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Best Served Cold (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 2 - Best Served Cold[]

Annihilation Shrine
The Deep Periphery
June 27th, 3049

Star Captain Lilly stood before the tombstones, triple-checking her work.  She had cleared away the old, rotted flowers from the previous visit and placed new ones, taking care to ensure the names on the stones were not obscured.  Normally the work would have been shared with others making this pilgrimage, but Lilly had insisted on seeing to it in private.  Such was her privilege as a Star Captain.

All Wolverine warriors would visit this site at least once in their lives, and the vast majority of civilians would as well.  Lilly herself was on her third visit, and fully intended a fourth when she earned her Bloodname.  She had first come as a young girl, accompanying her father on his first and last visit before his failing health would make the journey impossible.  She had come again after testing out as a MechWarrior.  Now she was here commemorating her promotion, though officially she was serving only as a guide to the new warriors in her command on their first pilgrimage.

This time was different, however.  This time, Lilly had the opportunity to contemplate the Shrine in solitude.

The tombstones were marked Khan Franklin Hallis and Khan Sarah McEvedy, though Lilly knew for a fact that Sarah's body did not lie beneath that marker, or anywhere else on this planet.  Above the tombstones stood an arch made of nineteen stones, each carved with the emblem of the Clans, a deep X etched over each.  A visceral reminder of what the Clans really were, of what they had done.  Of crimes for which they yet needed to be repaid.

Lilly said no words.  Even if she were given to such things, this was not a place for communing with the dead.  To honor them, yes; to remember them, without question.  But the purpose of this place was to recall history, to stand on the spot where it had taken place, then been buried alongside Khan Franklin Hallis.  It was a place to ponder how that history might be exhumed, the crimes repaired.  Or, failing that, revenged.

Lilly looked at the defaced emblems of the Clans.  At 1.7 meters tall, the arch stood almost as high as Lilly herself.  It had seemed much taller when her father had pointed out the icons to her, naming the Clans and their role in what had happened to the Wolverines. At the top of the arch was Clan WolfNicholas Kerensky had made the Wolves his personal Clan, it was Wolves who had slaughtered Clan Wolverine in the Battle of Barbados, a Wolf warrior who had taken the life of Franklin Hallis.  They bore the bulk of the responsibility.  To the left of Clan Wolf was the spider of Clan Widowmaker, whose machinations had led to first Absorption, then Annihilation for Clan Wolverine.  Others had carried it out, but the Widowmakers had made it happen.  To the right of Clan Wolf was Clan Snow Raven, once allies, even friends, of Clan Wolverine.  Now. . . now, who knew?  It was known a tragic mistake had been twisted into deliberate malice on the part of the Wolverines, and if history had continued to distort along that path, today's Snow Ravens might hate the Wolverines above all.

Contemplating the symbols of the Clans, Lilly felt a familiar combination of excitement and fear tingle through her.  Even before the Wolverines had been sundered from the Clans, there had been talk about when and how they would return to the Inner Sphere.  The Clans were still out there, Lilly had no doubt.  After all, Clan Wolverine had been sacrificed to ensure the vision of Nicholas Kerensky would endure.  And the Clans were not a patent people -- this Shrine was proof enough.  But it had been two and a half centuries with no sign.  Would the Clans return in Lilly's lifetime?  Would she still be of an age and condition to fight? Would she wreak terrible vengeance upon those who had wronged her people, or would she fall in battle?  Would Clan Wolverine redress the crimes done to them, or had they only delayed their inevitable demise?

Fortress DropShip (in space)(by2D 3D Cartoons)

Fortress Class Combined Arms DropShip, CWVS Great Hope

The silent stones around her gave no answers.

Finishing her ruminations, Lilly traveled the path back to her DropShip.  The Great Hope was a fine ship, Fortress-class, obtained in the Inner Sphere and refit with the best technology Clan Wolverine had.  Ships of its type were a mainstay of the Wolverine fleet, being ideal for the combined-arms tactics they favored.

"You are finished, Star Captain McEvedy, query affirmative?"

Lilly couldn't help but smile.  There was only one other Star Captain on the planet, and she stood behind Star Commander Robina MacLeish, but her XO could be overly fond of protocol.

"I am, Robina," Lilly replied, mostly to annoy her subordinate.  She then motioned to the warriors she had kept waiting, mostly infantry troops.  "those of you on your first visit to Annihilation Shrine, follow me."

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