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Author Topic: Davion & Davion (Deceased)  (Read 41550 times)

drakensis

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Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« on: 11 November 2017, 06:05:19 »
Book 1
Idealist


Like an unsung melody
The truth is waiting there for you to find it
It's not a blight, but a remedy
A clear reminder of how it began
Deep inside your memory
Turned away as you struggled to find it
You heard the call as you walked away
A voice of calm from within the silence
And for what seemed an eternity
You're waiting, hoping it would call out again
You heard the shadow reckoning
Then your fears seemed to keep you blinded
You held your guard as you walked away

When you think all is forsaken
Listen to me now (all is not forsaken)
You need never feel broken again
Sometimes darkness can show you the light
The Light, Disturbed


The prince walked between buildings familiar to him from his younger days, ghosts of his past academia greeting him. And yet there was something subtly wrong, glimpses of collegiate constructions that were not, had never been, part of the military academy he remembered.

Pausing at a fountain he found himself facing another man across the splashing water. Broad shoulders filled a dark-green uniform tunic well, the gleaming half-breastplate Sunburst vest marking it as that of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns’ full dress uniform. The single epaulette held the silver sunbursts that marked the wearer as a Field Marshal. The same rank the prince wore.

But the prince knew all the Field Marshals of his army – not the most stringent of tests of memory – and this redheaded man, though he held himself with the presence of one who had earned such rank – was not one of them.

Who are you?

But he did not ask that. “Did you study here?”

“I did.” The redheaded man rose and walked around the fountain. “So did my brother. And you?”

“Yes. My father and his brother, my cousin and now my own son.”

A smile from the other man. “A family tradition.”

“It’s begun to be one.” And perhaps a symptom of problems – there was an alternative, after all.

“There are worse traditions.” A hand was offered to the prince. “Many happy memories of this place. Before… well.”

The prince accepted the hand. “Yes.” Before Joseph died and Uncle Richard declared me his heir. Innocent days without the weight of responsibility on my shoulders.

There were lines around the blue eyes of the field marshal and unfeigned sympathy. Some instinct for men told the prince that the uniform was no deceit.

“Walk with me?” he offered. “This isn’t quite as I remember it.”

“That must be disconcerting. By all means. To Mount Davion?”

“Yes.” My family’s home. Quite a walk but – the prince looked up at the sky. Blue and clear, a lovely summer day – one of the merits of Avalon City over some of the other great capitals of the Inner Sphere. Why the Steiners had chosen their frigid home or the Camerons the rain-soaked Pacific coast had never made sense to the prince. Mount Davion overlooked the vast and fertile plains that had been the foundation stone of the first colony here and enjoyed the fine weather that made the world a breadbasket.

As they walked, he saw new anomalies. Tall, elegantly sculpted buildings in a style he didn’t quite recognise. As if someone had expanded the academy greatly but the brief glimpses of students he saw weren’t wearing the uniforms of cadets. “That’s what I mean, where did that come from?”

The redhead followed his finger. “The College of Chemistry?” he asked.

A shake of his head as frustration rose. “If that’s what you call it.”

“Well that’s what it is.” A crease of a smile. “I should know.”

“Why would a military academy have a full college of chemistry?”

He saw understanding dawn – and recognition. “Ah. It’s a little after your time, your highness.”

“After my time? I may have graduated but I’m not that far away.” He pointed ahead to their destination. “I’ve looked at this view a thousand times and I think I’d notice additions like this.”

His companion paused and then sighed. “I’m not sure that I’m the one to explain this, but it’s a very long time since you’ve looked down on NAMA from Castle Davion.”

“Don’t talk to me in riddles, Marshal. I have enough of those to wrestle with.”

“I’m aware that you did, but that’s over now.” The redhead looked older for a moment – hair leached of colour by years of responsibility. “Your time has gone and now you haunt my dream for some reason.”

“What are you talking about?” And now he asked: “Who are you?”

“I am your descendant, sir. And I am First Prince of the Federated Suns.” They were clear of the buildings now, entering a park that stretched between the New Avalon Military Academy and the outskirts of Avalon City. “You’ve been dead for more than two hundred and fifty years.”

What was the prince to say to that? The words had conviction but they didn’t resonate with him. “I don’t believe that.”

He got a shrug. “I can understand that.” A laugh. “I wouldn’t, in your shoes.”

“This is just a dream.”

“Yes. And I’ll wake soon and have to deal with Liao’s ploy. It’s a good one. The boy’s more dangerous than I thought.” He brightened. “My son should arrive tomorrow though.”

“I mean it’s my dream.” The prince paused and examined a monument he didn’t recognise – a dog and a child; the former wounded but somehow still game, the child huddled behind the faithful hound. What could that signify? “I must have eaten something rotten to be dreaming this though.”

“Now you’re going to hurt my feelings.” The twinkle in the blue eyes suggested otherwise but he sobered and bowed his head slightly to the monument as they passed it.

“Something from these centuries you claim have passed? This -” He squinted at the inscription, which they weren’t quite close enough to read easily. “- Silver Eagle?”

“The ship carrying my wife – wife to be, back then. Patrick Kell saved her, along with many others.”

The prince paused, thinking of his own wife. “Worth a monument, then.” Was this some hint that she was in danger? No, that was ridiculous. Sometimes a dream was just a dream.

“I’d agree.” The smile that quirked at the corners of the other prince’s lips faded. “He was a good man. Like too many, he died before his time.”

“Don’t they all?” They walked together in companionable silence, the lush parklands a mix of familiar and unfamiliar to the prince. In over two centuries, he supposed that the trees would have aged and in some cases have died and been replaced. Monuments to the Star League still stood but there were others amid them.

History, to the prince, was something that stretched behind him like a heavy, constraining cloak. He’d considered once or twice that he might someday be part of the same weight upon his son’s shoulders.

I am not dead, but one day I will be. And if this is not my future then there will be a future, my legacy added to those who came before and those who follow me.

Have I done anything that will be remembered? Not so much, he admitted to himself. Perhaps that is best though. Alexander was the greatest of our line, but his reign spanned dark and terrible days. I can live without that legendary status if my people are spared such suffering.

Though the palace reared up from the heights of Mount Davion, a fairy-tale castle, its roots dug deep and there was an entrance at the edge of the park.

The arching gates seemed to ripple as he looked at them. “I think I’m about to wake up.”

“One of us is.” The redhead turned his head and looked back across the park.

“There’s no going back.”

“I know.” He extended his hand again to the prince and they shook hands again. “If it’s me that’s the dream, then give ‘em hell back in the 28th century.”

“And if it’s me, good luck with the Liao.” The prince hesitated, the warm hand in his and didn’t release it immediately. “Supposing you are the future, my future… any advice?”

Blue eyes narrowed. “Depends how old you are, I suppose.” The prince got a sense of wheels turning rapidly behind that thoughtful look. “Kill Amaris.”

“Amaris?”

His hand was empty, the gate rippling again.

Without thinking, the prince stepped forwards –

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
5 May 2760

John Davion jerked awake, head pounding. Beside him, Edwina stirred and the First Prince forced himself to relax rather than wake her.

The dream… it seemed vivid in his mind, as few were. Arching his neck he could make out the clock on the far side of the bed – early in the morning. Earlier than he had wanted to rise, but too late for there to be chance of much more sleep.

Muffling a groan of resentment, he dropped a kiss on his wife’s brow and then wormed his way out of her arms, slipping a pillow into her arms as she reached out to reclaim him. Ah, the ruler of four hundred worlds is so easily replaced, he thought wryly as Edwina settled back into her slumber. So much for hubris.

Padding barefoot across the room he took a dressing gown from the back of the door and opened it carefully, closing it behind him with care. When he’d first taken office he’d found out that his uncle stationed a servant in the windowless antechamber while he slept, standing ready to provide for anything that might be needed through the night.

That had been a little more attendance than John thought necessary. He could use the phone here to call in one of the night staff if necessary, and the door should ensure he didn’t wake Edwina. It only took him a moment to order an early breakfast and despite the temptation to sink into the room’s armchair and worry about whatever duties awaited him today, he instead opened the door to the en suite bathroom.

A start on the morning’s ablutions completed and his dark hair dampened and combed back into order, John returned at a knock on the door. A small trolley laden with tantalizingly covered dishes had been brought up, and most tempting of all, a steaming carafe of fresh coffee.

He’d just turned back from closing the door when he saw he wasn’t alone in the room.

Red hair, fading to white at the temples. Bemused blue eyes. The uniform of a Field Marshal.

And sweeping one hand back and forth through the breakfast trolley, the material object posing no barrier at all to him.

The visitor to last night’s dream gave him a rueful look. “I suppose,” he said mildly, “That this shows which of us is real.”

John’s first impulse was to the door but he halted, hand still short of the knob. “What… is this a hologram? Some prank by Joshua? Or Mark?”

“I rather doubt it.” The redhead turned and pressed his hand to the door of the bathroom. “Huh.” The hand – and forearm – penetrated the door up to the elbow. “If that’s not material then how am I even standing on anything?”

“You can’t be here.”

His… guest looked up. “It doesn’t make sense to me either.” He tried to open the door and failed. “Ah, a little help?”

“What?”

“Well if I am a hologram, then the light wouldn’t penetrate the door. On the other hand, if we can see my arm on the other side.”

“Very scientific.” But John went to the bathroom door and pulled it open. They both looked, the redhead having to lean, and saw the hand and sleeve extending through it and moving freely. “Well that settles it.”

“Oh?”

“I’m still dreaming.” John went back to the trolley and poured himself some coffee. “At least I’m dreaming of good coffee.”

“Could I beg a cup?”

“Can you even drink it, o nameless figment of my imagination?”

“I have a name.” The man tried – and failed – to lift a second mug from the trolley. “Dammit. That’s cruel. I can smell that coffee.”

“What is it then?” John pulled the trolley over to his chair. Dream or not, he was hungry. The first plate had sausages and scrambled eggs, just the way he liked them.

“Hanse Davion. First Prince of the Federated Suns, Duke of New Avalon and so forth.”

“Ah!” John pointed at him with a fork. “That was a slip – the First Prince heads the Crucis March but Duke of New Avalon is a courtesy title of the First Star Lord’s heir.”

“So it was – in your day.”

“My delusion has an aggravated sense of grandeur.”

Hanse shrugged. “Are you sure you’re dreaming? Give yourself a pinch.”

John chewed on some sausage. “If I am dreaming, I’ll enjoy my breakfast first.” He refilled his mug, giving Hanse a sly look.

The other man gave him a patient look. “What, you expect me to pout like a child? Yes, I’d like to have some coffee. It seems I can’t. It’s not the fall of the Star League.”

“Yes…” The prince scratched at his chin, still wearing the night’s stubble. Then he pinched his lower lip between finger and thumb. The pain wasn’t great but it was real.

Not a dream. He swallowed. Madness?

“A madman would not question what he was seeing,” Hanse offered in reassurance.

“This may be just another day for you -”

“It’s really not,” the other man answered in a lowered voice.

“- but it’s a bit outside my experience. Do you know what happens to rulers who talk to people that aren’t there? And if you’re not a figment of my imagination why did you know what I was thinking there?”

“You weren’t exactly being subtle about pinching yourself and going wide-eyed in worry.” Hanse walked into the bathroom.

“What are you doing?”

“Call of supernature.”

“What?”

“No, I’m just looking out the window.”

“It’s frosted. You won’t see anything.”

“I can if I put my head through it. Not much of a view though.”

“Well since no one expected a ghost to be looking out, I suppose the architect wasn’t concerned about you looking out into…” John tailed off, thinking what would be visible from there. “The back of the administrative wing.”

“Fair point.” Hanse returned. “You could at least offer me a chair.”

John arched an eyebrow. “Feel free to pull one up.”

The older man – by appearances, at any rate – scowled and then laughed. “Well, I’d not take it any better I suppose. Do you mind if I at least ask the date?”

“Fifth of May,” John replied between two forkfuls of egg. He added more pepper to what remained on the plate and then thought to add. “2760. What was it for you?”

“3052, the sixteenth of June. Well, maybe seventeenth. I think I saw my son for a moment – I’d fallen asleep in my chair before.” Hanse shook his head. “It’s a bit confused…”

John watched him thinking. “So you’re dead?”

“I assume so.” Hanse rubbed his face. “Excuse me, I do need to sit down. I’ll be back.”

“Wait!” John called as Hanse stepped towards the bedroom door. “My wife’s asleep there,” he hissed. “Go down the hall. There’s a lounge two doors down.”

“Thanks.” Hanse turned and departed through the door to the corridor.

As soon as he was out of sight, John dropped his fork and buried his face in his hands. “Oh hell. What am I going to do now? I can’t be haunted. I have work to do!”

Setting his plate aside he poured himself another mug of coffee and added two sugars. He had a feeling he’d need the energy. Setting it aside he opened the door for the trolley to be collected. “Did someone go past here?” he asked the guard.

“No sir.” the man replied in surprise.

“I thought I heard something. I must not be fully awake yet,” John excused. He glanced at the carafe on the trolley. “If you want some of the coffee before it’s taken away, go right ahead.”

“Thank you sir, but I’m on duty.” Which meant needing both hands unobstructed in case assassins – or almost worse, the media – had somehow managed to penetrate all the other layers of security around the royal quarters.

“And even the First Prince can’t excuse you?”

“Respectfully, your highness, have you met my sergeant?”

John chuckled. “You make a fair point, Corporal. Sorry for putting temptation in your way.”

Leaving the door open, John picked up the phone and called for his valet. A shave and getting fully dressed might help him get past the literal and metaphorical headache of having a self-proclaimed future descendant turn up as a… ghost?

A ghost who apparently had issues with House Liao and House Amaris. Well, neither represented John’s closest friends by any stretch of the imagination.

.o0O0o.

Hanse was sitting in one of the lounge armchairs when John entered. Although he was facing the balcony door that looked out into the gardens around the Hall of State, his eyes seemed to be focused on something else – something far away.

Looking him over, John saw he wore the same uniform that he had in last night’s dream. A Field Marshal’s, which suggested that the man was upholding the informal custom of a First Prince not wearing the additional sword on his sunburst that marked him as the supreme commander of the AFFS. He also saw Mechwarrior’s spurs that he hadn’t noticed earlier. Still, he’d have been surprised by anything else.

“I don’t have long,” he advised quietly. “If you’re who you say you are, you know how much time my duties take up. And I can’t speak to you when anyone else is around.”

Hanse nodded. “I need some time anyway, to process.”

“I suppose you do.” Being dead, John thought, must be a shock to the system. “If you want to talk about it, sometime, I’ll make the time.”

“Thanks.”

“Family should look out for each other. Even if we’re generations removed.”

The other man nodded. “And you’ll have questions as well.”

“I don’t know. It’s not as if I have precedent for what to do in this situation. It’s never happened before.”

“Perhaps it happens all the time and people just never talk about it, not wanting to be locked up as a danger to themselves.”

John considered and then snorted. “I can understand the sentiment, but if more people had… advice from the future, the universe might make more sense.”

“It might at that.” Hanse sighed. “And yes, I understand you’re busy.” He grasped the arms of the chair and began to push himself upright only to freeze. “Wait!”

Turning back from the door, the First Prince looked back questioningly.

“May 2760… is Warex Liao dead?”

“Yes… First of the month. I just sent condolences to his daughter.” He grimaced at the thought – Warex was no friend to the Federated Suns but the new Chancellor, Barbara Liao, had lost her father on her birthday. At twenty-nine she was only a few years older than John had been when he took office.

Hanse looked grim. “And it’s the fifth, four days later. You need to send word to Demeter.”

“Demeter? Why, what are you expecting?” John called to mind what he knew of the world – at the head of a salient into Capellan space it was a valuable hub of trade and industry. Before the Star League the region had been hotly contested for years but that was long ago.

“On 5 May – today! – the ‘Mech factory there is nuked by terrorists,” Hanse told him urgently. “If you send an HPG message then perhaps it can be stopped.”

John paled. “Who? Why?”

“I don’t recall exactly – some pro-Capellan group. Chesterton… Liberation Brigade? Something like that.” He shook his head. “I don’t know if they have official sanction or not but it hardly matters with all the raiding going on.”

He wasn’t wrong, the younger man had to admit. Banditry had been on the rise for years despite the best efforts of the SLDF and although everyone involved covered their tracks it was an open secret that some pirate groups were backed – or even set up covertly – by the House Lords so they could deniably test the defences of their rivals. “You’re sure?”

“It was something of a high point – or low point perhaps – in the violence during Richard Cameron’s regency.” Hanse shook his head. “A sign of things to come.”

“I don’t have any evidence to back this up…” John said out loud. “I’ll order… an unscheduled alert drill. Bring all the forces in the region to standby and secure critical facilities. The Regent will give me hell, but if we find the bomb that should satisfy him.”

He opened the door and was surprised to see Edwina facing him, her hand raised to knock.

“Good morning.”

His wife leaned in to kiss his cheek. “I didn’t want to interrupt your meeting, but I’m leaving now.”

“It’s not a meeting, and you’re welcome to join me for anything,” John assured her.

“Oh, I thought I heard you talking to someone?” Edwina glanced in and John had to hide a twitch as she looked right at Hanse, but her eyes scanned past the redhead without seeming to notice him at all.

“Just to myself. Rehearsing a little before I speak to the High Command.”

“Is there trouble? I know you woke early…”

He shook his head. “No new messages, I just didn’t sleep well.”

“You could have woken me.”

He forced himself to laugh a little. “But you looked so peaceful.”

“If only we all were.” She smiled impishly and kissed him on the other cheek. “Anyway, I have the Equestrian Show to attend and you’ve the High Command so I suppose we’ve both got horses asses to attend to today. I’ll expect to see you at dinner?”

“No change to plans for that,” John reassured her. “Joshua and Mark still have leave to join us – unless they did something irresponsible since yesterday.”

“I wouldn’t put it past those two.”

.o0O0o.

John almost started as he saw Hanse entering the command centre. Buried deep beneath the mountains of which Mount Davion was only the easternmost, the AFFS command centre was as secure as it could possibly be. Seeing someone who shouldn’t be there – although in a Field Marshal’s uniform he fit in perfectly – wasn’t an everyday occurrence.

“Is something wrong?” asked Colonel Michael Stopec from his seat at John’s right hand.

Realising he’d broken off, John turned back to the question at hand. “The change of Chancellor is exactly why I’ve ordered a full alert of our forces around Chesterton, General Dixon. It’s the perfect excuse for anyone acting at the moment – even if we proved that orders for an attack had come from Sian, they can claim there was a ‘misunderstanding’ caused by turnover of personnel as Barbara Liao takes over from her father’s old guard. She could even scapegoat some courtier she wants rid of.”

Gabriel Dixon frowned and twisted on his moustache. “What a twisted motive. I don’t envy you and MilInt getting inside of their heads.”

“Hopefully nothing actually happens, but I don’t feel it’s a chance that can be taken. And Chesterton’s our most likely flashpoint.”

That got nods around the table. John saw Hanse looking at the displays on the wall, constantly updating data on the strength and dispositions of the AFFS. Since Simon Cameron’s untimely death nine years before, the Star League Council had taken the opportunity to repeal the arms limitations that kept their individual military strength in check. Since then, troop numbers in service had risen sharply. While still nothing approaching the vast size of the Star League Defense Forces, the Federated Suns had doubled the regiments in active service and brought more than a score of warships out of mothballs to match their understanding of what the Capellans and Draconians had stationed on their borders.

“Do you want to review contingencies for moving reinforcements to the region if needed?” asked Dixon.

“I’m confident you have that in hand.” John already had the data on hand though – Dixon would be taking the lead if that were the case, leading a regiment of BattleMechs from the Avalon Hussars as well as a dozen conventional regiments to reinforce threatened worlds, taking over the local regiments. It could place him in charge of the equivalent of almost a short corps of troops.

“We could always add the Fourth,” Stopec rumbled. “That would give the reinforcement teeth.”

On paper, the Colonel was outranked by everyone else in the room. Command of only a single regiment of the Davion Guards was far from the responsibilities that others wielded – but as the Prince’s Champion he was also John’s deputy for military affairs. He could have asked for the rank of Marshal or even Field Marshal and been given it without question – but Stopec loved his regiment and his only request when John offered him the job was that he be allowed to remain in command of the Dragon’s Bane.

John saw General Dixon clenching his fists at the prospect of being superseded. “No Michael. We shouldn’t commit all our reserves and I want you with the primary response if the Combine try anything. They’re still the larger threat.”

Stopec subsided and the discussion moved on to more mundane matters – training budgets, personnel choices for the many roles that needed to be filled in order to continue administering a military force spread across hundreds of light years. John allowed his attention to drift, watching Hanse who seemed to be examining every display in detail.

I wonder what he makes of it. Is the AFFS still so large or have things settled down? Then again, after two and a half centuries some of this may seem laughably antiquated to him.

Then an intake of air from beside John dragged his attention back and he saw Stopec’s eyes – golden cybernetics after he’d been blinded by environmental damage to his ‘Mech in the Martial Olympiad – had snapped the central holo-display, where the tabulated data had been replaced by a glowing sword and sunburst highlighted in amber. An urgent operational message.

At John’s nod – there was no one in the room not cleared for such (except Hanse, but John wasn’t exactly in a position to shoo him away even if he was so inclined) – Stopec opened the communique.

The First Prince’s guts clenched as he saw the message was from Demeter. Had his instructions even arrived there yet?

Sent in plain text, easier to encode, the message was stark. A nuclear device, somehow smuggled past all security checkpoints, had vaporised the core of Lycomb Technology’s MechWorks on Demeter. More than a hundred personnel were dead or missing, easily twice that many had been wounded. Production was halted, naturally, and responsibility had been claimed already with messages to the local media from the Chesterton Liberation Battalion, a known group claiming that Demeter and the worlds around it were rightful property of the Capellan Confederation.

“****** them!” Dixon’s fist hit the table, it would have shaken something less solidly built. “You were right, sire. But a nuke? A filthy nuke!”

John swallowed and looked down the table to Thomas Green-Davion – the senior officer present in terms of experience in the Capellan March – and behind him at Hanse. “I find it hard to believe that a ragtag group of terrorists could have a nuclear device,” he told them, forcing calm. “While I expect a full check by Military Intelligence, barring evidence to confirm otherwise we – I – must assume that it was provided by the Capellans.”

“We can’t let that stand, sir.” Green-Davion straightened his uniform. “There are SLDF division both sides of the border, if we call for them to investigate.”

“The way they did thirty years ago?” Opposite John’s distant cousin, Dixon pushed his chair back. “They did nothing for years when Kurita was trying to force his filthy half-breed cousin onto our Prince’s throne! We can’t look to them for justice.”

“I believe General Kerensky would like to, Gabriel.” John raised his hand. “But he isn’t First Lord – even as Regent, he can’t over-ride the Star League Council if they tell him to back off. And the chances of getting four – or even three – votes in favour of such an intervention are slim. We will try, but get your regiments loaded for transit to…” He looked at a map display. “To Goshen. Expedite that.”

“Not Demeter?” asked Stopec respectfully.

“Local forces can provide disaster relief at Goshen,” the First Prince replied. “I’m not sending General Dixon’s regiments for that.”

Dixon leant forwards eagerly. “Then what are my orders, sire?”

“For now, just to redeploy to Goshen. By the time you’re there, I’ll have heard from the rest of the Council. And if we can’t count on the SLDF for this, you’ll have new instructions.” John hadn’t expected to be saying this when he woke up this morning. Not even when Hanse warned him, had this occurred to him, but he could feel the anger in the room and knew that it would be shared by the rest of the Suns.

They’d been attacked and would want revenge. It wasn’t necessarily the right answer, he thought, but it was the only one his responsibilities allowed. The Federated Suns could not allow this to pass without response.

“In that case,” he said steadily, “The instructions will be for punitive operations in the Capellan Confederation.”



Sidebar: The Star League

"One species, one government."

By the late twenty-sixth century, all but a statistically insignificant percentage of humanity lived within one of ten great interstellar states. In the centre was House Cameron's Terran Hegemony, surrounded by the other five states of the Inner Sphere, in clockwise order: House Kurita's Draconis Combine, House Davion's Federated Suns, House Liao's Capellan Confederation, House Marik's Free Worlds League and House Steiner's Lyran Commonwealth. On the periphery of human space were four other realms: House Avellar's Outworlds Alliance, House Calderon's Taurian Concordat, House Centralla's Magistracy of Canopus and House Amaris' Rim Worlds Republic.

After more than a decade of diplomacy, Ian Cameron welded the six inner sphere states into the Star League, an alliance intended to put an end to the wars that had plagued the last two hundred years and to bring greater prosperity to all mankind. Three years later, with the four Periphery Realms showing no interest in joining the Star League (except Gregory Amaris, who was promptly confined on grounds of being both a power-mad dictator and a Terran shill) and a pronounced lack of the promised economic boom, the Star League informed the Periphery that they would join, or else.

The Reunification War lasted twenty years and was fought with unparalleled brutality, but it cemented the Star League as the united government of mankind and the four periphery states as conquered territories. Under the leadership of Ian Cameron and other foresightful leaders, a golden age of peace and prosperity dawned.

Almost two hundred years later, the future does not look so rosy...
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #1 on: 11 November 2017, 13:59:56 »
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
8 May 2760

“My lord, I appeal to you in the name of our common humanity. I share your pain at the destruction upon Demeter, but the responsibility does not lie with my revered Lady Liao.”

John raised his hand to cut off the words of the Capellan ambassador. While the Scots-Irish wasn’t the most noted demographic in worlds of the Capellan Hegemony, they were wide-spread enough that Warex Liao had found one – even found one with a mix of French ancestry – to represent him on New Avalon. Under other circumstances, John might even like the man but right now Javier McNeill’s maternal ancestry was inclining him towards volubility and one more filibuster might be too much for the First Prince’s patience.

“Your excellency, it has been the policy of Lady Liao – even before her father’s sad demise – to encourage what she has described as ‘the aspirations of the oppressed Chesterton people’ in public despite the fact that Chesterton remains under the rule of families descended from their original colonists and that they were incorporated into the Suns long before the Capellan Confederation ever came to be.”

“But Prince Da-”

John leant forwards. “Ambassador, I did not call you here to speak. Since you were appointed by the late Chancellor, I understand you have no mandate from his daughter. But you can hear me and you can relay my words to your new mistress.”

McNeill bowed his head. “My apologies, your highness.”

“Perhaps, now that she bears the weight of the Confederation, Lady Barbara will be more restrained. But unfortunately it is too late to avoid this going further. My military intelligence have an existing file on the Chesterton Liberation Battalion, you see.”

“I would never assume anything less.”

Activating a control, John brought up a head and shoulders display of a man in his twenties. “This is Edgar Borlenko. One of the ‘oppressed’ Chesterton people who decided to cross the border and from the Suns and take employment in the Confederation. Which is his right as a Star League citizen, although given his background is middle class and his family can be traced to Kestrel on one side and Terra itself on the other as recently as the middle of the last century, I’m not clear on how he’s oppressed or Chestertonian.”

He cleared the screen. “Mr Borlenko has been positively identified as a member of the CLB and as with all their known members, he’s now subject of a manhunt. But between his departure from the Suns for Capellan space and his return as part of CLB, would you care to know who employed him?”

“I really couldn’t say,” McNeill answered with a resigned dip of his head.

“The Maskirova,” John answered. “The Capellan state intelligence agency hired the man, trained him… and now he’s on one of my worlds claiming credit for the deaths of over a hundred people. That would be quite the coincidence if the Capellan government is entirely uninvolved.”

“Obviously I have no knowledge and could not offer any response.”

The First Prince nodded. “I fully understand.” He allowed his shoulders to relax. “I don’t believe for a minute you have any personal involvement in this, Ambassador McNeill. But this matter cannot be allowed to rest.”

“Perhaps independent adjudication could be arranged?”

“I placed that very proposal in front of the Star League Council yesterday.” John steepled his fingers. “General Kerensky indicated he was prepared to enforce martial law on Demeter and put the full resources of Star League Intelligence into investigating this. All he required was the support of both myself and the Chancellor – or failing that, a majority vote of the Star League Council to authorise those actions.”

“I’m sure that you understand that my lady’s position as a newly appointed Chancellor would be undermined if her first action was to place herself in a vulnerable position with regard to outside authorities.”

The ambassador’s response was met with a cold expression. “I am aware that a leader must sometimes bend to the demands of those they lead. And for that reason, please also advise the Chancellor that unless she changes her mind regarding this matter that I will yield to certain demands from my people. You’ll have seen those demands on placards in the streets outside your embassy earlier.”

From the way his eyes darkened, McNeill had. “Respectfully, Prince Davion, you are discussing war.”

“Yes.”

There was a long, ugly moment of silence before the ambassador stood. “As you said, I am here to listen and not to speak. I believe I have heard you out.”

John nodded.

“Pray remember, for the sake of your people, that the last time two Star League states went to war, it did not end well for the aggressors.”

“Wars don’t usually end well for anyone, ambassador. I wish you well on your journey to Sian.” John rose but didn’t offer his hand. “If you aren’t reappointed, I also wish you well in your future career.”

“I regret that under the current circumstances I can offer no similar well-wishes for your own endeavours.”

John waited until the doors had closed behind McNeill before tapping his intercom. “Owen, do I have any other appointments in the next hour or so?”

“No sire,” his secretary replied. “We cleared most of the afternoon for the ambassador and for the High Command meeting.”

“Right. Please advise Colonel Stopec that he’ll be chairing the High Command meeting in my absence. I need some time to think.”

“That leaves you clear until 17:30, sire.”

“Right – getting ready for General Dixon’s farewell dinner.” John shook his head. “I’ll take what I can get then, Owen. If you clear what’s on your desk before then you can take the rest of the day off – I won’t subject you to that and we might not get many breaks in the next few months.”

“I’ll see how that goes then, sire. Do have a good evening.”

John cut the intercom and then activated the security procedures that isolated his office electronically. “Fat chance of that.”

“Three days and he hasn’t even set off?” Hanse Davion had been sitting quietly in one of the chairs at the back of his office. Now he stood and moved to take the one that McNeill had been in. “I’ve got a few concerns about General Dixon.”

“Most of his force is on the way.” John realised he was being defensive and took a breath. “There aren’t enough jump-ship collars for everything to leave at once anyway, someone had to be last and it makes sense for him not to depart until everything’s in motion.”

“That’s a chief of staff’s job – the commander should be in the lead.”

The prince tilted his head side to side. “Arguable. Anyway, I’m sorry I haven’t had time for us to really talk until now.”

“There have been other priorities,” Hanse agreed calmly. “And I’ve had other things on my mind.”

“Your family,” offered John sympathetically.

After a deep breath, Hanse met his gaze evenly. “Victor has a good head on his shoulders. I’d have preferred it if we had longer to prepare him, but it is what it is. He’s got friends to stand by him, and Melissa’s a very able woman.”

“Does that help?”

“A little. Wondering if there are other things I should have said or done. Nothing I haven’t wondered before.”

“What’s the 31st century like? I assume from what you’ve mentioned so far that the Liao are still making trouble.”

“Oh yes, they’re very motivated about that.” Hanse bared his teeth. “Some of them, at least. Oddly enough, one of them is probably Victor’s best friends. Unfortunately his cousin’s the new Chancellor and that one’s an inventive little bastard. He’d just sent me notice that he was engaged to marry the Captain-General’s daughter.”

John winced. “Well, maybe it’ll go as well for them as it did for my great-aunt and my grandfather.”

“Not all marriages between Great Houses end poorly.”

“Name one.”

“Mine.” The redhead folded his arms. “My wife Melissa is Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth.”

“Oh.” John frowned at the idea. The Commonwealth and the Suns had rarely had much to do with each other – Lyran space was on the far side of the Terran Hegemony so communication had historically been indirect. Which wasn’t to say they hadn’t had some fruitful co-operation in the past. “How did the Star League Council take that?”

Hanse leant back in the chair. “The Star League is gone, John.”

“Gone?”

“Disbanded, destroyed…” He held his hands together and then moved them apart, spreading his fingers to simulate an explosion. “Dead. And we’ve spent generations fighting over its corpse. My wedding was the first time in two hundred and forty-seven years – almost to the day – that all five of the great lords were even in the same room at once.”

John swallowed. Almost two hundred and fifty years – and Hanse said that by his time I’d been dead around that long. “You don’t mean sometime between our lives, you mean… now. In my lifetime.”

He got a nod in reply. “Nineteenth August, 2781. It’s one of the dates every school child is taught. The day the Star League Council disbanded.”

“But why!” The question erupted from his throat. “I know we’re having our frictions but…”

“Most people in my time blame Stefan Amaris.” Hanse looked thoughtful. “It’s probably a little convenient – God knows, he deserves a lot of blame – but it’s easier than admitting that the fault lies with our predecessors. You and the other four members of the Council.”

“Why do you say four, five I mean? There are ten seats on the Council – six even if you just count the voting members.”

Hanse sighed. “Because there was no Cameron left to take his seat, to be First Star Lord. And none of you – none of you – could agree on a replacement. You all had a candidate in mind, you see, and there was no compromising. The Council disbanded… and the matter went to the final courtroom of kings, the battlefield.”

Who won? John realised the answer before he wasted time asking: no one. If they had then there would have been a League. “How long did that last?”

“It might be over in my time. Maybe. There’s no new Star League but I thought Theodore Kurita and Thomas Marik might be sensible enough to realise there probably wasn’t any point fighting over that. Then again, I didn’t think Marik would be open to a Liao marriage offer…”

“You… never stopped fighting? Another age of war, like before the Star League.”

“Oh no.” Hanse shook his head. “It was much, much worse than that.”

John stood, walked to a discreet cabinet and produced a bottle of bourbon. Filling a glass he returned to his seat. “Alright. Tell me.”

“Pour another glass first.”

“You can’t drink, Hanse.”

“I meant for you. Actually, just bring the whole bottle.”

.o0O0o.

The dinner for the departing Twelfth Avalon Hussars was fulsome. Drink flowed heavily among the Mechwarrior officers and John regretted the bourbon earlier, watering his drinks and even then restraining himself to sips.

“They’re a fine body of men,” Dixon assured him from the head table where they were sat. “We’ll show the Capellans what for.”

“Good.” He was trying to show quiet confidence in his men, but it was hard. Hanse was present, leaning against the wall and watching the room darkly. The tale that the man had spun in the afternoon was hard to take on but one thing that had come through clearly was a conviction that the AFFS wasn’t ready for war.

Unaware of these dark thoughts, the General raised his own glass. “A toast, to our noble prince and his gracious lady.”

Around the room, men and women found glasses – sometimes not even their own and drank to that.

Obligated to return, John looked at his own glass and searched for words that wouldn’t betray him. Fortunately, Edwina caught his mood and rested one hand on his in restraint. Taking her own glass she stood. “I thank you all. And may I in turn offer my own toast – to your swift, safe and victorious return.”

“Aye!” came a chorus of acclamation.

“Thank you,” John murmured.

She gave a direct look at the man on the other side of John and thankfully Dixon was sufficiently attuned to court that he gave them room, stepping aside with a winked excuse of visiting the smallest room.

“You’re thinking of your father, aren’t you?”

“Something like that,” he affirmed.

Edwina could have promised him it would be different now, that the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns had been improved vastly from the force that Joseph Davion had led to repel the Combine’s Mustered Soldiery. But it wouldn’t have mattered to the nine year old boy he’d been when he’d learned his father wouldn’t be returning so she didn’t waste her breath.

Instead she looked down the room and then back at him. “I’m glad it’s now and not later. Joshua has another year at the academy or he’d be sure to demand a place on the frontlines.”

A chill went through John at the thought. Many of the Mechwarriors were barely older than his heir. But she was right. And… “There’s no certainty this will be done before he’s old enough.”

“Don’t tell me that.”

“I -”

“I know… but I have a year to hope that this will be over quickly.”

John nodded. “I understand. I hope so too.”

“Make it happen, John. Please.”

“I will do all I can.” He hid the weakness of his smile behind his glass, barely tasting the contents. “If you want to make excuses, then you don’t have to stay.”

“And leave you here with no support?”

Dixon returned and Hanse left the wall, moving to stand behind John. “They’re good troops, John. Don’t doubt the men and women down there.” The redheaded man paused and then circled his hand to gesture around him – at the high table. “Worry about whether the officers up here will let them down.”

Restraining the urge to look back at Hanse, John turned to General Dixon. “I’ll be leaving shortly – I need a good night’s sleep before meeting with the High Command to plan our overall strategy.”

“Of course, sire. I understand.” From the respectful look Dixon was giving Edwina, John doubted it but he let that go.

“There’s no higher responsibility I can place in anyone’s hands than the leadership of our soldiers in battle. I’m placing a great weight on your shoulders.”

“You’ve nothing to worry about, Prince Davion. I’ll give the Capellans the beating they deserve. The Liao won’t dare trifle with us a second time.”

John hoped his face didn’t give away how little that reassured him. Hanse’s face was a mask and he doubted that it was hiding approval.

.o0O0o.

Balbadd Valley, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
16 July 2760

Given any choice on the matter, Susan wouldn’t have chosen the rice paddies that dominated the valley floor as a battlefield. The wet ground sucked at the feet of their ‘Mechs any time they stepped off the relatively narrow roads raised above the well-irrigated paddies – and if they stayed on the roads then they would be leaving themselves essentially without cover.

“Where the hell’s our relief!”

That’s what I want to know. “It’s on the way,” she answered Smythe’s complaint with all the confidence she could muster.

The attack had looked fine on paper – impromptu battle groups combining tanks, infantry and ‘Mechs were supposed to be sweeping down each of the river valleys leading to Leim City, where the rivers converged into a single more significant waterway. Taking the city would cut off a major transport node and let General Dixon – ‘Wang’ Dixon, the troops called him when officers were out of sight – trap the Sixteenth Liao Lancers and force their surrender.

There was a chirp from her communications panel and she accepted a private transmission from Sergeant Greaney. “Ma’am,” the grizzled sergeant advised. “The relief’s been ‘on the way’ for longer than it took us to get down here the first time. If we’re going to get out of here before the Chink artillery arrives, it’s going to be our own doing.”

“You’re probably right, Gav. But I don’t have any clever ideas. Do you?”

“Well we could shoot Smythe ourselves, to keep him from yapping, but that would probably be frowned upon.”

Susan was surprised she still had a laugh in her. “That’s a negative on friendly fire. Right now, the best idea I have is someone providing a diversion for the rest of the company to get away.”

“Just don’t try to be a lone hero in that, Lieutenant. Remember, Smythe’s life rests on me not being left in charge.”

Company was perhaps too strong a word. Battle Group Shadow had been made up of eleven ‘Mechs from Echo Company of Second Arcadian Cuirassiers, ten Manticore heavy tanks from the Seventh Panpour Panzer Regiment and three platoons of the 86th Light Infantry in hover APCs.

Nine of the tanks were probably forty kilometres behind them at the far end of the valley, right where they’d broken off once it was clear that the road’s bridges couldn’t bear the weight of them and the paddy floors were too soft for their tracks to get any traction. One of the tanks had been the price of that lesson.

Captains Abney and Cooke had pressed on though with just infantry and ‘Mechs. They probably wouldn’t have been able to push onto Leim City alone, but if they’d secured the town of Balbadd (whether the valley or town had been named first, Susan didn’t know) then they likely could have hung on and linked up with one of the other attacks.

If.

Assuming that either captain had had a contingency plan, neither had confided it to Leftenant Susan Sandoval, who now enjoyed the privilege of command over six Dervish BattleMechs with near empty LRM magazines and five infantry squads. Not one of the personnel carriers had survived the fusillade of fire from Balbadd as they tried to rush in under covering fire from the ‘Mechs.

The same fire was engaging anyone who tried to retreat back to the next embankment so that left the little force trapped. It was only a matter of time before the Capellans brought in reinforcements.

Susan glanced back at the road behind them. The promised relief force would be coming down there… but there was a pronounced lack of movement or other signs of them. Just the first of the APCs to be destroyed.

Her eyes narrowed. The armoured hover tank was actually more or less intact – shots had damaged one of the side-skirts as well as taking out part of the road it had been following. The result had flipped the ten ton vehicle over on its roof, as well as half-burying it in the paddy.

“Smythe,” she instructed. “Crawl your ‘Mech back and see if you can drag the APC that up-ended over to us.”

“Why?”

If the Mechwarrior hadn’t also started to back her Dervish towards the hovercraft, Susan might have shot her. “Because it might be our way out of here.”

“You won’t get all the infantry aboard her.”

“I’m not trying to. But it might be the diversion we need.”

Keeping her own Dervish crouched so as not to draw fire, she waded over to Smythe’s position. Waves kicked up reached where infantry were crouched on the rear of the embankment. While she couldn’t hear them cursing, she didn’t think they were thanking her.

Switching to the infantry frequency she looked for the effective leader remaining from the company. “Sergeant Watsuki. We’re recovering one of the APCs. Have someone check to see if it’s working, please.”

The sergeant – who didn’t look at all oriental – gave her a terse acknowledgement and picked to men to help him take care of the task. There was another wave of water as Smythe tipped the personnel carrier over, and it sank into the water, the ruptured plenum chamber flooding immediately.

Despite this, Watsuki seemed surprisingly upbeat about the vehicle’s prospects. “It’ll be a devil to drive, but the plenum chambers are redundant – as long as four of the six are intact it should be able to move.”

“And can it be set up to drive a pre-set course without anyone in it?”

The sergeant frowned. “We can set it off, but with the damage it’s anyone’s guess how close it’ll stick to the desired course.”

Susan felt a flood of relief. “That’s all I wanted to know, Sergeant. Get any salvageable kit out of the troop compartment and get the men ready to move. We’ll be retreating shortly.”

Less than five minutes work prepared them for the retreat. Most of that was spent getting the six worst wounded of the infantry up and into the ‘Mech cockpits, where they had to squeeze in behind the Mechwarriors.

Watsuki handed Susan a remote while her canopy was open. “Working with what I have,” he explained. “It’s all wired up. Just click twice to set it off and for god’s sake, keep the ride as smooth as you can.”

“Smooth is one thing I can’t promise, Sergeant. But it’s the only chance I can see short of surrender and I’ve heard some nasty things about Capellan prisoner of war camps.”

“Probably the same stories I’ve heard. I’d rather not find out for real.” He saluted and closed the canopy for her to lock down.

“Sound off that you’re ready to go,” Susan ordered.

There were five ayes, which was good enough for her. “Smythe, put it up.”

With a heave, Smythe’s ‘Mech lifted the front of the recovered APC and dragged it up onto the embankment. “Good as I can get it, ma’am.”

“Then it’ll have to do.” Susan clicked the remote twice.

For a moment nothing seemed to happen but then, just as she was about to query Watsuki, the hovercraft’s fans kicked into gear and lifted the skirts up and off the ground. The little – at least compared to the 55 ton Dervish – vehicle seemed to hesitate and then it accelerated up the slope, cresting and tipping over with a thump.

The impact seemed to jam the personnel carrier for a moment and the staccato bellow of an autocannon warned that it had been seen. Susan swallowed. If it was stuck then it was too close and…

The fans revved harder and the hover APC tore free, rushing forwards towards Belbadd.

More weapons opened up and Susan prayed to the God of her ancestors that the damage to the skirt would make it sufficiently unpredictable as to not be hit immediately.

Five seconds, ten seconds, fifteen…

Then sound and fire hammered into the air as something penetrated the little craft’s armour and hit what they’d prepared – almost half a ton of SRMs unloaded from the Dervishes and crammed into the infantry compartment.

“Go! Go! Go!”

Susan straightened her Dervish and ran for the next embankment back followed by the rest of the ‘Mechs, each clutching four or five men against their chests.

Stray shots chased them and Susan almost missed the embankment, focused on looking at the corners of her compressed 360 degree display for shots that might hit her vulnerable rear armour. Her ‘Mech lurched awkwardly as she adjusted and scrambled up it and made for the next.

.o0O0o.

The tanks were gone by the time they reached the head of the valley. Fortunately they found a farm truck that with minimal hotwiring could be used for the infantry – Susan suspected that if any of them had ever been impressed with the glamour of BattleMechs they’d gotten over it after the rough ride up the valley.

There was also absolutely no sign of a relief force.

“It’s a good job you pulled back,” Major Barnes told Susan wearily when she made contact on the radio. “We were going to swing Delta Company or Foxtrot Company around to take Balbadd from behind once they broke through -”

“Let me guess, neither of them managed that.”

“No, Leftenant.” The major didn’t add any weight to her rank. “Not for lack of trying, but they didn’t. I asked General Dixon’s staff to pull some other regiments in to help you but I haven’t had a response yet. I guess I can tell them to cancel that request.”

Susan bit back any further complaints. “Is it like this all over, sir?”

“Well we’re not winning, yet.” There was a break in the conversation and for a moment Susan thought they’d lost contact before Barnes spoke again: “Escort the infantry back to their regiment, Leftenant, and then report back to our firebase.”

“Understood, sir. I’ll be there… probably around midnight.”

“I’ll tell the techs to be waiting. We’ll need your ‘Mechs ready to fight again.”

Sunset, in the mountains, came swiftly. Watsuki lit up the road with the truck’s one working headlight while the ‘Mechs tramped along flanking him, hoping that anyone spotting them would miss the hulking Dervishes in contrast to the cone of light that preceded the infantry.

Fortunately they didn’t encounter anyone on the road but the first sign they had of the infantry was a SRM that came corkscrewing out of the darkness towards Greaney’s ‘Mech.

“Ambush!” snapped Smythe and fired her jump jets, the Dervish vaulting upwards as Watsuki responded to the attack by driving the truck into the ditch, half-pitching it over in the process.

Susan was about to fire on the source of the missile but the orange light of the jump jets lit up a familiar helmet shape. “Hold fire!” she screamed. “They’re AFFS!”

For a moment she thought the lance would ignore her, but for a wonder even Smythe kept her finger off the triggers.

Switching to speakers, Susan spread her ‘Mech’s arms. “Cease fire, we’re with the Second Cuirassiers!”

The man she’d spotted dived into the shadows and infra-red sensors suggested there were more men – and more missile launchers out there. No one fired though and after what seemed like forever but was probably only a couple of minutes, a jeep arrived carrying someone in authority.

In fact, it was the Eighty-Sixth’s colonel. “We’ve seen more hostile ‘Mechs than friendlies,” he said unapologetically. “Earlier today we got lucky and the Seventh Panpour had some tanks near enough to support us. Otherwise we need to rely on ambushes like this.”

“I hadn’t heard Capellan raiders were pushing through the lines.”

He laughed bitterly. “Lines is too strong a word. Thanks for bring Watsuki and the wounded back. Did Captain Abney give you any idea when the rest of the company will be sent back to us?”

Susan’s face must have given him the answer because the Colonel’s expression congealed before she could say anything.

“I sent almost a hundred men with you this morning, Leftenant! What the hell use are you mechjocks if you can’t support my men?”

“Sir.” Watsuki didn’t salute – that would have been a major breach of regs in the field – but his stance was parade ground attention. “Captain Abney led us into the mess. The leftenant got us out.”

Energy seemed to drain out of the infantry officer. “Right. My apologies, leftenant.”

“You’re not really any madder than I was, sir.” Susan looked up at her ‘Mech, feeling a strong urge to get back to the security of the cockpit. “I don’t know if I can do anything about getting you better support against the Capellans but I’ll tell Major Barnes what you said.”

“That would be appreciated, Leftenant. Doubly appreciated if anything comes of it – but I’ll not hold my breath.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 August 2760

The maps of three worlds lit up the central table of the planning centre, marked with gold for the positions of AFFS units and green for reported locations of Capellan forces.

“According to General Dixon, he’s outnumbered almost two to one by the Capellan Armed Forces.” Stopec pulled up a forces display. “Military Intelligence disagree – by their count the frontline regiments on the three worlds are near parity for him, and the local militia were depleted in the last few years to build up frontline units so there shouldn’t be much of anything they can add.”

“Which do you believe?”

The grizzled Mechwarrior looked at his liege lord for a moment and then shrugged. “Likely somewhere between the two. MilInt’s ‘Mech numbers are pretty good but they tend to focus there – it could be there’s more infantry or tanks than they want to admit.”

“Given the raiding we’re seeing, I’d agree about ‘Mechs. And that pins down most of our Capellan March units. Dixon already has twice the regiments I originally planned and it doesn’t look to me as if he’s doing anything with them. At least casualty rates have dropped off.”

“Green troops always take the worst hit in their first weeks,” the third man at the table explained. Of course, John was the only one who could hear him. “It’s a leadership problem.”

“I’m tempted to relieve Dixon,” the prince told Stopec as if thinking aloud. “But I don’t know that we have anyone much better and a change of command could cause more confusion.”

“You’re probably right, sire. With your permission, I’ll use the data we’re getting for some exercises. The March Militia don’t seem to mind playing OpFor and maybe I can war game out some solutions.”

“Go right ahead.”

John watched as Stopec went to arrange for the data to be routed to his staff. Not turning his head to look at Hanse felt rude, but he’d forced himself to develop the habit – he couldn’t afford to look unstable. “You obviously have ideas what’s going wrong.”

“Given that neither side has any real advantage in numbers, equipment or doctrine, we’re looking at a deadlock,” Hanse told him unflinchingly. “In theory attrition would eventually swing the balance to us, but the forces involved are too small as a fraction of the total forces in service to make that realistic.”

“I see,” John agreed under his breath. “I can’t change the numbers all that much – or the equipment.”

“Changing doctrine is even harder, but that’s what you’re up against.” The redhead looked up at the ceiling. “You can’t retrain troops in the field – and the ones that are there are picking up experience. Rather than increasing the forces committed, what I recommend is pulling regiments out one at a time and replacing them with fresh troops.”

John almost risked turning and glaring but Stopec was on his way back. “If we rotated regiments after, say six months, we could adjust our deployments and rebuild the units that have seen action on postings in the Crucis or Draconis March,” he observed. “But I’m concerned that we’d see casualties spike again as new regiments get used to battlefield conditions.”

“That’s likely true. But it might be necessary, feeding replacement soldiers to the regiments isn’t really any better – if you break the numbers down the losses we’re getting right now are disproportionately the inexperienced.”

Hanse nodded in agreement with the Champion. “And the veteran troops can act as cadres for the regiments you’re still forming up, giving them practical experience to learn from.”

“It feels like we’re using this war just to blood our troops – and the casualties aren’t worth that,” John protested.

“You’re wrong,” Hanse said flatly. “It’s absolutely worth it – because those hundreds dead mean thousands, possibly tens of thousands live. Just as long as the lessons are learned.”

“That’s not what the war is about, sire.” Stopec’s words cut across Hanse’s. “The soldiers swore to fight for the Federated Suns and that’s what they’re doing. Doing already – and it’s up to us to make sure that it is worth it.”

“Perhaps you’re right.” John sighed. “Alright. Plan on a troop rotation, starting in two months and switching out one regiment each month. That shouldn’t leave Dixon too short on experienced troops at any one time. And while that’s going on, I’ll need you to figure out what we’re doing wrong – and to do it faster than the Capellans are. Because right now I don’t think they’re fighting any smarter than we are. God help us if they wind up learning faster.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #2 on: 11 November 2017, 14:00:11 »
Sidebar: History of the Federated Suns

"For better or for worse, the history of the Suns is the history of the Davions."

In 2316, Lucien Davion began touring the worlds of the Crucis Reach, a region bound together by trading networks centered upon New Avalon. Product of one of the powerful political dynasties of the bread-basket colony world, Lucien had recently inherited the post of Prime Minister from his uncle. Arguing that Terra, resurgent after more than seventy years of stagnation and internal conflicts, would pick off isolated planets as they sought to re-establish Terran dominance; Lucien proposed a mutual defense and trade union. Twenty worlds agreed, forming the Federated Suns under his leadership.

Upon Lucien’s death his brother Charles was elected President in his place, and used this to pressure his homeworld into accepting him as the next Prime Minister. Creating the Federated Peacekeeping Forces, the precursor to the later Armed Forces of the Federated Suns, Charles Davion brought Lucien’s loose association of worlds into a cohesive state ruled from New Avalon. When Charles passed away, Lucien’s son Reynard was placed to succeed him on New Avalon and at the head of the Suns, confirming the dynastic nature of the office.

The increasingly absolutist rule of House Davion climaxed in Reynard’s tyrannical twin grandsons, Edmund and Edward. Their cousin, Simon Davion, an accomplished diplomat and military leader in his own right, dramatically assassinated Edward in front of the High Council in 2417. Over the next three weeks a new, reformed and decentralised, Federated Suns was born. Five principalities were formed, with the five dynasties to provide a check upon each other. Simon Davion, judged guilty of justified homicide, was spared punishment and became the first among equals, the First Prince.

The system of principalities until 2512 when William Davion died, naming his five year old grandson Alexander as heir. During the boy’s minority power in the Crucis March would be vested in a regency council, including his aunts Laura and Cassandra, the latter wed to David Varnay, Prince of the Capellan March, and General Rostov of the AFFS. When Laura maneuvered herself into control of the Draconis March, replacing the childless Prince Vladimir, and Rostov was appointed Prince of the Terran March the scene was set for a three-sided civil war.

War broke out in 2525, but unexpectedly it would be a four-sided war. Only eighteen years old, Alexander Davion escaped effective captivity by the Varnays. He had no soldiers, and the rival regents announced his death, accusing each other of the murder. Fifteen years later, at horrendous cost to his family and the Suns, it was the Young Davion, who emerged as the Federated Suns’ First (and now only) Prince.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Sir Chaos

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  • Artillery Fanboy
Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #3 on: 11 November 2017, 14:44:35 »
Quote
“Pour another glass first.”

“You can’t drink, Hanse.”

“I meant for you. Actually, just bring the whole bottle.”

Oh boy, is he ever going to need it...
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

Dave Talley

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #4 on: 12 November 2017, 00:32:06 »
TAG!
This is a redo from a few years ago iirc
Resident Smartass since 1998
“Toe jam in training”

Because while the other Great Houses of the Star League thought they were playing chess, House Cameron was playing Paradox-Billiards-Vostroyan-Roulette-Fourth Dimensional-Hypercube-Chess-Strip Poker the entire time.
JA Baker

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #5 on: 12 November 2017, 04:14:22 »
The original was a timeline, this version is a full story.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

cpip

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #6 on: 12 November 2017, 13:26:24 »
Not only is the premise entertaining, but the dialogue is well-written, the descriptions are good -- this is just plain good writing, and I'm very much enjoying it.

DOC_Agren

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #7 on: 12 November 2017, 14:00:11 »
So my 1st thought is will Hanse end up changing the timeline enough that he won't rule??
"For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast, And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed:And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill, And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever grew still!"

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #8 on: 12 November 2017, 16:17:31 »
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 August 2760

Edwina was away that night, having flown to visit her family on their estates halfway around the planet, and John had dismissed his attendants. He and Hanse shared the privacy of a lounge, one wall screen displaying an Italian opera that dated back almost a thousand years. The ghost from the future had commended it to John, who continued not to see the appeal but the sound of it would mask their conversation if someone actually managed to overhear them.

“The rot is too deep, John – it has been for years. Perhaps Simon Cameron could have turned things around but he’s dead and his son is a spoiled brat utterly unequal to his responsibilities.” Hanse’s eyes blazed with determination. “All you can do is salvage as much as possible for the Federated Suns.”

“I know your… unique position gives you a perspective that I lack, Hanse, but this isn’t your time. You’ve never lived at peace with your neighbours – no, I’m not blaming you, but it’s colouring your thinking. It’s thinking the way you describe – putting the Suns ahead of everyone else – that led to the Star League’s fall. We could have made it work despite Amaris, but from what you tell me, none of us were willing to be selfless enough to put the League ahead of ourselves.”

Relaxing into his chair, John looked at his great-great-great-great-great grandson and met determination with conviction. “I don’t know what happened to turn me into someone willing to stand back and let that happen, but I don’t want to be that person. If Richard isn’t able to set the example that the Star League needs then I should stand up and shame the others into doing so.”

“You’re at war with one of them.”

“True, but that’s the situation we’re left with. Richard doesn’t have to be a brilliant first lord, or even an able one, if we can simply convince him to work with the rest of the Council. Robert Steiner is no fool and Kenyon Marik is hardly an ally of the Capellan Confederation. Their issues with Kerensky are personal – once he’s no longer regent, we’ll be rid of one of the major sources of tension on the Star League Council.”

“That’s optimistic. The problems didn’t begin with him,” Hanse reminded him. “Look at the Hidden Wars – or the way Kurita tried to usurp your throne. Would you work with him for that?”

John hesitated. “It would be difficult for Takiro, but you yourself told me his health is failing. Minoru might be an enemy in your… timeline?”

“As good a term as any.”

“Right, but he doesn’t have to be an enemy. He’s ambitious, but also pragmatic. As long as the Camerons aren’t eliminated the prospect of being a power behind the throne is far better for him than breaking the League asunder. If we can work together that’s the two largest and most powerful Member States.”

The other man shook his head. “I don’t think you’ve got a hope in hell of succeeding, John. I’ll help you – it’s not as if I have any other options – but I hope this doesn’t end up making things worse.”

“I’m not talking about neglecting the Suns. After all, if we’re going to prop up the Star League then I need us to look as strong as possible. That strength just has to show that we’re gaining it from working with the Star League, not against it.”

“Then you need to talk to Kerensky. I don’t know how he’s seen in this era but history casts him as practically the soul of the Star League.”

John nodded. “Albion Military Academy is a good example of how the SLDF and a House Military can work together. There are only two other academies outside the Hegemony that do that – both in the Lyran Commonwealth – General Kerensky attended one of them. I’m going to propose expanding Warrior’s Hall on New Syrtis into a fully-fledged SLDF academy, one that can help train soldiers side-by-side for the AFFS and SLDF and foster pro-Star League sentiment.”

“I see. And you’re expecting that the other Lords will see that as something to emulate.”

“Probably not until Richard reaches his majority, at least for the Free Worlds League. I can’t see Kenyon Marik asking Kerensky for that or accepting it if he offered. But Barbara Liao might – if she’s seeing me as a rival then – by God – let’s use that. And then Kenyon will see that all his neighbours have SLDF academies and might be persuaded that he could seek the same from the new First Lord.”

Hanse chuckled. “I notice you’re not including the Combine in that. And you’re probably right. But a lot of this hinges on Richard Cameron being reasonable and that isn’t likely with Amaris holding his confidence. I agree as far as it goes that the League’s chances of survival are better if House Cameron isn’t wiped out – such as those chances are – but Amaris is the main threat. To all practical purposes he already has the future First Lord as a puppet and that isn’t enough for him.”

“Agreed. It’s difficult that no one else really sees him as a threat. If you hadn’t told me about him I’d have trouble believing he was anything more than the bumpkin he acts like.”

“I’m glad we’re on the same page.” Hanse leant forwards. “So what do you have in mind?”

“If we can tie him to the Periphery’s unrest then the rest of the Council will have to act. I’ve already instructed MilInt to start looking for shipments of military hardware that aren’t accounted for by the SLDF or the house militaries.” John stabbed his finger down. “Hiding the quantity of equipment you described would be incredibly difficult already. Now that we know what to look for we can -”

“You need to kill him.”

The prince looked at Hanse in horror. “You mean assassination? Of one of the Star League Council? That’s not a door I want to open!”

“There’s nothing sacred about their lives and better one man dies than ten thousand. Or ten million. The one assured way of stopping Amaris is to kill him.”

John rose to his feet and stalked to the window. “Setting aside the practical problems with actually carrying that out – which are titanic – it’s a certainty that it would be identified as an assassination. Even if there was no evidence at all – just as there wasn’t any evidence of Simon’s death being anything but an accident – the assumption would be there. The Territorial States would assume that one of the Member States removed him because he was too influential – which would be the truth when you come down to it. He’d be a martyr.”

“House Amaris is notorious for its internal power struggles.”

“So what?” John thumped the window. “He’s from the periphery, we aren’t. It’s that polarized right now. And the House Lords would suspect largely the same thing, and watch for anyone trying to move into the same circle. Which is exactly what I’m going to be doing – and the same solution will present itself.”

“Oh and then there’s Richard himself. Who will blame… who? Assuming that whoever is sent isn’t traced back to me – and that’s a real possibility, I know you have this quasi-infallible MIIO in the future but that doesn’t exist yet -”

“Which you’d better do something about.”

 “Which, yes, is on my list of things to do. But Richard will most likely blame General Kerensky. So we’d end up isolating the First Lord even more, crippling any chance of getting his tolerance and potentially costing us one of the few other pillars of support the League has right now. Do you see why I think it’s a terrible idea?”

Hanse nodded. “You’re absolutely right. Killing Amaris would be a nightmare even without the moral issues which you carefully didn’t mention. But you’re the one who wants to save the Star League and as long as the centre of the Star League still exists, simple inertia has a good chance of keeping the Council from disbanding. Stefan Amaris is intent on destroying that centre and right now he has practically all the cards he needs to do that. He’s had a decade to get his claws into Richard Cameron and that’s not a bond you’ll break easily.”

“It’s too damaging to risk,” John told him firmly. “I’ll find another way. Besides… Amaris has family. We could kill him and be right back at square one if they take up the same idea. His wife could easily send Stefan’s heir Tadeo to Terra to fill his father’s place at Richard’s side. You know Richard would jump at the chance to mentor his friend’s son.”

That point seemed to sink in and Hanse nodded grudgingly. “I suppose I didn’t give his family very much consideration. Alright, I yield the point. So… going back to the earlier question, what else can you do to strengthen the Star League?”

The prince pursed his lips. “The treasury will howl but I think we’ll have to try to undo some of the damage done to the Periphery by the current taxes. I doubt I can get the Council to keep their hands off the funds generated unless Richard supports it, but nine-tenths of the problems in the Periphery stem from the taxes we imposed in ‘52.”

“It has potential,” Hanse admitted. “If less of the SLDF needs to go to the Periphery it would certainly complicate the Amaris’ coup. But without that income you can’t afford to support the AFFS and if you raise your own taxes then you’ll hurt the economy.”

“I know, but the core of the expansion is done so I can look at cutting back there a little and put it into measures to restrain some of the corporate gouging that goes on there.”

“Every little helps. Can I talk you into assassinating Jinjiro Kurita?”

“Absolutely not – do you think I want a war on two fronts?”

Hanse shrugged. “Worth a try. The last thing you need on the Star League Council is a psychotic.”

“Minoru has almost forty years ahead of him…”

.o0O0o.

Hellas Mountains, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
23 September 2760

The road zigzagged up the steep slope in order to present a manageable gradient to ground vehicles. Ignoring the road in order to ascend as directly as possible, Susan scrambled her Dervish up the easier sections, sometimes using the paddle-like hands to stabilise the ‘Mech. Where the mountainside didn’t serve she used jump-jets to loft the fifty-five ton ‘Mech past obstacles.

“Major Barnes is trying to get your attention again,” Gav Greaney advised her.

“Yes, I noticed. Shocking lack of radio discipline, he really needs a couple of days leave.”

Delta Company, into which the remains of Echo Company had been folded, was made up of Wolverines rather than Dervishes. Conveniently, the two ‘Mech designs were of almost identical size and mobility so the company was able to operate together cohesively. Right now long range comms were supposed to be kept offline as the Confederation had managed to launch a replacement satellite network that could pick up on AFFS signals. It was only a matter of time before orbital sorties by the Navy’s fighters would take them out, but at the moment it gave the enemy an advantage.

“Major’s gonna chew you out, again.”

“Shut up Smythe.”

“Shutting up,” the woman affirmed – although how long that would last was as open to doubt as the timeframe for the Navy to clear the satellites.

“Thing is, she’s not wrong. Technically this is an unauthorised sortie. You could almost say we’re absent without leave.”

“Firebase commanders have authority to carry out short-term operations at their discretion and the 86th are inside our operational radius.”

“It’s kind of stretching a point to say you were the firebase commander, captain. The Major was only taking a nap.”

“He needs all the sleep he can get, Gav. And he left me in charge of the battalion until he woke up.”

“Just wanted to point out that he used the words ‘summary’ ‘court’ and ‘martial’ in his last transmission.”

Susan fired her jump-jets again. “Well he might get two of those together, but I really don’t think ‘Wang’ Dixon will be signing off on any summary judgements. If I’m court martialled he’d want every I dotted and every T crossed.”

“Benefit of being a Duke’s daughter?”

“I don’t like taking too much advantage of it, but if it means we can relieve the 86th then I don’t mind making an exception.”

As they reached the top of the ridge, Susan’s sensors started painting heat signatures. Fires were blazing in the barns of the sprawling cattle station that the 86th Light Infantry had been based out of, down in the broad valley beyond. Amid the smoke and fires she could see bipedal figures far too large to be infantrymen.

“I’ve a partial ID,” Smythe reported, breaking the silence as the other ten ‘Mechs of Delta Company caught up. “Bug ‘Mech, I’d say ninety-five percent chance it’s a Wasp.”

“And the other five percent?”

“Stinger with a Wasp cockpit assembly – there have been some patch-jobs sighted.”

“It doesn’t make a huge difference then.” Susan adjusted her radio to the frequency she’d picked up the infantry request for assistance on. Breaking radio silence could have been a judgement by the regiment’s command team that the Capellans must already know their location if they were under attack. Or it could have been a fake signal intended to draw out AFFS ‘Mechs to ambush them.

Having stayed in touch with Sergeant – now Lieutenant – Watsuki and his unit, Susan was fair sure she’d recognised the radio operator’s voice. That cut the odds of an ambush to around one in five by her best guess. Acceptable odds.

“86th Infantry, this is Delta of the Second Cuirassiers. We’re moving to your support,” she advised via a low strength signal that the satellites should hopefully miss. Of course, the Liao ‘Mechs in the area would also detect it, if not necessarily decode it. But knowing reinforcements had arrived should warn them off, which would be almost as good as destroying them.

“Roger that, Delta. We’ve got fire teams in the buildings and the drainage ditch.” The voice of the colonel was relieved. “We took down two ‘Mechs but there are at least ten more and a lance of missile carriers backing them up.”

“Understood, we’re on the way.”

Susan switched back to Delta’s internal comms. “Move in. We’re looking at a company of light ‘Mechs and a lance of missile carriers – Greaney, hold your lance back to deal with the carriers.” Missile carriers were little more than tracked turrets, but they could deliver an awesome amount of firepower from the missile launchers in those turrets. They were lightly armoured though and with four Dervishes, Greaney’s lance should be enough to take them out quickly.

As the company descended the slope, they dispersed and Greaney held his group back to form a second line behind Longknife’s four Wolverines and Susan’s command lance, which was one ‘Mech down.

“I think they’re pulling back to the buildings,” Smythe reported.

That made sense to Susan. “Keep moving, they’ll probably take us under fire with the missile carriers to draw us into the buildings and their range.”

Sure enough, as they came within half a kilometre of the cattle station the arching contrails of LRMs rose from behind one of the buildings – obvious due to their sheer number if nothing else.

The salvo had been concentrated on Longknife’s lance and the four ‘Mechs scattered, trying to avoid taking the concentrated barrage. Susan lost sight of them momentarily but all four of the magnetic signatures of the ‘Mechs kept moving so she didn’t think they’d been taken out.

Behind her, she saw Greaney’s lance briefly halt, the covers of their missile launchers opening. A return salvo burst up into the air and then the Dervishes resumed movement.

Then the first Wasps came into view, popping out to fire on Susan with their lasers as she crossed the quarter kilometre mark.

She had lasers of her own though, as well as SRMs. Her first target ducked back behind the cover of tin-walled building but she fired anyway – the lasers punched right through the light metal and four SRMs converted it to scrap, exposing the Wasp. A Wolverine’s autocannon bit deep into the light ‘Mech’s chest and its pilot fired his jump jets to bound back behind more substantial cover.

Alone the Wasps could have outrun her relief force but in addition to giving them more firepower the missile carriers mired them, for they were far slower.

Rounding the first line of buildings Susan saw that one of the missile carriers had blown up, the turret upended several yards from the tracks. One of the others turned its own turrets towards her, no less than sixty missile tubes on the low-slung turret, as the other two vehicles backed away, tracks digging into the dirt and gravel of the roadway.

Keeping her missile tubes closed, she rushed the carrier, firing just before it did. Her lasers bit into the forward glacis of the hull but her missiles were lost in the smoke as the missile load was fired directly into her.

Fortunately, Susan was inside the arming distance of the long range missiles – while the impacts staggered her and one missile starred the armoured glass of her cockpit, the damage was far less than it would have been if the warheads had gone off. Lurching through the smoke of the missile fire, she braced the Dervish’s weight on one foot and then crashed the other into the damaged frontal armour. Plating buckled and the missile carrier’s hatches popped open, crewmen fleeing. Gunfire from the next row of buildings cut two of the men down, a third reaching cover behind a stack of crates and cowering behind the shelter, clearly disinclined to continue the fight.

Longknife’s lance appeared on the other flank of the missile carriers and the two remaining vehicles came apart in the crossfire of the seven ‘Mechs. Although their armour was scored and paintwork a wreck, Susan was pleased to see that the other lance hadn’t taken any losses.

Checking for any further sign of the Wasps she spotted the turret of the first missile carrier destroyed, the one likely destroyed in the initial salvo from Greaney. The launchers were a different style from those of the other three and despite the heat of her cockpit she shivered. That one had carried short-range missile launchers – if it had survived then her close assault would have exposed her to a swarm of larger warheads that would have smashed her Dervish flat.

I think that was all my luck for today, she decided. Better to be more cautious in the future. “Don’t get split up,” she ordered. “Greaney, the carriers here are out but there could be more. Move up and join us, we’ll clear the site systematically.”

“Won’t that mean the Capellans can get away?”

“If they run then that’s good enough for me. We’re just here to relieve the place, not to try to rack up kill markings like those morons in the Eighth Fusiliers.” She’d seen some of the Falcon light ‘Mechs in that regiment swaggering around with carefully painted rings around their arms to signify claimed defeats over Liao ‘Mechs and armoured vehicles. There was some complex system of claiming victories and what each ring meant but all she’d taken away from that was that if she were to have been fighting against the Fusiliers she’d have made the ‘Mechs with the most rings priority targets.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
16 October 2760

“I’m glad we’ve been able to come to an agreement.” John shook hands with Erskine Cobb, the moment immortalised on holo-camera.

Over the next week or so this would appear as a minor note in the news media of hundreds of worlds and probably as a headline on Kathil. As CEO of General Motors, Cobb was one of the major movers and shakers in the Capellan March and its main manufacturing plants were located on Kathil. The deal that John had just signed off on would direct hundreds of millions of Star League dollars from the military budget to Motors, almost doubling their share of the lucrative military market.

“It’s been a genuine pleasure,” Cobb replied with apparent sincerity. “The SLDF turning the Blackjack down could have cost us dearly. It’s a pleasure to have the support of House Davion.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if they reconsider after they see it in action with our regiments on the border. Your corporation has always provided quality products and I don’t see any reason to expect anything less.”

There was as much show as substance to that comment, but John could at least honestly say he had personal experience of one General Motors’ product: his personal ‘Mech was a Marauder, one of the most respected heavy ‘Mechs around and had been built by GM on Kathil.

Cobb released his hand. “Their loss, your gain.”

“When the Star League loses, we all do. But I’m glad to be able to step in where they didn’t.”

An aide ushered the business magnate in and John submitted to a quick brush down of his jacket by another attendant before heading back to his desk for his next meeting. “I hope the Blackjack is everything you told me,” he said in the brief moment of privacy he had.

“It just had bad press,” Hanse told him. “I don’t know where the rumours about it began but it’s a good, reliable ‘Mech. Not a showboat, but exactly the sort of workhorse you want on the frontlines.”

Owen opened the door. “Sire, Perry Lycomb of Lycomb Technologies.”

“Of course.” John rose and greeted the man with warmth. “I’ve been looking forwards to meeting you.”

“I feel the same way, your highness.” Lycomb shook his hand firmly. “I hope we can resolve the recent… disagreements that have arisen since May.”

“It was a terrible blow, seeing you targeted by terrorism like that.” John returned to his seat. “I understand the AFFS has offered to split costs for reconstruction with you. Those were certainly my instructions.”

Perry accepted the seat in front of John and Owen retreated. The businessman took a deep breath. “The offer’s been made, your highness and in many respects its very generous… but there are certain conditions that make us hesitant to accept the proposal.”

“He’s not going for it,” Hanse concluded.

With more practise, John avoided looking at his invisible advisor. “Would this be to do with the security concerns?”

“We have a great deal of investment – time, money and tradition – on Demeter.” Lycomb spread his hands. “Our workers are a community, almost an extended family. To ask them all to uproot from their homes and re-establish themselves halfway across the Inner Sphere… it’s just too much to do.”

“I can see your point of view, but really wouldn’t this be an investment in their safety – and that of their families? The Federated Suns has quite literally gone to war over the injury to Lycomb and while there’s been no further incidents on Demeter itself there’s no guarantee that the fighting couldn’t spread.”

The magnate nodded. “It’s much on my mind and we’ve had to hire additional security already for our remaining production facilities but the other factor is that moving our factories deeper inside the Suns could cost us some very important contracts.”

John raised an eyebrow. “You mean with the SLDF?”

“Quite.” Lycomb spread his hands. “We’re not just close to the Capellan Confederation on Demeter. While we’re bound by confidentiality as to the details, it can’t be a secret that the bulk of our production goes to the SLDF. It’s quite a coup to work with some of their cutting edge equipment and very few firms outside the Hegemony get the chance. If SLDF procurement felt that we were potentially open to… well, I don’t want to imply that you would be involved…”

“They’d think that my government was using you as a conduit to get hold of classified SLDF equipment.”

“Exactly! Even the perception could cost us heavily and since we won’t be assembling new Awesomes for some time to come we’ll depending on selling components for them and our aerospace division to remain solvent. Losing SLDF contracts – or worse, facing litigation – could destroy Lycomb.”

The prince turned his chair slightly. “Damaging relations with the SLDF certainly isn’t something I’d approve of, I can assure you of that. On the other hand, our policy of ensuring our sources of military hardware are from secure sources is built to a great extent on the dangers exposed by the damage done to your factories. Making an exception for Lycomb would difficult to justify.”

“I’m very sorry to hear that,” Lycomb answered, face solemn. “In that case I suppose we’ll have to find the money for reconstruction without your offer. I regret that we’re both in positions that we can’t find a compromise.”

“It’s unfortunate, and I’ll see if we might be able to find something else that we can offer that wouldn’t offend the SLDF.” John pushed his chair back. “Lycomb’s been good to the AFFS over the years and House Davion will not forget that.”

“In that case, your highness, I can assure you that I’ll be very pleased to consider any other proposals from the AFFS. I’m glad that we’ve at least now got a better understanding of what we’re each hoping for.”

“Absolutely,” John agreed and the two men shook hands again before Lycomb left.

“We’re going to need those heavy fighters, John. In fact, you need more fighters in general. Besides the Stuka the only other design being built in the Suns is the Centurion, you’re importing everything else.”

John nodded. “We’ll have to see how amenable they are to setting up an alternate facility. In the meantime maybe we can work something out with Boeing Interstellar. They’re already constructing a shipyard at Galax, which is certainly secure enough.”

“I didn’t know they were in the fighter market,” Hanse said in surprise. “Federated-Boeing were a standby of our dropship and jumpship production but they were focused on that.”

“I’m glad to know there are some gaps in your knowledge,” John said frankly. “They build the Hammerhead – which is pretty much reserved for militia use in the Terran Hegemony given the age but it’s a heavy airframe and not so advanced that building it in the Suns would upset the SLDF.”

“I can’t say I know the name.” The ghost made a face. “Probably it was another of those things we lost in the Succession Wars. Is it any good?”

John spread his hands. “I’m not a pilot. The navy would rather have more Stukas or Thunderbirds, but if we can’t get them then the Hammerhead would be better than nothing.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #9 on: 12 November 2017, 16:17:45 »
High Orbit, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
2 November 2760

At least the crew seemed to know what they were doing, Susan thought as she watched her ‘Mech move without her. The dropship that had lifted her to orbit would have to return for the other half of the Second Cuirassiers. Fortunately FSS Markesan was a dedicated transport with a dedicated ‘Mech deck that could accommodate a battalion of BattleMechs.

Right now her battered Dervish was locked into a transport cradle that would be guided on rails out the hatch and across the ship.

“Major,” a clipped voice offered from behind her. “Welcome aboard.”

It took Susan a moment to realise she was the one being greeted. Turning she saw a short, trim officer with a Leftenant Colonel’s two narrow stripes on his uniform epaulettes. Light Commodore was the naval equivalent she recalled and saluted him. “Sir. And it’s just Captain. I’m only provisionally in charge of the battalion.”

The corner of the man’s lips twitched in amusement. “Courtesy promotion, major. It’s a naval tradition that there’s only one captain on a ship.”

Her face coloured. “Sorry, sir. Protocol’s… slipped a little down there.”

“That I can understand – and between you and me, it’s caused the Department of the Army and Navy no end of issues over the years.” The twitch disappeared. “Part of the problem being that they think they can get the tradition to change when those are usually less flexible than regulation. I’m Markesan’s captain, Ken Jones.”

“Susan Sandoval.”

He nodded. “So I heard. Any relation to the Duke?”

“He’s my father.” Susan shrugged slightly. “Don’t put too much weight on the relationship – he wanted me to take a post in the Draconis March so he could keep an eye out for me, I came to the Capellan March because I don’t want that attention.”

“That’s very laudable, major.” She got the impression that Jones wasn’t being entirely sincere but she’d more or less got used to those reactions. “I’m afraid I’m not just here to greet you though. If I can persuade you to leave your ‘Mechs to my crew – they’re very good, I promise – then we do actually have some business to take care of.”

“Of course, sir,” she agreed quizzically.

“Wonderful.” He held the hatch for her in a gentlemanly fashion, ushering her across the dividing line between the dropship and FSS Markesan. “I gather you had a field promotion down there?”

“Yes sir, I had a lance when we landed.” Susan raised her chin in challenge. Six months wasn’t long to go from leading four ‘Mechs to almost forty but she wasn’t going to be put off just because naval promotions tended to be slower.

“Then I’m afraid I’ll have to be the one to break it to you that paperwork increases geometrically in relation to the number of people under your command.” Jones led her to what she recognised as an axial lift, the pair of them moving from handgrip to handgrip in micro-gravity. “In this case, my medical officer is nigh hysterical as your troops weren’t up to date on their inoculations.”

The brief acceleration of the lift pressed Susan’s feet against the floor for a moment. “We’ve had to prioritise and battlefield injuries tend to be more urgent.”

“You’ve nothing to justify to me. Unfortunately, the paper-pushers will have their due. We have all the necessary vaccines and whatnot aboard, but those are naval medical supplies and you’re from the BattleMech corps so you’re supposed to be getting this from your own medical service.”

Susan blinked. “Pardon me, Commodore, but do I understand that my people aren’t to receive the inoculations until we reach Goshen?”

“Oh nothing of the kind. We’ve already started on it, but unless we get your signature on the paperwork authorising the naval service to bill the BattleMech corps for it, well…” Jones shrugged wryly, “I’m not saying that the paper-pushers would court martial the two of us and my medical officer because they hadn’t been able to move some electrons around in the budget, but no one needs ‘suspected financial peculation’ on their permanent file.”

She groaned and leant back against the lift wall. “And I thought we were just fighting the Capellans.”

“I’m sorry I have to disillusion you.” Exiting the lift, the naval officer directed her towards a cramped compartment she realised must be the warships administrative officers. “However, now that you’re verging on being a field-grade officer you’ll have to get used to the idea that the AFFS is invariably, if informally, at war with the civilian arms of the government and engaged in a civil war between all internal factions. I’m continually amazed we ever find time to fight the Capellans or Draconians.”

“May God help us if we ever have to fight both.”

“There is at least the hope that they may be just as confused as we are.”

At least electronic forms meant not having to mess around with pen and paper in microgravity. Jones called up the necessary documents on a workstation and answered Susan’s questions as she worked through them, signing in the required boxes with an electronic stylus.

“Are you sure I’m not keeping you from your duties?” she asked. Didn’t the Markesan’s commanding officer have anything else to do but shepherd a temporary battalion commander through admin duties? There were Capellan ships in the system after all.

He pointed at one bulkhead. “We’re only three metres from the Combat Information Centre. If a crisis arises I’m available. Meanwhile my deck officers get the useful, if nerve-wracking, experience of being responsible for the ship on the frontlines, or as close as the naval side of things goes. I’m not too worried about anything happening while we’re in orbit, honestly. As far as the Capellans are concerned, if they blow us up right now then in the best case there’ll be shrapnel in orbit of Valexa for decades – and at worst the wreck could land as a single mass… that would be messy. No, if they try for an interception it’ll probably be near the jump points.”

“How very reassuring.”

“The odds are about fifty-fifty that we’ll run into someone. Since we were missed coming here with the Hussars, maybe we’ll see more action on departure.”

The little man seemed quite matter of fact about it, Susan thought. Then again, was it really any different from the situation on the ground? This was his battlefield and she’d have to assume he knew what he was doing, just as she did with other AFFS units on the ground.

Then again, Balbadd had taught her to take assurances with a pinch of salt. At least Jones’ nonchalance was a change from the sometimes colourful displays of confidence she’d encountered from fellow Mechwarriors.

Sidebar: Kearney-Fuchida

"It was a little like buses. Nothing for ages and then two came along at once."

The fundamental basis of interstellar transportation and communication lies in hyperspace physics, a field first theorised in the early twentieth century by Doctors Kearny and Fuchida in a series of joint papers. Practical application of their work didn’t result for almost a century until two universities independently produced results strongly suggesting that a circumvention of the limits of the speed of light might be possible after all.

The Terran Alliance Ship Pathfinder was the first starship, built at extreme expense to take man to the starts and it succeeded spectacularly, leaping from one star system to another in a split second. While the energy demands required long waits between such jumps, Mankind was primed and ready to leave the crowded Terra, yet the terraforming of Mars and Venus had been long term projects that couldn’t release this tension. Within only a few years the colony of New Earth was founded and many more followed.

The range of jumps increased as the science was refined and by the twenty-eighth century, the standard for modern vessels was thirty light years. In addition, integrating both a jump-core and in-system drives fell out of practise in favour of larger but cheaper jump drives with minimal crew quarters, equipped to recharge via vast solar sails instead of fusion reactors. These jumpships or boomers would then carry external payloads of dropships from system to system, with the dropships carrying cargos from the surface to jumpships that never needed to approach the planets they served.

The second application of hyperphysics waited for the Star League to discover. While jumpships could only operate in areas of effectively no gravity, millions of kilometres from planets or stars, it was discovered that microscopic jump transits could be created, repeatedly, to permit microwave transmissions through the effect.

Within decades this Hyperpulse technology cut message times across the Inner Sphere by half – far more than that in emergencies when extraordinary resources were authorised for reasons such as the convenience of the Star Lords. The entire industry of courier jumpships that had once served the interstellar states was rendered obsolete, almost overnight.

Kearny and Fuchida, scientists decades before their time, received the usual rewards. Driven out of the scientific community by the derision of their peers, both men died in poverty.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

idea weenie

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #10 on: 12 November 2017, 18:02:18 »
Very nice story coming along, maybe with Hanse's help it will butterfly the Clans?

mikecj

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #11 on: 12 November 2017, 19:51:18 »
I loved the outline/timeline you did & the expansion is certainly up to your normal standards.  The sidebars remind me of the ones in the original Hammer's Slammers.
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

Daryk

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #12 on: 12 November 2017, 20:14:25 »
So... Hanse didn't mention Kentares during that bottle of bourbon? ???

Smegish

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #13 on: 12 November 2017, 21:55:11 »
Kentares isn't a sure thing, as long as Minoru isnt assassinated

Daryk

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #14 on: 12 November 2017, 22:07:39 »
True, but it seems mentioning the possibility is the only way to make sure it doesn't happen...

mikecj

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #15 on: 12 November 2017, 22:35:01 »
Kentares isn't a problem yet, Hanse is still trying to prevent the Coup.

IRC, they're going to look at reforming the AFFS soon.
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

David CGB

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #16 on: 13 November 2017, 00:40:31 »
Kentares isn't a problem yet, Hanse is still trying to prevent the Coup.
IRC, they're going to look at reforming the AFFS soon.
God yes it was needed like white on rice, and them some.....
Federated Suns fan forever, Ghost Bear Fan since 1992, and as a Ghost Bear David Bekker star captain (in an Alt TL Loremaster)

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #17 on: 13 November 2017, 16:38:55 »
SLDF Headquarters, New Earth
Alliance Core, Terran Hegemony
31 January 2761

While Fort Cameron outside Unity City was the nerve centre of the SLDF’s high command, the vast number of administrative personnel necessary to run the military forces of the Star League couldn’t possibly have fit into the limited space alongside the defensive structures that comprised the key of the defences around the capital city.

Thus every SLDF department and major field command had a complex of buildings located on humanity’s first extra-solar colony, the entire sprawling assembly and support structures constituting a city in its own rights. White stone, gleaming metal and mirror-glass made up every building, designed by master architects to present a unified whole.

Crossing paths with the ever-busy Aleksandr Kerensky was a trial in and of itself – he spent the majority of his time travelling the Star League aboard his flagship, moving from problem to problem and handling day to day issues via hyper-pulse transmissions. He visited Terra, of course, but that would have been a little too obvious – as would the First Prince visiting personally which had been John Davion’s first intention.

Fortunately, Thomas Green-Davion thought, his distant cousin was open to reason. Whether or not Terra’s regent would be… now that was the question.

“I’m not sure what your lord thinks you can accomplish,” Kerensky greeted him brusquely. “I supported him when he wanted lawful investigation of the Demeter incident but invading another Member-State was too far.”

Green-Davion nodded politely and folded his arms behind his back as he stood on the Star League seal that was worked into the marbled floor of the formal office.

The Commanding General stared at him and then sighed, gesturing towards a window nook at the base of one of the tall windows that looked over the city. “Sit down and let’s talk.”

“Thank you, sir.” There were benches either side of the angled nook, cushioned in the same olive of SLDF uniforms and they sat opposite each other. Kerensky had aged visibly over the last decade, it was hard to tell that the AFFS Field Marshal was the elder of them by twelve years. “I think we both understand that the Prince would have vastly preferred it if the Chancellor and the other council members had been willing to accept investigation and intervention under your auspices. Unfortunately that’s not the situation we’re left with.”

“I accept that position, but we stand where we are. The SLDF pushed the Combine out of the Suns thirty years ago and we can push the Suns out of the Confederation as well.”

“If it reaches that point, sir, the AFFS will withdraw peacefully. Whatever the involvement of the Capellans on Demeter, Prince Davion assures me that he won’t tolerate so much as a single shot fired at SLDF forces. It’s not much more than a year now until the First Lord is of age and perhaps that will allow this matter – among many others – to move forwards at last.”

“It is to be hoped,” Kerensky conceded. He ran a hand back over his bare scalp. “If the AFFS withdraws peacefully I would have no issue with that, but that isn’t what you’re here for, Field Marshal.”

“You’re quite correct. The fact is that Demeter – and the entire current border clashes -”

“That’s a polite way of referring to an outright invasion.”

“I thought so too,” Green-Davion confirmed, smiling as if he thought the interruption had been a compliment. “They are symptoms, not the cause of the Star League’s current issues. There is a deep well of public support for the Star League, at least in the Member States. But the upper leadership of the Member-States – with possibly the exception of the Hegemony – don’t seem to share in this.”

He looked out the window at the buildings. “No one with any sense believes that the men and women of the SLDF aren’t devoted to the ideals of the League or that they would defend them to the bitter end should it – God forbid – come to that. But the political will to do so has been lacking at times.”

“I don’t entirely disagree. However, that political will must come from the Star League Council and it’s your Prince who has a permanent seat there. Next year I’ll yield my place to Richard and be glad of it.”

Kerensky’s position wasn’t unexpected. He was soldier first and statesman reluctantly, at best. “Until that day though, you’re the Director-General of the Terran Hegemony in all practical terms. And you’re also the Protector of the Star League.”

“I’m not sure where you’re going with this.”

Green-Davion turned back to Kerensky. “After a great deal of thought, the Prince has advised me he feels that the decision to repeal the edict of 2650 – allowing the Member States to expand their military forces – was an error, as were the taxes imposed on the Periphery that in practical terms have enabled that expansion. Whether or not the other Lords feel the same way is questionable, but having contributed to the problem, he feels obligated to at least try to address it.”

“And how does he propose to do that? Because withdrawing from the Confederation would be a good step.”

“I’m sure that you realise how impossible that would be without an excuse. Such as, for example, placing the matter before the First Lord for arbitration.”

Kerensky shook his head. “That means another year of fighting and of soldiers dying for Davion’s pride.”

“Respectfully, sir, they’re fighting because the SLDF wasn’t released to settle the matter. If we can find some good reason before then I assure you, we will pull out. But barring absolute disaster, you can expect orders to that effect will be issued next February.”

“Then what do you have in mind?”

Pulling out a data chip, Green-Davion placed it on the windowsill in reach of the younger man. “He suggests a package of reforms to put before the Star League Council. You’re not entirely wrong about the price paid by soldiers fighting on Valexa, Westphalia and Angelsey, but right now there are SLDF soldiers fighting – and dying, if in thankfully small numbers – in the Periphery. And ultimately they’re doing so as tax collectors for the Great Lords.”

Seeing Kerensky nod, he continued: “The major part of the Prince’s suggestion is that the burden be shifted to those who benefit from those taxes. Lord Richard ordered the Twentieth Army withdrawn from the Rim Worlds Republic six years ago, to honour Lord Amaris. While he didn’t formally have the authority, we all accepted that. What if the other three Periphery states also had their SLDF garrisons reduced or withdrawn – not so abruptly, of course. Force the Council Lords to provide their own soldiers to replace them – many of the regiments raised over the last few years were really pulled from hidden reserves and there’s a limit to what can be pulled out in that way. If they’re having to uses their soldiers to collect the taxes they imposed, the other four Lords may be far more amenable to accepting compromises in order to have the SLDF take back their responsibilities.”

Kerensky took a deep breath. “The risk there would be that the Territorial States could rebel outright. Putting house regiments there would be very inflammatory.”

“The SLDF is already inflammatory, general. I’m sorry, but you know it’s true. If there is going to be a rebellion then Prince John believes that it would be better for that blame to rest on individual member-states than on the League as a whole. Isn’t that where the blame belongs?”

He got a snort in reply.

“If we can arrange for the House Militaries to do the initial bleeding for the sake of the taxes and for the SLDF to then act as peacekeepers – and convince the Great Lords to abolish the taxes placed on the territorial states, which would be an inducement for them.”

“It’s an interesting thought.” Kerensky looked at Green-Davion for a long moment. “It would require the First Lord’s consent. Without that there’s no hope at all of this working.”

“I know. And none of us have the best relationship with him. That’s why Prince John is willing to sweeten the pot for him.”

“How do you mean?”

“Strictly speaking, House Amaris willingly entered the Star League. The Reunification War only encompassed the Rim Worlds Republic because worlds rebelled against Lord Amaris’ ancestor. The First Lord has already honoured his friend Lord Stefan by making him a knight of the Star League. Wouldn’t it be fitting to redress the ancient wrong by elevating his realm to full membership of the League and giving him a vote on the Star League Council?”

Kerensky hissed. “You think that highly of him?”

“The First Prince doesn’t trust him an inch – but better to have him on our side. It would require a majority vote of the council – or a deadlock with the First Lord breaking the tie, but House Davion pledges their vote alongside the Cameron’s, so only one other vote would be needed for the motion to pass.”

“What about the other Territorial States? Would you offer them same?”

Green-Davion shrugged. “Right now I don’t think they’d want it – but if it settled the ongoing conflicts that are happening, would that really be too high a price to pay? We can’t overtax the territories if they aren’t territories anymore?”

“A fair point.” Kerensky looked back towards the main office, eyes lingering on the seal. “What other inducements can you offer?”

“Well, it occurs to us that there are three SLDF academies outside the Hegemony. If seven more were added – bringing it to two within each of the other member-states – then it would give the House Lords access to better training for their officers but also divert some of that officer pool to serve in the SLDF. Something for everyone.”

“I’m not comfortable with putting more Star League resources into the hands of Council Members,” the general said flatly. “Not as things stand, anyway. If they agree to put their troops in the periphery doing something useful then maybe I’ll reconsider. But tell John Davion that until his regiments are back on the right side of the border I can’t do anything whatsoever to suggest I’ll support the Federated Suns. I am – and I will remain – entirely neutral in his quarrel with the Liao.”

.o0O0o.

New Avalon Military Academy, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
11 May 2761

The prototype lurched across the training ground, the torso twisting as the Mechwarrior tracked the guns to another target. Dirt across the ground flew up as high explosive rounds – admittedly underpowered compared to live ammunition – struck it, marking a line of the guns fire.

The target, a cheap simulated tank represented by little more than fiberglass on a truck chassis, was shredded as no less than four autocannon fired into it.

“Impressive,” Stopec grunted.

Hanse, standing beside John, said nothing.

The prince rubbed his chin. “Do we really need another air defense design, Michael? Your Rifleman is very sound.”

“For one engagement, yes. Then it runs out of ammunition. Also it overheats.” Which wasn’t to say that the Colonel had ever requested an alternative ‘Mech even when most ‘Mech regiments – most battalions, in fact – could requisition a Marauder for their commander. For all his proven valour, Colonel Stopec wasn’t of the opinion that a commander’s job was to stand on the frontlines. No, an air defense ‘Mech that filled a defined role but could mostly simply park somewhere and wait to be needed was perfectly sufficient for him.

“And this would be better? With no large lasers, once it runs out of ammunition it’ll be helpless,” John pointed out. “Not as well armed as General Motors’ Blackjack, not even as well armoured.”

“This is just a prototype,” the colonel replied. “The lasers are fine for the role and they can work on the armour.”

John glanced sideways at Hanse.

“It’s been a bulwark of the AFFS for centuries,” the redhead agreed, before reluctantly adding: “But they never fix the armour enough. Tanks are better for air defense – I always preferred Partisans.”

What was a Partisan? The prince glanced over at Stopec. “It looks like the gyro needs work as well.”

“Prototypes are always iffy there – you need to finalise the rest of the structure before you can get the gyro dialled in correctly for the weight.”

“Fair enough. How do you rate your Rifleman against tanks in the same role?”

Stopec’s frown was just short of a glare. “Mixed in for combined arms the way we’ve been trying with the Fourth? Not so bad if they can handle the terrain. Mostly the concern is that they get left behind.”

Out on the field the JagerMech had finished engaging all the targets and the Mechwarrior brought it around in a slow, formal pass in front of the viewing box so that the observers could take it in.

“Two centimetre and five centimetre guns,” Hanse pointed out. “The Partisan has as many autocannon but they’re all five centimetre. Kallon build them… or they did. Would, perhaps.”

“Tank regiments will need air defense as well, and an economic air defense tank would be useful. Given their expertise, it would be interesting if Kallon Industries tried to build one,” John said out loud. “This has potential, but it’s a long way from being ready.”

The Prince’s Champion shrugged and then glanced past John towards the Kallon Industries representatives, one of whom was moving towards the pair.

“We’re honoured you’ve decided to attend our demonstration, sire.” Valentina Fraser would have been taller than either men, even without wearing heels. Her business jacket and pencil skirt emphasised her slender frame, which John didn’t think was a particularly attractive choice – it made her look like a scarecrow to him. Then again, she was the only representative in the box who was from the engineering division rather than marketing.

“One always wants to keep an eye on works in progress,” John told her diplomatically. “Colonel Stopec seems to feel you’re on the right track.”

“We set ourselves three goals: more ammunition than the Rifleman, better heat management than the Rifleman and better protection than the Rifleman. It’s always hard to compete with oneself, but…” She broke off and chuckled.

“Two out of three so far, isn’t it?”

Her laugh died off. “Yes, as you say it’s a work in progress.”

“Tell me, does Kallon have any other air defense platforms in development?” John pressed. “Our armoured regiments could do with something to fill the same role as the SLDF’s Pollux – but simpler and more economic. Given your company’s expertise in the field I’d be interested.”

Fraser sniffed. “I couldn’t tell you, sire,” she said. “I work on BattleMechs.”

Fortunately for the dignity of Kallon Industries, the woman was joined by one of her colleagues. “And a fine job you’ve done, Valentina,” he said smoothly. “Perhaps you could show our guests the JagerMech in more detail?”

John glanced at Stopec. “You go and look, Michael. You were admiring it earlier.” It took him on a moment to think back to the introductions. “Mr Wilson and I can talk money while you’re playing.”

“I’m sure Lady Edwina will be pleased to know you’re giving up ‘playing’ with ‘Mechs,” the Colonel replied before turning to Fraser. “I’d be glad of a closer look.”

Wilson shook his head slightly as the two departed, already discussing technical details. “I suppose we’re all fanatics for our own subjects of interest, sire.”

“And yours isn’t BattleMechs?”

“Only selling them.” He smiled at his own joke. “‘Tina though, she dotes on the prototypes almost as much as she does her own children.”

“With the same care and attention, I’m sure. Do you have an estimate on what a JagerMech is likely to set us back once you’ve finished design?”

“It’s a very preliminary figure but somewhere between five and six million dollars apiece.” Wilson pursed his lips. “You were asking about the Pollux? I happened to see a lance of them on parade a few years ago. An impressive design but I’m not sure the SLDF would license the necessary technology to us.”

“I’m almost certain the Hegemony would claim that the systems were restricted under the Technology Transfers Edict,” agreed John. “But something simpler, say an autocannon arrangement much like that on a JagerMech mounted on a turret with a tracked chassis…”

“I know we’ve been working on a fixed turret arrangement,” the executive mused. “Our factory on Talon’s been upgrading its security after recent events. I can’t honestly say if we have a platform that would fit that, but if there’s an opening I can certainly see what could be provided.”

“I’d be grateful if you would.” The prince gave him an approving look. “The military market has been very busy of late but thus far we haven’t found anything right for that niche. If Kallon were to offer something then it would be looked on very favourably.”

He could almost hear a ch-ching! from Wilson at the prospect. “I’ll be sure to bring it up to our engineers then,” the man promised. “Not Valentina’s field though – if it doesn’t have legs she’s just not interested.”

.o0O0o.

Fort Gordon, Goshen
Capellan March, Federated Suns
1 April 2761

“Is this a joke, sir?”

Major Barnes shook his head. “Despite the date, Major Sandoval, no it’s not a joke. Congratulations on your promotion.”

Susan looked at the new uniform epaulettes she’d received along with the paper orders, epaulettes sporting the single broad stripe of a Major rather than the narrow stripe she wore at the moment. “I wasn’t expecting this.”

“No? You did well on Valexa. Better than most.”

“Not well enough.”

“Don’t sulk.” Barnes opened a drawer of his desk and produced two glasses as well as a squat brandy. “It comes with a new assignment too.”

She looked up sharply. “I’m being reassigned?”

“Scuttlebutt is that the High Command is looking at pulling cadres out of units that have seen action,” Barnes told her. “If you were being formally assigned command of second battalion then I’d have expected to see instructions to that effect along with the promotion. Since they haven’t there’s a good chance you’re being looked at to form a new battalion.”

“Third battalion, maybe?” The Cuirassiers had effectively collapsed down to two battalions due to their losses on Valexa. Thus far nothing had been heard about providing equipment and Mechwarriors to bring them back to full strength.

Barnes filled both glasses and offered one to Susan. “Unfortunately no.” He raised his own glass. “To the our sister regiment, the First Arcadian Cuirassiers, four companies of which are being shipped home from Angelsey after they under-estimated the Capellans.”

Susan stared at him. “Shit,” she mumbled and then threw back the contents of the glass. “How did they manage that?”

“Details are sketchy but I’ve had advance notification to expect most of them to be transferred to us.”

“Are they retiring the regiment?”

“That’s right. Some of them will be pulled for a new cadre, which I suspect is where you’ll be going too, and the rest come to me. For my sins, I’ve told I’ve been recommended as the new Colonel, so my own promotion papers might be on the way.”

“They must have been really horrible sins.” Susan reached out to the bottle and refilled both glasses. “But seriously, they’re in good hands. I’d stay with the regiment, given the choice.”

“Soldiers like us don’t get the choice,” Barnes told her. He accepted the fresh glass. “But thank you, anyway. War isn’t what I was expecting. Not what any of us were expecting.”

They drank again.

“How do I lead a battalion, anyway?”

“About the same way you handled a company.” Barnes looked at the glasses again and then capped the bottle. “Obey orders, most of the time. Use your discretion when you think the orders are stupid and refrain from saying so to the face of your commanders.”

“That’s not exactly how you did it,” she pointed out.

“No, but this is likely my last promotion. I can follow orders just fine but there’s something… a sense for when orders aren’t enough. You have it and I don’t. That’s why one day I expect I’ll be saluting you, Sandoval.”

“That’s almost endearing.”

“Don’t give me empty compliments, Major.”

“At least until they promote you, you don’t even outrank me, Major,” she replied.

Barnes laughed. “Two glasses and you’re already snookered. I’m still in your chain of command.”

Susan looked at him over her empty glass and then placed it down. “You got the job done and you got us home. Don’t under-rate yourself.”

“Thanks for the pep talk, but I know my limits.” The man leant back. “I don’t know what your new unit will be but there’s talk of combined arms tactics being tried out by the Davion Guards. That could mean the Ceti Hussars will be getting another regiment. You worked pretty well with the infantry so that could work out for you.”

She thought about what little she knew of the other command. Something about a permanent mix of ‘Mechs, infantry and armour. “Aren’t they volunteer only?”

“You volunteered when you took your oath to the First Prince.”

“Ah, that sort of volunteer.”

“It’s just a thought, I could be wrong.”

Susan nodded. “I suppose we’ll find out when they get around to telling us.”

“Now you’re getting the picture.” Barnes gestured to the door. “One last piece of advice and keep this between the two of us?”

“Major?”

“Something tells me Valexa isn’t the end of this – we’re going to see more action, maybe worse action. Be ready for that, Sandoval.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
20 June 2761

“Your next appointment, sire.”

“He’s looking rocky,” Hanse warned, slipping into the office between Owen and the guest. “Watch out.” The redhead could walk right through people but he didn’t like to, he claimed it made him feel queasy.

“Marshal Pond.” John returned the officer’s salute without standing. “You don’t often ask for appointments so abruptly, so I assume it’s important.”

“It’s important to me, sir.”

Given pause by the tension in Pond’s voice, John sat back and looked at him. Hanse’s right. Damn, he must be taking this harder than I expected. “Take a seat.” When the man hesitated, John gestured towards one of the two chairs facing his desk. “Eric, sit down. You look like death warmed over.”

Taking a long breath, the head of Military Intelligence obeyed.

“Alright, I could speculate about why you’re here but I don’t like guessing games. Why don’t you just lay it out for me and then we’ll see what we can work out.”

Pond gripped the arms of the chair as if for strength. “Sir, if you want my resignation I’m more than willing -”

“Stop.” John pushed his chair back and walked around his desk. “Just stop. If I wanted your resignation then I’d ask for it.”

“Sire, I can’t explain your decision as anything other than dissatisfaction with my department. And that’s my responsibility.”

John spared a glance for Hanse who shrugged. “You’re talking about my appointing Reznick as Minister of Intelligence.”

“Yes, sire.”

“Did it ever occur to you that maybe it’s not a failure on your part and more that the scope of our intelligence needs has changed?”

“I appreciate that we’re at war, sire, but...”

“No, that’s not it.” Going back to his desk John looked across it at the field marshal. “We’ve been very fortunate over the last century and a half – with the Star League mostly at peace we’ve not needed to watch our neighbours as closely as we did back in the Age of War. Giving one agency the lead for foreign operations was a matter of economy as much as anything else and I have no complaints about how it’s been handled… but the situation has changed.”

“Right now we need to look at everyone in the Star League and we need to look at them in more depth than ever. Just the military build-up alone is stretching the demands on your department beyond anyone’s expectations. I need you on that, Eric. I need your people focused on that. And that means we need to move those other areas outside of your bailiwick again.”

“I’ve brought in Reznick to bring the other intelligence agencies together and to bring them up to your level of performance, not to cut away at you. I need to have a political and economic picture for the other realms’ intentions and capabilities. That’s her job, your job is what it always has been at heart: understanding the military side of that. Are you with me?”

“I…” Pond licked his lips. “I suppose I over-reacted, sire.”

“Next time, Eric, come to me before you panic. If I think you’re not performing I can promise that I’m not going to keep it to myself.” He paused. “And given how things are going fighting the Capellans, there are some of your officers who really should be worrying.”

“Thank you, sire. It’s much appreciated.”

“I’ll try to be clearer in future. And please reassure your staff too – if you’ve been walking around like this then they’re probably under the same impression that you were. It’s not good for morale.”

Pond managed a weak laugh. “I’m sorry, sire. I’ll make it clear to them that this isn’t a show of dissatisfaction.”

“Don’t worry about it, Marshal. Once you’ve let them know then you can forget about it.”

John sat back and waited until the door had closed and he was sure that the head of military intelligence was clear before laughing. “When did Albion add amateur dramatics to their curriculum?”

“Your guess is as good as mine.” Hanse sat down where Eric Pond had been. “At least he accepted your explanation. Not everyone will take their little fiefs being broken up so well.”

“I’d feel better if I could see some actual progress.”

“Then I’d suggest a field trip out to Gambier,” the 31st century First Prince suggested. “Colonel Stopec’s been out there almost a month with the Fourth Guards and the Ceti Hussars. Between the two of them the new regiments should be coming together now.”

“A month seems an awfully short time to see results, Hanse.”

“I’m not saying they’re a finished product, just that there’ll be signs of progress. Either that or they’re making a killing selling consumables on the black market, because your IIa staff are going spare about the way they’re going through ammunition and spare parts.”

John sighed. “Really?” Following the example of the SLDF, the IIa staff were those responsible for supplies and logistics. “Should I expect another irate Field Marshal in my office?”

“I’d suggest a medical evaluation for some of them. Nothing in the universe goes through supplies like combat operations, but the numbers suggest Stopec is putting them through a pretty near semblance of it.”

The First Prince looked at his desk. “It’s tempting, but no. My duties are here. And I’ll be getting another viewpoint on them soon anyway.”

Hanse smirked. “Joshua’s made the cut then?”

“Comfortably inside the top ten percent of his class,” John agreed proudly. “He’s requested the Fourth Davion Guards and don’t see any grounds to refuse him.”

“They’re a good regiment.” Hanse paused. “My brother’s regiment.”

“You mentioned that, but you never said which of the Davion Guards regiments you’d served with.”

“Oh? I’ve taken the field with several of them but my first posting was the same as yours, the Third.”

John nodded. “I wish I could send Joshua to serve with them, but the Fourth are what he wants.”

Hanse nodded. “Edwina will be furious though.”

“I know. But I can’t ask less of my son than I would of any other soldier. That’s not how House Davion rules.”

“We have our failings – my wife called it a Messiah complex.” Hanse’s appearance shifted and aged, as it often did when he spoke of his family. John found it fascinating but had never presumed to ask why the lines of age and the white hair seemed to associate with Hanse’s wife and children. “And it’s pulled too many of us onto the frontlines when our duty was here on New Avalon.”

“Many failings… but never cowardice.”

“No. Never that.”



Sidebar: The Outer Reaches Rebellion

"Strategies used to control twelve billion people on one planet are less effective against forty million on forty."

In 2116, eight years after the first hyperspace jump, the Terran Alliance founded humanity’s first extra-solar colony on New Earth (Tau Ceti IV). This, however, was only the beginning and the prioritisation of the establishment of new colonies to take advantage of the presumably limitless wealth of the universe as opposed to dealing with continuing issues of poverty and hunger on Earth became the key political question within the Alliance Parliament for the next two hundred years. (Colonists tended to take a relaxed view of this, seeing strike actions over the hardship of a 30-hour working week as somewhat removed from the work of making new homes.)

By 2219 there were over three hundred colonies known to exist and only a generation later, a more thorough survey located six hundred – demonstrating the strength of the Expansionist party. Without question the Terran Alliance assumed that these worlds were under their rule and domination, appointing powerful colonial governors to see to their interests. As colonies grew and more and more of their population had never even seen Terra, the interests of the motherworld began to be looked on less favourably and perhaps inevitably the interests of the colonies were not always respected by the governors.

In 2235 the aptly named colony of Freedom politely declared their independence from Terra and expressed their hope that the Alliance would respect this decision. In fact it was eight months before the news even reached Terra, but the reaction wasn’t quite as hoped – three squadrons of armed starships were despatched to blockade Freedom and its nearest neighbours – it was correctly guessed that other worlds had followed Freedom’s example – impose martial law and demonstrate the overwhelming military might of the expensive Terran Alliance armed forces.

As detachments of Alliance Marines armed with the latest weapons sought to disarm increasingly hostile populations on the colonies, they found themselves the targets of guerrilla warfare. Local populations demonstrated that knowing the terrain mattered more than having a supersonic air transportation and that death was no less fatal from a Molotov cocktail than a laser rifle.

After scattering their forces over more than fifty worlds without tangible benefit, the wars was abruptly lost on Terra when the Expansionist Party government lost a vote of confidence. The new Liberal government detested the war, not out of sympathy for the colonists but due to their focus on their Terra-centric agenda. Abruptly, the Terran Alliance granted independence to all worlds more than 30 light years from Terra, want it or not. In many cases they even failed to recover their troops. By the time the Liberals were ousted from power, five years ago, they’d followed this by selling off the massive Terran fleet of jumpships off at pennies on the dollar to fund social programmes.

Terran domination of the stars had ended, but it would not be forgotten.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

Daryk

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  • The Double Deuce II/II-σ
Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #18 on: 13 November 2017, 20:31:54 »
*snip*
“Ah, that sort of volunteer.”
*snip*
Ain't that the truth!  ::)

Sir Chaos

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  • Artillery Fanboy
Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #19 on: 14 November 2017, 05:10:47 »
Quote
“I don’t know what your new unit will be but there’s talk of combined arms tactics being tried out by the Davion Guards. That could mean the Ceti Hussars will be getting another regiment. You worked pretty well with the infantry so that could work out for you.”

Sounds like the Regimental Combat Team will be introduced early.
"Artillery adds dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl."
-Frederick the Great

"Ultima Ratio Regis" ("The Last Resort of the King")
- Inscription on cannon barrel, 18th century

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #20 on: 14 November 2017, 14:25:21 »
New Aquitaine, Gambier
Crucis March, Federated Suns
29 July 2761

The rolling hills of the military reservation were marked by the tracks and footprints of generations of combat exercises. More than a few of them had been laid down over the last three months with almost forty regiments assembled to test themselves for war.

Tanks, artillery, infantry and helicopters were all playing their role but it was ‘Mechs that were decisive – at least, that was what Joshua Davion had been taught at the academy. Six regiments were assembled here – the storied Davion Guards, the experimental and thus far unduplicated Ceti Hussars and four regiments so new that they hadn’t even been formally recognised on the rolls of the AFFS.

Provisionally, the new regiments had been designated as the Crucis Dragoons and quite a lot of their personnel were fresh from academies – New Avalon Military Academy like Joshua and their traditional rivals Albion, Goshen, Sakhara, Warrior’s Hall – but their leaders had seen action against the Capellans and been handpicked to pass on their experience.

Right now, the First Crucis Dragoons were the hunted, brigaded with infantry and armour, along with a battalion each of VTOLs and artillery. It was a well-balanced force but their mission wasn’t destruction as much as escape, for in this exercise they were up against Colonel Stopec’s own regiment and two of their sister regiments as well as three tank regiments and one of infantry.

Joshua’s Marauder left a new trail of markings from its hoof-like feet as he followed the regiment in their advance after the enemy.

“The Red Force’s skirmish elements are engaging the right flank near Bridge Three,” Captain Hodges informed them. “Their hover tanks and helicopters can get across the river but the rest of their force needs the bridge and Fourth Dragoons confirm they and the Fourteenth Panzer have their side of the bridge locked up. If anyone tries to get a column across they’re confident they can hold until we take them in the rear.”

“Colonel Stopec’s orders are to turn the formation to close in and encircle Red Force. If they’re testing Bridge Three then we can rush through Bridgetown while the left flank extends to reach the river upstream of Bridge Three.”

Joshua thought about that. “Captain, I realise I’m the FNG but isn’t running a fast column through an urban area generally not recommended?”

Thankfully Hodges didn’t rip his head off for the question. “You’re right that there’s a risk of ambushes, Sergeant. The Colonel’s decided it’s a risk we’re going to take so keep your eyes peeled.”

Bridgetown wasn’t a real town – instead it was a facsimile made up of pre-fabrication buildings, more than a hundred of them set up on one side of the river that cut through the training ground, overlooking Bridge Two.

Joshua noted as they approached that several of the buildings would need replacing soon – it was obvious that several mock battles had taken place here already and taken their toll on the structures. Rebuilding it would be a painstaking and probably painfully repetitive job for the AFFS engineers stationed on Gambier, or in other words good training for them.

“I’m highlighting routes on your tactical display,” Hodges instructed. “Caret’s one through nine – we’ll intersperse with the tank companies and follow the marked route through – those are the clearest streets available. If we’re blocked then don’t try to clear it or climb it, take a left and move over to the next route.”

That could leave the shoreline uncovered, Joshua noted – although to be fair, if the rightmost column went right there was nowhere to go but the water.

“As soon as we’re clear of Bridgetown we’ll reform before pressing on. And remember, we have a lot riding on this. If Red Force get out of the exercise area then we’ll be buying beer for the thirsty bastards next weekend and none of us want that.”

Moving at a steady forty kilometres an hour the tank line reorganised itself from a broad line behind the ‘Mechs into nine orderly columns, a tribute to their experience working together although Joshua would have been happier if they were driving something newer than Tiger mediums. Tanks like these had fought in the Davion Civil War of the twenty-sixth century and while they were certainly still deadly, they were no match tank for tank to the heavy Von Luckners operating with Red Force.

Hodges’ Marauder and the two Riflemen that filled out the command lance formed compact diamond with Joshua holding the rear position only a little raggedly. “Second Lance, you have the lead with two tank platoons behind you, then First Lance, the last tank platoon and finally Third Lance. And keep your eyes peeled – especially you, Sergeant Davion.”

“Yes, sir.”

He watched four of the company’s eight Wolverines move ahead while the others fell back. The first buildings were lower and widely spaced but up ahead he could see that the road narrowed and was flanked by four and five store apartment blocks, with even a pair of true tower rearing up near the bridge.

Flicking the Marauder’s sensors, Joshua grimaced as he confirmed his suspicion that the reinforced concrete made a nonsense of mag-scans. Infra-red might not be any better than normal light under these conditions and he switched back and forth between the two as the chin sensors tried to pick out any signs of infantry lying in wait.

So intent was he on his search that he misjudged the narrowing of the road and brushed the corner of one building with one of his arm-mounted weapon pods. The armour plated PPC and medium laser didn’t take any damage but glass and concrete broke under the impact and much of it rained down on the ground.

He paused his ‘Mech, appalled at the mistake and the tank behind him barely stopped in time.

“What are you playing at, Davion.”

“Sorry, hit a building.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Hodges responded. “Just get a move on.”

Good job there weren’t any Red infantry waiting in there, Joshua thought. I could have killed someone by mistake.

“Blockage ahead, sir. We could jump it.”

“Negative, turn left at the next junction – we’re sticking with the tanks,” instructed the captain.

Joshua reached the junction and followed Hodges, careful of the corner this time. The blockage looked as if half a building had slumped sideways across the road. It wouldn’t be too much of a problem for ‘Mechs but it wasn’t so definite for the tanks.

“Two blocks ahead we go right and we’re back on the next route,” Hodges reminded them. “Just keep going and we’re -”

“Tanks behind us!” came a scream, a sound followed by the popping of paint loaded missiles and autocannon.

Joshua spun his ‘Mech back towards the rear of the column and this time the tank behind really did drive into him, more than fifty tons of metal scything the bird-leg of his Marauder out from under him. He barely twisted to the side and avoided landing on the tank.

Oh god, what next!

What was next was a volley of fire that slashed through the air above his fallen ‘Mech. If he was still standing, his Marauder would have caught the bulk of it but as it was the two Riflemen caught the missiles on their rear armour. Red paint highlighted the hits and both ‘Mechs halted, arms falling slack by their sides as the battle computers judged them crippled or destroyed.

Rolling over, Joshua propped his Marauder up and opened fire with the weapons he could bring to bear. His autocannon missed, spraying blue paint-rounds up and above the two Dervishes that had moved into the junction. The PPC and laser in his left arm were more accurate – tuned down to training levels they still scorched the paint across the shoulder of the nearer of the two ‘Mechs, erasing the grinning wolf’s head that marked them as part of the First Crucis Dragoons.

“Contact!” he called in confirmation, hitting the regiment push since no one else seemed to have done so. “Hodges’ company, engaged by Red Force ‘Mechs in Bridgetown.”

Then there was a roar – as if heavy munitions were going off, live munitions. Dust or smoke seemed to billow up to engulf the Dervishes and when Second Lance’s Wolverines arrived, bounding over Joshua’s still prone Marauder, they too disappeared into the cloud.

“Dragon’s Bane!” Stopec’s roar cut through the radio waves. “All units hold your positions and regroup. Multiple buildings are down and Red Force is behind us. Report casualties and report if you still have a clear route back the way we came.”

Pushing off from the road, Joshua brought his Marauder upright. Some of the armour had been battered in the fall but otherwise everything seemed operational.

Hodges’ Mech moved up to his. “You okay, Sergeant?”

“Nothing worth mentioning, sir.”

“Check around the corner – just a peek though.”

Sticking the chin of the Marauder obediently out into the junction, Joshua cycled through his sensors and then – on impulse, pinged the road back with his radar and sonar. “Dust’s not settled, sir, but I think the rest of the company are intact, just blinded. I can’t tell about the tanks but there’s something at ground level behind them.”

.o0O0o.

They had in fact been blocked in when Von Luckner heavy tanks hidden in the ground floors of apartment blocks had driven away, yanking out key structural pillars to bring down walls onto the roads behind the advancing columns. While not unnavigable, the confusion caused by the dust and the ambush by Red Force Mechs had allowed the Von Luckners to build up a safe lead as they made for the edge of the exercise area.

The most Stopec could do was send his lighter elements back to chase them. Joshua and Hodges moved down to the shore and had some satisfaction in spraying fire at the helicopters and hovercraft that zipped past them, using the river as a road to safety.

At the end of the day though, the referees from the Ceti Hussars had no doubt who had achieved their goals. The First Crucis Dragoons, the ‘Wolf Dragoons’, had taken more damage over all in the brief skirmishing between light forces but the vast majority of their strength had withdrawn to fight another day.

“We’ve spent the last few months teaching the Dragoons, it shouldn’t be a surprise that they’ve gotten good,” Stopec informed the Mechwarriors at a combined debriefing and mess call that evening. “And if it’s taught us some painful lessons then better to learn them now than when we’ve got live ammunition coming at us.”

He picked up his bowl. “Anyone want to tell the class what they learned today?”

“That Wolves can run away real fast?” called a voice near the back.

“Well volunteered, Paget, I needed someone to help set up the field latrines.” Stopec didn’t even look up from the stew that had been prepared at the kitchen. “Anyone else.”

“Surprise as a combat multiplier,” offered Joshua.

“Yep, damn right. That was you, Davion? Good call in earlier, concise and to the point.” The colonel spooned up another mouthful and chewed. “Next?”

“Never underestimate what Major Sandoval will do for a beer?”

“You sure it was her?” asked Stopec.

“Respectfully, sir. Colonel Hammond is a tough fighter, but it’s Major Sandoval who comes up with the dirty tricks.”

“That’s right – good application of know your foe, it was indeed Sandoval’s idea. So… given we knew that she was in the Red Force, why do you think I took a chance and ran through the city instead of watching for an ambush.”

Joshua blinked. Was he admitting to a mistake? In front of the entire regiment?

Captain Hodges put his own bowl down. “Sir, sometimes you just have to take the chance.”

“Arguably, yes. What I should have done is scouted, sent a couple of companies ahead to check Bridgetown. They’d probably have gotten chewed up if they found the Red Force but we’d have sprung the trap before we were inside it.” Stopec lifted his bowl and poured the last of the stew into his mouth. After swallowing he wiped his mouth and beard. “Information wins wars. They knew what we were doing and we had no idea. Take that lesson and write it somewhere you won't forget it.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
30 September 2761

The Great Hall of the Castle Davion glittered with light as the lamplight reflected off thousands of jewels as well as the silver and gold inlays of the floor. One of the balconies was occupied by an orchestra who’d been practising all year for the great events of the annual Royal Court.

John’s throne sat empty, for between dancing with Edwina and politicking with the High Council he’d not had a moment to rest since the start of the ball.

Empty but not alone for Hanse Davion stood upon the dais, watching the whirl of the Federated Suns’ elite with a rueful smile on his face.

“I appreciate your support for our new project.” Countess Peregrine Johnston was, among her many talents, an excellent dancer. John, who’d learned to dance simply because it was expected of him, always enjoyed dancing with her. It annoyed Edwina, since Peregrine’s husband was notably heavy-footed and protocol demanded that when one husband danced with the other’s wife, the reverse should always at least be offered.

With a slight bow, John released Peregrine’s hand. “I’m almost always favourably inclined towards patriotic endeavours, particularly one that offers to improve employment.”

The Johnstons owned a lucrative share of the New Syrtis mines, making them one of the wealthiest families in not only the Capellan March but the entire Federated Suns. John hadn’t been aware that with the military market on the rise that they were looking to invest. In the future that would have been, they’d have not found an opportunity until the collapse of the Terran Hegemony opened the damaged and bankrupt factories there to foreign ownership.

With the foreknowledge provided by Hanse, John had been able to bring that investment capital together with a heavy engineering firm on Barstow who had seen their exports to the Outworlds Alliance collapse in recent years. They’d already begun work on developing a new product – something of more interest to the SLDF and AFFS than it would be to civil engineers on Alpheratz.

The countess offered him a curtsey. “I won’t bore you with asking about the war, as so many have before.”

“Thank you for asking by not asking,” he replied gravely. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I fear I must rescue my wife’s toes from your husband.”

“Oh dear, now who will I find to dance with him,” Peregrine said brightly and flourished an ornate fan – this year’s great fashion statement – before giggling behind it.

“I do beg your pardon, Elias, but I believe the next dance is mine.”

“Of course, sire.” The count swept a gallant bow towards the happy couple. “I’ll just fetch my wife something from the bar while she’s finding another excuse not to dance with me.”

Edwina shook her head and used her own fan to hide a frown. “He’s a lovely man, but I do wish the three of you wouldn’t let their disparate aptitudes for dance overflow onto me.”

“But if you didn’t dance with him, everyone would think Peregrine was my mistress,” he protested innocently. “I don’t make these little rules of courtly conduct up, you know.”

“You’re impossible when you think you’re being funny,” she said. “The next dance had better be something slow.”

“It is,” John promised, hoping he’d remembered the musical order correctly. Fortunately he had and the two of them were able to slowly waltz.

“John,” she whispered. “Please don’t take the Fourth Guards to the front.”

“I can’t change it now. They were scheduled for it before Joshua chose them.”

”You could take the First – Stopec should stay here on New Avalon since you insist on going to the war yourself.”

“Joshua would never forgive me, and I’d be betraying every other soldier in uniform.”

“You promised me.”

“And if General Dixon had given me one victory, just one, I’d have been able to declare that we’d won and pull out. Instead he’s deadlocked us completely.”

Edwina let go of his hand. “If anything happens to my son, I will never forgive you.”

“That would make two of us.”

She smiled weakly. “I believe you. But for tonight… please make my excuses.”

“Of course.” John bowed over his wife’s hand and kissed it before she took her leave.

Edwina’s absence opened him up to no less than six queries as to her wellbeing as he made his way across the hall to where his mother was making conversation with other ladies of middle years. “Is Edwina well?” she asked directly on seeing him.

“I think she might be in need of someone to talk to that isn’t me,” John told her. “If you don’t mind the imposition.

“You’ve been a brute again,” she sighed melodramatically. “Your father was the same – never saw when I’d changed my hair. It’s a fortunate thing he looked so adorable when cluelessly asking ‘what did I do wrong’ or you’d never have been born.”

“That would have been just a touch inconvenient.” He was long used to his mother’s offbeat sense of humour and refused to rise to it.

“I’ll take care of it, dear. Please do me a favour though and rescue your uncle Thomas from Vasily – or is it the other way around? One or the other, but the Duchess is feeling neglected.”

Looking around, John spotted the Duke of Robinson standing near Thomas Green-Davion. “I’ll get right on with that, mother. Ladies.” He bowed to them and left as they rattled their fans in acknowledgement.

Crossing the floor again, he took a glass from one of the servants and sipped the wine. “Gentlemen.”

“Sire.” His cousin saluted, followed by the Duke. They made an odd pairing, the tall and austere Green-Davion next to the fleshy Sandoval who stared at the world through wire-rimmed spectacles.

“I’m sorry to interrupt your conversation, but I believe your wife is feeling unattended, Vasily.”

“Probably fretting about Susan again,” the duke observed. “I’d hoped we were through this after this last time. She wasn’t even scratched.”

“Go dance with her, Vasily,” Green-Davion advised. “There’s nothing worse for a marriage than letting your wife think you don’t have time for her.”

“Advice from the old married man.” Sarcasm dripped from the other man’s tone, for Green-Davion had never married.

“I’ve observed many as a disinterested outsider.”

Shaking his head, the lord of the Draconis March drained his glass and then headed determinedly across the hall in search of his bride.

Green-Davion rolled the stem of his own glass between his fingers, the wine rippling as he did so. “You and Joshua shouldn’t both take the field, you know.”

“I don’t expect to see a single Capellan soldier personally.”

“The best laid plans of mice and men…”

John shrugged. “I sent the men out and put the wrong officer in charge. If I don’t go there personally to fix it, how can they trust me again?”

“And if you get your head shot off, they’ll never have to trust you again. Stopec is more than able.”

For a moment, John was tempted to share the truth – that he needed to be there in order for Hanse to be useful there. There was nothing – as far as they knew – to prevent the other Davion from joining the expeditionary force on his own but since he wouldn’t be able to communicate with anyone, there would be no benefit. But John could go there and have the most experienced general in existence there as his advisor.

It was odd to think that, but it was also true. The SLDF had fought insurgencies for the most part. Even their suppression of the DCMS thirty years ago had been of limited scope compared to the battles Hanse had fought as a general and later as First Prince. No campaign since the Reunification War could compare to Operation Rat, which had smashed the Capellan Confederation and no other would until – unless, he promised himself – the Periphery uprisings and Amaris’ coup took place.

It was a sound argument but it wasn’t something he could tell, he decided. No, Thomas Green-Davion was just too sensible – likely John would be quietly restrained, Joshua transferred to the First Davion Guards as no longer in any way expendable and a regency established.

Edwina would probably be pleased but otherwise disaster.

“It’s something I have to do. I hope it’s never needed again.”

Green-Davion eyed him sceptically. “Now you sound like your grandfather. I had to bring him back from Royal to his wife. Don’t put your son or Stopec in that place.”

.o0O0o.

Leim City, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
22 October 2761

It was inconceivable that the Maskirova hadn’t picked up on the face that John was bringing heavy reinforcements to the front. In order to maintain some degree of surprise, the Federated Suns Navy had scheduled only enough transports to move Stopec’s task force one jump at a time and Dixon himself had been advised to expect them in mid-November.

Instead chartered civilian vessels had had their ostensible schedules changed suddenly to provide a command circuit as far as Goshen where three warships and a military convoy were ready to bring the force in by an in-system jump point.

“Sire.” Dixon dropped to one knee before John as the prince entered the command post. “Welcome to Valexa. May I congratulate you on your deception as to when the reinforcements were to arrive?”

John stared at him and then around the command centre. It looked like what it was – a repurposed hotel lounge. Map flimsies covered tables and the bar was clearly still there and had been in use. “General Dixon, you are relieved.”

“Of course, sire. Naturally you have command.”

“You misunderstand.” John jerked his chin towards the door. “Pack your personal effects, there is a shuttle waiting to take you up to the ships.”

Dixon’s head jerked up.

“Sire?”

John looked around the room and then at Dixon’s staff. “Pack this up for transport. I will establish my headquarters in a more secure location.”

Without looking again at the humiliated general, he left the room and walked back into the hotel lobby. “Settle any accounts for the use of the facilities,” he instructed the first of his aides before turning back to the Colonels who had assembled from their regiment’s various positions. “Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for coming to greet me. I don’t feel this is a suitable location for an in-depth staff meeting but you may rest assured that I will be availing myself of your experience as we move to conclude our campaign here.”

“Colonel Simons.” He turned to the commander of the Thirty-Eighth Avalon Hussars, one of the two BattleMech regiments already on planet. “I’m pleased to inform you of your promotion to the rank of Major General. I understand your regiment is positioned outside the planetary capital.”

“Yes sir, although quite a distance outside, tell the truth.”

“The Capellan fire base you’ve taken over will serve as my operational headquarters. Please see that General Dixon’s former staff are relocated there – you may assume they are now your staff and that you will be taking charge of operations on the western continent.”

“Some of you may recall Colonel Paxson of the 86th Light Infantry who served here previously? No? Unfortunate. The Colonel has also been promoted to Major General and will be taking charge of the eastern continent operations henceforth.”

“Sire, you can’t really mean to put an infantry officer in command of my ‘Mechs!” exclaimed a broad-shouldered man. John took a moment to identify him as Colonel Toland of the Twelfth Syrtis Fusiliers, rotated in recently to replace the Eighth regiment of the same formation.

“You may generally assume that I mean what I say, Colonel.”

“But sir, an infantryman can’t be expected to understand how to properly employ BattleMechs in the field. I’m sure he’s an excellent commander of infantry, don’t get me wrong, but there’s -”

“You are of course free to resign your commission if you feel unable to subordinate yourself to the proper chain of command.” John gave him a cool look. “Or, if you feel he requires advice then you may provide it in a respectful fashion and accept his decisions as your appointed commander. I would personally recommend the latter but if your conscience dictates…”

Toland stared at the Prince and then at the other colonels. The only one of them who met that look was Simons, who simply shook his head. “I look forward to being proven wrong, sire.”

“Excellent.” John drew himself up and saluted the Federated Suns colours in the corner as one of Dixon’s staff picked up the flagpole to move it outside. “Then I will be meeting those of you now under General Simons command this evening. General Paxton will advise those of you on the eastern continent of when a similar staff meeting will take place for his officers.”

.o0O0o.

Camp Stone, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
22 October 2761

The Capellan fortification hadn’t been a permanent facility, or rather it had been intended for only small scale occupation – perhaps a local battalion of the planetary militia. Pre-fab cabins and a bulldozed berm had converted it to house tanks and a full regiment of infantry before Simons advance a month before had pushed the troops in question back to the planetary capital, Parthevia.

The command facilities were crude – an unimpressive bunker that could only claim to be weatherproof because the mud had been tracked there rather than seeping through cracks. John elected to brief outside instead, rain beating on the open-sided tent that now housed Dixon’s collection of optimistically annotated maps. Some still bore grease-pencil markings suggesting Parthevia would fall the previous October.

Examining the folder in front of him one last time to make sure he was familiar with the details of what he and Hanse had worked out as a plan, John finished the last of his coffee and then looked up at the seated officers waiting for him to begin.

He closed the folder with a snap. “Colonels. General Simons. It is imperative that we conclude our mission here on Valexa within the next three months. In order to do this we need to secure only one objective. Reaching out with a pointer he indicated Parthevia, specifically the spaceport on the outskirts of the city. “The Capellans, being the enemy, are an obstacle to this. They are not an objective in and of themselves. General Paxton’s command, being quite some distance away, are concerned only with supporting us in our objective, which they will do by diverting as much attention and resources as possible to the eastern continent.”

“Please remove from your minds any other geographic location on Valexa, or any idea of destroying the enemy army. Our goal is this military spaceport with its facilities, valuable to the Capellan Confederation Navy for the repair and maintenance of its military dropships. We will destroy those facilities and we will then withdraw from Valexa, having achieved our mission.”

There was a murmur from the officers and General Simons cleared his throat. “For the purposes of clarification, sire, what you’re saying is that we’re giving up on the goal of occupying Valexa for the Federated Suns.”

John restrained the urge to snap at the man. “Occupation has never been the objective here. The previous commander appears to have been the victim of mission creep. We are here as a punitive measure, to redress the Capellan-sponsored terrorism on Demeter.”

“Thank you for confirming that, sir.”

“Of course, General.” John turned back to the map. “In order to seize the spaceport we’ll first be launching a decoy attack west of the river, to suggest that we’re trying to encircle the city. The goal here is to draw mobile forces across the river. Once this is done, air-strikes will be used to destroy the bridges…”

As John continued to lay out his plan, he saw the officers begin to take notes. At least, he hoped that was what they were doing. If they were simply doodling then he’d lost them and he needed their confidence if this was going to work. There was a delicate balancing act between pushing hard enough to have a victory that could be claimed at New Avalon, without going too far to back down once the Star League Council convened next year.

“So that’s the basic plan,” he concluded. “Are there any questions or recommendations?”

Major Sandoval – who looked barely older than Joshua! – raised her hand. “Sire, the plan appears to depend on Capellan forces crossing the river to engage the decoy force. If they choose not to – or if they managed to ford the river without the bridges, then we’ll have a significant portion of our forces isolated across the river while the Capellans can concentrate on the units moving in on the spaceport.”

“That is a concern, Major. How do you recommend we respond if those cases develop?”

“To lay the ground work for the second situation, I’d recommend that the airstrike on the northernmost bridge be a feint with the pilots under orders to only damage the bridge without dropping it – missing entirely with bombs, for example. If the Liao regiments see a clear route back then they’ll likely take it even if it’s less than optimal and that bridge is far enough north that using it would delay them for hours. Optimistically, forces could even move out of the city to secure it against further airstrikes.”

A second officer pointed at the map. “And to make it look tempting to come across the river, we could set up an infantry position at this village where it would seem exposed to a counter-attack…”

Hanse was nodding enthusiastically as the meeting began to liven up, points being raised and argued over. John set his pointer down and let Simons take over directing the discussion and refining the plan.



Sidebar: BattleMechs

"Infantry remains queen of the battlefield, but the ‘Mech is the king and we all know what the king does to the queen."

As wars between the vast interstellar states of the twenty-fourth century expanded in scope, solutions were sought to the immense logistical challenges that had been faced during the Outer Reaches Rebellion a century before. The development of the aerospace fighter, capable of combat in both atmosphere and outer space revolutionised aerial combat during this era, reviving the idealistic notion of a single warrior contending with rival peers.

This ideal reached surface combat in 2439 when the Terran Hegemony developed a new generation of artificial muscles (myomers) that had already been used for prosthetics and for humanoid industrial robots. Under the auspices of Director-General Jacob Cameron, the Mackie – a hundred ton behemoth loaded with advanced technology quite literally crushed no less than four remotely operated tanks under-foot in a matter of minutes.

Over the following decades, Terran military successes drove their neighbours to acquire this technology at any price. Realising their lead was temporary, the Hegemony responded with a succession of more advanced and specialised designs over the decades – some of them copied by the other states who were also developing new models of their own.

The Ares Conventions, signed in 2412, had enshrined the idea of limited wars. Now those wars could be fought with the firepower of a platoon or company concentrated in the hands of a single highly-trained warrior. Mobile campaigns could be fought by comparatively tiny and easily transported forces free to operate away from population centres due to their small logistical footprint. Within a generation, the Mechwarrior had become the military elite, romanticised by some as a modern knighthood and despised by others as glory hounds and prima donnas.

Ranging from twenty to a hundred tons, powered by a fusion reactor, even an unarmed ‘Mech can destroy a city by walking through it carelessly. (Admittedly, it might take a while). Wrapped in layers of heavy armour, they’re armed with potent lasers and particle beams, batteries of missile launchers and rapid-firing autocannon. In the head, a pilot can deploy of this with unmatched mobility, constrained only by on-board ammunition stores and keeping the heat of the fusion reactor under control.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #21 on: 15 November 2017, 17:07:19 »
Parthevia Space Port, Valexa
Sarna Commonality, Capellan Confederation
1 January 2762

The four Blackjacks in Susan’s command company elevated their guns and began to fire up into the sky, tracer streaking up towards a squadron of helicopters that were moving in on their flanks.

The Rippers were primarily infantry transports, armed with a pair of lasers that couldn’t match the range of the light autocannon mounted on the Blackjacks. Their side-doors opened as they reached the port’s control buildings and infantry started firing back out of the sides with man-portable lasers.

It was an unequal contest given the VTOLs’ light armour and only one of the Rippers survived long enough for the men aboard to jump down onto the roofs of the control buildings. Even as it rose up to retreat, the two Blackjacks continued to fire and its rotor came apart, dropping it back onto the tower, breaking through the lightweight roof and burying itself in the observation deck.

“Heavy ‘Mechs coming at us from the west,” reported Gav Greaney. Susan had been able to bring him along from the Cuirassiers and he’d been promoted to Leftenant. His fire support lance started laying down a barrage of LRMs in direction of the incoming attack.

“Van Dorne, talk to me.”

“Just Koschei – we can handle it.”

Susan nodded in agreement. The Sixteenth Liao Lancers relied heavily on the aging heavy ‘Mechs for their cavalry operations – but the speed and protection of the sixty-five ton machines came at the expense of firepower. Baker Company’s Warhammers should be more than equal to holding them back. “Alright, but keep me advised.”

She looked ahead at the control complex. With the rest of the First Dragoons fighting around the repair facilities, Colonel Hammond had broken off the Fourth New Valencia Rangers to take the towering buildings that handled flight operations and assigned Susan’s battalion and heavy tanks from the Eighteenth Heavy Tank regiment to support them.

“Rangers-Six, this is Wolf-Sixteen. Liao Mechs are pushing our left flank but it’s contained.”

“Understood, Major.” The infantry commander’s voice crackled on the radio – the Liao-controlled transmitters of their objective were causing interference for radio communication. “The right flank is reported as clear, we’re beginning our assault.”

APCs began to rake the front of the control buildings with their machineguns as infantry exited the vehicles and rushed the doors – or in some cases windows as Susan saw one squad lob a grenade through the glass and scramble over the hole left when the grenade went off.

Flashes of PPC fire from Baker Company and the tanks backing them up lit the night as the Warhammers replied to fire from the Koschei’s heavy autocannon.

“Save your ammunition,” Susan ordered Greaney after a second volley of LRMs arched up to shatter armour across a Liao ‘Mech, baring internals for Van Dorne’s men to deal the finishing shots.

“Understood.” The four ‘Mechs closed their launchers and shifted positions.

An SRM rocketed from an upper story window and splashed against one’s rear armour. Oily flames rose from the Dervish’s back. “Shit! It’s an inferno!” wailed Smythe.

Susan pointed her ‘Mech’s arms at the window and let fly with both lasers and four missiles. While she couldn’t see the men inside, four high explosive warheads should shred anyone in that room. “Don’t panic, Smythe. One missile isn’t going to kill you – stay cool and it’ll burn itself out.”

“Gah!” The woman turned her ‘Mech and backed it against the nearest building, trying to scrape the napalm off it. “I hate fighting infantry.”

“Major, we have a problem!”

Susan recognised the voice of Captain Bradford, commanding Charlie Company on the eastern side of the complex and turned her ‘Mech in that direction. “Talk to me.”

“Heavy ‘Mechs – very heavy, maybe assaults. We’re down four Manticores already and I don’t think we’re even scratching them.”

“Greaney, move your lance and back up Charlie Company.” Susan glanced west to make sure that flank was still holding – fortunately everything seemed to be in hand. “Help is on the way, Bradford.”

For a moment she thought the crackling radio was all the reply she’d get and then: “Roger, Major. They’re quads. I’m swinging north, might get you a shot at their backs.”

Susan pushed down on the pedals, pushing her Dervish into a run. Quads – ‘Mechs that were quadrupedal rather than the usual bipedal layout of ‘Mechs weren’t all that common. Scorpions were too small to match what Bradford was describing but the only other design she could think of was the Goliath – eighty-ton ‘Mechs with a good long-range arsenal. “Command lance, with me. Air Defense, stay with the infantry.”

As she rounded the complex, the ferrocrete was lit by silvery flames as a runaway fusion reactor consumed itself and the Manticore tank that it had powered.

Rather than the towering, long-limbed Goliaths she’d guessed, the Liao ‘Mechs were low slung with multi-jointed legs. There were more than twenty of them and as she took them in, one opened up with a heavy autocannon. The shells shredded the tracks and flank of another Manticore, the tank halting abruptly. For a moment that seemed the worst of it but then the ammunition bins went up, breaking the tank in two behind the turret.

They had PPCs too, Susan noticed. At least one of Bradford’s Warhammers was down and one of the ‘Mechs stomped over, casually crushing the broken ‘Mech’s arm underfoot.

While the rears weren’t exposed, Bradford’s shift of position had at least given her flank shots. “Concentrate your fire on my target!” she ordered and fired everything into the left side of the nearest enemy.

The temperature inside her cockpit rose sharply as her missile volley erupted from her launchers. Greaney’s lance had picked out their own target but the Wolverines of her command lance raked the same ‘Mech she did with their autocannon and lasers, adding SRMs to her own volley.

Fire sparked from the side of the target’s PPC but otherwise the ‘Mech seemed unfazed. Greaney’s target staggered and one leg dragged, a joint damaged by dozens of missiles. Nonetheless it gamely turned towards these new aggressors.

The warbook pinged, having finally pinpointed an identity for the ‘Mechs. Apparently the design was called the Xanthos, which meant nothing to Susan, and the markings corresponded to the Capellan Cuirassiers… which did.

“Pull back and engage at close range!” she ordered, her ‘Mech sluggish as she tried to follow her own advice. The Capellan Cuirassiers were a crack unit and Intel didn’t put them anywhere near Valexa. It looks as if we’re not the only reinforcements on world. She switched back to the Dragoons’ channel. “Wolf-Six, we’re engaging two companies of the Capellan Cuirassiers outside the control buildings. They’ve got assault ‘Mechs… something called a Xanthos.”

The Colonel’s voice was unruffled. “Understood, Major. I’m cutting you priority for artillery and air support is on the way but fall back if you have to. I’ll inform the Rangers of the situation.”

Susan’s ‘Mech staggered as PPC beams struck it in the chest. On her damage display she saw one of the LRM launchers go red and the other amber – one out of action entirely and the second hit had fused the cover in place – she couldn’t fire it unless she pried it open somehow. “Dammit.” Hitting her jump jets, she gasped in the baking cockpit.

“Van Dorne, we’re going to need support on the east flank. Can the tanks finish up the Koschei?”

“I’ll bring two lances now,” the Captain replied promptly. “The Lancers have fallen back but I’m not sure they’ve quite given up.”

The Xanthos had broken into two lines, one continuing to push Bradford north while the other half of their force was focusing on the eight out-numbered ‘Mechs of her Alpha Company.

“Oh shiiiiiiit!” Smythe went rocketing into the sky an instant before her Dervish disintegrated in a thunderclap.

Make that seven ‘Mechs. Susan switched to the artillery, hoping they’d received Hammond’s directions. “This is Wolf-Sixteen, I have a fire support mission.”

“Roger that, Wolf-Sixteen. We have two batteries ready to fire.”

Susan squinted at her nav display and read off what she hoped was the right grid reference. “I need everything you can give me – there are twenty-four, that’s two-four, assault quads east of the control buildings.”

“Shots out, Major,” the artillery woman replied calmly. “Just give us directions so we can correct our fire.”

The first salvo came crashing down behind the Xanthos, knocking down the ‘Mech that Greaney’s lance had damaged earlier. The massive ‘Mech tried to stand and then, with both rear legs out of action it braced the forelegs and started dragging itself doggedly after the Dragoons.

Not even trying to fire back as she dodged her Dervish back and wished for more cover, Susan guessed at the enemy’s speed. “A hundred metres south and thirty east,” she directed.

Six of the eight shells were on target and caught one of the Xanthos between them. Armour plates shattered but the ‘Mech lurched out of the smoke, apparently undaunted.

What does it take to stop them! She thought, but then another massed volley of missiles caught the Xanthos and secondary explosions ripped through the blocky torso, gutting the ‘Mech.

PPC fire traced into the flank as Van Dorne’s ‘Mechs joined the fight and a second Xanthos fell as more than a dozen beams ripped into it, one catching the cockpit squarely.

There was a roar of fusion turbines overhead and through the smoke that rose from damaged units, Susan saw lasers slicing along the length of the Liao line. Centurion fighters slashed east to west through the air and Susan thought she could see them breaking into a turn to repeat the strafing run.

The distraction cost her though as a PPC smashed through the knee of her Dervish. Throwing the ‘Mechs hands forward to absorb the impact of the fall, Susan felt her head snap forwards and then back as she hit the ground. She tasted blood in her mouth and realised she’d bitten her tongue.

Working the controls she managed to roll the Dervish over, but the gyro whined as she tried to balance her ‘Mech to get the legs under her.

“Major, get out of there!”

Looking up, Susan saw one of the Xanthos stepping closer, lowering the gaping muzzle of its autocannon towards her crippled ‘Mech. With shout, she slapped the canopy controls with one hand and yanked on the harness lock with the other. Tumbling head-first out of her seat, she whacked her neurohelmet against the canopy as it opened, fortunately with the opening beneath her.

For a change she didn’t strike her head as she fell from the cockpit down to the ground two metres below. Her left arm took the brunt and she gasped in pain.

Then she huddled into a ball and hoped her cooling vest’s ballistic layer would withstand any shrapnel as the autocannon bellowed, shells ripping through her Dervish. The thundering sound was almost as harsh as the fragments of metal raining down on her.

Then smaller autocannon roared and Susan uncurled, scurrying for cover beneath what was left of her ‘Mech – unexploded munitions be damned, she was at more risk of being stepped on. From behind one arm’s weapon pod she saw the Xanthos staggering under dozens of small explosions as the Wolverines of her command lance formed up around her fallen ‘Mechs.

The assault Mech, already scarred by earlier weapon hits gave ground… and then they all were, the Liaos suddenly backing their ‘Mechs away.

For a moment she wondered if she was hearing things, cheering? But then she looked over at the control building and saw that the banner of the Confederation was being lowered on the flagpole that reared up from the upper-most tower, and the Sword and Sunburst of the Federated Suns was being raised in its place.

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
15 February 2762

“Prince Davion.”

John turned as he was about to enter the Council Chambers. “General Kerensky.”

The Commanding General gestured towards an alcove. “A word, before the Council convenes.”

“Of course.” He moved in the indicated direction and noticed out of the corner of his eyes that Hanse was frozen, eyeing the General with a curious eyes. Is he… an admirer? I know Kerensky’s got almost mythical status in the 31st century, but I didn’t think he’d be star struck. “If it’s about the Capellans…?”

Kerensky shook his head. “No, I’ve heard about your… victory on Valexa.”

“The soldiers did all the heavy lifting, I wasn’t much more than an audience.”

“It’s always the way. We set matters in motion but younger men carry them out.”

“We’re beginning a withdrawal from Angelsey and Valexa now we’ve met our objectives. The First Lord can still arbitrate a withdrawal from Westphalia, to close things out. A nice note to start his reign with.”

The response was a shake of his head. “I thought I should let you know that he’s amended the schedule for the meeting a little. There’s a new Executive Order taking first place on the agenda.”

“Oh.”

“It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to discuss it in detail. I don’t know if it’s your proposal last year or Amaris, but he’s got the bit firmly between his teeth.”

“That… sounds ominous.” It would be Order 156 of course, but that was simple sequential number. Was the content going to be what Hanse had warned of? Richard’s reported teenage outbursts had seemed to taper off over the last year, which Minister Reznick’s analysts ascribed to his infatuation with one of his classmates. Hanse hadn’t been able to recall if that had happened in his own history or note.

“I haven’t had any real chance to speak to the First Lord in more than platitudes with the birthday celebrations, and then his trip yesterday,” John continued. Away from Unity City on private business. Given it had been Valentine’s Day, it hadn’t taken a genius to imagine what the eighteen year old Richard Cameron had been doing. Hopefully the young woman in question would be a good influence. She’d reportedly stood up to him at their school, which was a good sign. “Hopefully it’s something positive.”

Kerensky’s gaze suggested otherwise. “You’ve always been level headed. We’ll need as much of that as possible.”

“I’ll do my best.”

Inside the Council Chambers most of the lords had already taken their seats. Three of the territorial states were represented, Nicoletta Calderon and Beatrice Avellar in conversation at one end of the horseshoe-shaped table. The pair had been the voice of Periphery resistance to Star League policies from that corner of the room for as long as John could remember, a distinct contrast to the more compliant Rim Worlds and Magistracy lords who usually sat opposite.

Looking at Janina Centralla, who’d succeeded her mother shortly after the Demeter crisis, John suspected that the Outworlds wouldn’t be as easy to deal with as her mother had been. She hadn’t sat down yet, instead standing between Calderon and Avellar in quiet conversation. Nothing sensitive, surely, but it marked a shift in position by the Canopians. Oh well, the Canopians were a long way from the Suns and they didn’t have a voting seat.

Robert Steiner was another relatively new member. His father had been one of Kerensky’s advocates as both commanding general and regent – a real loss. John moved to take his own seat next to Robert and across from the Council’s perennial trouble maker, Ewan Marik. Where other lords had brought data pads or other working documents with them, the Captain-General had brought a hip-flask.

“Want a nip?” the Marik offered loudly. “This is going to be deadly boring.”

“I think I’ll manage, thank you.”

“Take that stick out of your ass, Johnny. Then again, maybe you did and it’s up Baby-Barb’s now.”

The new Chancellor’s glare in response seemed equally split between the two of them now. At least Ewan’s antics mean that John wasn’t the sole target. Across the table Takiro Kurita murmured something that might be intended as restraining but in practise was barely audible.

“So what’re we waiting for – the fat man and our glorious leader? Oh wait, Kerensky’s not in charge any more, is he?”

“If you cannot remember the festivities where you drank at least your own bodyweight, Captain-General, then perhaps you’ve reached the point where you need to cut back,” suggested Centralla as she returned to her place at the table, leaving a space between her and John for Stefan Amaris.

“Never happen,” Ewan promised. “But the kid might have an outbreak of sense and dump all this crap on Kerensky again. It’s what the man’s there for, after all.”

The door to the chamber and Richard Cameron entered, wearing a high-collared jacket and breeches bloused at the knee, in the latest court fashion. Stefan Amaris, following in the First Lord’s footsteps, wore a similar outfit which looked ridiculous on the portly President of the Rim Worlds Republic.

Amaris paused at his seat while Richard continued past John, Robert Steiner and Barbara Liao to the First Lords seat between the Captain-General and the Chancellor. He only then seemed to notice that the Rim Worlder wasn’t with him and frowned. “Stefan, please come and sit here – at my right hand. I’m sure Lord Marik won’t mind trading places with you.”

“Lord Cameron,” Robert objected. “The seating arrangements are traditional, and have remained unchanged since we first convened.”

“****** it, I don’t mind. Nearer to the pisser, anyway.” Ewan shook his flask disconsolately and then slid it over in front of Richard before standing. “Have a drink on me, kid. It makes the meetings go smoother.”

“Not for the rest of us,” Beatrice Avellar observed drily.

“I don’t care about the rest of you,” the Captain General explained as he walked past her and crossed to the other arm of the table.

“We’ve all noticed.” Janina Centralla gave the Free Worlds Lord a disdainful look. “May I trade places with Lady Avellar then.”

With some effort, Kurita raised his voice. “This is the Star League Council, not a game of musical chairs. Let us proceed to business. I believe the first item is arbitrating the aggression of the Federated Suns against the Capellan Confederation over the last two years.”

“Actually,” Richard said smugly, “There’s an executive order which I’ve drafted which should settle the matter completely, Lord Kurita. Executive Order 156, which becomes effective from the end of the month.” He touched a control and holographic displays in the centre of the chamber brought the text of the order in front of each of the Council.

John read it carefully. It was just as Hanse had warned him and he saw the other man leaning over the table next to Richard to read the document. It was obvious that neither Richard nor Stefan Amaris was bothering to read it – they couldn’t have telegraphed more obviously who had ‘helped’ the First Lord with this idea if they had tried.

Stripped of the admittedly thin veneer of legalities, Executive Order 156 called for the complete disarmament of all nine of the House Militaries, bringing them in line with the Terran Hegemony whose entire armed forces had been transferred to the SLDF upon its foundation. Every warship, aerospace fighter, BattleMech and any armoured combat vehicle above ten tons in weight was to be transferred to the custody of the SLDF and the personnel would be given the option between retirement with full pensions – payable by the state governments – or transferring to the SLDF to serve there.

“Are you out of your tiny little mind, boy?” asked Ewan. The proposed measure seemed to have sunk in past the man’s veil of alcoholism and indifference. “I’ve heard some stupid shit in my time but this takes the cake.”

“As little as I like to agree with Lord Marik, in this case I have to wonder if this is intended as a joke.” Robert closed the display with a swipe of his finger. “Disband the Lyran Armed Forces? And who’ll protect my realm without them?”

“That’s the job of the SLDF, Archon.”

“And a fine job they’ve done so far,” Barbara complained. “Davion regiments are burning three of my worlds to the ground and the SLDF does nothing.”

John folded his arms. “While I see the theory behind the proposal, the Chancellor has rather hit the nail on the head, Lord Cameron. As difficult as it might be for our realms to engage in armed conflict without regular military forces in our service, the SLDF was asked to intervene after the Demeter attack and – as much as they might have wished otherwise, they were prevented from doing so. By this Council.”

“My government had no hand in that attack,”

“That’s beside the point, Chancellor. Our armed forces fill the role of responding when the SLDF cannot. I can see some benefits but as it stands I don’t believe this is practical. Perhaps we could discuss alternatives.”

“This isn’t being placed before the Council for a vote,” Richard exclaimed. “It’s an executive order by the First Lord. This – is – law!”

“Who told you that you could make a law like that?” Beatrice Avellar sounded tired already. “Even my people, who mostly despise the use of arms, would not accept such a law.”

John was sure he wasn’t the only one who looked at Amaris.

“Come now, my friends,” the man offered warmly. “Would we not all be better off without spending such vast portions of our taxes on guns and armaments?”

“You presume much in calling me your friend,” Kurita told him coldly. He looked past Amaris to Richard. “We are free to govern our realms as we wish. No council lord, not even the First Lord, may command us to do this. You have been misled.”

“I will not be spoken to like that in my own palace,” the teenager bellowed.

“Well where do you usually go for it?” jibed Ewan. “This is Amaris’ idea, I can smell it. Send all our troops home and then you’re the only one with any soldiers. We’d have to do anything you say – sorry, anything your ‘good friend’ has to say.” He reared up. “Well it’s not happening!”

“Let’s all calm down.” John spread his hands. “I’m sure the First Lord has the best of intentions and putting some check on the recent military build-up isn’t a terrible idea, even if this isn’t quite the way to do it.”

“I need my regiments to guard me against you, Davion.” The Chancellor slammed the heels of her hands against the table. “Never, not ever, will I agree to this.” She stabbed one finger across the table towards Amaris. “You are a viper at the Cameron’s breast! We should have sent you away long ago.”

“A good idea!” shouted Ewan. He stood. “Let’s throw him out of a window and see if the Rim Worlds has a real leader somewhere.”

John pushed his chair back, to block the Captain General’s passage. “That’s not a good -”

“Guards!” Amaris howled, throwing his chair back. “Guards, protect us! Protect the First Lord!” He clutched at Richard’s chair, staring wildly at John and Ewan, then – absurdly, turning his head to gaze aghast at the elderly Coordinator – the man was a hundred and fifteen years old! – as he reached for his cane.

Doors opened and a squad of the Black Watch burst in, although at least they had the good sense to keep their weapons pointed safely at the floor. The Marik tried to push past John, who forced his chair back again to keep blocking him.

Fortunately, a fresh voice entered the chamber. “Stand down!”

The commanding tones brought the soldiers to an abrupt halt and even Ewan halted to look at the main doors where Aleksandr Kerensky stood silhouetted in the light of the outside passageway.

Slowly the general walked past Avellar, Calderon and Kurita to the upturned seat Amaris had leapt out of. “Put the seat back please,” he instructed the nearest solder. Two of them picked up the high backed chair. “There will be no violence here,” Kerensky declared. “Nor threats of it against any member of the Council. Return to your posts.”

The Black Watch saluted and the Star League Council watched as they filed back out of the room.

“Lord Marik, Lord Amaris. Please, take your seats.” Kerensky gestured gracefully to the chair next to Richard and Amaris sank gratefully back into it. Ewan waited, then kicked spitefully at John’s chair before returning to his own place.

John pushed his chair back in place. “Thank you, General.”

Kerensky nodded drily and glanced at the holographic display of Executive Order 156, still hovering in front of Richard. “A daring solution, my lord,” he said gravely. “But without the support of the Council, my understanding is that the courts would find it to be unconstitutional.”

“Very well.” Richard struck a control. “The order stands as withdrawn. Keep your soldiers, squabble as you wish.” He rose to his feet. “You’re all dismissed.”

“We have many other matters to debate, Lord Cameron.”

“I said, dismissed!”

John watched as the youth stormed out of the door. Amaris rose to his feet nervously and bowed slightly. “I’ll endeavour to…” He hesitated. “Ah, excuse me.” He followed the First Lord and many eyes followed him.

“What a worm,” Ewan sneered, long before Amaris could have left earshot.

“Perhaps we should adjourn for the day,” John suggested diplomatically. “Let some tempers cool.”

“Very well.” Liao stood. “Though there is nothing hot about my temper, Prince Davion. Rest assured that it is very cold indeed.”

Perhaps they had another definition of cold on Sian, John thought, recalling her earlier venomous behaviour. Or perhaps that had been an act.

“You should have given Ewan the chance,” Hanse told him. “It would have solved a lot of problems.”
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #22 on: 15 November 2017, 17:07:33 »
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
18 February 2762

No one had seen Richard Cameron outside his apartments since the disastrous council meeting. For two days, the other Council Lords had gathered in twos and threes, trying to come to a consensus on the various agenda items.

At least on minor matters, they’d managed to get at least four of their peers to come to agreements so some business was being cleared, but where only three had a consensus the First Lord’s vote could overturn them and thus they were stuck waiting for Richard to emerge.

“In my history he never called the Council together again,” Hanse had warned John. “So much for making a good start.”

That was what brought him to the elegantly laid out residence of the First Lord. Perhaps ironically, Richard was the first Cameron to make Unity City his primary residence. The previous First Lords had primarily resided in the traditional capital of the Hegemony, Geneva, and visited Unity City only in pursuit of their official duties. Yet since he’d been orphaned, eleven years before, Richard had barely ever left the Star League’s capital. John wasn’t sure he’d ever been to Geneva.

If his father had lived, Richard would have been gradually brought into the responsibilities of government through taking on some of the responsibilities of Director General. Simon Cameron had exercised the full range of those duties, governing the Hegemony and learning many valuable lessons before his father’s demise.

Would Joshua do much better if he were taking on the role right now, John thought as he walked through the gardens towards the front entrance. It wouldn’t be the same, thankfully – our laws of succession protect us from anyone taking office without military service first. Joshua served as a Mechwarrior first, now he leads a lance and perhaps a company before he’s put in his mandatory years. But we expect an untested eighteen year old to sit amongst men and women decades his senior and lead us.

In the olden days, the guards at the door might have dropped halberds or some other pole-arms to block his way. In these modern days, they had rifles which wouldn’t be quite as effective – of course, the locks were better too. “The First Lord isn’t expecting visitors,” the taller of the two advised blandly. Behind her helmet it was impossible to tell if she had identified John or not.

“I’m aware. But please pass on that I’m here anyway and I’d like a little of his time.”

The guard shrugged almost imperceptibly. “Central, please advise the First Lord that the First Prince of the Federated Suns is at the front door and wants to speak with him.”

John turned and looked back at the garden, then scanned the windows, wondering of anyone was looking out at him from behind them. Hanse winked and then walked right through the door, completely ignoring the guards.

It was several minutes before he received a response. “The First Lord isn’t receiving visitors, sir.”

“That’s unfortunate.”

“He’s in the library, watching you on a security camera,” Hanse advised, sticking his head out one of the windows. “You’ve got his attention.”

Well, he could work with that. “In that case, hmm. Well, when his grandfather was unable to tend to his duties I believe it was his sister Jocasta who handled them. Please ask if Lady Elizabeth would have time for me.”

The guards paused. “Sir, that’s… You’re aware that Lady Elizabeth is only sixteen?”

I’m also aware that Richard viewed her first and foremost as a rival for their parents’ affections. “I’m a happily married man. Now pass on my request, if you please.”

Hanse pulled his head back through the window and a few moments later the door flew open, revealing the First Lord wearing riding breeches and an embroidered vest. “What do you want!?” Richard demanded sharply.

“To be heard out. Preferably not on the doorstep, like a bailiff chasing unpaid bills.”

“I don’t owe you anything.”

“Not even basic courtesy?” John asked delicately.

Richard flushed and then stepped back. “Fine then, come in.” Inside he directed John to the library, taking a seat at a throne-like armchair while offering no other seat. “I’m not sure how much courtesy you displayed back in the council though.”

“I kept Ewan from doing something regrettable to Lord Amaris.”

“It looked more as if you were about to join him.”

“If I was to do that, Lord Cameron, I would have stood up.” John let a smile cross his face. “I’d have looked rather ridiculous pushing my chair backwards around the table to menace poor Stefan.”

The possibility didn’t seem to have crossed Richard’s mind and he considered it for a second before nodding. “Perhaps you’re right, but you made it clear where you stand before that. I thought from your earlier correspondence that you supported disarmament.”

“With your Executive Order – yes, I won’t pretend otherwise. You made a mistake there, I’m afraid. Presenting it as a motion for consideration could have had some real debate going and made a difference. But what’s done is done. All we can do is learn from the experience and move forwards.”

“Why should there be debate? With no armies between you there would be no border wars.” The First Lord’s eyes narrowed slyly. “Your family wouldn’t have suffered so much thirty years ago, if the Coordinator hadn’t been able to send ‘Mechs to fight for Vincent Kurita’s claim.”

Hanse was shaking his head, not even looking away from the bookshelves where he was examining their contents with the air of an avid book collector unleashed on someone else’s private treasures.

“I’m not disputing the goal.” John considered how to put it. “I’ve nothing whatsoever against Lord Amaris, but his realm has a very centralised government. It clearly works for him, but no other states in the Star League places so much responsibility on one man. All of us, even House Kurita, divide power up for various reasons. You must have had classes on civics, so you must be aware that the First Lord is first among… well, not equals, since you do have a few extra powers compared to the rest of the Council, but near-equals.”

“I don’t need a lecture,” Richard told him petulantly.

“Alright, alright. But please, most political matters aren’t settled by grand sweeping motions. Instead it’s incremental – your ancestor Ian Cameron didn’t bring us together all at once. He won the Member States over one at a time and then spent years fighting to bring the Territorial States into the League. The challenges you’re facing may not be quite so great, but study his methods and there’s no reason you can’t stand as tall in the histories of your house as he, or of other great Camerons. I believe that. But you can’t give up at the first hurdle.”

“So you want to be my advisor?” Richard rose. “To push your agenda in the Council? You’re not doing this for my sake.”

“Good advisors don’t tell you what you must do. They suggest options, they listen to your plans and point out problems they foresee. And any ruler needs a range of counsellors – you have Lord Amaris and if what I hear about you planning on marriage is right, you’ll have a wife soon.”

Richard flushed. “Yes, that’s true.”

“It’s a good start, but you can find others. Spread your net wide, and by all means include people you don’t necessarily agree with. Even if you don’t ultimately take their advice, the fact that the Cameron himself heard them out before making a decision will sometimes sooth people who’d otherwise be upset.”

“They should be listening to me.” The First Lord paced around. “You said you wouldn’t lecture me, but that’s exactly what you’re doing.”

“Then what would you like to say? To me, to the other lords. Where do you want to lead the Star League?” John spread his hands. “We’ve so many matters that are waiting for the Star League Council to decide – that are waiting for you to have your say. To tell us where you stand. We’re listening… we’re ready for you to speak.”

Richard eyed him, waiting. When John said nothing, he returned to his chair and looked up at him. “Are you… begging me?” he asked, in an intrigued voice.

“No.” John shook his head sharply. “If I did that I’d be condescending to you. Treating you like a child. You’re an adult – you’re one of the Great Lords. So I’m addressing you as such.”

“Don’t think I’ll favour you.” Richard looked away and then repeated: “Don’t think I’ll favour you. I’ll reconvene the council – tomorrow.”



Sidebar: The War of Davion Succession

"Davion and Kurita is a bad combination. One family believes they should conquer the universe, the other family won’t ever back down from a fight."

After Mary Davion married the younger brother of Coordinator Takiro Kurita in 2698 she agreed to relinquish her claim upon the throne of the First Prince in favour of her brother Joseph, who inherited in 2703. Mary herself passed away in 2715, leaving behind her three sons who had been raised in the traditions of their father’s family.

House Kurita had always been vigorous and expansionist. Unable to pursue these policies under the Star League, they had instead focused their remarkable energy on reshaping the Combine, firstly by building a new and more central capital and secondly by creating a unitary culture across their realm, one that would provide a powerful national identity. In line with their founder, Shiro Kurita, who claimed descent from an admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy and had been raised as a latter-day samurai, House Kurita chose to model their ideal society upon Japan in the seventeenth and early nineteenth centuries – or at least how they saw those eras after a remove of some centuries.

In 2715, Takiro Kurita took up the claim of his nephew, asserting at first that Vincent Kurita was Joseph Davion’s rightful heir, and then that Mary Davion had not relinquished her claim at all, instead appointing Joseph as a mere regent until her sons were of age. Unwilling to commit to either side, the Star League Council appointed an investigatory committee and stalled, hoping for a diplomatic solution between two of the most powerful members.

After ten years of wrangling, the Coordinator took the natural next step – the Draconis Combine Mustered Soldiery were despatched to cross the border and seat Vincent Kurita upon his ‘rightful throne’. The first attack was upon the important industrial world of Marduk, which fell rapidly. Fighting spread, with an AFFS counter-attack seizing Combine worlds in an effort to divert resources from the invasion. Meanwhile the Star League Council proved unable or unwilling to move forward and First Lord Jonathan Cameron, who could have ordered the SLDF to restore the peace, had withdrawn into paranoid delusions.

In 2729, having narrowly avoided an SLDF coup, Jonathan Cameron appointed his sister – a cloistered nun – as his advisor and co-ruler in all but name. At last the resources of the Star League were unleashed and within three months the original border was re-established, Vincent Kurita’s claim quashed. This was too late for the First Prince, however. Joseph Davion was captured and decapitated by DCMS soldiers on 20 October 2729, his body recovered by a daring young Thomas Green-Davion.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

ckosacranoid

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #23 on: 16 November 2017, 16:07:26 »
i must say i like this story and the way you are changing history with a dead hanse tossing his two cents worth in to change things for the better and to help his relm come out better then it was when the star leage fell.

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #24 on: 16 November 2017, 17:00:41 »
Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
19 February 2762

The First Lord had arrived before anyone for this session – anyone but Amaris who once again sat at his side. On seeing them, Takiro Kurita paused and eyed them with inscrutable old eyes before moving to where Janina Centralla had sat herself. “Be as good as to exchange seats with me, Magestrix,” he half-requested and half-directed. “It hurts my neck to have to turn to see the First Lord.”

Centralla eyed him and then shrugged. “Fine.” She moved to sit between Amaris and Calderon, completing a new division of the Council. Now the six voting Lords formed an arc along one wing of the table – Cameron, Liao, Steiner, Davion, Marik and finally Kurita – while the four Periphery lords occupied the other, facing them.

Richard signalled for the doors to be closed. “Our first item of business is the matter of Federated Suns troops on three Capellan worlds. Lord Davion has requested arbitration and Lady Liao has requested SLDF support in removing those forces. Does anyone else wish to have a say?”

“If Liao can’t look after her own worlds I don’t see that it’s my problem.” Unsurprisingly, that came from Ewan Marik.

Takiro shook his head. “Being on the Council makes it your problem. However,” he added smoothly, “I note that the Chancellor declined arbitration and only asked for the SLDF support after Prince Davion and his famous Colonel Stopec had begun to make real progress in taking control of two of the contested worlds.”

“Noted,” Richard said tersely. He looked at Robert Steiner who simply shook his head. “Very well. I call for a vote on whether the Star League should mobilise for war against the Federated Suns, as the aggressor in this matter.”

John blinked and Hanse, who had been shamelessly spying over Barbara Liao’s shoulder, straightened sharply.

“Aye,” the chancellor declared quickly. Silence fell and she looked around for support, finding none.

“Nay,” John said and turned to look at Richard.

“I will assume silence as abstention,” the teenager said haughtily. “With two votes cast and a tie, the motion fails. Are there any motions for war against the Capellan Confederation?”

John shook his head.

“Aye!” called Ewan. “Good plan!” He even broken into vigorous applause that echoed around the room even though everyone else was looking at him in disgust.

“You can’t possibly be serious,” Liao protested. “We are the victims.”

“You didn’t object when I raised the possibility of declaring war on the Suns,” Richard said cheerfully. “Do you wish to cast a vote?”

“Nay!”

“Also nay,” added John.

“Very forbearing of the First Prince,” murmured Amaris. Perhaps it was John’s imagination but the rotund Rim Worlder seemed to be eyeing him suspiciously.

“Two nays, one aye. Motion fails.” Richard shrugged. “Now do correct me if I’m wrong, but as First Lord I can authorise defensive actions by the SLDF without a declaration of war.”

“That is correct.” Nicoletta Calderon gave the other side of the table a snide look. “Will you be separating them like naughty children?”

“More or less.” Richard stabbed his finger down on his controls. The holographic display popped up, revealing General Kerensky’s head, magnified to fill the space. “General, I hope you have contingencies for sending peacekeepers to Valexa and the other contested worlds?”

“I do, sir. LV Corps has three infantry divisions and supporting elements ready to move in and separate the combatants, should the command be given.”

“Do it then. And since they are Capellan worlds, do encourage the AFFS to return to their proper place.” Richard cut the channel. “So, that settles that. Next on the agenda?”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
3 April 2762

John’s return from Terra coincided with the arrival of some of the forces from the war. More than seventy individual regiments had participated in some way and many had instead been rotated to new garrison positions. The Crucis Dragoons in particular were replacing well-entrenched regiments that hadn’t moved postings in years – but all four had detached twelve Mechwarriors chosen from those being decorated or promoted to join ten carefully chosen battalions and one of the Ceti Hussars’ combat commands for the triumphant return to New Avalon.

The day had been declared a public holiday and as the units solemnly marched from the space port to Mount Davion the streets were lined with cheering visitors from all over New Avalon and from many other worlds besides.

“You’d not think that there were so many people out there who missed that we didn’t accomplish a thing,” Stopec grumbled from one of the open-topped cars carrying John and his senior officers.

“We accomplished more than you might think,” John told him. “And keep smiling – we’re on display.”

“It was a political victory,” Hanse said from the only free seat, next to the driver. “Worthwhile but a lot less than you were hoping for.”

“We hadn’t seen war since the ‘30s,” the dark-haired prince reminded his Champion. “This was our first test of the reforms Uncle Richard and I have been pushing. And at least we know now that we’ve not made as much progress as we’d hoped. And what you managed with the Dragoons shows us the right direction to go.”

“And where we stand with Cameron.”

“We were never going to be able to keep those worlds. The only person who ever put that out as a goal was Dixon. Now the Capellans know that we can be pushed to the point of crossing the border they’ll have to tread more carefully and so will the Combine.”

“It’d had better be worth it.”

John nodded and waved to a little cluster of school children, who’d apparently been organised as a visit for the occasion. “You saw how much damage was done on Angelsey, just as collateral to the fighting. Imagine that all along the borders – and not just for a year and change, but for decades or a century. That’s what a full scale war would mean. You tell me, is avoiding it worth what our men paid for it?”

Stopec turned his head and forced a smile out of the window to where flags included not only the sword and sunburst but also wolves, bears, jaguars and falcons – the badges of the four Crucis Dragoon regiments. “The League would have to fall first.”

“The League could fall. There have been fractures growing for years and no one seems to be trying to mend them. I don’t mind Richard claiming to be the peacemaker if that gives the League a little more stability.”

The parade reached the edge of the Royal Court, no less crowded but more by government workers or noble families. John spotted a dozen members of the High Council he’d thought would be on their home worlds as the limousine reached one of the formal entrances.

The parade divided with the heavy combat vehicles following a side-road towards the hangers and infantry – riding floats rather than expected to march – instead taking a path towards the barracks. The limousine pulled up before the high neo-classical front of the Chancellery of the Exchequer building. The high pillared Chancellery had become iconic for some reason and thus John made a habit of returning the Castle Davion through it even when he had no particular grounds to call upon this branch of Ways and Means.

Stepping down from the car, John and Stopec waited for the generals in the next car to join them. Paxson and Simons would be available for reassignment now that the campaign was over and Hanse had made excellent recommendations for how they could be employed.

“Are you going to make a speech?” asked Stopec, jerking his jaw to indicate a small group of holovid reporters waiting eagerly near the foot of the stairs.

“Not today. Better to give the soldiers the spotlight today,” John decided. “We’ll touch base with the High Command and then call it a day. Sufficient unto the day is -”

“Down!” Stopec shouted and shoved John violently to the side.

Landing heavily, John rolled down the steps they’d just begun to climb. Almost instantly two of the security men from the next car had dived across him, covering him with their bodies but also pressing him against granite stairs.

“Sniper!” Hanse hissed from somewhere outside his – currently restricted field of vision. “Top of one of the tower blocks – shouldn’t there be police counter-snipers up there.”

“What’s going on?” he demanded from under his guards.

“Michael’s down, doesn’t look serious,” the redhead told him. “Simons and Paxson dragged him down behind the car. Just stay down, a helicopter’s going after that rooftop – should be clear to get inside shortly.”

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
4 April 2762

Footage of the incident was playing on one of the background monitors in AFFS command centre, one of the media channels that was kept live at all times so John couldn’t get away from it.

“For those concerned,” he announced, “Colonel Stopec only took a glancing hit to the side. Avalon City police and Military Intelligence are continuing their investigation but considering the sniper decided to jump rather than be captured, chances of getting a definite answer to who was behind the incident are slim. Anything else you get from the media is pure speculation.

“Which still leaves the Maskirova as the most likely culprits,” Erik Pond pointed out.

“Most likely, but not confirmed.” John shook his head. “Further inflaming the matter isn’t in the Suns’ best interests so we’re not going to indulge in accusations we can’t back up.”

He took his seat and saw Hanse slip into Stopec’s place on his right. “Alright, what’s first on our agenda today?”

“Jerricho Industries have sent an update on their progress with the Swordsman project.” Heather Green-Davion, Thomas’ niece and head of Supply’s Procurement Department brought up a diagram. “The SWD-3 has completed prototype testing and they estimate that they can have it back in production by the end of the year if funding is approved.”

“Good. What do the test pilots say?”

She checked her diagram. “They’re not effusive, sire. It works, but really it’s not much more than a cut-rate Shadow Hawk – or maybe Andoran’s Clint would be a better comparison.”

“Given that that’s what the goal is, I don’t have a problem with that. And are the technical teams happy that it’ll be reliable in the field?”

“That’s more favourable.” Heather shifted the display to show maintenance reports following each test cycle. “Of course, other than the switch to use modern parts where the originals are no longer available, the Swordsman is a proven design.”

“Rostov’s design.”

John shrugged. “It may have served with General Rostov’s Terran March troops during the Civil War but I’m prepared to give the design a second chance. We’ve stripped our planetary and March militia units of a lot of personnel and equipment in order to build up more line regiments. Something cheap and reasonably capable is exactly what we need to rebuild secondline forces. Unless anyone has strong objections…?”

No further objections were raised and John signed off on payment for the first production run of the Swordsman. “If the first run meets standards then we’ll look at activating the clause to license a second manufacturer,” he instructed Heather. “We don’t want all our eggs in one basket.”

“I’ll make a note of that.” She cleared the display. “Next is Personnel, I believe.”

Eis Moscoe stood. “Training numbers are ramping up on schedule, more or less,” he advised. “The fighting has set back expansion plans but with wounded personnel returning from hospital, we should be able to man two additional BattleMech regiments and three armoured regiments next year, rather than four of each as previously expected. Infantry losses were heavier and had a higher percentage of killed in action, so it’ll be eighteen months before I expect to have brought existing regiments and reserves up to the point we can raise new regiments.”

“You mentioned an interesting point there – concerning might be another word,” John noted. “But we’ll come back to that in a moment. Given their excellent performance in the training exercises on Gambier and then in action on Valexa, the new regiments are to be raised under the colours of the Ceti Hussars. More specifically, General Paxson - who will be taking charge of the Hussars overall – has been instructed to their existing personnel as cadre to expand up to three times their current numbers. New academy and training school graduates are more likely to be replacing volunteers for the Hussars than to be directly transferred – although top ten percenters may request the assignment, as usual.”

“I hadn’t understood them to be heavily engaged on Valexa.” The question came from Vasily Sandoval who wasn’t a regular attendee.

“They weren’t, but they still kept the Capellans hopping – not an easy balance to strike.”

“Ah, interesting.” The duke brightened at that – he’d risen through his excellent grasp of terrain and tactics rather than direct combat experience. “I’d be glad to have them on the Draconian border then, once Paxson’s worked the rough edges off their new regiments.”

“It’s a little early to commit to anything for that,” John told him. “But I’m sure the vote of confidence will be well received. Now, the point I was referring to earlier was the casualty rates among infantry. I realise that they’re not protected by several tons of armour, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing that we can do to keep losses down. I’ll be ordering a full review of where we could have done better, pulling a panel together from the major academies but two things have stood out even from the overviews and my limited time on Valexa.”

“Firstly, there was a lot of unnecessary administration tied up in handling the wounded. I’m not saying that any medical personnel were less than diligent, but they were also spending too much time handling paperwork because casualties came from outside their particular arm.”

“Secondly, some regiments saw disproportionately heavy head wounds among their wounded and killed. Unsurprisingly, those regiments are the ones who customarily issue caps rather than helmets in the field. Now I’m not a great believer in trampling on traditions unless there’s good reason, but I believe that the lives of our soldiers are damn good reasons to look at traditions and see if they’re becoming a liability.”

There were nods around the table. “The solution about headgear is obvious, sire. Withdraw caps for combat duty and make helmets mandatory for all units. I can have a new uniform regulation drafted and ready for review by next week,” Moscoe offered.

“Make it very clear, Eis. I don’t want any wriggle room. If any regimental commanders feel they can’t live with the changes, there’s plenty of room for them as battalion commanders – or as riflemen.”

“That, I can do.”

“Good man. The second step is to reform our medical arms. What I’m looking at is pulling all medical services out from under the administration of the combat corps and navy, organising a specific medical corps that’ll handle all medical needs across the entire AFFS.” John paused and then cupped his hands. “Is that outraged screaming I hear from your department, Van?”

“Not so funny, sire.” The head of Military Administration, Vanessa Manabe raked her greying hair back. “Given the amount of paperwork we already trade for those services, I can probably free up a lot of desks, so there will be screaming.”

“Just give me the names and I can ship them out to the far corners of the realm,” offered Moscoe with a grin. “I can always use more field grade officers and sergeants for staff slots.”

John chuckled. “It’ll only get worse, Eis. But I’m not married to the idea yet – if anyone has alternative solutions then I’m open to recommendations. I’d like to have a decision by September, in time for the next budgetary discussions so we’ve got time to put proposals together.”

“Speaking of staff positions…”

“Something you forgot for the agenda?” asked Pond. “Or sneaking it in?”

“Nothing hugely important.” Moscoe fiddled with a stylus. “We’ve been considering inserting a new rank between the current Major General and Colonel ranks with the number of multi-regiment commands that we’re having to deploy with the expanded force numbers.”

“Yes, Leftenant General isn’t it?” asked John.

“Well NAMA threw a fit – apparently we used to have the rank but it sat between Major General and General, not where we want the new rank.”

“I see…” John said slowly, broadly hinting that he didn’t.

“How is a leftenant more important than a major,” asked Manabe in confusion. “Besides, don’t the SLDF have Leftenant Generals with the basic position you’re talking about?”

Moscoe chuckled. “Yes, but apparently they’re wrong. You really don’t need the headache - or at least I don’t. Ask Professor Quinn if you’re really interested. Anyway, to keep them happy we’ve changed the name and picked something historically appropriate and easy to remember. Since the new rank is for brigade command, it’ll be Brigadier General.”

Hanse shook his head. “Leftenant General worked perfectly well in my AFFS,” he complained.

“Whatever keeps the historians happy,” John decided. “That’ll be fine, Eis. You can start shortlisting promising Colonels for me, just make sure we’re not restricting our selection to Mechwarriors. There’s a lot of talent in the other arms and we can’t afford to waste good soldiers with any kind of glass ceiling.”

.o0O0o.

Summer Palace, Sian
Sian Commonality, Capellan Confederation
9 August 2762

Among the Chancellor’s many interests was art. Long before she took office, she’d begun the process of redecorating the Summer Palace and acquiring objects d’ art to fill its rooms. Several recent acquisitions stood in her office, giving her time to consider where they might be placed for maximum effect.

Since his mistress repositioned her acquisitions on whim – or as she put it, to compare the light – and moved items in and out, Tai Yang Gwak found there was always a certain challenge in threading your way past them to the desk. Younger and healthier    men might have found it easier, but his next birthday would be his ninetieth.

“You summoned me, your Excellency.”

Barbara Liao looked up from the document she was studying. “I have been known to do that, Director.”

“It’s always my pleasure to attend to your desires.”

“I’m glad you enjoy your work, Tai Yang.” She pointed to one of the stands. “Look at that picture, then the one next to it.”

Obediently, the old man compared the two.

“What’s your first thought,” asked the Chancellor.

He considered. “Should there be a third one, between the two perhaps?”

“Exactly!” She closed down her computer. “They’re part of a series of landscapes by the 22nd century artist Frankie Lam and I’m missing one. Well, two, but the other one was inferior and these two would be perfect for the green suite if I had the one that belongs between them as well.”

“I shall see what I can do for you, your Excellency. I assume that the owner is not one of your patriotic subjects.”

Barbara Liao gave him a sour look. “The Duke of Bolan. I made him a very decent offer.”

Tsk. That always complicated matters. “Something may be feasible, your Excellency.”

“And while you’re here,” she folded her hands in her lap. “I’m concerned by some of the recent recommendations I’ve received from the Strategic Military Director.”

Ah, the real issue, Tai Yang thought. “The analysis of the recent unpleasantness on Valexa and Angelsey.”

“Precisely. It appears that the Command Council are not in favour of the theory that the sudden inability of the deployed forces to resist the AFFS during the last months of the campaign was not due to any great excess of tactical or strategic skill on the part of Prince Davion or of his Champion.”

“While it is pleasing to believe that the enemies of the realm are paragons of ineptitude, this may breed a degree of overconfidence.”

“To clarify, they concede that the Prince is marginally more able than General Dixon, who they were able to constrain adequately. However, they believe that the defensive positions held by our forces were sufficient that neither inspired leadership nor the increase in troop numbers by the AFFS were decisive factors.”

“These being factors that the officers in command of Sarna Commonality lack, it is pleasing to think that they are held in low regard.”

“Would it surprise you to learn that they feel the key advantage posed by the AFFS was that Prince John organised his forces into a series of hierarchical brigades and divisions with a chain of command that permitted officers to operate with improved coordination and discretion rather than directing all operations through a single planetary headquarters?”

“That is a very interesting position for them to suggestion, your excellency. One might almost think that a similar degree of organisation is being advocated as an innovation by the Strategic Military Director.”

“Quite. I take it I don’t have to remind the director of why my ancestor abolished all military ranks above that of Colonel in 2455?”

“While I’m not quite so old as to have first-hand knowledge of the event, the sad death of Chancellor Stephan Liao and the quite reasonable measures taken by his successor are familiar to me in general.”

The Chancellor nodded. “Tai Yang, please ensure that the Strategic Military Director is acquainted with the reasons that his position is unacceptable.”

“The virtuous actions of one’s ancestors are always to emulated, Excellency.” Tai Yang bowed deeply. “One must enquire if there is any other way in which I may serve you?”

“Perhaps. Is there more news regarding Prince Davion’s near encounter with mortality in April?”

“Nothing convincing, alas. Certain evidence pointed towards the Terran Hegemony but my understanding is that the evidence was felt to be a fabrication. Without any further leads, it seems likely that the official response will be that it was a lone madman.”

“I would be exceptionally displeased if it were to be associated with us, Tai Yang.”

“There are two unquestionable points of evidence that prove that the Maskirova were uninvolved, Excellency,” the Director of that agency replied calmly. “Firstly, that you have never ordered such an operation and we would never presume to make a move of such strategic weight without your express approval.”

“And second?”

“He missed, your excellency.”

The chancellor was laughing merrily as Tai Yang made his way back towards the door, already considering who he might assign to the assassination and the acquisition that he’d been charged to arrange.

.o0O0o.

Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
21 September 2762

“That’s it!” Hanse exclaimed loudly, right as John was taking his shot. While it didn’t entirely ruin his shot, the laser hit the target on the 8 ring rather than dead centre, which he felt he could reasonably have expected given his last four shots had been perfect.

“Aha,” General Manabe said cheerfully as the prince valiantly fought not to shoot a death glare in the direction of the abashed ghost. Given the head of Military Administration had only been one point behind her commander-in-chief. “A little distracted, were you, sire?”

“I don’t make excuses.”

She lined up her shot carefully… and penetrated the nine-rang. “Ah, deuce it!”

“A draw’s a draw.” John picked up the two ten dollar bills between their shooting positions and handed one back to Manabe. “Better luck next time we’re requalifying.”

“There’s no way it’s a draw. The computer’s going to percentage score us on how close we were in each ring.” Manabe waved the money in front of John. “Just wait for it to keep processing.”

John sighed and stripped the power pack out of his rifle, safing it as they went back to the range master. “Sign us off for the re-qual?” he asked.

“Pair of forty-eights is well in the zone, sire.” The sergeant accepted the rifles to return to storage in the arms locker.

“Full scoring please,” Manabe requested. “There’s money riding on it.”

“Oh?” Poking at the computer, the range master printed off two result cards. “Here you go, forty-eight point six-two and point six-one.”

Manabe stared at the second printout and made a pained noise. The prince held out his hand and she grudgingly handed over the ten dollars. “I was so close!”

“Yes, but you need to learn when to quit,” he advised and dropped the notes into the Widows and Orphans collection box on the desk. It wasn’t as if the AFFS didn’t have pensions and other insurance for the families of their dead, but sometimes the fund managed a more personal touch.

The two parted ways and John opened the door to the emergency stairwell to go back upstairs rather than the lift. The exercise was a good excuse and no one else really used them. “So what was that about?” he asked once they were a flight of stairs up from the range.

“We’ve been looking for somewhere to hide orbital factories,” Hanse reminded him.

“Ah, and you have an answer?” Several of the more advanced military technologies required manufacture in micro-gravity, which certainly wasn’t unaffordable but as Hanse’s hindsight pointed out, left the factories vulnerable to warship raids or even fighter strikes, unlike more conventional facilities that could be dug into the ground beneath mountains or any number of other planetary locations. In the Succession War he’d told John about, virtually all factories producing vital materials as endo-steel – very useful in ‘Mech chassis and heatsinks – had been destroyed by strategic raids.

“Tortuga!”

John frowned. “Where?”

Hanse groaned. “It’s a pirate stronghold between the Outworlds Alliance and the Taurian Concordat,” he lectured. “Tortuga’s a fairly nice world, actually, but the pirates just stripped what they could easily get at. We tracked it down in 3042 and finally wiped the pirates out. Even if the Tortuga Pirates are known, no one knows it’s there – it isn’t even on Star League maps.”

John paused on a landing. “So you’re suggesting we move orbital factories out to somewhere in the periphery? That doesn’t exactly sound secure.”

“The star has quite a deep gravity well and some massive asteroid belts that are well above the orbital plane of Tortuga itself. Short of a star cluster like the Hyades, it’s as secure as it could be – low emissions factories could work there with no one the wiser even if they did happen to jump in.”

“That does sound promising,” he agreed thoughtfully. “But we’d need to get some troops out there to secure the place first – the pirates would be an immediate threat – and then ship a lot of tooling at a minimum.” Starting up the stairs he stretched out his hands.

“We have the perfect cover just waiting to be used,” Hanse explained teasingly. “Think about it.”
 
“I’m not really in a mood for games, Hanse.”

“The solution is the military exercises scheduled for next year. Almost two hundred regiments drilling in the Crucis March – with all those ships moving, it would be simple to detach a few regiments without mentioning it and send them out with sealed orders. Since all troops movements are intended to move under wartime security, no one will be surprised if they can’t identify all the units – in fact, changing markings for some units so the assigned regiments can be sighted a couple of times should cover for it even within the AFFS.”

“Until they get back at least,” John conceded. “But I suppose that most of the soldiers wouldn’t need to know where they are or that they were doing more than eliminating a pirate stronghold. The sensitive data would be in the hands of the ship crews.”

“If you can’t find two or three reliable jumpship crews, then you have bigger problems than I realised.”

John shook his head and began climbing the stairs again. “So, out of interest, how precise is your information about Tortuga – from what you’re saying it’s not a good system to jump into and I don’t recall your myriad skills including being a jumpship navigator.”

“That’s true,” Hanse admitted thoughtfully. “I can probably narrow it down to within about… a thirty light year sphere, say?”

“That’s the better part of twenty seven thousand square light years,” he calculated. “I can see why it took you hundreds of years to find them.”

“Turn the Ministry of Information loose on the problem. Discreet investigation and analysis is what they exist for. Some of the pirate raids over the last few hundred years might have clues.”

John shook his head. “What can you tell me about them?”

“Well the original settlers were a tank regiment from the Reunification War. They went rogue after a mission went wrong and settled on Tortuga to nurse a grudge.”

“Are you telling me they’re a rogue Taurian colony? Because that’s not the sort of people I want near a secure factory.”

“Rogue AFFS, actually. The 237th Light Cavalry regiment I think – it’s not something I kept close tabs on.”

“I see.” He reached the landing for the residence wing and paused at the door. “Are there any other little surprises lurking out in the Periphery I should know about.”

“Last time I told you about someone, you decided to give the Crucis Dragoons badges for the Invading Clans. I’m thinking a lot more carefully about what I tell you.”



Sidebar: History of the Capellan Confederation

"I swear I will run my husband through should he ever dare to threaten your freedoms."

The last of the six major states of the Inner Sphere to coalesce, the Confederation was the result of political instability on the part of the Capellan Commonality, one of several smaller states occupying the densely colonised region between the expanding Free Worlds League and Federated Suns. The Hegemony’s constitution gave their neighbours a problematic degree of access to their elections, to the point that candidates were less known for their domestic positions than which foreign sovereignty backed them.

In 2365, Prime Minister Tucas of the Commonality was assassinated and the election of his successor deadlocked between three candidates before descending into a fiasco that paralyzed the Commonality for more than a year. President Reynard Davion of the Federated Suns announcement that he would be sending peacekeepers to occupy Capella was the final straw. A convention of all the states in the region gathered to seek a solution to their problems, among them Tucas’ son-in-law, Duke Franco Liao who represented independent worlds such as his own vest-pocket duchy who espoused a message of Pan-Capellan Unity.

After a dramatic promise from Franco’s wife that she would personally ensure their liberties would be protected, the Duke was granted emergency powers for 400 days by the governments of Tikonov, Sarna, Sian and St Ives. The outvoted Capellan Commonality representative was arrested after he declined an offered place as Franco’s deputy and House Liao’s ascendancy was complete. Less than a year later, Davion regiments entered the Capellan’s capital city only to be isolated by newly combined Confederation Navy and given the chance to surrender. Believing the Capellans would never bombard their own city cost Reynard Davion three crack regiments.

While House Liao’s position as Chancellor is not guaranteed, they have provided almost every Chancellor of the Confederation since Franco, as well as maintaining strong positions in the Prefectorate Council and House of Scions that make up the legislative body of the Confederation. Commanding the weakest military of the Inner Sphere, House Liao has produced several key figures in diplomacy. In 2412 Chancellor Aleisha Liao was able to persuade seven other major states to join her in formalising the Ares Conventions, a code of war that drastically reduced the civilian casualties and collateral damage of the pre-Star League conflicts. A century and a half later, Terrence Liao was among the first rulers to throw his support behind Ian Cameron’s Star League.

Four hundred years after Franco Liao was granted as many days to save the Confederation that salvation remains very much in doubt. The loss of many the liberties that his wife had promised to guard is not.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

mikecj

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  • Veteran of Galahad 3028
Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #25 on: 16 November 2017, 22:29:18 »
Love the sidebars!
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

cpip

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #26 on: 17 November 2017, 07:57:53 »
"Van Dorne" and "Bradford"? I see what you did there.  O0

I will admit to some surprise that Hanse even remembered the name of the unit that founded the Tortuga Dominions, but I suppose we've all got odd bits of trivia floating around.

drakensis

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #27 on: 17 November 2017, 14:49:58 »
Avalon City, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Suns
27 January 2763

John rapped his knuckles lightly against Gabriel Dixon’s face.

Alas, it was only a picture.

Even more regrettably, it was the cover of a book.

“Memoirs of the Border War,” he read. “Well, I suppose I can’t fault the publishers for thinking this would sell well.”

Owen gave him an apologetic look. “It seemed to be, sire. The bookshop I was in had it on prominent display.”

“Have you read it?”

“I skimmed it,” the secretary admitted. “He seems to have perceived himself as being as much at war with the High Command as the Capellans.”

“Thank you for the heads’ up, Owen. Do you mind if I hold onto it? It’ll save legal getting another copy so they can see if there’s anything that needs to be dealt with or if we’re better off ignoring him.”

“You’re welcome, sire.”

“Take the cost out of the petty cash,” John reminded him.

“I’ll do that, sire.” Owen went back out into his office to prepare for the day as John flipped through the first few pages. “Oh, Colonel Stopec? Yes, his highness is in…”

Michael Stopec barged in without waiting. “Sire, have you seen this tripe?” he demanded, holding out what John guessed was another copy of Dixon’s Memoir. It was hard to tell with the Mechwarrior’s large hands clenched so tightly around it the cover was bent.

“It’s most likely what Owen just brought to my attention.”

“Have you read it?”

He took a deep breath. “Michael, sit down. No, I’ve just barely taken a look. I don’t count Dixon among my admirers though, so I doubt he’s complimentary.”

“Sire, he is outright accusing you of manufacturing the stalemate so that you could sweep in and take credit for the victory.”

“Well we do have a free press,” John said ruefully. “I suppose we could have legal ask the publisher to list as fiction for any future sales.”

“It’s an insult to everyone who served on Valexa! To everyone who died fighting!” Stopec drew himself up. “I request a leave of absence, sir.”

John eyed his champion. In the years he’d known him, the Colonel had never seemed to be so close to erupting with unbridled emotion. “What, exactly, are you planning on doing?”

“It is a matter of honour, sire. I will challenge him.”

Resting one elbow on the desk, John buried his face in his hand. “No, Michael. Just, no. That is the last thing we need. Neither Dixon or his trash deserve that sort of attention.” He raised his other hand. “I appreciate – I am deeply moved, that you and – I am sure – other officers of the AFFS feel so strongly but Dixon does not deserve or merit the attention that you would bring to him in killing him, much less if he somehow won.”

He straightened. “No. I will have legal check it and if he’s done something legally objectionable then a court case will be considered, but for the most part this is best left to be ignored and forgotten. Just like Dixon is. Don’t dignify it with a response.”

“And if I’m asked.”

John considered that point and then shrugged. “Then laugh.”

“Laugh.”

“Indeed. Laugh at him – that will hurt him in a far more lasting way than any injury you inflict with your Rifleman.”

In the end it took twenty minutes to convince Stopec not only to refrain from grievously harming the retired General, but also to insist on the same restraint from the rest of the Guards. With all that said, if John had been on Dixon’s shoes he’d have stayed clear of any dark alleys for the foreseeable future.

Hanse arrived just as the Colonel was leaving, saluting the man even though he knew it wouldn’t be returned. “What had him here this morning?”

John pointed at the book.

“Oh?” The redhead looked closer. “Oh,” he said again in understanding. “Going to do anything about it?”

“No.”

“Tempting though.”

“Immensely,” John agreed under his breath and then tapped his intercom. “Owen, I’m ready for the mail now.”

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
15 April 2763

Given some of Richard’s self-aggrandizing ideas over the first year of his reign, John wouldn’t have been surprised if his wedding celebrations had attempted to surpass the scale and splendour of his coming of age. However, the event was surprisingly restrained – certainly, the cathedral wedding had been grand but there had been also a stately simplicity to the Presbyterian ceremony.

The guest list had been sizeable but it was mostly to those who could not sensibly be snubbed and if Unity City was still cluttered with cronies whose main qualification to be present was a skill for flattery and inveigling favours out of the young First Lord, at least they were being carefully kept clear of public view.

The bride herself was no great beauty, but there was a stubborn look to her jaw that John liked the look of. Edwina took to Elise Graham – who became Elise Cameron upon the ceremony - as well, which raised some hope of some back-door restraint on the First Lord.

If there was one blot on the event it was that three Lords had declined to attend, instead sending representatives who delivered the bare minimum participation.

“We have squeezed all the blood from the stone that can be had,” Takiro Kurita counselled in the Council Meeting before the wedding. Richard had proposed additional taxes upon the Territorial states, to make up deficits in the League budget which he claimed went back to the beginning of Kerensky’s regency.

Hanse had simply shaken his head. “Amaris took it, no doubt, but try telling Richard that.”

“I have no influence at the court,” Kerensky told John at the reception. They’d stepped aside and were occupying a balcony looking out over Puget Sound. “If Richard had someone to replace me then he would, but we all know trouble is building in the Periphery and none of the other Generals have been receptive to his overtures.”

“I don’t need to tell you how dangerous it is for the SLDF to hold the First Lord in contempt,” John warned.

“No, you don’t.” Kerensky looked up at the sky. “But he is what he is. Perhaps young Elise will change him for the better. I’ve certainly failed him.”

“Is there anything I can do? In the Periphery, if not here?”

“You and Lord Kurita urging caution is a good start,” the general assured him. “But it’ll take more than two of you to bring the Council around. As for the Periphery, it’s mostly data we need – the balance of military power is overwhelmingly in our favour but finding the insurgents is difficult.”

“I’ll have Eric Pond provide your Intelligence Command with anything we’ve dug up. Maybe if we compare notes there’ll be something useful about the Outworlds and Taurian movements.”

“That would be appreciated.” Kerensky sighed. “Can I leave the Council to you, your highness? If things get worse in the Periphery I may need to go out there personally.”

“Are you sure that’s wise? You’ve many fine commanders and there are four territorial states – even you can only be in one place at a time.”

“Three would be enough. But if I can put even one of these brushfires out then that could set enough of an example to bring the rest under control. It took twenty years to bring the Taurians to heel, I’d rather not see this consume the rest of Richard’s reign.”

“Or longer. I’ll do everything I can, general. I don’t want to see the Star League crumble.”

He got a thin smile in return. “Just don’t turn into Jonathon Cameron, seeing doom in every corner.”

“What’s the old saying – ‘even paranoids have enemies’? Well, the prevalence of pessimists is no guarantee that things can’t go wrong.”

“What a happy conversation we’re having when we’re at a wedding.”

“The business of the League goes on,” John said philosophically. “We’d probably better get back inside before we’re accused of plotting in dark corners.”

“Isn’t that what we’re doing?” Kerensky looked at the glass in his hand as if he’d only just realised he was holding it. Glancing over the balcony he tipped the contents out into a plant pot three metres below. “I’m made my necessary appearance, I can make my excuses. That may please the First Lord more than most of the wedding gifts.”

They parted ways and John crossed the hall into the main hall where toasts to the health of the newly married couple were being offered. To no great surprise, he saw that Ewan Marik was in the thick of matters.

“Johnny, thought you’d snuck off with one of the Missy Steiners,” he jeered. The Captain-General’s face looked more yellow than red as he grabbed another glass from one of the servants. “You’re not so disloyal as to refuse to toast our boy-lord as he gets ready to become a man, are you?”

Raising his half-empty glass, John smiled urbanely. “I wish the First Lord all the happiness in his marriage that I’ve found in mine.”

“Weaselly Davion toasts,” Ewan grunted and put his glass to his face. The brandy spilled out of his lips and down his chin, dripping onto the Marik’s uniform and the floor.

“Hurk.” What colour was left on Ewan’s face fled and a pair of aides caught hold of his elbows, bracing him before he could stumble.

John stepped forwards to help and Ewan’s piggy eyes locked onto him. It seemed for a moment that he was about to say something but when his lips opened, all that emerged was a titanic belch, spraying droplets of brandy across the First Prince. The Captain-General closed his eyes and slumped in the arms of the two aides.

“Well, I think we’ve heard everything from the Free Worlds League tonight,” Richard said with a laugh. “I’ll leave the party with you, Lord Davion. Elise and I have other things to do.”

John nodded ruefully. “Quite a wedding.”

Watching them leave he shook his head and turned back to Ewan, now laid out on the floor. The Marik’s still face was stained with brandy and he looked more like a corpse than a living man. On impulse he lifted Ewan’s wrist and checked his pulse.

Nothing. “My god.”

“Sir?”

John pressed his two fingers against the drunkard’s throat, trying to find the carotid. “Call a medical team,” he ordered sharply.

.o0O0o.

Court of the Star League, Unity City
Terra, Terran Hegemony
18 April 2763

With the majority of his peers already assembled on Terra, as well as many of the Free Worlds League’s parliament and other notables, it had been decided that Ewan Marik’s funeral would be carried out on the mother world rather than Atreus. From there he would be ferried back to his family’s estates on Marik and interred in a private ceremony, never again returning to the seat of power he had ruled from.

As the First Prince’s heir, Joshua had been given a place on one of the balconies as speakers tried to eulogise a man whose only virtue had been that he added colour to the Star League Council – which wasn’t much of a virtue when set against the drunken bigotry and threats of violence that he’d brought with him.

“Truly Terra has a vast expertise in the more effete arts and sciences,” a scornful voice advised from two chairs over. “One can hardly tell that he was pig.”

Looking up, Joshua saw that the comment had come from a lanky youth wearing a suit that mimicked the lines of the uniform worn by DCMS officers. “There’s no need to be disrespectful to the dead.”

The young man laughed scornfully. “No one respected the Marik. His heir could not even be bothered to attend.”

“As I understand it, Lord Kenyon is simply too far away to arrive in time for a funeral.” Although a command circuit could have been arranged to bring him within a couple of weeks, Joshua thought.

“Hah. My grandfather tells me the offer was made, and declined.”

“I understood that the culture of the Draconis Combine stressed decorum and revering one’s elders,” Joshua enquired politely. Clearly the young man was from a highly placed family, if he was here.

“One reveres one’s own elders, but need not be blind to the faults of others.” Despite the lofty tone, the youngster’s keen eyes were assessing Joshua. “But in deference to your… refined sensibilities, we may change the subject. You are with one of the Davion Guard regiments, Leftenant?”

“Yes, somewhat the equivalent of your own Sword of Light regiments. Are you considering a military career?”

“I have been enrolled in Sun Zhang academy’s next class,” the boy said proudly. “And you would be a graduate of… hmm, the SLDF’s academy Albion?”

“No, I attended NAMA.”

“NAMA? Oh yes, the other school your capital boasts.”

“It’s something of a family tradition,” Joshua said tightly, stung by the dismissive tone.

“Oh yes, Davion military traditions. I have heard much of them. Did you have the opportunity to see action in your recent… how did Prince Davion phrase it? The ‘punitive expedition’? Before the SLDF sent you home, I mean?”

“Yes, actually. I was on Angelsey with Colonel Stopec.”

The youth blinked. “The Prince’s cyborg champion – a formidable officer, or so I’m told.” The brief moment of respect passed. “A shame that House Davion has so few like him.”

“The only true test of an officer is war,” Joshua replied. “A number of officers showed their mettle fighting the Confederation. Of course, the Combine hasn’t done more than hunt bandits for longer than either of us has been alive. Who knows how sound your junior officers are?”

“We had been longer without war in ’25,” shot back the young Combine noble. “And we saw which of our warriors had stayed strong then. Or those of your soldiers that survived learned that. A shame that so many did not, but the fault must lie with the leaders, must it not?”

“Yes, the rightful leaders of the Federated Suns, not the half breed usurpers raised on Luthien.”

“How dare you!”

“Given that Vincent Kurita is my third cousin, twice removed and specifically barred from the throne, I’d say that I have a pretty good right to speak about him.”

“As his second cousin, Davion, I dispute this. Had I a ‘Mech available… but no, we must be polite, must we not?” The boy bared his teeth. “I am Jinjiro Kurita, second in line to the Combine’s throne. Perhaps one day we shall test what I learn at Sun Zhang against what you have learned from your NAMA. And then we will see if the Suns can truly aspire to challenge the Dragon.”

“Long may your grandfather and father enjoy good health,” Joshua told him. “But if it comes to that, don’t expect to see the same successes your grandfather found thirty-six years ago. This time we will be ready.”

.o0O0o.

Tilley, Bonneau
Crucis March, Federated Suns
7 June 2763

The replacement for her Dervish still felt sluggish to Susan. While she’d been allowed to bring the medium ‘Mech from the Cuirassiers originally, the Crucis Dragoons were intended to field heavy/assault machines and she’d received a suitable BattleMech directly from the factory.

Suitable, in this case, meant something even heavier than the Warhammers of her line companies and she constantly felt as if she was on the brink of being left behind by the rest of the battalion.

“Enemy elements moving through the woods up ahead.” Van Dorne had at least picked up on the importance of letting her know what he was dealing with. “We’re seeing ‘Mechs but no supporting elements yet.”

“Are you under fire?”

“No, I think they’re more a recon force than a skirmishing screen. Nothing heavier than a Dervish.”

Susan considered her options. First battalion was paired with infantry again, a regiment of line infantry and a battalion of engineers, with a mission of securing the terminus of the tunnel dug beneath the Tilley channel. If the enemy ‘Mechs were in significant strength then the task force would be out-gunned.

“Colonel,” she reported. “We’re looking at an enemy BattleMech force between us and the objective. We might be able to push them back but if they have significant forces, then screening your transports could become an issue.”

DeWitt’s voice was steady. “The trees should provide plenty of cover, and we need to deny the enemy the use of the tunnel. We’re pressing on.”

“Roger, we’ll open a path for you.” Susan switched back to the battalion. “Van Dorne, move up into the tree-line and engage the enemy if they don’t fall back. First Company, we’re backing up second. Bradford, keep your company with the infantry and provide supporting fire as you can.”

Confirmations came back from her officers and she pushed her massive ‘Mech up to its maximum speed – a comparatively meagre fifty-four kilometres per hour. Ahead, she saw Van Dorne’s Warhammers firing PPCs into the woods as they closed in, alternating the shots from their Donal PPCs to keep temperatures under control.

“Positive lock, it’s the Eighth Chevaliers.”

Bloody hell – of all the units to run into. She’d known they were on Bonneau, but not that they were anywhere near Tilley. “Understood, Van Dorne. Bradford, watch out for the flanks, they might try to work around us.”

She saw an enemy Phoenix Hawk ahead and hovered her targeting crosshairs over it before realising the Chevalier ‘Mech was still out of range – without LRMs she’d have to get even closer than the Warhammers were. The medium ‘Mech turned and retreated deeper into the woods before she got a lock worth shooting on.

“They’re retreating!”

“Get us a perimeter first,” she ordered. “Don’t pursue and get strung out so you can be picked off.”

“Understood.” The Warhammers slowed and fanned out, forming an arc that moved steadily forwards as Susan’s company reached the woods. Greaney’s fire support lance had been re-equipped too, but the Longbows could keep up with the Warhammers easily – the temperature gauge creeping up on Susan reminded her that she couldn’t.

Behind her, heavy tracked APCs crawled into the cover of the trees. Each carried a full platoon of the soldiers that would be needed to secure the maintenance passageways around the terminus. Open roof-hatches were manned by missile teams but they’d be relatively little help against ‘Mechs.

Looking around, she saw Bradford’s company were only a short distance behind. “Alright, press on.”

The forest was patchy, with more than enough undergrowth to slow them down and long-range sensors were picking up distant hints of metal and temperatures from all directions.

“We’re surrounded, aren’t we?” asked Smythe.

“Yeah, it’s great,” Greaney shot back immediately. “They can’t get away from us now – whichever we go we’ll run into them.”

That got chuckles and Susan felt her own lips curl. “There’s basically two ways this can turn out,” she observed. “Either they let us get to the tunnel, in which case we’ve accomplished our mission, or they try to stop us – in which case a lot of their nice shiny ‘Mechs are going to get dinged up.” And from what she recalled of the Eighth Chevalier’s tech situation, it might take a while for them to be fixed.

Ten kilometres later they reached the highway leading to the tunnel, three lanes each way and more than wide enough for the ‘Mechs and the personnel carriers. Unfortunately they’d also be open to fire from ‘Mechs hidden amid the trees. “Stay within the treeline, just follow the path of the road,” she advised.

“Movement on the right,” Bradford reported. “Wasps and Falcons moving up.”

Light ‘Mechs, but their medium lasers were perfectly sufficient at the close ranges of the woods. Susan nodded in understanding. “They’re trying to push us onto the open ground where we can make more use of our longer range. Probably got their fire support waiting to hammer us. Bradford, pull back to my position, Van Dorne, you still have the lead. Drive through the woods and clear anything waiting. Colonel DeWitt, if you’d be so good…”

“I’m dismounting fire teams to support you,” the infantryman responded. “Anyone pushing in close will find themselves facing a company of my best.”

“Understood, if I don’t catch up then Van Dorne should be able to get you to the objective.”

“There’s no need for melodrama, Major.”

“I mean that literally, sir. I’ve the largest ‘Mech in the task force but it’s the slowest as well.”

He snorted. “Well, you know your business.”

“Greaney, join Van Dorne. Your LRM boats will be needed if they decide to cross the highway to get at the infantry.”

“Roger.” The Longbows picked up the pace, as best they could in the forest, leaving Susan with eight ‘Mechs and eighty-odd infantry to support Bradford’s company.”

“They’re still coming hard,” he advised. “Should we hold on your position?”

“No, we’ll do a bounding withdrawal after the main force. Fall back a hundred metres behind us and we’ll alternate.”

“Got it.”

The twelve Warhammers, one of them now limping, moved past her little force and the Chevalier ‘Mechs – intent on their retreating prey, surged forwards without properly registering that there was another force waiting for them.

SRMs slashed up from ground level as the light ‘Mechs rushed in, enlightening them that they weren’t just fighting the outnumbered Bradford. Susan stepped forwards between two trees and lowered her crosshairs onto the chest of one Falcon, this time seeing them flash gold in confirmation she could expect to hit.

The other Mechwarrior froze a second to process that he was being targeted by an assault ‘Mech. It was a fatal mistake: Susan triggered the arm-mounted lasers and autocannon, all four digging into the Falcon’s chest with savage abandon. Never intended to cope with such a barrage, the Falcon reeled backwards and shut down, her tactical display indicating that the right chest had been gutted and the centre completely bare of protection.

The Chevaliers fired jump-jets to try to break tactical locks and avoid the infantry missiles. However, even the Blackjacks of her air defense had them outgunned with four medium lasers each while the smaller ‘Mechs had only singletons backed up by secondary weapons.

“Pull back to the next line,” Susan ordered, satisfied.

The infantry slung their weapons and ran while the ‘Mechs backed more slowly away until they were behind the line of Warhammers. “Bradford, we’re in position, fall back behind us,” Susan ordered. “We don’t want too much of a gap between us and the rest of the force.”

They leapfrogged twice more, the Falcons and Wasps of the enemy trailing them carefully, before Susan’s sensors picked up magnetic mass behind them, moving in from across the highway.

“They’ve got between us,” she advised calmly. “Bradford, we’ll hold here, on your next move, keep going and engage the Chevaliers pushing between us. Force them back on Van Dorne if you can but don’t let up the pressure.”

“Confirmed.” The Warhammers backed towards Susan’s line and then half-turned as they reached her, breaking into a run towards the new contacts. Susan waved the muzzle of one arm to catch the attention of the infantry captain and then pointed after the Warhammers. “Go with them.”

The man nodded and his troops lifted their remaining missile reloads and dashed back into the woods.

Susan eyed the light elements that were carefully closing in, probably expecting an ambush. “On my signal, we’ll jump forwards and surprise the pursuit element,” she ordered. “Knock them back on their heels and then we’ll re-join Second Company.”

“Permission for close combat?” asked Sergeant Harrison, his Wolverine crouching eagerly next to her.

“I know accidents happen,” she told him, “but try to avoid that. We don’t want to get tangled up. On mark, three – two – one – mark!”

Driving her heels forwards, she activated the massive thrusters built into the legs and back of the Emperor. The jets spun up for a moment and then vented superheated air from her reactor, blasting her up on a short parabola and into the Chevaliers.

With the shortest jump distance of any of her force, she’d expected to land short of the enemy but one of the Wasps had moved closer than Susan had realised. She crashed back through the trees and landed almost face to face with the far lighter ‘Mech. Focused on regaining her balance she couldn’t stop the ninety-tons of the Emperor from crashing into the Wasp, body-checking it back into a tree. Reeling as if stunned, the light ‘Mech spun on one heel and crashed to the ground face first.

“That was an accident!” Susan snapped defensively as she looked around for another target and spotted a second Wasp trying to work around behind Harrison’s Wolverine. The three lasers mounted in her chest were easiest to bring to bear and two of them scored on the Chevalier’s rear armour. From the way the ‘Mechs infrared signature spiked she thought it had likely damaged the reactor shielding.

Harrison just laughed and fired his SRMs into a Falcon that was back-pedalling away. Susan fired her autocannon but only hit the tree that the ‘Mech ducked behind. The bar signalling her jump-jets readiness for use reached the safe level and she checked for branches above her. “That’s it, Dragoons. Pull back to re-join the rest of the battalion.”

One of the Mechwarriors gave a howl that was probably supposed to be wolf-like as they jumped back towards their existing position, turning in the air as best they could. Breaking into the best run they could, the eight ‘Mechs headed after their comrades. The Wolverines moderated their pace to stay with her but the four Blackjacks of the air defense lance only waited for their jump jets to recharge before they bounded forwards again.

It took three long minutes to reach the fight – long enough for the Emperor’s heatsinks to vent the heat that had built up in the brief skirmishing. On arriving, Susan wondered at first why the broad clearing hadn’t been marked on the maps, only to realise that it hadn’t existed before almost forty ‘Mechs had begun brawling at point blank range in the woods. Trees were being shredded by stray shots and any of the ‘Mechs that fell or stumbled tore through them.

Half of Bradford’s ‘Mechs were down already – they were fighting Wolverines, Shadow Hawks and Dervishes that didn’t give up as much weight to them as the light ‘Mechs from earlier. The remaining Warhammers were using their PPCs only rarely, relying more on their torso laser clusters and SRM launchers in the close confines of the melee.

The arrival of the four Blackjacks must have swung the balance because almost half the Chevalier ‘Mechs were down. Picking their targets, the mediums were savaging exposed rear armour or damaged ‘Mechs. As Susan reached the edge of what was now the tree line she saw a Dervish bound over one of the Warhammers to fire its lasers and SRMs into the ‘Mechs rear. In doing so it exposed itself to the Blackjacks and two of them added their autocannon to the exchange. When the ‘Mech landed it came down badly, one leg limp and not supporting its weight.

Bringing the Emperor to a halt, Susan picked out one of the more intact Chevalier ‘Mechs and opened fire on the Shadow Hawk, blazing away with the twin autocannon. The Mechwarrior raised the arms of his ‘Mech to shield his cockpit from the barrage and one of the Warhammers took the opportunity to discharge one of the long lance-like PPCs into the weakened armour. With startling abruptness, the Shadow Hawk shut down.

Missiles from the remaining Dervish exploded against her ‘Mech’s thick armour and Susan turned her guns on it, adding the large lasers to the mix. The concentrated damage crippled both the ‘Mechs arms and it began to retreat. Soon the remaining Chevaliers were breaking across the highway into the cover of the woods on the other side.

Susan turned and took stock. She still had twelve ‘Mechs out of the twenty her rear-guard had started with, but several were sporting the marks of damage with weapons out of action and breached armour. “Regroup,” she instructed. “We’ll wait for the infantry to catch up and take prisoners, then re-join the main force.”

Now that the fighting was over, Mechwarriors were climbing out of the downed ‘Mechs and looking around. One of the Dervish pilots took off his neurohelmet and waved it for her attention.

She waggled her autocannon in acknowledgement and switched on her speakers. “You are to be captured, Davionist dog-pig,” Susan declared in the manner of the hokey faux-Combine action flicks that had been a fad when she was a kid.

“Susan!” her older brother shouted. “What are you playing at? I’ve a Leftenant who swears you body-blocked his ‘Mech to the ground and trampled it. The refs are going to court martial you.”

“This is a field exercise, Reuben,” she called back down. “If we were really at war then I would have trampled on him. As it is, the BattleROMs should clear things up.”

Major Reuben Sandoval threw his neurohelmet down and sat down to wait for the infantry to take him custody. For his battalion of the Robinson Chevaliers, the war – Operation GALAHAD – was over.



Sidebar: Alacorn-series Tanks

"It’s hard to go wrong with three whopping great guns."

Developed between 2561 and 2587, the Alacorn Mk VI is one of the most respected heavy tanks in the SLDF, for its dependability in the fire support role. Weighing in at 95 metric tons, the tracked Alacorn can manage a top speed of fifty-four kilometres per hour, which is certainly not its strongest point but is adequate for a direct fire support vehicle.

The original developers, Corben Motors, developed two variants of the Alacorn in parallel, the Mk I with three Class 10 autocannon and the Mk II with three Class 20 autocannon. While the more limited ammunition and armour of the Mk II didn’t impress the Hegemony Armed Forces, the Mk I was considered a promising design. Unfortunately Corben’s attempt at modern armour layers was less than successful and the design wasn’t approved for purchase.

Ten years later, when the Star League first began to organise the SLDF, Corben doubled-down on their original proposal. Unable to resolve the quality problems with their armour they did incorporate a much lighter fusion reactor, solving the ammunition storage issues and layering thicker armour across the chassis. Several hundred of the new Mk III and Mk IV were ordered by the SLDF, but not in sufficient numbers to save Corben from bankruptcy due to the development costs.

New Earth Trading Company picked up Corben’s assets and delivered the ordered Alacorns. Impressed by the design they went to work to resolve the quality control issues with the armour, offering the SLDF an improved Mk V with perfected defences and three Class 10 Autocannons. While this wasn’t accepted, NETC continued to tinker with the design and as the Reunification War began, they submitted the Mk VI, replacing the Mk V’s autocannon with three Gauss Rifles for unrivalled long-range firepower.

This provided to be the vehicle the SLDF had been waiting for and the Alacorn Mk VI has been in production ever since, renowned within SLDF heavy-assault tank regiments as a ‘Mech-killer.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

mikecj

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  • Veteran of Galahad 3028
Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #28 on: 17 November 2017, 19:02:26 »
Love the Alacorn, nice little wargame.
There are no fish in my pond.
"First, one brief announcement. I just want to mention, for those who have asked, that absolutely nothing what so ever happened today in sector 83x9x12. I repeat, nothing happened. Please remain calm." Susan Ivanova
"Solve a man's problems with violence, help him for a day. Teach a man to solve his problems with violence, help him for a lifetime." - Belkar Bitterleaf
Romo Lampkin could have gotten Stefan Amaris off with a warning.

snakespinner

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Re: Davion & Davion (Deceased)
« Reply #29 on: 17 November 2017, 19:07:15 »
An Emperor body checking a Wasp. Ouch! O0
I wish I could get a good grip on reality, then I would choke it.
Growing old is inevitable,
Growing up is optional.
Watching TrueToaster create evil genius, priceless...everything else is just sub-par.

 

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