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

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Chapter 19 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]

Settling affairs and planning for the future[]

September 10th, 3029

In the aftermath of the failed attack on New Avalon, First Prince Hanse Davion sent a message ‘sub rosa’ to Comstar. The substance of the message was that the Order’s participation in the attack is known to the Federated Commonwealth and that, if the communications interdict wasn’t lifted immediately, Comstar’s perfidy would be made known to the Inner Sphere at large. Primus Myndo Waterly raged at this turn of events, but she eventually realized that Comstar’s position was extremely precarious; accordingly, she agreed to the First Prince’s terms. Also attached to the message was a brief video file from General Hodges. In the file, he taunted Waterly by saying “I win, you lose; better luck next time.”

A second, personal message was sent by General Hodges directly to Chancellor Romano Liao in which he said that “If you want your husband back, you are to present yourself to me on New Avalon in the same outfit that you were wearing when we first met on Terra; should you fail to respond, Tsen Shang’s interview will continue until the First Prince and I know everything that he does. If you agree, the interview will cease and I will personally guarantee your safe conduct on both legs of the journey.” When Romano receives the message back on Sian, she flew into an absolute rage; even going to far as to summarily execute two of her councilors for having given her bad advice in regards to the attack on New Avalon. Eventually, the leader of the House of Scions gets Romano to calm down.

“Celestial Wisdom, I share your disdain and outrage towards that bastard interloper Hodges; to think that such an uncultured periphery barbarian should rise so high and so quickly in the First Prince’s service is unheard of. However, it is undeniable that the Confederation faces the gravest crisis in its entire history. During the recently-concluded war, the Federated Commonwealth seized half of the Confederation’s worlds and three-quarters of its industrial capacity. If we are to avoid any further encroachments on the Confederation’s territory, it is my counsel that you agree to Hodges’ terms.”

Romano Liao’s face flushes with anger; she manages to control her feelings and says “Honored one, though I am minded to defy the First Prince’s lackey, it is plain to see that there is no other choice; send word to General Hodges that his terms are accepted. However, I will not accept his previous insults to our person without an appropriate response.”

Among the officials in attendance upon the chancellor is Lady Chandra Ling, director of the Maskirovka. The Chancellor looks to her and says “Director, you are to employ your contacts in certain areas and seek out the one known as the Bounty Hunter. Tell him that I wish to commission an action against General Hodges and that if he agrees, he’ll be paid an appropriate amount for his services.”

“It will be as you say, Celestial Wisdom. Perhaps, I might recommend an additional course of action…”

“What might that be?”

“There is another individual whose services would be of use in this situation; I am referring to the one known as the Dancing Joker. If the Bounty Hunter isn’t successful, it would be wise to have a backup plan.”

“Honored Director, there is wisdom in your words; you have the Chancellor’s authorization to proceed. However, you are to make no move until I return from New Avalon; is that perfectly clear?”

“I understand, Celestial Wisdom.”

Back on New Avalon, General Hodges is unaware of these developments. The past several months have been occupied with rebuilding his house and preparing to move to Bristol. Three days later, he receives a private message from Roman Liao accepting his terms for the return of Tsen Shang; the message also says that she’ll be arriving on New Avalon in three weeks.

An enormous, self-satisfied grin crosses General Hodges’ face; seeing this, Kym Sorensen says “Something amuses you, my dear?”

”It certainly does, Kym. You remember how I got the First Prince to allow me to send a message to Romano Liao saying that, if she wanted Tsen Shang back, she was to present herself to me right here?”

“Yes; are you saying that she accepted?”

“She most certainly did.”

“Well, I’ll be damned; I never thought that she’d do it. That just goes to show you how desperate that the Liao really are. Do please be careful, Jim. I would put it past Romano to try something untoward.”

“Understood, my dear. Please believe me when I say that I have plans within plans to deal with such a possibility.”

Dragoons attend a Barbecue []

New Avalon, Federated Suns
September 17th, 3029

2:00 pm local time

One week after the exchange of messages between General Hodges and Romano Liao, Colonel Jaime Wolf and a group of his command staff arrive on New Avalon to confer with the First Prince; also present is Captain Natasha Kerensky. Upon arrival, General Hodges invites Colonel Wolf and Captain Kerensky to his house for dinner pending their meeting with Hanse Davion.

The motorcade pulls up in front of the house at 2:00 pm, and General Hodges greets them on his front steps.

“Colonel Wolf, Captain Kerensky, welcome to my humble abode; it’s a pleasure to see you here.”

“The pleasure is all mine, sir. I’ve heard rumors that your house came under direct assault when House Liao staged their ill-advised attack on New Avalon; is that true?”

“it certainly is, Colonel. I was away fighting with the First Prince when my house was attacked, and it fell to my good lady Kym Sorensen to defend it. The fixed defenses took care of the vehicles and their Battlemech support, while Kym saw off the infantry. Do you see that antique bronze cannon just over there?”

“Yes, I do”

“I’ll have you know that it saw service on June 3rd, 1863 on the third day of the Battle of Gettysburg. The Liao attackers saw it as nothing other than a display piece, so imagine their surprise when Kym fired it by remote control and wiped out half of the attacking force in one shot…”

“Impressive. What did she use for ammunition?”

“2 ½ lbs of black powder, a stand of grapeshot and a round of canister. Let’s just say that the results would not have been pleasant for those with full stomachs to look upon. It is of interest to know that Roman Liao’s husband Tsen Shang was captured afterwards. Now, why don’t the both of you step inside and make yourselves comfortable? I’ve got some appetizers and a salad laid on, and Kym’s got some steaks on the grill out back.”

“Thank you, General.”

Colonel Wolf and Captain Kerensky come inside and seat themselves on the couch, taking time to notice the impressive collection of antique weaponry displayed on the walls. Wolf remarks “You certainly have good taste, sir. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a collection outside of a museum.”

"Thank you, Colonel. The piece that means the most to me is the Model 1913 Cavalry saber; this weapon was gifted to my ancestor LtGen Courtney Hodges by General George Patton when my ancestor turned over command of 3rd Army to him on January 26th, 1944. It so happens that this sword was the very weapon carried by then-Lieutenant Patton when he participated in the Punitive Expedition of 1916, where the United States sent troops into Mexico in response to cross-border raids by Mexican bandits. Ever since 1944, the saber has been an heirloom of my House.”

Just then, Kym Sorensen calls out “Dinner is served.” The party seats itself around the dining room table and the meal begins with a toast; after the toast, General Hodges serves his guests with his own hand. During the course of the meal, Hodges says “Captain Kerensky, when we last met, I got the distinct impression that you didn’t have a very high opinion of tanks and tankers. I also said that perhaps we might have a contest between us, to determine which of us is the superior combatant.”

Kerensky exchanges glances with Colonel Wolf, then responds “I do recall that, General; however, I never thought I’d have an opportunity to decide the issue.”

“Well madam, that opportunity is upon you now. When I heard that you were coming to New Avalon, I called in a favor from the First Prince and secured the use of the entire NAIS test & training range; all 100 square kilometers of it. Tomorrow morning, we’ll decide the issue.”

“How do you wish to proceed, Sir?”

“I’m minded that we should do things in the way of the Clans, with a Batchall…”

Colonel Wolf joins the conversation and says “General Hodges, your knowledge of the ways of the Clans is remarkable.”

“Indeed, sir; you’ll recall how I demonstrated that by asking about the weather on Strana Mechty.”

“Err, yes you did.”

General Hodges looks to Kerensky and says “Captain, I’ll be on the range at 0830 tomorrow morning. As I will be in the role of the defender, I’ll await the arrival of you and your Warhammer.”

Judgment Day[]

NAIS testing & training range September 18th, 3029

8:30 am

As promised, General Hodges ad his tank & tank crew are on hand awaiting the arrival of Natasha Kerensky and her Warhammer. The wait isn’t long, as the Black Widow comes striding up in her machine just 15 minutes later; present as witnesses are First Prince Hanse Davion, AFFC Marshal Yvonne Davion, Dr. Benjamin Banzai and several staff officers from the New Avalon contingent of the AFFC military hierarchy.

Warhammer (Night - Farseer Animation)

Warhammer Heavy 'Mech

As Kerensky’s Warhammer approaches, Hodges is nonchalantly sitting on the front glacis of his tank and smoking a cigar. After Kerensky dismounts her machine, Hodges calls out and says “hail and well-met, Captain; I’m glad to see that you’re on time.”

“Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?”

A pause, then “I am Captain Natasha Kerensky, the commanding officer of Wolf Company and I claim this ground. What tame dogs dare to defend it? Speak now and identify yourselves.”

“I am Lieutenant-General Hodges, Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth. The ground you seek to claim is mine; I, my tank and crew will defend it to the last.”

“Very well; I bid my Warhammer for this effort.”

“Accepted. Now, as to the stakes for this contest. Your disregard for tanks is known to me, so I propose to teach you a lesson. When I win, I’ll not take your Warhammer or make you my bondswoman. Instead, you will accompany me to the Doll House out by New Avalon Spaceport; it's a ‘gentlemen’s club’ with which I have some familiarity. Once there, you will perform three routines for me on one of the stripper poles…”

Of all the possibilities that Kerensky expected, what General Hodges just said was never among them. Her face flushes slightly as she replies “When you win? You’re certainly full of confidence, General. What do you offer in return?”

”If you win, I’ll strip down to my skivvies in front of NAIS headquarters at noon today and sing “Am I blue?” in front of you and all these witnesses.”

A slight, knowing smile crosses Kerensky’s face as she replies “Bargained well and done.”

As the two combatants walk to their machines, General Hodges says “Captain Kerensky, before we begin, there are two words that I’d like you to remember.”

“What are they?”

“Paradigm Shift…”

General Hodges climbs the front of his tank and takes his position in the commander's hatch. As the fusion reactor throttles up and the tank starts to move, Hodges begins to sing loudly:

Ob's stürmt oder schneit,
Ob die Sonne uns lacht,
Der Tag glühend heiß,
Oder eiskalt die Nacht,
Bestaubt sind die Gesichter,
Doch froh ist unser Sinn,
Ist unser Sinn; Es braust unser Panzer, Im Sturmwind dahin...

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