Author Topic: Shards of the Galaxy  (Read 2597 times)

OmahaRenegade

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Shards of the Galaxy
« on: 28 August 2016, 00:40:04 »
Hey all. I began this story in 2009 on the Battletech forums. The story stagnated with a tour overseas, and then the Battletech forum migrated, and the story was lost here, but survived on my external hard drive. After a seven year hiatus I wanted to bring this story back to life. I will be posting two or three sections (chapters?) of the story every week as time and life permits.

So without further ado: Shards of the Galaxy.

**********

Tharkad City, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Lyran Alliance
31 December 3063


   Ulrich Friedlander trudged through the dark, frozen night - alone. Most of his nights were spent this way after work. He had no friends in the office of the Mayor of Tharkad City. Once upon a time Ulrich had been an officer in the Lyran military - a MechWarrior, even - and an aide to the ambassador to the Free Worlds League on Atreus. For years he served honorably, both on the field of battle on the Falcon, Combine, and League borders and at the embassy, fighting, commanding, and executing his duties with the drive of a man possessed.
   And then he had met her. She was a teacher visiting from the planet Marik on holiday with her girlfriends. Ulrich had instantly fallen in love. Her cascading chestnut hair was filled with the scent of rose petals, and her deep, vixen forest green eyes, seemingly speckled with flecks of jade, had bore into the depths of his being. Her skin was the texture of silk, and her soft touch sent his heart pounding at a thousand kilometers an hour.
   It was his love for her that had destroyed him. It didn't matter that the Ambassador himself was having a trist with a Free Worlds League woman behind his wife's back, or that the other aides slept with the locals. Ulrich freely lost his mind to this woman. The ambassador had warned him not to go through with it - threatened him, even. Ulrich did not care. He loved her, and married her after a whirlwind courtship.
   A week later they were on a DropShip headed for Tharkad. Ulrich had been recalled. He was stripped of rank, title, and position, and left to rot at the bottom of the food chain in some dead-end desk job working for the Burgomeister of Tharkad City. His parents refused to speak with him. He had dishonored his family, his country, and the Archon. Even in the middle of a galaxy-wrenching civil war the LCAF did not want this threat to unit morale and discipline. He was a traitor, and no one wanted a traitor.
   Tonight was like any other dreary, dull night. Yes, it was New Year's Eve, and the galaxy was celebrating in full. Tharkad City's streets were bursting to overflowing with merry makers and partiers. Though surrounded by multitudes, Ulrich was very alone.
   That is, until he opened the door to his flat and was met by the beautiful face he had fallen in love with. Zlata glided - or perhaps this angel floated - to her husband and wrapped her arms around his neck, slowly and lovingly placing a deep, soft kiss on his lips. For what seemed like an eternity - but it lasted too short a time - he held the woman he had given up his life for. She made everything worth his losses.
   They broke their kiss, and Zlata pulled away, but Ulrich gave her a mischevious grin and pulled her back in for a quick kiss.
   "You devil," she giggled, planting another soft kiss on her husband's mouth. "Come, I've made us a special dinner for this New Year's Eve. And we have guests!"
   Guests? Ulrich thought as he doffed his scarf and coat, running his hand through his close-cropped auburn hair. When was the last time we...
   The thought died as his sapphire eyes fell upon the man that had penetrated the serenity of Ulrich's home.
   "Brother," Ulrich said, poison dripping from his mouth.
   "Urlich," Heinrich Friedlander replied, nodding curtly to his elder sibling.
   Though three years younger than Ulrich, Heinrich looked almost like Ulrich's twin. They had the same shock of close-cropped, fiery red hair with a distinct widow's peak. Shimmering sapphires stared out from bright occules, cold and analytical. Both men were pale, their fair skin unable to hold a tan (not that they lived in a region where one could tan very well). They had both been heavy MechWarriors - Ulrich a Zeus and Heinrich a Battlemaster - both graduating from the Negelring.
   The difference came in height. Heinrich was three inches taller than his older brother, but Ulrich, though stocky like his sibling, was much more defined in muscle while Heinrich constantly fought off the flab that seemed to cling to him like some strange, deep running fungus.
   Beside Heinrich sat his curvy wife Adelle. Her long, platinum blond hair and deep blue eyes betrayed her Arian roots. Rumor in her family was that they were distantly related to House Steiner - though there was no proof. She sat next to Heinrich, a small, diplomatic smile creasing her bright, red, full lips.
   That's right, Adelle, Ulrich thought as he stared at his brother and sister-in-law. You were the engine behind Heinrich abandoning me. Now you despise this olive branch move.
   "And what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?" Ulrich said, forcing his voice to remain level.
   "We have...things to discuss brother," Heinrich replied.
   Ulrich stared at his brother for a moment. "Mother and Father wish to speak to me again?"
   A pained smile cut Heinrich's more round face.
   "Es tut mir leid, mein brueder, but no such luck."
   Ulrich sighed as he accepted a piping cup of hot coffee from Zlata - mixed with cream and plenty of sugar, yet still steaming hot to chase the chill.
   "You can't be here to enjoy the holiday," Ulrich stated, blowing on the warm beverage. "Otherwise you would have been here for Weinachten."
   Another pained grin creased Heinrich's face.
   "Alright, alright, enough making me feel guilty."
   A triumphant smile covered Ulrich's face as he took a small sip of his brew.
   "Archon Katrina Steiner sits on the throne of her deposed brother," Heinrich said, "and the First Prince is making a drive for her. The Federated Commonwealth is in turmoil."
   "Last I checked there was no Federated Commonwealth," Ulrich cut in. "There is the Lyran Alliance and the Federated Suns."
   "Jawohl, but you must agree that this is no place to start a family."
   Ulrich paused for a moment before taking another sip and gave his wife a sidelong glance. Could he protect her, provide for her, and keep her safe when war came to Tharkad? And it was a question of "when", not "if". It was only a matter of time. Ulrich released a long, heavy sigh before setting his mug down.
   "So," Ulrich started, slowly. "What do you propose to do?"
   "Leave."
   Ulrich stared hard at his younger sibling.
   "Leave?"
   "Yes."
   "Just like that?"
   "Just like that."
   "Und Vater und Mutti?"
   Heinrich shook his head. "They refuse to leave. They say this is their home, and they will stay here until they die."
   Ulrich stared at his brother a moment longer before turning to his wife. "And you, Adelle, do you agree with this? Or did you instill this idea into my brother's mind?"
   Adelle gave her brother-in-law an icey cold glare.
   "Heinrich made this decision. I was against it...but I support my husband and agree that, if we are to start a family it must be away from the chaos that is bound to engulf the entire Lyran Alliance."
   "But where would you go?" Zlata interjected, steaming plates of delicious smelling food in either hand. "You said that the entire Alliance would be effected."
   "We," Heinrich said. "We're planning to leave the Inner Sphere and make our way to the Periphery."
   Ulrich almost choked on his next sip of coffee.
   "Now I know you're mad," he said, wiping his mouth. "Is this some joke? We're not children anymore, Heinrich."
   "I know!" Heinrich shot back. "I'm being serious. There is a whole group of people - merchants, scientists, former soldiers - all looking to get away from the destruction that this war will bring. Adelle and I have births on a DropShip leaving in a month. This Kaptain, Reinhardt Blucher, he said he's been to a planet ten jumps from the Lyran border, far from Jade Falcons, the Archon, and this damned war."
   Ulrich studied his brother for a long moment. In the past Heinrich had come up with some wild ideas - a raid on a Combine mining facility, a drive through dog grooming service, and becoming a film director, to name a few. Each time Heinrich had been wide eyed and bushy tailed when he described his plan. Of course, each time they had failed - his year of movie directing ending with Heinrich as the laughing stock of the movie industry on Tharkad. But something was different about Ulrich's brother now. Gone was the idealistic fervor. In its place was a determined, mature man with full understanding of what he was doing and the consequences attached.
   "You could die," Ulrich said.
   "I could die in a car accident here," Heinrich said, countering.
   "You could starve."
   "I'm bringing extra food."
   "There could be pirates."
   "I'm a fighter."
   Ulrich chuckled as Zlata placed the last of the food on the table and sat down next to her husband.
   "Hard to fight bandits in 'Mechs."
   Heinrich smiled. "We have 'Mechs."
   Both Ulrich and Zlata stopped and gawked at Heinrich.
   "Sheisse," fair mouthed Zlata curssed. Ulrich nodded in agreement, the shock of his brother's statement overwhelming the shock of his wife swearing.
   "We're going to create a new home, Ulrich," Heinrich said. "And we'll fight to keep it safe if we have to."
   There was a long pause, the only sound the tick of the clock on the wall.
   "So," Heinrich said after a long moment. "What do you think?"

snakespinner

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #1 on: 28 August 2016, 01:56:59 »
I remember this story.
Good to see you back  O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #2 on: 28 August 2016, 12:34:52 »
Merchant-class JumpShip Feral Strike
Unnamed Planet, Coreward Deep Periphery
1 January 3064


   The new year did not bode well for Star Colonel Alaina Bowen and her command. The shattered remnants of what was left of the Clan Smoke Jaguar touman limped along through the black, barely existing. She lied when she called her ad-hoc command a Cluster. Three mixed trinaries - could they be called Super Novas? - and her command Binary were all that was left of the once proud Smoke Jaguars. But the unit she led was a foul joke to her eyes. Half of the warriors were solahma and dezgra warriors that had, either by luck or cowardice, escaped the ravages exacted upon the Clan by the hosts of the Inner Sphere and the other Clans. A third were warriors too young to be given that title, ages fifteen to seventeen. Though they had experienced the ravages of war, many fighting honorably, they were still very green. The last fifth of her "Cluster" were real warriors from second line galaxies.
   Second line. It still stung her when she thought of it, though the surats that had expelled her from Alpha Galaxy were dead, their genetic legacies vaporized by the joke that was the new Star League. The Clan was gone. All that was left was her disjointed command and the civilians that trailed with it.
    There were a handful of scientists, too, and the head scientist, a man simply named Red, was starting to get on her nerves. Alaina cared little for the fungus he wanted to study in systems in which they recharged and resupplied in.  What was worse was that the man did not know when to shut up. She would say no, and he would continue to speak as if she had said nothing. The only thing restraining her from killing Red was that he was the only thing keeping the scientists in check. It was an unsteady truce, but one that, more and more, seemed more advantageous to break, even if all it did was remove one more headache from her life.
   Today was like any other day since the remnant Jaguars had fled known space and struck out on their own. For long months they would crawl through the black, alone, without contact with anyone but eachother. Then, suddenly, things would ramp up. The small fleet would stumble upon a ComStar or Clan vessel, or Pirates would find the hiding Jaguars and attack them. Each time the fleet would drain its lithium fusion batteries in order to escape.
   And that is what kept them going. Fear. The fear of being destroyed. The fear of being captured. It was what continued to drive Alaina. Yes, perhaps she had pulled the short straw - the very short straw - on the warriors she now led. But she was alive. And as long as she was alive she and the Clan could survive. That, above all else, was foremost in her mind.
   Of course, her mentality had to change. She, like any Jaguar warrior, was indoctrinated - she now believed brain washed - into believing that the warrior was at the top of the Clan, and that everyone else was inferior and useless. The last two years - no, now three years; stravag new year - she had learned that, without the civilians and support personnel, the last remaining Smoke Jaguars would have surely died in the depths of space. Above all, it was in these civilians that the future of the Clan rested. Without Iron Wombs, warriors and support personnel had to be created the old fashioned way - breeding. Alaina not only fought to keep the warriors of Smoke Jaguar alive, she fought, above all else, to keep the people alive.
   Such was the topic of that day's discussion. It had taken all three years to learn the patience she now commanded when dealing with the civilian personnel and her subordinate commanders and maintaining the balance.
   "My technicians cannot work at gunpoint," the chief technician for the Feral Strike, a man named Levin, said, his leathered face chisseled into a mask of slowly simmering rage. "The air conditioning units can be repaired, but we need time."
   On the other side of the conference table sat Star Captain Raven. A solahma warrior, his attitude had degraded along with his career. The bitterness he had developed over the years mixed with the power of a command - a Trinary command, for that matter - had twisted the trueborn's mind. It seemed as if Alaina was deeling with him daily.
   "It smells like an animal pen in the DropShips," Raven hissed. "Too many freebirths."
   Levin rolled his eyes. "Oh, yes, it is the civilians that are making the ships smell. What about you warriors? You train and work out and couple, and then throw on the same old clothing. Perhaps it is you who should be punished."
   Such talk would never have been allowed when the Clan still existed. But these were different times.
   Alaina was about to interject when Raven shot to his feet, a feral look on his scarred face.
   "Freebirth scum," he roared. "You dare speak to a warrior like that?"
   "A solahma warrior, Raven," Levin spat back, refusing to use the Star Captain's rank.
   "Enough!"
   Both men were cowed into silence by Alaina's bellow.
   "Have you both gone mad?" Alaina shrieked. "We are Smoke Jaguar, and here we are fighting about...about air conditioning units, quiaff?"
   Both men made to say something, but quickly thought better of it.
   "Technician Levin, when can you have the air conditioning units fixed? It is starting to smell a bit from the civilian quarters."
   "Another week," the man admitted. "Given we are not..."
   Alaina cut him off. "Good. Star Captain Raven, when is your next scheduled training run with your trinary?"
   Raven scowled. "Tomorrow, Star Colonel."
   "Excellent. Plan for another week solid of training. Your trinary will have the honor of facing Alpha and Gamma Trinaries in a series of exerices."
   Raven made to protest, but again caught himself. "Yes...Star Colonel."
   "Dismissed," she growled.
   Neither man protested.
   When the door slid closed Alaina shrunk into her chair and emitted a great sigh.
   The door chimed. Perturbed, Alaina roared at the intruder to what little peace she had.
   The door opened anyway, and Star Captain Ivan Showers strode into the room. The Alpha Trinary commander had an easy smile on his tanned, attractive face. He had been the lightning rod for Alaina's frustrations on more than one occassion, and she desparately welcomed his presence now.
   "You look exhausted, Star Colonel," he said, sliding into the chair next to her.
   "Aff, Ivan," she replied. "Warriors are not made for such work."
   A light laugh escaped Ivan's lips.
   "Did not Khan Leo Showers or Lincoln Osis manage to lead the Clan, quineg?"
   "Aff, but they had the support of a complete and powerful Clan Smoke Jaguar. I have...well, you have seen what I have to work with."
   Ivan laughed again, then silence fell between the two warriors.
   "We need to find a home," Alaina said simply.
   "We have passed plenty of bountiful planets," Ivan replied.
   "All in the sights of the other Clans or ComStar," she shot back. "I will not put my Clan - my people - in that kind of danger. We must find a planet far from their regular hunting grounds." She sighed again, rubbing her eyes. "If we do not, both civilians and warriors are liable to tear one another apart."
   Ivan stood and walked over to his Star Colonel. Grasping her chin, he lifted her head and gave her a deep kiss.
   "Well," he said, his hands roaming further. "Let us take a break from all this hard work. Then we can make a plan."
   Alaina suddenly found herself in no position to argue.

marauder648

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #3 on: 29 August 2016, 03:55:06 »
This is damn good! Interesting to see that some Jag's survived and are trying to find somewhere to life or just survive and the strain its putting on them.  Especially the warriors with it being a case of 'oh how the mighty have fallen'.
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

ckosacranoid

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #4 on: 01 September 2016, 10:26:57 »
See a very intresting crossover with the smoked kittys and the people from stiner space living togerher in something new and weird.

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #5 on: 03 September 2016, 00:53:05 »
Fort Cassandra, Northern Mountains
Thraxa, Magistracy of Canopus
1 January 3064


   Jules Varner stared incredulously at his captors. Hands bound behind his back, he wore only the cold weather clothing his superiors had allowed him, the hunting knife dangling useless at his side. He had fought off a snow bear with that knife. He had proven himself, again, as a man and true soldier in the Cavalier Infantry Guard, the "Mountain Men". Yet here he was, stripped of his rank and his freedom. On his left stood his platoon commander, Ensign Brittany Snellings, on his right his platoon's senior NCO, Star Corporal Christian Erikson.
   And in front of him was the man himself.
   Major Abdul Majid's dark features remained neutral as the guards - two Volunteers in Varner's platoon - removed his goggles and headgear so that Majid could make sure he had the younger man's full attention.
   "Lance Corporal Jules Varner," Majid said, breaking the silence, using his rank and name as if the words were a string of curses. "Do you know why you are here?"
   Jules did not answer immediately, and he received a hard smack from Star Corporal Erikson for his slow response.
   "Y-yes, sir," Jules replied, his heart caught in his throat. "Disobeying a direct order from a superior officer...sir."
   "Two superior officers," Majid said, opening the manilla folder on his desk. "Both your platoon commander and company commander." Majid paused, leaning back in his chair and steepling his fingers in front of his thin mouth. "Was it worth it?"
   Suddenly Jules' mind shot to a yeaer before. Her name was Ishtar, a girl from Canopus IV. She had moved to Thraxa to "become closer to nature and find her inner goddess". He had met her at a party thrown by another junior NCO in the battalion, and the two had hit it off immediately (even if she was a tree-hugging flower child and he a baby killer). Nine months later and he was set on marrying her.
   But his chain of command had said no.
   "Wait," was the order Ensign Snellings gave him. "Wait another three months. We're going on exercises in the mountains, and I need my star NCO at his best. Can't have you thinking about a new wife while out on maneuvers."
   His company commander, Commander Ivanna Harris, had agreed.
   But love knows not the boundaries of the military. In a rush of rage and youthful stupidity they had rushed off to the Thraxan capitol and commenced a shotgun wedding.
   And then the pirates came. Thraxa was a regular stop off for the scum of the galaxy, and this lot was the run-of-the-mill trash. Except, when cornered they did not flee. Instead, attempting to bargain for their lives, they had moved their 'Mechs and marines into the town just south of Fort Cassandra and held the town hostage. It was where Jules and Ishtar rented a small house.
   Colonel Dillon Wentworth, the Magistracy Cavaliers CO, did not bargain with pirates. The ensuing firefight burned down half of the town. Ishtar was killed when a pirate Spider collapsed on their house. Jules, emotionally destroyed, shot the ten pirate marines they had taken prisoner.
   As punishment, Majid had ordered Jules dropped into the mountains like a green recruit. If he lived, he would be free. If not, then he would have his punishment in full. No one had expected the distraught Lance Corporal to survive.
   But he did.
   And now, their plan to remove this thorn in their side thwarted, the chain-of-command of the Mountain Men moved to rob him of their promise.
   Oh Ishtar, Jules thought to himself as Major Majid studied him. If only you were here. If only...
   "So," Majid was saying, his harsh accent cutting into Jules' thoughts. "What are we going to do with you?"
   "You said I could go free," Jules croaked, his throat hoarse from over a month suriving in the arctic mountains of Thraxa.
   "Indeed," Majid replied. "But you will not be returned to your unit...or the Canopian military." He pushed the manilla folder forward and Jules saw what decorated the interior. Release papers. "You will be honorably discharged," Majid said. "We have already arranged passage off planet with a merchant headed for the Marian Hegemony."
   Majid's words hit Jules like a sledge-hammer.
   "S-say again?" he stammered.
   "The Magistracy no longer wants you, Lance Corporal Jules Varner," Majid said. "And I am happy to oblige in assisting with your removal."
   Twelve hours later Jules Varner - civilian, dispossessed - stood at the DropShip tarmac just outside of Thraxa's capital. He wore thick clothes, a heavy woolen cap on his head and a hood over that. Even after living his entire life on the frozen planet he never did get used to the intense cold.
   With a heavy sigh he looked back down at his papers, and looked back up in a vain attempt to locate the Overlord-class DropShip Hydra. The forest of metal eggs stared down at Jules, their gun ports and view ports glaring at him with that same look Majid had given him.
   The Magistracy no longer wants you.
   His whole life he had thought of nothing else except to serve the people of Thraxa in the Magistracy Cavaliers. Now that dream was gone. His world had been turned upside down. Even his parents refused to speak with him. For all intents and purposes Jules Varner was dead to the Magistracy of Canopus.
   "Jules Varner?" a gruff, almost musical voice called out.
   Jules turned and was met by the lean, muscular form of a man, his shock of blond hair topping his tanned face, his ice blue eyes sizing Jules up like a boxer sizes up his opponent. Jules gave the man a deep scowl, and the man coughed a hearty laugh.
   "I'm Captain Kidd Maverick," the swarthy man said. He rubbed his greasey hand on his slate-gray jumpsuit before shoving it forward in a peace offering.
   Jules clasped Maverick's hand - and immediately regretted it as his hand was crushed in Maverick's strong fingers.
   "S-so you're the merchant that's going to take me to the Marian Hegemony," Jules said, his voice flat.
   "Yes indeedy," Maverick said, releasing Jules' hand to play with a toothpick that had been travelling between Maverick's off-white teeth. "The Cavaliers have paid your way in full. You have a birth, and we have food - if you can call the moss and lubricant we brew food."
   Jules smiled - the first smile he had allowed himself in several months.
   "So what's your cargo?" Jules asked.
   "Travellers mostly," Maverick replied, motioning for Jules to follow. "And some electronics. The Hegemony and the Magistracy may not get along all the time, but they do still trade in computers and the like, and I move the cargo."
   Jules nodded as he listened.
   "So, got any family in the Hegemony?" Maverick asked.
   "No," Jules admitted. "I...it's a long story."
   Maverick gave the younger man a side-long glance.
   "Do you have anything set up there?" Maverick asked.
   Jules shook his head. "No."
   "No job, nowhere to live?"
   "No. I've never left Thraxa in my entire life."
   Maverick whistled.
   "Well," he began. "I'm short a few hands. If'n ya want, you could work for me. I'll put you on the payroll, give you a proper job and a place to live - if you can call a DropShip a place to live."
   Jules smiled and stopped at the base of the Hydra.
   "Sounds like a deal, Maverick," Jules said, sticking out his hand for the second time that day.
   "That's Captain Maverick to you, Sailor Varner."

DOC_Agren

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #6 on: 03 September 2016, 18:54:57 »
Things be getting interesting
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #7 on: 04 September 2016, 13:03:35 »
Zenith JumpPoint, Waypoint
Rim Collection
2 January 3064


   Demi-Precentor Epsilon-X Roger L. Keen stared out into the black from the bridge of the Invader-Class JumpShip Waking Truth – and what a just name for a place where he realized the truth in the galaxy. Keen had been a proud man in the ComGuards, earning his way through the ranks by dint of pure ability. He refused to play the petty politics his peers would duel with. Keen was a man of action, leading by example and living his beliefs. The Blessed Blake help him if he did otherwise. His wife had jokingly chided him one day (in bed) for being too vindicated (he vindicated her moments later and didn’t hear another complaint about it).
   But that was what led to his downfall. Just before Operation Bulldog, and the fall of Clan Smoke Jaguar, Keen had taken his wife and twin sons and left the Inner Sphere to be posted to the Explorer Corps in the deep Periphery. It wasn’t an easy life, but he and his small family endured. It was the aftermath that hit him. During his tenure with the Explorer Corps he fought numerous battles against both pirates and retreating Smoke Jaguar warriors, all successful, and all earning him more and more notoriety and honors. That is, until the Smoke Jaguars were destroyed.
   With ComStar repositioning itself against their wayward brethren in the Word of Blake the Explorer Corps was all but forgotten. Funds were siphoned away from Deep Periphery operations, and more and more Keen found himself in hostile territory without the proper support. It all ended when, in a small, anti-Blakist operation within the Hanseatic League (and after months of petitioning for a valid mission), Keen found himself surrounded and outgunned by Hansa forces, his Tessen unable to stand against the soldiery of RDF 5, funds gone, ComStar support nowhere in sight.
   With his “failure” Keen and his command were supposed to be rotated back into the Inner Sphere to be folded in with ComGuard’s First Army V-Kappa. But Roger Keen was an embittered man; his whole life he had served the Guards honorably, and without question. Now they turned his back on him and his men – and their families! How many Explorer Corps families, were suddenly uprooted, no explanation, no identification of their new destination – and no word on fallen loved ones. It was a mess, and Demi-Precentor Keen was furious.
   What he hadn’t known was that his command felt his rage. In a meeting the night before they jumped away from their staging base, Keen’s staff and subordinate commanders expressed their anger and worries, hoping for an open ear to listen. And Roger Keen listened. He not only listened, he agreed. So, when the Waking Truth made its scheduled jump, it never arrived at the border Combine world that ComStar had been tracking. Instead, the ship’s captain, Demi-Precentor Theta-VII Talia Ivaarson, hopped the vessel anti-spinward, and the rest, as they say, was history.
   At least, that part of Keen’s story was history. Now, on Waypoint, he wondered if history ended here. They had been jumping for the last year or so, and the gathered warriors and families were sick and tired of being cooped up in the cramped, metal confines of DropShips and the JumpShip proper. Roger, too, was beginning to chafe at the restrictiveness of space travel. But it was necessary to secure his peoples’ lives.
   “Precentor Mar-“ Demi-Precentor Talia Ivaarson bega.
   “That’s Demi-Precentor, Talia,” Roger corrected.
   The veteran ship captain huffed as she directed Roger’s attention to the star chart. All the crew had started calling him Precentor Martial. Maybe he was a Precentor, with his Level III, the Level III of Aerospace, and the DropShips and the Waking Truth. But not Precentor Martial. And Precentor Martial of what? They weren’t ComStar or the Word of Blake, and Roger had no desire to pretend to be either, in exile or otherwise. For now he was just their leader.
   “Here are our next possible jump locations,” Talia said, pointing to the screen built into her command chair.
   Hovering around her were the leadership and staff of the ad-hoc, short Level IV that plied the stars with Roger, all still wearing their ComGuard uniforms, rank, badges and all.
   “We need a final destination,” Adept Iota-IV Demetri Premsyl, the infantry commander, growled.
   “We need to get there first,” Adept Pi-III Elizabeth Harken, an Aerofighter jock, shot back.
   “No shit,” Premsyl sneered. “I thought we would just keep loping around deep Periphery for a while. I love the feeling of zero gravity and metal under my feet.” He seethed for a moment. “Waypoint seems just fine to me.”
   “Both of you,” Roger snapped. “Stop it. This is unproductive. Focus on the mission and keep your damn mouths shut!”
   Both Adepts were immediately silent. They’re breaking, Roger thought to himself as he studied the map. We can’t take much more of this.
   “What are these planets?” Demi-Precentor Pi-V Viktor Papov asked, his slim finger jabbing at a trio of spheres.
   “Not properly designated,” Talia replied. “Some Explorer Corps unit studied the planets, but nothing was ever documented. No plant or animal specimens, though imagery was taken of the geography.”
   Roger nodded. “Show me this one, in green. Echo-charlie-nine-one-six-eight-five-five-one-zero-alpha.”
   With a brush of her fingers Talia zoomed in on the planet and called up the information.
   The group – even the less than intelligent grunts – all gasped with recognition.
   “Water,” Roger said. “And these formations look like mountains, leading into plains.”
   “Aerials show green plant life,” Talia agreed. “And breathable oxygen.”
   Premsyl smiled. “I think we can all agree on our final destination now, yes?”
   Roger smiled and nodded. “Yes indeed, Adept.”
   “That’s strange, though,” Papov said, brows furrowed, his hand scratching his goatee. “If this planet was so prosperous, then why not report it?”
   “That’s a good question, Viktor,” Roger said. “I think we can discover that ourselves once we make landfall.” He turned to Talia. “How long until we are there?”
   “With recharge times? A month.”
   “And with the lithium-fusion batteries?”
   Talia winced. She had been saving those for a “what if” scenario. What if ComStar wanted their ships and machines back? What if they encountered an overwhelming pirate/Clan force? What if Katrina Steiner wanted a new Battalion’s worth of materials for a minimal cost?
   “Talia?”
   “Two weeks,” she admitted. “But…”
   Roger cut off her protest.
   “Two weeks it is then,” he commanded.
   The gathered staff cheered their agreement.
   “Ladies and gentlemen,” Roger announced. “Prepare your commands and your families. In two weeks we reach our new home.”
   Another round of cheers and the group of officers left the bridge. Roger could feel Talia’s eyes on his back.
   “What’s wrong, Talia?”
   “Roger,” she began. “What if we run into trouble?”
   “We won’t,” he said, turning to face her.
   “But…”
   Roger snapped a little. “Talia, did you hear what those two were fighting about? I wish I could say that was all the fighting I’ve had to put up with on this damned ship. We’ve had fist fights, knife fights…one civilian committed suicide three days ago. The crew are still cleaning her brains from the walls.” His anger spent for the moment, Roger sighed, his tired form hanging in space. “We’re on the edge here, Talia. We need to find a new home. I had to give them something. Thank the Blessed Blake that this planet grabbed our attention when it did.”
   Talia looked as if she was about to protest, then thought better of it.
   “Yes sir.”
   “Don’t worry, Talia,” Roger said, sliding from the bridge. “Everything will be alright when we get there.”

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #8 on: 06 September 2016, 19:57:48 »
Tharkad City, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Lyran Alliance
7 January 3064


   Ulrich trudged – he seemed to be trudging a lot lately, damned snow, damned Civil War – down the street, the heavy, wet snow sliding up his leg, almost to the knee. The local snow removal service had focused on the main avenues and the area around the Archon’s palace, so Ulrich was forced to fight his way through the endless drifts on his way to his destination.
   New Year’s had been a wonderful occasion (even if Heinrich and Adelle had stayed for dinner). With the apartment to themselves, and both Ulrich and Zlata with a week off, they enjoyed the time alone (and in bed; Ulrich didn’t remember once wearing clothes those seven amazing days). For a while he forgot his troubles. His world revolved around his lovely Zlata, and hers around him. It almost seemed as if his worries would just melt away the longer he held her in his arms. She had teased that if he held her too much they would get stuck that way. He had to admit, it was a great place to get stuck (especially naked).
   Ulrich returned to work two days before, and the daily drag and the incessant nagging coworkers stuck. Even the holidays, a time of joy, could not melt away their loathing for him; their loathing for the traitor. He had tried to walk in with a smile (early morning sex will do that to you), but the grin quickly vanished from his face when his boss, Rolf Bittner, dropped a mountain of papers in his arms and gruffly greeted him with a timeline it all had to be completed by.
   Yes, Ulrich thought to himself as he slogged down the alley in the industrial district. It’s time to get out of this hell hole.
   Normally Ulrich didn’t frequent the industrial sector of Tharkad City. No reason to put himself in a position to get mugged or killed. But Heinrich had insisted in an e-mail he sent that afternoon that part of their plan had come to fruition, and that Ulrich should hurry to his location immediately. Excusing himself from work early (not that his boss paid any attention to his whereabouts anyway), Ulrich made the long trek across the city to meet his younger brother.
   Upon Ulrich’s arrival, Heinrich was all smiles, his face beat red from the intense cold (but as red heads their complexions were always red, heat or cold). Heinrich gave his older brother a strong slap on the back as he directed him inside the warehouse.
   “Come see!” Heinrich exclaimed. “You will never believe what I managed to get us.”
   “Please,” Ulrich petitioned his sibling. “Tell me this isn’t some other hair-brained marketing idea to make a few kroner.”
   Heinrich gave Ulrich a mischievous smile.
   “Oh no,” Heinrich said, shaking his head. “I have all the money I need to get off his rock. This is something more…tangible.”
   Inside the warehouse was dark and foreboding. In front of Ulrich sat two giant flat beds used for hauling extra-heavy equipment – or BattleMechs. Ulrich immediately identified the two hulks covered by slate gray tarps, medal shod feet sticking out from underneath the coverings. Eyes wide, Ulrich halted in mid-step.
   “Are you…are you insane?” Ulrich stammered. “Heinrich! Where did you get these?”
   His brother smiled easily and motioned for Ulrich to follow him.
   “Several months back a shipment of ‘Mechs that were meant for the Eleventh Donegal Guards was hijacked by smugglers. The LAAF reported that it was a minor shipment of repair parts. Class nine stuff that no one would miss. The crew was even returned safely, no harm done.”
   Heinrich hopped up on one of the cargo haulers and began loosening tie-downs. Ulrich moved to follow.
   “But it was obvious that something more had been lost than just parts when the Eleventh’s operations officer suddenly found himself without his Hauptmann.” The tarp flew off and the signature “cigar” laser – this one a hefty medium pulse laser.
   “Heilegen sheisse!” Ulrich exclaimed. “Heinrich!“
   ”What?“ the younger Friedlander asked. ”I got myself one too.”
   “Are you serious?” Ulrich roared.
   “Well yeah!” Heinrich shot back. “There was a Barghest in that shipment. I wasn’t going to say no!”
   “Jesus Christus!” Ulrich yelled, slamming his hands on the Hauptmann’s armored shoulder. “You’re going to get us arrested before we can even make it off planet!”
   “No I’m not!” Heinrich protested. “Kaptain Blucher’s men are going to pick these up in two hours.”
   Ulrich began to argue, then something crossed his mind.
   “Where did you get the money to buy BattleMechs?” he asked. “Pristine, brand new BattleMechs, for that matter?”
   “Oh, well you know those smugglers who stole these?”
   “Yeah.”
   “They’re dead now.”
   Ulrich gave his younger brother a dark look.
   “What?” Heinrich asked. “They had them, we need them, and I saw an opportunity. I could never scrounge enough money to buy a ‘Mech. Besides, we have to take extreme measures to make our dreams come true.”
   “You said there were other ‘Mechs?”
   “Yeah. Blucher’s men and I hid them until we were ready to go. No need for Lyran security forces to check out the hold of our new DropShip only to find their lost equipment.”
   Ulrich sighed and leaned heavily against the Hauptmann’s dog-eared head.
   “This is getting out of control, Heinrich,” Ulrich began.
   “It won’t have to for much longer,” his younger brother answered. “We’re going to leave soon.”
   “When?”
   “I’ll let you know when the day gets closer. Until then, wait.”
   Ulrich hopped off the flat-bed and stormed away, his mind full of rage – and questions.
   “And Ulrich?”
   Ulrich swung to face his younger brother.
   “We didn’t have this conversation.”
   “Yeah we didn’t,” Ulrich spat.

marauder648

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #9 on: 07 September 2016, 06:17:42 »
Great updates and it sounds like the brothers are getting in over their heads...
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Challenger

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #10 on: 12 September 2016, 17:09:53 »
Really enjoying this. Looking forward to more.

Challenger

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #11 on: 16 September 2016, 08:46:53 »
Merchant-class JumpShip Feral Strike
Unnamed Planet, Anti-Spinward/Coreward Deep Periphery
8 January 3064


   Reality retracted – for the second time that day – and the spears of lights, sound, and feeling that Star Colonel Alaina Bowen was consumed by suddenly subsided, leaving her with a slight woozy feeling. But she was a Smoke Jaguar warrior. She refused to succumb to jump sickness, especially with what was left of her Clan looking to her for their strength. Immediately bridge crew began scrambling over their displays, checking sensors, the status of the ship, and receiving reports from the birthed DropShips. It had become routine now, and each crewmember slid through the motions expected of a Clan warrior. Alaina’s chest filled with pride at the rapid, sharp work her men and women accomplished in mere moments.
   “All DropShips and personnel accounted for,” Star Commodore Naomi Chrisholm announced. “We have entered the system safely, Star Colonel.”
   Alaina nodded. “Thank you, Star Commodore Chrisholm,” she said, respecting the veteran naval warrior with her rank and Bloodname.
   “Lithium batteries are drained,” Naomi continued. “Let us hope that we do not meet any threats. We would be in a poor position to escape.”
   “Star Captain Havoc would disagree with you,” Alaina replied. “He itches for a fight.”
   Chrisholm snorted. “That solahma warrior speaks of little else. He came to the bridge the other day and ranted my ear off about the good old days.”
   Alaina chuckled and slapped her friend on the shoulder.
   “And you do not think of them?”
   “I’ve accepted my fate,” Naomi growled. “There is no changing the past, we can only affect the future. That is what I have my eyes set on.”
   “And what do you think the future holds, ship mistress?”
   “A new planet, a rebuilding of the Clan,” Naomi mused. “And then: revenge.”
   “Are you sure there will be revenge, quineg?”
   “Aff,” Naomi nodded fervently. “If Kerensky’s children could wait for over two centuries, then so can we.”
   “I am glad you are so optimistic.”
   Suddenly, warning bells began ringing and red lights strobed over the bridge.
   “Report!” Noami barked.
   “Incoming jump, Star Commodore!” one of the crew called out. “Bearing three-three-one by two-four-two by six-seven-five! Distance two-three-hundred kilometers!”
   Out in space, at the zenith JumpPoint of the star the Feral Strike sat moored over, there was nothing, then suddenly, ripping itself through time and space came the form of another ship. Smaller, shorter, this vessel harbored one DropShip. The urgency and concern of before wore off as each Jaguar warrior on the bridge saw it for what it was: prey.
   “Perhaps,” Alaina said, a hungry smile on her face. “Star Captain Havoc will have his fight.”
   Half an hour later the aerofighter trinary was deployed and jetting for the lone Scout-class JumpShip. Had the vessel been fitted with lithium-fusion batteries, the pint-sized JumpShip would have already flashed out of existence, leaving its attackers dozens of lightyears behind. As it was, the buggy little Scout just hung there in space, as if daring the Jaguar warriors to come and get it.
   And a Smoke Jaguar always dares.
   Star Captain Havoc and the twenty-nine other fighters of his trinary zipped through space, their thrust burn completed, they let their inertia carry them to the lone ship. Today truly was Havoc’s day. Sure, he was the advance force to harry and neutralize any threats to the ‘Mechs now burning through space hundreds of kilometers behind him. But there was still a formidable Overlord-class DropShip snuggled up against the belly of the Scout. The firepower of that giant metal orb would atomize the incoming ‘Mech force with little trouble.
   Havoc relished the upcoming battle. It was just like the old days.
   “Havoc Trinary,” Havoc called over the all-hands channel. “Strafing run on the DropShip, leave the JumpShip unmolested. Three passes and then set holding pattern until called. Acknowledge.”
   The plan had been briefed on the DropShip, but he was Star Captain, and his people needed to hear his voice. A quick rehash of the plan gave them focus after a long flight, their minds elsewhere.
   Leading the attack, Havoc lightly tapped his thrusters, veering his Hydapses toward the giant ovoid. The old, yet venerable fighter raked the ovoid with trio of extended range large lasers and two long range missile packs, launching thirty missiles into the DropShip’s hull. As he neared and his heat dropped, Havoc unleashed another hell storm with his six medium pulse lasers. The rest of Alpha Star, the command star, followed suit; three more powerful Hydapses and six armor-busting Xerxes fighters. Next flew the ten medium fighters of Beta Star, seven Tyre aerofighters with a three Issus. Once their run was complete, Gamma Star, comprised completely of Chaeronea, blazed in to add their extended range particle projectile cannons to the mix.
   Havoc was proud of his trinary of mixed second-line and solahma warriors; and not a dezgra among them. On the flip side, none of them were Bloodnamed, either, but that seemed to mean less now that the Clan was gone. Now they had each other and fought for one another’s continued existence.
   “This is Star Captain Havoc, making my second pass,” the grizzled fighter pilot reported to Star Commodore Naomi Chrisholm.
   He led Alpha Star in a wide arc, the other two stars spacing further out in order not to leap ahead of their glory-seeking commander, and brought the ten fighters in for their next run.
   Suddenly space lit up like a fireworks show as the DropShip, seemingly awakened from its slumber like some sleepy bear. Autocannon rounds, lasers, and swarms of missiles blasted through the black and past the gathered fighters.
   “Spread out and increase velocity,” Havoc commanded. “Follow me in, we’ll hit her from her rear.”
   Alpha Star shot away from the JumpShip and her angry, berthed DropShip, only to return lancing a barrage of fire into her aft. Rear guns opened up, and the DropShips weaponry attempted to track the Clan fighters as they shot past, but to no avail. Beta and Gamma Stars met similar success.
   As Havoc came around for his last pass he spotted the doors of the Overlord slide open like yawning mouths, and what looked like bugs began to trudge into space.
   “Star Captain Havoc to Star Colonel Bowen,” Havoc reported. “The DropShip is deploying its BattleMechs. My computer identifies them all as medium and light Inner Sphere models.”
   “Received and understood, Star Captain,” Alaina replied. “Hold your last run and pick up holding pattern. We’ll take care of these surats.”
   “Aye, Star Colonel, happy hunting.”
   Alaina sat strapped into her command couch, the three-hundred sixty wrap-around visor in her helmet giving her a perfect view of – nothing.
   She had long since finished her main thrust towards the stranded JumpShip, and now minute adjustments were all that were needed. Around her was enough BattleMechs to create a short Trinary, those that were in the best conditions. Unfortunately, none of them were the much desired OmniMechs she had used as a warrior in Alpha Galaxy. Near the end it was all she could do simply not to lose more BattleMechs. Two dozen meters away floated a Guillotine IIc and two Wyvern IIc, and “behind” her were two Clint IIc. Models like the Rifleman IIc and Warhammer IIc filled the ranks of her ad-hoc task force. So many IIc models. It was apparent that the units currently under her command had not been the cream of the Smoke Jaguar crop, or so their betters thought (now dead, she noted, while she was not).
   Alaina led the charge in the biggest of them all: a powerful, awe inspiring Highlander IIc. She had actually been proud to receive the machine from the then Star Colonel Brandon, another good warrior who had been on the wrong end of politics. He had taken the force’s lone OmniMech, a TimberWolf, to fight the Inner Sphere forces long enough for Alaina and her people to escape. He had died in the fires of a critical fusion reactor.
   “This ‘Mech has served the Clans, and Alexander Kerensky before we were formed,” Brandon had said. “Take good care of her, Alaina.”
   She was piloting a piece of history. Now that piece of history was going to war with Alaina at its helm.
   Presently, the JumpShip drew near. Alaina’s targeting computer marked several of the ‘Mechs spread out over the hulls of the Scout and its berthed Overlord. Alaina tagged the biggest machine as hers before opening her all-hands channel.
   “This is Star Colonel Alaina Bowen to Task Force Dragon,” she called over the net. “The Battlemaster is mine. Happy hunting.”
   Using her thrusters, Alaina brought the Highlander up to face her opponent. A batchall had been issued, with no response. Now Alaina attempted to hail her enemy.
   “Inner Sphere MechWarrior,” Alaina roared at the eighty-ton monstrosity in front of her. “I am Star Colonel Alaina Bowen of Clan Smoke Jaguar! I challenge you to single combat.”
   The ‘Mech responded with its particle projectile cannon, but Alaina was still too far for the inferior weapon to hit. She replied in kind with a shot from her Clan-built gauss rifle (and a bit of thrust from her jets to offset the inertia). The Battlemaster visibly shivered under the powerful hit to its armored stomach, but in space there was no worry about falling. Alaina followed up with a flight of twenty long range missiles, hitting with twelve over the left side and arm of the dome-headed ‘Mech. Armor shards swam away from the impacts and explosions as Alaina neared the JumpShip.
   The feet of her Highlander clung to the hull of the JumpShip and all hell broke loose.
   All around Alaina the warriors of her Clan and the Inner Sphere pilots threw themselves at one another, lasers, cannon, missiles, and man-made lightning lighting the hull of the JumpShip. The Guillotine IIc, landing a hundred meters from Alaina, bored into an Inner Sphere Jenner with its extended range particle projectile cannon and twin large pulse lasers, gutting the smaller machine and leaving it hanging lifeless on the JumpShip’s hull. Satisfied, the Guillotine IIc moved on to find new prey.
        One Clint IIc dueled with its Inner Sphere copy, each spraying autocannon rounds at one another. It was obvious, though, that the Clanner had the upper hand. Several mixed sprayed and slug shots had ruined the armor of the Inner Sphere Clint, and the Clan warrior was making good his gains with his chest mounted, twin extended range medium lasers, the ruby beams slicing into already damaged, pockmarked areas of armor. The contest ended when, having already amputated the Spheroid ‘Mech’s arm, the Clan pilot shot off the machine’s leg. The Clint slowly floated into space.
        The Battlemaster pilot, angry at the damage done to its machine, lashed out with all six of its medium lasers and the short range missile six-pack stacked on its shoulder. A good warrior would have hit with everything at this range. The Spheroid warrior was not good. Three lasers hit their mark, melting armor off of the right side of Alaina’s chest. The rest shot wide, while the missiles careened off into the black.
   “You will pay for that,” Alaina vowed.
   Linking all of her weapons into one shot group, she alpha striked against the wounded Battlemaster. The gauss slug gouged a massive hole in the ‘Mech’s chest, tearing through internals on its hyper-velocity trip. The trio of medium lasers added to the internal damage, cutting through the gyro, heat sinks, and reactor shielding. Twenty missiles –spot on this time – finished her work for her, destroying armor and internal structure with a vengeance. Even in space, without sound, the explosions tearing across the Battlemaster were amazing.
   The Inner Sphere warrior did not stir; the ‘Mech had gone quiet. Around her, Alaina’s warriors regrouped and reported in. Three dead. Six BattleMechs severely damaged. A high cost to her small Clan. But Alaina looked and did not see failure. She saw only the gains she had made.
   “Inner Sphere vessel, this is Star Colonel Alaina Bown of Clan Smoke Jaguar,” she announced. “We have defeated your forces. Stand down and prepared to be boarded or we will destroy you.”

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #12 on: 17 September 2016, 10:37:49 »
Merchant-class JumpShip Amaranth
Martus’s Tears, Marian Hegemony
14 January 3064


   The last two weeks with Captain Kidd Maverick and the crew of his JumpShip, the Amaranth, and the two DropShips, the Hydra and the egg-shaped Union-class Medusa, had been a mixed blessing for Jules Varner (now at the lowest rank of sailor, instead of the NCO he used to be, and holder of the title “FNG” within the crew). On the one hand he was constantly busy, learning on the job and working twelve hour shifts to keep the ships going. It was rewarding work, and at the end of each shift he slept soundly, not a worry in the galaxy. On the other hand, though, he was constantly busy, and had little time for himself or his thoughts. The crew chief, Harlem Vinyard, a strange mixture of robustness from overfeeding and not enough exercise, and extreme leanness from a life spent in zero gravity, was always on Jules’ case to learn and not do anything stupid.
 On one occasion a fellow crew member was teaching Jules the simple task of cleaning an air-recycling duct filter. The man had said there was no way to mess it up. An hour later Jules and the crewman were shoulders deep into the duct, attempting to correct Jules’ mistake. How was he supposed to know that it didn’t go in like that? For a moment – a brief, fleeting, strange moment – he wished for the simplicity of infantry life. Then he got a sandwich and a full night’s sleep and thought otherwise. But learning to be a spacer when he had lived his entire life dirt-side was tough, and he had a feeling it wasn’t going to get any easier.
On the bright side he had made a few friends among the JumpShip and DropShip crews, and Captain Kidd Maverick (he had to force himself to remember to call the man Captain) checked on him regularly. In his capacity as commander of the JumpShip and its flotilla of DropShips, Kidd was an expert and professional, executing his duties with a precision and timeliness that Jules did not think possible – and the man was only thirty-two! Off duty, though, he was an easy talking, relaxed guy, and all the crew, from the lowest rates to DropShip commanders, talked to him like he was their friend (provided they addressed him as Captain, too). Jules decided early on that, in a bind, he would fight for Maverick, perhaps even die for the man. It wasn’t just that he had taken Jules in like his own –although that was part of it – it was that, deep down, Jules knew Kidd Maverick would do the same for him.
One of the first things Jules had learned about Kidd and his merchant operation was that his ships weren’t the only ones. Maverick was actually the junior Captain in a fleet of six JumpShips belonging to the Snellings-Finnegan Merchant Fleet, each with their own litter of DropShips and all vessels with full crews. Whenever they were planet-side, as they had been on the Hegemony world of Islington, the combined crews of all the JumpShips and DropShips that had earned shore leave (Maverick had granted Jules two days since he was so new to living in space) had increased the population of the small city they stopped in by twenty-five percent. It was an amazing site, all of those spacers running around town like a bunch of mad men.
Jules had met the owner of the fleet, Mr. Gerard Ryan Snellings-Finnegan, only once, when the man had taken a shuttle from his flagship, the Monolith-class Daring Vision, to visit the Amaranth on a routine inspection. Maverick had introduced Jules as their newest member, and Snellings-Finnegan had smiled and shaken his hand. And that was that. Jules doubted he would ever speak to the man again (a theory supported by other crewmembers).
So now this was life, whether Jules liked it or not. He had signed, thumb-imprinted, and iris-scanned a contract for a grand total of three years, with an option to extend for three more with a four percent pay raise and a five thousand C-bill bonus. He kept mulling that last part over, but he had three good years to think about it.
All was going relatively well (except for a nasty deep cut he had received attempting to close a service grating). It was just another day on the Amaranth, and Jules had just finished his shift. A fellow tech, Bradley Xia, and Jules were on their way to the mess hall for a quick bite before crashing. Xia was rambling Jules’ ears off, talking about the girls he wanted to meet on next shore leave.
“I hear the girls here are wild!” he was saying. “A buddy of mine over on the Intrepid said the last time he was here he hooked up with two broads at one of the clubs. Gave him a night he would never forget. And just to hear some of the things they did!”
Jules laughed. “He might be blowing smoke up your ass, Brad.”
Xia shook his head, undaunted. “No way! There are other guys that say the same thing. I’m gonna get me two curvy blonds...or maybe a blond and a redhead.”
Jules chuckled as they entered the mess.
And then sirens began to blare.
“This is the Captain,” Kidd Maverick’s voice barked over the intercom. “All hands to battle stations! All hands to battle stations! Prepare for anti-boarding operations.”
Dinner was quickly forgotten as Jules, Bradley, and the rest of the Amaranth’s crew scrabbled to their stations. Shotguns and needlers were passed out – weapons that would not harm the ship but would ruin a man’s day, for sure. Jules hefted his needler rifle and set out for the docking collar.
Normally, both DropShips would be berthed in the Amaranth’s docking collars. Today, though, the Hydra was on planet divulging its cargo (computer parts, or so Maverick swore). It was just the opening (literally and figuratively) the pirates needed to board. Jules knew that Snellings-Finnegan had his own aerofighter jocks, and wondered why they weren’t trying to beat the pirate DropShip to a pulp. Could the pirates have their own jocks? He didn’t know (in fact, he had no situational awareness of what was going on outside – oh, to be an infantryman again). What he did know was that in a few minutes pirates were going to start streaming through the Amaranth and killing people if he did not do something.
Jules slid into the bay connected to the docking collar, a clutch of sailors already there, positioned every which way behind corners and bulkheads. He took up position behind one of the corners and high, a crewmember below him with her feet facing his. Space made for such interesting tactics and positions.
There was a dull clang as the pirate DropShip slid into the neck of the docking collar, and another as it locked into place. Jules’ heart was beating faster every moment, his grip tightening on the needler’s grip. His mind slid into sharp focus, returning to the training beaten into him the last five years in the Mountain Men.
And, just before the hatch slid open, he thought of Ishtar. Her long, feathery, raven hair, her eyes dark, shimmering emeralds, her alabaster skin soft, and the cloying scent of the perfume she always used. Oh Ishtar...
The terminus parted, and Jules sent a hail of needles into the face of the first dark silhouette that presented itself. The figure didn’t make a sound, the long carbon needles burying their way through the face. He fired again, and another pirate was felled, the body lazily floating through the space. A third spray of needles fired from Jules’ weapon, another form hit, this time in the arm, but the damage was horrendous, and the screams of pain even more so.
In the time it had taken Jules to fire three shots, the rest of the gathered crew had only fired once a piece. Seeing the success of their comrade, the others began to increase their volume. Soon the pirates were scrabbling in an attempt to move past their dead and wounded mates and into the JumpShip.
Jules, seeing an opportunity, had other plans.
“You two, on my mark fire with everything you got.” He turned to another duo. “You two, follow me.”
The four crew gave him unsure nods, but moved into position.
“Now!”
The two sailors below, feet braced, fired again and again in a rapid burst of needles and shot. Jules shot through the open space, the other two crew behind him, and slid into the yawning DropShip entrance. He was met with yells of dismay and anger, but quickly silenced them as he arrested his movement and filled the ranks of pirates with a flurry of deadly needles. The two other sailors followed his example, raining death and destruction into the gathered ranks of pirates. These bandits had expected an easy catch and had packed the corridor tight. Now it worked against them.
As Jules moved ahead other members of the Amaranth took courage from his wild charge and began falling in behind him, firing at whatever moved. In short order Jules and his ad-hoc squad (he counted eleven in his little following) had cleared a great deal of the ship, and more teams were moving forward to secure the enemy vessel. But it wasn’t over yet. They still had to make it to the bridge.
Now the pirates knew they were done, but none of them wanted to die. Every corner was a death trap as two or three rogues would cross their fires, dominating a single short corridor or doorway. Jules and his team battled like banshees out of hell, filling each area with a hail of death and chaos, making the stubborn bandits pay for their lack of capitulation.
There was one entrance: the door to the bridge. Jules sent two of his squad, a man named al Zaid and a woman named Dhanoa, forward to check the door. With practiced moved the two slid down the short corridor, weapons tracking, and to the terminus itself. Careful hands felt around the crevasses, searching for wires or objects that could lead to booby traps. It was a tense few moments as the two crewmembers finished up their inspection.
“Clear,” al Zaid said.
Suddenly the door opened and a man stood, shotgun in hand, his tattooed face a mask of rage. He shot al Zaid at point blank range, bursting the man’s head like a melon. Dhanoa swung her needler pistol up and hit the bandit in the neck. His shotgun forgotten, the pirate clutched his ruined throat, gasping and gargling for air as bright red blood streamed freely into the zero gravity. Another clutch of needles ended his life.
The squad shot into the bridge, weapons ready, blood up. Some part of Jules’ mind was angry he lost al Zaid, but he pushed it aside with practiced ease – he would mourn him later, now there was fighting to be done. There was a lone woman on the bridge, curled up in a command chair. In her arms was a screaming babe, wrapped close in a white blanket. The woman was obviously a pirate. The tattoos over her face, arms, and chest marked her a veteran. But there was no fight in her except to protect the infant.
“We’re not going to hurt you,” Jules said softly, but not lowering his weapon. “Surrender, and you’ll be taken care of.” He looked at the still wailing baby. “Your child too.”
For a moment Jules thought she was going to do something – attack, blow herself up – and his white-knuckled hand gripped the needler rifle ever tighter. Then, defeat and weariness washing over her features, the bandit-mistress sighed and nodded.
“I surrender,” she said, her voice husky and cracked.
The squad sighed, lowering their weapons (a bit).
“So,” Jules said. “Anyone know how to work the comm stations?”

An hour later the pirate DropShip was clear. The badits’ JumpShip and second DropShip had been claimed by the Hegemony, but Snellings-Finnegan had demanded that the ship that attacked the Amaranth remain with his fleet (he did have an empty docking collar on his flagship, after all). Request granted, the merchant fleet moved to integrate the vessel into their ranks and cleanse it of anything pirate left behind.
The woman and her child, on the other hand, had been taken to Captain Maverick immediately, Jules and one of his squad, a man named Peavley, acting as guard. Snellings-Finnegan was present, too, interested in what she knew. What they gleaned from her was amazing (and a bit sad). The man that had stood in the doorway and shot al Zaid was her husband. She had wanted to surrender, but he feared what the anti-boarding party would do to their child. Their captain, now very dead at the hands of Marian marines, had brought his crew here with the promise of an easy raid and riches.
What was most interesting, though, was where they came from.
“We have a base,” she was saying, breast feeding her child as she spoke. “It’s about six or seven jumps from here. We didn’t bring any of the big hardware, just some fighters and weapons. Didn’t think we’d meet this much resistance.”
“Big hardware?” Maverick asked. “What do you mean?”
“BattleMechs,” she admitted. “And more aerofighters. Some tanks. We still have people back there, keeping everything running. Some of the older guys and the kids too young to fight, our slaves. About five hundred in all.”
“You said BattleMechs and tanks,” Snellings-Finnegan inquired. “How many?”
“Sixteen old BattleMechs,” the woman said. “Nothing advanced. All built decades before the Clans showed up. And twenty-four mixed tanks, mostly hovercraft. Again, all old, nothing fancy. But all solid.”
Jules thought he could see C-bill signs ringing up in the merchant-prince’s eyes.
“Why would you tell us this, Misses…?” Maverick asked.
“Hailey,” the woman replied. “Just Hailey. And I want to go home.”
Maverick gave her a hard look. “What, is there some trap waiting for us? Looking to lure us in so that the rest of your pirate band can spring you and your baby loose and take our ships and people as plunder?”
Hailey shook her head and adjusted her feeding baby. “The majority of our fighting men and women are killed or captured. I am trying to keep my child alive, as well as the children left at our base. If there was a trap, we would be putting their lives at risk, too. We are pirates, not genocidal maniacs.”
“What do you think, Mr. Snellings-Finnegan?” Maverick asked, apparently seeing the same thing Jules saw, but wasn’t happy about it.
“I say,” Snellings-Finnegan commanded, “that once we’re done with our business here, our fleet has a small mission to accomplish.”
And, suddenly, Jules felt the same sense of dread he saw on Maverick’s face. Seeing the galaxy was one thing. Going into uncharted space to find a pirate base was completely another.
Ishtar, why aren’t you here?

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #13 on: 17 September 2016, 14:15:01 »
Merchant-class JumpShip Waking Truth
High Orbit of Explorer Corps Designation EC91685510A
Anti-Spinward Deep Periphery
16 January 3064


   They were here – wherever here was. Roger didn’t care. The promise of finding a home in two weeks had boosted morale tenfold. Already his people were talking about what they would put in their new houses, the kinds of plants they would grow in their garden, and how much land their homes would sit on. Roger thought a lot of this was distracting, but kept his mouth shut. He hadn’t seen his people this happy in a long time.
“Precentor Martial,” Demi-Precentor Talia Ivaarson said, snapping a quick salute as Roger walked onto the bridge of the Waking Truth.
“Talia,” Roger began.
Ivaarson stopped him mid-sentence with a raised hand. “You led us this far, and now we have a new home. You deserve the title. Besides, the rest of the men and women already call you Precentor-Martial anyway.”
Roger’s only response was a grunt.
Ivaarson glided in closer, halting her movement by grabbing a rung welded to the wall.
“Roger,” Ivaarson began, her voice low so the bridge crew couldn’t hear. “I appreciate the fact that you’re trying not to be some power hungry dictator and just take over. But you are our military leader, and you are the one that has led us from the Explorer Corps to here. For the good of this command and our dependents you need to take the title of Precentor-Martial. For now. We can work out things like government and civilian leadership later.”
“And a name,” Roger said, more to himself than to Ivaarson.
“Some have offered up House Keen,” Talia replied.
Roger laughed, a sharp, loud laugh that drew the heads of the bridge crew.
“You think I’m kidding,” Talia said.
“I’m not becoming some pantomime of the Successor States,” Roger said.
“But we’re not ComStar anymore,” Talia said.
“A name would unify us, give us some guiding vision,” Roger said. “But it has to be something that represents everyone.”
“Order of Sims?” Talia asked. “After Primus Adrienne Sims that founded the Explorer Corps? Or perhaps something after Precentor Gavilov who helped expand the mission of the Explorer Corps?”
Roger ran a hand against his chin in thought.
“I’m not so sure harkening back to our ComStar roots is the way to go,” Roger said.
“It is something everyone has in common,” Talia said.
“It’s also what we are all running from.”
Talia frowned.
“Keep thinking about it, and we’ll talk about it when everyone meets in two hours,” Roger said. “We have preparations to make before making landfall.”
“Aye. . .Precentor-Martial.”
Roger grinned as he turned and left the bridge.
Precentor-Martial. Roger never saw himself as Precentor-Martial, of either ComStar or any other organization. Technically it should have been Primus. If Roger had to choose, though, he liked Precentor Martial better.
Aside from a name, a hundred other things ran through Roger’s head as he slipped through the Waking Truth to the berth were his family was; organization of resources, who should make planet fall first, how the population should be transported down thereafter, organizing patrols in air/space and on the ground, building shelters, hunting and gathering, farming, logistics for his military forces. The list ran on and on, and each item was due in the next two hours.
Roger had to force himself to remain calm under the pressure of everything that he now faced. As he reached the cabins of the naval ratings and families he ensured to maintain a confident, steady smile. One thing Roger promised is that his subordinates, and especially the dependents, would never see him despair, or explode in a show of uncontrolled emotion. Roger knew he was his peoples’ foundation and he could not be seen to falter.
The stress began to bleed away as Roger opened the door to his family’s cramped cabin, and the faces of his wife, Crystal, and his twin boys Sean and Colin, greeted him.
“You’re back early,” Crystal said, floating on the far side of the cabin, a datapad in her hands.
“Just taking a much needed break,” Roger said as he floated past his children to meet Crystal.
Catching himself on a rung in the floor, Roger drew Crystal close and kissed her.
“Ugh, gross, get a room,” Sean said in mock disgust.
“Yeah, no public displays of affection, sir,” Colin said.
Sean and Colin were both sixteen – hardly boys, but to Roger they would always be his boys. Both had Roger’s strawberry blond hair, blue eyes, high cheek bones, and freckles. But where Sean was of a moderate, fit build like Roger, Colin was slightly heavier, a trait he inherited from Crystal’s family.
“So what’s the good word?” Crystal asked.
“Meeting on moving to the planet in two hours,” Roger said. “We’ll start putting boots on the ground tomorrow.”
Sean and Colin whooped and hollered in excitement.
“About time,” Sean said.
“I want to be the first human to set foot down there,” Colin said.
“We’ll be going last,” Roger said.
Both boys groaned, their shoulders slumping in dejection.
“How much longer?” Colin asked.
“Two or three days,” Roger said. “We’ve spent the better part of a year on this ship, another few days won’t kill us.”
“Yes it will!” Sean exclaimed, wailing and placing the back of his hand on his forehead. “We’re dying. Dying!”
“Very funny,” Crystal said. “I am sure there will be plenty of opportunities to help in the preparation.”
Roger turned to eye both of his sons. “Have either of you talked to the Waking Truth’s logistics chief, Adept Liu yet?”
Both boys responded by mumbling under their breaths.
“That’s what I thought,” Roger said.
“We are still working on our school work,” Sean said, hefting the datapad in his hand.
“And logistics isn’t really where I want to be,” Colin said. “I want to be in the Explorer Corps.” Colin paused for a moment. “Or ComGuards. . .or whatever we are.”
“Speaking of which,” Roger said, “the subject of our name has come up recently.”
Crystal gave Roger a look that told him he was very wrong. “It’s been a subject we civilians have been talking about for quite some time. It’s nice that our military has caught on, too.”
“Regardless,” Roger said, deflecting his wife. “It’s something that needs to be addressed.”
“You should be a king, dad,” Sean said. “Then we could be House Keen, like a lot of people have talked about.”
“We are not a monarchy,” Roger said.
“It’d be cool,” Sean said with a frown.
“Is the area fertile?” Colin asked.
“Old Explorer Corps reports say it is,” Roger replied. “Though all of their studies were done from space. But the basin in which we’ll set up the settlement shows promise. Lots of rivers. We’ll be set up above the flood plain.”
“Why not call our new home Vinland?” Colin asked. “The name the Vikings gave America because of its fertile lands where they could grow berries for wine?”
Roger thought about it. “That. . .actually isn’t a bad idea.”
“Wow, bro, you have good ideas?” Sean asked.
Colin shrugged. “I have my moments.”
“I’ll propose it at the meeting later,” Roger said.
“Can we still join?” Colin asked. “You know I-“
Roger cut him off. “No, Colin. Maybe down the road when we get established. Right now I need you boys helping with the colonization effort, and the best place for you is with Adept Liu helping with our logistics.”
“But-!” Colin said, trying to argue.
“No buts,” Roger said. “That’s that. Now let’s have lunch before I have to get back to work.
Roger’s lunch with his family – just some meals ready to eat that were neither very tasteful or flavorful – was rejuvenating. Two hours later he glided into the briefing room with his subordinate commanders feeling more relaxed.
“Good afternoon,” Roger said to the gathered Demi-Precentors and senior Adepts as he took his place at the head of the conference table. “Before we get down to business on colonizing, I want to discuss the matter of what we’ll call our new home, since we no longer belong to ComStar.
“How does Vinland sound?”

Colin Keen excused himself from his family’s cramped cabin – a room meant for a single senior officer rating – stating he needed to go for a walk.
“Don’t you mean a glide? Or a swim?” Sean asked.
“Whatever,” Colin said, not in the mood to argue with his twin. “I need to clear my head.”
Where Sean fed on people surrounding him, Colin needed time to himself. The last year had been a test of Colin’s patience as the cramped confines of a ship, especially an overpopulated ship like the Waking Truth, were no place to have privacy. But Colin had made due, finding hide holes and chutes not regularly in use to float, stare at nothing, and think.
And that’s what Colin needed at that moment: some solitude. No datapad, no family, no books. Just a blank wall and the insides of his mind.
Colin maneuvered himself through the cramped corridors of the Merchant-class Waking Truth, having to dodge and shimmy past other denizens, both former Explorer Corps and civilian. Though he had meant to save his thinking for his hideaway, he couldn’t help his mind wandering as he glided through the decks of the ship.
Help with the logistics chief, Colin’s father had said. It was far from what Colin wanted to do. Listening to bits and pieces of talk through the Waking Truth and its DropShips, Colin had picked up that there were tanks that needed crew, at least one ‘Mech that needed a warrior, and plenty of positions in the Waking Truth’s marine contingent. Colin didn’t care which unit he joined, he just wanted to join.
The irony of Colin’s desire to join the military wasn’t lost on him. Colin needed time alone, and being in a tank or in a marine platoon would force him to be surrounded by people almost all the time, every day. Being in a ‘Mech would provide him solitude, but he would still have a chain of command, and a radio to communicate through.
But Colin wanted to fight. The school work his parents, and the teachers in their contingent, had assigned Colin and the other youths had led him to read numerous books on Vikings, knights, samurai, and other warriors from history. The battles and wars of ancient history, up through the present excited and enticed him. Colin wasn’t naïve as to think war was glorious. Colin had seen much while traveling around the galaxy with his father and the Explorer Corps. But Colin wanted to serve and to fight to protect his family and their new home.
That was what was going through Colin’s mind as he turned a corner and bumped into Demi-Precentor Jerek Yarok, commander of the contingent’s armor forces.
“Demi-Precentor,” Colin said in greeting.
“Colin,” Yarok said. “I just got out of a meeting with your father not too long ago.”
“All’s well I hope?” Colin asked.
Yarok shrugged. “As good as a new colonization effort without the support of ComStar can go I guess.”
“I see.”
There was a moment of silence.
“Something I can do for you?” Yarok asked.
“Um. . .maybe,” Colin said, his words coming out slow. “What kind of positions are empty in your formations?”
“Empty positions?” Yarok asked. The bigger man scratched his well-groomed brown beard, his dark brown eyes looking at nothing in particular as he thought. “Well I have a few empty seats in my Chevalier tanks, left vacant by a few of our guys and gals that decided to not join us on our merry expedition to nowhere.”
“Would you take me on?” Colin asked.
“Aren’t you a little young?” Yarok asked. “And I would have to ask your father.”
Colin looked away. “Actually. . .I would prefer if my father didn’t know.”
Yarok folded his arms across his broad chest. “We aren’t so large that something like the new Precentor Martial’s son joining up would go unnoticed.”
“But we need people to help defend our new colony,” Colin said. “You said yourself you were short a few people. Who knows what we’ll find down there, or what could find us.”
Though Yarok had said no, Colin saw on Yarok’s face the thought going through the man’s mind.
“Please,” Colin said. “I’ll work double hard to learn the vehicle and be a good Acolyte.”
Yarok sighed and looked at his watch – an old fashioned time piece that looked as though gears and springs ran it, rather than hardware and software.
“My first contingent of vehicles drops dirt-side at zero six zulu, on the dot,” Yarok said. “I may, or may not, have a tank that has an empty seat on it. Someone wanting some oh-jay-tee could, theoretically, show up an hour beforehand to get that seat.”
Colin’s heart began to race and he opened his mouth to say something.
“Now, should a certain Precentor-Martial get wind of this,” Yarok said, “and tells me to kick said individual out, well then they’re out, no questions asked. You hear me?”
“Y-yes sir,” Colin said, excitement bubbling out of his voice.
“Good.”
With that, Yarok moved past Colin.
“See you tomorrow,” Yarok said over his shoulder. “Acolyte.”

OmahaRenegade

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Re: Shards of the Galaxy
« Reply #14 on: 02 October 2016, 01:27:45 »
Fortress-class DropShip Siegfried
Zenith Jump Point, Vhitijarvi
Lyran Alliance
20 January 3064


Ulrich Friedlander hovered next to his wife, Zlata, in the cramped quarters of the Fortress-class Dropship Siegfried. Normally the Fortress-class held a full combined arms battalion, and quarters were relatively spacious. The combined population of this “expedition of freedom” as it was being called had made space on all DropShips and the two JumpShips very sparse. It wore on both of them, especially with some of the noises coming from the other bunks in the middle of the night.
Stops, Ulrich and the rest of the travelers were learning, were times of concern. Neither JumpShip, a Merchant-class dubbed Berlin and an Invander-class named Wotan, had lithium fusion batteries, and so could not double jump like newer or upgraded JumpShips. The JumpShips were forced to recharge normally.
While they recharged, though, there was the chance that they could be found out by the Lyran Navy. It wouldn’t have been an issue if it was just a group of people looking to strike out into the Deep Periphery. There had been other such ventures funded and based out the Lyran Alliance.
Those other ventures didn’t have stolen Lyran military equipment.
As Ulrich and Zlata had arrived at the designated rally point for those joining the expedition, Ulrich had learned that his Hauptmann and Heinrich’s Barghest weren’t the only pieces of equipment that had been “acquired” to arm this little adventure. BattleMechs new and old, armored vehicles of varying weight classes, the latest Lyran assault rifles and infantry weapons, a handful of Aerofighters, and rumor had it even suits of Battle Armor were stuffed away in the holds of their DropShips.
When Ulrich had heard this his mind set off numerous red flags and alarms. This was treason, and there was only one logical punishment for traitors.
Death.
The thought churned and broiled at the fore of Ulrich’s mind. What if they found them out? What would happen to Zlata? Ulrich would never forgive himself if something happened to his beloved wife. Just thinking about it made Ulrich hug Zlata closer as she dozed in his embrace.
“Ulrich.”
Ulrich turned his head, doing his best not to wake Zlata, to look at his brother, Heinrich.
“What?”
“Herr Wagner wants to see us,” Heinrich replied.
With a kiss on Zlata’s head, Ulrich reluctantly peeled himself out of the sleeping bag secured to the wall. Ulrich zipped the sleeping bag back up before pushing off the floor with his foot to follow Heinrich.
“I’m not sure I like this Wagner,” Ulrich said, his voice low.
“He’s the one bank rolling this colonization effort,” Heinrich said. “Of all the investors, he has put up twenty-five percent of the funds. He’s is directly responsible for us leaving the Lyran Alliance and the Inner Sphere to make new lives for ourselves.”
Ulrich shook his head. “It’s just the way he talks to people, like he’s their liege lord. I don’t want to trade one dictatorial monarch for another.”
“He’s just direct with people,” Heinrich said as they slid from the Siegfried into the Wotan. “He was a big shot on Donegal. Made his money in the property market across the Donegal and Skye Theaters.”
“Then why leave?” Ulrich asked, liking Wagner less and less the more Heinrich talked about the man.
“He has the same goal as us,” Heinrich replied. “Freedom. To be out from under Archon Katrina Steiner. When she took power he lost a lot of money when she federalized many of his properties, then “gifted” them to some of her political allies.”
While Ulrich could sympathize with Wagner’s plight, something still didn’t sit right in Ulrich’s stomach.
Ulrich put his misgivings about Wagner aside as he and Heinrich made their way to the Wotan’s centrifuge, and into Wagner’s personal conference room.
Rudolf Christian Wagner had spared little expense in decorating this conference room. The long conference table was made of real wood, and to Ulrich it looked like one large piece. Already about twenty people had taken their seats in the black, ergonomic chairs that lined the polished wood table, and there were seats for another dozen people or so. Display screens lined the conference room, and some were already active, showing what Ulrich assumed to be another conference room – smaller, yet similarly opulent – on the Berlin.
At the head of the long, wooden conference table sat Wagner himself. Wagner’s head was shaved, and his large, bald head glistened in the artificial light of the conference room. Large blue eyes scanned and studied every detail of every person in the conference room. Massive shoulders and arms like those of an Atlas Battlemech moved giant hands that jotted notes as Wagner observed. Though Wagner seemed normal height at this distance, Ulrich knew better. Wagner dwarfed everyone else in the population of the expedition.
“Take your seats,” Wagner said, his voice commanding.
Immediately, it seemed, everyone stopped what they were doing and found a chair. Even Ulrich found himself compelled to follow Wagner’s command.
“Updates,” was Wagner’s next order.
In quick succession the ship captains and their department chiefs updated Wagner on the status of the ships, the crews, and their cramped populations. Shortly after, several other individuals that Ulrich guessed to be Wagner’s personal staff provided information on the wrap up of merchant operations on the planet of Vhitijarvi IV, as well as intelligence reports on Lyran agents and military movements in-system.
“What the hell are we doing here?” Ulrich asked, his voice low.
“No idea,” Heinrich said. “But Wagner’s assistant said he wanted us here.”
Ulrich looked back down the table toward Wagner. To Wagner’s left sat a lean, tall woman with raven black hair, dark eyes, and pale skin. While Wagner jotted notes here and there, the woman to his right was a flurry of numerous sharp movements as she wrote and called up information on her datapad.
“Any questions?” the last person, a dark skinned woman in a crimson business suit asked.
“None,” Wagner said. “Dismissed.”
And that was that. Ulrich realized that barely twenty minutes has gone by since Wagner had started the meeting. Yet Ulrich recalled a wealth of information that had been presented. He’s efficient, Ulrich thought to himself as he and Heinrich stood to leave with the rest of those present.
“Ulrich and Heinrich Friedlander?” a voice to Ulrich’s right asked.
Ulrich turned and was met by the sharp stare of Wagner’s raven haired assistant.
“Yes?” Ulrich asked.
“Herr Wagner would like a word with you both.”
Ulrich followed Wagner’s assistant – he still didn’t know her name – followed closely by Heinrich.
“Gentlemen,” Wagner said in his gravelly, deep bass voice. “Sit.”
Again, at Wagner’s order Ulrich was compelled to follow. What was it about the man’s tone that made Ulrich jump to obey? Ulrich made a mental note to be on guard in the future.
“You are brothers,” Wagner said. It wasn’t a question.
“We are,” Ulrich replied.
“And you both served in the Lyran military.” Again a statement, not a question.
“We did,” Heinrich said, his head bobbing in a nod.
“If our colony is to survive we require warriors to defend us,” Wagner said.
“We have BattleMechs,” Heinrich said, jumping in. “I helped secure that shipment of-“
A dark look from Wagner silenced Heinrich.
“So what do you want?” Ulrich asked.
“We will need a military, and I would like to organize ours better, more efficiently.”
“Did you serve?” Ulrich asked.
“Yes,” Wagner said. “First on the streets of Donegal’s cities. Then in the Donegal Guards.”
A gangster, Ulrich thought.
“So what do you want from us?” Ulrich asked.
“I want you to help me organize our forces,” Wagner said. “I need men with fresh eyes and minds to build an armed forces that is efficient, effective, flexible, and lean.”
“I’m not sure you can have all four,” Ulrich replied.
“Yes we can,” Wagner said. “We must. And we can make it happen.”
“Surely you brought other military men and women on this venture,” Ulrich said. “Some high ranking brass? I’m sure they could help you.”
“Some,” Wagner said. “But they are old, and stuck in their ways. They would have us reform the Armed Forces of the Lyran Commonwealth from the days before the Fourth Succession War. I need something better.”
Ulrich didn’t know what to say. Why him? He waited for Wagner to continue.
“You were a Hauptmann in the Arcturan Guards,” Wagner said.
“Yes,” Ulrich replied.
“I will make you a general.”
Ulrich almost choked. “Pardon me, but this makes no sense. I was a Hauptmann in a BattleMech Battalion. Throw a rock and you could have hit a dozen Hauptmanns. I don’t understand. Why us?”
“I chose Heinrich for his work acquiring those BattleMechs for us. It was his plan that brought success.” Wagner leaned in closer to Ulrich. “I choose you for your record.”
As if on cue, Wagner’s assistant brought up several windows on her datapad.
“Twenty-fifth Arcturan Guards commando team leader in the Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, disrupting much of their supply chain,” the assistant said. “As well as service during the Jade Falcon incursion of thirty fifty-eight, and the Marik reprisal war in fifty-seven.
“How did you get that information?” Ulrich asked, slowly. “Especially about my commando missions?”
“I have my resources,” Wagner said. “The point is you know how to operate both conventional and unconventional forces. I want that for the command of the armed forces.”
“And you are going to be our commander-in-chief,” Ulrich said, almost spitting the words back.
“For now.”
“And if I don’t agree?” Ulrich asked.
Wagner paused for a moment, and Urich wondered if the man wasn’t used to people questioning him. Then Wagner slowly put down his datapad, pushed his chair back from the polished wood conference table, and stood, towering over Ulrich and Heinrich.
“Don’t cross me,” Wagner said. “First because we are on the same side, and I am offering you the chance to do great things for our new colony, once we arrive there. Second, because the streets of Donegal’s cities were brutally harsh and unforgiving, and I clawed my way to the top before joining the Lyran military. While I don’t want to, I can and will crush you like a gnat, and I won’t send some goons to do my dirty work for me. Is that clear?”
Ulrich didn’t say anything, only nodded.
“Good.” Wagner sat back down and pulled his chair back up to the conference table. “Meet me tomorrow, here, at zero-seven, General Friedlander. Dismissed.”
Ulrich wanted to sprint out of the conference room, but he didn’t. Instead he worked his hardest to keep his composure and strode out of the conference room at what he thought was a normal pace. Once outside the conference room (and once the door had closed) Heinrich grabbed Ulrich’s shoulder.
“What’s wrong with you?” Heinrich asked, keeping his voice low.
“What’s wrong with me?” Ulrich asked. “The man leading us is a hardened criminal.”
“You heard him,” Heinrich said. “He is on our side. He just made you a general.”
“So I can lead his criminal legions?” Ulrich asked. “Is he going to turn us into pirates?”
“You may not like his past, but he’s going to get us to our new home,” Heinrich said. “Just hear him out. Work with him. Besides he wasn’t a criminal when he gave up all he had to lead this venture.”
“That you know of.”
Heinrich rolled his eyes. “Ulrich, just trust me, okay? I’ve gotten us this far, haven’t I?”
Ulrich said nothing. He just glared at his brother.
“And clearly Wagner sees something in you that he wants in a military leader,” Heinrich continued. “Hell, I didn’t even know about those commando missions into the Falcon O-Z.”
“And you weren’t supposed to,” Ulrich said.
“But he has a point,” Heinrich said. “Doesn’t he? Aren’t you in an excellent position to positively affect and mold our new military?”
Ulrich opened his mouth to say something, but found himself without a retort. What if he could lead their colony’s military? What if he could change those things he hated about the Lyran Alliance Armed Forces? And, above all, it would put him in a prominent place to protect and provide for Zlata.
“Alright,” Ulrich said. “I’ll follow Wagner. . .for now.”
Until he proves I shouldn’t, Ulrich thought to himself as he and Heinrich made their way back to the Siegfried.