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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 36

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Warriors' Rede[]

Splitting Off[]

AFS Charles Sinclair, Inbound
Timkovichi System, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (disputed)
30th January, 3143

The return of OpForce Siegfried to Timkovichi was a tense matter.  They burned in at a 1.5G pace, not too difficult for the crews if fatiguing after a few days.  On final approach Evan's Kell Hound and the Clan Wolf DropShips broke away burning out to a safe distance rendezvous with the Epaminondas and her force.  The remaining ships, bearing the Eighth Strikers and the Hounds from the other side, continued their deceleration burning for orbit over those last couple of hours.

Tensions rose among these ships, escorted in by the Sara Proctor, Epaminondas, and Cuchulainn plus their escorting DropShips, as they approached the orbital space.  The Jade Falcon WarShips loomed ever-larger on the holotanks, including that in the command center of the Charles Sinclair.  General Bridger, feeling his years with the extra gravitates pushing him into the deck plates, stood quietly beside his commanders and Colonel Martinez. Khan Patrik and Evan Kell were present, riding on the Sinclair while their troops would remain in a holding pattern to see how things went.  "I don't like being this close," Evan growled.  "Any moment those bastards might just open up on us."

"If need be we'd cut our deceleration velocity, begin maneuvers, and run for the Glass," Martinez said.  "But not all of us would make it. I think, unless Captain Winters and her force are very quick to intercept incoming fire."

"Chistu has honored safcon so far," Patrik rumbled.  "But it makes me long for the WarShip fleet our Clan once fielded."

"Flash traffic from Colonel Ward and Colonel Patel," a comm officer said.  "'We'll see to the delivery ASAP.  Good luck and Godspeed'."

"Pull us from the course to the Glass, helm." said Martinez.  "Make for the landing site at Field Base Carroll."

"Aye sir."

The Charles Sinclair's lateral thrusters fired, pushing her away from the other DropShips and WarShips.  The large collection of aerodyne and spheroid DropShips bearing Colonels Ward and Patel and their comrades continued on their course to the persistent blue field that, even now, followed Timkovichi on its course around its star.  "The damn thing is so odd." Martinez mumbled.

"What do you mean by that, Colonel?" Evan drawled.

Martinez indicated the image.  "The Glass.  It has no mass that we can discern, it shouldn't be influenced by gravity, but yet, it is.  It's remained in orbit over Timkovichi from the day of the misjump.  It doesn't follow the planet's rotation, but it does follow its orbital path around the star."

"A peculiar mystery indeed, but one best left to the scientists to decipher, as is their rede. We are warriors, and have our own redes to follow." Patrik said.

On the viewer, the WarShips started pulling away as well, burning away from Timkovichi and leaving the DropShips.  One by one they went through the Glass, disappearing within the intense blue light of the field.

"We have a landing course from traffic control." the helmsman confirmed.  "Deceleration burn has us down to proper orbital entry speed, preparing for landing."

"COB, sound landing alarm, all hands to landing stations."  Martinez sat in his chair and pulled his harness on.  The other harness-bearing guest-chairs magnetically set onto the bridge soon bore Bridger and the others.

"Aye sir."  The ship's Chief of the Boat, Master Sergeant Phillips, brought over a microphone tying into the ship's intercom.  "All hands, landing stations, I repeat, all hands, landing stations."

Silence settled over the bridge, allowing Martinez and his crew to do the job of bringing them in for a landing.  Here's hoping these kids can pull this off, Bridger thought.  Or we'll be leaving again soon enough.

Field Base Carroll Briefing[]

Field Base Carroll HQ
Timkovichi System, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth (disputed)

Field Base Carroll HQ was a busy place even without its new arrivals, but now it was packed.  Bridger, Patrik, and Evan led some of their respective command officers in and were met by the assembled officers of the defensive effort.  Salutes were exchanged.  Nadia followed up her salute with "Good to see you back, Colonel.  I was wondering if we'd ever meet again."

"Well, wonder no longer."

"General Singh."  Bridger accepted the salutes of Singh and his officers. "You've met Colonel Kell.  This is Khan Patrik Fetladral of the Warden Wolves of Arc-Royal, they joined us for the Morges operation and followed us here."

"Khan, an honor."  Singh nodded his turbaned head in respect.  "Welcome to Timkovichi.  These are the commanders of the mercenary units, Force Commander Harcourt of Metal Fire and Lieutenant Colonel Huyten of the Lucky Stars, and Major Tanhause of the Timkovichi Armored Guards.  As well, my subordinates in the Second Royal…"  He introduced the 'Mech regiment and brigade commanders one by one.

Patrik nodded back.  After the introductions concluded, he said, "It is an honor to meet you all.  Your warriors do you, and your people, credit.  They have faced a superior foe, and acquitted themselves with courage and honour; I doubt even my own Alpha Galaxy could have done more."

"I regret that we could not prevail outright."

"Against Delta Galaxy and all those extra units Chistu picked up, you've held well enough" Evan offered. "Not many units could've done better."  As sympathetic and genuine as his words were, they still didn't take the grim cast on Singh's face off.

Bridger understood perfectly.  The Second Royal Cuirassiers were summoned to protect Timkovichi, and they'd ultimately failed in that task, even if they'd fought as well as could be expected.  If only we'd had the First Lancers, or another outfit, brought through as well.  If only they'd had a proper damn fleet ready to intervene and not half a dozen jumps away!  The planners back in Roslyn let these people down.

"So where is this going down?" asked Laguna. "I'll be briefing my pilot once we're done, let her get some time with info on her opponents."

Nadia did the honors of operating the holotank, highlighting what looked to have been a small town center near Cirenholm.  "Khan Chistu picked here, the abandoned town of Martenholm.  The place got wrecked in Malvina's original invasion and local authorities didn't get it rebuilt before the Falcons returned, so it's an open area.  We had a fight here just before this duel was arranged but all the salvage has been cleared out, though it has left some impressive rubble piles and a few more busted buildings."  A second button press brought up a white dome around and over the city.  "So the way this works is, nobody else goes within five kilometers, just a couple marked observation vehicles, one per side.  Airspace is likewise restricted out to twenty kilometers.  Lieutenant Palisser and Lieutenant Penton will approach from the northwest, Chistu and her second, Star Colonel Roshak, from the southeast.  They stop at one kilometer from each other until her appointed Oathmaster gives the go signal, then they fight until one side's down, leaves the circle, or accepts hegira."

"Not good odds of that last one?" asked Bridger.

Nadia shook her head. "Chistu can't be too lenient, I guess, the Mongols won't let her.  And her second is one.  Star Colonel Isaac Roshak of the Ninth Talon."

Evan snarled.  "That bastard.  Word is he massacred a whole battalion of surrenderin' soldiers on Graceland.  And the Ninth are some of the worst of the Mongol bunch."

"We bloodied their noses outside Faubourg a few days into the invasion, so he's probably aching for payback too." Harcourt added.

"The fight's in two days.  Chistu insisted," Singh said.  "So it'll give our young pilots a day to train together and get Lieutenant Penton her land legs back."

"Galaxy Commander Chistu's haste makes sense.  She would have hoped to overwhelm you with her forces in a week or two of fighting." said Patrik.  "You denied her a swift victory, and it undoubtedly undermines her intent to win the Khanship."

Evan shook his head at that. "Unfortunately it probably makes the Mongols look sweeter to most of the undecided Falcons.  Easy winning instead of hard fighting."

"Such as it is with dezgra like them, preferring unearned victories to honorable combat."  Patrik smiled grimly. "This is her attempt to cement a clean victory by Clan tradition despite the setback, and it will let her return in triumph should she prevail.  Her fate if she fails, I imagine, will be to face a challenge by the Mongols, and she would never become Khan.  She will fight to the death."

"What I'd like to know is why you sent your troops back through the Glass, General?" Huyten asked.  "If push comes to shove, we could've used them."

"We've still got Khan Patrik's people and your side's First Kell Hounds out there," Bridger answered, "so we've got backup if it comes to it, and if we can get them planetside.  But our ships are bearing the wounded we picked up from Morges, as well as wounded troops, so they're on their way to Atocongo on our side.  Additionally, they're carrying our reports back to Arcadia as well as a few other important communications."

Huyten nodded his head in acceptance. "Fair enough.  I suppose they'd just get bombed to death with us if the Falcons decided to start shooting."

"My thought exactly, yes."  And now it's all down to those two young women, thought Bridger.  One of whom I'm worried isn't up to the task.  We're going to need a little divine providence it seems…

Overcoming Fears[]

For Eva, the feel and view of Field Base Carroll was understandably different from when the Eighth left four months before.  Anti-vehicle hedgehogs were already stacked and ready for deployment and a number of defensive positions were dug in various points along the access roads.  They were joined by ferro-crete tank traps and firing positions and prepared gun emplacements.  Most of the infantry were in an assortment of suits, mostly the Standard Infantry power armor with a few heavier sets around, carrying automatic gauss rifles that would be crew-served squad weapons for earlier unpowered infantry.

She shifted in the back seat of the GUSV — General Use Support Vehicle, often shortened to "Goose-V" or "Goose" — and noticed Kevin was giving her a worried glance.  In front of them, a private from the Eighth's support services unit was at the wheel, diligently watching the road.  "They're ready for a fight." she said, hoping it might divert Kevin's attention.

"Looks like it.  Are ye ready for yours, Eva?"

Damn him. "About as much as I can be."  It was the simple truth, which said nothing about the dread in her stomach, so strong that during the burn in it'd nearly caused her to puke while running reactivation tests on her restored 'Mech.  A new 375XL engine was at the heart of her cored machine now, ready to power what she was assuming would be her last battle.

"Stop's up here, sirs." the driver said, indicating the central building.
"Thanks, Private, don't bother waiting.  We might be a while."

They were let out in front of the side entrance of the Base HQ.  Inside a waiting clerk with corporal stripes brought them to a small meeting room.  The holo-projector was active but not loaded with anything.  Eva went over and took a seat.

Kevin joined her. "Alright, we have time to talk before Lieutenant Palisser arrives.  Ye've been eaten up for two weeks now, Eva.  Everyone can see it.  Ye can't just keep it in."

She drew in a breath, not daring to meet his eyes for fear he'd see what was behind them. "Honestly, sir, I can, and I will.  I have to."

"You're scared, aye.  We're all scared, always are, when fights come.  But ye act like ye're waiting for the gallows.", Kevin said to her

How fitting.  She chuckled at that, a dark, despairing little laugh.  "Aren't I?" she asked.  "Lieutenant—"

"'Kevin' will do, we're not talking as a lance loo and his MechWarrior, we're comrades.  Like we were at the start of this madness."

Yeah.  Before Lieutenant von Krager and Tom MacDonald died, and then Lieutenant Norton.  She glanced at his face before pulling her eyes away again.  He's the only one left from before that day.  The only one.  I can't let him down. "Kevin.  Let's… let's be honest here.  I'm going to go out in a couple days, fight one of the Clanners' best, and she's going to kill me.  I'm… I'm going to do what I can, I'm not going to run, but there's no way I can beat their best.  I'm not good enough.  I might've died in that first fight if Captain Kincaid hadn't come in and helped, and Hazen killed her with a single shot."  She swallowed and took a breath.  "And Great X, they hammered us, remember?  We didn't have many losses but… they still did a lot of damage.  And I should've died on Morges.  They cored my machine, had me dead to rights."  As she spoke her voice began to shake.  She tried to get it under control but couldn't.  Her fear of her impending death was too strong, too solid, to drive off.  "I know death's part of a MechWarrior's life.  My parents and uncles and aunts and cousins all warned me.  My instructors at the Nagelring warned me.  But it was just… there wasn't much of it anymore, right?  I just never thought of it as something we'd face.  But now it's here and it's killing everyone around me and… I'm having trouble handling it."  She waited to see if he'd say something, but something in his eyes told her he wasn't going to.  He'd seen the same death, after all, and was only a couple years her senior.  This was all new to him too.

After a short pause she continued.  "I don't want to die, Kevin, and I know I am.  And what's worse is, everyone thinks I'm some hero because I helped get that last shot on Hazen, like that pub back on Arc-Royal, all those Wolf warriors and the Hounds, they act like I'm some badass ace hero when I'm just a stupid kid who wanted to be like my parents."  She choked back her tears, which refused to cease.  "I'm a fraud.  No hero. And I'm scared I'm going to not just die but let everyone down.  I'm scared she's going to just take a single shot, boom, I'm dead, she wins, the Clans win, and I'll have died for nothing.  Just… letting everyone down, all these brave Roy-Cees who've been trying to hold the planet, having to leave because Eva Penton wanted to be a hero and couldn't hack it."  She stopped there, in part because it was taking everything to not dissolve into despair, and because she had nothing left to say. It was out there, and now she had to wait for his judgment.

"Ah, Eva, lass…  Ye've nothing to prove." Kevin said.  "Ye're better than ye think, I'll say, but…  in your place I'd be swallowing down fear pretty hard too."  He took a chair and leaned in towards her.  "Don't worry about the expectations.  Remember yer training, keep yer head, and ye might just surprise folk."

"He's right."

Eva turned her head towards the door.  Though it'd been a few months, she recognized Allison Palisser, now wearing an LCAF field uniform and not sporting an injury like the last time.  She took in a breath before asking, "You've been listening?"

"Didn't catch it all," Allison admitted.  She smiled thinly. "Just enough.  And you’re not wrong to be scared, Eva; anybody sane would be.  I know I am. We’re taking on the best the Falcons have left to throw at us, and this is for pretty much all the marbles. But, well," another thin smile, "I figure Ian Davion said it best; 'Courage isn't not being afraid, it's being afraid and doing what you've gotta do anyway'. So, I've got every battleROM recording of Chistu and this Roshak clown we could put together, if you'd like to view them with me.  We can figure out how to survive after all."

"If ye don't mind, I'd like to stay and give advice, if I've any to give." Kevin asked.

"Oh, all for it, Lieutenant Kilroy."

Eva nodded. "Yeah, I'd like you to stay too.  You might see something we don't."

"Pleased to be of service, then."

Letter to Family[]

The planning session went well enough, even if it confirmed most of Eva's fears.  Those occasions when Chistu took the field she was a force of nature, her shots on target and her maneuvers skillful and quick.  Roshak was a sledgehammer by comparison; brutal, direct, and hard-hitting.  He didn't care about getting hit himself so long as he was tearing a foe apart in the process.  Kevin gave his suggestions while Eva and her new partner considered their strategy; the following day they'd do some maneuvers together to get in sync before the big fight.

With all of that past, and the end of the day fast approaching, Eva found herself at the table in her bunk space on the Charles Sinclair. A plain sheet of paper sat before her, an erasable pen laid on it.  She stared at it for several minutes, collecting her thoughts before she'd put them to paper.

When she was ready, Eva reached her hand out, claimed the pen, and started to write.

Dear Mom and Dad,

When this gets to you, I'll be dead.  You'll be told why, and I hope we pull it out in the end, but I'll be gone anyway.  I'll do my best whatever happens, I promise, I don't want to let you down.  After everything you went through in the war, the least I could do for you is to die with courage, even if I'm having trouble finding it.  Because I'm really scared.  The way these Clanners fight is something else.  Like their 'Mechs are just part of their bodies, it feels like.  I'm not sure I could ever be that good.  And I know I'm not now.  I can't win this fight.  I know I can't.  All I can do is try to make it last before my opponents kill me.

I'm scared.  So scared.

The tears in her eyes forced her to stop briefly, to wipe them clear, before continuing.

I'm scared to die.  And I'm scared I'll let everyone down.  This fight is supposed to be for the planet.  All these people will end up under the Falcons and it'll be my fault for not being good enough.  I wanted to be like you, to be a hero fighting for the Federation and House Proctor, but now I feel like a fraud.  Like picking this life is the greatest mistake I've ever made, and it's going to kill me and hurt a lot of people, because I'm not cut out for this.  I'm not good enough.

Writing the words helped.  She would have preferred saying them to her parents, of course, and getting to see them one last time, even if it meant seeing the disappointment on their faces.  But at least she was talking to them, in a way.  At least they would know how sorry she was for her failures, and how much she wanted to do the right thing.

But I can't undo my choices.  I'm a MechWarrior of the Federation, I'm a Sunhawk, and I have a duty to perform, whatever it costs.  I'm going to go and be brave now.  Whatever happens, I love you, and I'm proud to have been your daughter.

A sense of closure settled over her spirit.  She'd said her goodbyes, expressed her fears, and made everything as clear as she could.  There was nothing left to do but focus on the fight, give it her all, and die well.



With that final note, she folded the paper up, set it into the envelope, sealed it, and wrote her parents' name and address across it.  It wouldn't get to them for months, long after the official death notification from the AFRF would arrive, and probably after the service they'd hold.  She could only hope it'd give them, if not peace, understanding.

With the letter prepared and placed into her effects, Eva settled onto the bunk to get some much needed sleep.  Tomorrow would be training, and the day after, her doomsday.  And though the fear of death would yet claw and choke her being, she would face it as her parents had, and their parents, and so many others.  She'd obey her oath to the last.  That was all there was to it.

All things considered, Eva slept surprisingly well.

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