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

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Chapter 23 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]

Passing the Buck[]

Comstar First Circuit Compound
Hilton Head, Federated Suns
October 5th, 3029

While matters are proceeding apace on New Avalon, such is not the case on Terra. Seeking to deflect blame for the failure of the campaign against the New Avalon Institute of Science, Primus Myndo Waterly calls an emergency meeting of the First Circuit and has Demona Aziz (Precentor Atreus) arrested on trumped-up charges of treason (for allegedly conspiring to make the raid on New Avalon fail). After a strictly pro-forma trial before the First Circuit, Aziz was convicted and sentenced to death; immediately thereafter, she was taken out and executed by a ROM firing squad.

Waterly's next orders of business are to nominate Nicholas Cassnew (currently Precentor ROM) for the post of Precentor Martial (head of Comstar's military forces), and to split off the Com Guards from ROM and make them a separate branch of service. Cassnew will be succeeded as Precentor ROM by Precentor Charles Seneca (ROM's Deputy Chief of Operations); Seneca's deputy is Demi-Precentor Arabella Bradford. She was given the task of ROM's Explorer Corps in an attempt to locate the descendants of Alexandr Kerensky's Exodus Fleet and to enlist their aid in fulfilling the word of the Blessed Blake by helping Comstar take control of the Inner Sphere.

To accomplish this mission, Bradford was given command of the Merchant-class JumpShip Outbound Light; this vessel carries two dropships, a Union-class (the Knox ) and a Buccaneer-class (the Golden Hind.) Bradford and her crew departed from the planet Bone-Norman in the Lyran half of the Federated Commonwealth and commenced with their mission on November 12th, 3029.

No Fate but What We Make[]

General Hodges’ residence, NAIS Campus
New Avalon, Federated Suns
March 25th, 3030

10:00 AM

Previously, General Hodges bent the knee and popped The Question to Kym Sorensen; she accepted his proposal enthusiastically and together, they set the date of the wedding as April 2nd. Invitations were sent out, and one of the first to accept was Takashi Kurita, Coordinator of the Draconis Combine. Once Hodges received confirmation that the Coordinator would be attending his wedding, Hodges requested permission to host Kurita for a private meeting to discuss certain topics of interest (including the export of weapons and vehicles incorporating Hodges’ new technology). After some discussion with Minister Quintus Allard and Field Marshal Yvonne Davion, permission was granted.

Kym Sorensen’s parents arrived from New Syrtis on March 24th; Kurita arrived on New Avalon on March 25th, with Archon Katrina Steiner scheduled to arrive on March 26th. Kym’s parents will be staying at Davion Palace, as will Archon Katrina when she arrives.

Always punctual, the Coordinator and his personal retinue arrived on New Avalon at 9:00 AM on the morning of March 25th. Kurita was greeted at NAIS Spaceport by Quintus Allard, and then conducted to General Hodges’ house; as the meeting between the Coordinator and Hodges is private, the Kurita retinue will be hosted in NAIS’ guest quarters.

In due course, Takashi Kurita arrives at General Hodges' house at 10:00 AM; formal greetings are then exchanged.

"Komban-Wa, Kurita-sama; welcome to my humble abode. I am honored that you accepted my wedding invitation."

"Hodges-san, for one who has done so much for the Combine, I could have done no less."

A pause, then "as I was being driven up to your house, I couldn't help but notice that assault-class 'mech standing nearby; it is a most-unusual design. This is one of your machines, so desu ka neh?

"Hai, Coordinator; I'll tell you all about it over an early dinner. There are also certain topics of interest that I'd like to discuss with you. So, if you would please follow me..."

Hodges holds the door open for his guest and together, the two of them enter the house. The Coordinator takes a moment to look around, and says "Hodges-san, once again, you surprise me. I half-expected that a man of your exalted rank would have had more elaborate accommodations."

"Indeed, Coordinator. When I received word that you had accepted my wedding invitation, I took great pains to secure the proper ingredients for a traditional Kaiseki meal. I have prepared dishes of Yakitori, Tempura and steamed rice; for the soup, there is Butajiro. Afterwards, of course, there is Sake."

"Hodges-san, for an outsider, you are exceptionally well-cultured; I didn't know you had a taste for Sake."

"Hai; I particularly-enjoy that drink when it is served at the correct temperature of 98.4 degrees Fahrenheit."

The meal is served and, towards the end, Hodges pours two servings of Sake with his own hand; the first is given to the Coordinator and he takes the second for himself.

"To your very good health, Tono."

"And to yours also, Hodges-san. You did promise to tell me of that BattleMech outside.."

'So I did, Kurita-sama. That machine is a custom-built design, built using information from the New Dallas memory core; I trust that House Kurita is making good use of their own copy of the core? You see, I provided the First Prince information as to the core's contents, location and security measures. After that, it was a simple matter to steal it out from under Captain-General Marik's nose. Rather than hoard the knowledge all to himself, as the Captain-General would certainly have done, the First Prince accepted my suggestion that copies of the data be provided to all of the other House, both great and small. You see, it is his belief (and my own) that the more widely knowledge is dispersed, the less-likely it is that the it will be lost (either to the vicissitudes of history or the actions of Comstar)."

"Hodges-san, you seem to have no regard for that organization..."

"Coordinator, there are no curse words in any of the languages of mankind that are foul enough to describe how I feel that bunch of Yarôii. If you knew them as I know them; you'd have even less regard for them than I do."

"What do you mean, Hodges-san?"

"Coordinator, rather than being a neutral third party that seeks to preserve and maintain human knowledge, Comstar has actively worked to preserve its technological superiority by making prominent research scientists go away; either by murder, 'accidents' or just plain disappearing. Let us consider the history of your own house, for example. In the mid- to late-29th century, Comstar instituted a program called 'Operation Holy Shroud. Between 2838 and 2843, more than one hundred of the Inner Sphere's best and brightest scientists and researchers were 'removed'; by my count, some two dozen of these were in the employ of House Kurita..."

As General Hodges continues to speak, Takashi Kurita feels a titanic fury beginning to build inside his mind; the only visible sign of this is a slight nervous twitch in the corner of his right eye.

"Coordinator, aside from what I just told you, much of my dislike for Comstar and its minions come from the fact that they actively-conspired with Romano Liao to kill me."

"When did that happen, Hodges-san?"

"Quite recently, Kurita-sama. After the First Prince tore the guts out of the Capellan Confederation during the recent conflict, Romano Liao didn't have the moxie to put out a hit on me. Then, Primus Myndo Waterly made Rommie an offer she couldn't refuse; Comstar would offer logistical support to House Liao for the attack on New Avalon in exchange for the destruction of the New Avalon Institute of Science; Rommie was so short-sighted that she didn't hesitate to accept the offer and so, the attack was carried out."

"I see. What happened?"

"House Liao dropped on New Avalon in regimental strength; that BattleMech you saw outside was what I used to fight alongside the first prince. In the action which followed, I accounted for one assault mech, four heavies and three mediums. In the meantime, a secondary force under the command of Romano Liao's husband Tsen Shang came here to kill me (not knowing I was elsewhere). My soon-to-be good lady wife was waiting for them, however. In the combat which followed, she used a [Battle Armor prototype battlesuit] and the house defenses to wipe the attackers out; two light mechs, two wheeled APCs and a platoon of infantry. Some prisoners were taken, Tsen Shang among them."

"I'm beginning to see why Romano Liao hates you so."

"Kurita-sama, she now hates me even more for what I made her do to get her husband back. You remember who I humiliated her back on Terra at the First Prince's wedding reception? Well, afterwards, I called her a spoiled, petulant child and that she should be punished as such. When Tsen Shang was captured, that gave me the perfect opportunity to do the following..."

Without a further word, Hodges slides the duplicate video disk and presses the 'start' button. Takashi Kurita watches what takes place with a good deal of interest, then bellows with outrageous laughter when sees his host take the head of House Liao over his knee; it is some little time before the Coordinator recovers his composure...

"Hodges-san, that was unbelievable; to think that you bent the head of one of the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere over your knee and spanked her like she was a disobedient child. "

"Precisely, Coordinator. Now, to business. I think, perhaps that Subhash Indrahar has informed you of a test duel which took place here on New Avalon between the infamous Black Widow Natasha Kerensky and myself."

"I did hear something of that. Hodges-san. What was the outcome?"

"Coordinator, when I first met Natasha Kerensky, she had no regard for my profession as a tank officer. I couldn't let this slide, so I challenged her to a test match on the NAIS proving grounds; her Warhammer against my tank. Rather than defeating me, it was I who defeated her; just three shots is all that it took."

"How was than even possible, Hodges-san? The Black Widow is one of the deadliest mechwarriors who ever lived."

"Kurita-sama, the simple fact is that she didn't take me seriously. I had absolute technological superiority, in that I had invented a new kind of tank gun along with other pieces of equipment (such as a multi-spectral rangefinder, a stabilization system, better tank armor and a more robust tank chassis; if it was General Kerensky himself who stood against me, I could have smashed him as easily as a Sake cup thrown against a brick wall. It is this technology that I want to provide to you..."

Ordinarily, Takashi Kurita is completely unflappable. This development, however causes a look of surprise and amazement to appear on his face.

"Hodges-san, do I understand you to say that you want to provide me with examples of the technology you used to defeat the Black Widow? Surely, the First Prince would not approve of this..."

"Kurita-sama, it was the First Prince himself who gave me permission to do so. If our relations were not so cordial as they are, it seems to me that your man Subhash Indrahar would move a system's worth of asteroids to steal my tech (in very much the same way that the Lyran Commonwealth stole the technology of the BattleMech from the Terran Hegemony back in 2455); needless to say, I'd be very angry if that had happened."

"I understand, Hodges-san. How do you wish to proceed?"

"Coordinator, I will provide Luthien Armor Works the plans and specifications of my new tank gun, the ammunition and the other items I spoke of; I will also issue that company and such others of House Kurita's companies a production license. All that I ask is one service of House Kurita, to be granted by your honorable self or anyone who succeeds you as Coordinator; the service will be decided by me or the First Prince, and will not be something that House Kurita is incapable of. Now, what says the Coordinator of Worlds?"

"HAI, Hodges-san; I agree to your terms. Were you not sworn to the service of the First Prince and were you not soon to be married, I'd grant you one of my most prosperous planets as a landhold; I'd also give you the hand of one of my single female relatives in marriage."

"My thanks, Coordinator; I rather thought that you’d say something like that. Now that the business between us has been completed, what say you to some entertainment? In my media library, I have a number of videos that exist nowhere else in the inner Sphere; one of these is the original Japanese-language version of a movie called 'Godzilla'."

Just over 90 minutes later, 'Godzilla's' end credits roll. The Coordinator thinks silently for a moment, then says "Hodges-san, that film was most interesting. I wonder if I might have a copy for my own library."

"Hai, Kurita-sama; I will make arrangements to get you a copy before you leave New Avalon. In addition to 'Godzilla', I have certain other films that I will have copies made of. These are 'Seven Samurai', 'Throne of Blood', 'Rashomon', 'The Hidden Fortress' and 'Yojimbo'; lastly, there is a late 20th-century video drama series called 'Shogun'. "

"Many thanks, Hodges-san. I look forward to seeing them; time-permitting, of course."

"But of course, Coordinator. I'm sure that there are other demands on your time today; before you go, I have one final gift for you. Call it a mark of respect from one fighting man to another." This statement gets one of the Coordinator's eyebrows raised in curiosity.

General Hodges goes to his desk and takes out a cylindrical leather scroll case. He hands it to the Coordinator, who opens it so the contents can be examined. What is contained therein is a Kakemono scroll, made from the finest rice paper. On it are drawn the kanji for 'Wa-kei-jaku'; meaning 'harmony, 'respect' and 'tranquility'."

"Where did you get this, Hodges-san?"

"I drew it with my own hand, Kurita-sama. There was no rice paper available, so I had to have it specially-made for this purpose; drawing the scroll took me a month to get it just right. I'm giving it to you because I thought it might look good on the wall of the Imperial Palace's Tea House, back on Luthien."

"So it shall be. Now, as you have invited me to be a member of the groom’s party, it is incumbent upon me to provide you with a suitable token of my esteem. Accordingly, I have decided to gift you with a ‘Dragon’ BattleMech, one of House Kurita’s most favored designs.”

Dragon Mech (City scape - Papercraft version)

Dragon Class Heavy 'Mech

“Ahh, the Coordinator is generous beyond my worth. When I take delivery, I’ll hand the machine off to my tech people. They’ll refit it with all of the items I previously mentioned, and then some. Afterwards, I’ll provide you with a copy of the plans and specifications of what was done.”

Mending Fences[]

Castle Davion, Conference Room
New Avalon, Federated Suns
March 25th, 3030

1:00 PM

After leaving General Hodges' house, Takashi Kurita meets with the members of his personal retinue. While doing so, a message is delivered from the First Prince requesting an immediate audience at the Royal Palace. Curious once again, Kurita sends a reply granting the request. Transportation is arranged, the Coordinator arrives for his meeting with Hanse Davion at 1:00 PM; the two men are of equal status, and the formal greetings are a mark of that status.

"Kurita-sama, thank you for agreeing to see me on such short notice."

"Hanse-sama, I hadn't anticipated seeing you before the wedding ceremony; given my presence here, I think certain of our revered ancestors must be turning over in their graves." Hanse Davion gives a slight chuckle as Takashi continues.

"I really must commend your man General Hodges to your attention; aside from his obvious military talents, he's an excellent host, cultured, well-mannered and well-spoken; I hope you realize how fortunate you are to have him."

"Indeed I do. For General Hodges' service to the Federated Commonwealth, I have settled the world of Bristol upon him as his landhold."

"Such recognition is well-deserved, Hanse-sama. Now, as to the matter of why you asked to see me..."

"Kurita-sama, I'll be blunt. Ever since the founding of our two houses all those centuries ago, the relationship between the Federated Suns and the Draconis Combine has been fraught with contention. To start mending the breach, I propose to make amends for what happened on Halstead Station in January, 3014."

"Hanse-sama, how could I forget what you did that day? The DCMS set up that facility in order to better provide my front line units in that area with logistical support. In the course of the Combine's operations on that planet, an intact Star League library was discovered. You resolved to seize the library for yourself and so, despite the best efforts of the DCMS garrison, your men blasted their way into the library's vault and made off the about 75% of the contents; what they couldn't carry off, they destroyed.; I never stopped resenting you for what you did that day.."

"Kurita-sama, the order to destroy what couldn't be taken was never given by me or any of my command staff; if it is of interest for you to know, one of my regimental commanders did it without my authorization. When I heard what happened, I relieved him of his command."

"Hanse-sama, that still doesn't change the fact that those books were the rightful property of House Kurita. Ho do you propose to make up for that?"

"How about by telling you of an even larger Star League supply cache? One that is located entirely within your territory.."

"I'm listening."

"Kurita-sama, the information was given to me by General Hodges, and I have satisfied myself as to its veracity; the same as with the New Dallas memory core in the Free Worlds League. Hodges refused to tell me how he came by the information, except to say that he's got intelligence sources so deep and so black that they make space itself seem as bright as a supernova."

"Very well; I'll not press you further on that part. What I want to know are specifics; where's the depot located, what does it hold and what are the security measures in place to defend it?"

"There isn't just one deport, there are three of them; all located on Holloway V. From the information General Hodges provided to me, each of them was designed to function as a logistics base for a force of 1-3 regiments; for your information, the material is all Royal-grade. I make no claim on the contents of the depots; they are yours to recover as circumstances permit. I’ll also give you a data disk listing what each of the three depots contains, as well as the security measures that are in place"

"Hanse-sama, that will certainly help."

"I am pleased to hear that, Kurita-sama. Please accept some words of advice from me.."

"What are those?"

"Just this. When you grab the materiel on Holloway V, I urge you in the strongest terms to give your operation the tightest-possible security you are capable of providing. If Comstar (or, as General Hodges calls them 'that ******, no-good bunch of toga-wearing, toaster-worshipping ******') were to get word of the recovery, they'd move heaven and earth to destroy it."

"Consider it done, Hanse-sama; I believe it would be appropriate for the recovery project to be called 'Operation Fox'.

"Excellent, Kurita-sama. I believe that we've made a good start here today; our next step should be an exchange of ambassadors."


The Wedding[]

Davion Palace, Avalon City New Avalon, Federated Suns
April 2nd, 3020

3:00 PM

The night before the wedding, General Hodges hosted a bachelor's party at his house; those in attendance included First Prince Hanse Davion and Coordinator Takashi Kurita; musical entertainment was provided by Dr. Benjamin Banzai and his band, the Cavaliers. The following morning, Kym Sorensen and her bridesmaids (headed by Archon Katrina Steiner and Archon-Princess Melissa Steiner assisted the bride-to-be with her preparations.

The wedding of General James Hodges and Kym Sorensen is the highest-profile social event since the wedding of Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner on Terra last year. To keep the number of guests manageable, only 500 invitations were sent out. The wedding mass was celebrated in Avalon City's Catholic Cathedral by Cardinal Francis Flynn of the New Avalon Catholic Church; afterwards, the reception was held in the Grand Ballroom of Castle Davion.

Dinner was served, and the newly-married couple had the traditional first dance. Then, General Hodges cut the cake with his sword and served his bride the first piece; afterwards, gifts were given. From Coordinator Takashi Kurita, the couple received a matching pair of kimonos (each embroidered with the symbol of the 3rd Corps on the back); for General Hodges, there is a pair (daisho) of swords forged by the best swordsmith in the Draconis Combine; for Kym Hodges, there is an antique Japanese tea set. Archon Katrina Steiner bestowed a full battalion of BattleMechs; last but most certainly not least, First Prince Hanse Davion bestowed the world of Beecher. Thereafter, the festivities continued long into the night.

When it was time to depart, the Hodges’ personally shook hands with everyone who attended; first, it was the First Prince and his wife. Then, it was Archon Katrina Steiner; thirdly came Coordinator Takashi Kurita. When he advanced, Kurita said “Congratulations to you and your good lady wife, Hodges-san. Perhaps you would do me the honor of visiting Luthien; time permitting, of course.”

“I would be delighted to accept your offer, Kurita-sama.”

Some little time later, the couple are driven back home in a limousine. During the brief ride, General Hodges turns to his new wife and says “Dear, we’ve got a great deal of work to do.”

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