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Fighting Uphill (Chapter Cover Art)

Fighting Uphill - Chapter 10[]

* The Great Purple Turkey Shoot​​ *[]

Meeting with the Client[]

30th November, 3010
Fort Duncan, Oriente
Free Worlds League

"Colonel Wolf. Major Kerensky. Thank you for coming." Candace Liao greeted warmly as Jaime and Natasha were let into her office. "Please, come in and have a seat."she added, motioning to the guest chairs in front of her desk.

Duncan Marik stood beside Candace, arms crossed across his chest and glaring at Jaime. He was wearing an FWLM General's uniform.

"Of course I came, Senior Colonel." Jaime said as he and Natasha took the indicated seats. "As you said in the past, you are our employer. What can the Dragoons do for you?"

"Why did you specifically ask for me?" Natasha added, not at all self conscious that as a junior most officer in the room that she might be breaking any kind of etiquette.

And indeed she had. Duncan seemed to take offense at Natasha speaking out of turn. Finally taking his eyes off Jaime, Duncan looked at Natasha, opened his mouth to respond, and then hesitated. He blinked in surprise, looked Natasha up and down, then closed his mouth, and settled back, looking a bit more relaxed than when the Dragoons had first entered the office.

"Major Kerensky, I've been receiving reports on the training regimen that you're putting your new recruits through." Candace answered. "I'm quite impressed by the progress you've made, although I'll note that most mechwarrior academies in the Inner Sphere would consider your recruits sufficiently proficient in piloting and gunnery by now."

"The Dragoons have higher standards than your Academies." Natasha said proudly.

"Senior Colonel, do you wish to employ Major Kerensky's skills as a mechwarrior trainer?" Jaime asked.

"In a manner of speaking." Candace replied. She pointed up at Duncan. "Duncan here has finally managed to get his mech through the entire live fire testing course without anything exploding on him. As a result, he believes that he is ready to take to the field against our enemies."

"I am ready to take to the field, Candy." Duncan said, exasperated. "I will be Captain-General. I don't need your permission to go. The only reason I'm humoring you is because I love you and because Mother insists I follow your lead."

"Yes, I am concerned for Duncan's safety." Candace told the Dragoons. "So to allay my... concern for him, Duncan has agreed to a series of military exercises to show just how good he is as a field commander."

"I assume you do not mean with live weapons and ammo?" Natasha asked.

"No!" Duncan exclaimed. "Why would you even think that?"

"Hmph." Natasha sniffed contemptuously. "Inner Sphere wimps."

"Major, let me make something clear." Candace said carefully. "Duncan Marik is the most important man in the Free Worlds League to us. We cannot afford to lose him." Duncan looked smug at Candace's compliment. "And because Duncan is so important, finding someone who will give him a proper fight without holding back for fear of political reprisals or blowback to the Confederation itself is... difficult."

"And you think Major Kerensky here will give Duncan Marik a real fight?" Jaime asked. "Or at least as real as paint ammo and training lasers will allow?"

"I think Major Kerensky has just proved that she has little respect for authority." Candace answered. "And from the reports I've received, the recruits that she's training are the same way."

"Trainees?" Duncan said contemptuously. "Candy, if you must use mercenaries as my opfor, why not one of their proper line units to give me a real challenge?"

"General Marik." Natasha said with a smile that looked more shark-like than friendly. "I believe you will find the Black Widows more than challenge enough."

2nd December, 3010

The first exercise was the most painfully artificial setup that Jaime had ever seen, and he had seen quite a few artificial setups in Clan Trials. At Duncan's insistence, both sides formed up in parade formation in front of each other well within mutual shooting distance.

Duncan's battalion of Oriente Hussars were arranged in a single long battle line, consisting almost entirely of heavies and fast assaults. They had some of the best technology that the Inner Sphere had to offer.

Natasha's formation was more compact, her heavy 1st​ Company taking front can center in a four by three widely spaced block, her fire support 2nd​ Company standing in a similar block behind the 1st​, and the recon specialized 3rd​ block split to cover the flanks of the first two companies. Aside from Natasha and the other two company commanders who were Dragoon regulars, Natasha's recruits were all driving stock low end mechs that had been common in the SLDF before Kerensky's Exodus.

Jaime and Candace as well as several other senior CCAF and FWLM officers were watching the exercise from Fort Duncan's Operations Center and could see and hear what both sides were saying and doing.

The exercise hadn't even started yet, and wouldn't until Duncan finished giving his long winded, on open channel speech as he paced his Warhammer in front of his battle line. He was going on and on about the glory of the Free Worlds League and how he would bring about a new age of prosperity and glory and... well, Jaime lost track of what he was saying because he had long since tuned Duncan out.

Warhammer (Night - Farseer Animation)

Warhammer Heavy BattleMech

"Black Widow Actual to all units." Natasha said suddenly in a bored tone. She was speaking on the Black Widows' private channel, so Duncan couldn't hear her. "As soon as we are given the go signal, target this turkey and burn him down quick. I want to get to the real exercises." There was some chuckling and even a few outright laughs from her battalion, but no actual replies.

Several of FWLM officers looked offended at this insult to their liege, while some of he CCAF looked over carefully at Candace. Candace herself maintained a stoic facade, but a smile tugged at her lips.

A couple minutes later, Duncan stopped talking and planted his Warhammer dead center in front of his battle line facing the Black Widows.

"Duncan, are you done?" Candace asked over the open frequency.

"Yes, dearest." Duncan replied. "You may start the exercise at your leisure."

"Very well then." Candace acknowledged. "All units, exercise begins in three. Two. One. START!"

Jaime had to give Duncan credit. Duncan snapped off his two arm mounted hyperlasers instantly, striking Natasha's Marauder with lasers turned down to training mode intensity. The damage tracking system immediately painted Natasha's center and right torso armor red.

Unfortunately for Duncan, the entire Black Widow Battalion returned fire just as instantly, all of it focused on Duncan's Warhammer. His Hussars also fired of course, but their fire was largely unfocused and was too little too late anyway as Duncan's Warhammer model went from all intact white to destroyed black. Even the head module was all black.

"Stop the exercise."Candace ordered over the open frequency as everyone looked at the results. Duncan was "dead", his I were completely untouched, and the Black Widows showed varying amounts of damage include two light mechs ruled as disabled. "Duncan, I'm afraid you're dead."

Duncan being "killed" was a lose condition for his side. After all, he was "the most important person" in the Free Worlds League.

"I know, I know." Duncan replied, frustrated. "Candy, can you get someone to help me get back to the hangars? I can't see a damn thing with all this paint on my canopy."

"I actually like your new paint job, General." Natasha said cheerfully on the open frequency. "All that day glow green and purple really suits you."

"Major..." Duncan growled.

'"Oh, and good shooting by the way." Natasha continued in the same cheerful tone. "You almost nailed me in the head there."

By the way, Are you seeing anyone?[]

8th December, 3010

"Thank you again, Colonel Wolf." Candace told Jaime. "These exercises have convinced Duncan that he's not quite ready to take to the field yet. He's even become more serious about conducting actual training exercises. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself."

"You are welcome, Senior Colonel." Jaime replied. "For what it's worth, Major Kerensky tells me that there appears to be some real talent and spine under Duncan Marik's spoiled prince exterior. And she tells me that the exercises have done wonders for her Black Widows' esprit de corps. She thinks they will be ready for missions by the new year."

"That's good to hear." Candace said. She paused, and then decided to take the plunge. "Colonel, Sylvia told me on the first day that you were 'taken'. Are you married?"

"Yes, although I do not advertise it." Jaime answered. "I love her and my children very much."

"Oh." Candace said. She sighed. "I suppose Duncan will make for an acceptable consolation prize." She smiled a bit. "Especially if he sticks to these exercises and turns into someone worth marrying."

Of course, Candace didn't say out loud. A man she found worth marrying could quite also be someone actually worthy of being Captain General. Candace was sure that her father would have some choice words to say to her if that happened.

But that was a problem for the future. Candace still had to win Duncan the Captain-Generalship in the present. Somehow.

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