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

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Chapter 30 - An American Tanker in Prince Davion's Court[]


Instruments of Destruction[]

May 12th, 3050


Iron birds of fortune
Adrift above the skies
Cloudy revelations
Unseen by naked eyes

Flying tools of torment
Will penetrate the sphere
Erupt the rock of ages
Bringing final fear

Instruments of destruction
Tools of foul play
It's a vile interruption
Existence drifts away

Does it really matter
When nothing really does
Grave eternal darkness
When you're, drained of every ounce

And when the nightmare's over
The final from the storm
Dust of all creation
To ashes we transform

Instruments of destruction
Tools of foul play
It's a vile interruption
Existence drifts away*


Ever since the Clan Invasion of the Inner Sphere (or 'Operation Revival', as the nipple-necks call it) began in 3048, the Crusaders (led by Khan Ulric Kerensky) haven't had a very easy time of it. Rather than facing a disunited Inner Sphere rife with conflict over resources and technology, the Wolves, Smoke Jaguars, Nova Cats, Steel Vipers, Diamond Sharks, Ghost Bears and Jade Falcons have faced the five Great Houses and the major Periphery states with losses in men and materiel that have run significantly in excess of even their best pre-war estimates (mainly due to the Great Houses and the Periphery states having sensor grids defending their major planets; grids that are the equal of and in some ways superior to anything the Star League ever had). Other factors in the Inner Sphere's favor are the provision of new weapons and technology by Field Marshal Hodges, that Comstar is now extinct and that the Capellan Confederation was retaken by Candace Liao in 3045.

Previously in 3042, the Federated Commonwealth allowed its territory to be used as a base for Duchess Candace Liao to retake the Capellan Confederation; with House Davion and House Steiner providing material support for her efforts. Knowing the bad blood that had passed between the Capellans and the Concordat, Hanse Davion gave the Taurians the lead in hitting certain targets; they also had an important supporting role elsewhere in the Confederation. The joint campaign lasted until mid 3045, when the Confederation's last bastion on their capital world of Sian fell to the Duchess' troops.

Sovetskii Soyuz Class Heavy Cruiser - Refit (No Logo) (Matt Plog)

CWS Direwolf, a Sovetskii Soyz Class Heavy Cruiser,

On April 10th, 3050 Field Marshall Hodges (feeling that the time was right to throw back the advance of the Crusader Clans) sent an HPG message to Khan Ulric Kerensky challenging him to a trial of possession for what they have gained thus far. In due course, the challenge was accepted. The meeting to determine the conditions of the batchall is scheduled to take place on Harvest. On May 12th, the Crusader Clan fleet arrives at the system’s jump point and later on, is approaching Harvest with Clan Wolf's flagship Dire Wolf in the lead.

Just then, one of Kerensky's bridge staff approaches and says "My Khan, I have disturbing news."

"What do your screens show, Sensor Technician Evantha?"

"My Khan, I am grieved to report that there are numbers of warships in high orbit over Harvest."

"What?? Transfer your sensor feeds to the main screen."

"Yes, my Khan."

To Kerensky’s amazement and discomfiture, the readouts on the bridge’s main screen show that there are indeed warships in orbit over Harvest; specifically two McKenna-class battleships, one Farragut-class battleship, one Texas-class battleship, two Cameron-class battlecruisers, two Black Lion-class battlecruisers, six Aegis-class heavy cruisers, two Sovetskii Soyuz-class heavy cruisers, four Congress-class frigates, four Vincent-class corvettes, seven Essex-class destroyers, three Lola III-class destroyers and dozens of Potemkin-class troopships

Just then, the Dire Wolf’s communications officer exclaims “My Khan, we are being hailed from the Spheroids’ flagship.”

Farragut Battleship (Under Thrust - IWM Miniature Painted by Wackrabbit)

Farragut Class Battleship

“Open a channel.”

“Yes, my Khan.”

Congress Frigate (Underway - 3057 Refit - Miniature)

Congress Class Frigate

The view on the main screen changes to reveal a strangely-dressed officer who says “I am Field Marshal James Hodges, Commander-in-Chief Allied Expeditionary Force; I am speaking to you from the bridge of my flagship SLS Admiral Halsey. Do I have the honor of addressing the enemy commanding officer?”

Kerensky leans forward in his command chair and replies “I am Khan Ulric Kerensky, leader of Clan Wolf and commander of the forces sent to liberate the Inner Sphere from the rule of the Scavenger Lords.”

“Khan Kerensky, you and your fellow ‘Crusaders’ have been having rather a rough time of it since your invasion began in 3048, haven’t you? My intelligence staffers have told me that your losses in men and materiel are running well in excess of even your most conservative pre-war estimates; your boys have had a good run, now it’s time for you to leave and head back home. Speaking of Home, how’s the weather on Strana Mechty? I hear it’s rather nice this time of year…”

“What?? How could you possibly know that?”

“Kerensky, I know who you people are, where you come from and why you’re here. I am also completely familiar with the history of the Clans, going all the way back to the act of Grand Barratry that General Aleksandr Kerensky committed when he took the remains of the Star League Defense Force and left the Inner Sphere.”

“How dare you speak so of the Great Father? We are here to fulfill his vision of reuniting humanity under one government..”

“Be that as it may, there is business to be conducted between us; namely, the batchall as you people call it. Be planetside in 24 hours; I and representatives of the Allied Expeditionary Force will be waiting to meet you on the plains outside the city of Rookhaven.”

“Agreed.”

The Battle of Luthien[]

Rookhaven, Harvest
May 13th, 3050

A few hundred yards inward of the beach on the outskirts of the city of Rookhaven, an open pavilion has been set up to serve as the location of the bidding process. There are two long tables set directly across from each other, with chairs to accommodate the members of the delegations from the Inner Sphere and the Clans.

For the Inner Sphere, there are already present Thomas Calderon from the Taurian Concordat, Hohiro Kurita from the Draconis Combine, Field Marshal Ardan Sortek from the Federated Commonwealth, Kai Allard-Liao from the Capellan Confederation and Duggan Marik from the Free Worlds League; behind these principals are a number of staff officers and junior aides (including Field Marshal Hodges’ son Richard, who is serving as his father’s aide-de-camp) and Victor Steiner-Davion (Hodges’ Chief-of-Staff).

The Clan delegation isn’t long in arriving; Khan Ulric Kerensky of Clan Wolf, Khan Lincoln Osis of Clan Smoke Jaguar, Khan Karl Bourjon of Clan Ghost Bear, Khan Elias Crichell of Clan Jade Falcon, Khan Severen Leroux of Clan Nova Cat and Khan Ian Hawker of Clan Diamond Shark. Seeing that Field Marshal Hodges isn’t present, Ulric Kerensky steps forward and asks “where is the leader of the forces of the Inner Sphere? The protocol of the bidding process requires the presence of the enemy commander.” Kerensky is answered by the Field Marshal’s son Richard (all of 20 years old and a recent graduate from the NAIS College of Military Sciences), who says “Khan Kerensky, my father sends his greetings and regrets that he was unavoidably delayed. I ask your indulgence, as he’ll be arriving here shortly.”

“Granted”

A mile offshore, Field Marshal Hodges is on final approach with a hand-picked crew aboard a hand-built replica of an ancient UH-1 ‘Huey’ helicopter; the nose of the chopper is decorated with the insignia of the U.S Army’s 1st Cavalry Division; a Shield Or, bordered sable with a Stripe sable party per bend and a horses’ head sable quartered upper right.

In the helicopter’s cabin, Hodges calls over the intercom and says to one of his fellow crewmembers “Put on Psy-war Op; make it loud. Romeo Foxtrot, shall we dance?”

Immediately, Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ begins to play over loudspeakers mounted on the helicopter’s skids; the volume is so loud that those on the ground could hear it at the distance of three-quarters of a mile. A short time later, those at the meeting site begin to hear the strains of ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ rolling in over the waves; the music gets louder as Hodges’ helicopter cross the beach, circles the field and comes in for a landing just as the music finishes. As the chopper touches down, Field Marshal Hodges exits the aircraft and resolutely walks towards the pavilion.

Instead of his BDUs, Field Marshal Hodges is wearing a dress-blue cavalry officer’s uniform (with the coat cut in the style of a 19th-century cavalry shell jacket). The uniform is complemented with his great-grandfather’s Model 1913 Cavalry sword, a yellow cavalry scarf, a pair of thigh-high boots polished to mirror-brightness and a cavalry Stetson with a yellow hat cord and the insignia of the 1st Cavalry Division on the front; other than the preceding, Hodges’ only affectation to fashion is a pair of mirrored sunglasses. As he approaches the pavilion, Hodges pauses briefly to light up a cigar and take a few appreciative puffs before moving forward.

Somewhat impatiently, the leader of Clan Wolf announces “I am Khan Ulric Kerensky. The Clans of Kerensky claim this world for their own. What tame dogs defend it? I have the following forces to support the claim.”

Clan Order of Battle

Clan Number of Galaxies Number of Clusters
Smoke Jaguar 4 20
Nova Cat 6 24
Ghost Bear 6 24
Jade Falcon 6 24
Diamond Shark 4 16
Steel Viper 6 24
Wolf 8 40

Cluster Composition
2 Omnimech trinaries (30 units)
1 Elemental binary (50 units)
1 Omnifighter binary (20 units)
1 mixed trinary (5 omnimechs, 10 omnifighters, 25 Elementals)
1 armor trinary (15 tanks)
1 artillery trinary (15 pieces)
Total strength: 35 omnimechs, 30 omnifighters, 75 Elementals, 15 tanks, 15 artillery pieces

Unit Totals Smoke Jaguar: 700 omnimechs, 600 omnifighters, 1,500 Elementals, 300 tanks, 300 artillery pieces
Nova Cat: 840 omnimechs, 720 omnifighters, 1,800 Elementals, 360 tanks, 360 artillery pieces
Ghost Bear: 840 omnimechs, 720 omnifighters, 1,800 Elementals, 360 tanks, 360 artillery pieces
Jade Falcon: 840 omnimechs, 720 omnifighters, 1,800 Elementals, 360 tanks, 360 artillery pieces
Diamond Shark: 560 omnimechs, 480 onminfighters, 1,200 Elementals, 240 tanks, 240 artillery pieces
Steel Viper: 840 omnimechs, 720 omnifighters, 1,800 Elementals, 360 tanks, 360 artillery pieces
Wolf: 1,400 omnimechs, 1,200 omnifighters, 3,000 Elementals, 600 tanks, 600 artillery pieces

Note: the armor and artillery trinaries are staffed by solahma troops

Hodges listens to Kerensky as he identifies the forces that have come with him to Harvest, while he draws deeply on his cigar and contemptuously blows clouds of smoke towards the Clanners. When Kerensky finishes, Hodges draws himself up to his full height and responds “I am Field Marshal James Hodges, Commander-in-Chief of the Allied Expeditionary Force, Champion of Luthien and warbound to First Prince Hanse Davion and Archon Katrina Steiner of the Federated Commonwealth. Hear me well that you may know the truth of who I am.” What follows is a description of who the Field Marshal is, where he comes from and how he came to be here (the same narration he delivered to Myndo Waterly on Terra years ago).

A pause, then Hodges says “My son will handle the initial bidding for me.” Richard Hodges steps forward and says “Khan Kerensky, the Alliance has ten division combat teams, five air cavalry divisions, the Eridani Light Horse, the Northwind Highlanders, the Royal Black Watch, Wolf’s Dragoons, the 331st Royal Battlemech Division, the Davion Brigade of Guards, the Lyran Guards, the 1st and 2nd Sword of Light regiments, the 1st Genyosha Regiment plus 113 battlemech regiments to oppose you.”

Freebirth whelp!! How dare you lay claim to having the 331st Division with you? Those people were annihilated centuries ago. As for you, Hodges; you say that you were at Luthien?”

Field Marshal Hodges motions for his son to stand down and responds “Indeed, I was. Kerensky; I’d go so far as to say that I was instrumental in the ahh, rather warm reception the Smoke Jaguars and the Nova Cats got there; you know, there’s an old motto from Terra that goes ‘who dares wins’: I dared and I won. Before you and the others get all bunched up about my mentioning Clan Wolverine, I’ll say that I am fully-aware how the Clans handed those people a raw deal. In the words of the Duke of Exeter in Shakespeare’s play Henry V, I have nothing but scorn, contempt and slight regard for the responsible parties. First, Clan Widowmaker squealed to the Grand Council about the Wolverines’ plan to secede and return to the Inner Sphere because they were dissatisfied with Nicholas Kerensky’s plans for Clan Society; they also stole a nuclear weapon from the Brian Cache on Circe and gave it to the Diamond Sharks (who then used it to frame Clan Wolverine for destroying Clan Snow Raven’s genetic repository). Lastly, Clan Wolf for knowing the truth of what actually happened (from having Nicholas Kerensky’s diaries and doing nothing to correct the historical record).”

A pause, then “You’re probably wondering why I have Wolf’s Dragoons listed on the table of forces I have to oppose you, and why you haven’t heard from Jaime Wolf and Natasha Kerensky in more than a few years; well, the plain and simple answer is that I told them what I told you about what really happened to Clan Wolverine. They were so disgusted when they heard the truth that they came over to my side and have been there for years.”

Field Marshal Hodges cuts off the gasps of the assembled khans with a sharp gesture, then says “Now that your dirty laundry has been aired out for all to see, let’s get to the bidding, shall we? Before we begin, I’d like to suggest a number of alternatives to fighting each other.”

“Speak then, barbarian…”

“I don’t suppose you people still play poker? If you do, how about a game of ‘No-Limit Texas Hold-‘em’ to decide the issue? The initial buy-in will be ten billion FC Bills, with one additional buy-in of five billion bills permitted; if you people don’t use money, I’ll front you the cash in exchange for an equivalent value in Omnimechs and battle armor. If such a game isn’t to your liking, then perhaps single combat is in order.”

“What would you have in mind for such a combat, Field Marshal?”

“The first option would be a Circle of Equals between myself and one of your mechwarriors; unaugmented, so to speak. The second choice would be the same, but with knives, axes or swords; lastly would be my tank and crew against one of your BattleMechs of equivalent weight; 70 tons. Now, what say you?”

“Field Marshal, the honor of the Clans demands that our forces oppose yours on the field of battle. Therefore, I must decline your offer.”

“So be it. To begin with, I’ll bid away all of my Warships because I don’t think you’ll want to lose any more of your own vessels; I’m speaking of what almost happened over Turtle Bay.” At the mention of the name, Khan Elias Critchell winces as he’s still smarting over the loss of not one but four warships in that engagement. Seeing the expression of disgust on Critchell’s face, Hodges responds “I thought that would get your attention. Your Galaxy Commander Cordera Perez (after his troops defeated the 14th Legion of Vega) captured and imprisoned the survivors. It was only after the prisoners escaped that Perez realized one of the escapees was none other than Hohiro Kurita, heir-apparent to the throne of the Draconis Combine. Thereafter, the population of Turtle Bay rose up to defend their homes and this (plus the escape) so incensed Perez that he ordered CSJ Saber Cat and its three supporting vessels to bombard the city of Edo; a cowardly, barbaric act that would have resulted in the deaths of nearly 12,000,000 people. I couldn’t let this happen, so my flagship SLS William Halsey and its supporting pocket warships engaged your vessels and destroyed them all.”

Ulric Kerensky exchanges a harsh glance with Elias Critchell and replies “Field Marshal, Galaxy Commander Perez’ action (though it wasn’t completed) was an affront to Clan honor. For this reason, I bid away all of my warships also.”

“Done; as for my other forces, I’ll defend the planet with everything I’ve got. Therefore, my part of the bidding is closed.”

The assembled Khans now begin to bid among themselves over what forces to employ in the coming engagement, where (and how close to their objective) to land them, and in what order the attackers will land. Clan Smoke Jaguar and Clan Jade Falcon were so incensed over what Field Marshal Hodges said earlier about Clan Wolverine that they bid amongst themselves for the right to fight him; the Jade Falcons won the right to engage Field Marshal Hodges’ troops (who are posted to defend the city of Rookhaven); while the Smoke Jaguars’ bid secured them the right to engage the next-nearest city, anticipating that the Jade Falcons might need support to accomplish their objective.

At the conclusion of the bidding process, Ulric Kerensky announces “Well-bargained and done. Now as to the stakes…”

A look crosses Field Marshal Hodges’ face, one that resembles a great white shark considering its next meal. He grins malignantly and replies “Kerensky, the stakes are very simple. If you win, you and yours get to keep the planet of Harvest and continue with the invasion; when I win, I get all of the materiel you landed on the planet. The Clans will also withdraw from the Inner Sphere and never, EVER return. This, if anything, will teach you people a lesson in humility…”

The sheer gall of Hodges’ proposal catches the Khans by surprise and, after much discussion, it is agreed to. Before Khan Kerensky and the others withdraw to begin the landings, he says “When you win? You are certainly full of your own self-confidence, quiaff?”

“Affirmative, Kerensky; that I most certainly am.”

“Well, do you have anything else to say, Field Marshal?”

“Only this. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, all the Inner Sphere’s a stage and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts.” A brief pause, then “so too have I played many parts in opposing your ill-conceived invasion. Very soon, you’ll stand before me once again and look into my eyes; then, you’ll know, YOU’LL know that it was I who encompassed your doom.”

Just then, the crew aboard Hodges’ helicopter begins to play Psy-war Op Two, an ancient Mexican ballad called the ‘Deguello…’


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