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

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Chapter 15 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]

The Tricks of the Trade[]

NAIS College of Military Science
Avalon City, New Avalon
August 31st, 3028

Per the First Prince’s order, General Hodges reports to the College of Military Science at NAIS on August 31st in order to begin his training to become a Battlemech pilot; the previous week having been given over to settling his personal affairs before beginning training; this consists of Kym Sorensen taking charge of the house and moving its vulnerable contents to secure storage; principally, the vehicles, furnishings, electronics and the house media library. General Hodges’ collection of arms and armor is moved to the magazine located below the garage (the standards for which facility exceed those of a Minuteman-III missile silo).

The training at NAIS is expected to take the next six months; as he is already a serving military officer, Hodges is outside the cadet hierarchy. By agreement among CMS staff, General Hodges is appointed to the rank of Brigade Commander of the Corps of Cadets.

The first two weeks is the initial training, conditioning and assessment phase, consisting of screaming, running, more screaming, more running, very long days and short nights on beds in an open-bay barracks. During this period, Hodges is sometimes assigned the task of leading the cadets in their morning run around the campus. On these occasions, Hodges stands in front of the assembled cadets and thunders out “GOOD MORNING, CADETS; A FINE DAY TO BE A MECHWARRIOR”; the cadets respond with equal enthusiasm “SIR YES SIR.” After a series of warmup exercises, the brigade of cadets is called to attention…



When the brigade is all in motion, General Hodges calls out “DOUBLE TIME….MARCH!!” Immediately, the cadets begin to run. A few seconds later, Hodges begins singing a running cadence in order to help the cadets keep time.

“When I get to Hell, the Devil gonna say..
How’d you earn your living,
How’d you earn your pay?

I replied with a boot to his chest
Earned my living laying souls to rest

‘Cause I’m hardcore
Lean and Mean
Wanna be,
Like me…”

Over the next six months, Hodges assists the training staff in carrying out their duties, while undergoing his own course of instruction. Coursework begins in the classroom, then moves onto the simulators and finally, to training in CLN-7V Chameleons provided by NAIS. Eventually, the cadets of the brigade move on to training with examples of the Battlemechs they’ll be piloting in service. For General Hodges, this is when his personal machine comes in. This ‘mech stands at 12 meters in height and masses out at 100 tons; thanks to its 400 XL reactor and improved myomer fibers, it is capable of cruising at 54 kph and running at 85 kph. For armament, there is an ER PPC in each arm and three large pulse lasers (one each in the center, right and left torsos); the weapons have had their accuracy enhanced, and all of them have been fitted with improved cooling jackets and stabilization systems. Additionally, the field coils of the ER PPCs and the optics of the lasers have been tuned so that the beams they produce are a bright, brilliant shade of emerald green. The machine’s heat levels are better-managed by the use of a battle computer and a radical heat sink system, while better fire control is provided by a targeting computer from the Helm cache (plus a multi-spectral rangefinder). Lastly, the machine is controlled by a Star League-era neurohelmet (also from Helm).

As an aside, General Hodges’ machine is painted in the style of a certain ancient Terran comic-book character, with the torso, shoulders, waist and hips in light green, while the upper arms, upper legs, elbows and knees are in dark green; the lower legs are light green (the same shade as on the torso) and the lower arms are in white; to suggest that the machine is wearing boots and gloves. Lastly, there is a circular device (resembling a stylized lantern) painted on the center torso.

The very first time General Hodges boots his machine up, a number of diagnostic feeds start scrolling down on subsidiary screens in the cockpit, while the computer’s main display screen makes a number of visual prompts, as follows:


Hodges toggles yes, and is greeted by a slight amount of vertigo as the neurohelmet establishes an uplink with his brain; the feeling passes quickly, and the next prompt comes up on the screen.


Hodges toggles yes on the control panel, whereupon, the computer asks him to choose an activation phrase to serve as a means of voiceprint identification; the sequence that Hodges chooses is as follows:

‘In brightest day, in blackest night
No evil will escape my sight

Let those who worship Evil’s Might
Beware my power…

The final two prompts are :


Both are toggled in the affirmative, whereupon the computer responds “Identity confirmed; command authorization accepted.”

Hodges and the other cadets move out to the gunnery range under the watchful eyes of their instructors. Here, they commence with the first of a great number of practice sessions. The machines fire at targets both stationary and moving at various speeds, from the halt and while cruising and running. Once gunnery is completed, the cadets move onto simulated engagements where they are divided into groups and pitted against each other. Lastly, the training cadre takes turns acting as aggressors and defenders against the Brigade of Cadets.

During the course of training, General Hodges’ instinctive grasp of gunnery, tactics and strategy consistently earn him high marks from his instructors. In fact, Hodges is so well-regarded by the faculty that he’s often assigned the job of providing additional instruction to his fellow cadets; Hodges’ age and the affectionate regard that his fellow cadets have for him leads to the bestowal of an appropriate nickname…’Grandpa’.

Eventually, the training is completed and there is a graduation ceremony; the guest of honor is none other than Field Marshal Yvonne Davion. Certificates of completion are handed out, and the newly-minted mechwarriors move onto their first duty assignments. Once the festivities breaks up, Marshal Davion calls General Hodges aside and says “the First Prince wishes to offer you his congratulations on the successful completion of your training. His Highness would have been here in person, but his presence has bene almost continuously required at the Fox’ Den.”

“I understand, Field Marshal. Can you tell me about the progress of Operation RAT and Operation GÖTTERDÄMMERUNG? The training cadre purposefully kept us in the dark about what was going on, just so we wouldn’t be distracted.”

“Indeed. Operations against the Capellan Confederation are well in hand, with the AFFS having taken more than a third of House Liao’s territory thus far. On the Steiner/Kurita front, the Archon’s forces have come across the border in a series of waves; all of these having been staggered so that the logistics train can more easily catch up. As of today, the LCAF have taken 23 planets from the Dieron and Rasalhague Military districts, plus four planets from the Free Worlds League; most importantly, the worlds captured by the LCAF were previously Lyran territory. You see, Archon Katrina’s plan wasn’t so much to take territory from House Kurita as it was to prevent the Coordinator from sending reinforcements to the Capellans.”

“How about the Federated Suns/Draconis Combine? I can’t imagine that it’s standing still…”

“No it isn’t, General. The Combine has managed to capture two planets from the Federated Suns while losing six in return. You’ll be interested to learn that Maximilian Liao is dead; he killed himself three weeks ago. His daughter Romano is now the Chancellor of what’s left of the Capellan Confederation”

General Hodges responds “O frabjous day, Callooh, Callay!!” Uncle Maxie finally got tired of getting bitchslapped, so he decided to ring down the curtain and join the Choir Invisible. You say that Romano Liao is the new Chancellor; why am I not surprised?? You should tell your people that Psycho-Bitch is not to be underestimated; she’s dangerous, unpredictable and she hates me and the Federated Suns with a passion…”

“I’ll be sure to pass that on, General.”

“Thank you, Field Marshal. I do have one request, however…”

“What’s that?”

“If Romano Liao should happen to come into the hands of the AFFS, I want her brought before me.”

“What are your intentions? I hope you don’t plan on killing her; that would create more problems that it would solve.”

“Hardly that. I’m going to bend Psycho-Bitch and give her what she needs; a good spanking. After all, if she wants to be treated like an adult. She shouldn’t have acted like some spoiled, petulant child…”

A smile crosses Filed Marshal Davion’s face as she replies “I’ll have to bring that up with the First Prince; I doubt that he’ll let you do that. Still, the very idea would be good for a few laughs.”

After some further discussion, the two officers part company and go their separate ways. General Hodges returns home to an enthusiastic greeting from Kym Sorsensen.

“Hello, James; you’re none the worse for the wear, I see.”

“True enough, dear. My fellow cadets were a good bunch; going through that course was like a combination of Plebe Year at West Point and the Armor School at Fort Knox. Anything of note happen while I was away?”

“Yes, actually. Dr. Banzai from NAIS was over here a couple of days ago; he wanted me to tell you that there are a number of computer manufacturers that are interested in licensing your new chip fabrication technology, and they want to discuss the details.”

“Alright, I’ll give BB a call straight away. Anything else?”

“Yes. Just yesterday, a letter arrived for you from the Department of Military Administration; here it is.”

Sorenson hands the envelope over, and Hodges opens & reads it. A few seconds later, an enormous self-satisfied grin crosses his face.

“I see you got some good news, James.”

“Wonderful news, actually. Here in the Inner Sphere, just as on old Terra, the ways of the Military Bureaucracy passeth all mortal understanding. This letter states that the Paymaster General considers that the event which caused my appearance here on New Avalon was my recruitment into the AFFS and that the effective date was not that of my arrival, but the date on which the Transition Event grabbed me. You see, that date was June of 2019. This means that for purposes of payroll and accounting, I have been on the books with the AFFS for over one thousand years. Accordingly, I am owed accumulated back pay and accrued interest for that time..”

“How much money are we talking about?” she asks

“Well; how high can you count, my dear?”

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