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Author Topic: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - The Succession Wars - Part II  (Read 64137 times)

Mendrugo

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Date: June 23, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: In the media room/military command center of his estate, Director Stephan Andrich meets with three MechWarriors in Barringtons coveralls.  They introduce themselves as Brett Bozeman, Thomas Hayes, and Helen Beattie, and explain that they have been professionally evaluating the Andrich Uhlans.  Hayes compliments their equipment, but he decries their lack of combat training, describing the unit's MechWarriors as closer to jockies.  Beattie notes that their skill level is sufficient to man Richland's fortifications, but not to serve as a mobile offensive force.  Bozeman suggests training the force on simulators, but only after they secure their systems from Collective surveillance, so as not to tip their hand.

The mercenaries show Andrich a holovid from the sim runs used to assess the Uhlans, focusing on their strongest units being taken apart by a mercenary Rifleman, and the rest of the unit dissolving into panic thereafter.  Hayes suggests bringing in two companies of mercenaries to form a solid core around which they can organize the Uhlans.  The best will be folded into the mobile force, while the lesser pilots will form a Home Guard.  Bozeman says he has sufficient pilots, and Andrich's parts supply will allow them to bring their 'Mechs up to fighting strength.

Elated, Andrich suggests that Bozeman should have the rank of colonel, befitting his command of the Uhlans, while Hayes and Beattie serve as majors.

Notes: The fact that we haven't yet seen the core characters from the previous three novellas suggests to me that Andrich's efforts are all going to end in tears, betrayal, and blood.  Otherwise, what's the point of building up the "exiled heir" storyline if a tertiary character is given the resources to swoop in and resolve the crisis while the main protagonist is still en route back from Solaris?  If the Uhlans are shattered by the Collective's forces, that will increase the threat of the antagonist Collective, and make it all the more heroic when the protagonists pull off a victory where the better equipped Uhlans failed.

Stackpole's Kell Hound stories featured one scene (in the scenario pack) where a merc at a bar on Galatea brags that he's going to sign with the Kell brothers, have them fix up his ride, and then ditch them for a more lucrative contract.  The mention in passing, here, of the mercs having their own rides, and using Andrich's stockpile of parts to fix them up, suggests that the mercenaries are perhaps going to go that route - pull a pit stop on Maldive and then take their freshly refitted ride back into the Inner Sphere in search of more lucrative contracts.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: June 25, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: Proctor Steadfast Court continues her work to break Abigail Litzau, using sleep deprivation, malnutrition, and random blasts of icy water to brainwash her captive, held in a retrofitted basement safe room in the former Litzau summer house.  In today's exercise, over a loudspeaker, she demands that Abigail answer three questions truthfully to earn food, then words the questions so that there are grounds for denying the food no matter how Abigail answers, but in a way that makes the victim feel at fault for giving the wrong answer.  This is not an interrogation - at this stage, Proctor Court just wants the right reaction.  When she sees the proper amount of fear and despair, she replaces the image of the Litzau crest on the interrogation room screen with a soothing image of the Collective symbol, and authorizes a small amount of food and rest - giving Abigail positive reinforcement towards submitting to the Collective.

Notes: In her introduction, Proctor Court reflected that she'd been studying psychology at the University before the Revolution, and appears to be applying those techniques here.  Having never studied psychology myself, I can't say whether this sort of conditioning might be effective in the real world or not.  I have read of various cults indoctrinating members using starvation and deprivation to destroy their sense of self and get them to go along with whatever the cult leader suggests.

This scene has some similarities with the interrogation scene in the Blood of Kerensky trilogy, where Phelan Kell has been drugged and is being questioned by two Clan Wolf Warriors.  I would very much doubt that the Warrior Caste gives their sibkos any formal training in psychology, so they tended to rely more on truth serum drugs and brainwave monitoring to detect resistance and/or attempts to lie.  Though Maldive has an unusually high level of technology and resources for a Periphery world in 3002, they do not appear to have brainwave monitors, and rely on the Proctor's training in psychology to assess a subject's emotional state and mental condition.  While this may be enough, I'm not sure a second or third year psych major would be good enough at this to create reliable brainwashing subjects. 

That being said, there are references to technological methods of brainwashing - including those used by the Capellan Confederation during Operation DOPPELGANGER and that used by the Word of Blake when creating suicide bombers and other infiltrators during the Jihad.  However, those probably rely on LosTech, and definitely aren't in use here.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: July 8, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: Colonel Bozeman shows Director Stephan Andrich a holotable simulating the Andrich Uhlans maneuvers in a valley 30 km north of his estates.  Major Hayes reports on the results of two weeks of training with the integrated mercenary/Uhlan force - more than doubled weapon efficiency at optimal range, and 75% increased accuracy at speed, plus greatly increased discipline.

Andrich notes that, in field exercises, the mercenary units have been painted to look like the Rivergaard Rangers, except with a gold ring around the ankle.  Colonel Bozeman explained that, since the Uhlans will be attacking the Rangers, the paint scheme was intended to get them used to their enemy's colors, and to facilitate infiltration of the Rangers' territory posing as friendlies.

Major Hayes calls up a topographical map of South Riding, where the Oglethorpe stronghold - the Grange - sits adjacent to the settlement of Baronville, which lies athwart a major crossroads leading Richland, Rivergaard, and other settlements, with garrisons set up at strategic choke points.  Colonel Bozeman estimates that the Rangers have two companies of 'Mechs, operating at 85% of full strength, but likely to be low on missiles.  Major Hayes suggests a feint to draw off the garrison forces to the northwest, while a false-colored company infiltrates around to the south through Middlesex Downs and then moves north to Baronville, hoping that everyone will assume they are Rangers' reinforcements headed north to join the defense.  Thusly outmaneuvered, the Rangers will be forced to surrender to the Uhlans, and can then join Andrich's fight against the Collective.

Colonel Bozeman estimates they can launch the assault in a week or two, at the outside.

Notes: The holotable is, of course, a meta reference to the players of the BattleTech game, who spend their battles looming over simulated terrain tables populated by tiny 'Mech representations.  At the operational scale for planning the feint and southern approach, Andrich is playing holographic BattleForce.

Andrich is astounded at the high resolution of the table, suggesting that the locally available units have been fairly low-rez by comparison, and that units of the Lofton Corporation model's sophistication may be LosTech on Maldive. 

This is the first scene where it becomes clear what the plan is - to defeat and assimilate the Rangers, and then go after the Collective with a unified force, minus the battle losses from the conflict.  As established in earlier novellas, the various nobles on Maldive that survived the Collective's initial assault retreated into their own fortified enclaves and battled both the Collective and each other. 

Posing as friendlies either presupposes that they've been able to spoof the Rangers' IFF systems as well as their paint schemes, or that the Rangers lack IFF systems.  Also, if the Rangers only have two companies of troops, won't it be suspicious for a whole company to be moving in unison, since forces dispatched from various garrisons would probably be moving at Lance strength at most?

I'm getting a very "Game of Thrones" vibe from the various noble fiefdoms, all named after the founding family and focusing on the geography, strategies, and interplay between multiple mutually-hostile factions.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: July 22, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: At the Martyrs' Memorial, Steadfast Court applauds Abigail as she practices her denunciation of House Litzau and endorsement of the Collective.  However, she berates her for referring to herself as Renata ('Born Again' in Latin) - the name she chose for herself as having been reborn into the Collective, just as Steadfast's former name had been Bethany.  Steadfast contends that the denunciation is far more powerful coming from Abigail Litzau than from some nobody named Renata, and also states that Abigail does not deserve a new name until she has fully proven herself committed to the revolution and the Collective.  She dispatches Abigail back to her cell.

Precentor Mann arrives as Abigail is taken away, and asks if there is a problem.  Steadfast answers that her denunciation speech has to include honest pain in her voice to accept her statements as true, rather than just a brainwashed person reading a script.  She expects the less intelligent people to accept the conversion and decide to follow Abigail's lead in support of the Collective. 

They go together to Mann's office, and he shows Steadfast boxes from Barringtons containing action figures of Aniki and the Mystery Mercenary from Solaris VII.  He notes that the boxes were sent from Rivergaard to be distributed in and around Swindon.  He asks why the Collective is promoting such non-Revolutionary things.

Steadfast answers that the communal pleasure of cheering for Solaris heroes binds the people together, and makes the citizens work harder to be able to provide such luxuries to their children, who in turn will be indoctrinated by the messages on the figures' speech chips.  She compares the dolls to Abigail, saying that when she is finished with Steadfast's treatment, she'll be repeating a script approved by the Collective, for the benefit of all.

Notes: There are parallels in this scene to the breaking scenes at the conclusion of 1984.  In many ways, the Collective strongly resembles Oceania, given the focus on self abnegation, slavish devotion to the state, denunciations of traitors to the revolution, and brainwashing.

We've seen that Barringtons is plotting against the Collective (or at least they appear to be - depending on how the Uhlan/Ranger conflict shapes up).  I wonder if the messages on the dolls' circuits is really only Collective propaganda, or if it's programmed to switch to a counter-revolutionary call-to-action when given the signal.  Especially since the two licensed figures are of Ivan Litzau's chief supporters.  If Ivan shows up flanked by Walter "Mystery Mercenary" deMesnil and Aniki, who endorse him as the rightful heir, any hero worship among the youth and their parents will be transferred to Ivan.  (Granted, this assumes people will blindly support someone just because they saw them on the holovids, but there are real world precedents.)

Mann notes in passing that his children were killed during the revolution.  Steadfast blows it off, referring to them as having been martyred.  Yet one more foreshadowing element for Mann being the one who turns on Steadfast.

On Solaris, Sofia had to pay high fees for news from Maldive, since ComStar distributes information on a sliding fee scale, with news of major events and high level happenings that can affect many worlds getting top priority for wide distribution, while niche stories about backwater world events may take years to circulate unless someone pays through the nose for expedited delivery.  While I'm sure that the Solaris fight vids are popular, Walter and Aniki weren't fighting in the Unlimited class or the major arenas.  Did the Collective pay a premium to bring just those fights all the way out to Maldive?  Is there even an HPG onworld, or are they relying on data packets beamed down from visiting JumpShips? 

Also, why would those fighters and their battles, in particular, have seized the popular imagination on Maldive?  The 3001 Class Six champion of Solaris was Hans Schleinning, and Terri Bates is about to begin a four year reign as Solaris Champion in her Atlas, so her preliminary qualifying matches should be burning up the charts about now.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Frabby

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You do not need a HPG to receive, only to send (though you probably need a ComStar station to have any HPG care send something to you in the first place, with said station locally decoding and distributing the content.

Both the Collective and the counter-revolution have agendas with the Solaris heroes, so buying rights to nobodies to work with makes more sense than buying into uncontrollable champions.
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
Sarna.net BattleTechWiki Admin

Mendrugo

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Date: July 22, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: That same day, at the Grange, Acting Chairman Richard Oglethorpe remains frustrated at the stalemate - while the Collective lacks the strength to breach South Riding's defenses, but he can't send the Rivergaard Rangers on any offensive maneuvers, lest the Collective kill his captive wife, Abigail Litzau.  Though he'd be willing to surrender to save Abigail, any promises of leniency from the Collective are judged to be worthless, and he'd earlier promised Abigail that he would continue to fight the Collective if she were captured.  He wishes Abigail had fled with Sofia and Ivan when they fled offworld.

Richard's musings are interrupted by the arrival of Lieutenant Doukas,who reports that the Uhlans have been spotted setting up supply depots near Oglethorpe's holdings, suggesting an offensive is planned.  Doukas confirms that the latest information from the Uhlans' simulators shows them as unskilled as ever.  Richard gets suspicious, and asks about the frequency of training, which Doukas reports to have doubled in the past month, without any improvement.  Together, they realize that the numbers must be doctored. 

Looking at the tactical situation, they assess that they could hold the threatened region for a while, but lack the consumables to make a long-term stand.  Oglethorpe speculates that Andrich wants the Rangers to exhaust their supplies so he can sell them replacements.

Their planning session is interrupted by the arrival of Ciena Keele from Barringtons.  She asks to meet in private.  Oglethorpe tells Doukas to run simulations on repulsing an invasion.  Looking at the seal on the envelope Keele brought with her, he feels hope.

Notes: I remain befuddled by the unhindered availability of simulator data.  I can see the utility of having all of a base's simulator pods tied into a central computer, so that multi-pilot engagements can be run, and so that the data can be tabulated and analyzed.  However, what I can't comprehend is why all the simulators at each noble's estate seems to be mutually interlinked in such a way that they can't be cut out of the network.  Sure, having the simulators interlinked made sense when each noble was assumed to be training their personal guard force and giving them opportunities for inter-household rivalry matches, and for coordination exercises to prepare to support the main militia in the event of an offworld invasion.  In the earlier period, data sharing would allow the central command to assess readiness and effectiveness levels for the household auxiliaries.  However, it should have been a simple, and necessary step to yank the networking lines out and preserve operational security once a full-on civil war broke out. 

The Barringtons' mercenaries do take steps to secure the communications, but that suggests that either Andrich didn't think of doing that, or lacked the technical capabilities. 

One other question that arises is how Keele seems to have freedom of movement around Maldive.  Yes, Barringtons is publicly supporting the Collective, and can thus move freely around Rivergaard and other areas controlled by the revolutionaries.  But surely the Collective has spies in the loyalist camps - wouldn't they report the arrival of Keele and her meetings with leaders of neutral and anti-Collective factions?  She hasn't been given any mandate to bring the rebels into the fold, so, to the Collective, what motive could she have for meeting with Oglethorpe and Andrich, other than to conspire against the Collective?  She's probably not there to sell more Aniki dolls.

The seal is, most likely, Ivan's - a signal to Richard that he's returned and that Keele/Barringtons represents the true heir.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: July 29, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: Director Stephan Andrich prepares to host a viewing party for the battle, which will play out on a centrally located holotable depicting Quernmore and the M-207 highway, which Ms. Keele's team has set up for him.  She tells Andrich that Barringtons recruited her from Solaris VII, where she organized viewing events for arena duels.  She explains that the holotable doesn't show the full roster of the Uhlans, so that any spies in attendance will not know about the mercenaries or the southern flank advance.  When his guests arrive, Andrich welcomes them with a speech announcing his intention to make things right again.  The holotable lights up showing 'Mechs advancing, and Stephan tells his guests that the first step is the unification of the anti-Collective forces.

At the Collective Center in Rivergaard, Steadfast Court has an audience with the First Proctor, who tells Steadfast that her personal transformation has been quite effective, and that she has effectively applied the same transformation to Abigail Litzau.  They are joined by Proctor Martial, with reports from Richland that they have tapped Stephan Andrich's holotable and have active intel on the Uhlans' attack on Richard Oglethorpe and the Rangers.  Since Abigail is Richard's wife, they discuss whether her statement supporting the Collective will have the same psychological impact on Andrich if his assault is successful in sidelining Oglethorpe.  On the display, the battle is joined, and the Proctor Martial assesses that Oglethorpe and the Rangers will lose quickly.

At the Martyrs' Memorial, a storm closes in, drenching the perimeter guards, who are focusing more on their hot tea than the assault team that takes them out with flechette rounds.  Infiltrating the compound, they encounter an armed Proctor - Constant Mann.  Walter de Mesnil, leading the team, recognizes Mann as Calvin Galarza.  He reports Abigail has been subjected to starvation, sleep deprivation, humiliation, psychotropic drugs, and torture.  Entering Abigail's cell, the terrified woman refuses to be rescued and insists she's Renata, and loyal to the Collective.  They drug her and then extract to their helicopters through the storm and darkness.

Back in Richland, Andrich and his guests cheer the holographic advance of the Uhlans against the Rangers, with radio updates from Colonel Bozeman and Majors Beattie and Hayes.  The tone changes when Hayes reports a seismic anomaly, then that enemy forces are overwhelming their position.  On the display, the Uhlans' formation falls apart and they retreat in a rout.  As Andrich gazes at the disaster in horror, a tap on his shoulder alerts him to the arrival of Richard Oglethorpe, who tells him he's come to accept his surrender.  Andrich protests that he only wanted to unify the two forces and lead the Litzau restoration.  Oglethorpe counters that Abigail has the better claim.  Andrich moans that it doesn't matter now, since both the Uhlans and Rangers are devastated.

Keene clarifies that the Uhlans and Rangers are, in fact, fully intact.  The holo-display was showing only a simulated battle.  The mercenaries only pretended to join the Uhlans in exchange for getting repairs and refits out of Andrich's carefully hoarded stores.  The combined force is now at full strength, while the Collective, which has been allowed to intercept the holotable signal, believes them to be in crisis. 

Andrich refuses to swear fealty to Oglethorpe, saying his marriage to Abigail isn't enough.  He says he will only swear loyalty to someone who has a stronger claim to the Litzau legacy than his own.  At that point, one of the catering chefs introduces herself as Sophia Litzau, and invites his pledge of fealty.

Reunited back at Andrich's estate, Walter and Sophia discuss Abigail's broken psyche.  In the study, they meet Richard Oglethorpe and Ivan Litzau.  Walter notes with pride how far Ivan has come towards being a true leader since his Final Vetting two years earlier.  Ivan introduces himself to Stephan and the others as the rightful heir.  He explains that they kept their return from Solaris secret, and worked through friends at Barringtons, not daring to take action until they'd located Abigail and developed a plan for her extraction.  The simulated battle served both to bring the opposition forces together and distract the Collective from the rescue operation.

Andrich concedes that his Uhlans have been absorbed into the opposition, but notes that the Collective still has far more firepower and resources.  He doubts that any other corporations will join them just to salve the Litzau ego.  Ivan responds that they have a different source for an army than other corporations, and it will rise up and make Maldive theirs again when the time comes.

Notes: The scene at Andrich's party is essentially what makes this series "tie-in" fiction for the HBS BattleTech game, since the action on Maldive actually has nothing to do with the storyline of the Arano Restoration.  The holographic display that allows zoom-ins on individual 'Mechs is a clear reference to the HBS game interface. 

The resolution is comparable to the Stackpole Kell Hounds books, where the villains' plans are turned upside down at the last minute because of the heroes' behind the scenes machinations - revealing that despite all the obstacles put in their way, the heroes have been ten steps ahead of the antagonists the entire time.  Justin Xiang's infiltration of the Capellan high command; the Kells ruination and bankrupting of the underworld boss on Galatea; Ivan's bamboozling of the underworld boss on Solaris VII; etc. 

While there is some storytelling merit in portraying things as going the way of the antagonists, then add a twist that shows the superiority of the heroes.  But the twist often, to me, feels unearned.  We don't see the protagonists developing and implementing the scheme, but only see it unfold from the POV of the bad guys, and then get told at the end that the good guys rigged everything from behind the scenes.  Given the format, since there's been little to no foreshadowing or hints at what's really going on, it feels like a massive deus ex machina, and diminishes the bad guys role as effective antagonists.  The heroes come off as Mary Sues that hoisted the baddies by their own petard due to their sheer awesomeness.  It'd be as though Oceans 11 showed just the casino's POV, and then revealed at the end that a team of thieves cleared out the vault, while the security team gnashes their teeth in impotent rage.
« Last Edit: 20 January 2020, 04:03:54 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: July 30, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: Proctor Steadfast Court reports to the First Proctor that four guards were killed during Citizen Renata's liberation from the Martyr's Memorial, and that Proctor Mann is also missing.  Steadfast assumes he's a hostage, while the Proctor Martial presumes he went with them willingly, noting that he was never psychologically broken, but was incorporated into the Collective on the assumption that, as an enemy of Richard Oglethorpe, Galarza would be a friend of the Collective.  The senior Proctors reassure Steadfast that she is not suspected of complicity.

They discuss what use Abigail might be to Richard.  Steadfast asserts that Abigail was completely broken, fully a creature of the Revolution.  She acknowledges that deprogramming might be possible, but the resulting personality would retain little of the original Abigail.  The discussion turns to the military aspect, and the First Proctor suggests that the time would be optimal to move against Oglethorpe, since he's weakened by the recent battle.  The Proctor Martial counsels caution, noting that he's unwilling to commit the Revolutionary Guards to an assault against a fortified strongpoint until his spies can verify the amount of damage received.  He does not anticipate any serious threat against Rivergaard, even if Oglethorpe's forces are less damaged than the holo-data showed.

At Oglethorpe's stronghold - the Grange - Sophia and Ivan unsuccessfully try to get through to Abigail, who holds to her conditioning that the Litzaus were all killed, and that she has been reborn as Renata.  Watching the conversation, Walter notes that she doesn't feel abandoned by Ivan and Sophia, since the Collective falsely implanted the memory that they were dead, and only has the implanted idea that she was abandoned by Richard.  He infers, therefore, that the Collective doesn't know that Sophia and Ivan are alive, and that Abigail never gave up that information - suggesting that she still was able to resist the conditioning at some level.

Notes: The Proctor Martial at least seems to have enough sense to be suspicious of the potential for deceit in the holotable data.  However, he's still unaware of the fully-repaired mercenary contingent, or the fact that the Rivergaard Rangers have been re-armed and supplemented by the Andrich Uhlans.  Therefore, I predict, since he says "there's no way that they could attack us here in Rivergaard," that the finale will be the combined forces - bolstered by the common citizens (in exchange for a restructuring of the traditional elite-dominated social order) invading Rivergaard and taking out the Proctors and their goons.

The title of Proctor is interesting.  The dictionary definition is someone at a university who has disciplinary authority.  This implies that the Collective upper ranks view themselves as teachers with a mandate to enforce learning through harsh discipline.  Though they officially espouse a non-hierarchical social order, they clearly have an internal rank order, headed by the First Proctor.  The Proctor Martial rank seems very derivative of ComStar's Precentor Martial (though that rank won't exist for another 40 years). 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: August 4, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: At Collective HQ in Rivergaard, Proctor Steadfast Court has been watching holovision shows, and feels like she is beginning to understand the popular appeal of the shows and 'Mech fights - noting the similarity between the devotion fans feel for the fighters and the devotion she has for the Revolution.  She reports to the First Proctor that they could harness that passion by turning the proctors into popular heroes.  The First Proctor says that she wants Steadfast to meet with the Barringtons representative and have them adjust the toys and holovid propaganda accordingly, under threat of losing Maldive as their anchor point in the Periphery.

When Ciena Keele arrives with Weldon Ryther, the show runner for The Mystery holovid show, Steadfast says she has suggestions based on her analysis of current content.  She notes the leading popularity of Aniki Sturludottir and the Mystery Mercenary, and attributes it to her beauty and his sense of duty - along with the fact that the Revolution's seizure of Rivergaard was facilitated by mercenaries.  She wants future programming to create an affinity between their fans and the Collective. 

Keene agrees quickly, noting that the toys currently interact with the holovid broadcasts, cheering at the appropriate moments and responding to questions according to Collective-approved scripts.  She notes that they add sales messages ahead of gift-giving holidays.  She says that the season finale of The Mystery was planned to resolve the romance subplot between Aniki and the Mystery Mercenary, as well as his unmasking.  Instead, she rolls a clip showing the Mystery Mercenary leaving Aniki, saying his homeland of Maldive needs him, and putting on a proctor's robe and swearing himself to fight the enemies of the state.  She suggests bringing the Mystery Mercenary to Maldive in person to fight alongside the Revolutionary Guard.  The First Proctor agrees and assigns Steadfast to work with Barringtons on the scripts.

Notes: I'm confused about Maldive being a media "anchor point" in the Periphery.  Based on other sourcebooks, on worlds in the HPG network, ComStar receives transmissions of media programming from other worlds, and then retransmits them to local broadcast affiliates that have contracted for distribution rights.  On worlds that don't have an HPG, the media broadcasts are transmitted by JumpShips, who also receive zipsqueal transmissions of local media, assuming there's a demand for them.  Maldive doesn't appear to be host to an HPG, that would imply the JumpShip model.  While there's definitely profit for Barringtons in selling media transmissions to the Collective, it is unlikely that the Collective is rebroadcasting their edited propaganda-vids to other visiting JumpShips for redistribution.  I would presume, then, that Barringtons has represented itself to the Collective that they're trying to break into the rimward Periphery market, and want to start with Maldive.

Answering my earlier question, the Mystery Mercenary's tale in The Mystery is popular on Maldive because they make a major plot point of the titular character being from Maldive.  The popularity derives from the "hometown boy made good" storyline, which is probably doubly powerful on a minor Periphery world.

It's clear at this point that Barringtons is going set up another round of the Collective doing themselves in by their own evil methods.  They'll make propaganda vids making people devoted to Aniki and the Mystery Mercenary (whose dialogue is conspicuously pro-Maldive, but not overtly pro-Collective), then have the Mystery Mercenary appear in person and, at the right moment, will have him unmask as Ivan Litzau and call on the people (who are superfans) to rise up against the Collective.  At least there's some effort at earning the twist in this instance.

The toys interacting with the television show may be a meta-reference to a brief fad in interactive toys in the 1980s - when Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future would interact with their toy line, allowing kids to score points by shooting at the bad guys whenever the show shifted to battle-mode onscreen.  The Captain Power line died a swift death (being overpriced, and with the show being swiftly cancelled), but the technology has matured - most recently implemented on Netflix with the Beat Bugs line, where the toys recognize show elements and react.
« Last Edit: 20 January 2020, 11:02:48 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: August 14, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: At Lac du Vallee, in the Nyqvist Upland Preserve, Walter and Ivan return to the abandoned Taurian operating base where they'd hidden their 'Mechs after the Collective's attack.  Ivan suggests that, once the world is liberated, Walter could stay and settle down with Sophia.  Walter cautions that the original plan had been for Ivan and Sophia's children to liberate the world after a generation building support on Solaris VII, and that re-establishing House Litzau may require Ivan to compromise with hard-line old-family elements, who may demand Sophia marry into their bloodlines in exchange for support.  Walter expresses admiration for Ivan's idealism, but says that he can't make plans about Sophia right now, because he'll risk losing his edge.  Inside the bunker, they find Ivan's Trebuchet and Walter's Blackjack, just as they'd left them, and begin to ready them for action.

In Rivergaard, at Barringtons Media Productions, Proctor Steadfast Court is exhausted from the constant barrage of script revisions.  She's interrupted by Weldon, who offers her some tea he brought from Solaris.  He thanks her for her dedication to reviewing the scripts and catching so many oversights.  He suggests they go together to watch the season finale being filmed.  Steadfast agrees, though she feels uncomfortable due to the Barringtons' staff being offworlders and, per agreement with the First Proctor, not subject to the Collective's strict social regimentation or thought control.

On the way to the studio, Steadfast is shocked to see people wearing Rivergaard Rangers uniforms, but is reassured that they're just actors.  On the set, Steadfast comments that the lead actress really does look like Aniki.  Weldon tells her that all the footage in the show is of actresses whose look is tailored to the target market, none of whom look like the real arena fighter on Solaris.  She questions him about the morality of engaging in so much deception, but accepts that the stories told will bind the populace of Maldive to the Collective, and is therefore for the greater good.

Notes: Walter's hesitation to make long-term plans with Sophia is for continuity's sake, since the next time (chronologically) we see Walter, he's unattached and driving a cab on Galatea.  (And the next time we see him after that, he's missing an eye and training cadets on Kittery.)

The Taurian base seems to have been exceptionally well engineered.  Despite having originally been built above ground and then covered by a landslide, with the lake forming afterwards, there hasn't been any leakage in three centuries.  The SLDF depot on Dixie, in that same time, had enough seepage for stalagmites to grow up through the 'Mechs left behind, and the Brian Cache found by the Wolverines (and disputed by the Jade Falcons) had severe water damage after only a few centuries. 

I'd imagine that the complaints voiced by Proctor Court about the writing and revision process are from Stackpole's direct experience.  Looking on IMDB, he has a writing credit from 2007 for one episode of Tomb Raider: The Animated Series, and some scripting work for video games, but for the most part has written novels and sourcebooks.

Weldon's comment that the Anniki actress on Sian "makes Candace Liao look like a hedgehog" is somewhat anachronistic, since in 3002, Candace is just 13 or 14 years old.  I presume that Capellan state media had given a fair amount of "royal family" attention to Max's daughters, but it's strange to think of her being used as a standard for beauty comparison at that age.  Elizabeth Liao might be a better comparison, since her bio in the sourcebook notes her beauty, though it's not clear in the chronology when she married Max, and when his first wife died (some time after Tormano was born in 2996).  Looking at the birthdates...(boggle)...Elizabeth Liao is only 16 in 3002??!!  I hadn't realized that Max's wife and daughter were about the same age. 

The clear setup (unless I'm misreading the tea leaves) is that the Rivergaard Rangers are being infiltrated into the capital in plain sight, explained as being actors in the holovid production. 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: August 28, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: In Rivergaard, the Proctor Martial and First Proctor discuss the lack of evidence of fighting in South Riding and West March, as well as suspicious artifacts in the holovid feed.  The Proctor Martial suspects that the Rivergaard Rangers have merged with the Andrich Uhlans to form an undamaged reinforced regiment that has reinforced its positions and set traps for Collective forces.  He proposes striking at Richland and, after Andrich's surrender, folding his forces into the Collective's for an attack on the Rangers.  The First Proctor anticipates that none of the lesser houses will move to support Oglethorpe, especially after the finale of The Mystery, scheduled to air that night.  They mutually acknowledge that the entire "Revolution" is a facade aimed at putting them in power by getting the masses to buy into an ascetic philosophy of self abnegation and subservience, endorsed.

At Oglethorpe's HQ in Baronville, Sophia and Walter discuss future plans.  She tells him she doesn't just see him as a mercenary doing a job, just as she doesn't see herself as the same person she was when the Collective attacked.  She feels that she was able to grow into a new self on Solaris, with Walter's help, and doesn't want to change back.  They declare their love for each other and reminisce about how their relationship began at Golden Prosperity.

In Rivergaard, Proctor Steadfast Court sets up a Holovision deck to watch the showing of The Mystery, using a set provided by Weldon Ryther, along with limited edition Aniki and Mystery Mercenary dolls.  The setting reminds her of her life as Bethany, and she tries to smother the emotions that link her to that purposeless existence.  She looks forward to seeing Aniki and the Mystery Mercenary delivering her lines about loyalty, self-sacrifice, courage, and compassion, all in service to the Collective.

The dolls announce it is time for the show to start, and the HV player activates.  At the key scene, Aniki asks why the Mystery Mercenary is leaving her to return to Maldive.  However, instead of putting on the proctor's robe and declaring his loyalty to the Collective, the Mystery Mercenary tears it in half and removes his mask to reveal himself as Ivan Litzau, who sworn to free his people.  The Aniki doll confirms the holo-Ivan's statement, and says she is coming as well, and the Ivan doll calls on the viewers to rise up and overthrow the Collective.

Terrified, Steadfast puts on a coat and goes to the roof, seeing people already beginning to gather in the streets.  A Collective Locust marches towards them, blaring warnings to return home and firing warning shots from the machine guns, but the crowd instead charges the 'Mech, swarming up the legs and attacking the joints.  The panicked pilot begins to back away.  She sees the Revolutionary Guards pouring from their garrison led by the Proctor Martial's Crusader, which opens fire on the civilians in the streets.  Shimmying down a fire escape, Steadfast races to the Barringtons' studio to shut down the transmissions, but finds the studio already on fire when she arrives, surrounded by chanting crowds.  Redirecting her steps to Collective Center, she reassures herself that the First Proctor will have a plan.

At the former Litzau Enterprises building, Walter's two mercenary companies detect incoming contacts, and they move to keep the Collective forces from escaping.  The quickly smash the first wave, but Bozeman then reports that the entire Collective regiment is headed their way, trying for a breakout.

At Collective Center, Steadfast is shocked to find the First Proctor in civilian clothes loading valuables into a bag.  Steadfast says they can still save the revolution, but the First Proctor admits that the revolution was a sham designed to give dispossessed Dhivi families their rightful share of the world's resources, and that the revolution would have collapsed in another six months at most.  The shattering of Abigail's mind was just to get revenge on the Litzaus, rather than to bind the revolutionaries together.  When Steadfast begs her to stay, the First Proctor draws a flechette pistol and shoots her, saying she needs to get on a DropShip and depart.

At Walter's position, the Revolutionary Guards, led by the Proctor Martial in what Walter recognizes as Hake Angleton's former Crusader, engages the containment force.  Walter engages the larger 'Mech to draw its attention while his troops pick off the Proctor Martial's escorts.  Despite heavily damaging the Crusader, Walter's Blackjack suffers a critical gyroscope hit, and crashes to the ground, unable to move.

At the Rivergaard Spaceport, the First Proctor tries to pass for a refugee hoping for a berth on a DropShip.  She remains surprised how dedicated the people of Rivergaard are to the duties assigned them by the Collective - noting that the pre-Revolution elitist society hadn't allowed the common people to matter, so they held onto any responsibility given them, no matter the source.  Unfortunately, the notes, that includes the security guards checking papers at the port perimeter.  At the checkpoint, she identifies herself as Miranda Buera, bound for Itrom.  The guard tells her to proceed to another man, who will take care of her.  She presents her documents to the other man, and is stunned when he reveals himself as Calvin Galarza and places her under arrest.  He notes that they tracked her movements via the action figure that was given to her.

In his Blackjack cockpit, Walter waits to die, but before the Crusader can fire its lasers into his cockpit, it comes under fire from Ivan's Trebuchet and Aniki's Catapult.  Their combined fire sends the Crusader crashing to the ground, while the Rivergaard Rangers continue to grind down the Revolutionary Guards, eventually finishing them off. 

Dismounting, Walter and Ivan note that the Final Vetting started right at that spot, and wonders what his mother would think of his adventure.  Walter tells Ivan she'd be proud, and welcomes Ivan home as Chairman Litzau.

Notes: The origins of the Collective begin to be revealed, as the First Proctor mentions that she has a grandchild on Itrom, a war-scarred (radioactive in portions) world that was one of the founders of the Aurigan Coalition - making another slight tie-in to the HBS game.  Earlier hints that the upper echelons weren't as committed as Steadfast now pay off with the reveal that disaffected and impressionable people like Steadfast have been duped into committing atrocities in the name of a philosophy that serves as a smokescreen for con-artists seeking to loot the world. 

The ideals of the Collective seem fairly general-purpose, though we haven't seen much evidence of Compassion in its true-believers, unless their sadism has allowed them to convince themselves that their victims will arrive at a better state of existence through their ministrations.

The twist with the holo-production company and the dolls was solidly telegraphed from earlier setups, and so doesn't feel as unearned as the Andrich Uhlans deception.  The First Proctor's taking the time to explain to Steadfast the full details and background of the plot felt very forced, and unlikely as the actions of someone in a hurry to get out of town in a hurry, however.  Why bother telling her that the revolution was a sham if she was just going to shoot Steadfast in any event?  Had her earnest fervor annoyed the First Proctor enough that she wanted to see the look in her eyes when she learned the Revolution was a lie? 

I'm not clear on what the Proctor Martial's plan was.  If there were DropShips departing the world mid-battle, why weren't the Revolutionary Guards heading that way?  If they managed to get out of Rivergaard, where would they go?  Perhaps they could take over another settlement or scatter to the wilderness, but they won't have the same popular support or technical resources, so they'd just be delaying their destruction.  A better plan would have been to converge on the spaceport, slaughter any Litzau loyalists there, and use the 'Mechs to hold the perimeter long enough for the Collective elites to get on board.  Galarza would've had a hard time arresting a regiment of Revolutionary Guards.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: August 30, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: In a holding room at Litzau University (formerly the Golden Prosperity Reeducation Camp), Walter stares at the detained Proctor Martial, who he recognizes as his former boss - Hake Angleton.  Hake reveals that Angleton's Angels were working for the Collective all along, and that only Walter and his lance had been left out of the loop - the better to sell the fiction that they were working for House Litzau.  Walter says he knows that Hake wasn't committed to the ideals of the Revolution, but was just in it for the money.  Hake retorts that all mercenaries are in it for the money, or else they'd be fighting for a place or a government.  Walter tells Hake they may both be mercenaries, but they're definitely not alike.

Notes: Got to say, I didn't see that coming, having figured Hake as the "deceased mentor" of the story, rather than the "traitor mentor who faked his own death." 

The scene allows Stackpole to lay out his core argument (expounded on at length in the Kell Hound stories) that the Successor States have been tearing the Inner Sphere apart for centuries, and many mercenaries fight just for money and/or nihilism.  Morgan Kell says he foresees a time when all civilization has been torn to shreds and mankind is left beating each other to death with rocks among the ruins.  Thus, the Kell Hounds were intended to be a new type of mercenary - one that chooses its personnel, employers and missions with the goal of fighting to uplift humanity and end the nihilism.  With Hake stating that fighting and killing is just something to do to pass the time until dying, and Walter taking a principled stand against that, it shows the differentiation that would bring Walter to the Kell brothers' attention eight years hence.

Hake advises Walter that he should kill him now, because otherwise the older merc will use his resources to bring Walter and his friends to grief.  (The ur-example of such a speech is the one given by the mob enforcer on Firefly, just before Mal shoves him into the ship's engine.)  I noted in "Not the Way the Smart Money Bets" that Stackpole's characters have a positive fetish for warning the heroes about dangers. 
« Last Edit: 23 January 2020, 10:40:03 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: September 3, 3002
 
Location: Maldive

Title: Unlimited Honor

Author: Michael A. Stackpole
 
Type: Novella (HBS BattleTech)

Synopsis: In Rivergaard House, Sophia tells Walter the bad news - Hake Angleton (revealed to have family ties to House Andrich) and Miranda Buera have implicated members of the First Families in plotting the Revolution.  While public opinion is in favor of clemency for native Dhivi, they want vengeance on the offworld mercenaries and exiles.  Unfortunately for Walter, the Collective leadership has claimed that Walter was part of the plot to overthrow the Litzaus and was assigned to Ivan to make sure he died, and only kept Ivan alive to bargain for a bigger cut of loot, suggesting that Sophia was the price Walter demanded to switch sides.

Sophia says that she and Ivan want Walter to stay, but he tells her she won't be able to implement the reforms she plans if he remains as a lightning rod for public outrage.  They make plans to meet up again in three years on Solaris VII, where, he tells her, he'll be making a living in the arenas.  Sophia pledges to send him out with enough parts to refit his Blackjack, and with Ray Angelis (who has shed his role as Barringtons' Weldon Ryther) as his MechTech.  Ashleigh Knight (aka Ciena Keele) will stay to help Sophia, serving as her driver.

Twelve hours later, aboard the DropShip Bottled Lightning, Walter stows his gear in his cabin and goes up to the state room to which he's received an invitation to visit 'an old friend.'  After giving a passphrase to the voice recognition lock, he steps inside and reports to Quintus Allard as Agent de Mesnil.  Allard congratulates Walter on his mission, and Walter reports that neither Ivan nor Sophia suspected he was an MIIO agent.  Allard gives him a new assignment - to take the pulse of mercenaries on Galatea and warn the MIIO if he gets wind of a new offensive.  Walter takes the job, but notes that he'll still plan to make his rendezvous on Solaris in 3005.

Notes: "Surprise witnesses, each more surprising than the last!" - Lionel Hutz, attorney at law.  In Unlimited Honor, Stackpole seemed to be channeling M. Night Shyamalan.  Aside from guest appearances by Quintus early on, I hadn't detected any connection between the two.  Since his "diplomat" role to Maldive was a cover (and the mission was to ensure that Maldive didn't rejoin the Capellan Confederation), I suspect he was also an active intelligence asset during his earlier diplomatic posting to Sian.

This closes the continuity loop for Walter, explaining how he went from hero of the revolution to driving a cab on Galatea.  Walter's ties to the MIIO further explain why the Federated Suns took such an early interest in the Kell Hounds - an otherwise unremarkable unit with strong Lyran ties.  During his eight years "taking the pulse of Galatea," I wonder if Walter ever checked in at Club Zero-Zero and checked the lost and found bin?  (For all we know, Walter set up Club Zero-Zero as an MIIO intel drop site.)  Since Walter asks "another mercenary company?", the implication is that the MIIO got wind of the Collective's plans and assigned Walter to infiltrate Angleton's Angels to be positioned to keep the Capellans from gaining advantage from it.

I wonder if "Angleton's Angels" was an oblique meta reference to Avanti's Angels, which was misspelled multiple times in Loren Coleman's Double Blind as both "Avanti's Angles" and "Avtini's Angles."

So, this was the HBS tie-in fiction from the Kickstarter for their video game.  I'd gone into this hoping for some backstory on the Aurigan Coalition, the local politics of this previously unknown region, and possibly some whistlestop tours of the Inner Sphere powers as the exiles sought an ally to restore them to their power base on Maldive (something one might expect from fiction intended to introduce people who came in through the HBS game to the universe).  But what we got was a couple of mentions of Aurigan worlds, a 'prince returns from exile' story, and some fun new arena concepts on Solaris.  The action was vintage Stackpole - with the protagonists always holding all the cards and triumphing due to superior preparations, great fighting skill, and almost unbelievable luck. 

Looking over Stackpole's works, I find the ones I like the best are his big-picture ones, because he adds so much fun color to the settings, and does a nice job of setting up the political and military alignments.  That's why his 4th Succession War Warrior Trilogy and his Operation REVIVAL Blood of Kerensky trilogies are my favorite - because they're big picture stories that have the politics, large scale action, and star-spanning machinations I enjoy.  There are pulp hero action scenes in those as well, but they serve as a nice contrast to the grand scale storyline in those series, while here, that's all we get. 

As tie-in fiction, it seems loosely connected to the HBS setting and storyline at best.  By contrast, Randall Bills' stories for MW5: Mercs do everything I'd want such a product to do - introduce the backstories of the characters, show them going through their own personal stories against the backdrop of the Succession Wars, and showcase both the settings on various worlds and conflicts between various factions. 

Even more glaringly, since this was supposed to be a tie-in, the HBS game described Maldive as: "High Gravity/Uninhabited/Abandoned" with the note that "frequent orbital strikes from the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation collapsed its fragile ecosystem, leaving it a wasteland inhabited only by scavengers."  So it doesn't even effectively tie into the game for which it was a Kickstarter stretch goal.  (There was confusion about the setting initially, since it was written as "Maldives" in the first two novellas, and therefore was one letter off both Maldive and Valdives, but Valdives is described as an unpopulated volcanic world where the occasional bit of lostech can be found under blankets of ash, so that doesn't work either.)

Unless Quintus directed an AFFS fleet to return here and start lobbing asteroids (Sorry, Walter, no Solaris rendezvous for you.  Keep your nose to the grindstone on Galatea.) and/or found Capellans doing the same, there's no way for this Maldive to match the HBS thumbnail description by 3025, making the HBS descriptions as dicey (canon-wise) as those from MechWarrior 1, which identified which world had the best pizza in the Inner Sphere.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: 3003
 
Location: New Texas

Title: Remember the Alamo

Author: Alan Tucker
 
Type: Scenario (TCI Set #4 - Wolverine and Goliath)

Synopsis: On the far edge of the Lyran Commonwealth, New Texas is far from the front lines of the Succession Wars, but makes an attractive target for bandits, relying on its garrison to fend off raiders.  When Bandit King Tomec Tyrkson II arrived in a force too strong for the garrison to face and began setting up repair and refit operations for his pirates, Captain David "Bullseye" Crockett had his men pull back into the Alamo forest, hoping to do more damage with raids and sabotage, rather than a stand-up fight.   

During the garrison's retreat into the woods, Crockett and one of the pirates, Lt. Morgan, fought at the forest's edge.  Crockett effectively used the terrain for cover, forcing the badly damaged Goliath to retreat.

Notes: Interestingly, despite the scenario being "Wolverine and Goliath," the scenario booklet cover art shows two Goliaths and a Griffin.

The bandit, Lt. Morgan, is probably a reference to Henry Morgan, who grew wealthy raiding the Spanish main.

This 1985 pamphlet introduces rules for four-legged 'Mechs (as represented on standard record sheets): all arm and arm critical hits are treated as leg and leg critical hits, no punching, jumping, or DFA, no clubs.  PSRs get a -3 TN bonus.  Losing one leg means no running.  Losing two legs means it can still walk, but loses the -3 bonus.  It is only immobilized when it is down to one leg.  I'm getting some odd images in my head of a Goliath with both front legs blown off walking around upright, with the cockpit and PPC turret pointed skyward, or of one with the rear legs missing and doing a headstand, using the PPC barrel to balance.  Plus, the Tarantula would be surprised to hear the no jumping, no DFA rule.  Since neither the Goliath nor the Scorpion had jump jets, did the writers at this point envision them doing jump kicks mechanical-jump-booster style?  The construction worksheet also calls for the PPC critical slots to be split between the center torso and head.

There's no New Texas on the map, and this certainly isn't any relation to New Dallas, which was in the former Terran Hegemony and has long been abandoned.  While the battle between Morgan and Crockett is recorded, the outcome of the campaign isn't.  Perhaps New Texas fell off the maps prior to the 3025 map being published, which is why I've arbitrarily put it in 3003.  Given the frequency of bandit king attacks, the colony may have been deemed nonviable, and the population evacuated further into the interior of the Commonwealth.  Tyrkson's bandit kingdom is long gone (at least not mapped) by 3025, but he could have been based off any one of the old Rim Worlds Republic systems.  Since it's noted to not be anywhere near other Successor State borders, that probably put it in the area between Main Street and Timbuktu - perhaps a bit beyond the 3025 borders, near All Dawn, Slewis, or Caldarium - a region noted for short-lived bandit kingdoms.

Crockett has a gunnery of 3 vs. Morgan's 4, and the Goliath has a malfunctioning PPC which generates 15 heat every time it fires.  All light woods and hills on the basic maps are treated as heavy woods.  Given this setup, the Goliath has no real chance.  While it's a nice fire support platform, all of its weapons except the machine guns have minimum range penalties.  Without even the ability (under this ruleset) to do a mule kick, the Wolverine has every incentive in the world to close to point blank range and carve the poor quad up.  It'll overheat standing still just firing its PPC, and sustained alpha strikes will push it into ammo-explosion territory in just a few rounds.  (I once faced off against a Goliath with a Pegasus, and managed to take the 'Mech down despite running out of SRMs, by always finding cover when I lost initiative, and then scooting into the unprotected rear arc whenever I won initiative.)

For the Goliath - I'd recommend parking near the edge of the map and taking long range shots as long as your armor and ammo hold out.  If your systems start to look endangered, walk backwards off the map and give Crockett only a minor victory.  Maybe you'll get lucky and score a solid hit even with all the modifiers.  For the Wolverine, you want to be on the Goliath like white on rice, jumping in for kicks and point-blank shots, then jumping away (ideally to forest cover) whenever you lose initiative. 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Frabby

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The Hake Angleton reveal was a big surprise for me, too. But it doesn't make much sense.
What exactly was the plan and what exactly was the contract?
It looks like an unspecified power - the future Collective ringleaders - hired the Angels to... hire out to House Litzau? And then what? Who needed and paid for such a large merc force to begin with? Even as a smokescreen the setup must have looked at least plausible from the outside, but I can't see that.

As for world blurbs, those from the old MechWarrior game are actually pretty good and accurate (at least where they didn't make stuff up from scratch). Of course, there were much fewer BT publications to fact-check against.
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
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Mendrugo

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What seems to have been the plan is that a crew of bastard Dhivi who had been exiled from Maldive wanted to live the good life and get revenge on the elites that exiled them.  Since the upper classes of the Dhivi are prone to plotting, the exiles made contact with several and got local intel and support.  Hake was one of the exiles, and he either already had a mercenary unit or formed one to spearhead the invasion.

So, the plan was to take out the Rivergaard Rangers using the same plan that the Word of Blake used with the Shadow Lancers on Terra.  Decapitate the leadership of the First Families (for revenge and to eliminate organized resistance), then leverage the unrest of the oppressed commoners to keep the remaining elites penned up while the exiles and their backers looted the place and sent the spoils offworld to finance lavish lifestyles.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: November 17, 3003
 
Location: Regulus

Title: Knives in the Dark

Author: Randall N. Bills
 
Type: Short Story (MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries)

Synopsis: Lady Brooklynn Cameron-Jones has been summoned to the Palace of Mirrors in Regulus City, and proceeds nervously along lavishly decorated corridors to the opulent throne room, where Count Derick Cameron-Jones awaits her.  She makes the customary bows at each of the 18 half-circles centered on the dais, then awaits Derick's attention.

Derick opens by expressing regret that Janos Marik had General Willis Crawford executed for losing his command on Solaris, and asks Brooklynn's opinion.  She carefully responds that it was within the Captain-General's authority to do so, but Derick asks for a more specific opinion.  She notes Crawford's relationship with Anton Marik, Duke of Procyon, and that the execution led to a rift between the brothers.  She speculates on whether Anton might consider deposing his brother in the wake of Janos' apparent efforts to undercut Anton's military campaigns against the Capellans.  She pauses, realizing that her speculations could be taken as treason.  Derick sadly notes that she disappointed House Cameron-Jones by leaving Regulus to attend trade school in the Duchy of Oriente, then pulls out a noteputer and reads a report that Brooklynn had placed a virus in the SelaSys Incorporated computer network that damaged its Kearny-Fuchida drive, necessitating six months of repairs.  The Duchy of Oriente demands that she either be imprisoned there or that House Cameron-Jones pay remunerations to House Halas. 

Brooklynn denies having done such a thing, and Derick responds that he knows it wouldn't be in her character, which is why he paid the remuneration rather than let her rot in an Oriente prison.  However, he is disappointed that she allowed herself to be framed by another student from House Orloff, forgetting her title, blood, and duty to elevate House Cameron-Jones above its lessers.  To preserve the prestige of House Cameron-Jones, he says he is forced to strip her of her titles, obligations, and ties to House Cameron-Jones, and banishes her from the Principality of Regulus, on pain of death.

Notes: This is a magnificent introduction to internal League politics from the pre-civil war era.  We clearly see the overwhelming arrogance of House Cameron-Jones and the inter-House tensions that would cause the League to disintegrate less than a century later, and only partly reunite in the 3140s.  In just four pages, we get to see the wealth and power of Regulus, its cultural heritage from the exterminated House Selaj, its rivalry with House Orloff and House Halas, the focus on business and trade for junior members of the clan, cutthroat academy competition, the scarcity of interstellar travel technology, the growing schism between Janos and Anton Marik, and the aftermath of failed operations on the Lyran front.  (Willis Crawford was featured in a Shrapnel anthology story by Bear Peters, dreaming of glory during his academy days with Anton.  The failed assault on Solaris was also depicted in Shrapnel, again by Bear Peters, but later details ended up retconning that story to taking place in 3025, rather than 3002.)

The best BattleTech writers are able to weave details of setting, character, and lore together to move the plot forward while giving the reader a sense of where it fits in the greater scheme of things, and that the current action is part of a much larger, richer tapestry.  The stories I tend to dislike focus exclusively on the local scene without context, to the point that they could be transplanted to any world or time period in the setting without having any impact, because the action lacks context or consequence.

I liked that Derick asked her to comment on the Willis Crawford situation, because it showed he wanted to confirm that his suspicions about her intelligence and political acumen were correct.  The sadness was because he knew he'd have to give it up by exiling her, but the demands of being House Head outweigh his personal desires. 
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: 3003
 
Location: Delos VI

Title: City Fight

Author: Alan Tucker
 
Type: Scenario (TCI Set #8 - Wasp and Wasp LAM)

Synopsis: The 4th Proserpina Hussars have recently invaded the Steiner world of Delos VI and are engaged in pacification operations around its capital, Delos City.  In the suburb of Petersburg, Combine MechWarrior Sharon Dorsee takes her Wasp LAM in to investigate a heat signature, suspecting activity by surviving elements of the Delos militia.  She converts to 'Mech mode and engages what turns out to be an LCAF militia Wolverine.  The last one standing wins. 

During the scenario, set on two building-festooned CityTech maps, Dorsee can switch from 'Mech to AirMech mode and back, but cannot enter AeroSpace mode.

Notes: Amusingly, there was no attempt to modify the artwork from its source material, so the "Wasp" is holding a gun bearing the "U.N. SPCY" stencil and preparing to ambush a Zentraedi battlepod.  (Militia: "Why do the Proserpina Hussars keep calling us 'micronians?'")

While Delos IV is a world on the Federated Suns' border with the Outworlds Alliance, Delos VI, however, is described as a Steiner world on the Kurita frontier that has become strategically important because of the discovery of an ancient battlefield where hundreds of 'Mechs were destroyed, and from which spare parts can be recovered.  (And we're not even getting into the Marik planet of New Delos.)  All reference the Greek island of Delos, known in myth as the birthplace of Apollo and Artemis, and the sanctuary of Zeus.

Delos VI being a Lyran world makes sense, as the 4th Proserpina Hussars were traditionally stationed on the Lyran border (based on Orestes in 3025), having taken part in the major offensive against Tamar in 2915, through they had battled the Federated Suns on Harrow's Sun in 3002.  This is noted as being a year since Dorsee's LAM took critical damage to its hydraulic system from an enemy Warhammer's missile, jamming its conversion equipment and preventing it from engaging fighter mode.  If they were fighting the Davion Heavy Guards in 3002, that tentatively puts this scenario in 3003.  (Though 2916 would also work, assuming the damage was incurred during the fighting on Tamar.)

From the setup, the Lyrans have not yet been fully driven off the world, but have retreated from Delos City into the suburbs.  The main draw is the battlefield wreckage (presumably from the First or Second Succession War, or possibly a large-scale Age of War conflict..."Mackies! Mackies and Ymirs as far as the eye could see!").  One explanation for this world being off-map by 3025 is that the DCMS had a habit of hitting enemy worlds that had potential resources, and then unleashing WMDs to make sure nobody else could use those resources after departing.  They nuked Helm and blasted nerve gas into the atmosphere of other worlds.  It would fit the pattern if they held the Lyran militia at bay while they picked over the carcasses in the battlefield, then gassed or glassed the world during their withdrawal.

Unlike other TCI scenarios, this set comes with two versions of one unit, and relies on the player having another set containing a 55-ton 'Mech to do the scenario.  (The Wolverine is the official OpFor, though the scenario says any 55-tonner will do.)

The statistics given for the pilots are interesting - an apparent attempt to integrate MechWarrior 1st Edition's pilot skill system.  For Gunnery and Piloting, it gives Skill Level (3/4 for the Wolverine, 4/5 for the Wasp LAM), as well as "Att. Target" (Attribute Target?) rolls of 8 for the Wolverine and 7 for the Wasp, and Skill Rolls of 5/4 for the Wolverine and 3/2 for the Wasp.  Presumably, this means that the Wasp LAM has a Gunnery of 3 and Piloting of 2, and the Wolverine has a Gunnery of 5 and Piloting of 4. 

Given the availability of AirMech mode, LAMs will typically jump away behind a building whenever it loses initiative.  Thus, the scenario always gives the LAM the initiative.  So, if the Wolverine gets out in the open, the LAM will jump in behind it and shoot up its backside.  The Wolverine, therefore, has a strong incentive to find a building in a tight spot and back up against it, so he can shoot at the Wasp whenever it comes close.  Given how thin the Wasp's armor is, the Wolverine only has to get a few lucky shots in.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: February 27, 3004
 
Location: Kalidasa

Title: One Man's Trash

Author: Philip A. Lee
 
Type: Short Story (Legacy Anthology)

Synopsis: At the Kali-Yama factory annex in Westport, Sergeant Virgil "Verge" Armstrong feels euphoria as he slides into the cockpit of the beat-up Grasshopper, thrilled that he's been called up as an active MechWarrior.  Following his graduation from the Allison MechWarrior Institute, he'd been "temporarily" assigned to the armor regiment of the 25th Marik Militia, and then transferred to the mercenary Panther Assault Group, where he was also assigned to the MechWarrior reserves.  This 'Mech was obtained as salvage after the Panthers repulsed a probe by the 17th Arcturan Guards.

Senior Technician Barbara joins him as he looks over the time-worn cockpit and alerts him to problems with the jump jets.  After she leaves, Verge notices a strange texture on the bulkhead, and finds a series of names, ranks and dates carved into the metal plate, going all the way back to 2779.  The most recent is Leutnant Christiane Kühn, 3001.  As he begins inspecting the controls and running through the prep checklist.  A jagged piece of metal keeps catching on his shorts, and he reaches under the instrument panel to find the source of the problem.  His probing fingers find a loose weld joint, and his attempt to push it back into place instead pops it open, causing a small object to roll out and hit him in the shin.

Before he can determine what the cylinder is, he's joined by Von Luckner commander Sergeant Antonia "Toni" Johnson.  Fearing that the tube contains illegal narcotics stashed by the tech crew, he hides it in the command couch.  Toni asks him to show her what his 'Mech can do, but he tells her he has to take it out for a test run first.  Laughing, she climbs into the cockpit with him (causing the cylinder to dig into his back) and kisses him.  He warns her that she's not authorized to be in the cockpit, and she leaves, nicknaming the 'mech "Trash" as she departs.  She tells him she's glad he finally got a ride.

Following his test run, Armstrong still feels the power of being behind a 'Mech's controls as he returns to his bunk, where his roommate, van Leuwen, is asleep.  He uses the privacy to unscrew the mysterious cylinder, revealing a data crystal and some rolled up photographs, along with an engagement ring, inside.  He suspects these are the personal property of Lt. Kühn, and worries that he's inadvertently violated Major Szalinski's ban on looting.  He puts the crystal into a noteputer and finds that the data therein is encrypted, making him suspect that the contents are classified military or intelligence documents.  Since he appreciates a good puzzle, he spends hours trying to crack the encryption, finally making a breakthrough, albeit one that spells damnation for him.

Notes: Armstrong notes that low-tech backwater planets still use ancient magnetic disks for data storage, while more advanced worlds use data crystals, which aren't as volatile nor susceptible to failure.  It suggests that references to disks (from books written in the 1980s, predating optical and solid state storage media, and certainly predating data crystals) in the BattleTech universe may be less "future of the 80s" and more a sign of technological regression on skid row worlds.

The Panther Assault Group appears to be a mercenary combined arms battalion, fielding both 'Mechs and tanks.  This is the first fiction where I can recall characters being assigned as reserve pilots - essentially replacements for MIA/WIA/KIA MechWarriors whose rides still work and prize crews for salvaged units.  The HBS game, however, definitely rewards having a deep bench of MechWarriors to replace wounded personnel.

Armstrong notes that Trash is primarily considered to be a walking spare parts collection for Major Szalinski's own Grasshopper, since getting the parts is next to impossible.  He expects to have Trash's components scavenged the next time Szalinski's ride gets damaged - especially if there's a problem with the fusion engine.  This fits in nicely with other stories from this period - with scavenging being the order of the day and new parts practically unheard of.

Armstrong recounts that he took up mercenary service after pulling a tour of duty with the Marik Militia.  I suppose that, given the surplus of MechWarriors vs. supply of 'Mechs, the FWLM has no vested interest in keeping service personnel on duty if their specialized skills aren't needed.  That must have been a major channel for the creation of new mercenaries.  Particularly now, at the tail end of the Third Succession War, when MechWarrior families have their own in-house spares (heirs) waiting for the chance to take up the family lineage.

I was surprised to read that the Allison MechWarrior Institute has been producing more MechWarriors than the FWLM can accommodate, since they only accept 500 students per year (graduating about 375 and presumably washing out the other 125), with fierce competition for those spaces.  Only the top five percent are likely to be assigned to a 'Mech command, mostly going to the Free Worlds Guards and the Marik Militia.  Now, Does that mean only the top five percent are likely to be assigned as a MechWarrior, while the remaining 95% are shuffled into the infantry or armor units?  That seems to be the implication.  (Which also implies that Armstrong wasn't in the top 5% of his class.)

It's interesting that the 25th Marik Militia had an attached armor regiment.  In the early sourcebooks, the Great House 'Mech regiments were generally described as being on their own (the RCTs of the AFFS being a notable exception), and would only be assigned conventional support troops during major offensive operations.  We didn't start seeing profiles of long-term attached support troops until the Field Manual series was published.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Wrangler

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Doing the reviews again. I do have a question though. Are the MechWarrior 5 stories considered Canon?
"Men, fetch the Urbanmechs.  We have an interrogation to attend to." - jklantern
"How do you defeat a Dragau? Shoot the damn thing. Lots." - Jellico 
"No, it's a "Most Awesome Blues Brothers scene Reenactment EVER" waiting to happen." VotW Destrier - Weirdo  
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Mendrugo

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Doing the reviews again. I do have a question though. Are the MechWarrior 5 stories considered Canon?

I’m not the one to ask.  However, they’re written by the line developer and promoted on this site.  I really haven’t found any significant inconsistencies with canon events thus far.  I’d consider them canon in the same way that the Lore stories Randall wrote for MWO and the MWDA fiction he wrote for Scrye are canon.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: February 28, 3004
 
Location: Kalidasa

Title: One Man's Trash

Author: Philip A. Lee
 
Type: Short Story (Legacy Anthology)

Synopsis: The information on the data crystal continues to affect Verge throughout the next morning.  After bowing out of the morning run, he goes to request an audience with Major Szalinski.  He tries to tell the Major about what he found in the Grasshopper, but the Major misunderstands, and assumes he's complaining about how beat up it is, and tells him he's only lucky enough to get even that 'Mech because Sergeant Jemison is too fat to fit in the cockpit.  Verge finally manages to show the photos and the ring to the Major, noting that the Panthers pride themselves on not looting, and suggests they try to return them.  Szalinski tell him he appreciates the honesty, and says it goes a long way towards officer candidacy.

Back in the Grasshopper cockpit, Verge looks at the names and wonders how he will die.  He activates the 'Mech with his newly encoded passphrase, "One man's trash is another man's treasure."  He reviews his situation - the data crystal contains an official LCAF dispatch from ComStar, which the Grasshopper had been couriering from the ComStar station to the LCAF forces in hiding on the planet until the courier had the misfortune to run into the Panthers.  The message was to hold at Crater Hollow until the 10th Skye Rangers arrive in-system at a pirate point on March 4.  While the Panthers have a combined arms regiment of three battalions, more than enough to wipe out the surviving Arcturan Guards, a whole fresh 'Mech regiment will turn the tables, and risk the destruction of the Panthers and the loss of the Kali Yama factory.  Without a DropShip, the mercenaries can't flee, and there's little chance the LCCC will send reinforcements of their own in time.

Walking patrol with Lt. Solomon's Crusader, he works to get the feel of the battered Grasshopper, compensating for the non-functional systems as best he can.  He regrets that he wasn't good enough to serve in a regular FWLM unit, and had to settle for a mercenary berth after being drummed out of the service.  He considers delivering the message to the 17th in exchange for their promise to let him and Toni leave unharmed.  He wonders if the reports of reinforcements are disinformation, intended to be captured to trick the Panthers into fleeing before an inferior force.  Knowing Major Szalinski's motto "we get paid to fight, not to win," he knows that telling his superior is as good as suicide.

Notes: Of interest, the Kali-Yama factory only has "a handful of corporate security forces" on site to defend the factory.  By comparison, Defiance Industries on Hesperus II has its own regiment-sized Defiance Self Protection Force.  The Kalidasa factory makes Wasps, Hunchbacks, Trebuchets and Orions, so I'd assume their guard force would be comprised of those designs.  The Objectives series gave some guidelines for corporate factory defense forces, suggesting a lance of every BattleMech, vehicle, or aerospace fighter line that the factory produces, augmented with a platoon of conventional infantry for every lance.  That rule of thumb would give Kali-Yama security a reinforced company of 'Mechs as well as four platoons of infantry.

Even with an extra company, that gives the Kalidasa defenders only 4-5 'Mech companies, an armor battalion, and a reinforced infantry battalion soon to face a reinforced 'Mech regiment.  The 17th was a quality unit (and went on to face off against Wolf's Dragoons on Wyatt, and hold their own), while the 10th is a Regular unit with strong ties to the Free Skye movement later on (not sure of their leanings in 3004, though Alessandro Steiner's Concentrated Weakness stratagem couldn't have helped on that score.)  One wild card is the Kalidasa Static Defense Unit (aka the planetary militia), which had 'Mechs, infantry, and armor during the Jihad - not clear what it was packing in 3004.  Or perhaps it got mauled by the 17th before the Panthers broke the Lyran raiders, and is no longer a factor.

I find it unusual that the Grasshopper was being used to courier a message received from ComStar.  We've seen in the past that ComStar sends its own couriers to deliver classified messages (including that one weird scene on Sian where the ComStar courier delivered part of the message, listened to the top secret strategy discussion, then volunteered additional information that had to have been in the original message, but that she hadn't delivered in the first place).  Given ComStar's neutrality, it would seem to be a safer way to send communiques - they won't be stopped or harassed.  It's not like they were giving up any secret info to ComStar by letting the company deliver the message, either, since the location of the Lyran troops was included in the message.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

hf22

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Doing the reviews again. I do have a question though. Are the MechWarrior 5 stories considered Canon?

We got a ruling on the forum from Cubby, and the LD, and they are not canon.

No reason given, but it could be copyright related or something, given the other parties involved.

Frabby

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What hf22 said.
By Herb's still-valid default ruling, stories and other materials have (paraphrased) to be published under the boardgame license. Randalls' stories for HBS and Piranha don't meet that requirement, being written for third parties operating under the distinct computer game license (and not with boardgame LD hat on).

It was thus a big issue, and a notable exception from the rule, that the MWO Hero 'Mech fluff and stories written by Randall for HBS were declared canon for boardgame (mainline) BattleTech as well.
« Last Edit: 25 January 2020, 04:34:08 by Frabby »
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
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Mendrugo

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Thanks for the clarification.

Still, this thread will continue to try to shoehorn in everything that fits under the moniker of BattleTech fiction, to the extent possible, regardless of canonicity.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Frabby

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Oh, absolutely! Bring it on.  :thumbsup:
I love digging up apocrypha, I love tying it all together. Alternative timelines suck have killed at least two other major SF franchises just aren't my cup of tea.

Your analysis and comments is always great and informative. As a non-native speaker I miss a lot of nuances and references to or in-jokes about US culture and history. They typically zip by way over my head.
« Last Edit: 25 January 2020, 09:52:27 by Frabby »
Author of the BattleCorps stories Feather vs. Mountain, Rise and Shine, Proprietary, Trial of Faith & scenario Twins
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Mendrugo

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Date: February 29, 3004
 
Location: Kalidasa

Title: One Man's Trash

Author: Philip A. Lee
 
Type: Short Story (Legacy Anthology)

Synopsis: At Crater Hollow, named for a crater at the site of an ancient meteor strike, Armstrong walks his Grasshopper into the bivouac of the Arcturan Guards, and is confronted by a pair of Lyran pickets which hesitate to attack, since the Grasshopper is still painted in the Arcturan colors it bore when it was captured.  Amstrong signals he has no hostile intent.  His request to speak with their commander is angrily rebuffed, but the guard is interrupted by the arrival of Kommandant Nielsen's battered Zeus

After explaining that he doesn't know what happened to Leutnant Kühn, Amrstrong tells Nielsen about the communique he found in the Grasshopper, indicating that Lyran reinforcements will be in the system at any moment.  He asks them for amnesty and passage offworld for himself and his closest friends, in exchange for intel on the Westport defenses and Panther patrol schedules.  Nielsen accepts, on the condition that Armstrong surrender the Grasshopper

As the Lyrans are focusing on his imminent surrender, waves of missiles slam into their ranks, while the Grasshopper leaps out of the kill zone (swiftly crashing due to the damage to the jump jets).  The Panthers arrive at the rim of the crater, and Major Szalinski orders Armstrong to fall back.  The Lyrans advance through a storm of missiles, and Armstrong finds himself at the mercy of a Lyran Warhammer.  Rescue arrives in the form of the Panthers' armor battalion, and Toni's Von Luckner platoon shatters the Lyran 'Mechs.

Notes: This engagement represents a nice use of the Von Luckner, which sports both an LRM-20 and an AC/20.  (It's basically an Atlas on treads.)  Armstrong's initial feigned betrayal builds on the internal monologue from the previous chapter, not revealing that in the interval Armstrong clearly changed his mind and went to Major Szalinski.  It's interesting that the Panthers were able to get enough to field an entire platoon, since the tank itself dates from the early Star League era (being a replacement for the Merkava), and hasn't been manufactured in centuries. 

The point of the ruse appears to have been to allow the Panthers to use indirect fire, with Armstrong feeding them targeting telemetry while going through with his "I surrender" act.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Date: March 1, 3004
 
Location: Kalidasa

Title: One Man's Trash

Author: Philip A. Lee
 
Type: Short Story (Legacy Anthology)

Synopsis: At the Kali-Yama factory annex, Verge watches as Barbara and the rest of the Panthers' techs swarm over his Grasshopper, rebuilding its internal supports. 

Major Szalinski joins him, and informs him that the Arcturan Guards battalion has been eliminated, and the expected Lyran reinforcements have been detected, but only one JumpShip - no more than a battalion, and not at the pirate point.  He speculates that the Tenth Skye Rangers had jump trouble.  In any event, he thanks Verge for bringing the message to his attention, since it meant the Panthers could fight one battalion at time, rather than being sandwiched between two. 

As a reward for acting as bait in the earlier battle, Verge is offered a salvaged Arcturan Warhammer or Zeus.  Instead, he says he'll stick with his Grasshopper, saying he and "Trash" have history.

Notes: The dialogue between Verge and Toni (who is with him at the start of the scene) indicates that Verge didn't tell her about the reinforcements, and believes they'll all be crushed by the Lyrans within days.  Dialogue with Szalinski indicates he came clean about the chronology, and that he'd held onto the message instead of turning it over immediately.  The confession appears to have earned him significant credit with the Major, who is not only keeping him on the active roster, but offering him a choice of rare Heavy and Assault 'Mechs.

Since the Grasshopper next shows up on the Lyran side of the border on the eve of the War of 3039, bearing faded Lyran colors, we can assume that the Panthers ended up getting their stomping at Lyran hands eventually (and probably sooner than later, since the Panthers don't appear on any TO&E charts in Brush Wars, so they're long gone from League space, or from existence, by the time of Anton's Revolt.)
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - The Succession Wars - Part II
« Reply #778 on: 06 February 2020, 04:57:57 »
Date: January 1, 3005
 
Location: Layover

Title: Dissimulate Wanderer

Author: Randall N. Bills
 
Type: Short Story (MechWarrior 5: Mercenaries)

Synopsis: Fahad, serving as a 'Mech technician, takes a beating from Lt. Corals of the Plague Boys mercenary unit during a posting on the Federated Suns world of Layover, with the bored mercenary taking out his frustrations on a convenient Combine-origin target.  This is Fahad's third unit since leaving the Azami.  As the abuse continues, he knows that it's time to move on again.

Notes: The use of the Plague Boys is a deep, deep lore reference, since the unit was only mentioned once in passing (along with the Shady Ladies) as a unit in service to the Draconis Combine in the 2950s.  Referred to as "well equipped" during that period, Fahad calls them "drunken idiots" with a D-rating from the MRB, so they've fallen on hard times in the last half century (probably explaining why they aren't on any TO&E lists in 3025 onwards).

Fahad notes he has to wear a filter mask due to the heavy amount of bacterial contamination.  The info about the microbial density on Layover comes from Objectives: Federated Suns, and is a nice bit of continuity - something that pervades this "non-canon" work.  The facility they're guarding is the dilapidated Salvatore, Inc. factories - once a major space vessel manufacturer, now reduced to a single production line for Seeker-class DropShips.  (Interestingly, though the company makes both Seekers and Vengeance DropShips, the silhouette of a ship in their corporate logo doesn't match the profile of either ship, implying there must have been more in their catalog way back when.)

During a lull in the beating, he calls his tormentors "drunken Canopian pleasure circus rejects."  I'm surprised that knowledge about the circuses is widespread in 3005, since the Succession Wars crushed tourism, and the Handbook: Major Periphery States indicates that most of the pleasure circuses were on the verge of bankruptcy towards the end of the Third Succession War, returning to prosperity only after the Trinity Alliance restored relative peace to the region and granted free passage to the circuses into Capellan space.  I would be surprised if many Pleasure Circuses made it as far as the Federated Suns circa 3005.  (I can see them visiting the Riviera world circuit, where bored nobles go from world to world to catch a series of annual social events, but Layover's not on the circuit, and near the Combine border.  I can't see the Combine under even a young Takashi Kurita welcoming Canopian vessels.)
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Mendrugo

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Re: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - The Succession Wars - Part II
« Reply #779 on: 06 February 2020, 06:20:15 »
Date: 3005
 
Location: Valhalla VI

Title: Lone Wolf

Author: Alan Tucker
 
Type: Scenario (TCI Set #1 - Shadow Hawk and Scorpion)

Synopsis: Captain Von Hister of the Wolf Pack oversees field technicians as they complete repairs to his Scorpion as it skulks in ambush.  He notes that the day's Hunting has gone well, with five Light 'Mech kills and no losses.  He notes that he's racked up 21 kills so far. 

The Pack's Hunter reports an inbound Shadow Hawk three kilometers away, and von Hister's crew begins preparing to withdraw, assuming that the Medium 'Mech is too much for them.  Thus, they are surprised when von Hister informs them that they're going to try to capture the enemy 'Mech.

Von Hister's goal is to immobilize the Shadow Hawk and retreat, but can still get a minor victory if the Shadow Hawk is immobilized but the Scorpion cannot withdraw.  The Shadow Hawk pilot, Lt. Blanchard, wins by destroying the Scorpion.

Notes: As with the other scenarios in this series, it uses art lifted from the original intellectual property, so the cover features a Dougram/Shadow Hawk in the foreground with two more being deployed by VTOL (Pacific Rim-style) in the background (the Eastland WE211 Mavellic VTOLs were probably the thematic and aesthetic inspiration for the Karnov-UR VTOL).  The interior art shows the Scorpion as well - an import of the Dougram series' Crab Gunner.  The tri-barrel protrusions on each side are labeled as flare launchers.

The background notes (from Jane's Book of 'Mechs) describe the Scorpion as a scout-killer with a three man crew, operating independently with a small fast attack group of tanks, called Wolf Packs.  They move at the vanguard of attacks, hunting and ambushing enemy pickets.

The Hunter is not the Lyran missile carrier, but instead is the HNT-3R Hunter Assault Tank (Wheeled), a 20-ton vehicle with 8/12 movement, 5 tons of armor, and a PPC in the turret.  However, this is different than the HNT-3R Hunter tank from the BattleDroids boxed set, which had an LRM-20 (similar to the DefHes Hunter from TRO:3026).  The tank model used is also from the Dougram series - the Instead Wheeled Tank.  I would presume they wrote the main gun up as a PPC when it didn't visually match the BD set's missile launcher description.  Thematically, it bears similarities to the 40-ton Myrmidon and 60-ton Manticore (essentially a wheeled scout variant of the Myrmidon).  Jalastar Aerospace manufactures both the canon PPC tanks, so it wouldn't be a stretch to envision Jalastar having made the Hunter as well.  (And probably having had no small amount of trouble with Defiance Industries' legal department, given the appellation of DefHes' tracked missile carrier.)

The rules for quads are the same here as for the Goliath scenario - technically allowing the 'Mech to continue walking as long as it has two legs left.  (Imagine the scene inside the control center for the three pilots if both right legs are shot off, making the Scorpion pivot its body perpendicular from the ground as it tries to walk off on the two left-side legs.)  This is also the only instance referring to Scorpions as having three pilots (it's essentially a tank on legs, so it wouldn't have the same space constraints as, say, a Wasp or Spider cockpit.

I'm not entirely sure why the Wolf Pack was so spooked by the Shadow Hawk.  It's got its standard popgun array of AC/5, LRM-5, SRM-2, and Medium Laser - topping out at 19 weapon damage (if all missiles hit).  By contrast, the Wolf Pack brings a pair of PPCs and an SRM-6 to the table, plus superior speed, able to throw 32 points of damage downrange.  With infinite running room, this wouldn't even be a contest.

For the Wolf Pack, I'd recommend splitting the team and executing a flanking maneuver.  If the Shadow Hawk goes for the Scorpion, the Hunter should maneuver to get back-shots - it'll go internal with one hit of the PPC.  If it goes after the Hunter, do the same with the Scorpion.  Even better, the Shadow Hawk is packed with ammo, so a massive explosion is likely.

For the Shadow Hawk, I'd recommend charging in and trying to pin the Scorpion down at the edge of the map.  Its minimum range penalties will kick in once you get to knife fighting range, and while your LRM will have the same problem, you can kick, while the quad cannot.  Twist your facing to deny the Hunter back shots, and try to keep knocking legs off.  Scorpions only have ten armor on each leg, while your kick is 11 points.

In terms of setting, there's no indication as to which factions are fighting, and therefore no clue where Valhalla VI is located.  Given the connection to Norse myth, one might suspect Valhalla VI is an outpost world somewhere in the Rasalhague Military District.  However, if the Hunter is a product of Jalastar Aerospace, that would make the Scorpion an AFFS unit, and the Shadow Hawk a Capellan or Combine unit.  And, of course, names like Von Hister are most common in Lyran space (though the Hister family seat originated in Yorkshire.)  On the whole, I'd be most comfortable assuming Valhalla VI is a Combine world in the Rasalhague Military District, and von Hister is a Lyran MechWarrior from York.
« Last Edit: 10 February 2020, 09:13:16 by Mendrugo »
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

 

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