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Scars of Victoria (Cover Art)

Scars of Victoria[]

Chapter 4 - Terra Inscrutable[]

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Recruiting an Reluctant Killer[]

Kynousa, Cyprus, Terra, COMSTAR Protectorate - 10/18/3048


Ancient olive trees dug their gnarled roots into the scenic cliffs of Cyprus looked out over the crystal blue waters of Chrysochou Bay and its sleepy port town that once housed the mythic bathes of Aphrodite. Precentor Photon Brett watched with curiosity as a large white and gold yacht marked with COMSTAR’S logo moored itself in the bay and let out a small tender. He looked over to his wife who lowered her shades to reveal bright brown eyes framed by chestnut brown hair.

“Tell Primus Waterly to leave you alone, Photon. You have been gone so often Elnara hardly knows you and Carlos needs his stepfather. He’ll be a man soon and needs guidance I can’t give him.”
“It is not my place to tell off COMSTAR’s Primus, Farah. However, that doesn’t mean I have to kowtow to her every need either. She has millions of people to do her bidding. I have done my part and still have another year at the SRP (Sahara Reclamation Project). If there is another option, I will ask her to consider it.”

Primus Myndo Waterly climbed up rough steps, thankful she chose a shorter dress than usual, toward the breezy centuries old villas jutting out from the cliffside. The sounds of children splashing and shouting at one another in what she presumed was Greek above her. A woman’s voice yelled at them in another language as she cleared the rise to see a tanned man in a partially open blue and white striped shirt, his black hair covered by a broad straw hat. Small wet footprints were still drying on the stone beside the patio pool.

“You look thirsty, Primus Waterly. Why don’t you have a drink with me?” He opened a dark green wine bottle with a manual corkscrew and poured out glasses of lemon water while it ‘rested.’ Myndo and her ROM bodyguard, wearing an appropriately tan suit, accepted the respite from the sweltering Mediterranean heat.

Photon poured the bottle out into a trio of glasses positioned atop the stone bar; the light bodied white wine sparkled under the sun and above the built in chess board. “You too Stephen. Farah doesn’t drink so I haven’t been either lately despite having this elegant Assyrtiko in the cellar for years.

Yamas!”

Waterly sipped on the glass but kept her eyes on him, “Your distractions will not deter my intent, Photon.”

A great stillness settled on the air between them, “What exactly is that, Myndo? I know that Graeme Kurita and his family are dead. A clean vertical chop in true Combine fashion, no bodies left in the night.

It must crush you to know that Sharilar Mori was a mole for Combine intelligence. How did it feel to execute your own mentor and successor?

So, what do we do now that the Draconis Combine and Capellan Confederation have managed to outmaneuver you?”

“We are not yet checkmated, Photon. I have ten billion souls within the belt and thirty outside of it. COMSTAR has spent centuries preparing for this eventuality.

I just need some leverage and I can push the Inner Sphere back while pulling the Blessed Order forward once more. That’s where you come in. Nobody knows Ian Davion and his family better than you. The Federated Suns must fail spectacularly! or COMSTAR is done for!”

“That’s because I still want to kill him for all he’s done to me. However, I can’t kill the First Prince of the Federated Suns. Even if you gave me an army and the title of Precentor Martial which I don’t want. I can’t do it, they’re too strong. COMSTAR cannot handle the AFFS, and we don’t have any leverage over the DCMS or CCAF anymore to tie them down ever since you lost Minoru and Romano.”

“We have her son.”
“Which means nothing!

He’s hardly older than my own, no one will follow him while Treyhang and Kai live even if we off that slimy bastard Tormano.
He’s too cagey.
You’ve tried before.
I’ve read the reports. He always finds a way out.”

“And that is why we need to do something different. You’re a cruel, cagey bastard yourself, Photon. You took up arms against your own family for your own purposes, committed atrocities under a false name, and came within inches of killing Ian Davion.

My normal advisors are fools, they lack appropriate subtlety. Too Terran centrist, too cautious. I need bold plans.

I need Urien Vasely and Stavro Lambda’s mind to come up with another plan.”

Photon paused to look out over the bay deep in contemplation. “Count Tancred Sandoval.

The fall of the Federated Suns lies in the First Prince’s brother-in-law. Morgan is too noble, Andrew too flighty, Yvonne would support her husband, James would agree with his son. James and Tancred might both see Theodore and Tormano’s agreement as a pact against the Federated Suns to isolate them from the League and Lyrans.

Tancred he’s paranoid, been on the wrong side of the DCMS too many times in the
Rangers, lost friends to their guns, and bears all the scars. If you can get him to overreact and do something rash the First Prince would have to come to his aid even if it breaks Ian’s détente with Theodore.
Get Charles to work on him and he’ll crack eventually.”

Myndo savored the last sips of her wine and more, “This is why I keep you around, Photon. You can finish out your tour on SRP now that you have done me better service in five minutes on Cyprus than everything you did during the CapCon Civil War.
Once you are done however, I expect you back in your
Black Knight.”

“As you wish, Primus Waterly.”


Interlude[]

Dr. Riva Allard at the New Avalon Institute of Science Symposium 3045


Once more with feeling. Haptics and sensor fusion for cybernetic prosthesis and other machines.

The standby officer of the New Avalon Fire Brigade held the sublimating remains of a dry ice fire extinguisher in one hand and the remains of an experiment in the other. A woman stepped up to the podium before cleaning her cat eyes glasses that framed her heart shaped face and brown hair with red accents before adjusting the microphone in front of her. “I certainly hope that was the display model Doctor Banzai.”

Dr Banzai gently took the charred experiment from the fire brigade just off-stage. “It was supposed to do that, Riva. That's why the Fire Brigade is here.”

“Of course, it was Bucky.” She cleared her throat, “Another round of applause for NAIS’ resident genius.”

Riva waited for the wary applause to clear while loading in her presentation, “What an act to follow. I assure you all that nothing in my display is meant to explode.”

She lifted the cloth to reveal a collection of prosthetic hands ranging from the most primitive plastic skeletal models to a fully ‘fleshed’ out myomer version. Riva donned an industrial data-glove and activated its sync pattern through careful movement of her fingers. The hands behind her disconcertingly clenched in unison with her own left hand, its exaggerated gestures, and her slide deck.

“One of our most primitive senses, indeed perhaps even the second oldest if not the first is touch or somatosensory perception for those scientists out there. Body language, touch, and gestures form almost eighty percent of human communication in fact entire forms have evolved such as braille or vibratese that are one hundred percent haptic.

Yet for some reason medical device manufacturers neglected to build these pathways into their machines. Instead prosthetic patients must suffer through phantom limb pain and relearn how to do something in an unnatural fashion.

Machines don’t need to feel they say, its too difficult to reattach the nerves, it’s too slow, it’s too fast, excuses, excuses.

People think that machines don’t feel but that’s not true, it’s never been true, it’s what we design them to do. Every machine from the smallest insect drone to the mightiest jumpship has sensors built into it.

What do you think the job of a sensor is?

To feel obviously. Now what it can’t do is rationalize the stimulus on its own, it needs a mind to make sense of the stimulus in an ordered manner.

We build them to feel things that we cannot, our sensors can peer into the very nucleus of atoms and peel away the layers of stars from distant galaxies. Sensors are in everything because it enables feedback, for remote users to check progress, adjust if something isn’t working right, or seek out a repair when that fails.

Why is it that for the past centuries that prosthetics have failed to include the appropriate types of sensors to make them more human?

One of my more famous relatives Patrick ‘Playboy’ Kell, you all know him.”

An image of the graying but still fit celebrity mercenary taken on Tatyana Beach on Tharkad appeared behind her. His prosthetic right arm wrapped around a bikini clad model half his age who had somehow less cloth than him.

“By the way he insisted I use that one.

His arm was the first in a new series of prosthetics I created with increased haptics relative to mass production models. It can even directly interface with Battlemech’s diagnostic interface computer, one of the most intricate types in the Inner Sphere that has enough processing power to run a small city.

Remember we built Battlemechs in our own image, the only thing they lack is executive function and that is on purpose, abused such a system could run rampant like the Caspar drones of Star League legend. We put Mechwarriors in command to moderate the destructive impulses of such machines. Those MechWarriors in turn need to be extra perceptive. Not tough, gentle, operating in harmony with their machine. Attempting to fight a Mech’s DI computer confuses it and reduces its reaction speed and over time the Mech or Aerospace DI computers will ‘learn’ how their operator typically reacts and attempt to predict their next move via the neurohelmet.

Man-Machine teams have given us feats of sublime martial mastery and it has been shown that well-trained Amateurs can defeat Masters in unfamiliar machines at far higher rates than would be expected.

The same is true of many of our other machines, including my prosthetics, within a week a patient and their prosthetic show a threefold increase in responsiveness. Three weeks in and they are operating at similar rates to their stored baseline. This effect, which I have nicknamed ‘Touch your Mind’ is why I spent so much time refining haptic interface software and sensor technology in my devices. The outcomes are self-explanatory,”
a trio of playing cards appeared in her hand from nowhere, certainly not up her short blouse sleeves, “but the goal is to make it seem like magic.”


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