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Emergence (Concertverse)
Book 2 - Chapter 6

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Closing Thunder[]

Allies Spotted[]

The Triad
Tharkad City, Bremen Continent
Tharkad, Donegal Province
Lyran Commonwealth
Transglass Inner Sphere
7th June, 3143

The word spread quickly across the Triad when the long-range telescope satellites picked up the emanation of multiple emergence signatures. With a gap in her schedule Trillian rushed to the War Room to see what was going on for herself. It would ordinarily have been a welcome relief from dealing with angry barons and terrified landowners upset about defense measures but she could not escape the dread in her heart at the prospect that the Wolves had arrived first. The planet's defense was likely to hinge on the Arcadian troops being dug-in and ready alongside everyone else, if they were beaten to the planet by the Wolves the defense would be greatly in doubt.

Roderick rushed down the opposite hall outside the entrance. He was still in his cooling vest, shirt, and MechWarrior shorts. "Do we have IDs?" he asked, his voice controlled yet urgent.

"I came to find out."

Two infantry soldiers saw them into the war room. They were the last to arrive, it seemed, as Melissa was already present with Jasek, Julian, the Kells, and Khan Fetladral. General Maurer waited patiently at one seat. One holotank displayed a detailed profile of Tharkad in Mercator style with icons for every RCT and important sub-commands, a variation of Steiner fists with a few Davion sword-and-sunbursts and one prominent Wolf Clan marker. The main one had a profile of the entire Tharkad system and blinking lights coming from the zenith jump points. "Long range telescopes confirm new arrivals but we have no radio signatures yet," Jasek said for everyone's benefit. "The recharge station's identification confirmation should be coming any minute. Unless they're being jammed by a Wolf invading force."

The giant Wolf Khan, an infantry Elemental-wearing warrior by birth, spoke with a rumble in his voice. "We can do nothing but wait and see."

I went so far, did so much, and now I can do nothing but watch. Trillian thought on her experiences since she'd first heard of the Timkovichi Event, from her dealings with Martin on Arc-Royal to her trip through the Glass and everything that happened there, all the way to returning home to restore Melissa to her rightful throne. All of those efforts rode on what was to come. She'd done everything she could to give the Commonwealth a fighting chance. Will that be enough?

After another thirty seconds the incoming amber icons blipped out in rapid succession. The systems were processing the IFF codes of the incoming ships. Trillian inadvertently held her breath in anticipation of the result.

A new series of icons appeared to replace the amber dots; white hawks with golden crowns.

Trillian released the breath. She was not the only one. They did it. Nathaniel and his people did it. They got here first!

"The Wolves might get here at any time," Jasek reminded everyone. "Don't be relieved until we know our allies will have time to deploy and entrench."

"Still, at least we know they'll be getting here first in some way," Martin said. He chuckled. "Always reassuring to see that many ships coming as reinforcements. Looks like three RCTs or so?"

"High King Nathaniel's initial forces include his Lifeguards Regiment, the Second and Third Proctor Guards RCTs, and two brigades, the Second Royal BattleMech and Arcadian Rangers," Maurer said to confirm. "Going by the information, it would seem the Second Royal is not present, presumably sent to Gibbs after our request."

"That should be of help to the Sixteenth," Jasek said. Trillian noted the hard look in his eyes toward Maurer and a small sigh from the other man. Melissa mentioned there was disagreement. I suppose Maurer wanted everything for Tharkad. "We've got a few days before we can have anything approaching a real time communication with them, but let's transmit our defensive plans so High King Nathaniel and his commanders have time to consider them and give a response."

"I concur," Maurer said.

"Then see to it." Melissa turned to Trillian. The relief in her expression was evident, but Trillian didn't like the quiet fear she saw in her very distant cousin. Not for the fear's presence but for what Trillian knew it really meant. She still means to do it. To be the bait. The weight of that knowledge, and of what it might mean for her personally, pressed on Trillian. The Wolves will come for her and she will let them, to draw the Wolves off from me and the others. After everything she would give her life to undo the mess we've all made of the Commonwealth, but I hope it does not come to that. I pray it does not. I do not wish to be Archon, especially not like this!

"As for you, Lady Trillian, I will need you to be very busy this coming week." Melissa said, smiling thinly at the joke. Trillian was already playing her smoother-of-ruffled-feathers and political-fire-fighter, dashing to and fro on missions to placate, plead, and occasionally verbally pound those acting out against Melissa's policies. If not for the danger of Wolf raiders she half expected Melissa would have dispatched her to Coventry or Inarcs by now to see to those important worlds, or to Hesperus to arrange matters there now that Vedet Brewer was stripped of power. "Allied royalty is coming and there are proprieties to be observed."

"Nathaniel is here as the leader of an army, not a visiting sovereign." Trillian observed, smiling. "I've no doubt he has no wish to deal with court formalities when his troops will be busy digging in."

Melissa chuckled. "I will take your word for it, but regardless, the forms must be observed. He will need a proper arrival ceremony at least, and a proper reception. I need you to see to it and ensure the Court is ready to receive High King Nathaniel properly."

She is not wrong. Trillian nodded. "I understand, it will be done."

"Good. Then our course is settled for the moment." Melissa glanced back at the holotank. The smile on her face grew warmer and, just for a moment, the stress lines seemed to fade. It was as if the sight of those holographic icons relieved her burdens at least a little.

We have come a step closer to saving the Commonwealth, and with every step we take, every little victory like this, our hope looks more and more real.

Of course, it would be so much easier if the Arcadians' arrival first meant the victory was won, but of course, that was just the start. The real battle had yet to be waged, and Trillian could do nothing but wait and see if her hopes would turn out after all.

Tharkad City Municipal Railyards

“Well, that’s our status, everyone.” Talia Yuen said, the images of unit readiness reports hanging in mid air. “Questions, comments, updates?”

The interior of the Tribune Mobile HQ’s main compartment was even more crowded than normal, with all her subordinate commanders assembled in it. Some were familiar; Berry, of course. Star Commander Kezia Wolf, red-haired and all taut, wiry muscle, casually resting her boots on the holoprojector as she leaned back in a commtech’s seat. Instructor-Hauptmann Gerard Stanson, a heavyset man in his fifties, sullenly unhappy at the occupation of his command vehicle - although that seemed to be his normal disposition anyway.

Other faces were new, or at least hadn’t been around for a while. Hauptmann Claudius Jacoby, commander of the demi-battery of mobile Long Toms, his bald ebony head seeming to gleam in the light from the screens, rubbed at the pinned up fatigue sleeve that marked his lost arm, before nodding in satisfaction. Leaning against the wall, a look of mild contempt on her haughty aquiline feature, was Hauptmann Jacinta Kirklin, of the Hesperan Guards company “with, but not of”, in Kirklin’s insistent phrasing, Talia’s command. The militia infantry commander, Hauptmann Tom Rogers, stood apart as well, an aging, overweight bank manager in uniform with thinning grey hair and a face like a tired basset hound; but that was probably lack of welcome, since Kirklin for one had been very vocal that she didn't want the militia officer including in command discussions at all.

Talia wasn’t sure about Rogers herself; his troops had dug in and sighted their heavy mortars with solid competence, but she was never sure about the weekend warriors of the militia. The Colonel did tell me Rogers was a good soldier in his active service, though God knows when that was; Tracial Steiner’s day, probably. Or at least Victor Davion’s!

Last of all were First Leutnant Virgil Pentecost, her slender and elegant exec, who’d somehow managed to shower, shave and change into an immaculate set of Class Ones since getting back from TharHes with needed spare parts. He'd even found an iceblossom flower to tuck behind his ear, which was dedication, in its own way. Pentecost was chatting amiably with Captain Nathan Rosenthal, head of the small liaison team from the Davion Guards. Young for his rank, by Davion standards at least, Rosenthal's mop of unruly brown hair and boyish features gave him the look of a grown-up Huck Finn; until you caught that his easy smiles never reached his eyes.

“I could wish for a higher practice ammo allowance,” Rogers said, finally breaking the quiet. “My kids are good, but we just haven’t fired our mortars that much.” Everyone nodded at that; heavy weapons practice was one of the things the militia were always short-changed on. Even assuming they could get the range time, Talia suspected a fair number of officers would take the budget for live-fire practice and pocket it; an old dodge and one that worked right up until their units were needed, when they’d pay. Or rather their troops would, which was usually the way of it. Not Rogers, though. I think he takes his job quite seriously. “Other than that, I think we’re as ready as we can be, without knowing when the Wolves’ll show up.”

“I don’t like the whole plan,” Kirklin put in sourly, stepping to the holoprojector and shifting it to map display. Icons and lines began to move; blue and gold and steel-grey clashing with amber markers. “When the Clanners come after us, we should take them on away from the railyards. They’ll be lighter, they can’t stand up to us in the open. Face them, front them, beat them.” The last accompanied with the ringing smack of a gloved hand against the edge of the holoprojector.

“No.” Talia looked across the assembled officers. Nobody was saying it, but a lot of them were evidently thinking that Kirklin was right. Which was fair enough, considering she didn’t like committing to a semi-static defence herself. But it’s the only option, and they have to understand that. “Our orders are to defend the railyards. I don’t think, Hauptmann Kirklin, that is a goal best achieved by leaving them open at first opportunity - especially not against an enemy force that’s likely to be a third again our numbers and more mobile to boot.” A few stifled chuckles at that, and Kirklin’s expression soured more. “Their advantages are individual capabilities and mobility; ours are mass firepower and discipline. Advantages we will lose if we rush off into a blindsided cityfight.”

She began highlighting firelanes and planned minefields, potential routes for their hovercraft and fast ‘Mechs. “We all know the factors here; time, space, force. The Wolves have to take the railyards; if only to stop us using them. But they’ve also got a lot of other widely dispersed targets they have to hit. So, we let them come to us; our mobile units can sting and harass, but we ultimately have more heavy and assault equipment. If they want to wait, fine - we’re on the defensive. They’ve got to win fast, or they don’t win.”

There were more thoughtful expressions now, at least hearing what she was saying. Time for the last bit.

“Gentlemen, ladies, we’re all fighting men and women. Worse, most of us are MechWarriors.” Talia smiled to take the sting out of that. “We’ve all been raised on tales of elegant victories; somebody takes somebody else in the flank, a commander’s nerve breaks, a well-timed orbital drop breaks the enemy line.” Her head tracked across like her Regent’s gun-heavy torso, singling out one officer after another. “Those battles are like two-headed horses; they happen, but you can’t count on them. They usually turn on one side being grossly inferior, in numbers or weapons or morale, training or leadership.”

Another series of hard looks. “That is not going to happen here. You all know what we’re up against, you’ve all fought it. We’re facing a big, tough and well-equipped army. Men and women who aren’t afraid to die, under commanders who’ve learned in a hard school. They aren’t as disciplined as we are, and they’ll make mistakes due to that —” they’d ****** well better, or we’re dead “— but we can’t count on them fighting stupid.”

Several of them gave her looks telling Talia that they’d noticed the part she hadn’t mentioned; slugging matches meant casualties.

“Any word on the Arcadians?” Kezia spoke for the first time. “I would be very happy to know we have our full strength for this bid.”

“No, nothing yet.” Talia tried to recall the jump timings she’d gotten. Junior officers weren’t really supposed to get that sort of information, but the Royal Guards were exceptions in a lot of ways. “They should be no more than one or two jumps away, but whether they’ll get here before the Crusaders do …” She needn't finish the sentence. They knew what a difference that would make. Relief forces were all fine, but allies dug-in when the shooting started would save more lives.

Kirklin shook her head. "The way I hear it, they've got a lot of shiny gear but haven't fought like we have. We shouldn't be counting on them to turn this around for us."

"That wasn't the plan," Talia said frostily. "But battle-tried or not, we know they've got some good training, they've got Clan-quality gear, and they're bringing the equivalent of two and a half RCTs we don't have, and that we're going to need if we want to keep Tharkad and be in any shape to push the Wolves back afterward."

"They fought bravely enough on Timkovichi," Kezia added. "What is important is that they arrive."

Before Kirklin could continue the argument Talia's noteputer let off an electronic trill. She lifted it and checked the screen. Everyone saw the relieved smile that crossed her face. "That was a general alert from regimental command," she said. "The Arcadians are in-system. They've gotten here first."

Grins and little nods answered her, with a sigh of relief from Rogers and Kirklin crossing her arms. Talia felt a burden shift on her shoulders. The battle was still coming, but it felt like it just might be something she would survive, and more importantly, that they'd win.

Planning Deployment[]

DropShip, AFS Hawk's Nest
Inbound to Tharkad
10th June, 3143

After three days Nathaniel felt used to having the floor remain firm against his feet. He imagined every soldier aboard felt the same. That was only part of the energy he felt while traversing the corridors of the Hawk's Nest, however. The soldiers and aerospace pilots of the Lifeguards knew only days remained before they were on firm soil again. Combat was weeks, maybe just days, away, against an enemy of great skill and ruthless power. While some had seen combat here or there, against Azami or mercenary raiders, or against the Combine attacks in Arcturus Theater, and the command officers included some veterans of the Fourth Succession War, Nathaniel and a number of his other bodyguards would be seeing battle for the first time in their lives. Just as he was..

The Hawk's Nest and her dozen sisters were not ordinary transport DropShips, however. They were Command Transports, Bastion-class, and as that name implied, they were not a soft-skinned troop carrier. Heavy Gauss Rifles, extended range pulse lasers, a squadron of embarked aerospace fighters, and thick ferro-aluminum armor made the Hawk's Nest a deadly adversary for anyone looking to strike at her passengers in space or on land, and in the deepest heart of the ship, above the transport bays and the massive fusion reactors powering the drives, the Command and Situation Room provided the ship's other main function. Already technical officers and personnel were making final systems checks on the array of holotanks, tri-vee, and flat displays that would allow a commander of troops to oversee operations for an entire regiment's worth of troops or, with suitable delegation, even an entire brigade. To a degree it was wasteful that three such ships were employed to move a single regiment but the Lifeguards were a special occasion, since Nathaniel would need to be able to command them and other forces from any ship. And it does allow for quite a significant artillery barrage, Nathaniel thought, considering each of the transports bore four Long Tom-grade artillery cannons in their noses, giving the Lifeguards an extra artillery company in effect.

It took a few seconds for his presence to be noted. Before Nathaniel could stop them, a senior NCO bellowed "His Majesty is on deck!" and prompted everyone to stand and turn towards him, stand at attention, and salute. Nathaniel returned the salute and said, "As you were", returning everyone to their duties.

He quickly recognized he was not the only senior officer present. Bridger was on hand with Nathaniel's cousin Matthew and Colonel Sir Andrew Laughlin. The latter man was an Arcadian native, a descendant of the Count Laughlin who helped to found the original Arcadian Free March, and the commander of the Lifeguards appointed to that post after building his career in the Tharkad Rangers and enduring a thorough examination of his life by SIS and MI5. He had a slight brown tone to his complexion and close-cut brown hair. Nathaniel approached them and the main holotank displaying what he quickly recognized as a map of Tharkad. Various points were marked with Steiner and Davion icons. Two half-formed hawks showed on the eastern continents of Heidelberg and Franz. "This is their defense plan?" Nathaniel asked.

"It is," Bridger said. "They're showing where they need our troops the most."

"They couldn't be sure we'd arrive before the Wolves? So it makes sense they'd focus on Bremen with what they had." noted Laughlin in a soft Islay burr.

"Right and those sites are important?"

"Factories," Bridger said. "And major population centers are in proximity. The one on Heidelberg is Seimar Data Tron's main factory. It's one of the Commonwealth's top DropShip factories and a critical strategic target. With Franz, that's Bauer Enterprises, they produce aerospace fighters. A secondary objective, but one we should protect if we can."

"What do you think?" Nathaniel asked.

"I'd put the Second on the Seimar site." Matthew advised. "They're the better equipped and skilled unit of our big divisions, it's the right point for them. The Third is my pick for Bauer's factory."

"And the Arcadian Rangers? They would have a different role, I would imagine."

"Aye. Rangers aren't a stand fast and hold ground sort of formation, Majesty," Laughlin said. "Except for the Skye Rangers Corps, anyway. Brigadier Fraser wants to keep them on the move, hitting enemy landing zones and supply points where the defenses let her, and I'd back that."

"So would I," Bridger said. "Just like Vega. Let the frontline divisions do the smashing and let the Rangers do the skirmishing and raiding. Makes me wish we'd brought the Eighth Strikers, mixing Strikers and Rangers gave the Dracs fits and I'm betting the Wolves wouldn't like it either."

Nathaniel nodded. "They'll do their part whatever happens on Tharkad. What of the Lifeguards? Where should we fight?"

"Only one place for us to go, my Lord." Matthew didn't touch a control but reached into the holographic projection. The colors of the map shined over the hand as the finger tapped the eastern area of the main continent of Bremen. "The Triad itself. I'm sure they've got defenders already but the Lifeguards being there will be a big help if the Wolves come for Archon Melissa and the Lyran GHQ. If they don't, we're in a position to help out if things go bad around the Nagelring or the other major industrial or population targets."

"But they will," Bridger said. "This isn't just for conquest of one system. They're smart, not just murderous like Malvina. They're out to break the Commonwealth as a political entity so they can scoop up whatever pieces fall their way and leave us with the mess. At least, that's my assessment passed on from our MI people and the information we've gotten from the Lyrans and the Sea Foxes."

"The Sea Foxes. The space-based Clan," Nathaniel mused. "How reliant are they?"

"They're mercenary more than Clan, the way it seems." Matthew remarked. "They want profit and aren't blundering about looking for it. For instance, they've given us generous terms for providing JumpShip transport for supplies and replacements as they come through the Glass, plus protective escorts with their JumpShips."

"I haven't seen the terms...." Nathaniel admitted with some guilt in his voice. The cost to the Federation was going to be enormous in both blood and money, yet he'd been too busy preparing himself to fight to pay as much attention to the money side of things. "How generous?"

Matthew smiled wanly. "The generosity of a corporation entering a new market for the first time."

"Ah. That kind." Generous now, to make us reliant, then bring the rates up once they think we can't just walk away. Of course. "Billions of pounds of the Federation's money for all that, then."

"War is expensive, my Lord. Aunt Victoria and Uncle Ethan used to share complaints about it."

First Prince Victoria Davion and my great-grandfather, High King Ethan, Nathaniel contemplated. What it must be like to have known them both and been so close to them. "But you think their intelligence is good?"

"I think they won't lie to us for the same reason all good information brokers don't lie, and looking over matters, they didn't say everything but I saw nothing to show they were refusing to share something important. So on the whole, we can expect their information to be accurate, especially where it lines up with verifiable data the Lyrans gave us. The Wolves want Tharkad, but barring keeping it, they want the Lyran Commonwealth in pieces so we'll be too busy dealing with its collapse to stop them from taking what they want and moving on Terra."

"Then we will protect both the planet and Archon Melissa," Nathaniel vowed. "And then we move on to liberate the other worlds they've conquered."

A tone sounded from a nearby board. The four men turned towards it as a CommTech reached for a control. "New radio alert, sirs," the Tech said. "Straight from the Sara Proctor. Multiple incoming emergence signatures."

"If we just got that radio message, than our light-based scanners…" Bridger turned to the holotank. "Bring up the system status, now."

It felt more like a formality. Nathaniel felt no suspense at watching the map of Tharkad vanish in favor of a three-dimensional model of Tharkad's solar system. Their position was marked as a large assortment of hawks about halfway between the zenith jump point, where more markers reflected the presence of the Sara Proctor, other naval assets, and their JumpShips and a handful of Lyran ships supporting the recharge station. A number of amber points showed near but not beside the recharge station. Moments passed before further light and radio updates came. The system processed them immediately. The flaring amber points became snarling wolf heads.

The Wolf invasion forces had arrived.

Note: Railyard mid-section was written by Templar87

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