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Clover Spear - Chapter Cover Art

Chapter 6[]

Clover Spear - The Story of the '56 War[]

Book 1- A Time to Plan, A Time to Plot


January 1st, 3055
Royal Palace
The Triad
Tharkad, Federated Commonwealth


Victor Ian Steiner-Davion looked out at a festive Tharkad, which was choosing all sorts of ways to ring in the New Year.  Mother Nature was cooperative in bringing in an exceptionally mild bit of weather that had allowed a multitude of outdoor revelries. Some of them I am sure are going to keep the local constabulary busy, but what the hell, it is New Year’s.

Tharkad’s City's extensive skyline lit up in a riot of color as the annual fireworks display began, precisely at 0002 hours. The odd starting time was tradition, when the first colonists on Tharkad celebrated New Year’s, the display had begun two minutes late for reasons that were lost to history. Theories abounded. Victor himself liked the theory that they had just started late because they wanted to be different. Why not, they wanted a new start, and new traditions are a way to break from the old? So, is that what the Clans really amount to?

That particular thought had Victor shaking his head. He drew his issue AFFC greatcoat closer as he stood out on the Grand Balcony, the main square was empty, as the Royal Family, also by tradition, after the sitting Archon made the traditional speech, sent their younger members of the Royal Family out into the city incognito to join the revelers. It was a tradition that gave the various heads of security responsible for the Archon and their family headaches. Not to mention occasionally leading to some embarrassing social faux pas that arrived around oh, say September of the New Year.

Victor smiled at that last thought, while he had been no Lothario at the ‘Ring, he had his share of liaisons with in some cases, overly willing young ladies. It had gotten so bad, he had found himself engaging in a bit of “noble fiction” and pretending to be a commoner who had gotten admittance to the ‘Ring on scholarship. It had improved the quality of the female company markedly.

Victor shook his head at the last thought. Mom and Dad really, really want me to get married. But how in the hell do you tell them you, like Romeo, have fallen for a girl who just happens to be the daughter of an ancient enemy? I wonder if they happen to know. Who am I kidding? Of course they know. If nothing, the Intelligence Secretariat or my sister has mentioned it to them.

Victor shook his head again, the two sifters of Glengarry ’12 he’d had with the officers of the Royal Guard during the ball that had just departed was getting to his head. I never held my booze well. Thank god I wasn’t much of a drinker during my cadet days…

The real reason Victor was here was twofold. He had arrived in the Lyran half of the Commonwealth to begin what was publicly billed as a “goodwill tour” through the Tamar March, to show the people of that part of the Commonwealth. The trip, was of course, cover for an inspection tour of the units in place defending the border, as well as the units moving into place…not all of whom had been announced…and some of who were pretending to be units they really weren’t. Galen was with him, and keeping up a lively correspondence with Katherine. Those two are headed somewhere serious. Good for them in my opinion. Galen would make a great brother-in-law. But, as it was, he was also here to conduct a series of wargames beginning in January using the Nagelring’s powerful simulators to test Clover Spear’s viability.

Dad once said Operation RAT bet the future of the Federated Suns on a “Pair of Fours”. Victor wasn’t so sure of that, but he had to admit, the plan was audacious, to say the least. Victor’s big worry was that the Clans, as abysmal of an intelligence gathering system as they had, would somehow get wind of what was about to happen. We’ve taken every damned precaution, but as someone once said, “It cannot be helped when an angel pees in the touchhole.”

His other worry was the Capellans and Mariks. Even SAFE, who by Clan standards, was dangerously competent as an intelligence agency, was not going to miss the movements of troops through the Sarna March. What he really hoped is the Capellans did not get wind that all of the Dragoon regiments had left Outreach. That happens, we’re sunk. Projections are we will lose a good 1/5th of the Sarna March, and maybe of the Capellan March before we can stop the bastards. I can’t even imagine what the damn Mariks will achieve.

It was then that Victor heard the crunch of gravel underneath feet. With memories of Free Skye assassins having once penetrated the palace, not to mention Nekekami during the ’39 war. Victor spun on his heel, a hand thrust into the pocket of his great coat, clutching the 10mm Mauser & Gray holdout pistol. Six rounds isn’t much, but it will do till help arrives.

As Victor turned, the dark shape resolved itself into a face he was well-familiar with. It was the face of the first woman he had ever met; his Mother, Archon-Princess Melissa Steiner-Davion.

She wore her 49 years well, her posture not stooped by age as she glided over to the banister where Victor stood. Her hair was mostly blond, but had some whisps of gray, that Melissa refused to dye, no matter what the court beauticians begged her to do. Her face was still soft, but with pronounced crow’s feet around the eyes, and the Tharkad Fox fur jacket, framed with a pair of jeans and high leather black boots made for a stylish picture that would give even Natasha Kerensky a run for her money. At least in the fashion department, Mom still hasn’t done better than fair-to-middling with Grandma’s old Warhammer.

Victor smiled and embraced his mother in a hug, then released her as he went back to his place by the banister.

“Victor, dear, why in the hell are you standing out here like a hermit and not taking Yvonne out on the town? She has been pestering me where he big brother is. I don’t want to tell her he is being an ass and woolgathering out on the Great Balcony.”

“Mom…this plan of Dad’s, how sure of it are we?” Victor asked

“So that’s what is bothering you? I thought it was you being alone on New Year’s and your heart being on Luthien in the possession of a certain young Kurita royal.”

Victor shrugged. “There is that too, but it’s been 4 years, Mom. I can’t keep pining away like this, especially since I haven’t gotten any word from her at all since Teniente.”

Melissa smiled a knowing smile. “Well then, Victor, today is your lucky day.” She produced a sealed envelope, with Victor’s name in both Kanji and English. “This arrived by diplomatic pouch from Luthien. The veriagraph has been confirmed..it’s from her. And no, other than that, nobody read it. I told them if anyone did, I’d post them to Great X or CMO 26.”

Victor chuckled. “Late Christmas, eh?” as he deftly took the letter from his mother, and pocketed it. I’ll read it later, hope it’s not ‘Victor, I am being forced for reasons of state to marry another..” I will get in my ‘Mech and lead the 10th Lyran Guards to Luthien to bust up the wedding! No..no you won’t. You’ll meekly send flowers and cry in your beer for a few hours, and wish her all happiness.

Melissa then exhaled, “Victor, this plan of his. I know your father, when he was planning for the 4th War or 3039, he was in his element. One of the reasons I love your father is a simple one: He has moral courage in spades, and a work ethic to match. He is also very, very brave. He is a soldier, and a reluctant statesman. But a soldier first and foremost. His work is the destruction of the enemies of the realm. And right now, your father is painting his masterpiece. I know it will work, Victor.”

I know as well, Mom, but I am already First Prince, and will be Archon-Prince soon. Hopefully, not too soon, but soon. I will not preside over the death of the Commonwealth…Thus, we really have no choice, Clover Spear has to work. But the margin for error is damn thinner than I would like it to be.

“Mom, ok, I trust you, look, just nerves really, whatever happens, this is going to be Dad’s last time in the saddle.” Victor exhaled

Melissa nodded “Victor, I read the plan, I know your father, I know the people we have in place to run this thing. It will work. Maybe not the way we intend, things will go wrong. They always do in war. This will be no exception. We will be ready. There is something else you must know, come 3056, there will be a new Archon. I am abdicating, like your father. I am tired, Victor, and frankly. I want to spend time with your father. Whatever time he has left. Our marriage wasn’t just a political one.”

Victor’s mouth dropped open in shock “Mom, I thought this, well, could happen, but, really, this soon? At least stay on until after Clover Spear?”

Melissa nodded. “I intend to, but I will not be Archon as of New Year’s 3057, Victor. It’s time, your father may only have a decade at most, left. And I am jealous of that time, Victor. I love him, and we have both given ourselves to our nations. I think we have earned some time for ourselves.”

Victor nodded slowly “I cannot fault your logic. Wow, I didn’t expect this, this soon.”

Melissa put her hand on Victor’s shoulder “Son, I know you can do it. So does your father, and your brothers and sisters. You will do fine.”

Victor nodded. “Hmm, enough woolgathering! Look, I am going to take a few minutes to change into a suitable disguise and take Yvonne out for a night she will not soon forget. She’s 16 now, so there’s all kinds of tr-I mean fun we can have.”

Melissa smiled, then her face grew serious “Victor, my son, under pain of death, do not take her to Sharkey’s! She may be 16, but there are too many handsy ‘Ring cadets there right now.”

Sharkey’s was notorious or famous, depending on your point of view. It had been founded right outside the gates of the Nagelring in 2610, the bar was THE ‘Mechwarrior bar on Tharkad and very popular with a lot of the rowdier ‘Ring cadets. Basically, if you were any kind of Mechwarrior, Sharkey’s was the place to go drink and blow off steam, including getting into fights…like that little time in 3047…thank god Renny got me out of there in one piece. But yeah, Mom has a point, Yvonne isn’t going to be a ‘Mechwarrior, and I won’t be taking her to that place.

Victor nodded vociferously, “Don’t worry Mom, I was thinking some of the student bars by Tharkad U, like Freidmann’s or The Drunken Historian.”

Melissa smiled “The Drunken Historian is still there? My god, I used to sneak out to that place..your grandmother was less than pleased when she found out..I was 14, I stole my first kiss there if I recall, cute Microbiology undergrad if I recall?”

“Mom, don’t want to know that, ok?” Victor cringed.

Melissa Steiner-Davion chucked, and her laughter pealed like church bells.

Maybe 3055 will be a good year after all? Victor wondered


Dear Victor-San,

Father has allowed me to write you, so long as it not done though the HPG. I do not think he wants the Black Dragon Society to get wind of the fact we are corresponding. I would say my Father is beginning to “mellow” as you would put it in his old age. It does not matter, however, as I more want to write about us.

First, since Outreach, there has been no other, nor will there be. I am yours, Victor-sama. Yours alone. My father will simply have to accept that, though, for now, I have not chosen to tell him. He is concerned with other things, like the ever-present threat of the Clans.

As you know, Grandfather passed on last year, the circumstances are a bit personal, and the enmity between your father and he was legendary, but it is my hope that that enmity died with him.

My brother asks that I pass on his salutations and greetings in this message. He has come to see you as someone who he would trust with his life, and I did ask him hypothetically how he would feel about you. His response was
“You could do a lot worse, Omi-chan.”

Sadly, I know this will not be possible. Our giri to our nations trumps our feelings. But I cannot deny my feelings, and we are both smart people, with many who wish us well. Perhaps a way can be found if we do what is expected of us for now, and remain in contact.

That said, as you know, I receive briefings from the O5P, and I must warn you. Victor, there is reason to believe that the Capellans know about your troop movements. I do not know to what extent they know, but they know. Father was torn on whether or not to warn you, but after your own father’s example during Luthien, he could not fail to warn you. Please share this letter with your parents. Inform them that we will try to get more information to them, but this is all we know for now.

There is another matter. Father is making contingency plans in case Luthien were to fall to a subsequent Clan assault. While most of the family is prepared to fight and die on Luthien to the last. Father has made arrangements for some of us to flee to various other places within the realm, but he wishes to ask your father if he would be willing to make a place for me if it becomes necessary to flee the Combine. I am willing to accept whatever conditions your father seeks to impose, and I do hope it does not become necessary.

I must go, for now, as giri demands I attend to another matter, but know this, Victor-sama, your heart does not beat alone, or unnoticed.


Your Love,

Omi


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