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Author Topic: A Reckoning  (Read 20791 times)

mikecj

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #60 on: 07 October 2018, 01:23:22 »
And when ROM gets nervous... graveyards expand
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.

cawest

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #61 on: 07 October 2018, 17:57:19 »
i'm just looking forward to someone bring the SLDF Lion dropship back into production.  it would make a great combined arms transports. 

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #62 on: 25 December 2018, 17:03:24 »
New Sarepta, Tranquil
Clan Wolf Territory
May 29, 3039


“I trust your wounds are not too serious, quineg?”

Cyrilla Ward replied with an expression that was more a grimace than a true smile as she saluted her Khan.

Neg, my Khan,” was all she said, as the tall man gestured for her to take a seat. Looking around the office, she saw a portable screen that almost covered one wall, the surface area split into a number of unevenly sized windows showing surveillance footage from various locations in the Watch Complex.

Three of the windows were on pause - two showed recordings of the interrogation sessions carried out on Tasha’s Spheroid companions, and the third was frozen in the middle of her second “conversation” with Tasha yesterday - the one they’d had after she discovered that Fraser and Tulliver had been hauled off to interrogation.

The third occupant of the room sat before the screen, but now she swivelled in her chair to face Ward as her fellow Khan took his seat as well.

They made for quite a contrast. kaKhan Ulric Kerensky was tall and lean, his brown hair and beard turning white, with piercing eyes that could make him look wise, crafty, or intimidating as needed.

saKhan Laurel Mehta, on the other hand, fit the classic AeroSpace Pilot phenotype developed by Clan geneticists to a T. A bit over 1.5 meters tall, she had the over-sized head and enlarged eyes (violet in her case) that marked her sub-caste. Despite her apparent delicacy, the fact that she was the second in command of the Clan spoke volumes about her actual mettle.

Both Khans had rushed to Tranquil from Strana Mechty when they received Cyrilla’s coded transmission, using a command circuit and a pirate jump point to cut weeks off the trip. They hid it well, but Ward would bet that both were feeling the effects of having been jumped through space multiple times in only a few days.

Regardless of how they felt, though, they had a situation on their hands which threatened to change the entire paradigm of clan politics.


“Natasha has kicked open the burrock hive by returning to the Homeworlds. We need to work out what to do,” saKhan Mehta cut to the chase.

Ulric nodded and turned to Ward. “Cyrilla, you are certain that Kerlin forbade the Dragoons to return under any circumstances, quiaff?”

Aff, Ulric,” she confirmed.

“And yet, here she is, with a freebirth retinue and a multi-exabyte intelligence database on the Inner Sphere.” He paused, then - “Could she be a renegade from the Dragoons? Broken with them so that she could come home?”

“Unfortunately, the evidence points the other way,” sighed Ward. Gesturing toward the paused vids on the wall with her chin, she continued “The interrogations of Dechan and Susan indicate that they received their orders direct from Star Colonel Jaime himself. Jaime has also recorded a message for the Grand Council.”

“Great Father,” cursed Mehta. “This is worse than I thought. Ulric - this matter cannot see the light of day in the Clan Council, let alone the Grand Council!”

Ward’s blood chilled. “What are you suggesting, saKhan Mehta?” she asked in a tone just as cold. Mehta might be her superior, but she had once held that position in the Clan, and she was not intimidated by her.

“Galaxy Commander Ward, how many people know of Natasha Kerensky’s presence here?” Mehta pressed.

Cyrilla came out of her chair. “You cannot be serious, saKhan!”

“Stop.” Ulric Kerensky also stood, but in a more controlled fashion. He turned to pace the length of the room, turned, and came back, pausing along the way to regard the images on the wallscreen.

Still facing away from the other two, he began to speak. “We have always known that us Wardens need to win every vote or Trial when it comes to invading the Inner Sphere. The Crusaders only need to win once.”

He turned around.

“Cyrilla, you lead House Ward. How many of your Bloodnamed trothkin now espouse the Crusader way?”

“Ten of the twenty-five,” she replied immediately, “and three others are sitting on the fence,” she continued, demonstrating the intimate knowledge of House matters that she was expected to have.

“So House Ward might be majority Crusader before long. The numbers are similar across all our Bloodhouses,” Ulric said. “We are the strongest of the Warden Clans, but we are losing ground to the Crusaders internally” He managed another joyless grin as he pivoted to saKhan Mehta. “You and I know that the next time Clan Wolf has to replace a Khan, a Crusader will be elected.”

saKhan Mehta’s face tightened at the reminder that she had been elected by only a slim majority.

He came forward to stand by the desk again. “We are running out of time. The Crusader philosophy is too attractive to the younger generations.”

“All the more reason to make sure Natasha Kerensky’s information never comes out into the open. This will give the Crusaders all the ammunition they need!” stated Mehta.

“Perhaps…” allowed Ward, deep in thought.

“Perhaps what?” demanded Mehta.

“Ulric, there is no time limit on how long we wait before bringing this to the Grand Council, quineg?”

Neg, Cyrilla, but you know that if we wait too long it will damage our case when the others hear about it.”

“So, we need to work fast and present our case in a way that not even the Crusaders can dispute.”

“Cyrilla Ward, you are actually considering implementing Natasha Kerensky’s proposal?” saKhan Mehta spun to face her Khan. “Ulric, if we start down that road -”

“There will be no turning back, I know,” the senior Khan of Clan Wolf returned to his seat and planted himself in it.

“Natasha is telling the truth about her motivations, and the interrogations have confirmed her story.”

Something flared in Mehta’s eyes, but before she could say anything, Ulric continued “Strategically speaking, we Wardens have been defending a shrinking perimeter for the last forty years - eight generations. We can only react to Crusader initiatives, which weakens our position even further.”

One arm thrust across the table. “Natasha’s information gives us the opportunity to seize the initiative back from the Crusaders.”

“By giving them what they want,” pointed out Mehta.
“Not necessarily,” objected Ward. “What would they rather be seen by the Inner Sphere as - conquerors or saviours?”

Ulric nodded sagely. “Most of the Crusaders have forgotten how to plan beyond the immediate. What happens after the conquest? Using Natasha’s information, we can steer the strategy and define the terms of the Clans’ return to the Inner Sphere in a way that fulfills the Warden mandate and blunts the Crusaders’ lust for conquest for conquests’ sake.”

Ulric’s hardened eyes swept between the pair of senior officers.

Ward smoothly nodded her head to Ulric’s unspoken question, then turned to look at Mehta, who sat stony faced for an interminable number of seconds, before jerkily nodding her head once.

Seyla,” breathed Ulric. He stood.

“Cyrilla, you will take charge of Natsha’s party and their information. I want a comprehensive analysis of their intelligence.”

Aff, my Khan.”

“Laurel. You and I will return to Strana Mechty. I need you to update the readiness status of our Touman and come up with options - both to expand it, and to support an expeditionary force to the Inner Sphere.”

Aff, as my Khan commands.”

Ulric nodded. “We have lots to do. Let us get going.” And he stalked out of the room.

Even Better than the Vids - Outrageous and Unbelievable True Stories from the LosTech Shadow Wars
By Moira Vasey
Pub. Mallorca Books, St Ives, 3079

Forced to step up its game in the face of the embryonic Federated Commonwealth’s adoption of a defence-first intelligence security strategy, ROM learned to adapt.

One of the ways it did this, as we have seen, was to compromise the intelligence services of the FedCom’s rivals, giving them access to a whole other dimension of information.

When ROM gained deep access to the Capellan Confederation’s Maskirovka, among the gems they uncovered was Captain Erik Tang.

A native of Brighton in the St Ives Compact, Tang worked his way from deckhand to command of a Mule-class DropShip, the Hainan Rose, with which he plied the stellar trade routes between the Compact and the FC. By all accounts, he became quite successful.

Unfortunately, like so many others before him, Tang succumbed to his baser instincts - literally fulfilling the old saw “a girl in every port”.

His troubles began when two of his mistresses found out about each other when Tang accidentally sent one of them a message meant for the other. The two ladies involved then decided to team up to extort Tang, blackmailing him by threatening to expose his affairs to his wife.

The size of Tang’s problem can be illustrated thus: Mrs Tang had a half-share in the Hainan Rose (and was, in fact, the namesake of the ship). Without her, he would be out of business. On the other hand, the sums demanded by his scorned mistresses were also ruinous, and if he paid, he would still be out of business.

And so Erik Tang found himself in a DropPort bar one evening, deep in his cups and pouring out his woes to any who would listen. It just so happened that a fellow patron was in a position to ease Captain Tang’s burden.

The man, of course, was a Maskirovka agent, and he sensed blood in the water. Tang was a perfect recruit in many ways - he had access to many worlds of interest to the CapCon, he had a legitimate reason to visit said worlds on a regular basis, and his gregarious nature helped draw in people.

Tang’s reports (delivered via dead drops and cut outs) came in the form of audio recordings of his observations. They were verbose, stream-of-consciousness ramblings that apparently drove more than one Mask transcriber to despair, but because Outreach was one of the worlds on Tang’s regular trade circuit, ROM didn’t mind so much, and eagerly awaited his reports.

It was through Tang that ROM discovered or confirmed such things as the rotation schedule of the Dragoons’ AeroSpace forces, the types and quantities of raw materials they were seeking, and even some more esoteric information like the width of the service back alleys in downtown Harlech.

While Tang was no superspy, his case aptly demonstrates how competent intelligence analysts can extract a remarkable amount of information from even seemingly mundane data.

ComStar’s ComGuards and Special Forces eventually made good use of the information provided by Tang and other, less-colourful report writers.

And what happened to Captain Tang? He was murdered mid-coitus by the enraged husband of one of his many paramours on Indicass in 3044, dying as he lived.

Here are extracts from one of his reports on Outreach.

-finally on, you bloody thing. Date is erm, September nine - shit, it’s past local midnight - September ten, yeah, September ten, thirty-forty-one. Location is, as always, the Master’s cabin aboard the Merchant Vessel Hainan Rose, currently grounded on Outreach, the Sarna March in the FedCom. Why you Mask-querade guys need me to say that every time is beyond me, but hey, you’re paying the bills.

Where was I? No, actually, before I start, I’m gonna do you guys a favour. I was in the DropShip’s Nest tonight - not a bad little bar on Eighth and Wesson. Too many Draggie Pups in there celebrating some bullshit graduation or something, but anyway - bartender offered me some of the new local product. It’s called "Ruby Reach". Label said it was a “dry red.”

****** me, it was so dry me tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth! Made her take it away and bring me some real wine.

The point is - the ****** want to export it! Can you believe it?  Get this - seems one of the Draggies invalided outta service coz he got a leg and a testicle shot off in the Fourth Big Mistake - I might be wrong about what got shot off - or was it burned off? Never mind - not important - so anyway, apparently he always fancied himself a Vinter, and he somehow talked the Draggies into subsidising his new vineyard. Ummm… I think they said it was somewhere north of the Agro district.

Gotta say, he’s obviously a better talker than he was a Mech jock or winemaker. The stuff is horrific, don’t go near it.

You’re welcome.

Right… where’d I put that bloody...? Ah-hah - found it!

Your list of questions - and what’s number one? Surprise, surprise, same as always, and same answer as always - the indigs don’t give a flying ****** who sits on the Celestial Throne. They don’t “show a preference” for Duchess Liao or Chancellor Liao. They just wanna get on with their lives, please and thank you.

And so should you gits - I’ve told you before I’ll let you know you if an indig sidles up to me and tells me Outreach’s gonna declare for Duchess Candace, so, for the love of the Buddha, can you please stop with question one? ****** me.

Okay, question two…

[...]

Right, now we come to “other observations” - shit, how much memory have I got left on this thing? And more importantly, how much more rum? Heh.

Umm… the Draggies are still trying to hire more able spacers - one of their dock officers even tried to chat up my astrogator and - oh, wait, I told you guys about that in question twel- uh, seventeen, didn’t I? Bloody hell, can’t keep things straight anymore, but I can’t exactly take notes now, can I? Wouldn’t look ******’ suspicious would it?

Okay, okay. Other observations. Hmmm… oh yeah! The Harlech PD seem to have new recruiting standards. Passed maybe a half dozen foot patrols tonight at the port and downtown - at least one of each pair o’plods was an honest-to-god giant - as in crank-the-neck-up-to-ouch-to-look-‘em-in-the-eye giant. Big bastards - and bitches too - two of them giants were gals of the female persuasion. Really good “don’t ****** with me” faces too.


Tetsuhara Proving Grounds, Remus, Outreach
Terran March, Federated Commonwealth
23 April, 3040


“Okay, what do we know about Keating?” Major Emilia Tzu asked, gazing intently at her next opponent who was warming up on the far side of the Circle of Equals with his support crew. Like her, the buzzcut red-headed man was staring across the arena back at her.

The loser of the previous bout was still limping out of the circle helped by two of his support crew. Emilia could hear the winner’s crew celebrating off to the right.

Around the arena, which was actually part of Fort Wells’s sports complex in its day job, various senior Dragoons shuffled on and off the bleachers, observing the candidates. Some watched everything, others seemed to take an interest in particular candidates.

Emilia knew without looking that Colonel Patrick Chan would be watching her bout with Keating. The CO of Gamma Brigade had been there from the beginning, standing at the start line (and finish line) for the 25-hour endurance and solo navigation march that kicked off the Trials.

He was also one of the referees during her Command Post Exercise - she wasn’t happy with her performance there even though the scenario put her in charge of a decapitated Dragoons Brigade facing four-to-one odds, and she’d managed to extract forty-three percent of her troops.

Colonel Chan had also shown up during the Augmented Combat rounds, where she had battled other candidates from the cockpit of a ‘Mech (not always her usual Crusader), making it to the final four where a AeroSpace pilot with amazing G-tolerance and unbelievable precision gunnery had taken her down with his Corsair.

And now she was in the last phase of the Trials - single unarmed combat against those still in the running (the field had been culled after the Augmented Combat round).

“Mechjock in Third/Beta,” Lieutenant Saul Pearce replied as he slapped a bottle of Emilia’s favourite QsQuared electrolyte drink into her right hand.

“You just read that off the screen, dumbass,” accused Lieutenant Sienna Rostopovna as she continued re-wrapping Emilia’s upper left arm.

Before the hirsute tanker could fire back at his sibmate, Captain Mason Calvados-Kincaid stepped between them and faced Emilia. At 198 centimetres tall, the infantryman towered over the trio, especially Emilia, who might break 160 centimetres if she let her hair grow out a little.

“Keating’s a Peacock,” he told Emilia, a “Peacock” being slightly derogatory infantry slang for a MechWarrior with flashy piloting moves, derived from the name of a Terran avian.

Emilia lowered the QsQuared from her mouth. “So he’s probably going to dance in and out, hit’n’fade,” she thought out loud.

Mason nodded thoughtfully. In this quartet of sibmates, he was the only one who had previously won an Honorname - that of Kincaid, and his words therefore carried a bit more weight.

“How’d you know he’s a Peacock?” asked Pearce as he packed extraneous gear into a barracks bag.

“My company was OPFOR for his lance one time on Caph, before the war. Watched him bet on his reflexes to try to dodge our SRM barrage.”

Sienna finished with Emilia’s arm and shifted to check on the ugly bruise that discoloured Emilia’s right cheek. As the only Level II Certified Combat Aider amongst Emilia’s support crew, the aerojock had appointed herself the team medic.

“It’s fine, Sienna,” Emilia waved off her sibmate. “It’s-”

“Only pain!” finished the other three simultaneously, quoting a much-despised PT instructor from their Sibko days.

A beat, then they all burst out laughing. Mason went to one knee so Emilia wouldn’t have to strain her neck looking up at him.

“One minute,” called a flat voice over the arena PA.

“Warm up, Em,” called Pearce, and she started to jog in place while working her shoulders.Sienna dropped the soft helmet over Emilia’s head, the memory poly moulding itself to her features for a tight fit. Pearce helped her double check the straps on the sparring gloves.

“Okay, Em, he has reach on you, and he’ll back his reflexes,” Mason coached. “Let him come to you, then do what you do best!”

He stood again, and extended his right hand into the middle of their little group, where it was joined by three others. The survivors of Sibko Ten-Sigma.

“You’re almost there, Em,” Mason continued. “ You’ve beaten everyone else. The way out is through Keating. Ten!”

“Sigma!” the others replied, peeling off to let Emilia jog into the arena as the announcer called “Thirty seconds.”

Two weeks earlier…

“Hey! Emm! Over here!”

Emilia Tzu snapped her head to ten o’clock, where Mason Calvados-Kincaid was waving at her, crooked smile on his face.

His height made a him the perfect marker beacon in the crowded bar.

She changed course, weaving past a pair of tables and half a dozen patrons before arriving at the booth appropriated by her sibmates.

“Mason!” she chirped as she reached him, allowing the infantry officer to heave her off the ground with one of his usual bear hugs.

“Emm!” he roared in response, before dropping her next to the free seat in the booth their party had appropriated.

“You’re late, Cadet Tzu! Explain your tardiness!” barked Sienna Rostopovna from beside her, in a fair imitation of their former Drill Sergeant R. G. Salazar.

“That’s Major Tzu now, Lieutenant Rostopovna,” grinned Mason as he parked himself back in his seat opposite the two ladies.

“Which means she gets the next round for us!” chirped up Saul Pearce from the other side of Mason. He and Emilia were still in their blue Dragoons jumpsuits, with non-regulation leather jackets on top since both had come straight from duty. Mason and Sienna were in civvies.

Mason and Sienna cheered their tanker comrade’s suggestion, and Emilia accepted defeat with good grace, plunging her CredCard into the appropriate slot on the tabletop and selecting everyone’s brew of choice from the menu. The nice thing about drinking with sibmates was that you didn’t need to ask what anyone’s poison of choice was.

That chore completed, Emilia sat back to regard the trio that were possibly her closest friends and comrades. Together they had graduated from one of the first Dragoons sibkos in 3030 - four survivors from the original fifty. Most of their sibmates had been steadily weeded out over the course of the decade-long training they had undergone.

Their ranks would thin out seemingly arbitrarily - a gap in the ranks after a training exercise one afternoon, an empty cot when you woke in the morning. Since they were teenagers, they half-believed the barracks rumours that those who disappeared had been executed, even though they would occasionally run into them again, especially in the conventional school classes that they took alongside their sibko training.

Even if they did see their former sibmates again (who were usually moved to training in support fields), they might as well have been dead to those who remained in the sibko. The program was tough enough that you just didn’t have any reserves left over to maintain ties with someone who was no longer in it.

Twelve of them had made it to the end of the ten years, to face the Trials - a gruelling week of field exercises that served as their graduation exercise. Tested on everything from command potential to combat first aid, often facing an OPFOR that included active duty Dragoons, half of them had fallen at this final hurdle. The decade that followed had claimed the other pair of graduates.

Emilia could still remember the feelings of sheer relief, stunned disbelief and numbness that she felt at the conclusion of the Trials as it sunk in that she had actually passed where so many others had not. That night the six of them had stumbled upon the DropShip’s Nest on the edge of Harlech’s CBD, gotten gloriously drunk, and it became a tradition that whenever they were all on-planet at the same time, a visit to this bar was mandatory.

There hadn’t been many of these reunions in the intervening decade since Sibko Ten-Sigma had graduated.

Sienna, a phenomenal pilot, had served first with Beta Regiment’s Aero Wing, then with Alpha’s, where she was now a Aero Lance Commander. In another brigade, she’d probably have had her own squadron by now, but the prestige of being in Alpha was almost equal to that.

Saul was also a Lance Commander, of a Bandit hovertank lance in the 2nd Armoured Regiment attached to Beta Brigade, having worked his way up steadily from driver to gunner to vehicle commander to Lance Sergeant to Lieutenant.

Mason had been the ristar of the sibko - that term, unique to the Dragoons, denoted one who was expected to rise fast and far. He had excelled in leadership and military skills throughout his training, acknowledged by all as the Sibko’s unofficial leader, and scored well enough in the Trials to join Gamma Brigade as a Mechanised Infantry Squad Leader, two levels up from normal.

Twice promoted on the battlefield, he’d racked up an impressive resume, including such heroics as taking down two heavy ‘Mechs in the same battle with his platoon of foot-sloggers, and rescuing a wounded comrade under fire. He’d made Captain and company commander before being transferred to Training Command just after the recent war, but not as an instructor. Instead he was part of some hush-hush doctrine and policy task force (he’d already used the cliched “if I tell you I have to kill you,” line on Pearce before Emilia showed up).

And then there was Emilia herself. Assigned to the still-rebuilding Epsilon Brigade, she had resigned herself to a long wait to see action, but fate had had other plans for her. Firstly when her company had been attached to Beta for seasoning, where she’d impressed two Dragoons legends - her lance commander, Tom West, and the company commander, Dechan Fraser - enough so that she was bumped from Corporal to Lance Commander when Fraser had been reassigned to the infamous Black Widow Battalion.

And now she was a Major, commander of Able Battalion of Epsilon Regiment, and decorated veteran of the Six Months War.

“We’ve been damned lucky,” she spoke into the silence.

Three bobbing heads answered her - they all knew what she meant. That with the amount of action they’d seen over the past decade, it was nothing short of a miracle that there were not more empty places at their table. They’d all buried many comrades.

A server appeared with their drinks. Mason used his long arms to distribute them, and then lifted his mug of ale.

“To Ten-Sigma,” he intoned. A clash of mugs as the others replied “Ten-Sigma!” in unison before quaffing.

“And to Major Emilia Tzu!” Sienna called for the next toast.

When they downed their mugs again, Saul used his empty mug as a pointer to get Emilia’s attention.

“So, Em - while you’re back on-planet, are ya gonna enter the Trials?”

“No, I’m not,” she said firmly.

“What? Why not?” cried Sienna. “With your record, Family members’ll be climbing over each other to be your sponsor!”

“You gotta enter, Em! I know you can handle the Trials,” Mason threw in. He’d passed his own Honourname Trials two years previously and was now a member of House Kincaid.

“Guys, guys, whoa!” Em waved her sibmates to silence. “I can’t. I have a battalion to run and rebuild. We’re still twenty percent understrength. I have two fresh company commanders, five rookie lance commanders and eleven green MechWarriors fresh from the sibkos…”

She trailed off at the looks on the faces of her sibmates. Realisation hit her, and she dropped her face into her cupped hands.

“Blake’s blood! You ****** didn’t!”

Pearce’s annoying cackle of a laugh was the only answer she got.

Emilia snapped back upright and flicked a spare coaster at Saul’s head. “This isn’t funny, guys!”

Mason leaned in. “Emm, face it, you’re an ideal candidate for an Honorname. Your record is outstanding…”

“Others have better,” she countered.

“Not many, and not in our ageframe,” riposted Sienna. “And, we found the perfect house for you.”

Emilia started to say something, but nothing came. After a few seconds, she decided that she was doing a great impression of a marsh frog, and pulled herself together.

“Alright, alright. I request hegira. Lay it on me.” She took a big drink as Mason picked up the thread.

“The Council has added West to the list of Honornames. You’ve spent your entire career in his unit. You knew him, and we think you’d be perfect to carry his legacy on. Hell, you already are in some ways since you took over his battalion. So we’ve submitted an application to the Trials on your behalf,” he grinned.

“Which has been accepted,” Sienna continued, drawing out a folded sheet of paper from her purse and passing it over.

Feeling like she had stepped into an alternate dimension, Emilia took the paper from Sienna and unfolded it.

Under the Dragoon Council logo at the top of the page, a few typed lines confirmed her entry into the initial Trials for the Honorname West, in the 30-40 ageframe. The trials would begin in a week, and she had been temporarily detached from normal duties to participate - as had her nominated support team…

Her eyes flicked up from the paper to take in her sibmates.

“You didn’t think we’d let you do this all by yourself, did you?” snarked Saul.

Now…

“Thirty seconds - candidates to the Circle,”

Emilia crossed the perimeter and stopped on the white square that denoted her starting position, casually flexing her hands, keeping her weight on the balls of her feet.

Five meters away, Lieutenant Prakesh Keating stepped up to his own square. He had the build of a runner, and managed to give the impression that he was just straining to be let off the leash. Like Emilia, he was dressed in standard grey Dragoons PT shirt and shorts. Neither wore any footwear. His sparring gloves and helmet were green while Sienna’s were red.

The low level chatter around the arena died away as the clock ticked down. It was considered bad form to cheer, cajole or shout encouragement in the Trials as if it were a mere sporting event.

A shrill whistle sounded, and Keating exploded into motion, head-faking right as he came in against Emilia’s left side, obviously looking to test her strapped left arm.

She pivoted counter-clockwise on her right foot, using the motion to pull her left side out of his range, while throwing her right arm up to block his incoming straight left. She tried to turn the block into a lock, but Keating really did have the reflexes of a startled jackrabbit, and he escaped out of range.

Emilia reset her stance just in time as Keating closed again. Out shot his fist again, but this time he threw a simultaneous kick.

Emilia managed to block the punch with one hand, and almost succeeded in doing the same to the kick, but she was a fraction of a second slow, and Keating’s heel bounced past her hand and slammed into her left thigh.

Knocked off balance, she stumbled and fell on her left side, but rolled on impact. Her peripheral vision showed Keating’s fist slamming into the mat where she’d just been.

She sprang to her feet, adrenaline pumping and taking the edge off the pains in her left arm and thigh.

Keating was coming at her in a half crouch. Emilia sprang forward, surprising him, grabbed his right arm, spun inside his reach, using their combined momentum against him, and twisted, spinning them both into the mat, with Keating under her. She heard a “whumpf!” as the air was driven from his lungs.

She took advantage of their relative positions to crash a punch into Keating’s cheek, which was only partially absorbed by his helmet.

Despite the blows, Keating shifted under her, trying to grapple her with his longer reach. Recognising that she had overstayed her welcome, Emilia sprang to her feet, only to be ankle-tapped by her opponent. She hit the ground at full stretch, grateful for her mouth guard as her chin bounced off the mat.

Catching movement at the corner of her eye, she scrambled forward and then launched a two-footed horizontal backward kick at the shape coming up behind her.

She connected solidly, and there was an audible crack when her feet landed, followed by a much louder “******!”

Emilia scrambled to her feet - and saw Keating down on one knee, clutching his left forearm. His left hand hung limply, and at a strange angle, she realised, while his face was pale with shock.

She hesitated for a moment - she would have been within her rights, by the rules of the Trials, to move in and inflict further punishment, but she was hoping - and yes! Keating braced his left arm across his knee, and used his right hand to slap the mat three times.

Emilia had won.

Her focus expanded outward, and she was suddenly aware of Saul, Sienna and Mason wrapping her in a collective bearhug even as Keating’s support crew raced in with medical kits.
« Last Edit: 23 January 2019, 00:17:48 by alkemita »

alkemita

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  • You have the emPHAsis on the wrong syLLAble
Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #63 on: 25 December 2018, 17:03:58 »
Forging the Pack - The Untold Story of Wolf’s Dragoons in the Reckoning
By Drs H. R. Cowan & T. S. Choi
Pub. New Avalon Press, 3068

As in most things they did, the Dragoons adapted their Iron Womb and Sibko programs to better serve their unique mission.

They had brought artificial womb technology with them from the Clan Homeworlds, and there were many among the original Dragoons who had either been in sibkos or who had carried out support functions for the Clan eugenics program.

However, they put off starting their own Sibko program until 3009 as they figured out how to run one without raising suspicions in the Inner Sphere.

Their solution blended what they considered to be the best practices of both the Clans and the Inner Sphere.

It did not take the scientists who formed part of the Dragoons to realise that they now had a a gene pool to draw on several orders of magnitude larger than they had ever worked with before.

From the beginning, they collected genetic samples from as many Spheroids as they could, most often under the guise of “routine medical tests.” Beyond gathering raw material for a future breeding program, in the early days, at least, the Dragoons were also following standing Clan-wide orders concerning the traitorous Clan Wolverine - the so-called “Not Named Clan”.

Although destroyed at the start of the Clan’s Golden Century, the extreme terms of the Trial of Annihilation that had sanctioned the genocide of Clan Wolverine had never been revoked, and so all Clans were duty bound to seek out any survivors of Clan Wolverine that might have been missed in the original Trial, or their descendents, and exterminate them. Genetic testing was the primary means by which Clanners carried out this investigation.

We do not know when exactly the Dragoon Council authorised the establishment of their eugenics program, but the first batch of babies were born in 3009.

Even at this early stage, the Dragoon eugenics and sibko program would deviate markedly from Clan norms.

For starters, where the Clans sourced their genetic material from two individuals (usually two warriors), the Dragoons began by splicing together material obtained from multiple Spheroids into a single sperm or ovum, thus creating a genetic Chimera. Since the Clans were far more advanced in their understanding of the human genome, they could isolate DNA sequences that they knew were far more likely to produce outstanding warriors.

The Chimeras were then combined with a sperm or ovum from several dozen Dragoons or their immediate family.

The net effect was that each sibko would have half their genetic material coming from a Chimera and the other half from a Dragoon.

Incidentally, because the Dragoons did not use the complete DNA sequence of any one individual in the Inner Sphere, this led the courts in the Federated Commonwealth to rule that persons created by the Dragoons’ Iron Womb program were not members of the families that had contributed to their genetic makeup, and were therefore not eligible for any inheritances or rights belonging to said families.

Each batch of embryos produced sibkos of fifty children. Unconfirmed information suggests that the use of Chimeras increased the miscarriage rate, and that up to seventy-two embryos were required to ensure fifty viable babies. Some of the first Dragoons sibkos may have been smaller due to this issue - the data is unclear. There have also been reports that as time went on, the miscarriage rate dropped. Any “extra” babies produced beyond the fifty required were adopted out.

Where the Clans raised their sibkos communally from birth, the Dragoons strove, initially, to give their trueborn children a more normal upbringing. The children were taken into the homes of the Dragoons who had contributed half their genetic material and brought up much as any other child would be in the Inner Sphere for the first ten years of their lives.

At age eleven, the children were placed into modified sibkos. Initially more akin to a boarding school set-up, they lived in barracks during the week and went home on weekends and semester breaks. They received a dual-track education, taking normal school classes around their military training.

By the time the sibkin turned thirteen, they lived in barracks all week, only seeing their families during the holidays. Research suggests that other social engineering was applied to make the sibko the primary social support for the cadets. Indeed, former Dragoons have mentioned cutting contact with their original families by their mid-teens.

Although the training was rigorous and the discipline appropriately martial, there is little evidence of the casual brutality endured by the cadets’ counterparts in traditional clan sibkos. In this, the Dragoons appeared to have erred on the side of making sure that any cadet with the potential to pass training was afforded the opportunity to do so. This is supported by the fact that, in general, more Dragoons cadets made it to their final Trials of Position than their clan peers. It is estimated that Dragoons sibkos graduated an average of four to seven cadets, versus one to five for the Clans.

That is not to say that the cadets were treated with kid gloves. Injuries were common, and any cadet that proved manifestly unsuitable for military service was promptly removed. The fate of those who failed tended to depend on when they washed out of the program.

Within the first two years, former cadets usually returned to their families and continued with civilian educations. Beyond that timeframe, fewer teens returned to their families. Many ended up in group housing run by the Dragoons Council and entered some form of trade school.

This group often found it hard to adjust to civilian life. Indeed, a significant minority developed severe depression, some level of substance abuse was common, and the attempted suicide rate was high enough above the statistical average to cause enquiries from FedCom health authorities. Getting additional psychological support for these wash outs was complicated by the need to find counsellors who could be security cleared to work with the Dragoons.

In an apparent attempt to keep some link to their previous lives, many of the wash-outs joined the Dragoons Home Guard, serving two weekends a month, plus exercises. This proved to be a boon to the Dragoons as their reserves swelled, and allowed Dragoon high command to use them as additional OPFOR in the Series. It was also not unknown for Home Guard members who performed well to be offered the chance to compete for a front-line slot, so former sibkin still had hope of making their dreams come true.

The Dragoons ensured that their sibkos contained roughly even numbers of cadets from all the major combat arms as part of their drive for a “Wolf Pack” mentality, but it was not the only tool they borrowed from their Clan progenitors.

Shortly after the sibko program was established, the Dragoons Council authorised the creation of Honourname Families - an analog to the Bloodnames so prized by the Clans.

The intent was to create a vehicle to encourage excellence and to uphold particular traits that the Dragoons wished to enshrine.

Unlike Bloodnames, the holders of an Honorname were not necessarily genetically related to the founder of the name. Rather, candidates for an Honorname were generally nominated because they exhibited the traits that the founder was known for. For instance, holders of the Kincaid Honorname are expected to shown the same kind of determination in the face of long odds that founder Captain Ralph Kincaid did.

Each Honorname Family was allowed one member for each ageframe, which was defined as a ten-year bracket of time (so there was one place for a member aged between 20-30, another for 30-40 year olds, and so on), although this could vary a bit as members aged. Thus, the numbers of Honourname holders in a particular family would vary a bit, but generally not exceed four to six.  Anytime a vacancy was created in an ageframe due to aging or death, an Honourname Trial was convened, overseen by the Honorname Family (trials for new Honournames were overseen by volunteers from previously established Families).

Where Clan Bloodname Trials emphasised raw combat ability above all else, Dragoon Honourname Trials were far more comprehensive, requiring the candidate to demonstrate all-round ability in military skills, leadership and fortitude under pressure, in addition to combat excellence. It was in fact possible to win an Honourname without actually coming first in any one Trial area as long as the candidate’s all-round performance was strong.

There was also some variation in the Trials depending on the exact Family. Sharpshooting, for instance was added to the Trials for the West Honourname, given that the Founder was known for his superlative gunnery.

Although there was apparently no hard prohibition on creating a Honourname Family with a living Founder, this was never done. The only attempt to do so came in the mid 3030s, when a motion was brought before the Dragoons Council to add “Wolf” to the list of Honournames. The proposal was vetoed by General Jaime Wolf.

Once inducted into an Honourname Family, the successful candidate would add the Honourname to their own name. For example, Emilia Tzu, the final CO of Epsilon Brigade, became Emilia Tzu-West when she won her Honourname Trial in 3040.

The net effect of the Honourname system was to give Dragoons another goal to aim for, thus encouraging continuous excellence and improvement. With the odds so sorely stacked against them, the Dragoons would need every edge they could buy, beg or steal when the Reckoning finally arrived.

Tegyrius

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #64 on: 25 December 2018, 22:52:56 »
I don't have any intelligent commentary but I don't want this to go unacknowledged.  It's damned good and I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.  Also digging on the mixed use of historical documents and conventional narration - it's an effective storytelling method here.
Some places remain unknown because no one has gone there.  Others remain unknown because no one has come back.

ThePW

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #65 on: 26 December 2018, 00:46:22 »
Station Keeping!

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #66 on: 26 December 2018, 00:50:55 »
I don't have any intelligent commentary but I don't want this to go unacknowledged.  It's damned good and I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.  Also digging on the mixed use of historical documents and conventional narration - it's an effective storytelling method here.

Thank you for the kind words.

And for the record, your comment that the mix of narrative and historical docs is intelligent commentary as far as I'm concerned

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #67 on: 26 December 2018, 00:52:47 »
Station Keeping!

Sorry, I didn't get the reference. Can you elaborate please?

Daryk

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #68 on: 26 December 2018, 08:04:38 »
I think they mean they're tagging the thread.  I'm not a clan fan in any way, but this is interesting.  Please keep up the good work!

Sir Chaos

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #69 on: 26 December 2018, 10:23:06 »
I don't have any intelligent commentary but I don't want this to go unacknowledged.  It's damned good and I am looking forward to seeing where this goes.  Also digging on the mixed use of historical documents and conventional narration - it's an effective storytelling method here.

Instead of trying come up with something intelligent myself (too full of Christmas feast food to think well), I´ll simply second the above commentary.
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ThePW

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #70 on: 26 December 2018, 11:50:47 »
+3! I had forgotten this was the fanfic with Cranston getting offed in angerous methods (the initial hook for me) :D

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #71 on: 26 December 2018, 16:46:42 »
I think they mean they're tagging the thread.  I'm not a clan fan in any way, but this is interesting.  Please keep up the good work!

Ah, gotcha.

Glad you find this interesting.

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #72 on: 26 December 2018, 16:47:47 »
Instead of trying come up with something intelligent myself (too full of Christmas feast food to think well), I´ll simply second the above commentary.

Much appreciated - and I'll take any commentary, intelligent or otherwise :-)

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #73 on: 26 December 2018, 16:48:57 »
+3! I had forgotten this was the fanfic with Cranston getting offed in angerous methods (the initial hook for me) :D

I have to admit I didn't realise how big a deal Snord is to some sections of the BT community when I decided to off him - he just happened to be the right person for the scene...

mikecj

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #74 on: 28 December 2018, 08:55:28 »
I'm enjoying this, thanks for sharing!
There are no fish in my pond.
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Shadow_Wraith

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #75 on: 29 December 2018, 11:18:27 »
Nice to see this updated!   

cawest

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #76 on: 29 December 2018, 17:11:32 »
great work.  nice to see the update.  so did the WD go for the full elemental suits?  if they can come up with a good PA(L) that might be a good thing to sell on the open market.  it also would lower the risk in losing grunts of the WD. 

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #77 on: 29 December 2018, 22:06:55 »
great work.  nice to see the update.  so did the WD go for the full elemental suits?  if they can come up with a good PA(L) that might be a good thing to sell on the open market.  it also would lower the risk in losing grunts of the WD.

Thank you, CAwest.

The answer to your question is coming up later in the story. It might be useful to remember that the Dragoons (and the FC) are in a situation where "perfect is the enemy of good enough".

Opportunity costs factor into every decision they are making in bootstrapping the militaries of the FC and the AMC. Beyond simply making the appropriate upgrades, consider the industrial infrastructure costs of making the upgrades, and then throw in the need to maintain security.

I alluded to the difficulties of providing mental health support to Dragoons sibko washouts in the latest updates. That's almost the least of the difficulties they have to negotiate.


cawest

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #78 on: 29 December 2018, 22:18:11 »
its your story and your AU.  i just liked reading it.   

But the Class 1 fighting circuit on Solaris VII was all Exoskeleton an it had been going on for a few centuries.

i understand about having to little butter for to much bread. it was your stepping stone to get used to the idea of Omnis that got me to remember it.   

cklammer

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #79 on: 30 December 2018, 03:58:45 »
Good to see this return - very nice.  :thumbsup:

consequences

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #80 on: 30 December 2018, 15:10:36 »
"Why not go for a clean sweep on members of all five royal families wanting us dead" -Jaime Wolf apparently.

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #81 on: 30 December 2018, 22:52:37 »
its your story and your AU.  i just liked reading it.   

But the Class 1 fighting circuit on Solaris VII was all Exoskeleton an it had been going on for a few centuries.

i understand about having to little butter for to much bread. it was your stepping stone to get used to the idea of Omnis that got me to remember it.   

Hmmm... I may have hit the LECTURE MODE button a little too hard in my original reply to you  :-[. My apologies - I didn't mean to ram the bleeding obvious down your throat.

Battle Armour is going to appear in this story - there's even one Dragoon Brigade that could be argued to be the natural operator for it right now.

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #82 on: 30 December 2018, 22:54:41 »
"Why not go for a clean sweep on members of all five royal families wanting us dead" -Jaime Wolf apparently.

LOL - desperation, and possibly a touch of Clan Hubris "whaddya mean Spheroids might object to having their DNA sampled without their permission - they're just Spheroids! Geez - it's not like they're Trueborns, ya know"

cawest

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #83 on: 30 December 2018, 23:19:16 »
Hmmm... I may have hit the LECTURE MODE button a little too hard in my original reply to you  :-[. My apologies - I didn't mean to ram the bleeding obvious down your throat.

Battle Armour is going to appear in this story - there's even one Dragoon Brigade that could be argued to be the natural operator for it right now.

no worries... I just did not want to run you off.  in an AU the author holds the controls.  the outside world my make suggestions, but the author is the pilot. some people out here do not understand that.   

consequences

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #84 on: 31 December 2018, 07:50:43 »
LOL - desperation, and possibly a touch of Clan Hubris "whaddya mean Spheroids might object to having their DNA sampled without their permission - they're just Spheroids! Geez - it's not like they're Trueborns, ya know"

More the state treason and impending death of billions, you already basically glossed over the potential line theft and future civil war hair with the legal ruling on chimeras.

And make no mistake, the only ways Jaime Wolf doesn't die at the end of this is if he dies before hand as the Dragoons get used as shock troops in every battle, or the Fed Com is so thoroughly destroyed they can't afford assassins to hound him until the end of his days in the Periphery. Pretty much any other rulers of the components of the Fed Com would have promptly put 3039 on hold, and have every member of the AMC either demonstrate their lack of complicity by combat dropping in Outreach to put every Dragoon to the sword or be purged along with them.

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #85 on: 31 December 2018, 11:38:17 »
More the state treason and impending death of billions, you already basically glossed over the potential line theft and future civil war hair with the legal ruling on chimeras.

And make no mistake, the only ways Jaime Wolf doesn't die at the end of this is if he dies before hand as the Dragoons get used as shock troops in every battle, or the Fed Com is so thoroughly destroyed they can't afford assassins to hound him until the end of his days in the Periphery. Pretty much any other rulers of the components of the Fed Com would have promptly put 3039 on hold, and have every member of the AMC either demonstrate their lack of complicity by combat dropping in Outreach to put every Dragoon to the sword or be purged along with them.

A writing mentor of mine told me that my goal should be to writing something that generates a response in the reader. I seem to have done that here.

Destroying the Dragoons outright at this point is looking a gift horse in the mouth. They are bootstrapping the FC beyond what they could have expected. It would be much harder for the FC to get the information the Dragoons are freely providing from corpses and wreckage.

Does that mean the FC is happy with the genetic thefts? No, but they're willing to let it slide for now because of the larger issues. It's geopolitics and statecraft, which have always involved making deals with the metaphorical devil.

And demanding the AMC undergo a loyalty test is what the Clans would do, not the IS. In any case, they haven't received anything from the Dragoons except training - and the opportunity to see -WD and -I+ series BattleMechs. Even the DCMS received training from the Dragoons, and Dragoons instructors taught at AFFS academies. This AMC =/= canon AMC.

We are in Act II of a three-act play. I'm gratified that you are picking up on some of the issues, because this is the point in the story that they should be bubbling up.

And you are correct that there will be a price to be paid. Why do you think this story is titled "A Reckoning"?

drakensis

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #86 on: 04 January 2019, 17:18:56 »
I'd lost track of this at some point, good to see it's still going.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

alkemita

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #87 on: 05 January 2019, 12:31:02 »
I'd lost track of this at some point, good to see it's still going.

Glad to have you on board for the ride, Drak - do you have any feedback (writing, plot or otherwise) for me?

drakensis

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #88 on: 06 January 2019, 03:54:34 »
You're hitting the tell rather than show a bit.

Natasha's confrontation with Cyrilla, for example. We see Dechan being interrogated, then flashback to much more civil debriefing with Cyrilla reuniting with Natasha (who isn't really explaining much, where it's a good spot for exposition). And then it's not to the next update that we find out that the chemical interrogation was done behind Natasha's face and that she didn't take it well. And we don't see that, we have to pick it up from her needing medical treatment before meeting Ulric.

Given the Wolves are discussing sweeping the matter under the table, at this stage at least making them antagonists to Jaime Wolf's master plan, this set up undermines the emotional impact of that.

My recommendation would be to keep the interrogation scene, follow it up with Natasha talking to Cyrilla and drop a few comments from Natasha that could be taken to mean she knows and endorses what's being done to Dechan (highlighting alien cultural mores of the Clan). And then have Natasha find out, confirming she didn't know, which shows how she has drifted from Clan ways. Have her demand a trial of grievance, Cyrilla declining and then getting punched by Natasha going '****** you, fite me, bitch!' At that point, the next section can cut to aftermath, possibly mentioning Natasha is now confined.

This follows the model of set-up (Wolves interrogating the Dragoons), focus (Natasha is divided from the Spheroid Dragoons both physically and culturally), twist (in fact Natasha is culturally separated from the people she's come home to). That's not the only model to write with of course but that's what fits with what I think you were trying for with those scenes.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

ThePW

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Re: A Reckoning
« Reply #89 on: 06 January 2019, 14:02:29 »
IDK, Bob. It'll take longer for him to redraft all that... and we're already impatient as is :D

But Drakesis's recommendations do seem correct: that last segment update seemed off...