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Emergence (Concertverse)
Book 2 - Prologue

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Prologue - Salvation[]

Rendezvous behind the Wall[]

Zenith Recharge Station
Imbros System, Prefecture X
Fortress Republic
14th April, 3143

It had been a long time since Darren Huyten was this close to home.

Granted, waiting here at Imbros’ zenith jump point meant he was more than thirty lightyears away from Sol, but it still felt reassuring. So did being back in the dark grey and blue uniform of the Republic Armed Forces, and wearing the gold-on-gold starburst insignia of his actual rank.

Olympus Space Station (Solar Sail Deployed)

Olympus Class Recharging Station

It was almost enough to banish the implications of what he could see. Hanging around the station, visible through the viewing bubble he’d been sent to wait for his contact, was a significant chunk of the Republic Navy. They were too far away to identify specifically, but Darren had counted at least six Castrum-class DropShips, each with its own escort group, maneuvering around the station. Backstopping them was the grey and blue enormity of the Essex-class destroyer Abundantia. Taken together it was enough firepower to match almost any WarShip remaining in the Inner Sphere. And that this kind of force was here, instead of at the Navy's home ports of Sol or New Earth, said that the Fortress was not as inviolate as it seemed.

Or at least that someone high up thinks there's weak spots, Darren corrected himself, thinking of the stomach-churning jump from Lyons. If it were possible to copy however that had been done…

The hiss of the dome's access door sliding open arrested his thoughts, and Darren shifted to face the hatch.

Essex Class Destroyer (Matt Plog)

Essex-class destroyer Abundantia

A pair of infanteers in void-adapted Purifier suits were first through, taking up guard positions that would give one of them a clear angle of fire no matter what. The insignia of Special Forces Command visible on their shoulder panels. Then two more figures entered, unarmoured but somehow with more presence than the battlesuited troopers, He'd have recognized them instantly even without their Paladin's uniforms. Tall, muscular and even in minimal gravity moving with an easy, leonine grace that belied the years marked in his precisely regulation-cut silver hair and the lines riven deep by stress in craggy features, Paladin-Exemplar David McKinnon looked every inch exactly what he was; Stone’s wrath personified. By contrast, Lady Janella Lakewood looked like a harassed bureaucrat; smaller and softer-built than the Paladin-Exemplar's hard, angular features, her uniform rumpled by travel where McKinnon's was pristine, dark circles under her eyes standing out against pale skin and streaks of grey in her long, tightly bound-up black hair.

“Authentication Blue Star Three-Oh-Three,” Lakewood spoke first, calm and steady.

“Vertex seven-two, nine-six aleph,” Darren replied; the final countersign needed to confirm that he was, in fact, who he said he was, and was not acting under duress. The confirmation wiped at least a little of the strain from Lakewood’s features, and she actually smiled a little as she gestured for him to take a seat.

“Welcome back, Brigadier.” Lakewood relaxed in her seat. “I do wish it were under better circumstances.”

“Better ones than you might think, Lady Lakewood,” Darren chose his words carefully. “I came back personally because we’ve encountered something that might, just might, mean the salvation of the Republic. With your permission,” he gestured to the holoprojector unit at the center of the table, “my staff have prepared a short briefing.”

“By all means,” Lakewood nodded. “Some good news would be welcome, I admit.”

From days of raw footage, the Lucky Stars’ intelligence team had managed to distill much of the relevant information down to only half an hour; pulled together from gun camera footage, news reports, sensor readouts and half a dozen other sources. McKinnon leaned forward at the combat footage, studying closely the Arcadian BattleMechs — alike and yet alien to the designs they all knew well — and how they moved and fought; Lakewood concentrating on the technical information. The finisher was High King Nathaniel’s coronation address, a last-minute addition; the footage had only just arrived on Timkovichi before Darren had needed to burn out-system.

“What’s your assessment of these Arcadians?” McKinnon broke the silence first; focusing on practical matters, as ever. “As fighting troops, I mean.”

“They’re good,” Darren said, putting together everything he’d learned about them. “Very well equipped on average; more, and more varied types, of Clan-grade gear than I’ve seen outside of the Davion Guards or Stone’s Brigade. They’re tough, disciplined and well-trained, as well.” He paused, considering further. “That said, they’re not that experienced; I got the impression that their Inner Sphere’s been a lot more peaceful than ours, and most of the AFRF’s units just haven’t seen serious combat for a long time.”

“And if you had to engage these Second Cuirassiers, at their peak strength, using your old command?”

“In a straight up open field battle, we’d lose.” Darren had had time to think about that fairly extensively. “The Cuirassiers had almost twice as many BattleMechs, and more heavy equipment in general, than the Principes do, at least in the pre-Fortress configuration. In a sustained planetary campaign, supporting Standing Guard units, the Principes' edges — more experienced personnel, better low level combined arms integration, and a larger support and repair echelon in both absolute and relative terms — would count for more, but I'd still put it at no more than one chance in three for them to win."

"This speech,” Lakewood indicated the footage of Nathaniel. “Does he mean it, or are we looking at someone else with ambitions that might include what remains of the Republic?”

“Bearing in mind that I haven’t met Nathaniel personally, I think he’s sincere, yes.” Darren replied. “Very definitely, he represents a serious public feeling; more than one of the Arcadian officers I heard comment on that speech expressed quite a bit of satisfaction that they were going to, I quote,” he checked his noteputer, “here it is, ‘kick the Clans’ genetically superior asses up one side and down the other’.”

“I’d say that’s fairly conclusive,” McKinnon agreed, and Lakewood nodded at her fellow Paladin’s assessment.

“Beyond that, they haven’t given any sign of wanting territory on this side of the Anomaly. I was given the impression in conversation with General Singh’s staff that the Combine on their side and this ‘Oriento-Capellan Empire’ would just love it if the Arcadians got bogged down in serious occupation duties here. So,” Darren shrugged, “I can’t say for certain, but the evidence I’ve seen is that they just want to kick in the Clans and go home. The full data downloads and analysis are on my ship; I'll make sure they’re transferred over soonest.”

That caused more silent conversation, looks flicking between McKinnon and Lakewood before the Paladin-Exemplar gave a quick nod.

“So,” McKinnon said, calm gravitas in his voice “What do you need from us, Brigadier?”

“Equipment; spare parts, mainly,” Darren brought up his support section’s shopping list. “We were lucky on Timkovichi; more casualties in machines than people, but a lot of the damage needs parts to fix that weren’t ever common outside the Republic. And, well,” another shrug, “I’ve got teams on Galatea — where I’ll be going after we’re finished — and Kandersteg who can handle manpower.”

“I think we can do better than just spare parts,” McKinnon smiled. “Come with me.”

Leaving Lakewood to continue studying the data, they moved through the recharge station’s corridors, heading deeper inside, towards one of the cargo bays if Darren remembered the Olympus-class’s layout right. That guess proved right when they arrived in one of the vast, cavernous spaces. Most of the bay was filled with standard cargo containers, the usual swarms of personnel in zero-gravity exoskeletons moving around and among them, but drawn up in formation magclamped to the “floor” were half a dozen BattleMechs, several times that many battlesuits locked into their maintenance/storage racks, and -

Darren blinked for a moment as the Mangonel next to the pair of tripedal leviathans made their scale clear. “So,” he finally remarked, “the stories are true.”

Ares Superheavy OmniMech (In desert - Miniature)

Ares Class Superheavy OmniMech

“They are,” McKinnon agreed. “Castor and Pollux,” he indicated each of the giants, “the Dioscuri; what their crews’ve named them. Ares class SuperHeavy OmniMechs, and as of now, assigned to you with full complements of OmniPods, spare parts and techs to keep them going. So are the ‘Mechs and battlesuits with them. And a DropShip to transport them; new model, but it’ll look like an Overlord unless someone gets a very close look at its thrust-mass ratio.”

“There’s no way I can explain those with ‘I found them in a supply cache’,” Darren temporized, mind working overtime at the possible tactical uses for the beasts. Kicking DropShips apart, for one.

“If you’ve got to use them, you won’t have to,” McKinnon replied. “You’ll get formal orders later, but the gist of it is, don’t use them unless you have to — but if you do have to, then don’t hesitate. In that situation, we’ve got verigraphed orders from the Exarch confirming your unit as Republic auxiliaries, and Martin Kell at least is going to read them before ripping your head off.”

Darren nodded at that, feeling at least a little reassured at having some diplomatic top cover. Although, given the likely circumstances for revealing who, and what, he and the Lucky Stars really were, that was probably the least of potential worries …

“Come on down and meet the crews,” McKinnon pushed off the floor with easy grace. “They can tell you an awful lot more about what their machines can do than I can.”

Nearly fourteen hours later, David McKinnon watched the blue-white star of the Duat Class Hope's Dagger — wearing the splendidly official identifiers of Miriya's Light, a cargo converted Overlord — burning out for its JumpShip. It was far less time than any of them had wanted, but the next viable window through the Fortress to Lyons was less than a day from opening; and after that, there wouldn't be a clear shot for months.

“Do you think the Lyrans can hold Tharkad?” Janella Lakewood commented from beside him.

“If they can’t, then we’d damn well all better learn to speak Clanner,” David snapped, before a lifetime’s self-mastery reasserted itself. Calmer, he went on; “I think they can, yes. They’ve got some of the best units in the LCAF there, plus the First Davion Guards; and a set of commanders that their troops believe can win. That counts for a lot.”

“And the Arcadian contribution.”

“And them, yes,” David nodded. “Even beyond the fighting strength of them, having an ally committed does no end of good.” Their thoughts turned, both, to the Davion Guards; to what their unexpected intervention had done in the battle against the Senate Alliance on Terra. Unexpected to everyone but Jonah Levin, that is; David still didn’t know just how he’d managed to avoid letting even any of the Paladins know about that until well after they’d landed.

“I’ll be heading back to Terra myself, soon,” Lakewood said after a moment. “This information needs to get back into Levin’s hands, and we can’t trust it to the HPG. If we missed even one of Buhl’s people…” An involuntary shiver struck her at that thought. “Think you can manage the rest of this inspection tour alone, old man?”

“I’m not too old to thrash you, Lady Lakewood, in or out of a ‘Mech,” David shot back, to mutual smiles. Though that turned his thoughts inward; am I too old for field command, should I have taken retirement when Levin offered it to me? Then, no. I’m in as good shape physically as it’s possible to be. His recent medical eval had proven that; with the doctor telling him that he was in good shape for a man a third of his age. "If all my patients were as obnoxiously healthy as you, Sir McKinnon, I’d be out of a job.” That left the non-physical to consider. There’s no defects of mind or will I can detect.

“I can carry it on myself, Janella,” he continued after completing his considerations. “Your staff are good people, and between us, we can put the fear of Stone into our awkward world governors.”

Besides, once the information on the Arcadians got into Levin’s hands, there was going to be a lot more work to do. Real work, not just drills, inspections, and chivvying recalcitrant world governors into doing their jobs.

The salvation of the Republic.

  • Word from the Author
    Templar87 contributed the Prologue Chapter.

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