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Author Topic: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)  (Read 4577 times)

Daryk

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #30 on: 06 April 2020, 19:25:11 »
You are cruel, sir... just cruel.  I saw you had posted before I left for work this morning, but knew I wouldn't make the train if I stayed to read it then...  I had to wait ALL DAY to get this dose of awesome!  And I was totally right... I wouldn't have made the SECOND train if I'd stayed...

VhenRa

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #31 on: 06 April 2020, 19:57:57 »
Very, very nice.
Question - where i can get info on the Duelist mech and Asp protomech ?


https://forums.spacebattles.com/threads/all-in-one-battletech-thread-revision-5-0-manei-domini-rule-frails-drool.220143/post-65612795

This post on Spacebattles has the Duelist I believe.

paulobrito

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #32 on: 07 April 2020, 03:51:00 »
Yep, thanks.

marauder648

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #33 on: 07 April 2020, 09:40:53 »
Excellent stuff! So the Adders and friends are going to be hitting the Lyrans from the flank for all intense and purpose at around the same time as REVIVAL crashes into the IS's 'north'.
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drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #34 on: 09 April 2020, 02:10:25 »
Clan Star Adder Warships

One of the many issues facing Clan Star Adder after the Absorption War was the disposition of their warship fleet. Between isorla and the contract bidding that had them fighting to support the Blood Spirits against the remaining Burrocks, the Star Adders had received the majority of the Cloud Cobra and Burrock warship fleets (the principal exceptions being the Black Lion-class battlecruiser Admiral William S Preston (a Star Adder warship that the Burrocks had captured only to then fall into Blood Spirit hands), the Liberator-class cruiser Constanineau and its escorting Essex-class destroyers Tehuantepec and Eagle) in varying conditions.

This left the Star Adders with a theoretical force of thirty-eight warships, enough to seriously challenge Clan Snow Raven's dominance and more pressingly, more than sufficient to overwhelm their limited shipyards. The Blood Spirits were already using their generally good relations with the Snow Ravens to smooth over the capture of three Burrock warships from a Snow Raven yard, not to mention working their own fleet hard to patrol their much-expanded enclaves, so they were unable to help and the Star Adders' traditional allies, Clan Steel Viper, had taken the absorption of Clan Cloud Cobra poorly.

Well aware that the Inner Sphere didn't appear to currently have any warships, the Adder leadership viewed warships as useful as a reserve, but also expensive and something that could easily lead to a naval race with the Snow Ravens. As a result, a large number of warships were cached, often with repairs still pending, until the yards at Sinclair reached the point that they could provide some of the maintenance needed. Given the secretive nature of those yards, the Star Admirals of Clan Star Adder have gone to some lengths to obfuscate how many warships are in operation at any given time. To mask their exact strength and deployments, the Clan renamed all of their warships, ostensibly to smooth over any stigma of the ships recently obtained.

As of 3048, the Star Adder fleet is divided into five Naval Stars, two of which are of questionable value:

Sheridan Naval Star
Charged with providing a last resort for defending the Star Adder capital, eleven warships cached in the star system are in relatively good condition and were being kept on the books for reactivation as a further active Naval Star over the next decade - or possibly to be sold off to other Clans. The major issue delaying this would be the need for a major overhaul of their Kearny-Fuchida drives. For the purposes of simply defending Sheridan's orbitals, removing them from mothballs would take much less time than scraping together crews, both of which were begun after the main invasion force departed in 3049.
Sandworm (Nightlord-class), Al-mi'raj and Skvader (Volga), Gorgon and Echidna (Lola III-class), Fafnir and Jormungandr (York-class), Tarasque (Fredasa-class), Bakunawa and Zilant (Carrack-class), Vritra (Vincent-class)

Arcadia Naval Star
In contrast with their counterparts over Sheridan, the Arcadian naval cache's only military value at this time is as a bluff. The six warships are in poor condition, with parts having been removed over the years to keep over warships active and it's over a decade since the last survey to assess their fitness for restoration projected an expense that the Merchant Caste objected to in strong terms. With the bulk of the fleet away and depending on Sinclair, there may finally be enough yard space to consider restoring them - or simply tearing them apart for raw materials to support the rest of the fleet.
Basilisk (Cameron-class), Unicorn and Kraken (Sovetskii Soyuz-class), Gryphon, Manticore and Sphinx (Aegis-class)

The active portion of the Star Adder Fleet has spent years being rotated between shipyards, patrolling their enclaves and being temporarily cached due to lack of parts and personnel (this has occasionally been used as cover for escorting convoys to Sinclair). A few years ago, one of the Stars was finally reassigned to Sinclair on a permanent basis, the yards there having reached the point that they could support this. With the invasion underway, both the other active Stars rushed to join them. These Naval Stars are organised with ships of the same classes and their names were chosen with obfuscation in mind:

Pi Naval Star
Feathered Serpent (McKenna-class), Naga (Potemkin-class), Hydra, Bakeneko (York-class), Undine (Lola III-class), Pegasus (Vincent-class), Harpy (Fredasa-class)

Phi Naval Star
Rainbow Serpent (McKenna-class), Ourobouros (Potemkin-class), Tsuchinoko, Chimera (York-class), Mermaid (Lola III-class), Centaur (Vincent-class), Wyvern (Fredasa-class)

Psi Naval Star
Sea Serpent (McKenna-class), Lamia (Potemkin-class), Nidhoggr, Yamata no Orochi (York-class), Hippocampus (Lola III-class), Dragon (Vincent-class), Cockatrice (Fredasa-class)
« Last Edit: 09 April 2020, 03:11:37 by drakensis »
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

marauder648

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #35 on: 09 April 2020, 06:20:36 »
An impressive naval force and I can imagine the Ravens having a handful of kittens about the Star Adders having 4 battleships to their name too!
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

Daryk

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #36 on: 09 April 2020, 16:57:53 »
Pi, Phi and Psi are perfectly named to aid in obfuscation...

Smegish

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #37 on: 09 April 2020, 22:08:32 »
An impressive naval force and I can imagine the Ravens having a handful of kittens about the Star Adders having 4 battleships to their name too!

Could call it 7 Battleships, only thing keeping the Potemkins from being counted is their usual role as super container ships with guns, rather than serving in the battleline themselves. They have the guns for the job, even if the armour is a bit thin for a BB.

mikecj

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #38 on: 11 April 2020, 15:33:15 »
Nicely convoluted!   :thumbsup:
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"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
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drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #39 on: 12 April 2020, 07:10:50 »
Chapter Four

CWWS Dire Wolf
Star's End, Periphery
15 January 3050

The representative of ComStar was as interesting as Karianna Schmidt had suggested, Virgilia decided on her first sight of him.

Anastasius Focht - she wondered absently whether the Khans would settle on one name or the other, since he could hardly be bloodnamed - reminded her somewhat of the Nova Cat Khans. Old, but not significantly diminished by it - experience and cunning offsetting any reduction in the man's vitality. He was powerfully built, his right eye covered by a patch.

Perhaps that meant that ComStar's medical technology was inferior to that of the Clans. Or perhaps the injury had been inflicted under such circumstances that proper treatment had not been possible. Reports from the Dragoons and the Black Buck company made it clear that regrowing damaged organs was unusual, perhaps entirely unknown, on most worlds of the Inner Sphere.

I should ensure that our medical technicians see what we can offer to the medical professionals of worlds we conquer, Virgilia noted to herself. It would be a sign of goodwill and of what we can offer worlds that accept our practises... or would holding it back until they are compliant be wiser? The psychology of the matter will need consideration.

"And this is Khan Virgilia Truscott, of Clan Star Adder," Karianna introduced her.

Focht drew himself up. "I'm honoured."

The Blood Spirit scowled and Virgilia hid a smile. We are provincial in some ways. "It is pleasing to meet a representative of the Ministry of Communication. I see that the language of the Inner Sphere has changed somewhat in our absence. Or rather, I hear it."

"I can't claim to be a student of languages, Khan Truscott," he said, seemingly suspecting a trap.

Ha! No, I will help you, Focht. This time. ComStar may prove useful and why burn a bridge when I can build one easily? "You say 'I'm' and 'can't', while we say 'I am' and 'cannot'. To use language as the Star League did is a point of pride for our people."

"Did they truly speak thus?" Such a mask of sincerity, this one knew politics - and detested it, from the look Virgilia saw in his eyes. Interesting.

There was an inhalation from Khan Schmitt but Truscott nodded. "It may seem... archaic for you, but the ways of the Star League are... sacred in many eyes."

"Many people in the Inner Sphere also revere the great institutions of the Star League." Focht shook his head, white hair brushing his shoulders. "But much has been lost, even with our protection of Terra. Perhaps in learning from each other, we can redeem some of that."

"We must hope that some good comes of the matter." Khan Ulric Kerensky had been watching them with interest. "But the ilKhan awaits. You will join us, Khan Truscott, quiaff?"

Hah, so much for speaking the original tongue of the Star League, she thought wryly. I have studied enough to know that such phrases were introduced by the Founder's brother. "Neg. The IlKhan and I do not see eye to eye. My presence might tar our guest's mission in his eyes."

"And yet you are here to meet me?" Focht tilted his head, questioningly.

"One should keep allies close, enemies closer and always know which is which," she told him. And taking your measure might be the most important thing I have done since leaving the Homeworlds. If the ComGuards are in your mold, then they may be more capable than reports suggested.

Karianna Schmitt gestured to indicate that she would also wait and Khan Kerensky led the Precentor Martial away, the two men already exchanging words. "In that company, yours would do little to make the ilKhan more suspicious of Anastasius," she noted. "Why are you... avoiding him?"

"The ilKhan has the highest authority anyone may wield among the Clans, but he is still subject to the dictates of the Grand Council and I have opposed him there. If I embroil myself in politics - and there is nothing but politics around him - then he will suspect I am building a faction against him, if only because Crichell will put the idea in his head. Thus, the best support I can offer him is to stay away."

The Blood Spirit's brow furrowed. "Your view is... inverted."

"Politics is often like that. Why do you think I avoid it, or transcend it where I can?"

"You said you keep friends close, but enemies closer. Of all the Clans, you are closest to my own... which do you see us as?"

Virgilia gave her fellow Khan a crooked smile. "The Clans have no friends, Karianna. We are all rivals. That is Kerensky's wisdom: only a friend can betray you, while an enemy's purpose is open and honest. Thus because we can recognise that we are all striving to exceed each other, we can respect each other. A friend would excuse a weakness in another Clan, but enduring alliances are not built on weakness."

"And thus when you found weakness in the Cloud Cobras..."

She nodded sharply. "Yes. And if you found us to be undermining Clans as a whole by deviating from the Way, you would do the same with us, quiaff?"

The Blood Spirit looked at her for a long moment. "Aff. I see. So enemies are the ones you respect. Truly you are twisted."

Virgilia let a grin form on her face. "But you still like me?"

"For some strange reason. I disagree with you though. There is more to friendship than forgiving weakness."

"There are multiple Clans in order that we can have different viewpoints," she allowed. "If there were only one path within the Way, the Founder would have created but one Clan. Since the Way of Blood Spirits has not led them to weakness I cannot say that you are without merit in your beliefs... even if I do not share them."

Karianna sighed. "Sometimes I wish Khan Irons had come with us and you had remained in the Homeworlds. I am never sure if you are sincerely disagreeing or just spoiling for a fight."

"As much as I enjoy your company, Karianna, I would have preferred for him to accompany the invasion, but he is cursedly good at bidding."

"Speaking of bidding." The Blood Spirit ushered Virgilia across the dock and onto the dropship, apparently feeling that while the previous discussion was high-brow enough that it didn't matter if the crew of the Dire Wolf (a Clan Wolf vessel), that her next topic was to be treated with more discretion.

"What do you have in mind?"

"The Chainelane venture." Karianna folded her arms. "The Snow Ravens are interested in Vannes, but wish to contract elements of Clan Fire Mandrill for assistance."

"They are still feeling the pinch in their ground forces, quiaff?"

"Aff. And from what you have advised me, the 'boots on ground' is critical for assimilating the existing populace. However, with two Clans participating there, my Clan Council are leaning towards striking at Ingvolstand alone."

Virgilia arched an eyebrow. "That may be ambitious."

"Aff. And one of our jumpships made a quiet visit to the outer system. It seems that the world is more unified than we believed."

Virgilia lowered her head in apparent contemplation to hide satisfaction that the Blood Spirits were doing recon of their own volition. "That could be something of a problem."

"The unifiers were a pack of bandits, from what we have learned," Karianna waved the issue off. "Promisingly, the world seems to be recovering some of its previous industry under their leadership."

"Which would make it a more valuable asset than previously envisaged."

"Yes. My concern is how long we would need to maintain a substantial garrison before we could free up the forces to support an invasion. The population appears to be comparable to one of your Tanite worlds, if that helps."

So somewhere between half a million and a million, Virgilia guessed. "Of garrison grade forces, I would say twenty to thirty years - although you probably would not be dealing with Cloud Cobra levels of mismanagement to make up for, which could help."

"...decades?" Karianna sounded utterly horrified.

"Perhaps a cluster at most of second-tier combat troops to see off any opportunism by the other Clans or outside raids," Virgilia clarified. "The greater commitment is sufficient infantry to escort civilians in the assimilation role. The crux of bringing the population around is to show them the benefits of our ways - what the SLDF referred to as 'hearts and minds'."

The Blood Spirit relaxed. "That would be more manageable. And since it is not part of the invasion, I can bring forward forces not part of our bid."

"Aff. Remember, the Trial of Possession for the bodies of the inhabitants is handled by warriors. To possess their spirits, that Trial will be fought by technicians, merchants and scientists. Let the people of Ingvolstand see the advantages of our ways, that you bring prosperity and security for them."

Karianna nodded. "I have faith in our civilian castes to do this, although... other Clans."

Virgilia made a face. "The Jade Falcon merchants are not without influence. The Bears and Wolves at least understand their civilians are valuable."

"I am thinking of the Smoke Jaguars and Steel Vipers." Karianna shook her head violently. "It leaves a poor taste in my mouth. Let us find a drink and go couple somewhere."

"Bargained well and done!"

"Shut up." And the Blood Spirit shut the Star Adder up with her lips, for a while.

S A S

Gette City, Lost
Periphery March, Lyran Commonwealth
5 January 3050

The city authorities had refused consent to the protest march. That didn't stop it, it just meant that many drivers had little to no warning that the streets around the capitol would be full of pedestrians. A handful of police had tried arresting marchers for jaywalking, realised that they were quietly being surrounded by more marchers and backed off with no threats or violence being offered.

There were banners flying, letters in three languages - German, English and the native Sponglish, which practically no one off Lost would understand. Having grown up with it, Helen Candidy found it easier than English and she had to guess at the German. Proficiency with the latter language might have done her career good, but it was not something she had ever mastered.

"You're not thinking of going out there and joining them," Mr. de Silva told her in a warning tone.

"What?" She turned and gave her boss a surprised look. "I'm not political, sir. Just thinking I might have been better parking my car somewhere else."

De Silva shook his head. "Too late now. By the time you got there and back in that crowd, half your shift would be over."

"Yes sir." She went back to sorting the fruit on the display, picking out anything that was no longer good to sell, anything that looked like it might be about to reach that state and need to go in the discount rack near the door and what was still good and fresh. Finishing the rack she peeled off the disposable gloves and walked past the door to bin them, turning her head to look again.

The crowds weren't thinning out. If anything, more and more people were moving towards the capitol building, carrying home-made banners.

"All these people and none are buying anything."

Helen hid a grin from her boss. "It'll be lunchtime soon," she offered. "And since they're hungry and already here..."

"Good thinking." The man glanced into the back and then shrugged. "I'll make more sandwiches for the bar, then. You man the till. Checking the rest of the fruit can wait until after lunch."

"Sir."

"And cut that militia-talk out. Customers don't like it."

"Okay, Mr. de Silva."

"You're not in, still? Going to be called on if the Governor wants more security."

She'd told him three times this month, given the strop he'd had when the Governor did just that and he had to give her three days off with pay while she stood outside the capitol building with a third-hand rifle. "No sir, I quit. Two years full time and two in reserve was quite enough."

Losing the twenty kroner a week was a pinch, but it wasn't worth risking her job over. And it wasn't like she was going to get any more stripes unless she somehow became fluent in german.

And while Helen said she wasn't political, it didn't change that every time she'd been called up for militia service it hadn't been because of pirates, or even raiders from the League or Combine. No, she'd been called up to face the threat of... other citizens of Lost. That felt wrong.

"Duke - duke - duke!" she heard in the distance, from the direction of the capitol building. The crowd chanting the customary cry of Lost's protests, demanding that the planet's duke come forth to account for himself.

"Stupid," de Silva grumbled from the back where he was cutting bread. "The duke isn't even on Lost."

"I think that that might be the point," Helen observed from the till. "He's not, but maybe he should be."

"He's representing us on Tharkad. Keeping Lost's interests in the government's mind. Got to do that with the court on New Avalon half the time."

Helen shrugged. Getting into that argument would just undermine her claim that she wasn't political... but she had a suspicion that representing Lost's interests was more the responsibility of their Estates-General representative, and Baron Whitehall was the Duke's brother-in-law and had been re-elected twice, meaning he was only the second representative in her lifetime.

She wasn't sure offhand how often the Baron was on Lost, she hadn't really been paying much attention and last election she'd not quite been old enough to vote and been more interested in boys at school than politics.

A customer entered at that point, and both of them stopped discussing politics. That was a sure way to either scare customers off or have them stand around for hours. The customer, a young man, poked around the discount rack and filled the bottom of a basket before coming to the till.

Helen calculated his bill with easy familiarity. She was tempted to tell the youth he'd picked the very oldest and worst fruit, but it wasn't unsellable and Mr de Silva wouldn't want her to scare off business by saying so.

The boy handed her a kroner coin and was halfway to the door before she'd fished his change out of the till, much less given him a receipt. "Sir?"

He waved and mouthed something like 'keep it' before the door cut him off.

"What was that?" asked de Silva.

"He didn't take his change."

"Hmmph. Doesn't know the value of money."

Helen frowned and then wrapped the receipt around the pfennigs and dropped them in the tip jar. If the young man came back, he could have it. Was this some strange idea of flirting?

Mr de Silva brought her out of puzzling at that by bringing a tray of sandwiches out. "Help me to put these out."

The first sign that they had of something going wrong was a rise in the tone of the distant shouting. Voices that had been chorusing "Duke - Duke - Duke!" now fell out of step and grew shriller.

Then there were the first feet, hitting the road like thunder.

Helen dashed to the door and looked out, the glass panel sliding aside automatically as she approached. The crowd was moving away from the capital, and there was no marching order, for the people were a mix of those walking briskly and those who jettisoned dignity and ran.

"Oh crap."

"Ms. Candidy! Don't use that sort of language where a customer could -" De Silva was cut off as Helen ran back behind the counter. "What are you...?"

She elbowed him firmly aside and found the switch behind the till. "That isn't a march any more." The metal shutter that covered the store window at night began to descend, painfully slowly. "It's a mob."

"Are you insane?"

She said nothing, watching through the door as more people ran past. There had been thousands of people on this street, and that must add up to tens of thousands outside the capitol. And now people that had taken hours to gather were trying to escape in minutes.

Helen closed her eyes and turned away when the inevitable happened - a woman around her own age stumbled and the crowd didn't stop.

Mr de Silva's face was white when she opened her eyes. "We ought to..."

"There's nothing we can do," she said flatly. "Go out in that and we'd have to run with them or be trampled. If she survives..." There was a medical kit in the drawer, she thought and opened it up.

De Silva picked up the comm. "The police, emergency services..."

"Try, but lines are probably jammed." Finding the kit, which seemed ludicrously inadequate compared to the militia medical gear she'd seen, only took a moment. There were slats in the grille that were transpex not metal, so even once it grudgingly finished closing, she could see out.

After what seemed like hours but wasn't even ten minutes, the crowd began to thin.

"Is it over?" De Silva asked nervously. He was holding a bread knife as if would do anything to protect him from... well, anything.

Helen took one last look out of the grille before she went back from the switch. What she saw froze her in her tracks.

There was no 'Mech more hated on the battlefield than a Firestarer. Its bulging shoulders and the helmet-like head unit were distinctive. Mechwarriors despised them, both because if they saw one they might see their heat spike out of control as the four flamers bathed their 'Mech in fire, or because for those who chose piloting one over being dispossessed it meant being the first target on the battlefield. Tank crews, knowing that those same weapons could bathe the air intakes of a tank engine and wreck it, were no happier to see a Firestarter facing them than Mechwarriors.

But those like Helen, who trained as infantry, knew that they didn't face their ride being crippled or impaired. Those flamers meant a horrid burning death for anyone not lucky enough to take a fatal hit from the machineguns.

And while the designers and pilots claimed that they were for 'tactical' burning, clearing obstructive forests or cutting fire breaks against forest fires... everyone knew that the Firestarters existed for one reason: burning dug-in infantry out of urban battlefields.

The shop, which had been a shelter, was now a trap.

The drab red and brown Firestarter stalked down the street with prissy neatness, carefully avoiding the broken woman outside the grocery store, as well as the other injured.

"Is that...?" De Silva was with Helen now, peeking out through the blinds.

"A Firestarter. An anti-infantry 'Mech, one of the mercs from the garrison."

"What the hell is it doing in the city?" the grocer cursed.

"Whatever it damn well pleases." Although, now that she looked at it, there was no scorched paint around the one flamer muzzle she could see clearly. So it had perhaps not used its weapons. Yet.

The 'Mech paused and turned to look directly at them.

Crap, we must look like a couple of infantry waiting to ambush it, Helen realised. "Go back to the kitchen," she hissed and reached back over the counter for the switch.

If she'd thought that the grille was slow before, it was excruciating waiting for it to rise. As soon as it was open enough, she forced the automatic door open with her hand and pushed the medical kit out, the emblem uppermost.

From the floor, she squinted up at the towering 'Mech for a long, dreadful moment. Then one arm waved breezily and the 'Mech moved on with the same care as before.

Helen rested her head on the floor. Going anywhere or doing anything...

"Is is safe?" Mr. De Silva asked plaintively.

"I think so," she managed and clambered up. The grille was gone and she scooped up the medical kit as she went for the trampled woman. Helen was depressed but not surprised to discover that it was too little, too late. But groaning from other victims suggested that there were others she could help.

Two of the protesters were on the shop floor, with Helen putting a splint on the second's arm by the time the police arrived, a full squad with riot shields. Judging by the stains, unlike the Firestarter's flamers, the shields had seen service - at least to shield their bearers from rotten fruit...

Helen's eyes darted to the discount rack. That youth earlier...

"Were you at the riot?" one of the policemen asked intently.

"We're not political," Mr. de Silva declared quickly. "This is a grocers' for god's sake. We're just giving first aid."

The man, face mostly covered by the enclosed helmet just nodded. "I'll leave one of my men here until we can pick these two up."

"For the ambulance?"

The laugh behind the helmet was dull and echoing with no real amusement to it. "Ambulances are dealing with the really injured. This pair and those like them will have to wait in gaol first."

"At least it's over," Mr de Silva declared once the two injured men and the policeman were gone. "Take the rest of the day off. We'll have no more customers."

But by the time Helen got back to her apartment, the governor had declared martial law across Gette City. And rumour was that half the elected assembly would be joining arrested protesters behind bars. Words like insurgency were being thrown around. Over seemed to be an optimistic assessment.
"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 #40 on: 12 April 2020, 07:11:48 »
Castle Absalom, Sinclair
Near Periphery
6 January 3050

As the Ve helicopter carried Costigan towards the headquarters of Alpha Galaxy, he saw very little to distinguish the fortress from that he'd been stationed with previously. Both were nestled in the northern slopes of the North Polar mountains, overseeing one of the passes through to the deserts south of them.

After a few minutes, he realised that there was a difference: no highway stretching north to the inland sea, probably because Castle Absalon was almost a thousand kilometres away from the sea. In fact, there was no regular ground route between the Castle and the rest of the colony - primarily because it had been home to a handful of sibkos until the invasion.

That might change, Costigan thought as he saw 'Mechs - BattleMechs, OmniMechs and Industrial Mechs intermixed - carving out fresh terraces for housing and farmland. Clearly the Castle was experiencing the same explosive population growth as the rest of Sinclair was. Perhaps a road would be built in the future, as the population spread north and more farmland was needed.

Whatever happened, Costigan might see it, but only on return. He wouldn't be here long.

The Ve swept over the terraces and then down towards the landing pads. "Warriors, I will only touch down briefly," the pilot declared. Since the VTOL wasn't in a weapons configuration, he was only a technician, not a warrior himself. "There are other passengers waiting."

Indeed, the helicopter didn't touch down at all, technically. Instead it came down and hovered perhaps half a metre seperating it from the pad as the doors unlocked. Costigan hit the quick release on his straps, pulled his kitbag out from beneath his seat and joined the handful of other passengers climbing out of the side-hatch and scrambling, bent over slightly to stay as far clear of the spinning rotor blades as possible, off and away.

A small line of uniformed warriors were waiting, carrying their own kitbags. Their faces were stiff as they made the reverse trip, disappearing one at a time into the helicopter before  the hatch closed behind them.

The pilot gave a half-wave and then opened the throttle, sending the helicopter vaulting skywards. Costigan raked his hair back and made a mental not to trim it at the next opportunity.

"Mechwarrior Costigan!" a woman called and he turned to see a Star Commander scanning the arrivals. She wore her hair longer than he thought wise, caught in an off-centre ponytail. But perhaps it was a trap she laid for the unwary?

"I am Costigan." He raised his hand in salute.

She eyed him with icy eyes and returned the salute with razor formality. Unconsciously, he stiffened his posture and tightened the salute he'd thrown. The Star Commander held her own for a long moment and then lowered it slowly. "Follow me," she ordered tersely.

Not a good start, he thought as he obeyed. On the other hand, even from behind she was certainly attractive. A shame she didn't seem inclined towards informality - but perhaps he was the one at fault. The 295th Sentinels had placed little weight on military decorum, so long as readiness was maintained. The 69th Hussars were one of the flagship clusters in the three Alpha Galaxys - not only part of the Prime Galaxy but one of the three frontline clusters. That divide had faded somewhat since the prime galaxies had been reorganised to include three frontline and three secondline clusters each back before Costigan's birth, but there was still enough truth in it that the Clusters considered themselves a cut above even the other half of the prime galaxies.

They entered the castle through double doors of what he knew enough now to recognise as native wood rather than anything seriously resistant to attacks, and cut left immediately up the steps that framed the broad entrance hall. At the top of the stairs, a a mezzanine ringed the hall, doors leading off it. Costigan glanced at the first door, then narrowed his eyes and checked again.

Unlike the outer doors, these were reinforced metal under a decorative coating, with a sliding window that could be moved aside to check who was outside before opening it - or just a bit wider to aim a weapon out of.

Anyone storming the castle could enter through the main doors easily enough, but the hall would be a killing ground for anything less than a battle armour assault. Another Clan would be unlikely to attempt it, of course. They would look for a simple Trial of Possession in some suitable circle of equals. Only the Inner Sphere would be likely to attempt a direct attack on the castle... And they lacked battle armour.

The door they went through just led into a corridor dug into the side of the mountain. It was bare of decoration, just a ferrocrete floor and walls, with simple lighting and doors along the left-hand side; but there were markings suggesting someone was planning tiling and to fit screens along one wall to emulate windows.

About a third of the way down, the Star Commander turned so sharply that Costigan had to sidestep up against the wall to keep from running into her. She ignored him and rapped her knuckles twice against the door they were facing.

"Who is it?" a man called from inside.

"Star Commander Rebecca reporting with the new Mechwarrior, Star Colonel."

"Come in then."

The blonde opened the door and gestured for Costigan to enter. The room within was slightly less barebones than the corridor - a battered desk and noteputer, the chair behind it occupied by a square-featured officer, his close-cropped hair beginning to silver at the temples. The walls had a half-dozen photographs, one of a sibko near their start of military training (or so Costigan guessed from their ages), another of the officer standing in formal dress uniform in front of the founders plaza, near Absalom Hall on Sheridan. The other four were landscape shots, from the angle likely taken from a 'Mech cockpit or possibly pulled from its sensor feeds.

The man looked up as Rebecca started to close the door behind Costigan. "You too, Star Commander."

"Sir." She closed the door, but with herself on the inside of the office.

"Sit down both of you." The man - Costigan's new Star Colonel, he assumed - leant back in his chair as they took their places on plastic folding chairs facing him. He eyed them both for a moment later. "I am Star Colonel Hannibal Banacek. Lately imposed on the 69th Star Adder Hussars Cluster due to dissatisfaction with their performance in the recent exercise. Star Colonel Rie Pershaw, who you may have expected, objected to being reassigned. He is expected to recover, but only after long enough he will have to requalify as a warrior."

Banacek flicked his gaze to the blonde. "Star Commander Rebecca has been with the 69th for three years and successfully trialled for command of her star after the exercise. I recognise the need for a change of leadership, but the existing Star Commander is dead, which deprives us of one more warrior we may need down the line, which I am less satisfied with. Every member of our Clan can and should contribute more than a few kilograms of fertilizer for the farmers."

Out of the corner of his eye, Costigan saw Rebecca's jaw tighten but she said nothing.

"So, to fill out the gap in your Star, Rebecca, we have here Mechwarrior Costigan. Recommended to move up from the 295th Sentinels by Dante Truscott personally, based on an adequate performance as a scout during the exercise. High praise."

He'd thought it was a bit more than adequate, to be honest. Detecting Epsilon Galaxy's trap had turned that entire situation around.  The southern jaw of the trap had been gutted when they rushed at what they thought was a barebones rear-guard and was instead co-ordinated fire from dug in Alpha Galaxy vehicles and a mobile reserve. Meanwhile the northern ambush had tried to force the pass, only overrunning the 295th after an hour of furious fighting and then found themselves exposed to re-armed Alpha galaxy aerospace fighters while they were exposed on the heights.

With a secure rear and opportunity to resupply and repair, Alpha absorbed the remains of Zeta Galaxy and came very close to beating Gamma Galaxy (itself reinforced by what little of Epsilon had escaped) before the alloted time for the exercise had expired. Costigan, ruled dead in the defense of the pass, hadn't been free to participate but felt he could take at least some credit.

"Do you disagree with that assessment, Mechwarrior?" asked Banacek.

"I am not going to argue with the outcome, Star Colonel." It had got him this posting, after all.

The other man smiled slightly. "A realistic analysis. Excellent. Star Commander, which 'Mech is free in your Star?"

"There is an Assassin," she replied immediately. "Well suited for a... scout."

"As you say." Banacek seemed to ignore the brief pause and that left Costigan no opening to do so. And an Assassin... he'd seen them during the exercise - not as fast as his old Hermes, but it had jump jets and better armour. "You will have no cockpit time in an Assassin, Costigan. Theta Galaxy and the Trey Sentinel Clusters stationed here on Sinclair have hoarded them. Take forty-eight hours to familiarize yourself. No other duties for him until then, Rebecca. And see he has got time on the training fields. There will be few other opportunities for the next few months."

"Sir." Was that a note of discontent in her voice. Costigan would be the low man in the Star going forwards, as he had been with his last posting. It occurred to him that with a new mechwarrior due, the Star might have been letting their less pleasant chores build up to leave them to him.

If the Star Colonel noticed that, then he gave no sign. "Do not unpack too far, Costigan. We will be lifting shortly. Alpha Galaxy's targets aren't the furthest from Sinclair, but the shipping schedule is unforgiving and we will not begin my command of the 69th by allowing it to fall behind, quineg?"

"Neg, sir!" the two in front of the desk exclaimed crisply.

"Have targets been bid for, sir?" asked Rebecca.

Hannibal Banacek tapped the wooden surface of his desk. "Not specifically. Galaxies have been assigned to their overall roles, but which worlds the 69th Hussars will be decided once we have updated our intelligence data and can make informed bids."

"May I ask what posting Alpha Galaxy has received?" asked Costigan.

"You may."

There was a slight pause and Costigan realised the verbal trap he'd fallen into. "What posting has been assigned to Alpha Galaxy, sir?"

"I am glad you asked," Banacek answered puckishly. "We have been assigned the primary role in corridor A, on the coreward flank of the invasion. Iota Galaxy will be acting as our support."

"Thank you, sir."

"Thank me, by getting up to speed in your Assassin as quickly as possible." The Star Colonel rose and spun his noteputer around, indicating the star chart on the screen. "The two primary targets in our corridor are Kowloon and Hood IV. As of our last reports, they both have a full regiment of 'Mechs and we can assume support at the brigade level. In addition, the Seventh Crucis Lancers Regimental Combat Team is only a jump away from Kowloon. We will be bidding high to destroy those forces before they can respond. Do not disappoint me by being unavailable."

S A S

CSAWS Feathered Serpent
Simms, Near Periphery
14 February 3050

"I move for a deferral of any and all Trials of Bloodright until the end of the Invasion," Roderick declared flatly. Nearly a thousand eyes were aimed at him, either in the flesh or via holo receivers. On Sinclair most would have been the former but with jumpships racing away towards first wave targets, even Bloodnamed warriors nearer than the Homeworlds needed to rely on the HPG chains to participate.

It was one reason that he'd allowed this item to be left until this late moment. There was vastly less chance of the session of the Clan Council breaking into a riot if the participants were outside of each other's reach.

As it was, he saw a dozen warriors sharing the large chamber rise to their feet, demanding the chance to speak. Two of them drifted off from the floor, having apparently forgotten that they weren't in the McKenna-class battleship's grav decks.

"How can you expect our young warriors to perform at their best if they are denied advancement?" called Ivar Hutchinson. Roderick could honestly say that demotion to command a Sentinel Cluster hadn't soured the man... because he'd never been sweet to begin with.

"Many of our warriors distinguish themselves even when there is no likely prospect of a bloodright falling vacant in their house," he countered. "They still do their utmost to catch the eye of potential sponsors in the future and many find their giftake chosen as patrilineal contributors to other houses. This is no different than that."

A younger warrior's hologram raised her hand. "Does this measure fall within Clan law?"

Bjorn Steiner nodded, well prepared for this question. He might even have prepped the younger warrior to make the enquiry.

"It would not be the first time that our Clan has deferred Trials of Bloodright," he informed the Council. "Most recently we deferred trials following the Absorption War when the number of bloodnamed warriors threatened to exceed the lawful maximum. Many of your younger warriors were even discouraged from seeking Bloodnames within houses that are dominated by other Clans, a cause for much strife in those difficult years."

Kendra Mannix stood, towering over non-Elementals in the council. A large portion of the Council fell silent, members affiliated with the Tongo Cloister heeding their ecKhan and others not wishing to offend the centre of the Star Adders' Wardens. They had been... touchy, of late.

"There is also the example of the founding," she reminded them. "In those days the first bloodrights were opened only cautiously for competition, with Clans who too quickly filled vacancies finding their young warriors demoralized. Are the issues we faced after the Absorption War not further evidence that preventing Bloodright trials is unwise?"

Roderick shrugged. "Our Bloodnamed are valiant. The overwhelming majority of you will stand on the frontlines, and we must assume that a great number will die. This is the nature of war. To use the Absorption War as evidence, it is reasonable to expect that as many as one in five of us will fall in battle over the coming years."

There was a pause.

Ivar snorted. "That is a worst case scenario, quiaff?"

"Neg. The worst case is that we are all dead and the tattered remains of the touman flees both the Homeworlds and the Inner Sphere. Unlikely, but not ruled out. It is possible our losses will be lower than projections, but that would reek of the overconfidence of the Jade Falcons." Roderick let that sink in. "But let us say one in ten, if that soothes your feathers, Ivar."

The Star Colonel sank back into his chair, face red.

"One in ten of us. Near enough a hundred trials of bloodright. Warriors pulled from the frontlines to gather for trials. A grand melee for each, consuming dozens of Duellist battlemechs that we have already pressed into duty with our Sentinel Clusters, aerospace fighters and Elementals that have no equivalent ot the duellist and must come from the Prime Galaxies, depleting their available equipment." Roderick exploded to his feet to emphasise his words. "We would damage ourselves more terribly than the Inner Sphere! We would cripple ourselves before their guns!"

"Is there anything more important than bloodnames in Kerensky's teachings?" asked Olaf Hobbes bluntly. "If we cannot win while following our ways, then have we not lost who we are?"

The khan turned to him sharply. "The Clan before oneself, is that not our way?"

The Council fell silent.

"Think on it. A hundred trials, costing us not hundreds but thousands of our warmachines damaged and in need of repair, consuming valuable supplies. Several hundred warriors recovering from injuries inflicted by their peers - no small number killed. And the shipping - by the gods of every Cloister! - the shipping to convey the warriors back and forth for the trials."

Bjorn raised one eyebrow. "I have touched less on the logistics than our saKhan but even I am aware that our jumpships are strained to bring our forces to their jumping off points."

Carlos Hutchinson, far away in the homeworlds, rose and waited for the muttering to end. "I support this measure, as the head of the Hutchinsons." That statement got a flinch from Ivar. Bloodhouse leaders very rarely issued such definite instructions, for dissent within a bloodhouse was a serious sign of weakness. It would take a very bold warrior to vote against such a sentiment - but it was far from unknown for them to seek to unseat their leader privately after the fact. And Carlos, far from the action, would have little glory to boast of unless matters went seriously awry.

Seated beside Carlos, Tabitha Paik nodded in agreement. "I counsel the same to my own House. She wasn't the leader of the Paik, but as their highest ranking member, she carried considerable weight. "In victory, we can hold all the trials we need. And the warriors who have passed through the fires of war will have shown if they are worth of our patronage or not."

"I like it not." Kendra Mannix seemed unmoved.

"A compromise," offered Anne Moreau. The aged warrior looked around. "It is hard to commit when we do not know how long the fighting will last. Once a year, every Bloodhouse with a vacancy may hold one trial of bloodright. Make an event of it, something for the warriors to anticipate."

Roderick frowned. Not... impossible.

"My own warriors will be largely excluded due to distance," Carlos pointed out warily.

"Six months of transit is an issue," agreed Dante Truscott. "Let us say once a year but the trials must be announced six months in advance, so only those of us slain in the first waves will have our bloodrights open for consideration in the first wave. Then those bloodrights opened in the following twelve months would have their chance in... early 3052, if we count from now."

"This seems to be a reasonable amendment to my proposal," Roderick conceded. "Let us say that vacant bloodrights must be announced by Founder's Day -" The twenty-fourth day of August. "- and the trials to take place in late February, as logistics allow."

Kendra considered this for a moment and then took her seat with dignity. "Very well."

Bjorn looked around the chamber. "Very well. I move for a vote. Ayes shall accept the saKhan's proposal as modified by this discussion. Nays will be against any deferral of trials of bloodright."

Votes were cast electronically and Roderick saw to no great surprise that many warriors had abstained. There had clearly been some private arguements within bloodhouses as discussion had taken place, with some warriors only technically not contesting the leaders. Still, he had very nearly five hundred aye votes, to less than half as many opposed.

"With a majority of four hundred eighty-eight to two hundred thirty, the motion passes," declared the Loremaster.

"I call for a Trial of Refusal," called a Star Colonel. It took a moment for Roderick to place her as Pauline Beckett. One of the younger bloodnamed and she must have done well since to make Star Colonel but... not well enough to be memorable.

Our numbers grow to great for me to directly oversee as we once did, he thought to himself. I should bring forward the proposal to establish a new intermediary rank above Galaxy Commander. "Very well, Star Colonel. I believe that two to one odds are fair?"

"Aff." She stood - one of the officers in the room here. "And I would not waste our resources by fighting augmented when we are in transit. Who will face me to defend this decision?"

Roderick considered possible pairings, looking around the available officers. "Unaugmented, here and now?" he asked Bjorn.

"That would be best, my Khan. Shall I hear bids."

"Myself."

"Alone, sir?" the loremaster exclaimed, blinking. That was a lower bid than was required. Pauline Beckett would be doing very well to win against two warriors, particularly if one of the  Elementals was bid.

"Aff." Roderick stood and stepped forwards. It would be well, he thought, to remind the Council that he had not been elected just for political skill or as an administrator.

The thought that he might lose didn't even cross his mind as the younger warrior left the benches. "Loremaster," the Khan called.

"The trial begins," declared Bjorn without ceremony.

Beckett flowed mid-stride into a throat-strike. It was well done, practically textbook.

Predictable, he thought and nearly parried it but then recognised the feint and swayed away from the kick she was actually going for. If it had landed, his kneecap would have paid the price. A crippling first blow. Better than he had expected.

He countered with a heavily telegraphed attempt to catch her ankle. He could practically see her trying to see if this was a fake or an attempt to fool her into thinking it was a feint...

It was a feint, actually. Roderick dropped briefly onto his hands, swept her legs and then flexed his arms, bringing him back to his feet, albeit crouched.

Beckett rolled away before Roderick could finish the fight. His arms ached with the effort of throwing himself upright. He didn't follow up immediately, letting her get halfway upright before stepping in while she was off-balance with a boot to her upper arm.

There was a nasty snap as her arm broke.

Then she caught his ankle, yanked and he went over backwards. Throwing himself into the flip he slammed both hands against the deck and pushed over, coming up again on his feet.

His opponent was standing again, her arm hanging loose. Both were breathing heavily.

She went for him, she had to finish this quickly now. Roderick batted aside her first two blows and caught the second.

The brief hesitation as she adjusted to that was decisive. A kick to her ribs was pulled just enough to perhaps crack something, not break them outright. Pauline gasped for air and he used his free hand to seize her broken arm.

The warrior screamed in pain and he let go of her arm, seizing her throat, heaving her back and pinning her against the wall with an impact that was audible.

"Do you surrender."

"A-aff," Beckett gasped.

Roderick stared at her for a long moment, letting it sink in and then released her sharply, letting her drop to her knees. "Call for a medic," he directed casually as he stalked back to his chair, trying not to show that the fight had tired him more than he expected.

Two technicians hurried in and began to examine Beckett. Long experience had made keeping a medical team on standby for meetings of the Clan Council standard practise.

"She will recover in time for operations to begin, quiaff?"

The senior technician stood again. "Aff. Regeneration therapy will suffice."

"Good." Roderick dismissed them. "The matter of Bloodname trials is settled. What is our next matter for discussion?"

Duke Topi's image rose. "The question of invading the Rim Collection has been raised by the Clan's Merchant Council." The commander of Gamma Galaxy had a forbidding manner, but for some reason he had become a common point of contact on the Clan Council for the senior merchants. Not the only one, but usually the one they brought major issues to. It might serve Topi well if he made a push for the office of Khan.

"Are they for or against?" asked Bjorn Steiner.

"Divided."

There were several rolled eyes around the Council.

"Conquering the Rim Collection would require garrisons, diverting an entire galaxy from our reserve," Roderick reminded them. "We cannot break the Inner Sphere, even with the other Clans' invasion taking place. We will have to co-exist with Spheroid states for years to come. Our relations with the Rim Collection will be a training ground for diplomatic ties." He paused and felt his lips curl. "Perhaps we should take a leaf from the Blood Spirits and appoint an ilChi to these worlds."

That opened debate and let him lean back, massaging his arms as he listened to the discussion.
"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 #41 on: 12 April 2020, 07:12:36 »
CWWS Dire Wolf, Paulus Prime
Near Periphery
20 February 3050

The first two days of the Grand Kurultai had been long and boastful reports of the fighting so far, with much made of what sounded to Virgilia like rather minor skirmishes.

There had been exceptions, she admitted. Von Strang's World saw savage urban fighting for the Jade Falcons and Khan Crichell had at least insisted on proper scouting there, something that neutralised what could have been a costly ambush by the defenders.

"Treachery is the only weapon that the Inner Sphere has against us," saKhan Weaver of the Smoke Jaguars declared.

"I would not call it their only weapon." Ulric Kerensky disagreed. "Though it is one, as you found out on Santander's World."

Sarah Weaver bared her teeth like the totem of her Clan. She had bid less than a trinary to take the world, a bid that she then had to break when three mined dropships blew up, shattering the initial force.

"I wish you good fortune in finding the pirate responsible," Virgilia offered mildly.

"I will need no luck. Their warriors are inept and their equipment substandard."

"Not all of them." Ulric Kerensky held up his hand. "We are fighting, for the most part, only bandits. Only Clan Wolf has engaged anything resembling a regular force."

"These Kell Hounds you reference were destroyed with ease by your warriors," pointed out the ilKhan impatiently. "I have viewed your records and they fought without honour."

"Did you perhaps view the record of Vladimir's duel?" asked Ulric intently. "One of our rising warriors and you will not have failed to recognise his skill."

"For a Wolf," sneered Elias Crichell.

Showers' brows lowered angrily and he shook his head. "Neg, Crichell. That warrior does indeed have promise. You refer to the mechwarrior he faced that was piloting a 'Mech of unknown design."

"Yes. Although there were two such 'Mechs."

"The other being so primitive that it is intended to fight by beating on other 'Mechs with a club."

There were laughs from around the chamber and Virgilia found it hard to argue with that assessment. "Nonetheless, the 'Mech Khan Ulric mentions gives useful data on what the Inner Sphere doctrine deems advisable. A 'Mech designed for their wars."

The 'Mech in question, designated a Wolfhound, was of the same size and speed as that of the Kit Fox and Adder, the main light OmniMechs used by the Star Adders. The data shared by Kerensky suggested heavier armour plating and an all-energy armament, suited to extended operations.

Within the constraints of the technology it was effective. The one consolation was that Virgilia was confident the new Assassins being built by her Clan would be readily able to handle one.

Ulric nodded. "The Wolfhound is no match for young Vladimir's Timber Wolf but the mechwarrior fought with skill and had he had a comparable 'Mech, the outcome would have been in doubt." He paused. "We have interrogated the mechwarrior and he attended one of their premiere academies, the same Nagelring that the Great Father attended once."

The murmuring of Khans died instantly.

The Wolf Khan scowled. "This Phelan did not even graduate, he is a washout. Sent to hunt bandits. I do not doubt that there are many other warriors in the Inner Sphere who have completed training in such academys. Warriors that could be just as dangerous and should not be taken lightly."

Leo Showers let that sink in. "Your point is made, Khan Ulric. If the Inner Sphere has no warriors of quality then they would have collapsed long since. Let us remember that the reason we have come back, as we were long ago promised, is because one of their ships had found us. If these warriors become common, if their technology continues to advance then they will follow the same dark path as their ancestors. Destroying themselves for the ambitions of the Successor Lords."

He raised his hands. "We are here to save these warriors, these jewels in the dross of the Inner Sphere. We will find them, we will defeat them and they - like those veterans of the SLDF who welcomed our ancestors on the return to the Pentagon - will see the righteousness of the Clan way and join us."

"That is certainly to be hoped for." Karianna Schmitt steepled her fingers in front of her. "And reports from conquered worlds so far indicate that many consider the warriors present to have saved them from their previous leaders, which is very promising. I note that the victories so far have in some cases been rather more expensive than projected. The advance forces ran through supplies in some cases above even the worst case estimations."

Khan Crichell took a deep breath. "While such cases as Von Strang's World or Santander's World are exceptions, I concede that they are nonetheless examples that may be repeated in future. We have called for additional supplies to be shipped from the Homeworlds and I encourage other Clans to do likewise."

"That will be useful," Schmitt agreed equably. "In about six months, when they start to arrive. The first wave of attacks on the Inner Sphere begins in only one month."

Virgilia frowned as she realised where the Blood Spirit was going. It was exactly the sort of idealistic goodwill gesture that had cost the Blood Spirits terribly in the early twenty-ninth century. Oh well, she decided. I was going to be basically giving it all to the Spirits anyway, so if they want to hand it off to other Clans it is their loss, not mine.

"What do you propose then, Khan Schmitt?"

"I propose that all the Clans should send a shipment of supplies, tailored to those that have seen excessive consumption so far. For those invading now or in reserve, this will be directly under our control. Those Clans not invading -"

There was a pained cry from Robin Steele, drowned out by Asa Taney pounding his fist on the table in front of him.

"- will contribute to a general stockpile under the ilKhan's discretion," Karianna finished.

"The entire point of winning places in the Invasion is that your Clans are supposed to carry the task out." Malavai Fletcher of the Hells Horses spoke in measured tones, but before anyone more fervent could get their own words in. "Why should we support you if your efforts are inadequate?"

"Because the alternative is being cut out of the Inner Sphere entirely, quineg?" offered Virgilia.

Fletcher gave her a dangerous look. "Your meaning being?"

"Let us assume that the invasion succeeds. You all know my doubts on that matter, I will not bore you all again," she assured the Council. "If it does succeed then the difference in resources available to the Invading Clans - including any reserves activated - will be measured in orders of magnitude. If we accept that our administration will be superior to that in place, then within a generation there will be no useful comparison in power between those Clans with significant Inner Sphere holdings and those that do not."

The air left Asa Taney's lungs as an incoherent wheeze instead of what was no doubt intended as a roar. It was quite possibly the most amusing sound Virgilia had ever encountered in a meeting of the Grand Council.

"Which means that those of us wishing to remain relevant will have no choice but to secure such holdings ourselves," she continued once she could be sure she wouldn't break out laughing. "And such will be much easier if we all have a foothold here to use as a base for such Trials. May I recommend that the ilKhan select a world to be taken which can be divided into enclaves for all the Clans... all the Clans that contribute, that is. Or we could perhaps ask Clan Wolf to yield up Paulus Prime, since it serves symbolically as our gathering point, to be Strana Mechty in miniature for us."

Robin Steele rose to her feet. "You speak, Khan Truscott, as if this invasion irreparably sunders the balance of power among the Clans."

"It does." Why else did Steele think they'd been arguing over this since before most of the Khans present had been born?

Ulric rubbed his face. "Khan Truscott, why is it that you can get these issues across to our comrades so decisively?"

"Natural talent, Khan Kerensky."

"With regard to Paulus Prime, no. My warriors fought for it so I will not just render it up to other Clans."

"Entirely reasonable. Another world then." Virgilia smiled at him and then looked back at Leo Showers. "In any event, I believe Khan Schmitt was going to suggest that my Clan donate the rather large shipment of supplies I brought with me to this proposed central supply stockpile. So long as my Clan and others contributing receive some reasonable recompense, I see no issue with this."

Then she sat back and watched the rest of the Council explode.
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

SulliMike23

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #42 on: 12 April 2020, 12:25:42 »
The Clans sure are in an uproar; but so far things for the Inner Sphere are quiet. But just wait until they start hitting the Inner Sphere Proper.

ThePW

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #43 on: 12 April 2020, 22:47:22 »
The Wolf Khan scowled. "This Phelan did not even graduate, he is a washout. Sent to hunt bandits. I do not doubt that there are many other warriors in the Inner Sphere who have completed training in such academys. Warriors that could be just as dangerous and should not be taken lightly."

I don't get the impression from that meeting that Phaelen isn't going to be as much a A-list character in this AU setting (is he?)… In fact I got the impression that Ulric favors Vlad?
« Last Edit: 12 April 2020, 22:50:09 by ThePW »

mikecj

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #44 on: 13 April 2020, 00:34:30 »
Ah, the politics of the "apolitical" clans...
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.

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #45 on: 13 April 2020, 03:29:57 »
I don't get the impression from that meeting that Phaelen isn't going to be as much a A-list character in this AU setting (is he?)… In fact I got the impression that Ulric favors Vlad?
The better Vlad looks (and Ulric's issues with Vlad were entirely over politics, he had no hesitation in using his talents) then the more impressive Phelan looks for making Vlad work for a victory. And by extension, the less unusual Phelan appears, the more impressive the Inner Sphere looks.

Timeline wise, we're currently between chapters 14 and 15 of Lethal Heritage, roughly a third of the way through the book. (46 chapters including prologue and epilogue).
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

marauder648

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #46 on: 15 April 2020, 09:45:35 »
An excellent update! Magnificently written and a superb portraying of how the Clans work as always!
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #47 on: 16 April 2020, 15:47:25 »
Codetta

The Triad, Tharkad
Donegal March, Lyran Commonwealth
21 February 3050

"I won't sign this." Melissa tossed the document back across the table towards Hanse.

Her husband had to examine it for a moment before his memory visibly kicked in and he was able to place the letter. It had been a long day and he had his own stack of documents to review that evening. "Am I missing something?" the First Prince asked mildly.

"I think we both are." The Archon of the Federated Commonwealth sank back into her chair and rubbed her forehead. "I wish Marshal Davis-Steiner had done his tour of the area last year, rather than waiting for this one."

"I'm not sure Lost is one of the worlds he planned to visit, although I agree that he should."

Melissa nodded. "And he's already confirmed that he is. The entire area is a mess and I think the new Periphery March is enabling that, not helping."

"Alright," he allowed. "Do you have any particular suspicions with the Dismal Disinherited though. Everything we have says they showed great restraint."

"The trouble," Melissa said slowly, "Is that everything we have is too clear cut. There's a very clear narrative that paints the Disinherited and the planetary government in a good light... we both know that life isn't that tidy."

Her husband nodded reluctantly. "I can see that, but the Mercenary Review Board is making some noises about revising the Disinherited's rating, which could hurt them badly. If we don't have their back when they deployed on the request of our officers then a lot of other units will start wonder if we'll support them in a similar situation."

She gave him a frustrated look. There was little about their marriage that she regretted, but there were times that being Hanse's co-ruler was more like being his student. It had been a decade now. "I'm aware of that Hanse, but there's too much that I am not aware of for me to issue such a comprehensive endorsement of their actions right now. I'll have my secretary draft something more guarded and send it over to you."

"Fair enough." Hanse set the letter aside, picked up the next document on his pile and then  put it back. "Who's their representative on the Estates-General?"

"Baron Thomas Whitehall." She made a face. "The duke's brother-in-law, although that was after he was elected for the first time. You met them both at that ridiculous duck-hunting expedition Duke Brewer organised for Luther's fifteenth birthday." The Duke's nephew Luther was also Melissa's second-cousin once-removed. The combination of family ties and Kenneth Randolph Brewer's position had mandated some level of royal attendance, and the location had given Hanse and Melissa a night away from the palace and the never-ending paperwork of their positions.

"I thought that Duke Easton was one of Brewer's shareholder."

"He is. The Eastons have been pushing pfennings into shares in Defiance subsidiaries since my... great-grandfather's day, I believe. Not the main company, since those aren't really up for trading, but that and their other holdings are more valuable than their estates on Lost, at least by tax valuations."

Hanse nodded. "I can think of a few nobles from our Outback worlds who have that sort of situation. It can cause problems."

"Normally," Melissa noted, "the provincial social structures of Alarion and Coventry's nobility kept them somewhat in check but the Periphery March hasn't gelled so far to the point of constraining absenteeism."

"So what do you want to do?"

"I am tempted to tell Nondi to redirect the Tenth Lyran Guards to head directly for Lost. With their three regiments scattered across as many worlds, we don't have any regular 'Mech regiment that can counter balance the Dismal Disinherited in the area. Which worst-case might be required -" she held up her hand "- even if I have no immediate cause to suspect them of doing more than using the bare minimum of force in response to local authorities activating the insurgency clause. More likely I'll need to replace them - that sort of deployment is toxic, which means finding somewhere for them to be stationed that shows we still have confidence in them."

Hanse watched her attentively but said nothing.

"More pragmatically, the Tenth wouldn't get there all that quickly and there's no use trying to micromanage matters," Melissa admitted in a lower voice. "And I'm sure Justin would be unhappy if I was deliberately directly his son's unit right into a political mess."

"They're a high profile unit," Hanse conceded drily. "On the other hand, the nearest unit in an emergency would be the Sixth Crucis Lancers on Langhorne, which would be another political message entirely."

The last thing they needed was a repeat of the Skye uprising, where Davion regiments had been used to try to restore peace on Lyran worlds, only inflaming the situation.

"I'll authorise Marshal Davis-Steiner to remove the governor if need be," she decided. "The Qanatir PMM isn't quite as formidable as the Sixth Lancers, but short of active insurrection by the Dismal Disinherited, they should be equal to the task. In the meanwhile, I'll have the Eleventh Lyran Guards added to the units rotating out to the Periphery March."

Hanse made a face.

"I know, I know. It's a hole in our strategic reserve. But that's what a reserve is for."

"For what it's worth, I think the Marshal is right that it's too quiet along that border," the First Prince admitted. "Nothing I can put my finger on, but the fact we don't know why does bother me. And it's spreading. There hasn't been anything from Oberon or the Greater Valkyrate since the Kell Hounds got jumped there."

Melissa lowered her eyes at the reminder. Morgan Kell had given her away at their wedding, in lieu of his cousin - the father she had never known. His son's loss in that attack had hurt him almost as badly as the destruction of the entire battalion present. "If whatever jumped them is widespread then we may need a much larger redeployment."

Hanse's eyes glittered. "Shipping contingencies are somewhere in this stack," he said, indicating the papers he'd already reviewed. "If whatever happens comes at us, we'll have command circuits in place to shift most of the ready reserve units in the Federated Suns as far as Skye in weeks."

Skye was a very long way from the Periphery, but it would at least put them on the right side of Terra.

Melissa didn't need a map to name worlds along the Periphery border. She'd been raised to be Archon, to know every world in the Commonwealth as at least a little more than a name on a map.

And her mind didn't go to Lost or even the rock - imaginatively named The Rock - where Phelan Kell had died. It went to a frozen little world called Trellwan (or Trell One on some documents) where their firstborn son was enjoying his first command.

Victor Steiner-Davion was only a few jumps away from the edges of the Federated Commonwealth. If whatever was happening in the Periphery spilled over, he would insist on joining whatever response force was mustered and it would be politically disastrous for her to try to stop it.

"He has my brother's guts," Hanse told her, guessing what was on her mind with his usual accuracy. "And your mother's brains. We gave him a battalion right out of the Nagelring because it would be a waste of his talents not to. Whatever's out there, if Victor isn't equal to it then no one we have is."

"I'm probably jumping at shadows."

"Well, the best way to get rid of a shadow is to cast light on it."

Melissa nodded and made a note to have Baron Whitehall called into the Triad at the next opportunity. If she pressed him on what was going on with his homeworld he'd hopefully either come out with something useful or go running to his brother-in-law to cover up whatever was really going on. If it was the latter then she might dust off some of the more repressive of the Archon's authorities over the nobility.

She'd have to have all her facts straight, but if the Eastons cared so little for Lost then a more reasonable planetary leader might be needed... and if their prized Defiance shareholdings had been bought with taxes from Lost then some careful accounting might see those stripped from the Duke as well. Loss of wealth and title would serve as an example that the leaders of her most outlying worlds seemed in need of.

If it was merited, of course. But something told her that the Dismal Disinherited's complaint about being called up on the insurgency clause of their contract was smoke from a long-burning fire she didn't want burning out of control.

Star Adder Symphony
will continue in
Book 2
Shadow Star
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

marauder648

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #48 on: 18 April 2020, 23:06:41 »
So Victor and friends are still on the front line and it seems the FedCom is unaware there's going to be a spear hurled at its side too. To quote a movie 'be prepared for a lot of stinging..'  But excellent writing as always!
Ghost Bears: Cute and cuddly. Until you remember its a BLOODY BEAR!

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #49 on: 22 April 2020, 09:21:32 »
Book 2: Shadow Star
They see you as small and helpless
They see you as just a child
Surprise when they find out that a warrior will soon run wild
Prepare for your greatest moments
Prepare for your finest hour
The dream that you've always dreamed is suddenly about to flower
This Will Be The Day - Casey Lee Williams, Jeff Williams

Chapter One

Gette City, Lost
Periphery March, Lyran Commonwealth
11 March 3050

Sanity had apparently broken out at a high level - Helen Candidy made no pretence at knowing where - and the Governor had withdrawn martial law in time for the soccer season to begin.

Granted, there was a curfew that was merely 'adjusted' around the evenings of matches and that she hadn't heard anything one way or another about the assembly members or anyone else detained, but that was enough for her to be out for a match.

Unlike many of the fans crowded around her, Helen hadn't gone as far as wearing face-paint in the Getter Rays colours. She'd done that once, got some of the green in her hair and it hadn't come out for over a week. Which would have been nice to have had some warning of. Although at least it was before her current employment. Or her militia duty. Neither would have reacted well to green hair.

No, she was just wearing a team shirt over her normal clothes and enjoying the bright, clear weather as the teams fought (figuratively) for possession of the ball. It made her feel positively old.

"Get lost, get lost, get lost," came a familiar taunt from the far side of the stands where the visiting fans were resorting to the traditional heckling of the home team. The repetition sent a shiver through Helen - how many of the same voices had been raised outside the capitol building.

Okay, enough of that, she told herself. This is a football match. There's nothing political going on. We won't have battlemechs coming out to send us home and the mercs have been keeping to their bases ever since that.

Nothing she had heard anywhere suggested that the Dismal Disinherited's third regiment had fired a single shot. Their commander, a Colonel Hogan, had even gone on the news and stated that he deeply regretted that the local government had found it necessary to call on him and that he and his troops were here to keep pirates away, not to involve themselves in local politics.

He had not said that they wouldn't deploy if they got called out again. If anything, the fact that Hogan had sent in 'Mechs in when he didn't want to meant that the Governor was able to insist on it. And if he could do that once, he could insist on it again, probably.

The crowd roared around her and she realised that in her distraction, she'd missed the sight of the ball being intercepted. Green-clad players were running down the pitch now, no longer marking the opposing team but trying to avoid them so that they would be open to receive a pass and move the ball towards the other goal.

Not that the 'Hapless' - Hope Levee City - players were letting that go. In their blue shirt and white shorts they were dashing into position to make that process as hard as possible. Helen saw the ball arc across the field and the recipient got it under control twisting and turning to avoid attempts to get it away from him.

"Go Gette!" she screamed in delight.

Too many players were converging to keep control and the ball was passed hastily. This player missed the ball touching down - it was just out of his reach - but he caught it before the man marking him could exploit it, spun and -

There was a thunder in the air but Helen couldn't be sure if it was the crowd exclaiming or something else as the player looked up, paled and then bolted off the field.

What - was - he - doing!?

Then a flash of light in the sky cut off the commentators who were saying about the same thing.

Helen craned her neck back and swallowed.

Dropships overflying the pitch were an occasional nuisance at most. The stadium was built under the approach vector for the spaceport, but that was miles away. Aerodynes might go over but they did exactly that: went over. Wait a few seconds and they were gone. The sphere of metal above the stadium had no business being there. Capable of taking off and landing vertically, it ought to be doing so over the port. Not here.

The commentators cut out abruptly and an authoritative voice rang out across the stadium.

The governor's voice was familiar and he sounded angered, not fearful. Unfortunately, what Helen later guessed was supposed to be inspiring or reassuring was turned by an unfortunate choice of when to cut it in.

"- panic -" the man roared and ten thousand sports fans took that as an order.

Standing near the front, Helen had the luxury of an easy out. She threw herself forwards, jumped over two middle-aged men who had tried to push past each other and just knocked each other over and seized the rail.

Up, over and a three metre drop... just like basic, she thought abstractly as she hit concrete of the player's entrance feet-first and let her knees buckled reflexively. At least I'm not in full field kit.

Another bright light from above and she glanced up, horrified at the thought that the dropship might be exploding. Even if it was 'just' a Union, that would be devastating.

What she saw wasn't quite that bad, but evidently she had tempted fate too hard earlier.

BattleMechs were spilling from hatches on the lower hull of the dropship and while some were vaulting off on arcs that didn't seem to be coming down inside the stadium, they couldn't really be landing further than the parking lots.

And one exception was growing far too rapidly in size...

Helen crouched at the side of the entrance and watched in disbelief as ten metres of metal came down just to one side of the centre line, legs flexing much as her own had for a much shorter drop, absorbing much of the impact.

Of course, the flaring jump jets must have slowed it considerably, she realised as she tried to identify who or what had interrupted the match. Pirates were the most likely culprits, out here, but it had been a long time since she'd been briefed on the active bands.

Black was her first impression. Not the dark blue with red and gold trimmings of Morrison's Extractors, which was something. Those were one of the most vile bands she'd been told about back in the militia... although she had some recollection that they had been destroyed.

It wasn't a huge 'Mech, she estimated. More than thirty tons but probably not over fifty by rough eyeballing. The torso was smoothly curved across the shoulders and there was no head - or rather, there was but it was only a slightly larger curve over a cockpit buried between the shoulders. Definitely familiar... something about Marik...

Assassin, she remembered. That was it. Not a common 'Mech, but still found in Free Worlds League service more often than elsewhere. She didn't see the Marik eagle on it anywhere, though. Usually the League splashed that somewhere prominent in purple, which wouldn't exactly stand out against the basic black of this 'Mech.

There were more screams as people tried to get out the entrances or found themselves trampled.

The 'Mech turned its torso towards them and she saw a badge at last, some sort of snake in front of a five-pointed star. Nothing she recognised, some new pirate band perhaps?

"Cease this behavior!" a voice boomed out from the 'Mech, sounding more indignant than angry. "Civilians are to hold their place."

The 'Mech took a step forwards, which Helen didn't think was going to prevent the panic above and behind her. From the sounds she was right.

"I said stop!" the mechwarrior demanded again.

Helen cringed. She was close enough that she could see the weapon muzzles, shrouds for laser lens, unless she was mistaken. Now that she thought of it, shouldn't an Assassin be fitted with missile launchers above its hips? Not that refits were unusual for any 'Mech.

She didn't want to think about what might happen if the man inside fired. The stands weren't all that solid. Military grade weapons would rip them apart and the fragments... no, she wasn't going to consider it.

Forcing herself up to her feet again, she walked slowly towards the 'Mech, waving both hands above her head to get its attention.

The Assassin halted and the torso leant forwards, comically as if it was a man looking down. Which was probably accurate enough.

"Go away!" she called out, enunciating as clearly as possible. External microphones for 'Mechs were surprisingly sensitive, but with an entire crowd behind her... "There is nothing here for you! We are unarmed!"

The Assassin examined her and she wondered what he made of her. Was he about to destroy her as an example to everyone else?

But instead the 'Mech simply straightened. "Aff," the voice declared, sounding more guilty now than angry. The Assassin turned briskly, took two paces towards the away team's goal and then fired its jump jets - setting part of the pitch on fire, but hardly an inferno.

Many tons of metal arced up and out of the stadium. Forty tons, Helen recalled absently. Assassins weighed forty tons. More than half again as much as the Scorpions in the militia's armoured battalion.

"That..."

Helen turned at the voice and saw a player in green eyeing her in naked admiration. His shirt was sticking to him with sweat. The green clashed awfully with his ginger hair.

"That was bloody brilliant," he finished. "I thought it would kill you for sure."

"You thought that?" she asked, dropping to her knees and hugging herself. "I... I thought it was going to kill all of us. Just by being here."

"Right. We should..." he looked up and back. There were still people crying, shouting and crying. Not so many, perhaps, but still some. "I don't know."

"Are you a medic?" she asked him quietly.

"No."

"You're useless then," she said, realising she was being unfair. "And I've got nothing anyway." She felt in her pocket and realised she still had her comm. "Well, except this."

The emergency line was clogged, as it turned out. She left a message anyway, in case no one else in the stadium had called this in.

"Is there a way out of here?"

"You're going out?" the man asked incredulously. "At least the 'Mech isn't here. Who knows what's going on out there?"

"If my car's still out there, I can get to my apartment," Helen told him bluntly. "If I can get there, then I can get my stuff and get out of the city, or at least hunker down there if it makes more sense. Stuck here I don't even have a public radio to tell me what's going on."

"Oh." He looked at a sign that declared 'private, staff and players only' and then pushed the door open. "I guess you can go through here."

Four other players who'd taken refuge in the changing rooms stared at her accusingly as she was ushered through, as if her presence there was somehow worse than this raid or invasion or whatever. For them, maybe it was, although she had no intention of telling anyone that Enriquo Fields had crapped himself at the sight of a 'Mech. She doubted he was the only one.

S A S

Gette City, Lost
Periphery March, Lyran Commonwealth
11 March 3050

The city was impressive in some ways, Oskar thought. He didn't think it was the largest he'd ever seen, but there was an underlay of massive and enduring Star League architecture - the sort of thing that only the greatest cities of the Homeworlds needed.

On the other hand, quite a lot of the city had been rebuilt over the years in a much more slipshod fashion in styles and materials that he wouldn't have seen outside of smaller or newer enclaves that didn't yet require or justify what the Clans saw as appropriate building materials.

It did give it a distinctive look but...

He winced as a cloud of dust rose from behind a line of apartments.

...they didn't seem all that durable.

Point Four, we have the HPG," he heard Robert declare. The elemental wasn't Oskar's Star Commander strictly - the bidding for Lost had been complicated, with Sentinel units from the Gamma Galaxies bid in lieu of some Delta frontline units since their own Deuce and Trey Galaxies were still a month away. As a result, Oskar's point - or four of them - replaced two points of Elementals in this particular combined Star. "They appear to have signalled for support. Expect a response unit."

"Seyla," Oskar replied philosophically. "Point, cover me." He leant his back against a building, after checking that it was of proper construction and able to bear his weight and tilted his head. The communications gear built into his... into the Asp's head automatically linked up with one of the dropships and gave him access to an aerial view of the city.

Fighting inside a city was unwelcome, but this was where the HPG was and last reports suggested a company of the mercenary mechwarriors stationed here were inside the capitol complex. Either they would spearhead the response force or it would come from outside Gette City.

It took only a brief moment to confirm that Star Adder OmniMechs were engaged already with  multiple 'Mechs and other combatants. It took a few seconds for Oskar to count eight hostile 'Mechs, three of them already neutralised.

So four were unaccounted for. He could not be sure they were coming for the HPG, but it seemed possible.

The god-like eye in the sky raked quickly along the major roads to the edge of the city. Then across to the militia barracks where another Star was tearing through ill-prepared and often dismounted infantry - the tank barns were already cut off and neutralised.

With a wrench he was back to himself, leant against the side of an office building. A couple of windows had broken, shards scraping at the black paint on his skin... the Asp's armour. It felt itchy.

He shook it off and straightened, seeing the other three Asps all covering the approaches to his position. "Expect four 'Mechs to be approaching from the direction of the government buildings," he advised.

"One each," Sam said in delight.

Oskar reached out and pressed one hand against Sam's face. "Fool. This is not for our glory. The Galaxy Commander himself ordered that zellbrigen is suspected."

"It is unfair to treat them as dezgra."

He felt the palm of the hand grind slightly against the other Asp. "We respect our duty to our Clan first and the enemy after that. If we fight them alone we will place the burden for repairing our Asps and perhaps replacing our dead. And if you would respect these mercenaries then we will do so by fighting them with everything that we have, including our teamwork."

Sam pushed Oskar's hand away. "It is behaving like Ice Hellions!" The other warrior was the only member of the Star who had come from mechwarrior stock. He was barely within the size constraints to pilot an Asp.

Perhaps being larger than me outside of our Asps is giving him ideas. Oskar shook his head, sensors flickering back and forth across the city. "We fight like elementals. Do you insult our brethren fighting in the HPG complex? Will you see them dead, if you throw this fight in your desire for personal glory, quiaff?"

The other two Asps were flanking him, leaving Sam outvoted.

"Neg," the warrior conceded grudgingly.

"You will fight as part of this point, quiaff?" demanded Oskar.

"Aff!"

"Then our victory will be your victory, your glory all our glory." Oskar cut the conversation off by firing his jump jets and soaring up and backwards onto the top of the office building, turning to face the government buildings.

The other three Asps of the point fanned out, hopping mostly from street to street as the majority of roofs would probably have difficulty with even their weight. Oskar looked for the site of the building that he'd seen collapse. He didn't see why a 'Mech heading in their direction would destroy a building, but he hadn't seen any other obvious cause either.

Locating it, he quickly traced the coordinates and punched a query back to the dropships above. It was in roughly the right direction and nearer than the area of fighting.

Oskar moved after the rest of the point, following a road that seemed to lead in roughly the right direction. Two storey residences lined the street, with paved footpaths separating them from the roadways. His head was only a little above the upper story windows and he saw the occasional movement behind shutters.

It would be inconvenient if some of that movement was infantry teams with TAG systems, he thought. But the chances were pretty good that they were just civilians.

Fighting in cities, what a terrible idea, he thought. But there were military forces here and the HPG station, both of which the Clan needed to knock out quickly. In theory he could deal with the possible threat by firing on the buildings, but that would probably do nothing but cause civilian casualties and he'd be breaking Duke Topi's rules of engagement.

"Point Commander, the location you queried had an enemy battlemech, designation Commando, hit by an airstrike. Our assessment was an ammunition explosion, either it didn't have proper ammo storage or it malfunctioned."

"Understood. Were other 'Mechs detected by the airstrike?"

"I am sorry, Point Commander. I have no information either way."

"Acknowledged." He cut the channel abruptly and altered his course towards the smoke still coming from the wrecked building. "Form on me," he ordered the other three. "Use seismics." He hoped that that was unnecessary, infra-red and magscan would be utterly pointless in the city as things stood. Still, better to have said it than to leave someone making a mistake.

The calibration of his sensors barely picked up the footsteps of the four Asps, but 'Mechs would be larger. With little more than a thought, Oskar adjusted the settings to show not just confirmed sources of vibration, but lower possibilities. "Cross-feed me your seismic data," he ordered and overlaid the feeds he received.

"I have them!" he exclaimed, perhaps optimistically as three possible sources showed up. An Inner Sphere lance of four - less the one Commando. Total tonnage seemed less than a hundred tons - likely for a light lance and most importantly, within the range of capabilities that the four of them might be able to handle.

"Permission to confirm?" asked Sam - his Asp was nearest to the projected location.

"Authorised," Oskar confirmed. "But do not engage until we join you." I hope I can rely on him to show restraint.

"Aff."

Checking the map, fruit of some reconnaissance carried out in years past he supposed, Oskar picked out an elevated highway that intersected the road that the other 'Mechs seemed to be on. "Jan, Ernest, we'll use the highway to cover our approach."

The three of them raced out and ducked below the highway. Their heads probably wouldn't graze the underside but there wasn't much clearance, particularly as they navigated the obstacles. And using their jump jets was obviously out of the question until they moved out.

"Contact!" Sam half-shouted. "Three 'Mechs, heading towards the highway, approximately sixty kph."

Oskar checked the map and did a rough calculation. The three of them would get to that junction first, but only just. "Did they spot you?

"I believe not." Sam's voice was steader. "Warbook identifies as a Firestarter, a Commando and a Wasp."

"The Commando has no jump jets," he remembered. "Stay behind them. The Wasp will be our first target, it is the smallest. The Firestarter..." That one 'mech was almost as large as all four of them, designed for anti-infantry work. As the largest, it might be the leader's. If they crippled the Wasp quickly then it would likely be constrained to stay with the ground-bound Commando.

Or so he hoped, anyway. They were faster, but not decisively so. Disengaging would be difficult.

"Stravag!" Sam shouted. "They have turned away, the turn before the highway. Towards you!"

"We have them." Oskar felt his - the Asp's - feet skid slightly as he turned sharply. He caught himself on a street sign, which came away in his grip but gave him just enough traction to stay upright.

With a fraction more warning, the other two flared their jump jets, keeping them upright as they made the turn.

The Wasp crossed the road ahead of them, half-turning and raising the laser built into one arm as it saw them.

The ferrocrete of the highway cracked behind them as the larger 'Mech - even though it wasn't tall, it towered over them - missed. None of the three of them did, and the Wasp staggered, armour ripped away by lasers. The left arm had been flung up and took the brunt of Oskar's laser, myomers torn away and flailing away from control of the limb.

There was a flash of light from behind and Oskar saw another Asp - Sam - jump past behind the Wasp. Struck from behind the right torso, the entire shoulder tore apart and the right arm - along with the laser that was its main armament - went flying.

"Duck and cover," Oskar ordered as the rest of the lance came into view. Both were visibly larger and bulkier. In a fighter he would have still considered them small and relatively soft targets, but now he had a single laser. It was a very different way to fight.

Missiles sailed towards them from the Commando, one clipping Ernest's Asp as they dodged.

"Are you damaged?"

"Only stung, Point Commander. Our target seems disabled."

"Yes. Good shooting, Sam. Now, take backshots by preference, the Firestarter is primary target."

"The Commando is smaller!"

"Yes, but less mobile." He jumped up and back, landing on the highway, looking down on the two 'Mechs and firing another shot. He saw plates across the chest of the Firestarter rupture, but unlike the Wasp, the shot didn't seem to impair the 'Mech and it fired its own jump jets, both arms raised. Lasers tore into the roadway as Oskar dashed aside a moment before the other mechwarrior fired.

Am I a mechwarrior myself now? he thought and then shook the thought away. Battle was no time for such worries.

The Firestarter crashed down onto the highway - fortunately it was an example of the older Star League infrastructure and was equal to the weight of the 'Mech. Well, actually it was unfortunate - it would have been delightful if the 'Mech had crashed right through it and done itself damage.

Oh well, the locals would be upset, Oskar thought philosophically and fired again before dodging. If he could keep ahead then his laser had more range than anything on the Firestarter.

Then he was almost sent sprawling as a shot tore into the armour of his chest. It stung like crazy and almost sent him stumbling. He turned the move into a dive off the side of the highway, firing his jump jets to absorb the landing and then throw himself back under the raised structure.

A moment later and the Firestarter would have landed directly upon him. As it was, paint across the Asp was scorched by fire from the battlemech's flamers. The heat inside the Asp rose sharply, something he could feel with both bodies. It was disconcerting, almost overriding the link.

"Point Commander!"

"Change of plan," he ordered as he scrambled away. "It is following me away from the HPG. Finish the Commando then join me."

"Now who is chasing glory?" Sam called back, but he and the other three turned back on the Commando.

"Mission first." He raced behind what appeared to be some form of commercial building - a food store, but larger than anything he had seen in the homeworlds. Good - he did not trust that the other Mechwarrior would be considerate of civilians. "I will not defeat this enemy alone."

Maybe not at all, he thought. The Firestarter jumped up over the building, clipping one corner but simply smashing through, unslowed.

One problem with the Asp, Oskar noted as he dodged more shots. Mounting the only weapon in the torso limits its traverse. I will have to fight while retreating backwards or my laser will not bear.

His second hit on the Firestarter - the third hot to hit it so far - didn't breach its armour any more than the other two had. The shots were doing damage, but not enough. Oskar jumped back again, checking his surroundings. The Firestarter had come down in some kind of loading bay, but the store was surrounded by open parking areas and more stores, most with little to no clue as to what they might be selling.

Not that it mattered.

"I don't suppose I can get you to surrender?" a woman's voice boomed out from the Firestarter's speakers. The 'Mech didn't fire as it stepped out of the loading bay.

"'Don't'," he muttered to himself. "Oh, ‘do not’ maybe. Well..." The thermal signature of the Firestarter was dropping. "Ah, stalling as you cool off. Wait..." Was the woman feeling like she was the one on the defensive? Feigning strength as she recovered?

Oskar jumped to one side just in case. "I think your forces are not in any advantage." He also refrained from firing. While his own heat was fine, stalling for time was fine with him. It just gave time for the rest of his point to finish off the Commando and rejoin him.

Speaking of which... "Progress report, warriors?"

"Ernest has taken further damage," Jan reported. "I have directed him to return to the HPG and support Star Commander Robert. Sam and I are moving to join you."

"The Commando is out of action, quiaff?"

"Aff." She sounded annoyed. "There was considerable property damage. I do not believe they have proper cellular ammunition storage."

"Unfortunate but not under our control, warriors."

The Firestarter took a step closer, raising its weapons. "I think your surprise has worn off. But the Federated Commonwealth will pay us well for samples of your war machines, even if I have to break it a little."

Oskar fired his jump jets and shot away. "Do please mind your targets, this is a settlement after all."

The Firestarter opened up with both lasers, missing both times. "You're the bastards that brought the fight here."

"Then I suppose I should end it quickly." He tracked the 'Mech and centred his crosshairs on the already battered armour over the right chest.

The laser shot slashed across the previous damage, penetrating at the juncture of the two lines. Fire ripped out of the back and for a moment he thought that he'd hit an ammunition bin, but it was just a jump jet venting prematurely.

An instant later the Firestarter took to the air once more, but it was clearly off balance and veered wildly in the air.

"I have it!" shouted Sam and the 'Mech was caught in a crossfire between all three Asps as Oskar's reinforcements caught up.

At least one shot - he wasn't sure what - hit the already damaged right side and it came apart in mid-air, scattering bits of jump jets, structural ribs and myomers across the parking lot. One crate-like component smashed into a car and started spilling machinegun rounds out across the wreck.

The head of the Firestarter also seemed to blow apart as the pilot ejected, her command couch soaring up into the sky as her 'Mech smashed to the ground.

"Do we want them as a bondsman?" asked Jan, her Asp clearly tracking the seat as a parachute bloomed from it.

"Aff," Oskar ordered quickly. "Perhaps not as a warrior - she was careless of her surroundings but she is wily and it would be wasteful to kill her. We will take her back to the HPG and she can be secured along with the staff there."
"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 #50 on: 22 April 2020, 09:22:46 »
CSADS Silk Road, Somerset
Tamar March, Lyran Commonwealth
12 March 3050

"I believe that Khan Crichell will be disappointed to learn that you are departing," Timur Malthus observed from where the two Khans were watching trucks empty the freighter out.

Virgilia gave the Jade Falcon's junior Khan a sidelong look. "I was not aware that he was so fond of my company, Timur."

"Not fondness." The man reached into his pocket and pulled out some goggles that he donned to protect his eyes against the dust kicked up by the trucks. He made no measure to offer Virgilia any, leaving her dependent merely on sunglasses that were rapidly picking up a covering of dust. "After the bombshell that you delivered to the Grand Council, he appears concerned about what you will do next."

"I said nothing that was not obvious to anyone paying attention."

"And yet somehow the majority of the Khans had missed it. Perhaps it was less obvious than you believe."

Virgilia took off her glasses, wiped her eyes with the back of her hand and then the glasses against her shirt before putting them back on. Somerset's sun was high and bright today. "Or more Clans need to elect Khans who pay attention."

Malthus' smile thinned. "Internal matters are a Clan's own concern, quaiff?"

"Aff. Yet the choice of Khans impacts the decisions of the Grand Council, so it cannot be entirely internal."

That got no immediate response and they watched in silence as more trucks arrived to be loaded.

"Rasalhague may play the role of an Inner Sphere capital for us," Malthus said at last.

"A world on the line between the Wolves and Ghost Bears, while the ilKhan's stockpiles are placed in the your hands and those of the Smoke Jaguars."

He made a face. "I will not say politics played no part but there is logic to dividing the supplies you have provided into more than one location."

Virgilia grinned. "Four locations would be better than two."

"In that case, you might as well grant them directly to the four invaders, which could offend the reserve Clans." Malthus lowered his voice. "I have suggested that the ilKhan activate Clan Steel Viper to provide security for these stockpiles. Leaving such large quantities of supplies on a world the Inner Sphere knows of is a risk and a large garrison would slow our advance."

"And you anticipate no problems between yourselves and the Vipers?"

"They are the first reserve Clan," he said, avoiding the issue of historically poor relations between the Falcons and the Vipers. Traditionally, Clan Star Adder had taken the Steel Viper's side but the Absorption War and broadly falling on different sides of the Warden/Crusader split had damaged those relations so Virgilia saw no reason to champion Natalie Breen or her Clan.

"Are the facilities here adequate to store the supplies?" she asked instead.

"Aff." The other Khan gestured southwards. "There was a military academy located here and it appears that they had warehouses suitable to use as a major logistics depot. Unfortunately, very little was currently stored there or we would have further damaged the spheroids defenses by taking this world."

"Doubly unfortunate, since a large supply store would have required more garrison than a handful of instructors and a few dozen cadets in obsolete 'Mechs."

"Not entirely obsolete," Malthus observed. "They had some of the Wolfhound battlemechs that Clan Wolf encountered in the periphery and a medium design that we know only from the reports of the Wolf Dragoons."

She gave him a questioning look. "Does this 'Mech have a designation?"

"Centurion," he pronounced carefully. "Unimpressive overall, but a benchmark for current production capabilities of the Inner Sphere. None of our warriors suffered more than armour damage."

"Perhaps the wrecks can at least be stripped of armour to replace the losses."

Malthus shook his head. "It will do in a pinch for repairs to our Hellbringers, but it is seriously inferior to that of our Kit Foxes and Summoners."

Virgilia nodded in understanding. The SLDF had used advanced ferro-fibrous armour plating on some of their 'Mechs, something the Clans had perfected. Not all used these technologies as the armour was bulky and somewhat more expensive than the older options, but the Jade Falcons' favoured OmniMechs were the Kit Fox, Summoner and Hellbringer.

She was actually far more familiar than the issue than Malthus probably realised: the Star Adders’ more recent designs avoided using ferro-fibrous plating specifically so that they could resupply from Inner Sphere sources when the invasion began. But many of their existing designs did use it and would be dependent on shipments from Sinclair. The Kit Fox was one of their own preferred light OmniMechs, in fact.

"There is something to be said for the light defenses here," she said lightly. "If there was more resistance than I might have been tempted to request the opportunity to participate and I hate to think what you would have asked for that."

"I would have said no," he responded promptly. "Perhaps Khan Crichell would have overruled me, but I doubt it. These victories belong to Clan Jade Falcon."

They had been solid victories, Virgilia conceded privately. But not as complete as she would have liked. The main defenders the Falcons had faced had been mercenaries: the Grave Walkers divided between Apollo and Bone-Norman (worlds that flanked Somerset) and three of the four regiments of the 12th Star Guards, on worlds directly along the Periphery. Elements of both forces had retreated with many casualties, but more critically, with data on the Jade Falcons.

The Star Adders had planned their attacks on the premise of ensuring as little information escaped them as possible, at least in the first wave, to give themselves some measure of surprise in the second wave of attacks. But with ComStar's assurance that they would not allow messages to be sent to the rest of the Federated Commonwealth, the Jade Falcons had apparently felt that what they had done was sufficient, allowing troops to escape.

The three Federated Commonwealth regular commands had received more respect and the forces on Anywhere and Here had been all but obliterated, but the last news from Barcelona was that the 17th Skye Rangers, a unit of high repute, had escaped with relatively light losses and their dropships had reached a jumpship in time.

"You may find them better prepared in future," she warned. "Survivors will carry word of you to worlds in the next wave."

"I hope so." Malthus gave her a confident smile. "Hearing how easily we swept them aside, they will be demoralised. Tales of our warmachines and skills will leave many units hesitant to face us in battle. If their armies are defeated in their minds, before the first shot is fired, then our victories will be faster and less expensive."

"That is a fair point," she admitted. "It is not my own preference but I can see merit in this strategy."

"You are so generous," he allowed sarcastically. "So, when you depart will you be seeking to play the gadfly among the Smoke Jaguars, as you have with us?"

Virgilia frowned, not at the question but because dust was getting at her eyes again. "I think not," she said, removing the glasses again. Should she ask to take the conversation elsewhere or would the Falcon take that as weakness? "It is tempting but if I kill too many of his warriors in Trials of Grievance then the ilKhan may feel I am impairing their progress."

Malthus threw back his head and laughed. "You do not doubt you would win?"

"There are one or two Smoke Jaguars who I consider credible opponents on even terms," the Star Adder explained reasonably. "Perhaps I should address this suggestion of Rasalhague. It is a very valuable world, I must admit. Dividing it between all fifteen Clans would be the cause for more conflict over particularly valuable territory."

"Well you have raised the idea, so you cannot argue against it."

She frowned up at the sun beaming down on them and quickly replaced her sunglasses again. "I can argue against its implementation. I did when it came to the invasion."

"Yes, you did." Malthus considered her for a moment and then gestured away from the dropship ramp.

At last! She cheerfully walked with him away from the source of the damnable dust. The smile fell off her face at the Jade Falcon's next words.

"I know Khan Irons is leading your touman in an invasion."

"Who is there around the Homeworlds to invade?" she asked, forcing herself to stay calm. She'd already given enough away when she stopped smiling.

Malthus gave her a wry look. "Not the Homeworlds. I admit that I do not know the specifics, but it is obvious to anyone who pays attention. You know that the invading Clans will control vast wealth once the invasion ends, even if it does so prematurely as you suggested."

Virgilia folded her arms. "And?"

"And as a responsible Khan, you do not wish to see your Clan relegated so significantly," the Falcon saKhan told her. "So you have found somewhere that your Clan can attack, seizing worlds somewhere to redress this. Most likely worlds that you will hide away, ensuring that in the worst case scenario that you suggested - the annihilation of the Clans - that Clan Star Adder has some final redoubt."

"If that were so," Virgilia told him slowly, "then it would be a secret I would defend at... any cost." Now I sound like Karianna.

Malthus shrugged. "Let us say that I am speculating. Merely theorising as to what some Clans might do if they take your suggestions seriously. What the Star Adders do somewhere in the Periphery is no business of Clan Jade Falcon. The Tanite worlds are ample precedent that you are in your rights to conquer other human colonies if you find them."

"Then what is your point?"

"My point," he said and paused, presumably for the drama. "That would be your enclaves in the Homeworlds. If Khan Irons and the best of your touman are elsewhere, then those enclaves are open to trials of possession from other Clans. Something that would severely hamper your efforts in... whatever it is that you are planning."

"I see no reason to share this with anyone else," he added before she could do anything impulsive. "And I am not so foolish as to believe that you can be threatened into doing anything unbefitting your position or loyalties. Mostly likely you would kill me if I made such a demand, although I assure you that if you do then my speculations will be shared with Khan Crichell."

"Then you must have some reason to tell me this."

"All I want from you is nothing," Malthus told her. "You've made a point of stirring up dissent and offering criticisms since the Invasion took place. What you do with other Clans is not my problem, but for the near future - until you feel that this... hypothetical period of vulnerability, shall we call it? Until it ends, that you will keep such activity to specific clans other than my own. Nothing affecting the entire invasion, nothing affecting Clan Jade Falcon. Is there really less that I can ask than nothing?"

"You present me with no dilemma," she said with mildness she didn't feel at all. "As it happens, once I leave the Jade Falcon's occupied worlds, I see no reason to return to your corridor for the immediate future, so whatever happens there is little chance that your Clan will hear from me over the next few months."

Malthus tipped his head. "Then we are both getting what we want, quiaff?"

"Aff. Nothing."

He grinned boyishly and Virgilia fixed that image in her mind. I will kill him, she decided. Sooner, rather than later.

S A S

Olympia, Tharkad
Donegal March, Lyran Commonwealth
13 March 3050

The summons to a briefing for senior officers had included the peculiarly Lyran note that officers of a suitable social background should be brought as aides. Kai was reminded of all too many tales he'd heard his parents' guests recite about the Lyran officer corps following the War of 3039, but he was a Leftenant and Kelly Devers was a Marshal. When a Marshal 'invites' a Leftenant to attend a meeting as her aide, it has the force of an order.

The room filled up steadily as staff-car after staff-car disgorged officers from the Tenth and Eleventh Lyran Guards RCTs. Even limited to the regiment-level leadership, that was still eighteen distinct regiments represented: a regimental combat team included not just the 'Mech regiment but also an armoured brigade and reinforced infantry brigade.

The troops were all eager to get out and stretch their legs after weeks on transports and the promise of weeks more to look forward to. A few days leave in a city only a few hundred miles south of the Tharkad City and well used to free-spending soldiers would do wonders for morale. Being crammed into this dimly lit room (windowless for security) instead was presumably one of those burdens of command that the academy had mentioned.

"When I was your age," Marshal Devers murmured, voice pitched not to carry far in the room, "I feared Combine samurai less than being stuck watching holo-slide presentations. Now I'm a Marshal and it's half my life."

Then the door opened and at the sight of the stern looking woman with grey-shot blonde hair that took the podium, every conversation cut off.

Nondi Steiner, the Archon's aunt and the second-ranking officer in the Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth hadn't aged gracefully. Some blamed her injuries during the War of 3039 for that. Others the humiliation that after she was sidelined by wounds from the assassination attempt on Vega that the offensive had collapsed.

"Ladies and gentlemen." There was enough frost in her icy soprano voice to chill the room back to the ambient temperature outside. "As of yesterday, the Commonwealth is at war. We simply do not know who with yet."

Kai felt frozen in place. War. Something he had never really known, but what his parents' generation - and most of the men and women here had grown up with. But how could you not know who you were at war with?

"Over the last seventy-two hours we have lost contact with worlds from Timbuktu to Steelton. Messages via ComStar are not being replied to. In some cases there was a little warning, in others we have heard nothing whatsoever."

Kai discreetly checked his noteputer. Steelton wasn't that far from the Free Rasalhague Republic, although it had no particular strategic importance. Timbuktu was... that couldn't be right. It was halfway across Lyran space, more than halfway along the border with the periphery.

"In a few cases troops stationed on those worlds have escaped," Steiner continued inexorably. "Some HPG reports of landings were made before we lost contact, and we have some hopes that other reports are simply still on the way. So far we have only a few facts to work with."

A holographic map of the Lyran Commonwealth sprang up in the air in front of her. "Firstly, almost every world targeted was once part of the Rim Worlds Republic."

Kai wasn't the only one who gasped. Green stars against the golden outline of the Federated Commonwealth's territory showed what were obviously the attacks. Twenty four worlds in an arc that covered almost four hundred light years of the border.

"Second, to the best of our ability to determine, neither the Free Worlds League nor the Draconis Combine is behind this."

Who else was there? Green was usually used to indicate Capellan movements but even if they had the forces for this without stripping their defenses bare (the last intelligence assessment Kai had been informed of was that his aunt could field perhaps thirty 'Mech regiments, including mercenaries), the targeted worlds couldn't be further from the Capellan Confederation.

"Finally, our defenses in the region have been crippled. While it seems unlikely that the forces deployed on every world have been defeated at this stage, at this time high command has no way to tell which are still fighting and which have been lost."

Marshal Devers raised her hand. "If I may enquire, which forces have reported in?"

"The majority of the Seventeenth Skye Rangers managed to escape to regroup on Newtown Square with the Thirty-Ninth Avalon Hussars." The Field Marshal used a pointer to indicate one of the border worlds that hadn't been highlighted as a target. "They were fortunate to have a jumpship waiting at a pirate point and managed to combat load more than two battalions of 'Mechs, along with the bulk of their dependents before they were overrun on Barcelona."

There was a pause as everyone waited for more to be listed. Nondi Steiner waited just long enough to make her point: that was all.

"Units unaccounted for include the Second New Ivaarsen Chasseurs, Sixth Crucis Lancers, Eighth and Eleventh Arcturan Guards RCTs, three other 'Mech regiments and nine regiments of mercenaries, the latter including the entirety of the Dismal Disinherited and Grave Walker units, and most of the Twelfth Star Guards."

"Mein... gott..." someone whispered near the back.

"This, obviously, leaves the frontier rather bare of defenses. March Militia commands -" Secondline units that primarily secured their defense zones against raids. "- have been alerted and remaining frontline commands will at least not be taken by surprise."

Devers looked at the map. "That's not a lot."

"Correct. Once the invaders - the only designation we have at the moment is 'Falcon', which may be more the heraldry of a unit rather than their nation - secure their current targets, we expect them to move on and exploit worlds that have only local defense forces available. A minority opinion in military intelligence believe that they will prioritise the four remaining commands in the area, but we have no reasonable way to determine when or if that will take place."

Nondi put some weight on the podium. "Your units were already on their way to the Periphery March, that is being expedited. In theory, you are to link up with the Seventh Crucis Lancers on Winter and provide Coventry Province with a mobile defense force until further reinforcements can arrive. More concrete plans will depend on gaining more information and if we don't have that by the time you get there, you can expect to be sent on reconnaissance-in-force to get that data."

Marshal Bryan of the Eleventh Guards rose to her feet. "Where is Marshal Steiner-Davis making his headquarters, ma'am?"

"Marshal Steiner-Davis was on Main Street when we lost contact. At this time Marshal Alpert of the Sixth Lyran Guards will be exercising command of the Periphery March. Althastan doesn't appear to be in the path of this invasion, at least as far as we can tell so far." Steiner speared Bryan with a firm look. "You will be reporting directly to Alpert as commander of your task force, with Marshal Devers and - if contact is made - Hauptmann-General Zibler of the Lancers as your principal subordinates."

"Have the Rangers been able to give any details about the attackers?" asked Kai.

Nondi glared at him and he cringed, realizing he'd spoken without thinking. Kelly Devers looked approving though. "I know there hasn't been time for detailed analysis, Marshal but it's a fair question. It at least gives us some idea what to prepare for."

The Field Marshal relaxed - slightly. "I suppose we bring aides to these meetings so they can learn," she allowed somewhat grudgingly. "The main information we have so far is that the 'Mechs that the Rangers saw were of the same kind the Kell Hounds encountered last year - unfamiliar designs with advanced technology, at least on part with the SLDF."

Something like Yen-lo-Wang, Kai realised. But that level of technology is almost unknown in deployment.

"We only have limited data to work for," Steiner continued. "But it isn't recommended that you should risk engagements except on favourable terms: with numbers and terrain in your favour. For now we assume they'll have both a range and mobility advantage, based on our studies on such upgrades for ourself."

"I take it that there's no chance of getting anything like that ourselves?" Bryan seemed less than amused at the idea of facing that sort of disadvantage.

To Kai's surprise, the Field Marshal changed the hologram to bring up schematics of several 'Mech weapons. "In limited quantities, yes. Refit kits for some of our equipment were being built up here for the Royal Guard to try. Your techs will have to play catch up in a hurry, but we're handing them over to your task force."

"It won't be enough to close the gap entirely," she continued. "New autocannon, extended range PPCs and lasers, missile guidance, advanced heatsinks - SLDF grade. What we don't have in any quantity are the lightweight structural frameworks and engines, and I don't want to arm you with systems you can't use in the field. You'll need to make some decisions quickly about what they're fitted to."

Another change of view. "What we recommend is keeping most of the missile and autocannon upgrades for your combat vehicles, then upgrade the energy weapons on 'Mechs which can benefit from the new heatsinks..."

Kai opened a new file on his noteputer and started recording the advice Nondi Steiner was giving them, adding his own thoughts based on Yen-lo-Wang.

S A S

Gette City, Lost
Star Adder Dominion
14 March 3050

The flags outside the capitol were different now - the serpent-on-star of their new rulers - but the beer hadn't changed at least.

Rationally, of course it hadn't. What was Helen thinking, that the invaders would rush around the city insisting on a new flavour of city? But the invasion had - after the fighting was over - made astonishingly little difference. It was all the more jarring when she did encounter a reminder, like the work crews dragging what was left of one of the Dismal Disinherited's Commandos off to be salvaged.

The building the 'Mech chassis was being hoisted out of had taken more damage than the warmachine - there was enough left of the Commando that it was identifiable, while the office building was a burned out wreck without even a sign left outside of who had worked there. Fortunately, it had probably been empty.

But the crews clearing it were for the most part city workers, using the same heavy equipment they would have for any industrial accident. A couple of the invaders were overseeing it, wearing those armoured suits of theirs, but they might as well have been wearing high-visibility vests and carrying clipboards for all the hostility they showed.

Helen sipped on the beer again. Hopefully Mr de Silva would open the store again soon. Two scares in recent months had led to him closing the shop temporarily and retreating to his sister's house on the edge of Gette City. If he didn't come back and open up, she wouldn't get paid and she didn't have the savings to live without work for long.

In theory she could sign up for unemployment relief, but how that would work now...

At least it wasn't the Dracs, she thought. As improbable as the Draconis Combine reaching Lost was, she'd heard stories about what life had been like on worlds they occupied during the Succession Wars. Ugly stories - and not barracks rumour, official instruction as part of her militia training.

Unemployment didn't happen on some of those worlds, at least officially. If you couldn't find work, work would be found for you. But not in jobs that anyone would want. If you were lucky, sweatshop conditions that would probably kill you. If you were unlucky... being young and female for example...

Helen shuddered and finished her beer. Well, no sign of that... so far, at least.

The door to the pub pushed open, the archaic bell hung from it tinkling. She looked up and was startled to see a short man in black leathers enter. His face was marked by black tattoos and seemed out of proportion to the rest of him - looking like he needed another growth spurt to fill out to an adult's height.

Eyes around the bar narrowed and Helen saw Jose step along the bar to where he kept a baseball bat. The barman was the owner's brother and had put thirty years into the metropolitan police before retiring to a more sedentary occupation. He knew trouble when he saw it.

The new arrival glanced around the room casually, before entering with two more men behind him - one significantly taller, although on second glance he was only about Helen's height. It was just his companions that made him look tall.

They wore the same black leathers and they had the same tattoos.

Shit, Helen thought. A gang.

It wasn't the first time gangs had tried to move into the area. Bikers bringing narcotics in from the countryside was pretty much a way of life in the tenement districts, where people retreating in from smaller towns and villages more vulnerable during a pirate raid tended to settle. The Descott district of Gette City was a little upmarket of that, but not much.

The three of them were only halfway towards the bar when Franco stepped in their way. "Hey," the burly man told them bluntly. "We don't want your lot here."

The largest of the new arrivals brindled but the leader swung his hand back and slapped him lightly on the chest. "Save it," he added and then looked for Franco. "We are here for some drinks, unwind a little. Nothing else."

"Ya. That's how it starts." Franco pointedly started rolling up his sleeves, revealing muscular forearms marked with the occasional scar from work accidents and sometimes the result of violence. "Then you are selling. Drugs. Protection."

From where she was sat, Helen saw all three of the ganger's eyes change. There was nothing subtle about it, it was like a mask being stripped away. One moment they were relaxed, the next they were predators.

"If you have a grievance," the leader said, voice lower and more clipped, "Then let us step outside and avoid damaging this establishment as we settle matters."

"Three on one, huh," snorted Franco.

Helen pushed herself upright. She didn't know this gang, but she knew Franco. "Not one." She pointed with her free hand at the third man, seeing his jacket ride up. "He has a knife."

He reached back and tapped the leather scabbard, clearly comfortable with it. "Sharp eyes." He looked Helen up and down, measuringly. "You look like a tough lady," he added in an admiring voice. "How about I buy you a drink too. We can get to know each other."

She felt her face redden. "Get ******!"

He blinked. "Oskar, was that a yes or a no?"

A moment later, Helen's glass hit the man in his face and he in turn hit the ground, face bleeding but already rolling with the impact, getting ready to get up.

"Ernest!" shouted the larger man, as Franco swung at the leader - Oskar. The punch swept above the little man's head as he ducked and then went to work on Franco's ribs.

Jose swept out from behind the bar, bat in hand and the other patrons either headed for the back door, rose to join in or just ducked for cover.

Two men Helen barely knew tackled Ernest as he kipped up, apparently eager to fight. She saw Franco fall, gasping, and she flung herself at the little man standing over the delivery man before he could bring out a weapon.

They crashed to the carpeted floor, her on top but he was wriggling like a snake and then something crashed up under her ribs.

Dammit, she thought, finding herself on her back and gasping for breath. What I wouldn't give for a combat vest. When she did training for this in the militia, most of the time they'd been wearing full kit.

There was a crash of glass and she levered herself upright. A stool had smashed into the front window and was comically suspended there, part of the pane having remained intact and caught the seat before the stool could go completely through.

Holovids had apparently lied to her.

The larger man had deprived Jose of his bat and was holding him face down on the bar, twisting one arm behind the former policeman's back.

Gathering her legs beneath her, Helen sprang on his own back, locking one arm around his throat and dragging his head back as she pressed against the soft flesh below the jaw.

Choking, he released Jose and spun, dizzying Helen for a moment, and then slamming back against the bar. By intent or calculation, the edge of the bar hit above her hips and below her ribs, sharp pain slackening her grip.

Then the back of his head hit her nose and she felt it snap.

Stars filled her vision and she settled on the floor, leaning against the bottom of the bar as the man stepped away.

Franco was on his knees, but trying to stand. What was in his path was Ernest, one hand twisting the bigger man's arm in a submission hold, one booted foot on Franco's calf.

For a moment the third ganger looked likely to join in but then he had to dodge away as another patron went after him, swinging a barstool.

It seemed to take an eternity for Helen to get to her feet and she stumbled once getting to Ernest. He looked back but not before she managed to snatch the knife from the scabbard at his side.

Ernest's eyes were fixed on her and he pushed Franco away, the delivery man's face hitting the carpet with a thump. She saw blood running down the ganger's face and the lines on his face... weren't tattoos. Some sort of... wiring, implanted into his face. Who did such a thing to themselves.

"So, get ****** means neg?" he asked, shifting his stance. "The glass was unnecessary."

Helen waved the knife at him. "You came here looking for a fight."

"No."

"Technically, yes." A sinewy hand grabbed Helen by the wrist and the leader snatched the knife off her with the other before she could react. "The planet, that is. Today all we wanted was some drinks."

"And maybe..."

Oskar turned and slammed the knife, point first, into the bar. It dug at least three centimetres into the wood. "Ernest."

The other man raised his hands. "Only if she said aff!" he protested. "She is so spirited. If someone taught her to fight, she would be dangerous."

This was apparently a good thing in their eyes?

The third man staggered over, beaming despite a cut on his own forehead bleeding profusely. "That was fun but I believe we have upset local police-warriors. I hear sirens. This the sort of trouble the Star Colonel wanted us to avoid, quiaff?"

"Neg." Oskar pointed up at the security camera in one corner. "This one attacked us, we acted in self-defense. I should call it in to make sure they listen though." He pulled a comm from his pocket.

Helen thought back. Dammit, they would have her bang to rights. And if she wound up behind bars, Mr De Silva would probably fire her. "Who are you?"

Ernest's face creased again, this time in a smile. "I am Ernest, this is Sam, the old man is Oskar. We are warriors of Clan Star Adder."

Her legs could somehow not support her anymore. Either the adrenaline had worn off, or it was finding out she had picked a fight with the new rulers of Lost.

Oskar fished a plaited cord from his pocket. "Put this on her, Sam."

The taller man caught it and gave Helen a look before turning back to his leader. "You are sure?"

"Ernest is right, she is spirited. The sort of person resistance rallies around. The type we want, quiaff?"

"Aff." Sam grabbed Helen's wrist. When he released it, she saw that the cord was tied around it.

"What does this mean?"

Ernest dropped to his haunches, to put his face on level with hers. "Welcome to Clan Star Adder, bondswoman. Congratulations."

"C-congratulations?"

"She does not know what a bondsman is," Oskar said with a sigh. "Explain it while I talk their police-warriors down."

Sam picked up a paper napkin from the dispenser on the bar and wiped at the blood on his face. "With three cords you are a prisoner," he told her. "As you show your skill and loyalty, each cord is cut and will be trusted with more responsibility and opportunity. When all three are cut, you will be a member of our Clan. Perhaps even one of our warriors."

Helen sat down heavily. This was not how she had envisaged her day ending: the bar full of groaning and injured patrons, the police on the way and herself... somewhere between being a slave and being inducted into a cult.
« Last Edit: 23 April 2020, 02:29:40 by drakensis »
"It's national writing month, not national writing week and a half you jerk" - Consequences, 9th November 2018

paulobrito

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #51 on: 22 April 2020, 12:20:33 »
First-class writing as usual.

marauder648

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #52 on: 22 April 2020, 13:10:31 »
absolutely brilliant, really nice take on how piloting/being a Proto works as well, probably closer to what it would be like. Superb writing as always!
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ThePW

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #53 on: 22 April 2020, 18:20:15 »
I honestly thought the 2nd part would be in it's own thread... but please: Continue, Quiaff?

Cannonshop

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #54 on: 22 April 2020, 19:59:17 »
Nicely Done with scoring Helen boys.
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mikecj

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #55 on: 22 April 2020, 20:31:14 »
The room filled up steadily as staff-car after staff-car disgorged officers from the Tenth and Eleventh Lyran Guards RCTs.
….

"Units unaccounted for include the Second New Ivaarsen Chasseurs, Sixth Crucis Lancers, Eighth and Eleventh Lyran Guards RCTs, three other 'Mech regiments and nine regiments of mercenaries, the latter including the entirety of the Dismal Disinherited and Grave Walker units, and most of the Twelfth Star Guards."

Was it the 11th Regulars?
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Daryk

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #56 on: 22 April 2020, 22:05:44 »
There's no halfway between... she is BOTH slave and cult inductee...

drakensis

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #57 on: 23 April 2020, 02:30:29 »
The room filled up steadily as staff-car after staff-car disgorged officers from the Tenth and Eleventh Lyran Guards RCTs.
….

"Units unaccounted for include the Second New Ivaarsen Chasseurs, Sixth Crucis Lancers, Eighth and Eleventh Lyran Guards RCTs, three other 'Mech regiments and nine regiments of mercenaries, the latter including the entirety of the Dismal Disinherited and Grave Walker units, and most of the Twelfth Star Guards."

Was it the 11th Regulars?
Thanks

It's the 8th & 11th Arcturan Guards
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Cannonshop

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #58 on: 23 April 2020, 08:36:31 »
There's no halfway between... she is BOTH slave and cult inductee...

Yup.  she is.  It's too late for her.
The core rules for interacting with me:

1.) I am not a moderator, game developer, member of Cryptic staff, relative of any members of cryptic staff, not close friends with anyone involved with the game, not a distributor of product, not an employee, employer, professional reviewer, or member of any powerful conspiracies.  What I think is my own and has no impact on the Battletech franchise in any way, shape, or form.

2) If you don't like something I've said, refer to rule 1.  If you do, god help you poor soul, you're screwed up.

Artifex

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Re: Star Adder Symphony (revised) (AU)
« Reply #59 on: 23 April 2020, 10:32:29 »
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)

 

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