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Chapter 5 - Aurigan Dreams (BattleTech CYOA)

Meeting with a High Lord[]

Heading home turns out to be more nerve-wracking than I anticipated. Funnily enough, returning home with a substantial mercenary unit makes things worse not better as it means I have some measure of power that will cause certain individuals to take note of me. I won’t be some promising civilian ‘Mech tech who can pass under the radar, but a power player of some note.

To distract myself from my worries, I throw myself into my work, catching up on the paperwork, reading the Mercenary’s Handbook from cover to cover, learning the basics of piloting ‘Mechs in the simulators and helping out in the mech bays. It doesn’t quite distract me from my worries, but it does keep me busy enough that I don’t have much time to fret.

Not to mention that I am starting to get a handle on this whole mercenary and MechWarrior business. I’m not exactly confident in my skills, but I figure I can handle recruiting new personnel and negotiating some basic contracts. And once we get some solid ground under us, I have spent enough time in the sims to feel confident walking my Atlas about for real. Though running or just going faster than a slow walk is still beyond me.

As a pleasant surprise, it turns out that you can make a tidy profit with a JumpShip, especially a Monolith. Even with all of my DropShips, the Starbound Steed has four spare docking collars to hire out. And doing so at the recommendation of Commodore Geary nets us a tidy little profit on our way back to Coromodir, racking up a couple million C-Bills once we have reached the capital of the Aurigan Coalition.

By the time that my DropShips are burning for Coromodir VI, it is the tailend of March and the local powers that be have had plenty of time to become aware of me and make their plans accordingly. Something that quickly proves to be true when High Lord Tamati Arano and Lord Santiago Espinosa request a meeting with me at my earliest convenience.

Given my lack of business schedule, my earliest convenience will be once I am ready to leave the spaceport. I had hoped to visit my family first, but I can do that later and Lord Arano and Lord Espinosa must have busy schedules due to their responsibilities to Coromodir and the Aurigan Coalition.

Lord Santiago Espinosa. I have very mixed feelings about that man thanks to my otherworldly knowledge. On the one hand, he is a steadfast supporter of both Lord Arano and the Aurigan Coalition and he is generally regarded as a good man and a good noble to live under. On the other hand, he goes off the deep end in a few years and destroys the Aurigan Coalition by overthrowing House Arano and becoming a murderous, oppressive tyrant. The odds are that the Aurigan Reach never fully recovers from his Aurigan Directorate, dooming my home and people.

That said, he has yet to do any of those things yet and the odds are that he never will. As far as I can tell, Lord Espinosa only did what he did because he genuinely believed it was the only way to save the Aurigan people. If an alternative is offered, like what I intend to offer, then he should support it and not go down his original path.

Though I shouldn’t take it for granted. Both that he’ll support me and Lord Espinosa won’t go down a dark path like he once did.

It is tempting to bring one of my more experienced subordinates with me, but all of them are Feddies. While there isn’t anything wrong with that, I am trying to convince Lord Arano and Lord Espinosa that I am acting in the best interests of the Aurigan Coalition and to get their support beyond being just another of my employers.

I don’t need their support, mind you, but it would certainly be helpful to my goals. I would just need to build up the Rimward Sentinels into something capable of protecting the Aurigan Coalition and finding all of those LosTech caches on my own.

While I have gowns and other formal dresses now, all of them are in red and gold. I could play that off as them being Davion colors and I got them on a Davion world, I don’t want to seem like I am trying to suck up to Lord Arano by wearing his house colors. Not to mention that I know jack all about formality or proper protocol so wearing formal clothing may give off the wrong message.

So I throw on one of the faux-tribal dresses that I brought along with a red and gold jacket. The dress is comfortable and isn’t too casual for this type of meeting whilst being more befitting of what I am, a mercenary colonel and budding MechWarrior, than a formal gown. The jacket fits in with that image and having a secondary part of my attire in House Arano colors might be good.

I hope so at least, but given that I know jack all about this type of thing, I have no real clue about how things are really handled.

As I exit the spaceport, I find the limo that I was told to expect, an unmarked black one with a man standing outside it.

“Miss Nora?” calls the man as he spots me.

“That’s me,” I reply and the man opens the door for me.

Giving him a polite nod, I enter the limo and freeze at the two figures waiting for me or at least one of them. The armed man in a suit appears to be a mere bodyguard and I don’t recognize them, but the other man is someone I very much know even though I have never met them before.

“Lord Espinosa.” I greet him in what I hope is a properly respectful manner.

“Colonel Nora,” replies the second-most influential man in the Aurigan Coalition, “I hope you don’t mind the company. I like to get a feel for people in person when I can and you are a very interesting individual who has been brought to my attention over the last couple of months.”

“I see.” I say neutrally, trying to hide my nerves as I look for the seatbelt.

“There’s no seatbelt,” says Lord Espinosa, sounding amused, “though your proper respect for road safety does you credit.”

“Ah.” I say, trying to not be too embarrassed as the limo begins to move.

“You certainly have an interesting record.” says Lord Espinosa conversationally, “While not born in the Coalition, you grew up here in the Reach and according to my sources, you are something of a patriot. Top of your class intellectually, but you never really made any friends at school or outside of it. A formally trained and competent martial artist alongside having a natural talent for computers and other technology. A talent that you cultivated at Cordia Technical College to become a very promising ‘mech tech to the point that my family’s refit yards were actively interested in recruiting you. You’re also multilingual and while that isn’t particularly noteworthy on any world that isn’t a backwater, the fact that you can fluently speak four languages is a sign of your intellect.”

“I can’t speak Urdu fluently.” I blurt out, not wanting to let him misunderstand how good I am, “I just got really good marks on my final exam. And my Spanish isn’t as good as my English and Samoan since nobody speaks it at home and I only learnt it at school.”

“Honesty to your superiors is a valuable trait,” says Lord Espinosa, “And since you are on the subject, do you feel any of your other skills have been over represented?”

“No, my engineering skills are as good as the papers say they are.” I declare, “I graduated at the top of my class at college and that is something I am proud of.”

Especially since I did so in two different lives and realities if those insane memories are anything to go by. Depending on what definition of college you go by anyway.

“Which brings me to why you were brought to my personal attention and why I came to meet you in person.” says Lord Espinosa, “You are a young and capable individual who has very recently acquired a substantial amount of military power. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that once your manpower issues are resolved, your mercenary force will be one of the more potent units in the Reach. You won’t be equal to the Aurigan Coalition Military, but you will outclass most of the House Battalions and be capable of matching the rest. I wish to know what you desire to do with that power.”

This is it, the big moment where I have to sell Lord Espinosa on my plans to get his support. Hopefully, I’ve made a good first impression.

“Well, as you just mentioned, my forces will be a potent military force once I’ve finished recruiting so I figured that would be useful to the Aurigan Coalition,” I answer, “I know that even if we aren’t the richest state out there, the Coalition does has more C-Bills than ‘Mechs right now. It won’t be enough to stop an invasion from someone like the Cappies or the Bulls, but we could fend off a raid if needed.

“But I was thinking that we could be used offensively against the pirates. I know that the Aurigan Frontier has something of a pirate problem and while High Lord Arano can’t deploy the ACM without a successful vote in the Founding Council, I’ve looked up the laws on my return trip. By working directly for someone like you or High Lord Arano, the approval of the Founding Council wouldn’t be needed to send the Rimward Sentinels after someone or somewhere. Because we would be contracted to one of your Houses as a private entity, not on the behalf of the Aurigan Coalition as a national entity.”

“A reasonably thought out plan,” muses Lord Espinosa as he fixes me with a look, “It does assume that you are trustworthy and reliable.”

“Oh.” I mutter, not really sure how to address that.

“What are your motivations, Colonel Nora?” asks Lord Espinosa as he continues to stare at me.

“I-” I start before hesitating as I meet Lord Espinosa’s gaze, “The Aurigan Coalition is my home and its people are my people. High Lord Arano has been a good ruler to Coromodir and the Coalition and my family has personally benefited from his welfare reforms. I want to protect the Aurigan Coalition and help it prosper. I originally wanted to do that by becoming a Mech Tech in either the ACM or the Refit Yards, but this year has dropped a new and greater opportunity in my lap so I’m taking it.”

Those are my personal goals at least, but it may not be enough. I do have another card to play as those mad memories of mine have given me some potential insight to what Lord Espinosa wants. Playing upon what he thinks and worries about in regards to the Aurigan Coalition could help my case.

“I’m not unaware of the Coalition’s perilous position,” I continue, “We might be well off for a Periphery state, but in the wider scheme of things, we are a sixth-rate power at most. Our only neighbor to recognize us as an independent state is our weakest one and all of our neighbors could crush us if it was deemed worth the cost. We don’t have enough military forces to protect all of our worlds and we regularly suffer pirate incursions as a result. The nature of the Founding Council means that our military is literally feudal in nature and we have no central or executive authority to lead us when it comes to war or foreign diplomacy.

“I don’t think I’ll be able to do much about all that, but I have enough military forces that High Lord Arano could use the Rimward Sentinels to launch some punitive raids against the pirates or have us do some general pirate hunting. It might not do much to help the Coalition overall, but less pirates could mean less suffering and more trade and prosperity for the Aurigan people.”

“You have a better grasp than most on the Aurigan Coalition’s strategic picture,” states Lord Epsinosa as he gives me an appraising look, “I wish I could say that you are wrong, but unfortunately, the Aurigan Coalition pales in comparison to the major Periphery states let alone the Great Houses of the Inner Sphere. We can still enforce some semblance of law and order across Aurigan space, but as piracy becomes a more common problem in the Reach, it is becoming harder and more expensive.

“You are right that the Aurigan Coalition won’t be able to withstand a proper invasion from any of our big neighbors, even with the help of your mercenaries, but that isn't true of the pirates. We have a decent idea of where a few pirate havens are in the Reach, but nobody wants to deal with them. The Confederation and the Federation were too focused on the Succession Wars while the Concordat is too focused on either preparing for a FedSuns invasion or colonizing new worlds depending on how paranoid they are currently feeling.

“Meanwhile, the Aurigan Coalition could launch some punitive strikes or pre-emptive attacks on the known pirate outposts of the Aurigan Reach if the Founding Council was willing to authorize it. But they are not so long as the problem within our borders remains manageable, as the Founding Houses are content to wait until the situation grows and grows until it is unmanageable before finally taking action. Too many of them deem such endeavors to be too expensive and dislike how it leaves their worlds vulnerable for the duration.”

Lord Epsinosa falls silent and I am hesitant on whether or not I should speak up. He seems to have finished, but he might not welcome my input and I wouldn’t want to offend him, not when he is a high-ranking noble and I seemed to have convinced him.

“Your plan will need more work. Especially when it comes to the details, but the basic idea is valid.” finally says Lord Espinosa after a couple of moments, “Your reliability is still unproven, but you have shown enough intelligence and loyalty to the Aurigan people that combined with the forces you represent. I am willing to take a gamble on you. Even if Tamati comes to a different conclusion, I do believe that you and I will be able to work something out.”

Victory. I hope.

Author's Chapter Notes[]

Word from the Author
Start of the second arc and Elizabeth begins her plans. Santiago Espinosa is a bit of a pickle to write as he hasn’t quite gone off the deep end yet and he doesn’t do that until the Taurian negotiations fail, which take place in a couple of years at the earliest since they happen during Thomas Calderon’s reign.

That said, those beliefs wouldn’t have sprung out of nothing so right now, he is ‘just’ a controlling authoritarian rather than a tyrannical fascist. He is loyal to the Aurigan Coalition and wishes to see it strengthened so that puts him in Elizabeth’s corner since they have the same motives even if Santiago is willing to go further than Elizabeth is.

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