head slightly. “And of course, but why do you ask?”

“Call me John” I returned the gesture before glancing down at the table we were sitting around and stuff all over it. “And it’s just a question of context. If, for example, either of them were to hear that you had walked into some mans room alone, unchaperoned with alcohol present and left your bodyguards left behind, well...” I shrugged, extending my glance to the outer wall of the room with only slightly exaggerated suspicion. “Then the only question would be if the fist about to break through that wall is going to be attached to a Battlemaster or a Zeus”.

The younger (as in near half my age) woman actually giggled lightly at that one as I continued to patiently watch the far wall … with some part of me not entirely joking here...

“Relax John” she shook her head with a smile. “They know I came here specifically to talk to you”.

“Okay…” I blinked, leaning back into the chair and trying to relax as I asked the obvious. “Um, why?”
She seemed to consider that for a few moments before seeming to sigh and not quite slump forward.

“You know, don’t you John, that until Hanse turned up here last week I had only ever met him once before?”

Well duh, it was kinda a huge plot point driving much of ‘Warrior: En-Garde’. Involving you indirectly putting a large number of people at risk and getting a chunk of others killed pulling your ass out of the fire I thought silently.
“Yes, on Terra, during the FedCom treaty signing” was all I said out loud, chiding myself after a moment for judging Melissa that harshly. Frankly, more blame needed to rest on her mother for not taking a hell of a lot more care organizing the trip with appropriate precautions.

“When I was only twelve” she confirmed. “He was very nice to me, didn’t talk down to me and the whole thing was all sort of fairy tale and romantic” she said with a distant sort of smile on her face as she seemed to drift back to that momentous meeting. “I don’t think I really understood the sphere shattering consequences of that agreement then - not sure I even really understand it now. I was going to marry a man I had barely met and start an entire new dynasty that was going to change the history of the Inner Sphere. All these expectations on both of us and I had so little to go on about him, how we would make this actually work…”

I didn't offer any response as none seemed called for, simply waiting silently as she took a breath and continued, bringing her attention back.

“We sent messages back and forth and Ardan, bless him, told me so much about him when he was on Tharkad. All the private and secret things about a person you never find in the vids. And Mother did what she could … but this was still a man I was going to marry; a man I felt I barely even knew. Worse, only a handful of people actually knew it, meaning I had to deal with all the young men trying to court me and win my hand without giving the truth away”.

“For what it’s worth...” I said slowly as I tried to frame my thoughts in a way that wouldn’t sound insulting or condescending, “your marriage to Hanse Davion, from ‘my’ side of the fence’, noted those difficulties. The role you had to play, what was expected of you” I said causing Melissa to look up to me with an expression I couldn’t place, wordlessly encouraging me to continue. “I mean, Hanse Davion was the designated hero of the setting and the only House Lord to not talk about marriage with you as a prerequisite for any kind of peace ... yet he and your mother decided to try for it. Which left you, well …”

“Being sold off to a man two and a half times my age with enormous peer pressure -for the best of intentions of course - to make it work regardless of my own wishes on the matter?” Melissa asked with a sort of sad smile that struck my heart.

“Essentially? Yes” I replied with a sympathetic smile back … and instantly found out that was the wrong answer.

Oww!
What the…
did … did she just kick-
Ouch!

Yes she did - damnit! She just did it again!

“So you’re why Hanse was going out of his way to tell me that I didn’t have to go through with the marriage” she accused me darkly as I rapidly slid down the lounge out of range, her glare tracking me and instantly making me regret said lounge wasn’t longer as I crashed into the armrest while she stood up, the goofy teenager nowhere to be seen and in her place nothing less than her mother's daughter.
 

Heimdall! Save me! Crazy Archon at twelve o’clock!

“We spent quite a bit of time together over the last few days, the first two or three hours of which I had to spend convincing he and my Mother that I really did want to get married to him. Hanse seems to have gotten the impression from someone” she grated with a look that could have critted a Dire Wolf, “that I might not want to get married to him!”
Her glare seemed to double in intensity.
You seemed determined to ruin my wedding plans Mister Smith...” she said, her tone deepening ominously.


“For the record” I defended myself, words spilling out quickly as the clearly pissed off young woman stepped around the table to glare down at me, fighting to keep some composure as I found a way to return her gaze, “it all just came out of a conversation with Ardan Sortek noting that hypothetically if you trusted Morgan Hasek-Davion’s loyalty, a match between the two formal heirs, you and he, would purely from a public sense make sense if …” and I let my rambling trail off as I saw her face was twitching.

Then the moment shattered

The cold Steiner winter promising death by frostbite vanished in an instant as she burst out laughing, covering her mouth with her hands as she was wracked with mirth. I stared dumbfounded as she flopped back down to the lounge next to me … and I realized she had just trolled the hell out of me.

Melissa Steiner had just trolled the hell out of me.

Okay, I admit it, did not see that one coming.

“You’re screwing with me” I deadpanned and her ear to ear grin answered that question as I leaned back into the soft leather, closing my eyes and feeling my heart pounding in my chest. I gave thanks for the fact that my cardiovascular system was apparently in excellent shape according to the geeks at NAIS because honestly, I felt my stress levels were ramping blood pressure right up every time a Steiner decided to talk to me here.
I opened my eyes again with some of my composure back, Melissa also having calmed down to be regarding me in a composed manner, if with a bit of a smile on her face.

“I was. Mostly. But I … well …” she trailed off before taking a deep breath and meeting my gaze squarely. “I’m here mostly because I wanted to thank you, John. It meant a lot to me that you were willing to challenge Hanse on my agency in Federated Commonwealth accords” she explained as she gathered her impressive and no doubt incredibly expensive dress to sit down carefully next to me - and I’ll admit I felt my face flush slightly at the sheer sincerity in her bearing before her expression shifted once again as she turned away to look off into the distance, her body language turning almost …vulnerable?
If nothing else it was the first time since she barged in that she actually looked to to be sixteen going on seventeen as she brought her hands together, clasping them tightly as if to steady herself. “Thanks to your little trip to Helm, Hanse and I had the opportunity to get together and talk. A lot” she mused with a bit of a faint smile. “But only after he gave me the copies of your ‘Battletech’ books to read and a day to take it all in”.

“That must have been … something” I noted with sympathy and hidden shame - marveling that she was able to face me like this knowing full well that I had, after a fashion, invaded her most personal and private thoughts. “When Ardan Sortek, Quintus Allard and Prince Davion read just the first book I sent them as my, for lack of a better word, bonafides … well, Ardan told me later he went for the nearest bottle without even bothering to read the label”.

“Mother had a similar sort of reaction” she agreed, her smile turning somewhat wry as her gaze came back to me. “Hanse insisted I read them -and some of your notes- before we talked. Saying that as they had let him see inside so much of my mind, I damn well deserved to see inside his before we talked about the future. And after that, well, looking into the face of a person who had seen deeper into me than I would ever let alone … and looking into his eyes and seeing behind ‘The Fox’ to the man I had read behind the legend? I don’t think I can quite describe what that was like. But then, just like that, we started talking. And talking and talking more and more about anything and everything. All of my masks, denials and excuses gone until suddenly it just hit me …” she trailed off, her gaze elevating to the roof for a moment … then back down to me … and I felt I would be lucky to get off with third degree burns from the fire blazing in her eyes now.
“It hit me right then, right there that I wanted to take Hanse Davion’s hand, seize history by the throat and face down all the problems you warned us about and take up the challenge in front of me. To make things turn out better for everyone this time around” she said in a tone that left not even a Heisenberg Uncertainty worth of doubt that she meant what she said.
Then she paused and her expression took on more than a tinge of exasperation.
“And then, in that moment as everything was so clear, Hanse told me he would never force me into anything I didn’t want and he would absolutely and fully support me and Morgan-Hasek Davion if I wanted to look towards a union of the Realms in that manner” she deadpanned before expelling air in a huff that said ‘Men!’ without needing to actually say it.

“I take it you, uh, let him know how that proposal made you feel?” I felt very carefully, trying to avoid the glower being redirected at me.
Instead, at my question it faded away back to a smile. A happy, girly almost giddy smile as she shook her head, her eyes dancing.

“That’s the thing John … I didn’t need to” she said in wonder. “I didn’t need to say a thing. I just stared into his eyes and he stared into mine. It must have been good, I don’t know, twenty seconds? Maybe a minute? We didn’t say a word, not one word - even my Mother kept absolutely silent, just watching us. But I knew that I wanted this … and I knew that he knew I did. And then” she said, her smile growing and the young woman seeming to almost want to burst, “he kept looking straight as me as he slid the chair back, came around the side of the table, got down on one knee in front of me and, well …” she trailed off as her hands untangled and she lifted her left hand up to show off -

“Jesus H Christ, look at the size of that rock!” I spluttered in unabashed awe at the diamond sitting in pride of place on a golden band on her left ring finger.
I mean holy crap it was huge, a diamond worthy of a Lyran Princess I suppose. Somehow capturing the rooms light, sucking it in and expelling it in a rainbow halo around her hand in an refraction effect I had never seen before ...
Clearly, the Neo-Feudal nobility of the Inner Sphere had not let advanced jewelry fabrication technology fall into Lostech if they could make that!

“So, uh, did you say yes?”

Kick.

I’m totally gonna have a bruise there tomorrow for sure. But even so, this time the kick was more playful, the sheer happiness on Melissa’s face … well, it just seemed to burn away my ‘Bah Humbug!’ attitude of the night with a terrifying ease, speaking casually to the adoration this woman had earned across the Federated Commonwealth over her life in the Battletech universe.
And very clearly, one who was more than capable of standing up for herself and determined enough to get what she wanted.
“Melissa, I’m happy for you - both of you. Congratulations” I said after I found my voice, knowing that sure the marriage was already long arranged, but technically Hanse had only just proposed and she had only just accepted ... so it felt appropriate to say as much.
It was confirmed as the right choice second later as she beamed at me with a smile that I reckoned had a fifty-fifty chance of bringing a dead puppy back to life.

“Thank you John” she said simply before her smile turned slightly mischievous. “And thus, you join the conspiracy”.

“... Which one? I seem to have become entangled in several since I materialized in this universe” I pointed out with a confused blink and she rolled her eyes as if it was obvious.

“My Fiance and I are having a very exclusive engagement party tonight!” she explained. “And you’re invited!”

“Uh, aren't you both at the whole Christmas shindig thing tonight?” I noted. “And isn’t the engagement an absolute state secret of the same order as me?

“Yupppp!” she agreed with a grin and hard ‘P’. “But what only I, Mother, Ardan, Patrick, Hanse and now you know is that, in reality, this Christmas party is actually a celebration for our engagement cunningly disguised as a Christmas party to avoid attention!”.

The claim was so absurdly crazy and delivered with such a straight face that I couldn’t help but laugh and reach up to facepalm, shaking my head.

“And besides” she added, her voice softening and lowering in volume, “no-one should be alone on Christmas Eve if they have people who want them around, no matter how much they might think they want to be alone” she said in a tone that caused me to sharply glance up in a reflexive defensiveness … that smashed straight into the full force of that ‘Melissa Steiner 8D6+10 charisma gaze’ and promptly put up the white flag.

“Didn’t take you that long to psychoanalyze me down to the core” I muttered in what tried to be a miffed tone but honestly, came out as more embarrassed than anything, feeling like I was a child sulking in my room … being called out on it.
By a teenager. Half my age.

“Actually it was Ardan Sortek” she corrected me, as she carefully but with a distantly regretful expression carefully removed her incredible engagement ring and placed it into a velvet pouch. “He was, frankly, worried about you being alone this Christmas and, well, so was everyone else who knows you’re here”.

“I don’t think exposing me to the Royal Court is exactly a subtle-”

“John” her exasperation cut me off like a switch had been thrown, her eyes rolling in a gloriously dramatic way, “there are thousands of people packed into the court and about half of them are assorted -if you’ll please forgive me such a horrible word- ‘commoners’. You’ll be perfectly anonymous. Besides” she said, her smile turning into a smirk, “my Mother is expecting you in” she checked a watch on her wrist that probably cost as much as a Locust from all the bling I could see on it - “twenty minutes at my extremely exclusive celebration of my engagement and if you don’t show up...”

Melissa Steiner Rolls Intimidation Check;  6,6,6,6,6,6,6,6 + 10 = 58, against John; 1, 1, 1 + 2 = 5;
Melissa Steiner critical success!


“Okay, okay!” I held up my hands in surrender, finding myself on my feet without even realizing I had stood.
Man, was the thought of Katrina Steiner getting pissed at me that much of a intimidating threat?


Yes. Yes it was.

But at the same time, deep down where I would deny it, there was something that made me almost want to start crying for the fact that some of the most powerful people in the Inner Sphere … well; they cared enough to want to drag me out of my sulking room to celebrate Christmas Eve with them under this silly pretense of an engagement party.
I had to turn for a second, hastily clearly my throat until I controlled my composure that had started to slip at that, Melissa in turn very tactfully busying herself in carefully putting her engagement ring away into a cunningly hidden pocket in her dress, charmingly right over her heart.

“Good” she said when I turned back and with that, the Archon designate carefully slipped her elegant heels back on and swished back to her feet, striding confidently across the room to the walk in closet as I slowly gathered myself and followed.
She dove inside without hesitation, emerging scant seconds later with what seemed to be the 31st century equivalent of a tuxedo, placing it onto several convenient hooks before turning to give me a pointedly commanding look.

Nineteen minutes, ten seconds - don’t be late” she said with a charming yet commanding superior smile before turning to vanish down the hall with a smile.

I heard the door open, close, then I was alone.
Brat I dared to think in my head as I took a breath, centered myself and started to get dressed.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: worktroll on 10 August 2018, 23:00:04
Nicely done, and great to see more!

In what condition is Book 2 - scattered files on your phone? ;)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 11 August 2018, 03:32:26
Very nicely done!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 11 August 2018, 04:39:33
Great update. I laughed as I read about Melissa kicking him every time he said the wrong thing. ;D :beer:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 11 August 2018, 04:46:04
Absolutely wonderful :) A brilliant, well written, endearing and very amusing pair of updates :D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 12 August 2018, 00:54:42
Holy crap! Love want more must have more!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tyrchon on 13 August 2018, 16:27:37
This has been quite the enjoyable read.  The SI is not an overpowered gary-stu showing both consternation and caution over whether to interfere, how far to go, and what changes could mean.  You have a nice touch when it comes to adding details and characterization and also keep a nice flow to your plot so that even jumps in time feel fluid.  I will definitely keep an eye on this particular story.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Siden Pryde on 14 August 2018, 14:30:48
Awesomesauce.  Loved your portrayal of Melissa.  She's always been one of my favourite BT personalities and you gave her a lot of character.  Well written, enjoyable to read, and I am eagerly awaiting the next installment.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ckosacranoid on 15 August 2018, 13:55:07
I love the updates and Missy is quiet fun to read after kicking the crap out of our hero and and then dragging him out and about. That was funny with her getting him to open up and the thoughts from her about her and Hanse talking and really getting to know each other well before cannon is nice.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 27 August 2018, 08:04:20
So one final update to finally close out this book.
It's going to be politically heavy, so if you want hot mech on mech action, uh ... sorry!



***
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Chapter 10: Tweedledee and Tweedledum - or just dumb and dumber?


I had never put on a Tux in my life … and now I had been given a deadline to get into one and wear it walking into a ****** Neo-Feudal Royal Court-
No, no no! Bad word.


Mental note, NEVER use ‘deadline’ in a sentence in anything related to a command from Katrina Steiner.

Still, I was able to put on the unfamiliar suit quicker than I anticipated, taking a moment to admire myself in the full length mirror built into the walk-in closets door. The white shirt was excellent quality if relatively plain, but a Steiner-Blue cummerbund added a neat little splash of color, as did the polished brass buttons on the jacket.
Of course, if the specific shade of blue identified me in some fashion with House Steiner…
Well in either case … I decided I looked
awesome if I did say so myself, as I slipped on the jacket after fussing the bow-tie into place.

“Bond … James Bond” I tried in my best faux Connery, before my reflection gave me a ‘seriously?’ look at how bad that was.

Very glad no-one had seen that, I turned away and headed for the door. A second after closing the door behind me, I realized I didn’t have the first clue how I would get to the Throne Room, let alone get admission to it without an invitation - or Morgan Kell’s note.
Shrugging after a moment, I made for the nearby elevators that would take me down to the lower floor entrances, reasoning that if the powers that be were
expecting me…
My assumption proved accurate when I found a man waiting by said elevator who clicked his heels together, greeted me as ‘Herr Smith’ and informed me he would be delighted to escort me to the Yule Festival.
Seriously, my skepticism and misgivings around these neo-feudal systems aside, I have to admit that having hot and cold running servants desperate to throw themselves over the smallest puddles in the road rather than let your feet get wet … well, it was kinda addictive.
We entered the elevator and said servant took out a key on a chain attached to his belt, inserted and twisted it … and
that caused a small recess to pop out above the level buttons. He promptly leaned in to it and - oh, it was a retinal scanner? Pretty high-tech for 3026 Battletech, but then this was The Triad. A quick scan latter several additional buttons on the control panel lit up and he hit the one labeled ‘B7’. The elevator car dropped swiftly past ground, heading towards what I presumed was a vehicle bay for a quick drive over through the winter air. But instead of opening on a garage, the doors opened on - holy shit, I just walked into Versailles.

I mean, I had never actually been to Versailles, back on Earth. It had been one of those ‘bucket list’ things I always wanted to do in life when I finally got over to Europe. The grandeur and glory of the French nobility at its height maintained carefully through the French Revolution and two World Wars to the present day.

Come to think of it, I suppose that the vast majority of my ‘bucket list’ would forever be denied to me now, I rather doubted Disneyland still stood after all. But after this?


Yeah, I could probably defacto tick ‘Versailles Hall of Mirrors’ off that list now. And then some.

This, according to my guide who ushered me out and started walking me along the gently curving passage at a quite brisk pace, was the Private Corridor for the Steiner family to make their way to and from the Throne Room or Royal Court, a giant ring under the Triad.
And if this was a simple private service tunnel, I didn’t know what it said about the Steiner family … well, except perhaps ‘We have the money. ALL the money!!!’
The floor was a white marble threaded with veins of crimson, the centerline of which was covered in a Steiner Blue carpet. White too was the color of the walls, but it was offset with generous broad amounts of gold leaf paint. The vaulted ceiling above was painted with a
continuous work of art that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the roof of the Sistine Chapel by my reckoning and perhaps most strikingly, the outer wall was one giant and continuous strip of a flawless mirror, interrupted only by the occasional door.

Just … wow.

My escort was also perfectly happy to play tour guide as we moved briskly along, pointing out some of the incredible treasures of the Steiner family, set in small alcoves or mounted on the inner side of the passage. Items of such value and historical significance that I had to stop my jaw dropping open as they were pointed out one after the other.
I mean, I just walked past the framed handwritten letters sent back and forth between Tracial Steiner and Ian Cameron, negotiating the joining of the Lyran Commonwealth with the Star League! Hanging in a glorified private tunnel and simply waved away as if it was
nothing by my guide!

Was it that after so many centuries, the Steiners had picked up so much stuff that even something like that wasn’t worthy of ‘front row’ seats upstairs? Or was this a message from the Steiners of the past to the Steiners of the present? Reminding them of their families position and pride and accomplishments or some bullshit like that as they walked to the ‘business’ part of The Triad?

Whatever the case, I can say without a doubt that the purpose of the passage was to overawe me, it gave it a very good shot.
But it wasn’t the last time tonight I would be left stunned.



***
******
***

I of course had a general sort of idea about what the Lyran Throne room looked like. My memories of Battletech didn’t include any canon illustrations, but I had seen it on the Vid today, even if the focus had been pretty tightly on the Throne and area around it.
A little chatting with my guide explained to me that the Throne Room where this ‘invitational’ was taking place as opposed to the Ball Rooms in the Royal Court, was a large floor space flanked by two extended wings. The top of said wings were tiered seating, like a stadium, providing public seating for major court events to view the going ons on the floor of the Royal Court where the nobles and VIPs fussed. And under the raised seating were two lowered levels of comparable floor space, with gentle flights of stairs linking them to the main floor. Generally closed off day to day, but fully opened up tonight to provide maximum floor space and it was into the Eastern one of those I entered.

My entrance was unheralded through a service door into the wing, slipped in with a bunch of servants carrying drinks whose casual screening of me and dispersion into the crowd suggested quietly slipping people into the Royal Court without notice was a major part of their job. And thus finally alone and left to my own devices, I casually sort of started to look around, taking the measure of tonight’ dignitaries as I did.



Seriously, did I just walk onto the set of The Hunger Games?

Not kidding; the guests around me looked like they could have just walked out of one of President Snow’s Capital parties, with a riot of outlandish and exotic outfits and colors and hairstyles and makeup which I think were supposed to represent regional fashions? It was like the MTV music awards meets Tribeca Film Festival in its own way and it in a moment made me extremely aware how out of place I was.
Not because of my clothes per se - there were plenty of men wearing very similar styles mind you so I fit right in in that sense. Rather, it was the fact that I was brutally reminded I was a 21st century middle class professional walking into the Throne Room of a 31st century feudal power filled with nobles, one encompassing hundreds of star systems and hundreds of billions of people.
For all my knowledge about this universe, knowledge that included things that had driven Ardan Sortek (for about five minutes) to drink, stunned Quintus Allard and actually left Hanse Davion speechless … I was a complete and utter noob in this space. The million and one social cues and royal protocols the people around me were taught from day one, no-one had ever seemed to see the need to tell me. Even on New Avalon I had actually been pretty isolated in the palace, working with professional intelligence and military personnel with next to no exposure to the Royal Court itself.
But this?
Dealing with Hanse and Katrina (despite the fact that they were kind of the ultimate expression of this entire system) was actually straight forward enough. They were professionals, I was professional. They knew exactly who and what I was, we all wanted the same thing and we were working towards the same goal.
But dealing with the nobility at court? Was this really something I could do?



As a matter of fact, yes. Yes it was.

I surprised myself by quashing my first instinct to freeze or find a very dark corner to hide in and try not to be noticed, chiding myself for the self-pity as I thought back to Melissa’s brief conversation with me. About how my actions had impacted her.
It was one thing to dump my load of knowledge and reality on Katrina and Hanse. Hanse, Katrina, Ardan, Quintus; they were all titans of Battletech in 3025. Experienced elites in their fields of expertise, confident in themselves, skilled and hardened by war and politics for a long time. My revelations and presence had cleared shocked them all, but they had adapted, taking my disruptions in stride and shaping them to their advantage. But while I was bouncing my way through Hyperspace from Helm, Melissa - a sixteen year old – had lost any privacy over and confronted directly about the doubts and second guessing going on in her head that had hounded her through the ‘Warrior Trilogy’.
Directly and bluntly.
Not to mention all the future actions. The people killed in the Silver Eagle incident alone due to her choices must have been one hell of a thing to confront for a teenager over. So while it seemed that she, her mother and Hanse had been forced to sit down and talk through all their issues in the open ... I felt that behind that enthusiastic kicking and fake glowering there was still an uncertain person coming to grips with the weight of the future I had placed onto her shoulders.
Sure, there was clearly a genuine desire and will to blaze a trail through history hand in hand with Hanse. Any idiot could see that. But there was also a growing understanding of the sheer mass of the expectations and consequences being thrust upon her.

And yet, despite all of that. Despite everything I had -unapologetically- dumped onto her through sheer necessity … Melissa Steiner had nonetheless taken time out to engage with me. The ‘Princess’, her Mother and the others ‘in the know’ of me had clearly decided it was unacceptable that I was lurking in my room and despite everything else they had to worry about; they had taken the time to send in the shock troops and beat me up until I came downstairs to join them.

Simply put; they had refused to let me spend Christmas Eve alone in my room.

So yes, I would put my best foot forward and not find a corner to hide in. If a sixteen year old kid could deal with everything I had thrusted onto her shoulders, then I could surely fumble my way through this.

And who knows? Maybe, just maybe, I might even enjoy myself!

This wing of the Throne Room seemed tonight to have been given over to where the food was served, a near continuous sort of table running along the length of it covered in food and attended by an army of servants constantly in motion. Countless stand up tables were scattered across the rest of this wings floor space with groups were clustered around the tables by the dozen, standing together and enjoying themselves with good food, good drink and good company. Large holovids mounted on the walls and from the ceiling were switching between various shots of the main floor and the mood was definitely festive. An almost unwilling smile came across my face as I picked out a brassy, upbeat instrumental of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ coming clearly through over the buzz of the conversation as I threaded my way through the crowds mulling around, exchanging nods with a surprisingly large number of people as I walked past -and even a couple of ‘Merry Christmas!’ greetings that made me increasingly suspicious that the Tux Melissa had picked out for me did somehow mark me as someone Katrina Steiner designated a personal guest.
Well either that or some of the people here had had a little too much to drink.
Or both.

Well, no point worrying about that now I thought as I approached the other side of the wing, which bordered the Throne Rooms main court. The main floor was about two meters above this one and dozens of sets of steps down the rooms length allowed easy access to and from it. Gaily (in the classical Christmas sense) decorated columns lined the boundary where the gap between floor and ceiling of this wing narrowed and, gloriously, it seemed each of said columns a servant posted there with a drinks tray. So I wound my way across and up the steps, returning polite nods and smiles from people before I swiped a flute of sparkling wine as I stepped out onto the floor of the Throne Room ‘proper’, glancing up idly as I came out from under the wings roof-
Holy. Shit.
I had never suffered from vertigo. But as my gaze locked with the massive ceiling above me, well, I couldn’t help but feel I was in immediate danger of ‘falling up’...

The roof of the Throne room was dominated by a massive dome in the center of it, one so large it took up perhaps half of the total roof area. Huge and impossible single panes of a transparent material letting in the night sky were held in an almost delicate looking web of …
No.
Seriously, no.
That couldn’t possibly be … solid gold?!

...

Could it?!


 
No, impossible I dismissed the thought as I forced my jaw to un-drop with a distinct click. It had to be a real structural material just … covered with a solid Gold layer on top.

On reflection, that still sounded ludicrous.

I broke my attention away from the roof to take in the wider room and found it just as stunning. The entire room was done up in an arctic theme. The great columns that lined the long room were draped with silvery cloth and everywhere I turned it looked like ice was artfully clinging to the walls and columns. I reached out to brush my hand against what by all means looked like ice and found it felt like glass or crystal, just shaped exquisitely to look like real pure ice. The floodlights in the vast hall had also seemingly been tuned to give a slightly blue tint to everything and directly under the dome in the middle of the floor was a frigen gigantic Christmas tree. I was sure that had not been there at the press conference, reaching easily five or six stories up and decorated in an artic theme of silver, blue and gold on top of its green leafs with what I hoped was fake snow lightly dusted over it.
I’d bet it was a real tree though, not a plastic fake or anything common like that!
Although I had to roll my eyes at the ****** Cameron Star on the top of it. Now there was an idea for chaos, have someone ask Hanse and Katrina together which of them was First Lord again?

No John. That’s a bad John!

“Bloody hell” I muttered out loud as I deliberately redirected my gaze up from the tree to the dome, once again reeling and shaking my head slowly, probably talking a bit too loudly given my exasperation, “are the Steiners genetically incapable of doing anything small?!”

A bark of laughter behind me at that comment told me I had been overheard and I winced for a moment as I planted my foot in my mouth.
I schooled my expression back though and turned to meet whoever it was … and was pleasantly surprised - and relieved - by the revelation of who it was.
The man behind me was wearing a Kell Hounds dress uniform. Red and black it was rather clever in its design; cut so that when the jacket was closed as it was now, it formed the distinctive head of the rather vicious looking canine that was the symbol of their unit, its ears reaching up onto his shoulders. The silver rank insignia of a captain - or Hauptmann in Lyran parlance - sat at his throat and far below his I could see he wore the Davion style spurs of a MechWarrior.
It was a very different idea of a formal uniform compared with my expectations of formal military dress from back home - or the classic style of the Great House militaries for that matter, but in the riot of colors and styles tonight in the Court tonight, seemed to fit right in - as did the man wearing it.

“Hauptmann Allard” I greeted the man with some surprise and pleasure - even as the inner cynic in me rejected the idea that Quintus Allards son had just so happened to meet me by accident as I walked out. Not that I objected mind you; having a wingman (or perhaps a Lancemate was the correct terminology) with me tonight would be very welcome. “A Merry Christmas to you” I extended my hand which he took firmly.

“And to you Mister Smith” he smiled back as he shook my hand. “And yes” he added, glancing around, “I think it’s something of a point of pride that the Throne Room of the Archon is by far the biggest in the Inner Sphere. Personally though, I think it might be a tad over the top”.

“It’s impressive none the less” I admitted, taking a sip of my Champaign. “Plenty of places for Katrina to pile up her paperwork” I noted with a glance around, recalling idly that The Bitch back in the lead up to splitting the Lyran side of the Commonwealth had sat in a chair next to Victors throne as his regent … and used it to store paperwork on, in a calculated insult of how little she thought of him.

“I suppose that’s true” Allard smiled amiably. “Although she’s rarely here. According to Colonel Kell, the Archon doesn’t use the Throne Room even a fraction as much as Alessandro Steiner used to”.

“That doesn’t surprise me” I agreed with a snort and I gestured at the distant chair off the questioning look. “Alessandro - especially towards the end - was probably so uncertain of his shrinking powerbase that he would feel the need to reinforce it quite blatantly by sitting on his Throne. Katrina on the other hand probably has far better things to do than waste time sitting on a chair for the cameras” I said and Allard grunted in agreement at that. “Of course” I allowed looking past the throne to the two titans protecting it, “this room does have some advantages. There are probably days in politics when it's good to have a pair of Donal PPCs at your back”.

“True” Dan laughed. “Although why they’ve persisted in keeping long range fire support machines in the position of close bodyguards inside a building ...” Allard shook his head, an air of professional exasperation coming over him that I thought was a rather valid point.

“Tradition I suppose?” I shrugged, trying to remember when the two massive war machines had been introduced. I think it was after one of the Archons got spooked by an assassination attempt – but even so it was a bit silly. I mean, in one sense it didn’t really matter; squishy humans vaporized just as easily inside the minimal focusing range of the PPC, but the LRM rack was hardly useful indoors. And God help them if a bored pilot accidently stretched out and kicked the jump jet pedals …
Although I’d admit that the image of a Griffin hanging stuck in ceiling with its head and shoulders sticking out of the roof and its legs wildly kicking in the air above Katrina, with her face palming far below as her courtiers ran around screaming in a panic…

Presently the not half bad rendition of ‘Good King Wenceslas’ came to an end and a polite rolling wave of applause washed through the crowd as I joined in automatically. Glancing around I finally noticed that up in the otherwise empty ‘stadium’ seating above us towards the front of the room, there was something of a compact orchestra worth of musicians with a choir in support (no pre-recorded music for the Archons party, no Sir!) who, after a moment, started a new song. The vocalists singing about something involving Jumpships and Christmas tidings?
Yeah, no idea about that one … but it had a catchy, jazzy sort of beat you could click your fingers to, so … not half bad?

“There are some very impressive Christmas displays setup at the front of the other wing that I think you might enjoy if you wanted to have a look?” Allard suggested and I gestured for him to lead the way as I fell into step with him, making small talk as we went that had absolutely nothing to do with Helm, noting the artwork on display along the midline of this half of the room the room as we approached and then rounded the massive Christmas tree, triggering an odd sense of dejavu…
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 27 August 2018, 08:05:42
One of my favorite missions back in the MechWarrior 2 games had to be ‘Warning Shot’. An exceptional example of level design and setting the atmosphere, it was one of the few missions in which the soundtrack was completely silent (if that was a bug it was truly the ‘art by accident’ principle in action) and set in a late dusk sort of light. Pirate hunting coreward of the FRR as reports of a mysterious silence spreading over the region started to come out...
I remembered my play through. Perfectly simple sweep and destroy it seemed, even with the scant intel. Insert, scout the region for the enemy airbase, blow it to bits and meet up with our dropship that would be landing to set up a temporary field base for the rest of the campaign.
The entire mission took place in the shadow of a massive mountain called the ‘devils peak’ as we slowly wound our way around it to find the enemy airbase on the far side. An enemy Catapult and Orion would power up along with a patrolling Panther if we hadn’t killed him yet.  Without slowing down, my Lance had swept through them like a hot knife through butter, turning torsos to blast the buildings in passing. Objective; completed! And with that, it was time to walk to our dropships LZ … three klicks away. And so, naturally, my unease had built on my first playthrough as I continued to stomp forward in the harsh orange of thermal optics, the flank speed of Assault Mechs genuinely annoying because a sixth sense was telling me I needed to go faster! Correctly as it turned out because before I’d covered even a third of the distance to the LZ, two ‘UNKNOWN DROPSHIP’ contacts sweept across my path far ahead and a voice come over the radio.

‘Inner Sphere barbarians! Call your name, family and unit designation!’

That line prefaced the Clan Invasion crashing into the game and Inner Sphere; the entire game universe changing in that moment as a star of Omnimechs dropped and started blasting me from obscene weapons ranges, leaving me in the fight of my life.

That I won, naturally. AI aint no match for MW2 jump jet abuse even with Clantech!

Of course, in much later playthroughs it became much less a case of ‘skin crawling sensation as I feel that I’m in way over my head’ and more ‘glee as my Min-Maxing in the best traditions of Battletech resulted in a quartet of Arrow-IV missiles streaking past my Atlas to blow the lead Nova and Summoner into salvage, with gleeful taunts of ‘YOU GET AN ARROW! AND YOU GET AN ARROW! EVERYONE GETS ARROWS!’ delivered to their pixelated Trashborn faces.

And right here, right now, as I rounded the massive Christmas Tree looming like a green ‘Devils Peak’ above me, that exact same original skin-crawling sensation came back to me as two hostile contacts emerged from its shadow and cut with casual ease across and into our path. And for the first time since I had emerged into this universe I felt a stab of anxiety cut into me as I came face to face with people I would undeniably count as enemies of what I stood for - and who I stood by.

Well, one enemy and one … to be decided.

“Ah Captain Allard - a pleasure to see you this evening” Aldo Lestrade smiled broadly as he came to a precise halt in our path, forcing us to halt in turn - all very natural looking of course. “I must extend to you my complements at your unit’s remarkable success”.

“Thank you your Grace” Dan said politely - if he was on edge I didn’t know him enough to see it. “It was a team effort”.

“Of course” the leader of the official -and unofficial- parts of Free Skye continued as if the Captain hadn’t spoken, “I have to admit I was quite put out when I heard the Kell Hounds were being pulled off Chara from my people there, with no-one bothering to send me so much as a HPG message about it through channels. One of the best units in Skye simply vanishing without a trace was, I must admit, quite a worrying report to receive. Especially after” he added, with the briefest of glances at me, “we were lead to believe that the vaunted Davion Heavy Guard would be ‘lurking’ in the region to either attack into the Combine or stand ready to crush any raids made, which could have provoked Kuritan probes in turn” he frowned petulantly.

“The 6th Donegal had a reinforced Battalion on the ground of Chara within a fortnight of our departure” Allard pointed out tactfully, clearly used to these verbal games with nobles. “And as the Kell Hounds are actually under contract directly to the Archon” the MechWarrior added, “we were operating well within our chain of command. And I’m sure you do not doubt the value of what we accomplished My Lord?”

“As given that the Archon and First Prince are playing a very cagey game on exactly what we brought back it’s hard to say” the older man smiled thinly. “But certainly it does seem that for minimal losses we have enriched our realm … both our realms” he conceded after a moment's pause and glance at me -was he was expecting me to interject? - “a great deal. Of course, how the Dragon and Eagle will react to this...?” he shrugged enigmatically. “Well, we will see I suppose. Still I truly hope that in future, Captain, the Archon will at least consult with the people on the front line that are impacted by her decisions and the Hounds will pass on such information. It’s disappointing in light of her constant promises to work with the people of Skye, then showing she doesn’t trust us by going behind our backs like this...”
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes (self-control roll successful!) at his carefully prepared bitching but luckily Dan was unsurprisingly his Father's son in more than one respect as he remained calm in turn and simply smiled back at the Duke, clearly able to fight a verbal battle on these grounds.

“I’ve found, Your Grace, that secrecy and security are rarely about trust per se Dan countered, “but about having a need to know. Given the time critical nature of this race for the Lostech on Helm and the danger that any leak in the message chain could have triggered a two or even three way race for the cache? Well, I’m sure you can appreciate that using a unit that would bypass most of the LCAF command to minimize the risk of interception of orders makes a great deal of sense”.

“You’re suggesting that the Archon doesn’t trust her own chain of command?” Lestrade tutted with a shake of his head and an ‘alarmed’ smirk. “What a terrible thing to contemplate, Captain”

“In my experience, the Archon actually extends great trust towards those who wear the uniform and have proven themselves in the service of the Commonwealth Duke Lestrade” Dan noted, the unsaid -and socially deniable- implication that as Lestrade had completely avoided military service he was thus excluded from that list … but it clearly hit home in the way Aldo’s smile became much thinner. “But I have found in my experience that ‘trust’ has little to nothing to do with ‘need to know’. My Father” Dan nodded off towards the front of the Throne Room “always says that the percentage chance of a secret being exposed, in the long run, is equal to the square of the number of people who know about it. No matter how much we may trust people, none of us underestimate the skill of the ISF” he noted, turning slightly to the stone faced man flanking the Duke of Summer. “I’m sure, Colonel, that you are in full agreement that information security is absolutely vital to maintaining operational security?”

“Of course” Frederick Steiner nodded stiffly in full agreement before suddenly he blinked and didn’t quite turn to look at the Duke of Summer as he realized he had just thrown shade at his patron. “The Duke Lestrade's loyalty is beyond question, of course” he added, not quite hastily.

“Of course” Dan agreed with a nod. “His loyalty to Skye and its people is legendary, so I’ve seen on the ground on Pacifica” Dan said, not twisting the knife so much as flicking him on the nose with the hyper-specific reference to Skye rather than the Commonwealth at a whole.

“And we look forward to welcoming you back there of course” Lestrade smiled, having seemingly instantly recovered from the back and forth … but there was a gleam in his eye I didn’t like. “And in this time of such grim news for them, I hope - no, I know - the people of Skye extend their best wishes for you and your family”.

Dan frowned at that and my mind wondered at - oh shit I thought as it hit me what the man was talking about, feeling a surge of contempt as I turned back to face the Duke.

You petty ****** [/I]I fumed silently.

“I’m sorry your Grace, I’m not sure what you mean?” Dan asked carefully and the look on Lestrade's face immediately switched from sincere to shocked to sympathetic (all three utterly fake I knew but full credit for how real they looked) in a matter of seconds.

“Oh...” he muttered as if genuinely shocked before taking a deep breath I’m sure he didn’t need to steady himself. “I’m … I just assumed your Father would have told you when he saw you…” he continued drawing it out as I worked my jaw to keep silent - a reaction I cursed myself for giving away as I saw Lestrade note it and turned to face me. “That MIIO would have let you know?”
I kept my mouth shut but tried my best to glare with my eyes through my otherwise bland expression to the point of missing the pointed MIIO label for a few seconds before I dismissed it as something to worry about later.

Dan shot me a look for a second before turning back to Lestrade. “Pray tell, what would he have told me?” he said directly in a calm voice but with the slightest edge to it.

“I’m sorry to be the one to tell you” he lied, “but your half-brother, Justin, was badly injured in a battle late November on Kittery and Medivaced to NAIS” the Duke twisted the knife in behind his expression of solemn regret. “The news arrived to Pacifica after the Kell Hounds had been pulled out and without forwarding information, it was diverted back to theater command on Summer for us to try and track you down. If we had had known where the Hounds were going...” he apologetically shrugged and sighed in an excellent imitation of regret.

I’d give Dan Allard credit - the man was clearly shocked but rallied quickly, his eyes flashing in a way that told the Duke to not press his luck. It was quite remarkable composure really, probably as much as anything about not wanting to give the ****** the satisfaction.

“I thank you for your concern - and my thanks for bringing this to my attention Duke Lestrade” Dan offered him a cool nod that the Duke returned, Allard seeming to straighten slightly as he recovered. “Given this news, I should probably go and speak with my Father”.

“But of course” the Duke agreed, clearly happy he had won his little petty parting shot. “My best wishes to your Brother of course”.

“My best wishes as well Hauptmann” Frederick added suddenly from the side with a slight uncertainty in his stance, drawing attention back to him from everyone. “Your brother is by all accounts a superior MechWarrior, it would be a great loss to the AFFS if he were not able to get back into the cockpit”.

Say what you will about Future Focht, at least you can tell he is being absolutely sincere I thought silently.

“Thank you, Duke Steiner” Justin extended a hand that the man took and shook firmly. “From a MechWarrior of your reputation that means a great deal”.
If that last was a final backhand at Lestrade or just a polite response I didn’t know but it seemed to greatly please the man who one day might smile and kick the Clans in the crotch repeatedly. Before ‘capping a bitch’ back on Terra.
“By your leave, I believe I should go find my Father” Dan said to Aldo before, without waiting for approval, he offered a nod and gave me a ‘let’s go’ look.

“Gentlemen” I nodded at each of the two men, expecting nothing more than to be ignored. And was shocked when Lestrade smiled.

“Another time Agent Smith” he nodded at me with a rather chilling smile before turning away placidly, his elegant cape swirling like a supervillains as Frederick fell into place like a loyal retainer, leaving me biting the inside of my cheek painfully for a moment at his casual use of my name before I quick stepped it to catch up to Justin.
Nope, not touching that! I’d drop it into Quintus’s lap at some point tonight or tomorrow to deal with.

“Did you know?” Dan asked me out of the side of his mouth as I fell into place next to him and I decided to thread the truth despite the clear emotion swirling in the man’s eyes. The fact that Dan didn’t know about Justin's injury was clear evidence he was not read into my compartment although that didn’t surprise me. As Dan had just pointed out to Lestrade, he didn’t have a need to know about me no matter how much his Father trusted him.

“Neither your Father or anyone else told me about this” I shook my head slightly with my mouth a thin line and Allard seemed to accept my response at face value, probably again presuming ‘need to know’ around me. And/or that if I did know, he knew I was under classification orders to not tell him from his Father.
Mostly though I was just a bit stunned by the fact that Justin had, seemingly right on time and target, again been injured on Kittery, exactly like happened in Warrior En-Garde.

And I wasn’t sure what the hell to make of that.

Quintus Allard, Justin’s Father, knew everything that would happen thanks to my sources. Knew what his Son would go through, be put through against what it accomplished … and he had seemingly not taken any action to prevent it - perhaps had even actively worked to nullify any butterflies to ensure events played out. Despite the incredible risks, the odds that something would change and he might lose his son or have him crippled for life or who knows what; he had refused to find a safer way to kick his son out of the Federated Suns in disgrace to setup the mother of all backstabs.
That was … uh …
I’d be sure to remember this for the future when dealing with him. Ruthlessness I guess was part of the job description - and even if the original Justin plan was a quick ‘hey lets flip Michaels attempt to force us to exile Justin!’ done to/with a willing patriot - now with a good idea of how incredibly it would solve so many problems … it was still a hell of a thing to put his son through.

Pushing those unpleasant thoughts to the side for now, I followed close behind Dan as he made his way towards business end of the Lyran Commonwealth with purpose, dipping back into the side wing to bypass some crowds around some of the displays -ohh they had Pizza up this end! - before emerging up much closer to the VIPs and giving me a close up look at the Throne itself. It was impressive in a way it hadn’t been on the Vid, sitting on the top of a series of elevated terraces that made it clearly visible to the entire room (or would without the Christmas tree halfway down), the massive war machine machines standing left and right of them still painted in the colors of the Kell Hounds and Davion Guards towering over everyone. The throne itself was empty of course, roped off from the rest of the room to keep people away - although frankly with the Battlemechs looming above I don’t think anyone would be stupid enough to try and sit in Katrina’s chair. On the back wall hung the banner of the Lyran Commonwealth itself directly above and behind the Throne, with the flags of the 1st and 2nd Royal Guards to the left and the banner of the 3rd to the right. There was a distinctly empty space where the banner of the 4th presumably was supposed to sit and I suppressed a smile at that before looking away to seek out our target.

I wasn’t surprised to find Katrina, Melissa, Hanse and a gaggle of other VIPs standing around together on the lower tiers above the throne room floor, sort of holding court inside the court I suppose. But I was surprised to find they were openly accessible and not being swamped by the crowd. I guessed some kind of Royal Protocol was in action - and again I felt a tinge of how hopelessly out of my depth I was.
Was there a ‘you don’t approach them, they approach or send for you’ rule in place or something?

At any rate, I spotted Quintus towards the side of the group with a cluster of suits and nudged Dan, nodding towards him. The younger Allard in turn nodded, an unasked question in his eyes that I think was ‘coming?’ that I shook my head lightly too and with no further hesitation the MechWarrior strode away with purpose to his father, who smiled in pleasure at his approach before Dan leaned in to talk quietly into his ear and Quintus’s gaze turned back to ‘poker face’. He glanced back at me past his sons back and I mouthed ‘Lestrade’ (guessing that the master spy would probably be a decent lip reader) and I saw a flash of something chilly in his eyes for a moment before he took Dan’s shoulder with a hand and led him off to the side and out of sight, probably to find a quiet back room somewhere and talk.
In all honestly, I wouldn’t give terribly good odds for the continued health of Aldo Lestrade given both how many people he was pissing off and how many of his dirty secrets had been exposed by me...

On that happy thought I glanced around, deciding that avoiding being seen with the Kings of the Castle as it were would be more sensible than not, moving off to investigate the other wing of the Throne room, to find it as Dan had promised, filled with all manner of Christmas fun as I moved down the steps into it. I couldn’t help but smile as I saw hundreds of children were enjoying Santa Clauses attention right up this end, the classic figure laughing as he handed out presents to them - after they assured him they had been good boys and girls, as their parents looked on with tolerant smiles. While further along...

Okay, I had to check all this out I decided, dropping my empty champagne flute onto a passing server’s tray and joined the winding path making its way through the next display which was the first in a long line of them stretching down the wing.
It was a miniature Christmas Village on a grand scale, crafted with astonishing detail that soon had me smiling broadly as I made my way through it. To my delight, it was not limited to simply the Lyran Commonwealth, but showed off roughly the entire Inner Sphere with all the Great Houses and their Christmas traditions laid out. Although it was no surprise to me that the Lyran Commonwealth and Federated Suns were by far the most detailed and ‘positive examples’, followed by the Free Worlds League … and the Confederation and Combine with far more somber displays, with notes on how tightly controlled Christmas celebrations are in those states and urges to remember it was Christmas there too and hopefully one day they would all be able to experience it as we did…
There was also plenty of cute of course; the tiny little Katrina and Melissa waving from on top of the Triad across the room to Hanse waving back on the top of his palace, was adorable I must admit … and reminded me of something.

Mental note, check if Lego exists and, if it doesn’t, invent it, trademark it and distribute the ****** out of it...

Outside of the ‘It’s a Small Sphere after all’ as I had dubbed it, I found that the area opened up into dozens of Christmas displays I spent some time wandering through, in a bemused, happy sort of state over the next couple of hours, taking in the air of general revelry and celebration. From a moving animatronic Santa's workshop with elves hard at work (in all honestly I didn’t recall them in my time using Industrial Exoskeletons with Achernar Industries logos all over them...) and eventually wound up moving into a large crowd who were cheering watching a holographic flight simulator … of Santa's Sleigh?!
Raising an eyebrow I stepped closer, finding a place in the crowd who were cheering on the current challenger. It looked like a rail shooter with a holographic projection instead of a screen, but the projection gave it surprisingly nice visual depth as the sleigh zigged and zagged on its way, seemingly packing enough firepower to burn through a McKenna.
Apparently Lyran Santa had the guns.

All the guns.

And the ‘Grinch Fleet’ (who looked suspiciously Kuritian in their design and colors looking units) were very determined to stop him on his mission to bring presents to the children, throwing themselves with increasing frequency and firepower as the level wound on at ‘Santa’, the ‘sleigh’ itself on gimbals that had it pivoting and moving surprisingly harshly … but it didn’t seem to impact the pilots accuracy one bit.

Okay, this looked awesome.

And whoever the current pilot was, he had frigen mad twitch skills, the crowd growing ever more excited as the pilot got closer and closer to the end of the level until I could barely credit this guys (or girls!) reaction times, the guns never stopping in their firing and seeming to hit a target with every shot until with a sudden spin and dive the sleigh blasted past the last line of shattered enemies to streaked over the city to loud cheers and applause as a nicely rendered cutscene showed presents dropping into countless chimneys with a ‘Ho ho ho! Merry Christmas!’.
The man at the controls unstrapped himself, stood and turned to take a bow to yet more cheers and applause.
Okay, no surprise a new high score had been set I thought in mild amusement as Patrick Kell, his face beaming with that confident cheerfulness, stepped down to back slaps and congratulations from a handful of his officers waiting for him as the crowd started to disperse, accepting his uniform jacket back … as some of said officers with expressions of either annoyance or glee started swapping varying amounts of Kronor.
I smiled at that again and started to wonder if I should go up and say hello … when a voice spoke up behind me.

“Mister Smith, I trust that you are enjoying yourself tonight?”

Not recognizing the voice I instantly went on guard, taking a second to school myself into a calm state before turning with my best ‘pleased to meet you’ expression on my face - and almost lost it in an instant as I saw who was standing directly behind me.

What, I got ‘Tweedledee’ so I get ‘Tweedledum’ for free? ****** BROB!

I wasn’t stupid enough to SAY any of that of course. Morgan Kell might have been able to cross swords with this man at a similar party (while dueling with Lestrade to boot!) but then he was someone with such a towering reputation, a man they knew was perfectly able and willing to kill them if they decided to press the issue beyond words, so they knew to only go so far.

I … wasn’t such a person.

“The Archon has indeed put on a splendid celebration tonight, My Lord” I nodded to him in a way I hoped would be considered polite. “It is an honor to be here - and I am pleased to have been invited” I said calmly and formally, extending a hand completely unsure of if that was acceptable protocol.

Alessandro Steiner nodded ever so slightly back, one his hands gripping a tumbler of something golden as he extended another to take mine and shake it. No contest of strength or anything silly like that, just a simple straightforward handshake.

“Yes - you seem to be showing up in curious places Mister Smith” he observed with a knowing twitch of a smile at me as he let go of my hand, regarding me in an appraising way. Beyond him I think I spotted a few people I took to be flunkies who had sort of spread out to isolate us even in the middle of the crowd. Not physically exactly, but I supposed they formed another of those Royal Rules things understood by the court as people were clearly giving us a wide berth as if they were directing traffic. “Just yesterday, my Nieces, the First Prince and both realms Intelligence Chiefs called in the unit commanders from your little raid as soon for debriefing” he noted, his gaze focused rather directly at me even as he kept his tone perfectly cordial. “As is proper, of course. And in such ... impressive company, the unknown does tend to stand out”.
He paused at that, as if he was expecting me to say something - but I kept my mouth glued shut tight as he took a sip from his tumbler, his grey eyes burning into me before his expression softened into an almost grandfatherly one. “But I do hope that you are enjoying your stay in The Triad so far?”

Translation; ‘I don’t know who the ****** you are. I do know you walked into a meeting with some of the most powerful people in the Inner Sphere and that you are staying as a guest of Katrina Steiner personally … and I want to know more’.
Alessandro of all people having sources on things like this wasn’t that big of a surprise, he was a former Archon after all. And just as clearly beyond the fact that I was an ‘unknown’ operating in close orbit of the power players on the planet, he didn’t seem to really know anything.
But honestly, even that was too much!
On the plus side, the man in front of me would most probably be dead in five years from long term radiation poisoning … but that seemed a very long time away from here and now.

“Yes, the Archon has been most generous to let me stay as her guest in her home. I take it you are as well, Lord Steiner?” I replied, trying to be polite and inoffensive with bland small talk … before the darkening expression in his eyes suggested to me that he had probably not taken it the way I meant … and in a flash it hit me why.
The man had probably taken THAT as a subtle dig - or not so subtle dig - at the fact that he was now a guest in the house he had once owned.

Whoops!

Fortune smiled upon me however as the deposed Archon held back whatever he had been about to say, his gaze shifting over my shoulder as he seemed to rapidly collect himself … and perk up as if he had found a new plaything.

“Ah Lieutenant Colonel Kell” Alessandro smiled thinly at him with the slight stress on his rank clearly deliberate. “It has been too long. The Kell Hounds are well, I take it?”

“Very well Your Grace” Patrick thanked him as he edged around me to stand at my side and with a thump have his hand land on my shoulder in a friendly sort of way that still almost had my knees buckle before he removed it.
I embraced the impact though, as a sign that reinforcements had arrived as the older Steiners gaze shifted fully away from me. Even if it only seemed to reinforce the point he had been making about the people I was chilling with. “Thank you for asking”.

“But of course” Steiner nodded with a smile. “And your brother, I take it, is well? I’m hoping you’ve at least kept in some contact, since ... ‘The Defection’ I think you call it?”

And now the tension around me became an almost physical thing and I fought the instinctive urge to cringe. It had been almost a decade now since Morgan vanished after the legendary duel on Mallory’s World ... and from the way Patrick seemed to still as I felt the tension spike, I knew this conversation wasn’t going good places … and that Morgan, indeed as in Btech canon, had not been in contact with his brother or his unit of whom he had asked so much.
‘The Defection‘ was a watershed moment in early Battletech history - another one of those things that was fantastic and mysterious in scenario books for the game, but made rather less sense in ‘real life’.
Simply put, Morgan had gone round the bend to abandon his brother, lover and fire two thirds of his unit after ‘winning’ the duel against Yorinaga Kurita, going into seclusion, with no explanation given then or since. It was utterly verboten as far as topics went to the Hounds and from he way the flunkies behind Steiner seemed to suddenly start paying more attention, I’m guessing Patricks officers were making it clear by their looks-

“You have my sympathies, of course” Steiner added after Patrick didn’t respond, a faux-but-real look of apology also on his face in contrast to the stiff coldness of Kells expression. “At this time of year especially, it must be hard for you and the Hounds family to have no word or explanation from him. Even after all this time, loyally carrying the torch for him, waiting for him to come back without any word as time marches on must not be at all easy...”
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 27 August 2018, 08:06:22
Great, so first Lestrade hits Dan Allard in the heart now Alessandro goes for the gut punch?
Or were these ****** just so determined to poke at Katrina after her huge political win today started to undercut their little schemes, so they are going for any shot they could find?

Patrick impressed me however by not decking the man on the spot - given that his expression suggested he would quite like to do so.

But damn it, as much as I loathed the elder Steiner for being a complete prick; the fact was that the bastard did have a point. It was one thing after the duel on Mallory's World for Morgan to decide that he needed a time out … but firing two thirds of his unit off then turning command over to his brother before cutting him off for ten years without any explanation but a heavily implied order that he would keep the Hounds exactly as they were until further notice?
Oh I knew Morgan had a plan that he finally put into motion … after Patrick died … but frankly, his plan sucked and had left Patrick, loyal good Patrick, trapped in an impossible position. There was a reason that after Patrick had died in his place fighting Yorinaga Kurita and Dan Allard had been given the horrible task of having to go and tell Morgan Dan had quickly enough let him have both barrels with quite the ‘Reason you Suck Speech’. And why Salome Ward, bless her soul, had just greeted Morgan with a rather vicious right hook on his return as she stomped past him into the briefing room.
But, in the end … blood in the Kell Hounds seemingly ran thicker than water. They were family and had rallied to Morgans calls quickly enough.

Family.

That word again brought to mind a surge of loneliness. I was stuck here, in a universe of spoiled brats fighting over a dead Throne, crazy genofreaks who wanted to wipe out Homo Sapiens in favor of Homo Kerensky and a phone company who wanted you to kneel before the Yellow Pages … while my family and the ‘real’ me carried on their life unknowingly somewhere in the multiverse.
But my self-pity passed through me and dissipated as once again I thought about that day in Davion Peace Park … or even Melissa Steiner playfully kicking me in the shins to hide her own insecurities. The times that it hit me, really hit me, that this was not a tabletop game or an RPG or video game … but a living thriving universe just as real as my original one, filled with hundreds of billions of people. Good people, bad people - but mostly just normal, very real people who had to deal with very terrible, powerful monsters in the dark with far too few good people trying to beat them back.
Because ****** like Alessandro (who combined the worst parts of Cersei Lannister, President Snow and Hugo Drax) would burn down everything so long as they could rule over the ashes no matter how many billions died.
And I found myself suddenly determined to slap him down, not even thinking that this wasn’t my fight and that my profile needed to be kept at least somewhat low.

Mostly, I was just realizing I had a whole ****** [/I]of virgin 20th and 21st century quotes to throw around and mangle horribly that I hadn’t tried out yet...

“Life is never easy my Lord Steiner” I softly interjected, causing a collective sort of ‘blink’ across many sets of eyes turned to face me as I interjected myself into the conversation. “Life in the Inner Sphere these days ain't sunshine and rainbows. It's a very mean, very nasty place that doesn’t care how tough you are. Doesn’t care if you’re a Noble or vaunted MechWarrior because nothing will ever hit you as hard as life does. It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it” I said with the conviction of someone who had drifted closer than I wanted to admit to rock bottom when I found out the truth of what had happened to me.

Much closer than I wanted to admit honestly, even to myself.

“But life ain’t about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward - that’s how winning is done” I said emphatically and noticed vaguely that the MechWarriors standing around who were increasingly paying attention to my bad attempt to channel Stallone were nodding in agreement. “Archon Steiner for example” I continued, glancing at Alessandro who looked just a tiny bit smug at the promotion, then again as Morgan Kell had pointed out in the OTL, what do you call a deposed Archon? “When she lost the love of her life to a person trying to kill her” -annnnnnd now his expression dropped back to an absolutely rock solid poker face, gee I wonder why? - “had a choice of either getting lost in the past or striving to make his sacrifice mean something by building a future for their daughter. Prince Davion?” I continued as my adrenal glands seemed to work overtime to sew this speech together that was drawing more and more attention, making me vaguely wonder why the hell I couldn’t have this eloquence in front of the Archon or First Prince. “He lost his brother and was thrust into a position he never expected. He could have crumpled under the impact, but took the hit and kept moving forward. Lieutenant Colonel Kell?” I glanced at the man who stiffened slightly but was looking at me with an expression of utter seriousness I had only seen before in the Helm briefing as he waited for my judgement. “He honored his brothers trust in him by trusting him in return by rebuilding the Kell Hounds into the best damn reinforced combined arms Battalion in the Inner Sphere that’s added battle honor after battle honor to their standard” I lied convincingly as a loud rumble of agreement from quite a few people behind me as I turned back to face ‘Mister Wants To Be Archon Again’ and felt a kind of secret smugness at the sour look in his eyes at me derailing his attempt to poke at the younger Kell brother that seemed to be winning the crowd over.

Get the hint it yet? The Lyran Commonwealth has moved past you, concentrated moron...

“Respectfully, as I see it” I continued, lifting my gaze slightly to make use of my slight height advantage over the older man, “Morgan Kell having little contact with his family is simply proof he has such trust and confidence in them. That he sees no need to look over their shoulders then or now. Knowing that the Hounds will only go from strength to strength until the day he returns to rejoin them … knowing they will be waiting and ready with him to punch life in the face until it falls to the ground”.

Okay, I wasn’t expecting applause at that and -ouch- there was Patricks hand back on my shoulder giving it a firm squeeze and a look of fierce … what? Pride? Understanding perhaps?
On reflection, feeling the emotions rolling around me, it started to hit me that perhaps a lot of that had been as much as anything, a pep talk to myself to wipe away the last of my moping around Christmas.
Reminding myself that life had dealt me some implausible, impossibly harsh body blows over the last year to change my entire reality. It had stripped my family away from me. My friends. My world. My reality. And possibly for a short time, my sanity.
But it hadn’t stripped me of my agency to stand up, make a decision and start moving forward.



Although on reflection, perhaps figuratively stepping in the face of Alessandro Steiner and farting in his general direction after he started gleefully poking at Patrick, wasn’t the best idea?

Oh well, too late to worry about that I suppose. I’d just dump that onto Simon Johnson's desk, wouldn’t be fair to get both Tweedledee and Tweedledum to only one of the two...
As if he could sort of read my mind (and who the ****** knows how Phantom Mech bullshit might express itself given that Takashi Kurita seemed awfully convinced he could read people's auras or something) Patrick nodded once and smiled as he proudly took in his people around him, their tension gone and replaced with just pride in each other and themselves.
His people … ah crap.
“Colonel Kell” I yanked Patricks attention back, lowering my volume. “As you’re here now, I’m afraid I just received some bad news around one of your officers I should pass on. Specifically, about Captain Daniel Allard”.

“Dan? What is it?” Patrick asked instantly as he let go of me but turned to face me fully, turning his back on Steiner to focus on this news. A leader instantly more concerned for one of his men than himself…

I opened my mouth as if to respond but then paused and slowly turned to face Alessandro … who was clearly observing this twist listening in with great interest to this news and hadn’t moved a millimeter.
“Ah, if you’ll excuse me Your Grace? This is a somewhat private matter” I said with as perfectly an innocent expression as I could muster, as if entirely unaware I had just TSM slapped back the man's attempt to poke at Patrick and goad him into losing his cool in some way to embarrass Katrina.

“But of course Mister Smith. Colonel, once again, my compliments for your units achievements” the man said with the same calm attitude he had held through the entire little verbal skirmish, getting a stiff nod from Kell … but Steiner let his piercing grey eyes seem to pan over all of us as if memorizing us to put on a ‘to do’ list titled ’do something unpleasant to them later’...
It wasn’t a happy feeling but I didn’t give the man the satisfaction of breaking my guileless smile as he turned away and started moving back towards the main floor, his toadies falling into orbit around him and hangers on started to move in on him.



“Actually I’m not entirely sure” I frowned, trying to remember that one. It was an old insult, I think back from the pre Spacebattles days on the internet, the days of Usenet when curses were just so much more original. “But I’m pretty sure he’s one of them”.

“You know what? I think so too” the Major said after a pause before cracking a smile and quickly there were snickers all around at that one.

“The ******’ aside, what was this about Dan?” Patrick asked, stepping closer and lowering his volume as, with a glance at his officers, the other Kell Hounds sort of spread out to give us some privacy.
In a few short sentences I explained the situation of what we had overheard from Aldo Lestrade and Dan going off to see his Father. Patrick, while grimacing at my relaying of what Lestrade had said, thanked me nonetheless. I could sense he wanted to ask me more, but instead he just gave me another backslap I know he intended to be friendly and grateful, but I swear came this close to dislocating my shoulder before he started to lead his officers off at a brisk walk.

Well that was enough excitement for the night I think and I decided to see if I could sneak across to grab some food and then make a discrete exit when the most recent Christmas music finished to another smattering of applause through the vast room, followed then unexpectedly by a voice over the speakers politely noting that the final song of the night, the ‘Archons Choice’ was about to be performed and instantly the crowds were in motion, making it near impossible to get across to the other wing. After a few moments, I gave up to just go with the flow as everyone closed in on the front half of the main floor, walking back up onto the rapidly filling up first half of the main court. My height gave me a bit of an edge to look over the crowd from a position about halfway between the Christmas tree and Throne and I used it, studying where the power trio were chatting to a group of young children.

I had utterly no idea what was going on, so I decided to ask the man next to me.

“Excuse me Sir” I asked politely. “Would you know exactly what is this is about?”

“It’s a tradition” the man sniffed at me in surprise, seemingly mildly scandalized I had addressed him at all in his black leather pants and shirt, with a sparkling blue suit jacket and crazy ponytail like hair that suggested he was either crazy, or a blueblood wearing edgy fashion. One taking offense at a non-blueblood daring to speak to him so casually.
Or both.
Then he caught the Steiner-Blue shade of my outfit and I swear he actually seemed to double take, before seeming to grudgingly calculate based on that I at least deserved an answer.
“Every year the Archon, before retiring, closes her presence out with a selected Christmas song of her choice. Traditionally, one somewhat rare and even occasionally commissioned specifically for this” he deigned to explain a little more. “But  it would seem this year she has decided to gift this choice to a song brought by Hanse Davion, which may prove … interesting” he allowed.

If ‘interesting’ meant good or bad, well, I suppose he was an expert in the court technique of saying something that after the fact could easily be claimed to be one or the other.

Finally however Hanse Davion stepped up as the rooms lights dimmed somewhat leaving the massive Christmas tree as the main source of light as the thousands of people fell into an awed hush as a soft spotlight isolated The Fox, the Archon and her Daughter. Hanse then smiled thanked the Archon for offering the honor of the song to him, explaining that that this song had been found in the legendary Hoff Library collection on a media data core and only recently decoded, along with an amount of other music from the distant past on Terra. And that this would thus be the first Christmas in quite possibly a thousand years this song had been heard -with some minor updates to the lyrics of course, generating a buzz of genuine excitement in the massive room.
That of course raised my interest too and I watched as the power trio stepped slowly back into the darkness to leave in turn a trio of adorable children in their place -
Wait, hang on a second; did Melissa just look directly at me and smirk before vanishing? I blinked as she stepped back into the dark - then what sounded like chimes played a suddenly familiar rift-

‘Silence falls softly like snowflakes through the air…’ one of the young girls sung adorably as the camera zoomed in on her face on the screens mounted on the columns along the room.

I felt a brief moment of disorientation as suddenly it became clear what was being played and my jaw dropped open.

He hadn’t … they hadn’t … this had not come from Hoff. This had come from my iPhone!

‘It’s nighttime and morning is near … your world has snow men, its hills a frosty white. My world has lots of sunlight!”

And then drums and an electric guitar kicked in and I could see a few heads in the vast audience start nodding their heads along to the beat and it became clear to me that … they had.

‘Ohhhhhhhhhh but we’re all the same! When we wake, on Christmas day, believe it when I sayyyy...’

And then the music kicked in, the choir joined in for the chorus and hidden Christmas lights (including the ‘ice’ I had taken for non-functional decorations) illuminated through the darkness, earning a gasp of awe just as that incredibly ear-worm infesting chorus kicked in led by the adorable kids.

‘Merry Christmas! And a happy new year! Ohhhhhhhhh! Merry Christmas! And a happy new year! Ohhhhhhhh a happy new year!’

I blinked at that and reached up to wipe away a suspicious amount of moisture that was on my face for some reason as the music rolled on, a lot of people bobbing along as parents waved in time with their kids and enjoyed themselves.
And certainly it wasn’t because the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth, Archon-Designate of the Lyran Commonwealth and First Prince of the Federated Suns had taken one of the most played Christmas songs on my iPhone, extracted it, transcribed it into music, crash trained a band in weeks or even days how to play and sing it and then thrown it into one of the more cherished traditions of this Christmas eve night on Tharkad …
Because that would be ****** ludicrous, a waste of their incredibly precious time all for the sake of just … what?

The song built up and up with the lighting and special effects matching until we reached full scale Hogwarts as with an awed gasp from the masses, holographics kicked in above us, seemingly vanishing the roof and replacing it with a night sky, making it look like it was snowing in the Triad with the roof no longer there. And then on the final chorus, Katrina’s distinctive voice called “Everyone!” in a way that was not a request and the entire room broke into loud song. Even Sir Snooty Face next to me was smiling and singing along with everyone and broke into applause with the crowd, sustained cheers and whistles showing their approval as the house lights came back up.
Katrina ‘high fived’ them off as she re-appeared alone, standing just in front of her Throne (and looking seriously incredible in a slick silver dress with a simple tiara around her golden hair) to thank everyone for coming. Finishing by saying that she just wanted to, on behalf of her and Lord Davion …

And then ‘We Wish you a Merry Christmas!’ kicked in and the entire crowd dove in head first with enthusiasm, the band driving with great gusto and giving me the impression that this was the traditional way the night ended.
And ****** it, it was so damn infectious I joined in in an instant and wondered why I had been full of so much self-pity I had preferred to sulk up in my room, even with running into Tweedledee and Tweedledum.
Or was that just Dumb and Dumber?
And so the music ended with the choir holding the final high not impressively as the drummers up there smashed their hearts out until finally it ended. And to the cheers and clapping Katrina offered the Royal Court a bow that was returned with varying degrees of inebriation by the room before smiling and twirling around to walk out, her dress making a triumph of her slender legs and that incredible a-

I immediately whacked my head against the very stone column I was against, the (significantly more than anticipated) spike of pain bouncing around my skull and down my spine to bring some level of sanity back, pushing away those thoughts as the crowd started to move around me. It seemed the night was ‘officially’ over but it was a soft close, with the VIPs retiring but everyone free to hang around. Although most families seemed to be moving towards the main doors, herding overexcited and overtired children clutching their presents from Santa while carrying those who had decided to wait it out.
I took a minute to recover my poise, thankful for the handkerchief I had thrown into a pocket on habit when I got dressed earlier to clear my face. And I wasn’t terribly surprised when it was Dan Allard who eased his way through the dispersing crowd to me and I stepped down from my little perch out to meet him.

“You okay?” I asked quietly when he was in range and Dan nodded at me with a faint smile. Although the stress could be seen in his eyes, worry for his distant brother.
Get used to worrying I thought sadly, reflecting about what Justin’s future held if indeed things held close to canon. Or easily went worse on the Mad Max Express...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 27 August 2018, 08:07:38
“Yes” he said, leading me away and towards the ‘business end’ of the Throne room and then out a side door guarded by LIC types and through several other doors to loop around behind the end of the Throne Room, if I had my spatial senses working right. “Justin is going to be okay” Dan continued once we were out of public earshot, but clearly not wanting to talk more about it. “I’m sorry you got caught up in that Agent Smith. I hope you were able to enjoy yourself without me?”

“Quite so” I tactfully agreed with a smile, deciding against telling him about the little run-in his boss had with the eldest Steiner in the house. He’d probably find out sooner or later anyway, but he had enough of his plate tonight to worry about the pettiness of a former Archon who knew his time was running out.
It also gave me time to think on the fact that Justin's ‘events’ had, so far, played out so much like the original timeline despite, on the face of it, seeming to be fragile enough that they could easily be butterflied.
I really didn’t want to think that there was some kind of bullshit ‘train track’ destiny that would force reality to proceed down preset lines or some crap like that. I was totally the ‘no fate but what we make’ school of thought.
I mean hell, didn’t ****** Helm prove that outright?
Distracted in my thoughts I only realized we ‘were there’ when Dan paused in front of another guarded door and knocked twice. A muffled ‘come in’ came back and he opened it to let me inside before closing it behind me.

I made a mental note to apologize to the man for being dragged into babysitting duties by his father later as I glanced around. Ah. This … this could only be Katrina’s private office.

Wood paneled with exquisite, aristocratic looking furniture that probably cost as much combined as an Assault Mech was spread throughout it. My attention however instantly gravitated to the large and slightly out of place looking oaken desk sitting towards the back of the room. It didn’t look like a priceless antique (like everything else in the room did) and was stained a subtly different shade of brown to boot. I was sure that any number of aristocrats would have turned their noses up at the clearly far cheaper piece of furniture behind which the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth sat and ruled. And quite possibly offered her a replacement desk from their own vast collections of historical and valuable treasures in an attempt to win favor.

I’m also sure that they never would have made that mistake a second time after finding out that this desk had been hand built, semi IKEA style, by Arthur Luvon and Morgan Kell. And thus probably meant more to Katrina than any of the warehouses full of antiques her family surely owned across the planet.
I wonder if the top right draw actually sticks I thought to myself before killing the urge to walk over and check, instead glancing away to the right where the office included a comfortable looking lounge chair set around a coffee table. Katrina was standing and leaning against a chair comfortably, her tiara gone and her hair hanging looser, with Hanse having ditched his uniform jacket sitting next to Melissa, who seemed to be taking great delight in ignoring her mother's reproving look as she slid her heels off and sighed contently.

“Archon, Archon-Designate, Prince Davion” I greeted the three with a somewhat unpracticed bow towards them, but Katrina waved off the formality with faint amusement.

“Leave the titles at the door John” the Archon snorted as she waved to the seat on her left opposite the Prince and her daughter, stirring into motion to walk across to the featureless wall and with a touch, cause a panel to silently drop down to reveal a sideboard with glasses and bottles. “Scotch?” she asked without turning back as she pulled several glasses.
I didn’t really feel like drinking - but it did not pay to be rude to my host.
And I had a feeling I might need a stiff drink very shortly.

“Yes, please” I replied as Katrina efficiently prepared the drinks. Trying to resist the urge to fiddle with my fingers as I sort of just … stood there, having not been invited to-

“John?” Katrina called out after a few seconds of silence, not turning away from her work.

“Yes Ma’am?” I asked, glancing at her backs - back! Only at her back! God what was with me around Katrina Steiner?! In front of her daughter?!

“For God’s sake, take off your jacket and sit down. And call me Katrina, the room is perfectly secure”.

“Uh yes M...Katrina” I caught myself barely in time, though not fast enough to keep Melissa from snickering at me. But her smile was so damn cheeky it cut the tension and drained it out as I took off my jacket and folded it over the back of my chair, coming around to sit down onto the very plush leather as the Archon returned, handing out the tumblers. I accepted mine with a polite mumble of thanks as did Hanse, the Archon moving in her chair at the head of the table and pointedly ignoring Melissa’s ‘Seriously?’ pout at her tumbler seeming to only contain sparkling water, with the patience of a mother dealing with a teenage daughter.

I decided to take the initiative as Katrina settled into her chair, carefully putting the tumbler onto the coaster in front of me, after taking a subtle breath to calm myself down.
Manners first. I may not be a noble, but I’d like to think my upbringing was polite.

“Before anything else I wanted to thank all three of you” I said, glancing across at the youngest who was sitting just a tad closer to Hanse than might have been considered entirely appropriate in other company, suppressing a smile at that. “Melissa especially for taking the time to drag me out of sulking in my room with only self-pity for company” I said with a nod in her direction, before adding after a pause and a bit of a smirk; “and for leaving me mostly unbruised in the process”. That earned me a look but unlike Tweedledee and Tweedledum there was absolutely no rancor in her eyes, only playfulness and amusement. “But that Christmas song … well” I paused for a second and ruthlessly fought down the emotions trying to push up. “I don’t want to even think about how much time and effort on short noticed had to be put into that and … well, thanks. A lot, for going to that effort for me”.

“We’re House Lords John” Hanse laughed softly at me, his eyes dancing with mirth, waving a hand idly towards the ceiling. “We have entire castles filled with people who leap at our minor whims - but you’re welcome. You earned having a part of that celebration be specifically for you given what you accomplished this year. And Melissa was, quite rightly, insistent that you shouldn’t spend Christmas alone”

“Yes, I’ve noticed trying to refuse her what she wants is, fortunately” I smiled at her, “a futile exercise”.

“See, if everyone else in this family would just listen to me like him, things would move a lot smoother around here” she posted with an exaggerated huff. “And besides, that song was awesome, way better than last years!”

“Yes it’s actually quite catchy” Katrina added as she took a tiny sip from her tumbler, her smile slightly wry. “I’m probably going to have it in my head for days”.

“It does that” Hanse agreed with a tight smile before glancing back at me to explain off my look. “As it so happens, we’ve released a compilation of a great deal of your 20th and 21st century hits on the New Avalon charts that were, as best our archivists could tell, unknown to us. Claiming like I said tonight they were from a Star League era drive. We’ve easily played it as simply being a thousand years on the wrong side of three Succession Wars and no-one questioned that, but it’s made your songs wildly popular. The album has gone straight to number one on the charts across most worlds in the Crucis March, with all proceeds going to charity” he said, raising his own tumbler for a moment to offer me a salute. “A lot of less fortunate people across the Outback are going to get a few things of their own for Christmas this year who would have otherwise gone wanting”.

“That’s … very good to hear” I said in some surprise, feeling genuinely pleased at the news that my little stash of iTunes would have some good come of it.

“Indeed, you seem to have a knack for helping out people John” Katrina observed from over the lip of her glass, her gaze considering and contemplative. “Almost without realizing what you’re doing...”

I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer that but didn’t have to as Hanse sat up a little straighter, placing his tumbler down on a coaster to consider me a little closer and I felt the ‘mood’ switch over to something more serious.

“When I was much younger John, in the aftermath of Halstead Station, I spent some time on the way home examining and cataloguing much of what we had saved, from the Star League Library. When we opened that vault and saw all those books and data slates, I have to admit, I thought that we - I - had done it. That Lostech would be a thing of the past soon enough” he said, before huffing in a sort of dark amusement and shaking his head once. “Call it the hubris of youth I suppose. On the way home though as we catalogued and started to go through what we had recovered, frankly, all it seemed to do for me was to bring into perfect focus just how far we had fallen from our heights and just how daunting the task was before us. That there would be no easy or quick answer to all our problems and I must admit, I wondered at the time if the lives lost were even worth what we had managed to save?” he said, his expression turning solemn and introspective for a moment. No doubt in my mind he was remembering Dana Stephenson, the woman he had proposed to -and lost- in that mission and I was not sure what to say or do to that.
Melissa however was there and she reached out and took a hold of Hanse’s hand, startling him slightly as she gripped it, her face an expression of silent understanding as she gave his hand a squeeze.
I couldn’t help but smile for a moment at that. I’m sure Melissa knew of Hanse’s first love and that he was thinking of her ... but there was not even a hint of jealousy or unease or anything like that in her expression; just empathy and support over his loss, offered without conditions.

And as Hanse squeezed her hand back with a silent thanks in his eyes, I knew that he knew she knew (say that three times fast) and accepted the offered support for what it was.
And I knew then and there, to my considerable relief, I had not ****** up the cornerstone of the Federated Commonwealth as I had feared from the bruises no doubt forming on my shin...

“In any event” Hanse continued after a moment, his voice once again filled with the normal calm confidence I had come to associate with him as he turned back to face me, “after reflecting, I knew now where we were and where we needed to go. And no matter if I did not live to see us reach it, it was incumbent upon me to be the one to start us on that path. NAIS is, at least to me, in part a living promise to Dana and all those who died. To make their sacrifices worth it, no matter how hard or long the road...”

“You choose to go to the moon” I muttered to myself as he seemed to trail off, as everything about the NAIS sort of clicked into a new perspective from me. That it was as much as anything a final gesture to the woman he had loved and all those under his command who had made the sacrifice to lay the foundation stone for NAIS.
Which in turn was now in position to exploit the Helm Core, in full...
Then I realized I had said that out loud and refocused my gaze on Hanse, feeling a slight flush come up on my face at the probably rather esoteric, ancient reference feeling I’d have to explain it.

But then again, this was Hanse ****** Davion.

And do the other things. Not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too” Hanse quoted John F Kennedy flawlessly, awarding me a nod with a look that made me feel I had just passed some sort of test. “But for all I’ve built and accomplished with NAIS, I was sure that it would be up to our children and our children's children” he said, squeezing Melissa's hand once again and getting a smile once again as they glanced at each other, “to bring about a second renaissance, if you will”. He paused for a moment and again turned to look at me, his expression even more intense somehow and making me shift slightly. “Until this morning that is. When Katrina and I arrived at Asgard, ostensibly to discuss the logistics of some war games we are planning for the Davion Guards on the way home with the 3rd Royals. But in reality, just gave us both an excuse to log onto the copy of the Helm Core due to be put into deep storage in the black-vault there, log onto it and just …”

Hanse shook his head sharply and took a breath. Holy hell, was the man on the verge of tears there for a second?



Well if he was, he snapped it back under control in a heartbeat as Katrina smoothly stepped in.

“If someone had offered me ten mixed regiments of Mechs, vehicles and equipment from the Star League ripe for use and with plenty left over for reverse engineering, I would have considered giving them one of my lesser but still developed worlds to rule as perfectly acceptable trade” the Archon said, staring into her glass of scotch absently for a moment before her eyes shifted to fix me. “Even with the political nightmare of arranging such a thing I would have considered it a bargain” she continued, leaning forward to delicately place her tumbler onto the table, leaning forward in her chair with her elbows on her knees to regard me closely and directly. “And I would have grudgingly paid a much higher price if the alternative was one of my peers getting their hands on it instead - present company excluded of course” she added the last with a sly smile in her expression, which Hanse returned with a chuckle and nod before all eyes dragged back to me.
“If said person had also brought me enormous political insights to my enemies, shown me where the bodies were buried and how what their most secret inner most thoughts were past present and future? I would have happily thrown titles and money at them enough that their family would be raised from nothing to among the Commonwealths most lauded, without hesitation”.
And now, she eased forward on her seat, leaning inward and resting her elbows on her knees as she got just a tad in my space, closer than I had ever been to her with her grey eyes seeming to pierce right through me.
“And John, if they had offered me and my peers the means to completely rebuild the technological base of the Star League from first principles? Asking that in exchange my cost would be to give them my daughter's hand?” she said, turning her gaze for a second to Melissa who returned her mother’s look levelly without objection or rancor before Katrina turned back to me. “Then I would have given that”.

“Then it’s a good thing she already has a fiancé, I don’t think my shins could take much more” I snarked without thinking, the sheer intensity in Katrinas eyes was just frightful as she made me believe she meant absolutely every word she said … and made me understand how much such a choice would have cost her.

There was a moment of terrible ghastly silence that lasted just long enough for me to wonder if I had just made a really bad joke when Katrina was trying to be really serious-
Then there was a snicker from my right that hissed into a snorted giggle as Melissa tried to control herself … and Katrina closed her eyes and let a smile pass across her face as she leaned back and joined her daughter in laughing softly, the tension in the moment dissipating and her mask slipped and she reached down to pick up her drink.

Hmm. Good idea I thought, reaching down and doing the same, bracing myself …
Ah! Smoooooth.
Katrina clearly has much better taste in drinks to keep for guests than Hanse.

“Nonetheless” Katrina put in as she settled into her chair, her gaze now somewhat more relaxed than it had been but just as serious. “If you can understand that, you can understand just how much what you have given freely to us is worth, making it perhaps even more incumbent upon us to reward you” she said, holding up a hand as I opened my mouth to speak up. “Part of the duty of Hanse and I, as it is for all nobility, is to reward those in service to us when they accomplish great things. That is not negotiable” she added as I started to open my mouth, causing me to close it quickly. “Fealty is not a one way street and not rewarding you for doing more for both our realms that frankly anyone has in centuries, is an insult to all those who have sworn themselves to us”.

“Keywords ‘done for’” I dared to reply, glancing around the room. “I have actually done very little, I simply provided some information I had. I didn’t have to steal it single handedly from Luthien shooting my way past the massed Sword of Light regiments on foot shaking their MAGIC BUSHIDO FISTS at me as I flew off into the distance on Takashi’s personal shuttle”.

“...their what?” Katrina raised an eyebrow at that one and I paused, considered and shook my head.

“Long story. Anyway, the point is that all I did was fast forward known events. If I had not even existed, the Grey Death Legion would have gotten it to you - albeit not in the most perfect of formats, but there none the less. If anything, you should reward them because without what they did in the old timeline, none of this would have happened - even ignoring the fact that I’m in no way qualified or trained in things like how to handle a landhold if you wanted to give me one”.

“I already have the Director of Mercenary Liaisons working on that with quite generous terms” Hanse noted from the side, looking amused at my being behind the eight ball. “From what you’ve told me of them and what MIIO brought up, they seem to be an ideal long term prospect for recruitment and I could certainly use some more troops in the Draconis March over the next few years”.

“Oh. Well, good” I blinked. “Anyway” I tried to move the subject back to my objections, “other rewards like trying to elevate me to noble status are, again, problematic. I mean just walking around the Triad tonight I felt like I was so far out of my depth I was rolling for crush-depth breaches-”

“You certainly seemed to handle my uncle rather well” Katrina smiled like a shark and I froze at that.

Question. How in the ****** had she found out about that when she had spent all night in the middle of the party with her hands full?
Answer; she was Katrina Steiner. Just … deal with it.

“Well, I just, uh-”

“Stood up for Patrick and Morgan with a surprisingly eloquent speech that shut him up and killed his attempt to try and embarrass me by proxy?” she suggested. “Out of your depth or not, you seem to be able to swim well enough John” she pointed out, staring me down and shutting me up. “Loyalty and natural talent like that is not something I or Hanse are inclined to casually waste by having you sit down in some room trying to remember things for the next decade”.

“You also impressed Ardan with how you operated on the expedition to Helm” Hanse put in from the side. “He genuinely seems to think that you have a future ahead of you in staff work in DMI once you graduate - which would dovetail nicely into your cover”.

“My cover? You - wait a second, graduate?” my thoughts finally caught up with the rapid changes in direction this conversation seemed to be bobsledding through.

“Oh, we’re sending you to Sakhara Academy” Hanse explained, taking a sip of his scotch and making an approving noise at his glass as I just stared at him. “You’ll be leaving on the 27th, taking the command circuit linking me to New Avalon and getting off at Kentares, jumping a few ships to get you there just in time for the 3027 intake. Quintus has already arranged it all through the ‘old boy’s’ network”.

Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 27 August 2018, 08:07:47
“Once more?” I finally asked after a long silence, my thoughts coming to the halt with the distinctive sound of a record scratch in the back of my brain.
I couldn’t possibly have heard that right, could I?

“As far as the Sphere is concerned -if they can dig through to the data anyway- you are a MIIO agent who just helped oversee a recovery effort unlike anything seen in recent history, with enough Star League gear to build the core of five Regimental Combat Teams around” Melissa explained to me casually, sitting up and smiling at me. “As a reward for such outstanding service in support of the operation as the represented of Quintus Allard on the ground, being granted a slot as a MechWarrior at prestigious academy is certainly not an uncommon reward. And it would naturally then lend after a tour of duty of you being assigned into DMI, making a highly useful, multi-talented agent”.

“It was actually Melissa's idea” Hanse added with a smile at his fiancé who offered me an unquestionably ‘superior’ little mocking wave. “And while you’ve made your feelings about the ‘Cult of the MechWarrior’, as you called it rather clear, feelings I’ll admit even have some basis in reality, the sad truth is that in the Federated Suns - and the Inner Sphere as a whole- being a MechWarrior is very tightly associated with the nobility. Sakhara will train you both as a MechWarrior and expose you to a lot of the younger nobility in the ‘real world’ in a secure environment which you will network in. It’ll also teach you how the military here thinks which you can compare and contrast in turn. Then, you can get some light field duty after the 4th Succession War ends when you graduate, transfer into an intelligence and command pathway, by which point we would have come up with a neat way to justify giving you an impressive plot of land somewhere and the titles that go with it”.

“Uh…” I managed, blinking several times as my mind tried to follow the logic. “I don’t exactly have a Mech!” I pointed out the first flaw. “And I’ve never used one before, most of the kids going into military training have at least played with their family ‘mechs first” the second point came up. “And” I added finally, “Aren’t I a little bit old to be going to boot?”

Melissa was instantly up to defend her plan like a Gods damned lawyer on cross examination.

“In order; first, given that you just gave us over five hundred of them, I’m sure that we can find one for you. Two; every academy starts with the assumption that you don’t have a clue how to pilot a mech and forces every cadet to go through the same training. Three, yes, but it's also far from unprecedented for older people for varied reasons to go into the military - or at least through training - at ages well past yours for example, assuming they are fit enough. And the fitness reports on you say that you’re more than capable of meeting the entry requirements - the neural scans while you were unconious suggested you won't have any issues using a Neurohelmet. Anything other objections?”
I blinked as that look before wondering if she just wanted me to get to the obvious one. So I did.

“Ultimately. You’re asking me -or more specifically, I’m asking me - if I’m capable of taking up arms, to kill if necessary, in defense of the Federated Commonwealth”.
There, I said it. Would I be able to kill another person?
All the armchair general fun and videogames in the world I knew didn’t a soldier make. Let alone prepare me for taking the life of another human being. There were a lot of combat veterans on Spacebattles whom I’m sure would have jumped at the chance to jump into a giant robot and show these walking tanks who a real combined arms force worked.
But me?
Okay, right here right now, it really became clear that this was not the ****** tabletop. Or a SI fic. Where the SIs generally shrugged and got down to the killing in a 'do or die' situation.

No-one is ever sure if they can until the times comes John, all the training in the world can’t answer that question” Katrina said quietly, almost gently. “So no, that isn’t the question we’re asking. The question is are you willing to risk your life, if necessary, for the sake of the Federated Commonwealth to protect it against its enemies?”

Huh. Put it that way … even if it sort of sounded like semantics … it was nonetheless surprisingly clear to me.

“Yes” I said after a moment of silent thought, looking up to meet each of their eyes in sequence. Because for all the flaws of this Neo-Feudal system. For all the problems in this idiotic fight over a dead corpse and empty chair that meant nothing, the Federated Commonwealth is the only power with the liberal traditions, defensive depth, industry and unity to have a hope in hell of dealing with what might be coming down the line.

All three seemed to look for something in my eyes. All three seemed to be satisfied they found it.

“Then, in that case” Hanse noted, reaching under the coffee table to pick up a manila folder and pass it across to me. “This, is yours - consider it the first gesture from Katrina and I for what you have done and accomplished for the Suns and the Commonwealth. Merry Christmas”.

I accepted it with a mild thrill of excitement I have to admit - I mean it was essentially a Christmas present from two House Lords. A small sort of smile was on my face as I broke the wax seal and found a single expensive sheet of paper inside, with what appeared to be verigraphed inserts and a single neat few paragraphs of text that I started to read.

Ah crap it looked like a legal document. Oh well, one line at a time.

‘Stated on December the 25th, 3026. Amendment to section 9, paragraph III clause VI is now inserted following clause V’ I read carefully. ‘Stating the following; “That John Smith (Federated Suns identity number 74733-222294-291-555-1119, Lyran Commonwealth identity number 846545S56-356SD-55Z) is hereby given the privilege and right of being’ I paused for a second, my eyes going slightly wide, ‘the first person granted status as a Citizen of the Federated Commonwealth, with identity number 0000-0000-0000-0000-0001. This amendment to be kept secret until January 1, 3050.

This amendment to the Federated Commonwealth Accords agreed to and signed by First Prince Hanse Davion and Archon Katrina Steiner - Verigraph afixed and confirmed below with confirmation keys registered to trustees of these documents-

What the ******?
 
“You wrote me into the Federated Commonwealth Accords?” I spluttered in numb disbelief, my eyes wide as saucers.
I mean seriously? What? It would be like being written into the Constitution of a country back home!
The ******?

“Surprise!” Melissa grinned. “Actually it's right below my secret clause that Hanse and I are getting hitched” she said. I glanced up from the paper to stare at her as I slowly closed it and handed it back to Hanse.

“Please tell me it doesn’t actually use that language?” I managed as I tried to recover my poise. Even in a symbolic sense, the two of them making me the 'first citizen' as it were of the Federated Commonwealth ... that was big.

“Not really, that's about thirty pages long” Melissa rolled her eyes. “I’m surprised they didn’t go into the mechanics of exactly how Hanse is supposed to throw me onto the bed and-”

“Melissa!” Katrina’s voice cracked in that kind of paternal mortification when their teenage daughter decides to go just a tiny bit too far and Hanse, for the first time in his life seemed to be actually blushing slightly.

The younger Steiner however simply rolled her eyes in that passive-aggressive genetically teenager way of ignoring a parent telling them to behave.

“No matter, we’ll just have to improvise on the wedding night” she muttered, turning a look I could best describe as speculating towards her fiancé … who confronted with his future wife on one side and mother in law on the other, did the smart thing.

“Your enrollment has been confirmed by Sakhara” he said, reaching up to pull another folder out from under the table and handing it over, not looking at his future wife who continued to study him speculatively. “The induction is on the fourteenth of January, so you’ll be leaving on the twenty ninth to make it” he said as I broke the seal and started to read the cover letter. I wasn’t terribly surprised to see that I had been invited on a fully paid admission on the ‘recommendation’ of Quintus Allard. Sakhara was incredibly picky about its admissions, generally only allowing the most wealthy and connected in and even then only on recommendations from its alumni network. And unlike some of the Lyran social clubs that pretended to be military academies for the wealth, Sakhara if anything was fanatical about the excellence it expected from its students.
Justin had in fact graduated from Sakhara, no doubt explaining why Quintus had officially sent the request.

“Why Sakhara?” I asked out of curiosity. “And not Albion or the College of Military Sciences?” After all, they were on New Avalon which was much closer to home and excellent in of themselves…”

“Two reasons” Hanse explained. “One, given your higher profile, having you around on New Avalon - especially at NAIS - risks people talking, even inadvertently and giving things away by adding two and two together; the downside of having far too many smart people in the same building I suppose. Two, security at Sakhara is actually tighter than NAIS. Partially because unlike New Avalon, there are few reasons to bother setting up spy rings and partially because rather significant nobles children pass through, force protection and security is as near to airtight as you can get. We’ll have emergency contact methods in place should you remember something time critical or otherwise needing immediate action, but otherwise Katrina and I are hoping you can just sit out the … shall we say, upcoming events of the next three years?”

I bit my tongue to stop myself from bringing up Justin.
Perhaps it was a good idea that I was going to be sitting most if not all of the 4th Succession War out from the sidelines.

“Makes sense” I agreed after taking it in, offering the trio a quick look, then smiling as a thought occurred. “So, I take it I’m not going to be invited to the wedding?”

Of course you’re not, what kind of stupid question is that John?

“I wish you could be” Katrina said and she sounded genuinely regretful - Melissa also looking slightly downcast at the negative.
Which was a tad bizarre given that I had only met the bride a few hours ago.
“But it would be somewhat incompatible with keeping a low profile. And even as public as such an event is ... do you really want to walk onto ROMs home turf?” she asked?

The shudder that went through my body probably answered that directly enough.

“I’d offer to save you a slice of cake, but it might be a little stale by the time it gets to you” the bride to be shrugged impishly.

I laughed at that one, as from the corner of the room I heard a series of chimes in the classic Westminster pattern. I turned to look and spotted a grandfather clock that seriously looked like it could have come off pre-spaceflight Terra, which finished its chime sequence and started to ring out midnight.

“And that's December 25” Melissa smiled. “Merry Christmas!”

“Merry Christmas” I replied along with the other two adults … and in that moment. I felt something more was called for, closing the folder and tossing it onto the table, before reaching for my tumbler. “And as I’m not going to be present for the wedding - and in honor of your engagement...” I said with a pointed look at Melissa who tilted her head in confusion for a moment … then suddenly realized with a silent ‘oh!’ as she reached into her pocket to pull out her hidden engagement ring … and handed it over to Hanse with a blush. Who in turn quickly put his glass back down to take out the ring … and carefully slide it onto his blushing fiance’s finger before the two retrieved their glasses, standing as I did.

“I’m not terribly good at speeches” I said. “So I’ll make it simple; may your wedding day be glorious, Maximilian Liao's face hilarious and your honeymoon not interrupted by Toaster Worshipers”.

“Hear hear!” the trio laughed and with a tink of very expensive crystal out glasses met as we drank to that offset the final chimes from the clock, Christmas Eve and the last vestiges of my old life sort of faded away … and my new life in formal service to the Federated Commonwealth began.


-----

Okay so;

1. Forgive me my indulgence at the whole Christmas day thing, it WAS actually when I checked, the most played song on my iPhone of all the Christmas songs, go figure :p
2. I'm sorry if not that much outside of politics happened this chapter, but it was always going to be a political end to this book, not an action one.
3. Except a time jump a year and a bit when I start the first chapter of the next book (the book titled 'I think your toaster is on fire' and the chapter titled 'Misery loves company' in a horrible pun I should feel ashamed at making ... but don't.
4. No I'm not going to give an ETA.

Peace, out :)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 27 August 2018, 10:03:18
Wonderful to see this back, irritating thing is...what's the Christmas song? :p I'm reading at the moment and will let you know my thoughts when i'm finished but thus far, WONDERFUL! :D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Kwic on 27 August 2018, 12:20:51
Excellent concept and writing. 


I look forward to more.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: OpacusVenatori on 27 August 2018, 13:40:29
Thanks for this story. It was a good read.
See you in your next book.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 27 August 2018, 13:59:22
*standing ovations*
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ckosacranoid on 27 August 2018, 15:14:32
Very great update and amd the speech was very cool when the A###### stood up and tryied to screw things up. getting mr smith out of the way for the next few years is going to different and see how things change a little bit and how they try to keep some butterflys from blowing things up and letting them change other things.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 27 August 2018, 19:06:27
Your book just get's better with each new chapter.
Excellent job especially the personalities of the people. :beer:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 27 August 2018, 20:41:42
I'm totally speechless... please, take your time on this... :D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 27 August 2018, 21:26:06
 :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap: :clap:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 28 August 2018, 01:09:17
Wow and for the record I would have not been as cool with Lastrad or the former Archon.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 28 August 2018, 05:07:26
read all of the latest update last night, absolutely superb!  It had me chuckling and even going 'ooooh sheeeeet!' when Mr Smith sassed Katrina.  As always, superb stuff with brilliant characterisation.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 28 August 2018, 07:07:06
read all of the latest update last night, absolutely superb!  It had me chuckling and even going 'ooooh sheeeeet!' when Mr Smith sassed Katrina.  As always, superb stuff with brilliant characterisation.

Plus the mental image of the Griffin stuck in the ceiling of the throne room after the pilot accidentally hit the jump jets while on guard duty...  ;D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 28 August 2018, 08:13:58
Plus the mental image of the Griffin stuck in the ceiling of the throne room after the pilot accidentally hit the jump jets while on guard duty...  ;D

Seyla :D  Although i'm still trying to figure out what song it was that was being sung off the Ipod.  For a moment I thought it was

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VQhuoY5h2kE  But whilst I can see Hanse grinning and bopping to it, Katrina would be "Nein!"
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Siden Pryde on 30 August 2018, 23:50:41
Bravo.  Excellent chapter and ending to book one.  Looking forward, impatiently, to book two.


Nitpick: You keep referring to Dan Allard as Justin.

" “Thank you, Duke Steiner” Justin extended a hand "

" at his casual use of my name before I quick stepped it to catch up to Justin "
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 31 August 2018, 12:56:18
this was a great story.  I can not wait for more.  I so can not wait so see how smith and the wolves,with the blackwidow get to meet.  any bets on his first mech?  i'm betting a Wolfhound with DHS
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 01 September 2018, 00:14:28
Well done!  Thanks for sharing. :thumbsup: :thumbsup: :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Greatclub on 07 September 2018, 16:02:36
Omake, post-Misery

Captain Kerensky: Damn Davion is trolling us.
Colonel Wolf: Why'd you say that?
Captain Kerensky: The units he gave us. 10 Centurion, 10 Valkyrie, bog standard. Ten Longbows, modified with 36 tubes that can fire any missile you care to name; no stravag idea where those came from. The cap is the damn omni-carrier tanks; they can be swapped between SRM, LRM, and light autocannon loadouts.
Colonel Wolf: Omni?
Captain Kerensky: Remember Quentin IV?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 07 September 2018, 16:24:26
Omake, post-Misery

Captain Kerensky: Damn Davion is trolling us.
Colonel Wolf: Why'd you say that?
Captain Kerensky: The units he gave us. 10 Centurion, 10 Valkyrie, bog standard. Ten Longbows, modified with 36 tubes that can fire any missile you care to name; no stravag idea where those came from. The cap is the damn omni-carrier tanks; they can be swapped between SRM, LRM, and light autocannon loadouts.
Colonel Wolf: Omni?
Captain Kerensky: Remember Quentin IV?


 :D :D :D :D  love it!!!!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 08 September 2018, 00:08:43
Tis must be Dead Tree'd!

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 15 September 2018, 08:29:49
Hi Guys.

Progress on the first chapter of the next book is good, I'm hoping next weekend will be the publish date.
I am also, after some voting on Spacebattles, writing an interlude of sorts between the books (which will be published before the next chapter). This interlude will NOT be an SI chapter, but a more classic multi-POV chapter as it were, my theory is that each book will have a non SI point of view chapter between them to give a little bit of a different point of view of the going on's in the universe and how some impacts of the SIs changes may be being felt.

I put five titles of five possible interludes to a vote, most of which were pretty unhelpful in trying to determine what they would be about. The highest voted title being the only one that was actually pretty clear; 'You may use the garden!'

The second placed one a lot of people correctly suspected was about some hints I had dropped about the Grey Death Legion and what would happen to them in this timeline, with in the last chapter previously posted a throw away line by Hanse giving a vague sort of hint.

However while I intend to only write the winning interlude, Rogue_Vector over on spacebattles asked for permission to write out the GDL one and did a pretty damn fantastic job. So I'm posting it here as well - its very much considered canon for this story.

Enjoy!


Marauder Bill’s Bar

Galatea, Lyran Commonwealth
December 28th, 3027


As time moved to close with the New Years, Captain Grayson Death Carlyle accepted his third drink.

He wasn’t drowning his sorrows, per se.

The mercenary commander took a pull from the ice water - a drink which had jokingly become his ‘regular’ here - as he watched the mercenaries of the Gray Death Legion kill time at Marauder Bill’s bar: Davis McCall’s scouse accent was cutting through the din as he took the lead in a game of darts with Jessica Hastings, while his executive officer Lori Kalmar sat quietly in the corner furthest away from the fireplace that kept the room warm. Grayson had left this bar years before with just a little under two hundred mercenaries at his command; infantrymen, techs, drivers, mechwarriors and all. Now he had come back with nearly triple that number, and dependents besides.

The Verthandi campaign had unfolded into a disorganized series of guerrilla battles and knife-edge clashes which had pushed the fledgling mercenary command to its limits. Even though he’d lost so much over the course of that campaign, they had gained much from Verthandi; not just personnel swelling his ranks with experienced, blooded troops but also with warmachines: his recently acquired Marauder for one, formerly a weapon of terror wielded by the Draconis Combine, now one of the heaviest ‘mechs in his rosters. Meanwhile, Lori had picked up his Shadow Hawk, and while the rest tended to be lights, even the Wasps and Stingers he had liberated from the Draco forces were a welcome sight to the growing mercenary unit… once they had properly painted over the dragon iconography.

More than that, the parts, salvage, and acquisitions earned on Verthandi had seeded the growth of the Legion even further once he had returned to Galatea, the unit’s TOE swelling to finally fill out a full company of 'mechs and nearly a company more: in truth there were enough MechWarriors signing on with him that he’d nearly have a full battalion if every competent pilot could be partnered with a machine to match, though that was easier said than done.

His other forces, meanwhile, would fill out the roster for an entire mixed regiment; between just over two infantry companies captained by Ramage and the recently acquired armor company headed by Baron, the unit would have qualified as a short regiment if they had been able to take the profits of the Marik contract and use it to hire on even more recruits.

If.

That line of thought brought Grayson back to his current predicament; after the success of Verthandi, the Gray Death Legion had cooled their heels ever since their return to the Mercenary Star of Galatea: repairing, training, hiring as Grayson had gone from embassy to office, rumor mill to upscale bar in search of a new job. Clients were consulted, stool pigeons shaken, and bribes were paid. With his larger force and the foundations of a solid reputation, it hadn’t taken more than a few months before he had lined up a nice contract with the Free Worlds League, away from the borders of the Draconis Combine. An extended contract for sure; years of raiding and garrison duty was ahead of him, but there was the promise of a landhold at the end of it.

Helm.

Helm, the same planet that had been on the holovid casts.

Blake’s beard, they had a Star League cache there!

The Christmas Party at the Triad had been broadcast almost all throughout the Lyran Commonwealth and no doubt the Federated Suns too.

To most mercs, it was simply the blue bloods showing off their wealth.

For Grayson, it had been the final piece of the puzzle, explaining so much about why he had suddenly lost contact with the League hiring hall, and why his contact’s secretary had politely pretended that she had no idea who the Lyran-born mercenary was, despite the fact that she had slipped him her contact number a week ago.

A bloody Castle Brian. It had almost driven him to (actual) drink as he watched a military analysis of the cache’s size; speculation had ran rampant as one of the channels described the number and size of the dropships that had been diverted to the Victoria Steiner Military Reserve. Regiments of equipment had landed in addition to the mentioned Kell Hounds and Davion Heavy Guards. Of course, the prospect of finding - and more importantly, keeping - that particular pile of LosTech would have propelled him up to the same lofty heights as the Wolf’s Dragoons, Eridani Light Horse or… wait, why had the bar suddenly gone quiet?

“Grayson?”

The merc only knew one man who would call him that outside of the Gray Death Legion; many negotiators had styled themselves as part of the militaries they represented, while a rare breed - like the man currently in the room - preferred to take a more civilian approach.

Piter Simmons was, by all appearances, an impeccable businessman; the Suns representative had cultivated his reputation as a negotiator of the highest caliber with his flawlessly tailored suits, subdued colors and his ever-present leather briefcase (which many had openly speculated to have some kind of LosTech devices inside). There was little doubt that he was well connected among the AFFS, who often sought him out as their middleman.

But rather than the calm, neutral expression that was as ever-present as his pressed white shirt, there was a tinge of suspicion and worry in the man’s eyes as he sat down and set his briefcase on the bar.

“What did you do, Grayson?” Piter asked the captain, wonder in his eyes.

The younger man - easily half Piter’s age - didn’t know the first thing to answering that question. “I beg your pardon, Piter? I… I’m not sure what you’re asking about.” Grayson tried avoid sounding like a child who had had been caught with his hand inside the proverbial cookie jar.

“I hire people, Grayson.” Piter explained, thumb moving to the archaic - and deceptively simple - combination lock on his briefcase. “Usually, I am given a broad understanding of the size, composition and disposition of the mercenaries that I am tasked to hire. Then I’m to seek out and hire those same mercenaries.”

Click click! The two metal snap-locks popped free.

“Now, imagine my surprise when I am given a contract for a defensive garrison posting… along with quite extraordinary requirements for the mercenary unit to fulfil it. Extraordinarily specific requirements.”

Piter produced a small glasses case and opened them up, settling the thin, black framed reading glasses on his nose as he began to read.

“I was sent a request for a mercenary command, of a battlemech regimental strength and mixed composition. Defensive garrison posting, standard contract otherwise… with payment in the form of a landhold and title to go with it.”

Not an uncommon sight on Galatea, Grayson thought, yet his interest perked at the offer of a landhold. Well, perked was something of an understatement; poker face be damned, it was the one thing short of being offered the lives of his men and women back that really drew his interest; a landhold. A home. It was a dream that his father had chased… that he in turn inherited once he had made himself a mercenary. Grayson was familiar with the nomadic lifestyle of a soldier-for-hire. Hell, it was pretty much the only one he knew. The regiment was your home. But to be able to settle down and have a home for the regiment?

Piter smiled; the man was well aware of Grayson’s goals.

“The unit’s history of service to include both defensive and offensive operations, with an emphasis in combined arms and guerrilla warfare…”

Which was the Gray Death Legion’s history in summary.

“... and, most importantly, commanded by one Grayson Carlyle. That is non-negotiable, I’m afraid.”

“What.” Grayson leaned over to read, manners forgotten, but Piter was more than happy to flip the page and hand it to him.

Someone had singled him out. Grayson scanned the document. It even included the Gray Death Legion’s emblem! A landhold contract, with garrison duty rather than having to go out and claim said landhold…

“This can’t be real.” He murmured. A prank was far beyond Piter’s sensibilities, no matter how fake they may have been.

“I assure you it very much is. I asked for double authentication to make sure of that.” Piter nodded. “Which makes me wonder, Grayson, what your unit did to deserve such… attention.”

“I…” Grayson racked his brains for who might possibly want him for? Who in the Federated Suns would… “Blake’s beard, Piter, am I seeing what I think that is?”

“Yes, that is the seal of House Davion. Not a baron with a moon mining operation. Not a planetary duke. Not a March Lord. Hence my rudeness earlier, for which I do hope you’ll forgive me.” The man nodded. “It’s rather rare that House Davion asks for my services so directly.”

Grayson shook his head slowly. “Piter, I have no idea what this is about.”

“I’d imagine so. Impressive as the Verthandi insurgency was, I doubt that report would have swayed the First Prince’s opinion of your unit. Yet here we are.”

“Yet here we are.” The merc agreed. “While I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I do have to ask...”

“I’m glad to hear that. I don’t doubt the horse’s pedigree, mind you, but she’s still in the stables, so to speak. Let’s bring her out for a trot.” Piter smiled, amused and unoffended, as he pulled out more paperwork.

Grayson accepted the papers and began to read them.

His jaw slowly slid down the front of his shirt. Generous didn’t begin to describe the terms of this contract; the pay for making raids into Draco space weren’t stellar, but that was the only complaint he could put forward, especially compared to the downright predatory terms Marik had been offering him. Mercenaries of all stripes would kill for this sheet of paper, to be the one that claimed the contract, if only it hadn’t specified Grayson and his unit.

He checked the posting and his breath hitched. “Marduk… that’s a world on the Draconis March.”

“Yes, the AFFS liberated the world in 2818. It’s currently held by the Marduk Militia - they’re experienced but understrength, so House Davion has put up an extraordinarily specific contract that you are… uniquely… qualified to handle.”

Both Trellwan and Verthandi had showed him the brutality the Draconis Combine was willing - and more than eager - to inflict upon a planet’s population. His hatred of them had simmered from the heat it once was; he wasn’t eager to begin a crusade against the Dracos, but to be able to deny them the opportunities to raid a world? Several worlds?

Grayson read on.

“The garrison contract is only part of the parcel, but the most extensive: it will be a five year rolling contract with options to renegotiate postings after the first three years. There are also clauses for raiding or defensive actions within a two-jump radius of Marduk and Hoff. Additional clauses allow for independent actions as long as I have enough forces staying to maintain a defensive posture on my primary posting. A defensive force of at least two battlemech battalions.” Grayson read. “I’ll have to recruit.”

Piter nodded. “The contract does provide a signing on bonus of half a million C-Bills to cover transportation to Marduk. I imagine some of that may be used to hire on additional contractors. Payment will be in quarterly installments and standard fifty-fifty salvage agreements with the option to sell or purchase, as well as in the form of a landhold on Hoff - while not the entire planet itself, but your holdings will be adjacent to the Friden Aerospace Park and, I can reassure you, well outside of its usual testing ranges. I am at liberty to say that there used to be a BattleMech storage and repair facility in that area that’s been included in the landhold. With the demi-battalion of techs you have, I’m sure your unit could make use of it as part of their holdings.”

Not to mention make a secondary income from repairing others’ equipment there. He could, with care and some luck, make a Mercenary Star in microcosm there as smaller mercenary units passed through for repairs, sale of salvage or even just to cool their heels after operations.

Another sheet of paper was given to the stunned merc commander.

“There’s also provision for partial preferential customer benefits with Norse BattleMech Works, which are based on Marduk; I hear their Wolverines and Griffins are quite popular chassis.” Piter smiled, and at this point someone dropped a drink in the background, the glass (which was supposedly carved from the cockpit glass of battlemechs) rattling around as it fell to the floor. Mercenaries being used to guard an objective was not unheard of, but to have them guard a BattleMech factory was… prestigious.

“Of course. I’ll have to have my lawyer look at it, first.” Grayson nodded, scanning the more detailed minutiae of the papers, he glanced upstairs to where no doubt his first pick of lawyer was ready to make more money; a lawyer was one of those things that a mercenary unit needed almost as much as battlemechs, and he had made sure to hire well.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Nodded Piter, who smiled fondly at the much younger man. “These are verified copies. I’ll have the originals in my office - you know where I am - so simply tell Alice to send you through and we’ll finalize things there.”

Grayson nodded mutely, still re-reading the outline of the contract.

A landhold. A home.

“I must thank you for this, Grayson. I’m sure my employer will be thrilled that I’ve convinced you to accept the contract so quickly.” Piter smiled, completely sincere. “I will also mention, that my services are open should you be looking to expand your unit outside of… local hires… from Hoff or Marduk. You have my card, of course?”

“Yes.” He murmured distractedly, before shaking himself back into focus. “Thank you for the offer, Piter. I’ll make sure to stay in touch.”

“Glad to hear it, Grayson.” Piter smiled much like the Fox he represented. “Thank you for seeing me on such short notice.”

Grayson watched as Piter methodically - to the point of ritual - packed up his briefcase, picked up his hat and walked out into the evening with a brief ‘happy new years’.

He turned to see that all of the room’s eyes were on him. Even more were peeking from the stairs and - Grayson looked upwards - through the floorboards of the silent bar.

“Cap’n.” Davis’ Scots-Terran accent was the first to break the silence. “Wha’ have ye done... an’ can ye do i’ more often?”
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 15 September 2018, 10:08:55
Very, very good.  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 15 September 2018, 10:11:47
nice update.. looking forward to more.  nice to see the GDL getting some love.  real love
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 15 September 2018, 10:31:32
Wonderful! And when someone said "Greyson." I thought oooh fight time!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 15 September 2018, 19:44:37
ooooh
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 15 September 2018, 20:03:13
they don't get new toys, and the core.  but they don't get the crap kicked out of them again.  Do they still have to two droppers?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 15 September 2018, 20:24:02
Davis summed it up perfectly. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 15 September 2018, 21:50:42
and without the warcrime/death sentence from Comstar/FWL thier history is clear

I still dont know how they got called unreliable before the Glengarry fight
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 15 September 2018, 22:30:55
Interesting new story
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 15 September 2018, 22:45:19
It really does help to know what is going on elsewhere in Mayberry...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DoctorMonkey on 16 September 2018, 05:35:51
Nice but early on Davis McCall is described as having a scouse accent, that is Liverpool-area rather than Scottish
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tyrchon on 16 September 2018, 09:48:34
Nice to see this get updated even if it is with a vignette about the GDL and their potential future due to the "butterflies."
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: wolfcannon on 02 October 2018, 17:28:02
in the immortal words of Data "It's Green" as i imagine him reaching for a bottle of romulan ale
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 02 October 2018, 18:53:34
You realize that was a tip to Scotty saying the same thing in TOS
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: wolfcannon on 06 October 2018, 11:24:47
i do
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: idea weenie on 07 October 2018, 00:06:08
Just read all the way to the end of this story, amazing work.

Now the fun question will be if he has a quiet time at school (especially when discussing his background), or if it will be glossed over via montage?


You know someone at the school will be figuring out that John Smith is a fake name, so is he a noble child who is trying to hide history, a noble's bastard son who got a trust fund and a little pull to attend, or a commoner whose family has enough money to hide his background and use the obviously fake name?  The smarter ones might figure that trying to find the history of someone with an obviously fake name would be bad for their health.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 07 October 2018, 01:27:45
I've been following him on Spacebattles.com, and it seems we could see a new chapter this week or next, mostly glossing over his time at Sakahara.  Something about having enough characters introduced already. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 21 October 2018, 10:53:18
The new chapter is up on SB!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 21 October 2018, 11:52:03
The new chapter is up on SB!

any one have a link to this?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 21 October 2018, 12:18:58
Yeah, Red Pins... linkys are always a click away for us non readers!

 :))

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 21 October 2018, 12:26:52
Just found it again.   https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-225#post-51608389 (https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-225#post-51608389)  I'd prefer it if Chris did it, mind you, so this is the last time I steal his thunder. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: wolfcannon on 21 October 2018, 14:16:48
i am having a hard time reading the story there.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 21 October 2018, 14:27:12
Use the Threadmarks; go to the first page of the thread with the page numbers at the top or bottom of the page, click the 1rst page (because he started the thread, and the first post will have the list of pages), then click either the arrows for the next/last chapter or the box for the list of chapters.  The newest is Chapter 11, at the bottom.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 21 October 2018, 23:51:11
o.O 259 PAGES? HOLY F...udge nuggets. OK I read the segment (very impressive) but why has he not posted that story portion here? Oh wait, all that profanity he has to edit...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Cyclone on 22 October 2018, 00:13:23
For those wondering why the most recent update has not been posted here, Chris explains it here (https://forums.spacebattles.com/posts/51757586/).
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 22 October 2018, 00:47:34
For those wondering why the most recent update has not been posted here, Chris explains it here (https://forums.spacebattles.com/posts/51757586/).

That sucks... may he get it back.

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 22 October 2018, 01:50:12
Yeah, I left a post saying I posted a link.  Hope he didn't loose all his research like I did once.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: PsihoKekec on 23 October 2018, 07:15:25
If he rebuilt his computer, he probably saved his data, but not the cookies, so when he reinstalled windows the cookies were gone and with them the password.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 23 October 2018, 20:07:39
...Doesn't everybody keep the little site book with U/PWs?  I know I do.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: PsihoKekec on 24 October 2018, 01:11:25
Most people don't.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 24 October 2018, 03:05:11
I use specialized number and letter sequences from my favorite tv show. Each has an associated noun which makes remembering them easy and I can look them up if I forget. If I do have to write iit down I use the noun so even then if someone else finds the list they still don't have the password. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: worktroll on 24 October 2018, 05:46:27
He can always email me, or a moderator, and we can reset it for him.

W.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 24 October 2018, 19:51:18
My password is from my favorite movie...

Like I'm gonna tell you!  xp

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 27 October 2018, 22:17:43
I have been enjoying the 3-5 seperate sub threads going on
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 28 October 2018, 01:50:24
Looks like Sakahara is going to get the Jihad treatment early.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 28 October 2018, 05:17:40
I have been enjoying the 3-5 seperate sub threads going on

Got a link to those? :D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 28 October 2018, 09:58:41
its the same link but the primary reason the thing is almost 300 pages long is multiple posters running semi related conversations in the thread
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: PsihoKekec on 29 October 2018, 02:15:56
And totally unrelated as well.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 29 October 2018, 10:35:38
And totally unrelated as well.
Sounds like nobody's driving the topic bus on that forums?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tyrchon on 29 October 2018, 11:16:33
Well it looks like the Mods on SB locked the thread by Chris's request.  I'm not surprised considering that not only were some posters veering far-afield with topics but some others were getting into some very questionable territory that some would consider inappropriate.

Hopefully, Chris can get his password reset and start posting here again.  We might go on tangents with comments, but we generally stay away from the real chuckle-head stuff that dances across the line of tactfulness.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 29 October 2018, 19:33:01
Or he could just post a story-only thread like MA did with his.  But, whatever.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 08 November 2018, 23:42:51
OOOH, it seems Chris has another 20,000 words he's cutting up into chapters - I keep thinking about how I'd use formed plastic explosive and a pressure switch to keep Jamie and his whole staff in their chairs while I ask him how the weather is on Strana Mechty and interrupt Natasha to finish her sentence, "...And learn why they call me the Black Widow!" in a little old ladies voice.   >:D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: LightGuard on 09 November 2018, 12:14:25
OOOH, it seems Chris has another 20,000 words he's cutting up into chapters - I keep thinking about how I'd use formed plastic explosive and a pressure switch to keep Jamie and his whole staff in their chairs while I ask him how the weather is on Strana Mechty and interrupt Natasha to finish her sentence, "...And learn why they call me the Black Widow!" in a little old ladies voice.   >:D

The thread is still locked on Spacebattles, per his request. Are we missing something in translation here?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: worktroll on 09 November 2018, 13:14:13
Well, I'd love to unlock his account here, but he needs to drop me an email.

W.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 10 November 2018, 01:31:55
The thread is still locked on Spacebattles, per his request. Are we missing something in translation here?

As of this post, it's open, because I just finished the next chapter.  Ho-lee...  Tied to an ergonomic chair and slapped repeatedly with a printed copy of Kerlin Ward's last orders, indeed.

Well, I'd love to unlock his account here, but he needs to drop me an email.

W.

...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 10 November 2018, 01:46:31
Jameson must have done a spit-take when he scanned the MAD.

And its a very good thing Natasha wasn't in the room!

Page 285 has Chapter 12.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cklammer on 10 November 2018, 05:38:37
And as a public service announcement the direkt link to chapter on the spacebattles thread:

https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-285#post-52306132 (https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-285#post-52306132)

I apologize if this is going against some crossed t's and dotted i's of the forum rules ... spank me then, mods  ;)

Those spacebattles threadmarks are surely useful, though  ;D

Best Regards,
Christian

Aunt Edith modified for typos
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 10 November 2018, 11:34:28
being able to listen to the text while typing (Right Click -> Read aloud) :D is very awesome. Hearing the word "Han-Se"? Priceless... loved the STK double take on our Hero's MAD :D "Gear-Yo!" Roflcopter...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 10 November 2018, 12:11:07
okay at the start of the 4SW what could the WD field in our timeline.  I know they were on three planets and that was what K hit.  this AU has them at 2.5 RGTs.  how does that compare with RTL? 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 10 November 2018, 12:51:51
okay at the start of the 4SW what could the WD field in our timeline.  I know they were on three planets and that was what K hit.  this AU has them at 2.5 RGTs.  how does that compare with RTL?

IIRC they were down to one combined-arms regiment in the end.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 10 November 2018, 18:47:44
IIRC they were down to one combined-arms regiment in the end.

so it looks like the WD will be almost three times as powerful in the 4th SW.  that will help them.... later.  they still will have to "rebuild" those three Mech REGTS but, that is all about spare parts.  then bring back the other two or three with new machines.  Zeta would make a nasty Regt unit. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Mackon on 10 November 2018, 20:50:35
Plus saving all the families, that's going to make rebuilding a lot more workable.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Greatclub on 10 November 2018, 22:54:32
IIRC they were down to one combined-arms regiment in the end.

1 regiment at the end of SW4. At the start of SW4 all five regiments were in theory active, Alpha and beta with 5 'provisional companies', whatever those are, and the others with 4 each

Reference, OTP death to mercenaries.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 10 November 2018, 23:11:54
Someone can correct me but I thought the WD had clan mechs and other equipment still with their warships in the periphery.
I remember that's where Colonel Wolf's son was killed. So would they not go get it now that they are known as clan.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 10 November 2018, 23:18:40
Someone can correct me but I thought the WD had clan mechs and other equipment still with their warships in the periphery.
I remember that's where Colonel Wolf's son was killed. So would they not go get it now that they are known as clan.

Warships and advanced units that wouldn't have fit in with the stuff from the IS.  And they might give the FC those Warships under the right circumstances.  Does anybody else remember they had techs able to use ComStar's HPG?  If Hanse can capture those HPGs like he did the canon timeline, he might be able to start getting them operation with their help.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chaeronea on 11 November 2018, 01:04:22
Does anybody else remember they had techs able to use ComStar's HPG?  If Hanse can capture those HPGs like he did the canon timeline, he might be able to start getting them operation with their help.

Yes the Dragoons do have techs capable of using HPGs - there was a scenario in BattleTroops with Dragoon infantry holding the HPG grounds while a tech sends a message. I think it was for the Seventh Kommando capturing the An Ting HPG so they could send the Hegira message after the ISF tried to capture the Hephaestus station in An Ting.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: idea weenie on 11 November 2018, 18:46:19
Next time John Smith meets Natasha Kerensky, it should be in a more casual setting, where he and others are commenting about how she keeps setting top scores in practice ranges.  This way he can make the comment, "you're quite the Star, Colonel," and let Natasha figure out if he left out the comma.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 11 November 2018, 18:52:53
Too late for that - already revealed that knows about the Clan origin of the Dragoons - see last chapter.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: marauder648 on 12 November 2018, 02:22:51
Do we know if a new thread for this story has started up somewhere?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 12 November 2018, 02:25:52
He had the thread at spacebattles unlocked.  I gave instructions on how to find it and read it, there should be a link on a previous page.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 02:49:35
Hey the password reset function is working again :p
I’ll post the next few chapters tonight. After a post work party thing :)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 08:01:35
Okay, so one sidestory time and then back to the next chapter!
I'm planning at the end of each of the books to then have one interlude from a different non-SI point of view to break it up. This is the one for the break between these two books - I had put it to a vote on SB from a number of choices. Think I'll make the vote over here next time. Although a nice chap (as we saw posted earlier) put his hand up to write the GDL possibility and it was more than good enough for me to canonize it.

Anyway, here is 'You may use the Garden...'

Unity Palace, Imperial City, Luthien
Pesht Military District, Draconis Combine
28 August 3027



Alone on the Balcony of his palace, with only the whispers of the night wind to keep him company, the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine could pretend he was simply Takashi Kurita.

For a time.

Yet even in the peace of night, beyond the walls of the palace Imperial City pulsed with energy and activity. The factories, government buildings and military bases on this world formed the heart of the Draconis Combine; a heart that never stopped beating. So too were the webs of Jumpships and dropships above the Combines veins and arteries. Sending the strength of House Kurita out along the length and breadth of the Dragons realm … and spreading corruption, disease and weakness in turn.
The Lord of the Draconis Combine did not sigh or otherwise show weakness at that thought, even here. Even alone. But he did fold his arms into his robe and allow the evening breeze to wash over him, returning his gaze from the sky to the Imperial Garden below as he allowed his mind to dwell on the events that had just played out.

Minutes ago, Jamie Wolf and his party had crossed the perfectly tendered gardens, returning to where their vehicles waited to take them back to their dropship. It had disappointed him that the Colonel had not taken the rare opportunity to appreciate the gardens as he moved through them. Painstakingly sculpted down to the smallest detail, they were possibly the finest such work anywhere in the Inner Sphere. From up here, the ground level chaos and seemingly random mixing and meshing suddenly shifted into a breathtakingly intricate order and balance that was hard to perceive at ground level. Jamie Wolf, unfortunately it seemed, had blazed through the gardens and only seen the clashing without the subtleties of harmony teased through it. Not seeing how one must give for the other to take and how stability and unity of purpose was achieved in the larger picture with balance in all things.

Although Takashi would admit -very- privately, that the clear displeasure hanging around the Mercenary was understandable. If misplaced.

He and Wolf had remained silent for most of an hour as the Warlord of Galerdon had furiously ranted and accused, seemingly blind to his liege’s displeasure at his skirting the very edge of what could be tolerated and perhaps just a little beyond that as he charged the Dragoons with everything short of treason.
And only then because it was difficult to accuse paid soldiers for hire of that.
Subtlety had never been Grieg Samsonovs greatest strength.

Sadly, the tangled web of politics that was the Draconis Combine meant that tolerance had to be extended to him. A Warlord, even Samsonov, was power in the Combine. And for all his ego and coveting of yet more power, there was no denying that as an administrator he had few peers as he kept his district operating with great efficiency giving him a powerbase few could match. Yet his abrasive nature ensured that outside his district he was little threat given how much contempt he held for his peers and vice versa.

And a Mercenary commander, even the legendary Jamie Wolf, was but a passing player in this game.

He had hoped going into this meeting that Wolf would understand that. Had hoped that by letting Samsonov rant … then dismissing his demands with a casual indifference that had made the Warlords face turn a most interesting shade of purple for a moment, that Wolf would understand the Dragoons retained his support. And understand most of all that he spoke truly and honestly when he had told him that the Combine was truly the only logical place for a Samuraii of Wolf’s statue to call home.
Instead Wolf had almost coldly noted that true leaders could be judged by their subordinate’s actions. Rejecting without formally rejecting his suggestion for new contract terms and liaison officers to try and set things right.
It was clear to him in that moment that the relationship between the Dragoons and Combine had been damaged and set on a course he had not wished. His instructions to his varied servants had been to work to tie the Dragoons firmly to the Combine as their contract approached the end of its running term. To encourage them to see the Combine as their true and permanent home. After all, to have such skilled warriors as a permanent part of the Dragon would have enormously strengthened the Combine in the face of the growing strategic uncertainty of this alliance between Davion and Steiner. An alliance counterbalanced by … less than reliable allies in his Concord partners.
Unfortunately, possibly inevitably, it seemed that different viewpoints and agendas as to what those orders had meant had crashed into each other and poisoned Wolf against them all.

Samsonovs clearly wanted the Dragoons soldiers and mechs for his own, even if he hid his intentions behind a supposed concern for the Combine as a whole. Which clearly meant destroying the Dragoons as an institution, starting by dealing with their leadership - probably hoping to take them as hostages - before scattering the subunits into ever smaller chunks where they could be finally digested.
Apparently, the fool had never read up on the famous unit’s history. Anton Marik had tried a similar ploy and Takashi was entirely sure that the Black Widow would barely need encouragement to give the Dragoons traditional response to such a crude tactic. Indeed, if his Warlord continued poking and prodding at the Dragoons leadership, it could be that Kerensky might well take matters into her own hands and Buddah have mercy on Samsonov because she certainly would not...

His own efforts to quietly convince the Dragoons to make their permanent home in the Combine with both subtle pressure and careful methods had thus been stymied by the heavy-handed efforts of the Warlord, but all he could do now was let the cards fall as they would. Samsonovs impatience was bringing matters to a head too quickly with the Dragoons, who were still far too strong to be overtly pressured. And should it come to the Dragoons deciding to blast their way out of the Combine?
But he had little choice but to follow where the Warlord led unless he wished to risk challenging he or his peers, who may hate Samsonov, but tended to close ranks if the Coordinator moved for a threat to one was a threat to all unless that one had clearly and grievously overstepped…
Still. Perhaps his Warlord could be yet … reminded ... that there were consequences for acting rashly?

Takashi let his gaze once again return to the horizon as with a distant thunder, a bright star slowly ascended from the nearby military spaceport; a dropship returning to the stars. He could not tell from this distance of course, but he was reasonably certain that it was the Chieftain, Command Ship of Jamie Wolf. Clearly eager to return to his regiment and of no mood to accept his offer of hospitality.
It would be a long trip though. The return trip to An Ting would take the Dragoons considerably longer than the one that brought them to Luthien as there would be no Command Circuit of JumpShips waiting to ferry their DropShip quickly from one jump point to the next. This time, they would have to wait while their JumpShip recharged its drives at each stop along the way.
Messages via HPG however were considerably faster, taking days instead of weeks to cross such distances. Which gave time for messages to pass from Luthien to An Ting and the situation to be … shaped before Jamie Wolf returned.
So-ka. What would that situation be?
Again, the age-old conflict: ninjo or giri. It was ever a choice between his feelings for others, which was the way his heart would lead him, and the inexorable call of obligation. And while he had a choice … the Dragon did not. The Dragons duty was to protect his House and his realm and do what he must to improve its place in the order of things. It was that simple, if hard.

With that final grave thought Takashi turned and walked back into the palace and down the flight of stairs from the meeting room, passing only members of the Otomo until he arrived at a sliding door. Outside of which waited Subhash Indrahar.

“All is ready Lord” he said after bowing to his Liege and friend. Looking as always like the wise but harmless uncle with his thick framed glasses, beard and moustache, Takashi knew full well that the man's utter ruthlessness was matched only by his loyalty to the Dragon. Hence, his success in achieving what was intended for this evening, without any of the players on the board any the wiser of it.
He nodded his thanks and with that, the ISF director slid the paper screen back silently to allow entrance, closing it behind them in turn.

This room was directly under the impressive reception room he had received the Warlord and Mercenary Commander in, but it was far less glitz and glamour and far more traditional Japanese in style. A simple wooden floor and oaken walls lined with sliding paper screens (that were of course not paper but looked like it despite being bulletproof and soundproof) with the far screen open to the night and garden beyond. On the floor two long tatami mats and one smaller one topped with a handwoven rug of a snarling scarlet Dragon were set with exquisite placement; the smaller at the head of the room and the longer pair running down its length away from it. The Coordinator moved to and calmly knelt on the Dragon, Subhash taking position on the edge of the tatami behind and slightly to his right with not even a whisper of sound.

There they remained for several minutes, their eyes closed as they centered themselves … before without a sound or gesture visible, they opened their eyes in perfect synchronization and as if it was some signal to a hidden servant, the far screen slid open.

Grieg Samsonov had managed to calm himself down somewhat from his fury to the point that he almost looked calm. He entered the room on edge however, with his face something of a mask, having no Gajian present to excuse his rage. Having stormed out the meeting to return home, he had been bid to wait then to enter this room … and now found himself again face to face with his liege … and the ISF director.
Suffice to say through history, more than one high ranking Combine officer had walked into such a meeting and not walked out.
The warlord at least had the dignity (or shrewdness) to bow deeply to the Dragon on entering, holding it perhaps overlong. A gesture calculated to show contrition - or the appearance of such - for his borderline disrespect upstairs?
Takashi gave him an exactly appropriate nod in return, gesturing him with a minimal wave to a mat on his right as the screen whispered shut behind him. His aide Jerry Akuma in turn took the que from the ISF director to take a similar position behind and slightly to his right, the loyal and calm servant to his master.
Or perhaps playing the loyal and calm servant to his master? Takashi quietly wondered, the ISFs reports on the man divided as to his true intentions. But that was something for another day.

Silence reigned once more as Takashi waited silently. He could tell from the impatient twitching on his body that this inaction grated upon the Warlord, but not even Samsonov would dare speak before the Coordinator did without being invited to do so, clearly thinking this was some kind of test or punishment.
Which left him clearly surprised when the same screen Takashi had used to enter the room now opened up without warning … and Hirushi Shotugama entered the room, followed by his own aide.
Takashi easily perceived the shock both men tried to hide as they were confronted with each other’s unexpected presence before Shotugama quickly recovered and bowed deeply to his liege. Takashi again returned the bow and gestured to his left and the Warlord of Benjamin took his place. Forced, by sitting directly opposite Shotugama to stare at him as he stared back, Samsonovs contempt for the newest Warlord was subtle but quite clear to him while Shotugama merely waited for his Coordinators pleasure to begin.

But again, Takashi merely sat in silence.

An appropriate time later the first screen opened once more and now Vasily Cherenkoff entered. Once again, there was that subtle shock and once again after paying homage to their Liege, the Warlord and his aide took their places. Followed soon after by Kester Hsiun-Chi, Warlord of Pesht and his aide, each man in turn clearly not expecting his peers to be present. Each wondering how they had been gathered without their own intelligence networks picking up on it, each wondering what this unannounced meeting of the most powerful men in the Inner Sphere was about.
Finally, Ivan Sorensen entered, he took his place next to Samsonov. Alone of the Warlords here, he knew why they were here and thus why of all his close aides, he brought with him the man sitting behind him.
Takashi then closed his eyes and remained in perfect stillness for several minutes, giving absolutely no indication of his thoughts as he felt the currents flowing through the room. The bombastic impatience of Samsonov, the cool calculation of Shotugama. The curiosity and concern of the rest … and the hint of fear from the man sitting behind Sorensen as he rubbed his fingers together under the sleeves of his robes.

It was time.

“I have called you all here this evening to discuss recent events in the Davion-Steiner alliance” Takashi started finally as he opened his eyes, causing all attention to instantly draw to him.“I am sure you have all seen the broadcast regarding the Helm affair?”
There were nods around the room at that. Which was unsurprising given that the Fox had broadcasted his gloating across the Inner Sphere alongside Steiner. The information had, of course, been tightly controlled in the Combine and his Warlords had been told to simply ignore it for now while the ISF investigated.
He was sure most of them -if not all of them- had carefully ignored that directive but little probably had been learned with their enemies exercising ruthless operational security.
“Director?”

“Hai” Indrahar replied, shuffling forward carefully and bowing deeply to first the Coordinator and then the room, before offering one of his famous smiles and getting to work.
“The ISF has spent considerable time reviewing intelligence before and after the Helm operation and has managed to come to a broadly complete picture of the operation and aftermath. The best information we have is that this was indeed a surprisingly rash action from Davion and Steiner, organized ‘on the fly’ in response to external factors that drove them to do what they could with what they had available. But despite the haste of action, the operation was unfortunately a considerable success for them”.

“Do we have further information on what Davion and Steiner recovered from the cache?” Cherenkoff was first off the mark asking the question clearly on the mind of every Warlord from the way they ever so slightly edged forward on their mats, clearly wondering what Star League Lostech might be pointed at their districts.

“Total lift tonnage on the cargo dropships that arrived at Tharkad is something in excess of three quarters of a megaton” the ISF Director stated calmly and every Warlord winced at that number but remained silent as the ISF director laid out the nightmare for them. “SAFE investigation of the landing zones on Helm as well as footage brought from a trader at the Tharkad zenith point suggests they were loaded at or close to capacity. Additionally, the Heavy Guards also offloaded many armored personnel carriers and destroyed them, presumably to make room on their troop transports for vehicles from the cache. Steiner and Davion are playing their cards very close to their chest, but the best estimates we’ve collated from our sources suggest the most likely scenario is roughly two Mech regiments and two vehicle regiments. With the vast bulk of the cache contents left behind by Kerensky being spare parts and components”.

There was a furious intake of breath at that from the Warlord to his immediate right.

“That … that is enough war material for Davion to replace all the non-recoverable Mech losses we have inflicted on him over the last year! At a stroke!” Samsonov snarled, his gaze furious as he looked around the room for someone to blame for such an outrage. “And enough spare parts to have his Techs rebuilding entire Regiments of broken machines!”

“I presume that this material will be divided equally between Davion and Steiner?” Cherenkoff both queried the ISF Director and indirectly chided Samsonov, earning him a baleful stare. But as Vasily had opened the discussion and not addressed him directly, it was his right to redirect it as such and the Warlord of Galedon held his tongue. “And we can presume that there will be both political and military concerns over the division and deployment of the equipment?”

Indrahar offered a brief bow to the Warlord.

“All indicators are that the Archon and First Prince achieved an equitable split of the war material, yes. As for what will be done operationally with the equipment, we have contradictory reports that my agents are carefully working through to determine what is rumored and false, but we expect it more likely that the equipment will be used to repair and rebuild damaged units as both Davion and Steiner have a great many frontline units operating at less than full strength”.

“Then until such information becomes available, I would suggest our primary concern should be what possible Lostech has been delivered into the hands of the thrice cursed NAIS an the long term threat” Sorensen suggested with a glance at Cherenkoff, gaining a slight nod from him and a murmur of consensus from the other Warlords.

“That is the question I have reserved my best people for” Indrahar divulged, offering Sorensen a shallow bow. “However, the most interesting information we have, information I trust but must note cannot be yet verified, tells us that Hanse Davion has ultimately declared this entire operation a failure”.

There was dead silence in the room, even Samsonov looked genuinely taken aback at this pronouncement. A perfectly executed objective raid with minimal losses to the covering raids, humiliation for the enemies of the Sun's with measurable gains on a scale rarely seen materially and politically … and the Fox considered it a failure?

“The equipment recovered from Helm were, but trinkets compared to the true prize hidden there” Takashi spoke up once more, gaining attention, his face a stony mask as he -and not for the first time in recent months- silently cursed his ancestors rash actions. Actions inconveniently brought back into the light by the Free Worlds League media in the aftermath of the raid.
But he pushed such thoughts aside. It was the worst of all wastes of time, wishing about what could have been...
“We have learned that Davion’s men discovered in the raid, deep inside the cache, a Star League data core of unprecedented scope. The SLDF officer who hid the cache from First Lord Kurita had some foresight of the great war that was coming and thus took the step of placing as complete a technological database of the Star Leagues technology inside as he could construct”.
The silence in the room now became almost oppressive as every Warlord let their emotions slip openly, such a rare failing of self-control speaking to the sheer weight of such a thing. Takashi met their gazes lightly and they glanced away to regain their composure … but he let his gaze hold for just a few seconds longer on the figure sitting behind Warlord Sorensen whose eyes were, of course, correctly looking at the floor and not at him … but even there he could see the indicators of dread in the way his hands were clenched tightly under his robe and his eyes blinking quickly as he worked to maintain his composure...

“Davions troops found this core” Indrahar took back the narrative smoothly as Takashi brooded. “And given how far behind enemy lines they were without time to call in experts, they chanced removing it … and failed. In their clumsy handling of things, they managed to set off a security protocol that destroyed the core and initiated a self-destruction sequence of the entire Castle Brian complex; which detonated with such force it reshaped the mountain range it was buried under and forced an underground sea back to the surface. If it was anyone but Ardan Sortek in command of the mission, they probably would have been stripped of their rank and dismissed the service for such a failure, but Davion seems to have grudgingly accepted the loss and focused on trying to study what Lostech samples he managed to recover for reverse engineering”.

“A complete Star League data core” whispered the Warlord of Dieron, for once not loudly or angrily, but simply stunned. “Slipping through Davions grasping fingers...”

“As the Combine let it slip through ours” Takashi finished in a voice like granite..

The Warlord of Galedon frowned, his bushy eyebrows crunching at the harsh statement.

“My Lord Kurita, your honorable ancestor may have been somewhat rash in his actions on Helm, but...” and he shut up quickly as Takashi turned to pin him with a look.

“My honorable ancestor taught the citizens of the Star League that choosing to rebel against the First Lords legitimate edicts has grave consequences” Takashi corrected the Warlord as if he was a child, causing the man to flush slightly, but otherwise hold his peace before he swept his gaze around the room. No matter that Takashi actually agreed with Samsonov for once, no-one could chide his ancestors but him and the Warlord would do well to remember that. “No Warlord, I am talking about the fact that Davions information about the cache indeed, as he claimed, came from a source inside the Combine. A noble discovered the existence of this cache … and rather than inform his superiors, he chose to keep this information a secret for his own use. And in turn, he had this information compromised due to lax security by Davion agents, leading the Fox straight to the cache after he compared information with Steiners!”.
Predictably, in an attempt to overcompensate for his earlier chiding and lead the room in its response, Samsonov’s fists slammed down onto the mat and his face became twisted with anger in response to the icy tone in the Coordinators voice.

“Treason!” the Warlord snarled and the other Warlords -released from blame by his noting that the secret had been kept from everyone in the room - indicated their support for the motion with their own angry noises of agreement and support. The sheer priceless value of what had been lost to the Combine that might have been theirs was starting to sink in and anger was taking the place of shock, good. “Who is this traitor?” Samsonov pressed, his eyes flaring in a slightly disturbing way as he stared at his Lord. “Name him Tono and I promise we will bring him to you for judgement at once!”

“Fortunately, Warlord, he has already been delivered to me, on this very evening” Takashi assured the other… and with that and a glacially calm expression, Takashi Kurita ever so slowly turned his head to very deliberately focus in on the man sitting behind Warlord Sorensen. And taking the hint, every Warlord did so soon after leaving the single target of his gaze symbolically and literally alone.

The Archduke Hassid Ricol. Or the ‘Red Duke’ as he preferred to be known.

And sure, enough at the extended silence and ominous last words of the Coordinator, the man couldn’t help but glance up … and become very still as he saw the Dragon and all of his Warlords were looking at him.
Takashi took a very personal, very vindictive pleasure in the flash of fear and dread in his eyes as he realized the Dragon now loomed over him. Very aware, very angry and very ready to have its revenge.

Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 08:01:45
It had been over a decade now since the attempt on his life on Rasalhague - by far the closest any attempt that had come to succeeding. He could still remember the exact moment his Dropships engines had suddenly failed, putting him into a freefall for several long seconds before gravity resumed its hold, smashing his bodyguards into a stunned heap as the dropship spun on its axis out of control. The interior becoming a randomly reorienting mess as the fifteen-thousand-ton projectile plunged towards the ground with power lost across the ship … and for just a moment he had thought that it would be the end of him.
It had been Ivan Sorensen who had saved him - and he Sorensen in turn; the two of them managing to pull each other down the wildly pitching deck into the Mech bay and from there into Sorensens Mech. A crash power up to blast open a bay door and they had leapt into the open air, all but melting the Grasshoppers jump jets to get clear and land at a survivable velocity as the ship itself had smashed into the ground with the force of a tactical nuclear strike killing everyone left onboard and wrecking much of the spaceport.
As it turned out, his Son had also barely avoided dying, having shown up unexpectedly to the Spaceport to greet him in person, something the conspiracy had clearly not expected. One of the conspirators however, Governor Ottar Sjovold whose daughter had been promised to Theodore, had acted to extract his Son shortly before the Dropship had come crashing down.
His son was many things … many things indeed ... but a fool was not one of them. When news of the crash had been relayed, Theodore had swiftly confronted Sjovold for his vague reasons for pulling him away and the man had boldly admitted his involvement in the plot. Most probably, the fool had thought that with the Coordinator dead, Theodore would reward him for providing him a throne, wife AND for saving his life.

In a rare moment of pride for Takashi, his Son had not been happy.

And seeing death rather than elevation coming for him from the enraged Heir, the Governor had tried to attack him with a concealed weapon … only to be killed by Hassid Ricol sitting next to him before he could strike - or so the ISF reports said.
Of course, the ISF had been highly suspicious of Ricol for killing their only confirmed link to the high levels of the conspiracy but they found no evidence he was involved in it. Especially given that the man had been at the Starport with Theodore in the ‘line of fire’ as it were. And despite an extensive check, no proof of complicity had been found and so Ricol had been declared a hero who had unfortunately needed to eliminate the only known ringleader to save the heir of the Draconis Combine.

Until now.

Takashi didn’t know what displeased the ISF head sitting behind him more. That MIIO and DMI had compromised Ricol’s security and obtained the key to the Helm Cache from it without the ISF knowing either about Ricol’s activities or MIIOs penetration … or, that it was O5P who found out their failures? Or, even worse, that O5P had done so by compromising Maximilian Liaos spy network, no small achievement at all … and the ISF had been ignorant of that as well?!
As amusing as it had been to see his spymaster for once at a loss for words, Constance’s report was quite fascinating. Hanse Davion clearly -and rightfully- distrusted his Brother in Law. But it seemed even the Fox didn’t appreciate the depths of his brothers perfidery.

But then, in what sane universe would the leader of the vehemently anti-Liao Capellan March … be conspiring with Maximilian Liao against his Prince?

In any event, O5P had quite recently managed to subvert part of the Maskirovka chain from the New Syrtis to Sian. From that they had gotten the ‘primer’ report Davion had sent out to his two March Lords before departing for Tharkad. A report Hasek-Davion had duly passed on at the Chancellors request, Maximilian clearly eager to see if the situation in the Free Worlds League could be turned to his advantage in some way. Far more pertinent, the fact that Liao had not passed said report onto him despite his politely worded requests to share all information on the raid. Sending back only a few dribbles of media reports and dimwitted speculation, as if trying to make himself look the fool to one ally while plotting to see if he could take advantage of the other.

The Fox wins Katrina Steiner for an ally … and the Dragon must deal with such as these!?

But irrespective of if Constance was having perhaps too much fun tweaking Indrahars nose, the report had made for fascinating reading. Davions efficient MIIO had apparently identified Ricol as one head of a multi-faceted conspiracy determined to set itself against him, although Davions Quintus Allard seemed sure that the Archduke and his fellow traitors held contradictory goals. Some members of it he suspected were backing Theodore to replace him, others his Cousin Marcus. But what they could all agree on was that Takashi had to die.

Ricol or ‘Ruby’ as his codename was to this group, had been identified by MIIO primarily because he was operating as their spymaster. As an Archduke controlling a dozen worlds with business operations that some claimed rivaled Chandrasekhars, the man had trade ships and investments spread across the Inner Sphere. Both bringing in badly needed foreign capital and providing clandestine access to foreign component and technology markets for Kuritian companies, all of which raised his profile significantly in the eyes of foreign intelligence services.
Clearly, the Fox had been interested in the possibilities of a group dedicated to killing his greatest enemy and watched them closely, prepared to manipulate the situation to his advantage no doubt. But in doing so he had stumbled upon Ricols interest in Helm and following the thread to the end, found something far more valuable.

And, as a House Lord would, he had acted upon it.

As much of an unfortunate setback both in military and political terms this Helm Operation had been for the Combine, there were some silver linings he could pull from it. One of which was that five different sources inside the Federated Suns higher levels had all tried to present very carefully constructed and painstakingly ‘leaked’ pieces of a puzzle that pointed to his son as the source of the Helm Leak in the Combine. Not directly of course and barely even indirectly; the Federated Suns Ministry of Information, Intelligence, and Operations had put considerable work into laying out just enough data points for the ISF to follow up on. Which, after painstaking analysis, would lead the ISF to draw but a single conclusion.
Unfortunately for MIIOs hard work, three of the agents had already been under suspicion of being turned or ‘made’ by their enemy to deliver false information without them knowing. The fourth and fifth had not been, but now were now known to have been compromised, a fact which might save a great deal of pain later for the Combine. Yet without the dossier from Michael Hasek-Davion, it was entirely possible that credence would have been given to such claims, causing friction between he and Theodore that the realm did not need at all.
Well, did not need more than usual anyway.
It thus amused Takash that the Fox’s attempt to protect the conspiracy against the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine and turn father against son had been defeated, if unknowingly, by a conspiracy against the First Prince of the Federated Suns led by his brother in law. Karma was a strange thing, to be sure.

Of course, Takashi was not a fool. He would never act solely off information from House Davion, no matter how reliable it was thought to be by Maximilian Liao. But it was enough for him to give directions to the ISF. And with great focus and personal supervision from Subhash Indrahar, the Sons of the Dragon had fanned out searched for proof of what Davions diosier claimed - made surprisingly easy by the way the clearly panicked Ricol after Davions announcement at Christmas, had been thoroughly investigating his own internal security and operations. Clearly the man was clueless as to how Davion had penetrated him so deeply and in his broad efforts to conceal his crimes he had only helped direct the ISF teams straight to them. Most damning of which being his attempt to reach out to a half-dozen senior nobles through covert means to demand they in turn check their own internal security. Through code names and cutouts of course, but Subhash Indrahar was very very patient as he worked his way to follow the links of the chain to see where they led and untangled the attempts to obfuscate the identities of his fellow conspirators.
He strongly suspected one of the chains would lead straight to his cousin, Marcus Kurita ... but that was an issue for another day.

All in all it was enough to confirm the data from O5P and in the same stroke, discredit Davions attempt to drive a wedge between Father and Son. A cunning stratagem indeed, but thanks to Michael Hasek-Davion and O5P he had sidestepped it … and perhaps, could even be considered to have come out ahead? A few regiments of Battlemechs and Tanks with a few Lostech trinkets was a trifle of a price to pay for ripping out such a deep rooted and powerful conspiracy against House Kurita.

He would have to find a way to thank the Fox for his efforts...but for now, he had a problem; he could tell his Warlords none of this - would tell them nothing about it.

Admitting such a conspiracy existed, even if all in the room probably suspected such a thing existed in one form or another, would be a grave loss of face - and encouragement. That this group had so boldly attempted to kill him - and almost kill his only Heir - and had escaped justice for this long? Who knows what they might read into that!

And yet, for a man as powerful as Ricol ordering his death because of the Helm situation alone was equally problematic. While certainly more than within his powers (for that matter he didn’t need any reason to order a death of anyone in the Combine but only a fool of a Coordinator would ever be so coarse), it would be a politically fraught course as many nobles would no doubt decry such an action, especially his many political allies and backers. As always with the garden, it came back to balance. Upset it in too large a way and the ripples would flow out, spreading disharmony through the growth that would in time cause his problems to multiply. Especially as the expected consequences for attempting to kill the Coordinator were, of course, the harshest not simply to the person but to their family and house.

No. He would need to be a little more subtle. But of course, even if he could not openly accuse Ricol of the attempt on his life ... it did not mean that he couldn’t use that fact…

“Duke Ricol” he called the other forward with a curt gesture, wanting to get this over with. The Duke gathered himself and walked bent over from his place to a position directly opposite him, flanked by the double line of Warlords and aides on both sides and all eyes in the room glaring at him. Kneeling once more, he wasted no time in prostrating himself and not moving a muscle until finally Takashi tapped on the floor and he slowly, almost unwillingly, rose to face the coordinator.

It was the composed look of a man facing his death and trying to hold himself together … even as he desperately thought and schemed to try and stay alive.

“It pains me to see you here having made such a misjudgment, Duke Ricol” Takashi stated in a matter of fact way. “I remember well on that dark day so many years ago, when a conspiracy attempted to kill both I and my Son, you saved his life”.

“I remember it too, Tono” the other agreed with another bow.

“Your actions on that day were quite remarkable” he said slowly but carefully. Every word, every inflection chosen for maximum impact. “Few people know the truth of what you did on that day and that is a pity” Takashi continued and as the Red Dukes eyes met his for a second, Takashi let flow the full force of his rage out for just a moment … and he saw it have the desired effect. The man recoiled physically with a shiver across his body and Takashi knew then the man understood the Coordinator knew he had been part of a plot to kill him. Even as the rest of the room thought he was talking about his ‘noble’ actions saving his Son’s life.
As with so many conversations in the Combine, this one was as much about what was said as what was not said.

“I fear that there will be little chance that the memory of that day will be spoken of now” he now added, reinforcing the impression in the minds of those in the room … but saying something quite different to the Archduke. “We must concern ourselves only” he stressed, “with the actions of the here and now”.

Now Ricol blinked and started to regain some composure, glancing around the room for a moment before bowing deeply once more as he understood the message.

“My Lord”.

“We have conclusive evidence from sources inside the Federated Suns we have since confirmed by internal investigations, that House Davion Intelligence subverted your information networks and found the data you had been compiling on Helm” Subhash took over, his tone and bearing suddenly as clinical and cool as an Imperial Magistrate announcing his verdict. “A source close to you know by the codename ‘Ruby’ provided the information, unknowingly perhaps, which led Davion and Steiner straight to the cache”.
It was absolutely the truth … simply not the whole truth. Making the point about how much they knew by casually dropping of the man's own conspiracy code-name in his face … yet holding out a tiny sliver of hope to him by not identifying him.

“I am also aware that your agents on your behalf ‘inferred’ to one ‘Lady’ Deirdre Ravenna, the only ISF listed operative on Helm, that they spoke on behalf of the Dragon to prepare the ground for your operation, without clearing such liberties with the ISF” Subhash continued, his voice now turning somewhat cold - understandably so. The ISF head had, of course squeezed what few assets he had on Helm in the aftermath of Davions operation. And it had been a key starting point in their efforts to corroborate the Davion dossier, finding out that Duke Ricol had been apparently using it ‘on behalf of the Combine’ to setup the groundwork for an operation of some kind.
The ISF took a dim view of people taking such liberties with their resources, even if nominally for the good of the Combine. But especially for the use of building a private army to try and overthrow it.
“So, I would ask you now, what were your intentions for Helm?”

“My Lord Kurita, my Lord Indrahar” Ricol said in a surprisingly steady voice, albeit after taking several seconds to clear his throat and choose his words very carefully. “My intentions on Helm were, as you suggested, to recover the cache, for the Glory of the Combine. I knew that My Lord Kurita would be tied by his alliance with the Free Worlds League to not raid into the League and recover such a treasure. But at the same time, I knew that, as his honorable ancestor had noted, this was his by right of his First Lordship. Accordingly, I … decided to attempt a covert location and recovery of the cache that could be denied as officially sanctioned. I deeply regret this decision” he finished, bowing deeply once more at the two and staying down.

“Your decision has infuriated the Free Worlds League, Duke Ricol. Despite our denials that we had nothing to do with this raid in the aftermath of Hanse Davions gloating, SAFE sources have stumbled onto your Helm network - and by extension our own- and taken it as evidence we were aware of the cache and preparing to steal it” Indrahar stated icily and the entire room flinched just a little at the rarely heard tone from the normally genial and smiling man. “Which in turn has led to the Free Worlds League all but accusing the Coordinator of lying to the Captain General”.
Everyone in the room flinched at that statement. Such a loss of face for the Coordinator could be disastrous. The Concord of Kapteyn was uneasy at the best of times and could take only so many wedges of distrust before fractures would start to show...

“Had you succeed in your plan, my anger at you operating far beyond your station in this matter might, might have been offset by the material gains you brought back to me” Takashi spoke up again after a pause, his tone cold but collected. “And if you had recovered the data Core, all the Combine would have surely sung your praises. But you did not do either. Instead Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner have been enriched greatly and the Combine - indeed, all of humanity has lost greatly. Leaving me the question of what to do with you?”

What to do indeed. It was all in the Dukes hands now and for a minute there was nothing but silence as Ricol painstakingly analyzed his situation and glanced for support around him. But the Warlords offered none – their earlier declaration of treason had neatly trapped them into this box- and in the end, Ricol finally accepted the gift he had offered him for what it was, stealing himself like a true Samurai to face him, without fear in his eyes.
The man may have been a traitor deserving of a far worse fate … but Takashi in this moment could not fault him for his courage.

“Tono, my failures are my own and no-one else's. None of my people or my family hold any accountability or part of them. Thus, I … accept full responsibility and request your permission to … atone … for them, immediately”.

The room was silent at that statement, awaiting his response. And after an appropriate time, Takashi nodded slowly, as if in a distant sort of regret at the necessity.

“If that is your choice” he said slowly, “then you may use the garden” he gestured with an arm to the night. “And your atonement will be complete in these matters” he added, one final time saying without saying that his family, House and people would not be vindictive punished for his involvement in an assassination attempt on the Coordinator, as was traditional. His Wife would not be sold into slavery, his children not ripped out training and schooling to become wards of the state and his House not stripped, reduced and divided up into a memory never to be spoken of again.
And his death at least would be relatively quick and clean, nominally redeeming his honor with his life, taken by his own hand. For a man who had tried to kill him and then tried to raise an army to overthrow him, it was far, far better than he deserved. And he knew it.

“Warlord” he now said, turning to face Ivan Sorensen, his superior, in a bow, not meeting his eyes. “I would ask you to stand as my kaishakunin in this matter”.

Sorensen glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and Takashi offered him a small nod. As much as a vindictive part of Takashi would have enjoyed seeing him suffer by atoning alone, that would be out of line for this situation. There was a right way to do these things and a wrong way and he had to play this to the end.

“I would be honored to do so” the Warlord returned his bow deeply. And now the screen behind him opened where a group guards from the Otomo waited, each standing rigidly at attention, ready to take him on his final steps. After all, this was the heart of civilization, Takashi would allow him the dignity of the final bathing, the time to write a death poem and a last meal. And so for the last time the Archduke studied the room and bowed, deeply and smoothly, his bearing resigned but taking some small solace that his honor would remain intact and his family not punished harshly.
The entire room led by him, returned the bow - just as deeply before he turned and left with his head held high, the Warlord Sorensen joining him after a nod from his Liege.
While it was not his fault, the man is his responsibility and standing with him to ensure this is done is a fitting way to end this Takashi thought silently, taking in the slightly uneasy aftermath, feeling as much as seeing the glances exchanged and uneasy thoughts of the Warlords around him. They were clearly confused as to why the Archduke had decided to give up his life so easily rather than fight to at least be stripped of some of his rank and removed from the court, where he could plot a return. Which naturally led to the question of what else had the man done (that the Coordinator clearly knew of) that had Ricol running to slit his belly open rather than risk the alternative when offered the chance to save face? Whatever it was, they would clearly never know - and more than anything else, not knowing clearly disturbed these men, who made it their business to know these things.
But at the same time they saw the final message Takashi had presented to the room by doing things in this way. A message from their Liege that if they crossed him or pushed too far - as Grieg Samsonov had nearly done earlier this evening- the Dragon would find out.

Takashi allowed them the grace of several minutes to take in this lesson, instead closing his eyes and drinking in the serenity of the night outside, hearing the very faint noise from deep in the garden where his household staff were already setting up the necessary things for the ceremony to take place. He was sure everything would be done to perfection; his staff were quite efficient at it as this was neither the first nor would it be the last time such an invitation would be extended to a guest of the Palace of Unity.

At the appropriate time, centered once more; he opened his eyes and continued the meeting; calm and seemingly indifferent to the fact he had just had a traitor executed.

“While the contents of the Helm Cache have given a boost to our enemies, I am not content to sit back and let them dictate how it is used” he said, drawing all attention once more with nods of agreement. “I would also seek more detailed information on exactly what was taken from Helm, to be sure of the threat we face. Happily, there is a way to do both he said...” and with that, the rear screen opened again and there was a collective hiss of a mass intake of breath through the room. One filled with awe, fear and surprise.

None had expected to see him here. Probably, none had expected to see him ever again.

That amused Takashi; that the most powerful men in the Draconis Combine could be brought to such a state from the mere presence of a man such as this. A Tai-Sa in full dress uniform, his DCMS uniform perfect in every aspect bar two. One being that his unit patch, a black wave speckled with golden stars and a foaming white top was not that of a unit anyone in the room bar the Coordinator and his ISF head were familiar with. Second, that the daishō belt that should have been tied around his waist -even if swords like all weapons brought into the palace were carefully held in trust by the Otomo upon entry- was conspicuous by its absence as he stepped forward with the grace of a stalking tiger and bowed, deeply.

Takashi bowed back, holding his bow almost as long and deep as his cousin.

“Kurita-San” Takashi welcomed his Cousin. “Please, join us” he gestured to the same spot that the Duke Ricol had just vacated and the man bowed once more before silently taking the position indicated opposite from him.
Perhaps the Warlords in the room thought that this meant Yorinaga Kurita was finally going to be granted permission to end his life and the Coordinators garden would be well fertilized this month. Several of them probably hoped it was the case; the reentry of the greatest Mechwarrior into the combine political structure certainly threatened to complicate the lives of some of the men sitting with him.

In any event, the planning continued well into the night as the Director of the ISF revealed some new information he had received today that offered an excellent opportunity to strike back and shift the balance of power once more in their favor.

The ancient sage Archimedes had once boasted that if you gave him a large enough lever, he would be able to move the Earth. It would be fascinating to see what leverage he would be able to apply to the Inner Sphere when the Lady Melissa Steiner was his guest on Luthien soon enough…
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 12 November 2018, 10:10:51
Alas poor Ricol, I loathed him well  ^-^
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: worktroll on 12 November 2018, 10:13:07
I wonder who will pay for this mistake ... Melissa has, after all, read the book(s).

Chris, do you have the list of the exact books on Mr. Smith's iPad? Just wondering if he had any of the rulebooks with him ;)
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 12 November 2018, 10:30:55
Wolf's on the Border, The Warrior Trilogy and The Sword and the Dagger.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 12 November 2018, 14:57:31
Chris, I'm working on editing the complete story thus far, including the two interludes (the GDL and Kurita ones) to save it as a pdf for my ereader.  When you finish the story (not for a long time, hopefully) would you like a copy to post on spacebattles for download?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 12 November 2018, 15:08:21
is there a way to post a pdf of everything todate? 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 12 November 2018, 15:26:49
I'm still working on it.  I could email the Word file I'm working on right now, but you'd be better off reading the main story on spacebattles using the threadmarks, and the two interludes here.  Chris might have something better bit I doubt it would be a pdf right now.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 12 November 2018, 16:57:46
I'm still working on it.  I could email the Word file I'm working on right now, but you'd be better off reading the main story on spacebattles using the threadmarks, and the two interludes here.  Chris might have something better bit I doubt it would be a pdf right now.

rereading it on that page is a pain.  way tomany off rails. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 17:02:58
Okay, too much Red Bull Later and here we go.

This chapter is really three chapters sort of spliced together into Frankensteins Monster as I realizied that honestly, who cares about Smith getting Mechwarrior training and going through boot camp?
I mean character development is all well and good, but there is such a thing as taking it too far.

So, a lot of splicing and genetic engineering later and here we are, I'm hoping it works well enough. Honestly this is just a 'lets get this back on the road' to time skip Christmas 3026 to the eve of the 4th Succession War.
Lets just get this out of the way so we can move to the fun showdown with Marco Ramius.

*********

Chapter 11: Misery loves Company

“Three blasts? RUN!”

The wind started to howl in a counterpoint to the screamed command as the three men dropped their gear and moved. Clumsily through the snow drifts for sure, but fear gave renewed energy to their previously sluggish limbs. The looming bluff in front of them offered the only possible hope as the wind continued to strengthen and where once before the day had been overcast but clear, now said wind drove snow and sleet with physical force before it to mask everything in a whirlwind of white.
And brought an intense chill in the air with it that heralded something far,
far worse than a ‘mere’ winter storm.

Quickly however, it became clear that two of the two men were in far better physical shape as they rapidly outdistanced the third. Overweight and with clumsy panic driving him more than the cold, calm motions of a combat veteran, he fell, screaming for his friends to wait for him as he struggled back to his feet.

His cries and pleas were swallowed by the increasing howl of the wind as his comrades faded and then vanished into the thickening whiteout as they ran, either not noticing or not caring about their comrade left behind as they fled as fast as they could move. Disoriented the straggler looked around desperately but with no-one in sight found himself alone, staggering in the howling wind as he tried to orient himself in the right direction. But the driving snow only gave glimpses. Brief flashes of snow covered crests that looked much the same …


Until for a moment, the driving snow cleared just enough to see a number of figures moving towards him before vanishing again behind a new wave of sleet.

After one frantic look around for any other recourse, he scurried quickly across to a nearby rocky outcropping and hid behind it, terrified tears slowly freezing on his face as the wind started to die down. Slowly, more and more figures started to materialize out of the mist in the same, calm walk until, finally, they were close enough to see directly.

They were men.
Or more accurately, they had once
been men.

Good men. Bad men. Innocent, guilty. Men who bent the knee to no-one, men who served a Lord or a Liege.
No more.
Their faces had been torn open, limbs ripped off. Dark black stains of blood and trauma were everywhere over shattered armor and missing clothes. They were a complete
impossibility, walking corpses moving in a single group. Moving in silence grasping their various weapons, their eyes a chilling, uniform pale blue.

The man cowering in terror at the sight was simply ignored by the mass as they walked slowly past and around him, not deviating from their course one bit… and then a horse with a figure on its back did come to a halt a short distance away. And, entirely unwillingly, the man's gaze slowly moved up past the legs of the horse - noting vaguely in passing that it too was a ruined and terrible corpse given unholy animation by some fay force … but this he barely noticed.
Because sitting on its back riding it was a nightmare a thousand times a thousand times worse than the dead that continued to slowly shamble past.


It was a monster in vaguely human form. A kind of horrific yet majestically terrifying figure holding a long blade of silently smoking ice in one hand and the chains digging deep into the beast underneath it, in the other. For a moment it simply remained there, its gaze directed forward in the direction the dead marched … and then its head turned slowly to regard the living creature cowering from it behind the rock.

It’s eyes glowed. Nothing like the puppets of meat marching past it; no its eyes blazed a far deeper blue that said as alien as it was, this creature was alive. That it was the master of all the dead moving around it, a malevolence so powerful it was as if a physical thing that crushed the human under him with is force, tears streaming without a word down his face as their gazes met and the man broke, looking away and silently shaking in terror.

And then … it turned away. Dismissing, utterly, the cowering flesh as a threat or even as an object of interest. Instead, it raised its terrible weapon to the sky and screamed. A piercing scream alien and inhuman, carrying over the wind and soon answered by distant screams in turn. The sky cleared then just enough to see that as far as one could see, the dead marched, straight for the Fist of the First Men where their pray waited for them-

***
******
***

Yells and profanity exploded across the lounge as the vid screen cut to black and the end credits of the season finale of Game of Thrones, season 2, came up.

The profanity redoubled as a far too happy announcer noted that was the final episode of Season 2 and the final episode that NAIS had released, thus far, from the recovered data core they had found. Without any ETA on when (or, God forbid, if) the next season would be found.

Looking around the room at my peers, I noted that they were all looking distinctly unhappy at that announcement.

I felt some pity at that. Because unlike everyone else in this room, I knew that these episodes of Game of Thrones were not from some data core picked up in the Halstead Station collection on Hoff. I still had no idea how NAIS had yanked them from my iPad; although my guess was that they had just settled for using a high-resolution holographic imager to directly capture the ipads display and its 3.5mm jack to lift the audio - if so, the quality was a hell of a lot better than I had anticipated.
But unlike my peers, I also knew that was it. It has only had seasons one and two on the devices. Well that and the blue-ray lore specials done by the cast I had ripped when I got the disks for Christmas, which in turn had been screened, one before each episode, to who flesh out the universe

Bizarre how much this series had captured attention.

Across the Federated Suns (and Lyran Commonwealth for that matter), the series had and topped viewing lists. Oh sure I knew from experience it was the kind of show that was wildly popular (and ****** I have to admit, I had grinned like an idiot when I had watched the first episode and heard that glorious opening theme for the first time in years) but in a neo-feudal society, I would have thought a lot of the novelty and ‘different’ nature that had made it popular back in my old reality would have been lost.

Boy had I been wrong about that.

If anything, it was taken as something new yet relatable. Many entertainment shows were even making the case that I had initially not thought about, that there was clear overarching parallels to the contemporary Inner Sphere given the thousand year gap between its production and now. The lost age of the Star League of wonders of its technology was of course the Valyrian Freehold vanishing and taking with them their power and magic. Dragons even equated to Warships easily enough and Valyrian Steel swords to family Mechs. For the love of God I had even picked up some vid commentary to draw lines of concurrency between the Maesters and ComStar; a neutral organization responsible for long range communications, protecting and teaching and staying totally neutral in the Game of Thrones…
And to my dark amusement, that analogy held true more than people realized given that the Maesters sure as hell had their own private motivations in the Great Game…and I’m sure ComStar would just love to have their own ‘Maester’ Precentors in place at the right hand of every Inner Sphere Lord.

The series was even being released officially in the Free Worlds League in a few months, although I was sure bootleg copies had surely jumped the border on Jumpships by now. And I had to admit to a burning curiosity if House Marik would take ‘When you play the Game of Thrones you win or you die’ as their new motto in the aftermath of that.
I was also undecided if Michael Hasek Davion was more like Stannis or Renley. Oh sure, he was a wannabe usurper with no legal claim to the Throne who wanted it because of his towering ego and absolute certainty that he could do so much better, which was Renly to a tee. But to give the man his due, he was also as ruthless, unyielding and skilled as a military commander as Stannis.  But throw in Cersei’s inability to understand he wasn’t as clever as he thought he was … or was he more a self absorbed ‘believes own shit smells like roses, is given every break and still ****** up everything’ idiot like Danny?
Or just a slimeball like Walder Frey?

Hmm. Difficult one to pick. Now, was Maximilian Liao more Varys or Pycyll? Or was that something of a ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ thing?

My idle speculation was cut short as with a violent motion, another cadet flopped into the chair beside me, glaring at the screen as I turned to raise an eyebrow.

******!” he muttered.
I simply stared at him.
“****** IT TO HELL!” he added loudly, as if I hadn’t heard him the first time. Eventually he realized I wasn’t joining in and turned to glare at me.
“Seriously John. ******. It. To. Hell, they can’t ****** leave it there … can they?” he protested, punctuating his words for emphasis as if his profanity wasn’t enough to get the point across...

“Well, they did” I pointed out with a wry smile as the other scoffed and flopped back in his chair, staring at the ceiling.

“But it’s getting really interesting! And not just the Walkers. I mean, Danny is on the march now and Stannis just got clobbered like a Liao. I mean, who do you think is going to with the Game of Thrones and take them on? Danny has to be coming back to Westeros now right?”

Not bloody likely I silently thought as I considered how painfully slow her arc had proceeded in the books. And even when the showrunners fast forwarded her events...

I controlled my amusement at Graham’s rage as I shook my head, declining to answer as I stood, stretching slightly as I glanced around the packed common room of the second years quarters. The kid could get a little excited at times - to the point of overdoing it around other people who were also a bit excited, so I was pretty used to such overreactions by now.

Although to be fair, I was pretty sure his edginess and excitement had other roots tonight.

Tomorrow was a very big day for the group. As of tomorrow, as our training advanced; us glorious Mechwarrior Candidates would finally be given the option of using our own Battlemech in place of the Chameleons the academy used for training, in the field exercises we would soon be starting. Where appropriate anyway, for those who had them.

Read; everyone but me.

I honestly didn’t care, although everyone in the platoon seemed to think that I was on the verge of breaking into tears at the thought of still being stuck using the training ‘Mech and not a ‘real’ Mech. And took my complete indifference as a kind of ultra stiff-upper lip thing, by where ‘pappy’ was facing the horror with awe inspiring dignity worthy of note.

Yeah. Seriously. Not joking here.

My Chameleon was a perfectly solid ride as far as I was concerned. My inner mech-snob started and ended at not being given a Bugmech (or an Urbie) and the Chameleon was exactly what you wanted in your first Mech, which was unsurprising as it was specifically designed for that role. It handled very forgivingly and had a quite roomy cockpit while mounting mixed energy weapons and jump jets to train with. I was also reasonably confident (given Hanse and Katrina’s explicit statements around what they felt they owed me) that I would have a Mech waiting for me as a graduation gift so I was pretty unphased by the lack of a Mech right now. And I hoped said Mech would serve me well though a quiet and uneventful tour of duty, before being promoted to a desk. A nice 9-5 desk well behind the lines.
But until that time, I tried to just tolerate the feeling that in the eyes of my peers I had been diagnosed with a terminal illness, trying to take the sympathy of the platoon as heartwarmingly endearing more than moderately exasperating.

Which was par for the course with this bunch thinking back...

Training at Sakhara, overall, had been a curious mixture of the expected and unexpected. I mean, the first three months had played out like every Trope of bootcamp I could remember as the training teams smashed us in the face with the reality of military life. Starting with basic infantry training (Sakhara was very much the ‘every graduate is a rifleman’ school of thought with one week a month for the rest of the first year after boot still dedicated to infantry training for those not on that track) and basic military discipline.
And yes, firing a man-portable SRM launcher was ****** tits; another advantage of being at a place that spared no expense was that you did get to play with the toys and live ammo ...
Mostly through, boot was about breaking us out of the civilian mindset so we would react rather than stop and think if someone screamed to hit the deck. And yet, some of my expectations and preconceptions were challenged, I must admit. Things that, I think, came down both to the three fundamental things that made Sakhara itself quite different from the other academies in the Federated Suns and my position in the group.

First; as far as the staff and the old boys network behind the school were concerned if you were here, then you were worthy and nothing else needed to be said. Everything else was left at the door (a few classmates needed ‘encouragement’ from the instructors to get over themselves of course but still got the message soon enough). As far as the school and class were concerned, the only thing you were while you were here, was a cadet. The only thing you brought with you was your willingness to become the best soldier of the AFFS you could be.
Everything else was window dressing.
Which wasn’t to say all of us were ignorant of or refused to talk about our outside lives, just that trying to claim any kind of privilege or position or superiority based on it was a very very stupid idea quickly left behind.

Which lead in turn into the second difference.

Point of fact; this was not a vacation school.
Or a polishing school.
Or a finishing school.
Or a social club.
This was also not NAMA or Albion or Warriors Hall.
Sakhara was the single most exclusive (and it went without saying of course that meant The Best) military training facility in the Federated Suns with expectations adjusted accordingly. They would not shy away from their expectations or from failing any of us if we didn’t meet them. That we, on a per-cadet basis, would be lavished more attention and resources than any other student in any other training center in the Inner Sphere … and they would push us harder than we thought we could go - no; further than ‘we’ could go.

Which lead into point three; no cadet could or would graduate alone.

That wasn’t a statement of intent; that was a statement of fact, the training staff were at pains to point out. Teamwork wasn’t simply encouraged but worshiped at this place and given its reputation in Battletech as having one of the tightest ‘old boys’ networks in the Inner Sphere, well… it didn’t surprise me at all from this side of the fence. It was, in a strange way, almost the inverse of the Clan Sibko system. In that ****** of a brainwashing and indoctrination camp, kids grew up tight only to slowly drift as they realized they were, more or less, in direct competition with instructors just looking for excuses to start weeding the ‘weak’ out. First for Warrior status itself. Then Bloodnames and Promotions - all done by ‘fight to the death!’ rules for rank and political power - hell, any challenge to near any decision could be made a fight to the death by Clan Law.
That was not the kind of environment that inspired loyalty. Or empathy for that matter.

Yes, I’m talking about you Marthe Pryde.

And so had started ‘boot camp’ as it were (or ‘initial training, conditioning and assessment’ as the people here called it).
It hadn’t been easy. Partially because my body was pushed and pushed in ways I had never pushed it before … but also because I found myself half the time the only ****** adult in the room!

I mean boot camp was physical, but I had expected that. The first two weeks were all screaming, running, more screaming and then more running and very long days. Followed by nights on a cheap bed in the ‘boot barracks’ asking myself what in the ****** I was doing on this bed instead of a massive luxury one in a palace covered in female Canopian stereotypes?
I (grudgingly) gave thanks to Ardan and the Heavy Guards for forcing me through Zero-G calisthenics every day on our Helm trip, then congratulated myself on following Ardans advice to keep up the routine -and indeed step it up a notch- on the way here, which let me get through the physical screening part of training with little trouble. Combined with common sense and a few things I remembered from EssBe military veterans on the topic of ‘surviving boot’, I felt I had adjusted well enough and against my expectations, I had even found myself starting to rise to the challenge. Initially because I didn’t want to disappoint the powers that be, but over the weeks even that fell away.
Here in this artificial bubble, the rest of the Inner Sphere could be put on hold. No need to worry about how I might have butterflied this or that. No time to worry about Myndo Waterly wanting to burn me at the stake as an ultra-demon born from the evil and twisted HPG of Hanse Davion. Or about Aldo or Fredrick or Michael screwing things up.

No; all that mattered was that ****** wall on the obstacle course we needed to tackle together by forming a human pyramid. Which was harder than one might think. Because the other cadets? Oh boy...

I mean, I never set out to become ‘the guy’ trying to keep the children behaving and morale up. It started simply with not wanting to be dragged out for more PT because some ****** was about to walk right into the DIs trap I saw coming a mile away. So, one day early on I gave advice which had been taken and, surprise surprise, paid off for everyone so instead of a whole bunch of individuals we suddenly had a team. Then suddenly people were coming to me for advice that I gave, to yet more success. And then when we were given tasks as a team and told to get down to it, everyone increasingly looked to me to take charge. Possibly because I was the oldest member of the group by a considerable margin. Possibly because I actually gave advice that worked, who knows?
Most of the time I did little more than make sure everyone was reading from the same script and encourage ideas. Making sure we kept an eye on the ball, but otherwise hands off. But as time passed, I found myself increasingly having to be the one to take that first step as everyone seemed to keep deferring to me...

This unofficial leadership, such as it was, hadn’t really been an issue though until said DIs had formalized my position by making me ‘Platoon Leader’ at the halfway mark of the boot camp training where we were expected to do more tasks as a group and sort out things ourselves. It was of course technically a very prestigious, very impressive achievement. One saying that the staff had marked me out as a natural leader for the group … or perhaps just the one who ****** up the least.

Either/or I suppose.

But, in reality, the position meant I had formally gotten the blame for the kids ****** up, had to actually plan and act rather than just suggest and had to take in hand a lot of annoying administrative crap the DIs gleefully palmed off. Leaving me dancing on an exasperating loose/loose line of either micromanaging the squad leaders of the day, or, giving the kids enough freedom to learn something … by mistakes.
Frankly, I had felt I was getting a hell of a raw deal … but with little choice I had done the best I could to make sure all the little stuff was done, that no-one cut corners and that all ****** were quickly rectified (and most critical that any ****** were owned and admitted to rather than covered up). While providing a shoulder to lean on or some advice from a massive array of book, movie and TV quotes, stories and parables adapted to Battletech life to encourage everyone onwards on those ‘why the ****** am I here?’ evenings.
By the end of boot camp and our final field exercise as we marched on fumes and high-caffeine drinks into the main quad, exhausted and covered in the results of crawling through the planets ‘charming’ forests dodging ‘Mechs for thirty six hours, we were a very tightly knit group … and the whole damn lot of them looked up to me as the ‘old man’.
God help us all.
So yes. I liked them … but it didn’t mean they didn’t drive me nuts.

I mean, they were still all a bunch of egomaniacs; card carrying cultists on the Mechwarrior track. All convinced they were destined to ‘be the next Natasha Kerensky’ - God help me Kevin and Roger both used those exact words at different points.
Yet, for all that, they were genuinely decent people. Indeed, to my mild surprise - and against my expectations - they had pushed past their initial Blueblood tendencies rapidly to really embrace the equality of the platoon. And not simply because it was enforced by the DIs. Going in, I had expected every trope of snooty noosed brats looking down their noses at a ‘commoner’ like me as they brutally struggled to find a way to prove themselves the ‘dominant’ player in the group … but neither I nor the other two ‘commoners’ in the platoon were treated any differently on the basis of birth.
If anything, they seemed bizarrely fascinated by us and our ‘normal lives’... or perhaps, that was just me.

Not to sound like an egomaniac, but none of them seemed to know what to make of me. The number of question marks around my life compared to others was, I must admit, noticeable. I mean my basic story was straight forward; I was a MIIO desk sitter a lot older than these guys who had lost all of my family a long time ago but had always wanted to be a Mechwarrior. And, after some outstanding field service to House Davion above and beyond all expectations in MIIO, Quintus Allard had quietly rewarded me personally with this ‘scholarship’ to Sakhara.

The problem with the story was that these young men and women may be headstrong Mech cultists, some with family history in the AFFS back to before the Reunification War they would remind you of at the drop of a hat … but they were not stupid. Graham still sulking and glaring at the Vid screen, for example, was the son of Olivia Fenlon. Duchess of Chesterton and Foreign Minister of the Federated Suns. He had been the first to point out one night that if being given the chance to become a Mechwarrior was my wish and reward (a lie I now deeply regretted as it meant now I had to pretend to be at least a prospective member of the damn Mech Mafia), it would have made much more sense if I was just told to walk down the road to either NAMA or Albion with a verigrahped letter… not shipped across the Inner Sphere to a ridiculously expensive and exclusive training academy...but it was an excellent way to train me while also keeping me way off the beaten track.

Once again; privileged. Not stupid.

Probing had been discouraged quickly enough by the instructors, especially after Katherine Board, an Aerospace cadet from Charlie platoon had (through a ‘friend of a friend’) backtracked the genesis of my trip to the academy as from Tharkad just after the Helm announcement. It didn’t take an NAIS scientist to put two and two together from that timing and soon had come whispered pleas in the night for me to talk about what had gone down on Helm and what secret Lostech had been brought back. At least until I had eventually made it crystal clear that if I even dreamed about anything I may or may not have been involved in, Quintus Allard would promptly have us all hauled off to an MI5 black site for a very long and unpleasant chat.
When they realized I was actually not joking, the questions had stopped. Said realization happening after Katherine’s ‘quiet chat’ with some nice men in suits in the Commandant's office that took place a few days after she had spilled the beans on my trip from Tharkad. A conversation she would absolutely not talk about.

Like I said. Smart kids.

Anyway. Boot camp had ended at the three month mark in early May with, I’m proud to say, none of my platoon dropping out. And after a week of R&R that I mostly spent, once more, shepherding the damn kids far too eager to celebrate their first week of freedom since arriving on planet with the usual pastimes (read; mostly getting laid in the nearby ‘Ditch-Town’ which had spring up to support the base and was always welcoming to rich young nobles); we moved from boot camp into something much more serious that would last until October.
‘Tier I Military Specialization in Battlemech Piloting and Operations.’
Or as I called it, ‘Mech-101.

That intense six months challenged me far more than boot. Mechwarrior training might have been easier than say flight school, but it was still a hell of a learning curve. Especially when the least of the other cadets had over 1000 hours on Industrial mechs. Most (unsurprisingly) had years of private training - and the Gleeson twins Marri and Kyle actually had genuine combat experience with their parents’ house guards against Capellan raiders.

I, on the other hand ... had taken one ride in the back of a Victor. And it showed.

Thankfully Sakhara didn’t directly grade students against each other, instead using a sophisticated weighted metric from the other AFFS academies, normalized against the Sakhara long term average. The class size was simply too small to do otherwise - and it would have been toxic to the whole ‘teamwork above all’ spirit. And as our first posting would always be two years with the academy training battalion rather than competing for assignment choices, everyone was in the same boat. In short; while I was clearly well behind the curve as far as Battlemech proficiency was concerned, I had cadets coming from each and every direction willing - almost eager - to help me rather than be relieved I was no threat to their own standings and content to let me struggle.
None more than tiny little Julia Bourne, who seemed determine to repay my helping her out early on through some of boot by dragging me to the Mech simulators every spare hour we had to bring me up to her own demanding standards. Which, frankly, I was damn grateful for because a Battlemech was way harder to pilot than one might think...
But I’d be damned if I fell over at the first hurdle just because I started a little bit behind the rest of the class - and to give them credit, the class never rubbed my ‘noobness’ in my face. And with Julie and the other cadets pulling me along until I caught up, I successfully completed the first six month ‘check’ course.
Meaning, in practical terms, we were expected to be able to move our Mechs cleanly on varying terrain and not trip over our own feet. To be able to march in column or move in tactical formations smoothly and to move through static positions like going prone, falling down and getting back up. Not to say basic competence with jump jets, which was fun!
Gunnery wise, we could all shoot moving targets with an acceptable accuracy - at least on a firing range - and qualified with all types of weapons at a basic level, occasionally using other designs to prove it. While on the technical side, we were also expected to know every switch, button and configuration in the cockpit by heart and able to recite, from memory, critical checklists like cold-starting a fusion reactor, in our sleep.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 17:06:43
So October 3027 came and we moved from Mech-101 to Mech-102, as well as increasing classroom time on the kind of things you’d expect junior officers to be shoved through. For me, that successful ‘graduation’ was the focus of my world - and a source of immense pride- but less so for the rest of the platoon who were rather more distracted by things like Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner announcing that the former was going to marry the latter’s daughter.

Suffice to say, the ‘WTF’ response was … impressive to see from the ground floor. Nobody, and I mean nobody around me had seen it coming and pretty much nothing else had been talked about for a week. It was also darkly amusing that the consensus from the talking heads in the March and on New Avalon was conservative - even pessimistic - about the possibilities for this union bringing any immediate change to the status quo against our shared enemies (read the Draconis Combine). An opinion that, prima facie, seemed to make the most sense. Especially if you made the assumption that this was the natural next step from the enormously successful Helm operation and that Hanse’ visit to Tharkad had been all about. Meaning that after the wedding came the hard work to look at issues like military options.

Boy were those talking heads going to be spittaking when Hanse gave his toast…

I think I could also see the subtle hand of MIIO in there as the talking heads continually brandished leaked costs, headaches and disruption the recent Thor I and Galahad II exercises had caused (to the ‘annoyance’ of the AFFS press corps) across the board. Proof, as it were, that perhaps we may see a more intense 3rd Succession War grinding take place and build up to withstand the enemy better, but certainly nothing major offensive wise for many years.
AND, as everyone seemed to want to repeat ad-infinitum, this was ultimately the culmination of Katrina Steiner's famous peace proposal. Ergo, this was about her getting said peace, not fighting. So it clearly meant a defensive posture and building up.

Which was ****** hilarious really.

Katrina Steiner was so often portrayed as a kind of reluctant warrior in Battletech fiction - and even by the media here! A very skilled soldier who was tired of war to the point of writing that rather vague and silly peace proposal…

Yeah, that was complete bullshit.

Katrina wanted peace for her people. Absolutely and unequivocally. She detested the zero-sum waste and death of Succession War 3.0, no question about that either. But that did not mean for a nanosecond that she wouldn’t use war if, like any tool of statecraft, it could give her and her people what she wanted. Hanse’ strategic genius had presented her, in 3025, with a plan of breathtaking audacity and brilliance to upend the game board by smashing the weak flank, securing it and then hitting the Combine in the future, in a one-two punch. And after careful consideration, the veteran soldiers desire to take the initiative and ruthlessly exploit it had won out in her mind.
And thanks to me, she knew phase one had been a ridiculous runaway success and I had little doubt she and Hanse were in the final stages in fine tuning the plan based on my information to drive that dagger in just a tad deeper into Mad Max’s back … and perhaps to twist it a little this time as well?
Now, that wasn’t to say Katrina was simply a ruthless pragmatist. Not at all. She absolutely had an idealistic side that I had, as it so happened, crashed right into on Christmas Day. It was when the power trio (as I had come to think of Hanse, Katrina and Melissa) had invited me to a Christmas dinner with them in the Royal Apartments. And by invited I meant Melissa had appeared as if by magic inside my room through a secret passage and lead me unerringly to the Royal Apartments with a tolerant smirk at my giddiness at being led through a castles genuine secret passages!). Katrina, Melissa and Nondi had a cute tradition of a casual and private Christmas Dinner, a smorgasbord of various foods. Nothing terribly fancy but entirely ‘homey’ and far more welcome because of it. Hanse and Ardan had of course been invited to this years dinner … along with me.

Which had been quite a touching gesture, once again, from the group.

And it had been a nice, casual atmosphere, something I had not felt really since I had been ripped into this reality. Just this odd pseudo-family sitting around and chatting about everything, although most of the discussion seemed to be about me and the 21st century, the group finding fascination in so many things little and big that were different in my ‘reality’ to theirs. Predictably perhaps through, the discussions eventually led to the hope being raised that the Federated Commonwealth would lead to an end to the Succession Wars and with that hope, Katrina had raised her glass proudly and offered a toast; to the restoration of the Star League.
I got the feeling it was a sort of a pro forma thing for her, yet clearly something she believed in.

Dito Hanse.

And alone in the group, I had not joined in.

That had hardly gone unnoticed when Katrina had then asked me, in a tone of genuine curiosity, why?

I’m not sure why Devil Consequences on my shoulder sounded like Sheev Palpatine as it materialized cackling while telling me ‘Do it … do it!’ but honestly, even without any prodding I think my response would have been the same as I snorted, looked her in the eyes and scoffed; “****** the Star League”.

The silence in response to that remark was both shocking and amusing. With Katrina for the first time I could recall, looking genuinely shocked. And her sister looking at me like I had just said ‘The black cat cannot do long division’ or something equally nonsensical. Hanse seemed to almost choked on his coffee as Ardan sighed like Kif Kroker ... but was betrayed by a tiny grin on his face he was trying to hide.
Melissa however took the prize when after a shocked two seconds, she had silently gotten up and walked to the sideboard, picked up the bowel of popcorn, walked back, sat down and started calmly munching while staring at us all with intent eyes and all without saying a word.

Seriously, she was the Inner Spheres Troll Queen, no question.

And after a silent beat from the entire group staring at her actions, Katrina had recovered enough to sit up, turn to face me with that look on her face and ask me (in an intent but non hostile way to be fair) to justify this statement.

It wasn’t a suggestion, but a request.
And so I had.

And perhaps as the arguments had rolled on for another three or four hours, I must have pushed perhaps a little too hard, abusing the crap out of my position as a universal outsider able to talk about things like the Reunification War debates that they may not even have known about from perspectives they couldn’t as I issued a scathing judgement over the Star League as a flawed creation whose countdown to destruction had inroxably been activated the second the Camerons had set the whole thing up as a pyramid scheme.
Which actually made me wonder if the lack of any contact from Hanse, Katrina, Melissa or Ardan wasn’t simply OPPSEC but came down to the fact that I had scorned and poured my contempt over one of their greatest dream and hope; the rebirth of the Star League with one of their kids or grandkids at its helm.

Because I couldn’t keep my mouth shut.

Still, even if I was a little on the outer right now, I held no regrets about offering them my somewhat unique perspective on the subject of Ian Camerons Tyranny. God knows if they had listened or not though-

A sudden wack to my back however snapped me out of my reminiscing and I turned to find that Graham had, finally, finished his raging over the fact that there was no more Game of Thrones. The credits had ended and everyone was ambling out of the room - it was getting close to lights out after all.

“Come on” he said with a sigh as he got to his feet, stretching mightily. “We should get some sleep, big fun day tomorrow!” and then he froze in the act of stretching and winced, his face looking as if he had just realized he had just hit me with a deathly insult. “Sorry, I didn’t-”

“Let’s not start that again?” I half suggested and half pleaded and the man solemnly nodded and kept his mouth shut, clearly wanting to leave me my dispossessed dignity.
For ****** sake how could I even be dispossessed if I technically didn’t even have a mech before? Seriously guys I’m not bothered!

Still rather than have that discussion again, I kept my silence and headed out, following Graham to the nearby stairwell. But my roommate halted on the first floor switchback, looking out the windows with a frown.

“What?” I asked in concern, coming up next to him and he jerked his head into the sky.

“Dropship” he said simply and I followed his gaze. There was indeed a star falling out of the sky seemingly straight for us - although such things were relative of course. The starport that serviced the academy was actually twenty klicks away, connected by a highway and private freight maglev ... but in planetary terms; it was coming for us.
Paranoia being habit forming, I glanced off to the side where one of the perimeter defense towers could be seen skylined against the massive wall around the campus. Static defenses were a hit-and-miss thing even with Battletechs iffy PGM technology. Most people who wanted to build up a hardpoint defense would just buy a bunch of LRM carriers from Quickimart, but there were benefits to armored static turrets with a commanding defensive position on the perimeter for both AAA work and for at least delaying a ground attacker long enough for your real defenders to get up and running.
The tower however was cold with its boxy missile launchers and quard linked AC-5s in lockdown - and beyond them I could see the running lights of a Cadet Lance on perimeter patrol. Three third year cadets and an officer leading them, all of whom looked to be casually strolling and not rushing to defend against an attack ... so I’m sure we were good.

Anyways, the ship seemed to land without incident and moments later, the buildings interior lights suddenly dimmed and a recording of The Last Post played over the intercom. The two things telling everyone it was lights out in ten minutes and everyone started moving with a purpose.

Because they meant lights out.

Boot camp might be over and the shouting lessened, but the instructors here still much enjoyed catching cadets out of their beds or making too much noise and finding creative ways to collectively punish us for it (generally involving a 3AM wake up for room inspection for everyone) so everyone was in bed before we heard the stomping of instructors moving down the hallway looking for anyone out of place.
They needn't had bothered; all the Mechwarriors in this building were trying desperately to get sleep to come so they could fast forward to the glory of tomorrow and getting their precious, precious Mechs.

I however stayed away for some time. Thinking about the Game of Thrones in the Inner Sphere and how close the next ‘War of the Five Kings’ (or five First Lords technically) was. With the White Walkers off on Strana Mechty biding their time and gathering their power, as the current Littlefinger/Grandmeaster plotted and schemed and ****** with everyone from Terra…

Because ‘Chaos is a Ladder’ really seemed to suit Myndo Waterly even if she wasn’t technically in charge. Yet.

Yup. You know on reflection, being isolated away in this little corner of the Inner Sphere away from the massive changes about to sweep through it sounded just about perfect. So, I rolled over and went to sleep that night in blissful ignorance of how my structured and bubbled life was about to come to a screeching halt on the morrow.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 17:07:30
Sakhara had a 26 hour rotation. The academy however ran to Terran Standard time, which meant that occasionally ‘dawn’ was local midday. It was a somewhat unusual thing, although far from uncommon across the Inner Sphere, with most planets and starships syncing to TST (still GMT or Zulu time) directly or indirectly, up to and including ‘leap’ units which led to some crazy local calendars, to keep everything synced to a Sphere wide dating standard.
It was a bit bizarre and hard to get used to, but then that was the point. Sakhara Academy was filled with a lot of recruits for whom this was likely their first journey offworld and so getting used to living this way was a big part of getting used to being a soldier.

Today however, 05:00 was just about at sunrise. So when ‘Reveille’ ripped through the speakers in the building and I groaned myself awake, it wasn’t either pitch black outside or the middle of the day, which was about as good as it got.
So I rolled out of bed - and was almost run over by Graham blazing past me with a gleeful look on his face as he made for the showers. Rolling my eyes tolerantly I efficiently grabbed a fresh uniform and headed after him.

The entire training company of Mechwarriors was ready in record time this morning and we assembled outside the barracks in formation at exactly 06:50. Waiting for us was our primary instructor Sergeant Major Anthony Johan, an ex Light Guardsmen I strongly suspected had been seconded to the Rabid Foxes a few times given how scary Ninja and freakishly competent he was. We fell into formation quickly, now very practiced at standing at exactly the right distance from each other in one line of twenty and one of Sixteen. Every single Mechwarrior cadet in the second year. Thirty five of them all but vibrating in place with their eagerness to get started reviewing their Battlemechs … and me, the guy who honestly couldn’t give a f-

“Company” barked Johan. “Tenn….hut!”

We all snapped to attention with the distinctive crack of well polished boots slamming into the asphalt simultaneously.

“Present….arms!” he snapped and with he spun around and brought his arm up in a salute with ours as we all faced the distant tower that loomed over the middle of the base HQ building. A giant Golden Sunburst flag started to rise in a stately fashion now, as from speakers all over the base, the anthem of the Federated Suns started to play and all military personnel halted whatever they were doing to face it and salute.
The words were not exactly the same, although a decent amount of the original was still there, but now mixed in with stuff about how House Davion and the Federated Suns were going to kick your teeth in and/or die trying if you tried to conquer them...
But the music was still the same.

La Marseillaise. Which was actually pretty damn awesome I have to say.

Because seriously, the nobility of the Sun's loved the whole French schtick, or at least a thin veneer of it. I had even picked up enough French from my classmates to be able to at least get the gist of what was being said now, even if they always cringed and told me to please use English whenever I tried to speak it.

But the French thing was a mostly harmless veneer, compared to say ... the Combines thin veneer of “Bushido”. A veneer which twisted true Bushido into something with only the most vague similarities to the actual ancient code. Entirely for, as best as I could tell, justifying horrific crimes against humanity off the cuff and rigidly setting a de facto caste system into place.

In any event, the song finished and with that the Sergeant snapped out “Two!” and everyone's hands snapped back to their sides before he turned and did a walk along both lines, glaring at everyone and looking for anything out of place. He finally reached me, last person in the second line and … paused for a couple of seconds making a ball of ice settle into my stomach as he stared intently at me as if this was the first time he had ever seen me.
I wondered what was out of place and just what creative punishment he would come up today, given that denying me ‘my’ Mech was off the table…
But he said nothing, almost seeming … I don’t know?
Whatever it was, after those couple of seconds he moved on.

Okay, the ****** was that about?

“Company! You will proceed immediately to Mech Hanger bravo and report to Captain Rogers who will be waiting for you there” the Sergeant ordered, naming the commander of the second year trainees.
And no, he didn't look anything like Chris Evans - but he was quite a decent guy all the cadets respected, who got to play Good Cop to the NCOs bad cop.
Even if he didn't have a mighty shield.
“You will be there within thirty minutes or do not expect to do a damn thing with your Mech today. Is that clear?”

“SERGEANT YES SERGEANT!” I screamed along with the rest of the company. Thirty minutes would be doable, but we’d have to take it at a jog. Of course, if any of us failed it would mean that cadets physical conditioning had started to backslide, so I’m sure they would have a very fun day in that case-

“Smith!” Johan yelled out my name unexpectedly and I snapped my head to face him.

“YES SERGEANT!” I yelled back.

“You are with me today” he declared, with a gleam in his eye I didn’t like at all.

“SERGEANT YES SERGEANT!” was however the only response I could give back ven as internally I was bemoaning my immediate future.

“Fall out!” he yelled and with that the rest of the company was running - I got more than a few back slaps as everyone thundered past me with expressions on their faces of children being told on Christmas morning that now they could go downstairs and see what Santa had left them-

“Smith, MOVE YOUR ASS!”

“SERGEANT YES SERGEANT!” I yelled as I realized belatedly he was already on the move and I had to run to get back into formation behind and next to him as was proper, as he power walked around a corner to where a jeep was waiting for us. The basic design of such vehicles honestly hadn't changed much in a thousand years for much the same reason the US army kept it simple as hell even in my time; minimal possible logistics footprint. That was kind of a big thing when the nearest spare part for something might not be in the same star system...
And everyone still seemed to feel the need to drive them like lunatics.
With a squeal of tires we were off, with I barely having time to strap in before the man floored it. He did slow down just long enough to pace the platoon who were perhaps moving a little too slow for his liking, but his screams quickly fixed that as they picked up the pace before he drove off, leaving them in the dust as we … also headed for the hangers?
My confusion however only increased as I realized we were not heading for the cadet’s hangers.
Instead, to my great surprise, we pulled up outside Omega hanger. And to my greater surprise, we hadn't hit anything on the way.

The academy had five Mech hangers in total. Alpha, Bravo and Charlie were the first second and third year students’ hangers respectively. Delta was in mothballs - maintained but mostly kept as an active reserve in case some idiot blew up one of the other hangers or flushed coolant over the floor or something. Omega was half the size the students’ hangers, but it was where the training officers who didn’t directly lead the cadets stored their Battlemechs.
After all, they would hardly be expected to leave their Mechs at home, would they!?
Perish the thought!
And technically most of them were in fact still serving AFFS officers ‘on loan’ to Sakhara so they had to have their Mechs close to hand, ‘just in case’.

Which wasn’t actually a joke; Sakhara had been attacked in the Succession Wars, albeit rarely. But even so it was just a Mechwarrior thing, rather than an AFFS mech being reissued to a Mechwarrior to use it on the front lines, it would be thrown into a hanger in the rear…
Yeah, still didn't get this Mech cult BS.

Anyway, the front gate of Omega was closed (after all you didn't want anyone just walking into a hangar filled with a hundred million House Bills worth of Mechs) but the Sarge led me to a side door in the otherwise sealed hanger. He slotted his access card into the port above the keypad and entered a six-digit code I knew was changed on a week to week basis...

And then, to my surprise, he paused and turned back, holding the door open.

“Cadet, you are no longer my responsibility” he said directly. “But you still carry the honor of the Company with you until such time as I relieve you of that responsibility. Do not embarrass me, the Company or the Academy or I will make you regret it, clear?”

“Sergeant, yes Sergeant!” I gave the only reply I could, but it came out a little more surprised than determined, before at his impatient gesture I forced my legs into motion and moved into the building … at which point the door boomed shut behind me leaving along in near darkness.
Okay, so that just happened I blinked. A ‘skin-crawling icy ball in stomach spider sense’ certainty that something far bigger than a simple ‘make work’ deal was happening if the Sarge had handed me off to someone else like that. And as I heard the jeep outside start up and drive off, leaving me along without orders in what seemed to be an abandoned Mech hanger...
Okay this is either the start of a horror flick … or a porno. Well, let's see where this goes?

My eyes had adjusted enough now to determine that while the building lights were off and the front gate was clearly sealed, there was some kind of light ahead so I shrugged and started to walk forward down the narrow corridor formed by the walls of the Mech bays left and right of me. I emerged onto the main floor of the hanger and glanced around briefly, finding it deserted and silent. Dark too, the main lights and secondary lights in the bays were all off … except in one, three bays down which was fully illuminated. Taking the unsubtle hint, I strode towards it. My polished combat boots against the reinforced floor seemed far too loud in the silence of the bay but I killed the urge sort of sneak around like a kid somewhere he wasn’t supposed to be. Clearly this was where I was supposed to be, to meet … someone?

I mean there was no real chance that this was a ROM plot to grab me or anything like that. And I was being silly if I thought the Free Worlds League was looking for retaliation for you know, stealing the Helm Cache from them. And just because I had verbally flicked ****** Steiner in the head on Tharkad, it didn’t mean he had a reason to try and break in and have me killed or anything … did it?

I tried not to let my imagination run away with me as I reached the Mech bay … which to my surprised, was sealed. The heavy doors were only deployed to help contain things when work was being done on the Mechs that might get messy. Things like coolant changes, clearing them off after a day of running around in the mud or if equipment that might send showers of sparks everywhere had to be used … but I couldn’t hear anything going on at all behind it.
After standing around for a good five or ten seconds and finding no-one visible, I was about to call out - when with a sudden rattle and scream of metal on metal, the massive shutters started to move, rolling along rails in the ground and folding backwards on themselves to show what was hiding inside and I glanced up into the Bay.
Then up some more.
Finally I took several steps back and really craned my neck.
The chicken-walker legs, angular body on top of them and distinctive weapons with a third main gun looming over its body … this monster was unmistakable.
Well unless you were to mistake it for a Zentradi Officers pod - and ****** you Harmony Gold; I can see it. Unseen my ass!

It was a Marauder - and I stood there for a moment, admiring the quiet menace the design gave off before noticing a few unusual things.
For starters, it clearly wasn’t the famous MAD-3R. The third gun ‘over the shoulder’ was much smaller and looked like an energy weapon mount, a laser I thought. Which would strongly suggest this was a MAD-3D … except for the two extra medium lasers mounted under the ‘chin’ of this design.
I didn’t know of any canon designs that mounted this weapons loadout.
Then as I stepped closer, I noticed a distinct faint hexagonal patterning in the slate-grey paint of the unit and I felt a sudden surge of recognition. I had only seen that pattern on Mechs once before …
On Helm.
And with another glance, the subtly different angular body above me suddenly clicked again with a memory from Helm of a dozen of these machines, tied down like giant Gullivers on the Flatbeds as they were driven to be loaded up on the cargo Dropships…

“That’s ferro-fibrous armor - and this is a modified Two-Romeo” I muttered in shock, aloud without realizing it. This was a Lostech machine...a Royal Lostech machine-

“Well spotted” a vaguely familiar voice spoke up and I didn’t jump like I had jump-jets only because I had been holding myself ready on the expectation that someone would probably try to do the whole ‘suddenly from the darkness’ deal to be all mysterious. “Although technically it was a Royal Machine, but NAIS have done a little work on it” the voice continued as I turned to locate the source … and found to my genuine shock, Ardan Sortek stepping out of the darkness.
Okay - this was … unexpected.
No wonder Sarge has been acting so weird this morning around me...

“Colonel” I greeted him as I pushed past the shock, as I started to come to attention but he waved me back to stand easy.

“Hats off John” he instructed, indicating that he was talking to me ‘Ardan to John’ not ‘Colonel to Cadet’ … but even so he clearly paused to take in my AFFS BDUs and nodded in approval, clearly thinking back to to the mission on Helm and the fact as a ‘MIIO field agent’ I had winged about being forced to wear an AFFS uniform without rank on the grounds that I wasn’t a serving member of the AFFS.

This uniform I had earned with far far too many pushups.

“Uniform looks good on you” he said, with the smile of a friend rather than the approval of an Officer.

“Well this one certainly fits better” I smiled back as he came to a halt in front of me and I extended my hand, which he took and shook firmly. “So, while it’s always good to see you, after no contact for the last year … what’s with the cloak and dagger?”

“First, I’m sorry about the lack of contact, we all agreed that it would be best for OPPSEC and ensuring you were left alone if we just went dark on you” Ardan apologized, his expression genuinely apologetic. “Lady Melissa especially wanted to keep you as a pen pal, but was convinced by her mother that even through cutouts it risked drawing too much attention to you”.

“Um, thanks” I nodded. “Classes were hard enough without dodging ROM snatch teams. But that begs the question; why are you here now?”

“I’m not here” he corrected me with shrug. “Officially anyway. Unofficially, well, everyone else was getting their Battlemechs today and Hanse and Katrina were both very eager for you to get yours”.

I blinked.
Then I turned back again to the monster looming behind me.
Then I turned back to Ardan and tried to work my mouth.
I think what came out was something like ‘Bwhaaa?’ but from the snort of laughter I think he got the gist of my reaction as he reached into a pocket and pulled out an envelope, handing it over without a word.

I took a deep breath to try and settle the goosebump/butterflies in stomach/tingling feeling as I opened it then took out the single piece of paper and carefully unfolded it, showing an embossed seal of the Federated Suns … no I realized in some shock.
That’s the fist and sunburst of the Federated Commonwealth!
I blinked at the embossed seal inlaid into the rich, textured paper which otherwise just had a verigraph strip and with a deep breath I very carefully pressed by thumb to it.

The strip illuminated as the biometrics checked my thumbprint, then a moment later words started to appear as if by some Harry Potter magic from inside the paper. Starting with a whole bunch of random looking numbers at the top, followed by a short amount of text that I started reading.

To John Smith, Cadet AFFS-3026-44032

As of receipt of this message you are hereby requested and required to take formal possession of Marauder MAD-3FC-001X/SLDF9933931-RC (hereafter referred to as the ‘Battlemech’). Ownership of the Battlemech has been formally transferred to you as of 01/02/3028 in both Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth registries of Battlemech ownership.

All licensing and documentation has been signed to this effect on the above date by First Prince Hanse Davion and Archon Katrina Steiner, including authorization of the use of this Battlemech in AFFS and LCAF authorized military actions and drawing on AFFS and LCAF supply lines per field orders governing the use of personal Battlemechs in both services.

So ordered this day by the order of Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner.

This message will self destruct thirty seconds after verigraph activation-

I yelped in alarm and dropped the paper, jumping back half a step as the last words on the page made my heart jump in my chest, expecting the thing to suddenly ignite or explode or something as it fluttered to the ground and … sat there.

“For the record” Ardan was clearly trying not to laugh, “that last line was Melissa's ‘contribution’”.

Of course it was I silently thought as I closed my eyes for a second and took a deep breath to control myself.
Nothing in Battletech ever suggested she was such a Troll Queen, or was that something I did?
I still wasn’t entirely sure it was a change for the better.
So I leaned down and carefully recovered the paper, folding it back up and placing it into the envelope and the enveloped into my pocket as it started to sink in that … I owned a Battlemech. A Battlemech gifted to me by Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner. And not just any Battlemech. But a ****** Royal Command NAIS pimped out custom job.

The class is going to go ****** nuts over this I sighed mentally even as increasing parts of me were squeezing in delight… then it caught up with me that Ardan had said ‘For one thing’ and I looked back at him, then glanced around the massive hanger.

“Are we free to talk?” I asked carefully and Ardan nodded to the monster in front of me.

“Yes, but we might as well go for a walk and talk there” he said with a tolerant smile and I fought the very strong desire to squee and run off like a kid being let off the leash to go nuts on a funpark, heading for the cramped spiral staircase come spiral ladder that let us climb up to the upper catwalk and from there, across a retractable gantry and into the mech, stripping out of my field jacket as I entered the sleeping monster.

The cockpit was surprisingly roomy. No so much as the Chameleon which was designed for an instructor to comfortable sit in with a student, but big enough to easily fit Ardan into the Jump Seat behind my chair. I again strangled a squee when I saw the SLDF neurohelmet waiting for me, looking like it was half the size (and felt much less than half the mass) of the monster I had been using and I rapidly shrugged into the SLDF cooling vest hanging from the side of the chair, with long practice. Following that, I kicked the field jacket into a convenient storage locker and sat in the ejection seat, working to strap in and put on the helmet as Ardan in turn stepped into the Mech, slapped the gantry retraction button just outside the hatch and dogged said hatch down.

As I strapped in I checked my controls out; there were a lot more screens and buttons than my Chameleon had been running with. Even so, the layout was clean and the extra systems were clearly bundled into expanded C3 capabilities set apart from the base Mech controls, which were all pretty much identical.
With that said, I was still totally getting a bad case of new toy syndrome here and after a moment to centre myself and not starting to turn on all the other systems and play with them, I flicked on the main computer console to my right.

“Bringing external power online” I called calmly as I keyed the startup sequence.

A humming came as the computers booted and diagnostic data started to scroll down the screens. There was a sudden increase in pressure as the life support systems engaged and brought a positive pressure to the cockpit and I took a second to pop my ears as the life support system stabilized and air started to flow. The screen flashed through several more checklists automatically (and I couldn’t help but notice it was moving through the list MUCH faster than my Chameleons computer) until finally it completed and a single question came up on the main screen.

COMMENCE NEURO HELMET SYNC ON DEFAULTS? Y/N
 
I grinned and hit Y … and barely managed to avoid doing a Neo style ‘woah’.
There was a brief moment of vertigo as the connection was established and already I could feel that it was a hell of a let better than my old helmet.
I knew that Star League helmets were a lot better at getting a cleaner signal from the brain and back to the brain, but even without having gone through the painstaking day long calibration to tweak the helmet exactly to my brainwaves, it still felt better than my old unit.
I honestly had no idea but it felt gooooood. Like I was twelve meters tall ready to crush everyone under my gigantic -

Okay, no, bad Smith. Bad! No mech cultist attitudes!

I refocused myself on the diagnostic screen to confirm the neural connection was stable -it was- and with a deep breath, hit the button to proceed to the ‘engine start’ checklist, saying the same aloud for Ardans sake-

Buzzzz.

“WARNING” the display said and Betty scolded me, sounding disturbingly like my second grade teacher catching me doing something I wasn’t supposed to do. “VOICE COMMAND SYSTEM AND SECURITY VOICEPRINT SYSTEM NOT ENGAGED. DO YOU WISH TO SETUP NOW?”

I hit no-

Buzzzz.

“WARNING” she again chided me. “MEDICAL SENSORS NULL RESPONSE. ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO PROCEED?”
Ah, that’s right, I hadn’t put on the various sticky sensors onto my skin that monitored my health for the life support systems. But as I wasn’t going into combat, it was hardly necessary to do so I think.

I hit yes-

Buzzzz.

“WARNING” the mech interrupted me once again. “NEUROHELMET CALIBRATION HAS NOT BEEN PERFORMED FOR OPTIMAL PERFORMANCE. ARE YOU SURE YOU WISH TO PROCEED?”

I wonder if it’s about to note that my copy of Winrar is two and a half centuries past my thirty day evaluation period I thought in annoyance before cultivating my patience and stabbing YES one last time wishing there was a ‘Yes to all’...

Thankfully however, that was the last objection.

First, came was the distinctive humming of the fusion reactor as it ignited and cycled to power. The sound on the external power cable from the Mech bay disconnecting. A click-thud more felt than heard of the Gyro unlocking from parking mode and starting to spin up to operational speed. Then the shiver of actuators across the mech doing ‘micro flexes’ under computer control to confirm they were all good to go as the computer worked through its checklist.
Until, finally, all indicators and displays switched over to normal operational modes and the compressed holographic display activated, projecting a 360 degree view into a 180 degree band along with all the usual tactical and navigation indicators overlaid. Secondary screens switched in sequence showing communications, sensors, weapons and systems status. I made sure to double check the weapons were all SAFE with the MASTER ARM switch clearly set to OFF and that sensors were on passive - you did not power up high frequency phased radars inside the hanger - and with that, in less than sixty seconds I was ready to go.

“Okay, we’re good to taxi” I called over the intercom, feeling a bit of a thrill … and terror ... at that thought as I carefully gripped the two joysticks that controlled my arms and set my feet on the pedals that controlled my throttle … and hesitated.

I mean, I had navigated my Chameleon through the hanger probably a hundred times by now and this would not really be any different even if this beast was half again as heavy.

But … it was. Because this was my Mech.

I remembered when I had finally picked up my very first brand new car back on Earth. How I had driven it out of the showroom ever so carefully, the new car smell everywhere and turned onto the road outside … and freaked out as it hit me that now I was in traffic with other people who might just damage my beautiful new car, or I might damage it I misjudged its handling or something! Making me almost dangerously cautious and timid when driving for a few days.

So I sort of sat there for a time, hesitating as I held the twin joysticks and rested my feet onto the pedals…

“You awake John?” Ardan’s voice cut into my thoughts suddenly and I didn’t quite jump.

“Um, sorry, was just …” I muttered but Ardan actually laughed at me and it seemed to cut the tension knot in my shoulders a little.

“John, relax. We’ve all had that moment when we were given our first Battlemech where we were terrified of so much as scratching it” he assured me, reading my mind casually. “Don’t think about it too much, they’re made to be scratched. Just put it into crawl-mode and call for a run down towards the proving grounds in Alesso, that’ll give us plenty of time to talk”.

“Very good” I agreed, tapping the map display and laying in a NAV point to it. The proving grounds were the live fire grounds for Mech and vehicle combat, almost fifty klicks away from the grounds of the academy proper. There was a nice highway to it reinforced for Mechs and it was NAV-linked with repeater systems on the road, meaning you could literally put your Mech or Tank into autopilot and let it drive itself. More or less.

So I hit the communications board and brought up the preset for the local traffic control, smirking as I took note that the callsign my classmates had ‘assigned’ me had already been loaded onto the board.

“Tower, this is Pappy. Ready to Taxi, requesting transfer to the Gauntlet” I called out to the control tower that brooded over this part of the base and controlled all ground traffic, the better to make sure no idiot firstie stepped on someone.

Pappy, Tower. You are clear to taxi, follow the green lines you are clear straight out” the tower came back quickly.

“Clear to taxi, follow the Green lines, solid copy” I called back the instructions. The hanger lights ahead of me snapped back to full intensity - although the polarized armored glass didn’t let it get bright enough to annoy me- and a loud BUZZ - BUZZ - BUZZ siren sounded along with flashing yellow lights to tell everyone in the bay that a Mech was about to start moving. I gave it the ten second count as I had been trained and then toggled a switch on my left stick that put the Mech into ‘crawl mode’, governing its speed to a maximum of twenty KPH and locked the torso before pushing the pedals down carefully.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 17:08:55
The monster under me hesitated and then moved, walking as I swept my gaze carefully both out the window and across my HUD, but the hanger seemed to be completely empty of personnel. The main doors ahead were opening up steadily and I only had to wait a few seconds at the ‘Red Line’ at the front of the hanger until the ‘traffic light’ went green and I walked into the daylight. A quick glance around showed that I was clear and I turned onto the green line, following it around to the perimeter gate and an access road that led me around the edge of the base (and I noticed I got more than a few looks from people inside the buildings and on the grounds behind the fence as I’m pretty sure this was the only Marauder on-campus) before turning onto the highway that led to the spaceport and then the proving and live fire testing grounds beyond, switching off the governor to throttle up to a comfortable 40KPH walk.

Man this thing has a smooth stride I marveled. Word was that ‘chicken-walker’ legs were much more of a rough ride, but this thing was way smoother than my Chameleon had been with a great balance. And the reactor was purring like a kitten, sounding identical to the reactor on my old ride, which was surprisingly comforting.

“So, what do you think?” Ardan spoke up as we accelerated away from the base along the empty, open road as I linked in the autopilot to the traffic control system around the base that would take me along the road without needing me to pay too much attention.

“She’s incredible” I answered, and I think he could hear the grin on my face in my voice. It might have been the more advanced neurohelmet or perhaps just the knowledge that this was my Mech (Gods dammit I was not a ****** Mech cultist, but it didn’t mean I couldn’t enjoy stomping around in a giant robot!) but I felt incredibly energized moving along. I also marveled at the fidelity in the holographic HUD and secondary sensor displays compared to the trianing Mech, it was like going from VHS to BlueRay in its resolution and image quality. And the sensors were marvels, easily picking out and tracking things like ASFs doing circuits at the distant spaceport and even what looked like a Mechanized Infantry platoon rolling along in the hills off in the distance. The LIDAR systems presented far higher resolution images of the targets, right down to the unit insignia and splatters of mud.
I mean it didn’t make any practical distance in terms of target acquisition and engagement or anything, but it looked sweet as hell.

Royal Command sure got the best toys.

“So what’s with the modifications to the design?” I asked, trying not to sound too much like a kid who had just opened his present wanting to know how it worked...

“Well like the 3Ds, we stripped out the AC5 and put in a large pulse laser but we mounted it on a new gimbal mount that Independence Weaponry is playing with for their 3Ds - gives 360 degree coverage with the third gun” Ardan explained. “Also a couple of extra mediums on the chin as you saw. We’re hoping to use this design as a prototype for possible future upgrade paths once we get the Lostech back into production. But if nothing else, Independence is very eager to see about rolling out the gimbal mount across the 3D line. These kinds of turrets have always been a bit fragile, but they are reasonably confident this one will hold up”.

“So a bracket fighter” I concluded. “PPCs to lay down long range firepower, lasers up close and the large pulse to add in with the lasers or cover the rear arc?”

“Exactly so” Ardan confirmed as I eyed off the weapons displays.

The PPCs may lack the damage boost of their Clan counterparts, but the extra range – and lack of a minimum if for some reason I didn’t want to use the lasers – was more than welcome.

“And without the ammo and the armor plating reinforced, this thing is going to take a hell of a pounding to put down” I added before letting my smile fade away as I tried to push past the shiny and focus on the small matter of who was in my back seat. “But as eager as I am to give this a run through the testing ranges, I’m guessing we’re not out here to play with the new toy?”

Ardan was silent for a moment and I thought I could hear a sigh.

“No, no we’re not” he agreed. “To business then.  “First, congratulations on your progress here. I knew we were throwing you in the deep end here but by all the reports Hanse and I saw from DME, the training staff seem to think very highly of you and your abilities”.

“I’m lucky to have a hell of a team around me” I shrugged, feeling slightly self conscious about the praise. “DD alone seems determined to drag the class average up a few points by himself”.

“DD … Dean-Davion?” Ardan queried and I nodded … then felt like an idiot as I realized Ardan couldn’t see that. “That’s him” I said. “If you looked up the word ‘determination’ in the dictionary you’d see a picture of his face”.

“Well he is a Davion” Ardan snorted at that. “I don’t think a lack of determination, for good or ill, has ever been something they lack”.

“You’ve not wrong” I agreed, thinking about my slightly determined classmate. A very distant cousin of the First Prince who hailed from Argyle, Michael Dean-Davion or ‘DD’ as we all called him was, like most Davions, allergic to anything like favoritism. His work ethic matched mine - although mine was just a frantic attempt to close the gap with my classmates while his was a frantic attempt to push it out further.
On the other hand, like me, he had come in from outside the Mech cult. His branch of the family had a quite proud tradition in aerospace fighters since his great Grandfather been awarded the Golden Sunburst, posthumously, by Andrew Davion for his efforts to avenge his father's assassination, spearheading the Brigade of Guards legendary ‘no quarter!’ curb-stomping of the Warriors Cabal until a freak golden BB had taken him down in the final battle. And since that day, his family had been all about the Aerospace side of the AFFS.

However in an odd inverse of the typical ‘sad story’ in Battletech of someone being dispossessed or losing the ability to pilot a Mech, DD had been invalidated into Battlemech training, having been born with a chemical imbalance in his head that made him increasingly susceptible to spatial disorientation in zero-G maneuvering.

It had clearly been a gut punch to him that he had been unable to carry on the family legacy but he was a Davion with a capital D. His determination to switch to a different track and serve in a different way had won him praise from the very top of the family; with a letter from Hanse Davion delivered to him just after the graduation at boot, personally congratulating him for his success thus far and complimenting him on behalf of the whole extended family for showing Davion metal in the face of adversity. Lauding him for putting aside his preferences for Aerospace combat to find a different way to serve after being medically blocked.
Suffice to say DD had been supercharged from that day on, seemingly desperate to prove himself worthy of his distant uncles praise, to the point we (as in his entire class) had needed to yank him back once or twice.

“At any rate, it wasn’t easy, but I’ve made good friends and earned my place with them” I said, hoping for a quick reading on what this visit was all about. “But, once again, I’m sure you didn’t come all this way to just tell me how well I was doing in basic?”

“What gave it away?” asked said lightly.

“Hanse Davions personal pimp hand does not personally deliver Battlemechs” I said in a deadpan tone.

“Pimp hand … that’ would be like ‘right hand’?” Ardan asked in some confusion.

I opened my mouth, then promptly closed it again.

“Yes” I said instead, not trusting any other answer I might have given.

“Ah. Then yes. I’m sorry, but we’re pulling you out”.

I had half expected that answer, but I couldn’t help but feel a sudden surge of annoyance and anger.
Damnit, I had earned my place here and I was about to be yanked out just before finishing the second tier of Mech training? I mean sure, I had pledged personal alliance to the First Prince and agreed to a position as a personal advisor/aide/guy with him meaning I was emphatically at his disposal … but seriously?
“Can I ask why?” I asked back, trying to hide my feelings before suddenly it hit me that Ardan Sortek would not come to pull me out personally unless something had gone very, very wrong. “Oh God, does ROM know about me or something?”

Okay, now my anger was rapidly turning into ‘I need to get the ****** off this planet before the toaster worshipers attacked!

“What!? No! Nothing like that. As far as we know, your true history and your ‘official’ cover are both intact” Ardan hastened to explain. “It’s just that Hanse and Katrina have made some recent decisions around coming events … and, well, I’m going to deal with them and we all want you with me when I do so because, frankly, you’re the closest thing to an expert we have and as you were on the way anyway...”

I blinked at that and let my mind swirl for a second to try and think about what in the hell, on the eve of the 4th Succession War, there could be that would require Ardan to personally deal with the situation and bring me -

It was blindingly obvious, really, when I thought about it.

“The Dragoons” I said with certainty. There had been zip in the news about them aside from the occasional border raid, but then if things were running roughly to the events of the original timeline (and I couldn’t see much of a reason why that would change) then the implosion would be inside the Combine where the press of the Federated Suns wouldn’t have visibility.

“The Dragoons” Ardan confirmed, sounding pleased at my deduction and bringing my attention back as I took a deep breath at the confirmation

I thought that there was a general understanding we wouldn’t touch them or their Clan connections with a ten-foot pole until after the 4th Succession War...

“What went wrong?” I asked in a level tone knowing a bad turn could make things rather difficult right now even without touching the Clan baggage. The Dragoons little private war had been one of those things that had actually been something of an authorial fiat WTF. Take them out of the equation or worse, have them remain with the Draconis Combine and the Federated Suns front with the Combine could have been a bloody disaster. Their actions both on Misery and then in the 4th Succession War had not quite single handedly held the line to allow the Lyrans to stomp the Combine in the other direction and allowed the AFFS to give one of the biggest curbstomps in Battletech history to the Confederation for minimal losses to the Combine … but it hadn’t been that far off either.
Time was not running on rails, that I was reasonably confident of now, but the 4th Succession War had been deep into the first layer of operational movements to set up Hanse’s punchline at the wedding by the time I was thrown into this universe and trying to cover for the Dragoons situation turning the wrong direction was-

“On the contrary, it’s more of a question of what went right” Ardan corrected me. “To bring you up to speed, MIIO and DMI were running a number of operations to take advantage of the information ‘Wolves on the Border’ brought to us as well as your own recollections of events. I’m taking it you remember Captain Frank Woomack?”

I thought back. For obvious reasons I had not been allowed to keep copies of my Battletech material, but I had read and re-read them many times in the lead up to my meeting with Kym in the park and the name triggered a memory … ah, right.

“He was a Dragoon taken as a POW after one of their raids against the Suns right? And Quintus used him to backchannel a message to Jamie Wolf?”

“Just so” Sortek confirmed before pausing as a twin Beep Beep ping from the sensor console indicated a new contact and I saw a pair of Ripper VTOLs sweeping over the hills to the left and curving up the valley in a tight two-by-two formation - seemingly wanting to take a closer look at me. I triggered the long-range optics and scanned, seeing the troops in the back pointing at my Mech and raised a right arm in salute in return as they whipped past at which point Ardan continued.
“Things played out much the same way this time around on Udibi and he was taken as a POW” Ardan continued, “although it seems several of his subordinates who were present in the novel evaded capture. At any rate, Quintus again used him as a back channel to Jamie Wolf ... but this time he gave him a holodisk to take to Jamie Wolf - and I mean directly as we brought him to New Avalon to brief him on quite a few things in play - before handing the holodisk over and sending him back to the Combine, due to arrive at Alpha Regiment a week before Jamie would have returned from visiting Luthien”.

“... This is going to be either brilliant or catastrophic isn’t it?” I muttered - just loud enough for my microphone to pick it up given the snort that came from behind me.

“Well, that remains to be seen. The takeaway I can give you right now from our sources is that the attempt to take the Hephaestus ran straight into Seventh Kommando, which in turn led to the ‘patriot’ team being wiped out. They blew their demolition charges when it was clear they had walked into an ambush. Took a chunk out of the station, but it was still more or less intact. Someone, we think Akuma, their PSL, panicked at this point and things spiraled much more quickly out of control but the Dragoons were ready and fought back, hard. Far more aggressively than they did in the original timeline given by your material, preempting the DCMS moves”.

“Interesting” I muttered. “Wolf was almost suicidal determined in the original timeline, against his Officers, to stick to the contact with the Combine in the face of every possible provocation. On the grounds that if they didn’t they would be labeled renegades by the entire Inner Sphere”.

Of course if you knew that you would be declared renegades by the Combine no matter what you did as part of a state level plot, well, you might as well be declared renegades for making the first punch rather than taking it, I guess…

“The Prince noticed that as well” Ardan agreed. “So, he made it a point on the holodisk to include a message assuring Jamie that he knew the claims against the Dragoons and Kerensky were falsehoods - even included a vid message from Archon Steiner saying the same thing just for good measure … and let him know that his Hegira plan was compromised by the ISF via a traitor named Fadre Singh”.
I took a few seconds to swallow that bombshell as I tried to think through the implications.
Hanse Davion had forced Jamie Wolf to save himself.

Well, someone had to do it if he wasn’t going to…

“So … Jamie knows that Hegira is compromised. Doesn’t know for sure Kurita knows, but Davion knows and named a traitor in his unit now working for the Combine who was briefed on the plan and is being fingered … so he can’t take the chance. He has to move first. So when these ‘patriots’ try to seize his space station exactly as he was warned, he skips the slow slide into war and launches a pre-emptive attack to break out?”

“Something like that” Ardan said and I could hear the shrug in his voice. “Communications are still a bit confused, but the dependents got clear safely while Jamie, once more, went to Misery … and found some help waiting for him to tip the odds a little in his favor”.

“Oh?”

“Cranston Snord”.

Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 12 November 2018, 17:09:05
It was a good thing my Mech was on autopilot as I’m sure I would have stumbled at that announcement.

“...once more?” I asked after a few seconds of dead silence and working my jaw.

“Nondi Steiner paid him a visit at the start of the year” Ardan explained and I could hear the grin in his voice now. “Well she and most of the 3rd Royal Guards who were redeploying towards the Terran regions. She dropped in at 3AM local time having not told him they were coming. First hint they Snord got was when the museums security guards hit the alarm button and screamed that a fleet of dropships were landing a few kilometers away. Then Nondi Steiner, casual as anything, walked the rest of the way on foot … flanked by a battalion of Mechs on each side. The Irregulars started to deploy before realizing who had come knocking and stood down. Snord came out to greet her and…”

“She let him have it with both barrels?” I shivered. I had actually made my peace with Nondi on the day I left Tharkad when she had taken me aside and we had had a bit of a heart to heart. A few mangled ‘Your future hasn’t been written yet’ and ‘No fate but what we make for ourselves’ quotes from Back to the Future and Termination had gotten my point across in the end as she promised me that she would stand with her family - and the Federated Commonwealth, never against it and we had left on decent terms as I promised to only judge her actions.
By the same token, I could guess easily exactly how she would have felt about Snords actions. How he - on Jamies orders - had repaid her sisters strong loyalty to him over the disdain of much of the LCAF with, well … breach of contract was about as nice as it could be said, treason as a landholding Lyran noble nominally was a very real thing-

“Actually … no” Ardan chuckled and I blinked.

“No?” I asked incredulously and again tried to turn around and face him before remembering I was strapped into a moving Battlemech and felt my face flush. “The man took a Castle Brian on a Lyran planet for a landhold as a Lyran landholder, didn’t tell her sister about it, operated under the directions of someone other than his employer and, most recently, actively worked to hide a whole butload of Lostech Star League technology from his employer rather than give her a set share of it as was required? And … she didn’t chew him up and spit him out?”

“Not at all” Ardan explained and again I could hear the smile. “Didn’t you know Smith, that Katrina had actually known about his little Castle Brian from almost the beginning when LIC investigated why he was so determined to pick this specific bit of land for his landhold?”

“...I did not” I started to smile as I saw where Ardan was going with this.

“Ah, then you also didn’t know that Katrina had been watching him the whole time - as well as his secret communications and orders from Jamie Wolf all along?”

“I did not, but it certainly sounds like something she would do after having her suspicions raised” I let my smile grow into a full scale smirk. So that’s how Katrina played it...

“Indeed!” Ardan said. “So, I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you either that she knew all along that he had lied about what he had recovered from that Colossus on Phecda? And she in fact was fully aware that it had been full of Lostech he had hidden from her and that he had underreported its cargo load too?”

“Not at all, given what you just told me” I agreed in as exaggerated a solemn voice as I could manage before snorting and rolling my eyes. “Okay, so he was caught red handed. What happened next?”

“Nondi pretty much told him she was here to audit his Castle and with ten times more guns than he had backing her up and the full legal authority from Katrina, he had little choice but to take her downstairs … at which point she asked him how long to get all the Lostech he had stashed away mounted on his Mechs and all the Lostech mechs here back into action. And what Lostech spares he needed to retrofit his other Mechs up to the same level-”

My jaw now did drop open. “She what?”

-and also swapped him two lances of Thugs from the Helm cache for two mixed lances of contemporary machines. Plus augmented his Lostech hoard with hundreds of tons of Gauss Rifles, extended range energy weapons and EW gear. Then shoved him onto his dropships and sent him skipping across what shipping was available into the Draconis March” Ardan explained calmly. “After he was away, she and the 3rd did a thorough sweep of his base with his daughter before leaving, confirming they had accounted for everything. So when Jamie Wolf reached Misery, Snord jumped in to meet him via a Pirate point about the same time and invited himself to the party, without so much as a by-your-leave. Although honestly, Cranston didn’t leave Wolf much choice - and I suspect that Wolf was glad he came back for what might have been the Dragoons final stand”.

“So … Misery went better than originally?”

“Snords people seemed to provide the edge Wolf needed - and the will to do more than engage in an angry slugging match. Add to that the fact the Irregulars probably had had more practice than anyone in the Inner Sphere at raiding and running rings around superior forces and the fact that Wolf detached the Black Widows to operate with him...”

Even without seeing him, I could see Ardan wince and I understood the sentiment. Cranston Snord and Natasha Kerensky both led incredibly skilled, mobile raiding forces who thrived when the odds were against them. Facing them together wasn’t simply a question of facing the sum of their parts …

“We have not gotten Wolfs full report yet, he’ll deliver it to me when I arrive. But from what our sources on the ground and a spyship Quintus had sulking in-system somewhere tell us, it was for the Combine, even more of a bloodbath than the original battle. It seems that Snord and Kerensky kept their little force away from the rest of the Dragoons and well hidden. When the DCMS forces moved against the Dragoons main force, they managed to work their way around, undetected, to smash into Tetsuhara’s headquarters with nearly two battalions of Mechs, mostly upgraded, without any warning. They pretty much trashed the place and obliterated his air support, ammo stores and anything else they could burn - even knocked out a number of his dropships before withdrawing at the exact same time as Wolf launched his ambush of the Ryuken at the Opdal Glacial Fields. The 8th Sword had already diverted to cover the HQ attack rather than relieve the Ryuken and it seems Kerensky and Snord led them on a wild goose chase probably using the Satellite recon data to keep outmaneuvering the Sword and their enhanced weapons to snipe them down. And without the 8th to force Jamie to pull back from mauling the main battle line or a threat of enemy Aerospace assets, Jamie pressed hard and unleashed his own air support. It was too much and the DCMS units lost all cohesion. Tetsuhara managed to rally about a regiment and a half from the disaster and pulled back to his ruined base with another half regiment of the Sword of Light, calling for Samsonov to deploy immediately and reinforce”.

“Let me guess” I said dryly. “He didn’t show up?”

“How did you guess?” Ardan asked dryly. “Of course, he might have been a tad distracted by the fact that the DCMS jumpships at the Zenith point were being overrun by an AFFS naval squadron”.

I blinked.
Then I blinked again.
“The what?”

“It was Yvonne Davions plan. She took a hell of a gamble on your sources John, but it seemed to have paid off. She pulled together a dozen mixed assault ships crammed with marines, even sweet talked Nondi into loaning her two Achilles class ships from the LCAF. I think the spy ship Quintus had in system must have had a Black Box, because the assault team arrived when the Kuritan jumpships were at three quarters charge with the DCMS landing on Misery. One Jumpship was scuttled by its crew, another blew their drive when they tried to hot load it, most of the rest were taken without any critical damage and were jumped out under a jamming net - Samsonov only found out when they missed their daily status check in, stopped answering and sent a dropship to investigate. He had his own Jumpships with him behind the moon he was sulking on and rather than reinforce failure, he took on the surviving Sworders and jumped out.”

“That’s going to blow a massive hole in Galedon” I let my mind furiously work - while keeping half an eye on my Mechs systems, shifting slightly in the harness as I considered things. Jumpships were not something that could be replaced so easily. Hell, I’m actually surprised that Yvonne Davion had risked reprisals against the AFFS and LCAF Jumpship fleets by grabbing them like that. It was something, barely, acceptable, boarding Jumpships and capturing them intact. But it was still an infrequent thing. That many Jumpships being taken in a coordinated raid, especially against the Combine who had a long policy of conveniently ignoring rules of war and conventions of war (and if necessary, blaming an ‘overzealous officer’ who would gladly take their own life in ‘apology’ with their family secretly rewarded for such a sacrifice).
Still, I wouldn’t tell my Grandmother to suck eggs and Yvonne Davion was the AFFS’s ultimate Grandmother, so I would just hope she knew what she was doing.
“The Dragoons switched sides, the Ryuken gone, Galedon Regulars trashed and the shipping to move more units in or around gone ... Takashi is not going to be happy”.

“Oh, it gets better – or worse depending which side of the border you are sitting on” Ardan assured me and I could hear his satisfied smirk. “As soon as we had conformation Misery was underway, Hanse unleashed the Eridani Light Horse on objective raids against the Combine, targeting the worlds all these units had left naked, with orders to burn every warehouse, military base and weapons stockpile they could find – so long as it was not going to endanger civilian targets of course. Each regiment had two worlds to hit and if they’re on time, they should be jumping back into our space within the next week or so”.

“Well that’s certainly a way to rub salt in the Dragons wounds” I muttered. Give Hanse Davion some future knowledge, he does not ****** around. “Anything else happen that I should know about? Oh. anything happen with the New Dallas Core?”

“Recovered in May last year. It’s at NAIS being analyzed. Annoyingly and as crazy as it sounds John, you’ve almost give us too much too fast. We just don’t have enough qualified and cleared people at NAIS to focus on this many things at once! Still, our first analysis of the core does confirm it seems to have just about every military platform, engine system and weapons system put into service since before the Age of War to the Star Leagues fall, including quite a few the Helm Core does not have”.

“Don’t suppose it has HPG data?” I asked hopefully.

“First thing we checked” he sighed. “I’m afraid not; we’re going to have to do that the hard way from first principles”.

“A pity, but I suppose we’ll have to just settle for a straight flush rather than the royal flush” I huffed. So, Helm and New Dallas ticked off? That meant that the nascent Federated Commonwealth pretty much held all the cards in terms of Star League technology, minus a few niche outliers. Which reminded me. “How about Nighthawks?”

“Also a negative there” Ardan said, almost apologetically.

“Oh well, can’t win em all” I shrugged against my straps. “Any other lostech news?”

“We commenced final model Freezer production at the start of this year” Ardan informed me in a matter of fact way that made me jerk my head up in surprise from the sensor board.

“Production - hang on a minute, wasn’t this supposed to be the year of no activity!?”

“No new activity, yes” the Colonel agreed as we strode past a small convoy of cargo trucks trundling down in the other direction and I very carefully made sure the autopilot kept us on a nice straight line and didn’t walk us into them. “But remember that even before you showed up, the Federated Suns had been not quite openly investing a lot of time and effort to recreate Freezers, from Hoff in the 3020s onwards” Ardan reminded me. “Kincaid Defiance Industries were already subcontracted to build the finalized prototypes for field use, we just gave them the data, quietly, to upgrade to full production of the ultimate Star League version … after Katrina's people found the mole you had warned us about of course. Can you believe it was the CEO himself, Simon Kincaid”.

“The CEO? Seriously? Why? Was he a deep cover Maskirovka agent or something?”

“Nothing so clever. Apparently the Capellans just offered him a lot of money”.

I think my silence served as a decent enough ‘Flat What’ to that statement.

“So … he had a license to print money and customers in the AFFS and LCAF who would want every single unit he could build from now until forever …  and he sold out to the Capellans?”

“I don’t understand it either” Ardan admitted and I could hear the shrug in his voice “or, more likely, LIC isn’t telling us everything. At any rate, they are confident it was him and after the Molehunters pulled him up and handed him off to LOKI...” his voice trailed off at that.

“Go on” I asked after steeling myself, feeling a tinge of guilt and trying to squelch it. Traitor or not, I was the one who had set the mole hunters on his trail. Which meant, essentially, I was responsible for what had happened to him. LOKI were hyper-fanatics at the best of times. Against genuine traitors that Katrina and Simon Johnson would green light their methods to be used on? Honestly, I didn’t want to even think down that line, lest I have enough high-octane nightmare fuel to last me months...

“Well, with the mole eliminated, Katrina authorized the release of both some technological samples and the engineering data from the Helm Core, under very tight control, to KDI. They spent most of last year upgrading their lines and perfecting the process but they managed to get their first production run done just after New Years.  Current production is two hundred per month, should be up to about six hundred per month by end of the year”.

“Nice. Very nice” I smiled broadly. Double Heat Sinks were the single greatest upgrade to 3025 era technology, bar none – that held just as true in Batletech as in here. Prototypes had been played with since not long after NAIS opened - as Ardan had just reminded me - but like a lot of ‘Level 2’ technologies there had been a left-hand/right-hand deal in FASA over exactly what was ‘really’ going on in the Battletech universe. With Stackpole writing the Clans technology as entirely out of context and the Inner Sphere starting a crash weapons program from Clan salvage and Jamie Wolfs help … while the sourcebooks had the technology starting to come online in the 3030s at a glacial rate and genuine ‘Level 2’ technology in the 3040s … all of which was mysteriously missing when the Clans attacked anyway.

It seemed that history would take a different path this time around (it damn well would if I had anything to say about it!) much sooner than originally. Even six hundred units per month wasn’t terribly much to work with, half a Battlemech Regiment at best, but it would provide plenty of spare parts for the Helm units until production really kicked off. And allow testing of upgrade kits and so on…

“Well keep in mind the pulse laser and extended range PPCs are not in production” Ardan cautioned me, like a parent telling their hyper-active kid on Christmas day to be careful with their shiny new toy. “Ditto the armor plating to try not to get too banged up - oh, turn off here”.

“Here?” I frowned in some surprise.

“Here” he confirmed and I flicked off the autopilot and turned off the road onto the access road … to the spaceport. And the distinctive shape of a Union class dropship sitting on the pad in the colors of the Davion Guard. My stomach tightened at that.

“...we’re not going to the firing range are we” I sighed - and I actually felt genuinely annoyed at that, because I really wanted to blow shit up with this thing.
And that was not Mech Cult.
That was just New Toy Syndrome.
“And I’m not going to be able to say goodbye either” I added.

“I’m afraid not John” Sortek apologized - and sounded sincere but his tone left no room for debate, he just switched to Colonel Mode. “Your kit was packed up as soon as you left your barracks and shipped here. As soon as your Mech is loaded up, we’re going to be launching and making a 2G burn to jump a couple of ships to get to Robinson before Wolf, who should be arriving a day after we do, if we can hold to the schedule. Then, you and I are heading for Robinson to have it out with Wolf - and Snord. Possibly Sandoval depending on how that briefing goes. If all goes well, we’ll win the Dragoons over to the Federated Commonwealth as a key - possibly the key - part of the long term plan to deal with a Clan Invasion”.

“And if all doesn’t go well?” I asked dryly as I lined up very carefully for the ramp up to the Mech bay I was being directed into.

“Worst case scenario, you may well get a chance to see how your new Mech does in combat after all!” he said sounding far too cheerful for my liking.

“Swell” I deadpanned as I ascended into the crowded dropships Mech bay and lined up to the gantry clearly meant for me. As I turned around and backed into place, I saw the bay door was already closing up and I could hear the rumble of the ships massive fusion reactor starting its power up cycle. I took one last look at Sakhara and sighed.

All without knowing that I wouldn’t see four fifths of my classmates alive, ever again.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 12 November 2018, 17:15:36
rereading it on that page is a pain.  way tomany off rails.

?  Why not use the threadmarks tab, and skip all the garbage?  Nevermind.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 12 November 2018, 17:46:20
As much as it's clear that everyone talks ALL AT ONCE on SB (which is why I never posted on other game/theme sites: The fear of my own posts being buried), it's also clear that SB's forum has many bells & whistles that make me salivate (the Thread, Side Story tabs specifically). What is annoying that IDK which forum to follow for this story. SB or here, because I'm clearly hooked for this line of thought...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 12 November 2018, 18:13:41
?  Why not use the threadmarks tab, and skip all the garbage?  Nevermind.

did not know about them to you said something.  he just posted what I had been looking for. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 12 November 2018, 20:07:00
I have been reading the other stuff, mostly decent stuff since the unlock, but damn they can write faster than i read, I can sign in and see I am three pages back, read for three pagds and I am three from the end because there is so much crosstalk
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 12 November 2018, 23:12:00
Wait, WTF
Quote
All without knowing that I wouldn’t see four fifths of my classmates alive, ever again.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 13 November 2018, 01:31:59
Of gods I'm glad to not have to try and wade through that other thread on SB any more. More please sir!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 13 November 2018, 02:19:31
Of gods I'm glad to not have to try and wade through that other thread on SB any more. More please sir!

Really?  I actually prefer it.  That 'Threadmark' system is a real advantage.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tegyrius on 13 November 2018, 12:47:52
Yeah, but the threadmarks aren’t worth the constant derails and second-guessing the authors.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Maingunnery on 13 November 2018, 14:05:28
Yeah, but the threadmarks aren’t worth the constant derails and second-guessing the authors.
But with the threadmarks you won't even see that.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 13 November 2018, 21:45:43
so how many mec RGTs did the FC have or use in the 4th SW?.  why do I want to know.  Smith said that 600 DHS will refit half a RGT a month.  I was wondering how many months (in a perfect world) it would take to complete this upgrade.   
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Greatclub on 13 November 2018, 23:20:04
we don't know how fast production is going to grow; therefore any numbers we come up with are arsepulls. My pull is that militia regiments in cold areas are likely to be using SHS for years to a decade.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 13 November 2018, 23:30:48
we don't know how fast production is going to grow; therefore any numbers we come up with are arsepulls. My pull is that militia regiments in cold areas are likely to be using SHS for years to a decade.

when Smith got his mech, he was told that current DHS output was 200 per month, then 600 per month by the end of the year (3027?).  all of those SHS that are pulled out of front line machines could keep or get a few machines back into combat form in those cold area.  win-win
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 14 November 2018, 00:11:45
They might save those single HS for vehicles and the rare Light unit that can't generate enough heat to overwhelm them easily.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 15 November 2018, 14:57:57
Truth be told the hs would do the most good on the combine front. Liao forces come off as almost completely iimcompetent in most cases during the war.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: drakensis on 16 November 2018, 03:13:45
so how many mec RGTs did the FC have or use in the 4th SW?.  why do I want to know.  Smith said that 600 DHS will refit half a RGT a month.  I was wondering how many months (in a perfect world) it would take to complete this upgrade.   

36 frontline RCTs and 12 frontline Mech regiments, 24 March Militias and 5 regiment-strength training cadres.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 17 November 2018, 02:31:40
Geez, Drak.  Sometimes you scare me just a bit.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: drakensis on 17 November 2018, 02:57:28
What? It's in the House Davion book.

I just cracked open the book, counted and posted.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 17 November 2018, 03:42:57
Okay, time to bring everyone here up to date with the last chapter as I put the finishing touches on the next one :)

Chapter 12: Stormy, with a chance of raining Omnimechs.


Getting to Robinson wasn’t terribly hard. It was a mere three jumps away from Sakhara V and a command circuit was available to take us - by the expedient of holding an AFFS Star Lord at Franklin for a day and kicking an AFFS cargo dropship off it on the grounds of ‘I’m Colonel Ardan Sortek, deal with it’.

They probably weren't too happy about that as Jumpship connections could take weeks to reshuffle. And right now, with GALAHAD III sucking up every Jumpship like Grover Shraplen sucked up crazy (yes that unfortunately was a ‘thing’) they might be stuck there for a while.

Lucky them. Apparently, it had quite excellent ski slopes and it was the height of tourist season. We meanwhile were flying straight into the storm. Lucky us.

Ardan spent the time catching me up on much of the goings on and changes to Operations RAT and Götterdämmerung. Not everything - as it turned out I didn’t have a need to know for a great many things. Which was oddly frustrating from the point of view of a Battletech fan - but perfectly understandable from an OPPSEC point of view. Hell, Ardan himself pointed out that he didn’t have a need-to-know for quite a few of the things I asked about either.

Which was fine, but he had a lot more experience around being kept in the dark. For me? I was just trying not to think of how many millions of troops I knew were even now heading unknowingly to their jump off points. And how many of them were green troops just like my classmates being thrust into this war … and how many of them who might have lived would now die thanks to my actions.
All I could hope was that in the long run my actions would save more lives than would be lost in the original timeline. And try not to think about if some of those who deserved death would now live … and some of those who lived this time I’d much rather had died...


Still, I was let in on quite a bit of information, probably more than anyone outside the AFFS and LCAF high commands. Most interesting for me was the news about the Black Boxes or ‘Fax Machines’. The super-secret FTL communications technology Katrina had found while playing pirate back in the day and shared with Hanse and the NAIS. They were nowhere near as good as HPGs in terms of transmission speed or bandwidth, being barely 25 light years per day with 200kb messages able to be sent every three hours  ... but they were blacker than deep space without ComStar having the first clue of their existence and any transmission from a Black Box could be picked up by another one within a hundred light year radius of the transmitter making them actually more efficient at general broadcasts.
Of course their biggest feature was that ComStar didn’t know they existed. I had been screaming
loudly since day one about how ComStar was by far was the greatest enemy of the Federated Commonwealth - and humanity in general. And it turned out when an inter-universal traveler with detailed knowledge of the future arrived to point to an already generally distrusted faction and screamed ‘EVIL!’ ... people listened and threw money and resources around.

There was now a fully operational network of sixty automatic Fax Machine stations spread throughout both Federated Commonwealth states. Taking a page out of ComStars DRUM network, the vast bulk of the units were on unmanned platforms in deep space, light years from any inhabited planet, their exact coordinates recorded only on ultra-secure drives on New Avalon and Tharkad. That was the beauty of the technology of course; while a HPG transmitted to a single point and needed to know exactly where it was, a black box broadcasted omnidirectionally through space up to a radius of about a hundred light years. When such transmissions arrived, the deep space Black Boxes simply checked if it had seen it before and, if not, retransmitted them bit for bit. The endpoint units on the capitals, PDZ command worlds and being modified into select Command Dropships that we’re the start and endpoints had computer ‘codebooks’ that squeezed the most out of that 200 KB per message limit by allowing most any generic order to be encoded against lookup tables, allowing surpassingly detailed orders to be sent to multiple units.
While the network was certainly not going to replace HPGs in a practical way, as a backup to keep a military going in a state of war, it was a
hell of an improvement over trying to use precious Jumpships as couriers. Apparently, Galahad II / Thor I had tested the system on a theater scale and after some tweaking it was now ready to go just in case (or more probably when) ComStar mashed the ‘INTERDICT!’ button like a face mashing Inquisitor going for the Exterminatus control.
Probably also yelling ‘****** Heretics!’ while doing it.


And on that topic, a lot of modeling had been done on the economic effects of an interdiction against the Suns. While there were limits to what could be done without either a ****** more Jumpships and/or a great deal more time and money or taking actions that would loudly say we were expecting an interdiction; efforts had been made to build critical civilian stockpiles and update contingency plans to try and smooth out some of the economic issues that would result from ComStar shutting down the Federated Suns HPG network up to and including secret legal changes around thinks like interplanetary banking. I’m sure Hanse had plans well advanced to deny ComStar the excuse based on events in the original timeline, but in one form or another a ComStar-FedCom showdown was probably inevitable at some point in this war.
The trick was to just make sure ComStar didn’t realize that win, lose or draw this round, the
next round would be the end for their ****** toaster worshiping cult.

The final end. Oh, I got happy tingly thoughts thinking about that!

So. The board was just about set and the pieces were moving. While the ‘abort’ order could technically be given anytime up to the sealed orders to the unit commanders were opened, in practical terms the Fourth Succession War was now on automatic countdown. We had hit ‘the great deep breath before the plunge’ as Gandalf might have put it and as the Inner Sphere started to turn its head towards Terra, Ardan and I hastened to get the final piece onto the board.

*
**
******
**
*


“Don’t look down!”

I did of course - and regretted it immediately as the long long distance between my Mech and the ground -or lack thereof - became clear. My Marauder seemed to shake slightly before the Gyro kicked in and compensated for the spike of vertigo from the neurohelmet, adjusting my stride between steps so fast few would have noticed.
Ardan did, from the snort of laughter down the communications line. I tactfully ignored his playing with me though as I continued onto the bridge behind him, trying to ignore the slight feeling of it giving ever so slightly with each footstep.

“Are you sure this thing is safe?” I couldn’t help but ask as I looked back up, resolutely not looking down at the ocean washing around a long way under us. And equally not focusing on the thought that unlike Sortek; my Mech lacked the jump jets to have a fighting chance of surviving the collapse of the massive suspension bridge.
Don’t think about that MW2: Mechs mission with the bridge blowing up and dropping you, do NOT think about that MW2: Mechs mission with the bridge blowing up and dropping you…

“It’s rated as Assault-One” the Colonel assured me from his Victor. “Just ignore the give when you put your foot down, it’s designed to do that."

“I’ll take your word for it” I muttered to myself, trying to not cringe too much at that tiny bounce in the bridge. Or how if I looked just to the left or right I could see the sparkling blue oceans. The three Northbound lanes of the bridge were more than wide enough for our ‘Mechs to cross - with military utility vehicles preceding and following us to give us plenty of room - but from this perspective it really felt like I was walking a tightrope between two cliffs with a very long fall under me.

Still, I had to admit that even if the view inspired vertigo it was stunning, with a sparkling sea and distant humps of islands scattered off to the horizon to my left while to my right was the capital city of the Draconis March itself. The Beuller Victory bridge had been built to replace a bridge destroyed by the DCMS as they retreated from Robinson during its liberation in the 3rd Succession War and reminded me (as did the harbor city for that matter) of Sydney in a lot of ways, causing a brief pang of homesickness to work its way through me. But while the Sydney Harbor Bridge crossed the harbor well back down the harbor from the ocean, this bridge was built right on the cliffs of the harbor head itself. Which put it a very impressive 300 meters above sea level.

It was also the fastest way from the spaceport we had landed at to the South, to reach our destination to the North.
Although why we were taking our Battlemechs to our meeting and not just a damn staff car? It was pretty much ‘Simon Says’ except ‘Ardan says’. Different name; the same rules as far as the AFFS and Federated Suns were concerned. I honestly didn’t think Jamie Wolf and his staff would care one way or the other what we arrived in, but Ardan insisted that arriving as MechWarrior’s in Mechs with full formality and declaring of privilege would do far more to stop any … rash … actions than anything else.

And we didn’t have to stop for traffic lights either which was cool.

It seemed the people of Robinson were used to Battlemechs walking through their city in peacetime, strange as that sounded. There was a network of elevated roads running above key highways in urban areas and alongside them when there was more room, reserved for the use of military and emergency vehicles and specifically built to easily take the heaviest of Battlemechs. They could even serve, according to Ardans ‘tour guide’ talk, as VTOL staging points with things like strategically placed and reinforced multi-story car parks easily converted in a crisis into FARP hangers for VTOLs and Aerospace fighters that had STOVL capability. All pretty cool, but even March Capitals didn’t have so much money that would casually build spare bridges just for military traffic … so we were stomping across it and causing wonderful ripples as we turned an 80 zone into a 40 zone during school pickup hour.
The glares I could see in my compressed display from the soccer moms were only offset by the very excited kids plastering their face to their widows and waving wildly.

I had ever waved back a couple of times … until Ardan told me not to. Spoilsport.

In any event we reached the far side of the bridge without me falling off and veered off quickly onto a separate military road, letting the traffic shoot off to the right where the highway descended down to the foreshore areas. Our road however kept heading Northeast along the top of the escarpment beyond. The region North of here was pretty much entirely Fort Susan Sandoval, named after some war hero of the ruling family from the Succession Wars. It was less a defensive fortification and much more of a staging ground though, with massive warehouses, airbases, machine shops and even a decent spaceport - pretty much at or over capacity with the dropships of the Dragoons packed in there now, hence our long walk from a DMM spaceport on the other side of the city. The outer perimeter of the grounds was not terribly impressive - just a chain-link fence and a guard post with a single fire team who waved us through, but my passive sensor systems were able to tag a well camouflaged observation post on the summit of the tall cliff overlooking the region. And, as we passed through a cutting dug through the cliff – too tall for vehicles or ‘Mechs without jump-jets, my systems also marked a dozen different static autocannon and short-range missile mounts that could turn our little switchback valley into the valley of death at a moment's notice, so, the base wasn't exactly undefended. Clear of that cutting, we emerged onto the reverse side of the slope, which dropped down ahead of us to show the massive staging grounds stretching out to the horizon, with the sparkling sea off to the left …  hang on, were those explosions in the water?

“Possible weapons fire, three-ten” I communicated tersely to Ardan as I torso twisted in instinct to face what was increasingly clearly the distinctive black puffs of air bursts and orange zips of tracers. With a flick of my thumb switching my T&T systems from NAV to TACTICAL as Ardan too turned and came to a halt, the two of us reaching out with our Mechs eyes to see … a mixed Lance of Blackjacks and Riflemen running Dragoons transponders standing on the cliff edge at the source of the fire. They were facing the ocean and even as Ardan and I watched, a startlingly fast blip leapt into the air from a barge well out in the sea, the rocket tipping over in the air to swoop down towards the waves, barely avoiding crashing as it spent along a sea-skimming height. First it headed towards the shore -and us!- and my fingers unconsciously reached towards the MASTER ARM switch at that, but the missile hauled around and streaked along then, parallel to the shore on a course that would take it past the waiting mechs. A buzzing warbling sounded in my headphones - scatter from directional high-frequency targeting sensors seeking a lock - and hazey cones of golden light like virtual searchlights materialized around the waiting air defense Mechs holographic images and then even as the drone seemed to start bounding and rolling in a bewilderingly impossible way in response as it aligned to slash past the Mechs-

One single perfectly coordinated burst barked from the black and red Mechs and the target rocket was turned into confetti.

“Impressive, aren't they?” Ardan read my mind as another drone no two - four!- blasted off and again entered the live fire zone, this time with dizzyingly different trajectories, heights and course changes … and once again, none of them come out as the four Air Defense Mechs split their fire and engaged each target simultaneously with brutal efficiency.

Their ‘turn’ clearly over, the quartet of Mechs powered down their sensors turned line astern and started to walk off the firing range.  And with the fireworks over, Ardan started moving again and I fell into step smoothly, switching my HUD back to NAV mode.

“Very impressive” I admitted now as we stomped along, carefully making sure to leave plenty of room as a convoy of DMM APCs headed past us in the other direction. “But I suppose if you’ve survived everything the Dragoons have been through up to now, you’re either incredibly good, incredibly lucky … or both”.

“You’ll get there” Ardan assured me like a coach patting his player on the back after he was pulled from the lineup and I fought the urge to roll my eyes at his earnest tone. Ardan had made it a point to apologize for dragging me out of training several times, even though the written orders from Hanse Davion made it clear this was not his idea, but that of his boss - and in actual fact, my boss as well. All members of the AFFS were ultimately sworn to the service of Hanse Davion of course and nominally all orders carried the implicit authority of Hanse Davion by people authorized to speak on his behalf....
But I had sworn my service and allegiance personally to him what seemed like a lifetime ago … meaning my orders explicitly came from him and left zero wiggle room to question them.

Privately question the sanity of them, by all means; just so long as in the end I obeyed them.

Ours is not to reason why, ours is just to do … and … see if Natasha Kerensky pulls a sidearm and starts blasting when you accidently trigger her?

I made a face. Tennyson, it was not.

At the bottom of the hill we turned right as the road forked, following the signs (and TACMAP nav points for that matter) towards GATE-One, parallel to a more serious inner perimeter fence. Double chain link with manned watchtowers every half klick or so and with an anti-Mech trench between the two, it wasn’t exactly imposing but it was an effective barrier for hostile units without Jump Jets. And covered with enough sensors to make life difficult even for a DEST team should one try to sneak in.
Just ahead was the main gate and standing by it were a Lance of Battlemechs on sentry duty. And while two of them were indeed painted in the Black with Red highlights of the Wolf Dragoons … two were painted a very different color indeed.

That had been the work of Aaron Sandoval; Archduke of the Draconis March and Duke of Robinson. The man had welcomed the Dragoons dependents upon arrival who had escaped while the combat arm of the Dragoons slugged it out on Misery, escorted by a provisional battalion of mixed Dragoons troops calling themselves the Home Guard. Mostly trainees let by a lance or two of Veterans, the Archduke had, forewarned by Hanse, already organized a secure place for them to ground and settle in for the anxious wait for their combat arms to join them.

And in a stroke of genius, he had made sure they had houseguests to wait with them.

After all, the civilians, even if they were military families, were understandably shaken by their narrow escape from the Combine and how rapidly the Combine had turned against them and might need some help settling back in to a civilized society, especially after the ‘siege’ mentality the Combine had put the entire Dragoons family under. So, on arriving they had found they were going to be sharing their new digs with a fellow Mercenary unit. Or more specifically with said unit off vigorously rubbing salt in the wounds of the Dragon; it was the dependents of the Eridani Light Horse, guarded by the 8th Recon and 50th Heavy Cavalry Battalions of same who would be their next door neighbors.

I, of course, knew the story of the ELH - I’m sure most of the Inner Sphere’s military happy-people did. The Light Horse had originally been an SLDF unit, the Third Regimental Combat Team of the Star League Defense Forces. They had (sanely) decided against joining Kerensky on his death march into the unknown, instead declaring they would stay to keep ‘the light of the Star League’ alive. It was an attitude they still claimed to hold today, to the point of still wearing SLDF inspired uniforms, having a whole ritual day of mourning on the date the Exodus Fleet had jumped out of the Inner Sphere and having as their company banner an SLDF flag ringed in black that was only ever raised to half mast. And would be so until a new Star League arose.

Frankly, I saw the current ELH as little more than crack mercs with a thing for Cosplay.

But, even if their worshiping of the Star League instinctively had me rolling my eyes, there was no doubting they took their history very seriously.

All, of their history.

Back in the ‘good ole days’ of the early First Succession War, the ELH had been holding fast to their ‘neutral’ status as loyal SLDF troops, despite the Great Houses starting to throw the nukes around and despite increasing pressure from House Kurita for them to fold into the DCMS and ‘follow the rightful First Lord’. Then, news of the Kentares Massacre had broken and the ELH had decided to leave the Draconis Combine for good. Their sub-units were spread across several worlds but had managed to mostly pull out quietly when the local Combine bigshot on Sendai had caught on to their plan and made his objections known by taking the families of two battalions -the 8th Recon and 50th Heavy Cavalry- hostage. Demanding those two units surrender themselves to him, or, he would execute their families.

Said Battalions had refused.

Said Administrator had carried through with his threat. Seemingly not bothering to ask the obvious question of what now was restraining the aforementioned crack units from coming back down to make their displeasure known at his slaughtering their loved ones?
Because entirely unsurprisingly, both units did come back down and make their displeasure known at his slaughtering their loved ones. Even when a DCMS unit had arrived to investigate, when they were told about what happened - and with the DCMS still in their clinical depression state after the truth about Kentares became known - they had, for once, acted with honor and withdrawn. Leaving the Administrator to his fate as the two Battalions killed said Administrator, his bodyguards and a whole buttload of political officers who probably deeply regretted every ‘Gaijin’ sneer they had made towards the ELH over the years while they were stationed there.

In the aftermath when the two battalions had rejoined the rest of the ELH, their commanders had offered their resignations for the unauthorized attack - which were refused. Instead, they and their commands were in perpetuity made responsible for the force protection mission of the ELHs dependents and it was a responsibility they -and all who had been assigned to those units over the centuries- took very seriously.

As in written into their contacts seriously.

As in those two units always stayed behind with their dependents when the rest of the unit was off-world seriously.

And while Clanners would probably have contempt for being left in the rear area to guard civilians, the Light Horse considered it the ultimate honor to be rotated into those two units for a tour of duty, with very high expectations placed upon them.

The Dragoons being co-located and welcomed by both the troops and their dependents sent several messages to Wolfs people in a way an AFFS unit wouldn’t and credit to the Archduke for organizing it with the ELH. The fact that they were comfortable with having the Dragoons as houseguests given how ridiculously uptight they were about protecting their dependents said in no uncertain what the wider Merc community (with the ELH as their proxy) thought of the claims made against them by the Combine. And fellow Mercs taking their side like that, especially a unit as prestigious as the ELH, frankly, probably meant even more to them than Hanse and Katrina saying as much.
The ELH unit also served as a rebuke to any Home Guard troops who may have been sulking over the fact that they had been left behind while their comrades went into battle. Because the 8th Recon and 50th Heavy Cavalry lived by the same words as many of Robinsons extensive judaic community had lived by for over a millennium.

Never again.

Jamie Wolf had failed to keep his dependents, his family, alive once before - and no-one for a second doubted that he would do whatever it took to keep them alive this time. So, before they complained about sitting this out in the rear, they should talk to their joint patrol partners about what the price of failure meant. Or they could talk to Kerensky to bitch about it if they wanted – they might even survive the experience if they were lucky and she was in a really good mood…

Part of me, as we approached the gate and its guardians, wondered if the ELH presence may also have been meant to serve as a subtler rebuke to the Dragoons. Certainly not rubbing it in their faces, but perhaps at least making it clear that if you walked into a cave with a lion, expect to be ****** mauled. The Combines treatment of Mercs even on a good day tended towards the ‘disdain; you should be on your knees thanking us for the chance to serve the Dragon, unworthy Merc Scum!’ side of the scale and the ELH were hardly the first to have been turned on by the Combine. Why the ****** people wanted to work for them…
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 17 November 2018, 03:44:02
“Approaching Mechs, this is Colonel Elliot Jamison, Zeta Battalion, Wolf Dragoons. Please identify yourself and state your intentions” came a gruff voice over the general channel and I glanced up at the gate as Ardan slowed to a halt at the precise ‘YIELD’ line painted on the ground marking where approaching units should stop, my Mech matching his movements. The four Battlemechs at the gate were ‘looking’ in our direction now, but my advanced communications systems instead tagged a Dragoons Stalker further back inside the facility as the source of the transmission. With a thumb on a trackball built into the side of my left-hand joystick, I idly swept an indicator over to it and highlighted it.

My LIDAR systems triggered for a half second and moments later a projection of the Assault Mech materialized in front of me, to show it in much greater detail.

Again, Royal Command got the best toys.

The Stalker looked operational, but it also clearly needed servicing, with field patches all over the armor and a bit of a rushed paint job to cover it up...
To be honest though, the Freddy Krueger look just made it more terrifying - and a Stalker was plenty terrifying already, what with the sheer number of guns sticking out of it and with a wave I dismissed the hologram.

So. That was the commander of Zeta Battalion, the ‘big stick’ of the Dragoons. One of the original Clanners … and I had absolutely no idea which way he would jump come the fun that was about to happen.
Of course, that held true for a lot of the Dragoons, which made this whole ritual of challenge and approach rather important and hence Ardans desire to arrive in full Mechwarrior pomp. ‘Sacred Hospitality’ under the name of Honors of War was still a thing in this neo-feudal society - especially between Mechwarriors. Even on the Battlefield, ‘claiming privilege’ could be done to at least allow for brief ceasefires to have a civil discussion, often through third parties like ComStar. And the Clanners at least nominally held to such customs with their own bargaining practices and traditions such as Safcon and Hegira…

Well, we’d see how this went.

Then as Ardan went through the formal reply process which basically came down to ‘I have an appointment with Colonel Wolf, I believe I am expected?’ my EW board chirped and the Stalker flashed as it in turn scanned me … then a few seconds later, a deeper warbling sounded as a much more focused multi-band scan swept over me and the corner of my mouth twitched up in a smirk.

That was the Battlemech equivalent of a double take. Clearly Jamison had also just realized this wasn’t a MAD-3D.

The Dragoons had (possibly past tense depending how Misery ended up) at least some Marauders in their TO&E. And indeed, they were exclusive user and creator of the Marauder II - the jumping assault mechs big brother of my design. But I was pretty confident they had never seen anything like this, well, except perhaps back in the Clan Homeworlds.
But if he was off balance from my one-of-a-kind but definitely not a Frakenmech, he gave no hints in his voice as he now answered Ardan.

“We have been expecting you Colonel Sortek” the Zeta commander replied smoothly with exact formality. “Pass friends and enter.” And with that the lance of Battlemechs at the gate backed up a little as the anti-vehicle barriers sunk into the ground, the two of us walking through the entrance as each guard Mech raising their right arm in a gesture universally recognized as a ‘Mech Salute’ that Ardan returned smoothly as we stepped past, the unit closing ranks behind us once again. Ahead, Jamison’s Mech ‘lifted’ slightly as he took it out of parking mode and the armless monster with an absurd amount of guns started stomping off at a sedate thirty KPH, the two of us falling into line behind him.

I didn’t mind the slow pace through; it gave me a good look around at the base as we carefully walked down the road, the lights all green for us with railway like boom arms holding traffic back on crossroads. The first blocks nearest the gate seemed to be administration offices, presumably filled with locals doing all the support work the Dragoons needed done as they settled in. And probably a lot of the Dragoons dependents who in merc units tended to handle the back-office stuff.

Because even in the 31st century, the paperwork must flow.

Beyond the office blocks were clearly residential areas and apartments - although this main road was carefully raised now to minimize danger to civilians, giving a good view of what amounted almost to a miniature city for the personnel and their families. Some of whom I’m sure would be rejoicing in the return of their loved ones.

Others…well, I saw what seemed to be a large military hospital in the distance and it looked like it was pretty damn active.

No surprise there.

The Dragoons had taken losses that, while not enough to destroy them, were certainly the worst they had taken since the ‘fun’ in Antons rebellion, according to the summary Ardan had received on the way in from DMR and DMI. Twenty percent of their Mechwarriors and sixty percent of the Aerospace pilots were listed as KIA with another thirty to forty percent of their Mechwarriors WIA to a non-mission capable level. Add to that roughly 50% equipment losses and the Dragoons were in a world of hurt.
In normal times, they would have reserve stockpiles to restore some of that, but the long ‘company store’ play the Combine had run had quite ruthlessly drawn down those stockpiles down and there were no more Clan resupply runs for them either. They had a decent amount of salvage of course, both their own and DCMS gear ... but so brutal had the battle on Misery been that DMIs reports suggested said salvage was less about rebuilding Mechs and more about yanking useful components out of scrap either for repair work on other Mechs, or, putting up for sale to get some quick cash. Because it went without saying that finances wise no-one was paying the bills now.
House Davion was letting them crash here with free housing, food and support of course, but surely, they wanted to get a new contract hammered out soonest? Thus, I was sure they would be very happy that Hanse Davion’s personal troubleshooter had come all the way out here to treat with them so quickly.

In short, the Dragoons were at their weakest since they had entered the Inner Sphere.
And probably at their maddest too - or at least tied with Anton-time.

Still there was some good news. Firstly, their kill ratio had been insane; the DCMS were estimated to have suffered total non-recoverable equipment losses of about five and a half to six Mech regiments - a staggering amount of war material to lose in a single pre-Helm 3rd Succession War engagement. I had no idea where Takashi had even gotten the Mechs to build the Ryuken units in the first place; most fanon suggested either out of his ass (aka ‘FASA cannot into math when inconvenient’) or that he had blocked replacement shipments to the entire DCMS and organized key transfers of personnel with family owned mechs. In either case, between the Ryuken and Genyosha, the strategic reserves of the DCMS had to be thin to none by now; not a good place to be, considering what was coming.

No strike that, a very good place for them to be considering what was coming!

Just as brutal, close to 90% of the DCMS Mechwarriors who had lost their ride had also lost their lives. Now, if that was because they had refused to eject, ‘refused to eject’, ejected into the sub-zero ‘fun’ of Misery and died of exposure, or had slit their stomachs open because of their perceived failure … who knew?
In all honesty (and this fact distantly worried me) I found it hard to care.
The DCMS had offered no quarter after moving against the Dragoons so surely expected to receive none in return. The Dictum Honorarium, the code by which all Combine citizens and soldiers (theoretically) operated, was pretty clear in the best traditions of World War Two Japan, that to fall into enemy hands was the ultimate disgrace and a fate worse than death. It also stated that those who refused to serve the Dragon were enemies of the Dragon. And that enemies of the Dragon needed to be destroyed.

And it seemed the Dragoons had seemingly been perfectly happy to oblige them on those terms of engagement.

Presently, we passed past a somewhat more substantial wall and security gate that opened and closed behind us as we left the outer ring of the base and moved into the ‘business end’; a massive sprawling tarmac of reinforced ferrocrete with hangers, warehouses, workshops and military facilities of every kind as far as the eye could see. Vehicles were driving everywhere, but smartly stayed the hell out of our way.
Two Assaults and a Heavy had a way of making 31st century Mac Trucks rethink the food chain and their place in it.

Unsurprisingly as a nodal point of key strategic logistical support for the entire Draconis March this base was huge, sprawling over three hundred square kilometers if you included the Robinson Standard BattleWorks anex, whose bread and butter was providing major repair and support services to AFFS units cycling in and out. In the distance off to my left closer to the ocean were the ovoids of countless dropships, mostly in the black and red trim of Wolf’s Dragoons. Between them and us were vast fields of Battlemech repair bays; row after row inside hangers filled with sorry looking Dragoon and ex-DCMS units, with teams from RSB alongside the Dragoons either stripping down damaged units for repair or ripping apart units for any useful scrap and salvage in showers of sparks from heavy tools.

And there seemed sadly to be far more of the later going on than the former.

To my right was another partition of the base, with a couple of AFFS Enforcers on guard at the gate into that section. That was, according to my floating TACMAP the main supply stockpile where truly massive amounts of supplies arrived from the Crucis March - and now quietly from as far as Coventry - to be distributed across the Draconis March. Security looked tight too, but that made sense as no-one wanted some damn Ninjas to sneak in and blow up a few megatons of high explosives.
Or perhaps it was because of the shipment Hanse Davions instructions to Ardan and I indicated should have arrived several weeks ago.
Not for the first time as I reflected on Hanse Davions orders, I wondered if genius and insanity were but two sides of the same coin. ‘Crazy as a Fox!’ was certainly put into context when it came to Hanse Davion. The man must at times give poor old Yvonne Davion heart attacks…

In any event, after ten minutes of walking, we reached the center of ‘Dragoon town’, a headquarters building with attached Mech and vehicle bays and a Lance of battered Mechs proudly standing at the four corners on watch. We headed straight in to the Mech Hanger where a bit over half a dozen Mechs were already docked - senior officers mounts? Certainly, the somewhat banged up looking blue Archer I recognized as Jamie Wolf's mount…and the jet-black Warhammer with the Clan Widowmaker symbol was of course You Know Who’s...
Each of us were guided into a gantry by ground staff and I curved off to my assigned bay carefully. The gantry wasn’t a full Mech bay - more of a slot on the wall with a light cage to allow easy access on and off Mechs, so it was no trouble to reverse into place without scratching anything (totally still felt protective of my shiny grey paint) and, once there, quickly run through the shutdown checklist. Finally, I activated the security lockouts before unstrapping myself, setting the neurohelmet to the side and getting up, brushing down my dress shirt.
Once again, I wasn’t wearing the normal shirts, shorts and cooling vest of a field Mechwarrior - said vest was hanging off to the side however -just in case- but I was wearing the AFFS dress uniform of one. As I had yet to be commissioned as an officer in the AFFS my uniform jacket was rather plain. No rank insignia or unit markings; just the Federated Suns flag on my right shoulder and nameplate on my chest for decorations. And no spurs which I had not yet earned.

A completely plain uniform stripped of all rank and insignia had its own air of mystery that perhaps suited me better than the uniform of an AFFS cadet. Which would raise all manner of questions I could do without. But at least I had a pretty solid claim to the right to wear an AFFS uniform this time, which made me feel much less uncomfortable than I had on Helm.

Working out of my seat I picked up said uniform jacket from where it was hanging behind my seat (yes, the little space where the Rumble Seat could be unfolded could be used to hang spare clothes; I loved this thing) and turned to the hatch, hitting the release which caused it to pop out and slide back. A Dragoon tech was waiting outside and I took her accepted hand as she helped me up and out. I thanked her and hit the hatch lock - double checking it locked with the loud Beep-Beep! before moving to the drop lift. The now familiar smell of coolant and machine tools came to me as I dropped down to the floor, once unpleasant yet now oddly comfortable in that way you got used to such things. Pulling on my jacket as I stepped out of the lift, I found Ardan stepping out from the feet of his monstrous Victor and he wordlessly handed me his secure attaché case to hold while he slipped into his own dress jacket.
I couldn’t help but glance at the golden disk on his jackets right breast, distinctive opposite the numerous campaign tabs and other awards as he fussed his uniform into place. The highest award a soldier in the AFFS could receive, the Medal Excalibur said that if you knew nothing about this man, it was sufficient to know he was considered a hero by the Federated Suns.

And coming from a highly militaristic culture where dying in glorious battle was ‘Tuesday’, that really said something. As did the fact that the medal had been earned well before he had saved Hanse from the whole imposter plot.

So yes, Ardan was a hero and don’t you forget it. But a humble one; incredibly competent but with a strong moral compass. In the original timeline he had been let in on Justin Alards true deep cover mission only because he had more or less stormed into Hanse office and let him have both barrels over the railroading bullshit trial the man was being put through, being perfectly willing to resign and publicly denounce it do if he needed to do it.
It took a lot of balls to threaten that to The Foxes face. As well as showing exactly why Hanse kept him so close to hand as he plotted and schemed; the ‘speed break on the ship of state’ if he started to cross certain lines.
As one of those lines had quite possibly been executing me outright to maintain OPSEC for the Federated Suns HPG research program and instead giving me a new life … well I think EVERYONE was more than happy with the results of that choice.

His jacket in place, Sortek and I were quickly escorted by a waiting Dragoon tech to the main lift. At a bit of a jog, Colonel Jamison moved to join us, having parked his own monster next to Wolf’s. He was a surprisingly big man (as in fit big) - who looked strikingly like Tom Selleck - but I held that thought back as he extended his hand to Ardan with a smile on his face.

“Colonel, it is a pleasure to finally meet you” he greeted Ardan, the two shaking hands firmly.

“Likewise, Colonel” Ardan nodded, his expression sincere before turning to gesture to me. “May I present John Smith, my aide-de-camp?”

“Colonel” I nodded and extended my hand after shifting Ardans annoyingly heavy secure case to my left, the Dragoon officer taking it and shaking it firmly, but with no contest of strength or anything silly like that (which was good as I’m sure he could have crushed my bones quite casually) as he briefly took in my plain uniform.

“Mister Smith. That is a very interesting Battlemech you have” he said as he released my hand, glancing back behind me at it for a moment, his eyes clearly intent on it as he picked it over. “Looks like a modified Two-Romeo with a large pulse laser and … two mediums under the chin?”

“Well spotted” I freely confirmed the loadout of my Mech - after all, it wasn’t as if Wolfnet wouldn’t be able to confirm that easily enough and I was sure while we were upstairs, some of their people would be crawling over the outside of my Mech taking pictures.
Of course, very few people should know off the cuff what a large-pulse laser looked like and I wondered if that was an unintentional slip from the Clanner … or a fakeout attempt to test me?
After all, Katrina's casual ‘exposing’ of Snord being on Jamies orders should have Wolf at least wondering what else we might know...if he’s not being more of an idiot than normal anyway.

“I take it this was a Helm mech?” he continued, his tone suggesting it wasn’t a question as he continued without waiting for an answer. “A very impressive looking retrofit; I am presuming an NAIS job?”

“Have you transferred from Zeta to Wolfnet?” I asked, keeping my tone light and amused as the elevator arrived with a ‘ding!’.

“Just curious” Jamison laughed gruffly as the doors opened and he waved us in - then paused and stepped backwards as a Mechwarrior carrying a cooling vest in one hand and a neurohelmet in the other strode out of said lift.

…Holy. Shit.

That was about all I could think. After all, it wasn’t everyday a Battletech legend casually walked out of an elevator in front of you.

“Ah, Major” Jamison greeted the newcomer. “Good timing - before you head out I’d like to introduce you to our representatives from the Federated Suns” he gestured towards us.

The woman turned to us and - damn. I mean, just … damn.

In a Mechwarriors sports bra (with Clan Widowmakers distinctive spider sewn into it), shorts and boots with a holster supporting a wicked looking knife on her shin and a heavy slugthrower pistol on her hip … there was no ****** way I would ever have guessed, for so much as a second, that this woman was nearing sixty years old. Seriously. A very fit and ridiculously deadly mid thirties, tops.

Clan medscience was seriously bullshit.

Especially with her abs looking like you could grate cheese on them, her limbs looking like they used myomer rather than muscles and her blazing orange hair making her seem more energetic than a runaway fusion reactor-

Okay. I’ll admit it, much like in Battletech the game, Natasha Kerensky the real was just …

Wow.

A genetically engineered killing machine trashborn Clanner of course. But, still … wow.

You know, if her Granddaughter looks like this and Phelan -as we all suspected- was thinking with his dick, his defection suddenly starts to makes more sense...

“Colonel Sortek” Natasha Kerensky greeted him as she stepped forward, casually dropping her neurohelmet to the ground to offer him her hand which Ardan took and shook briskly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you in person, at last”.

“The pleasure is mine Major” Ardan smiled as he released her hand. “Prince Hanse sends his personal regards - and reminds you that you still owe him two bottles of Thirty Oh Five Glengarry reserve.”

Kerensky smirked an oh-so cocky way - a grin I’m sure many people in the past had tried to wipe off her face.
I doubted many who tried had lived.
Her MIIO file strongly suggested that ‘Natasha Kerensky’ might damn well be a default ‘cause of death’ on death certificates across the Inner Sphere given her estimated kill count.

“Unless I’m mistaken Colonel” she said in a tone that made it clear she knew she was not, “Ian never found out where those two bottles on Hanse’s desk vanished that night. Those bottles filled with that magnificent, smooth, Scotch … presumably. But feel free to tell him that I actually picked up an Oh-Five … somewhere … in my travels. And I’ll crack it open and raise a toast in his name with the Widows when he ties the knot with that cutie Steiner he’s marrying”.

“I’ll be sure to pass that on” Ardan said with dry amusement before stepping to the side. “But I don’t want to keep you and Colonel Wolf is expecting us.”

“Given that you ran out here all the way from New Avalon I’m sure he can wait a few minutes more” Kerensky snorted dismissively at that as she turned to face me and at a glance took in my odd uniform. “And who exactly are you then?”

Annnndd there goes the heart hammering in the chest. Right on schedule. Trying very hard not to either think about what she had done, purely on reflex, to Fadre Singh...or squee at a high frequency over the fact that Natasha Kerensky was paying attention to me.

So don’t ****** give her an excuse to pull her gun John?

“Smith. John Smith” I offered her a polite nod and extended my hand. “Big fan of your work”.

“Well, always happy to meet a fan” she smirked. “Any favorite hits?”

You killing Burke Crason and nailing Vlad Ward in the back to score four kills in your little Trial of Position to re-test when you rejoined the Clans was pretty awesome...

“Well … it’s pretty hard to go past your avenging Joshua Wolf and the Dragoon dependents” I said - and seeing the ancient embers of pain and anger that flickered in her eyes I quickly moved onwards from the battle she had arguably made her name, founding the Black WIdows and turning into the murder machine we all knew and loved. “But, I have to say that from what I read, you’ve reached a new level of excellence as a Champion of Chaos and Master of Disaster on Misery?”

“What can I say? I’m a Gal who likes her work” she shrugged impishly but then seemed to notice the time on her watch. “But we’ll have to table comparative destruction; my slot at the firing range won’t be held all day and I have a high score to set” she said as she reached down and picked up her helmet - oh GOWD don’t look at her as she bends over like that, she might stab you in the eye! “Ciao!” she said and with that strode out whistling in an off-key sort of way … wait, was that ‘You ain’t nothing but a Hound Dog?’

Must have been hanging out with Rhonda Snord.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 17 November 2018, 03:44:48
I turned back to Zeta’s commander as her last words came to me.

“The Major won’t be joining us in the staff meeting?” I asked Jamison curiously as he hit the lift call button again, dragging with almost physical effort my gaze away from the way her short-shorts moved...

“Not bloody likely - with a slot on the gunnery range open now that her Mech has been pieced back together” he explained, his eyes rolling but his tone tolerantly amused. “Whenever we hit a base with a firing range that scores individual performances, she always heads out to set a new high score. With a standing offer of a bottle of booze to any Dragoon who manages to beat it.”

“Has anyone managed that?” I asked in curiosity at that as the lift dinged and we stepped inside.

I didn’t try to seriously calculate my odds of beating her score, three billion to one perhaps? If I had the wind at my back?

“Jamie keeps getting close - honestly I am sure he could beat it but lets her have it to encourage the rest of the Dragoons” the Colonel smiled briefly as he hit the button for the top floor and we started ascending. “Only one person ever actually beat it back when we were in Steiner space; Lieutenant Char Aznable. One of my Zetas. Not sure it was worth it though, Kerensky was sulking for a month after that - even though she made it a point to go out and beat his score by twenty percent, half hungover, the day after.”

Oh yeah, forgot that. The Dragoons have their own expy Gundam pilot don’t they? Wonder if his neurohelmet is as crazy looking...

“Well it could be amusing to watch her reaction if he beats it again” I thought aloud. After all, so long as it wasn’t directed at me, a sulking Natasha Kerensky could be hilarious...

“Probably not going to happen for a while, Char got knocked about on Misery and is going to be out for a least a month” Jamison said, his expression distant. “Lost eight good men on that final push into Sabaku, but we bashed open the hole for Alpha and Gamma and they poured through, ended the battle in an hour that could have taken days."

The silence in the lift was painful.

“I’m sorry for your losses” I said, feeling horribly awkward in that moment with nothing to say as, honestly, what could a man like me who had never seen combat say to that without sounding entirely artificial and pro-forma? “I heard Zeta suffered the highest casualties of any Dragoon unit?"

And inflicted by far the most - a near five to one ratio while being outnumbered a minimum of two to one at all times” he confirmed with a tone I could best describe as … stoic, tinged with pride. “I lost ten pilots and all but six of the survivors wounded to some degree” he said almost matter of factly and I blinked, feeling slightly light headed and alarmed. Ten dead was near a third of their strength gone from a thirty-six strong nominal force. And almost all the rest wounded?! Over eighty percent casualties!?

****** hell. Was it that bad in the original timeline for Zeta?

“Most of the wounded were just knocked about as their Mechs got bashed around, compounded with heat stress from pushing them past their limits” he waved away the look on my face. “Some are still in bad shape, but the rest will be up and operational within a month at most and you do not join Zeta because it is safe.” The man shrugged at that, seemingly at peace with the losses. “We will rebuild. Already have every damn kid in the training companies pestering me for transfers to the open slots, no matter how many times I tell them we do not have enough Mechs” he rolled his eyes as the lift slowed to a halt. “Anyway, here we are."

The doors opened on a lobby with the usual lifts, bathrooms and glass doors at either end into the rest of the floor … and a half dozen surly looking infantry in full field kit hefting a mixture of SMGs and shotguns that made my hands itch for my sidearm, which I had quite deliberately left inside my Mech. Jamison however led us past them without incident, returning their crisp salutes as he moved into a corridor that ran through bullpens filled with Dragoon officers - mostly walking wounded I tried not to stare at - my mind trying to reconcile the Colonels casual attitude towards his units losses.

Rule number one of being an officer I recalled Captain Rogers lectures vividly. You will, at some point, need to ruthlessly spend the lives people you may well love like your own sons and daughters. You will do so without hesitation, without mercy. Rule number two of being an officer; no-one can change rule number one.

Or, perhaps it was just a Clan ‘glorious death in battle equals good’ thing. Who the ****** knows...

Quickly enough we arrived quickly at a large wooden door guarded by yet more infantry in combat gear waiting and watching us with that same wariness I had seen in the bodyguards around Hanse and Katrina. These two didn’t salute but one of the two reached back and knocked (read; banged) twice on the door before pushing it open and holding it for us as we moved past and inside, closing it behind.

The room beyond was something akin to a board room with the ceiling being a slanted glass roof letting in the sunlight indirectly that made it near impossible to spy on events inside while letting ample natural light in. But of rather more immediate interest were the men and women clustered at the head of the table, who turned towards us as we entered.

“Colonel Ardan Sortek of the Davion Brigade of Guards and Mister John Smith, his aide-de-camp” Jamison announced us before stepping to the side and making way for Ardan to approach the group.

I ran my eyes over the group, tagging every single one of them from the DMI files Ardan had given me to study on the flight in to Robinson. They were all Clanners; some of whom had been with the original Dragoon group and others who had come with one of the resupply runs and been promoted to replace dead or retired officers. The Regimental Colonels of course; four plus Major Kelly Yukinov who was the de-facto Colonel in charge of Alpha Regiment when Jamie was busy leading the unit as a whole. Also present was a man I recognized as Stanford Blake, head of Wolfnet. The Dragoons private little spy network that they had pulled out of their asses a couple of years after arriving in the Inner Sphere… and standing proudly next to him was Marco Ramius.
Okay, not Marco Ramius, but I swear to God Jamie Wolf really was the mirror image of Sean Connery as a Soviet Submarine Captain who wanted to defect to Freedomland. If a tad younger looking.

Oh ****** hell - now I had The Hunt for Red October's opening theme ear-worming its way into my head...

Presently, Ardan moved forward towards Jamie, the Colonel welcoming Ardan warmly as they shook hands and introductions started between the officers as I made myself small in the background, Jamison sliding past behind me, going the long way to join his colleagues.

“Colonel Wolf” he introduced me, “My aide John Smith."

“Mister Smith” Jamie greeted me cordially - and damnit FASA, he even sounded like Sean Connery! Or had Catalyst done that picture? Damnit, can’t remember...
I took his offered hand though, shaking it firmly as he glanced at my uniform briefly, his face giving absolutely nothing away.
“That was a very interesting Battlemech you arrived in” he noted as he released my hand.

“It was a gift from a friend” I smiled faintly, earning a raised eyebrow at the non-answer.

And probably at my odd uniform.

Or what I was really doing here.

Probably figures me as a spook given that the AFFS doesn’t have political officers and Ardan is BFFs with Hanse Davion. Close enough I suppose although I still don’t know why I’m here either...

“Please” he finally gestured us to the side of the table bare of all but two chairs, Jamie and his Regimental officers sitting opposite us. Pretty much all the senior players in the Dragoons bar Kerensky and the Snords who I suppose wouldn’t be here for what everyone thought were contract negotiations with the Dragoons. And Natasha because … well, honestly, I didn’t care why Natasha really wasn’t here, just that she wasn’t!

Well, here we go I thought as I handed over Ardans attaché case to him.

“Colonel Sortek, before we begin our discussions, I would like to extend to you and your Prince the gratitude of all the Dragoons for your warnings” Jamie started once everyone was settled. “My people” and he glanced at Blake who nodded very slightly, “are of the opinion that such superb intelligence could only have come from a very high-level source that you risked exposing by passing on such information. A great many of our people are alive today because of that warning and we will not forget it.”

“Colonel Wolf. I will be sure to pass on your thanks to Prince Davion. However, honesty compels me to point out our reasons for warning you were not entirely altruistic; depriving the Combine of a Mercenary unit of the Dragoons skill and power was certainly one of the factors influencing our decision making” Ardan said with almost brutal honesty.
Must be a hell of a change from the words within words within words of dealing with Combine officials to have Ardan just outright come out and admit it I thought, but none of the Dragoons seemed at all bothered or put off by his directness.
“Accordingly,” Ardan continued, “irrespective of if we come to terms it is my Princes wish that you not consider that you owe any debts or favors to him. Frankly, the sheer damage you have directed inflicted to the DCMS - and opening you left for it to be compounded- has, if anything, made him feel greatly indebted to the Dragoons."

“While I in turn would note that the Combine were going to move against us and make themselves our enemies, irrespective of if the Prince decided to reach out and warn us” Jamie noted in turn, his face turning dark - although I could tell it wasn’t directed at Ardan. “And if he had not reached out, if he had - understandably- been unwilling to risk a clearly valuable source for the sake of a Mercenary unit in service to his greatest enemy, letting Kurita pull off his plans with full surprise? A great many -or perhaps even all - of our dependents and support staff could have been killed or held against us. It could have been far worse than Anton” he said, his eyes closing for a second as his subordinates murmured in agreement with their own expressions turning grim before Jamie opened his eyes, his face once again calm.

“Still, we could spend all day trying to insist that one of us owed the other more so, for now at least, I think it would be more productive to conclude we are both deeply grateful for the others efforts?” Jamie suggested, lifting his hands in a sort of shrug and offering a wry but real smile.

“Well said” Ardan agreed and got to work opening his attaché case. “First, Archduke Sandoval has formally offered indefinite shelter and support for your dependents here on Robinson, at his cost, until any new contract is signed between the Dragoons and a new employer. I also must express that both the First Prince Hanse Davion and Archon Katrina Steiner have authorized me to negotiate on their behalf for the employment of Wolf’s Dragoons in a joint, long term contract to both the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth."

That revelation got a number of raised eyebrows and slight shifting from the crowd of people. Jamie however didn’t even flinch at what must have been an unprecedented - certainly in the time of the Succession Wars - offer of two House Lords putting a proposal forward for the Dragoons services.

“I will, of course, personally extend my thanks to the Archduke later” Jamie observed and Ardan nodded to that. “However” he continued, “before negotiations truly begin between the Dragoons, Commonwealth and Suns; I must note a change in our standard terms. Contrary to the undertakings our agents on Galatea have been suggesting over the last year, the Dragoons will not be seeking a contracted guarantee against facing our previous employer” Jamie started, his tone matter-of-fact but his eyes icy. “In actuality, we will require a front line combat contract against them.”

There was a clear rumble of support from around the table at that, with dark, eager looks on faces.

Okay then. Clearly, ripping apart the Ryuken, slaughtering the Sword of Light and … um … gutting? the Galedon Regulars on Misery wasn’t enough DCMS blood for them.
I managed not to roll my eyes at the Dragoons desire to sign a suicide pact with their latest employer.

“You are requiring a front-line posting against the Draconis Combine?” Ardan asked. His tone was businesslike, not judging one way or the other but simply seeking clarification of the request and he got a curt nod in return.

“Correct” Jamie said simply. “In addition, … Colonel, I would hazard that after our business here is concluded, you will be proceeding to Terra for the wedding of Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner?

“I will be” Ardan confirmed after a moment's thought. “Indirectly if we finish quickly enough, directly if these negotiations draw out somewhat” and Jamie nodded once again.

“Then I would also request if I may accompany you. I require a final conversation with the Coordinator and have a personal delivery to make before our previous business is concluded” he stated, and that matter of fact tone could not come close to hiding the flash in his eyes. “You have my word I will not start any violence with Lord Kurita or any of his party” he added as Ardan’s gaze narrowed, as if predicting the next question, holding up a hand in a placating gesture. “I simply need to return something to him, personally.”

Well, I suppose that means that Minobu Tetsuhara went out the same way I thought silently as Ardan and Jamie exchanged stares, neither willing to blink as they took the measure of each other and I let my attention drift in thought.

Tetsuhara had been one of those rare unicorns; a highly competent DCMS officer who not only believed the hype the DC sprouted about itself to the rest of the Inner Sphere, but lived by it and refused to compromise. He had unknowingly spared the life of Jamie Wolf while the Dragoons were in service to Steiner, because his Mech had been overheated and it would have been dishonorable to essentially shoot him in the back.
That decision had, of course, gotten him dispossessed by the DCMS in punishment. Because the DCMS were dicks about punishing people like that whenever anyone actually tried to inconveniently live up to their PR.
The Dragoons had come to appreciate him as an ally though, even giving him the moniker ‘Major Iron Man’ from them (although he was about as far as it was possible to get from any iteration of Tony Stark, let alone Robert Downey Junior), becoming key in keeping the Dragoons relationship with the Combine stable during his tenure as their liaison officer.

But far more important than all that; he had become a close friend to Jamie Wolf.

Things had started to go south when he was promoted into the position of the Commander of the Ryuken, leaving Jerry Akuma (who was all about the whole ‘entrap and/or destroy the Dragoons’ thing and personally loathed Tetsuhara) to replace him as their liaison officer. The man had wasted little time in using his position to start ****** things up in a methodical, systematic way with maximum company store efforts and steadily ramping up the anti-Dragoon propaganda inside the Combine even as the ISF worked to frame them for war crimes against the Combine.

Worse for Jamie Wolf and his friend, the man took his oaths so seriously that despite loathing himself for doing it, he had led the fight against the Dragoons to the best of his abilities once things turned hostile, seeing the orders to destroy the Dragoons as direct orders from the Coordinator himself.
Despite being betrayed by Samsonov he had fought as hard as he could but in the original timeline (and it seemed this one) Tetsuhara had been captured at the end of hostilities and insisted on seppuku to atone for his disgrace, no matter how frantically Jamie had tried to talk him out of it and prove none of the events was his fault and no one in the Dragoons doubted he had fought both well and with honor.
In Tetsuharas world however, there was no grey. His Lord Kurita had demanded success and he had instead delivered failure. His Warlord had betrayed him, sure, but as far as the Combine Officer was concerned, the orders to destroy the Dragoons had come from the Dragon. And indeed, it was his decision all those years ago to spare Jamie Wolf that had inevitably led to this horrible day.

Ergo, he had failed.
The Dragon, like all good Bond villains, did not tolerate failure.
Ergo, Seppuku was the only way to balance his karma and Jamie had stood as his second to shoot him as he finished slicing himself open.

For Tetsuhara; the noble act of a close friend, standing by him to the end.

For Jamie; pure bloody murder of a good friend and better man, forced by Takashi Kurita.

Jamie had then proceeded to Terra to ‘deliver’ Tetsuhara's ancestral swords to the Coordinator, charging him with returning them to the man's widow and family and explaining why her husband had slit himself open. Then, after throwing the swords at his feet, Jamie had taken the opportunity to scorn Takashi in front of the entire assembled senior nobility of the Inner Sphere’s Great Houses. Short of pulling down his pants and dickslapping him, there wasn’t terribly much more that could have been to encourage the DCMS to come after the Dragoons with everything they could scrape together in a howling rage.
Given his desire to head to Terra to ‘deliver’ something to Takashi, it was a foregone conclusion events had played out much the same way this time. And he seemed determined to play out future events in the same way.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 17 November 2018, 03:45:13
“From the reports I’ve read...” Sortek continued after a few seconds of exchanging stares with Jamie led nowhere, instead glancing down as he leafed through his papers from DMR; “the Dragoons Mech regiments are, as a whole sitting at greater than fifty percent non-recoverable material losses and thirty percent damaged? With twenty percent personnel losses and another thirty or forty percent currently non-mission capable. Would this be an accurate assessment?”

“Approximately, yes” Jamie agreed with a stoic nod as if Ardan hadn’t just pointed out he had gone from having five crack regiments at his beck and call a few months ago to having barely one right now. “If we can quickly come to contract terms for some other parts as well as helping to expedite a shipment ordered from Blackwell, I am confident we will be able to put two and a half regiments of Battlemechs in the field within two months, with another regiment of dispossessed Mechwarriors combat ready. Plus our training command, although we intend to keep them here with our vehicle support and the remains of Zeta to defend our dependents. No disrespect intended to the AFFS or, of course, the Light Horse.”

“None taken on our side and I’m sure the ELH -perhaps more than anyone- will understand” Ardan agreed before leaning forward slightly. “However as for your posting requests … may I put this directly Colonel?” Sortek asked.

“Of course” Jamie agreed and Ardan leaned back a little, regarding Jamie with an unreadable expression on his face.

“How far are you willing - no, excuse me. How far are you going to take this vendetta?”

Well that’s direct...

Ardan's blunt question seemed to wash through the room like a cold wind and several of the Dragoon officers actually looked a trite taken aback by it.
Although I doubted it would be near enough to get them to start thinking about the likely long term consequences of declaring Jihad against the Draconis Combine with a mere two and a half Regiments of Mechs.
Clanners just didn’t do long term consequences.

No, long term ‘Consequences’ did Clanners!
I mentally high fived Shoulder Consequences at the Smirnoff.

Jaime though, to his credit only smiled faintly in a very Sean Connery Bond way, seemingly utterly unphased by the bluntness.

“I would have thought that Prince Davion and Archon Steiner would have been pleased having a unit so determined to take the fight to their mortal enemy working for them?” Jamie sidestepped the question entirely and I almost felt the frown that came onto Ardan’s face in response to the evasion.

Yeah, no. Ardan wasn’t going to have any of that. The Dragoons thinking they had a right to a private war against the Combine? One that could easily draw reprisals on worlds they were stationed on?
House Davion pushed back against that kind of bullshit from the Sandovals, let alone a Merc unit. In our preliminary groundwork for this meeting Ardan had been highly unimpressed with the idea that the Jamie Wolf would suicide pact his people rather than be their commander and do his damn job...

“If said unit is working from a coordinated and agreed upon strategic plan with their employer? Of course” Ardan replied easily. “If however said unit simply wants to wage a private self-destructive war against an entire Successor State without any concern for the wider strategic implications or possible second order consequences to the nation hosting them? I can assure you neither the First Prince or Archon would accept such a unit as that into their employment.”

Wow. Any more direct Ardan and you’ll be doing the ‘tie to chair osmosis’ thing I thought.

His statement had the desired effect across the room though. I was sure they had expected Ardan was coming here to roll out the Royal Carpet for them, to see to their repair needs with maximum priority with an eye to getting the Dragoons up and ready for round two as fast as possible. Because what House Lord wouldn’t love to throw the Dragoons at their mortal enemy?
There was a palpable irony that Wolf had orders for the Dragoons to save the Inner Sphere … and now it was up to the Inner Sphere to save the Dragoons.

Wolf however seemed surprisingly unphased by Ardan's rebuttal even if his officers were looking increasingly off balance - perhaps even worried about the way this contract negotiation (which I’m sure they thought was going to be mostly pro-forma) was going. But then, I suppose if Wolf could sit through hours of Grieg Samsonov ranting at him and Jerry Akuma lying to his face time after time, this was probably nothing terribly impressive by his standards and that far more would be needed to break his composure.
Remaining calm, he leaned forward after a few seconds to mirror Ardans posture, his gaze not shifting one micron.

"It sounds to me Colonel, If you’ll forgive my directness, almost like you are expecting that the Dragoons will ignore their orders?”

For the record, I tried.
I really tried, given how incredibly serious this was.
But … I just couldn't help it.
The strangled snicker/snort made its way out of my nose, a noise that sounded far, far too loud in the otherwise silent room before I managed to cut it off with a mangled sort of throat clearing and tried to make my face as impassive as it had been.

It didn’t stop the entire room turning to look at me. Um, whoops.

"Something you wish to add to our discussion, Mister Smith?" Jamie asked me with a familiar tone and raised eyebrow that instantly took me back to Sakhara. One that suggested strongly the only acceptable answer was ‘SIR NO SIR!’
Mostly though I was too busy trying not to react to the Hunt for Red October reference - delivered by a Marco Ramius look alike.
Probably BROBs fault - whichever one of the bastards sent me to this universe. BUT, unplanned or not it was probably just about the best opening I’d get.

So I met the look of Jamie Wolf for a moment before shifting my gaze to look at Ardan, an unasked question on my face. And after a moment of consideration, the AFFS Officer casually flipped his folder shut and clasped his hands together on the table on top of it as if waiting for me to apologize or something like that.

In truth however, that was the agreed 'do it' signal.

“Colonel Wolf” I said calmly, choosing my words very carefully from a whole list of possible choices and plans I had ran over and over for a very long time. “Would you agree then, that it is the duty of a soldier to obey all orders from their superior officers? Presuming, of course, they are what the soldier recognizes as lawful orders?”

“Of course” he agreed. Immediately and without any hesitation. As a good soldier should. Not seeing the trap he had just fallen into even if he probably sensed there was one somewhere.
I mean, how could he?
Some days it’s fun being a walking, talking outside context problem…

“So” I continued, leaning back in my chair and gathering my hands together as I regarded him with my best ‘polite curiosity’ expression; “may I thus conclude that you believe your final mission orders from Khan Kerlin Ward were not lawful orders?”

Silence. Or, as HALO would put it, Silentium. An absolute, perfect, primordial silence the filled the room like a living, breathing thing...

Takashi Kurita had noted in Wolves on the Border that Jamie Wolf wore such a perfect mask that it was all but impossible to see real man behind it. Framed in chi bullshit of course, but fundamentally the Coordinator had been annoyed that unlike most people, he simply couldn’t get any read on Jamie in their few encounters, making it impossible for him to anticipate which way Wolf would jump.
That made me regret that I didn’t have a camera to capture the look of numb dumbfounded shock on his face as said iron control shattered, his gaze flickering back and forth between Ardan and I in a way that said he was lost for what to say or do as the rug was entirely brutally ripped out from under his feet.

The eerie silence lasted for about ten seconds when finally Colonel Jamison leaned forward. The leather creaking of his chair was almost painfully loud in the dead silence and drew Wolfs attention with almost undue haste to his subordinate. A quick exchange of looks between them that seemed almost telepathic and the Zeta Battalion commander turned to me, clearing his throat as Jamie seemed almost to withdraw into himself, his gaze directed at nothing.
I couldn’t bring myself to feel terribly much pity for him being called out on not doing his ****** job...

“Could you please elaborate, Mister Smith?” Jamison’s words were ever so carefully chosen, but the white knuckles on his fists and rigid shoulders betrayed the tension roaring through him.

I suspected that Jamison - and the rest of the Dragoons in the room for that matter - had some faint hope that this was just a fishing trip. That the people Ardan and I represented had some information, many suspicions and a whole lot of missing context and had come looking for more data. And perhaps, just perhaps, if they held their nerve they might just be able to limit the fallout from this utterly unexpected, catastrophic and world changing event?

If so, he was about to be sorely disappointed.

“Of course” I nodded politely as if we were talking about who we liked in this year’s Solaris circuit now that Allard had left for Sian after killing Norton. “During the Dragoon's final resupply run Colonel Wolf and Star Colonel Kerensky - the Senior Bloodnamed Trueborn of record in the Dragoons - were given direct, explicit and very clear orders from your Khan to begin preparing the Inner Sphere to repel an increasingly probable Crusader Clan Invasion” I explained in a matter-of-fact tone, perhaps enjoying the numb looks on the faces opposite me a little too much as I talked of things I couldn’t possibly know as casually as if we were negotiating Hydrogen fuel shipment fees. “Following receipt of those new orders and after purging your Jumpship navdata to the Kerensky Cluster to ensure you had to follow them” I continued, “Colonel Wolf led you into employment with House Steiner. The greatest industrial power in human space. And rather than leverage that starting point to, for example, disseminate the Clan technology already in production with Blackwell, Colonel Wolf simply offered the Dragoons once more as frontline shock troops. Then when that contract ended, he in turn offered the same deal to the Combine, leading raids against the Federated Suns until the Combine betrayed you all. And now...” I glanced around the room daring any of the officers to interject even as I kept my voice almost conversationally polite, “you all seem determined to launch a private Trial of Annihilation against the Draconis Combine that can - that will only end one way…”

...with you all dead and your mission dead in the grave with you I didn’t say, but I saw that the implication was very clearly understood as Ardan now glanced at me before leaning forward, causing me to slip back in my chair slightly as he took the lead again in the eerie, numb silence.

“From a mission analysis point of view Colonel” Ardan took over, directly his attention at Jamie who seemed to with an almost physical effort push aside his introspective pensiveness to meet the AFFS officers gaze, “you’ve had most of a decade to start laying the groundwork for defending against a Clan invasion but, as far as LIC and MIIO can tell, no clear work has been done along those lines.”

He wasn’t lying. MIIO and LIC had with some urgency retraced the Dragoons steps not quite down to the micron since their final resupply run, looking for any fingers in any pies in the private sector to confirm my assertions they had done diddly squat. And, with the exception of Blackwell Industries who were still mostly a component manufacturer on New Valencia set up in their early years in the Inner Sphere, the spooks were confident in saying they hadn’t done shit in the private sector.
And as for the Government sector?
Well, Katrina might be ruthlessly pragmatic enough to play the ‘we knew all along’ game against Snord, but word was she was highly unimpressed by Snord, on Jamie’s orders, holding back a whole butload of Lostech from her. To say nothing of the whole Castle Brian thing. Granted, Helm now made his finds almost inconsequential, but the fact was he had covered it up rather than take the perfect opportunity of a genuine Lostech find to nudge the Inner Spheres technology along and repay her loyalty to him with loyalty to her.
‘Just as planned’ or not, suffice to say I didn’t think she would be visiting his museum anytime soon.

“The continued Mercenary work for and against the two states most directly in the path of a Clan invasion has only served to weaken them” Ardan continued in clinical tone of a staff officer as I mused over the reports from the spooks. “Add to that precisely targeted raids on key Federated Suns key industrial and R&D facilities and House Davion’s efforts to rebuild Star League military technology that might have helped close the technological gap with the Clans have been significantly set back. On the face of it, as my Prince and the Archon see it” he added to make sure that everyone knew this was coming from the top, “the Dragoon’s actions over the last decade have in a systematic way weakened the Inner Sphere against a hypothetical Clan Invasion. Not strengthened it.”

And everyone in the room flinched from that blunt rebuke, with Jamie simply closing his eyes.

It was perfectly understandable that the Dragoons had not been expecting to come into this meeting to have Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner deliver, via proxy, an assessment of their success in following their mission orders amounting to ‘it’s near impossible to tell if you were deliberately trying to ****** things up or if you were just that ****** incompetent; keyword, ******’.

It was also understandable that such an assessment brutally shoved in their face in parallel to having their entire super-secret identities ripped open, would be a hell of a lot to deal with.

Kathleen Dumont of Delta Regiment for example had an expression that suggested she was trying to swallow something very bitter and choking on it, looking around for one of her fellow officers to rebut the blunt accusation Ardan had leveled … but none of them, not even Jamison who just looked … defeated perhaps, stepped up to confront the accusation hanging in the air like a gunshot.

Wow. I think we broke the Dragoons.

‘Good….good!’ Shoulder Devil Consequences Palpatine cackled…

Then finally Jamie Wolf inhaled sharply and deeply, his eyes still closed … then exhaled. Moments later his eyes opened and his face, while looking rattled, had regained enough of its strength and poise to immediately draw all attention and rally his officers out of their numb despondency as he leaned forward, his eyes rising to meet our gazes.
He didn’t speak immediately. No-one spoke; the Dragoons clearly very happy to defer to him the question only he could answer … and Ardan and I were in no hurry to rush him either. We’d shoved him head first into the crucible, now it was time to see if we had something we could work with … or a man whose only desire really was ‘Suicide by Coordinator.’

I couldn’t help but idly think how incredibly awesome it would be if he now stood up, smiled, threw his arms wide and shouted ‘The Aristocrats!!’ in response to our accusations...

“This discussion seems to be leading to a singular question Colonel” Jamie instead observed shrewdly. “One that I think we both know you need to ask on behalf of the First Prince and Archon before we move any further ... and so I invite you to ask it.”

Ardan considered that for a moment before slowly nodding and sitting up, his uniform sharp and his bearing implacable, but oddly enough it didn’t feel accusing. More ... simply curious?

“You are, of course, correct Colonel. They insisted before we begin negotiations for your employment that we establish clearly the answer to this question. Do you Colonel -and the Dragoons- ultimately stand in defense of the Inner Sphere against the cause of the Crusaders? Or do you still stand as their vanguard for an invasion?”

Boom - Mic drop.

Not just ‘a question’, but ‘the question’.

Some tiny part of me felt bad for Jamie being put on the spot like this. Of being forced to choose a side ... but only a tiny part.
The majority of me that had needed to find a way to come to terms with the sheer insanity of the truth of my existence as a quantum clone of John Smith inside Battletech … had the universe's smallest violin ready to play about having difficult decisions to make.
At the academy it had been beaten into my head that the single most precious asset in any military operation of any scale was time. Time was a finite resource we would never get back - and if I/we had butterflied the invasion even closer inadvertently, that was time a great many people may rue having been pissed down the drain by Jamie Wolf.

However” Ardan added smoothly. “They also understand that is a question that the Dragoons can only answer collectively. Accordingly, Smith and I will retire to Bravo One for the rest of the day” he named a massive complex in the still AFFS occupied region of the base, starting to gather his papers and put them back into his. “In the meantime, please have your staff forward your supply and shipping requests to my staff and I’ll see what can be done to expedite them. Otherwise, Smith and I will be around for at least the next two weeks and await your convenience to continue our discussions.”

Ardans sudden desire to end the meeting was like a valve being shut that let out all the tension in the room at once, the Dragoon officers all seemed to slump into their seats slightly at that. And the news that the Archon and First Prince were not rushing into this but were now giving them the courtesy and honor of time to stop, take a breath and think carefully about their future.

The sense of sheer relief in the room was palpable.

Not from Wolf though who as the seconds continued to tick over seemed to steadily piece himself back together until now he was all but the same officer who I had seen when we entered the room in all respects.

“Thank you Colonel - I do think a recess for wider discussions would be best before proceeding” he agreed, giving Ardan an incline of his head as he stood - and dammit, I couldn’t help but feel grudging admiration for the man’s poise and dignity. That he had pulled himself together after being outright accused of dereliction of duty on a humanity wide scale so fast? The man regenerated faster than a frigen Borg Cube…

Although his spy chief looked about as pale as a Borg Drone...

“I think we can all agree the Dragoons have some major decisions to make … however” Wolf added his voice back to full gravitas as Ardan stood, followed by me and the rest of the room. “Colonel Sortek, I wish once again to stress our deepest gratitude for everything the Prince and Archon have done for us over this year. A great many of my people are alive thanks to their efforts and I assure you that we will not forget it” he said, extending his hand across the table.
Ardan didn’t hesitate to reach out and shake it firmly, giving Wolf a respectful nod.

“Colonel, Colonels, Majors” he firewalled Jamie and nodded to the other officers and with that, he handed me his case and I followed him out the room like an obedient aide-de-camp.

Scarface Step number three; complete.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: mikecj on 17 November 2018, 09:06:02
Wonderfully written, this is a great story.  Lots of depth and tons of fun!  Thanks for sharing!

Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 17 November 2018, 12:24:58
is it just me?  or is there a hint that they Smith and company have a few "gifts" waiting on the WD if they decided to fight the clans?  I wonder how long it would take Blackwell heavy to start limited SL tech production.  They have been dealing with New Valencia all the back in 3007. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 17 November 2018, 13:59:56
This is the big deal for all this mess. It questions some of the most egregious portions of BattleTech's history that had suffered significant RETCON'd.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 17 November 2018, 15:15:54
is it just me?  or is there a hint that they Smith and company have a few "gifts" waiting on the WD if they decided to fight the clans?  I wonder how long it would take Blackwell heavy to start limited SL tech production.  They have been dealing with New Valencia all the back in 3007. 

Mostly components, I'd think - Snord got a lot of them too, remember, and as Clan techs, they wouldn't have problems installing and maintaining them. 

Frankly - I think the goons are going to be used to spearhead an assault.  On Terra.  So they'll get the time to patch their stuff up, fill the holes in the regiments, and eliminate the biggest threat to the IS early as suikrede (?  Whatever it is).  And the FC gets all the stuff squirreled away by Blake plus the HPG system.  That's at least - what - a division?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 17 November 2018, 15:32:14
Mostly components, I'd think - Snord got a lot of them too, remember, and as Clan techs, they wouldn't have problems installing and maintaining them. 

Frankly - I think the goons are going to be used to spearhead an assault.  On Terra.  So they'll get the time to patch their stuff up, fill the holes in the regiments, and eliminate the biggest threat to the IS early as suikrede (?  Whatever it is).  And the FC gets all the stuff squirreled away by Blake plus the HPG system.  That's at least - what - a division?

I would imagine what TPTB gets is a world undergoing an unscheduled ice age: a 4SW Comstar would not blink at the idea of nuking Terra itself as a spoil sport move.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 17 November 2018, 16:10:08
Mostly components, I'd think - Snord got a lot of them too, remember, and as Clan techs, they wouldn't have problems installing and maintaining them. 

Frankly - I think the goons are going to be used to spearhead an assault.  On Terra.  So they'll get the time to patch their stuff up, fill the holes in the regiments, and eliminate the biggest threat to the IS early as suikrede (?  Whatever it is).  And the FC gets all the stuff squirreled away by Blake plus the HPG system.  That's at least - what - a division?

I don't know about going after Terra, just yet.  they have a good sized fleet 3 Dante's and others.  even with Helm, I think they will be able to field more SL tech weapons, for now.  maybe instead of 3039 vs the DC.  they could go after ComStar then.  it is still going to be bloody.  what would the Cappies, DC and FWL do while Terra falls?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: idea weenie on 17 November 2018, 16:21:38
An attack on Terra might be too much too soon.

What they could set up is a Rasalhague Republic, and encourage Comstar to post its troops to guard the planets in addition to theHPGs, saying that Comstar is neutral between Lyrans and Draconis.  When the Clans invade, Comstar's troops get hit hard and they need reinforcements.  Will the WoB troops come out to play?  If WoB tries to use nukes, Rasalhague complains, and that lets both both Lyrans and Draconis complain about the nuclear weaponry.  If WoB types keep their troops hidden for a later reveal, the Precentor Martial will be very angry with Precentor ROM, allowing for the schism in Comstar to happen (so it is easier to spot who is decent vs raving insane).


But for now, the key tech to get into service is DHS.  They allow any Mech to have much better cooling than before, meaning they can be more aggressive.  In the meantime, simulators allow Davion and Lyran troops to start testing themselves against OpFors that have better weaponry, and are individually better skilled.  They might even give the OpFors better weaponry than what the Clans actually have, so the troops aren't that intimidated when the funny animal worshiping cultists start attacking.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 17 November 2018, 17:07:32
the two things that they need more of DHS hands down but XL engines.  they need DHS by the dropship load a month. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 17 November 2018, 20:05:07
At the moment Comstar has a few warships with green crews, they have the remains of the SDS.
For the rest they mainly have pirate bands and a few green combined arms units.
Now would be a very bad time for Comstar if anybody decided to attack them.

It would be interesting to see what is going to happen especially if the FS gets the Dragoons to use their warships. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 17 November 2018, 21:56:28
It would be interesting to see what is going to happen especially if the FS gets the Dragoons to use their warships. :thumbsup:

Hence, Terra.  WarShip vs. WarShip action!  Clan Wolf's Dragoons takes Terra, becomes IlClan!  Homeworld Clans furious!  News at 11!

At the moment Comstar has a few warships with green crews, they have the remains of the SDS.

SDS?  Source, please.  I thought those were all gone!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 18 November 2018, 00:01:15
Hence, Terra.  WarShip vs. WarShip action!  Clan Wolf's Dragoons takes Terra, becomes IlClan!  Homeworld Clans furious!  News at 11!

SDS?  Source, please.  I thought those were all gone!

SDS just means space defense system. Ground to space weapons are an SDS you don't need Caspers.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 18 November 2018, 00:18:49
"Takashi Kurita had noted in Wolves on the Border that Jamie Wolf wore such a perfect mask that it was all but impossible to see real man behind it. Framed in chi bullshit of course, but fundamentally the Coordinator had been annoyed that unlike most people, he simply couldn’t get any read on Jamie in their few encounters, making it impossible for him to anticipate which way Wolf would jump.
That made me regret that I didn’t have a camera to capture the look of numb dumbfounded shock on his face as said iron control shattered, his gaze flickering back and forth between Ardan and I in a way that said he was lost for what to say or do as the rug was entirely brutally ripped out from under his feet."



 :D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Icerose20 on 18 November 2018, 00:30:46
Well, if Natasha was there when that was dropped, there would be two gunshots, and the end of these stories.   So good thing having her shoot up the target range.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: snakespinner on 18 November 2018, 05:25:38
Red Pins, the SDS remaining at this time was mainly a few ground based systems.
The Wobbies rebuilt a lot of the SDS when they took over including space based Caspers and other automated systems.
But at the moment it is very limited and weak. :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 18 November 2018, 11:22:21
historically speaking, when did the actually commencement of the SDS rebuild commence? Tukayyid or after?


When I spoke about Comstar playing spoilsport, that's why: Because the way Comstar considered the unlikely event that any one of the houses would invade (they knew just how many jump ships each house had left to a reasonably accuracy plus no active warship capability), they never bothered to consider investing funding into SDS, at least until the 4th succession war and a fully realized Federated Commonwealth. I still believe an invasion attempt would result in Terra's demise because the First Circuit would flip out maxim...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 18 November 2018, 12:01:22
historically speaking, when did the actually commencement of the SDS rebuild commence? Tukayyid or after?

I´d say after the Word took over Terra. So starting in 3058.

Quote
When I spoke about Comstar playing spoilsport, that's why: Because the way Comstar considered the unlikely event that any one of the houses would invade (they knew just how many jump ships each house had left to a reasonably accuracy plus no active warship capability), they never bothered to consider investing funding into SDS, at least until the 4th succession war and a fully realized Federated Commonwealth. I still believe an invasion attempt would result in Terra's demise because the First Circuit would flip out maxim...

After the 2nd Succession War, any attempt to take Terra would have to be without warships, thus without orbital bombardment capability, so a relatively limited amount of ground-based weapon systems to take out approaching troop dropships, with air defenses to protect the weapon systems of ASF attacks, should be more than enough to defend against invasion. Any attacker would need to spread their forces out to cover the entirety of Terra´s surface, meaning no location would be hit by enough ships to overwhelm local SDS systems.

It doesn´t take all that much firepower to destroy/disable troop transports, not compared to the massive firepower needed to fend off warships.

On the other hand, against even the few warships available to Wolf´s Dragoons as orbital support, you´d need a lot more firepower - probably more than Terra had before at least the 3060s canonically.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 18 November 2018, 12:25:55
remember those WD warships would have very green crews.  they have not seen action in 20 some years. (3005-3028).  tgat is if they are all still alive.  replacements would need to be brought on with no pretraining
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Tyrchon on 18 November 2018, 15:11:06
Another thing to consider is that the Dragoons' warships would need time to be recovered and outfitted, let alone crewed.  In a few of the source-books that mention them, it was indicated that after the Dragoons recovered their warships it took them about a year to bring them all into fighting trim using the Dragoon facilities orbiting Outreach.  Most likely this was just crews of technicians going over each ship and making sure everything was in working order and making small repairs where necessary.  That said, there would be no facilities for the Dragoons to do such reactivation at themselves so trying to do the full reactivation themselves would probably take longer than a year, plus the fact that there would be the question of personnel needed to do the reactivation and then crew those ships given the state of the Dragoons at the moment.  The Dragoons could probably shave time off by taking the ships to somewhere with orbital shipyards, Galax in the FedSuns for example, but even then there is still the issue of pulling crews together given the current state of the Dragoons.

I would guess that the Dragoons are not going to be able to bring their warships online and back to fighting trim until sometime after the 4SW at the earliest.  More likely than not, the ships will be used to help spearhead efforts by the new FedCom to claim the Ruins of Gabriel and all that is there as that would be a far bigger strategic objective than Terra.  I could also see a ship or two being used to help find and secure Camelot Command, as that would act as a good forward operating base for FedCom forces when the Clans finally come calling.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 18 November 2018, 18:06:32
You forgot travel time, too.  All of which is beside the point, Hanse isn't going to telegraph the decision to take Terra.

But - the goons are going to make their repairs, take the time to prepare.  The wedding is about to happen.  Presumably, Justin is going to be there, the triple-strength myomer sample was captured.  And all the rest.

I'll go out on a line and make a prediction.  The wedding happens, the 4th war goes off, the goons have a minor role, and ComStar goes ahead and Interdicts the FC.  Then, it gets interesting.  I don't thing there will be a FRR, so no major influx of equipment to the DCMS.  Whether they surprise ComStar with a surprise invasion by units 'returning' to posts in the Lyran portion, I don't know.  I expect the goon WarShips would lead such an invasion, though.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: PsihoKekec on 19 November 2018, 02:16:03
historically speaking, when did the actually commencement of the SDS rebuild commence? Tukayyid or after?
There were some orbital defences at thew time WoB took over, controls were targeted by their special forces, but real rebuild started afterwards.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Grognard on 19 November 2018, 04:06:42
this is just too freaking AWESOME.   Abso-freaking-lutely Love this story.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Kwic on 19 November 2018, 09:55:17
Very well done Chris.   Keep it up!  We can’t wait to read more. 


One question:  does mr smith know about Camelot Command and the fleet bases that will be used by Comstar?  Ross. Lutyen.  Some of which were in the Star League Source books so would be in reference material.

Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 19 November 2018, 13:38:03
that's a good question, as we really know little of his life before the HPG hijinks'.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ckosacranoid on 19 November 2018, 14:55:03
I do not know about your guys, but the reactions after they leave the room with the goons and what happens after smith dropped that bombshell with the clans. I have to say wold is going to really be looking at the head of wolfnet to figure out just what happened for someone to learn thier dark sercert that someone knows way to much about, any chance to see the after action of that little bombshell from the room and the actions of the goons to it?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 19 November 2018, 15:50:13
I'm waiting for Mr. Smith to say QuiAff or QuiNeg to Natasha, followed by proper Batchcall for an answer.

Before the clans advance thru the periphery! Meaning he uses Clan names for Clan mechs!

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 19 November 2018, 18:19:21
I'm waiting for Mr. Smith to say QuiAff or QuiNeg to Natasha, followed by proper Batchcall for an answer.

Before the clans advance thru the periphery! Meaning he uses Clan names for Clan mechs!

TT


I hope he remembers that distinction: If Smith mentions the terms Mad Cat, Ryoken & Dasher and not Timber Wolf, Storm Crow and Firemoth in front of the 3030 era WD's, you will get blank faces from them just as much as the FEDCOM would be.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DoctorMonkey on 19 November 2018, 18:25:39

I hope he remembers that distinction: If Smith mentions the terms Mad Cat, Ryoken & Dasher and not Timber Wolf, Storm Crow and Firemoth in front of the 3030 era WD's, you will get blank faces from them just as much as the FEDCOM would be.


I'd be tempted to be a bit more subtle and ask their opinion on removing the Large Pulse Laser from his customised MAD-2R and adding some missile launchers, maybe grafting on external boxy ones like on a Capellan Catapult...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 20 November 2018, 22:43:23
do we know what ships or other assets were at the Ruins of Gabriel?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: PsihoKekec on 21 November 2018, 02:24:10
No, but it is theorized that it houses some mothballed warships and maintainance/repair facilities, probably looked after by a skeleton crew at this point.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: cawest on 28 November 2018, 21:37:22
can you post a copy of the recovered stuff from Helm?  I know it was on spacebattles somewhere. 
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 29 November 2018, 05:40:03
537 Battlemechs Total.
430 Assaults


Royal Battlemechs(49);

25 Assaults

    4 x HGN-732b Highlander
    2 x Rifleman II
    6 x BLR-1Gb Battlemaster
    12 x THG-11Eb Thug
    1 x DVS-2 Devastator*

12 Heavies

    8 x MAD-2R Marauder
    4 x BL-6b-KNT Black Knight

12 Lights

    12 x MON-66b Mongoose


SLDF Regulars(488);

397 Assaults

    52 x AS7-D Atlas
    84 x AWS-8Q Awesome
    52 x Various Mackies, MSK-9Hs and custom jobs of same mostly. One WTF Royal grade job with a pair of Snubbies!!??
    36 x LGB-7Q Longbow
    3 x SHG-2F Shogun
    20 x CP-10-Z Cyclops
    30 x TDK-7X Thunder Hawk
    72 x THG-11E Thug
    48 x STK-3F Stalker


38 Mediums

    8 x CRB-27 Crabs
    12 x PXH-1 Phoenix Hawks
    12 x VL-2T Vulcans
    6 x DV-6Md Dervish


53 Light mechs

    36 x LCT-1V Locusts
    12 x FFL-4B Firefly
    5 x FLC-4P Falcon


2106 Combat vehicles

    576 x Alacorn Mk VI Heavy Combat Tanks (yes, five hundred and seventy six :wtf:)
    50 x Burke Combat Tanks
    24 x Royal Burk Combat Tanks
    36 x Chaparral Missile Tanks
    4 x Kanga Jumping Hovertank
    401 x Von Luckner Assault Tanks
    51 x Royal Von Luckner Assault Tanks
    155 x Demon Combat vehicle.
    341 x Generic LRM Launcher
    44 x Generic SRM Launcher
    12 x PAT-005b Puma ASsault tanks
    36 x Royal Zephyr scout tank
    150 x Mobile Long Tom Artillary Vehicles
    100 x Thor Combat Vehicles
    120 x Bulldog Combat Tanks



1000 Utility Vehicles.
Not even going to try. Mostly trucks and the like. Unsurprisingly most of the useful things like industrailmechs, construction and engineering vehicles, communications vehicles, long range transports; all the stuff that would be of great use as you settle some planet a long way away, were loaded up by the Exodus fleet as the SLDF slowly assembled. Also why a lot of the faster hover vehicles and transports were taken.

Some highlights include 6 SLDF Mobile HQs, 2 MASH units and a mobile water purification and pumping vehicle that somehow got left behind.

Infantry gear;
20,000 Infantry kits Including standard issue rifles, heavy weapons and specalist kits, communications gear e.t.c.

Spare Parts;
56,553 tons assorted spare parts. Roughly 48% would qualify as Lostech by tonnage. Over 10K tons are FF field armor patches.

Ammunition:
100K tons plus ammunition, mostly left behind as too dangerous. Exceptions made for some units with a cross selection of Arrow-IV, heavy gun ammo, some carefully packed LBX/10 shells NARC/Art IV/Streak missiles very carefully handled to remove the guidence and electronics from the fuels and explosives, dozens of samples of each.

*Devy isn't technically a Royal Mech but only because it was in prototype stages when the Coup went down and the SLDF had better things to do than label things as this or that.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Zureal on 03 December 2018, 22:03:52
Is it just me or am I the only one that wants Katrina and Mr. Smith to get together? Would of been awesome if instead of a noble title he asked katrina out on a date :D :thumbsup:
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 03 December 2018, 22:15:04
death by snu snu
 :D :D :D
 >:D >:D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Kwic on 03 December 2018, 22:24:27
Damn you Dave.  I thought another chapter was posted. 


Chris.

Eagerly awaiting the next instalment

Excellent work
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 03 December 2018, 23:52:00
blame Zureal
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 04 December 2018, 00:04:14
I'm blaming both of you!!!

Chris? For you... :  :whip:

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: paulobrito on 04 December 2018, 04:20:09
death by snu snu
 :D :D :D
 >:D >:D

Well, so far - Kim Sorenson, Katrina Steiner and Natasha Kerensky. In the area of knowing hot, deadly woman, is in a good rol.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Zureal on 05 December 2018, 01:37:48
I'm blaming both of you!!!

Chris? For you... :  :whip:

TT
blame Zureal

Do not hate, apreciate  :D I also know that you came back thinking this was the next chapter  >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: TheBrokenLance on 05 December 2018, 01:56:17
Do not hate, apreciate  :D I also know that you came back thinking this was the next chapter  >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D

You're an evil, evil person.  Haha.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 05 December 2018, 02:06:17
Zureal
(https://bg.battletech.com/forums/user-avatars/avatar_416_1312076968.png)

Do apreciate  :D I also know that you came thinking Dinosaur Hunting Guns: Taking Down T-Rex and Other Extinct Reptiles >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D >:D

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/04/best-dinosaur-guns-taking-down-t-rex-and-other-extinct-reptiles (https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/04/best-dinosaur-guns-taking-down-t-rex-and-other-extinct-reptiles)

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: DOC_Agren on 06 December 2018, 21:59:41
Damm I was looking for more story
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 07 December 2018, 15:00:22
Zureal
(https://bg.battletech.com/forums/user-avatars/avatar_416_1312076968.png)

https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/04/best-dinosaur-guns-taking-down-t-rex-and-other-extinct-reptiles (https://www.outdoorlife.com/blogs/gun-shots/2013/04/best-dinosaur-guns-taking-down-t-rex-and-other-extinct-reptiles)

TT

Seconded where's my BFG LOL
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Shadow_Wraith on 09 December 2018, 15:50:13
So this updated today and it was simply Marvelous!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Eivind on 09 December 2018, 16:18:20
Here's a direct link to todays update, over at Spacebattles: https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-320#post-53099626 (https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/this-was-easier-on-the-tabletop-a-battletech-si.659596/page-320#post-53099626)

I imagine Chris will posting the update here as soon as he has the time, so no complaining.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: ThePW on 09 December 2018, 19:59:31
*Reads Chapter 13* *brain explodes* HOLY... That sh... that was awesome. Gloriously awesome...


is there ANY plans to make this a module or officially made book, like that other official AU book?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: idea weenie on 09 December 2018, 20:49:38
I wonder if they can have the walking wounded Wofl's Dragoons hired for Cadre contracts, essentially teaching the FC technical teams about the Star League and Clan technology, plus classes for Mechwarriors about how to properly use it?

Kurita is going to be very unhappy when his spies relay to him about how Davion is making use of the Dragoons.  Especially since most of the knowledge is coming from the Dragoon tech teams (civilians) , rather than the Mechwarriors (warriors).  That could drive home the point to someone in the Draconis Combine that a society of warriors is not the best result
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Red Pins on 09 December 2018, 22:50:22
Hehee!  See ya, suckers!  20,000 new words to this story on SB.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:17:43
Have to say that the local character limit really makes me a sad panda :(

Oh well, here we go!


Chapter 13: Bargined Well and - ohh! Shinies!


Leaving the meeting room, Ardan and I moved past the two surprised guards outside and retraced our steps back to the elevators without need for an escort. With some effort I ignored the curious and sometimes worried looks from Dragoons in the bullpen at us leaving a meeting barely twenty minutes after it had started.
One that should have easily lasted hours.


Arriving in the Mech Hangar I will admit I glanced around looking for Kerensky’s Warhammer either in its bay or waiting in a dark corner like a fourteen-meter-tall boogeyman. I didn’t see it, so I didn’t quite run to get into my Battlemech and power it up rapidly, just in case she was heading back in this direction. Ardan also seemed to want to move with a touch of haste and the two of us had our Battlemechs in motion within a minute of getting into them. I fell in behind him as we left the hanger, walking out into the late afternoon sun and clearing the Dragoons HQ without incident. Five minutes later we were through the gate into the AFFS side of the base.

Only then did I exhale and let a little of the tension loose, mentally forcing myself to stop gripping the two control sticks so tightly.

So. The Dragoons knew we knew.

For the record, I was not convinced this was a good idea. At all.
No matter how
fun it had been to slap the Dragoons in the face with the reality of their inactivity.
My plan -
THE plan as far as I had known until Ardan came calling and ripped me out of school - had been to just follow the original plan.
Because say what you will, it had
worked. The Dragoons had skulled down a few cans of Red Bull, set their RAGE levels to 1.5 times the Smoke Jaguar Average and done the whole Neo ‘come at me bro’ gesture to the Combine by scorning and calling out Takashi in front of his peers. The Combine had happily obliged; focusing the DCMS efforts on the Federated Suns front in the 4th Succession War, mitigating losses there to less than a dozen worlds despite a near naked border - with almost no deeper raiding. And of the worlds lost, only Marduk could be said to be of real strategic value - and secondary value at that.

But this time?

Marduk now had the Grey Death Legion of all groups camping out on it - a Grey Death Legion who had apparently expanded to almost
two Battalions of Mechs with significant supporting arms when I wasn’t looking. Even better, according to Ardan, they were very eager to prove themselves worthy of their absurdly generous contract terms and, assuming Grayson Carlyle was half the tactical genius he was in Battletech, that should be enough to beat up any credible invasion force Kurita might be able to throw at them, steal their lunch money and give Lori plenty of material for snarky comments. Snords Irregulars had been loaned by Katrina to Aaron Sandoval and Hanse had even issued them one of of the captured DCMS Invaders (with the hint that if they did a good job they might just be allowed to keep it). The Light Horse had also been pulled from RAT to stay on Robinson with their own extensive private Jumpship fleet as a mobile reserve, their place apparently backfilled by some reshuffles Yvonne had done in tightening their plans based on my sources. Meaning Aaron Sandoval now had some extra cards to play defending the March.

So we had extra units, increased direct and indirect starting damage to the DCMS thanks to the Dragoons and Light Horse and a sudden shortage of DCA Jumpships on top of that? I think if Jamie had been allow to simply go off and goad Takashi without us jumping in to muddy the waters, we would have gotten a better result than the original timeline! And, when the war was over, the Dragoons would still be at their weakest ever point, without the Clans to run home to and needing a patron…

Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner however ... disagreed.
 

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It only took us minutes to reach the AFFS outer perimeter, but Fort Susan Sandoval was massive. In addition to its logistical node functions, it had been built to garrison up to four RCTs at once, rare as it might be to see such a force concentration. Ardan and I had to walk for another ten klicks to reach our destination; complex Bravo-One. A general-purpose warehouse belonging to the AFFS Department of the Quartermaster. Although calling it a ‘Warehouse’ would be understating it somewhat, in my opinion; it made an Amazon fulfillment center look like kiddy’s stuff.

The core building was well over a klick long, a massive trapezoidal hunk of reinforced ferrocrete that was apparently rated to survive a near miss from a strategic nuclear ground burst, with a sub-basement twice as large buried under the tarmac. There were loading docks scattered around the building and several small office buildings connected to the side of it where the people who ran the whole logistical nightmare worked. Unusually however, given that we were well inside the outer and inner perimeters of the base, there was a standing guard force deployed here in Draconis March Militia uniforms. That said guards were a mixture of Davion Guards Special Forces and DMI Commandos was something few people on the base knew and hopefully fewer people would find out.
We parked our rides in a convenient lance-sized Mech hangar next to said warehouse before submitting to a complete electronic and physical search to make sure no bugs had been planted on us, even as Techs arrived to get started checking out our rides for the same. Paranoia perhaps, but we knew 7th Kommando and Wolfnet had access to a lot of the SLDFs best toys, quite possibly with a few Clan enhancements on top. As unlikely as it was that the Dragoons would have bugged us - especially given they had no idea what had been coming - it never paid to be sloppy or casual about such things.
In any event nothing harmful was found and Ardan and I moved into a small fourth floor office that Ardan’s DMI and MIIO staff had taken over, monitoring the events playing out after our unsubtle flipping the table.

As anticipated, it seemed almost the entire Dragoons Officer Corps was being called in by Wolf to join the Regimental Commanders for an urgent meeting, with Wolf even having some of the less seriously wounded who were on bed rest being kicked out of said beds to join in on the fun. Snord and his daughter had also been called in, which I actually felt bad for, given that the surveillance feed showed they had been down on the bases extensive private beach with the Irregulars and most of the Black Widows. It looked to be pretty friggin rockin beach party too, with the irregulars having ‘borrowed’ an AFFS field kitchen and having acquired an impressive amount of booze, food and other such supplies from who knows where. Rhoanda had even moved her lostech Highlander down there to serve as a combination jukebox and power source for some portable equipment they had set up.

Too bad I didn’t have anything from the Beach Boys on my iPhone I thought with a mental sigh. Would have been hilarious at a Beach Party to have ‘Help me Rhonda’ playing...

At any rate, I suppose after freezing their asses off on Misery; celebrating their victory with sand, sun and surf wasn’t actually a half bad idea and the Irregulars and Widows were clearly getting on like matches and high-octane gas. Unsurprising perhaps, given that both units were 99% made up of local Spheroid crazies. Alas, a Bandit appeared not too long after Ardan and I got back, blowing sand everywhere before William Cameron jumped out, grabbed the two Snords, dragged them on board and blasted back to base at maximum overthrust. Their absence hadn’t seemed to dampen the party one bit though, as afternoon turned to dusk. What if the use of man-portable flamers to ignite a roaring beach bonfire out of hastily looted packing crates and an effigy dressed in what looked suspiciously like the uniform of a Draconis Combine Warlord, was any indicator...

Simply put, it was clear that I had kicked over an ant’s nest. Dragoons were coming in from every direction to the Dragoons HQ building. Even from Geosynch where EVA teams and utility shuttles were carefully putting Hephaestus Station back together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, a drop shuttle had gathered several officers and screamed for the ground with scant regard for traffic controls objections. And after Kenneth Quo and his team had joined everyone else in the hall, the doors were shut, electronic countermeasures hastily installed by Dragoons techs activated and we had nothing to do but wait as dusk steadily gave way to night.

As much as we would have loved to be a fly on the wall in that meeting, Ardan had flatly refused the eager suggestions from the office full of spooks on ways they could easily bug it and get around such hasty countermeasure installs. Which was probably the right call; being discovered bugging them right now would only undermine the months of painstaking work done to contrast ourselves from the Combine, right up to Ardan respectfully giving the Dragoons space and time to work through this new paradigm.
It was hard though, for me to simply do nothing. Unlike say Helm or New Dallas, we were now entirely reliant on other people for the decisions going ahead. It wouldn’t be our actions this time, but their reactions and choices that drove this ... and we could do little but call the pot, put our cards on the table and see how things went down.

And so as the sun set and dusk turned to night, we did that thing all soldiers hated more than most anything else; we waited.

“You certainly didn’t pull any punches with Wolf, John” Ardan observed as we sat down in an empty office, alone now for the first time in many hours, the two of us nursing cups of coffee after a light -but far better than Zero-G ration packs- dinner. I hadn’t really cared for the drink much in my old life - alone in that among all my family, work colleagues and friends - but I had come to appreciate it through boot camp as being the only hot drink on offer most of the time.

“Hey, I didn’t call him the vanguard of an invasion of the twisted degenerate inbred delusion of the Star League dreamed up by a madman with a thing for test tubes, not even once!”

“Yes, and I’ll be sure to note that restraint in my report” Sortek deadpanned, eyeing me from across the table and I took the rebuke for what it was as I straightened up in my seat. I had been given the latitude to troll the Wolf … now it was time to start acting like a professional again.

“I think we hit the mark pretty much dead on” I decided after a moment's consideration, dropping the snark to consider the meeting as objectively as I could. “The Dragoons were always largely a personality cult built around Jamie Wolf. Where he goes, they go - especially at this point when they are still homogeneous in their makeup. I mean, you saw in there how eager they were to follow him back into the Dragon's lair? I think they’ll just as readily follow him into our plans. Assuming, of course, that we convinced him.”

“That is the question” Ardan agreed, sounding happier with me giving analysis over attitude. “Based on your information, Clan society and leadership certainly seems to favor short term tactical thinking over long term planning and strategic vision …  it’s honestly not terribly surprising that Wolf tunnel visioned on finding the next war rather than trying to figure out how he and his people would even get started on as broad a set of independent orders as ‘prepare the Inner Sphere for a Clan invasion.’”

I grunted at that, not exactly agreeing. There were in fact Gods knows how many ways he could have started that work. What between Wolfnet, Snord and Blackwell; even if he didn’t want to directly make a move he had plenty of avenues to look at doing so. But, we were past that now. And Ardan did have a point that even trying to think in that fashion couldn’t be easy for a Clanner, even one as exposed to the Inner Sphere as Jamie had been.

“People like Ulric Kerensky are the exceptions to the rule and notable because of it” I shrugged instead, tacitly agreeing. “The ability to be able to think and -more importantly- effectively operate on a strategic time frame in a culture where any decision can be challenged in a ‘might makes right’ fight to the death? That certainly takes a rare combination of skills. I’ll actually give Jaime credit for at least sort-of thinking about his mission now and again. Kerensky though? She just wanted to outright forget about it and go find the next target to blow up. I swear that woman has the strategic analysis capabilities of an unholy union of Romano Liao and Aleksandr Kerensky...”

“I wouldn’t say that around Natasha” Ardan said, sounding mildly amused - perhaps at my continuing contempt for the legendary SLDF general. An inspirational leader for sure, but ultimately in my mind (and happily, Hanse ****** Davion fully agreed with me) a Battalion Commander promoted so fast and far beyond his experience that it wasn’t terribly surprising his strategic thinking boiled down to ‘I will cunningly send wave after wave of men at the Caspers until they reach their pre-programed kill limit and shut down!’.

Or, as TV Tropes would have put it; ‘We Have Reserves!’ Yvonne Davion had apparently let loose a very rare snorting burst of laughter when she read my Zap Brannigan snarking of his strategic failures in my debriefing comments, which had been included as background around the whole Clan information pack. Something I was rather proud of.

“Probably not a good idea” I agreed. On general principals in fact; the longer I stayed away from Natasha the better. Unstoppable killing-machine hellbitch that she was, she certainly wasn’t a long-term thinker and I didn’t really want to risk her trying to shoot the horse after it had bolted or something. I mean, even in the ****** Clan homeworlds Natasha was known to definitely lack the ‘Kerensky vision’ that Ulric had - and boy was that saying something if even Clanners thought so! Her ‘strategic review’ of the state of the Inner Sphere at the start of Lethal Heritage … well, clearly, she had her talents but strategic analysis was not one of them.
“But beyond a lack of critical strategic thinking skills” I continued, “I’m also going to guess that Natasha declaring the whole idea of the Inner Sphere being unable to defend itself came down largely to CSS.”

“CSS?” Ardan blinked and I waved a hand idly.

“Oh. Clanner Superiority Syndrome” I explained and that caused Ardan to roll his eyes - but there was a faint smile on his face to hold back the edge of the gesture. “They’re a step up from Homo-Sapiens and have either ‘a right to dominate and lead’, or, ‘a responsibility to magnanimously step in and protect’ because we’re incapable of looking after ourselves - especially against other superior Clanners.”

“Ah” he said, rolling his eyes with exquisite tact and left it there as we both took a sip of our drinks.

I might be being unfair to the Dragoons -not bloody likely- but I always had a sneaking suspicion that, like most Clanners, the original Dragoons had an instinctive belief in their superiority over the rest of mankind on a fundamental evolutionary level. Even if only subconsciously; they believed that only Clanners - even Freeborn renegade Clanners - had any hope of saving the Inner Sphere from the Clans. Even the Warden philosophy at its core still held that the Inner Sphere would inevitably need them to come in and save it from something the poor dumb Spheroids couldn’t handle at some point rather than admitting a warrior society needed a war to justify its existence. So, despite mankind being out in space for a thousand years and the Clans entire existence being barely two centuries worth of it and a population disparity just this side of hilariously lopsided, apparently we were all helpless little sheep needing either culling or petting…

Such an attitude helped explained things like Jamie Wolfs ‘Complete waste of time 3051!’ conference on Outreach to try and teach combat Veterans -with victories against the Clans under their belts no less! - how to be Clan Warriors to face them. Because, of course, real war wasn’t about silly things like sitting down in the Year of Peace to plan logistics, troop movements, industrial plans and technology transfers, combined arms applications or strategic warfare modeling between the Generals of the Great Houses to present a unified front and compare notes…
No, it was entirely about shiny toys on the field driven by Übermensch who would sweep across the Inner Sphere like an unstoppable fire unless they prepared their own Übermensch to stop them on the Clans terms...

At least part of today with our casual attitude was ripping Wolf and his people, hard, out of their comfortable little world. That the primitive spheroids with a polite, almost indifferent air knew their SUPER AMAZING SECRET … and we barely cared. We had plans well underway to deal with it without their Genetically Superior asses even being involved or required … and we were pointedly asking where they stood. Not leading us, but either with us … or against us.
It was going to be interesting to see how they took this brave new world or if their wittle fragile minds cracked under the strain of new ideas…
Still it didn’t look like much would happen anytime today. The Dragoons Officers had been in conference for hours now - unsurprising if Jamie was bringing all the Spheroids in the Dragoons officer corps into the truth and good luck with that. I mean, how did you sort of explain that their comrades in arms who they trusted with their lives were the vanguard of an invasion force made of the twisted remains of the SLDF who wanted to enslave their home?

Outside that fun, Jeremy Ellman, the former Beta Regiment commander who had retired but been convinced by Jamie to stay on as the head of Training Command, had been left in command of the Dragoons by Jamie. Unsurprisingly it seemed there was a lot of initial uneasiness from the line troops and support personnel in the way the entire Dragoons officer corps had, after a brief meeting with Hanse Davions Pimp Hand, scrambled into a closed meeting like they did. Ellman was the ideal choice to put in charge for now, being both very well respected and having a very level head on his shoulders that did wonders to calm down any jumpy troops. He had gone on a tour of the base, kicking asses of people who were slacking off from their jobs to worry, making sure the Home Guard (who directly answered to him anyway) were standing their posts calmly and not getting nervous or twitchy. The only real excitement seemed to be when the Widows and Irregulars staggered back into the base roaring drunk and Ellman had the MPs find some hole to throw them into to sleep it off.
Ultimately, our best guess was that the Dragoons leadership team would make decisions tonight, present them to the officers and - presuming everyone agreed- tomorrow the rest of the Dragoons would be brought up to speed. To that end, Ardan had dismissed me while he caught up on paperwork and reports, leaving me to find my quarters. Bravo-One was so damn huge that a couple of dozen rooms in a next-door building were rapidly convertible into bunk rooms for the rare but certainly not unprecedented need to bunk down people here during busy times. It was hardly the height of luxury, the fold-out bed looked about as comfortable as the one in boot … but again, seriously, compared to zero-g hammocks?
And so, I had a hot shower with unlimited water - ****** yes! - and after getting changed into a shirt and shorts, set my alarm and crashed into the bed with a sigh… yeah this one felt exactly like the cot from boot.

Only now I wasn’t lying down in the dark worrying about the next day of pain ... now I got to lie down in the dark and worry if I had just strategically ****** the Federated Suns Combine Front good and proper!

Or, to be a little fair; if Hanse and Katrina had done so.

The two House Lords and their inner circle had, according to their letter to me, concluded after talks with their various naval specialists that the Dragoons trying to blindly grope their way back to the Clan Homeworlds was a nonstarter. Ergo, they were not afraid of the Dragoons running home to raise the alarm that the Clans cover was blown, which gave them a lot more freedom of action with the Dragoons ‘trapped’ in the Inner Sphere as the FedCom powers were the only rational choice for a patron.

I mean, it was just a little unlikely they would run back to the Combine - no check that. A little unlikely they would run back to the Combine without murder-death-kill intentions. The Confederation would probably love to impress them into the CCAF in their weakened state and Jamie would probably be less than enthused about that crazy daughter of Mad Max trying to marry and/or have him killed once again - not to mention Romano on top of that.

Although that could lead to hilarious sitcom potential with Justin also in the mix now that I thought about it…

The Free Worlds League was a valid possibility, but they were both some distance away and still the source of painful memories with all manner of growing internal problems.
Hanse Davion’s original timeline AstroTurf internal frictions he had set up to keep the Mariks out of the 4th Succession War had now been well overtaken by a far more serious spat rapidly spiraling out of control from the fallout of Helm. Most especially the (entirely true) fact that Lord Garth of Irian had been trying to get at the cache to give him the military muscle to overthrow the Captain General. Apparently SAFE (whose foreign intelligence sucked balls but whose internal counter-intelligence was actually considered first class, especially when focused on internal frictions) had found more than enough circumstantial evidence to convince the Captain General of Garth intentions… just not quite enough to be able to openly accuse him with hard proof.
Not yet anyway.
Things hadn’t decayed (yet) to active shooting, but provincial and Federal units were quietly shifting around - making everyone nervous - and every other province was eagerly maneuvering politically to see how they might be able to take advantage of the situation. Hanses original timeline had suddenly accelerated away into something far more genuine without him having to do a damn thing and I suspected that jumping into another Free Worlds League civil war appealed to the Dragoons about as much as retiring to become farmers.

Still, there were always other options … it was just a question of if you were willing or just desperate enough to risk the odds.
And that was the billion C-Bill question that was keeping me awake in my bed.
Were there enough people desperate enough to risk it?

The Dragoons Warships had very deep cargo holds and plenty of room for dropships carrying extra personnel and supplies if enough of the Dragoons decided to run for it - even if it would probably take a bit of time to get them up and running. Wolfnet could surely use that time to get enough data from Inner Sphere Periphery traders to guide them as far as the Chainelane Isles; a Periphery microstate a few hundred light years past the official Coreward Periphery border. A useful starting point given that it had Inner Sphere links … but it also had a lot of data on the deeper, darker things lurking out there if you knew who to ask. ‘Data’ that just might include directions to the Hanseatic League or JàrnFòlk; real deep Periphery cultures that in turn had some contact with the Clans...
I mean, I had suggested exactly that progression to MIIO when they had asked for suggestions on how to get people into the Kerensky Cluster!

Of course, that was a highly unlikely, worst case scenario. While there might be one or two outliers who would want to go back to the Clans because they were cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs, a trained warship crew that did not make. Add to that the ranting of Singh in ‘Wolves on the Border’ that suggested the ‘you cannot go home again’ factoid was already well known and accepted but there had been no civil war or split as a result of it.

And it wasn’t hard to understand why either.

I mean, the best their Mechwarriors could expect on getting back given their Freeborn status and age, would be a pat on the back and demotion to infantry cannon fodder if they were very very lucky. And the non-combat arms? Say goodbye to the freedom of the Inner Sphere and hello to the tech cast, merchant cast and labor cast with all the wonderful ‘you are property for the Warriors to trade around at will’ fun. The odds were good that Kerlin Ward and Ulric Kerensky had stacked the Dragoons with exactly the kind of Freeborns who would only go back if dragged in chains kicking and screaming after having a taste of the Inner Sphere. To say nothing of the Dragoons Inner Sphere comrades in arms, families and support personnel who’d probably be rather less inclined to pack up and wander off to an alien society where they would be fourth class barbarian-bondsmen at best...

No. By in large the Inner Sphere was a paradise for the Freeborn of the Clans. Especially the more liberal states of the FedCom and Free Worlds League. The only one with skin in the game on their silly breeding program by having a Bloodname -as far as I knew- was Kerensky and she clearly hadn’t really given a toss. Even when the formal recall order had come in the original timeline, she alone had obeyed it seemingly to fight against the invasion from the other side of the fence, alongside Ulric. Possibly -probably- a hedge she and Jamie had decided on to cover their bases given that she was the only one the Clans had to even pretend to listen to, being a Clan Bloodnamed Council member.

But in any event … worrying about this was pointless.

The die was now cast. I had ****** cast it. All we could do was see which face came up.

So I flipped over, closed my eyes and tried to get some sleep
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:18:48
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My alarm went off at 05:30 on the dot and I was up and moving before my brain finished coming online as I threw of my blankets and rolled out of the camp cot. So automatic were my motions that I was up and yanking on clothes for about ten seconds before I realized that this wasn’t boot and I didn’t have an angry NCO inbound to berate us for not being up and ready within sixty seconds of the end of the designated sleep time.

This was worse.

Well I thought glancing around the room, at least Natasha isn’t sitting in a dark corner brooding at me while petting a giant slugthrower…

I jumped into the shower - and hissed as by either design or some stupid plumbing mistake, I got a face full of cold water. I gritted my teeth and pushed through. It was sure as hell not the first time I had had to suffer such things in training- and it did wake me up rather effectively.

With that done I threw on a fresh duty uniform, made the bed and cleaned the room (some habits die hard I suppose) before heading out and downstairs, then across a footbridge between this building and the larger one we were working out of. I glanced around outside - it didn’t seem the world had ended overnight and there was no sign of cats and dogs living together - before entering the larger building past a couple of guards who simply nodded at me as I entered but said nothing, making my way to the small commissary. A decent selection of food was on offer with dozens of AFFS personnel and spooks around loading up on the carbs for what promised to be a big day.

“Smith” a voice called, and I turned to see Ardan Sortek wave a mug of coffee at me as he moved past with a tray of food in the other hand. The man looked disgustingly fresh and alert even though I strongly suspected he had stayed up considerably later than I. “Grab some food and join us” he ordered as he and a group of people headed into what I recognized as an officer’s mess - which had a guard standing outside.
“Yessir” I nodded and turned to grab my own tray, loading up a few things and forcing myself to exercise restraint in my choices. The last thing I wanted to do was make myself sick on today of all days. God I’d kill for vegemite, which apparently did still exist but only on one or two Lyran planets and was seemingly considered some form of bio weapon throughout the rest of human inhabited space...
Mess food on the whole I didn’t think had improved terribly much from the 21st century, but compared to dropship food? Yeah, night and ****** day. Grabbing a cup of tea as well I carefully made my way across to the door. The trooper there had either heard Ardan’s order or had standing orders about me; in either case he opened the door for me and closed it behind.

The table was easily big enough for two dozen people but was only half full, most people clustered around Ardan. Mid-ranked officers and Spooks, most of whom I recognized from last night.
I couldn’t help but feel just a little uncomfortable about that fact that I was here with them though.
The Officers Mess - which is what this had to be in effect if not in fact - was forbidden territory to lowly cadets like me (even if I wasn’t wearing cadet tabs) and I had an instinctive desire to turn around and walk right the ****** out before anyone noticed-

“Sleep well?” Ardan asked politely and I forced myself forward. Reminding myself that I held no rank as far as anyone else was concerned.

“Yes Sir” I nodded, moving to take a seat at the table. “Still not quite used to sleeping in space so it was nice to have real gravity again.”

“No-one who doesn’t live in space ever quite gets used to it” Ardan assured me, taking a sip of his coffee. “The best you can learn to do is endure it. At any rate now that we’re all here” he said, glancing around the room -and I noticed then that everyone but me had folders and paperwork, “let’s go over the game plan for today. So far, we have not had anything beyond the usual daily and activity postings from the Dragoons liaison officer...”

“Any sudden request for ‘live fire field exercises’?” I asked as I decided that this sausage was actually not half bad. “Or any admissions to the hospital - or morgue - overnight?”

Ardan blinked, then glanced at one of the officers who hurriedly swallowed his own food and shook his head.

“No no and certainly no” the DMI Captain shook his head firmly, the man looking slightly taken aback at the unexpected question.

“Any particular reason why you wanted to know John?” Ardan asked as he turned back. I shrugged a bit as I idly stirred my tea.

“If one of the Clanners was going to try call a Trial of Refusal over Jamie deciding, it’s not impossible they had it out with fists Sir” I pointed out, taking a sip of my tea and approving of the taste. “More likely you’d see a formal Mech fight and while I hope the Dragoons wouldn’t be so inconsiderate to do it in the middle of the base...”

“A fair point” Ardan muttered then glanced at another of the officers. “Make sure that one of the live-fire mesas is cleared of any scheduled activity today - just in case Wolf needs the space” he noted and the officer nodded quickly, making a notation on his noteputer. “Moving on to cover. Few other things first” Ardan continued, “I, time and Wolf permitting, have a dinner reservation with the Archduke tomorrow night. The Prince has told me to bring him fully into the loop from this point forward - but only him.”

“Into the loop?” I asked carefully, trying not to glance at the other people in the room too much. It felt weird discussing all this stuff openly, but the building had been quietly augmented with some choice counter-surveillance technology and even on this table there were a couple of what I recognized as white-noise generators that gave listening devices fits. Even the support staff in the kitchen were from an obscure wing of MIIO whose job was to fly around the Inner Sphere to provide the kind of logistics and administration support to even covert and black operations just like this one still needed.
Which I rather agreed with. If we were playing this by ‘Hunt for Red October’ rules, then I damn well wanted the cooks to be absolutely trustworthy.

“On RAT and GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG” Ardan clarified and I couldn’t help but raise an eyebrow at that news. RAT, the code-name for the massive Federated Suns invasion of the Capellan Confederation, was still a very tightly held secret for obvious reasons even as it was moving into its final stages now - especially because of that in fact. I was sure the loyal Sandoval's had been pissed at being kept out of the loop in the original timeline - especially as they had lost nearly a dozen worlds to the Combine in this little war even as the Suns on the whole came out way ahead from the conquest of the Capellans most valuable and populated worlds...
“With the increased damage the Dragoons and Light Horse have done to the units in Galedon, the last thing we want or need is Aaron deciding to start launching offensive strikes in the ‘certainty’ that Galahad III can be turned around to support him” Ardan explained off my look, getting nods of agreement from the people around the table.
I also nodded in understanding. Of course, if Aaron Sandoval was looking for a fight with the Combine? Well he only had to wait just a little longer. Between the Jumpship theft, smashing of the DCMS on Misery and the Light Horse pyromania on DCMS logistics, the Draconis Combine hadn’t lost face so much as had acid thrown into it. And Wolf was hopefully about to throw a fist full of salt onto the bloody mess with a ‘free and frank exchange of views’ with Takashi...

At any rate, dealing with the Sandovals was a problem for Ardan later today - and hopefully if events played out right, it’d be a smooth meeting. Not for me right now. Which in turn begged the question...

“Anything I’m needed for Sir?” I asked as a thought occurred to me.

“Just to be on standby for when Wolf is finally ready to resume talking” Ardan replied after a moment before glancing up from his paperwork and putting a fork down as he directed a knowing look at me. “You have a request?”

“Well, uh, I haven't had any chance to put my Mech through more than a walk yet” I explained and at that Ardan couldn’t help but snort a brief laugh. Around the room, amusement flowed from the other officers too. Approving on the faces of those wearing Mechwarrior insignia, exasperated amusement that said ‘Bloody Mechwarriors…’ louder than any words could on everyone else's.

“By all means” Ardan waved me away with the tolerant smile of a parent telling their kid to indulge themselves. “God knows you’ve earned it. Make sure you’ve available and ready to RTB as soon as I call, but enjoy yourself.”

“Thank you Sir” I smiled as I got up, pausing to gulp the last of the tea down before exiting the room and not quite skipping out smiling as I started to make my way to a Comm terminal as Ardan and his people started going over the files Wolf’s people had sent over on their logistics needs and how they could look at trying to expedite them with the minor issue of light years to cross and few jumpships to cross it with.

Okay, so I skip out on cluelessly sitting in on a meeting about organizing jumpship logistics and get to go blow shit up with live weapons. This day is looking up!


*
**
******
**
*

Happily it turned out there wasn’t actually that much going on firing range # 5 today thanks to the Dragoons canceling range time -and just about everything else for that matter- and I had been able to just walk on up. The range was a typical AFFS Mech ‘Gauntlet’ course a half dozen kilometers in length, although that length zig-zagged through valleys, a series of deep canyons and up to an elevated mesa. A combination of projected holographic images on cheap ‘cutouts’, data linked simulation projection into a Mech sensors and HUD and a number of more practical special effects scattered through the course did a pretty decent job at simulating a running gunfight from one end to the other that you had to fight your way through, across varied terrain.
Mechwarriors were scored on various factors on this kind of course, weightings changing depending on the class and weight of their design. Lights for example were mostly about getting through fast and surviving, with targets of opportunity providing bonus points and often a specific recon objective to get eyes on. Trooper mediums were about speed and survival, but with a much greater emphasis on being able to take out specific objectives on the way in and out. Line heavies (like mine) dropped most of the speed expectations in favor of ‘sweep and destroy’, but, also upped the enemies. If you didn’t kill enemies and move fast enough, they would start to pile up hits on you.
And Assaults?
Yeah, they were just ‘kill’ everything between here and there’. Most points were lost because simulated targets -including popup HVTs- were able to simulate disengaging from the lumbering monsters, because you took too long or because you did too much collateral damage.

I had been through a gauntlet on Sark, twice, in my Chameleon. I hadn’t made it through either time, but then the first time none of us had. That being the whole point of putting us through it that early, to give ‘Immortal Warrior’ wannabes a reality check on how difficult even simulated combat was. The second time around DD, Julie and three others had managed to stagger through, but again the rest of us had failed. Although I was proud to say I had made it further than the majority of the class, falling only at the end to a simulated Schrek some ****** had triggered because I had successfully evaded a Demolisher at point blank range in what had been blindingly obviously a trap. Which I thought was hellishly unfair; you show smarts on the field? Then the ****** NCOs running the place took it personally and sent in a death machine at precisely the point where I would have no hope to out shoot or evade it.

Well today, the game was different! I had the advantage-
Wait. That was the Hunt for Red October again damn it...stupid Marco Ramius expy got it stuck in my head!

At any rate, I did have the advantage. As inexperienced as I was, my bleeding edge Battlemech gave me the ability to pump out an awful lot of sustained firepower while both taking an impressive amount of damage and staying cool. Frankly, skill being equal I could outshoot and outlast most 3025 Assault Mechs in a slugging match and was more mobile than a good chunk of them too...

“You’re good to go” the rangemaster said as he finished his inspection of my Mech. I felt almost like a parent showing off my kid, anxious to see that he found no fault. As live weapons were used on the range (not against me, we weren't ****** Clanners!) the safety checks were stringent. The Mech already had a ‘greenflag’ (what the Techs called the fully combat ready and certification for a Battlemech) loaded into the base logistic network, but the rangemaster still insisted on a visual inspection and patching a technicians noteputer in to check the systems directly via a data port in my mechs foot.

Professionally I admired his diligence and attention to detail.
Privately, I wondered if he just wanted to gawk and poke at the Lostech toy.
He also seemed weirded out by the featureless grey paint job to the point that I did actually start to think about how I might improve on that … perhaps starting with a ‘HONK IF YOU LIKE GLAUGS’ bumper sticker?

What would be most insulting to Harmony Gold? Hmm, difficult question...

“Get on Tac-16 when you’re geared up and move to Nav Delta-Five-Zero” the rangemaster continued, snapping my attention back as he in turn jerked his head at the road that vanished into a tunnel, that rose through the face of the sheer rock wall in front of me. The gauntlet was on the other side of the ridgeline, something of a design choice to ensure stray shots didn’t get back into the base. The course itself started in a sort of open valley that narrowed into a maze of canyons that reminded me greatly of the original Mechwarrior Two intro (which I took as a good omen even if my Mech looked dangerously like a Timber Wolf) before offering either a climb to an open plateau or an Urban combat component through an abandoned firebase, depending on what the computers decided and my time.

It looked like a lot of fun.

“We’re running the Beta-Four scenario, be prepared for tracks and Mechs, mid-ranged difficulty for a heavy. You’ve already synced your TACCOMP? Good” he nodded off my own nod. “We’ll start things rolling once you get to the NAV - and keep your weapons cold until you get clearance” he added with a scowl that made me wonder if the Dragoons had been flaunting the regs?
Frankly, I doubted it, they were far too professional.
Well, for the most part anyway. I mean the Black Widows were the kind of unit you pointed towards and enemy, said ‘Hulk? Smash!’ and sat back to watch the fireworks.
But, for the most part, they were pros so I decided this guy was just a hardass.

“Got it” I acknowledged, smiling at the man. “Thanks Sarge.” Beta Four suited me just fine; mid ranged difficulty for 3025 heavies like Thunderbolts and Jaggermechs when I was running an SLDF Royal?

I resisted the urge to cackle like Dr Evil.

The slightly overweight NCO just grunted and turned back to his office with a last quizzical look at me, heading for the nearby building and the massive almost space-needle like tower that looked over the region, whose upper decks were loaded down with racks of sensors pointing in every direction to provide overwatch on all the live firing ranges on this part of the base. The man had been disinclined to move terribly fast on my unusual request of just rocking up in a Mech to request range time but had at least humored me and run my AFFS ID card.
At which point he had balked at something that came up on his screen I couldn’t see, then after a more focused glance at me, hauled himself out of his chair and gotten the ball rolling with his staff who had been preparing for a nice quiet morning off.

I’m guessing I had Ardan to thank for whatever that was about. Being on good terms with Hanse Davions pimp hand was surprising useful for cutting through red tape.

Walking over to the side of my Mech I took a last deep breath of the fresh sea air and started to ascend the chain-link ladder that led back to my Mechs cockpit. Luckily in boot the instructors made it a point (often literally by jabbing with pool cues on rope climbs) to ensure you built up enough upper body strength to be able to do this in the field where lift hoists were not available, so I made it to the cockpit with only a couple of grunts, swinging inside and slapping the prominent green button next to the hatch. With a loud rattle, the ladder retracted up into its stowage position and the hatch slid shut with a loud clunk as the NBC seal was reestablished. That done, I worked to drop into the pilot's chair and, for the first time, started to go through the full combat prep checklist for my new Mech.

First came the coolant vest hanging next to my chair, which I slipped on over my T-Shirt. Looking almost like an oversized tactical vest, the kevlar and synthetic skin contained thousands of tiny tubes through which a coolant was circulated from the life support systems to keep me cool. The whole thing seemed pretty silly to me; that Battlemech engineers couldn’t insulate the cockpit from the rest of the Mech … but my objections to the laws of conduction and radiation aside, I had no intention of my vital organs getting cooked alive. Even a cool running Mech like mine could get uncomfortable between salvos so I ensured it was snug and set, wincing slightly at the chill against my thin shirt as the liquid started to flow.
The vest, unlike almost all contemporary Inner Sphere models, also had a number of medical sensors built in to monitor my vital organs, precluding the need for additional sensors to be stuck onto my arms and legs but I still made sure that the medical feed on the secondary monitor for was showing correctly before I reached back to strap myself in with the five point harness and finally, placed my SLDF neurohelmet on my head.
God I loved how lightweight this thing was.

I then made sure my restraints were firm before finally reaching out to the main board to arm the auto-ejection system, ensure MASTER-ARM was set OFF and finally twisted the startup switch over to TACTICAL for the first time. Then after a pause and deep breath, I firmly pressed and held the ‘reactor ignition’ switch. One mississippi, two mississippi-

The entire cockpit was illuminated in a deep crimson glare.

Another of the little ‘under the hood’ things about a Royal Command Battlemech was that its on-board command computer had a huge amount of customizable options, far more than contemporary machines which simplified things as much as possible, including the security systems. Modern Battlemechs tended to do away with complicated security systems, generally just using a password on a computer console or even a simple spoken keyphrase. Both of which could be overcome by any half decent tech team in a matter of hours. Or by a trained mechjacker in a matter of minutes with the right (if admittedly rare) gear.
My ride on the other hand had a distributed security system through the main computers, including components in the reactor, weapons and command circuity like some kind of 28th century DRM. Trying to get through the security systems, while possible, would take a crack tech team days and probably require them to outright strip key components. It might be considered a little excessive by most contemporary Mechwarriors standards, but I for one had been consistently horrified by what passed for IT Security in this universe and had no intention of having my Mech stolen.

A million voices seemed to sound as one after the Mech computer parsed the neural scan from my helmet. It had taken almost two days for me fiddling with the (impressive) voice synthesizer built into the communications system to get the sound just right as I programed the system … and suddenly I wished I hadn’t.

“You … are not Saren.”

Okay, that voice was actually just a tad intimidating.
“I am John Smith” I identified myself to the computer with the correct first countersign, trusting myself that it was simply the chilly coolant moving across my chest making me shiver slightly...

“Rudimentary creature of blood and flesh, you touch my mind, fumbling in ignorance, incapable of understanding...”

Even as my Mech sneered contemptuously at me, I reached down to the keypad at my knee and tapped in the ten digit code I had selected; my old mobile number from Earth; no-one else was going to guess that. And much like Hanse Davions own two-factor authentication setup, the Mech would not prompt for that but simply proceed through the power up cycle … and then shut back down if you failed to enter it correctly at this point. The mechs scripting language was pretty simple to work out, although I had clearly surprised the hell out of the techs on Ardans dropship with how quickly I was able to pick it up.

“What is the truth of those who stand against us?”

“They exist because we allow it … and will end because we demand it” I supplied the countersign and with a rumble, the fusion reactor came to life under me once more, with status displays starting to scroll through their initial diagnostics at great speed.

“We are the vanguard of their destruction. You are assuming direct control. This exchange, is over.”

With that, the lights snapped back up to normal illumination as all the diagnostics came up green - not a very big surprise as they had come up green every time thus far.

Okay, perhaps I should come up something a little more inspiring and a little less inclined to make me think my Battlemech is a sentient Lovecraftian nightmare for a name than ‘Sovereign’?

“Reactor; Online. Sensors; Online. Weapons; Offline, Master Arm safe. All systems nominal” the much kinder voice of Betty ran through the legendary and by now infinitely familiar conformation sequence as the final systems unlocked and gave me full control. Reaching over, I quickly switched the communications channel to TAC-16 and hit the transmit switch on my right stick.

“Dagger Two, walking to Delta-Five-One” I called and after a quick look around to make sure I wasn’t about to step on anyone, I started moving out past the holding grid to the road up into the firing range, flipping on my running and forward floodlights as I entered the curving tunnel. It was a short walk of only a couple of minutes before I emerged on the far slope of the hill - which I suspected might have been the lip of an ancient extinct volcano crater. Then, my radio crackled.

“Dagger Two - be advised we just got a late starter who will be running the course with you and will be coming to join you on your run. Proceed to Delta-Five-One and hold.”

My face took on an incredulous look, glaring at my COM board in a way that made me glad that two-way video communication was generally not a thing used in the field.

****** seriously?

I finally got a chance to ‘stretch my legs’ as it were and, to paraphrase Idina Menzel; to ‘see what this killing machine can do, to test its limits and break through … anything that got in my way’. And now I was being forced to go side by side on the course? More than that, given my skill level I’d probably get shown up by some crackerjack Valkyrie pilot who stole all the kills and laughed at how damn horrible I was in such a vaunted machine. I mean, why couldn’t they just wait their turn instead of being bundled in with me?

“Dagger Two copies” I curtly replied as I followed the pre-set navigation points up and across to the starting position, the sun now at my back. The start line was ahead, with a brief sort of cutting beyond it that turned hard right into the course proper beyond. More ‘traffic lights’ glowing a hard red couldn’t be missed telling you to halt while an anti-Mech barrier raised between them made sure if you somehow did, you wouldn’t walk onto a course full of live weapons fire. Looking around on my compressed display, I spotted the tall command tower brooding over the rim of the crater, thermals showing its guest observation deck was filled with a surprisingly large number of people.
Huh. I guess news about my Lostech mech had spread quickly?
Well either that or the massive observation deck was really a rotating restaurant…
Either way, it seemed I had an audience. Damnit.

“Dagger two holding at Delta-Five One” I added as I came to a halt, putting the ‘parking brake’ on and impatiently tapping my fingers against a console edge before I thought of something … and couldn’t help but grin to myself as I turned to my communications board. Unsurprisingly, Inner Sphere soldiers had been loading music into their communications systems since before mankind had headed out into space. NAIS, knowing it was I who would get this Mech, had even been so kind as to copy my iPhone and iPads music into my Mechs computers - a gesture that touched me. They had also renamed some of the tracks for obvious reasons, but, the complete soundtracks of all three Mechwarrior Two games plus Mechwarrior Four were loaded and good to go and I quickly started to queue them up. While idly thinking about what the NAIS scientists thought about that; having what essentially amounted to an ‘official soundtrack for their universe’?
At any rate; ****** being professional for once. I had been in the Battletech universe for years now and I have never once been allowed to just go nuts with a Battlemech and shoot the ****** out of stuff with fully powered weapons.

Damnit, I had earned this! But now I’d have to frigen share with someone else...

My timing was excellent though, I had just finished sorting my playlist when my sensor board pinged a proximity alert. A new passive Mech contact was on an intercept course from my six.
Okay, that had to be my ‘partner’.
I refocused focused my compressed holographic display to a narrower rear aspect as the yellow UNKNOWN contact approached on my TACMAP. And soon enough a vague figure came into view backstopped by the cheerful ball of fusion of the ever-rising morning sun. The image processors did their best to deal with the light bloom … although I instantly wished they hadn’t.
Now, I was faced with a humanoid figure ‘slow-walking’ towards me with a rolling red ball of nuclear fire behind it. The figure was washed out; a dead black silhouette without much detail of Heavy or Assault Size and I was instantly reminded of that classic anime shot of Evangelion Unit 03 with the sun behind it walking towards the good guys with utterly implacable, unstoppable, menace.

Okay, not a polite point of comparison to start with Smith I chided myself, tapping my COMM board to accept the Lasercom handshake from the incoming-

“Well well, if it isn’t Mister John Smith getting in an early morning workout” Natasha Kerensky’s voice came through my headphones and it was only by an act of God (and fact that the parking brake was enabled) that my Mech didn’t skip forward a half dozen meters as my feet jolted into the control pedals.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:19:21
Calm the ****** down Smith I swore at myself, closing my eyes and taking then exhaling a deep shuddering breath. I opened my eyes as she moved off the line that had her backlit, her dreaded jet-black Warhammer filling out with Dragoons and Black Widow markings. For a heart stopping second as she turned her massive weapons array seemed to line up on my rear aspect ... but no, she was just turning in a zig-zag to step up next to me on my left at the start line.
Although she had probably taken her time with that pivot just to screw with me.

Well I’m very glad I hadn’t had enough time to digest breakfast yet, otherwise I’m pretty sure I’d have to pull out for a few minutes to change my pants I thought before with another calming breath and careful clenching and unclenching of fists, I hit my microphone switch.

“Major” I greeted her in as cordial voice as I could. “I must admit … I’m a little surprised to see you here this morning. I thought you ran through the course yesterday?”

“I was running through it - and tracking to easily break all records- then at the halfway mark Cameron busted into my command loop telling me to get back to base right the hell now and nothing more” she explained, sounding rather irritated at that sequence of events - making me cringe just a little, what given that I was largely responsible for that outcome. “So, I did, thinking the Widows had set the ocean on fire or something ... but found everyone was being dragged into an emergency meeting. Apparently someone” - and that emphasis told me then and there she knew it was me - “blew the whole secret about our origins and that meant it was time to run around in circles screaming that the sky was falling or something, like a bunch of frigen Capellans just told the Chancellor was making a surprise personal inspection of their supply dump.”

Wait, what?

“You seem to be taking events rather calmly” I observed, entirely off-put by her blithful and unperturbed attitude.

Kerensky however surprised me with her response to that as she snorted.

“What’s there to waste time worrying about? Jamie getting a good kick in the behind to get to work? He can go run around in circles if it makes him happy. I’ve got a new course record to set.”

My mouth was hanging open right now and my face locked into a rictus of bewildered, stunned astonishment.

Okay. Kerensky was acting … sensibly. Rationally. Non kill-frenzy-ish. What the hell was going-

I immediately slapped myself with a mental 2x4.
Do not ask questions Smith. Do not look closer at this Smith. Just ****** roll with it!

“Dagger Two, Widow Prime from Charlie-Charlie” the Rangemaster droned from his elevated command center as he thankfully cut into my stunned silence at that point, saving me from having to try and come up with a reply. “Go weapons hot and confirm readiness.”

“Widow Prime, weapons hot and ready to rock” Natasha responded immediately on the channel - meaning her guns were already good to go, no surprise there! Technically that was a pretty big range safety violation ... but it would take a very very brave REMF to dare and call out the Black Widow on such things.
My skin did a good job of crawling however as I realized that Kerensky had pointed a whole butload of Alpha strike at my back with live guns.
Shaking it off, I reached up to flick the safety cover off the MASTER ARM switch, pressing the button underneath.

A tiny LED switched from a dull red to a shimmering green in response.

“Master Arm - engaged. Weapons, online” Betty confirmed. A second later, there was a sudden almost anticipatory rise in the humming of my fusion reactor as my weapons started to pull low-draw power. A set of floating crosshairs also materialized, nominally showing where my guns were pointing on their various mounts. In theory I could move either arm, the chin mount or the head turret independently of the others, but in the current mode the primary ‘red’ crosshair had them slaved so that all my forward firing guns would follow it, zeroed to optimum medium laser range. A flick of my right thumb and the aim point of my arms would recalibrate and zero the PPCs to whatever target or object was under said crosshairs. The ideal being to converge all weapons impacts at the same point, something easier said than done. Ergo, my decision to stay with the guns slaved to a single aiming point. My extended torso twisting would help make up for the more limited field of fire that got me. I hoped.

“Dagger Two, good to go” I replied to the command center with as much confidence as I could pull together.

Mech Two, Mech Three, Mech Four, MWO and Living Legends … don’t fail me now I silently called upon the gaming Gods before setting my hands on the sticks, feet on the pedals and focusing myself into the combat situation.

“Dagger Two, Widow Prime, copy. Good hunting. You are go for deployment in thirty seconds from my mark … mark!”

My tactical systems -linked into the base simulation computers immediately placed a thirty second timer into my HUD which started to count backwards as well as a timer for both I and Natasha set at fifteen minutes and holding, the total time we had to get through the course or be deemed to have failed.
Or … it should have been.
Instead it was set to ten minutes. What the-

“Oh I had the rangemaster bump up the difficulty” Kerensky said cheerfully, as if she could see the expression on my face. “Beta-Four is for damn kids, we’re running a custom Alpha scenario I wrote ages ago but have never had a chance to use until outside of sim pods. You don’t have a problem with that, do you?”

I felt my eyes bulging from my skull as I stared in disbelief at the war machine standing next to me. Okay, Kerensky had every reason to be cocky - by God she had earned her reputation the hard way. But seriously? What the hell did she think I-

Oh.
Ohhhhh!

Oh ******.

My Marauder was, being honest; not exactly subtle. A Royal Command SLDF unit with a custom refit done by NAIS? As a rule of thumb in the 3025 era where even a Bugmech made you a step above most other ground pounders; something like this monster would only be given to a Mechwarrior who had proven themselves capable of pushing it to its limits.
Because otherwise you were just wasting a very rare, nonrenewable resource.
Kerensky had probably been on her way here to shoot shit up (and her casualness aside, shooting shit up was probably the way she was going to deal with the stress from ongoing events), found out I was here and decided this was a perfect chance to get a real workout in alongside a genuine peer of a Mechwarrior...who she probably had a great many questions about given how ‘mysterious’ I was with my fuzzy position and rank.

So, um, whoops? But it wasn’t like at this point I could do anything about it.

“No problem” I lied through my teeth, biting my lip nervously as I forced myself not to take my control sticks in a death grip. Beta-Four was about gunnery practice, running through and shooting up static simulated targets dodging a token few scattered shots here and there.
‘‘Alpha’ level simulations had the enemies actually able to shoot back entirely properly, be just about as tough as they should be rather than the Battlemech equivalent of cardboard cutouts-

“Stand by to deploy in ten … nine …” the Rangemaster called out and damnit, he sounded like he was excited too! A sinking feeling started to flow through me as I realized I was about to really annoy Natasha ****** Kerensky if I screwed her second attempt to run through this thing by being unable to keep up with her…

“Stick close and do not slow me down” Kerensky added as if able to read my thoughts and I couldn’t help but cringe at the ‘cheerful serial killer’ tone before my logical, analytical mind kicked in, shoving my fear to the side to start to work through the tactical situation.
Stick to Kerensky like glue. Pour firepower into whatever she shoots at, keep her back clear … and otherwise treat her like your own personal bulldozer. She’s the lead, you’re her wingman-

“MARK” and with that, the traffic lights went green. I kicked my pedals, both sending my Mech charging forward and Mech Two Mercs ‘Trojan Horse’ blasting into my ears - before my eyes grew wide as I belatedly realized there was a three meter drop on the far side of the starting line. Kerensky landed with catlike grace, me less so, but the drive-by-wire systems and Gyro compensated flawlessly and we stomped down the short starting road before pulling into a ninety degree right turn into the range proper, exploding out the narrow cutting into the open valley beyond.

Despite me having the inside line and a Mech as fast as hers, it didn’t surprise me for a moment that Kerensky had already pulled ahead.

I took in the tactical environment in a heartbeat; we were at the top of a long slope narrowing into what seemed to be a shallow canyon of sorts directly ahead a couple of klicks distant. The entrance to said canyon -and sides of the valley we were in for that matter- were flanked with plenty of large rocks, scrub, trees and defiles, providing provide God only knows how much cover for surprises to be launched against us...

Still, even as my mind whirled … I couldn’t help but glance to the side at the black monster beside me and allow a silly grin pass my face as we screamed down the hill with almost 80’s style heavy metal guitars screaming in my ears.
I, John Smith … was running into battle alongside Natasha ****** Kerensky.
Inside a Battlemech. Inside Battletech!

The inner geek in me just couldn’t help but squee.

Her Mechs motions were flawless - probably even entirely unconsciously so. My Mech was shaking. Despite its best efforts, a Mechs Gyro could only go so far automatically to stabilizing the unit on the move - especially over rough ground at full throttle like we were. Very very experienced MechWarriors could learn how to, like breathing or walking, make continual subtle adjustments to smooth out their torso movements with their gyro and neurohelmet - what in the tabletop would be called movement modifiers vs gunnery skill I suppose. But just looking at Natasha?
Her Mechs legs were spraying dirt in every direction in a blur of motion … but her Warhammers upper body was so stable she seemed to just be floating over the ground -

“Enemy power up detected” Betty warned and I snapped my attention back to where it belonged, feeling a thrill as I saw the crimson CONTACT icons pop up on both sides of the course, just over a klick and closing fast. Month after month of training under the brutal hands and guidance of my instructors, Julie and plenty of other people came together as smoothly I swung my crosshairs over at the crimson icon on my side of the course, pulling my throttle back as I zoomed in on-

TVTropes would probably have called my reaction a ‘Flat What’. Crossing rapidly into ‘Oh Crap’...

“Contact, One O’Clock … Kit-Fox” I called over our tactical channel, not able to keep the WTF out of my voice as my T&T systems flickered then gave up, clearly getting no help from the range systems and just marking it as UNKNOWN after cycling through a couple of possibilities that were not even close.
Okay, so Natasha’s little ‘custom program’ was putting us up against ****** Clan Omnimechs?
Well, why the ****** not…who needs a technological advantage anyway? I asked myself as my hopes of leveraging my Mechs far superior technology against the expected 3025 targets just died a horrible, horrible death, my pinky toggling the voice command switch.
“Designate Unknown One as ‘Kit Fox’” I ordered Betty and with a beep, the tag updated.

Adder over here, engaging” Kerensky confirmed, sounding highly amused by my reaction and at that she drifted left to get lateral separation as I focused in on my enemy. Downrange, the right arm carrying what could only be a Gauss rifle twitched in my direction and the training beaten into my head kicked in, causing me to jerk my Mech hard to the right and kick my pedals. Barely a second later a simulated hypersonic ball of metal whipped by at incredible speed, seeming to only barely miss slamming into my face in a blink-and-you-miss-it blur of motion.

Well, now I’m really glad I went to the bathroom well before mounting up.

Training moved my hands without me even thinking as I corrected my course and speed, bringing my aim points into line. My right thumb squeezed my right sticks top trigger and there was a shift in my arms as they calibrated for ERPPC ranges. Pulling my speed as low as I dared as I held the guns on target, I squeezed the primary trigger.

For the first time since 2781, my Mechs guns were fired in anger. To my pleasant surprise, the twin purple particle beams smashed squarely into the target center mass, right on top of what I recognized as a Jade Falcon insignia. Said simulated target - really an iron plate on tracks with a holographic overlay - reeled for a second as the range computers calculated the effects of my beams ripping into its center torso and with a highly unlikely explosion the first enemy of the day was down. My heat indicators flickered as the heat pumps in the cooling loop flushed good coolant through the weapons pods and carried the heat to the radiators, but I didn’t feel any change in my cockpit - for now anyway.

“Enemy Mech, destroyed” Betty approved of my actions and I couldn’t help but smile.

“Nice shooting - move faster!” Kerensky chided and I turned attention across to her side of the compressed display - and blinked as I saw her target long dead. A glance at the feed from the simulation computers showed its cockpit had recorded two direct and simultaneous standard PPC hits sufficient to declare the pilot dead or incapacitated with her Mech still untouched. Because of course Natasha ****** Kerensky could outshoot a unit with two Clan ERPPCs, in her Warhammer, even from outside maximum effective PPC range, without slowing down. Duh!

“Roger” was all I trusted myself to say, kicking my throttle back up to full as she backed off to let me slowly catch up, the terrain of the downward slope giving way to a thin scattering of trees on a flat valley floor. Ahead, terrain narrowed; rising ahead to our left and right and constricting our path into a sort of canyon out of this first area. Moments later, Betty warned once more of enemy power ups and over the rise at my twelve one low-slung design loomed into place, at about four hundred meters - HOLY SHIT THATS A NOVA!

I slammed my Mech to the right far more violently than I had when trying to evade the Gauss rifle, damn near causing my Mech to spin to the ground as I simultaneously chopped the throttle back. My instinctive but poorly executed evasive maneuver caused my Gyro to scream in protest almost as loud as the lock-on warning alarm and my Torso wildly rocked ensuring I had no hope in hell of using my weapons … but the desperate move paid off handsomely as a New York rave parties worth of coherent light tore through where I would have been rather than where I was. Three of the emerald beams did slash across my left arm, but without any concentration or dwell time generating the Battlemech equivalent of a flesh wound.

That could have been much, much worse. Should have been much worse. If that Alpha Strike had hit me dead on, it would have torn my Mech to pieces.

****** bullshit Clan tech I mentally snarled the ancient curse of many a Battletech player. In whatever form of the game you played from Tabletop to Mechwarrior to RPGs, ****** bullshit Clan Tech!
I brutally fought my top-heavy Battlemech, refusing to let gravity win while yelling at Betty to designate target four as a Nova.
On the plus side, the targeting systems showed the thermodynamic price the Nova paid for pressing the ‘megadeath’ button as its heat scale exploded waayyyyyyy past the ability of its cooling systems to cope with the waste heat, glowing white hot on the simulated IR readout as it worked to kick off a virtual global warming scenario on Robinson, personally. For at least the next twenty, maybe thirty seconds it would be a non-factor and I directed my attention to the other side of the field, hauling my almost stationary Mech around in a 180. A Clan Mech I recognized as a Hellbringer -a Clan take on the Warhammer in a lighter package- was busy having a free and frank exchange of views with Kerensky. Or, at least it was trying to … because Kerensky was busy drifting.

Yes, drifting.
As in Tokyo-Drift Drifting.
With a seventy ton Battlemech.

It was completely impossible of course so she did it anyway; telling Newton's first law to go ****** itself as she shifted her full throttle momentum near fifty degrees off her line of advance into a skidding slide of sorts that left Mech feet sized skid marks in the soil under her feet. The simulated Hellbringers Alpha strike ripped wildly through where she should have been, its guns barely scoring a glancing hit with a couple of SRMs and a glancing laser hit before its simulated muscles overloaded, leaving it unable to track its opponent. Unlike me however, Kerensky had kept her guns perfectly on target the whole time through with a torso swivel.

The simulation seemed to have no programing for point defense systems so her SRMs smashed into the Hellbringers chest unabated, the cluster of detonations serving as a fine aiming point for two medium lasers to slice into followed by one of her two particle beams, the Widow clearly holding back her other big gun to manage her heat curve. Simulated armor panels went flying in every direction as the range computers projected the estimated damage, but while her withering salvo clearly staggered the bot it was also clear that it wasn’t going to be a straight kill. Even against a glass cannon like the Jade Falcons favorite heavy.
So without hesitation I snapped up my arms and opened fire.

My snapshot was perhaps a tad too hasty and I should have taken the time to aim more carefully as one PPC missed my aiming point and simply peeled armor from the targets right arm. The second particle beam however tore precisely through the shredded mess Kerensky had made of its torso and dug deep into the chewy nougat center-

“Enemy Mech, destroyed.”
You know, I’m pretty sure that, as a rule, Mechs don’t normally explode like that.

A frantic beeping in my ears however brought my attention to my situation as the Nova sluggishly, but malevolently came back to life on my compressed display. My own heat was being dissipated efficiently - firing both PPCs maxed out the cooling loop and the further you overheated the less efficient the system became, surprise surprise. While my other guns were charged, I wanted to hit hard so I slammed my Mech back into motion, wheeling back around in an evasive course to close the distance at a rapidly accelerating pace-
The simulated bot was still badly overheated, the simulation faithfully reflecting the stiff sluggishness of myoymer at its thermal limits but even so the thing opened fire with a quartet of hitscan emerald beams as my Torso twisted near automatically to prevent hard dwell penetration. Two shots were clean misses, but the fire pattern of the AI had been annoyingly competent, using a laser on each arm and two on the torso to try and bracket me. Two direct hits raked down my left arm and this time they did far more than simply burning off paint, ripping an alarming amount of protection away!

Ah. the ****** Clan ER-Medium Laser. OP, Plz Nerf Catalyst!

...

No, seriously please nerf them before I have to fight them for real!

Nothing critical was damaged though. Riding out the simulated shuddering my Gyro threw me as the Nova again blazed white on the IR readout, I swung my Mech and torso to face the Nova once again head on, halting inside medium laser range. My heat sinks were now well in the green and the enemy inside the ‘sweet spot’ of firepower overlap, so I lined up my crosshairs on the jutting knee joint, flicked open the covered safety and pulled the secondary ‘DO NOT PULL’ trigger on my left stick.

It wasn’t quite an Alpha strike. While my Mech could theoretically pull one off, it would push my units heat near to the SCRAM level and turn my cockpit into an instant inferno. However, dropping one of the ERPPCs out of the loop would reduce the stress on the cooling loops sinks just enough to make it viable so that’s what I had programed into that switch. It would still slow me down - with the myomer governors ‘stiffening’ my limbs so I wouldn’t risk damaging them by trying to run at normal speeds with them overheated - but not enough to be a problem. And if you absolutely positively had to kill every last Trashborn ****** on the planet…

Four ruby lasers converged on the Nova. My aim point was slightly off, having targeted its right knee, but the beams slashed in none the less, flaying simulated armor from its thigh- and slagging the real iron plate behind the simulation from the splatters of glowing metal spraying out of the projection. Joining them, a high frequency blast from my pulse laser unleashed, cutting through the cloud of vaporized metal to rip into the simulated skeleton of the design followed by the blowtorch of my right arm PPC bolt, the fire control system judging for whatever reason it had the better angle of the two … and ******!
The damn thing rocked back but the idiotic range computers stubbornly believed my firepower concentration wasn’t good enough to-
Then lightning whipped left to right to exactly strike my targeted point, instantly snapping the leg off and the simulated Omnimech promptly fell face forward … and exploded.
Seriously? What the hell was up with that...

“Enemy Mech, destroyed! Phase one complete, proceed to phase two” Betty approved.

“Thanks for the assist” I called as I brought my mech up to speed, the jet-black Warhammer casually walking down the slope on which the Hellbringer had been standing. Clearly that double PPC salvo had pushed her heat into the yellow zone given how brightly the radiators were glowing over her Mech’s skin, to say nothing of how her previously graceful loping had turned into a kind of stiff power walk.

 
Movement still looked flawless though.

“Only fair - you took part of my kill, I get to take part of yours’ Kerensky replied with an amused snort, her gait smoothing out as she dumped heat. My own heat also starting to flush from the saturated heat sinks, luckily still not high enough to have really made a different in my cockpit. Yet.
“Now keep moving and stay close kid, this next bit might get a little … fun” she warned me and with a bit of a smirk I fell into line behind her, our Mechs kicking back into a solid sort of ‘jog’ as we passed through the narrowing valley into the rocky sort of canyon entrance.

Okay, we’d just nailed four ****** Clan Omnis. Granted, with the greatest Mechwarrior in the Inner Sphere leading me through the fight, but still, I felt some measure of confidence returning now as we moved onto the next part of the course.

Bring it - wait, did she just call me kid?!
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:20:31
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“Nav point Delta Five-Four, reached. Commence final phase. Three minutes, ten seconds, remaining.”

I barely heard Betty as I staggered out of the canyon following Kerensky, deeply regretting my decision to taunt Murphey by daring the course to ‘bring it on’. My smirk had long vanished being a rather pathetic look of pure relief as we cleared the canyon and moved back into open air.
I dared to finally take a split second to release one of the death grips on my sticks to wipe the sweat out of my eyes, breathing shallowly in the stifling air of my cockpit. My Mech’s heat was technically already falling back towards the green, but the cooling loop system was primarily about pulling heat away from the weapons, reactor and artificial muscles of my Mech. Secondary waste heat - or Ghost heat as Mechwarriors called it - tended to sink ‘deeper’, into the skeleton and air of the cockpit, taking a great deal more time to conduct to heat sinks. And much less time to conduct into my cockpit air. So, despite the best efforts of the life support systems it was still a damn sauna in here.
Of course this was a well-known issue - hence my vest - but that was just for keeping my major organs within tolerance and making sure I didn’t die, not making sure I was comfortable.

Although to be fair; not all of my sweat could be put down to excessive firing of weapons.

The previous area had been a vast network of slot canyons. Natural formations, but expanded and dug out for Mechs to run through. A network that had included dead ends, loopbacks, short tunnels and more than a few caves. It was the perfect place to run the infamous AFFS Scorpions Nest scenario as part of this Gauntlet, where Mechwarriors found themselves being mobbed by Quickiemarts staple light tank. They were a joke of a threat really, at least against Mech’s like ours … one on one.
The laughing tended to die quickly when twenty of them cornered you. One AC/5 shot connecting might earn a snort - twenty of them? Rather less funny.
Even so, especially with Natasha ****** Kerensky on point, the two of us should have -would have- bulldozed through the scenario … if it had been the Scorpions Nest scenario. These things were so fragile that no one bothered with stand in proxy targets or plates, just pure holographics simulated on our HUDs that wilted at a stern glare.

Except this wasn’t the Scorpions Nest scenario. This was a Kerensky special she called the Fire Scorpion’s Nest scenario.

Ten - a full ****** Binary!- of the Clan Quad Mechs had been lurking inside the Canyons. The first one we had run into barely after we started our run into the next section. It’s weapons loadout was pretty light - significantly lighter than mine in fact - but it had decent armor and was very stable as a firing platform.

Even as Natasha and I had torn through its rear armor with a concentrated barrage that blew its holographic ammo bins sky high and caused it to simply vanish from our path; new sensor contacts had immediately flashed on with power ups detected everywhere around us … and these wouldn’t be so kind as to give us the chance to come up behind them and shoot through their weak rear armor.
We had just awoken the nest and six or seven more red contacts started converging on us with alarming speed.

Kerensky had simply turned her Mech slightly towards me and said one word.

‘Run’.
And oh ****** did we run.

I was certain Kerensky would not stop if I fell over -which I came terrifyingly close to happening several times- and as my soundtrack advanced to Timothy Seals Cover of ‘Freedom Fight’, it really did feel like I was sprinting for my life with a hoard of killing machines galloping after me. I was also pretty much entirely relying on Kerensky, the difference between a complete n00b like me and her was never more apparent than now. Beyond the magical way she made her Mech move or her bullshit aimbot accuracy, she exactly picked our course through the highly confusing terrain without needing to slow for so much as one second. Keeping her throttle firewalled with me barely able to keep up even with 100% of my focus on keeping from tripping over and absolutely nothing left over even to monitor where the enemy was. She weaved us through the canyons on a wild roller coaster ride that got us occasional snapshots from enemy Mechs at ‘crossroads’, but only a handful of LB/X submunitions from those shots landed on my armor, scattering minimal damage. None of the heavier AC/10 shells managed to connect (thank God) and we managed to work up a decent lead over our pursuit as Natasha perfectly forced them into tail chase single file … except for the two that powered up suddenly right at the exit, stomping out of a couple of caves to physically (well, virtually I suppose) block our egress.

Or as Matrix Smith would say; ‘I’m sorry, this is a dead end’.

Because with the other seven converging after us -and Valles Clan Ghost Bear aimbot Mechwarrior nowhere to be seen- we had at best two minutes to kill them and get out of here before we got cornered and torn to pieces.

Weaving as best I could to throw off the computers aim and ignoring the autocannon shells and cluster rounds spraying over my armor causing my Gyro to throw me around in programed simulation of the impacts, I focused my firepower onto Kerensky’s target, blazing away with my arm mounted weapons. The hellish barrage of particle beams, lasers and missiles ripped into the simulated target at optimal range (or at least the ground beyond it after passing through the projection) and did enough damage that the computers declared the two forward facing weapons mounts on the design were out of action, rendering it useless.

At which point it exploded. Whatever - question for later.

Bad news however; my target was now stomping forward, clearly pissed I was ignoring it as it flung another one-two punch of autocannon munitions into me, alarms sounding as my front aspect armor started to buckle under the double tap of the UAC/10-

“Right leg - hit its right leg and MOVE!” Kerensky barked at me and my conditioned to follow orders mind obeyed, dropping my crosshairs and focus on the - wait was that my right, her right or its right no time no time!- leg and triggered my lasers, well before the heat sinks radiators could finish venting from saturation, the guns able to recharge vaster than the heat cycle could complete. The quintet of beams scathed into the moving joint and Betty scolded me that I was getting awfully close to an automatic shutdown from the heat. Real scalding heat like someone had just opened the doors of a couple of ovens blew into the cockpit - and I hissed through my teeth as I saw my salvo hadn’t done the job. At least two of the mediums, the arm mounts restricted by the sluggish myomer had shot long-
Then a quartet of medium and small lasers joined my beams from the side, slashing in with an awe-inspiring shot focus that had all four converge at the exact same point (and pass through the hologram to hit the far wall of course, but that wasn’t important). What was important was that with an entirely unimpressive holographic severing, the leg failed and the entire Quad Mech tilted wildly as it fell. Happily, its final salvo went wide as its guns were yanked off target and with its weapons unable to bare on me I staggered around after Kerensky for the exit as fast as my Mech would let me move. Proximity alarms warned me the rest of the Fire Scorpions were arriving to avenge their fellow bots and I had to resist the urge to push my mech harder - after all this was only a simulation and I didn’t want to actually damage the thing for a few KPH more speed. Fortune smiled on me however as I staggered through the exit barely a second ahead of a barrage of mixed autocannon rounds from the lead quad that figuratively blew craters all over the canyon wall instead.

Now that's what I call a fun run!” Kerensky cackled, sounding horrifyingly like she was enjoying herself as we (or more accurately I) staggered towards the start line of the final section. I took a second to confirm I was on course before releasing my sticks to shake out my hands and then key the life support systems to break the NBC seal and vent with the outside air. Blessed cool morning sea air rushed through moments later and I tried not to wince at how wet my T-Shirt was even as I grudgingly admitted it was doing a sterling job of conducting heat away with my chilly vest. I made mental note to have a hand towel of something in easy range in the future as my attempts to use my sleeves proved less than useful to wipe down my face, reaching out to pick up a water bottle to take a gulp as my high efficiency heat sinks did sterling work radiating into Robinson, my Mechs muscles firming back up to normal movement.

And Natasha clearly wanted to be on the move.

“Come on, we only have three minutes to finish this!” she said as her Warhammer started into the climb.
 
“Copy” I said, holding the sigh I wanted to give but did not dare. I slotted my water back into place and sealed the life support back up, focusing on the terrain ahead and wincing. We were not being directed into the urban combat course which was a mixed blessing. Less ambush chance but now we were facing a long steady climb over rocky brown ground that provided absolutely no cover. A memory came to me then from Mechwarrior IV; the final mission of the desert campaign. A hard push up a long, long slope like this one to the primary objective; a firebase serving as a POW camp. A slope backstopped by defensive missile turrets with mobile Mech forces charging down the hill to stop us…
Of course with a firm resolve (and the Holy Gauss Rifle) I and my Lance had blasted our way up to the top. The game scenario however promised to be far less fun playing it in ‘real life’, especially as the terrain was just about as perfect as you could get for Clan extended range weapons...

“Enemy power up, detected” Betty warned right on que as the range dropped steadily and I took a hastily last swipe of the sweat on my forehead before setting myself and zooming in on the crest of the hill as we advanced up it, which showed two contacts approaching it from beyond … then emerging to skyline themselves.

“Oh you have got to be kidding me!” I groaned, my heart sinking in my chest as my optics zoomed in on the projected image facing off against me.

It was like looking into a dark mirror. The same reverse canted ‘chicken walker’ legs, hexagonal weapons pods hanging from the sleek body with secondary guns stubbing the torso. In addition however, this monster had two massive boxy missile launchers bolted onto its ‘shoulders’ just the CPLT-C1 … and despite the threat, I couldn’t help but smile wryly as my T&T system went into a perfectly canon tailspin.

Catapult. Marauder. Catapult. Marauder! CATAPULT! MARAUDER! CAT-

A quick voice command override however, gave it it’s true name.
 
Seriously” I bitched over the channel. “A ****** Timber Wolf?

Kerensky just cackled, clearly finding my insolence amusing.

I’d always preferred the Clan name but whatever you called it, the dread machine looking down at me was one the most optimized murder-death-kill machines ever built by the Clans. Even into the Dark Ages, the Prime config was something any half decent Mechwarrior would only treat with respect for the sheer optimization of firepower, weight, speed and protection it represented.
And now one was glaring down the hill at me.
For all my contempt and loathing of the Clans as a society and culture, I had absolutely zero doubts about the potency of their killing technology. This thing was the Battletech face of the Clan Invasion for a very good reason.
Kerensky on the other hand - I briefly risked a glance at her side of the hill - and saw … actually, I didn’t have a clue what that was. It was clearly either a heavy - or more likely an assault. The LRM rack looked light but there were plenty of what looked like laser mounts. Which, given BS Clan weapons ranges…

This, was going to suck.

Then my music queued over to ‘Action Pack’ from Mechwarrior IV, the confident voice of Natasha ****** Kerensky came back over the line … and suddenly the odds didn’t seem quite so bad.

“Alright” Kerensky’s voice came back, sounding almost hungry as she aligned for her attack run. “Hold your pace. I’ll move forward, draw fire then swing around for the Timber Wolf. Then we shift back on the Kingfisher. Ready? Go!” and without giving me time to do more than process the orders as I tried to remember what the ****** a Kingfisher mounted she opened fire; PPCs flashing with a thunderclap to reach out and slap into both enemy Mechs simultaneously as she accelerated away.

The damage should have been limited. Particle beams tended to start to lose coherence inside an atmosphere beyond about eight hundred meters or so, robbing them of the tight focus they needed to slice through the voodoo-magic-bullshit conductive armor plating used on modern combat vehicles. They could still hit things further out, but the rapid -and unpredictable- dissipation meant the probability of scoring a hit dropped off rapidly, ditto the damage done. And by a klick you’d just have a rapidly dispersing cloud of ionized gas that might give infantry sunburn. My ER-PPCs used some process -that generated a buttload more heat mind you- to contain the extended magnetic field that normally ‘bloomed’ from the weapons muzzle, improving focus and thus range by about a quarter … and I was only starting to come into that range now.
However Natasha ****** Kerensky was, of course, always going to Natasha ****** Kerensky and nailed both Mechs dead center with clean hits. The damage was almost incidental though, her shots serving their primary goal of pissing off the bots and causing them to focus in on the Warhammer storming up the slope towards them as I fell behind. So I brought my arms up, my targeting computer confirmed effective range and I cut loose.

Two more particle beams ripped up the slope - only missing Kerensky by about thirty meters as she floated back across in an evasive maneuver and I bit my lip painfully as I reminded myself my shots were not simulated. Passing low to the ground, the beams left arcs of grounding static electricity - the infamous ‘man made lightning’ effect - before smashing into the Timer Wolf’s ‘torso’. Half melted iron flew everywhere in a molten spray and It was enough for the simulation to throw a randomization into stability of the Mech, causing it to wobble as it tried to fire its two Large Lasers back at Widow-Prime (Mechs were a horrible, horrible gunnery platform if we were being serious about this) barely missing her as she danced along, even as its shoulder launchers vomited a near Macross level of warheads downrange.

And, as if to prove that no good deed ever goes unpunished, one of the beams that had harmlessly sliced through open air at her found downrange a convenient right torso to punch into anyway.

“Critical hit - Right Torso Heat Sink” Betty informed me helpfully as my Mech bucked and I fought to keep its power walk steady, unleashing a string of profanity that took me right back to online gaming in the 21st century given how much the word ‘Bullshit’ was involved. A rapid glance on the damage control board and I dismissed the loss for now as the heat pumps automatically rerouted around the shutdown links. I still had enough capacity to keep throwing the PPCs out with only minor heat buildup and the beam had missed my fusion reactor and gyro at that penetration angle. The rest of my torso armor was also pretty cooked from an UAC/10 and LBx/10 trying their very best to bash it in ... but now I had the Black Widow serving as my armor.

And was proving far more effect than mere Ferro-Fibrous plate.

In another Natasha ****** Kerensky bullshit moment, the Trueborn -with exquisite timing- jumped her Seventy Ton Battlemech back down the hill off a raised bit of rock she had been arcing towards, landing into a crouch and sending rock flying everywhere as her momentum was transitioned into the ground. The crazy jumping (without jump jets mind you) zig-zag move must have had her Mechs skeleton screaming in pain and betrayal, but it the rapid change of direction seemed to throw off the direct missile barrage from the Timber Wolf almost completely, with only one or two managing to splatter against her shoulder and most detonating on the ground in a failed attempt to track her. The higher arc LRMs coming over from the Kingfisher had a better chance to correct their paths as they plunged down, but those that hit still lacked any concentration to do anything useful.
Well, except the two that blew her spotlight off. Virtually of course.

Kerensky didn’t reply to the insult from the more distant Omni though, boiling out from behind the rock without delay and closing on the Timber Wolf, her torso rotating to track it as the two Mechs enchanted broadsides. Her PPCs and medium lasers slashing out to be returned with the Omnimechs ER Medium and Pulse lasers. The Warhammer’s heat signature spiked right to the levels of saturation of the heat radiators, her Mech shuddering to a sluggish walk as if in mud - but she wasn’t alone there. Even as the Clan Mech tore chunks of armor from across her Torso and legs, her firepower piled in on top of my own impacts, sending melted iron everywhere as the Omnimech started to move sluggishly from driving its heat past its limits.

“Smith! Finish it!” Kerensky demanded over the Comm.

I couldn’t help but grin tightly as I recalled one the best Battletech FMV cutscenes ever made, where an AFFC officer had said exactly that regarding another Timber Wolf.

And in ‘Panthers’ honor (one of the most ballsy Raven jockeys to ever live bar none in my opinion); I came to a halt, aimed and cut loose without hesitation, ignoring the low warning tone as my heat spiked into the yellow zone, having not quite given enough time for the heat to cycle before kicking into motion again. The particle beams were true, smashing into the torso to unleash hell inside the Mech. An instant later a burst of SRMs from Kerensky ripped into the same explosion, staggering her Mech to a crawl from the waste heat pouring out all over her.

The range computer however promptly declared the Gyro of the Omnimech was KIA and it staggered to a knee -
And blew up.
Seriously, were these things Angels from NGE cosplaying Battlemechs or something? Oh now THERE is a hilarious thought; imagine if Zeruel took a trip to Strana Mechty-

My daydreaming was rather quickly cut short however as my Mech rocked hard to the side; three or four different alarms sounding as I unexpectedly slewed to a halt. Safety configurations on the range meant that real Mechs would never be unbalanced enough (by the simulations anyway) to deliberately send a Mech falling. After all, on one hand there was making simulations realistic … and on the other, there was wasting a ****** of money by breaking very expensive war machines. Ergo, Mechs judged to have fallen over were forced to come to a sudden halt and stand for eight seconds, the minimum time a very good Mechwarrior would need to get back to their feet after taking a tumble.

The Kingfisher, I belatedly noticed, had most rudely - and surprisingly - stopped being pretending to be a stationary turret and was now stomping down and across the slopes at me, leaving its special effects iron cutout behind to go full holographic. In an ironic echo of my previous tactics of ignoring the overheated Nova, it seemed this Bot wanted to quickly rip me up while Kerensky was overheated. My tactical computer also now helpfully updated its information to confirm that its lasers were ****** Clan Pulse Bullshit and the two large and two mediums had just torn through my left Torso to sheer off my left arm, knock out a heat sink or two and unbalance me enough the computer had ruled I was, in virtual terms, lying on my back staring at the sky.

Well ****** that shit!

“Smith, you okay?” Kerensky called urgently.
Dawww, she does care!
Or cares about how long I can draw fire from her anyway. Either or.

“Tis but a scratch!” I declared as I glared at the ‘penalty box’ counter - on the plus side the enforced wait was letting my coolant loop finish discharging and as my Mech came back to life under me, I spun around and started to close in as fast as I could on the enemy Assault. A burst of missiles ripped out at me for my insolence but my insane charge seemed to have screwed the bots fire control because they mostly smashed into my ‘destroyed’ arm - doing no damage at all - with a few more crashing into my left torso - costing me another heat sink but the ‘Zombie’ nature of my Mech was really coming to the front now. “Come on then, you pansy!” I continued to yell over my open channel as with our combined closing speeds I crossed quickly into effective medium laser range rapidly and hit my Alpha strike switch. “I’ve had worse!”

Heat flooded again into my cockpit as the destroyed heat sinks were lazy bastards and refused to help, my guns tearing into the Kingfisher. My Mech also slowed to a crawl as the governors, again, restrained my limbs. The heat wasn’t too bad though, but with the loss of the heat sinks it would take longer than usual to vent. And while my barrage certainly looked impressive as it tore into the enemy Mech sending fire and shrapnel everywhere … there was no armor breach as I had clearly missed the point Kerensky had hit earlier.

Oh Crapola-

Perhaps the bot was pissed at me calling it a pansy, because it now let loose with everything it had - and I was again going to be sitting still for eight seconds. Well there goes my right arm. And why the hell did I program Betty to say ‘Critical hit’ when important things got trashed?

“Have at you then! It’s just a flesh wound!” I defied the other Mech at the ridiculousness of my situation as it prepared to deliver the killing blow with the Aidan Pryde signature ER Small Laser of Doom move … at which point it suddenly veered off to face its other opponent, apparently because I was now locked up in the eyes of its programing?
Or it was smarter than it looked and knew the Black Widow was not someone you ever turned your back on?
Either way it’s decision meant it took her salvo into the existing damage on its chest and I suspect Kerensky had scored an ammo bin from the way the back of the Mech exploded out towards me, CASE systems letting the ammo cook off.

Big mistake I grinned as I let my crosshairs focus in on the charred rear armor where the CASE system had quite literally blown off the armor plating, cutting my remaining three lasers in as I aligned, judging I had just enough spare heat capacity. I took a nanosecond to make sure it wouldn’t pass through the hologram to hit Kerensky (which was why these things rarely moved off their marks outside of these expert modes) letting the crosshair drift with the stomping target as it staggered, pulled the trigger-
The beams hit my chosen target dead on as heat spiked into my cockpit again. For a second I wondered if I had just shot up an empty chest or if the simulation system wasn’t smart enough to account for trick shooting like this ... but then with a shudder, the Kingfisher slowly fell forward to smash into the ground face first-
And exploded like all the rest.
Man it’s good that doesn’t happen in real life because the salvage teams would be out of work...

“Enemy mech; destroyed.”

“Ha! The Black Knight always triumphs!” I mocked-

Not if you don’t make it to the finish line you don’t” Kerensky snarled at me and blinking I saw there was barely twenty seconds on the clock - and a bit under two hundred meters to go, Kerensky stomping ahead of me towards it. Whoops. And clearly I had left the communications channel open.

“Shit shit shit!” I cursed -after killing the COMM line- kicking my pedals to the floor. My Mech staggered into motion, moving like a drunken sailor slowly picking up speed as heat was bled away and the computers relaxed their iron grip. Come on come on… I mentally swore at my Mech as it slowly got over its sluggishness, mentally wishing for the Mechwarrior games coolant flush systems right about now. That two hundred meters looked like two hundred miles as step by step my speed readout slowly crawled above thirty … thirty five … forty …

Kerensky crossed the line ahead of me and her counter froze at eleven seconds, flashing green as mine continued to count down far faster than it should be.
Come on! I mentally yelled as my limbs continued to firm up and I started to break into a run, the distance and timer indicators seemingly crashing together-
“YES!” I yelled as the timer went green with just over two seconds remaining and Betty beeped that glorious triple ding.

“Nav Delta-Five-Six reached. All Primary objectives complete, gauntlet successful.”
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:20:45
“Widow Prime, Dagger two, clear gauntlet and proceed via NAV grid epison for return to training command, how copy?” The commander center then cut in / and I could swear in the background I could hear people demanding others pay up?!

“Solid Copy Charlie Charlie” I threw back before making a mental note to have Ardan send someone to download the recording of this little stroll before wiping the computer systems local records and making sure the staff knew to say nothing about it to anyone. The Clans were, after all, still rather classified, in theory.

But I wanted a ****** copy. I had just trashed a custom Natasha ****** Kerensky throwing ****** Clan Omnimechs at me scenario! HA! Take that Trashborns!

Then a second later, reality slapped me down hard as my brain caught up.

No. I had hardly faced down Clanners. I had faced down bots. Dumbass bots who were more or less unable to use their mobility, had no skill in dodging or maneuvering and were content to fight essentially as giant turrets, firing their guns as fast as possible without any concern for heat levels or evading. Letting me in turn take all the time I needed to carefully line up my shots when they immobilized themselves.
And I had still all but cosplayed the Black Knight, even with Natasha ****** Kerensky for a Lancemate and doing, bluntly, all the hard lifting. If I had faced the same scenario against even trained Inner Sphere pilots, let alone Clanners who could do even half of what Kerensky could do?
Well that’s why you don’t fight bullshit duels against Clanners but hit them with ten times their numbers in combined arms and enough artillery to make Zhukov award you an honorary Red Banner on the spot. No matter how unsporting Trashborns like Kerensky might think that is that you don’t want to play their games on their terms...
 
And speak of the Devil I thought as my communications link flashed and I opened it up once more.

“Well, that answers that” Kerensky noted as she regarded me walking towards the exit, falling into line behind me as I passed her.

“And what question might that be, Major?”

“You’re a complete rookie who's never been in combat before, ever. Clearly AFFS trained, but only half trained and you’ve probably never even fired the guns on that Mech of yours before today” she concluded and my ego collapsed immediately like a souffle poked with a vibrokatana.

Okay … was I that bad?

Come on John, chin up; you have one years training and you’re thinking she of all people won’t notice that? I chided myself as we stepped off the rock onto the asphalt of the access road that would lead us down the side of the hill and back to the south, around the course to the base. The view was actually quite nice, reminded me of that desert road in Forrest Gump ...

“Is this one of those ‘You do not truly know someone until you see them fight?’ things?” I asked, badly paraphrasing the Matrix while trying not to sound anything like as impressed as I was that she was apparently able to pick all that up … by simply watching me run around with her.

“After a fashion, I suppose” she verbally shrugged as her tone sharpened. “But it’s enough for me to see clearly that you are not from the Clans.”

I blinked. I blinked again.
Then I burst out laughing over the line.

“What … what … you thought I was …and I lost it, leaning back, closing my eyes and just laughing my head off between gasps of air, my mech coming to a halt as I took my feet off the pedals and let go of the controls.
The idea was so incredibly absurd that I just couldn't help it. Snickering and snorting as I struggled to get myself under control, some vague part of me considered that this must be all my tension being let out all at once, but I couldn’t stop laughing.
Me?! A ****** Clanner? Or a ‘Tanker’ as gladiusone had aptly named them? Great insult but given that AFFS Tank crews would probably take it personally from a Mechwarrior like me, not a good idea to use it...especially against the Black widow.

Still, I didn’t know if I should feel flattered or insulted that they thought I was one. So I settled for the amusement.

“Okay, okay I’ve got to know. What idiot came up with that conclusion? What were they drinking when they did and where can I get some of it?” I demanded, shifting my Mech around to face hers - which had also stopped - before belatedly reaching out to flip the Master Arm switch back down as I realized I was facing directly at her.

“Master arm disengaged. Weapons; Offline” Betty sounded disappointed at being told to pack it up, my arms dropping in a subtle way as the power flow was cut to the myomer that made the fine adjustments to the gun mountings, having had a more than ample workout for me to be confident NAIS hadn’t missed anything when they retrofit and checked out my toy.
All in all, I was very happy at how well my Mech had performed. The watered down Clanners would have probably trashed me much earlier if I was in a standard 3025 Mech - and I had a whole new appreciation for the poor SOBs in the original timeline who had to face down the Clans with such gear.

“Well it’s … the Dragoons officers in the room with you and Sortek? They sensed quite a lot of hostility towards Jamie’s decision making, from you towards him” the Trueborn said over the radio and bless her, she actually sounded a tad abashed in response to my balls to the wall laughter at her accusation, which more than any other denial probably hammered home how hilariously wrong it was.

Oh. So I had hostility towards Battletechs greatest procrastinator not doing his ****** job and/or being the vanguard of an invasion of my nation. Had to be I was a Clanner myself! Couldn’t possibly be I was pissed at him because I didn’t want to see the Inner Sphere overrun by a bunch of diet coke Übermensch who on average see a civilians greatest value as zeroing machine gun arrays, could it?
 
“To say nothing of the small issue of you knowing Khan Wards final orders, which unless there has been a leak by one of a half dozen Dragoons Jamie trusts with his life, has to have come from the Clans” Kerensky added a little more pointedly and relevantly.

Eh ... that’s a fair conclusion to draw from facts in evidence I mentally gave her a pass. Not that I was going to tell her how we knew what we did of course. That was classified so dark that black holes had issued cease and desist orders against MIIO.
Even so, perhaps I could kill a couple of birds with one stone here with very careful application of the truth?

“Well on your first point” I said, trying to keep my voice professional and any amusement out of it as I pushed my Mech back into action, Kerensky trailing along behind, “my attitude towards your boss is entirely towards his complete lack of leadership over following his damn orders. Which, if say the Clans invaded tomorrow, could have genuine and horrific consequences for quite literally hundreds of billions of people and make them really regret that we may have had ten years to prepare for it and simply wasted them”

Kerensky seemed to simply take that in as it was without comment, so I shrugged and continued.

“As for your second point? I’m just an aide to Ardan Sortek” I tried to keep my tone as matter of fact as possible, eager to get the spotlight the hell off me. “And I’m his aide because I’m one of the most studied on the Clans in the Federated Suns. But” I added, feeling like I was starting to reach Obi-Wan levels of ‘from a certain point of view’, “it’s pure book learning. I am also authorized to tell you that the source for our information on the Clans was not either the Dragoons or anyone associated with them - including past associates like Snord. You can tell poor Major Blake, if he is about to start hitting the bottle, that his security was, to quote an irritated Quintus Allard, ‘tighter than the Magestrix’s corset’ - and before you ask I have no idea how he knew how tight that was ... or how tight that actually is for that matter.”

Kerensky made a ‘hmmm’ sort of noise down the line as we continued down the road back to base. I tried not to think about the fact that I didn’t technically have the authority to tell her these things, but was reasonably confident I could sell this to Ardan as a necessary step in ‘The Plan’. And Hanses paperwork to me had said quite clearly that we (plural) were to do whatever it took to get the Dragoons on-side. You could get a lot of mileage out words like ‘whatever it takes’ … and I think I had earned a little latitude even if there was probably an implied ‘talk to Sortek First’ in there.
And besides; he wasn’t out here alone in a long lonely canyon walking back to base with the Black Widow directly behind you at point blank range with real weapons!

“Okay, so next logical question, how the hell did you people know? About the Clans?” she asked and I took a second to consider my reply, content to let Kerensky keep ‘pumping me’ for information I was happy to give, even if it was misinformation, from a certain point of view.
Part of me wondered if this whole morning was all a cunning plan by Wolf to get more intel, but I doubted it. My presence on the range was a last minute thing, it seemed more likely that Kerensky after seeing me here had decided to see what she could find out about me on her own by barging into my course time.
A good reminder, if any was needed, that she wasn’t a one trick pony but had a great deal of street smarts in her head if nothing else…

“All I’m able to tell you about that is that only Katrina Steiner, Hanse Davion, Quintus Allard and Simon Johnson have the authority to approve access to that information. So even if I did know, I wouldn’t be authorized to say anything about how they got their information. If Wolf is still heading to Terra I’m sure he can take it up with either of them there.”

There was a long, long silence as she absorbed that and I focused on simply moving my Mech smoothly.

Fair enough I suppose” she finally conceded and thank God for that before her tone sharpened again. “So, that would only leave one final question. Who are you?”

My inner Vorlon smiled at that. The rest of me was less happy.

"Irrelevant" I replied.

"I think it is" she said and this time there was an edge in her voice, clearly, she wanted all the answers. With an implied ‘you don’t want to make me angry ... you wouldn't like me when I'm angry’ in her statement.
Well tough luck. It’s not like short of opening fire she had any real way to coerce my cooperation after all. Or so I kept telling myself to keep my bladder under control.

"Also irrelevant" I replied again.

We walked along for another ten seconds or so in silence, my blunt reply seeming to have thrown Kerensky for a loop as if I was utterly indifferent to having an irritated Clanner at my back with enough weapons to level a city block -

- which wasn't true for one second mind you -

- but I also knew that I absolutely couldn't cave on this. And I think I had something of a better handle on Kerensky now. Utterly a terror to face on a Battlefield no question at all and perfectly willing to do mass destruction to protect those under her command ... but not so trigger happy as to kill without reason. And given the incredible consequences to such impulses being unleashed here? Shooting me up on an AFFS base in the middle of highly delicate negotiations with the Federated Suns and the Dragoons at their weakest point ever?

Yeah, that would end well, not. And she knew it.

"Blake has almost nothing on you" she finally said, clearly realizing the direct approach wasn't working. "In fact, all he has is that you is that you were spotted at the Triad when Davion visited in 26 hanging around with the Kell Hounds - and slapped Alessandro Steiner down like the cretin he was when he tried to poke them a little too hard.”

"I see Wolfnet still has the old boys network going strong" I observed dryly in response as we continued to stroll around the side of the course. Wolfnet, the Dragoons intelligence service was, of course, tiny in comparison to even the smallest of the Great Houses agencies with a fraction of the resources … but did have some impressive HUMNIT resources spread through the massive Inner Sphere Merc community. From those sources they got a surprisingly good amount of information about the goings on around the Sphere, probably getting the most bang for their buck by far of all the intelligence agencies.
It was still complete Bullshit of course that a Clan force could even set up something like an intelligence agency with little to no native capabilities along those lines and compete against massive entrenched players with centuries of experience ... but there you go.
But accordingly, it wasn’t terribly surprising that the only data point they had on ME was that I had stood up for Patrick Kell and the Kell Hounds that night-

And that’s not all of it” Kerensky cut into my thoughts, her tone clinical and cool. “An ‘adjutant’ sits quietly in the background, fetches coffee when asked and otherwise takes notes and keeps his mouth shut. Sortek was perfectly happy to have you drop the ‘Clan’ bomb on us and take the Dragoons officers to task. You have been given a Battlemech from Helm, upgraded by the NAIS no doubt personally at the direction of Hanse Davion, wear an AFFS uniform with no rank to obscure your identity and yet can barely keep your Mech vertical when running at full throttle, when you’re not schmoozing with House Lords and the people around them.”

Okay, several data points then I suppose. It was mildly amusing to think that Blakes people, after looking into me, probably had more questions now than when they had started.

“Your point Major?” I asked her, trying to contain my amusement at her attitude.

You’re not an adjutant” she observed flatly and I rolled my eyes at the accusation. No shit sherlock...

“I also adjutant” I corrected her lightly. “Who I am is irrelevant; what I am right now amounts to an adjutant to Ardan Sortek. Specifically because I am one of the closest things to an expert on the Clans that the Federated Suns and Lyran Commonwealth have - in theory anyway.”
Who’d have thought pushing Natasha Kerensky when she was walking right behind me with an awful of guns could be so much fun?
“If I may though ... I would like to ask you a question” I dared to wrench off this line of thought and earned a snort down the line, Kerensky perhaps deciding she wasn’t going to get anything from me.

“Well it seems you already know everything, so I’m not sure what the hell you’d want to ask me, but fire away” she invited me readily. Perhaps because she thought my question in turn would show where we were deficient in our knowledge? Or giving a clue where we might have gotten it from?
It wasn’t that kind of question though and I let my Mech start to slow, easing off the throttle to drift to a stop, then turned it to face Kerensky who had also come to a halt a hundred meters away.

“You are certainly under no obligation to answer it” I continued even as I wondered if this would be what pushed her off the cliff-

“Just ask it already, I’m a big girl, I promise you” she huffed impatiently in a way that didn’t quite hide the curiosity in her voice and I shrugged. Well, in for a penny...

“Did you love Joshua Wolf? I mean, love him, love him?”

There was dead air to that somewhat poorly put question - but the channel didn’t close. Dead air that lasted thirty seconds the clock on my HUD.
On the plus side, her Warhammers abnormally long PPC barrels were not pointing at me and her SRM tubes were still closed...

...yes. I did love him” she eventually responded, her tone not quite flat. More … neutral perhaps? As if she was keeping a ferociously tight grip on her emotions. And I decided to give her an out there.

“Then, for whatever it might be worth Major…” I said carefully, “even though I know it was a while ago, you have my condolences for your loss.”

“...thank you” Kerensky said with a background noise on the channel that sounded like her taking a deep breath to calm herself but with a faint edge of surprise in her tone. “I think you’re the first person outside of the Dragoons to even bother to say as much in fact. But … why the hell did you want to know?”

She didn’t need to explain what the ‘why’ was.

“Everything I’ve read about Clan society tells me that even the very concept of love is considered Taboo by Trueborns” I said, sighing and leaning back in my chair as much as I could with the restrained firmly in place as we walked along, now starting to slowly climb back to the point my map showed was an intersection, a short walk from which would be the tunnel back to the base. “Kerensky’s son seems to have put enormous effort into breaking down social norms to build his new ‘master race’” I was sure I couldn’t keep the hints of contempt out of my voice and I was sure I honestly didn’t care if she heard them. “Anthropologists brought in by MIIO are almost of the unanimous opinion that the Clans are simply too alien to even think of as human anymore in truth, in terms of them being able to relate to 99.99% of mankind...”

And what do you think?” she asked me after a few seconds. The tone was almost alien and I didn’t know what exactly to make of it, but...

I couldn’t help but wonder what weight she put on my opinion, but … let’s see where this goes.

“I think you proved that underneath all the bullshit pretense, a Trueborn is just as human as anyone else. And if you, one of the greatest Mechwarriors to come out of the whole breeding silliness can fall in love and hurt so much when it was ripped away from you by those ****** Anton and ComStar? That you can make the leap to see that there is so much more to life than the artificial box Nicholas tried to slam down around his society? Then it is probably inevitable that if and when the Clans return to the Inner Sphere, the sheer overwhelming population and cultural differences will, in the long run, overwhelm them.”

Micronion culture for the win! Isn’t that right officers pod?

“Nav Epsilon three, reached” Betty said, which I took as as yes. Good girl!

Oddly, Kerensky was silent to that and I wasn’t sure how she was taking it-

What” she asked in a slow, disturbingly careful terrifyingly precise way “do you mean by ‘Anton and ComStar?'”

I blinked. I blinked again. Then the color drained from my face and I took a hand off one of my sticks to violently facepalm as it suddenly hit me what I said.
Oh ******.
Excellent work John!
My mind sneered at me. You just had to show off and get all philosophical and high concept, didn’t you?

“Kerensky…” I started to say before sighing, closing my eyes and sighing as I let my Mech once more drift to a halt. My instinctive desire to deny I had said that being dismissed on the grounds of being absurdly stupid. “Quintus is going to kill me” I observed as I let my Mech slow to a halt … then an insane thought occurred to me.
On the other hand…in for a penny? How could I turn this around a little...?

“...alright” I said as I turned around to face her Mech - and resisted the urge to take a step back as it was less than ten meters away with the Mechwarrior inside visibly glaring at me through both sets of polarized glass. “All I can offer you is information I saw on a very recent source uncovered in the last couple of years. You never heard it from me, we never had this conversation.”

“I accept those terms” she said and this time there was no denying the edge in her voice that suggested pushing her patience on this would be a bad move. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. What, do you know?”

Well, if nothing else it proves she really did love Joshua if this is the reaction I’m getting...

“As you wish” I said exhaling and wondering how loudly Quintus was going to yell at me for this. “Then, in your knowledge of the events of Antons rebellion and the assault on New Dellos, do you recall hearing the name ‘Vesar Kristofur’ at any point?”
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 10 December 2018, 08:21:07
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There were, on reflection, a whole ****** [/I]of worse positions I could be in right now.

Considering that I now knew interuniversal travel to what I thought were fictional universes was possible (or at least ‘forking’ a new instance of me into one, was possible), I knew I could have ended up somewhere much, much worse.

I mean there were also better places I could end up. The Cultureverse for example (assuming I dropped into said Culture and not the Affront or something) would have been just about perfect really. But I would have also happily settled for most flavors of Star Trek....
But there were also far far more (supposedly) fictional places I could have ended up that made me go into a cold sweat just thinking about it. I mean, at least in my current position in Battletech I had every reason to be hopeful for the future and my future.
If I had, say, ended up in Westeros? Yeah, even if I wasn’t killed on the spot as a witch or demon or something, the best I could hope for would be to eek out a miserable stagnant medieval existence while trying to figure out a way to get the ****** out the way of the Ice Zombie apocalypse, gigantic civil war and all the other fun stuff that might be coming. And even that was one of the happier possibilities; if I had been thrown into say Warhammer 40K?
On balance, the fact that I was in a reality where my soul was not going to be ripped out of my body by some chaos sorcerer, bound into some horrifying nightmare of flesh and chained to Abaddon the Despoilers throne and ‘encouraged’ to tell him everything I knew about Warhammer 40K?

Yeah, ‘could be worse’ indeed.

Ergo, contextually I tried to tell myself ‘Hashtag; this is not a big deal’ on one hand (mental note, invent Twitter) … but on the other; I wasn’t in 40K and this was a fragging huge deal here and now.

The vehicles coming in were an eclectic mixture of IFVs holding the Dragoons senior officers followed by dozens of large AFFS busses borrowed for this trip with the main body of soldiers, ancillary support staff and hangers on. Only the IFVs and an honor guard of four Dragoon Mechs in the vanguard were even armed; this was not a force coming with its blood up.
Indeed, if anything, it was exactly the opposite.
Just about the entire force of the Dragoons minus the crews on their distant Jumpships, a skeleton crew on board the Hephaestus and those too sick to leave the hospital were here now. Unarmed and in dress uniforms they were not quite putting themselves collectively at our mercy, but it was near enough to make little difference. As much as yesterday Ardan and I had formally entered their part of the base under the technically unofficial yet very real rules of safe conduct, so too were the Dragoons coming to us under them now - and trusting us to honor them. Which silently spoke to the groundwork Hanse and his people had put in place with the Dragoons over the last six months - especially compared and contrasted with the Combine.

Whom I’m sure the Dragoons wouldn’t trust right now if they claimed oxygen was safe to breathe...

“Do you think he figured out yet that we grabbed those Omni’s on Barlow's End deliberately?” I muttered aside to Ardan from the second story window looking out over the makeshift parking area as the hoard of APCs and trucks neatly formed into lines and started to unload a couple of thousand people, my attention drawn to the Bandits in the lead. Hidden in plain sight - how the ****** had the Inner Sphere’s intelligence people never caught onto that? Even if you credited the Dragoons recovering every single one of the damn things they ever lost (which was bullshit of the first order) that very policy should have made every intel agency very interested in grabbing one to find out why. Or so you’d think anyway.

“Quite probably but, uh, let's not remind him?” Ardan suggested back in a sotto voice as Dragoons started to make their way inside the ground floor of the massive warehouse. Sortek was in a decent mood. Calm and prepared for this next step, but he had not been exactly happy with my liberties around Natasha Kerensky. Which wasn’t to say he was unhappy with me either.

Simply put he wasn’t exactly convinced that pointing Natasha Kerensky at Vesar Kristofur (or Kristopher Kelly or whatever he called himself these days, if he was even still alive) was going to end well. Especially with LIC and MIIO both trying to find him and capture him alive, dragging him to a nice damp cellar filled with their best interrogators to drain the former ROM head dry of everything he knew…
But he also admitted that putting Wolfnet into play who had a lot of ears to the ground in less reputable parts of the galaxy, might lead us to him.
Worst case, Kerensky killed him and she owed us one. Not an ideal outcome but not a bad one per se. Every dead hardcore toaster worshiper was a good one in my book.
Mostly though, my failure in this space had convinced me to just ****** leave the PSYOPs to the spies.

Presently, Ardan started for the rooms exit and I followed him out and through the upper story racks of cargo pallets and containers. We reached a metal staircase and descended down the side of the warhouse into the large section the Dragoons were pouring into. This middle chunk of the main floor of the massive structure was both empty and open, just a large concrete floor ideal for crowding everyone in together behind a secure perimeter with massive sectional walls to the left and right closing off the rest of the warhouse. Jamie Wolf had requested permission for the entire Dragoons to present themselves and make their decisions known and Ardan saw this as a good thing. It was very much tradition for the bigger and more professional Merc units to do have a ‘passing out’ parade like this for their new employer after all. Through most of the day the Dragoons sub-units had gathered in offices and common areas with company, battalion and then regimental discussions as they seemed to all come to a consensus … and I could only hope said consensus was the right one.

The contingency plans for the Dragoons saying ‘thanks no thanks, we’re going back to the Kerensky Cluster’ were … unpleasant. To put it mildly. But then, Wolf putting the entire Dragoons force essentially at our Mercy like this was a very good sign the Rabid Foxes would not be forced to live up to their reputation tonight.

As I followed Ardan down the metal stairway towards the warehouse floor, I couldn’t help but admire how quickly the Dragoons were assembling into formation. And I meant that literally; this wasn’t just a crowd standing around across the wide open area. Discrete groups of men and women were forming up into what I recognized as company sized units and they in turn were grouping into battalions and then larger formations that stretched along the width of the warhouse. Each headed by one of the Regimental Command Companies in the case of the line units and grouped together logically in the case of their supporting units like their training command or starship crews. The actual spacings in the groups were confusing for a moment in their randomness until it hit me like a bucket of ice water that the spacing was in fact, perfect. The empty spots were representing Dragoons who were no longer here to stand with their comrades, either dead or badly wounded. And quite a few of those who were here were clearly injured with bandages, casts, ‘moon boots’ and other advanced looking medical devices.

Yet, despite their battering; here they stood.

It was a powerful statement in of itself as we reached the warehouse floor, then we stepped up onto a makeshift sort of stage against the opposite wall from the entrance as the last of the Dragoons came through it; the senior officers themselves with the perimeter security teams closing the loading dock doors behind them.
Jamie Wolf and Natasha Kerensky were in the lead - the later for once in a dress uniform. Following them were the other four regimental commanders followed along with Major Blake from Wolfnet and the other independent and support unit commanders. Also mixed in wearing strikingly different uniforms were Cranston Snord and his daughter and as Jamie advanced past every line, every Dragoon in said line snapped to attention. As they passed the front rank, most of the officers joined their units while Jamie, Natasha and the Snords came up onto the stage, Jamie in turn stepping forward to face Ardan.

“Colonel Sortek, Mister Smith” Jamie nodded to both of us as he stepped up, his tone softly calm and his bearing professional, giving no hint about how his world had turned upside down in the last day and a bit. And I might be imagining things but I think his gaze focused on me for a heartbeat longer this time (and I wonder what Kerensky had told him?) before he shook Ardans offered hand then gestured to his side. “I believe you know Colonel Snord?”
Clearly, we weren’t even pretending that Snord wasn’t still taking orders from Jamie anymore.

“Of course” Ardan nodded and shook his offered hand. “We met on Heavy Guards trip back from Helm. I apologize I have not had the time to visit Clinton as yet, but I do plan to try the next time I’m in the Lyran Commonwealth.”

“I’ll hold you to that, we have plans for a whole new wing on 20th and 21st century popular culture what with all the music and media recovered from Hoff spiking interest” he boasted with a smile before he seemed to remember why they were here with a glance across at Jamie - whose expression was, if anything, faintly amused. “But” he added quickly, “we can discuss that later - a pleasure to meet you too Mister Smith” he nodded at me and I nodded back then hesitated as my gaze shifted past him to the redhead standing behind him.

Natasha was also studying me and I met her piercing gaze square on before I inclined my head slightly at her … and she returned the gesture. Which was good enough for now as I moved my attention back to Wolf.

“So, to continue our discussion Colonel. When we left I had asked you - and more broadly, the Dragoons, a question” Ardan started the conversation where we had left off, the thick concrete walls doing an excellent job of containing his voice and carrying it across the room.

“And I - and the Dragoons - will give you an answer” Jamie said with a nod before he took a breath and turned to face his people, his voice suddenly ramping up powerfully. “I am the Oathmaster. Trothkin new and old, Clan and Spheroid …” he paused for a second, drew a breath, “...Dragoons” he finished and there was emotion in that word. A raw sense of inclusion that shivered through the room and I guessed it’s pointed use meant that everyone had been brought into the secret, the issues worked through … and the Dragoons still stood as one.
Peer pressure was a hell of a thing - but that kind of loyalty was probably not surprising given the crucible of things like Misery. At least with good leadership anyway and happily it seemed if the Dragoons senior officers were in unity. And in cases like this, Clan rules actually acted as a break on dissension. If they did not want to play by Clan rules and wished to attempt a trial of refusal at odds of a thousand to one against or something….

“All we be bound by this conclave until they are dust and memories and beyond that until the end of all that is!”

Seyla!” the entire crowd answered.

I didn’t join them however and following my lead, neither did Ardan. We stood as witnesses to this pseudo Clan-Council, not part of it.

Jamie nodded then stepped to the edge of the stage and lightly jumped down to the floor, slowly pacing left to the far ranks, then back all the way to the right. Finally, he nodded.

“At ease” he ordered and with an impressive crack policed combat boots were spread and stomped into the ground as the Dragons relaxed their postures … slightly.

“We have come a long way since we were founded all those decades ago. Some have walked this road with me from the beginning” he nodded at Blake as he slowly walked back to the middle of the formation, his gaze locking with his senior officers one after the other. “Others have stood with us but a short time but are no less part of us” he added with a nod at Coshasa DuKirk who returned his nod with a curt but proud one of her own. “And others … have been lost along the way” he finished, glancing somberly at the empty slots before turning back towards us, his gaze seeming to lock with Natasha for a moment, emotions flashing between them I couldn’t decipher but guessed were about the man they had both loved who had been ripped from them.

One as a brother. One as a lover. And I didn’t want to think what my little grenade lob this afternoon had done there.

“I would nonetheless trust every person in this room...” Jamie continued, climbing back up to the stage and turning to face the Dragoons, the power of his voice and bearing almost captivating as he seemed to grow in stature before me, “...with my life” he said unequivocally. “And I have asked you to trust me with your lives in turn, trust you have given me” he continued, pausing for a moment before with a deep breath, he raised his chin unflinchingly. “And I have failed that trust.”

The Iron Discipline of the Dragoons cracked at that with an immediate rumble and shifting in the ranks and highly negative sounding muttering and objections coming from the group - including his senior officers I noted - but Jamie held up a hand and the interjections stilled, an edge coming into his voice.

“I have failed because I was given orders to lead you” he said, turning his head to seemingly take in every person in the formation, unflinchingly. “Orders to protect the Inner Sphere against the false righteousness of the Crusaders. To be a shield against their long held desire to rampage across known space and destroy anything and everything that will not bend to their twisted vision of the future of humanity. To hold to the Great Fathers true vision of living what he wished his descendants to see once more. To find and accept the value of what our ancestors left behind. To understand that it must be protected from those who would seek to destroy it ... even if that threat would be found in those we once called Trothkin. And what...” he added, raising his arms up at his side as if taking in all the mass of people in front of him and inviting them to answer his coming question. “What have I done to accomplish this?” he asked.

He let his gaze sweep across his senior officers and then the ranks of battalions behind them to the very back of the formation, inviting someone -anyone- to speak up.

No-one did.

“I have done nothing” Jamie finally answered almost harshly.

No shit sherlock I didn’t say - but I had some self control and didn’t need to Ardans look from the side telling me to keep my mouth shut thank you very much!

“There was always another battle to fight and no time to think about such things. And so I failed you. I failed my Khan and worst of all I have failed the people of the Inner Sphere I was charged to defend” he finished, seemingly accepting said failures as he laid them out … before he seemed to grow almost half a meter in a moment. His eyes blazing as his voice cracked.
But I will fail no more!”
 
“SEYLA!” was the shout - delivered in a very ‘SIR YES SIR!’ sort of way.

“On Misery” Jamie continued after the thunder faded, his showing a sort of distant pain, “I lost a friend. A good friend and a good man. I lost him because he saw his duty and refused to shy away from it. No matter how bitter the cost to him; he saw it through to to the end. And in my rage against House Kurita, I was fully prepared to throw all of us at the Combine and not stop until either they broke or we did - and in so doing I would have failed you all once again by not doing my duty. Accordingly…” he turned to face Ardan and straightened up. “Colonel Sortek; the Dragoons have discussed your question. And with unanimous agreement … we stand with the Inner Sphere against any Crusader invasion and stand ready to begin preparations to defend against one.”

Seyla” the entire warehouse echoed - this time in the somber way I had expected - and I had to fight the urge to sigh in relief. Okay, one problem solved, now the other minor issue…

“You would be willing to wave a request for a front line deployment against the Draconis Combine?” Ardan asked him, the sheer gravity in his tone enough to shift the orbit of Robinson as I tried not to hold my breath as Jamie seemed to struggle for a second before exhaling and meeting Ardans gaze.

“...Yes Colonel. As of this moment I, on behalf of the Wolf’s Dragoons … withdraw that request” Jamie agreed, clearly pained by the concession yet determined to accept the bitter pill and move on.
There was only a muted reaction from the Dragoons at Wolfs request. Flashes of resigned acceptance and melancholy across their faces while others glanced away rather than the glares and explosion of protests I had expected … and no surprise. Oh the disappointment seemed universal … yet it was muted. And it occurred to me that perhaps getting everyone on board with this decision had taken up far more of yesterday than the whole Clan thing.
If so, credit to Jamie and his officers then for moving everyone past the idea that for the Dragoons to win, the Combine had to die.

So, that was good. Now, we just had to reverse that decision!

“A humbling gesture Colonel” Sortek said solemnly … before offering a slightly wry, almost apologetic look. “But that will not be necessary.”

Wolf frowned and started to open his mouth, but Ardan held up a hand to hold his objections as he continued to speak calmly, but with a sheer authority in his tone. It was a subtle shift but I thought of it as his ‘Hanse’ tone, when he seemed to be speaking on behalf of Prince Davion more than himself...

“Yesterday Colonel, you asked if we trusted you and the Dragoons to follow orders” Ardan reminded him in a deadly serious tone and I killed the urge to impulse to smirk, recalling vividly that my original reaction to that question from Jamie had all of this into motion. “However, it would be more accurate to say that the concerns of the Prince and Archon were that if we granted your request for a front line posting, that you and your Dragoons would see such a deployment as an open invitation to declare a private war against the Combine. A war that you would hold as between only yourself and the Combine and that the worlds of the Federated Suns would simply be the ground you stood upon to fight, not the ground you stood upon to defend.”
The Dragoons CO remained stoically professional in the face of Ardans mild accusations … but my eyes caught the subtle looks passing between the senior officers down below.

Perhaps I was projecting a bit here, but given that it was, you know, exactly what they ****** did in the original timeline...even if in the end it worked out neatly to House Davions advantage.

“Given what they cost you, your willingness to step back from your fight with the Combine is a powerful gesture Colonel and goes a long way to reassure me that my concerns were misplaced. So if you tell me here and now that you will stand with us against the Combine, not simply alongside us? That you will accept reinforcements if we send them and call for them if you need them, not declaring your fights private circles of equals? Or, perhaps to put it a different way … can you accept that the Federated Suns has a very long going Trial of Grievance against the Draconis Combine that you are welcome to bid yourself into? While keeping in mind that there is a future beyond this fight we need to look towards?”

Jamie seemed to subtly straighten at that half dozen inches at that, as if a terrible weight had just been lifted from his shoulders, a faint smile coming on his face and he turned to look slowly across his people - and there was an electricity in the air as he took them in, finishing with Natasha who nodded eagerly (but then that was probably her default expression when it came down to mass carnage and destruction in the air) before facing Ardan again.

“Aff, we do accept. With gratitude and my promise that your trust will not be misplaced.’

Somewhere, back on New Avalon, I could feel Hanse Davion smiling coldly before, for no apparent reason anyone around him understood, doing a ‘Just as planned’ pose...

Ardan nodded at that in a way that was almost a shallow bow. “Seyla.”

“Seyla” Wolf nodded back.

“SEYLA!” the rest of the Dragoons barked, loudly. Looking all too eager, their gazes filled with vicious, determined joy as best I could put it that suggested any Kuritan Mechwarrior who went up against them was really going to be in for it.

Ardan then turned to me and nodded and I nodded back, strolling forward, my polished bots clicking against the stage in a way that echoed through the silent warehouse and drew attention like a magnet.

I couldn’t help but be highly amused at the fact that Jamie, Kerensky and indeed the other senior officers down on the main floor all looked suddenly very much on alert at my moving forward. Amusing that I have a reputation that makes these people wary.

“Colonel Wolf” I nodded at him and he nodded back, again with that slightly on-guard edge. “Your estimates from yesterday as I recall, presuming we can expedite some shipments for you, were that the Dragoons would be able to field roughly fifty percent of your five regiments strength in about a month? With Zeta and the Home Guard units held back to defend your dependents as you rebuild? And roughly one regiments worth of combat ready Mechwarriors dispossessed?”

“Correct” he nodded very slightly at me, clearly waiting for the shoe to drop.  And to be fair there was a shoe we were dropping … it was just a good one this time. “We will deploy all five line Regiments to forward planets currently undefended, moving some personnel around to put them at roughly fifty percent strength each.”

Ah, there’s that ****** Clanner pride. Should we deploy fewer units at greater strength by transferring people around and temporarily disbanding some? Or perhaps deploy half strength units alongside AFFC or allied units as a supporting force for them?
Nah!
Instead, let’s deploy each unit alone to five worlds at fifty percent strength and hope the Combine is too ****** stupid to simply concentrate and wipe us out in detail!

Gah. Clanners.

Fortunately, Hanse had a plan (cue Cylons theme) that would help deal with that small problem and several others at the same time (big ****** surprise). Seriously, some days I think that man came up with three new ways to brush his teeth every morning, each more cunning than the last...

“A tall order, half a Regiment per world to hold the line” I said with a slight tilt of my head that got no response, just a stoic look of agreement and I shrugged. “But perhaps, we can shift those odds slightly” I suggested, pulling a radio out of my pocket and lifting it to my face as I turned back to face the Northern wall of the warhouse. “This is Smith, hit it.”

There was a jolt and then a low metal rumbling, the ‘wall’ started to fold open from the middle to show the dark interior of the warehouse beyond and there was a loud gasp from the entire crowd as it revealed the terrible grinning face of an Atlas.

Not gonna lie, looking up at an Atlas grinning down at you like this … it was one of the most intimidating things I had ever seen in my life. General Kerensky himself had set down the design specs to make sure it intimidating and holy shit had he succeeded.
Although I’d be willing to bet for these people, it was less the Assault Mech itself and more the fact that it was painted in the deep black with red highlights and makings of Wolf’s Dragoons. Well that and the obvious upgrades, what with the four forward firing lasers (not an uncommon mod even if they couldn’t see right now the two aft guns were actually still in place) and the frigen Gauss Rifle in place of the Chemjet...

And the line of AS7-FC-X’s were not alone either.

Awesomes made at least thirty percent more awesome, which was about as close to perfection you could get this side of a Hellstar. An AWS-9Q by any other name still smelled awesome as did its brother variants behind it, no matter what the AFFS and LCAF wanted to call it.

Thugs carrying a secondary laser battery to replace the oversinked heat sinks that had been stripped out for use in some of the other Mechs around them, giving them a wickedly increased close range punch.

Eight upgraded Cyclops's with their impressive command and control gear fully operational ready for use by Dragoon commanders, with a dozen massive Thunder Hawks in front. And along the far wall, the STK-3F Stalkers were entirely stock; there was just not enough extra heat sinks to retrofit them. Even after taking every free floating one we had from Helm, stripping units like the Thugs down of a few and soaking up the first few months of production from Defiance?

We just didn’t have enough yet, which was a pity … and ultimately, that was also the reason the Dragoons were being given all these Battlemechs here and now. A bit over a third of Hanse Davions haul from the Helm cache.
Hanse had, predictably, refused to be sucked down into the ‘shiny new toy’ syndrome and instead carefully started to examine the logistical questions about exactly what he was going to do with his share of the loot after taking out the tech samples for NAIS … and had quickly determined he had quite a few issues to sort through.

First, the AFFS would have to find techs to be taken off the line, given access to the technology they were now going to have to maintain and find a way to train them up with what maintenance materials they had from Helm and the Helm core. That was not something that would be quick and easy. The only people in the Federated Suns who were honestly qualified to handle this technology as qualified techs were the engineers at the NAIS and, suffice to say, it was a nonstarter to even think about moving them into a tech role for line AFFS units.

Second, a lot of these weapons systems, especially the extended range weapons like Gauss rifles and advanced electronic warfare technology required extensive retraining for Mechwarriors using it if they were going to use it at all effectively.

And third, while Katrina was reforming the 4th as a political move as much as a military one and Hanse had plenty of trusted units people he could share his gear with, it was still going to be a tricky question of how exactly he best could maximize its potential and not waste it. The AFFS by the original timeline had stomped the Confederation like a Dire Wolf kicking around a first-generation Mackie. Adding a few regiments of Assault Mechs, even advanced technology ones, wouldn’t really change the strategic outcome there terribly much. Such mechs, limited in number but incredibly powerful, would best be deployed where you would get the maximum possible bang for the buck in the right concentration.

So, where was that?

Why, it was with the one force in the Inner Sphere that had the available spare Mechwarriors who were trained on using such technology of course! The one force who had techs trained and equipped to maintain them - and the only force on his strategic radar that instead of doing the curb stomping, would be on the receiving end of the best attempt of his enemies to deliver one and thus could badly use a qualitative edge to even the odds.

This has been a Hanse Davion. ‘Just as Planned ™’ presentation in Widescreen Stereo.
 
“As I said earlier Colonel” Ardan finally spoke up, drawing all attention back to him. “We stand alongside each other. And thus shall we stand … “he trailed off with a significant look at Wolf as he extended his hand to him, who gave a faint smile before taking it in a firm clasp.

“...until we all shall fall” Wolf finished the Clan affirmation.

“Seyla!”

This time, I couldn’t help but join in as Ardan did as well.

Mental note, buy mouthwash from the base PX tomorrow...
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: hpackrat on 10 December 2018, 09:11:19
I see that you haven't corrected Natasha's overweight Warhammer. By any chance is her mech carrying a 5-ton backpack?
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Sir Chaos on 10 December 2018, 10:34:54
I see that you haven't corrected Natasha's overweight Warhammer. By any chance is her mech carrying a 5-ton backpack?

Those extra five tons must be the weight of her reputation.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Dave Talley on 10 December 2018, 10:38:15
This has been a Hanse Davion. ‘Just as Planned ™’ presentation in Widescreen Stereo.
 

😂😂😂😂😂😂
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: wolfcannon on 10 December 2018, 13:01:44
if he was scared of Natasha just in her Mech, wait till she stands beside him lol.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: truetanker on 10 December 2018, 19:24:27
He did... when he and Ardan entered the Elevator...

TT
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Starfox1701 on 11 December 2018, 01:35:57
Considering hhis actual experience he did damn good on that run. Its not like he should expect to be the Ki Allard Liao.
Title: Re: This Was Easier on the Tabletop - a Battletech SI Fic
Post by: Chris OFarrell on 11 December 2018, 06:44:30
I see that you haven't corrected Natasha's overweight Warhammer. By any chance is her mech carrying a 5-ton backpack?

Those extra five tons must be the weight of her reputation.

Yes, that's it exactly :p

But fixed.

I'm also just copying across the rough technical readouts of the retrofitted Helm cache Battlemechs if anyone is interested;

Code: ("AS7-FC-X Atlas") [Select]
Atlas AS7-FC-X

Mass: 100 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/D-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 9,688,000 C-Bills
Battle Value: 2,240

Chassis: Foundation Type 10X
Power Plant: Vlar 300
Walking Speed: 32.4 km/h
Maximum Speed: 54.0 km/h
Jump Jets: None
    Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Durallex Heavy Special
Armament:
    1  Gauss Rifle
    1  LRM-20
    1  SRM-6
    6  Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: Retrofit; Defiance Industries
    Primary Factory: Hesperus II
Communications System: Angst Discom
Targeting and Tracking System: Angst Accuracy

================================================================================
Equipment           Type                         Rating                   Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard                     152 points               10.00
Engine:             Fusion Engine                300                      19.00
    Walking MP: 3
    Running MP: 5
    Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks:         Double Heat Sink             13(26)                    3.00
    Heat Sink Locations: 1 RA
Gyro:               Standard                                               3.00
Cockpit:            Standard                                               3.00
    Actuators:      L: SH+UA+LA+H    R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor:              Standard Armor               AV - 304                 19.00

                                                      Internal       Armor
                                                      Structure      Factor
                                                Head     3            9
                                        Center Torso     31           48
                                 Center Torso (rear)                  13
                                           L/R Torso     21           31
                                    L/R Torso (rear)                  11
                                             L/R Arm     17           33
                                             L/R Leg     21           42

================================================================================
Equipment                                 Location    Heat    Critical    Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers                              RA        6         2         2.00
2 Medium Lasers                              LA        6         2         2.00
Gauss Rifle                                  RT        1         7        15.00
LRM-20                                       LT        6         5        10.00
SRM-6                                        LT        4         2         3.00
(R) 2 Medium Lasers                          CT        6         2         2.00
Gauss Rifle (24)                            RT        -         3         3.00
@SRM-6 (15)                                  RT        -         1         1.00
@LRM-20 (18)                                 LT        -         3         3.00
@SRM-6 (15)                                  LT        -         1         1.00
                                            Free Critical Slots: 16

BattleForce Statistics
MV      S (+0)  M (+2)  L (+4)  E (+6)   Wt.   Ov   Armor:     10    Points: 22
3          5       6       3       0      4     0   Structure:  8
Special Abilities: SRCH, ES, SEAL, SOA, LRM 1/1/1, IF 1

A refit of the venerable, feared and still in production AS7-D Atlas, the AS7-FC-X  like many of the Helm retrofits is intended to
be a proof of concept upgrade path for the considerable fleet of AS7-D units in the service of the AFFS and LCAF.

One of the more common complaints about the AS7-D is that for all its reputation, it simply tries to do too much. Two of its
medium lasers fire into its rear arc which provides quite a sting for any light Mechs trying to get behind, but rob it of critical
'put-down' firepower in its front arc. Accordingly, close to forty percent of known AS7-D pilots have modified their Mech to
mount the rear firing lasers forward to the point that Defiance offers this as a pre-order option off the production line outright.
But thanks to weight savings, the AS7-FC-X can both have its cake and eat it too; with the rear firing lasers retained and two
additional lasers mounted forward.

Another common complaint is that the Mech is surprisingly anemic at long range, with only its 20-tube LRM rack to respond to
enemy Mechs and limited ammo to press an engagement. Defiance have solved this by swapping out its infamous Mech-Hunter
class twenty for a long range Gauss rifle with three tons of ammunition, while also expanding the LRM bins to a full three tons.
Combined with the unchanged SRM rack and complete rework of its cooling circuit with Freezers, this unit can both deliver a
terrifying one-two punch at range while in a brawl can throw down with the best of them.

With the inclusion of the new Tripple Strength Myoymer systems, the Atlas is even capable of keeping up with many heavies
and its two infamous Battlefists can deliver such a punch that pilots training on their new rides have been occasionally reprimanded
for being a little too eager to close with the enemy.

Finally it should be noted this design is roughly one ton under its nominal self-supporting sketeal weight of 100 tons. Defiance and
their NAIS partners were determined to install a CASE system into each side torso to channel any possible explosions, however
attempts to rework the spare systems designed for other Mechs in the allocated time were a failure. It is hoped that the Wolf
Dragoons might have better luck with their own technical support staff, but we will have to wait to see what plays out...


Code: ("Cyclops  CP-FC-X") [Select]

Cyclops  CP-FC-X

Mass: 90 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Advanced Rules
Era: Age of War/Star League
Tech Rating/Era Availability: E/D-F-D-A
Production Year: 2750
Cost: 9,548,260 C-Bills
Battle Value: 1,794

Chassis: Stormvanger HV-7
Power Plant: Hermes 360
Walking Speed: 43.2 km/h
Maximum Speed: 64.8 km/h
Jump Jets: None
    Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Defiance Recombo Ferro-Fibrous
Armament:
    1  Gauss Rifle
    1  LRM-10
    4  Medium Lasers
    1  SRM-4
Manufacturer: Retrofit; Defiance Industries
    Primary Factory: Hesperus II
Communications System: Olmstead 840 / With SATCOM uplink
Targeting and Tracking System: Tacticon Tracer 280 / with Tacticon B-2000 Battle Computer

================================================================================
Equipment           Type                         Rating                   Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Internal Structure: Standard                     138 points                9.00
Engine:             Fusion Engine                360                      33.00
    Walking MP: 4
    Running MP: 6
    Jumping MP: 0
Heat Sinks:         Double Heat Sink             10(20)                    0.00
Gyro:               Standard                                               4.00
Cockpit:            Standard                                               3.00
    Actuators:      L: SH+UA+LA+H    R: SH+UA+LA+H
Armor:              Ferro-Fibrous                AV - 197                 11.00
    Armor Locations: 1 HD, 2 CT, 2 LT, 2 RT, 2 LA, 2 RA, 1 LL, 2 RL

                                                      Internal       Armor
                                                      Structure      Factor
                                                Head     3            9
                                        Center Torso     29           30
                                 Center Torso (rear)                  8
                                           L/R Torso     19           26
                                    L/R Torso (rear)                  7
                                             L/R Arm     15           18
                                             L/R Leg     19           24

================================================================================
Equipment                                 Location    Heat    Critical    Mass
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
2 Medium Lasers                              RA        6         2         2.00
2 Medium Lasers                              LA        6         2         2.00
Gauss Rifle                                  RT        1         7        15.00
LRM-10                                       LT        4         2         5.00
SRM-4                                        LT        3         1         2.00
[USER=111830]Gauss[/USER] Rifle (16)                            RT        -         2         2.00
@LRM-10 (12)                                 LT        -         1         1.00
@SRM-4 (25)                                  LT        -         1         1.00
                                            Free Critical Slots: 15

BattleForce Statistics
MV      S (+0)  M (+2)  L (+4)  E (+6)   Wt.   Ov   Armor:      7    Points: 18
4          5       5       3       0      4     0   Structure:  7
Special Abilities: SRCH, ES, SEAL, SOA, IF 1

One of the most straight forward upgrades of the Helm mechs to date, the Cyclops CP-FC-X feeds into the growing love affair
the Federated Commonwealth powers hold for the Gauss rifles by swapping out the class twenty autocannon mounted on the
standard CP-10-Z and giving it a long range weapon to 'encourage' the commander in the unit to stay at range. The lower
heat draw of the weapon also helps keep the Mech cool, with upgraded Freezers in the coolant loop in the engine allowing
the unit to fire its modest full Alpha strike (often called a poor mans Atlas) without a problem.

Weight savings by using Freezers have allowed an extra two medium lasers to be mounted on the design to augment the close
range punch the less powerful Gauss rifle lost over the autocannon. Most interestingly however, the infamously thin skinned
Mech has been modestly augmented by using supplies of Ferro-Fibrous armor. Thr change in protection is only modest and
arguments even suggested replacing the two extra lasers with more armor would have been a superior option, but with time
constraints and limited supplies, it was decided to simply run with a direct tonnage swap to get the refits completed on time
and there is no doubt that, at least on paper, the increased protection should defect a few more shorts.

Still, as always, this is a Mech meant to stay back and command. With its legendary Tacticon electronics suite  fully functional
 - a rarity in this day and age- it is extraordinarily capable of doing so. The use of Triple Strength fibers has allowed this unit
to clock speeds on level ground of close to 90 KPH meaning that, at least in theory, it should be able to remain near the Battle,
not mixed up in it.


Code: ("Awesome is Awesome") [Select]
Awesome AWS-FX-X

Mass: 80 tons
Tech Base: Inner Sphere
Chassis Config: Biped
Rules Level: Tournament Legal
E