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An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court (Chapter Cover Art)

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Chapter 10 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]


In the Know[]

Royal Palace, New Avalon
June 5th, 3028


As part of the final preparations for the wedding in two months’ time, Archon Katrina Steiner and Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner arrive on New Avalon for a state visit; this is the official cover story. The real reason they came is to meet with General Hodges and learn of his contributions to the present state of affairs. For reasons of security, neither of the Steiners was told beforehand who General Hodges was and how he came to be.

The meeting takes place in Hanse Davion’s private office in the Fox’ Den; aside from the First Prince and the Steiners, those present are Justin Allard, Field Marshal Yvonne Davion and Kym Sorensen (her presence is due to her increasing place in General Hodges’ affections).

The First Prince calls the meeting to order and says “Katrina, Melissa, thank you both for coming on such short notice. My apologies for not telling you the true purpose of why I asked you here; the security implications of what you are about to be told are such that you couldn’t be told until you were here. To begin with, let me introduce my newest officer, Lt. General James Hodges. General, the floor is yours.”

“Thank you, your highness. Archon, Archon-Designate, I am pleased to finally be able to meet you. What I am about to tell you may seem had to believe, but I give you my word as an officer that every word of it is true. On February 7th of this year, the New Avalon Institute of Science began a series of experiments which were aimed at cracking the secrets behind Hyperpulse Generator technology; one of these experiments malfunctioned in a rather unique way…”

Archon Katrina raises an eyebrow and says “Unique in what way?”

“Unique in that it caused my appearance; You see, I am from the past of another reality. My name is Lt. General James Hodges, formerly with the United States Army. Before the transition event, my last duty station was as the commanding general of III Corps at Fort Hood, Texas. What happened with the experiment was that the unique circumstances under which it was conducted and the energies involved were such that I and my house were transported through time and space and deposited at NAIS. “

“Wait, are you saying that you’re a time traveler?”

“You are correct, Archon; more to the point, I’m from another reality entirely.”

Hanse Davion speaks up and says “Katrina, what General Hodges says is the absolute truth.” To further emphasize this, Hanse removes a certain cardboard box from his desk and slides it over. Katrina’s and Melissa’s eyes go wide as they read the title printed on the cover:

‘Battletech, A Game of Armored Combat’

General Hodges smiles and replies “Thank you, your highness. Archon, Archon-Designate, from my previous viewpoint, you, the First Prince, the state of affairs in the Inner Sphere and everything else are nothing more than fictional constructs in the context of that game. I played BattleTech extensively in my earlier years and, as my military career progressed, I found it useful in conducting sand table exercises. I mention this because I have everything ever written about the game in my personal library, including specific information relating to the Helm and New Dallas caches.”

The First Prince grins widely, then says “After satisfying myself that General Hodges’ information was accurate, I decided to make the attempt on both locations; this is when the Lyran Commonwealth was brought in.” Archon Katrina nods gravely by way of response.

“General Hodges, your actions have been of inestimable value to the Commonwealth and its people; you’ll find me suitably grateful.”

“Thank you, Archon. As a reward, the First Prince has seen fit to give me the Bristol System as a landhold. Additionally, he gave me a bonus of 5% of the value of the material recovered from both caches.”

“A superb idea. Hanse, with your permission, I’d like to give General Hodges the same bonus.”

“Permission granted, of course.” Upon hearing this, Kym Sorensen reaches out and squeezes Hodges by the hand.

General Hodges responds “Thank you, Archon; that was most generous of you.”

“You’re quite welcome, Sir. It is we who should be grateful; your actions have done much to reverse the process of technological decay in the Inner Sphere.”

“Indeed, Archon. That the decay persists is thanks to that no-good bunch of toga-wearing assclowns in Comstar. They have actively tried to suppress technological improvements in the Inner Sphere, to the point where they have assassinated scientists and technicians whose advancements threatened their technological monopoly; I am referring to Operation Holy Shroud. By the time it ended in 2843, some 300 of the Inner Sphere’s best scientific minds had been murdered. ROM’s OpSec was good enough so that they had each of the Great Houses thinking that one of their rivals was responsible for the deaths and sabotage involved. A follow-up operation, Holy Shroud II (in 2979) was far less successful.”

Archon Katrina subconsciously clenches her left fist in anger as she says “I see why you have so little regard for Comstar. May I ask in what other capacities you are working for the Federated Suns?”

“Certainly, madam. I am an armored warfare officer and I have compared tank technology between my reality and yours; compared to what I knew, tank technology isn’t nearly so advanced as it should be. With this in mind, I have been working at NAIS to advance the state of the art in this area; I have had notable success thus far.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, I have devised a stabilization system whereby a tank can fire its weapons much more accurately; no matter how fast it or the target are moving. I have also designed and built a multi-spectral rangefinder; this device makes a weapon more accurate at short range and further extends the weapon’s range in all categories. Additionally, I and the technicians in my department at NAIS are developing new types of tank cannon; ones that can reach out and touch someone at ranges far outside those of current weaponry. Of course, these new technologies are certainly applicable to Battlemechs…”

Archon-Designate Melissa joins the discussion and asks “General Hodges, how far into the future does your information extend?”

“That would be to the year 3158. Of course, as my information is acted upon, it will gradually become less-valuable as the course of history turns onto a new track. Beyond the upcoming wedding, the most important development in the Inner Sphere will be the Invasion of the Clans in 3049.”

“Who are the Clans?”

“They are the descendants of those who left with General Kerensky in the Great Exodus of 2784. The Clans see it as the duty to re-unite the Inner Sphere; under their banner, of course.”

“General Hodges, you have given the Archon and I much to consider. For this and other reason, I thank you.”

“You’re welcome, madam.” To Archon Katrina and the First Prince, General Hodges turns and asks “I would ask two things; first, after the wedding is completed, I’d like the second dance Second, I’d like all of you to accompany me as I visit certain locations in the old United States; you’ll find the historical commentary rather illuminating.”

The Archon and the First Prince briefly exchange glances before replying “Granted willingly.”

“Now that this business is concluded, I’d like to extend an invitation for dinner and a movie at my place; I think the Archon and the Archon-Designate would appreciate a taste of the 21st century.”

“Accepted with pleasure, General.”


Who’s who and what’s what[]

August 6th, 3028
Comstar First Circuit Compound
Hilton Head Island, Terra

First Prince Hanse Davion (along with the members of his wedding party), Archon Katrina Steiner, Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner and the other house lords arrive on Terra two weeks before the wedding is scheduled to take place. Over the next week, General Hodges meets with the other three House lords and gives them the information regarding Comstar’s deception. Captain-General Janos Marik was responsive, but the attitude of Chancellor Maximillian Liao was one of studied, arrogant indifference (as if Hodges were some barbarian outsider from the Deep Periphery); the last meeting is with the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, Takashi Kurita.

The meeting takes place in one section of the guest quarters in the Hilton Head compound, with elements of the Otomo providing security; these are commanded by Theodore Kurita, son of the Coordinator. General Hodges approaches Kurita’s desk after having surrendered the package he was carrying; after due inspection, the package was returned to him.

General Hodges addresses the Coordinator in a flawless Kansai dialect and says “a fair good day to you, Lord Kurita; I am honored that you are taking the time to see me.” Kurita replies “you are welcome. When I received a request from the First Prince that I should meet with you, I professed some curiosity as to why. I presume that you can tell me..”

“Hai, Coordinator. The First Prince has charged me with the duty of telling you of certain matters involving deception on the part of our host…”

Kurita raises an eyebrow in curiosity and says “what might those be?”

Over the next ten minutes or so, General Hodges lays out exacting details regarding Comstar’s secret stockpile of Star League-era Battlemechs, plus the mothballed WarShips they have in the Luyten 68-28 and Ross 248 systems; a slight twitch in Kurita’s face being the only indication of the intense anger he feels.

Upon conclusion, the Coordinator responds “Thank you for bringing this information to my attention. General. What does the First Prince seek to accomplish by conveying this information to me?”

“Nothing more than leveling the playing field between the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere and Comstar.”

“Indeed. Is this all?”

“No, Coordinator. With your permission, there is a presentation I wish to make; call it a token of esteem from one fighting man to another. Before I do so, I need to tell you that this meeting isn’t the first time that my family and yours have had dealings with one another.”

“How so?”

“To tell you that, I need to relay some of my family history to you. A distant ancestor of me was Lt. General Courtney Hodges; after the Second World War on Ancient Terra, my ancestor served as General Douglas MacArthur’s second-in-command during the occupation of Japan after its surrender. In that capacity, General Hodges developed a close working relationship with many figures in the Japanese Government, none more august than Emperor Hirohito, himself. His efforts were so central to the successful conclusion of the occupation that Emperor Hirohito saw fit to gift him with a katana; not just any katana, but one forged by the great swordsmith Masamune while he worked in Sagami Province during the Kamakura Period.”

The Coordinator gestures for the box to be brought forward. It is oblong in shape, made from Japanese cherrywood and with elaborately-worked bronze corner pieces; most significantly, the 16-petal Imperial Mon is carved into the lid. He opens the box, and sees that there is also a wakizashi contained inside.

“What is the story behind this second blade?”

“Coordinator, that concerns how my family and yours first met. After the Japanese surrender, Admiral Takeo Kurita (late of the Imperial Japanese Navy) and his family found themselves in reduced circumstances. My ancestor happened to encounter Admiral Kurita in Mito City, Ibaraki Prefecture and arranged for him to be interviewed by the Analysis Division of the U.S Strategic Bombing Survey; afterwards, General Hodges arranged for Admiral Kurita and his family to find honorable, gainful employment. The wakizashi you see here was given by the Admiral to my ancestor as a token of gratitude…”

The Coordinator draws the katana from its scabbard and admires the superb craftsmanship that went into its forging then returns it to its place. He does likewise with the wakizashi and says “General, you have my eternal gratitude for what you have done; were our nations not at odds with each other, I would make you a Knight of the Dragon for this. Even so, once I return to Luthien, your name will be entered into the scrolls held by my cousin Constance, Keeper of the House Honor.”

“Thank you, Coordinator; I am gratified that you think me worthy of such an honor.”


The interview now being concluded, General Hodges withdraws after making a short bow to show his respect. Later this same week, he receives an invitation to see Primus Julian Tiepolo. Before being escorted to the Primus’ office, General Hodges pauses to make sure that his dress blue uniform, his decorations are all in order and that his boots are properly polished. Upon arrival, he sees that, apart from the Primus, several members of the First Circuit are present (to include Myndo Waterly, Precentor Dieron and Tojo Jarlath, Precentor ROM). He braces to attention before his desk and snaps off a perfect parade-ground salute as a mark of the respect that he doesn’t feel. Then, he assumes the position of parade rest. Tiepolo says “When my staff informed me that you requested an interview, I felt curious enough to grant it.”

“Primus, thank you for taking the time to see me; you must be very busy planning the false flag attack on Sarna’s HPG station…” Just then, Tiepolo was taking a sip of tea. General Hodges’ statement is so shocking and so unexpected that he drops the cup, breaking it on his desk.

“WHAT???”

“You heard me, Sir. As surprising as this is to you, it isn’t the primary reason for my visit. My name is General James Hodges, warbound to First Prince Hanse Davion. Hear me well, that you may know the truth of who I am. Barely maintaining his self control, Tiepolo responds “Speak, then.”

“I am from a world called New Columbia; it is located 3,600 light years rimward of the Federated Suns border, out past the Tortuga Dominions. Centuries ago, when the Terran Alliance was just starting out, certain elements in the United States bitterly resented how the country had been press-ganged into joining the Alliance by the expedient of threatening to cut off all of its foreign trade. These elements conceived a plan whereby aspects of the American military, political, business and scientific communities would be preserved. Accordingly, a dozen starships were acquired and loaded with the very best military, scientific and business talent that the United States had to offer (along with the most advanced military, scientific and industrial equipment available; the contents of the Library of Congress, the National Archives, the Smithsonian Institution and certain other museums were also included); the President of the United States then ordered the fleet to get lost. Before being subsumed into the Alliance, the intelligence agencies of the United States spent uncounted billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of man-hours making sure that there were no records of the fleet’s existence and departure.”

Tiepolo hisses venomously “Spare me the history lesson and get to the point.”

“Very well, Sir. I am here at the specific direction of the First Prince to convey certain information that he and the other House lords are now aware of. Specifically, I am referring to the Com Guards and your mothballed warship fleet. Until now, no one outside of your organization had any idea that you have fifty full regiments of Star League-era battlemechs stockpiled in various locations all across Terra. As for the warships, Comstar has 32 of them, four are hidden in the asteroid belt, while the other 28 are evenly divided between Luyten 68-28 and Ross 248; if you wish, I can provide the name and history of each and every ship, from the time that it was built by the Star League until it was acquired by Comstar. Additionally, the First Prince and the Archon are also aware of how, in May of 3027, Myndo Waterly deliberately breached the First Circuit’s policy of non-interference by leaking information to the Draconis Combine’s Internal Security Force on how Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner was stranded in the Styx system. On July 15th, Waterly was tried before the First Circuit on that charge, and how she managed to avoid getting excommunicated (and executed), I will never know…”

While listening to General Hodges’ matter-of-fact narration, Tiepolo becomes apoplectic with rage, to the point where he’s barely able to maintain the illusion of self-control. Eventually, he responds “You’re going to regret sticking your nose into the Blessed Order’s business.” A slight, businesslike smile crosses Hodges’ face as he replies “Primus, do try to imagine how singularly unimpressed I am by your threat.” A pause, then “I’m standing three feet in front of your desk; from the expression on your face, it must certainly cut you to the quick that there isn’t a damned thing you can do about me right now. I am an official member of the First Prince’s wedding party; if you were to try and do anything now or within the next couple of weeks while the wedding party is still on Terra, it would shoot your carefully crafted image of neutrality right in the head. To quote the Duke of Exeter in Shakespeare’s play Henry V, 'this is my claim, my message and my threatening'…”

Tiepolo is still so angry at General Hodges’ revelations that he doesn’t waste words in dismissing him; instead, he contemptuously waves him off with his right hand. Hodges draws himself up to his full height and says “I live on New Avalon. Step up and have a go if you think you’re hard enough” As he turns to leave, he begins to sing in a smooth, mellifluous baritone:

Let’s say goodbye with a smile dear,
Just for a while dear we must part, Don't let this parting upset you,
I'll not forget you, sweetheart

We'll meet again, don't know where don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again some sunny day
Keep smiling through just as you always do
‘Till the blue skies chase those dark clouds far away…

Just as Hodges leaves the office, Tiepolo sinks heavily back in his chair. He raises his hands to his temples, as if to assuage the pounding in his head. The pain abates momentarily, and Tiepolo says to the assembled members of the First Circuit “That bastard interloper does have a point; nothing can be done to him while he and the others are still on Terra. Precentor ROM, I would consider it a great favor if Hodges were to be proceeded against and that some harm would come to him; see to it at the earliest possible opportunity.”


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