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Scars of Victoria (Cover Art)

Scars of Victoria[]

Chapter 15 - Common Animosity[]

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Sacrifices made in service of the Blessed Order[]

The Road - Zanzibar III, Capellan Confederation - 12/20/3048

Erlance’s Bazaar reeked of desperation, sewer, spoiled meat, and tannery chemicals. Two men navigated around the foul-smelling pools of runoff gathering in its dark roads past women whose gaudy rags hide nothing in broad daylight. The taller man wore a brown duster and sunglasses, a kangaroo leather hat hid his shaved head. “You always take me to the nicest places.”

His companion wore tan button-down shirt, blue jeans, and military boots all covered with dust. His disheveled black hair covered his sunglasses. “I’ve been to worse in Solaris City.”

A beggar approached them before he saw that the pistol belt wrapped around the man’s waist. He disappeared into shadowed alleys. Yuri looked over toward a butcher shop proudly showing the skinned carcasses of grass rats. “I find that difficult to imagine.”

“The Blessed Order forces us all to make sacrifices in its service.”

They turned the corner and onto the wraparound deck of an old ‘hotel,’ a three-story building crudely cobbled together from material from no less than a dozen. A fit, short-haired, dark-skinned woman with numerous scars sat on a monobloc chair behind a plastic table with a cheap chess board set upon it. She wore a bikini top, shorts, and wedge sandals. Her sarong was laid behind her on the chair covered in sweat. Behind her was a man who looked as though he would rip the comparably lean Yuri limb from limb before eating him with his sharpened teeth. “With an outfit like that I’d expect you to be on a beach Victoria rather than in a slum on Zanzibar.”

Yuri (Cyborg Assassin - Scars of Victoria Character)

Yuri, Cybernetically enhanced Assassin

“I don’t think I would trust any beach on Zanzibar with this body, Photon.” She loosened the straps and retied them around her neck showing off her shoulders and expose more of her breasts. “Besides the only bathing I do is nude.”
“Don’t let me stop you. I’ve lived beside the Mediterranean on Terra for seven years so I’m comfortable with that. Although I feel like I should take my top off as well.”
Photon unbuttoned his shirt and laid it on the chair behind him to show off a tanned chest pockmarked with shrapnel and bullets wounds from his service on the losing side of the Andurien Succession and time in ROM.

Two waiters appeared from the doorway carrying chairs for the newly arrived guests, “Would you like something to drink, Sir?”

“Whatever passes for wine here and a whiskey to burn my tongue beforehand. Yuri, would you like anything?”

“I will politely decline.”

She spun the chess board around, “I presume you want white.”

“I do like to move first,”
he spun it back after picking up the White Queen and substituting it for a better crafted one from his pocket, “However ladies first. How about we play keep away? If I win you lose your boon.”

“Since you are raising the stakes, I shall as well.” Victoria loosened her top and wrapped the strings around her chest exposing herself even more.
“The last time I let my eyes wander I almost got my arm pulled out of its socket on Mars. Anything you have I can already get from a younger model.”

They proceeded to play the game, until the White Knights had pinned the Black King against the corner with the White Queen checkmating Photon’s King. “Checkmate.”

“Brilliant maneuvering. I thought I had you beat for a move or two Victoria.”

“My father was a brilliant tactician, and he would have been victorious. If it hadn’t been for the Federated Suns. Kamea would be dead, and I would be Queen.” She tapped the chess piece onto a comm-pad and read the display twice. “If only I were ten years younger. Two for one special?”

Photon let a smile slip, “With Yuri in play we are going for a full hat trick.”

“I’ll get right on it. We will depart tomorrow. Care for another game?”

“I don’t play games for fun anymore, Victoria. Besides I have work to do.”

When Rogue Princes Meet[]

Space Station - Herotitus, Froc Reaches - 01/08/3049

Staccato strums of flamenco guitar and hollow percussion of castanets filled Talon Zahn’s section of CCSS-R758 aka Top of the Well’s gravity deck as a Cerillos couple performed for tourists from the Federated Suns. “Olay!” she stomped and swirled her colorful skirts before suddenly stopped to strike a strong and graceful pose as FedSuns Pounds fell gently into the guitar case at half-speed. “Muchos Gracias, amigos.”

Across the street Canopian traveling medics, teachers, and Magdalean Sisters discussed something in their native tongue while sharing.

A team of builders from Ward downed their metal beverage bottles before shouting out for a refill.

Arcologists, a sect of the Taurian Far Looker movement and their most profitable component, discussed the elements of this station, built by the Free World’s League SelaSys Inc., with their youth. The elders pointed to the green algae tucked into the ‘useless’ space of the gravity decks upper arch, the indirect lighting that helped shape shadows concealing the curve of the ring, and that the utilities were just below the floor easily accessible through grates in the passageway.

Talon noticed the security guard following the tour group closely as they entered a ‘free speech area’ where an evangelist from Herotitus’ newest cult, the Church of the New Living Christ, preached “Seek redemption on Herotitus. Don’t fall for the sins of excess. Embrace the sacred love of the divine,” to the travelers who chattered about their destination. Missionaries from The Omniss, other Far Looker sects, the Canopian Catholic Church of Mary Magdalene, and others were also present.

Despite his best efforts an overly zealous Inheritor slapped a pamphlet into his hands clearly seeing the short man with a Gladius, the symbol of Ares Military Academy, tattooed down his neck wearing a fur lined bomber jacket over his CCAF Fleet Grays as a visitor and tried to do it with others before security intervened and chased him away.

It read ‘Doom awaits the fallen Inner Sphere. The Periphery will rise up and remake all worlds in their own image. Only we inheritors foresee the inevitable. Join us and be saved.’ in five languages most of which Talon read well enough to know it wasn’t written by an actual translator.

He deposited it in the nearest waste bin, “Maybe you’ve gone to far with embracing religious tolerance and tourists Chancellor.” Talon looked around at the crowds gathered from across the Inner Sphere which had gathered at a small rest station within what Chancellor Tormano Liao had called ‘A New Central Kingdom’ when he assumed power. He sat on a median bench across from the quaint faux wooden exterior of the Wellspring Pub. “On the other hand, perhaps it’s a better thing that the Confederation is not like it was before.”

A young man in the light blue-gray uniform of the Illician Lancers approached the pub, “You are out of uniform Prince Andrew.”

“You have some non-uniform apparel on as well Sang-Wei. Nice coat. Shame I couldn’t bring mine.”

Talon shook the other man’s hand when offered and looked to the side where two corseted women wore leggings under their crescent skirt while sitting next to a mixed group. “Thank you. The stationmaster keeps the temperature low to make the New Hedons wear clothes.”

“That’s one way to do it. Have you ever been, Talon?”

“No, I’d rather not go to the budget friendly version of the Magistracy of Canopus even if they do hire most of their Pleasure Circus talent from that world. If I am going to do that, I’ll go all the way, probably to Luxen and Vixen. Perhaps I’ll find a diamond in the rough there. Does your brother or Chancellor Liao know you are AWOL?”

“Only my luggage made it to New Syrtis for the holidays. I told them I would follow up by shuttle eventually. They will find out soon enough, but only after Espinosa is taken care of.”

Prince Hohiro, Shin Yodama, and two escorting Station Security Officers joined them. Talon gave them a signal to be wary. “If your brother had finished the job the first time you wouldn’t need to. Princeling, go home, First Edo will handle Espinosa and her bandits properly.”

“Neither of you have authorization to operate alone, Hohiro you must subordinate yourself to CCAF command while in country and you are to stand down.

Andrew, you are operating completely without authorization, by the strictest definition you are an illegal immigrant if not a pirate yourself.”

“I have approval to seek her out in defense of the Herotitus Clip convoys as a member of
Illician Lancers under contract with the United Outworlders Company of Alpheratz.”

Onlookers began to gather around their party followed by station security. “Which means nothing here, this isn’t the Rim, even if it seems like it sometimes. The Capellan Dragoons will handle the Capellan Confederation’s piracy problem.”

“Its our piracy problem too, Sang-Wei Zahn. Espinosa’s pirates have attacked seven worlds in the Capellan March. The AFFS would be justified in seeking them out under the terms of the Thirty-Thirty-Two St Ives Treaty on Interstellar Protection and Navigation.”

“Which has been superseded by the Capella Accords of last year Andrew. The DCMS and DCA have standing Status of Force agreements to support the CCAF.”

“You have both had a lot of time to think about this. How about we just talk this over, in private?” Talon thumbed toward the nearby pub.

Each pointed toward the other and spoke in unison, “With him?”

“Yes. Unless you both want to leave and let the CCAF handle this.”

Both paused for a long moment staring each other up and down. The crowd stood in absolute silence while security stretched their hands at their sides in anticipation. “I’ll buy.” Andrew said.

“Nonsense, I’ll buy.” Hohiro replied

“I’m buying.” Talon responded, putting himself between them.

“That seems only fair, Hohiro. Don’t you agree?”

“It is Andrew. Thank you for your hospitality, Talon.”

Andrew, Hohiro, and Talon slipped past through the saloon style doors and into the dark interior the most obvious decoration being the Northwind planetary flag hung behind the door. A large man ushered them into a private booth as station security blocked entry to the onlookers and Yakuza Shin Yodama.

“Liddies and Strathconner Dews all round. Keep the tab open Logan." Talon settled between the two princes who sat opposite one another. "We might be here for a spell.”

Arguments over drinks[]

Peppy pub music played softly in the background as three men sat in silence with a pair of metal cups in front of them. Talon lifted his pint glass and drank a deep draught, “Now that we are in private you have nothing to say to one another?”

“Where’s our metals! and those responsible for stealing them on Glenmora! Andrew?”

“I don’t know what you are talking about Hohiro.”

Hohiro shot upward upsetting the cups which spun around until their magnetized bottoms caught them, “Don’t lie to me! Two thousand tons of precious metals were stolen by the Fifth Deneb.
Proserpina Hussars took heavy casualties and the foundry sustained serious damage.
Luthien gave you a chance to respond peaceably.
Don’t think this won’t go unanswered!”

Andrew and Talon both shot up in response, Andrew leaned forward while Talon stood ready to intervene before things go ugly. “I don’t know what you are talking about!
If Ian had launched an attack.

It would only be the first blow in an offensive that would go all the way to Galedon V, again!
I don’t know where you got your intel, but they are lying to you!”

“You lie! and dare to insult me.”
“Bring it on, Hohiro.”

Security peeked in on the party from just outside, Talon waved them off. “Both of you calm down!

You are both insulting me. I expected better from Princes. As your host I implore you to respect decorum.
I will not have a war break out between the Federated Suns and Draconis Combine because of a bar brawl in the Capellan Confederation. And I do not want to explain why another Kuritan Prince was arrested for battery following a trip to the bar with foreign nobility. You wouldn't want to gain a reputation for being unable to control your temper or your liquor would you, Hohiro?”

Andrew sipped on his scotch. “It was a good fight. Watched it in a station bar just like this one.”
Hohiro did the same. “I was on Detroit. Minoru should have kept his hands up more.”
“Ian spent a lot of time on Detroit. Did you go to the Motodrome?”

They finished their scotches, Logan showed up and left the bottle, so Talon refilled them with the smoky amber liquor. “I put him out of the top five.”

“I’m sure Ian would be crushed to hear that.”

“Then Sao-Wei Zahn was one of the first officers I worked with in preparation for our Peacekeeping operations and stared opposite me at the Change of Command ceremony on Capella. So how do you know Talon Andrew?”

“Talon and I met as part of an officer exchange between The Warrior’s Hall and Ares Mechwarrior Academy.”

“A Capellan Cadet invited to the Warrior’s Hall? I’m certain that went over well.”

Talon threw back his shot and his companions were encouraged to do the same. “After the third victory in my Scorpion on the dueling grounds. I was informed that I would have to limit myself to simulator duels for the safety of the cadets. Apparently, they found fighting against a quadruped BattleMech difficult, even one only slightly better armed than a Panther.”

Scorpion Mech (MW5 Nexus Mod Version)

Scorpion Medium Quad 'Mech

The Kuritan Prince leaned back after his fifth drink, “I’m certain you were crushed Talon.”
“They were eventually forced to limit it further to only Wednesday nights, to keep up with my classwork. Although Duke Morgan Hasek gave me a cast bronze scorpion statue as a gift with the inscription ‘I can swim’ for giving such a clinic on unconventional tactics.”
“Did you bring it with you?”
“No, I wouldn’t fit in my seabag. It weighs almost a hundred kilos. So, it’s with my parents on Ares.”

Many drinks were poured, delectable stovie meat pies, aromatic chicken-a-leekie soup, and puddings were eaten. All three exchanged boisterous war stories even though none of them had ever served in actual combat having little more than handling isolated units of criminals and smugglers comprised of former CCAF and SIMC soldiers with a few opportunists from abroad although most of those had left after Highspire.

As the ‘Willspring Summit’ reached its fourth hour and were about to start its third liter of Strathconner Scotch. The Princes were too inebriated to realize that Talon was dumping and duping them but felt honor bound to go drink for drink with him and not show weakness in front of their rival. Hohiro’s face was blush red and it showed even on Andrew whose skin was pale from too much time in space and not enough in a tanning booth. The conversation steered back toward more relevant topics after a long sojourn on romantic conquests real or imagined.

“Its just like…” Hohiro drabbled off for a bit, his eyelids like leaden weights, eyes bloodshot to the extreme, “I just want to see some action against a real foe…before I go back home…and get married to Ayame.”

Andrew reached out to pat him on the shoulder, but his aim was off due to his drunkenness. His arm hung lazily and dragged him down till his chin almost touched the table. “I get that, mannn…I’m just tryin’ to do right by my brotherrrr.”

They each collapsed onto the table, sliding off the glossy vinyl seats, before crashing to the deck. Talon reached fourth to rescue the Scotch bottle before tiptoeing around Andrew who snorted in disapproval before he started snoring. Logan arrived after hearing the crash, Talon tried to pass him the unopened bottle. “You keep it, laddie. On the house. I’ve come up with the new marketing slogan for Strathconner Dew, one bottle is strong enough to knock out two Princes. They couldn’t ask for a better endorsement.”

Logan leaned in and pointed his thumb toward himself. “History won’t forget that it was Logan McGregor’s Wellspring Pub that stopped a War. I’ll be famous.”

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