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What is your favorite Age of War story?

Just Following Orders
1 (6.7%)
Fall Down Seven Times, Get Up Eight
3 (20%)
Forms of Betrayal
2 (13.3%)
Break Away
0 (0%)
Prometheus Unbound
5 (33.3%)
Nothing Ventured
0 (0%)
Goliath Out of the Box
0 (0%)
A Dish Served Cold
1 (6.7%)
The Spider Dances
1 (6.7%)
Far Country
2 (13.3%)
Paladin
0 (0%)

Total Members Voted: 15

Author Topic: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War  (Read 22039 times)

skiltao

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #120 on: 27 January 2019, 17:40:10 »
at least one was apparently trying to set up a backstory wherein the earliest 'Mechs topped out at 55 tons

??? The Griffin only claims to be *a* "heavy" design, not the heaviest 'Mech possible, and its account of early 'Mech capabilities is fully congruent with the "ultra-heavy" Banshee's. Apparently the intent was that heavier designs did exist, they just didn't have "heavy" enough firepower and "heavy" enough armor to take the "assault" title away from the Archer and Thunderbolt.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #121 on: 27 January 2019, 23:33:01 »
The language is ambiguous at best, and can be read in a number of ways.

Phrases like "considered a heavy 'Mech early in its career, the Griffin was superseded by heavier and better-armored vehicles within a century" and "Though the Griffin was initially designed as an assault 'Mech, its capacity was soon surpassed by more advanced weapons technology" indicate to me that the author was hinting that the weight classes were different at the dawn of the BattleMech era, with units that were originally classified as "Heavy" being downgraded to "Medium" once heavier units became possible. 

That, of course, doesn't remotely jibe with units that fit the modern "Assault" class being the first ones out of the prototype stage, nearly half a century before the Griffin left the drawing board.  Some people tried to square the accounts by creating an apocryphal 50-ton prototype Mackie design (one version comes built into the default Heavy Metal Pro database) that would allow the Griffin flavor text to not be invalidated by the design written up in "Tales of the Black Widow."
"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 #122 on: 28 January 2019, 12:52:25 »
the author was hinting that the weight classes were different at the dawn of the BattleMech era
<snip>
That, of course, doesn't remotely jibe with units that fit the modern "Assault" class being the first ones out of the prototype stage

I agree with the first point, but for the second to follow from it you'd have to assume that the assault class wasn't open-ended at the top at the time, and the text gives us no reason to assume that. (This TRO is probably even the first time that FASA broke the modern 80-100 ton bracket off into its own weight class.)

I agree that the wording has confused lots of people over the years - it tripped me up too, back before I'd begun looking at these things carefully.

I'm aware of the mythical 50-ton Mackie; I kinda wish TPTB had used its stats for the Talos, to represent Taurians reverse-engineering their first 'Mech. :(
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #123 on: 28 January 2019, 13:03:30 »
Date: February 13, 2462

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: At McNeil's pub, Singh, Rive and Connor discuss the malicious purposeless of their new work schedules at AlarCorp.  Connor says he wishes he had leaked the data, because there would at least have been some reward to go along with the punishment he's receiving.  Singh agrees, exclaiming "Screw AlarCorp and screw the Commonwealth."

Rive tells them about his encounter with "Johnny."  Connor is wary about trusting him, worrying that the job fair could be a trap.  Rive says he plans to look into it, and see if it could be their ticket out of AlarCorp.  The others remain cautions and non-committal, for now.

Notes: The systematic mistreatment of these three skilled engineers on a project of immense importance to the Commonwealth makes me strongly suspect that AlarCorp CEO Manvers (or someone claiming to act on his behalf) is an NIA mole that doesn't have clean/untraceable access to the heavily guarded 'Mech schematics, but does have the authority to rejigger the trio's work schedules. 

Attitude is key in asset recruitment.  When I was at graduate school, my Latvian language instructor told me a story about one of her students, another Latvian, who'd been at the school in the 1980s.  He was very anti-Soviet and pro-Latvian independence.  One evening, at a party by the swimming pool, there was an exchange student wearing a black leather jacket with the hammer/sickle logo and CCCP emblazoned on the back, talking loudly/drunkenly about the superiority of the USSR and the communist system.  The Latvian student kept glaring at the guy, balling his fists.  Moments later, my instructor heard a splash, and saw both her student and the Russian in the pool, the Latvian having tackled him and thrown him in.  The "Russian" was laughing - he was a CIA recruiter looking for people with the "right attitude" and offered the student a job then and there. 

Whoever is manipulating the trio's work environment is clearly working to shift their attitudes and give them the proper motivation to betray the Commonwealth.  Manvers seems to be the one doing it, but if he's already an NIA asset, why couldn't he simply give the data to House Marik?  Are the Molehunters watching him too closely?  Sandi also seems to be an NIA asset, but she wouldn't have the authority in the company to muck with their work schedules.
"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 #124 on: 28 January 2019, 13:08:38 »
I agree with the first point, but for the second to follow from it you'd have to assume that the assault class wasn't open-ended at the top at the time, and the text gives us no reason to assume that. (This TRO is probably even the first time that FASA broke the modern 80-100 ton bracket off into its own weight class.)

I agree that the wording has confused lots of people over the years - it tripped me up too, back before I'd begun looking at these things carefully.

My interpretation had been that 55-tons was considered "Assault Class" when the Griffin was being designed, that 60-75 ton units debuted by the time the Griffin went into mass production, resulting in it being downgraded to "Heavy," and was later relegated to "Medium" once the 80-100 ton range was broached.  That was all "head-canon," of course, and not borne out by how the line developed.
"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 #125 on: 28 January 2019, 17:07:59 »
That's fair, though it's also at odds with remarks like the Charger and Victor referring to themselves as "heavy," which is what makes me think TR3025's developers were considering capabilities rather than absolute tonnage.

Regardless, my interpretation is actually almost the same as yours. I basically just tack on an extra "super heavy" category where the technology hadn't matured yet. (Which doesn't seem like a stretch, considering the Atlas entry mentions 'Mechs bigger and heavier than the 80-100 ton category.)
Blog: currently working on BattleMech manufacturing rates. (Faction Intros project will resume eventually.)
History of BattleTech: Handy chart for returning players. (last updated end of 2012)

Wrangler

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #126 on: 29 January 2019, 09:29:28 »
I kept thinking that the authors were confusing the "Assault" Role of Mech verses it's Weight Class.  I'm doing my slow nightly reading of TROs again, started with 2750, now into original TRO 3025 where i ran into the passages for our most storied Mechs/Units.  Thunderbolt was part of the assault role sort thing.

Primitive Griffin we know now, as fluff had left seed for it to have it's prototypes of the 60 weight class.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #127 on: 04 February 2019, 13:19:06 »
Date: February 17, 2462

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: At the job fair, Rive, Connor, and Singh circulate through the kiosks for an hour, but fail to find any of the promised opportunities the mysterious recruiter promised.  They end up at the Stanislaw Consultants booth where a speaker promises the opportunity to earn a living while strengthening the Commonwealth, working in the defense logistics sector.  Rive realizes the job is nothing more than paperwork processing, and suggests that they depart, but finds Connor and Singh talking with another Stanislaw recruiter.  He hands them brochures and his card.

On the way out, Connor throws his brochure in the trash.  Rive, looking through his, stops and tells Connor to retrieve his and open it up.  Inside, they find notes specifically made out to them offering jobs as "Goodwill Ambassadors" on a twelve month contract with a huge salary, instructions to contact "Emile Morton" and instructions to tell him "Johnny sent you."

Notes: Once again, the NIA showcases its tradecraft in recruitment, snagging three skilled engineers from AlarCorp probably right under the noses of LIC's Molehunters. 

The logistics jobs seem like the kind of operations that would be used to launder the kind of kickbacks Duke Bernstorff got in trouble with.  Logistics tails must have been much worse to manage in the Age of War, because of the lengthy communication delays.  Supply ships might arrive in a system weeks after the troops they were intended for had been redeployed or destroyed on a rapidly changing front.  Couriers on command circuits can bring the most vital info to the central command quickly, but at an exorbitant cost in terms of the resources that need to be put in place for communications, pulling assets away from troop movement.
"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 #128 on: 05 February 2019, 12:55:31 »
Date: February 19, 2462

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: The three engineers and their significant others, Lanai Singh and Sandrine, gather to discuss how to handle the covert job offer.  Lanai is suspicious that the offer is too good to be true.  Rive concurs that the scheme seems likely to do more harm than good.  The others are more enthusiastic, noting that Stanislaw is a legitimate organization with a good track record and ties to the Coventry Defense Conglomerate. 

Sandrine speculates that this is a gambit to put them back to work on 'Mech projects for CDC without having to risk AlarCorp invoking the "strategic occupations" clause, since they'd still be under the CDC umbrella.  She says she can check with people at the CDC to see if this is on the level.  Lanai protests, but the engineers decide to go with Sandrine's plan.

Notes: And here's where having an NIA team in place pays off, with Sandi as the "inside man" to confirm the offer's legitimacy.

One interesting bit is the mention that the various members of the Coventry Defense Conglomerate have separate management structures and, though they have strict agreements not to poach each other's engineers, generally regard each other as competitors rather than co-equal partners.  While it fits the Lyran ethos to a "T", it leaves room for corporate espionage and other shenanigans that prove highly beneficial to the Free Worlds League.

At this point, it's been about seven months since DEST Two covertly raided the CDC facility on Coventry and snagged enough data to enable the Combine to start making its own 'Mechs.  Since that intrusion was carried out without any killing or explosions, one wonders if the Lyrans are even aware that the Combine has 'Mech technology yet?  I wouldn't think the engineers would speak so reverently about CDC if they knew their hard-guarded state secrets (which they'd been punished for allegedly leading) had already walked out of Coventry Metals' wide open barn door.
"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 #129 on: 06 February 2019, 12:42:07 »
Date: June 8, 2462

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Rive and Connor are enjoying their "goodwill ambassador" jobs, watching sports and playing virtual games.  Singh remains restless, impatient to get back to doing real work.  Rive notes that Sandrine is happy with how the new job has restored his spirits.

Notes: The same sort of "cooling off period" rules apply to a number of real-world industries.  I've known several people who, after retiring, had to spend a year not working before returning to their industries as consultants or contractors.  The intent is, superficially, to prevent people coming out of public service jobs from leveraging their contacts from their last position to give special advantages to companies that are regulated or otherwise interact with that agency.  (Or, in the private sector, to keep people from transferring cutting edge technology to a competitor, since the bleeding edge will have moved on during the cooling-off period.)

It would be interesting to see if the firm is mostly legitimate, with these positions being specially created by NIA agents, or if the entire firm is an NIA front.  In any event, the fact that NIA agents have positions of authority in the firm implies that a fairly large chunk of the LCAF's logistics network is an open book to the FWL - they'll know what's being sent where, on what schedule, and in what quantities, and can extrapolate from that what worlds are being used as staging bases, and identify likely targets.  If the whole firm is on the NIA payroll, they could, in an emergency, use their position to scramble the supply shipments, cause delays, and otherwise muck up the military timetables, to the FWL's advantage.  Such infiltration may explain how the FWL managed to carve such a deep salient (the Bolan Thumb) into Lyran territory by the close of the Age of War.
"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 #130 on: 11 February 2019, 13:16:32 »
Date: May 14, 2463

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: At Coventry Defense Conglomerate's Alarion offices, Herman Winthrop gets Rive, Connor, and Singh settled into their new state-of-the-art work station overlooking the vast production floor.  Winthrop introduces them to Russell Schwieger, from Human Resources, to continue the orientation.  Rive recognizes him as "Johnny."

At the end of the first week at CDC, the trio are thrilled about the working environment, and Rive comes home every day babbling to Sandrine about their latest technical breakthroughs.  Despite her apparent boredom with the technical aspects, he kisses her and tells her everything he has, he owes to her.

Notes: Of course, Sandrine almost certainly has a micro-recorder with everything Rive says stored for transmission to an NIA dead-drop site.

Clearly, NIA was easily able to infiltrate the human resources departments at both AlarCorp and CDC, since both Sandrine and Schweiger are NIA moles.  The FWL doesn't just want technical data, they want experienced technical experts who can be pressured to use that data and their expertise to bootstrap a FWL 'Mech program so that they can counter the Lyran advantage as quickly as possible, before all of Captain-General Geralk's advances are rolled back.

Rive certainly isn't blameless.  When people have access to classified information, they are instructed to a) not discuss it outside of secure facilities; b) not discuss it with non-cleared personnel.  Rive telling Sandrine about it at home violates both those strictures.  Given the cloud of suspicion Rive was operating under at AlarCorp, and the widespread surveillance state operated by the LIC (as seen in the Warrior Trilogy), it boggles my mind that the LIC hasn't bugged Rive's quarters. 

Either it was incidents like this that incentivized the LIC to begin constructing a comprehensive surveillance state, or his quarters were bugged, but Sandrine located the bugs and is feeding them false data.  (Removing them or destroying them would tip the LIC off that something suspicious is going on.)

The FWL really cut off their nose to spite their face when they nerfed the NIA to create SAFE, prizing personal loyalty to House Marik over operational effectiveness.  (Of course, if they hadn't, we'd likely be discussing the activities of Captain-General Selaj these days.)
"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 #131 on: 11 February 2019, 22:56:22 »
The FWL really cut off their nose to spite their face when they nerfed the NIA to create SAFE, prizing personal loyalty to House Marik over operational effectiveness.

Not that the former even ended up panning out, in the end: remind me, how many splinter versions did SAFE break up into after the League dissolved in 3081?
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #132 on: 12 February 2019, 12:34:56 »
Interestingly, while the main cultural theme of the Lyran/League fight was Germany vs. the Balkans, if the Tamars had succeeded in betraying and overthrowing the Steiners, and had the Selajes (of Regulus) displaced the Mariks, they would have recreated the Pakistan/India dynamic in the "western" half of the Inner Sphere.
"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 #133 on: 12 February 2019, 12:51:05 »
Date: November 24, 2463

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Rive's new office is a gray holding cell, which he's occupied since being arrested the previous day.  The only bright thing in his life is Sandrine, seen through the glass barrier in the visitation room.  She says her experience in contract law won't be sufficient to defend him against charges of treason brought by CDC.

Rive denies that he's done anything wrong and wonders what could have happened.  Sandrine says she'll find someone to help.

Notes: The NIA gave Rive and company half a year to get comfortable at CDC, and to become familiar with the specs of the latest designs (this being the COM-1A Commando, introduced in 2463), then lowered the boom.  I wonder if the unnamed Light AlarCorp was working on was an early prototype for the COM-1A?  It's listed as the second 'Mech to come out of Coventry - the first presumably being the Ymir.  So who was making the Mackie clones for the LCAF?

Rule of law seems to be far more stringent in the Age of War period than during the tail end of the Third Succession War.  In the Warrior Trilogy, the LIC doesn't have a second thought about disappearing one of their citizens who they just happen to find useful.  An accused traitor would, if Loki had free rein, simply vanish into an LIC oubliette for narcointerrogation until every last shred of info had been wrung from the corpse.  Actually getting a lawyer and being prepped for a trial is a very different scene than one would expect having seen the power of the Archons in action in later centuries.

It does make sense, though.  The Age of War is the period when interstellar leaders agreed to be constrained by the Ares Conventions, despite the lack of external enforcement bodies.  Perhaps the same factors that led to the rise of republics (expansion of empire and slow communications making direct rule by fiat impossible for the tyrants of the time, requiring the creation of standardized laws and local administrators to enforce them) also was in play during the Age of War, when the lack of HPG technology slowed communications and limited executive power.
"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 #134 on: 12 February 2019, 16:36:05 »
It would been cool if it was short-lived primitive original light we hadn't seen before.
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
"It's 200 LY to Sian, we got a full load of shells, a half a platoon of Grenadiers, it's exploding outside, and we're wearing flak jackets." VoTW Destrier - Misterpants

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #135 on: 15 February 2019, 12:54:21 »
Date: November 26, 2463

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Rive is visited by his lawyer, Claudia Thorne.  She tells him she's arranged bail, and ensured that the AlarCorp incident won't be raised.  She recommends he seek a separate trial from Singh and Connor.

Surprised, Rive answers that the three are a team, and should stand together.  Thorne admires his loyalty, but suggests that the leak at AlarCorp and the leak at CDC came from the trio, implying that at least one of them is guilty.

Still angry over the implication that his friends are suspect, Rive is returned to his cell to think it over.

Notes: It's interesting in the discussion of bail that Rive has local ties, and hasn't been off Alarion in decades.  I wonder how mobile people were during the Age of War.  Merchants certainly got around a fair amount, but a lot of colonies were still in their infancy, with only the earliest having hit their tricentennials.  Would that have been enough time to support an interstellar tourism industry?  Solaris VII wasn't yet "The Game World," and sports from across the Inner Sphere are apparently accessible via holovid.  If not traveling for business or military reasons, would people in the Inner Sphere be expected to go on offworld trips?

I wonder if Thorne is a legitimate lawyer, or (more likely) yet another cog in the NIA's team working to manipulate Rive and his comrades into an untenable situation in the Commonwealth.

I'm surprised that bail is even an option for Rive, given what he knows and the red flags in his history.  I would imagine that, at this stage, there must be at least some level of LIC surveillance.  When a U.S. nuclear weapons scientist was accused of having given blueprints to China (he was later cleared after spending a year in prison), he was out on bail for a few months before incarceration.  During that period, teams of FBI agents were on stakeout in front of his house 24-hours a day, following him wherever he went, and interrogating anyone he had contact with.  I'm frankly stunned that the LIC would do less in this instance.
"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 #136 on: 25 February 2019, 12:53:40 »
Date: December 8, 2463

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Dan Connor angrily confronts Gunther Rive at his home, demanding to know why he arranged a separate lawyer and trial, and why he hasn't spoken to the other team-members in weeks.  He accuses Rive of trying to pin the blame on one of them.  Gunther refuses to open the door, and suggests that future communications be through their lawyers.

Connor storms off, leaving Gunther feeling miserable that he doesn't know what's going on, and that he's now going to lose his friends as well.

Notes:  Sandrine's emotional ties to Gunther seem to be why he's getting the NIA's VIP treatment, using him as the locus to create divisions among the team.  In the scene, she ineffectually takes cover behind a potted forsythia bush - an apt metaphor for the fact that she's essentially been hiding in plain sight the whole time.
"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 #137 on: 26 February 2019, 13:18:18 »
Date: December 21, 2463

Location: Alarion

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Rive goes to meet Claudia Thorne at her offices in the law firm of Kelly, Langston, and Thorne.  She informs him that the prosecution has provided her with CDC files that prove the leaked information came from Rive's portable computer.  While Rive is recovering from the shock, Claudia brings out another document, this one a statement by AlarCorp CEO Desmond Manvers, indicating his willingness to testify about the data leak there to show proof about Rive's character. 

As Rive descends into panic, Claudia buzzes in an "associate of hers," whom Rive recognizes as "Johnny" from the bar (AKA "Russell Schweiger," AKA "John Smith").  Rive asks Claudia how long she's been working with Johnny, but she refuses to answer, giving a faint smile and citing "attorney-client privilege." 

Johnny tells Rive he'll be convicted for sure, and that the press reporting will ensure an unfriendly jury.  He tells Rive he has two options - stay for the trial and face certain death, or come with Johnny now off-planet.  He tells Rive that he's actually been working for Johnny's country for some time, and will now just be doing it openly.

Rive tells Johnny he'll accept death, rather than helping an enemy of the Commonwealth.  Johnny notes that Singh and Connor will also face the death penalty.  Rive denies that either of them have any connection to the leak, but Johnny points out that "Russell Schweiger" can use his access in CDC Human Resources to create evidence as needed.

Rive asks why they targeted him, since they seem to have all the access they need already.  Johnny answers that the tech files were harder to crack than the HR system, and that having unskilled people working to interpret them would set development back by years.  He needs the people who can build the machinery.  Johnny promises Rive his own team and a huge salary, and says Singh and Connor are getting similar offers. 

Rive asks about Sandi, and Johnny says Sandrine wishes to go wherever he goes.

Later that day, Rive finds himself aboard a Federated Suns merchant shuttle outbound from Alarion towards a waiting JumpShip.  Johnny arranged security clearances - clearly having been planning this for a long time.  His cabin door opens, and Sandrine enters.  She pretends confusion, and expresses hope they can find a way through.  Point blank, he asks her who she really is.  He angrily confronts her about the leaked files - she had access to his computer, she convinced him to take the CDC job, she recommended trusting Johnny, she set him up with Claudia Thorne. 

She sighs, and admits that her real name is Sandrine, but her family name is classified.  She was originally from Zaniah, where her family was killed during the Commonwealth's annexation.  She considers this justified revenge against the Lyran state, and says that her relationship with Rive was "necessary."

Rive threatens suicide to keep that knowledge from her employers, but she asks him if the Lyrans have done anything for him to earn such loyalty.  She admits that both sides are deeply imperfect, but says that now he'll be treated like a hero and get rich.  Rive doesn't respond, and Sandi walks out with a final "Good-bye."

Rive watches her go, intent on burning her image into his memory.  At that moment, he determines not to kill himself, but to go to the Free Worlds League, work for them, and save all the money they paid him.  Eventually, he'd use that money to find her and take his revenge.

Notes:  "A Dish Best Served Cold" is an expansion of two sentences from p. 16 of the House Marik sourcebook that state "The League received the technology to produce BattleMechs in 2462, when technicians formerly employed on the Steiner planet Alarion defected to the Free Worlds League.  They had, they felt, been unfairly disciplined in an incident involving plant security."

Per the ComStar document, the Free Worlds League just looks lucky - some disgruntled techies fled with plans and fell right into the League's lap just when they needed it.  This story greatly enhances the League's sense of agency, since it reveals that the National Intelligence Agency engineered the "security incident" and the subsequent pressure on the technicians to defect. 

Revenge is a theme that frequently punctuates the personal decisions of the Succession Wars.  The Marik sourcebook (p. 31) includes a sidebar about a Steiner defector named Jermyn LeStat, who volunteered to serve as a Marik mole on his homeworld of A Place, to get revenge on House Steiner for his family's death during a famine that devastated A Place in the First Succession War, when Richard Steiner conscripted the commercial freighters away from food delivery for military usage.  LeStat was paid 40,000 Eagles per month for his valuable services - passing troop movement data to the FWLM for two years during the Second Succession War, but never touched it, and it reverted to the League treasury upon his death.

"A Dish Served Cold" is, of course, the back end of the full phrase "Revenge is a Dish Best Served Cold," and all sides desire revenge.  The Lyrans want revenge for the atrocities committed by Geralk Marik during his invasion.  Simone wants revenge for Geralk's death.  Sandrine wants revenge for her family's death on Zaniah.  And now Rive wants revenge on Sandrine for her having manipulated him and ruined his life.

The reveals in this penultimate chapter show that the NIA had quite a network on Alarion - a lawyer at AlarCorp, an HR specialist at CDC, a law firm.  Given the relative openness of Lyran society at this point (and the apparently gormlessness of the Lyran Intelligence Corps), I would hazard to guess that the massive territorial losses suffered by the Lyrans during the Age of War were due to the Mariks handily winning on the espionage front, culminating in the major offensive that created the Bolan Thumb - a thrust aimed straight at Tharkad.

Of course, had Rive been a true Lyran patriot, he could have accepted the work and then set out to build 'em wrong.  Myomers that burst into flame when exposed to a certain catalyst, for example.  Reactor shielding that intentionally gives the pilots cancer.  Star Trek-style command consoles with 1.21 jiggawatts ;) running through them, which fatally explode whenever the 'Mech takes a major hit.  A big red button on the crotch that triggers the ejection system.  That sort of thing.  "Johnny" as much as admits that the FWL's techs are clueless about this entire field of technology.

Of course, those CDC documents could well have been faked by the NIA, and Rive, Connor, and Singh might have fled offworld without any risk of having been convicted by the Lyran courts.  It's not as though Rive had seen any of this in the press, for independent confirmation, so the NIA cell could well have just been playing him (which would explain the lax LIC activity - with no hard evidence, they might have been in doubt regarding Rive's guilt, and still wouldn't have considered him a flight risk.)
« Last Edit: 26 February 2019, 18:09:50 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.

Kojak

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #138 on: 26 February 2019, 17:25:51 »
Revenge is a theme that frequently punctuates the personal decisions of the Succession Wars.  The Marik sourcebook (p. 31) includes a sidebar about a Steiner defector named Jermyn LeStat who volunteered to serve as a Marik mole on his homeworld of A Place, to get revenge on House Steiner for his family's death during a famine that devastated A Place in the First Succession War, when Richard Steiner conscripted the commercial freighters away from food delivery for military usage.  LeStat was paid 40,000 Eagles per month for his valuable services - passing troop movement data to the FWLM for two years during the Second Succession War, but never touched it, and it reverted to the League treasury upon his death.

I wonder if this LeStat was the inspiration for House LeStat of Kaumberg, the villains of the old Operation: Flashpoint campaign book that Herb wrote and that popped up in numerous minor roles thereafter (much like their rivals, the heroic Hasseldorfs).
"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
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roosterboy

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #139 on: 26 February 2019, 17:38:25 »
I wonder if this LeStat was the inspiration for House LeStat of Kaumberg, the villains of the old Operation: Flashpoint campaign book that Herb wrote and that popped up in numerous minor roles thereafter (much like their rivals, the heroic Hasseldorfs).

That was LeSat.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #140 on: 26 February 2019, 17:42:41 »
This LeStat relocated to Augustine when the LIC grew suspicious, and lived out his days there, with no heirs.

For all I know the “Adventure Associates” who wrote the original Marik book were riffing on Anne Rice’s vampire novels with the name.
"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 #141 on: 26 February 2019, 18:04:40 »
That was LeSat.

Oh, dammit, that's right.
"I wonder if in some weird Freudian way, Kojak was sucking on his own head."
- Steve Webster on Kojak's lollipop


Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #142 on: 01 March 2019, 13:29:59 »
Date: March 3, 2469

Location: Alula Australis

Title: A Dish Served Cold

Authors: Chris Hartford and Jason M. Hardy

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: In his prototype Icarus, Hector Galaine storms Lyran fortifications, shrugging off tracer fire and wiping out the offending bunker.  Still haunted by Geralk Marik's death on Loric at the hands (feet) of Lyran 'Mechs, where he'd been a junior communications technician, he wonders if this carnage is enough to make up for the earlier League defeat.

He annihilates a lance of retreating tanks and survives a barrage of infantry-fired missiles.  Turning on them, he rakes their position with his rotary cannons and missile packs. 

He notes that the fighting on Alula Australis has raged for seven years, with the Lyran 'Mechs getting redeployed after reducing the original Marik fortifications and the subsequent conventional offensive getting bogged down into stalemate.  He revels in the fact that, in just one week, the new League 'Mechs have pushed the Lyrans back into a single fortress, one which will soon fall.

Galaine and his lancemate, Pressfield, crest a ridgeline and see egg-shaped Lyran DropShips loading and launching from within their remaining bastion.  Command orders them to hold and observe - to let the Lyrans run.

Notes: In this epilogue, set six years after the technicians' defection, Hector Galaine (seen briefly in the 2459 prologue with Geralk Marik - the last person the Captain-General spoke with before charging the Lyran 'Mechs in his tank) takes his Icarus out for a spin.  This would be one of the six ICR-1X Icarus prototypes, mounting a Large Laser, Small Laser, two SRM-2s, and two machine guns (described in the story as "rotary cannons").  It had primitive armor, a primitive engine, and topped out at 64 kph.

Sarna lists the intro date as 2470, but "A Dish Served Cold" has it in the field in March 2369.  The XTRO does erroneously state that the League acquired 'Mech technology in 2462, whereas Rive and company couldn't have reached League space and started working until at least 2464, having left Alarion in late December 2463.   Era Digest: Age of War has intro dates of 2470 for the Icarus and 2471 for the Hector, but the rule of thumb is that the fiction supplants the in-universe reports.  It could be that these dates refer to the production models being fielded, rather than the prototypes, but the ICR-1S Icarus II wasn't fielded until 2518, and no other Icarus models are listed.

The XTRO entry notes that Corean Enterprises was the lead League engineering firm working on the new 'Mech technology.  Interestingly, rather than just cloning the Terran Mackie, or the Lyran Ymir or Commando (the plans for which came along with the Lyran defectors), they instead worked on coming up a Medium 'Mech, intended to provided support for the Mackie clones Corean was also churning out.  The Hectors were 70 tonners, making the initial League BattleMech force fairly top-heavy and slow, dominated by Heavy Hectors, Assault Mackies, and a handful of Icarus prototypes that had the same speed as their big brothers.

One wonders exactly what tanks were being fielded by the LCAF on Alula Australis, if Galaine could one-shot them with his Large Laser.  The Lyran mainstay Marsden I's should have had 25 armor on the rear facing, and more elsewhere, and the 2463 debuting Marsden IIs should have had even more protection.  My guess is that the APCs that carried the SRM infantry platoon to his location were retreating, and he managed to smoke them before they trundled out of range. 

It's also unclear what sort of DropShips are bugging out from the Lyran encampment.  Described as "egg shaped," that rules out aerodynes.  Manatees and Jumbos fit the timeline, though their flat-bottomed design and more cylindrical shape don't evoke "egg shaped" in the same way that the Excalibur or Overlord will down the timeline.  Both are also Terran designs, though there's a good chance they spread into Lyran hands the same way BattleMech technology did.

The story ends with a final page promising the wrap-up of the Proliferation Cycle coming the following month in Loren Coleman's "Machine Nations."  Several years later, subscribers were still waiting.  Eventually, BattleCorps acknowledged that "Machine Nations" had to be abandoned due to irreconcilable continuity problems, and it was re-done from scratch as "The Spider Dances," my next focus.
"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 #143 on: 04 March 2019, 13:02:47 »
Date: March 17, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Senior Technician Robert Esterhazy bribes a guard to let him and Halle Ostend sneak into the secure area of the Happen BattleMech research facility on Xanthe III.  While Esterhazy leads her to his planned romantic encounter, Ostend passes the time by thinking about how easy it would be to kill him. 

Once he gives Ostend the code to open the laboratory door, she lets Esterhazy have his pleasure while she focuses on memorizing the keypad code, the layout, and all other details of the complex, for use by her Maskirovka infiltration team.

Notes: There's not a lot of early information on Xanthe III, but looking at Sarna, there are some historical oddiments about this setup.  Xanthe III does not appear on ComStar's map in Historical: Reunification War, leading the Sarna writers to assume it was a Capellan colony established during the Star League era. 

That clearly doesn't reflect the situation on the ground, so a better explanation is that either the ComStar Cartographic Corps flubbed the map used in the Reunification War book, or that Xanthe III was a secret R&D outpost for House Marik, and would have escaped notice. 

While the latter explanation would make it a good setting for secret BattleMech development, the presence of a major spaceport and large city adjacent to the Happen R&D facility suggest the former.

All we know so far about Halle Ostend is that she's a Maskirovka operative working the infiltration routine Black Widow-style, seducing the middle-aged and portly Robert Esterhazy. 

Esterhazy, by his name, is probably of Hungarian descent.  A number of FWL systems with Hungarian names were wiped off the map during the Succession Wars, so a Reunification War-era Hungarian in the FWL is a pretty good fit.

This is only about two years after the defection, so Gunther Rive and his accomplices are probably running the Happen facility, under the watchful eye of the NIA.
« Last Edit: 04 March 2019, 18:21:15 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 #144 on: 05 March 2019, 12:59:09 »
Date: March 18, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: At the Maskirovka safe house in the city of Barter, 40 kilometers from the Happen Military Reservation, Hector Little, Nicholas Drake, and Sasha Feodoreyva confirm receipt of Halle's coded message that she's got the access codes, after six months of trying to find a vulnerable spot.  Hector muses that, in the holovids, the undercover spy would immediately wipe the accounts and destroy all the physical evidence, with the screenwriters failing to account for NIA software bots flagging such a deletion as a suspicious event, worthy of investigation. 

Hector asks Drake about Danilov's team, which is laying the groundwork for the extraction.  Kane and Tibbett are on flight ops, and Danilov has a line on a shuttle that could carry 2-3 of the team.  As a backup, Drake suggests Kane could take a Dragonfire fighter with the data, but Feodoreyva notes that faster fighters could catch it.

Drake cautions them not to get ahead of themselves, since they still have to get the data out of Happen and bring it to Barter, then to the spaceport through a military lockdown.  Hector asks if his crew is ready to move on Happen, and Drake responds that it's already on the schedule.

At Happen, Parsifal Nehru enters the General's office, dressed as a Lieutenant, junior grade, in the 49th Xanthe Grenadiers.  The corporal at the desk tells him the general is out, then awkwardly stumbles to attention once she notices Parsifal's rank.  He tells Corporal Platt that the general isn't expecting him, but that he's an undercover colonel in the Inspectorate.

43 minutes later, General Vocaine and his aide, Captain Mallory, return to the office where Parsifal is waiting.  Mallory tells Parsifal the general is too busy to speak with him.  Parsifal responds "not too busy to be naming classified military projects in a public corridor," successfully attracting Vocaine's attention. 

As Vocaine begins dressing down the man dressed as a Lieutenant, Corporal Platt desperately tries to show him the card identifying Parsifal as a Colonel from the Inspectorate.  The level of respect immediately goes up - everyone answers to the Captain-General's Inspectorate.  Vocaine asks if Parsifal is here to relieve him due to the production delays, but the Colonel says he's here to address information leaks from Happen - both the Lyrans and the Maskirovka know the League is making 'Mechs, and a Maskirovka team is even now on Xanthe, working to infiltrate the Happen facility.  Parsifal instructs Vocaine to alert his security teams to run searches according to Inspectorate protocols, and to set up a meeting with the base commander, General Bangs.

Notes:  General Vocaine is ranting that he wants the new Icarus prototype off the floor and onto the range in two weeks.  This would imply a far earlier introduction date than the 2470 listed in Era Digest: Age of War.  We know from "A Dish Served Cold" that the first combat deployment was 2469, but the prototypes may have been up and running by 2466 or 2467, especially since only six were ever made (almost immediately supplanted by the heavier Hector), and the Icarus II upgrade didn't come out until the 2500s.  Of note, someone named Moorman is running the Icarus development program, so they didn't follow through on their promise to give Gunther and crew R&D leadership roles - probably just stuck them somewhere as heavily guarded and well paid technical consultants.

I really enjoyed the structure of "The Spider Dances" - which is why I voted for it as my favorite Age of War story in the poll on this thread.  It sets up two very competent intelligence agencies and pits them against each other.  Both Hector and Parsifal lampshade the standard holovid tropes for their respective roles and demonstrate the competence to rise beyond them, making for a roller-coaster of a cat-and-mouse game as the Mask team tries to get the data. 

If the LIC had a Parsifal of their own, the League would never have gotten away with the technicians (and the Commonwealth probably wouldn't have had to hand 'Mech technology over to the FedRats, either, nor let a DEST strikeforce simply walk out of the Coventry Metal Works offices with everything they needed.  What I'm saying is that the Lyrans are very, very bad at operational security.)

Notably, Parsifal says he eliminated the regular Maskirovka cell on Xanthe III three weeks earlier, but believes the threat remains.  That implies that the local cell had no knowledge of or contact with the special operatives.  Hector's team probably knew about the local talent, but kept their extraction operation totally separate from the other team's routine information gathering operation.

Parsifal makes the claim that the Maskirovka has operatives on every League world, and the NIA likewise has operatives on every Capellan world.  One wonders how true that was, especially in an era before HPG communications.  Would the League really have spent the effort to send an information gathering team to, say, the agricultural world of Stein's Folly (currently a Capellan holding on the FedSuns border), on the off chance something worth reporting might happen?  What about to Bad News, at the far end of the Draconis Combine?  Word about what's happening on the other side of the Inner Sphere might not get back to Atreus until it's years old - long since overcome by events.
"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 #145 on: 06 March 2019, 12:50:50 »
Date: March 19, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Halle Osten is joined by security officer Ned Reyes in the Happen Military Reservation cafeteria.  They talk about the book she's reading on her noteputer, and he suggests going for a walk in the courtyard that night at 22:00.  They part, and Halle returns to her desk, her heart pounding.  During the conversation, Ned gave her the code phrase that indicates the mission is in danger.

That night, they meet in the cafeteria and discuss the book for a few minutes over Galisteo coffee, then walk out into the courtyard.  Several other couples are there already, since "walking the courtyard" is one of the few recreations available on the closed base.

Reyes tells Halle that they need to go tomorrow or abort the mission, because the Inspectorate has arrived and suspects a Maskirovka operation is in progress.  She tells him she thinks she can be ready, and asks him to take the position of the guard outside the restricted area.  She asks him to tell Quinn she needs a big diversion, so she can ride out through the front gate.

At the Xanthe Reserve Militia Aerodome, Fyodor Danilov gets a noteputer message and consults with Edgar Tibbetts to confirm the contents - 'Tomorrow.'  Danilov swears, estimating that the day after tomorrow will be the earliest he can arrange offworld extraction.  He writes back on his noteputer - "day after" - and returns to his Flight Controller console, apologizing for his brief absence to Captain bar-Danan, his supervisor, en route.  The captain tells him that a memo came down from the governor warning them about a possible spaceport closure next week.  Danilov relaxes with the thought, "we'll be long gone by then."

Notes:  Wow, nothing but the best for House Marik's 'Mech-makers.  Xanthe III is located on the edge of Capellan space, while Galisteo is one of the 'southwestern worlds' that had formerly been part of the bandit kingdom "The Intendency of New New Granada," located close to what will eventually be the Circinus Federation.  Transshipping coffee all the way across the Free Worlds League suggests that the League isn't going to make the same sort of error the Lyrans did - they want to keep their techies very, very content.

The opening scene gets some context, as Halle recounts how she got Esterhazy to take her into a restricted access section because she likes "christening" other peoples' desks. 

Caper stories are fun - and Jason Schmetzer is treating us to both the "Capellans Eleven" side of the prep-process and the Inspectorate's countermeasures.  Far more of a chess game than the drawn out process of subornation seen in "A Dish Served Cold," which bore a striking, though reportedly unintentional, similarity to "Office Space" (workers dumped on by their boss decide to engage in an illegal scheme and betray the company).

As with the NIA on Alarion, the Maskirovka has seeded key locales and organizations with well placed moles, the better to facilitate acquisition and extraction.

I'm kind of surprised there isn't a front line garrison force on Xanthe III - just the Reserve Militia - since the Capellan border is one jump away, and critical R&D is located here.  A heavy raid by the Northwind Highlanders might have been more effective in terms of getting the technology (they would definitely be motivated, having lost a whole tank battalion on Ningpo when first encountering 'Mechs in "Goliath out of the Box.")
"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 #146 on: 07 March 2019, 08:15:37 »
I like when Close Quarters briefly referred to the Southwest Worlds as "New New Spain".  It was later changed to The Intendency of New New Granada.
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Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - Age of War
« Reply #147 on: 11 March 2019, 12:19:23 »
Date: March 20, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: The diminutive General Reginald Banks reprimands Colonel Nehru for taking General Vocaine by surprise, and asks what Nehru is looking for.  The Inspectorate agent responds that he has base security running facial recognition analysis for matches with anyone seen near the now-eliminated Maskirovka safehouse in Barter.  A technician soon reports a match, and Nehru asks General Bangs where he can find civilian auxiliary Ned Reyes. 

In the restricted section, a slobberingly horny Robert Esterhazy follows Halle down the corridor during the first shift's coffee break.  They pass Ned Reyes at the guard station without eliciting any comment, enter the access code, and proceed to room 8B, which is empty.

While Esterhazy and Halle prepare to get down to business, they are unaware that security has seized Ned Reyes and taken him for interrogation.  Nehru has his people checking into the man's background, and wonders if either of the guards with Reyes are also Maskirovka plants.  Acknowledging he can't suspect everyone, he enters the interrogation room.

In 8B, Halle has had enough of Robert's corned beef breath and casually snaps his neck.  The last words he hears are "The Chancellor thanks you."  She puts a datacard into the console and lets her computer worms seek out the data she needs.

In the interrogation room, Nehru asks why Reyes was near Galveston Avenue, and why he wasn't at his usual duty station today.  Reyes, playing the part of a confused but loyal guard, says scuttlebutt is that the restricted section has BattleMechs.  Or maybe the Captain-General.  Nehru almost believes him, but spots a micro-expression on Reyes' face - the tiniest of smirks, as though Reyes felt he'd won.  Hardening, Nehru asks Reyes to tell him about the Maskirovka.

Back at the Restricted Section, Halle rejoices in having obtained the technical specs for BattleMechs on her datacard, but notes that a black-armored military policeman has replaced Reyes at the guard station.  With no way out that won't lead immediately back to Esterhazy's corpse, she considers using her diversion, but holds off, realizing she'll need it to get out of the gate.  Instead, she follows another scientist through the door and walks down the corridor, attracting no notice from the guard.

In the interrogation room, Reyes continues to play dumb while Nehru accuses him of being a Maskirovka agent, then explodes into action, taking out the two guards and fending off Nehru as the door crashes open and more guards enter.  Nehru draws a hold-out pistol and shoots Reyes in the eye, killing him.

Halle finds her pre-stashed medic's uniform and ambulance, and prepares for her exit, sending a series of numbers to her "Emergency" contact.

General Bangs is still in shock about Reyes' death as Nehru demands the security staff find everyone with whom Reyes had contact in the last week.  Nehru is distracted from pleasant thoughts of shooting Bangs for incompetence by a muffled thump that shakes the building.  A guard reports an explosion, and Nehru excuses himself to coordinate with Vocaine.  He pauses amid mentally lambasting the stunned staff for their lack of emergency response, then belatedly radios the guards to seal the gates.

The selfsame gates receding in the rear-camera screen of Halle's ambulance.  With a hastily procured burn victim in the back, she was passed through the gates by privates who failed to question why an ambulance would be leaving the base right after an explosion.

Notes: It's amusing that the algorithmic and calculation requirements to run 9,000 faces for matches against 6,000 faces at the base astounds Bangs - a reflection of what the author considered amazing when the story was written in 2011, but something that Google can probably accomplish without breaking a sweat today.  I recall reading a sci-fi story from the 1940s where aliens came in a ship powered by magnetism and used slide rules to calculate their course - because what sci-fi author in the 40s was going to predict electronic computers?

The interrogation scene has one mistake that may or may not be intentional.  Reyes says "Some days you hear the Captain-General himself is behind the bulkhead."  The 'himself' part would be quite surprising for Captain-General Simone Marik to hear, as she replaced her father Geralk seven years earlier.  Sort of akin to the scene in 1980s film "Born in East L.A." where Cheech, when asked who the president is, answers - "Oh, I know.  That cowboy dude.  John Wayne, right?"

I've taken classes in micro-expressions.  They can be fun to use when you know what to look for.  You can actually tell the difference between a real smile and a forced one by whether the skin around the eyes crinkles or not.

In the Stackpole novels, gross incompetence was a byword for Maskirovka and SAFE activities.  They'd try to assassinate a Davion officer and get scared off by a guard dog.  They'd try to ambush AFFS cadets and end up getting outgunned by the ambushees and leading them right back to their own safehouse.  They'd blow up a skyscraper to get one target, and still miss.  I appreciate the greater effort that Jason Schmetzer put into actually making the tradecraft competent on both sides (albeit surrounding Nehru with enough social generals to hamstring his security protocols).  The resulting game of cat-and-also-cat is quite fun to read.
« Last Edit: 11 March 2019, 19:36:19 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 #148 on: 15 March 2019, 11:48:48 »
Date: March 21, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis:  At the team's safehouse in the evening, Hector Little, Halle Osten, and Sasha Feodoreyva receive a message from Quinn - the Inspector is coming, but Quinn is going to try to slow him down.  The team has made dozens of copies of the purloined 'Mech technology data, and each has multiple copies.  More copies are scattered around town, where they can be collected by future Maskirovka operations if this team fails to extract.

Inspector Nehru, meanwhile, is picking himself up from the sidewalk where his security team threw him when a sniper opened fire, killing his body double.  The sniper's remains are aflame, since one of Nehru's guards had been packing incendiary grenades.  Nehru chafes at the need to wear ballistic plate armor, but the security chief was adamant - after the previous security failures, every measure would now be fully implemented.  Bangs' security team found Esterhazy's body half an hour after the explosion, and his technicians confirmed that the schematics and databases for the BattleMech program had been downloaded.

A security sergeant tells Nehru that the escort is coming soon, and he hears a helicopter spinning up.  He gets into an armored executive car and finds General Vocaine and Force Commander Bateson, the Happen base security officer.  Nehru cuts off Bateson's stammering offer of resignation and asks for Vocaine's report.

Vocaine notes that the link between Reyes and Esterhazy was Halle Ostend, who was spotted driving an ambulance out through the gates after the explosion.  The ambulance was found abandoned, and the burned trooper in back had died of his wounds. 

Nehru orders Bateson to call the governor in Barter and close all the ports, even the military patrols.  Bateson protests, asking if Nehru doesn't trust the garrison.  Nehru acidly answers that he trusted Bateson's people.

At the spaceport, Danilov watches Captain bar-Danan receive the closure order and ask for confirmation, noting the difficulty of ensuring that the airspace remains closed if all the interdiction flights are grounded.  Bar-Danan angrily tells the person on the other end of the line that he will not bear responsibility for any consequences of these orders.  Danilov uses his traffic control noteputer to send a word to a number, then wipes the noteputer clean.

Notes: Nehru and the Maskirovka team are building up to a big finish, but the Maskirovka preparations have ensured that the data will get out eventually, unless the FWL is willing to enact the Omega Protocol (nuking from orbit) on Xanthe III to keep 'Mech technology out of Capellan hands.  The Capellans would take that measure (considering what they did to their original capital city on Capella when it fell into Davion hands), but the Leaguers aren't so...determined.

Nehru is good, but the Maskirovka has had the time to set up contingency plan after contingency plan, and the NIA Inspector is basically trying to close the door after Mrs. O'Leary's cow has already escaped from the burning barn.  So far, the Mask team has lost Quinn and Reyes, but that's why you bring a large team for missions where everyone is designated "expendable." 

If Quinn was really trying to to stop or slow Nehru's convoy from reaching Barter, I wonder why he just used a sniper rifle instead of something with a larger blast radius.  An incendiary grenade launcher, for example.  They're clearly able to cover the distance between his sniper's nest and the car, since one of the guards sent one back his way successfully.  Perhaps trying to bring in or locally acquire hardware of that nature would have risked drawing unwanted attention.
"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 #149 on: 18 March 2019, 13:30:10 »
Date: March 22, 2466

Location: Xanthe III

Title: The Spider Dances

Author: Jason Schmetzer

Type: Short Story (BattleCorps)

Synopsis: Sasha Feodoreyva, Hector Little, and Halle Ostend discuss contingency options.  Hector says the team will probably be made by lunchtime, with cameras around town having tracked Halle to the safehouse.  All the team's faces will be on record coming and going.  Halle suggests going to ground and waiting, but Hector says the Inspectorate
agent will not open the port until they are caught. 

Little says Dan is the only one who has never been to the safehouse, and his only contact is Tibbetts.  He says the only way to succeed is to let the Inspectorate think they've caught all the Mask agents, when in reality he's only caught most of them.  Dan is the ace in the hole.  Little says he'll go first and make a big noise by trying to steal a shuttle.  Drake enters and begins handing out pistols.

In another Maskirovka safehouse - one not used for three days, Inspectorate Colonel Nehru ponders as his troops tear the place apart looking for clues.  He believes his prey hasn't yet gotten off-world.  Vocaine reports no clues at Reyes' apartment, and says the command post at the port will be active in two hours - the only interstellar port on the planet, with the others having been shut down since the start of the 'Mech project.

Hector Little arrives at the port with Halle and Sasha, and is waved off by a guard who tells him all flights are cancelled and that he should go home.  Sasha, playing the part of a spoiled Atreus diva, exits and announces her intention to be on the first shuttle leaving Xanthe, followed by Halle.  Hector says he'll park the vehicle.  The women eye the security guards as they enter the terminal.

Nehru's convoy arrives at the port with a police escort, looking at all the people ignoring the closure announcements on the holovid network.

Little is met by Drake as he exits the parked van, and he climbs into the motorized tricycle's passenger compartment.  The two exit the commercial port and head for Crandall Field - the Barter Militia's portion of the port.  Drake pops the trunk and Little pulls out a bag.  As Drake speeds away, Little walks towards the fence.

Int he control tower, alarms sound, and Fyodor Danilov notes a Traveler-class mail shuttle taxiing towards the runway.  Bar-Danan orders him to alert Crandall field and wake up the militia pilots for possible pursuit.

In the hanger housing the field command post, Nehru ignores Vocaine screaming orders to "stop that shuttle," and considers this "too easy."  Vocaine reminds him that all craft were grounded, and there's no way to pursue the shuttle if it gets off the ground.  He frantically tells a commo tech to have the field CO block the field with whatever is available, and to put fighters in the air ASAP.  On the monitors, he watches as an emergency foam-sprayer truck crashes into the shuttle as it begins to lift, enveloping both in a fiery explosion and rocking the hangar with the force of the explosion.

The security team celebrates their success, but a beeping monitor attracts Nehru's attention - facial recognition software has matched Halle Ostend to one of the passengers waiting in the terminal an hour ago.  He yells for Vocaine, and gasps out that more of their quarry are in the terminal.  Vocaine calls for Captain Mallory to get the sergeant of the guard, while Nehru sits back in his chair, still gasping from the shockwave, and thinking that this is still too easy.

Halle exits the terminal restroom having donned a disguise as a resident of rural Sierra.  Everyone is looking at the wreckage, and a guard tells her a fire truck crashed into a shuttle.  Sasha surreptitiously signals to Halle to keep an eye on the security guard's gun.

At the hangar, infantryman gear up and charge stun rifles while Vocaine screams at Captain Mallory to have his guards arrest the two women on sight and seize their possessions intact, and to consider everyone in the terminal to be expendable.  Hearing a screaming noise pass overhead, Vocaine yells to get fighters in the air.

In the terminal, Sasha sees a second shuttle (Drake) taking to the skies above the wreckage of the first (Hector).  Sasha looks over at Halle, feeling a smile about to break out.  She sees the guard near Halle looking at her and then back at his comscreen.  He begins to shout that he's found her, but Halle breaks his neck as she takes his pistol and opens fire on another guard.  Sasha runs to the dead guard and takes his weapon as well.  An assault rifle barks and Halle goes down in a bloody heap.  Sasha pulls datacards out of her pocket and starts smashing them with the gun, continuing until assault rifle rounds find her as well.

In the terminal, Nehru steps around the pools of blood and picks up the surviving datacard.  A match for the six recovered from Halle's body.  He tells Vocaine to have his team analyze them.  Two aerospace fighters scream past - militia Dragonfires in pursuit of the shuttle.  Nehru turns and ascends the staircase to the control tower.

At the top, Danilov tracks a third Dragonfire taxiing past the shuttle wreck.  Captain bar-Danan confirms the order for the militia pilots to force the shuttle down if possible, and shoot it down if not.  Danilov orders the head of Dagger Flight, Ssu-ma Kane, to bring the shuttle back or shoot it down.

Kane, also a Maskirovka agent, considers his options - with a copy of the chip in his flightsuit pocket, he could coast to the jump point on a ballistic trajectory, playing dead and staying off radar.  Cutting life support would kill him, but the fighter and the data would make it, though retrieval by the Liao JumpShip would be nigh impossible.  Kane fires his missiles in a warning shot, then destroys the shuttle's engines with his lasers.  The crippled shuttle plunges back towards Xanthe III.

Nehru tells Vocaine to gather evidence from the wreckage, but can't shake the gnawing feeling he's missed something.  His communicator beeps, and a female voice alerts him that facial matching has accounted for two more Mask agents.  Nehru swears and tells Vocaine to keep looking - there are more. 

Hating himself, Danilov points out to Captain bar-Danan that Dagger Lead isn't returning to base.  Dagger Two reports he's unable to catch Dagger Lead.  Bar-Danan informs Nehru that they can't catch the escaping fighter.  Nehru asks for Danilov's console, and enters many keystrokes to bring up a secret window.  Nehru presses "execute" and Dagger Lead simply explodes.  He then stands and informs bar-Danan that he just activated the fighter's anti-capture failsafe.  Vocaine cuts off bar-Danan's questions, and tells him "the colonel-inspector was never here."

To redirect suspicion, Danilov tells Nehru that Kane was flying the Dragonfire, and that the other person on his list, Edgar Tibbetts, works in the commo room just down the hall.  Vocaine and Nehru charge into the commo room and exchange fire with Tibbetts.  Vocaine is killed and Nehru is wounded.  Danilov pulls him back out the line of fire as bar-Danan kills Tibbetts.

Nehru tells Danilov to tell the governor that it's over.  Danilov assures Nehru he will, and tells him to rest.  Hovering on the edge of consciousness, Nehru is both thrilled that the case is complete, and stunned by the complexity of the Maskirovka operation - they'd been everywhere on Xanthe, infiltrated the militia, and died fighting, even in escape vectors with low chances of success.  He's amazed that the Maskirovka would sacrifice an entire team, and begins thinking of new tactics that will have to be developed to deal with such brutality and fanaticism. 

Danilov hands Nehru off to medics, while another rouses the wounded bar-Danan.  Danilov confirms to the captain that the incident is over, and bar-Danan says he's got a port to open.  Danilov goes with the medics into the elevator and continues down to the bottom level, where his datacard awaits in his locker with another clean ID and enough cash to buy a spot on the first ship off-planet.

Notes: The Maskirovka scheme bears some similarity to that employed by the Wolverines - make the pursuers think they're chasing you, while you hang back and let them go past.  Of course, that would have worked better for the Wolverines if they hadn't been caught unprepared by the returning pursuers. 

The Dragonfire's stats were released as a BattleCorps exclusive.  Interestingly, it was written up as a Capellan fighter design, suggesting that Xanthe III may have originally been a Capellan colony that got grabbed by the Mariks, and the Dragonfires were still onplanet when the pro-FWL militia was gearing up.

Facial recognition technology plays a large part in this 2011 story, published two years before police used security video footage to identify the criminals behind the Boston marathon bombing.  One device that it would have made sense for the Maskirovka team (but which may not yet have been developed) would be encrypted microcommunicators.  If they could communicate with each other on their own private channels, they wouldn't have had to rely on coded messages and dead drops on the planetary network, and wouldn't ever have had to come within kilometers of each other - each having their own apartment and none ever interacting - just talking over their microcommunicator net. 

This was, hands down, my favorite entry in the Proliferation Cycle, with the constant game of gambit and counter-gambit deployed by both factions. 
"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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