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Fighting Uphill (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 2 - Fighting Uphill[]


* A More Honest Comstar *[]


3 July 3006
New Valencia
Federated Suns


"Peace of Blake be with you, Major Wolf." the older man in the robe greeted with a bow. "Welcome to my humble HPG Station. I am Precentor Paulo Luther."

"Thank you, Precentor Luther" replied Major Joshua Wolf. He was the second in command of Wolf's Dragoons, and his older brother Jaime was the Dragoons leader. Joshua had a talent for administration and as a result, Jaime was using him as the Dragoons "expert" for dealing with the Inner Sphere's non-martial relations which included contract negotiations, liaison duties with their House Davion employer, and in this case, business dealings with Comstar.

"And how are you finding New Valencia's hospitality?" Luther asked. The Dragoons had recently arrived on the planet, granted to them by their current employer First Prince Ian Davion as a base for the duration of their contract.

"New Valencia is a lovely planet." Joshua answered. "The people have been very supportive, more than we expected really. The construction of Fort Jaime is well ahead of schedule."

"Ah, I believe that's because you're paying ten percent above market price for the building materials." Luther told Joshua with an amused smile. "That pretty much gives you priority over everyone else on the planet for the suppliers."

"Oh." Joshua said as his mind ran back over several other peculiarities of Inner Sphere civilian activity that had puzzled him. "So that civilian camp that sprung up practically overnight outside Fort Jaime and offering our warriors and techs companionship..."

"Are more interested in fleecing them of their C-Bills than their companionship." Luther finished for him sympathetically. "Although I may be doing them a disservice. I've heard many stories where such people fall in love with soldiers like your Dragoons and marry them. And there's plenty of other stories of people who wish to escape their local communities for whatever reason by marrying mercenaries such as yours."

"That... sounds like something I am going to have to talk with my brother about." Joshua said thoughtfully.

"Not used to handling money where you've come from?" Luther asked knowingly.

"No, we have money." Joshua said quickly. "But I will admit that I have spent most of my career as a warrior not worrying about it."

"Ah, the lament of many a new mercenary." Luther said, understanding. "Although most new mercenaries don't start off with five regiments of pristine mechs. Or six full blown Warships that were last seen leaving the Inner Sphere with General Kerensky."

"Uh, General Kerensky?" Joshua said, trying to hide his surprise and dismay. "What makes you think our Warships were his?"

"Oh, please Major, everyone knows those Warships were Kerensky's." Luther said in good humor. "The Warship composition of his Exodus Fleet is public knowledge, and you left the original names and registry numbers painted on yours."

"Oh."

"Don't worry, I won't press you on what became of Kerensky." Luther reassured him. "I'm sure you'll tell us in your own good time. But I'll warn you that others might not be so patient."

"Uh, thank you, Precentor." Joshua said. He was definitely going to have to talk about this with his brother. The Dragoons might have well blown their cover already simply because no one back home had remembered what those numbers on the hull were actually for. They had just been preserved because they were something the Star League had done.

"Oh, and I'd also recommend not taking your Warships into actual combat." Luther added.

"Why not?" Joshua asked, now bristling a bit. While he appreciated the Precentor's candor, he was still a civilian, not a warrior, and combat should be Joshua's area of expertise, not his. "All the Great Houses still operate Warships, and the First Prince's representatives were certainly pleased about us having our own small fleet."

"Far be it from me to tell the Dragoons how they should use their assets, Major." Luther said, noticing Joshua's ire and trying to placate it. "But you should pay attention to how your employer is using his Warships. They're either hanging around guarding safe core worlds, or only ever act as interstellar Dropship transports. Over the last two hundred years, Warships thrown into direct combat have this distressing tendency to blow up after one or two operations, and in the Inner Sphere's fallen state of industry, replacing them or even conducting major repairs is extremely difficult and expensive even for a Great House, much less a small mercenary unit such as yourself." He rubbed his chin and smiled knowingly. "Unless of course, you have a supply of plentiful spares wherever you're from?"

"Uh..."

"Ah, forget I asked, Major. I promised not to press you on this issue, and I won't." Luther reassured Joshua. "So, how can I help the Wolf's Dragoons, Major?"

"Our House Davion liaisons have been telling us that we should be investing some of the down payment given us into upgrading our mechs." Joshua told him, feeling as though he had been thoroughly worked over with a club despite the Precentor not having lifted a finger. "They recommended coming to you for advanced equipment."

"Oh, I'm sorry, Major." Luther said regretfully. "While Comstar provides plenty of technical assistance to the Great Houses, we are committed to Blake's Vision of bringing peace back to the Inner Sphere. Comstar does not sell weapons or military equipment; that would be a violation of everything Comstar stands for. At best we can put you in touch with any number of military suppliers in our role as the sole provider of HPG communications, perhaps even help arrange a loan from the Bank of Terra so that you may buy the military upgrades you desire. But Comstar absolutely does not sell military hardware and I don't understand why everyone thinks we do."


Later, as Joshua was leaving the HPG Station and convinced that he'd failed his mission, a Comstar Adept approached him as he was about to walk out the front gate.

"Major Wolf, before you go, would you like to donate to one of many of Comstar's charities?" the Adept asked. "Maybe offer a prayer as well?"

"No." Joshua demurred. "I think the Dragoons may have... may be over budget as is."

"Oh, but if you donate to one of our many charities, you may receive a blessing from Blake himself." the Adept persisted. "Why, I've heard many stories where generous donors have had their prayers – usually made in written form – have been blessed with their prayers being fulfilled."

"Is that so?" Joshua asked, suspicions forming in his head. Although he'd never admit it, Joshua has had some dealings back home with the black market and Dark Caste that involved something other than shooting them. It was one of the reasons why Jaime thought Joshua would make a good contract negotiator.

"Oh yes." the Adept said reverently. "Blake's miracles often take the form of unrequested packages delivered in the mail, filled with everything the donor has prayed for. Assuming the donations were sufficiently generous of course."

"Of course." Joshua said dryly. "And these 'miracles' are reliable?"

"Indeed they are." the Adept confirmed happily. "It's one of the reasons why Blakism is the number one religion among the Inner Sphere's elite."


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