Prologue, Book 2, The Hammer Falls
Khan’s Personal Chambers
Wolf Clan Occupation Zone
June 24th, 3057
Natasha Kerensky looked on as the data feed droned on as the various Khans assembled back home made charges and counter-charges about who was responsible for the obvious breakdown in the Honor Road. Kael Pershaw may be a Falcon, but right now, I feel damned sorry for him. Ulric, I know he said you were safe coming back, but I still think you should have ran things from here, where we could have kept you safe. But that damn inscrutable logic of his won the day? “Natasha,” he said “I cannot very well restore order via some impersonal video link from Tamar. I must be home, and the other Khans must see me. Present, and unafraid.” Damn you, Ulric. Don’t you go and make yourself a martyr.
Phelan hadn’t said a word since the meeting had begun. He was usually content to mock the other Khans with various obscure quips that never failed to at least get a smirk out of Natasha. Not today. Today, Phelan had some sense of foreboding that had him on edge. Even Ranna had confided in Natasha that Phelan did not seem himself, and the worst part, he couldn’t explain why.
Yeah, when the son of Morgan Kell gets a bad feeling, it’s a good time to listen, but Ulric, you didn’t know Morgan like I did. Dammit. Even I have the heebie jeebies about this.
“The chair recognizes Clan Ice Hellion.”
Khan Asa Taney rose with a sense of dignity and importance he never possessed, even on a good day, of which, for the Clans as a whole, this was not.
There’s been motions to absorb Clan Jade Falcon, to censure the Adders, and to recognize ‘Clan Blood Viper?’ While we weren’t looking, the Vipers and the Blood Spirits merged? Nice move on the Vipers part, and how they managed to get Karianna Schmitt out of the way, I will never know. But I must tip my hat to the Vipers. Nicely done.
Taney had a booming, if high pitched voice. It was like listening to the mother of all reverb from a microphone that had been left too close to a speaker. “ilKhan, I must insist that the motion proposed by the Blood Viper Khans, censuring Clan Star Adder for their perfidious conduct in moving against the Smoke Jaguar homeworld holdings without consulting the Grand Council as a whole, be censured strongly. This sort of thing will only undermine the very underpinnings of the Honor Road, and-“
Cassius N’Buta, Khan of the Star Adders laughed “Taney, you yapping little idiot, are you just upset you did not get any of the spoils from the Jaguars pelt? It is not as if the Council would have let your pathetic little Clan try?”
Taney’s face turned dark crimson, “I will see you in a Circle of Equals for that, N’Buta.”
N’Buta smiled cruelly “A Circle of Equals? That assumes you are my equal ,Taney, and you most clearly, are not.”
Taney lunged in N’Buta’s direction, but was restrained by his saKhan and several members of the Ebony Keshik, much to the delight of several attendees. Kael Pershaw shook his head in amused disgust, and then said “We still have another, graver motion on the floor that I call to a vote, reluctantly. It is the motion for the absorption of Clan Jade Falcon. I now call the roll call of the Khans present.”
Khan Allan Mercer, selected when he was the only survivor of an epic Grand Melee between a record 19 claimants for the Khan of the new Blood Viper clan. He had been hailed by the survivors as “a fighter’s Khan, and one who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty.” He was a mechwarrior, and his bright green eyes hid a keen intellect, according to the Wolf Watch. The ugly scar on the left side of his face, and the bald head were new.
Mercer rose and smiled a smile of a wolf in a henhouse. “Clan Blood Viper votes, Aye.”
The Clan Burrock Khan, what the hell was his name again? Natasha puzzled, rose and shouted “Aye” and sat down just as fast.
Asa Taney looked over at the Jade Falcon Khans, and smiled cruelly. Natasha noticed Elias Crichell had his head in his hands, as he appeared to be sobbing. I think Crichell has finally broken. I mean, other than a large warship force, the Falcons really don’t have much. And Taney knows it. But look at Marthe Pryde. She is locking eyes with Taney, and her eyes ken death. I am afraid for whoever wins this vote.
“The Ice Hellions vote Aye, the Falcons should see reason and make way for the strong. It is our way.”
The Nova Cats had not shown up for the Council meeting, citing martial responsibilities, Natasha smirked at the thought, Too busy probably absorbing as much of the Draconis Combine as they can, as well as getting the hell out of the Homeworlds. Speaking of which, I need to arrange a meeting with the Coyotes to transfer our homeworld holdings to them. It’s about time we cut our ties to the madhouse the Homeworlds are becoming.
Cassius N’Buta flexed his muscles, and grinned “Clan Star Adder votes Aye. It will be a pleasure to absorb the Falcons and see they learn a more pragmatic vision of the Founder’s teachings.”
Marthe Pryde’s face darkened at the thought. Girl has murder on her mind, and lately, that’s been a thing in the Grand Council.
Natasha turned to Phelan, “That’s your cue, kid. Frankly, I think its best we abstain considering what’s going on, and I really don’t like that look on Marthe’s face.”
Phelan nodded, and keyed the mike “Clan Wolf abstains, our pack sees no gain in this hunt.”
There were murmurs of surprise throughout the hall in reaction to the vote by Clan Wolf.
Kael Pershaw looked up from his noteputer. The look on his face was pained, like he was losing a good friend, but duty won out. He dryly stated “With a vote of ten yays, one neg, and two abstentions, the motion to absorb Clan Jade Falcon has passed. I will now accept initial bids for who will absorb the Falcons-“
“Be seated, Khan Pryde. All is being done according to the Martial Code.” Perhsaw said reassuringly.
She turned to face Pershaw. “I remember when you were a Falcon once Perhaw. Now you are a toy of the IlKhan, a mongrel who has ambitions that have doomed us all!”
“Trothkin, let us calm our tempers before we say or do things that will only delay the vote with endless Circles of Equals. We have much-“ Ulric Kerensky had his arms outstretched, as if even a man such as him could embrace all the Clans and bring them together, even in a grave time such as this.
Two shots rang out, and gouts of blood and vicera erupted from Kerensky’s chest, and then a third, and a hole appeared in his forehead. The back of his head exploding in a shower of blood and brains as he collapsed like a puppet. Two more shots occurred, catching Kael Pershaw in the chest, knocking him down, but his mechanical enhancements saved his life.
The shooter was none other than Marthe Pryde, she howled in triumph as she turned her ceremonial revolver on Crichell, putting a round through his head, as he collapsed, dead as his blood sprayed all over his side of the shared council desk. “I have redeemed us, Falcons! Join me, and together we will hold off-“
An Ebon Keshik Elemental fired a three round burst from his submachinegun, catching Pryde in the chest, and she went down in a violent spray of blood and guts, he then calmly walked over and put another three round burst into her head.
The rest of the chamber erupted into chaos, accusations and counter accusations passed like wildfire, and Khans lunged at each other with knives, barehands, and improvised clubs, while others simply made a hasty exit.
Natasha and Phelan looked at each other, Natasha’s eyes leaking tears like a waterfall.
“They killed him, they just..killed him. Goddamit! I told him not to go!” she mournfully said
Phelan snatched her up in an embrace. How will we tell the rest of the Clan? How will we tell them that the greatest Kerensky since the Great Father himself is gone, fallen to a dezgra assassin?
“For many, the question is ‘Where were you when you heard Hanse and Melissa Steiner-Davion were murdered?’ For me and most members of the Wolf Clan, it was ‘Where were you when you heard our One Father, Ulric Kerensky, was murdered at the foul hand of a dying Clan?’ And what we didn’t know then, but we know now, is Ulric’s death touched off a bloodletting back home not seen since the Pentagon Wars. We had refugees tell us for years about it, the ones that managed to make the trip to find us or the Ghost Bears. They called it “The Harrowing” and indeed, it was.”
-Excerpt from the unpublished memoirs of Khan Phelan Kell-Ward,
First saKhan and later 3rd Khan of the Wolf Dominion, released by his estate in 3091
A New Engine of Destruction Arrives
Assembly Area, Keller’s Battalion, Davion Assault Guards RCT
10km North of Ceres City
Sarna March, Federated Commonwealth
June 25th, 3057
Kommandant Sarah Keller ran her hands through her shaved head, her auburn stubble was slick with sweat, and the bristles of her vestigial hair stung at her callused hands. She’d been doing 18 hour days in the last two weeks, running down Capellan fugitives who’d refused to obey orders from the Home Guard commander to lay down their arms. You’d think after the fight they put up in Ceres City, that would have been enough for them?
She shook her head at the last thought. She wasn’t as lucky as Rhys-Davion, his battalion had managed to get all the new Clantech, and as such, they’d been kept in reserve while her and Artie’ Mackensen’s battalions led the way into Ceres City, block by bloody block. Please god, don’t let this be a preview of what the hell is to come on Sian. I suspect we’re going to be held in reserve for that mess, though who knows, I hear the 1st Davion Guards are on Hexare already.
She looked around her battalions FOB, here there was an overworked field hospital, with harried medical personnel running about trying to save as many as they could. Most of the critical patients from the worst of the fighting had already begun the trip home, but the guerilla phase of the fighting had a steady drip of casualties from snipers, IEDs and just plain bad luck. She’d lost two ‘Mechwarriors in a stupid incident involving a GPV overturning. Their replacements hadn’t filled Keller with confidence. To her right, came the sound of tools banging away, and the whine of machinery. The techs were doing what they could to fix the machines they could. Not my Awesome, “Happy Girl” is too banged up to do anything but can for parts. Hope I can get a new machine before we leave this rock. Wouldn’t do for the BC to be without a ride.
She heard a voice clear his throat. She turned to face her XO, Hauptmann Jason Zibler. Zibler was like most of his family. Davion to the core, fine mechwarriors, and had a lot to live up to. Trouble was, he was painfully aware of it, and way too young for his job. I don’t care if he was an honor graduate of Sakahara. He is too damn young to be a Cap-I mean Hauptmann. We have really got to talk to the Steiners about all these German ranks. Zibler was 23, ten years younger than Keller, and his boyish features, framed by brown hair and eyes, did little but reinforce that image in Keller’s mind. He wasn’t bad at his job. He was a hard-working guy who was eager to learn, she just wasn’t sure the Assault Guards was the place to do it. Then again, the lady he’s replaced caught a Falcon inferno round as she ejected from her Stalker on Hot Springs. I hear she’s on skin graft number seven now.
”Um mam, there’s a party from DQ, and some civilian tech reps. They’re saying we’re getting some newfangled ‘Mech design. Not sure I’m too happy about that. Seems like the time we got fresh eggs before we were committed on Waldorff.” Zibler smiled sheepishly. His face had a look of don’t shoot the messenger, as he pointed to a small gaggle of civilians in out-of-place looking freshly pressed chinos, and rear-area types whose field uniforms didn’t have a speck of dirt or blood on them. And I bet they won’t hang around long enough for them to collect either of those things.
Keller remembered ruefully. And then we fought street by street against Jade Falcons who didn’t have enough sense to know their asses were kicked. She suddenly felt tired, at this point, she remembered an old saying by her father, another veteran of the Assault Guards, who’d said “Military glory is like a fish in the moonlight, it shines and stinks at the same time.” Dad was right. Keller had written twenty-five letters to families since the beginning of Clover Spear. And now, there was only the prospect of more ****** letters. Please, someone tell me we are closer to ending this thing and going home? My husband and kids are on Fraizer and I just want to go back to them when this is all over. She’d heard there was a Capellan raid back in November, and while she’d gotten an HPG from her husband that they were fine and with his family in the hills, it hadn’t done much for her morale overall.
“Send ‘em over, Zibler. Might as well find out what news DQ has for us?”
Zibler nodded, and waved at the gaggle, who numbered seven in total, five military and two civilian. They made their way over slowly, consciously avoiding the puddles and churned up mud that was often a feature of assembly areas and FOBs as vehicles and ‘Mechs did a fine job of churning the earth, even going at a sedate pace. He then came to attention, and grimaced.
As the group approached, she noticed one of the officers leading the group had his spurs, and was walking with a limp. His rank tabs were in the colors of the Deneb Light Cav, and he had a subdued 10th DLC patch on his right sleeve. Keller smiled weakly. Ok he’s seen the elephant. She regarded him further, his salt-and-pepper hair contrasted mixed with his crow’s feet had Keller thinking he might be some retread from ’39. Lordy, just what I need.
The party stopped at the proscribed distance. Keller came to attention, but didn’t salute, meriting a frown from a young Leftenant in the group. She was like Zibler, almost childlike in her appearance, her Asian ancestry not helping either. My god, she looks fourteen. And she wasn’t shy about her feelings either.
“We haven’t gotten a proper salute since we arrived here. AFFC is going right to hell, sir.”
Keller had had enough. “And you won’t, Leftenant. That is, unless you want to tell some Capellan sniper or FO who the hell you are and that you’re worth killing! So go ahead and expect something like back at Albion, or wherever the hell you graduated from?!”
The Kommandant turned and shot his Leftenant a warning look as if to say. We’ll be speaking about this later, Leftenant.
“My apologies for Leftenant Kwang. Like most Leftenants, she has a lot of rust to knock off. My name is Simmonson, late of Dominic’s Battalion, 10th Deneb Light Cavalry. I left a good chunk of my left leg in my Wolverine on Goat Path. They gave me a promotion, and this job being a DQ rep to Johnston Industries. In short, Kommandant Keller, we have a new ‘Mech for you. And, I think you’ll like her.” He handed over a datapad with a series of design specs.
“You run her yourself?” Keller asked, a bit of derision in her voice.
Simmonson nodded. “I have, even with this bum leg. But even as gimpy as I am, she responds well. For an Assault ‘Mech, she’s pretty fleet of foot.”
Keller smiled as she scrolled through the contents of the datapad. “So, when do these fine new examples of Fedcom technology arrive?” she said as she picked her head up from the display, noticing for the first time Simmonson had grey eyes. A smile that didn’t quite reach them.
Simmonson nodded as the vibration of ‘Mech footfalls could be felt in the distance. “Good of you to ask, Kommandant. How about “now?”
Reflection of the Troubles to Come
Zenith Jump Point
June 27th, 3057
Kai Allard-Liao looked on from the viewport of the Phoenix Rising. She was one of four Union-C dropships attached to the Jade Phoenixes, and had proven the most difficult to acquire from the Federated Commonwealth for the unit. It helps being a friend of Victor’s as well as having the bank account I do. But this wasn’t cheap, but it’s worth it. So worth it.
Kai looked on as Sian loomed ever larger in the viewport, it was a dull blue green orb some distance away, but every day, it got a little bigger, since their entry into the system three days before. They’d been traveling at a stately one gee, the Fedcom force commander had decided that it was probably best not to tire the troops out by burning hard for Sian itself. We have a tomorrow, they don’t. Strange to see this as a battle. It’s going to be a damn execution. All the Capellans are doing to prepare, it won’t mean a damn thing. We’re just going to be forced to kill more people who have no business being on a damn battlefield in the first place. And why? Because Sun-Tzu won’t see reason. Not that he ever did. Mom was right. We’d be having a reckoning one day. And where we are. Mom, why the hell did you not let Hanse Davion settle things ten years ago?
Kai felt a large hand settle gently on his shoulder. “So, ovKhan. Are you trying to intimidate all of Sian by yourself?”
Kai didn’t turn to face Taman Malthus “No, I am trying to get my thoughts together before we ground. Before I have to kill a bunch of people who have no business holding a damn rifle.” He then turned to face Malthus. “Taman, tell me you are bothered by this?”
Taman nodded “We all are, Kai, we all are. The Fedcom’s patched in what passes for entertainment and news from Sian…and its contents are unsettling. They have children’s shows teaching how to place magnetic mines on our ‘Mechs. Kai, I did not agree with putting our sibkos into harms way to face the Federated Commonwealth. I was captured in the first wave, but had I known, I would have faced Chistu in a Circle of Equals myself. I would have made sure he never left that circle alive. To arm sibkids as young as ten and expect them to stop ‘Mechs is wasteful.”
“What will we do, Taman?” Kai asked him
“Fight according to our ideals and what you established this unit to be. Redemption for us, and all the Clans. We will not willingly murder children and non-combatants. On this, you have my rede.”
“Selya, Malthus, but I think the Capellans get a vote there.” Kai told his comrade
“Seyla, trothkin. But you are Kai Allard-Liao, and if anyone can find a way, you will. Of that, OvKhan, you have my faith, and the faith of every warrior and tech in this unit. You gave us a way to be warriors again, Kai. And we will never forget that, in a cause truly worthy of us. Worry not. We will liberate these poor people from the lies and delusions of this Celestial Wisdom.” Malthus spat the last comment as if it was poison.
Kai smiled. “Perhaps we will, Taman, perhaps we will.”
- Story Section by Yellowhammer