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Author Topic: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)  (Read 4805 times)

Daryk

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #60 on: 23 April 2020, 18:15:53 »
Yup.  she is.  It's too late for her.
Been reading too much Ngo stuff lately...  8)

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #61 on: 24 April 2020, 01:48:00 »
Those new attack vectors sound really interesting, did you intentionally place the Nova Cats in the backyard of the Fed Suns area of the Fed Com drakensis, as a nod at Dragon Cat?  8)
You've lost me. I know of Dragon Cat, but the rest of this escapes me.
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Sharpnel

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #62 on: 24 April 2020, 03:38:22 »
In Dragon Cat'sw long running AU the Nova Cats are operating on FedSun side of the Sphere having set up roots near the Tortuga Dominions and areas along the rimward edge of the FedSuns closest to that area.
Consigliere Trygg Bender, KGC-01BL King Crab, The Blazer Mafia
Takehiro 'Taco' Uchimiya, VND-1R Vindicator 'Taco', Crimson Oasis Trading Company
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Sergeant Franz Staudegger, T-12A1 Tiger, 42nd Avalon Hussars
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drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #63 on: 25 April 2020, 05:51:03 »
Okay, but where did I bring in the Nova Cats?

They're not even invading in this timeline.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #64 on: 04 May 2020, 10:17:16 »
Chapter Two

Gette City, Lost
Star Adder Dominion
15 March 3050


"Two days." Star Colonel Eleni Riaz didn't look up at first as Oskar stood at attention before her, a weak power play in his opinion. "We have been assigned as the planet's garrison for two days and you are already fighting the local populace."

Fighting was perhaps too strong a word, Oskar thought. No one had been seriously hurt and the bar patrons had mostly suffered the consequences of not knowing how to roll with a punch or kick. None of his group had needed more than a couple of minutes with a first aid kit.

"Do you think that I will reassign you to the frontlines, if you become enough of a problem, quineg?"

"Neg, Star Colonel."

"Did you miss my orders not to inflame the situation, quiaff?"

"Neg, Star Colonel."

Eleni slammed the datapad she was holding down on the table. "Then account for yourself, Point Commander!"

"Myself and two of my warriors went out for a drink. Meeting local civilians on a social basis is encouraged in the guidelines issued for garrisons."

"I am aware," the Star Colonel confirmed with forced calm.

"There was, as I later determined, some form of misunderstanding as to our identity. It appears that our uniforms resemble the customary garb of a criminal group. Warrior Ernest attempted to defuse the situation, and appears to have inadvertently provoked anger. The bondswoman I have taken assaulted him and we defended ourselves."

Eleni Riaz rubbed her temples. "The security footage from the bar confirms this, fortunately. Something that has averted an immediate conflict with local law enforcement. Nonetheless, your experience raises two concerns."

Oskar frowned. "I still do not understand the provocation Ernest caused," he confessed. "How many similar misunderstandings will we cause?"

"That is one. For the record, Spheroid populations appear to place more social weight on sexual propositions than we do. Similar incidents are on record between Cloud Cobra and Tanite populations before the Absorption War. By the time Clan Star Adder took over the Tanite worlds, the differences were at least understood and we appear to have overlooked the extent of this."

"I see."

"Secondly, these people's major contact with groups outside the Lyran Commonwealth are periphery bandits." The Star Colonel paused. "Bandits who among other things carry out slave raids on populated worlds. Do you -"

Oskar slapped his face. "They will think that by taking her as a bondswoman that I am behaving as a bandit!"

"...worse." She glared at him. "They will assume that of all of us. Removing the warriors we have captured is one thing. Picking out civilians is another."

"I offer surkai." He bowed his head. "How may I make this right?"

"We need to reframe this." The Star Colonel pushed her chair back. "I am due to make a transmission today, introducing us formally to those we rule. Since we cannot change what has happened, we can only affect what they learn of it. That means that you and your bondswoman have been promoted to a leading role. I hope for your sake that she is still presentable."

Oskar coughed. "More presentable than two of my warriors. She went for their faces."

"At least yours is unmarked. Bring her in."

Obediently, Oskar exited the office. Bondswoman Helen was still on one of the waiting room couches. Having sat on one of them earlier, Oskar was sure that many of the more aggressive Clans would deem them almost criminally comfortable. Of course, most of their warriors wouldn't live long enough to learn that there was no particular virtue in being uncomfortable when you did not have to be.

"Are you asleep, Helen?"

"Very nearly," she answered in a surly tone. "For some reason I didn't get much sleep."

Oskar reached down and tapped her on the underside of her chin with one finger. "Do not contract your words, it is disrespectful."

"Why should I respect you?"

"It is always wise to respect an adversary," he counselled her. She was older than he had thought at first, perhaps due to an easy life or perhaps good genes. The combinations that led to that were not particularly prized in the breeding programme for most of the Star Adder's history, a preference for warriors that burned bright and fast having crept in. It would take generations to repair that miscalculation... and perhaps fresh blood would help. "I have no illusions that you like me, bondswoman. But you have much to gain if you can overcome the challenges I set you. I and the Star Colonel, that is. Come with me."

Giving her credit, the young woman came easily to her feet and followed him into the office with no further backchat - she even came to something approaching attention as the Star Colonel looked her over. Interesting.

Eleni had her datapad in her hand. "You are Helen... Candidy, quiaff?" she began, visibly forcing herself to use the second name.

Helen frowned. "Yes."

"A grocer, quiaff?"

"Yes."

"For reference," Oskar advised in a low voice, "Aff is the customary response."

Eleni waved her hand. "She can learn to speak like a Clanswoman later, Oskar. Or so I hope. Where did you have military training, Helencandidy?" Merging the two names seemed easier for her.

The Lost native hesitated, then: "I served in the militia for a few years."

"Excellent." Eleni leant forwards. "Has the position of bondswoman been explained to you?"

"In some terms," she admitted cautiously. "How accurate my understanding is, I don't... do not know."

"Hmm." The Star Colonel examined her. "For those who face defeat at the hands of our Clan, there are three fates. Firstly, one may die. Unfortunate and sometimes wasteful, but battle is a strenuous test and for those who fail, the consequences are generally dire."

"Yeah. I guess a lot of my militia buddies got that."

"A warrior's death for warriors. Their defense will be honoured."

"Oh I'm sure that'll make everything alright."

Oskar frowned and stepped forwards to take Helen by her shoulder. "None of us are claiming that. They faced the same chances all of us take on the battlefield."

"A battlefield that happened to be a city? Do you know how many civilians died when you dropped 'Mechs on the city. I saw people trampled trying to get away."

Eleni Riaz turned her datapad around. It showed Helen Candidy on a street in the city, tending to a fallen woman. "A situation not unique to our arrival on this planet, I gather. This was in your police file."

Helen gulped, face paling.

"As I understand your laws, you could face time in prison for assaulting my personnel," Riaz informed her, almost cheerfully. "However, I am inclined to write that off as a mere cultural misunderstanding. Fortunately, no one on either side of that little fracas was too badly injured. Our medical staff assure me that everyone will make a quick and complete recovery."

The woman's shoulders slumped. "But? Don't tell me that there isn't a catch. Is not a catch." She paused. "Quiaff?"

"Aff," Eleni said cheerfully. "There are two other fates for those we defeat. Firstly, we conclude they are unworthy and release them. For a warrior, this would be considered shameful. Our culture encourages us to be useful, to contribute. To be told that you are unfit or unwanted is a disgrace. Some even end their own lives."

Although bondsref was more often used to avoid becoming a bondsman of an enemy one deemed unworthy, Oskar thought. He could recall some examples of that as well.

"And finally there are those we take as bondsmen, or in your case, bondswoman. Those we believe have potential to rise from their defeat and become stronger. Who may one day stand alongside us as equals." Eleni rose from her desk and walked around it to face the bondswoman. "In our lights, Oskar is complimenting you by taking you as a bondswoman."

"That isn't exactly how I see it."

"That is a shame." The Clanswoman shrugged. "As his commander, I can override his decision if I see fit. I would be disagreeing with his evaluation of you and, at best, declaring that you are too much trouble to educate. It would be... contemptuous."

"I could live with your contempt."

"Do you really wish us to treat your people with contempt?" asked Riaz, sounding sincerely curious. "Your world has been conquered, yes. But I have no wish to oppress you. Just looking out of this window I can see a world that has fallen far from the prosperity it once knew under the Star League. We have returned to rebuild that and, fortunately or unfortunately, that means removing the rule of the Successor Lords."

Helen snorted. "Yeah, good luck. This is just one world, a long way from the centre of power. It might take the FedCom a while to get forces out here, but they'll be coming at you with a lot more than some second-rate mercenaries."

Oskar cleared his throat and gave Eleni a meaningful look, to which the Star Colonel nodded. "Lost is one world, aff," he confirmed calmly. "But it is not the only world that we have taken possession of, Helen. In the last week, dozens of worlds have fallen to the Clans and we are only beginning our campaign. The forces of the Federated Commonwealth will not have to come to us, we are going to go to them."

She shook her head. "And you think you can win?"

"As ever, battle will decide that." Riaz stepped back in. "Nonetheless, the fact is that Lost is now part of the Star Adder Dominion. It is certainly within our power to rule over you, to treat the people of this world as a conquered people... but that would be wasteful. I, and the other members of our ruling body, would prefer to rule with yours. To establish councils in the manner of our Clan, men and women elected by your people to govern them and to represent them to Clan Star Adder, not as outsiders but as new members of our Clan. To learn from our ways, which I admit we largely consider superior, but also to bring new perspectives and ideas... because we know that we can still become better."

"We fought," Oskar offered, "Because we did not understand each other. I would rather that such fights not repeat. If nothing else, it makes it hard to get a drink."

That brought the beginnings of a smile to Helen's face. "Oh, a practical concern."

Oskar shrugged. "Big things are made of small things."

"So what do you want of me? To accept becoming his bondswoman? And what does that even involve?"

Eleni leant against the window frame. "We must build bridges between our peoples. I believe that Oskar is right, that you could be one of those bridges. However, that will only work if you are willing. So if you wish, I will dismiss the bond. You will released, taken home and we will say nothing more of the matter."

She paused and when Helen opened her mouth, she raised her hand. "Or, you may join myself and Oskar as I introduce our Clan and some of our ways to the people of Lost. I understand that your current employment is of low status, but if you complete your bond, you can potentially earn a high place among us."

"As a price for selling them out."

"Betraying your people will earn you nothing but our contempt. Show us instead their - and your - virtues. That we will respect."

The local woman stared at her and then shook her head. "I have no idea why you think I would -"

Oskar interrupted her before she could say anything that might be offensive. "Helen, ask yourself this: how many times have you looked at this world, today or last week, and bemoaned the way that it is?"

She said nothing, but her face answered the question.

"We are offering you the chance - just the chance - to have a hand in shaping your world and many more besides. It would take extraordinary success for you to have the same influence as Star Colonel Riaz, who is part of the Clan Council, but you could at least equal my own status, and very possibly exceed that."

Helen's gaze flicked to Riaz who nodded. "It is very rare, but not unheard of, to award a new bloodhouse. However, besides his rank, Oskar has attracted the patronage of Bloodhouse Moreau -"

Oskar stiffened. Had he now? That was news!

"And we are a meritocracy at heart. If you have the skill and will, you can attain rank and attract such interest, which comes with the opportunity to advise the Clan Council. Even if all you do is qualify as a Warrior, you will have a vote and a say in the Warrior Councils, you might even be elected to them. We can teach you the skill, the question is: do you have the will?"

There was a long pause. "And I would do... what?"

"You would be sent to one of our worlds for training. Given your prior experience, it would take months, perhaps a year. Then you would need to pass a test of position, as all of our warriors do."

"And I'd have to be a warrior?"

"Warriors risk their lives for their Clan," Oskar told her. "For that reason, we are accorded the highest status among the Clans. If your training and bent is for another Caste, you would be trained for that, but I believe you have the heart of a warrior."

She nodded. "And I don't have to... sleep with you?"

"What?" He frowned. "What would that have to do with anything? Besides, I will be here on Lost. It would be difficult to share sleeping quarters when we are light years apart."

Helen stared at him and then sighed. "I mean sex."

"That sounds like a terrible basis for decision making," he said frankly.

For some reason she found that intensely amusing and had to lean against the window frame, mirroring the Star Colonel.

"Is that agreement?" asked Riaz when the spheroid woman had stopped laughing to wipe her face.

"I think I’ll regret this," she said, "But I guess you're making me an offer I really can't - cannot refuse."

S A S

Maroo, Gillfillan's Gold
Rim Collection
7 April 3050

If this was a trap, then Roderick rated his chances of escaping as perhaps ten percent, if that. The Rim Collection had very few professional soldiers, outside of Major Able's battalion, but the security around this mansion was considerable and with six worlds contributing, even a relatively small military could bring a lot of people to bear.

The guard dogs were perhaps excessive. Roderick was not among those of the warrior caste who kept a pet. He wouldn't feel bad if he had to kill a dog to escape, but he wasn't particularly sure what the right approach would be.

There were two guards flanking the door ahead of him. They came to attention, wearing some kind of formal uniform not combat gear, as Roderick approached. Their weapons looked entirely functional though. Needlers, he noted. His uniform pants and jacket would resist but not necessarily stop shots from them. If they hit his head... well, it would be quick at least.

Jerry Able, commander of Able's Aces - the mercenaries who were also effectively the 'Mech element of the Rim Collections Militia - quickened his pace and extended his identity card. To Roderick's approval, the guards didn't take Able's identity for granted. One stepped forwards and checked the card, making sure not to block his comrade's line of fire while he did so.

Apparently satisfied, the guard returned to the door and knocked on it with his knuckles. "Major Able and guest," he reported when the door opened a crack.

The door swung open and a suited man - not someone Roderick had seen in his briefings - looked them over and then stepped aside before ushering them in.

It was a comfortable room, well-furnished but with care taken to also keep it functional. The man at the door exited behind them. An aide or secretary perhaps? Roderick might need to find out, but for now it was the other two men waiting inside that mattered.

"So... Khan Irons, is that the right title?"

Roderick drew himself up. "It is, President Moroney. And this would be Planetary Councilman Roberts?" He refrained from adding quiaff as they wouldn't know what he meant.

James Moroney didn't act like a scientist. He was a professional educator, which had informed Roderick's expectations. He'd watched the man's speeches well before the invasion was confirmed, but he realised he'd assumed that the dynamism was only seen in those.

"Shall we begin with whatever ultimatum you are here to deliver?" the president proposed calmly, not rising from behind his desk. There were other chairs but none facing the desk. Neither Roberts or Able moved for them.

That certainly wasn't as expected. "I am not here to offer an ultimatum, Mr President."

"Then what brings you here?"

Roderick smiled slightly. He liked the directness. "I am here to correct some misconceptions and put our relations on a more honest basis."

"You mean the fact that your people, this Black Buck Company, have lied to us for decades."

Roderick smiled toothily. "I could ask you now what we have told you that it was false but you refer to lies of omission, q... do you not?" His tongue had slipped.

"We had merchants on Langhorne when Black Buck dropships disgorged an invasion force," Roberts pointed out sharply.

"Were your merchants harmed? I assume since they have reported to you that they were allowed to leave."

Moroney raised his hand before Roberts could reply. "The point being made, Khan, is that we are concerned of the same happening on Caldarium." Or here, he implicitly added. Gillfillan's Gold was more than a hundred light years rimwards of Black Buck's trade network - the planet's own handful of trading ships had played a key role in bringing the small state together over the last decade and the two fleets had worked out a loose agreement only to overlap at Caldarium, the most coreward world in the Rim Collection. Each had their own sphere of influence and they could trade with each other.

Of course, that was when they were perceived as functional equals.

"Not under our current leadership," Roderick replied in a reasonable tone.

"And if your leadership changes?" shot back Roberts immediately.

"I can assure you that our leadership will change eventually, as will yours. None of us live forever, after all. Whether that will lead to a change in policies towards the Rim Collection..." He shrugged. "It is impossible for me to predict with certainty."

Able folded his arms. "Where are you coming from?" he asked. "I mean, in terms of why you are willing to assure us you don't plan to invade us when you're clearly doing that to the Lyrans... although where you actually come from is just as fair a question."

"That is a fair question." And not an unexpected one, Roderick noted. "We are here to end the Succession Wars. That involves removing the Successor States and governing the Inner Sphere, which is rather a large task and likely to keep us busy for quite a long time."

"You're fond of understatement, I see." Moroney's voice was dry as a desert.

"The Successor States are old and ossified, nothing less than force will change their path at this time. Even the Federated Commonwealth is little more than a family connection at their highest levels. We have visited many of their systems over the last few decades and found no real change as a result of that alliance."

"The Inner Sphere has been at peace for around ten years now." Able gave him a challenging look. "That's the longest time that's been the case since, something like the 2860s if I recall correctly."

"Are you familiar with the world of Aubisson?" asked Roderick. "I have never been there personally."

"One of the worlds the Commonwealth took off the Combine twenty years ago."

"Correct, Major. According to ComStar's news broadcasts, which seem broadly accurate at least, the world is currently being fought over by the DCMS and AFFC. Peace, in the Inner Sphere, is a relative term."

Of course, Trials of Possession would take place even in the event that the ilKhan's plans worked. A reborn Star League would hardly be without conflict. But those Trials would be regulated and restrained, compared to the warfare of the Succession Wars.

Probably, a little voice murmured inside the Khan's head. He ignored it.

"And you don't see yourself as trying to change us as well?"

"We will change you, one way or another. We will be a new, large and wealthy neighbour. Even if you sever all ties to the rest of the galaxy to try to avoid us, that will itself be a change." Roderick looked the President in the eye. "The fact that you are facing me as president of a united nation, not one of six disparate worlds, shows that change need not be for the worse."

Roberts harrumphed. "What place do we have in this new order you proclaim then? We still remember the Pollux Proclamation. High ideals, with naked steele beneath."

The Khan turned towards him. "We will face the Lyrans and the other Successor States for years, perhaps even generations. In war and also in what passes for peace. It would be helpful to have a neutral party, a state neighbouring both of us that can act as an intermediary at times when it is... difficult for us to interact directly."

"Most people use ComStar for that."

"I said neutral."

All three of the spheroids... they would probably be offended if he called them that. All three Rim Collection representatives frowned at that. "That's an unusual position to take," Moroney said diplomatically.

"I do not intend to entrust our interstellar communications to an outside group," explained Roderick patiently. "Their representatives do not seem to appreciate it when we take over their HPGs."

"How will you operate them? Much less maintain them?"

"The same way that we do our own, Councilman." He saw that sink in and nodded in confirmation. Yes, we have our own HPGs. We do not need ComStar.

"You are the Khan of Clan Star Adder," observed Moroney, changing the subject. "That implies other Clans. Do you speak for them as well."

"I am a Khan of the Star Adders. One of two," he clarified.

"Something like the Consuls of Rome?" the president asked.

"I would have to know more of their history to be sure of that." Rome had had emperors, had they not? He would have to check that. What was a consul? "And no, I cannot speak on behalf of other Clans."

"Then can we expect them to be so restrained?" asked Roberts. "It's all very well for you to say that you won't invade us, but if another Clan turns up tomorrow..."

"That is unlikely, but not impossible," Roderick admitted. "However, in that case... I will need to give you some background. To answer the Major's earlier question, our homeworlds are located quite some distance away. During roughly the same time period as the First Succession Wars, there were savage wars between factions on our initial colony worlds. The Clans were formed to end them, eventually bringing the other factions down because we settled our conflicts in a regulated fashion, which proved less wasteful and thus we were more efficient."

"I see," Major Able said slowly. "But how does this apply to us?"

"As a neutral political group, positioned between Clan Star Adder and the Federated Commonwealth, naturally we will compete for influence within your nation, each wishing to have your favour. At least, that is my understanding."

Roberts seemed dubious but Moroney nodded cautiously.

"It's much how Hendrik Grimm prospered so long," Able explained to the Councilman. "The Lyrans and Draconians could have easily crushed him, but neither was willing to let the other do so, leaving them buying him off to stop him willingly siding with the others."

"Indeed. We would categorize that as a Trial of Possession. While such trials may be decided by military force, it is equally valid for there to be other terms: in this case, our merchants will be completing with the Lyrans to win you over through trade and diplomacy." It was Virgilia's idea, but Roderick had been won over to it after reading Black Buck’s intelligence reports about the same Hendrik Grimm that Major Able had mentioned. "And it would be terribly bad form for another Clan to interfere when we are engaged in a Trial of Possession. We would be entirely justified in fighting them off for you - even in working together with the Lyrans to do so if it came to that."

"Just like that? But surely there's some limit?"

"Myself and my fellow Khan think that a potential back-channel to the Lyrans, and not having to divert forces from facing them to occupy your worlds, is well worth keeping the Trial going indefinitely. If we die or are removed from power then you'd have to deal with our successors."

"So what you're saying is," the Councilman decided after a moment's thought, "Is that you want us to extort bribes from you to remain neutral. Does that seem backwards to anyone?"

"That's politics for you," Moroney sighed with what sounded like acceptance to Roderick. Of the principle of their bargain, at least. There would be many details to establish.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #65 on: 04 May 2020, 10:17:58 »
Mount Asgard, Tharkad
Donegal March, Lyran Commonwealth
9 April 3050


In hindsight, the lack of information had been a kindness, Melissa now realised. Then there had been the hope that the next news would be good.

While the hallways of Mount Asgard were no tighter and scarcely less well decorated than the royal palace of the Triad, they seemed much gloomier at the best of times, buried under kilometers of granite as they were. And these were not the best of times.

For this high level briefing, she and Hanse faced Nondi Steiner and Morgan Hasek-Davion across the table. Justin Allard-Liao took the speaker's spot, his Ministry having taken point on assembling all the available data. Normally more junior staffers would handle that, but they could speak frankly between themselves without having to worry about giving some poor junior analyst a heart attack if he had to speak to them. Mid-level and lower briefings would also have to be... adjusted to hide sources.

There was no knowing what intelligence assets, if any, the invaders had but there would be definite interest by ComStar in how the Federated Commonwealth was getting information off occupied worlds. The rulers of Terra and operators of HPGs - officially the only means of interstellar communication other than impossibly costly numbers of courier jumpships - had been in a state of undeclared war against House Steiner-Davion since the day of their alliance.

Melissa remembered those days vividly, her first meeting with Hanse at a confidential conference hosted at Hilton Head on Terra. Their marriage had been no more than a tentative clause in the Federated Commonwealth Accords, but even then the polite words of their host had rung false.

Primus Julian Tiepolo had lived only another seven years, long enough to see the wedding take place, once again at Hilton Head. Not long enough to see the Fourth Succession War that had been declared at the wedding reception end. His successor, Myndo Waterly, had ordered an Interdiction on trumped up charges, the most open move in the shadow war that had been fought ever since between their intelligence assets and those of ComStar.

"The reports from our agents are so far indicating that the invaders are unaware of our Black Box network," Justin reported. "Keeping them separate from military bases has paid off, because we've only lost one station so far and their last message indicated they were going to have to destroy their equipment and go to ground."

"As good as that is to know, Justin, I'm more curious about what they can tell us about the invaders." Melissa happened to know that Morgan had been working eighteen hour days with the strategic planning teams and was at the tail end of one of those long days now, but his uniform was pristine and eyes clear.

The spymaster adjusted his notes. "Let us begin by disappointing some of my younger analysts: they aren't aliens. We're dealing with a human invasion, not something out of science fiction."

"Is it the Combine?" demanded Nondi.

"I can't absolutely rule that out, but it seems increasingly unlikely." Justin touched a control and a map lit up, marking out icons. "We have a tentative count on the units so far and if the Combine had as many 'Mechs - mostly of unknown but very advanced types - and other military equipment then they wouldn't need to nibble away at the outer borders. They could strike directly for Skye and Robinson, with a very good chance of taking both worlds."

"It could be a test."

"It could be, even on this grand scale," he agreed. "But it would give the capability away. Despite our losses and the effect on our deployments, how much worse would it be if they had hit that many worlds along our mutual border?"

"They could have blasted a hole a hundred light years wide in our defenses," agreed Hanse. "As it is, we know that this force exists now and we're preparing to counter them when it's in, excuse me, peripheral regions. If Theodore had that sort of advantage, he'd want to crush the Terran corridor and as many of our forces as he could before we can match him. Right now, he'd be wildly out of position."

Melissa's aunt nodded slowly. "I suppose so, yes."

"We're also not quite sure that it's a single force," added Justin. "In fact, reports suggest the opposite."

Melissa leant forwards. "Expand on that, please Justin. At some point we’ll almost certainly have to engage with them politically."

"Of course," he agreed smoothly and almost didn't look at Hanse at all. "Our initial differentiation between the units was based on their liveries. We've encountered three distinct colour palettes so far: the original grey-painted 'Mechs encountered in the Periphery which had some sort of canine unit badges, then the two groups currently invading: one in green with a bird icon and the other in black with a snake marking. We know that the first group is currently invading the Free Rasalhague Republic, although we have less data from those worlds so far, and there may be a fourth group also striking at Rasalhague, with light blue heraldry - but this could be a mistaken report of the grey-painted war machines."

Morgan brushed his long hair back from his shoulders. "You're sure that they aren't just unit markings, the way our own different brigades use common markings?"

"At first we weren't sure but the invaders haven't been shy about announcing their identity to the people they've conquered." Justin made a face. "There's no real context for this, but they identify themselves respectively as Clan Jade Falcon and Clan Star Adder. The latter have either captured the Black Buck trading company's shipping or were always behind them, because their dropships were used to get a strike force inside the air defenses at Langhorne."

"Dammit," Hanse hammered his hand down on the table. "That sort of trojan horse move can only mean they've been watching us for years."

"No one would have believed in the last years of the nineteenth century that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater than man's and yet as mortal as his own;" Melissa quoted drily, and rested one restraining hand upon her husband. "It's not a new concept."

"I can't place the reference," Morgan admitted.

It was her aunt who answered: "H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds. He was an advocate of wargaming back when it was still a comparatively new military approach, but was better known as a science fiction writer. I gave Melissa a collection of his works when she was fourteen. I see I'm not the only one that it struck a chord with."

"Greater intelligence, at least in the military sense. Advanced technology." Morgan took a deep breath. "But division between them... we might be able to work with that."

"I imagine we'll find that the grey group have some similar name for themselves, Clan Space Wolf or something like that. The most likely explanation - although it's far too early to be sure -  is that we're dealing with some kind of alliance or federation, groups that may have a common foundation - since they use the same technology and broadly similar organisations - but at the same time, that are operating within distinct areas, rather than cooperating closely."

"The obvious question is whether there's some connection to Kerensky and the SLDF," Melissa enquired.

"I was very much inclined to doubt it," Justin observed, "They don't operate according to SLDF doctrine and their units are more like the Marian Hegemony's than anything the SLDF used."

"Units of five and ten, rather than four and twelve," Morgan explained quickly when Melissa arched her eyebrows. The Marians were more than pirates - if barely - but they were on the far side of the Free Worlds League, far away from the Federated Commonwealth.

"But you now think that they are connected?"

"I wouldn't go so far as to say that they're directly descended from them, but the Skye Rangers managed to get one point of data that makes a link of some kind more likely than not." Justin replaced the map display with a hologram of a spacecraft. "This was taken at long range and we've had to refine it a lot, but what you're looking at is a Black Lion-class warship."

Melissa blinked. "The Hegemony or the Star League class?"

Justin gave her a respectful nod. "The latter, Archon."

"You lost me," Hanse admitted honestly. "If by warship you mean something like the ships Galax is working on..."

She nodded. "I'm hardly a naval expert, but the Terran Hegemony built two distinct classes of ships designated as Black Lions, in both cases they were battlecruisers. The first were built by James McKenna - and like a lot of older ships they sometimes fell into the hands of other states. But the newer class was a Star League design and they never formally shared them with the member-states. There are a few wrecks in places - the Tripitz incident in the last century saw a wreck dating back to the Periphery Uprising destroyed when the Taurians and someone else fought over it - but every known surviving ship left with the Exodus."

"Succinctly put," Justin confirmed. "It's possible that the Jade Falcons salvaged the ship somewhere, but it at least means they had some indirect contact with the SLDF in the periphery. The ship could be a leftover from something lost before the Exodus, but the odds favour it being one that left with Kerensky."

"It's something to follow up on," Hanse noted. "But we need to know more before we can use it."

"What else do we know?"

"At the moment we're still trying to get data on their equipment and organisation," Justin admitted.

"You're doing amazingly well to get this much data so soon," Melissa assured him.

"The one thing that's of immediate significance is that the Star Adders appear to be rotating their frontline combat units off the worlds they've hit, replacing them with infantry heavy units."

Everyone else sat at the table exchanged looks. Melissa sighed inwardly. "I take it that we should expect another wave of attacks then?"

"Yes. It's a similar schedule to that which we saw in the Fourth Succession War. Although they may not be alternating waves of assault troops. We tried that in 3039 and the after action reports showed it wasn't a good idea," Morgan admitted.

"The issues we faced won't kick in until they've been fighting for months more, which means more worlds falling," Nondi added. "We're not going to stop another wave of attacks, not with most worlds in the area only defended by militia. The Tenth and Eleventh Lyran Guards won't get there in time to change that."

"With your permission," Morgan barely glanced at the royals before returning his attention to Justin. "We need to significantly redeploy. Where can we pull forces from?"

"As far as we can tell, neither the Free Worlds League nor the Capellan Confederation is directly affected," Justin said judiciously. "Thomas Marik is probably rational enough to realise it's in his interests to let us bear the brunt of the invasion rather than get his regiments torn up stabbing us in the back, but I can't say the same for my sister-in-law."

No surprises there, Melissa thought. "And the Combine?"

"They're responding to something." Justin tapped the podium with his metal hand in unconscious frustration. "I just don't know what. Their troop movements definitely show that they're planning something big - whether it's to respond to another Clan or Clans hitting them..."

"Or to take advantage."

Hanse nodded at Nondi's conclusion. "If it was Takashi Kurita I would know it was the latter. Theodore, I think would at least wait until we were chewed up before he moved. He's more aggressive than Thomas Marik but he knows to pick his moments. The question is which of them is making the decisions."

"And if they are being attacked?" asked Melissa. "What would that mean for their decision making?"

"Theodore would focus on them and if Takashi got in his way, he'd remove him." Her husband didn't hesitate. "He wouldn't do it lightly, but if he has to choose between his father and his realm, he'll pick the latter. We saw that with how he worked around the Coordinator in the ‘Thirties."

"So it's not clear if we can move anything off the other borders," Morgan observed. "But if we have to gamble..."

"Mercenaries?" asked Melissa.

"We're hiring everyone we can," Nondi told her. "But there aren't many major units not under contract already and most of those are hesitant to take a contract that could see them thrown directly against an enemy that's chewed through entire RCTs like a woodchipper."

"The Wolf Dragoons might be open," Hanse noted. "Jaime Wolf cancelled his contract with the Free Worlds League last month and the regiments stationed there are on their way back to Outreach. That almost has to be related to the Clans, but we haven't heard from him."

"Send him a direct message," Melissa suggested. "If necessary, you could offer to visit him directly on Outreach. It only makes sense to move some of the court to New Avalon under the circumstances."

"If a personal visit is needed, you might be a better choice."

She took a long moment to consider her words. "Hanse, I love you, but I am not leaving Tharkad. We can argue about this later if you feel the need, but I'm the Archon. Leaving the capital during wartime would be indefensible."

He held his hands up defensively. "I had to try."

"We'll talk about this later," she promised. Family quarrels would be better kept private. "Can we at least bring units together into response forces? If the Combine is under attack we can send them to face the Clans, or if they are taking advantage then they'll be prepared for a counterattack. Any attack from the Combine has to be crushed immediately, making it clear we can't be trifled with or the Marik and Liao borders will explode."

Morgan looked at Justin. "Can you show me our deployments?"

Without a word Justin brought up a hologram of the entire Federated Commonwealth, troop deployments overlaying a moment later. The map of the realm reminded Melissa slightly of an hour-glass: Tharkad marking the centre of the upper bulb, New Avalon in the corresponding spot of the lower. The Draconis Combine made up the bulk of the space to the right, with the rest occupied by the comparative sliver of Rasalhague. On the left, the Free Worlds League covered most of their border with the rest facing the shrunken Capellan Confederation and St Ives. The Terran Corridor linking the two halves of the Commonwealth was still tiny in comparison.

"I hate to show weakness, but the fighting on Aubuisson is a distraction," the Commander of the AFFC said grudgingly. "We can pull the Twentieth Arcturan Guards back from there, and send the Nineteenth Guards to join them. It'll take months for them to get there, but the Taurian border really isn't a priority right now."

"We can also create a reserve task force in the Terran Corridor by pulling the Tenth Deneb Light Cavalry and Third Lyran Regulars from the Draconis March, then the Eleventh Donegal Guards and Fifteenth Deneb Light Cavalry from the Capellan March," proposed Hanse. "It thins our defenses but not severely. If we can free up nearer forces, then we can move them into the Terran Corridor to replace units being shipped out, or to reinforce those worlds if the Combine does move. Whatever happens, we can’t lose the Corridor."

Morgan nodded and then reached into the hologram and tapped icons. "We'll alert these units to prepare for movement, and preposition dropships and jumpships to carry them," he decided. "It'll take time to get them into position but if the Combine is facing the Clans, then we can afford to remove them and we might be able to commandeer civilian shipping to make up time throwing them forwards."

Melissa looked at the units, Justin having highlighted them as Morgan indicated them. They were a grab-bag of units. Two Deneb Light Cavalry RCTs, one of the Davion Guards, one of the Lyran Guards, two each from the Federated Commonwealth Corps and the Crucis Lancers.

It was a formidable force, even stronger than the invasion force that had finally taken Tikonov in 3028 after literal centuries of failure.

Against these Clans? Melissa just didn't know. And when she looked around the table, she saw that question unanswered behind the facade of confidence leadership demanded of them.

And that frightened her, as nothing had since her near capture on Styx a lifetime ago.

S A S

CSADS Courage
Deep Periphery
19 April 3050


Helen's brief exposure to Kinnison had convinced her that it was a hole.

The thumbnail history she'd been given showed the foundation of that: a former RWR world that had dropped out of interstellar contact as the Succession Wars exploded to life, then subjugated by pirates as a stronghold, enslaving the remaining populace and bringing in additional slaves to offset the... wastage.

In contrast to that, the Star Adders probably seemed like guardian angels.

The area around the drop-port was a domed industrial city, not domed because of the lapsed terraforming but because it protected the populace from the rampant pollution caused by the industries. It was blatantly obvious, from the expanding factories and establishment of new domes, that the Star Adders didn't have the slightest intention of resuming the terraforming. Inside the city, well, she hadn't had a good look. But the thought of living the rest of your life under a fragile dome that was the only thing keeping the air itself from killing you.

Helen shuddered and then forced a grin at her reflection. In the dropship, that was pretty much her condition, but at least it would reach somewhere eventually.

"Are you coming?"

She looked up and saw Henry Clay waiting at the door of the compartment. "What?"

"Compulsory briefing," he said as if reminding her.

"Ah." She hadn't got a message, so it probably wasn't actually compulsory to her, but she had to room with Clay and his family. Letting them know she wasn't being taken to the Star Adder colony (which she now knew was called Sinclair) just because she'd once been part of the militia didn't seem wise. They weren’t from Lost so they likely hadn’t seen the excruciating interview she’d gone through for the planetary news.

"How's your father?" Helen asked as she followed him to the stairwell, pulling herself from handhold to handhold in zero gravity. The Star Adders apparently didn't consider providing centrifugal gravity terribly important while waiting for jumpships - unlike the trip to Kinnison, this ship hadn't been put out to spin around the jumpship until it was time to dock for the next jump.

Henry sighed. "Still not talking to me."

She patted the boy on the shoulder. He was only seventeen, too young to be the man of the family but apparently his family was traditional that way. "He may feel differently when he's walking again."

"I hope so."

There weren't any visible guards on the hatch they went through but it only opened after they swiped cards and someone in security checked them through a remote camera. The crew hadn't said what would happen if someone tried a hijacking, but it was entirely possible they'd just evacuate to the jumpship and leave the Courage here in an uninhabited system for everyone aboard to starve.

Two decks up - for all it mattered without gravity - other young men and women were filing into the briefing room. It wasn't just for that purpose, Helen noted. One bulkhead had some rather barebones bunks folded against it so it probably doubled as accommodation for the Star Adders overseeing the draft of bondsmen. She was glad no one had asked why her bondcord had two of the three strands severed compared to one or none among the others and she'd wound them together to hide that fact.

Two women wearing camouflage jumpsuits were facing more than twenty bondsmen, but it clearly didn't cross their minds to worry about the disparity in numbers. Then again, Helen didn't think that any two bondsmen combined were the size of even the smaller of the pair who was on the far side of two metres tall and looked like she would benchpress a car. Elementals, she knew now, bred through generations to be elite infantry even before they donned battle armour.

Given what the diminutive Oskar and Ernest had done, along with Sam, Helen wasn't sure that the pair of them might not be equal to everyone else here if it came to a fight.

The taller wore a point-commander's badge on her collar and scanned the room, obviously doing a headcount. "We are one up," she noted.

"One down is what would matter, quiaff?" the other Elemental noted in a bored voice.

That got a sharp look and a grudging "Aff," from the Point Commander. She might outrank her companion but apparently the hierarchy wasn't so strong as to leave her unquestionably in charge. Which was odd, from Helen's recollection. Perhaps the LCAF traditions passed down to the planetary militia were simply different from those of the Adders, as so many of their other customs are.

"Since all of you volunteered, for a given value of the word, to enter warrior training, what we are about to tell you is probably a waste of your time and ours. But the Clan Council proposes and we dispose."

"What are you going to tell us?" asked Helen bluntly. Her interactions with the Star Adders suggested that most of them - the warriors at least - appreciated directness.

The smaller warrior smirked in her direction and then muttered something about "Tomorrow's roster," to her superior.

"Sucker bet," the Point Commander said in a dismissive aside before addressing the bondsmen again. "Our people have a custom we call bondsref. I do not know what you people call it, but since you are to join our people, you need to know about it."

"Like most of our briefings, there will be a long test afterwards." The unranked warrior had a wicked smile on her face. "Or a short test, depending. It is called 'the rest of your lives'."

"Are you actively campaigning for a drill instructor's position, Lydia?" enquired her superior, apparently a dire threat from the way the woman grimaced at the thought.

"Some of your fellow bondsmen have followed this custom," the Point Commander continued seriously. "Particularly among those wounded when we took these worlds."

Helen tried not to look at Henry. Andrew Clay had lost both legs when his tank was destroyed, defending Issaba - a world just one jump away from Lost. Henry had volunteered when he was told it would get his father preferential medical treatment. Thus his family had been packed up en masse for a new life among the Star Adders.

"What is bondsref?" the boy asked.

The Point Commander leant back against the wall and looked at the group levelly. "Sometimes, a captured warrior chooses not to become a bondsman. It is technically within their rights to do so. Opinions vary on how honourable it is. Among Clan Star Adder it is deemed an admission that one is unfit to contribute to the future of our Clan, or of whatever Clan has captured one of our warriors."

"But what is -"

Helen's mind flashed back to the office where her options had been presented to her. "You're talking about suicide," she realised.

Lydia snapped her finger. "That is the word, yes." She shook her head. "Defeat can be difficult. As warriors we face it a thousand times in training, so that when a true trial comes, we can uphold the honour of our Clan."

"And more importantly, the interests of our Clan," her superior interjected. "If we lose a battle, then resources our people need - or perhaps our people themselves - may be lost. To be defeated when the stakes are real is a tremendous shame. In some cultures, it is held that the warrior is responsible for the suffering and that death is restitution. As bondsref is permitted under law, some groups even within our Clan consider it acceptable as a last resort."

"We aren't samurai," a man near the front of the bondsmen said in disgust. "We won't slit our bellies because we lost to a sneak attack."

"Good." Then the Point Commander stepped forwards and slapped him lightly across the cheek - although still hard enough that he drifted off the floor, left flailing in the air. "But slovenly speech. Try to speak like a civilised human being. You have been allowed to come because you are believed to have the potential."

"Do not think that Menolly is being harsh," Lydia told the man. "If you speak like that when your true training begins, you will be punished far more harshly. The warriors of a Clan do not fight for the Clan, they must also represent the Clan. Slovenly speech leads to lax habits."

Menolly steadied her victim, reeling him back in until he could get his foot into one of the discreet straps on the floor that were fitted for this purpose. Then she stepped back. "We are strict," she admitted. "But we do so because we expect more from you. Whether you are aware of it or not, the soldiers we have captured in the Inner Sphere, along with those who have been chosen for various reasons to join you as bondsmen have been sorted very carefully."

"Most of you have come with family members, who will be making new homes among our civilian castes. For those bondsmen who cooperate, that is the life they can look forward to. It will be different from what they are used to, but habits and customs they bring with them will either prove useful and survive or useless and fade away. Others, who will make trouble out of proportion to their value will be assigned less pleasant tasks." Lydia slapped her hands against each other. "Those who will not cooperate at all... well, those who do not work do not eat. And starving oneself to death is a form of bondsref."

"The point we are making is that Clan Star Adder does not want any bondsman to end their lives. We believe you have value, and that all of you are potentially very useful. Being useful to the Clan is rewarded in proportion, though the nature of those rewards can vary." Menolly reached the wall again. "But if any of you, or any of your families truly prefers the alternative? Then request bondsref now. Before we waste time, effort and other resources on you."

Helen felt a cold chill. The two women were completely serious. Succeed or die?

"Are you saying that if we fail training we will be killed?" she asked.

"Do not be ridiculous."

"Accidents happen though," warned Lydia in a teasing tone.

"Those are accidents." Menolly corrected her. "Washing out for failing to qualify is not shameful so long as every possible effort has been made. The majority of cadets do wash out and most do very well in the civilian castes. However, if we do not see honest effort..." She shrugged. "Well, some of you are here as part of agreements made. If you willfully fail to keep to the bid you made, we are not obligated any further, quineg?"

There was some shuffling of feet.

"But washing out itself." The point commander made a dismissive gesture. "Most of you probably will. That happens, in which case we have more technicians, scientists or whatever. Only a tiny handful of irredeemables end up in gulags."

"And what happens to them there?"

Both elementals made pain-filled faces. "If they are absolutely intent on not being useful, they are prevented from being a burden. We do not insist that they suffer, but the Clan will make no effort to alleviate any distress they suffer there."

"I do... not understand."

Lydia flung up her hands. "We sterilize them and leave them on barren islands with enough seeds and tools to feed themselves, if they know how. It would be cheaper to shoot them but occasionally one of them comes to their senses."

"For a moment I thought you meant some sort of Capellan prison camp," Henry said in relief.

"What are they like?"

There were several suggestions, from the bondsmen. Helen doubted any had an informed idea, but Capellans were apparently horrible to prisoners as a matter of policy.

The two Star Adder warriors exchanged disgusted looks. "So Capellans are dezgra," Lydia noted

"Wasteful fools at least," Menolly said more cautiously, although she didn't seem any happier with the described experiences. "Can you imagine what it would cost to build such a place? Much less run it? You would need warriors to guard it all the time."
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #66 on: 04 May 2020, 10:18:31 »
Gette City, Lost
Star Adder Dominion
21 April 3050


It was the sound of the singing that drew Oskar to the building.

He'd heard that tune before and once he adjusted for the fact that the local language of choice wasn't english, but some sort of hybrid, he thought he recognised the words as well.

Turned off the road he walked up to the building, a spired structure that reminded him a little of one of the bloodchapels on Strana Mechty. Just before he reached the door, he looked up at the spire again and saw that it contained a bell. What the purpose was, he had no idea.

The door was open - one reason he'd heard the voices within - and no one challenged him as he entered an antechamber. Books in plastic covers done up to look like dyed leather were shelved along the inside wall and this door was pulled almost, but not quite closed.

Oskar pressed the flat of his hand against it just a hair and it resisted only for an instant, a hand on the other side releasing it.

The woman on the far side was old, and her eyes went wide as she saw Oskar. Beyond her was a large hall, chairs interlocked in rows across it, with men, women and children stood between the rows, voices raised in song.

He shook his head when the woman seemed about to speak in protest and raised one finger to his lips. When she looked outraged - amusing how quickly that replaced fear - he hummed a bar to remind himself of the song and joined in with the next verse:

"~Crowns and thrones may perish, Kingdoms rise and wane; But the Church of Jesus, Constant will remain.~" He was a hair out of sync with them, he noted. They pronounced the messiah's name 'Haay-zus', although if he recalled from his cursory exploration of biblical history years ago then they weren't any more or less accurate in that than the way that he had learned to say it among the Josians.

As if Oskar had given some subtle code, the old woman relaxed and even stepped out into the antechamber, returning with one of the books, offering it to him as he continued to sing. Opening it, he saw a title page identifying it as a standard hymn book. What standard was unclear. Then, to his surprise, she took his arm and composedly drew him forward, ushering him to one of the rows of seats that was unoccupied.

When the singing reached the end of the hymn, everyone seated themselves and Oskar followed suite. He hadn't particularly expected to join a religious observance, but at least this sect seemed to have something in common with his own beliefs.

Granted, the Josian Cloister was one comparatively small strand of Judeo-Christian thinking, isolated from similar traditions save the Ka'an, the Quarani and a few smaller cloisters for centuries, but there was at least some common ground.

A robed man stood at the far end of the hall, save for the woman standing guard at the door the only one who did not sit. Everyone gave him their attention and Oskar saw that the man had - despite the size of the hall - spotted him and gave him a thoughtful look.

When he spoke, he quoted from the bible - the Book of Luke - regarding the famous incident when the Messiah was challenged over whether or not to pay taxes to the Roman government. The parallels were obvious and the man laid them out, responsibly - at least in Oskar's opinion - advising against rash opposition to the Star Adder's Dominion over Lost. And then, with a certain calm resolution, the man 'flipped the coin' and reminded them that Moses had brought the commandment from God not to worship false idols.

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesars, but render unto Jehovah that which is his, in other words.

They sang another hymn he knew and then the man ceded the podium to a middle-aged woman who briskly went through a half-dozen announcements that Oskar could make nothing of save that they pertained  to the local community. He wouldn't have expected them to be inserted into a religious gathering.

Another hymn was announced, this one he didn't know but fortunately before they began, the page reference in the hymn book was given for those unfamiliar - very considerate - so he was able to make a fair attempt at it, any mistakes hopefully lost in the chorus of hundreds of voices singing. Oskar prepared to sit again but instead this time everyone remained standing as the... teacher? ...from earlier 'led them in prayer'. The sentiments seemed sound - a desire for peace and understanding, although why he thought God would grant these rather than expecting them to see to them directly escaped Oskar.

Oh well, it was understandable that doctrines would differ. And perhaps if there were no warriors present they didn't expect to be able to have much influence on the matter. The local government did not, in Oskar's unprofessional opinion, have done very well in representing views other than that of the hereditary and appointed executives.

When the prayer concluded, the man leading the group walked down one of the aisles between the seating and exited into the antechamber, giving Oskar another look as he did so.

He was hardly the last to do that, with a ripple of his presence spreading as those who had been sitting in front of him caught sight of him - at first out of the corner of their eyes as they began conversations with their neighbours as people started slowly trickling towards the exit, then as word spread Oskar realised he was the centre of attention.

Not wanting to cause another brawl - Star Colonel Riaz still hadn't let him forget about the incident in the bar - he tried not to look threatening and sat down, opening the book to leaf through it for other hymns he might have come across. It would probably be best to let some of those present leave before asking about this place. Was it a regular place of worship? The civilians had them, although it was rarely practical for a warrior. What was it used for at other times, some sort of community centre?

No one seemed inclined to approach him at first, until someone even shorter than he was scampered along the row of seats. Looking up, he saw a child - less than sibko age, and he wasn't sure enough of the local cultural cues to guess from their clothes if they were a boy or a girl - examining him curiously.

"What are those on your face?"

Oh, an easy question. "They are part of an implant system that help me pilot a ProtoMech." It wasn't as if that was a secret.

"Are you a 'Mechwarrior?"

"That is an interesting question. We operate in a similar role, but most Mechwarriors I have met say ProtoMechs are not BattleMechs, so no. So..." Oskar shrugged. "Something similar, but not quite."

The child didn't seem to care about the uncertainty of the answer. "You're not very tall."

"That is true."

"I thought mechwarriors had to be tall."

"Smaller pilots are preferred for ProtoMechs." He saw a woman hovering uncertainly at the end of the row, reminding him of Sophia and her mother from the dropship to Sinclair. "What is your name?"

"I'm Hogan!"

"Well met, Hogan. I am Oskar, of Clan Star Adder."

"What's a Star Adder?" the child asked.

Oskar turned his shoulder to display the patch on his sleeve. "It is an engineered species from... one of our homeworlds." Had anyone transplanted some to Sinclair? Or were the nearest ones on Strana Mechty? It was somewhat sentimental but it would be good to know that some were nearer than that. "They hunt crana and they are very territorial."

"What does territorial mean?"

He thought a moment how to phrase that for a child’s understanding. "They do not like anything threatening their homes." Much like most humans, really.

"Why is there a star on it?" Hogan pointed not at the star backdrop on the patch but the brightest of the stars that glittered on the skin of the embroidered snake.

"Hogan!" the woman hissed. "It's time to go."

"Real star adders have white patches like that," Oskar answered and then made a pushing gesture. "Is that your mother calling you?"

The child looked back and nodded.

"Go on then."

Hogan waved at him as... he? it sounded like a boy's name up ...hopped sideways a few of his short paces along the row of seats before turning and running back to the woman. She scooped up her offspring with some effort, too old a child for that to be easy and tried to insert a scolding into the excited babbling.

The sound of footsteps on the carpet of the hall alerted Oskar to someone approaching from the other side. He turned and found a stooped man settling onto one of the chairs between him and the end of the row. Am I being trapped? The man was ancient, hair wispy where it remained and skin marked with wrinkles and liver spots.

Something of his surprise must have shown on his face, because the new arrival gave him a creaking laugh as a greeting. "Not the prettiest person to be sat next to, am I? I wanted to rest these old bones before I go the rest of the way to my car."

"I am in no hurry."

"You're new here, aren't you?"

Oskar inclined his head slightly.

The man took a deep breath, then broke off coughing, pulling out a handkerchief off a pocket and covering his mouth. When he was done, he wiped his thin lips before folding the handkerchief away meticulously. "All of you Star Adders seem so young. Is that so, or have you found a fountain of youth out where you come from?"

I am hardly young, Oskar thought. "We have found no such fountain and if we did, I imagine it would come with some form of downside."

"Those downsides might start to look more acceptable once you are closer to my age," the man said. "I heard you tell young Hogan that your name is Oskar." He tucked away the handkerchief and offered his hand. "I am Domingo Selleck."

Oskar shook the hand, careful not to break bones that seemed fragile beneath the sparse flesh. There was an awkward moment and he thought he might have missed some implied question. "I was not looking for a religious gathering, but then I heard the hymn."

"Ah, you have churches where you come from?"

"I do not recognise the term," he admitted directly.

"A gathering of like-minded christians, or sometimes the word means the buildings we worship in," explained Domingo.

"Ah. We would say cloisters, for such groups, although the term includes all religious groups."

"It is good to hear that your people are also open to the word of god."

Oskar smiled. "We are... I believe the word is ecumenical, but not particularly evangelical in that sense. Are there many churches here on Lost?"

"Practically every settlement and city district has at least one. Is that not true where you come from?"

"It varys." Oskar thought for a moment. It wasn't as if he had any statistics on that, he wasn't sure if anyone had ever compiled them. "I think about half of my people are part of a Cloister. As a warrior, it's not always easy to find a stable group, so we take the chance to gather when we can."

"I'm sorry to hear that. Although I suppose if any song was to draw in a military man, I suppose Onward Christian Soldiers would be a likely one."

He held up the hymn book. "I recognise several others from here."

Selleck smiled. "I have met more than a few soldiers and most were religious, though few of them inclined towards turning the other cheek."

"To turn the other cheek is an important principle, but sometimes military necessity demands otherwise." He knew the Josians in the Clan Council had pressed the Khans hard to issue a final ultimatum to the Inner Sphere before launching the invasion. The argument had been that an unannounced surprise attack gave the Inner Sphere no chance to accept the superior Clan ways without battle. Ultimately, the strategic merits of surprise won the debate.

"That is surprisingly restrained."

"The Archon Katrina Steiner earned much respect among my people for her Peace Proposal," Oskar told him. "We consider it a fine example of turning one's cheek, calling on the other Successor Lords to reconsider their unending wars."

"Some would say that her decision led to the Fourth Succession War," the elderly spheroid pointed out. "And to the Federated Commonwealth."

"I would agree. But, Domingosellick, if one offers the other cheek and it is slapped too, then one must consider the one doing the slapping to be committed to their course. Continuing to offer one's cheek for a third time will almost never receive a different result."

The old man gave him a sad look. "I find that hard to argue with, sir. But I do not believe that it is what our saviour believed. Perhaps Father Esteban can persuade you."

Oskar gave him a perplexed look. This man was so old, but his genesire still lived? "I would listen to any reasoned argument you or your father can offer," he conceded dubiously.

Sellick gave him a puzzled look and then his eyes widened in realization, forming new valleys in the wrinkled flesh around them. "Father is the title we give to our priests," he explained. "Goodness, my own father would be doing very well to be with us today. He'd be almost a hundred and twenty-five."

"What is a -" He was about to say priest but the sound of running feet drew Oskar's attention. There was outcry from the antechamber and then a man burst in, a civilian by his clothes, but in his hands...

Oskar was moving without thinking, hurling the first thing that came to hand. The hymnbook cracked against the new arrival's face and he jerked backwards, the rifle in his hands discharging into the ceiling.

"Dear god!" Sellick exclaimed. A moment later he cried out again as Oskar grabbed him and pushed him to the floor, heedless of fragile old bones.

Then he prostrated himself on the seats, conscious that the back of the chairs wouldn't stop a large calibre round of the kind being fired. He told himself he was imagining the wind of the shot touching him as the gun fired again, causing more screams.

Fortunately, it seemed to be a bolt-action model and Oskar grabbed the edge of the seat and jabbed his legs down pushing off into a forward roll that took him to the aisle. Two men, one of them the man who had delivered the lecture earlier, were wrestling with the gunman, the rifle now pointed safely at -

The gun fired again, dust and plaster raining down briefly.

- mostly safely at the ceiling.

Judging the relative positions of the three combatants, Oskar picked his moment and then grabbed the gunman's right wrist and twisted.

There was a crack, a scream and the gun hit the floor - Oskar kicking it away promptly.

The other two men let go of the disarmed gunman, who proceeded to curl up on the ground, trying to protect his broken hand. Oskar shook his own. Hitting bone like that, particularly when it was against something solid like the grip of a rifle, wasn't ideal.

"The Star Colonel is never going to let me off base again," he muttered and pulled his comm unit out. "Is anyone hurt?"
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

marauder648

  • Lieutenant Colonel
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  • Posts: 6724
Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #67 on: 04 May 2020, 11:53:34 »
Excellent stuff as always, superb writing and I wish I could write character stuff like this. And Oskar's ongoing shenanigans are probably going to cause his Star Colonel to go grey at this rate :D But he seems to have stopped either a shooting in a church, or, to be more precise, something aimed at him. And the Churchgoers defence of him and each other will probably win them browny points in the Star Adder's eyes.
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

ThePW

  • Warrant Officer
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  • Posts: 435
  • One post down, a thousand to go...
Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #68 on: 04 May 2020, 15:09:11 »
Excellent stuff as always, superb writing and I wish I could write character stuff like this. And Oskar's ongoing shenanigans are probably going to cause his Star Colonel to go grey at this rate :D But he seems to have stopped either a shooting in a church, or, to be more precise, something aimed at him. And the Churchgoers defence of him and each other will probably win them browny points in the Star Adder's eyes.
It's been a while but I'm utterly enjoying this romp into 'What If' lands... What I call all these AUs

EAGLE 7

  • Sergeant
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  • Posts: 144
Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #69 on: 05 May 2020, 10:23:19 »
A question that came to mind from this story. Not really knowledgeable about proto mechs, so are they good for garrison duty/ anti- piracy duties?

What are the best proto-mech for those duties? Or what traits would you want for such duty?

Better than a swarm of Savanna Master/ Shamash?
“ My Clan honor is bigger than your Dragon honor, and comes in 18 clan flavors.”

 

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