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Fate Can be Cruel (Book 2) - Chapter Cover

Fate Can Be Cruel
Chapter 15 - Year 3010
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January[]


1st January 3010
Thazi, Hegemony (Periphery)

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell prepared herself for the yearly overview of the Hegemony. She really wished the Director-General would at least attend these meetings, but no seemed to be able to convince him to. She had her notes already gathered up, she stood and mentally prepared herself, grabbed her mug of coffee and strode for the conference room.

An armed guard nodded and opened the conference room door and she walked thru, the door closing behind her. "At ease everyone, not the first time we have done this, won't be the last." She said as she took her seat and pulled out her notes, laying them in front of her. She took a sip of coffee and said "Let's begin, I want to start off with recruitment and training today."

Major General Carl Von Strauss cleared his throat before starting off. "I will start off with a big number, currently, with our current unit roster needing to be filled out, we need 66 Regiments of Mechwarriors. For you that are lacking math skills, that is 9,504 Mechwarriors. This does not take into account normal replacement troops for retiring or discharged troops. If we factor that number in, we are looking at just over 200 to continue filling those slots out. Since we are not on a war time footing, we have not frozen those that choose to leave. We also need a further 400 to account for those we rotate into the Sphere for the various "Mercenary" commands. Lucky for us, there is not a major war going on that would impact those units with heavy casualties. The pirate raid on the 250th was the largest loss, but mainly in conventional troops and support troops.

Currently, recruitment and screening shows we can easily meet our goals. But we are lacking on the training side. I feel we need to either enlarge out Mechwarrior training classes or add additional. We are currently geared to top out at 1,200 Mechwarriors per year graduating starting with the first enlarged class next year. To meet our assigned mobilization schedule, I need the graduating number to reach 2,200 per year unless we halt transferring troops to the Mercenary commands. It has been shown that a tour of 4-6 years with them see's roughly 30% choosing to retire upon return to the Hegemony for various reasons.

Aerospace training is on track and we should be able to meet all graduating numbers for the mobilization schedule of both the ground forces and naval forces. Next year the enlarged graduating classes will start graduating at a rate of 1,100 per year. We had planned on 400 per year, but after speaking with Admiral Tanaka, he opened up and increased the Fleet Aerospace school's size. So I can now assign our 400 pilots to the ground forces, but would like a cushion and increase that to 600 pilots per year starting in 3015 if approved really soon.

Infantry recruitment and training are actually exceeding our goals. We currently have 48,278 scheduled to graduate next year. That number includes standard infantry, jump infantry and power armor troops. According to our numbers, starting next year, we should see that number stay steady for the duration. Since they only go thru a 4 year course, 2 years training and 2 years of advanced training before moving to the line commands.

Armor is as good as the infantry, recruitment and training will exceed our projections. Currently we have 17,894 scheduled to complete training next year and join the line commands. We project that number to remain steady for the duration. Again the shorter course helps us maintain this number easily.

Now for our massive problem. That is with the LAM pilot training program. We are having problems in this area, but not for a lack of recruitment. It is a lack of excellent candidates that can handle the complex machines. We have not changed anything from how they did it back at the start, but we are missing something. Where they used to field hundreds of LAM trained personnel, we are having problems even graduating 40 per year, with an overall 74% failure rate of candidates. We also have a 17% death rate from training accidents. I just have no clue how to correct this problem. If I thought you all would support it, I would recommend shutting it down completely."

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell saw General Bernard Mercer, Ground Forces Commander, squirm in his chair some. She knew he was about to explode at the thought of losing his precious LAM units. After all, he was a LAM qualified pilot himself. She held up a hand to cut him off before he got started.

"Easy Bernard, we are not taking away your LAMs but, I think you need to take those problem by the horns and help find the answer to it. Losing 17% to training accidents is not good. So, get out of the office and over to the LAM school and help sort this problem out." She said and got a nod in response.

"Okay, increase training where ever you think we need it, Carl. I lay out the structure; it is your job to fill it. We will not cut those commands in the Sphere off. So nothing changes there at all. Okay Admiral Tanaka, let's get the huge money tocket out of the way." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell said

Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka smiled slightly as he started speaking. "I am so happy to feel the love in this room. Since you asked, here you go. I want to build 9 modified Texas Class Battleships. I want to use them as Drone Control ships. They will remain the same as our current builds but, have an increased Aerospace compliment of 120 fighters with a slight reduction in cargo space. This along with the planned 6 Titan Fighter-Carrier Dropships will give each Drone Division 228 Aerospace fighters for both escort and additional strike packages as needed. The Drones have shown more promise than I expected but, I damn sure want a human in the loop on any decisions. These are not the drones of the past but, actually interstellar capable warships that could. In an emergency, be sent on a mission anywhere in the Inner Sphere without any human being with them. I pray this never happens, the damned things are tough nuts to crack and I do not relish having to hunt them down if they go rogue on us. And before any of you ask. Yes, each Drone is equipped with a Self Destruct charge just like the originals. Unlike the originals, it is not a weakness an enemy can exploit, since we hardened it as much as we could from hostile fire.

Each Drone Control ship will have plenty of nuclear ordinances for both offensive strikes against a hostile. It also has 12 500KT warheads expressly for use against any rogue Drone. No matter what the designers want, I refuse to add in any additional point defense systems. If I have to launch on a Drone, I want to be able to be assured my strike gets thru and puts it down quickly. I want 3 Squadrons of 3 Divisions of the Drones. One for each Fleet and a third one for here at home or a rapid response force. That is 3 Texas Battleships and 18 M6 Caspar Drones per Squadron.

I also want an additional 8 Potemkin Transports built. This will assist in any deployments of the ground forces. At least then, I can work out a damned refit and maintenance schedule that makes sense. Now for my biggest little bombshell. Even though we can deploy anywhere in the Inner Sphere from here, I want a damn fleet base capable of repairing our ships closer to where the action might happen. I want to reactivate the Odessa Fleet Base in the Lyran Commonwealth. We have Columbus Station for repairs on that front. We have nothing at all on the other side. It damned sure would be cheaper than building a fresh one somewhere. Our little base in the Federated Suns, Versailles, well building a Fleet Base there would probably reveal it to prying eyes, too much radio chatter would be needed."

"I knew you would be expensive. You can build your ships, but for right now, we hold off on reactivating the Odessa station. The risk of discovery is just too high for that. I will let you build 2 more Newgrange-Class Yardships, worst case we use them as a forward repair base until such time as we locate a suitable location. Refresh my memory, wasn't there another SLDF Fleet Base out that way?" Commanding General Mitchell asked

Admiral Tanaka consulted his portable computer before answering. "Yes, located in the Dark Nebula, near the old Rim Worlds border. We searched it a long time ago and found that Kerensky stripped the hell out of the place. We never got around to searching for the Outpost 27 Amaris had building Dart-Class Light Cruisers way back. We still have the location, but the coordinates put it a long damned ways from where I would like it located."

"Okay, thank you, I could not remember the information. I have been too busy refreshing my information on some of those old SLDF caches we know about. Not that we need the equipment or anything from them, but it is nice to have the location in case we do need them. You may continue to search for a suitable site, but it has to be secure. We cannot afford to have any of the Houses trip over it." Commanding General Mitchell replied before continuing "Okay Rebecca, enlighten us on all the evils in the universe."
Rebecca Ebon, Hegemony Security took a sip of water before starting her brief. "All efforts to penetrate Wolf's Dragoons have failed. However, as far as we can tell, so has every attempt by all the other intel sevices out there. We are still tracking Snord's Irregulars, since they were formed by a former member of the Dragoons. No way would any Clan commander allow someone to put the mission at risk by just leaving like that. I still suspect that this Cranston Snord is still a part of the Dragoons, kind of like how we use the 250th Battlemech Division and the others.

Comstar is still playing their games by arming pirates and having them cause trouble on the Lyran and Combine border, but they are not playing games anywhere near us. We are getting some distressing reports from Novo Franklin. The damned place has slid further into the dark ages. There are nor 55 different little kingdoms on that planet. Our problem is Comstar still operates a damned HPG station there, so we are limited in our options. We still control ROM Internal Security completely. So, we have a good portion of their Information and Analysis, which handles reading everyones messages. Comstar still has not mentioned any other hidden worlds, not after we took Versailles from them many years ago. Either they ceased using them or they have gone to a extremely high security level concerning them.

We are watching Anton Marik a little closer, he is still pissed that his brother executed his friend Willis Crawford in 3003. We are not sure yet, but we think he is talking with Chancellor Liao. He might make a play against his brother. If he does, that will not be good and could destabilize the region.

The Lyran Commonwealth is firmly in Archon Katrina Steiner's hands. We were worried when she overthrew her uncle Alessandro Steiner, but those worries did not bear fruit, thank god.

Other than that, everything is pretty much the same as it was last year."

"We still track all known derelict warships correct?" Commanding General Mitchell asked

"Very closely. Currently, there are 12 inside the Draconis Combine, but 4 of those are actually in a mothball status with an another is in orbit of New Samarkand. The Federated Suns has 13 inside it's borders and they are pretty badly shot up. Liao has none, while Marik has 4 inside its border. In meanwhile, the Lyran's have 7 that we know of. The Taurians have a single beat up Vincent Mk 39-Class Corvette. We estimate it will be a very hard ship to return to service." Rebecca Hallis said

"Keep a close eye on them. Any moves or attempts to return any to service, I want to know about it. Okay folks, let's break for lunch." Commanding General Mitchell said.

After Lunch was over and only half the officers filed back into the conference room, civilians filled out the now empty seats. Commanding General Michelle Mitchell always dreaded the civilian side of these briefings. They always seemed to kill her with numbers and graphs. She looked at her coffee cup and wished it was filled with something stronger. Once everyone was seated, she took a deep breath and steadied her nerves. "Thank you for coming everyone, let's not get too buried in the fine details today please. Just give me the highlights and a quick everything is running fine or a we have a problem. It would be much appreciated." Even as she said it, she knew it was falling on deaf ears. The civilians all loved to talk and throw up their carefully prepared graphs. Robert Franklin, Hegemony Research and Technology opened his folder and waited for Commanding General Mitchell to nod. Once she did he started his briefing. "With the declaration of an emergency, additional funding was released for military research and design. I will not go into the specifics of these research programs due to classification, but there are several showing promise. Medical research continues and we now boast an average life of 143 years of age across our population. This is the highest life expectancy ever seen in Human development. While the Star League, mainly those inside the Terran Hegemony could boast an equal rate, their true average was 141 years of age, while the Houses managed to average 101 years of age.

We are currently researching a hardier crop for use on those planets which resist easy terraforming, and there are several out in the newer Star Clusters we are slowly colonizing. Research on Terrforming continues and several new methods are in the testing phase as we speak. Overall, things are just peachy."

Commanding General Mitchell sighed at the small dig at the end, but she knew she had asked for it. She nodded to Carter Mason, Minister of DoME and Colonization for him to take over. He smiled broadly, as he always did. "It has been an exciting time for DoME. Thanks to General Mitchell's efforts, DoME has expanded to 20 full teams which has allowed us to work on multiple projects at the same time. I am glad to report that we have finally completed installing a Olympus Recharge Station at each jump point in every system of Blommestein, Onverwacht and Trader Provinces. Drachenfeld has 2 stations and we are currently working on New Sierra and Richmond's World and should be completed in the next 2 years.

Work inside Star Cluster Briceno 1 continues. We have now identified a total of 11 planets that are targets for terraforming with work begun on 6 of them. We selected those 6 because they should be the easiest to complete. Estimates are 5 years for the easiest of the 6 to 12 years for the hardest. Estimates for the remaining 5 run from 20 years to 35 years. Rayson's Delight has reached a population of 1.9 million and we have applications for colonists steadily coming in.

Star Cluster 65 survey has been completed and we have identified 3 habitable planets which require no terraforming and another 3 systems which will require terraforming. Current estimates are 10-30 years to complete the needed work. I recommend that we begin colonization of this Star Cluster on the 3 planets which are safe for colonization. Please note that all estimates for completion assume we continue to get our current funding levels. We are okey dokey."

This one caused Commanding General Mitchell to smile slightly. Might as well let them have some fun, lord knows this is the boring part, she thought. "Thank you Carter, I will bring forward your recommendations to the Director-General." Before she could continue, a knock at the door made her pause. "Enter."

An aide to the Director-General entered and moved directly to her side, handing her a note. She took the note, read it and stood "The briefing is concluded, the Director-General needs me."



Director-General Office
Thazi, Hegemony (Periphery)

Director-General Mark Cameron had just finished a late lunch when Commanding General Michelle Mitchell entered his private dining room. He smiled as she took a seat across from him. "Thank you for coming so quickly, Michelle. Please help yourself, there is more than I can finish off."

"Thank you sir, but I have already eaten." She replied but she reached across for the pitcher of water and poured herself a glass. "How may I be of service, your note said very important but nothing else."

"It is not a security threat, you know that, it would have come to you first. This concerns a report filed by a survey ship conducting system checks near the Magistracy of Canopus. Seems there was a Star League Research facility on the planet Frobisher. Most of the equipment is in disrepair, but it seems the Star League conducted research on humans there. They modified people to live under water and they are still there. I assume you have seen the report?" Director-General Mark Cameron explained

"I have not seen that particular report. It is probably in my inbox cache, but I confess I do not read copies of every report sent in. There is only so much time." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied

"Well, in any case. The Star League conducted these tests and since we are the closest thing to that Star League existing, I think we need to take care of these people. I want you to organize a mission to either repair and maintain long term care, or to see if it is viable to transport them back here. The report said that the survey team had made contact with the survivors and they report a population of about 25,000. When you get back to your office, check your inbox, I forwarded you the specific information on the research facility and the tests done there. I would like the mission to depart as soon as possible." Director-General Mark Cameron said

"I will make the arrangements. With the operations in the Tortuga Dominions, this will stretch us a little thin on shipping if we have to maintain long term provisions for both Frobisher and the Dominions." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied

"I am sure we can handle both operations at the same time. I may not attend the meetings, but I have seen and heard your reports enough that I can guess what is being asked and said. Admiral Tanaka is going to want more transports, always does. Well approved. If it will assist us in doing our duty, then we spare no expense. Those people deserve our assistance and we will not shirk from our inherited duty." Director-General Mark Cameron said

Michelle could not help but smile inwardly. Finally, he is being decisive on a subject without my slight pushing. She thought be.

15 January 3010
Thazi (Hegemony)

Commodore Fergus McConnell had brought his ship, the Riga-Class Transport, SLS Yosemite, per his orders. He only knew the basics, that he would be taking on multiple Dropships along with the 288th Hussar Regiment for a long distance deployment. The moment he had arrived, he had been ordered to take his ship to the orbital shipyard for a maintenance check while all the various Dropships, personnel and equipment were brought in from across the Hegemony. Once the maintenance was begun, he had orders to report to the surface for a more in depth briefing about his mission.

New Port Royal (Tortuga Dominion)

Lieutenant General Braxton Myers, commander of the 3311st Brigade, smiled as he read the message reporting that the campaign to secure the Tortuga Dominions was complete except for random mop up and security actions. Major combat operations were complete. He wondered to himself if the Hegemony was going to actually off these people the option to join the Hegemony. Since their operations on New Port Royal had ended, he had requested additional medical personnel and supplies to treat the civilian population in an effort to win some hearts and minds, just in case.

He still had no orders for Barkers Bombers since their particular skills would only really be needed if the Dominions joined the Hegemony. Worst case, if the people of the Dominions elected to remain independent. He would gladly offer Barker and his people to join the Hegemony fully. It would give the Hegemony a core to build one of the Independent Regiments around and he was sure Barker and his folks would just love a full upgrade on all their equipment.

Versailles (Hegemony, Federated Suns space)

Since retaking Versailles from Comstar, it had taken over a century to fully "deprogram" the population. Enough local industry had been built to keep the local population quite comfortable, even by Hegemony standards. The schools and medical facilities were first rate. They had done away with Comstar's everyone around a single city and they had established several more cities on the primary continent. The massive Battlemech Factory had been installed inside a massive mountain and underground complex, along with all the supporting industries needed to support it. The only thing that had not been brought in or constructed was orbital facilities for Endo Steel.

Recruitment for the Hegemony Armed Forces had not begun until the late 2980's, and had only recently been increased. Production from the various industries along with the Battlemech Factory was kept to a low, maintain skills level. Every 4 months, a transport arrived from the Hegemony to take on and drop off cargo ships. With 24 production lines, the Battlemech Factory was capable of rivaling any complex within the Inner Sphere, but produced a mere 36 Battlemechs per year, 12 Stinger STG-3R, 12 Thunderbolt TDR-5S and 12 Archer ARC-2R models. With no official ownership outside the Hegemony Armed Forces, it was carried on the books as Reserve Industrial Complex Alpha.

Garrison for the planet was on a rotation of 2 years, which before the mobilization, had been between several RCT's. But now, the garrison had been increased to a full Independent Battlemech Regiment, currently the 201st Battle Regiment, along with a full Conventional RCT and permanent Aerospace Group of 18 Aerospace Fighters. The last supply transport had dropped off several engineers from Mitchell Industries who had spent the last few weeks going over the Battlemech Factory.

February[]


1 February 3010
Zetang (Hegemony)
Livingston Naval Base
Fleet Admiral Tomlin Tanaka could not help but smile as he stood looking out the broad window of the shipyard that was just starting work on the first Texas-Class Battleship Drone Control ship. This half of the vast cavern held a massive assortment of shipyards and their supporting factories. Inside the 200km X 200km cavern were 12 Unpressurized Shipyards able to handle up to 2.5 million tons, 24 Pressurized Shipyards able to handle 1 million tons, 24 Pressurized Shipyards able to handle 500K tons and 24 Pressurized Shipyards able to handle 250K tons. While all of these yards occupied a fair amount of space, the massive Germanium processing complex dwarfed everything, able to process 250,000 tons of Germanium per day to feed the 100 Jump Core factories.

Along the walls of the caverns were countless Large Habitats to house the workers and their families. Aqueduct-Class Dropships we constantly making sure every stations fuel tanks were topped off and maintenance personnel rapidly repaired any station keeping drive showed the slightest fault. Countless shuttles were constantly on the move, shuttling workers from station to their habitat on a tight schedule. This cavern was probably the busiest place in the entire Inner Sphere, or anywhere else for that matter. He always enjoyed just standing here and watching all the hustle and bustle.

One area of the cavern held an intricate honeycomb of Endo Steel bracing. In each slot of the honeycomb was a carefully stored Jump Core packed inside a cocoon of Endo Steel. There were 300 Jump Cores stored here and another 200 Jump Cores stored in an identical honeycomb on the active Fleet side of Livingston Naval Base. Using the Slip Stream method of travel ate up Jump Cores, so the decision had been made long ago to keep a ready stock of pre-made Jump Cores on hand to speed up replacement. This way, instead of a possible 6-8 month replacement was greatly shortened to just a month of down time. A clearing of a throat caused him to turn.

"Sorry to bother you, Admiral, but I was told you were back and thought you might like to know that we are going to test a new Jump Core design." Helen Caldwell said

"No bother, Helen. So what exactly have you and your fellow egg heads created?" Fleet Admiral Tanaka asked with a smile

"Hopefully, a much stronger and durable Jump Core. We managed to get permission to task that super computer to give us a hand. It took a few years, but we think we got the formula down right this time. It should, hopefully, increase the life of a Jump Core mated to a Slip Stream ship to 100 jumps before replacement. At the same time, we think the new Jump Core will accept a higher rate of recharge than a standard core without damage. If everything goes as planned, we will have a stronger, better Jump Core for fitting in your ships." Helen Caldwell explained. She was a Department Head from Hegemony Science and Research, her Department oversaw everything that had to do with Naval or Space research.

"When is the test scheduled for?" Fleet Admiral Tanaka asked

"The 10th February. We have fitted into the last Slip Stream Research ship. The ships onboard computer will jump it to Linden, fast recharge, jump back here. It will then report the status of the Core while it fast recharges it's drive again. We plan to nearly non-stop jump the ship until we break the new Jump Core or it shows massive failure. I have a team at Linden to monitor the experiment when the ship is there. We fitted an adjustable power convertor to the ship which will allow the ships computer to adjust the power flow into the Jump Core and LF Batteries for maximum safe charge rate. We also fitted the ship with a modified Black Box, tied into the ships computer just in case a mis-jump occurs, it can call for help with its coordinates." Helen Caldwell said

"You keep me up to date on this test. Success or Failure, give my thanks to your team. I knew you had been working on this, but never realized you were this far along." Fleet Admiral Tanaka replied

"Only because I did not have anything tangible to report. It has only been in the last year that all the pieces started falling into place and I wanted to be sure before I brought you up to speed." Helen Caldwell said

"Afraid to get an old man’s hopes up, Helen?" Fleet Admiral Tanaka asked with a smile

"Never. Besides, you’re not that old, Admiral." Helen replied with a twinkle in her eye.

"Well then, join me for dinner?" Fleet Admiral Tanaka asked

"Of course. Normal time, normal place. Maybe I will prove to you how young you really are." Helen said with a laugh.

10 February 3010
Zentang (Hegemony)
Livingston Naval Base

Helen Caldwell watched the laser linked readouts being sent from SLS Deep Driver, Hegemony Test Ship. So far everything looked good to her. The fast recharge had been a success accepting a full charge of both the main Jump Core, but also the two LF Batteries in only 131 hours instead of the normal 186 hours using the onboard reactors to charge each at the same time. She had kept her fingers crossed almost the entire time, hoping she did not get notified of a dangerous or catastrophic failure, but none had come.

"Deep Driver, verify status for jump." The controller said

A near human voice replied "Control, SLS Deep Driver. All systems nominal. I am ready to make the jump to Linden on your command. I am five by five and ready to set a new record."

Helen Caldwell could only shake her head, this particular "computer" had been online longer than any other in the Hegemony except the primary "Amber" on Azur and had taken on quite a lot of information and even some "human" qualities. In a way, it unnerved her, a computer that almost seemed human in its speech and even actions. She had read all the reports from the various captains and crew that had sailed aboard SLS Deep Driver over last 150 years. The ship had the largest data storage of any other ship, and every attempt to try and upgrade or even dump some of the data collected over the many years was met with protests from every person that had ever crewed this particular ship. She nodded to the controller.

"Deep Driver, you are cleared to make the jump to Linden. Report all data on arrival."

"I copy cleared to make the jump to Linden. I know my task Control, I have been doing this longer than any of you have been alive. Commencing jump sequence and we will talk again in a few days, Deep Driver is out of here."

Helen could not help but break into a smile at what she heard. She watched the monitor as SLS Deep Driver vanished.

11 February 3010
Linden (Hegemony)

SLS Deep Driver arrived at her designated location 18 hours after departing Zetang. On arrival, "Cora" the ships computer, checked all of her onboard systems while starting a fast recharge of the ships Jump Core. She tasked a subroutine to closely monitor the recharge rates while she directed the ships communication array to make a secure laser lock with the Olympus Recharge Station.

"Nadir Control, this is SLS Deep Driver. Stand by for data transfer. All systems are nominal and I have begun fast recharge procedures. I show my arrival time is 27 minutes ahead of schedule. A new speed record, travel distance was 127LY which by my calculations is a rate of advance of 7.05LY per hour. Previous record was 6.31LY per hour." Cora announced

"Deep Driver, Nadir Control. We copy your laser lock and data transfer. We also verify your speed record. Suggest you not push the envelope much more, not until we analyze your data stream."

"My task is to stress the ships Drive and components as much as I can. I will proceed with my current projected plan, but thank you for your concern." Cora replied

Aboard the Olympus Station, the communications officer looked at the project leader "I thought the damned ship was unmanned?"

"It is, that is Cora. The longest running ship control computer. She really has picked up the art of snarky comebacks hasn't she?" The project leader said without taking his eyes off the data feed coming from SLS Deep Driver.

March[]


1 March 3010
Thazi (Hegemony, Periphery)

"Do you think that is wise, Director-General? We would be exposing quite a few trained personnel to possible pirate attacks?" Commanding General Michelle Mitchell asked

"I think it would be worth it. All through history the Periphery has gotten the shaft from the Great Houses and even the Terran Hegemony. I want to right that wrong, that’s why I want go in covertly at first. We can have Thompson Shipyards open "negotiations" with the Outworlds Alliance, Taurian Concordat, and the Magistracy of Canopus about building a shipyard complex inside each their nations. Let them build Merchant Jumpships and maybe the Liberty Class Jumpship for. No more than 10 slips in each nation. You can find a way of covertly providing enough security that they should be safe." Director-General Mark Cameron said
"I will not argue that the idea has its merits. I am sure I can convince Admiral Tanaka to release a few Leopard CV along with a few Intruder Dropships to provide security at each complex. Figure an Aerospace Group and Marine Battalion at each complex providing security should be enough to discourage all but the most serious pirate group. You realize this would be a multi-year operation just to get each complex constructed along with all the supporting industries not to mention hiring and training all the workers locally." Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied
"I am. I have given this a lot of thought. I am quite well aware that the history books will rank me down at the bottom of Director-General's, but at least they will say that I did the best I could. Besides, if the day comes that we have to pull back the curtains and reveal ourselves to everyone, maybe our aid now to the Periphery will gain us valuable allies for the future. And we are alone, so it is Mark, Michelle, we have known each other way too long for the formalities." Director-General Mark Cameron said

"Okay Mark. I will send out the message to Thompson Shipyards. I will also assign some quality Intel types to assist in the negotiations, though I expect Thompson Shipyards employ's many highly skilled lawyers already. I do not want them to use any high tech yards, they will have to use standard tech. I am pretty sure we have quite a few older yards and orbitals in storage they can use." Michelle replied

"Agreed, no sense letting our advanced stuff out of our direct control. I did some checking, and your are correct, there are exactly 41 old tech shipyards along with their orbital factories in storage in Linden. They are actually broken down and stored aboard Mammoth Dropships assigned to the Mothball Fleet. Though from what I read, their old tech is still leaps and bounds above what is standard in the Great Houses. We might need to dumb them down some before we send them out." Mark Cameron said
"You’ve surprising me, Mark. This is a pretty radical move from your normal self." Michelle Mitchell replied

"It is. I might as well tell you, I sent for the "kids" and they should be here in the next week. I have about 10 years to leave them something they can be proud of and not curse my name with every breath they take. It is time for me to knuckle down and actually apply myself to the job that I hate so much." Mark Cameron said

"Shit, that means I get to play mother again. So, tell me, what exactly am I getting? I tried to find out but got told you ordered everything your eyes only." Michelle Mitchell replied

"You will have help in your task, I promise. My replacement is an exact genetic match for Amanda Cameron. Her name is Anastasia. I always liked that name, even sounds regal. Next we have, an exact genetic copy of Rita Mitchell. Her name is Christina, after the original Rita Mitchell's mother. Then we have an exact copy of Sarah McEvedy, former Khan of Clan Wolverine. Her name is Sarah, same as her gene mother or so I am told that is what the term is called. I am told their aptitude tests rank extremely high on the charts. I decided that since I was forcing an replacement for myself on you, I figured we might as well "get the band back together" as the old saying goes." Mark Cameron said

"That is all and well, Mark, but they were all who they were by the experience they had. These are different times, take Rita Mitchell. She had years of service to the SLDF and many campaigns under her belt to provide the experience for later in life. She then transferred as much as she could to Amanda Cameron. I have no where near the experience as Rita Mitchell did. Hell, I along with most of the Hegemony Forces only have what would amount to a token amount of actual combat experience. Rita Mitchell had decades of actual combat experience to draw from." Michelle Mitchell replied

"I have faith in you, Michelle. There is no one else I can trust with this task. If you have to, when the time comes, bring in the most experienced commanders to help get all of them ready for what is coming. I will promise to put my nose to the grindstone so that I can help Anastasia when the time comes. It is the very least I can do, lord knows I am going to be throwing her into the deep end of the pool." Mark Cameron said

"Very well Mark, I will do my very best I can." Michelle Mitchell replied

"Any word on the mission to Frobisher?" Mark Cameron asked

"They should be on station now, but we have no word yet from them." Michelle Mitchell replied

Frobisher (Independent World, Periphery)

Tabitha Floyd could not help but stare at the figure emerging from the endless ocean on this planet. The humanoid clearly had a majority of human DNA, but it was obvious many changes had occurred. She could just make out hair on its head, but the rest of its body appeared to be devoid of any other hair. It's fingers, still five digits were longer than a normal human, but not grossly so, and she could see webbing between the fingers. It's feet were longer than a normal human, with toes, still 5 digits at least twice as long as a normal human and webbing was also there.

However, it was the gills, located behind the smaller than normal ears that held her attention the most. Behind her she heard a hushed "Mother of God, what did they do to these people?" Which she resisted turning and lashing out at the speaker.

The figure, obviously a male, the shorts it wore at least covered that part of the anatomy, stopped fairly close. "I can only remain outside the ocean for a few hours. My name is Gwan Cominsh, I am the leader of the people of Frobisher. If you are pirates, you are well equipped. Who exactly are you and what is your business here?"

"Tabitha Floyd. I am a geneticist. These people here with me are some of the best in the Hegemony. You made contact with one of our survey teams, they told us about you and your people and the decision was made to help you." Tabitha Floyd replied

"Then I welcome you to Frobisher. I hope you brought equipment. Pirates have destroyed much of what the Star League left here, but we did manage to save the data core from the primary research facility. It contains everything they did, but without the equipment, it was useless to us. We did not always look as I do now. Many of us can tolerate being outside the ocean for short periods, but some of the younger kids cannot." Gwan Cominsh said

"The data core will be extremely helpful. If we can have access to it, we can spend some time studying what it contains and come up with some kind of plan." Tabitha Floyd said

"I will have it up here by the end of the week. Our city is 45 kilometers off shore of this island but at a depth of 800 meters. It will take us some time to move it and its container that distance." Gwan Cominsh said

29 March 3010
Alpheratz (Outworlds Alliance)

Brandon O'Leary, CEO Mountain Wolf Battlemechs, was like a proud father watching the first production version of the 60 ton Merlin MLN-1A walk out of the factory complex. The very first order had been for 12 of them from the Alliance Military Corps. Though he had advertised the design heavily, most of the Great Houses had shown only slight interest. But he was getting some inquiries from various mercenary commands about his baby.

He had the factory set up with 3 production lines, each able to manufacture 12 Merlin Battlemechs per year. He really needed several more orders or he would be forced to shut down production lines in less than 6 months once the AMC order was filled. He refused to manufacture with no buyer. It was a good way to put yourself out of business. He really wanted to put the Night Hawk NTK-2Q back into production, but since it used advanced tech, he was forbidden to do so. But now that this complex was back up and running, he wanted to take a trip to Vendrell and see what was left of the old Mountain Wolf complex there. He had his lawyers do some searching and found out that Mountain Wolf Battlemechs and his family still owned the original deed to the place, but the Lyran's wanted back taxes paid, even though it had been "destroyed". He just needed the cash flow to maybe get it up and running also.

Frobisher (Independent World, Periphery)

"No way can we do what we need to do here on site Tabitha. It will take months if not years to fully grasp what the Star League did to these folks; much less come up with a way to correct what has changed. We are going to need some serious research equipment and support." Craig Blinkly said

"Okay Craig, for the hundredth time. I hear you, But Gwan says that the people living down there are pretty set against leaving. I will not force them to leave, plus I doubt the Director-General will even authorize it. We have our orders, so what we will do in the meantime is support and study, HERE. I will take the data core back to the Hegemony and try to get access to that super computer, maybe it can speed things up." Tabitha Floyd replied

"Well, that is something, but I still do not know what kind of support we can even give these people." Craig Blinkly said

"Tests, lots of tests Craig. We need to know what all has changed from when the Star League shut down the place. Then we can begin back tracking to figure out how to correct things. So, you start setting up the tests. While I take the data core back and beg for access." Tabitha Floyd said

New Port Royal (Tortuga Dominions)

The notification of a vote to join their liberators had begun. It was clearly stated that it would take an 85% majority to join them. If the vote failed, their liberators would depart and return the Dominions to independent rule. So far, after 2 weeks of the notification, most on New Port Royal, the most populated planet in the Dominions had been favorable. There were a few opposed, mostly due to the fact that several million previous slaves were also being given a vote on the matter. The vote was scheduled for 1 June 3010.

April[]


2 April 3010
Thazi (Hegemony)

Commanding General Michelle Mitchell walked out of her bedroom still fastening her robe. Her eye's felt like someone had dumped a bag of sand into them. She was averaging only 3 hours of sleep for the last week, since the kids had moved in with her. Christina, was the ring leader, at least that is what she had labeled her as. Sarah was her partner in crime, while Anastasia was the look out or decoy. All three were coming up on their 5th birthday, but already they had a knack for "strategic" thinking.

She smiled as she started the coffee pot as the first night came back to her. Anastasia had slipped into her bed after having a "bad dream". All the while, Christina and Sarah were raiding the kitchen. Making off with a half gallon of ice cream, chocolate syrup and several soda's. After Anastasia had calmed down, she had given her a strong hug before returning to the room she shared with her "sisters". It had not been until the next morning when she had peeked in on them that she discovered all 3 of them covered in chocolate syrup and the empty left overs of their "supply raid" sound asleep in a pile, snuggled up with each other, their hair a sticky mess.

Now, she had learned whenever Anastasia came around for attention, she looked for the other two "criminals". As she poured the first of what would be many cups of coffee, her smile turned to a frown as she thought of last night. The MP's had rapped on the door, and when she had opened the door, her 3 criminals had been standing there, trying as hard as could be to look innocent.

"General Mitchell, we caught them trying to gain entry to one of the ready ammunition bunkers by the Mech Hangers." The Sergeant had said

"One of you mind explaining what the hell you were thinking? Ammunition is very dangerous." She had barked

"Fyewoks. Fyewoks are nice. We want see fyewoks." Sarah had said with a grin

"What made you think fireworks would be in there?" She has asked

"Pixtur on doors. Same as where we cam fom." Christina had answered

Today, she had to figure out how to make the house escape proof. She sipped her coffee as she made her way outside, she walked to the only window for the kids room and spotted how they had moved a large crate to under the window, then a few smaller ones, creating stairs. She rarely came out back, so she wondered how long they had worked on this and where the hell they had gotten the crates. Probably some tech they sweet talked into bringing them over so they could build a "fort" or playhouse, she thought. But inside she was proud, all three of them were smart as hell. You could see it in their eye's, the raw intelligence, waiting to be developed, but developing on their own, but at a rapid pace. A noise caused her to turn.

"Sorry to startle you, Michelle. I heard about what happened last night and thought I would wander over." Director-General Mark Cameron said with a smile

"Awful early for you isn't it, Mark?" She asked

"True, but I have seen how tired you have been since they arrived. A handful are they?" Mark Cameron asked

"Understatement. It is like controlling 3 tornado's. But only instead of them going in different directions, they work as a damned team. Last night they tried to break into an ammunition bunker, they wanted to see fireworks. How the hell do I counter that, Mark? Post armed guards around the house around the clock? Hell, I would not trust the little crooks not to charm the guards until they could escape custody. Drug them every night? I am not sure I can do this. Christopher was a handful at times, but nothing like these three kids. Last night was the first night the house was totally empty of any weapons, I gave them all to the MP's to lock away. I felt naked as hell, but I cannot take the risk of them finding them. Tell me what to do?" Michelle said while sitting on the back porch.

"Your asking me? You must be exhausted if your asking my advice on kids. Rug Rats give me hives. I do not plan to be around them until they are in their teens, the fun years. Heck put them into daycare, that is what most folks do." Mark Cameron replied

"Right, Christina would probably organize a mass break out. All the while Anastasia distracted the faculty, while Sarah would set booby traps to discourage pursuit. You know Sarah whacked an MP with a large stick while Christina and Anastasia made a break for it? When the MP's grabbed Sarah, both Christina and Anastasia turned around and attacked the MP's. The MP's actually called for backup." Michelle said breaking into a loud laugh at the thought.

Director-General Mark Cameron could not help but join her and both sat on the back porch laughing until tears appeared at the thought of the 3 kids "beating" down a couple of burly MP's.

Later in the Day

Michelle looked out the kitchen window as she stirred the lemonade. All three girls were huddled where she had left them, sitting under the large tree where they could watch the Battlemechs moving around the Mech Hangers. What worried her was that they seemed to be deep into something, cause Christina was using a stick to draw in the dirt while Sarah and Anastasia watched. They were up to something and that had her worried. But for the life of her, she had no clue what to do about it.

"See da lites? They is a gap between them, we can mak it easy." Christina said, tapping the spot on in the dirt.

"We shud not do dis. We in tuble already." Anastasia replied

"Not say we do now. But we can do. Moe work ta be done." Christina said

"Shh, she comin." Anastasia hissed, Christina scratched out the drawing and then continued drawing in the dirt aimlessly

"Do I even want to know what you three are cooking up?" Michelle asked

"Huh?" Sarah asked

"That's what I thought. Here is the lemonade, nice and sweet like you like it." Michelle said handing each a glass of lemonade while trying to decipher the aimless drawings in the dirt. She could plainly see where the ground had been "smoothed" back over. They are up to something, she thought.

"I gonna be Mach diver when I get old enough. Docs said so fore we lef." Christina proudly said pointing to a Warhammer walking into the Mech Hanger.

"Me to. dey test us, said we scow hi." Sarah said, standing up

This brought a sniffle from Anastasia. "What's wrong, Honey?" Michelle asked

"Nat me. I not gud enuff. I not hav the rite head." Anastasia said as a few tears flowed down her cheeks.

"Not everyone can pilot a Battlemech, Anastasia. There is nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. You will find something later that you excel at, that I promise." Michelle said wiping a few tears from her cheeks bringing a slight smile.

Michelle had already seen the test results the scientists had performed on the girls. Just normal brain scans, but both Christina and Sarah had scored extremely high on their brain patterns for Neurohelmet usage. It would be years before they actually tried a helmet on to make a mini Battlemech move. Anastasia had not scored very high on the test, though it was just a preliminary one.

Turning her attention to all the girls she said "Tomorrow, how about we all go down to the Mech Hangers and you can see them up close?" The whooping told her all she needed to know.

May[]


4 May 3010
Alpheratz (Outworlds Alliance)

Kenneth Layman waited patiently in the foyer outside the office of Nicholas Avellar, President of the Outworlds Alliance. It had taken a week to arrange this meeting, but he planned to get this deal done. When the door opened, he stood, made sure his suit was presentable and entered he office. The door closed behind him, but he focused on the man seated behind a large desk. "Please Mr Layman, have a seat, I will be with you very soon."

Kenneth Layman made himself comfortable in one of the chairs facing the desk while placing his briefcase, already carefully searched by stern looking security people, beside the chair in easy reach. He waited patiently, he knew the game all too well. He himself played the same game when he knew he held the upper hand, only his job was to make sure that Thompson Shipyards held the upper hand in this game.

Finally, President Nicholas Avellar finsihed what he was doing and turned his full attention to Kenneth Layman. "So Mr Layman, what exactly can I do for you?"

"Mr President, my client would like to establish a Jumpship construction facility within the Outworlds Alliance. Though the initial complex would be small, even the construction of 1-3 Jumpships per year with in the Outworlds Alliance would be a boon for your nations economy. It is my goal to reach an agreement on this venture that is beneficial to both parties." Kenneth Layman said

"Might I ask who your client is, Mr Layman?" President Nicholas Avellar asked, he tried to sound confident, but Kenneth knew he was ready to say yes to anything.

"Thompson Shipyards. They have decided to expand, but instead of placing new facilities within the Inner Sphere proper, they have chosen to place them in the Periphery nations." Kenneth Layman explained

"Interesting. Any idea why they chose this course? I would expect them to want to take advantage of the more industrialized Houses." President Nicholas Avellar asked

"That has not been relayed to me, sir. If I had to speculate, it would be cost. Labor is much more expensive with in any of the Houses. Maybe my employers just want to see the Periphery nations stand on their own feet without having to bow to the Houses." Kenneth Layman replied

"I am not against the proposed venture. What exactly does Thompson Shipyards want in return?" President Nicholas Avellar asked

"They have selected Quatre Belle as a potential site. This is due to the remains of the old SLDF naval facilities already on site. In addition, there is ample heavy metal already known on Pluto, the 3rd moon of Quatre Belle." Kenneth Layman replied

"I am sure that Thompson Shipyards knows that the facilities there have been the subject of much salvage?" President Nicholas Avellar said
"They are, sir. But they feel that it gives them a starting point. Thompson Shipyards is willing to build a single Merchant Jumpship yard immediately along with all the supporting factories. They will also hire and train local Outworld citizens to be employed at this new complex. They also are willing to give the Outworlds Alliance first bid on all ships built at a 20% discount. In exchange, they want a 100 year lease on the orbital complex, to be known as Quatre Belle Construction Facility. In addition, they request a 10 year tax exemption, after which their tax rate is capped at 10% for the remaining 90 years. This will help offset the enormous cost of refurbishing the existing derelict facilities. Security will be paid for and provided by Thompson Shipyards, that is non-negotiable. My employers also require expedited shipping rights, sorry sir this is also non-negotiable, the cargo will be carried by ZaP Shipping and it will be of a sensitive and expensive nature. Having customs inspectors slow, delay and possibly demand extra fee's will not be tolerated." Kenneth Layman explained

President Nicholas Avellar had made notes while Kenneth Layman had spoken. He circled number one and thought that was an excellent deal. First bid and a 20% discount meant the Outworlds Govt would save money. They could sell any ships at face value and pocket the 20% difference. Number 2 was a little stickier, but that meant it was a long term deal. Number 3 was not difficult, they had agreed to something close with Mountain Wolf Battlemechs. Which he hoped would be a boon. Overall, he could not see anything to really protest over. It was a straight forward deal he would be a fool to walk away from. He stood and moved around his desk offering his hand.

"Mr Layman, you may relay to Thompson Shipyards that I agree to their terms and look forward to a long and profitable venture together." Both men shook hands. Now it was time for signing some paperwork.

13 May 3010
Taurus (Taurian Concordat)

Brenda Nutrang had spent 2 weeks working every contact she had to land this meeting. She had undergone very hands on search by members of the security detail. Now she had been waiting 3 hours for the meeting and was losing her temper, the ogling she was enduring by the 3 security members just added to her slowly building anger. Just before she could flip off the closest man ogling her legs, the door opened and in walked Zarantha Calderon, Protector of the Realm followed closely by her son Thomas Calderon.

She stood until Zarantha Calderon waved her back into her seat. "I am told you have gone thru much trouble to gain an audience with me Ms Nutrang, so let's not waste either of our time and cut right to the heart of the matter. Shall we?"

"Very well, Protector. I represent Thompson Shipyards who have decided to expand and they have chosen your realm as one of those locations. As long as we can agree on terms." Brenda Nutrang said

On the mention of Thompson Shipyards, Thomas Calderon had coughed, overly loud. Zarantha Calderon shot a look at Jeffery Calderon and he sat still, but was alert. "So, exactly what does a Federated Suns company desire and what will we receive in turn?"

"Thompson Shipyards would like to establish a Jumpship construction yard on Illiushin, the site of the former base for the 11th SLDF Fleet. Thompson Shipyards will build a Jumpship construction yard capable of building 1-3 Jumpships per year at a minimum. The Taurian Concordat will have first bid rights for any ship built there at a 20% discounted price. In exchange, the Taurian Concordat will agree to a 100 year lease on any constructed or refurbished facilities for Thompson Shipyards. Any early termination of said lease or breach of contract terms, Thompson Shipyards will be paid in full for any and all facilities located within the Taurian Concordat. Thompson Shipyards also requires a 20 year tax exemption, after which their tax rate will be locked at 5% for the remaining life of the agreement. Thompson Shipyards will recruit and train locally, other than initial personnel needed. Security will be paid for and under exclusive control of Thompson Shipyards, this is non negotiable. Thompson Shipyards requires unrestricted access for their primary transporter, ZaP Shipping which will be exclusively transporting Thompson Shipyards goods and personnel, this is non negotiable. Thompson Shipyards will also agree to assist in upgrading Vandenberg Mechanized Industries Dropship construction facilities and possible license agreements upon acceptance of terms." Brenda Nutrang said

"Well, I did ask you to cut to the heart of the matter. I do not like the locked tax rate, I will agree to all others, but the tax rate must be 8%, no less." Protector Zarantha Calderon replied

"Mother, these deman...." Another look caused Thomas Calderon to cut off the last of his sentence.

"Thompson Shipyards can agree to a locked 8% tax rate after the initial 20 year exemption. If there are no further points to discuss, I can change the contracts and agreements within the hour and have them ready for signatures." Brenda Nutrang said

"Make the changes, it will take that long for me to get a few experts in here to make sure there are no loopholes." Protector Zarantha Calderon replied with a smile as she stood up "We will be back in an hour."

Once she and Thomas Calderon had exited the building and entered a secure building across the small courtyard, Protector Zarantha Calderon stopped angrily "Dammit Thomas, you could have ruined this entire deal. This is a gift from heaven, don't you see it? The Taurian Concordat will once again be able to manufacture its own Jumpships and at a discounted price. Our people gain valuable training and jobs."

"Mother, we are allowing FED RAT's into the Concordat. Providing their own security, unfettered access to the largest FED RAT shipping company to boot? We will be flooded with FED RAT spies." Thomas Calderon replied loudly

"Watch your tone with me, boy. We will sign this agreement and you will support it both privately and in public. We gain much more than we are giving up. So, when we go back in there, you will damned well smile and thank the woman for coming. Then you look forward to welcoming Thompson Shipyards to the Taurian Concordat." Protector Zarantha Calderon said harshly, leaving no room for argument.
"Yes, mother. Forgive me." Thomas Calderon replied

June[]


1 June 3010 Thazi (Hegemony)

Director-General Mark Cameron smiled as Commanding General Michelle Mitchell entered his office. He waved her to a seat and moved to the small bar. He fixed himself a small drink and then pulled another glass down and fixed one for his guest. He carried them over and handed her the small drink as he sat down next to her.

"Mark, your smiling like a cat looking at a beached fish. What gives?" Michelle asked

He pulled a small box from his pocket and handed it over to her. "A little present from Hegemony Security."

Michell opened the small box and looked inside. There in their own even smaller cases were 4 small microchips. "And these are for what exactly?"

"Tracking chips. They use them on their covert teams so they can keep track of them but also locate them if they get snatched up. Battery life is 10 years. They do not broadcast actively, but special sensors can detect them. Range 500 meters. I understand the girls have dental appointments soon. The perfect time to knock them out and have them implanted." Mark Cameron said

"I am not sure I like that idea, Mark." Michelle protested, but not very strongly.

"I am sure you don't like the idea, but you hate the lack of sleep and constant worry much more. I already have a team over at your house placing sensors along the fence line and walls, then they will place them around the house. They will leave a special note pad that can pin point the kids location at all times. You can even set an alarm to notify you of movement or if one or more move past a certain distance. This is for their own good, Michelle. Here, watch." Mark Cameron said as he clicked a remote and a view screen began playing.

She recognized one of the Mech Hangers, the video was shot using night vision. She saw movement and focused on that. A small head appeared on the screen, then 2 more. For 20 minutes she watched her charges move around the various Battlemechs trying to figure out how to get access to them. The video was obviously shot and spliced form different camera's as the angles changed as they moved around the Mech Hanger. She watched a figure point towards the vary camera aimed at them and all 3 took off at a run, and then they were gone. The time stamp said 3:19am, 27 May 3010. She never even knew they had slipped out. Mark Cameron clicked the video off.

"They are going to get themselves hurt. Or worse, hurt someone else." Mark Cameron said

"The Hangers are locked or did a tech forget?" Michelle asked

"They have not quite figured out how they got inside, but I have folks looking into it. If they can get in, someone more inclined to hostile intent might be able to also. So have them implanted so that we can at least head off their more dangerous adventures in time to prevent someone getting hurt. Notice I did not say all their adventures, because I admire their intelligence, curiosity and sense of adventure. I just want them safe." Mark Cameron said---- "Okay Mark, I want them safe also." Michelle said slipping the small case into her pocket

"Good, now some better news. Both the Outworlds Alliance and Taurians have accepted terms for Thompson Shipyards. Very favorable terms. In the name of secrecy, I have decided that Thompson Shipyards will use the oldest yards we have in storage. However, the equipment will arrive over a long period of time, possibly 5 years. Maybe more. It would raise way too many questions if they are in operation too fast. It will take their rep a few more months to reach the Magistracy of Canopus." Mark Cameron said

"You really starting to find your way into the job, Mark. You might learn to like the job." Michelle replied

"Bite your tongue. I am just trying to improve what the historians might write about me. I intend to turn over the reigns to Anastasia the second she is ready for the job." Mark Cameron said

"Well, either way, today is the start of the vote in the Tortuga Dominions about joining the Hegemony. If they join, you will have to work a little harder incorporating them into the Hegemony. If they vote no, well you will get credit for wiping a great many pirates from existence and freeing millions of slaves." Michelle replied

14 June 3010
New Port Royal (Tortuga Dominions)

"You have got to be kidding me. Tally the damned votes again." Lieutenant General Braxton Myers ordered

"We have, sir. We have tallied the total votes 4 times already. The vote to join the Hegemony has failed. To pass the total had to be a 85% margin, the measure only got 81%. This was an all or nothing vote. The Tortuga Dominion has elected to remain independent." Colonel Paul Stanton replied

"Dammit, Paul. What the hell is wrong with these people? We have fed them, provided them with seed stock, assisted in repairing their water plants, power supply. Hell in less than a year we have managed to improve their overall life by probably 100%. Well, screw them. Tell the people to pack up, send word to orbit to send all the captured crew to the surface, we take the Jumpships with us. Call it payment for services rendered. Work up a message to be broadcast, we are leaving them to their own devices. Stress to them that a return to piracy and slavery could very well cause our return and we will not be nearly so nice next time." Lieutenant General Braxton Myers said harshly

He turned and left his command post. He halted for a second trying to decide where he wanted to go, before turning and stalking towards the mess tent. Entering, he paused to let his eyes adjust before spotting Major Frank Baxter and Major Jillian Mathews sitting at a far table. When he reached them, he pulled out a chair and sat down heavily into it. Major Baxter and Major Mathews shared a look.

"Trouble, General?" Major Baxter asked

"The vote failed. It was fairly close, but these people out here want to remain independent. We are packing up to leave. So, now you need to choose, Major. Are you staying with us or you staying here?" Lieutenant General Myers asked

"Well, on one hand, when you folks leave, we will be the biggest dog in these woods, but I have no desire to rule. Plus, your people have sort of spoiled me and my folks. We will be leaving with you, if you will have us." Major Frank Baxter replied

"I would not be offering if I did not want you. You and your people will make a fine core to form a larger command around. But you might want to stress to everyone that they will have to go back to an academy for about a year. But that is for people above my rank to decide exactly where and how to post your command. I will try as hard as I can to keep you all together. Right now, I need a full medical profile of everyone in your command, especially anyone who suffers from TDS. Our transports can be a little harsh on those folks. So let's get cracking, cause I expect movement orders pretty quick." Lieutenant General Myers said

As she stood, Major Jillian Mathews asked "General, what about all the freed slaves? I am sure that once word spreads that we are leaving they are not going to want to stay here."

"No clue, we will just have to wait for orders on that one, Jillian." Lieutenant General Myers said



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