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What is your favorite Age of War story?

Just Following Orders
1 (9.1%)
Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight
1 (9.1%)
Forms of Betrayal
2 (18.2%)
Break Away
0 (0%)
Prometheus Unbound
4 (36.4%)
Nothing Ventured
0 (0%)
Goliath Out of the Box
0 (0%)
A Dish Served Cold
0 (0%)
The Spider Dances
1 (9.1%)
Far Country
2 (18.2%)
Paladin
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 11

Author Topic: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War  (Read 16085 times)

Frabby

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #60 on: 08 March 2015, 15:28:39 »
...and the Czar and the Clippership IV/V and virtually any of a possibe zillion older DropShuttle types or even individual vessels that got a docking collar upgrade.
Except for BattleMechs and perhaps WarShips, don't ever assume the TRO coverage gives more than a broad overview of available types in a given time period.  :)
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #61 on: 08 March 2015, 20:23:46 »
...and the Czar and the Clippership IV/V and virtually any of a possibe zillion older DropShuttle types or even individual vessels that got a docking collar upgrade.
Except for BattleMechs and perhaps WarShips, don't ever assume the TRO coverage gives more than a broad overview of available types in a given time period.  :)

Right, but of the ships Jason had to choose from when he wrote this (which predates the Primitives' publication), the Vulture was the best candidate.

Plus, given the Aegis' ability to launch and recover the Hammerheads itself, having a military ship with good cargo capacity would make resupply easier, while retaining the ability to deploy ground troops under fire.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #62 on: 19 June 2016, 14:44:11 »
Date: April 12, 2445

Location: Basalt

Title: Charge of the Light

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Sourcebook Fiction (Interstellar Operations)

Synopsis:  Terran Hegemony Armed Forces General "Mad Dog" Marceneaux commands the defense of Garamondia against an assault by the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns.  With artillery pounding his positions, he receives both bad and good news from Major Gabriel Calhoun, a courier from HAF high command.

The bad news is that the AFFS has landed the Sixth Terran March Corps - six heavy tank/artillery divisions.  The good news is that the HAF has deployed its new superweapon to the front lines.

Out in the field, the HAF forces are taking a pounding, with the Ninth Armored Cavalry brigade on the far left flank reduced to a single scattered battalion.  Gunner Brian Leon and his commander, Grady, execute a fighting retreat towards the final fallback point.

At the command post, General Marcineaux asks Calhoun to save his people, then opens a channel to the 9th to order them to hold - just in time, since the message comes as Grady is advocating a full retreat, and shooting any HAF forces that try to stop them.  Marcineaux's orders to hold for relief give Grady new heart, and he has the tank reverse course to re-engage the AFFS tanks.  The main gun runs out of ammunition, and the crew resign themselves to death, but continue to move through the battlefield.

Then, out of the foggy lowlands, a massive humanoid machine emerges into view and crushes an AFFS tank beneath its armored foot.  As the giant moves past, particle cannons blazing, the HAF tank crew is left to wonder what they've just seen. 

Notes:  This takes place six years after the first live-fire trials of the Mackie on Terra, but is not the first recorded instance of a combat deployment of a BattleMech - that took place two years earlier, against Kurita tanks on Styx.  The awe of the tank crew makes it seem like they've never seen 'Mechs before, but various sources indicate that IndustrialMechs predated BattleMechs, and that there had been several attempts to field armed IndustrialMechs that ended in disaster. 

It seems to me that there had to be something visually distinct about the Mackie that would make even people accustomed to IndustrialMechs shocked and uneasy.  My guess is that the IndustrialMechs of the era would have had designs that clearly reflected a "form follows function" mindset - with exposed joints, delicate-looking manipulator limbs, open cockpits, etc.  Probably all less than 50 tons, as well.  Having something appear that is twice the size, armored, and bristling with heavy weapons, may have been the cause of the crew's befuddlement.  Perhaps field tests of IndustrialMechs looked about as promising as the film reels of early flying machine prototypes collapsing under their own weight.

It was with the Mackie and its successors that the Hegemony secured its borders against the Great Houses and was able to negotiate with them from a position of strength.  They didn't seem to use it for aggression.  "Goliath Out of the Box" indicates that the Capellans didn't face HAF BattleMechs for another 13 years, in 2457, and House Marik didn't see action against 'Mechs (and then only LCAF copies) until 2459.

This begs the question - why wasn't the Hegemony more belligerent and willing to use its new toy for territorial expansion during its window of battlefield exclusivity?  Looking to the Star League sourcebook, we see that the Director General at the time was Jacob Cameron, a spoiled arrogant child who launched the Tybalt Campaign to seize territory from the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation "on pure ego."  All that changed when his champagne was poisoned in 2448.  He recovered from the assassination attempt, but became less aggressive afterwards.  When the technology was stolen and began to spread to other realms, he instituted a crash military technology research program that consumed so many resources that Hegemony citizens faced shortages of basic goods.

It's amazing what one glass of toxic champagne wrought.  Given Jacob's personality, it seems likely that he would have launched a massive expansion campaign spearheaded by Mackies - one that could have forced the Great Houses to form an anti-Hegemony alliance in the interests of mutual survival - which would have made House Cameron responsible for the creation of the Star League, albeit very differently than the one forged by Ian Cameron and Albert Marik.

Interestingly, the Hegemony Central Intelligence Department official heading up the investigation into the poisoning was High Councillor Lady Terens Amaris.
« Last Edit: 26 August 2017, 23:57:05 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #63 on: 26 August 2017, 22:57:41 »
Date: November 27, 2417

Location: New Avalon

Title: KP Duty

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps - Iron Writer)

Author: Jason Hardy

Synopsis:  Simon Davion muses philosophically on the role of specialists in cleaning up the messes of war - techs fixing machines, medics fixing bodies.  He recalls doing KP duty when he was on active duty - resenting it at first, but accepting that it was unpleasant but necessary.

He waits outside the High Council room, where raised voices argue over the path forward, how to purge the Federated Suns of the cancer afflicting it.  He compares the corruption of the Federated Suns government to eyes on a potato, and recalls cutting out the eyes to preserve the rest of the potato.

He pats the pistol in his pocket, and then moves forward towards the High Council chamber, where he has an appointment to kill his cousin, the President of the Federated Suns.

Notes:  This was written at GenCon 2006 in the space of an hour, and presented without fact checking.  It is, therefore, explicitly non-canon.  That being said, since I've also included the comic books and BattleTechnology articles in the Fiction Reviews, as long as it fits the universe's aesthetic and doesn't contradict any established facts, I'm happy to accept it as a valid part of the universe (though subject to voiding if subsequent canon fiction covers the same territory).

President Edward Davion was one of the so-called "twin tyrants," who ruled by putting House Davion entirely outside the laws of their planet and the Federated Suns as a whole, and who ruled by whim, dissolving the High Council when it displeased them, and then reconvening it to approve whimsical taxes and pointless construction projects.  Edward succeeded his brother Edmund when he died in 2415.  Seeking to secure control for himself and his line, Edward gave orders to kill Simon Davion, but the Federated Protection Force officer on duty tipped Simon off.

Edward had started to build a secret police network, and was laying the groundwork to eliminate the High Council and rule as an absolute monarch. 

Despite the warnings, Simon returned to New Avalon in 2417 and attended the High Council meeting towards the end of November.  According to the official history, he seized a sidearm from a guard and fired five shots at Edward, killing him, then submitted himself to the High Council for justice - eventually becoming the First Prince of the Federated Suns. 

This story differs only slightly from the established canon, in having the gun be concealed in Simon's pocket, rather than stolen from a guard.  It seems likely that Simon would have his own gun, since otherwise he's trusting to another individual letting him take his gun - not necessarily a good bet in an era of secret police.

This story gives us insight in how Simon viewed his action - an unpleasant, but necessary bit of cleaning, required to save the Federated Suns as a whole by excising the corruption of Edward and his cronies.  Importantly, he views the job of "fixing messes" as the responsibility of personnel in specialized roles.  For cleaning out the government, he views himself as the only candidate.  This is key, since the High Council members had already begun planning to overthrow Edward in the so-called "November Conspiracy." 

If the November Conspiracy had gone forward, succeed or fail, it could have plunged the Federated Suns into a civil war between Davion loyalists and Council supporters.  By having Simon Davion be the triggerman, that weakens the Davion-loyalist viewpoint (though many Edward-sycophants and media-manipulated masses called for Simon's execution and the ascension of Edward's son Arthur) and heads off the danger of an internal conflict that would open the FedSuns to attack from its enemies abroad (particularly the still aggressively expanding Terran Hegemony). 

The guard who supposedly gave Simon his weapon was killed in a fire before he could swear out a statement.  There is circumstantial evidence that the guard was tied to the November Conspiracy as well.  This story's suggestion that Simon was allowed to come armed into the chamber implies that the collusion was in letting Simon come through security checkpoints armed, rather than letting him grab a gun in the chamber itself. 
« Last Edit: 01 September 2017, 13:26:19 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #64 on: 26 August 2017, 23:47:18 »
Date: November 21, 2540

Location: Robinson

Title: Raven

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps - Iron Writer)

Synopsis:  At the climax of the thirteen-year long Davion Civil War, First Prince Alexander Davion takes his Marauder (see notes) into battle against the Terran March commander Dimitri "The Raven" Rostov - leader of the strongest anti-Alexander forces still in the field. 

The scene flashes back to Alexander arguing with his advisors, insisting that he must accept Rostov's challenge to a 'Mech duel to settle the war.  One of his Major Generals, Michael Newton, resigns in protest, later accusing Alexander of seeking revenge for his dead wife Cynthia, rather than letting one of his subordinates fight Rostov in his place.  Alexander says it's all he has left.  Newton says he'll need help.

On the battlefield, Alexander calls on Rostov to surrender.  Rostov demands that Alexander withdraw and rule the Crucis March, leaving the Terran March to Rostov as an autonomous region, and letting the other Marches go their own way as well, turning the Federated Suns into a loose confederation.   Rostov apologizes for having killed Alexander's wife, Cynthia. 

Battle is joined, and Alexander finds himself at a disadvantage against Rostov's raven-insignia-painted Victor, due to the March Lord's exceptional skill.  A burst from Rostov's autocannon tears off one of Alexander's 'Mech's arms, and Rostov again calls on him to yield, then unexpectedly cuts off as his 'Mech's torso explodes with enough force to send Alexander's 'Mech flying backwards. 

Alexander awakens to see Michael Newton bending over him.  He tells the dazed Prince "Earn this," then leaves.

Notes: This story exemplifies why the Iron Writer stories are explicitly non-canon: written in one hour at GenCon with no fact checking.  Otherwise, it would have been noted by the continuity crew that the Marauder wasn't fielded until 2612 (72 years after this scene).  Given the explicit reference to the tonnage of the Prince's ride as 75 tons, the only unit that fits would be the Hammerhands, probably the upgraded 4D model (dropping the SRMs and jump jets for a PPC alongside the autocannons and medium lasers - and better matching the Marauder weapons package).

This is a fleshing out of the "Rostov Defiant" section of the House Davion sourcebook, which notes that the duel against Rostov nearly cost the Prince his life, but that his superior reflexes helped him win the day.  The original 1987 entry does add the caveat that "Historians have suggested that an agent of Alexander's sabotaged the General's 'Mech beforehand."  Interestingly, that note was dropped from Handbook: House Davion, which attributes Davion's victory to "luck and a righteous cause."  The Handbook, of course, was written by NAIS (which famously falsified its description of Michael Hasek-Davion's role in the 4th Succession War its Military Atlas), while the original account was a product of ComStar research.

NAIS may be great with gizmos, but pretty weak on historical credibility.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

BrokenMnemonic

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #65 on: 26 September 2017, 13:30:25 »
I've been wondering why the Hegemony wasn't more aggressive with BattleMechs during the early years, too. One of the things I've been meaning to do for my own edification is to try and identify from the housebooks/handbooks which wars and conflicts were going on during those early decades; Charge of the Light only refers to Basalt, but gives the impression of a HAF that's being outmassed, at least on Basalt. That conventional army that the FedSuns landed is a pretty hefty conventional force, and the implication is that there's more of them. We know that battles with the Federated Suns continued over the next century - a HAF raid wiped out the Leighton family, rulers of the Terran March, prior to the FedSuns civil war - and that the Hegemony was able to seize Kentares at one point, and drag the Terran March into a war of attrition that the March couldn't win. That implies that the Hegemony did expand, at least somewhat, into what was FedSuns space by the end of the Age of War. I'm thinking that BattleMechs were a solid edge for the Hegemony, but that they didn't have the conventional forces needed to conquer and hold more territory on a wide front, particularly with so many other stroppy neighbours.

It's more interesting than optimal, and therefore better. O0 - Weirdo

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #66 on: 26 September 2017, 16:08:23 »
The seizure of Kentares was part of the HAF's 2431-2440 "Tybalt Campaign," which, despite the name, targeted a broad swath of systems held by the Capellan Confederation and the Federated Suns, not just Tybalt.  The Tybalt Campaign, however, relied entirely on conventional forces - tanks, infantry, WarShips, and aerospace fighters, since the Mackie didn't debut until the year before the campaign's end. 

The 2445 fighting on Basalt, then, can be understood as a Federated Suns counterattack, attempting to reclaim a world lost during the Tybalt Campaign.  (Likely emboldened by Jacob Cameron's reduced aggression after his poisoning.)  The Capellans appear to have been sufficiently cowed by the Tybalt campaign that they avoided the Hegemony border until dispatching a mercenary force to probe Ningpo in 2457.  (Though they did send a Maskirovka agent to try to infiltrate and disrupt the Mackie development program.)  Having a quiet Capellan border (and apparently quiet Marik and Steiner borders) would have allowed Jacob to consolidate gains from the Tybalt campaign and bolster Hegemony defenses to beat back AFFS and DCMS probes.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #67 on: 29 June 2018, 15:35:28 »
Date: October 19, 2435

Location: Terra

Title: Break-Away

Author: Ilsa J. Bick

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Hegemony Armed Forces aerospace fighter pilot Colonel Charles Kincaid tells war stories in the Double Ugly bar on Terra.  He tells his listeners that he and his wingman, Amanda, executed a complex break-away maneuver during the Battle of Tybalt to shake pursuing Capellan fighters. 

The Capellan fighters continued pursuing Kincaid, allowing Amanda to come up from below them undetected and destroy one, forcing the other to break off.  Kincaid describes the maneuver as a crazy stunt, but the type of experience he lives for.

Notes: When I first started doing this column, I tried to review entire works in one shot.  Around the time I started doing Star League-era pieces, I changed my format to doing one entry per scene, and have enjoyed the results of the resulting deep-dives on lengthier pieces.  I have decided to go back and revisit my Age of War and early Star League reviews (where the compression does the stories a disservice) and redo them in the more detailed format.  I amended the index months ago, but the split listings all still linked to the omnibus review.  I will redirect the index links to the individual pieces as I complete them.

This opening flashback to the Battle of Tybalt (which is part of the 2431-2440 HAF offensive dubbed the Tybalt Campaign - one of the last territorial expansions undertaken by the Terran Hegemony) shows that battles of the Tybalt Campaign had major fights for orbital control prior to DropShips bringing in tanks and infantry to contest control of the ground.

Looking at the Master Unit List, Kincaid and Amanda were probably flying SB-23 Sabres - the only Aerospace fighter available to the Terran Hegemony during the Tybalt Campaign.  The Sabre debuted in 2314, but the CNT-1D Centurion didn't come along until 2473.  It's unclear what the Capellan pilots were flying, since the MUL indicates their first faction-specific fighter was the TRB-D36 Thunderbird in 2480 - 50 years too late for the Tybalt Campaign.  Given the Sabre's age (over 120 years) at the time of the Tybalt Campaign, it's not too much of a stretch to assume the CCAF had acquired some on the black market, or reverse engineered it to make their own copies.

Ilsa Bick likes to get into her characters' heads, and this "overheard at a bar" vignette paints Kincaid as a "Right Stuff" style fighter jock with great skill, calm under pressure, and a thrill-seeker attitude that makes him a perfect candidate to take the helm of testing out a new weapons system - the BattleMech.

The question still arises, however - why put a fighter jock at the helm of a BattleMech?  Wouldn't it make sense to have someone with practical experience at the helm of a WorkMech be better suited?  Or perhaps, since the Sabre pilots use neurohelmets, while a WorkMech can be run with only the manual controls, that was the deciding factor in deciding which skill set was more valuable.

The "Double Ugly" moniker identifies Kincaid's hangout as a bar that caters to fighter jocks - since the name is a reference to the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II, which had the same nickname.
« Last Edit: 29 June 2018, 15:40:03 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #68 on: 29 June 2018, 16:23:37 »
Date: December 22, 2438

Location: Terra

Title: Break-Away

Author: Ilsa J. Bick

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: In the evening's darkness, a storm approaches Signal Mountain. in the midst of a Level-C Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) exercise, a man identified as "the colonel" uses a HAF-issued KA-BAR combat knife inscribed with the initials C.K to slit the throat of a man named Hackett. 

Once Hackett bleeds out, the colonel confiscates the man's rations, jackknife and dog tags (placing the latter in a radio-jamming pouch that keeps the tags warm), then disappears into the gloom.

Notes: Given the only other named character we've seen so far in this story is Colonel Charles Kincaid, this scene is designed to place suspicion on "Colonel C.K." for killing Hackett.

Sourcebook accounts note that Kincaid was chosen as the first BattleMech test pilot through a rigorous selection process.  Ilsa Bick here suggests that he may have taken unsanctioned actions to thin the ranks of his competition for the historic role.

It's not clear where Signal Mountain is located, but it's probably the one in Wyoming, near the Grand Tetons (which is where the rest of the SERE course takes place), rather than the one in Tennessee.  Per Wikipedia, SERE Level C is For troops at a high risk of capture and whose position, rank or seniority make them vulnerable to greater than average exploitation efforts by any captor. Level C focuses on resistance in terms of prison camps.  (Though, granted, HAF standards may not exactly match United States Armed Forces definitions from centuries earlier.) 

It's interesting to compare the modern-equivalent military outlook of the Age of War vs. the neo-feudal mindset of "capture's no problem as long as it's not by the Dracs (who don't take prisoners, generally, per the Dictum Honorium) and as long as I have enough money banked to cover my ransom."

The precautions that "the colonel" takes with Hackett's dog tags suggest that they may contain a radio beacon (for recovery) and a body-heat detector (when it goes cold, command is alerted to either a death or hypothermia situation).  For whatever reason, "the colonel" wants control to think Hackett is still alive and kicking.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #69 on: 29 June 2018, 17:51:07 »
Date: December 24, 2438

Location: Terra

Title: Break-Away

Author: Ilsa J. Bick

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis:

Yakima, Washington

At the Yakima Proving Grounds, simian neuropsychology specialist Dr. Carolyn Fletcher continues her work with the experimental neurohelmet after some early morning practice on the firing range.  Since her boss, Dr. Htov Gbarleman, gave the neuroscience staff the week off for the holidays, Carolyn is alone in the lab.

Her work is interrupted by a cacaphony of screams from the inner habitat.  She races inside to find the chimpanzees agitated, and one of them, Jack, weeping - an activity not seen in regular chimps.

She notes that the helmet is working fine in simulations, where Colonel Kincaid has been leading the evaluations, but she hopes Amanda Cunningham will get the nod, being more emotionally controlled.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Three days into the SERE course, Major Sarah James observes Charles Kincaid as he stands below her on the western shore of the Snake River.  She fires, and he goes down, playing dead per the rules of the course.  Sarah watches the body for a few moments, then goes to inspect it more closely.  She kicks his fallen laser rifle away and gloats over her advancement towards becoming the Mackie pilot.  She is stunned when the colonel rolls over and fires a silenced pistol, blowing her head off.

Major Amanda Cunningham, meanwhile, has staked out an observation site on Inspiration Point, between Jenny Lake and Mt. St. John.  She notes that the goal of the exercise to to reach Death Canyon by midnight, December 25, where she can call in a chopper for extraction, assuming she can avoid HAF hunter squads and the other contestants (Brian Hackett, Sarah James, and Charles Kincaid).  She feels emotionally conflicted - not wanting to hunt Kincaid in the SERE competition because of their love affair (ended due to his House Kincaid-arranged engagement to Isabelle Cameron, the Director-General's third cousin).

At the Snake River, the colonel takes James' dog tags and hides the body.  He takes out a photo taken at the MacBeth spaceport on Tybalt, showing Amanda in her flight suit after the battle, and relishes having saved her for last.

Yakima, Washington

Carolyn reports to Colonel Nathan Powers that the test chimps may have developed Parkinson's Disease - a disease to which chimps are normally not susceptible.  She suspects it may be due to the neurohelmet's augmentation loop.  Powers blows off her concerns, saying it will be too hard to get an expert in over the holidays, and suggests they go out to lunch.

She begins to yell at him to do his job, but is interrupted by the sounds of renewed screaming from the chimp habitat.  They run back and open the door with a command overrride to find a scene that renders them speechless.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Approaching Death Canyon, Amanda spots vultures near Phelps Lake.  She finds it odd that she hasn't run into any other competitors or hunter squads.  She finds two tents, and smells blood.  Suspicious, she carefully investigates, unaware that the colonel is tracking her with a sniper rifle.  He prepares to fire, just as she lets out a cry of horror.

Yakima, Washington

Blood and gore from the female chimp, Shana, cover the chimp habitat, and Jack perches on a sycamore branch, dangling the limp body of his son, Tongo. 

Dr. Fletcher and Colonel Powers head back to the laboratory.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Inside the tent, Amanda sees the bodies of one of the hunter teams, bullet holes in their chests, throats slit, and bodies carefully arranged.  She finds James' and Hackett's dog tags coiled around a KA-BAR knife stabbed into the ground, with C.K. engraved on the butt.  She screams in horror, not fooled by the attempt to implicate Kincaid, but realizing that the murderer must have already taken out Kincaid to have his knife.  A bullet tears through her left leg.

Yakima, Washington

Colonel Powers and Dr. Fletcher try to determine why Jack went on a killing spree and exhibited sadistic traits.  Powers is intrigued by the possibility that the neurohelmets' augmentation loop might have the effect of making the soldiers using them into aggressive, remorseless killers, with no fatigue and superhuman concentration.

They go to drive to the communications center - Fletcher warming up the car, while Powers goes back inside to get his jacket.  After an unusually long interval, he returns, explaining that he had to shut down the computers.  Fletcher remarks she thought they had been shut down.  Powers comments that the candidates must be freezing in Wyoming, and Fletcher notes that earlier, he'd said he didn't know where they were.

Powers pulls out a laser pistol and tells Fletcher to turn left.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

The colonel sees Amanda go down. 

Using her training, Amanda stays down and ties a tourniquet above the leg wound.  Using her own weapon scope's IFF unit, she sweeps it towards the shot's origin and is shattered when the ID comes back as Kincaid.

The colonel watches as Amanda limps away.  He follows, intending to herd her to where he wants her to go, enjoying himself immensely.

Yakima, Washington

Powers and Fletcher drive northeast across the proving grounds.  Fletcher considers going for her gun, under the seat, but Powers sees her glance and grabs it himself. 

Fletcher realizes he went back to erase her data, and asks why.  Powers tells her not to worry about it, since he'll be shooting her with her own gun shortly, and making it look like a suicide.

Fletcher crashes the car, throwing off the laser pistol's aim and sending the pistol case flying.  The airbags deploy, pressing them into their seats.  As they deflate, Fletcher grabs her pistol, struggling with Powers for it.  She bites his leg to make him let go, then seizes the pistol and shoots him.

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Amanda closes in on Death Canyon after three hours of limping.  She wonders how Kincaid could have smuggled a sniper rifle into the exercise.  Thinking back to the bodies in the tent, she comes to a realization and stops running.

The colonel emerges from the woods, and is disappointed to no longer see horror or shock on Amanda's face.

Amanda addresses her pursuer as Sang-shao.  She notes that the scars on his victims' bodies match those from the wounds he suffered in the Battle of Tybalt - flying on the Capellan side, and that the cuts were from right to left - whereas Kincaid is left-handed. 

The Capellan grins, and tells her she is the sauce for the goose, but not his main objective.  She asks what it is, but his answer is interrupted by the arrival of a HAF helicopter gunship. 

The Capellan colonel kicks her legs out from under her and carries her body up to where he'd left Kincaid days earlier. 

Kincaid remains in the cave where the colonel left him after shooting him three days earlier, guarded by two Maskirovka operatives.  The colonel had promised he would keep Kincaid alive long enough to see him torture Amanda to the point where Kincaid would beg for him to kill her - knowing suffering just as the colonel's wife had when she died in orbit over Tybalt.

After hearing a shot and the helicopter, Kincaid tells the guards he has to go to the privy area.  While the guards argue over who will take him, Kincaid takes a fork from the table and stabs it into one guard's eye, steals his laser pistol and shoots the other guard. 

To attract the helicopter's attention, he uses the laser to start a brush fire.  Kincaid's jubilation fades as he sees the colonel approaching with Amanda.  He scrambles along the ridge to put the smoke between them as the colonel drops her and readies his rifle. 

Amanda regains consciousness as the colonel takes aim at Kincaid on the ridge.  Kincaid fires his own laser and places the shot directly through the colonel's sniper scope, burning out his eye.  Unable to see, he only hears Amanda approach and club him with her target laser, sending him plummeting over the canyon rim to his death.

Kincaid watches Amanda finish off the colonel as the Redhawk VTOL descends for their extraction.

Notes: By cutting back and forth between Yakima and the Grand Tetons, Ilsa Bick tries to set up the possibility that the experimental neurohelmet augmentation loop could have driven Kincaid insane, causing him to flip out and murder the rest of the candidates. 

Standard neurohelmets simply allow the pilot to assist the gyroscope in keeping their 'Mechs balanced.  However, this experimental "augmentation loop" process seems to suggest that the HAF was actually on the path that led the Clans to develop Enhanced Imaging (and the NAIS to develop the Direct Neural Interface) centuries later, with similarly dire impacts on sanity and health.  We can presume that the HAF shut down the augmentation loop research based on negative reports from Dr. Fletcher.  That being said, I wonder if Kincaid suffered any neurological disorders in later years due to his exposure to the experimental augmentation loop.

There are a few inconsistencies regarding Capellan involvement in the Mackie project.  Amanda calls the Capellan colonel "Sang-shao" when she figures out his origins...but the CCAF didn't adopt that rank until Sun-Tzu's Xin-Sheng reforms in the late 3050s, so there'd be no reason to use it at this point.  (Heck, at this point, we're chronologically closer to Victor Liao - who wore a Scottish kilt and swung a mean Japanese katana, so there certainly wasn't enough Han Chinese cultural dominance in the Confederation to lead Amanda to translate "colonel" into Chinese as a way of calling out the Capellan officer.)  Also, despite the Maskirovka having inserted one of its operatives into the neurohelmet program at a level where he had full knowledge of the candidate selection process, the Capellans were somehow uninformed about the capabilities of BattleMechs for decades after this, resorting ultimately to dispatching the Northwind Highlanders to Ningpo to gather intel in the field in "Goliath Out of the Box."

Mention of the unstatted Redhawk VTOL confirm that we certainly don't have anywhere close to a full accounting of the types of military hardware fielded during the Age of War. 

The Maskirovka guards fill the standard role of goons in the presence of certified action hero Charles Kincaid - cannon fodder to showcase his buff heroism. 

The motivation of "the colonel" comes down to twisted desires for revenge - having found out that Kincaid and Cunningham were the two HAF fighter pilots who splashed his wife and scarred him in combat over Tybalt.  He certainly couldn't have known anything about them during the fight, so he must have researched them after being released from a CCAF field hospital.  I was somewhat confused when Amanda remembers getting a briefing on the colonel on Tybalt after the HAF conquered it.  With the rank of Colonel, he would probably have had a leading role in coordinating the planetary defense.  As is typical for Bick's work, there's a sexual component to the colonel's obsession - he explicitly wants to rape Amanda in front of Kincaid, followed by torturing and mutilating her until Kincaid begs him to let her die. 

There remain a lot of questions around Powers' role at the Yakima Proving Grounds.  Was he a Maskirovka agent himself, or just suborned and in their pay?  He was clearly in close communication with them, having provided classified data on the SERE competition to a Maskirovka strike team.  But the lack of Capellan knowledge in "Goliath Out of the Box" suggests he wasn't giving great reports back to HQ.  One possibility is that "the colonel," driven by his thirst for vengeance, misused his authority to appropriate Maskirovka assets and only intersected with the Mackie project as a sideshow to his pursuit of Kincaid and Cunningham.  He may have recruited Powers simply as a means of going after the two HAF officers, not realizing (or caring about) the significance of the project they were involved in.  Talk about tunnel vision!
« Last Edit: 30 June 2018, 11:33:31 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #70 on: 30 June 2018, 16:13:36 »
Date: January 10, 2439

Location: Terra

Title: Break-Away

Author: Ilsa J. Bick

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: At the Evans Military Hospital, Major Amanda Cunningham awakens to find Colonel Charles Kincaid waiting by her bedside.  They tearfully embrace.  Kincaid tells her Dr. Fletcher sounded the alarm, but says nobody knows if Powers and the Capellan hit team were working together, or if Powers was working for someone else.  He suspects it could be the Federated Suns working together with the Capellans, if not just the Capellans alone, or even nobles who want to bump off House Cameron and put themselves in charge.  He suspects the plan might have been to steal the Mackie and use it to kill Director-General Cameron.  Kincaid predicts whoever organized the operation will be back.

He explains about the neurohelmet loop, and says the technicians have removed it and certified that there don't seem to be any psychological effects, though they can't say what might happen months or years down the line.  He says she'll be cleared for release by the end of the week, but due to the injuries she sustained, Kincaid was the one chosen to be the Mackie test pilot.  He further shocks Amanda by telling her he refused. 

She notes that his family must be angry, and he agrees that they are, and have gotten him to reconsider.  Amanda encourages him to accept, so that all the death and suffering won't have been for nothing.  She compares it to his engagement to Isabelle Cameron - not the preferred option, but necessary due to the demands of House and state.  She says that he needs to test the Mackie now so that she can pilot her own and continue to be his wingman. 

Notes: Evans is likely based on the Evans Army Community Hospital, in Fort Carson, Colorado. 

The suspicion of a joint Capellan-FedSuns alliance sounds bonkers by 3025 standards, but would make sense in the mid 2400s, since the Terran Hegemony's Tybalt Campaign was aimed at seizing a significant number of systems from both the Federated Suns and the Capellan Confederation.  We know that the Federated Suns, at least, was in the middle of a major counter-offensive when they ran headlong into newly deployed HAF Mackies.

While the Star League sourcebook pretty much just says that McKenna ended the chaos of the Terran Alliance and forged the Terran Hegemony, and House Cameron seamlessly took over after McKenna's only son disgraced himself.  This story suggests a substantial amount of internal intrigue in the Hegemony, with competing noble houses, secret mind control experiments being swept under the rug by HRAD (Hegemony Research & Development), a gung ho military eager to field new tech to show the universe "some serious shit," and ambitious/disloyal elements collaborating with rival empires.  It all creates the backdrop for some very interesting power dynamics, and it's too bad that it hasn't been explored further.
« Last Edit: 02 July 2018, 11:15:32 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #71 on: 22 October 2018, 12:29:07 »
Date: February 1, 2455

Location: Hesperus II

Title: Prometheus Unbound

Author: Herbert A. Beas II

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Colonel Simon Kelswa and his team of 25 LIC agents arrive at the Maria's Elegy spaceport aboard the drop shuttle Firebringer under cover as semi-skilled laborers bound for Commonwealth Mining Corporation's Outpost #7 (CMO 7).  Terran Hegemony security forces subject them to a weapons and contraband scan.  Simon gives his name as Augosto Lorenzo.

Simon's attention is drawn to Brian Kirkpatrick, who is loudly protesting Terran security's seizure of his property - a bag containing a sidearm.  Simon recalls his displeasure at the Archon having assigned an assassin from the LIC's counter-terrorism division to a mission that was supposed to have a low body count.  Kirkpatrick identifies himself as Mr. Easton and belligerently berates the Hegemony officers for infringing on his rights as a Lyran citizen on a Lyran planet.

As the confrontation becomes physical, Simon's attention is distracted by deep thuds that signal the approach of a BattleMech - the Hegemony's unmatched new superweapon.   He is, therefore, taken by surprise when the body of the Terran security officer, thrown by Kirkpatrick, knocks him to the tarmac. 

As security forces train their weapons on Kirkpatrick, the security officer opens his bag and finds a Kawasaki Shuriken-12 autopistol with armor piercing rounds.  He notes that such weapons are illegal even on Commonwealth soil, and orders the entire team to be taken into quarantine, rather than being sent on to CMO 7.

The "miners" (LIC agents) are crammed into a cargo truck.  Kirkpatrick berates Simon for having zoned out during the scene he was making to get them arrested.  The other LIC agents criticize Kirkpatrick for his flamboyant methods, which might get their CMO shuttle seized and searched, cutting off their escape route.

Vibrations signal the close passage of another BattleMech, and Simon's hands again begin to shake.  The truck arrives into a hangar area of the spaceport, where VTOLs, jeeps, and BattleMechs are berthed.  Kirkpatrick comments that the passing BattleMech seems to be a new 60-70 ton model, significantly smaller and faster than the 100-ton Mackie, with arm-mounted lasers and a missile launcher.  The Terran security troops cut off their view as they herd the "miners" into a barracks for quarantine. 

Simon sleeps in the Quarantine Center, and has a nightmare of his team moving through the Hegemony BattleMech complex (which had been evacuated following a faked shuttle "crash" nearby).  As they enter the computer terminal room where the blueprints would be kept, an alarm goes off and other team members report hostile contacts in Sector B.  The building shakes and the walls are ripped apart.  A huge metal claw reaches through the gap and seizes Simon, causing him to awaken screaming.

During the infiltration process, Simon has numerous flashbacks to events over the previous five months.  He recalls questioning the advisability of opening a new front for hostilities with the Terran Hegemony when the Commonwealth is already fully engaged (and losing) on the Kurita and Marik fronts.  The Archon responds that the Commonwealth needs an advantage if it is to reverse its losses.

When Simon asks for more time for the Lyran Intelligence Corps to infiltrate the Hegemony factories and steal the designs, the Archon says that the LIC has come up with nothing in fifteen years.  He proposes a bold surgical strike, and tells Simon he's already picked the best men for the assignment, including one from the Counter-Terrorism Division - Kirkpatrick - the only man who's ever gotten into the Hesperus facility.  The Archon advises Simon to watch him closely.

The Archon describes the BattleMech as the "Pandora's Box" of their time.  Simon notes that the Hegemony has used them to successfully repel five incursions into their territory so far.  He notes that they have superior armor to other combat vehicles, even at the joints, can cover any terrain, and can withstand anything short of a nuke.  The Archon agrees, but asks if Simon would prefer that House Kurita or Marik get them before the Lyrans.

In the truck, Simon recalls his first meeting with his team, briefing them on the BattleMech.  He shows them a MCK-5S Mackie, and notes that it has accounted for half of the Hegemony's battlefield victories against all Great House armies combined in the past 15 years, with only five having fallen in combat, and none captured for study.  He notes that the BattleMech is taller than a WorkMech, uses legs instead of tracks, and uses a neurological control interface far more responsive than the wheels and joysticks of a LoaderMech.  He notes that entire Combine tank companies have massed their fire just to saw off a leg, and AFFS infantry tried, but failed, to plant satchel charges on another.

Notes: As with "Break Away," I'm going back to the multi-part Age of War stories that I initially tried to cover in a single entry, and taking a second look with my "deep dive" format.

From the flashbacks, we see that the Age of War has been going poorly for the Commonwealth, with 20% of the Tamar Pact systems having fallen to Combine assaults.  (In a contemporary story, we saw Lyran tanks being taken out by Combine infantry when the wheat fields they were traversing were set ablaze.  As in the future, the Lyrans always make the same choice when it comes down to "smarter" or "heavier.") 

We also learn that the Hegemony has repulsed ten attacks over the past 15 years, five of which involved 'Mech action.  We know about Styx in 2443 and Basalt in 2445 (vs. the AFFS).  Since House Liao doesn't try its luck against 'Mechs until Ningpo in 2457, and Simon notes that there currently aren't hostilities between the Lyrans and the Hegemony, the other attacks are probably mostly AFFS and DCMS, with perhaps a stray FWL raid mixed in. 

I'd previously questioned the visceral fear response shown in these early stories when people see BattleMechs for the first time.  It's laid out here that 'Mechs are not only larger, but that they have different motive structures.  Many of the early WorkMechs probably have treads on their feet, meaning that they drive over most terrain, rather than lifting their feet and walking like a BattleMech.  The "thump" of their tread is probably not dissimilar to the scene in Jurassic Park where the Tyrannosaurus Rex approaches, albeit ten times stronger (since T-Rexes maxed out at nine tons).  The description of entire tank companies combining fire to take off one leg recalls the Narn fleet vs. Shadow Vessel battle in Babylon 5, where several of those ships combined fire to slice off one tendril, before the whole Narn fleet was wiped out.

The Counter-Terrorism Division has not yet acquired the "Loki" moniker, but its operatives are already known as agents of chaos. 

The Firebringer is, of course, a reference to Prometheus - who in Greek legend stole fire from the gods for the benefit of humanity.  Aptly named for a mission named Operation PROMETHEUS.  It's a 1,000 ton DropShuttle of an unnamed class - appropriate, since modern JumpShips wouldn't be invented until 2468.  So, does that mean that their mother ship is in orbit, rather than out at the jump point?
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #72 on: 22 October 2018, 17:31:39 »
Date: February 2, 2455

Location: Hesperus II

Title: Prometheus Unbound

Author: Herbert A. Beas II

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Simon Kelswa awakens from his nightmare at 3:00, still in the Hegemony Spaceport Quarantine Center.  He hears the rhythmic thumping of a BattleMech patrolling outside, but calms down as he focuses on the success of Phase One of the LIC infiltration operation.  When his aide, Johann, asks about the screaming, he dismisses it as insomnia. 

Notes: One wonders what the deal was with Hesperus II and the Hegemony/Commonwealth lease agreement.  The dialogue on February 1 indicated that the Hegemony was renting the land from the Commonwealth, but considered that rented land legally Hegemony territory.  I realize that Herb had to work with official sources that placed the factory there, but 1) why would the Hegemony place a major manufacturing center for their superweapon in another Great House's borders?  And 2) why would the Hegemony continue to allow unrelated merchant traffic to process through their top secret production center?  It would seem that the Hegemony, when going to the expense of setting up a new production center on Hesperus II, could have paid to build a separate DropPort for Commonwealth Mining's traffic. 

Jason's phobia of the BattleMechs seems nigh crippling, but he isn't alone.  During the "Birth of the King" first live fire test of the Mackie prototype against drone Merkavas, one of the drone operators soiled himself.  There's another account of how the sounds of a 'Mech approaching caused an infantry platoon, armed with "the latest hellbore rounds" for their support guns, threw down their weapons and fled before the 'Mech came into sight, allowing a lone Locust to conquer the city.  On the other hand, not everyone has that reaction.  We know that the DCMS and AFFS rallied and engaged Mackie-equipped HAF troops, downing five of the behemoths in the process.  The AFFS even was the first to try a kneecapping attack with anti-'Mech infantry.  When the Lyrans deployed their first 'Mechs against the FWL, the Captain-General didn't flee - he mounted his personal tank and had his forces throw everything they had into the fray - even calling in DropShips to provide supporting fire. 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #73 on: 23 October 2018, 12:12:36 »
Date: February 7, 2455

Location: Hesperus II

Title: Prometheus Unbound

Author: Herbert A. Beas II

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: After six days in quarantine at the port, Commonwealth Mining Corporation agrees to the Terrans' request that the "miners," one of whom was found to be carrying a contraband pistol known to be favored by elite Combine commandos, be transferred offworld.  At 0945 hours, TST, on February 7th, Simon Kelswa looks at the communique from CMC and decodes it using a memorized cypher - "Prometheus Unbound.  Good hunting."  Phase two is a go.

At 1825 hours, TST, the commandos emerge from the wreckage of the Firebringer dropshuttle, which has "crashed" into the Hegemony BattleMech production site after an explosive "malfunction" (a kiloton of explosives that creates an EMP effect on the ground) on its departure from the spaceport.  The 25 LIC commandos grab their weapons from concealed compartments and melt into the night in black fatigues.  In the R&D offices, they find security systems offline and lights and evacuation alarms operating on emergency power. 

At 1836 hours, TST, the commandos sweep the building while Terran first-responder teams converge on the crashed shuttle.  Kirkpatrick asks Simon if anyone has keyed in, but Simon tells him to focus on the search.  Additional explosions (pre-set charges) keep the Terrans from getting too close to the shuttle.  Kirkpatrick warns them that the Terrans will be scrambling their Mackies any moment.  The thought of the BattleMechs sends a jolt of terror through Kelswa, but his panic is interrupted by a report from Charlie Team that they've found the technical data.

Simon orders his team to regroup, share the data, and then split into three groups for extraction - two heading to a secondary dust off site, while one tries to escape aboard the Firebringer.  With the shuttle taking fire from Terran batteries or aerospace fighters, its ability to reach a Rim Worlds-registered JumpShip in orbit is in doubt, but it will serve to distract the Hegemony garrison and make the secondary teams' escape more likely.

Simon's team exits the flaming building and heads to the rendezvous, but rhythmic thuds signal the arrival of Terran BattleMechs.  The team dives for cover as a massive explosion sends shockwaves and debris across the compound.  Kirkpatrick reports that the Firebringer has exploded, and says someone must have gotten too close.  Simon realizes Kirkpatrick must have sabotaged the ship, killing the LIC crew as well as any Terrans in the vicinity.  Kirkpatrick attacks Simon, blaming him for the deaths, but Simon knocks the gun from his hand and presses his own attack.  As the two fight, Kirkpatrick says the Archon authorized the measure to conceal any links to the Commonwealth and prevent the Hegemony from opening hostilities.

At 1903 hours, TST, The other members of the team signal in - their squad leaders are dead, and Simon realizes he has to focus on the mission, rather than punishing Kirkpatrick.  The ground shakes as Terran Mackies approach.  Stricken with terror, he is unable to move as the 100-ton 'Mech prepares to step on him.  Just before the foot lands, a shape flashes before his eyes and he finds himself sailing into the air, and he passes out.

Notes:  Describing the timing of the raid as "night" brings up the problems of basing times on TST - where it being 6:25 PM in Geneva doesn't make it clear that it's local nighttime in the Myoo Mountains.  (Granted, such a standardized timing system is necessary for indicating when things happen, especially when some worlds' rotational periods result in "days" that are months or even years long.)

The fact that the commandos are just using black fatigues and facepaint suggests that sneak suit technology hasn't yet been developed.  The LosTech: MechWarrior Equipment Guide confirms that the first sneak suits were developed by the Star League.

It's interesting that the Archon decided that the LIC's efforts to get the BattleMech intel using sneaky, nonviolent means had failed to generate results for 15 years, and so commissioned Simon Kelswa to lead a commando strike, but still had to lie to him that it was intended as a bloodless operation.  The Age of War was noted for being a time when war was treated as a game of maneuver, with some battles decided without a shot being fired.  Yet we have plenty of examples of battles featuring live rounds and heavy casualties, particularly on the Combine front. 

It seems the Archon also included Kirkpatrick to run the real mission - since he has no compunction about taking lives to cover their tracks.  Why, then, wouldn't Kirkpatrick have briefed Kelswa on the real mission parameters at any point?  Would Simon's morals (and/or awe of the Terrans/fear of the BattleMechs) have caused him to abort the operation?  The crew of the Firebringer could have joined the search teams and extracted as well, rather than being sacrificed to ensure plausible deniability for a few years (until Lyran-built 'Mechs start walking off the Coventry and Alarion production lines.) 

Why include Kelswa in the mix at all, in that case?  Is he a more reputable commander?  Did Kirkpatrick's unsavory reputation for bloodlust make him unable to exert command authority over the LIC commandos?  It just seems like keeping the unit commander in the dark about the mission parameters would inevitably lead to a command crisis that could jeopardize the mission (such as a fistfight in enemy territory during the extraction).
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

skiltao

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #74 on: 23 October 2018, 15:03:28 »
Kelswa being in the dark is extra surprising since (per the old Steiner book) the team rehearsed for months beforehand.

Kirkpatrick berates Simon for having zoned out during the scene he was making to get them arrested.  <snip> Kirkpatrick - the only man who's ever gotten into the Hesperus facility.
At 1825 hours, TST, the commandos emerge from the wreckage of the Firebringer dropshuttle <snip> grab their weapons from concealed compartments

If the commandos had to return to their shuttle, why would getting arrested be part of their plan? (Especially with the risk of Kirkpatrick being recognized?) Does the story give a reason for that, or (as sometimes happens with serialized writing) do you suppose the writer changed directions between installments.
« Last Edit: 23 October 2018, 15:05:53 by skiltao »
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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #75 on: 23 October 2018, 15:14:36 »
Had the gun not been found and the "miners" detained, they would have been processed through security, put on transports, and driven out to the CMO 7 site.  Since that was nowhere near where they wanted to actually be, they had the gun in Kirkpatrick's bag and got themselves detained onsite, knowing that the likely outcome was for the Terrans to ask for them to be withdrawn and replaced by another crew from Commonwealth Mining.  The plan, then, would be to have an "accident" during takeoff, crash into the R&D offices, and the infiltrate the building amidst the chaos and steal the data.  If they had an "accident" on arrival, Terran security would theoretically be more on alert.

Simon seems to have known about everything except the change to the extraction plan.  Kirkpatrick seems to have tried to hint that the shuttle crew should have come with the raiders, but Simon kept with the original plan, intending to (likely) sacrifice himself and Kirkpatrick on the Firebringer as decoys, without killing any Terrans in the process (presumably so that when it became obvious that the Lyrans had stolen the tech, the lack of dead Terrans would be a salve to the Lyran/Hegemony relationship.)  Simon at one point accuses Kirkpatrick of wanting to kill a "Terrie" (the equivalent to "Drac" or "FedRat" for the Hegemony troops of that era) just to collect their sidearm as a trophy.

There wasn't much risk of Kirkpatrick getting recognized.  He'd been given extensive facial reconstruction surgery prior to going on the mission.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

skiltao

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #76 on: 23 October 2018, 16:03:42 »
Alright, but... that just changes the question to, why be disguised as miners, instead of as people who would stay near the shuttle?
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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #77 on: 23 October 2018, 16:40:35 »
Presumably, if the miners had been legit and the shuttle crew was fake, the shuttle would have had to take off after the miners cleared security.  The Firebringer only hung around because it would have to be available to take the miners offworld if Hegemony security refused to clear them.

Getting caught with contraband made the Hegemony security team think they’d exposed a dumb plot by one of the miners, and they weren’t expecting anything else out of the ordinary from them, leading them to treat the “crash” as a legitimate accident.  The power of first impressions, I guess.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

skiltao

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #78 on: 23 October 2018, 18:02:28 »
I doubt Hesperus traffic worked that way, and anyways, your scenario still leaves the question of why not keep 24 guys with the shuttle if it only takes 1 to get the shuttle grounded.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #79 on: 23 October 2018, 18:44:17 »
At this early stage, Hesperus seems to have been a minor Lyran mining colony, overseen by Commonwealth Mining (the site of CMO 7).  The only settlement is Maria's Elegy, which is the site of the sole spaceport on the planet.  Maria's Elegy has been portrayed as a cluster of habitat domes sitting on terraces carved out of the Myoo Mountains, on which food is grown to support the small population.  The Defiance Industries factories are later burrowed into the Myoo Mountains above Maria's Elegy, but at present, the R&D offices seem to be right at the spaceport in Maria's Elegy. 

Even in 3025, the planetary population is a paltry 55,000, so circa 2455, it's just a tiny mining colony.  Terraforming didn't even begin until the 2500s (when it was only successful in the 1000-km long Melrose Valley), so they're probably eating nothing but food brought in from offworld. 

The Hegemony probably sited its extraterritorial factory there because of the ready availability of raw materials and the fact that they could gain control of the sole way onto or off of the planet, allowing them to carefully control access.  Any ship trying to land elsewhere gets a swarm of HAF fighters dogging it.  Heavy Hegemony security measures kept out infiltration efforts by both the Combine and the Commonwealth for 15 years.  Both ultimately opted for commando raids, with the Lyrans' being successful, and the Combine's a dismal failure.  (DEST-1 got the data, but got pinned down during extraction and wiped out by heavy incoming fire.)
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Kojak

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #80 on: 24 October 2018, 08:35:08 »
Given the common authorship, dollars to donuts that Brian Kirkpatrick is a direct ancestor of Damon Kirkpatrick of Kirkpatrick's Pack, the stars of the Operation Flashpoint campaign book Herb wrote way back in the day.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #81 on: 24 October 2018, 09:28:29 »
I'd buy that.  Awesome connection to ferret out.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #82 on: 24 October 2018, 12:26:00 »
Date: February 9, 2455

Location: Hesperus II

Title: Prometheus Unbound

Author: Herbert A. Beas II

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Aboard the McQuiston-class cargo shuttle Pygmalion, Simon Kelswa regains consciousness, strapped down by a cargo harness in the hold, to find Agent Brian Kirkpatrick standing over him.  Kirkpatrick tells Kelswa that he saved his life, and that both his team and Satori's team are safe aboard the CMC cargo hauler, while Daschale and McCabe's teams made it onto two other ships.

Kelswa feels the urge to kill Kirkpatrick, but is held back by the straps.  Kirkpatrick notes that he saved Kelswa simply because he was the mission leader, even though his combat paralysis prevented him from being effective in that role.  He dismisses the hundreds of Terran casualties from the explosion of the Firebringer as necessary to preserve operational security. 

Kelswa swears he'll see Kirkpatrick hang for his actions, but the counter-terrorism agent laughs it off, speculating that both of them will be commended by the Archon for service to the Commonwealth. 

Notes: The cargo shuttle class appears to be named after one of the founders of the Federation of Skye - Ian McQuiston, or perhaps his descendant, Thomas McQuiston, who was one of the founders of the Lyran Commonwealth.  Most likely, this class of cargo shuttle formed the backbone of House McQuiston's Skye Traders shipping company.

Naming it Pygmalion may be a reference to the figure from Greek mythology - a sculptor who fell in love with the statue he'd carved, given the emotional bonds many MechWarriors would come to share with their BattleMechs.  (Bonus points if you can reframe Operation PROMETHEUS as an allegory for George Bernard Shaw's play, Pygmalion, in which a phonetics instructor tries to train Eliza Doolittle to speak the Queen's English.)

Honestly, Agent Kirkpatrick has the right view of the situation.  Simon Kelswa seems to have had a death wish, fearing the spread of these superweapons and launching a plan that would almost certainly result in his death and the deaths of many of his team members (getting shot down when using the Firebringer as a decoy) as an act of penance for the sin of proliferating BattleMech technology.  The four LIC crewmen aboard the shuttle would have died in any event - shot down by LIC guns instead of being blown up by concealed charges.

Given his reticence and his demonstrated psychological hangups when facing 'Mechs, it's unclear why the Archon chose him as mission leader.  It's possible that he felt that Kelswa would be motivated by the loss of 20% of the Tamar Pact's worlds, since House Kelswa was very influential in that region (Davis Kelswa was Prime Minister of the Pact in 2364, and House Kelswa would be granted Ducal title to the Pact 50 years from now, in 2505 - most likely as thanks for Simon's service in Operation PROMETHEUS once the Archon ousted the treacherous House Tamar from their ancestral position.)

I wonder if the CMC ships are bound for the RWR-flagged JumpShip that Firebringer was originally going to try to reach, or if they're going to be hauled aboard Commonwealth Mining's own transports.  Most likely the latter.

The brief mention of the RWR-flagged ship was a reference to the Periphery sourcebook entry that stated the RWR's intelligence agency, AsRoc, teamed up with the Lyrans to obtain BattleMech technology.  When discussing the story on the BattleCorps site, Herb explained that, in his view, it didn't make any sense for the RWR to have been one of the first states to acquire BattleMech technology, since they were still mostly reliant on heavy tanks, cruise missiles, artillery, and infantry during the Reunification War. 

The stories set during the Reunification War, however, do show the RWR using 'Mechs.  Perhaps it was simply that 'Mechs didn't fit well into the RWR's strategic philosophy, which at that time was "Maginot Line" style - turning the worlds around the RWR's core systems into "hedgehog worlds," bristling with bunkers.  (Castle Brians?  Pfah!  We have whole Planet Brians!)  The idea being that having mobile forces was less important than being able to saturate an enemy landing zone with cruise missile strikes.  Effective, but resource-intensive, and vulnerable to orbital bombardment, unless you have substantial surface-to-orbit firepower yourself.  Of course, when the battle is WarShips vs. SDS, having 'Mechs or tanks isn't a significant factor.)

In an event, this story clarifies that the escape vessel was 1) not actually used, and 2) a false-flagged LIC ship.  So, the story of how the RWR got 'Mech technology (as well as the story of how the Taurians and Magistracy got it) has yet to be told.  (The Outworlds got it by reverse engineering a stolen Davion 'Mech, per "Top of the Scrap Heap".)
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #83 on: 24 October 2018, 19:37:47 »
Date: March 26, 2455

Location: Tharkad

Title: Prometheus Unbound

Author: Herbert A. Beas II

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Colonel Simon Kelswa delivers his mission report to Archon Alistair Marsden-Steiner in the Triad, grudgingly acknowledging Agent Kirkpatrick's key role in ensuring the successful extraction of his team.  The Archon listens impassively, then asks Simon to elaborate about Kirkpatrick.  Simon nervously confesses that he found Kirkpatrick's conduct reckless, if not treasonous, and blames him for the deaths of four LIC operatives and over one hundred Hegemony personnel.  He notes that, were it not for the secrecy of the mission, he would recommend convening a tribunal. 

Alistair nods, but asks if Simon is aware that no charges will ever be filed.  Simon protests, but Alistair is firm.  He acknowledges that the Firebringer was a suicide ship, never intended to successfully extract - just to muddy the waters and preserve the illusion that it actually was an accident.  He says he doesn't condone the tactics of the Counter-Terror Division, but he understands it, and acknowledges that it served the Commonwealth better than the original plan.  He says the crew of the shuttle knew the risks going in, and gave their lives for the Commonwealth.

Simon says that they deserved better, and offers his resignation, both due to his moral objection to the sacrifice of his men, and because of his combat paralysis in the presence of BattleMechs.  Alistair asks if he thinks anyone else would have behaved differently.  Simon reflects that Kirkpatrick certainly hadn't frozen up. 

Alistair refuses the resignation, calling Simon the best special operations trooper in the LCAF.  He wants Simon to find weaknesses in the BattleMechs to demystify them, learn how to defeat them, and make the Lyran versions better.  He tells Simon it's time for his nightmares to end, and for the Commonwealth to command its own destiny.  Simon accepts.

Notes: The key takeaway from this epilogue is that the Counter-Terrorism Division changed the plan without the Archon's consent.  This foreshadows Loki having the potential to go out of control and engage in dire excesses, as evidenced under both Archon Alessandro Steiner (when Heimdall had to rise up to actively oppose Loki's reign of terror) and Katherine Steiner, when Loki supported her brutal reign.

Alistair is being soft on Simon's combat paralysis.  None of the other LIC agents froze up in the presence of the Mackie, nor did the DCMS tankers and AFFS infantry that took down five in open combat.  Honestly, there shouldn't be such a visceral reaction in a universe where IndustrialMechs have been a commonplace sight for centuries.  Sure, the BattleMech is 30% taller, but people should still generally be inured to the sight of huge bipedal vaguely humanoid masses of metal by this point.  The Merkava drone operator in "Birth of the King" didn't have a brown pants moment until his tank was crushed underfoot.

Chronologically, this meeting takes place shortly after Alistair changed the insignia of the Commonwealth from a three-stringed-lyre to the Steiner fist, which he wears on a medallion around his neck.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #84 on: 25 October 2018, 12:21:48 »
Date: October 17, 2455

Location: New Avalon

Title: Nothing Ventured

Author: Christoffer M. Trossen

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: In House Davion's research laboratory, Simon Davion cuts a progress report short, concluding that the scientists he's assigned to reverse engineer BattleMech technology from salvaged wreckage are making little progress. 

While the lead researcher, Dr. Carino, promises that a breakthrough is imminent, Simon notes the cost in money and lives to acquire the intact Mackie and it's pilot - Lt. Terrell.  He says he's wasted hundreds of millions and the combined personnel resources of the Ministry of Intelligence and the Foreign Ministry to get three 'Mechs.

Carino answers that Hegemony Research and Development (HRAD) spent decades designing the Mackie, while his team has had just battlefield salvage to study for the past year, and a fully intact unit for only a few weeks.  Simon icily answers that the survival of the Federated Suns is at stake, and time is in short supply.

Simon leaves the laboratory and walks through the palace, to be joined by Prime Minister William Garth, who inquires about his meeting with Carino.  Garth suggests that he may have something that will help.  In the Security and Intelligence Committee room, Duke Delton Felsner (Deputy Foreign Minister) reports independent confirmation from multiple sources that the Lyran Commonwealth has acquired BattleMech technology.  Duchess Wilhelmina Groth laments that tightened Terran security in the aftermath of the commando raid on Hesperus had swept up two covert ops teams and a score of her other agents.

Garth proposes sending a special envoy to House Steiner, and nominates Delton Felsner to lead Operation VENTURE. 

Notes: We see that the LIC's information on the progress of other Houses is not fully complete, suggesting that there aren't any Lyran agents on Dr. Carino's team.  It appears that House Davion has parts of two of the five Mackies recorded destroyed on the battlefield - one acquired in October 2454, and the other in April 2455.

In the early Clan era, we saw lots of scenes of heroic attempts by Inner Sphere troops to acquire Clan technology via salvage or capture.  I imagine the vibe was much the same in the 2440s and 2450s, as Great House troops sacrificed themselves by the transport-load to try to recover intel on the Hegemony's new weapon.

The recent recovery of an intact Mackie along with its pilot suggests that either the pilot was blackmailed into jumping ship, or perhaps that the transfer of several million Davion pounds sterling incentivized one of the disloyal nobles in the Hegemony (referenced in Break Away) to deliver Lt. Terrell and his ride into AFFS hands.

It's not quite clear why Simon thinks the survival of the Federated Suns is at stake, and why time is of the essence.  Since acquiring BattleMech technology, the Hegemony hasn't launched any major campaigns of territorial expansion.  Their deployment of the Mackies has exclusively been to blunt AFFS and DCMS incursions (aimed, of course, at retaking worlds lost to earlier Hegemony expansion waves).  The Combine doesn't have the technology, nor does the Confederation, so it's Age of War status quo on those borders.  Simon's internal monologue reveals that his worry is that the Combine or Confederation will get the technology for themselves, and use it to gut his realm, but our omniscient view shows that worry to be somewhat far fetched at present.

Of course, we know that the Capellans were actually the first to infiltrate the BattleMech design team, but their agents were exposed and killed shortly before the first live-fire trial (in Break Away).  From "Fall Down..." we know that the Combine's infiltration efforts were going nowhere.  (If it doesn't involve ninjas raining down from the sky, the Coordinator's not interested.)

Interesting to see (presumably) Ran Felsner's distant ancestor in a high position in Davion court.  The ties between the two Houses must have remained strong, although Ran was never given much to do in the 3025-era fiction beyond his sourcebook entry.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

BrokenMnemonic

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #85 on: 25 October 2018, 15:38:23 »
I wonder if Simon's concerns are related to the last major Terran attack on the Federated Suns - part of which saw them capture Kentares in 2431, and which the Terran March failed to manage to recapture for at least ten years, and which then still wasn't recaptured despite FPF forces including the 4th Avalon Hussars being thrown at the world a decade later, when the Prince of the Terran March had finally admitted Terran March forces couldn't recapture the world alone and called on wider support. At the same time, the Federated Suns was still fielding six Defenders as the entire of their WarShip fleet, while the Hegemony had just introduced it's sixteenth WarShip class, the Farragut - and the Federated Suns had literally only just started manufacturing its first aerospace fighter design. The HAF must've seemed pretty overwhelming at this point - the Hegemony might not have been expanding, but it had shown that it could take and hold Federated Suns worlds, and I can imagine Simon seeing the Hegemony achieving the same kind of overwhelming superiority in terms of BattleMechs that it already had in WarShips and was rapidly achieving in aerospace fighters.

It's more interesting than optimal, and therefore better. O0 - Weirdo

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #86 on: 25 October 2018, 17:09:38 »
The Tybalt Campaign ended in 2440, 15 years earlier.  Since then (due largely to a fortuitous glass of poisoned champagne) Director General Cameron hasn’t launched a single offensive.  He’s just flattened every AFFS attempt to roll back the Hegemony’s Tybalt Campaign gains, starting on Basalt. 

McKenna terrified all the Great Houses with his rapid expansion campaign after the Hegemony was formed, and there’s probably enough residual trauma from seeing it gobble up the core of known space to fear that it could happen again if the Terrans get too much of an edge.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Wrangler

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #87 on: 28 October 2018, 16:21:59 »
Be interesting to see if someone would write up the campaign of McKenna taking control of the Alliance, remaking into the Hegemony and wage war to reclaim Hegemony's rightful space.

Though it's before Mechs, it be more aerospace thing, and alot tank and infantry combat.  It be one-sided for sure, but as long as the writer had free reign, respected canon. It would be nice read of a novel.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #88 on: 29 October 2018, 12:39:31 »
McKenna's campaigns seemed to be primarily fleet actions - show up, shatter the enemy's orbital assets, then threaten orbital bombardment until the local government sees the benefits of flying the Hegemony flag.  (That's how he got the Expansionists and Liberals to roll over on Terra - by obliterating an uninhabited island from orbit.)  One of the few failures in the expansionist campaign was when McKenna's son led a flotilla into a makeshift minefield on orbital approach and got his command skragged.  The fact that an independent colony world decided to put its resources into orbital defenses suggests that was the HAF's preferred theater.  (That escapade also got McKenna Jr. booted from the line of succession, introducing House Cameron.)

For the HAF, the primary ground forces would have been Merkavas, backed by infantry and heavy VTOL, aerospace and WarShip support.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #89 on: 29 October 2018, 13:23:32 »
Date: March 22, 2456

Location: Tharkad

Title: Nothing Ventured

Author: Christoffer M. Trossen

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Ambassador Delton Felsner disembarks from the FSS Donovan (which has carried him on the five month journey from New Avalon to Tharkad) and exits through an emergency access door into maintenance tunnels, where he meets Deputy Protocol Officer Hadrian Voork, from the Federated Suns embassy, who greets him on behalf of Ambassador Deir.

The group departs the spaceport in a convoy of hover limousines.  Felsner recognizes a Davion intelligence agent among the Embassy delegation - Teresa "Tess" Premit.  En route to the Embassy, she activates a white noise generator and Felsner introduces her to his Senior Ambassadorial Aide, Meldrach Suisso.  Tess says she heard he was coming and decided to provide backup in light of a recent defection from the MIIO station to the LIC, potentially compromising the Embassy.  She says the new station chief is Harlan Vnuck, transferred in from New Earth, but as a result of the defections, they have no actionable intelligence on the Lyran negotiators.

Enraged, Felsner wonders if Ambassador Deir is running an Embassy or a circus, and tells Meldrach to remind him when this operation is over that it is time for Deir to retire.  He elects to proceed with the mission, as Tess assures him that the current MIIO station has operational security.

Notes: Interesting that two high level MIIO intelligence operatives would have defected to the LIC so soon after the success of Operation PROMETHEUS.  One might assume they were lured by the promise of being part of the most spectacularly successful Great House intel service...or by a heap of kroner. 

If Age of War embassies function similarly to modern ones, the intel station chief at an embassy is known to the host government as such, and coordinates joint activities and information sharing between the two government's intelligence agencies.  It looks like either they Lyrans got some compromising intel on the the chief, or they offered him something he really wanted (lots'o'kroner, a position in the LIC, etc.), and demanded he reveal two of his covert operatives as proof that he wasn't playing them and trying to become a double agent mole in the LIC.

When the FedSuns station chief defected to the LIC, he'd have had knowledge of all the covert agents working undercover at the Embassy and elsewhere on Tharkad under the MIIO's umbrella, as well as knowledge of the Lyrans they were sourcing information from, meaning that any Lyran who had been passing intel to the Feddies may be getting scooped up around now - especially if they had anything to do with efforts to get Lyran BattleMech manufacturing up and running.

It's interesting how paranoid Felsner is on arrival.  His security team takes him through maintenance tunnels (a valid precaution - never take the obvious travel route with your high value VIP) - suggesting that they feel an assassination attempt is within the realm of possibility.  I can't think of any reason for the Lyrans to try to kill Felsner, so perhaps the Combine, Hegemony, or Confederation presence on Tharkad could be the source of that worry.

One question is how Tess managed to hear about Felsner's trip quickly enough to get to Tharkad ahead of him.  He seems to have left New Avalon pretty much immediately after the previous scene and spent the intervening five months aboard the FSS Donovan.  There's no HPG traffic in this era - not even black boxes - so all messages go via courier, presumably via command circuit for the important ones.  If this is a secret mission, why were couriers dispatched to FedSuns embassies/MIIO posts in the Terran Hegemony? 

Perhaps the announcement that Felsner had been appointed to head a new diplomatic mission to Tharkad would have been included in diplomatic dispatches, but it would have had to get to the Hegemony very quickly in order for Tess to transfer herself to Tharkad.  Most likely, she caught a lift on a courier ship heading that direction, but then that raises the question of why, if First Prince Davion was so concerned that the DCMS or CCAF might get BattleMech technology ahead of the AFFS, did he not shell out for Felsner to get couriered along a command circuit rather than letting him take the five month jump-recharge-jump scenic route.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.