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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 46

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For Ambition's Sake[]

Political Pressures of War[]

Beta Galaxy Headquarters
Gallery, Donegal Province (Disputed)
Lyran Commonwealth/Wolf Empire
28th March, 3143

Seth Ward entered Alaric's headquarters in the company of a point of battle armor Elementals, looking every bit as stormy as the Galleryian weather outside. Alaric stood at respectful attention, flanked by Verena on one side and a bondcorded Anastasia Kerensky on the other, assorted Star Colonels and Star Captains of his command standing about as well while his mother, undoubtedly, watched from the office. Seth's eyes widened briefly at seeing Anastasia before his countenance turned hostile again. "I left you to safeguard our supplies for the advance. Now I am told we have lost weeks worth of necessary munitions. Are you so incapable, Alaric Wolf, that you could not even protect supplies?"

"I saved the majority of them, my Khan, and took as isorla the Alpha of the Wolf Hunters with a number of her warriors and lost machines." Alaric replied, responding to Seth's insult with a sort of bored patience. "My own staff concludes we have lost nothing but a few weeks. The Lyrans have bought themselves that time dearly, losing their most effective commander to our forces, and they would have lost more had I not also had to contend with the First Davion Guards."

"The Davions are here?" Seth's voice betrayed suspicion. "They have their own problems."

"They still have an alliance with the Commonwealth, and First Prince Caleb has evidently decided to honor that alliance." Alaric swept a hand towards a bank of holodisplays. "BattleROM footage is available, if you wish, as well as the records of their pirate point arrival. I feel confident in saying that if not for Julian Davion's forces, Jasek Kelswa-Steiner might also be here bearing a bondcord."

Seth remained quiet as he watched the footage. All of it. Alaric's victory over Anastasia, the skillful hiding away of most of their vital supplies. Suspicion showed in his eyes. "You knew they were coming? You knew and did nothing?"

"I knew nothing, I only suspected what Anastasia might do, so I made preparations."

Tense silence filled the following seconds. Seth glanced about to gauge the responses of the other warriors in attendance. "So just a guess. Nothing to encourage the matter, to undermine our Clan's victory for the sake of your personal glory?"

"My Khan, what other world would suffice?" Alaric asked pointedly. "They were going to come here because Gallery is the only suitable world to quickly gather and prepare the supplies we need. I anticipated this and acted accordingly. Regrettably I could not anticipate the arrival of the First Davion Guards to bolster my foes' ranks, but either way, I ensured the majority of our supplies were safe." He smiled a wolf's smile at his superior and foe. "This was why you left me to safeguard our stores, after all. Would you have trusted such a vital task to a lesser warrior?"

The look on Seth's face said the reply was "I should have". But he could hardly admit the real reason he insisted Alaric remain behind, to deny a political foe a chance for victories for his codex, and keep the glory of taking Tharkad for himself. Seth was politician enough to hide the sentiment and nod. "And you have done well enough, Galaxy Commander. A brief respite for our warriors, and a chance to see to the Trials of Position to fill out gaps in our touman, will be of use given the enemy's focus upon Tharkad."

"Might I suggest Gamma Galaxy maintain pressure on the Lyrans' holdings around Tharkad?" Alaric suggested. "The Lyrans will feel compelled to maintain forces on Gibbs, at the very least, to protect their last remaining source of JumpShips. When the assault begins, Gamma can join us for the descent on Tharkad while Epsilon Galaxy protects our rear."

Their eyes met. Seth's lips thinned. "You seek Beta's participation in the invasion of Tharkad."

"The First Davion Guards are likely to be there, among other Lyran formations, and the Sea Foxes report the Arcadians will be sending some force to protect Tharkad as well due to the new alliance." Alaric pointed out. "But Alpha and Beta together will form the core of a solid invasion force to smash the Commonwealth's last defense. Zeta Galaxy has likewise proven its readiness to fight, and we will have need of them should the Arcadians arrive before Tharkad falls."

"Yes. The short delay will make the enemy more formidable, and your assessment is sound." Seth said the words almost as an accusation. "Bargained well and done, Alaric Wolf. Bargained well and done indeed."

Bondswoman's thoughts[]

Dr. Nancy Corey Memorial Hospital

In the end Seth Ward stalked out of Beta Galaxy HQ in a quiet fury. As the door closed behind him, Anastasia considered what she'd just witnessed. Alaric walks a fine line. I always had an idea Khan Ward wasn't his biggest supporter, but the way they look, he's itching for an excuse to destroy Alaric without turning half the Wolf Council against him.

Of course, if Alaric were to fall, she would fall too. She was, after all, chalcas to many Wolves. Former Exile, former mercenary. If she wanted back in a 'Mech cockpit, Alaric was her ticket to it.

Or so he would think. And she would let him think that, so long as it was useful to her. If something did happen to him, she'd get back her own way, the Wolves be damned. Defeat is only ever momentary; and there’s always options to turn it around.

"Tassa." Alaric spoke the name with his usual bemusement at using her old alias from her days as a vagabond in the collapsing Republic. As if that should bother me; true, Tassa Kay was an identity she’d left far behind, but it was one that Anastasia had worn well while it still fitted her. "I need a count on the supply stores at the new Staging Ground Beta. They should be finished reclaiming and sorting the last salvage from the attack. See to it." He glanced her way. "Visual confirmation, in particular."

"Of course, Galaxy Commander." She nodded and turned away.

"Verena, go with her. I want to make sure there are no accidents."

A brief, wolfish snarl crossed Verena's face before it returned to her usual confident expression. "Of course, Galaxy Commander. Bondswoman, come."

Anastasia grinned at her. Who do you fear would be behind such an accident, Alaric? Your other warriors and technicians, or by Verena?

They departed the room and ventured to the motor pool. Verena checked out a personal vehicle, a confiscated civilian car of Lyran make, and after the technicians confirmed the storm tires were fresh they departed. Another thunderstorm was already forming on the horizon, but they would arrive at SG Beta with more than half an hour to spare before it hit.

Verena snatched the keys and barked, "Get in, bondswoman." She opened the driver side door and lowered into the vehicle without another word. Anastasia slid into the passenger side. "Seat belt." The snapped order was joined by a frown. "Should there be an accident on the roads, Alaric would hold me responsible if you were to be injured, or worse."

"And we wouldn’t want that, would we?" After several seconds of quiet defiance, Anastasia dutifully buckled herself in.

Verena turned her eyes forward and started the engine. Given the way they drove out of the car pool Anastasia imagined this was either to intimidate her personally or that Verena was as lousy behind the wheel as she was in the cockpit of a 'Mech. "You risk much, siding with Alaric so strongly when the Khan clearly wants to be rid of him."

"Alaric is a far greater warrior than Seth Ward, naturally that brings jealousy."

"I can believe it. He beat me, after all." Anastasia crossed her arms. "You should be happy. Now you’re the warrior and I’m not, at least, not officially."

"I would have rather you died. By my hand, preferably."

"It’s good to have goals, even unattainable ones."

Verena slammed the brakes so hard the tires squealed. Once all movement was stopped, her head whipped about to glare at Anastasia. "I will say this one. You are alive because Alaric wishes it so. Cross him in any way, fail him, and I will kill you." She paused, then added in a sharp, waspish tone, “And moderate your language.”

Anastasia stared at the enraged woman for a moment before grinning. "Point taken. Now, may I suggest we get going? There's a reason nobody drives in Gallerian weather."

Verena turned away and hit the gas. The tires made another short squeal before they began rocketing down the road once more.

Plotting with Mother[]

Alaric returned to his personal office and his waiting mother. The wizened old woman, wearing the gray leathers of the Wolf Clan, met his eyes as he journeyed to his seat. "He knows you set this entire thing up."

"Of course he did. But he cannot do anything about it. I protected the majority of the supplies and defeated our most relentless foe. He cannot dispute my victory, nor can he ignore the need he will have for Beta Galaxy when the time comes to land on Tharkad."

"He will come after you at some point," Katrina warned. "You are a clear threat to his authority. He will do everything in his power to deny you a Bloodname, otherwise you will be unstoppable."

"After we take Tharkad, yes. He will seek to destroy me, before I destroy him. I will deal with the problem when the time comes. And you need not worry I will underestimate him. I know full well what my Khan is capable of, and what it will take to defeat him."

"Good. Because it is only the first step." Katrina's lips shifted into a smile, undoubtedly the kind she'd once used to charm the gullible. "You will be Khan. And then you will take Terra. The Republic, that festering eyesore my brother helped create upon the face of the Inner Sphere, will be wiped away, and with it, all that remains of his legacy. And you will rule supreme as ilKhan and First Lord."

And you, undoubtedly, wish to rule through me, once you have achieved your vengeance. Alaric's thought on his mother's motives didn't show on his face. He never let her see such thoughts. "Do you look forward to it, Mother?" He asked the question without warning, and noted her puzzlement. "Returning to Tharkad, in triumph, to crush the children of those who opposed you?"

"It will be satisfying, yes," she admitted. "Perhaps I will redecorate the Triad, if permitted. I imagine the portraits of my siblings will make excellent kindling for my fireplace." Her eyes flashed with vindictive glee at the thought. After several moments she shook her head. "Ah, but I get ahead of myself. I once thought myself on the cusp of victory before, just to lose it in the end. The Lyrans seem beaten, and I doubt even Julian Davion's forces can save them, but these Arcadians may be a different matter."

"The Arcadians are sending troops, and their ruler will be at the head of his army. But the Sea Foxes report little to worry about in terms of their readiness. Their Inner Sphere is a peaceful place, with few battles to blood warriors, and their High King Nathaniel is not my father or any of the sort. He has never seen battle. Our experience will speak for itself when the battle is joined."

"A fair point, son." Katrina conceded. But he could still tell she was worried.

She is right to be. It would be one thing if the Falcons were descending on Tharkad as well, the Lyrans would fight both of us at least. But in number these forces might deny us a victory. But that is the risk we must take. "Ultimately we have no other recourse, Mother. If our ambitions are to be fulfilled, and my place secured, the Wolf Empire must survive and grow strong. That means Tharkad must fall." He leaned forward against his desk. "So fall it will."

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