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Best Served Cold (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 15 - Best Served Cold[]

Grand Council Chamber, Hall of Khans
Strana Mechty, Clan Space
June 19th, 3051

Ulric Kerensky, freshly nominated ilKhan of the Clans, stood and leaned forward on his fists.  “We have already wasted too much time, my Khans. We have elected a new ilKhan and have many important matters at hand.  First and foremost is the invasion.  The sooner we settle our differences, the sooner we can complete our conquest of the Inner Sphere.”

Kincaid Furey rose again.  “Forgive me, but there is another important matter to hand, one which I feel the ilKhan must be informed about immediately.”

If Ulric was surprised or amused by another thrust from Kincaid, he gave no sign.  “You may proceed, Khan Kincaid.”

“Thank you.  Over the past year, our garrison forces have been attacked, materiel stolen, by parties unknown.  We have set about eliminating these bandits, but have been thus far unsuccessful—”

“I fail to see how bandits in Smoke Jaguar territory is any concern of this council.” the Jade Falcon Khan interrupted.

“Because of this.” Kincaid replied, bringing up an image, eliciting stunned silence from the assembled Khans.  “From an attack on Tarnby six months ago.”  He brought up another.  “Virentofta, five months ago.”  Another. “Rockland, three months ago.”

Phelan contemplated the images, brought from the Grand Council chamber to Ulric’s office via secure video feed.  “What is that?”

“Don’t ask.” Natasha Kerensky replied, her voice choked.

Phelan did a double take, then looked back to the emblem on the screen.  What is it?  And how — why — can it possibly make the Black Widow afraid?

The Snow Raven Khan was the first to find his voice.  “What is the meaning of this?  What kind of. . . of. . . maniacal trickery are you up to?”

“It is no trick, I assure you.” Kincaid replied smoothly.  “I was as shocked as you all are when I first saw these images.  Thus far, these bandits have left no survivors and taken the ‘Mechs they have downed with them.  We have, however, recovered a few pieces of data, which we have recently reconstructed.”  Kincaid brought up another image.  “This is one of those bandit ‘Mechs.”

The assembled Khans recognized the design from Clan history, though it was not used anymore, and its origin with The Not-Named-Clan politely ignored.  The Pulverizer, a fearsome combat machine, and this one painted in the colors and bearing the emblem of The Not-Named Clan.

“Why haven’t you brought this before the Council?” the Snow Raven Khan roared.

“We just did.  When these attacks first occurred, we informed the ilKhan — that is to say, ilKhan Leo Showers.  He commanded us to remedy the problem ourselves.  Now that we have a new ilKhan, and new evidence, we are presenting it.”

“They’re making it up, Ril.” Natasha said.  “It’s a hoax, it has to be.”

“I don’t think so.” Cyrila Ward replied.  “The Jaguars do not have the guile for something like this.  And if they were found out, they’d be outcast, they’d be. . .”

“Annihilated.” Natasha finished.

“What?”  Phelan asked.  “What are you talking about?  What’s that emblem, what does it mean?”

“Quiet.” both older women replied.

“If this is The Not-Named Clan, if they have survived and if they have returned, then it is a matter that must be overseen by the ilKhan.” Kincaid was saying.  “It was ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky who passed the judgement of Annihilation, it was Clan Wolf who carried out.  It seems fitting that now, if The Not-Named Clan are back, that an ilKhan bearing the Kerensky Bloodname should again lead his Wolves in eliminating the greatest threat the Clans have ever known.”

“Oh, freebirth, that’s what he’s up to.” Cyrila swore.  “Send Ulric and Clan Wolf off on some wild goose chase while they drive deeper into the Inner Sphere.”

Ulric nodded, his face solemn.  “It is indeed, and I shall give this most important task all the attention it requires.  It will be dealt with, and swiftly, my fellow Khans.  You have my word.”

“Then you will task your warriors to eliminating these bandits purporting to be of The Not-Named Clan?” Kincaid pressed.

“Some of them, certainly,” Ulric replied.  “but it should hardly require the full strength of Clan Wolf to ascertain just what it is we are seeing.  And once we know for true, the bidding for the honor of eliminating the problem should be most exhilarating.”

Kincaid opened his mouth to protest, but Ulric just stared at him calmly.  Soon, Kincaid closed his mouth, then sat.

“Now that is settled.  Other business?” Ulric asked.

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