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

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Chapter 27 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]

A Discussion[]

Fox's Den
Avalon City, New Avalon
Federated Suns
September 10th, 3030

Janos Marik pauses to gather his thoughts, then says “Hanse, in August of this year, Takashi Kurita urged that I withdraw the Free Worlds League from the Concord of Kapteyn; his recommendation was based on the much-improved relations between the Draconis Combine and the Federated Commonwealth. After some consideration, I did just that. Romano Liao took this as a personal insult, reached out to Dame Katherine Humphreys (ruler of the Duchy of Andurien) and suborned her into revolting against the League; all this was done with the secret backing of Comstar.”

Hanse Davion steeples his fingers and replies “What happened next, Janos? I can only imagine that certain parties weren’t pleased at this turn of events…”

“Indeed. As part of the rebellion, Humphreys approached my nephew Duncan and persuaded him to make an attempt on my life. Agents in his employ planted a bomb in my office and timed it to go off on the afternoon of August 30th; it so happened that I was meeting with my top officers and my two sons Thomas and Duggan in order to determine what steps to next take against Dame Humphrey’s rebellion.”

“I see that you survived the blast unhurt…”

“Not quite; I only suffered a few minor injuries. However, my son Thomas was killed instantly and; my other son Duggan was wounded.”

“Janos, my friend, please allow me to express my deepest and most sincere condolences at your loss. Tell me what I can do to help.”

“Your kind words and your offer of assistance are greatly appreciated, Hanse. In the aftermath of the bombing, Duncan attempted to take the Captain-Generalcy for himself; only to see his efforts foiled when I made a public address confirming that I was alive and unharmed. Thereafter, I ordered Duncan’s arrest and for SAFE to conduct a thorough investigation. As to what I want, Comstar’s mask of neutrality has fallen. Their meddling in the internal affairs of the Free World League is bad enough but, when they aided in the assassination attempt on me, they went too far. Myndo Waterly and her gang of cutthroats must be made to pay.”

“Janos, you and I are of like mind on this subject. When I went to war with the Capellan Confederation, Comstar (or that bunch of toga-wearing, toaster-worshipping ****** as my man General James Hodges refers to them) attempted to interfere by placing the Federated Commonwealth under a communications interdict. Unbeknownst to them, I had certain means of working around the interdict; we’ll discuss this shortly. In the meantime, I trust that you’ve made good use of your copy of the data core from New Dallas.”

“I certainly have; the information was duplicated many times over, with copies going to the best research institutions in the Free World League. I have to ask, whatever possessed you to pass a copy of the New Dallas core to me? I’m not sure that I would have had the presence of mind to do so, had I first come into its possession; it’s a sure thing that neither Takashi Kurita or Romano Liao would have done so….”

“Janos, I gave you a copy of the New Dallas core at General Hodges’ suggestion; it was he that told me of its existence and where it was located. I didn’t hesitate a moment in issuing the order, especially after General Hodges told me of certain operations by Comstar (Holy Shroud and Holy Shroud II), whereby they sought to maintain their technological dominance by sabotaging research projects all across the Inner Sphere and assassinating key scientific personnel; no realm was safe from their perfidy.”

“Indeed; all the more reason why Comstar has to pay for what they did.”

“Agreed. I propose a joint operation with Takashi Kurita, where our three realms would move against Comstar. First, they will not be allowed to deploy their so-called ‘Com Guards’ and second, we seize their hyperpulse generators.”

“What? Are you sure that’s a good idea, Hanse? I mean, what’s to keep the personnel at each station from sabotaging the hyperpulse generator? No one knows how to repair or use those damned things anymore.”

“You’re incorrect in that, Janos. For quite some time now, my people at the New Avalon Institute of Science have been researching the secrets of HPG technology; the information from the New Dallas data core proved to be of vital importance in the project. Now, my scientists and technicians will be able to repair and operate HPGs. Earlier, I said that I had a means of circumventing a communications blackout; I will offer it to you and Takashi Kurita.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Janos, my communications people call them fax machines. The original technology was discovered in 3005 by Katrina Steiner in a bunker formerly belonging to the SLDF’s 17th Royal Division on Taran’s World. At its most basic, a fax machine uses the same hyperspace medium as do jump drives and hyperpulse generators. It has nine channels, a range of 1,200 light years and a propagation speed of 180 light years per day. Voice and video communications aren’t possible with this device, only transmission of text (up to 50 pages) and still pictures.”

“Hanse, you realize that Comstar would do anything to obtain this technology? They’d murder entire planets to get it.”

“Exactly. This is why you must do whatever it takes to keep this information in-house. Our whole success depends on Comstar not knowing what we’re up to. While we’re on the subject of cooperating with each other, there’s certain information that I’d like to give you.”

“What’s that?”

“My officer General Hodges developed information that shows where certain ex-SLDF WarShips and equipment caches can be found. I satisfied myself that his information was correct and acted on his suggestion to seize them; I also passed word to Takashi Kurita where such depots could be found in the Draconis Combine. I now do the same for you.”

“What? Do you mean to tell me that there are Star League Warships located in the Free Worlds League??”

Black Lion II Class Battlecruiser (Underway)

Black Lion Class Battlecruiser

“You heard me correctly, Janos. There are the SLS Port Hope (a Black Lion-class battlecruiser), SLS Richmond (a Vincent-class corvette), the SLS Schrack and the SLS Deliverance (both of these are Essex-class destroyers) and the SLS Olympic (an Aegis-class heavy cruiser); these ships are located in the Oort cloud of the Tanis Borealis System. Undoubtedly, these ships are going to need maintenance; if you would like the support of the Federated Commonwealth in getting them operational, you’ll have it.”

“Agreed. What’s our next step?”

“You, I and Takashi have to meet in person to discuss the details; scheduling operations against Comstar will be of critical importance, as we’ll have to hit every HPG station more-or-less simultaneously. I suggest we meet in the city of Cardiff on Bristol; it’s one of the two planets I settled upon General Hodges for his services to the Federated Commonwealth. I’ll have a courier sent to Luthien with a message telling Takashi Kurita of our plans, and I’ll send a message to Bristol informing General Hodges of our planned arrival.”

“Very well. As Shakespeare once said in one of his plays: ‘Lay on Macduff and damn’d be he who first cries hold, enough.”

Later that day, General Hodges receives a message from the Fox's Den via fax machine telling him of the impending conference and requesting that he make the necessary preparations. The message is responded to immediately, with a request that the Taurian Concordat be asked to send a high-level representative.

Rendezvous at Bristol[]

Bristol, Federated Suns
November 15th, 3030

Over the next 60 days, the command staff of the Federated Commonwealth, the Draconis Combine and the Free Worlds League begin planning their joint operation against Comstar. On November 15th, jumpships carrying the First Prince, The Archon, the Coordinator and the Captain-General arrive at the Bristol system’s jump point under the strictest security measures possible. In the time that it takes for the dropships to reach Bristol, Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner have a number of private meetings in which they discuss what's to be done with the recovered warships. The last meeting takes place on November 19th just before planetfall;in it, the First Prince says "Katrina, in order to make the plan against Comstar workable, we're going to need to speed up communications with the other houses; using command circuits of JumpShips can only do so much."

"What do you propose, Hanse?"

"I've given the idea a good deal of thought, and the only way I see to carry out this mission would be to give Kurita, Marik and the Taurians a set of black boxes."

"Are you serious? Those devices are one of the biggest advantages we have; don't forget it was the boxes that enabled you to get around Comstar's communications interdict.."

"I'm quite serious; we have to show the others just how important the mission is and how serious we are about making it work. Since it would be unjust for me to just give the boxes away, how about we do some horse-trading, so to speak?"

"What do you have in mind, you old fox?"

Tharkad Class Battlecruiser ( Mini by Phil Hays )

Tharkad Class Battlecruiser, LCS Invincible

"General Hodges' information places most of the warships to be recovered in the Federated Suns, to include the LCS Invincible. I know you'll be wanting that ship back, so it's yours. To further sweeten the deal, how about I include half of the rest and half of the materiel from Antares Base? Aside from the mechs, tanks, aerospace fighters, artillery, battlesuits and rolling stock, House Steiner's share would amount to half a million tons of spare parts and associated equipment. What say you?"

"Hanse, in the years that we have worked together, I've grown to trust your judgment. If you think this is the way to go, then I'll accept your offer."

After making planetfall, the dignitaries arrive at Bristol’s main spaceport and are driven to meet with General Hodges at Government House. Due to domestic concerns, Protector Thomas Calderon of the Taurian Concordat was unable to attend the conference; however, he did send his son and heir Edward as his personal representative (who arrived on November 14th). The conference takes place in Government House’s most secure conference room; the customary pleasantries are exchanged and the attendees get down to business. As host, General Hodges speaks first.

“Coordinator, Captain-General, thank you for coming here on such short notice. The First Prince’s message of September 10th impressed on me the need for security of communications operations and intelligence; with me is Subaltern Edward Calderon from the Taurian Concordat, who arrived only yesterday.”

Subaltern Calderon speaks up and says “greetings. My father the Protector could not attend, so he sent me to speak for him.”

The meeting is called to order and General Hodges says “Let's begin by reviewing the status of your ongoing lostech recovery operations. Kurita-sama, how stand the affairs of the Dragon in this regard?”

“Hodges-san, I am pleased to report that the entire contents of the three depots on Holloway V have been recovered by the Combine. Efforts on Buffalo Meadows and Mannedorf were similarly successful. Aside from the dozens of dropships, hundreds of BattleMechs, Aerospace Fighters, tanks and mountains of supplies, spare parts and munitions, there were the ex-SLDF warships SLS Ulithi (a Potemkin-class troop transport), SLS Cape Bon (an Essex-class destroyer) and the SLS Protecteur (a Lola-class destroyer); the SLS Ulithi’s drive core is non-functional. However, her spaceframe, weapons, engines and other systems are fully-operational.”

“Excellent. My compliments on the successful conclusion of your operations, Kurita-sama. Captain-General?”

“General Hodges, despite some misgivings on my part, I immediately ordered a joint operation between SAFE and units of the FWLM to recover the ships the First Prince told me about. The SLS Port Hope, SLS Richmond, SLS Schrack, SLS Deliverance, and SLS Olympic were found drifting in the Oort Cloud of the Tania Borealis system, just as the information you gave the First Prince said they were.”

A nod of the head, then General Hodges says “Your highness?”

Hanse Davion exchanges a glance with Archon Katrina, then spends a minute or two referring to the documents he brought along for this meeting. After closing the file folder, he says “gentlemen, it so happened that due to the size of the Federated Commonwealth, there are more supply depots and ex-SLDF warships stashed here than anywhere else. The largest prize was Antares Base, which held an entire equipment set for the SLDFs II Corps; along with this were the SLS William Halsey (a Texas-class battleship), a Newgrange-class yardship, a Mercy-class hospital ship, plus a pair of Bugeye-class surveillance ships (SLS Donovan and SLS Casey). Elsewhere, there is the SLS Nelson (a Black Lion-class battlecruiser) in the Castor system and the SLS Oslo (an Essex-class destroyer in the Elgin system. As part of the operations against Comstar, we in the Federated Commonwealth intend to move against the shipyard complex in the Odessa System. Comstar has been keeping the place under wraps, so they only have a token force guarding it.”

“Hanse-san, might we know what’s there?”

“Of course, Kurita-san. General Hodges’ information is that there are a pair of Newgrange-class yardships, a McKenna-class battleship (the SLS Zughoffer Weir), a Farragut-class battleship (the SLS Ryu), a Potemkin-class troopship (the LCS Nightwind) plus 3 Aegis-class heavy cruisers, 2 Sovetskii Souyz-class heavy cruisers, 2 Quixote-class missile Frigates, 2 Congress-class frigates and 2 Riga-class frigates; the names of these ships remain as yet unknown. Lastly, I believe that the Tharkad-class battlecruiser LCS Invincible is there also.”

Subaltern Carderon feelings become rather downcast as he listens to the roster of ships that are now available to the other great houses. Seeing the expression on his face, General Hodges says “Don’t think that I’ve forgotten about the Taurian Concordat. I asked to have you here because I wanted to disclose the presence of a substantial number of warships in your house’s territory. Centuries ago, the Star League Navy sent a task force to Flannagan’s Nebula for the express purpose of searching for and destroying a fleet of TCN warships which they believed to be hidden there. After years of searching, the SLN task force departed without ever finding anything.”

“General Hodges, family lore in House Calderon says that those ships were hidden away to keep them out of the hands of the Star League during the Reunification War. However, over the passage of time, the information regarding their location has become lost. Are you saying that you know where they are?”

“I am indeed, Subaltern. The reason why the Star League was never able to finds those ships was that they were never in Flannagan’s Nebula in the first place. Instead, they’re in floating in the Oort Cloud in the Renfield System; the ships are completely powered down, they’re in vacuum storage and disguised as floating chunks of cometary debris.”

“What’s there?”

Calderon Class Battleship (Space)

Calderon Class Battleship

“How about three Calderon-class battleships, a pair of Winchester-class cruisers, a Wagon Wheel-class frigate, three Concordat-class frigates, three Resolution-class destroyers, a pair of Wildcat-class destroyer escorts and an Antares-class fleet tender. There’s also a good chance that the Calderon-class battleship TCS Samantha Calderon is there.”

Wagon Wheel (Stationary)

Wagon Wheel Class Frigate

Concordat Frigate (Space)

Concordat Class Frigate

“Anything else I need to know about?”

“There’s a depot in the Pleiades Cluster, deep in the asteroid belt surrounding the star Merope. Subaltern, before you state the obvious, I am aware of the history that has passed between House Davion and the Taurian Concordat.”

“I appreciate the history lesson, but do please get to the point. What’s there and how did you find out about it?”

“Well, it so happened that a certain document came into my possession some years ago. This document was the diary of one Admiral William Carrison, TCN. In those days, the Concordat was in the late stages of its conflict with the Star League. Admiral Carrison’s superiors ordered him to set up a depot, with an eye towards supporting a revolution against the Star League and, to this end, he deployed a Bessemer-class yardship in the Merope star system. Along with the yardship, several damaged TCN vessels were cached nearby in anticipation of being returned to service after repairs; these comprise a pair of Winchester-class cruisers, a pair of Dart-class transport cruisers and a pair Wagon Wheel-class frigates. The ships are damaged in one form or another, and they would have to be restocked with munitions, fuel, food and other consumables.”

Dart Class Cruiser Mini - Painted 66 wackdart1

Dart Class Cruiser

A pause, then “Subaltern, they reason why those ships never returned to the service of the Concordat is that your nation surrendered to the Star League. Admiral Carrison realized that if the existence of the cache were ever to be revealed, the SLDF wouldn’t hesitate to confiscate or destroy it. His decision to conceal the cache from everyone made even more sense because of a certain shipment that was received shortly before the surrender.”

“What was in that shipment?”

“How about a very large percentage of the Taurian Government’s stockpile of precious metals and germanium? Specifically, the equivalent of 5,000,000,000,000 C-bills in gold, platinum, palladium and another 10,000,000,000,000 C-bills in germanium…”

Hanse Davion gestures for General Hodges to resume his seat and says “Subaltern Calderon, in the interest of the development of peaceful relations between the Federated Commonwealth and the Taurian Concordat, I am willing to return those ships and that entire metals stockpile to your government. Furthermore, I invite the Concordat to help recover them. All I ask in return is your government’s assistance in our combined effort to remove Comstar; surely you realize by now that organization is a threat to us all.”

“Your highness, I must return to Taurus at the earliest possible opportunity and communicate this information to my father. Should it prove to be accurate, I don’t doubt that the Protector will agree to your request.”

General Hodges speaks up and says “Your highness, as I have already provided examples of my electrothermal-caseless cannon technology, weapon stabilization system and multi-spectral rangefinder to the Draconis Combine, I think this nascent alliance would benefit if I were to do the same for the Free Worlds League and the Taurian Concordat. What say you?” Without the slightest hesitation, the First Prince replies “Approved.”

A pause, then Hanse Davion says "Gentlemen, in order to make the operation against Comstar work, we'll need a secure means of communication with each other. I have discussed the matter with Archon Katrina at length, and we have decided to give each of you a set of black boxes."

A curious look comes from Takashi Kurita, who says "What are these black boxes you speak of?"

"Kurita-san, black boxes are a means of FTL communication, one that Comstar doesn't know exists. They were discovered by Archon Katrina back in 3005, when she was voyaging in the Periphery. It so happened that she and her companions were exploring a bombed-out bunker on Taran's World, which bunker formerly belonging to the SLDF's 17th Royal Division. In the 25 years since then, my scientists and those in the Lyran Commonwealth have made significant improvements in the technology; these devices are why I was able to circumvent Comstar's communications interdict in the conflict with the Capellans.

Janos Marik asks "Hanse, what are the performance of these black boxes as you call them?"

"The latest models have a range of 1,200 light years; they have nine channels and propagate their messages at the speed of 180 light years per day. They can send up to fifty pages of text (as well as still images), but aren't capable of sending audio or video files. Captain-General, Coordinator, Subaltern Calderon, that I have disclosed to you the most highly-classified technology that the Federated Commonwealth posses should be an indication of just how seriously Katrina and I are taking the situation."

Takashi Kurita exchanges a glance with Janos Marik and Subaltern Calderon; he says "Hanse-san, I believe that I speak for the others when I say that we accept your offer."

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