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Fate Can be Cruel (Book 2) - Chapter Cover

Fate Can Be Cruel
Chapter 16 - Year 3019


18th January 3019
Thazi, Hegemony (Periphery)

"I think I have you beat this time mom." Christina said as she plotted her next moves into the holo tank. On the display, a simulated battle was being played out, and her entered moves showed a Battlemech Battalion slowly flanking her opponent's defensive lines.

"You really think so, Christina? How many times have you said those words only to have me trounce you at the last minute?" Commanding General Michelle Mitchell replied with a sly grin as she entered her own orders. The holo display changed as 2 previously hidden Armor Regiments began engaging the lone Battlemech Battalion of Christina's force.

"Shiiit, I thought I had all of your forces accounted for. What the hech, you have to be cheating." Christina said with a frown.

"Language, Christina. You’re not too big that I cannot take a paddle to your backside. You have a bad habit of getting too cocky, you DID have all my forces located, 8 hours ago, but you pulled back your recon birds after I hammered them hard. That gave me the window I needed to redeploy them. Your still too predictable in your actions, you always go for a flanking move. You would have been better off driving that fresh Battalion right into my center, which is wavering but holding." Michelle replied

Both watched the holo simulation as Christina's Battlemech Battalion slowly crumbled under the massed fire of the Heavy Armor Regiments. When the far side started flashing, Mitchell smiled "Surprise, my dear."

Christina zoomed to the area and watched as a Hover Armor Regiment began slashing into her own flank supported by a Regiment of Ferret Power Armor. She muttered under her breath as her own flank began to crumble under the onslaught. "Every danged time. Every time I think I have you on the ropes you pull a rabbit out of your hat."

"Lost again, huh Sis?" Sarah said with a laugh as she and Anastasia entered the room.

"Yes, but at least I lasted longer than you did against her. Your too aggressive and she suckers you into a trap every time." Christina barked back

"Easy girls, your both getting very good. I have years at this but you both are coming along quickly. You both focus too hard on the Battlemech force and not on the supporting arms. Anastasia has you both beat there, she hold's her Battlemech's back letting her other forces do the heavy lifting. I always have to be careful against her, she sure loves her deep strikes." General Mitchell said

"Only because I don't get to play in the simulators like they do. But I do beat the crap out of them in infantry tactics and on the small arms ranges." Anastasia replied, getting her digs in.

"Battlemechs do not fear infantry. We step on them and they go SQUISH." Sarah said while Christina nodded

"You both need to check that attitude pretty quick. Infantry, especially armored infantry are something to be afraid of. The simulators do not do justice for the Ferret Power Armor. As good as they are, it is not good enough. You get a little older and I will take you into the field and let you both watch a true battle exercise and you will see Mechwarriors tread very carefully in any environment except where they can see for miles. A platoon of Ferret's massing their fire can bring down a Battlemech, even my own." General Michelle Mitchell said firmly

"Mom, question. Why do I have to take extra civics and government classes than either of them?" Anastasia asked

"That's because you have a gift for it. Where both of your sisters are fire eaters, you have a gift for negotiations. You have more rational decisions than just, "Me see it me kill it." You have always enjoyed figuring out how to get what you want with the least amount of fuss. Where as your sisters try to get it by hook and crook and where that fails, brute force. Your sisters are always trying to ditch their security, but you don't. You just wrap them around your finger and persuade them to let you go where you want. Not saying either of you are dumb, not in the least. All of you are extremely intelligent, to the point of being worrying." General Michelle Mitchell said

The holo display sounded a loud buzzer and started displaying the simulations casualty reports. "Damn sis, she kicked your butt bad." Sarah said with a laugh.

"Yeah she did, but tomorrow is your turn. I plan to be here to watch every single second of your defeat." Christina replied

19 January 3019
Thazi (Hegemony)

A low whistle followed by laughter "Man, talk about a serious butt kicking. Sis, I think you set a record for the quickest defeat ever." Christina said between giggles as they watched the holo display showing the exercise casualties.

"I think she cheats or the simulation is rigged. No way 5 Armor Regiments are going to hold the line that long against 3 Battlemech Regiments. Much less inflict the casualties that they did." Sarah hissed in disgust at her performance

Alacorn Heavy Tank (By yukuzhelev 3D Model)

Alacorn Assault Tank

"Sis, Mom had 3 Regiments of Alacorn VII on that line. Your first Regiment died before it even reached their lines yet you threw your other 2 Regiments straight in. All the while, Mom had sent a Battlemech Battalion way around the lines and took out your supply, support and captured your Dropships. You had all your conventional troops swinging wide, but not moving fast enough. You got defeated in detail." Christina replied

"What hurts the most is she did not wait around for the end of the simulation. Just said "Better luck next time" as she walked out of the room. Where is she anyway?" Sarah asked

"In her office going over her message traffic. What did you expect, you did not even try to listen to what she said yesterday. You wanted to prove that the Battlemech is the king and nothing can defeat them. That was plain the moment your forces landed and you plowed them directly at her defensive lines. I think you hurt her by that action more than she did you by leaving the simulation." Christina said

"Your right, I let her down. I will do the dishes tonight before she even asks for help, try to make some amends. Where's , Anastasia?" Sarah replied

"In our room studying, says she has a big test tomorrow and has to focus." Christina said

"How about you and me run another simulation. You play mom's side, your better than me anyway. I have a week before I take her on again, I want to impress her, so I need to work on using my conventional troops better." Sarah replied

"Okay, but you better focus. I will try to help you out, but you better listen." Christina said as she started resetting the simulation.

In her office, Commanding General Michelle Mitchell could both see and hear what was transpiring in the "war room" as everyone called it when she had ordered it built. She smiled at the conversation, she was proud of all her girls, even when they failed, she was proud of them. She returned to looking over the current unit reports. Everything was coming along right on schedule. She focused on V Corps 541st Battle Regiment, which had been activated way ahead of schedule.

The core of the Regiment was formed around the command brought in from the Tortuga Dominions. They had all undergone almost 2 years of remedial training, bringing them up to speed on Hegemony standards. Brigadier General Frank Baxter commanding, with the expanded structure of the Independent Regiments. She had brought the rank of Brigadier General out of a long retirement. Colonel Jillian Mathews was his XO and they had aced their recent readiness exam.

The 541st Battle Regiment consisted of a Battlemech Regiment, Infantry Regiment (2 Nighthawk Battalions, 1 Ferret Battalion) and a Aerospace Group. Fully staffed and equipped with state of the art Hegemony equipment. She smiled inwardly at the memory of her first meeting with the new comers and their awed excitement at their new equipment, followed by their frowns when she said they were all going back to school. They had all performed well in their training.

February 3019[]

2 February 3019
Azur (Hegemony)

"Professor Hamley?" the voice of Amber sounded from the speakers
"Yes, Amber?" Professor Hamley replied

"I have completed the Gene study on the people of Frobisher. Would you like to hear the results?" Amber said

"Very much so, please go ahead, but also save everything for the record please." Professor Hamley replied pulling out a note pad.

"Recording conversation. Studying the recovered data core allowed me to not only learn what HAD been done, but also to develop a possible solution. I had to cross reference with information from genetic research and advancements from Clan Wolverine records. It is my estimation that it is impossible to correct the current people of Frobisher genetics, but it should be possible to correct future changes to those not yet conceived. It will take some genetic splicing to correct faulty genetics in those of child bearing age and those still underage to prevent the faulty genes from being passed on. It is my estimation that within 2 generations, the new born will be returned to the original state and intent of the program. I also performed a study and have determined that if the people wanted their future offspring to return to a full normal human state, that it is possible, but not for those already living. It would require a more extensive genetic splicing to remove all non-human DNA sequences." Amber said

"So we would have to work on all the Frobisher people to bring their genetics back in line with the program intent?" Professor Hamley asked

"That is correct, Professor Hamley. It would be a very extensive procedure and would require assistance from genetic scientists from the Wolverines. Even though I have access to their genetic research, as do Hegemony scientists, they have an active genetic program and would be very much in demand for this project." Amber stated

"Please transfer your findings to a data storage device so that I can transfer the information to the project team." Professor Hamley said

"Very well Professor, transferring information now, transfer will take 2 hours and is being loaded onto external drive Alpha One." Amber said

Thazi (Hegemony)

A shot cracked out and the round hit dead center of the bulls eye on the 300 meter target. "Excellent shot. Your getting close to the point where you might challenge the range record." Master Sergeant Paddy O'Blane said

"You’re a good teacher, Master Sergeant." Anastasia replied, beaming at the praise from her favorite instructor

"It is not the teacher as much as it is the student, My Dear. You are going to take up the Infantry when you’re of age?" Master Sergeant Paddy O'Blane asked "I sure would like to give it a try." Anastasia replied, but if she had her way, it would not be as a normal grunt but piloting a Ferret Power Suit.

"You have the skills for it. Too many talk down about the Infantry, but without us grunts. No one would be able to hold onto anything once it is captured. Plus there are just times when only the Infantry can do the mission." Master Sergeant Paddy O'Blane said with a smile

A string of shots rang out down the gunnery range followed by a "Damn girl, some day you might be able to hit the inside of a barn if we close the door for you." Sergeant Filicia Denessay yelled "You might be a threat inside a crowded elevator."

Anastasia burst out in laughter; she knew it was Christina down that way. Sarah was over on the pistol range. She always enjoyed the small arms range time, it was the one area she was heads and shoulders above her sisters.


11 September 3019
Deep Space (Uninhabited)

At the Zenith Jump Point of the uninhabited system, 12 Jumpships bearing the colors of Wolfs Dragoons hung in space with their jump sails deployed. Roughly 5,000Km from them, hung a similar fleet of Jumpships, but at the head was Sovetskii Soyuz Class Heavy Cruiser, CWS Dire Wolf. Between them were Dropships shuttling equipment, supplies and replacement personnel. Aboard the Dire Wolf, Colonel Jaime Wolf and Khan Kerlin Ward watched the movements of the Dropships.

Sovetskii Soyuz Class Heavy Cruiser - Refit (No Logo) (Matt Plog)

Sovetskii Soyuz-Class Heavy Cruiser, CWS Dire Wolf

"Your mission is being changed, Jaime. I have fear that once the invasion begins, Clan forces will roll right over the Inner Sphere. Your reports indicate that the Houses have fallen much further than even we predicted. I am tasking you and your people to train the forces of the Inner Sphere, get them ready for the coming storm. Aboard some of those Dropships are the specifications design information and tooling for the most advanced OmniMechs being fielded. This will allow you to equip your people and meet the coming invasion on an equal footing. No one else will know of this mission. Only I can change your orders. This will be our last meeting. Do you understand?" Khan Kerlin Ward said

"Aff, my Khan. Even if your orders mean that my Dragoon's might have to face Clan Wolf?" Colonel Jaime Wolf replied

"Even if you must face Clan Wolf forces. We have 12 years until your mission was to end, I can hold the Grand Council off until then. After that, I am not so sure." Khan Kerlin Ward said

"Then I might have to speed up my original mission in order to determine which House to focus my attention upon. I think the Draconis Combine is going to be my best bet. They are the most militant." Colonel Jaime Wolf replied

  • Notes from Author
    The Houses are pretty well canon, EXCEPT for the following: Fed Suns - Outback region is not the backwater as canon. Bastrop, Kilbourne and Farnsworth maintain the regions need for highly skilled and educated people. The Fed Suns managed to maintain much of it's water purification abilities and ability to maintain it's Star League era environmental systems.
    Fed Suns also has the largest Jumpship construction ability of all the Houses and Comstar. While not anywhere near Star League era, it allows the Fed Suns economy and military a greater agility than canon.
    Hegemony operations to counter Comstar's Holy Shroud allowed the various Houses to not degrade quite as bad as canon due to loss of their best and brightest. While military tech is pretty much canon, all Houses are better off on the civilian side of things than canon.
    Interstellar Expeditions is fully controlled and staffed by the Hegemony, the Explorer Corps, while not fully controlled by the Hegemony, the region of space from the Draconis Combine down to Outworlds Alliance and across to the Magistracy of Canopus is fully controlled by Hegemony personnel embedded into Comstar. Other area's still have a large part under Hegemony control.
    Hegemony controls 70% of ROM, mainly in Counterintelligence, Security, Information and Analysis and a large part of Covert Operations.
    In roads have also been made by Hegemony Security to infiltrate the Com Guard with a primary focus on gaining access to Comstar's Warship fleet.

27 September 3019
New Valencia (Federated Suns)

"Your application seems to be in order. I am curious, why did you leave Mitchell Industries? According to your resume, I cannot see them letting you go easily." Kruger Lemire, CEO Blackwell Industries asked

"After the attack in 3009, in which I lost my family, I just could not focus on my work. Everywhere I went or looked brought back memories. I felt I was a drain on them, so I tendered my resignation in 3013. I spent the last 5 years just bouncing around, seeing the sights and such. But now my funds have run low and it is time to get back to work. I applied at some of the larger firms, but never got a decent offer. So I applied to Blackwell." Harry Sloan replied

"I am sorry for your loss. I heard they took some bad losses. I appreciate your honesty and hope I did not dredge up any bad memories." Kruger Lemire said

"No sir, I have managed to get my head screwed on right over the last few years. It still hurts, but I can function now and even speak of it." Harry Sloan replied

"Well then, let me be the first to say welcome to Blackwell Industries. As you know, we are the primary supplier for Wolfs Dragoons and our small Battlemech line is exclusive to them. But I am always trying to expand our capabilities so am always on the look out for talent. Your still young so I think you can plan on a very long career here at Blackwell Industries. I will warn you, many of my engineers pull double duty over at our vehicle production facility, I hope that will not be a deal breaker." Kruger Lemire said

"Thank you, Sir. I will give you my very best and no, I will go where ever you need me. I am always willing to learn different things." Harry Sloan replied with a broad smile. After years trying to penetrate the Dragoons themselves, Hegemony Security had finally decided to infiltrate their primary contractor. Harry Sloan had spent 6 long hard years training at Mitchell Industries to learn the craft of a Battlemech Engineer as a cover story. But his primary job was as an active agent of Hegemony Security. In his apartment, he had a secure fax machine for communication back home.


13 November 3019
Thazi (Hegemony)

Today was devoted to school work and all 3 girls were in their room watching historical recordings for a school project. Having been assigned to write an essay about historical figures in Hegemony history. It was not an easy assignment since many of the most famous historical figures had very little information on their early years, except for one, Director-General Amanda Cameron. So they were watching one of the many holo-vids about her life. As the holo-vid showed Amanda Cameron in her early teen years, Christina and Sarah shared a look, then while Sarah hit the pause button. Both girls shifted slightly so that they could both see Anastasia better. "What, why are you both staring at me like that?"

"It's creepy. You look just like her." Christina said as she looked back at the holo image and back at Anastasia.

"Ana, shift over beside the holo image." Sarah said, and once Anastasia was beside the image. They both she and Christina just stared with their eyes shifting from the image to Anastasia and back again.

"MOM!!!! We need you in here." Christina yelled

It took only a minute for Commanding General Michelle Mitchell to enter the room, where she stopped suddenly when she saw what had they were doing. This day had to come and no matter how many times I have run it in my mind. I still have no clue how to explain this. She thought silently. She realized that all 3 girls were staring at her, but she had no clue what to say.

"So you see it too? Anastasia is the spitting image of Amanda Cameron. How can that be possible?" Sarah asked

Michelle swallowed and commanded her voice to work. "Girls, I guess it is time we had a talk. I need to bring someone else over to help explain all this. So give me a few minutes, please."

She returned to her office and hit the speed dial button. "Mark, get your ass over here now! We have a problem with the girls. This is the problem we knew would some day arrive, I'll be damned if I am going to try and explain this alone. Now Mark, right now." She hung up the phone and walked to her mini-bar and fixed herself a stiff drink. Then she downed it in a single swallow and poured another. She glanced at the clock 3pm, it was close enough.

Mitchell Residence
Thazi (Hegemony)

It took Director-General Mark Cameron almost an hour to arrive and by this time, Commanding General Michelle Mitchell was on her 4th very strong drink. "It is about damned time. What the hell took so long?"

Mark Cameron took no offense to the way she snapped at him. "Sorry Michelle, I still had some work to close up. I thought it was only me that hit the hard stuff this early?"

"Yeah, well, it seemed like the thing to do. If one of those girls decide to take a swing, well I prefer to have some numbing agent in me." Michelle said downing the last of her drink and standing up "Come on, let's get this over with, but damned if I know how to even start to explain this to them."

She led the way to the girls room, where all 3 of them had spent the last hour scrolling back and forth the taped images of Amanda Cameron and comparing them to Anastasia's pictures from younger years. All three turned to look as Michelle and Director-General Mark Cameron walked into the room. They stood on seeing him, even though this was not the first time they had met him, having come to dinner and when they went to functions with Michelle.

"Please girls, sit back down. This is going to be about as informal as it can get." Mark Cameron said waving them back down. He unbuttoned his suit coat and pulled over a desk chair and fairly plopped down into it. "I can see by the paused image there, that your slowly figuring things out. So, I will just cut right thru all the bull crap and tell you. Many years ago, I made a decision to enact a plan that had been put into place many many years ago. The plan was created in the event that some how, some way, there was no longer a Cameron to lead the Hegemony." he began to explain to them

"I never wanted this job or position. I was and still am a horrible Director-General, at least I think so. There is a storm coming, one that could be the downfall of the Hegemony without the right people in leadership. I am not that person, not by a long shot. I assume all 3 of you know that you were born using the Iron Wombs that the Wolverine descendants maintain?"

All 3 girls nodded yes, but still shared looks between themselves as Mark Cameron continued "Good. Well, that is how Anastasia looks like Amanda Cameron. There is no easy way to say this, so I am just going to say it. Anastasia, you are a genetic match for Amanda Cameron. Christina, you are a genetic match for Rita Mitchell and Sarah, you're a genetic match for Sarah McEvedy. When I say a genetic match, I am saying an exact copy. Cloned, whatever word you want to use." He paused to let it sink in carefully watching their reactions, which was mainly confusion.

"Wait, what your saying, sir, is that we are them?" Anastasia asked

"Yes, Anastasia. It is the simplest way to say it. While you do not have their full memory. You do however have their or so it seems to be all of their natural talents. For example; Anastasia, you seem to have Amanda Cameron's abilities for getting what you want with the least amount of effort. Which is an excellent skill to have as a diplomat. Christina, you have Rita Mitchell's ability to think on a strategic level, all the while not losing sight of the tactical situation. Sarah, you have Sarah McEvedy's lack of fear but, also her unwavering love for those she considers family. We, mainly me, have simply guided your upbringing to enhance those natural abilities and accelerate their rise to the surface much quicker." Mark Cameron said

"Hold on. It is almost like your telling us that you have been programming us. That we do not have true freedom?" Christina said, she was getting edgy and so was Sarah.

"Nothing of the sorts. I will say that I have massive hopes for all 3 of you. I will not force anything upon you. Anastasia, I hope for you to one day take my place as Director-General of the Hegemony. When I first activated the plan, this was almost a sure deal. However, as the years have passed and I have watched each of you grow from a distance. I have then realized that how can I force anyone into a job? When I myself was thrust into against my own will. So, the final choice will be your own." Mark Cameron said

"I.....I don't know. I cannot give you an answer. This is way too much." Anastasia stammered, her mind going a gazillion miles an hour absorbing the incoming information.

"I do not expect you to give me an answer today or tomorrow. I am not going to lie and tell you that I hope and pray every night that you take this mantle from me. In hopes of you for you to lead the Hegemony in what could be our darkest hour. That is a decision for you to make. It the same for you girls also." Mark Cameron said

Sarah had gotten up and was pacing like a caged tiger. "How many more of US are out there?" She asked, almost demanded

"I am told that only you 3 are exact genetic matches. It seems the scientists also mixed some Mitchell/McEvedy, Mitchell/Cameron, Cameron/McEvedy while performing their task. I can find out exactly if you want me to." Mark Cameron replied, but also not having a clue what good it would do.

"I would like to know if I have other sisters or even brothers out there. I am not sure how I feel about this. I would like to be alone with my sisters for awhile. Not sure I like this, but also not sure why I might not like this either." Sarah said, still pacing, her arms starting to sway back and forth, fists clenching and unclenching.

Director-General Mark Cameron stood up "I understand. We will be in the living room. If any of you have other questions. Come Michelle, let's leave the girls alone."

14 November 3019
Thazi (Hegemony)

None of the girls had left their room during the night, Director-General Mark Cameron had stretched out on the couch under a thin blanket, while Commanding General Michelle Mitchell had retired to her own room. As the sun rose and began shining thru the windows, Michelle was in the kitchen brewing the morning coffee. The aroma caused Mark Cameron to rise from the couch and wander into the kitchen to stand beside her.

"That smells so good. We have got to get you a better couch or a guest room. I ache in places that I forgot existed." Mark Cameron said

"We don't have over night guests very often, Mark. Another 2 minutes on the coffee if you want to use the facilities to freshen up before the girls get up and moving about." Michelle replied

While Mark Cameron moved off to see to his morning business, Michelle could not help but prevent her mind from replaying yesterday's events. What have we done, what if I lose my girls, she thought. The fact that they had not left their room all night worried her. She could not shake the feeling of loss as she pulled 2 cups from the cabinet. "Morning, Mom." Anastasia's voice caused her to turn.

"Good morning, Ana. Mark is in the bathroom, use mine if you need to. The others awake?" Michelle asked

"I'm good for now. No, they are still asleep. I guess your both wondering what we decided." Anastasia said as she sat down at the kitchen table. Michelle poured herself a cup of coffee before taking a seat across from Anastasia.

"It has crossed my mind a few times." Michelle asked as she sipped the coffee.

"While none of us are really happy with how the events have played out, we appreciate the fact that Director-General Cameron is not forcing us into any role we do not want to play." Anastasia said turning her head as Director-General Mark Cameron entered the kitchen moving for the coffee pot. "We talked it over and have decided that we will learn everything that we need to learn, but we will not promise anything. This is still our lives to live. It is obvious to everyone that Christina and Sarah will be joining the HAF to pilot Battlemechs. However, you have both have already selected my future role, one that I am not sure I want yet. Despite this, I will learn what I need to learn. Let me be clear, I will not be smothered with security folks. None of us want that. We have not been so far, so we do not see why we should now."

"I can live with those terms, Anastasia. Even though I was thinking for the Hegemony years ago, it slowly dawned on me that I really was thinking of myself more than the Hegemony. I will continue as Director-General until you decide. If you do not choose the role, the post of Director-General will pass to my brother Thomas Cameron, since he is the next in line." Mark Cameron replied

This sent a shudder through Michelle, Thomas Cameron was not a moral person. He had every vice a person could have. He took pleasure in reminding people that he was a Cameron and by damned he was entitled to anything and everything he wanted. This would not be a good choice at all.

"The next in line is Thomas Cameron? The same Thomas Cameron that is always in the gossip papers?" Anastasia asked

"The very one." Mark Cameron replied while adding some sugar to his coffee.


21 December 3019
Grankum (Hegemony)

Thomas Cameron sipped his drink at the bar while his eye's swept the large room. He loved being on Grankum and stayed here as much as he could. Grankum was on the edge of Hegemony territory, but was a pleasant world. But most important, it lived up to its unofficial name "Sin Planet" quite well. Casino's, bars, prostitution, even light drug use was perfectly legal here. If you had a fetish that needed scratched, this is where you came. His eye's finally settled on a young attractive girl sitting by herself at a corner table. He smiled as he carried his drink towards the young girl.

"Mind if I join you?" Thomas Cameron asked not waiting for the girl to answer before taking a seat. "Name is Thomas and I could not help but notice you all alone, which is unusual for a woman as beautiful as you."

"Uh....Kimberly. I guess I got stood up, my date never showed up." Kimberly replied

"His loss and my gain. Let me get you another drink." Thomas said as he gestured to a waiter

"That is very kind of you, Thomas." Kimberly said with a smile, he was older but quite handsome

For the next hour, they made small talk until finally Kimberly said "I have to go, I am not feeling so well."

"Let me walk you out." Thomas Cameron said, helping her to her feet. She was almost out cold by the time they exited the bar and Thomas gestured to the valet who signaled for Thomas' limo to pull up. Thomas put Kimberly in the back and climbed in beside her. As the limo pulled away, Thomas smiled to himself, he was going to enjoy tonight very much if the "helpful" item he had slipped into her drink worked as advertised.

22 December 3019

The ambulance had been summoned by a young man walking his dog when he came upon the girl seemingly asleep on the park bench, but she failed to respond to his shaking her. Paramedics checked her vitals and rushed her to the hospital. Once inside the emergency room, her clothes were cut off and everyone could see the harsh marks where bindings had been on her wrists and ankles. Red marks on locations made it clear to all who saw them that the young woman had not had a pleasant night at all. Doctors ordered various tests to determine what drug she might be on.

24 December 3019
Grankum (Hegemony)

Thomas Cameron was spending Christmas Eve on Grankum, he just did not enjoy the family gatherings. Mainle because he did not like the way his older brother Mark Cameron, Director-General of the Hegemony always seemed to look down on him. Add to that the way his security team always watched him like a cat eyeing a mouse, just waiting to pounce. But he was not unhappy, he would much rather be here. Here, on Grankum, he was a powerful person.

He breezed into Molly's Place, a large ornate Casino, without even acknowledging the man that opened the door for him. He moved directly to the dice tables and caught the table manager's eye. "Give me 50,000 in chips." He rarely carried any cash on him, establishments sent him a bill and he either paid it or he didn't. The Cameron family was wealthy, very wealthy, but Mark controlled the money and was stingy with it. Thomas had once, before Mark took power, drawn a monthly stipend of 100,000, but now he only got 25,000 and had to watch his money closely. That pissed him off.

When the manager delayed and made a call, this angered Thomas Cameron and he said so "What is the hold up? You know who I am, give me the 50,000 in chips."

"I am sorry sir, but, Ms Molly, is on her way to see you. If you will kindly wait over at the bar, she will be with you shortly." The manager said

Muttering to himself, Thomas shouldered his way thru the small crowd around the tables to get to the bar area. "I will have a sour whiskey, make it neat."

He was on his 2nd drink when a voice came from behind him "Thomas Cameron, it is really good to see you. I mean really good."

"Molly, what gives? Give me the marker." Thomas said as he turned

"Oh, I would gladly give you a marker, but not until you settle the 125,000 you already owe me. I also understand you owe quite a few other casino's in town. I am not in the habit of throwing money at a bad bet." Molly Johnson replied

Once Thomas had fully turned, he saw that Molly was not alone. She had her small security detail with her. Goons, is what they really were. Professional knee breakers. He eyed both of them, knowing they would not touch him, everyone knew he was the next in line for Director-General and Hegemony Security would not look kindly on anyone harming him. "Molly, you know you will get paid, I am just a little short this month. Having your men with you does you no good, you won't lay a hand on me and you know it. So just give me the marker and after the 1st of the year, you’re the first that gets paid."

"No Thomas, I will not give you the marker. I will comp the drinks you have had, and even a nice dinner. But your cut off from the casino floor until you are paid up in full. If I do not have my money by the 15th of January, I will have no recourse but to submit your debt to your brother for payment. You can explain to him how you got in the position your in." Molly replied

"Dammit Molly, you know that will stir up all kind of trouble for me. You will get your money. I will just go to another, nicer place for the night." Thomas said

"Good luck, Thomas. From what I hear, you’re on the verge of being blacklisted across town. You can take the comp dinner but your cut off on the floor until your settled in full. Good night Thomas, have a Merry Christmas." Molly said as she turned and walked away.

B***H, Thomas Cameron thought to himself as he polished off his drink and walked towards the door. Not bothering to even tip the waitress that had been serving him. Once outside, he headed for the bar. I will just have to find another means of entertainment for the holidays. he thought.

28 December 3019
Grankum (Hegemony)

Inspector Colin Crawford looked at the body sprawled on the bed. He scanned the rest of the room slowly, watching the crime scene people do their work cataloging the scene. The victim had been dead a few days and it had been blood seeping thru the ceiling of the apartment below that had led police to the scene. The victim was tied to the bed, spread eagle and nude. It was not a pretty scene at all.

"Do we have an ID on the victim yet?" Inspector Crawford asked

A police officer handed over the ID card. Inspector Crawford looked at it. "AW SHIT, this is going to cause endless amounts of paperwork and lord knows what else."

"It was my thoughts exactly sir. I would prefer to be anywhere but here when the other folks arrive." The officer said

"You and me both, but I am afraid that is not going to happen." Inspector Crawford said, looking back down at the dead body of Thomas Cameron, next in line for the Director-General position.

Hegemony Security had swept in with over 30 agents, on their way to the scene. They had locked down the entire system, nothing would leave. A priority message had been sent to Thazi and additional personnel were on the way, along with Rebecca Ebon. Orders were issued, locate Thomas Cameron's security team and place them under detention. He had refused Hegemony Security personnel and had hired a private security company. Agents were on their way there to question the people there.

The lead Hegemony Security agent, Eunice Bloom, surveyed the scene with a clinical eye. She noted the wounds. The bindings on his wrists and ankles were heavily padded to prevent leaving any marks. The deep cuts on his wrists appeared to be the same that a suicide would make. Whoever had slashed his throat, so deeply that it had almost severed the head, she thought. So far, no prints had been found other than Thomas Cameron. Even though she would wait for her own forensic team to complete their own assessment of the scene.

She had kept a very long distance watch on Thomas Cameron, per her orders. So she knew he was a heavy gambler, with quite a few debts. But she did not know exactly who he owed nor the amounts. She doubted any of the debts were enough to kill him over; it was not a good way to recoup your money and would only bring serious attention that no one wanted. She was already mentally listing all the major players in the loan sharking business and gambling houses.

"Inspector Crawford, how long has Cameron been leasing this apartment?" Eunice Bloom asked

"He wasn't, it is owned by Stonewall Security. The company that provides his personal security. They own the entire building; even the cleaning staff are employee's of Stonewall Security. Most of the people that live here are employees." Inspector Crawford replied

"So that would explain the lack of his personal security detail. They assumed he would be safe inside their own building, well they sure were wrong about that." Eunice Bloom said

"The coroner is here to remove the body if you are done here. I am sure his family on Thazi are anxious to get his body back for burial." Inspector Crawford said

"They can have it when I am done with it, not a second sooner and I don't care who cries about it." Eunice Bloom said

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