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Fate Can be Cruel (Book 2) - Chapter Cover

Fate Can Be Cruel
Chapter 8 - Years 2824-2826


June 2824[]

9th June, 2824
Ghent (Periphery)

Sarah McEverdy shook Franklin Hallis' hand in greeting. It had been a long 8 months and they were in need of resupply. They would spend a month on the surface and then pack up and head for Nouveaux Paris to link up with the rest of the Wolverines.

"It is good to see you Franklin. How many did we save from Strana Mechty?" Sarah McEverdy asked

"The 331st and 205th Clusters are intact, only a Trinary of the 2nd League Lancers Cluster survived. From Strana Mechty and other enclaves, we managed to evacuate 207,591 civilians." Franklin Hallis replied

"Combined with what I have with me and what left with the first convoy, that means we have 611,521 of our civilians. We will not have a full count until we link up at Nouveaux Paris. How far do we still have to go until the link up?" Sarah McEverdy asked

"A long damned way. According to our charts, we are 570LY give or take. Six months at least." Franklin Hallis replied

"Then let's get our people to the surface for some ground time." Sarah McEverdy said

December 2824[]

8th December, 2824
Nouveaux Paris (Periphery)

It was a glorious day when the Wolverines had completely reunited. But it was not without some loss. They had been forced to abandon SLS Rawhide, Volga Transport at an uninhabited system stashed inside a asteroid belt. Her jump drive had finally given out. When the fleet of Dropships grounded, Sarah McEverdy called a commanders meeting to get a complete picture of what they had left.

"First, it is good to see everyone again. It has been a long time, but finally our Wolverines are reunited. Before we dive into the nuts and bolts, I want everyone to meet Star Captain Trish Ebon, she commanded the rear guard action on Strana Mechty before being ordered off world by Franklin Hallis. For her actions I am promoting her to Star Colonel and in command of the 2nd League Lancers Cluster. I am sorry Trish, but right now you just have your Trinary to command. But we will rebuild it one day, hopefully soon.

Now, down to the grist of this meeting. I have tallied everything up and here is where we currently stand. Instead of reading them all off, I will give everyone a chance to study the holo projector." Sarah McEverdy said as the Mobile HQ powered up it's holo projector and displayed the complete Wolverine totals.

Wolverine Force Count (2824)

Alpha Galaxy (Frontline)

331st Battle Cluster (3 Trinary Battlemech)
2nd League Lancers Cluster (1 Trinary Battlemech)
205th Assault Cluster (4 Binary Battlemech, 1 Star Aerospace)

Beta Galaxy (Frontline)

102nd Strike Cluster (3 Binary Battlemech, 1 Binary Aerospace)
444th Battle Cluster (4 Binary Battlemech)
291st Strike Cluster (2 Binary Battlemech, 1 Star Aerospace)

Zeta Galaxy (2nd Line)
1069th Cluster (1 Trinary Battlemech, 2 Binary Infantry)
1070th Cluster (2 Binary Armor, 1 Binary Infantry)

Farragut Battleship (Under Thrust - IWM Miniature Painted by Wackrabbit)

Farragut Class Battleship, SLS Michigan

Naval Forces

McKenna Battleship - (1) SLS Zughoffer Weir
Farragut Battleship - (1) SLS Michigan (Flagship)
Texas Battleship - (1) SLS Bismark
Aegis Heavy Cruiser - (2) SLS Rickenbacker, SLS Buccaneer
Potemkin Transport - (1) SLS Saratoga
Vincent Corvette - (1) SLS Badger
Essex II Destroyer - (2) SLS Yukon, SLS Pomelroy
Whirlwind Destroyer - (1) Weasel
Volga Transport - (2) SLS Maverick, SLS Dogie
Carrack Transport - (5) SLS Bishop, SLS Cardinal, SLS Wren, SLS Swallow, SLS Hawk

13 Monolith Jumpships
27 Star Lord Jumpships
32 Invader Jumpships
25 Merchant Jumpships

Civilians - 612,137 (616 births during transit)

"As everyone can clearly see, we have taken some losses in our escape. We had to abandon SLS Rawhide a Volga Transport plus 13 Standard Jumpships along the way. I am told that except for SLS Rawhide, the other ships were put on a trajectory to whatever star was in the system in question to hide our route from detection. On the plus side, we added to our naval strength, but lack the proper crews to make use of them all fully. Along with the loss of the Standard Jumpships were quite a few Dropships of various types, which has left many ships crammed with passengers.

From here I plan to head directly in towards the Inner Sphere. We need to get a feel for how bad things are in the Inner Sphere. Current plan is direct path to Terra and link up with the Terran Hegemony. But we need intel first, no telling what has happened since we left. First contact will be by warriors only, we cannot risk our civilians. The 331st Battle Cluster will lead the first contact. So let's resupply and redistribute the people to relieve some crowding." Sarah McEverdy said.

15th December, 2824
Livingston Naval Base (Hegemony)

Rear Admiral Dillon Macey watched as SLS Dragonfly, Riga III-Class Transport had sections of her hull removed so that the 4 extra LF Batteries could be installed while the 15,000 tons computer control system was installed and all the electrical wiring was run to the many systems. After running the slip stream testing for over a year, he had been promoted and SLS Dragonfly had been selected as the first HAF ship to be operationally fitted with the new technology. Several reasons, it was time to test the technology on a fully functional ship, of the average warship used by the HAF. Another reason was the slow increase in Hegemony Security missions operating from Columbus Station had caused a need for larger and more frequent supply missions. Lastly, it would allow a more easily accomplished and quicker rotation of the garrison forces at Columbus Station. Being a "secret" forward operating base, it was a hardship duty station and 6 years was a long time to be away from your family. Five years on station but a 6 month trip there and back.

They had discovered during the testing that there was a limit to the number of slip stream missions that could be run. This was a problem that they had not come up with a solution for. The modified Tramp Jumpships used in the first set of tests had blown out it's jump drive at 30 jumps using the slip stream. The second purpose built test ship had blown out it's jump drive at 31 jumps using the slip stream. During construction, SLS Slipstream, they had installed a reactor for each LF Battery and the Jump Core. This allowed the ship to recharge every component at once to speed up missions. He knew the modified Tramp Jumpship was going to be testing using a more normal much slower recharge rate to see if that altered the 28 jump limit that had been assigned when using slip stream travel.

Tramp Class Jump Ship (CG)

Tramp Class JumpShip

SLS Dragonfly had lost much of it's onboard cargo space to this modification. She now only carried just over 16,000 tons of cargo. Which normally would force the ship to be used for system patrol duties. However, using the slip stream method, it was more than enough cargo space, since travel times were measured in days and hours instead of weeks and months. He got the honor of commanding the first operational slip stream equipped ship. He could hardly wait the 4 months he had been told the modifications would take. He had been to Columbus Station 4 times carrying high priority cargo with the Super Jump Test Ship. So used to the high speed travel, he had about went crazy on the 2 month trip here using normal Jumpship travel.

All over the HAF Fleet every crewman was marine was being tested for the slightest sign of TDS. Those found with it were reassigned from any duty that might require slip stream travel. The Fleet had deemed that no TDS positive person would be assigned to any slip stream equipped ship.


June 2825[]

19th June, 2825
Svelvik (Draconis Combine)

While the Wolverine Fleet sat in an uninhabited system 3LY away, the 331st Battle Cluster entered the Svelvik system on a purely supply and intel raid. Their Aerospace escort brushed aside the small force of Combine fighters that attempted to prevent their landing. One on the ground, while the Battlemechs of the 331st Battle Cluster made sure the Combine garrison could not interfere, technicians quickly looted several warehouses at the space port, quickly loading the supplies onboard their Dropships before boosting back into orbit. The 331st Battle Cluster quickly followed suit.

July 2825[]

4 July 2825
Trondheim (Draconis Combine)

This time the 205th Assault Cluster made the landings on Trondheim. They engaged the 20th Rasalhague Regulars and quickly pummeled the Combine regular command while technicians again looted the space port. After 2 days on the surface, both the technicians and 205th Assault Cluster boosted for orbit. They left 3 destroyed Battlemechs and 2 KIA on the surface of Trondheim.

12 July 2825
Jarett (Draconis Combine)

The 102nd Strike Cluster made their landings under a cloud of Wolverine Aerospace fighters which made sure the local garrison of Combine troops could not interfere with the operation. For 3 days, the Wolverine forces looted the space port but also ventured into the city where they removed many news items from the local news station. At the end of their 3 day mission, the Wolverine Dropships boosted for orbit and returned to their transports.

29 July 2825
Richmond (Draconis Combine)

This raid was a larger one. With all of Beta Galaxy and Zeta Galaxy's 1069th Cluster. While Beta Galaxy secured the surrounding area, the 1069th Cluster overran the guard force of a large prison camp. They freed 5,782 prisoners and offered them safe passage offworld. Not all accepted the safe passage, but 4,924 of the prisoners did accept the offer and they were loaded aboard Dropships. After 2 days, the entire force boosted for orbit and the Draconis Combine never saw the mysterious raiders again.

September 2825[]

3rd September, 2825
Theta Carinea Cluster (Periphery)

"How bad is it?" Sarah McEverdy asked.

"The core is gone Kh.., er Commander McEverdy. Without a shipyard, we have no way to repair it."

"Damn. Okay, find a good place to park her. Somewhere no one will find her easily. Maybe someday we can return to reclaim her." Sarah McEverdy said.

"Space is getting very cramped aboard ships Sarah. Now the Zughoffer Weir had blown a drive. With all the people she carried, crowding will be much worse on all the other vessels. We will need to find safe harbor very soon or we will face riots I fear." Franklin Hallis said.

"I am very much aware of that Franklin, but what can we do? Dump our people on a rock and say, "We will come for you". No, we take care of our own, the Wolverine way. We need to put some distance between us and the Combine. We will push out 120LY before we resume our course." Sarah McEverdy said

November 2825[]

25th November, 2825
LV-19076 (Uninhabited Periphery)

The SLS Morning Star, a Tramp-Class Jumpship, had been in system for 4 days. The system held no habitable planets nor any identified by the small science detail aboard as being worth checking out. Now all they had to do is complete their recharge before continuing their mission. The recharge operation was routine and most of the crew were off duty, while a small watch was on the bridge along with the engineering watch. Th bridge crew had been making small talk when the lights turned red and a small alarm sounded.

"Holy shit!!!! We have a huge emergence wave inbound. I got firm reads on 13, 19, 22, 48. It is a whole damned fleet coming in!!!"

Commander Erika Frost entered the bridge, having bolted from her quarters within a minute of the alarm sounding. She did not have to ask what was going on as her eyes saw the many dots on the ships plot. We are so screwed, she thought.

"Wake everyone up. Get the Aero pilots to their birds, we got a squadron, but I doubt 6 fighters are going to help with our current situation. Comm, fire up the Box and get a mayday out." She ordered referring to the Black Box they carried.

The first ship to materialize 83,000km away quickly registered on the ships plot as the SLS Badger, a Vincent-Class Corvette. More ships materialized until finally a total of 113 ships had materialized all over the Nadir Jump Point. Every single ship was broadcasting SLDF identity codes. "Sweet Jesus, General Kerensky must have returned. Comm, hail them and see if we get a response." Commodore Frost said

It took 3 try's before they got an answer "SLS Morning Star, this is Sarah McEverdy aboard SLS Michigan. We mean you no harm. We have been away a long time and I would like a chance to talk."
Commodore Frost thought about this for a quick minute before shrugging slightly, not like I really have a choice in the matter. "SLS Michigan, talking would be much better than the alternative. Shall I come to you, or are you coming to me?"

25th November, 2825 LV-19076 (Uninhabited Periphery)

Commodore Erika Frost watched as the shuttle door opened and several personnel disembarked. All were armed with sidearms, but Commodore Frost would not hold it against them, because she had a squad of Nighthawk equipped Marines in the hallway waiting for her command. She watched the woman in the lead approach, she was in her mid 40's but it was easy to tell she was in excellent shape.

"Commodore Frost? I am Sarah McEverdy and this is Franklin Hallis, my second in command and that is Star Colonel Trish Ebon." Sarah McEverdy said.

"I am Commodore Erika Frost, Hegemony Exploration." Commodore Frost said

"Hegemony? As in the Terran Hegemony? That is impossible. We have many news articles that state the Terran Hegemony is no more and that some group called Comstar now controls Terra." Sarah McEverdy replied

"Not all of us ceased to exist. We dropped the Terran part 30 years ago at least. Kind of hard to call yourself Terran when you have never even seen Terra." Commodore Frost said

"So your exiled, much like us." Sarah McEverdy replied.

"I would guess that would depend on your point of view. I was born on Azur, the Hegemony is all that I have ever known. Our portion of the Terran Hegemony was formed on 5 July 2768 when Thazi, Boulsi and Pilon voted to join the Terran Hegemony. We have since grown and prospered even after General Kerensky and the SLDF abandoned the Terran Hegemony to their fate. I assume since your ships are still using old SLDF identification codes your descendants of the SLDF. Might want to keep that to yourselves, there is not much love for General Kerensky or the SLDF that fled in our nation. Many view it as an act of cowardice, desertion and immoral to abandon those an oath was sworn to protect. But I also remember the words of General Rita Mitchell when I was in the Academy. She said that once we were the Forgotten Corps, made up of survivors forgotten by the SLDF, but we never forget about each other or our sacred duty to the people we are sworn to protect. The strong watch over the weak." Commodore Frost said.

The words spoken seemed to shock the 3 people before her, she caught glimpses of rage in the eye's of the woman named Trish Ebon. Even the leader, Sarah McEverdy seemed a little angry, but she concealed it better. Well, the truth hurts sometimes, Commodore Frost thought silently. Time to break this sudden ice block that has formed.

"If you three will follow me, we will continue our discussions on the grav deck where we can enjoy something to drink." Commodore Frost said.

Once they were all seated on the grav deck under a comfortable .95g, Commodore Frost made sure drinks were passed out and even some fresh food. Her guests accepted the drinks but though they eyed the fresh food, they refused to eat any.

"Something wrong with the food? Not hungry? Because you all have the feral look of starving animals on your face." Commodore Frost said.

"It would be wrong for us to consume this food while the rest of our people consist on half rations." Sarah McEverdy said.

"Well, I am not sure I can feed all your people, but I have enough combat rations onboard my Mule Dropship to feed all my people for 5 years. When you leave here, I will detach the Mule and you can pass out the food as you see fit. I am sure that my superiors will order me back to port for a debriefing, but I know for a fact that they would want to talk with you." Commodore Frost said.

"Even though just a little while ago you chastised us and called us deserters?" Star Colonel Trish Ebon asked.

"Why should I punish the innocent children for any crime that their parents might have done?" Commodore Frost said back, but met the hostile stare with a steady gaze of her own.

"We accept your kind offer. This act will not put your crew into hardship will it?" Sarah McEverdy asked

"No, we can be resupplied quickly if we call. But like I said, my superiors are more than likely going to recall us to port for a debrief. Now, how about telling me why your here, after all these years? Has the SLDF decided it was time to return?" Commodore Frost asked

"Neg, I mean no. We decided to return on our own. Things were not going as planned. My plan was to link back up with the Terran Hegemony, but that was trashed when we learned it no longer existed. But now, after finding you, I am not sure what our plan is?" Sarah McEverdy said honestly

"Well, from the number of ships you have with you, if they are packed full of people, your not going to get very far. Our base is the only place within 300LY where you could possibly resupply. But until I have orders, you will never find it. And if you have a moment of thought about taking the ship, I have already instructed my navigator to purge the coordinates of everything if an attempt is even tried. Security precaution." Commodore Frost said

"If there are no habitable systems except your base, it must be very close for a HPG message to get to them?" Franklin Hallis said

"Never said we sent a HPG message." Commodore Frost replied

"But you said you expect a recall order. HPG would be the only way to get that order." Franklin Hallis said

"We have our ways. How about we cut this a little short and get that Mule full of supplies distributed to your people?" Commodore Frost said. Say yes, because I need to get another message sent out asap, she thought silently.

"Agreed, the people could use the rations. Commodore Frost, if you happen to speak to your superiors, however you manage it, could you request permission for my people to get some ground time at your base?" Sarah McEverdy asked

"I will relay the request for you. No promises though." Commodore Frost said

26th November, 2825
Columbus Station (Hegemony)

Major General Weldon Price, commander Columbus Station, read the two messages that had arrived within 3 hours of each other. The first was a mayday call from SLS Morning Star, one of the Tramp-Class Jumpships assigned to the Exploration missions being based from Columbus Station. The second message had much more detail in it and he was not very comfortable after reading it.

To: Columbis Station
From: SLS Morning Star

Made contact with what appear to be refugee's from General Kerensky's SLDF. Large fleet of 16 Warships and total of 97 standard Jumpships. Every collar is occupied, mainly by civilian Dropships, but have ident quite a few military Dropships. Had brief meeting with their commanders. It was fairly cordial. They have expressed a request to land their people on Columbus Station for some ground time. Awaiting orders at LV-19076.

Commodore Erika Frost

He called up the star chart and found LV-19076, it was 198LY from Columbus Station. He needed to punt this up the chain to someone much higher rank than himself. He headed for communications. The first message went back to SLS Morning Star.

To: SLS Morning Star
From: Columbus Station

Messages received. Hold position while message sent up chain.

Major General Weldon Price

The next message was more complicated, as he did not have all the information he really wanted to provide, but he sent out the message. It would take almost 7 days to reach Thazi and then a week back to him. However, it would take almost 2 months for SLS Morning Star and her guests to reach Columbus Station anyway. Might as well hold them there.

To: Hegemony High Command (FLASH TRAFFIC)
From: Columbus Station

SLS Morning Star has made contact with believed refugee's from Kerensky SLDF. 16 Warships and 97 Jumpships counted. Request orders. Leader of refugee's has requested to ground on Columbus Station for their people. Current position is LV-19076, 198LY from Columbus Station.

Major General Weldon Price

December 2825[]

2nd December, 2825
Thazi (Hegemony)

General (Ret) Rita Mitchell walked into the conference room after being awakened quite rudely. "This had better be important, I am not getting any younger and I need all the beauty sleep I can get now a days." She grumpily said as she collapsed into a chair at the table.

"I would not have called on you if I did not think is was urgent, Aunt Rita." Director-General Amanda Cameron said as she handed over the message slip.

General (Ret) Rita Mitchell took the message slip and slipped on her glasses, the message was short and to the point. "Well, this is a fine way to wake up. This all we know?"

"Yes, I could use some guidance on this one, Aunt Rita." Director-General Amanda Cameron said.

"Hell, we all do. But I will toss my opinion out for you. Recall that new fangled Transport and get it here to Thazi quick as you can. I will take most of the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division with me. They can sedate me for the trip out there. We can be at Columbus Station in roughly 6 days from here. But a hell of a lot better than the 6-8 months it would take the normal way. That short of a trip I can cram the infantry in tight for a few days. No way we can get the fleet out there in time, 6 months minimum for a fleet deployment in force, probably longer. I will go out there and have a little chat with our guests. See what they are all about and what exactly they want." General (Ret) Rita Mitchell replied.

"Aunt Rita, your pushing 100. We can send General Olivia Daniels or one of the others." Director-General Amanda Cameron protested.

"Of course we could, but I got one more mission in me. Besides, I am bored. Moreover, I want to try this new travel method. We will be there long before our guests arrive, hell if the ship was here right now, we would arrive about the same time as the message would from what I hear." General (Ret) Rita Mitchell.

"Okay, Aunt Rita. But I swear if anything happens to you, I am following you to where ever you wind up and kick your ass." Director-General Amanda Cameron said.

22 December 2825
Columbus Station (Hegemony)

General (Ret) Rita Mitchell had finally recovered her senses after being sedated for 8 days. She and 273 personnel from the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division had been put under sedation for the trip. In two days, SLS Dragonfly, Riga III-Class Transport would return to Azur where Dropships loaded with food and supplies were being marshalled for the trip to Columbus Station. With only SLS De Ruyter, Sovetskii Soyuz-Class LF Heavy Cruiser on station as a permanent guard, they were woefully out gunned when this fleet showed up. She made a mental note to boost the guard force out here to a full Division plus a full Warship Division. If more of Kerensky's SLDF, if that is who these new folks really were showed up, she wanted to make sure Columbus Station had an adequate defense force. But she also knew she was going to authorize the Hegemony Fleet to be fully equipped with the new slip stream technology, having now used it herself to make a 7 month trip in 6 days, she was a firm believer in it. The strategic advantages of it made it worth the investment.

She now had 8 Battlemech Regiments and 6 Infantry Regiments on Columbus Station. Mostly from the 191st Royal Jump Infantry Division, so on the ground, she knew they could old their own, as long as these new folks did not resort to orbital bombardment anyway. Currently, she watching the construction of the massive new HPG station being built. It was the new technology that allowed for a 1,000LY transmission, but only to another special HPG station. They had tested the theory using a standard HPG station to receive a message and it had fried the standard HPG which had cost a lot of money to replace. So far, Thazi, Boulsi, Blommestein, Onverwacht, Wynn's Roost, Columbus Station and Drachenfeld had been authorized the special HPG stations. Columbus Station and Drachenfeld due to their unique status as Hegemony Security way stations.

She finally wandered down to Columbus Stations command center and spent an hour studying the large star map that contained information about the several year old project of exploring the region. They had located 2 uninhabited but habitable systems since the project had begun. Soon, they would begin exploring further away from Columbus Station away from the Combine borders, having spent the last 2 years surveying from Columbus Station to the Combine border. Finally bored, she wandered to the mess hall for an early dinner before she retired for the evening.


23rd January, 2826

The massive emergence waves set off alarms all over Columbus Station. As the massive fleet started materializing at the Zenith Jump Point, she could not help but feel a little anxious about the coming meeting. Though she had spent years trying to discourage the strong feelings about General Kerensky and those that followed him, her time on Terra, the desperate fighting, all while knowing that if he and his troops had stayed, they would never have had to abandon the Terran Hegemony also. She had to admit that deep down, she too harbored some animosity and hostility over the issue.

"SLS Morning Star to Control, permission to undock Dropships and begin burn for the surface." Came over the communication channel.

"Permission Granted, Morning Star." Major General Weldon Price looked at General (Ret) Rita Mitchell who nodded. "Permission granted for your new found guests to also undock and proceed to coordinates, Zulu Tango 120345-20. We have landing beacons set up to guide them."

"Roger, will relay the message. It is going to be a massive number of Dropships inbound."

Relayed radar plots were a mass of red, each dot indicating a incoming unknown Dropship. "Jesus, she was not kidding."

3 February 2826

Sarah McEverdy and Franklin Hallis were the only ones on the short shuttle hop to Columbus Station itself. After grounding, they had been pleasantly surprised to find 10 Mammoth Dropships loaded with food, clothing, medical supplies waiting them at the coordinates provided them. Troops wearing clean SLDF uniforms assisted the Wolverine personnel in distributing the much needed supplies. She had spotted the large formations of Battlemechs surrounding the massive landing zone, but they remained at a distance and she ordered her own warriors to keep their Battlemechs aboard their Dropships.

As the disembarked from the shuttle, a very old woman dressed in a SLDF uniform and wearing the SLDF rank of Commanding General on her collars. Sarah McEverdy had spent the trip studying old SLDF manuals and texts to try and prepare for this meeting.

"I am Commanding General (Ret) Rita Mitchell. Welcome to Columbus Station." The elderly but still fit woman announced.

"Sarah McEverdy. This is Franklin Hallis, my second in command. I want to thank you for granting us permission to ground for a time. It has been a very long journey and I am not sure when it will end." Sarah said.

"Well, that is why I am here. To decide how long your journey lasts. If you would please accompany me inside, we will discuss things. My old bones do not like standing for long periods any longer." Rita said

As they walked towards the building, Sarah McEverdy asked "You said retired, if your retired, why are you here?"

"I may be retired, but I still throw a fair bit of weight when it comes to decisions that might affect the Hegemony." Rita replied.

Once they were all seated, General (Ret) Rita Mitchell had made sure that drinks and food was set up on the table. "A working lunch shall we say, please help yourselves to all you want and while we talk, rank is no longer a thing. My name is Rita."

As her guests served themselves, Rita sat back and watched them both. Both were obviously military, and very fit, even if a little underweight. Once she felt her guests were comfortable she started. "I take it you and your people are from General Kerensky's merry band. The SLDF identification codes on many of your ships tells me that much, but many of your ships are not broadcasting a known identification code. That tells me that if you are from Kerensky's bunch, they are manufacturing new Jumpships. So, tell me your story."

For 4 hours, Sarah McEverdy told the story of Clan Wolverine, about the Pentagon Uprising, Operation Klondike and then about the way Clan Wolverine had been forced to flee for safety. Rita sat there, took some notes, but really, she was amazed that they had survived at all.

"So, your telling me that Kerensky's army is alive, but has morphed under his son, Nicholas Kerensky, into some sort of uber military organization who are at the top of the food chain and everyone else is little more than slaves?" Rita summed it up.

"Though I have used the slave term myself, many of the Clan's treat their lower caste actually pretty decently." Sarah McEverdy said

"It does not say much when a person's entire life can be totally uprooted on the single toss of some dice. Sounds more like a glorified, but heavily armed band of slavers to me. So your ships have the route to Kerensky's Clans, as you call them?" Rita said

"Not any longer. I ordered our navigation computers purged. I had a feeling you would ask that question. We may have been forced to flee, but we will not be a party to a slaughter. Of either side. I think it would be best if they were just left alone." Sarah McEverdy replied

"Funny way of looking at it, but we can shelve that for now. Now I have to figure out what to do with you and your people. You said your goal was to link up with the Terran Hegemony. Well, you found us. Though most of my people quit using the Terran part of it. Director-General Amanda Cameron rules the Hegemony. The daughter of First Lord Richard Cameron. Question is, IF I allow you to link up with us, what is to prevent you and your people from up and abandoning us when the chips are down and it is time to pay the piper?" Rita asked

"I am willing to pledge myself and my people to the defense of the Terran Hegemony and it's people for all time." Sarah McEverdy said

"Yeah, well so did Kerensky and those that followed him. They swore an oath also, and when it came time to put up, well they tucked tail and ran for the hills. Cost the lives of untold billions in the process. The toll is still being counted, and will probably never be known. That blood is on their hands. But I also have a tradition of taking in stray units, that made a mistake in judgement, and are willing to make everything right." Rita said

"Can I be honest, Rita?" Sarah asked

"I would prefer it that way, Sarah." Rita replied

"Even if my Wolverines join the Terran Hegemony, it is going to take many years to get everyone used to the idea. My warriors, soldiers, have some very hard edges on them and that alone is going to take years for them to adapt to the new way of life. Wholesale integration too quickly is a recipe for disaster." Sarah said.

"So, you need time for the changes to come naturally and not forced. Okay, I can respect that. Well, I have had a long time to think about this issue waiting on your arrival. I have 2 locations in mind. The first is a system we call Rover, newly terraformed and completely uninhabited. But I have a problem with that location. Your people go there, and I am going to demand that your warships be mothballed and under Hegemony control. I will not have a risk to the Hegemony, and your people are still an unknown and possibly hostile force.

The second is further away, called Drachenfeld. Population roughly 2 million. I am told a quite pleasant planet with ample resources. I expect the people there to request joining the Hegemony in the next decade or so. The way I see it, with a native population to interact with, well, it will help your people begin to adjust to their new lives. We have a very small garrison of volunteers on the planet and run some exploration missions from there. However, it is also 525LY from our borders in the Deep Periphery. Almost 1500LY from where we currently sit. I am not sure your ships or even your people can make that long of a trip. It would take several years to perform enough maintenance on your ships to make it a sure thing." Rita explained.

"I will not surrender my warships willingly, not yet anyway. You too are an unknown to us." Sarah replied.

"I did not think so. I think Drachenfeld is the only option then, for now anyway. I need you to understand perfectly clearly, there may come a time when the Hegemony needs help in a fight. I expect your people to be there when we need you. The people on Drachenfeld are not your people. I find out your forcing your ways on them, and I will put a stop to it. I will help get your civilians and also a good portion of your ground forces to Drachenfeld quickly. I will also make sure that you have everything you need, supplies, farming equipment, seed stock, portable housing, everything you need until you are able to self sustain. Your Warships and Jumpships will have to make the journey the long hard way. I will make sure that any that break down are recovered and returned to you. In five years, I expect you to be ready to start some sort of exchange program where your officers and soldiers start working with my troops. Everyone will need to get to know each other. In ten years, I expect your Warships to start joint patrols and slowly merge with the Hegemony Navy. I will discuss the actual working out the details with our Navy, we can decide if you fold in completely or maybe your Warships form a new Squadron, but under Hegemony command. That will all be up in the air to be worked out later. Is that fair Sarah McEverdy?" Rita said.

Sarah McEverdy looked at Franklin Hallis who had remained silent the entire time. Silent words seemed to pass between them before Franklin Hallis nodded. "I agree to your terms, General Rita Mitchell. My Wolverines will forever stand with the Terran Hegemony. Hopefully, within ten years, twenty at the longest, my people will be ready to join the Hegemony as equal partners and citizens."

"Then it is settled. Your people will remain here on Columbus Station for a few months. I need to start making the arrangements for everything from transport, supplies and prefab housing. We will talk many times in the coming weeks." Rita said then she added "Do not make me regret this decision Sarah. Kerensky let me down massively, you’re now a part of what we old timers call The Forgotten Corps."

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