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Author Topic: Chronological BattleTech Fiction Review - The Succession Wars - Part II  (Read 74485 times)

Mendrugo

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Date: October 10, 3010
 
Location: Irian

Title: A Skein of Schemes

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

Synopsis: Sebastian Spears looks out over the massive Irian Technologies industrial complex from his corner office while monitoring displays showing the results of various IE-related missions - a merc unit successfully preventing House Davion from finding anything at the XVII Corps' base on Stratford, the arrival of an archaeology team and mercenary security force on Liezen looking for missing equipment from the 183rd Royal Mechanized Infantry Division, the ongoing search for information on Clinton's Cutthroats, and details on the rising tensions between Anton and Janos Marik, and the involvement of ComStar, House Liao, and House Davion.  He notes reports of Capellan interest in Emris IV, but is wary of moving on the world for fear of tipping off the Maskirovka.

Chloe Reed and Nikolai Mason arrive for their meeting.  Sebastian sees darkness in their eyes, still haunted by Dawson Clarmont's death.  He outlines the contract - searching Emris IV for information on equipment related to the SLDF XIX Corps' 67th BattleMech Division.  Nikolai cuts him off, noting that the setup sounds very much like the mission that brought them to McKenna.  Chloe blames Sebastian's penchant for secrets for getting Dawson killed and losing Brooklynn.  She demands a straight answer.

Sebastian notes that Interstellar Expeditions is exactly what it seems to be - an organization dedicated to guarding knowledge.  However, he notes, there are areas where IE attempts to influence events for the better.  The Cavaliers' missions have advanced those goals significantly.  Sebastian says he knows Chloe has some secrets of her own, and suggests an exchange of information, to build trust.  Sebastian goes first, explaining that he was born on Telos IV, where he played as a youth by exploring the ruins of the Castle Brian there.  As a teenager, he ran away from home and signed on as an apprentice LosTech prospector in the Algedi Prefecture.  He learned six languages and the ins and outs of negotiations and how to fight when needed.  He was disillusioned, however, by the Combine's handling of the LosTech he and other prospectors found - in exchange for large bribes to the Ministry of Well-Being of the Land and the Peoples, letting people carry items that belonged in museums and universities off to sell to wealthy collectors.  He was recruited by IE in his twenties.

In response, Chloe explains that she was born on Terra and realized her affinity for technology early on.  Her parents were members of ComStar, and she had been fostered by ComStar by the time she was ten, working in the Science and Research branch and training as a MechWarrior.  Sebastian is surprised about the last part, noting that ComStar doesn't have an army.  Chloe covers by saying the training helped her understand the technology she was researching.  She says the religious aspects repulsed her, and her own research led her to believe that Jerome Blake would have been horrified by it.  Sebastian concurs.  To escape ComStar, she slowly decreased her productivity until her failures became too large an embarrassment for ComStar to want her, and they banished her from Terra, assuming her a broken woman.

Sebastian says her knowledge might be used to blunt ComStar's threat.  He tells them that ComStar has been manipulating the five Great Houses for more than 200 years, and says he hopes they can thwart their manipulation of Anton Marik and elsewhere, but they must do so very carefully.  This brings him back to Emris IV, where the Cavaliers can make outside threats leave "a bunch of do-gooder hippies trying to save old books" alone, letting IE's agents operate unhindered.  Chloe accepts the contract, but demands extra funds to cover the unit's asset expenditures.

Notes: I'm confused about the view from Spears' office window.  I'm presuming his office is positioned to look out over the Soapstone Mountain BattleMech factory, which is the main IrTech facility on Irian.  However, the Soapstone facility has been described as similar in structure to Defiance Industries on Hesperus II - buried in the bowels of the Soapstone mountains, Mines of Moria-style.  (The engineers of DefHes delved too deep in pursuit of germanium, and unearthed a BAL-1RG Balrog...)  So, if the Soapstone complex is buried in various chambers that wind through the mountain...how is Sebastian looking out his window onto the massive industrial complex?  (Keep in mind, the sun is shining down on his office windows, so he's not in a subterranean chamber with windows overlooking the factory floor.)  One possible explanation is that the Soapstone facility had a substantial amount of its operations located above ground at the mouth of the Soapstone cavern complex, and this is what Sebastian is seeing.  This, then, would be what gets razed by Anton's rebels in 3014, while the cavern complex (also rendered inoperable) was rebuilt afterwards.

It's interesting to hear that most of the SLDF and Terran Hegemony relics in the Combine could be found on just six systems - Kaus Borealis, Alya, Altais, Rukbat, Shitara and Algedi.  Two hosted SLDF garrisons, so that explains the League items.  Interestingly, despite their proximity to Terra, none of these systems were ever part of the Terran Hegemony (in fact, several were Azami Brotherhood worlds).  So why would they be rich sites for Hegemony artifacts?  Just due to trade with the Hegemony?  On Kaus Borealis the volcanic eruptions that began around the time of the Star League's collapse could have hidden a great many League-era treasures.  Alya has a hostile atmosphere and relies on hydroponic farms (and presumably habitat domes), meaning there are large portions of the planet where no locals ever tread.  Altais is geologically unstable and covered by active volcanoes, and once hosted an SLDF garrison.  Rukbat's biochemistry is incompatible with Terran lifeforms and its soil cannot support Terran crops, leaving the lovely world a site for mining only.  Shitara is a desert world that has served as a major shipping hub for centuries.  Algedi has a harsh climate.  It's possible that the Azami populations on those worlds are responsible for the frequency of Hegemony and League tech finds.  At least one writeup for the Arkab Legions suggested that the Azami have been husbanding LosTech resources for centuries to give the Legions an edge.  The prospectors might occasionally stumble on an Azami tech cache while poking around.

Given his stated linguistic skills and knowledge of the Azami worlds, it'd be interesting to have a scene between Sebastian and Fahad. 

Chloe's story contains some nice shout-outs to the ComStar Guards and Militia (which had just finished cleaning up the aftermath of the Jolly Roger Affair in 3004) and to the true intentions of Jerome Blake. 

I find it intriguing, but believable, that the Combine allowed LosTech prospectors to sell their finds to wealthy nobles as long as their bribes/taxes were paid up.  This would account for a corporation having a large trove of LosTech treasures in the Activision MechWarrior game, and explain why, when the Combine's leadership went into battle, their rides didn't have any LosTech to enhance performance.  I've asked before why the Great Houses don't seem to have any LosTech left at all when LosTech prospectors seem to be finding it all over the place.  As the wealthiest families in the Inner Sphere, they should have vaults of the stuff to specially equip their leaders when they take the field of battle.  According to Sebastian's account, House Kurita didn't have any LosTech assets because they wanted the money more (or their underlings wanted the money more).  It could also be that all the Great Houses have long since realized that running a ride tricked out with LosTech might enhance battlefield performance, but it also makes the pilot a much larger target on the battlefield (even moreso than being part of the ruling family).

Given Sebastian's stated intent to interfere with ComStar's machinations in the Free Worlds League and his position at IrTech, one wonders if the razing of IrTech's Soapstone facility was just collateral damage in the Marik Civil War, or if it was engineered by ComStar (through Vesar Kristofur) as a retaliatory strike against Sebastian.

This gives us the backstory on Sebastian and Chloe, but still leaves Nikolai's oft-hinted at dark history with space pirates in the shadows.
"We have made of New Avalon a towering funeral pyre and wiped the Davion scourge from the universe.  Tikonov, Chesterton and Andurien are ours once more, and the cheers of the Capellan people nearly drown out the gnashing of our foes' teeth as they throw down their weapons in despair.  Now I am made First Lord of the Star League, and all shall bow down to me and pay homa...oooooo! Shiny thing!" - Maximillian Liao, "My Triumph", audio dictation, 3030.  Unpublished.

Kojak

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At the Defiance Industries complex, Sebastian Spears enjoys a Northwind Tilman River Cast Finish 2951 whisky

Okay, as a whisky enthusiast, I feel obliged to point out that this must be either a typo or a flat-out error on (presumably) Randall's part: Cask Finish, not Cast Finish, is a whisky term of art. Cast Finish is just gibberish.
"Get me some tribal drums and some wordless chanting or get the ****** out."
- Me, on the comparison of the Mechwarrior 2 soundtrack to all other Mechwarrior soundtracks

"Tragically, all the Taurians have is Mister Pibb. It's why they're so angry all the time."
- Liam's Ghost


Mendrugo

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Okay, as a whisky enthusiast, I feel obliged to point out that this must be either a typo or a flat-out error on (presumably) Randall's part: Cask Finish, not Cast Finish, is a whisky term of art. Cast Finish is just gibberish.

Blame me for that one - typo on my part.  Randall had the correct terminology.

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

Kojak

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Blame me for that one - typo on my part.  Randall had the correct terminology.

Eric

If it makes you feel any better, I assumed it had to come from Randall's inexperience in that area, since as a Mormon, he presumably doesn't consume alcohol of any kind and never has.
"Get me some tribal drums and some wordless chanting or get the ****** out."
- Me, on the comparison of the Mechwarrior 2 soundtrack to all other Mechwarrior soundtracks

"Tragically, all the Taurians have is Mister Pibb. It's why they're so angry all the time."
- Liam's Ghost


Kit deSummersville

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If it makes you feel any better, I assumed it had to come from Randall's inexperience in that area, since as a Mormon, he presumably doesn't consume alcohol of any kind and never has.

His low tolerance for Nyquil is legend.
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Wrangler

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Interesting article.
Balrog? Is that just MW5 thing or is mention other sources?
Is there other places that mentions Soapstone mountains?
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Mendrugo

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Interesting article.
Balrog? Is that just MW5 thing or is mention other sources?
Is there other places that mentions Soapstone mountains?

It’s a Lord of the Rings joke, comparing Defiance Industries’ tunnels under the Myoo Mountains to the dwarven Mines of Moria.

Turning Points: Irian has a planetary map that shows the Soapstone range.  Several profiles of IrTech mention the Soapstone facility, though only one compares it to the Defiance Myoo complex on Hesperus II.
"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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