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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 19

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Art of Hospitality[]

Honor Road[]

Provisional Jade Falcon Council Building
New Hamarr, Sudeten
Jade Falcon Occupation Zone
20th November, 3142

Returning to Sudeten with the knowledge that he was rid of the "Chingis Khan" provided Beckett a reminder of why the defeat on Timkovichi was such a good thing in the first place.  From the half-built structure that provided the Falcons their seat of government and the warrior caste their council chambers, he could see the ruins of Sudeten's capital, leveled by the devastating impact of the Emerald Talon when the crippled WarShip was dropped on the city by Malvina after her victory over Jana Pryde.  So many good warriors of the Clan died that day, killed as threats to Malvina's ascendancy in accordance with her mad philosophy of murdering anything that dared resist.

Nightlord Class Battleship (By psicore)

Nightlord Class Battleship, CJF Emerald Talon

And yet, though the plague-bearer is gone, the plague remains. Beckett thought of all the Bloodnamed warriors gathering who still believed in the Mongol Doctrine as Malvina practiced it.  The scores of Lyran worlds that surrendered because they lacked defenders, refusing to resist for fear of the atrocities on worlds like Apostica, spoiled so many who should know better.  Nor can we afford to simply employ Trials to eliminate them.  There are too many here, and too many of our best went to the Reach rather than fight as dezgra or be Reaved.

The Khanship would be the key to solving this, and so he was ready when the best answer to his problem stepped in.

Galaxy Commander Stephanie Chistu carried herself like a proper Falcon warrior.  She was of a height with Malvina Hazen, but there the similarities ended; where Malvina had been slender, wearing her ash-blonde hair in a long braid, Stephanie was stocky, her body thick with muscles and forearms flecked with tiny burn scars from years of hard work at anvil and forge, her raven hair worn cropped close to her scalp. Rather than the black leathers signifying the Mongol Faction, too, she wore the dark jade of tradition. The commander of Delta Galaxy quickly saluted and assuming a stance of attention.  "My Khan?"

"Galaxy Commander.  We have little time, so I will be brief.  This does not trouble you, quineg?"

"Neg.  The Council is meeting soon and I must see to my warriors before then."

"Very well.  You have seen the holovids I sent.  Malvina Hazen is gone.  Watch assets have heard rumors the interlopers, these 'Arcadians', took her through the portal their arrival formed, and we know not whether she is alive or dead.  Nor is it material.  The Clan needs a new Khan.  It is my preference that Khan be you."

Chistu's eyes widened only slightly, but she quickly regained control.  "Noritomo Helmer is a more experienced warrior, especially if we find a way to take Terra."

"Until we know more about the Republic's Fortress walls — and how to bypass them — there will be no continuation of the desant; I am no Liao, to spend warriors’ lives merely to prove the Fortress still stands inviolate.  And we need Helmer where he is; the stravag Sea Foxes have ensured that Damien Redburn can raid the Reach almost at will.  Besides, his opinions are too well known for Hazen's supporters to ever accept him; in that, they are blinder than even Malvina ever was, considering she wished him to challenge her."  Beckett shook his head.  "You, on the other hand, have not earned their ire."

"Nor have I earned their support, or any others'," Stephanie responded hotly.  "Do you expect the Mongols, or even other tried warriors, to elect a Khan who has not struck the enemy?"

"We can see about that.  But before we discuss that, I wish to know your thoughts.  Would you be the Khan we need?  The Khan to bring our Clan back onto the Honor Road?"

There was a moment of silence.  It was an introspective one.  Beckett appreciated that.  The Watch were now firmly Mongol and might be listening in, so he stepped to his desk and held up a device.  "The benefits of being Khan.  I had a Scientist confirm my technicians' work.  We are speaking privately."

He noted she was being cautious, as no answer immediately came.  "Yes," Stephanie finally said.  "It is time we remember we are the Children of Kerensky, and upholders of his vision and traditions.  We do not need to be more brutal than Amaris to win glory and victories."

As I imagined.  "Then we are in accord."

"I am unclear as to why you wish me to become the new senior Khan, however, surely I can serve as your saKhan?"

"My name is too tightly linked to the Chingis Khan, you would be the better candidate," he replied, and indeed, he almost believed himself when he said it.

"And yet again, you have seen victories, I have been rebuilding Delta Galaxy.  We have had little but a couple of minor skirmishes with the Ghost Bears and their Rasalhaguan subjects," Stephanie pointed out.  "My codex is thin of recent victories."

"Then we will thicken it," he announced.  "The Mongols lack a name as lustrous as Malvina's to be the new lead Khan, and they will compete for battlefield glories to gain such a name.  That will give us time for you to gain the most glory of all."

"And we will be with just one Khan?"

"Oathmaster Icaza will serve well enough, until the vote."

"He is willing to step aside when the time comes…?  Yes, I think he would."  Having answered her own question, Stephanie examined Beckett closely.  "You do not wish to be the lead Khan, do you, Beckett Malthus?  You have always preferred the position of saKhan."

"It is where my talents are best directed for the sake of the Clan."

"Or because you prefer to play at politics, hiding behind a visible Khan until they outlive their usefulness," she retorted.  "You were Jana Pryde's saKhan too, and you turned on her for Malvina.  Should I expect the same should another such as Malvina catch your eye?"

A wan smile came to the older warrior's face.  "I have learned my lesson there," he said bitterly.  "The Mongol faction cannot be controlled or re-directed.  It must be expunged, for the good of the Clan.  And to do that, we must keep them from the Khanship.  We need a warrior who is against them but can win the loyalty of the new Bloodnamed, those tempted by the ease of Mongol victories.  That warrior is you, Galaxy Commander, and I will be your willing second."

"Good, because I will not hesitate to bring you to a Circle of Equals if you step out of line," Stephanie said.  "But now we come back to the matter.  I have honed Delta Galaxy against the Bears' cubs and through our own testing and trials, but I need a victory to win the Council's votes.  Something more profound that knocking over another pitiful Lyran garrison.  Are we prepared to assault Arc-Royal and the den of the traitor Wolves and their Inner Sphere masters?"

Beckett shook his head.  "We might, but there is another target.  One that might even win you Mongol votes.  Timkovichi."

Stephanie narrowed her eyes.  "The world Malvina failed to claim."

"Yes. The Arcadians' portal is there, our scouts confirm it.  We believe they have placed a unit to protect it, and we know that the majority of the Kell Hounds withdrew when it arrived.  Already these Arcadians have struck at Great X and crippled the remains of the 3rd Talon.  Our reports suggest they pulled back to Arc-Royal, which makes that world too greatly defended for what we must accomplish.  On the other hand, if you were to descend on Timkovichi and win a signal victory over the Arcadians, your standing would be greatly enhanced.  Just bringing Arcadian bondsmen and machines back as isorla should be enough, if you feel the planet cannot be held after your victory."

"Do we know the strength of their defenders?  Will Delta Galaxy be enough? Can we expect support from the Hell's Horses?"

"They appear to have 'Mechs, armor, and infantry, enough for a small Lyran regimental combat team," Beckett answered.  He reached to his desk and picked up a disc.  "The intelligence we have is here.  And I would supplement your forces with those of the 9th Talon Cluster. As to the Horses, neg; with Beta Galaxy's destruction, and rumors of the Bears stirring finally from hibernation, they will commit no more forces to our aid."

If Stephanie was surprised at the Horses' newly acquired reluctance, she gave little sign of it. "The Ninth Talon have gone over to the Mongols.  I have enough trouble from those in Delta's ranks." She frowned. "This 'support' seems to have the form of a knife in the back."

"Yes, but we will need you to have Mongol witnesses.  Witnesses from outside your normal command.  They may give you some trouble, but the prospect of avenging their leader upon her killers should be proper motivation."

"If it is not…", Stephanie to say

"...then they are yours to deal with, as they would be anyway upon your becoming Khan."  Beckett finally took the seat at his desk and folded his hands.  "The Honor Road lies before us, we need only take these steps to reach it.  That I will leave in your hands, Galaxy Commander.  You are up to it, quiaff?"

Again that thoughtful look.  He briefly wondered if he had misjudged.  Was her ambition weaker than he imagined?  If so he would be left with few options, none as good.

Resolution came to her face.  "Aff," she said.  "Let us see to the Council meeting, and I will prepare Delta Galaxy for departure."

"Excellent.  Our Clan's redemption begins here."

Study of a Mad Woman[]

Dr. Nancy Corey Military Hospital
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadian Royal March
Royal Federation

While most AFRF facilities in Roslyn were kept on the expansive grounds of Fort Defiance outside the city core, the Dr. Nancy Corey Military Hospital was the exception.  Founded by the sister of William Corey, one of the slain heroes of the Liberation War, and named for her after her own tragic death, the hospital's name reflected that the administration and some of the departments were under military control even though it serviced all manner of patients.  On top of being Roslyn's main Veteran Hospital System provider, it included a secure wing for the benefit of members of House Proctor or other ranking officers or nobility in residence as well as the diplomatic corps.

The secure wing, as it proved, also allowed for what would likely become their most infamous patient, which was why Commander Albright found himself walking through the security checkpoints and all their requirements.

Guards in light Chasseur power armor marked in the green and white of the Roslyn Defense Regiment were overkill considering their prisoner.  A squad in all, two inside and two outside the hospital room, stood watch over the crippled form of Malvina Hazen.  Albright thought it a ridiculous use of manpower, or at least did until he considered the number of Lyrans in Roslyn with Lady Trillian's mission.  The Commonwealth had its own spies and agents, and with or without her knowledge, they might just decide to be done with their nation's tormentor.

Accepting the salutes of the guards, he pulled up a seat and sat at Malvina's bedside.  The holoviewer was on but muted, showing footage of Lady Trillian being received formally at the Parliament building to their north, inside the Laughlin Capital District of Roslyn.  Malvina's eyes focused like those of her Clan's avian namesake at the Lyran state insignia Trillian openly wore.  "So the Lyrans, in their weakness, seek to borrow the strength of your people," she said.  "That is all they are good for.  Getting others to fight their battles.  The Republic, the Wolves, and now you Arcadians."  A disgusted sigh came from her throat.  "Holoviewer, off!"

At her curt command, the model shut off.

"Are you not due on your ship, Commander?  I know you wish to hunt my supposed illness, but surely your superiors have duties for you?"

"I've been assigned to your case," he replied.  "I've been ordered to report on your mental state."

"Oh?  I thought your profession kept such things secret?  Confidential?" she asked

He noted the challenge in her voice.  Whether or not Malvina had learned anything of Arcadian society and culture from her holoviewer watching, or if this was more she picked up back in the Inner Sphere, he wasn't sure.  As always, she seeks combat.  "Normally, yes," he replied, "and in our case, I am not going to share what you tell me, simply my observations on your mental state that are relevant to the matter."

"What matter?" she asked him.  Those eyes remained fixed on him.  Even here, now, with two power-armored guards carrying magshot rifles and Malvina helpless, he got the sense she would kill him if she could and felt the need to.

There was no point drawing it out.  "Your trial."

"Trial?"  Her eyes opened fully.  There was a new energy in her voice.  "I am to face a Trial?  What sort of Trial?"

"Lady Trillian may have other purposes here, but she brought along the Lyrans' reports on your conduct in the war," he said.  "I haven't seen them yet, but the government considers it enough to begin proceedings.  Depending on what I find, you're going to face a Royal Special Tribunal on War Crimes."

"Ah.  Well, I am ready."  Now she was grinning.  "I welcome Trials."

"You're not understanding… this isn't a combat trial like your Clans wage, Ms. Hazen," he said.

"Khan Hazen," she corrected, her voice now angry.  "I am the Chingis Khan, even in my current state!"

"Khan Hazen."  No need to antagonize her unnecessarily, though she'd better get used to others not calling her that. "This is not a combat Trial, and it may not even happen.  I and other psychiatrists will have to decide if you're mentally fit…"

"You deny me limbs, you deny me my bondsref, and now you would deny me a Trial?!"  The anger in her voice grew hotter.  "I am a warrior, not some pet of yours!"

"You're not understanding," he said.  "You'd be represented at the trial."

"I do not need a second!  Give me prosthetics, I am built for them.  I will face whatever Trial of Grievance your superiors wish."

"It wouldn't be like that!" he shouted, silencing her.  "Don't you get it?! There are no more combat trials for you, Malvina Hazen.  This would be a war crimes tribunal.  You would face a court of law and have to defend your actions, and if convicted you'll likely hang."

"Hang?  You think that I am frightened of hanging?  I grew up expecting to be strangled, either by an irate Falconer or one of my own sibkin!" Malvina cackled. "If you wish to seek your quarry in my mind, hunter of illness, then do not deny me my battles!  Give me my Trial!"

Albright sighed in exasperation.  "You still don't get it.  This is not a battle.  It is a court proceeding."

"I have sat in my Clan's Councils, they are but battles with words," Malvina said.  "I loathed them but I am not incapable.  If I cannot move, I can still speak, and I will not back down from any fight."

"If your lawyers are halfway competent, you won't speak a word but 'not guilty' throughout the whole thing," he said.  "And that's if we find you fit, and if you can't even grasp what you're being tried for, I'd be a damned liar to say it."

She snarled at him.  "Then we are through.  You may leave."

And that was it.  If he walked now, she'd stop cooperating.  There'd be no chance for him to figure out her mental issues, what might have created such a strange and deadly woman.  Perhaps it'd be for the best, he pondered.  Tell General Sirtis she's non-cooperative with me.  Go back to my career.  Let this crazy murderer face the justice she probably deserves.  What can we learn from her anyway?

It was a strong thought, and he shifted his weight to stand.  Nearly did so, until the gnawing questions came back full force.  What made someone like this so vicious?  Someone like Butcher Ballymont could at least be explained as enforcing the ideology they espoused.  But Malvina was, by all accounts, an outlier even by Clan standards, had indeed forced her Clan to shift towards her position instead of conforming.  What kind of combination of personality disorder, childhood trauma, and cultural pressures made someone like this?

He settled back into the seat. "Alright.  You want your Trial?"  When she glanced his way again, remaining speechless, he added, "You're going to have to convince me to okay it.  We need to keep going.  Talking about Aleks, about the sibko, about the desant.  Everything."

"I let you continue your hunt, you will approve the Trial?" she asked, in the voice of someone who clearly saw this as a deal between equals.v

"If I'm convinced you're capable, yes," he said.  An ethics board can't fault me for that hair-splitting, but God I do not like it.

He was met with momentary silence.  "Before I decide, what has happened with Cynthy?"

"She's out of my custody, she's being treated by child psychiatrists at another site.  I don't know where."

"I see."  Something like a forlorn look crossed Malvina's face.  Albright pondered it.  If I didn't know better, she's… happy and sad for the girl?  Like a mother who misses her child but knows they'll have a better life now?

Whatever thoughts Malvina had about Cynthy, she was done with them.  "Very well.  Bargained well and done, Commander John.  Now, what was it you wished to speak of today?"

"Let's go back to childhood.  Your fifth birthday. You mentioned you were given final tests of some sort every five years?"

"My first Trial, yes.  Fitting now."  Malvina grinned, but it was not a happy one.  "I was struck by Angelo during the test.  He was angry that I bit Gertrude and wished to see me tested out of the sibko.  He was angrier once I bit him right in front of the testers…"

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