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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 32

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Military Necessity[]

Dispute among Leaders[]

AFS Sara Proctor
Zenith Jump Point, Atocongo System
Coventry Province, Lyran Commonwealth
20th January, 3143

The officers' wardroom on the Sara Proctor enjoyed the benefit of being on one of the ship's rotating gravdecks, making it a comfortable environment for the assembly of senior officers that now sat arrayed around the circular table, all facing the central holotank.  Said holotank was a display of Timkovichi's surface and reflected the report sent by interstellar fax by General Singh.  Angry red covered two continents and key parts of the third, leaving a decreasing amount of land shaded blue.

The assembled were all the appropriate command officers.  General Bridger, Khan Fetladral, Brigadier Laguna, Colonel Kell, and Captain Winters of the Sara Proctor, joined by their highest ranked officers.  Each had a noteputer with the written reports from Timkovichi loaded.

"Doesn’t look like they’ve got a whole lot of time left."  Evan's voice was a frustrated growl.  He still had people there, including his second-in-command, and they faced another impossible battle.  There was a hint of frustrated betrayal in his eyes when they focused on Bridger.  "Just what the hell's takin' your people so long, General? I didn’t figure they’d want your guys to get wiped."

"Most likely, the need for naval assets with those Falcon battle wagons around."  Bridger resisted the urge to sigh.  "In our space that's a tri-border area with the Communal League of Sudeten as well as the Ghasties, and our relations with the Commies aren't so rosy they'd be fine with our battleships lingering.  Bringing Fourth Battle Fleet up from Tharkad takes time."  The frown didn't leave his face.  He didn't share his suspicions that games might have been played on Arcadia, if not basic complacency.  You didn't get to his rank without being aware of the tension in the upper echelons of the AFRF, and the entrenched interests who were devoted to fighting the Oriento-Capellan Empire.  We should have had a battle fleet ready and at Atocongo, dammit.

Khan Patrik nodded.  He was in a special seat, brought over from his own ship, since the Arcadian vessels had no seats that could properly accommodate an Elemental-bred Clan warrior.  "We are fortunate that Galaxy Commander Chistu is a warrior of honour, or at least what passes for it among the Jade Falcons.  She clearly wishes a clean victory, won by zellbrigen, to win the Khanship without embracing the dezgra Mongol philosophy."

"Doesn’t do Nadia and our folks a whole lot of good."  Evan shook his head.  "They're getting ground down.  Even if they make Chistu bleed white, she still wins in the end."

"Unless we can get our forces planetside, anyway, which is a tall order."

Heads turned to Captain Winters.  Her light complexion wasn't as pale as normal for spacers, though she still looked the part.  She noted her attention and laughed bitterly.  "My ship's a tough old girl, just like her namesake, but she's still no match for that much metal.  Even if Hanson timed things to bring Epaminondas into the fight, we'd be outgunned and outnumbered and I doubt we could keep enemy cover off of your droppers."

"It is doubtful Galaxy Commander Chistu would permit us safcon, as she would recognize we would turn the tide quickly." Khan Patrik added.

"There has to be something we can do," Bridger insisted.  'I refuse to sit back and watch helplessly."

"Well, there ain't a thing we can do to get her to call it off, I reckon."  Evan's frown grew.  "No, not if they want glory.  She won't back off just because we hit another world.  She wouldn't even find out for a week. Hell, I’m not sure she’d go for it even if I called her out to a Trial of Grievance."

"Is there a way to give her what she wants? Glory wise?"  Bridger directed the question at Patrik and Evan.  "Something that, even if we lost, would get her to withdraw, with her honor satisfied.  Because given the records we have, the losses she's taking on Timkovichi can't be good for her Clan."

"Oh, they're not good at all," Evan agreed.  "The Falcons were still recovering from their civil war, and they've lost more even when beating us. If Delta Galaxy and the other units she brought get wrecked on Timkovichi the Falcons won't have much left to throw at us unless they abandon the Reach.  They can hold what they've got, but they won't be marching on to Tharkad any time soon."

"Still, that prospect alone will not bring Stephanie Chistu to cease battle short of victory, not if she wishes to become the next Falcon Khan"  Patrik crossed his arms.  "A victory over your forces, and revenge for Malvina's defeat, will sway even Mongol votes on the Falcon Council."

"A shame there's no way we can accommodate her," Ward mused.

Bridger grunted.  He'd rather not accommodate any of the Falcons, he'd seen too much.  But saving Timkovichi was more important.  And yet it looks like our only hope is to wait for a move through the Glass, without knowing when it's coming, or hoping that our WarShips can blast a hole through the enemy for us, and it's pretty clear they can't.

"What if I challenged her to one of your duels?"  All eyes turned towards Laguna.  "My unit put Malvina down, after all."

Bridger shot a glare at her.  "Brigadier, I've no doubt you've got a lot of skill, but you're not a field MechWarrior any more than I am."

"I've still run with my people in the field, General," Laguna retorted.  "I landed in Cirenholm same as them.  And I keep my training up.  I'm as good as I've ever been, I dare say."

“That may work, after a fashion.” Patrik Fetladral looked thoughtful. “But it could not be you, Brigadier. It would have to be the warrior who personally bested Malvina — a Lieutenant Eva, I believe?”

Laguna's quiet confidence dissolved into anger.  "She's just a year out of the Nagelring, you can't possibly expect me to send one of my youngest pilots to face that kind of fight.  Christ's sake, she only delivered the final shots that put Malvina down, it's not like she bested the mad bitch in a one on one duel!"

"Why not?"  The question left his lips before he could stop them.  Bridger regretted them even before noticing the hot glare he got from Laguna and from Colonel Ward.  He swallowed.  "God help me, but is it any different than ordering her to hold a tactical point, knowing she'd be overrun, so long as it got more troops to safety?"

Ward's mouth forced itself closed before she spoke.  "General, with all due respect, you can't be considering this."

"I don't want to, dammit," he snarled.  "But I don't want the Second Royal-Cees getting wiped out either, or the loss of Timkovichi, especially if the damned Mongols are too strong for Chistu to restrain. They might just sack and wreck the planet anyway for daring to fight!"

"******, General, I don't want to agree with you," Evan swore.  "But I get what you're saying."

Laguna wasn't swayed.  "She's still a young pilot, a lot of promise, you'd be ordering her to commit suicide."

"Would Chistu kill her no matter what?"  Bridger directed the question at Patrik.  "You allow warriors to survive defeat in those Circles of Equals, right?"

“We do, as do others. The Falcons."  Patrik frowned slightly, clearly searching his memory.  “It happens, but I do not know Stephanie Chistu well enough to say if she would honour a request for hegira in single combat.  Other Falcons have been known to slay enemies in Trials regardless, even before the dezgra Mongols appeared.”

"And it's live fire anyway, so there may not be a chance for it."  Bridger rubbed at his eyes thoughtfully.

"General, please.  I'm the commander of the Sunhawks, I gave the orders, this is my responsibility," Laguna pleaded.  She turned her head to Patrik.  "Isn't that enough?  I was in charge of the drop.  I'm the head of the unit.  I'm the responsible one."

"That is not how we see these things, not in that way," Patrik answered.  "She was given the credit for defeating Malvina.  That makes it her victory, not yours; for the same reason, I could not stand for one of my warriors in such a Trial.  You could try your argument with Chistu, but I am certain she will want to fight Lieutenant Eva, not you.  Do you not have confidence in your warriors, Brigader?"

Laguna's face paled with rage.  "I have confidence in my people to fight as a unit, as a team, not as gladiators in some ****** blood sport honor duel."

"You could maybe try challenging her command Cluster against the Sunhawks’ First Batt," Evan offered, “but that’s iffy, for a Trial of Grievance. I’m pretty sure it’s been done, but not often.”

"Trials of Grievance are — even when between units — fought by individuals," Patrik said.  "And if we are correct and Chistu wishes to limit her losses — and enhance her own standing — it will not appeal."  The giant man looked thoughtful for a moment.  "At most, she might accept fighting both warriors credited with Malvina's defeat.  There was another, I believe?"

"One of the local troops, yeah," Evan said.  "Another lieutenant.  Palisser, I think? Yeah, that’s it. She was piloting her family’s Awesome, one of the tough old standard tech ones; it’s got about one moving part."

"Then if she lives and can fight, she could fight alongside your, Lieutenant Eva.  But no others are likely to be acceptable."

Bridger nodded.  "I'll make inquiries as to her status, then, and inform General Khan of our plan."  He looked Laguna's way.  She was visibly fuming, arms crossed.  "When we get back to the Sinclair, have the lieutenant called to my office."

There was no immediate reply.  Eyes turned towards the two of them.  Just as Bridger opened his mouth to repeat the order, Laguna's neck moved with a nod.  "I will, General."

Eva is Summoned[]

An unexpected, but not unwelcome, mid-day nap ended abruptly for Eva when she heard the rapping on the bunkroom door.  She turned her head that way.  Kevin hovered at the door, one hand on a handrail.  "Hey.  No time for sleepin', Eva."

"I must have dozed off."  She reached around and released the straps, allowing her to pull free from the sleeping bag.  Her jumpsuit BDUs were frumpled but not entirely unpresentable.

"Freshen up an' smooth out the suit," Kevin said.  "Ye've been called by the CO."

Eva blinked.  "Captain Choudhury wants to see me?"

"She might be there, but I mean the CO," he said, putting heavy emphasis on the article.

So Colonel Perez, no… no, not…  "The Brig?" she said, her voice a whispered squeak of surprise and intimidation.

Kevin nodded.

It left her supremely nervous to hear it.  Nor did it ease straightening out her jumpsuit and fitting her beret to her head with a snug enough fit to stay on in zero-G.  Kevin waited patiently and escorted her through the living bunks for the embarked troops, up the tubes, and onto the command deck.  These past months left Eva quite adjusted to zero-G and how to move in it.  She propelled herself with practice and efficiency, not missing her turns or corners, the movements so automatic she could do it even as her mind raced to grasp just what Brigadier Laguna could want with her.  That she wasn't afraid of the coming meeting was more from her confusion than anything; she couldn't comprehend just why the head of the brigade was summoning a field MechWarrior who wasn't even second in command of a lance.

It wasn't like she was telling everyone about the dread feeling in her gut, the resentment that she'd ever signed up for this life.  How she'd undo her entire life back to applying to the Nagelring if she could, to get out of this uniform and these fights, even if it meant undoing the pride she'd seen in her parents' faces when she got that acceptance letter, or when she graduated and got the 8th Strikers assignment.  No, all of that remained locked away in her heart while she did the daily routines and orders and zero-G PE.  She didn't want to hurt the others with her thoughts.

They arrived on the command deck and floated their way past other crew and officers to the largest office, directly adjacent to the Charles Sinclair's Ground Command Center.  Large block letters on the bulkhead door read "GROUND COMMAND OFFICE", leaving no doubt who was within.  Eva entered alone, found the looped foot straps for her to slip into, and "stood" to attention with her right hand firmly held in a salute to her temple.  "Lieutenant Penton-Vallejo, reporting as ordered, sir," left her mouth before she let her eyes verify what she was seeing.

She'd been so intent on sticking her landing into the loops that she didn't notice the desk occupant until she was already speaking.  An involuntary rush of breath came to her at the sight of General Bridger seated at the desk.  Laguna was nearby at another, slightly smaller desk, even if customarily this would have been her office, not Bridger's.

Already she could tell was something was wrong.  Laguna's face was pale and her eyes glittered furiously.  Bridger, for his part, had a deep frown, and when he spoke, his voice rumbled like thunder.   "Lieutenant.  We have something to discuss."

What could have gone wrong?  This makes no sense, why would the OpForce commander want to see me of all people.  "I'm at your disposal, sir."

Something about that word deepened the frowns on their faces.  "I'm going to be frank with you, Lieutenant.  The situation on Timkovichi is not good.  The Second Royal-Cees are sustaining heavy losses, along with the other defenders.  The Falcon naval defense complicates our ability to reinforce them."

Eva nodded.  She'd heard rumors to that effect. But she was still uncertain.  "I'm sorry to hear that, sir.  I just… I'm confused.  I'm just a Second Lieutenant, why are you telling me this?"

"Because we may have a way to save them."  Bridger folded his hands on the desk, as if they were planetside.  "It's been suggested the Falcon attack is to serve an internal issue, something with their politics.  That the commander of the force is looking to consolidate her shot at replacing Malvina Hazen as the lead Khan of the Falcons.  We suspect that she's getting more than she bargained for from the defense and might be amenable to an alternative.  And that is where you come in."

"I do?"  Eva watched the scowl grow on Brigadier Laguna's face.  "How?"

"Because you are the one who brought Hazen down, in the end.  The kill credit went, at least in part, to you.  As I've been told, as far as the Falcons are concerned, you defeated Malvina Hazen, their Khan, and that's got power."

"In what way, sir?"  Eva shook her head.  "I… I barely shot at her, only at the end really.  Lieutenant von Krager did all the work."

"I know, but that's not how the Clans see it.  As for how this will work…"  He let the sentence trail off.  His eyes looked stormy, angry, and Eva wondered just what conflict was going on inside of him.  More to the point, she was getting a sick feeling about just why this was being explained to her.  "Quite simply, we offer her a chance to face you in one of the Clans' duels, MechWarrior versus MechWarrior.  The prospect of defeating the pilot who beat Malvina Hazen might just convince her that she doesn't need to conquer Timkovichi to accomplish her goals."

Eva didn't quite catch the last sentence, as important as it was.  She was stuck on the first.  On the idea of getting into a one-on-one duel with one of those difficult, highly capable Clan warriors, like the one who cored her 'Mech on Morges.  Malvina killed Captain Kincaid with ease.  If this Clan commander is even nearly as good as she was…

The entire thing came together with a flash.  "You're… going to order me to do it, right?' she asked.  "To fight this Clanner, to do this… duel."

There was a moment of uneasy silence.  Eva thought she saw disgust in Brigadier Laguna's eyes before she lowered them again.  Oh God.  They are.  They're going to order me to do this.  He's going to.  I'm being fed to the lions.  Despair and terror roiled up within her at that realization.  They're going to send me to die.  Sacrifice me.

"I was intending to sound you out, Lieutenant.  To see if you're willing to do this."

Eva laughed.  It was not the kind of thing a second lieutenant was supposed to in the presence of flag officers, but at that moment, there were no norms.  It wasn't like they could punish her further, after all.

"Pardon me, Lieutenant?" Bridger asked, a razor tone in his voice.

She regained control, but the smile remained on her face.  "I guess this is it," she said.  "I've spent the last several weeks wondering if I was going to die soon, and now I know I am."

"If your situation in the fight is hopeless, you can request honorable retreat." Bridger said, his expression and tone never softening.  "Their tradition of 'hegira'.  Like we allowed them on Great X."

"Because the Falcons are known for following all those honor codes the Clans are claimed to have."  Eva shook her head.  "They're going to kill me, General, and you know it.  You gave me the credit for their leader and they'll want me dead, or worse, for it.  And as high as my scores and grades were, I'm still not up to their caliber as a MechWarrior."

"Lieutenant, again, I'm asking if you're willing."

"With all due respect, sir, it sounds like you're asking me to volunteer for a likely suicide mission so you don't have to order me." she answered, her voice bitter even as the despair twisted her inside.  I am going to die.

The stormy look on Bridger's face worsened.  "That doesn't mean I won't."

"I am certain of that, sir."  Eva nodded.  To her surprise she wasn't having to fight back tears, but she knew that wouldn't last.  "Give me the order, and I'll go and most likely die, though I'll try like hell not to."  Her voice threatened to break.  "I'm not volunteering, though.  Give me the order, sir."

"You're being disrespectful, Lieutenant."

"No sir, I'm being honest."  Eva swallowed.  If I survive somehow, he'll never forgive this.  But that's not likely, is it? "And if you're worried about it, I won't throw the fight or make it too easy.  Wouldn't want to let my unit down, my lancemates.  I'll give the best I can, and maybe it'll even look good, and then they'll kill me to avenge their pride, and hopefully that will save my comrades from whatever desperate backup plan you've got that would have likely killed all of us anyway.  But we both know you're sending me to die, and even if I'm a new officer of just a year, I'd like to think I merit some responsibility on your part instead of this 'volunteer' excuse."

There was no telling what would happen next.  For all she knew he was about to summon the MPs to have her brought to the ship brig for insubordination.  But it wouldn't change her final fate.  A part of her screamed that she could resist this, that she could simply refuse to fight, refuse to pilot her 'Mech, but the rest of her wouldn't allow it.  Bridger, by the stories about him, wasn't the type to stand by and do nothing while their comrades on Timkovichi were dying every hour.  He would try something anyway.  She'd still likely die.  So would Kevin, and Jasminder, and all the others in her company, her battalion, the entire brigade.

I'm a dead woman either way.  I might as well die protecting the others.

"Fine. Lieutenant Penton-Vallejo, I am going to arrange a Clan honor duel between you and the Falcon commander at Timkovichi.  You will participate, you will fight with all the courage and skill I would expect of a MechWarrior of the Royal Federation, and I pray to God you win or walk away intact."

Eva brought her hand up to her temple in as crisp a salute as she'd ever given.  "Yes, Sir."

"You are dismissed." he ordered her

With that she pulled her feet out of the floor straps and kicked off towards the door.  On the other side, Kevin was still waiting patiently, one arm crooked around the rail along the side.  "So what was that about?"

"I'll tell you later," was all she could manage.  "I want to go back to my bunk now."

He clearly saw something was wrong.  "Alright" was the only reply he gave, and she was grateful for the following silence on their return to the troops' habitation section.  She went back to the lance bunkroom, wrapped herself into her bag, and zipped it up so that it covered her like a cocoon, safely out of sight and earshot of her comrades.

She let go.  She dropped all the control, all the defenses she'd raised, and let the despair and fear and everything else fill her until she was seized by deep, wracking sobs.  I'm going to die.  I AM GOING TO DIE.

Relucent Orders[]

Second Royal Cuirassiers Bivouac
Greywalk, Aurum Continent
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (Disputed)
22nd January, 3143

“You wanted to see me, Kommandant?”

Allison Palisser’s muscles ached from hours in a command couch, and all she wanted right now was to try and snatch some sleep before she had to be back in the cockpit. But, when your boss called you to his office - well, an awning and camp table by the side of his Brutus, but close enough - ‘at your earliest convenience’, one thing she’d learned from her time in the LCAF was that they meant ‘right damn now’.

“I don’t want to, Leutnant,” Kommandant Tanhause replied, looking less like the banker in uniform he usually did, and more like one of the terminal cancer patients her sister Becky - the rich, successful doctor in Tharkad City General - had worked with, as though the gradual loss of Timkovichi was hollowing him out. “But, on this, I have to.”

“What is it it, then, sir?”

“Myself and General Singh have been in contact with General Bridger, Khan Fetladral and Colonel Kell,” Tanhause explained, still not meeting her eyes. “And, we believe, there is a way to finish this, for good. One way or another.”

Allison waited, feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of her stomach. Because I think I know where this is going.

“You have partial credit for taking down Malvina Hazen. Given the probable motivations for this Galaxy Commander Chistu attacking Timkovichi, that gives us one option to finish this fast.” Now, he did look her in the eyes. “You, and Lieutenant Penton-Vallejo of the Eighth Striker, can challenge Chistu and whoever she picks to fight alongside her, to a Trial of Grievance, to force them to back off the planet.”

Oh boy do I hate it when I’m right. Part of her wanted to say no right then and there, but Allison carefully bit back that response. It was tempting - God it was so very tempting - but thinking in that direction left her trying to find a justification that the people of Timkovichi - like the ones she could see in her peripheral vision, trying to hitch a ride out of here before the Falcons took over - would accept for the LCAF cutting and running. Even with “the LCAF” here and now being one mechwarrior barely into her twenties.

“Leutnant,” Tanhause’s voice broke her train of thought, his craggy features drawn as he carried on. “I have never before ordered a soldier into a position where I expected them to die, and I’m not going to do so now. If you truly believe that you cannot do this, then tell me; we’ll figure something out. God knows what, but we will.” He sighed. “I’d take Jinjiro Kurita at the head of the Swords of Light at this point.”

“I’m in, Sir.” Committing felt curiously liberating, as though removing a weight she hadn’t been aware of carrying. It let Allison put aside anything but the tactical considerations, at least; like that I need to get with the techs, make sure Say Your Prayers is at peak condition, and see what I can get on how Chistu fights.

“You’re sure about this, Leutnant? You understand the risk asked of you here?”

“A whole lot of people are gonna die if I don’t do this, right, sir? Civvies, most of them.” That drew an uncomfortable nod from Tanhause, and Allison carried on. “Then I don’t see that I’ve got a choice, sir. I said the words, I took the oath when I got commissioned - ‘to stand between the people of the Commonwealth and harm’.” She shrugged. “I figure that about covers it.”

“Alright then.” There was a brief flicker of what might of have been sadness across Tanhause’s face, then he was all business. “We need to get with Tac-Ops, figure out just where Chistu might want as a circle of equals, likely profiles on her backup, all of that.  But there is a matter to attend to first.”

"I’m the one who’s got to issue the actual challenge," Allison said.

He nodded in reply.  "General Khan's waiting at HQ.  The helo is already on the way."

The Batchcall[]

Delta Galaxy Headquarters
Mannelbourg Township
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth

With her Turkina undergoing repairs - it had taken more damage than expected, and she was thankful for the heavy armor; its movement profile was just close enough to her preferred Jade Hawk to make adjusting difficult - Stephanie Chistu paid a visit to the Galaxy Command headquarters set up in the ruins of Mannelbourg, using the half-intact manor of the local baron as the center of the facility.  The central hall's roof was still intact and the room, once used for civil functions and conferences and the like, was know adorned with makeshift workstations, displays, and holotanks for Stephanie's subordinates to oversee the ongoing invasion. The central holotank displayed a graphic of the planet, now increasingly under Falcon control.

Yet her expanding control, and continued victories, did not sit well.  The battered enemy continued to consolidate their remaining units.  They were stuck fast in Greywalk and Cirenholm and her subordinate cluster commanders were taking losses in their attempts to outflank those positions, succumbing to rapid reaction attacks by the Republic mercenaries and the Arcadians' remaining 'Mech and vehicle forces.  In time they would grind those forces down and achieve the breakthroughs, but it was costing her warriors material and lives.

Things have not gone as desired.  We underestimated these Arcadians, or overestimated ourselves.

"This is your way, is it?"  Isaac Roshak was fresh from his own machine, still in cooling vest and gear — marked with Mongol black of course — and looking frustrated and furious.  "Our warriors' lives thrown away, all so you could claim your precious honor.  When will you wake up and call in the WarShips to wipe our enemy from the surface of the planet?"

"When will you work up the courage to challenge me, if you feel my leadership has been poor?" Stephanie retorted.  She was of half a mind to challenge him at this point, the Mongols be damned.  "We have overrun most of the planet.  Our enemies fall back with every blow we throw at them.  We are winning, Star Colonel."

"We would have won weeks ago had you been a true successor to the Chinghis Khan!"

Stephanie glared at him.  "Your ways grow the ranks of the Clan's enemies."

"Our ways kill the Clan's enemies, at little or no loss to ourselves."  Isaac's eyes flashed.  "They teach the Spheroids to obey or die, and they choose obey."

"Unless they resist out of despair, and force us to kill them, and expend effort killing them.  We cannot do to every world what was done to Apostica, nor should we, or we shall have no worlds to rule!"

"So make an example, to remind our enemies," Isaac urged. "Slaughter these freebirth scum from orbit.  Send our ships through and bombard the world on the other end as a warning of what awaits if they continue to fight us.  Claim vengeance for the Chinghis Khan by honoring her teachings, not your outdated way that costs us the lives of our best warriors!"

Around her there were a number of upturned faces.  Some were full of disgust.  But not enough for Stephanie's comfort.  Malvina took so many of our best in the Rending and she made the path of conquest look so damn easy.

"You would suggest we invade through to the other side of the Anomaly?  That we throw such a provocation at a foe we know to possess as great a fleet as we do, if not greater?"  Stephanie crossed her arms.  "Your Mongol Doctrine only works if there is no hope against us.  But we do not have the strength to invade this other Inner Sphere as well, so your idea of a warning will do nothing but anger them into greater efforts against us.”

And, she added silently, knowing this was an argument Roshak would never heed, to do so might well provoke the Lyrans into unleashing their greatest weapons against us. Stephanie had made a point of studying the campaigns of the Word of Blake’s lunatic Jihad, where few Jade Falcons did.  There had been little glory in combat against the Blakists, just grinding, savage attrition enforced by the rampant use of nuclear weapons and other, worse means of mass devastation. There was a valuable lesson there in not simply presenting a foe with annihilation as the only option; the Blakists had done just that, and only succeeded in uniting the Spheroids and Clans both in extirpating them from the universe, their name spoken only as a curse. She’d even studied what information the Watch had on the Davion campaigns against the Taurians, where the latter had tried to make things a battle of annihilation from the outset - and only the fact that the Federated Suns had initially been fighting three opponents - Kuritans, Capellans and Blakists - their equal at once, and then the death of Nathaniel Hasek robbing the Davions’ MATADOR counter-offensive of its driving will, had stopped them from burning a path clear to Taurus with atomic fire. So far, the Lyrans had not unleashed their nuclear arsenal, and I must keep it that way. They can sustain such a war far better than we can.

The Mongols would drive the enemy to such extremes without a thought, convinced our superiority as warriors will always translate to victory even in such fighting.  I must bring us back onto the Honor Road, to save the Clan from the fate of the Blakists.  I need a way to break this battle in our favor soon, quickly, or this dezgra fool and the bloodfoul's other followers will pull something to bring that end about.

"Signal from the White Aerie, Galaxy Commander."  The comm-tech, a member of the technician caste, lifted her head from one station.  "They say a Sea Fox trading mission is approaching and requests permission to transit the Anomaly.  Star Admiral Crichell is of a mind to let them, but wishes you to confirm."

Sea Foxes.  Stephanie snorted in disgust.  As degraded as the Mongols and the traitor Wolves, if not as mad.  And still so very useful.  "Very well, allow them to pass, but only the Anomaly.  This world is under blockade."

Isaac barked a harsh laugh.  "So much for firmness.  The Chinghis Khan would have shot the merchants down as a warning to the rest."

"No, she would not have, because even Khan Malvina was wise enough to grasp that without the Foxes, degraded though they may be, we cannot function. Or would you prefer that your warriors go into battle without the ammunition they ensure our supplies of, or lacking replacement armor and BattleMechs, or without information on an enemy’s strength?" Stephanie retorted.  "So are you here to report, Star Colonel, or to malinger?  Your Cluster needs you, quiaff?"

That drew forth a snarl.  "We are repairing battle damage from our latest victories.  As soon as the Ninth is repaired I will return them to the battle.  While waiting I thought it proper to investigate how our campaign proceeds."

"We are winning," Stephanie answered drolly.  "That is how it proceeds."

He opened his mouth but stopped.  Yes, you do try my patience, she thought. Silence is wise if you don't want me to challenge you here and now.

"Galaxy Commander.  We have a transmission."  The commtech raised her head again.  "It is the enemy commander, he wishes to speak with you."

"If he is wise, it will be to surrender," Isaac said.  "My warriors are not disposed to taking prisoners for much longer."

Stephanie shot a glare his way before turning towards her holotank and the recorders she knew to be built into the base.  "Connect us, Technician Marilee."

The commtech obeyed promptly.  Within moments the holographic projection of Timkovichi was replaced by the image of their foe.  His turban was fresh and, she thought, his beard freshly trimmed. "General Labh."

"Galaxy Commander Chistu."  His expression was a grave one, which she'd expect for the man who was, by all appearances, losing this struggle.  "I am calling to arrange a new challenge.  One that will decide which of our forces withdraws."

"It is a little late to be considering a new Trial, General, unless this is how your side requests surrender."

"We have no intention to surrender." Singh nodded to someone out of view and moved aside.  Moments after he disappeared, a woman in an LCAF uniform stepped into view.  She was younger, by rank insignia only a leutnant, and struck Stephanie as a warrior freshly pulled from the battle.  "I am Leutnant Allison Palisser of the Timkovichi Armoured Guards," the woman said.  The name struck at Stephanie's memory.  "And this past August, I was one of the MechWarriors who claimed the victory over Khan Malvina Hazen."

At that moment, Stephanie realized precisely what they were up to.  She started considering the possibilities.

"I challenge you, Galaxy Commander Stephanie Chistu, to a Circle of Equals, as does the other MechWarrior that aided me in bringing down the Chinghis Khan, Lieutenant Evangeline Penton-Vallejo of the Eighth Strikers Brigade.  We will meet you and whichever warrior you select to fight at your side for the fate of Timkovichi.  The winner will grant hegira to the loser, and both sides will return all prisoners."

I see. Her mind went into the histories of the Invasion, and the fight for Coventry.  The Spheroids had offered hegira outright there, with their one commander who won a victory over the Clan during the fight for the planet.  This was different, but the spirit was the same; avoid a greater battle neither wanted to continue within the confines of Clan law.

"Accept me," Isaac hissed.  "let us avenge the Chinghis Khan!"

"Quiet!"  When I win, I will have accomplished all my goals.  I will have the victory on this planet and the distinction of having beaten those Malvina did not.  The Khanship will be mine.  But she could not commit right away, regardless.  There is more at stake here than that.  How much can I push them?  Let us see.

"I am inclined to accept, on one further condition."  Stephanie crossed her arms.  "Whomever wins, a truce shall stand between the Jade Falcon Clan and the Arcadians and Lyrans, ten years in duration, during which your forces will not engage ours, nor will the Arcadian forces be posted within two jumps of a Falcon-held world.  We will, for our part, halt our campaign against the Commonwealth during the truce."

Leutnant Palisser frowned in thought before turning away to face someone out of the recording field.  "One year." she countered.

Not enough.  Not nearly enough.  "Unacceptable.  You must give more."

"Three, then."

"I will go down to five. But no less.  Otherwise I do not accept, and we will continue this contest."  Stephanie did the calculations.  She dare not go lower, as much as she wanted this fight.  The Clan would need time to prepare, to rebuild from the Rending, consolidate their conquests, and if possible, find a way through the Fortress effect to take Terra and claim the title of ilClan.  They could not do any of that if the Arcadians devoted more to the war.

For a time nothing was said on the other end, with Palisser's head turned away.  After several seconds she turned her attention back to Stephanie.  "It is accepted."

That left one last issue.  "I imagine your fellow challenger will need to come from another system?" Stephanie asked.  "I know they were at Morges when we passed through, and that your people have the fax machine devices for continued communication."

After a moment's pause, Palisser nodded.  "Yes, she will."

"Then I grant safcon to the ship bearing her, and to that vessel alone, to land on Timkovichi.  The others may, if they wish, withdraw through the Anomaly, but may not come back before the Trial concludes."

"We accept these terms."

"Then it is settled.  Bargained well and done, Leutnant.  I look forward to our battle.  In the meantime, my warriors will refrain from further strikes on your holdings, should yours hold back as well.  Chistu out." With those words the commtech cut the transmission.

"Whom will be your second?" Isaac demanded.

"I imagine you wish it to be yourself," she said.  "Yet you have done nothing but dance the line of insubordination since coming under my command, Star Colonel, so why should I grant you this honor?"

"Because I am the strongest of the Chinghis Khan's followers here, and we demand vengeance," Isaac said.  "If you deny us, we will remember the insult."

And undoubtedly cause me trouble in the vote. "How very Mongol of you.  Even when pleading a favor, you bluster and threaten."  Stephanie considered her words carefully.  "I am inclined to grant you this chance, Star Colonel, on conditions."

"Name them."

"You will support our bargain with the Lyrans and Arcadians, whatever happens." Stephanie said.  "It is our shield to focus our efforts towards Terra.  Otherwise the Wolves may yet beat us to the prize."

She wasn't surprised at his frown.  "The Wolves will destroy the Lyrans anyway.  Why should we give up on more conquests?"

"Because we lack the warriors to hold them all and to continue the march on Terra," Stephanie barked.  "We can keep what we have, but we must focus on the desant if we are to beat the Wolves.  Even the Mongol Doctrine must bow to the needs of military necessity, quiaff?"

A very sour "Aff" was her reply.  "I will support your bargain with the freebirths."

"Then I choose you, Star Colonel, to fight at my side."

He saluted firmly at that.  "It will be a pleasure."  He said the words with such pleasure she wondered if she'd made a terrible mistake.

But I am committed now, and I will do what I must.  This is our way forward, to the return of the Falcons to the honored ways of the Founders, and our rise to IlClan.

Mercenary Units Profile[]

The Lucky Stars
Reinforced Battalion (1 Reinf. Coy. BattleMechs, 1 Reinf. Coy. Armor, 2 Coys. Inf (1 Jump, 1 Battle Armor)/Veteran/Reliable

CO: Lt. Col. Darren Huyten

A graduate of the War College of Mars, Darren Huyten served for twenty years in the Republic Armed Forces, from joining the V Principes Guard just prior to the Capellan Crusades, to retiring just prior to the Blackout. For a time, he dropped out of sight, eventually reappearing on Galatea in charge of a company of mercenaries, c. 3135. Since then, the Lucky Stars have served powers across the northern half of the Inner Sphere, from the Vegan Protectorate to - after their recent shift to Arc-Royal's hiring halls - the Lyran Commonwealth. Pride of place in their forces are their Clan tech-equipped BattleMechs and tanks, the most notable of which is Colonel Huyten's Doloire, maintained perfectly in the Primary configuration. This machine, and its condition - as well as the Lucky Stars' generally high level of technology - have given rise to the suspicion that Colonel Huyten somehow works for Republic Military Intelligence, but no evidence has shown up of that yet.

Metal Fire

Reinf. Battalion (2 Reinf. Coys. Armour (1 assault, 1 light), 2 Reinf. Coys. (Battle Armour; mechanized))/Regular/Reliable

CO: Force Commander Jesminder Harcourt

Originally Zhang's Heavy Mobile, Metal Fire have a well-earned reputation for being a solid, disciplined and relatively cheap command, with a deep antipathy for pirates and Jade Falcons (not that they make much distinction between the two). Founded by a former CCAF Major, Orin Zhang, who left House Liao's service shortly after the Jihad, their first two decades of existence were spent alternating between contracts with the Fronc Reaches, Calderon Protectorate and New Avalon Catholic Church, defending worlds from pirates alongside the Colonial Marshals, Calderon Guard and Knights Defensor. It was during one such pirate hunting contract that they picked up their present commander; Jesminder, taken as a slave by one particularly unpleasant pirate band, joined the Fire after they rescued her, working her way up from astech to second-in-command, and was elected commander when Force Commander James Paxton retired in 3138. With many of their contracts having been in regions close to the Federated Suns, much of Metal Fire's equipment has a distinctly Davion cast; most spectacularly the center piece of their assault tank company, a pair of Destrier superheavy combat vehicles], complete with Ballista trailers. Although - due to their low speed - rarely deploying into combat, it's a common sentiment among Metal Fire that just having them has won them plenty of battles.

  • Wiki Note: Mercenary units were created by Templar87 for Emergence Concert of the Sphere setting.

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