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Scars of Victoria (Cover Art)

Scars of Victoria[]

Chapter 7 - Complications[]

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Discussions of Family and An After School Engagement[]

The Victoria Institute of Technology - Victoria, Capellan Confederation - 07/12/3048

The Victoria Institute of Technology’s cafeteria was packed with students from across the Capellan Confederation and Magistracy of Canopus. Minoru and his fellow Dracs occupied one of the stainless steel tables as they had since their arrival.
Ryuun looked around the crowds speaking among themselves, “We’ve been here a month. You’d think a few more people would talk to us.”
William put down his chopsticks and looked around as well, “I think you scare them, Ryuun.”
“Have they talked to you, Yoshimara?”
“Not many in person. Just virtually in the pre-game lobby. I’ve been busy setting up the lab so haven’t gotten out much yet.”
“How about you, Aria?”
“A few Canopians that appreciate my fashion sense. I gave them a catalog.”

Dereck spoke, “And in doing so did a great disservice to every male student here at VIT.” Aria adjusted her scarf at the mention. “They weren’t going to be walking around in bikinis or short skirts, its cold on this planet.”
“Maybe you are just looking in the wrong place Sugawara. Perhaps spend more time at the Circus.”
“Most of those places kicked me out. They felt ‘intimidated.’”

“Perhaps a softer approach might be necessary then.” Minoru laughed, “Perhaps you need a makeover.”
Large hands clutched his dreadlocks, “No one touches my hair. They’ll mess it up.”
“There is probably someone in Leeward that can. You’re not the only person with dreads here. Or we could let Hatomuchi give it a try.”
Dereck ran his hands through his coarse box braids, “We can braid each other’s hair and gossip late into the night. Wouldn’t that be lovely?”
“We are not talking about this anymore.”

Their table erupted into laugh, “Why? I could keep going for hours.”

Kuan-Yin sat across from Minoru in the table’s only empty seat. “Did I miss something funny?”
“Just Dereck and Ryuun talking about their complicated emotions toward one another.”
“What’s so funny about that?”
“They’re bad at it. We were just talking about how not many people are willing to talk to us.”
“They’ll warn up eventually. Unfortunately, the Draconis Combine’s alliance with my Aunt and subsequent occupation has given you a bad reputation, despite what my Uncle says.”

“Yet, you talk to us. You were the first person we met.”
“Well, I’m on the outs too. My parents didn’t win a lot of fans while they were in charge.
Our Civil War caused a lot of damage and that is going to take time to repair, if it can.
My older brother and sister are fighting uphill at SIAMS as well.
It gets lonely, but at least we have each other.”

“Then I suppose we will just have to focus on making a good impression. It’s been a tough month between training, class, and setting up the lab.”
“That’s great news. Will you be at Riva’s tonight?”
Minoru looked around the table, “I think we’ll all be there. Right?”
Aria paused for a moment, “As long as this ‘Paella’ is Halal.”
“I’ve been assured that Max will make it so. It’s harder to get sausage than aquaculture seafood on Victoria.”
“Should we bring something? I’m not exactly sure what they might like.”
“I’m sure it would be appreciated but I don’t think Riva or Max expect you to know what they’d like after only a few weeks.”
“Can you give us a hint?”
“Wine or Vodka are always good.”

Dinner at Doctor Riva's Place[]

Leeward Arcology - Victoria, Capellan Confederation

A tram took them to one of the housing blocks between Leeward Arcology, the still rebuilding former SLDF base of Fort Lee, and the Carlos Dagmar Lee Battlemech Factory that when discovered catalyzed the Victoria Institute of Technology’s initial construction. The block was like Leeward’s towers but was much smaller and possessed a different population, of families, rather than students and hospital staff. Children scampered in a colorful playground while peddlers hawked diverse goods to motley collections of people from their carts. Federated Suns chain stores and Capellan Confederation co-ops occupied the central arched boulevard with smaller corridors branched toward residential units, isolated from noisy, crowded streets.

Kuan-Yin answered the door looking different in an apron with her hair tied up. Minoru handed her the co-op bag. “We brought three bottles of wine, two white, one red and a bottle of Vodka.”
“Covering all your bases I see. I’m sure Max and Riva will appreciate it. Come on in.”

She ushered them in, the smell of rice and seafood wafted from the kitchen within the living room decorated with soft lighting, bold colors, and intricate geometry. Kuan-Yin disappeared into the kitchen and a woman with wavy hair and blonde highlights came out shortly after, “You must be Kuan-Yin’s friends. I’m Maxine, Doctor Valle if you’re naughty, or in need of Maxillofacial surgery.”

The Dracs were silent for a long moment, with Ryuun and Aria nudging Minoru who sat between them. “Nice to meet you.
Dinner smells great and this apartment is beautiful. Riva said you have been away for a while.”

“Humanitarian mission through the Fronc Reaches and Capellan Rim, mostly cleft palates and medical education, had to do some midwifing too, but every Canopian learns that in medical school before we specialize.
I don’t know if they do that in other realms. Unfortunately, it’s a bit of hidden knowledge in the Confederation that we hope to correct at Leeward’s Medical College.”

“I don’t know either. Have you had a chance to compare notes with our Brotherhood Physicians at the hospital?”
“I haven’t. Feel free to give me an invitation Prince Minoru.”

Aria chimed into the casual discourse, “So what are your rates, Doctor Valle? In case I wanted to get some work done.”
“You’re far to pretty to worry about that young lady.”

In the kitchen Riva put a paila tray piled high with saffron rice and seafood across from Kuan-Yin opening the wine bottles, “I know what you are playing at, Kuan-Yin, and I don’t approve.”
“You’re not my guardian anymore, Aunt Riva.”
“That doesn’t mean anything, and you know it. I still don’t want you to get hurt.”
“If it doesn’t work out a broken heart won’t kill me. Not as fast as being alone. No one at school talks to me or them. It’s the first time I’ve had a set of friends my own age.”
“It’s not a broken heart I’m concerned about and you’re not alone, I have a similar problem.
Don’t do anything stupid.
Things are more complicated than that and you know it.”

He discusions of old Hatreds[]

Office Palatine, Castle Davion - New Avalon, Federated Suns - 07/16/3048

“Quintus this, Quintus that. Have you your own mind, Tancred?”

First Prince Ian Davion and Count Tancred Sandoval passed through the large double doors opened by white gloved members of the 4th Huron Huscarls of the Davion Heavy Guards into the First Prince’s Office Palatine on the upper levels of Castle Davion. “Secure the doors behind us Sergeant.”

With a sharp salute and pull on the ornate doors the room was sealed, “What is your opinion on this situation Kym? You are our subject matter expect on all the parties involved.”
Kym Sorenson stopped playfully swatting her husband’s auburn clubbed ponytail, “Oh does the mighty First Prince finally want my opinion on a matter of state importance?”

“Don’t be like that, Kym. You know that I have always respected your opinion, just as my father had before me.” Ian spread his palm out across his chest, and he bowed ever so slightly to her, “It’s just that Morgan and I are such handsome scoundrels, prone to exciting hijinks, and you won’t tell me any stories from your misspent youth as a Quintus Allard’s top lady spy.”

“Quintus would try to kill me if I did.
That said I am uncertain; the Riva I knew certainly wouldn’t betray the Federated Suns but that was years ago.”

Riva Allard’s MIIO (Ministry of Information, Intelligence, and Operations) File appeared on the projected screen showing her archived appearance in 3022 when she acquired a Top Secret security clearance before working on Formulation 512. The file aged and filled out over the years until it stopped in the present with notes on her guardianship of Kuan-Yin Liao after her mother’s death and the founding of V.I.T. Aug Labs.

Tancred uploaded a recent press release from the Victoria Institute Examiner that talked about Minoru Kurita’s powered exoskeleton for mine clearing and explosive ordnance disposal and Riva Allard’s continued work on advanced myomer prosthesis and haptic control technologies. “Well, this Riva is working on a Draconis Combine grant with the Coordinator’s son while living with a MIM asset under her roof.”

“But it is not on a weapon system, it even says that parts of the design will be open source, and there is no evidence that Doctor Valle is GHOSTKNIFE.”
“Everything in the Draconis Combine is tied to their military-industrial complex. If they didn’t fight us, they would have no economy.
You would have me believe that the Coordinator wouldn’t love to have access to one of his rival’s top minds on dual-use technologies. One with intimate details on dozens of DMI and MIIO Special Access Programs. Right next to a cutting edge Battlemech Engineering facility that we spent millions of Federated Suns Pounds developing, only to hand it over to Chancellor Tormano, for nothing.

She knows too much; we can’t allow her to continue operations on Victoria.

Ian paused and looked at the dozens of patents, publications, and SAPs attached to Riva Allard’s file. Nearly 30 years at the top Think Tanks in the Federated Suns meant that this woman was one of the most coveted assets in the Federated Suns intelligence ecosystem for reasons other than she was the daughter of its most polarizing figure.
“You’re not listening, Tancred. Presently I would not approve of a rendition operation, and I have little intention of changing that decision. One that only I can issue and that would jeopardize our relationships with at least two Great Houses.

Talk like that is why Quintus has been cut off from the Suns intelligence community, that was a difficult decision for me since he is the one that helped build it. He’s not thinking about this logically because his family and Tormano are involved. Talk like that is dangerous and it will not leave this room. Understand?”

All gathered nodded slightly in approval to the First Prince’s orders, “Perhaps she is running a double con, surely the ISF attempted to vet her already and she must have been neutral on the whole matter. They wouldn’t have accepted it otherwise, particularly after what Justin did.”

Kym whispered strongly enough to move her curly brown hair, “...and that’s just the stuff you know that he did.”
“They wouldn’t have let Prince Minoru work in her lab otherwise. For all we know she is collecting intelligence that we can use to gain some advantage if the DCMS or ISF intends to weaponize it or the Draconis Combine has branched out into something approaching humanitarianism.”

Tancred ran his fingers across the facial scar reaching toward his torn ear, an injury given to him by the DCMS eight years ago. “The most humane thing the DCMS did for me was give MY lancemates a quick death! They thought I was already dead when they searched my Warhammer or they would have given me the same treatment!”

“Don’t go off the chain, Tancred. Ambassador Halla has started to give me diplomatic cables with Theodore’s seal still on them. It is a major improvement and one I don’t want to jeopardize. We have a real chance to change something here.

I know how much it hurts to lose men under your command and I know this will be difficult for you to accept, but we must try. Be patient.”

“I will be vigilant, but not patient. As I always am.

Am I dismissed, Your Royal Highness?”

“You are dismissed, Count Sandoval.”

Tancred Sandoval knocked on the doors and was released to the wider confines of Castle Davion by the Huscarls. Ian sat behind the desk with his back to the portrait of his father ‘The Fox’ Hanse Davion that hung upon the wall. “Before we go back to being a loving family of Davions do you two have anything unpleasant you want to report to me?”

Morgan and Kym both leaned forward on the couch, “Unfortunately we do. Espinosa is active again.”

Ian slammed his fist on the desk shaking the model replica of ‘Golden Lion’ off its mount and breaking one of its arms. “Merde! I thought I killed that bitch on Zangul. What’s the damage?”
“Areas on four worlds, water purification and power plants. Based on their distribution it looks like she moved her operations to the Badlands.”
“Or is trying to trick us into thinking that. We haven’t been able to establish a presence in the Badlands for decades. Normally they’re a minor threat.
How did she regenerate so quickly? I spent two years fighting pirates on the Rim including her crew. There shouldn’t have been anything left for them to rebuild with that wasn’t left over from the Restoration that Rampart couldn’t handle.”

Kym pulled up an old picture of Victoria ‘Vicious’ Espinosa, daughter of the short lived leader of the Taurian Concordat recognized ‘Aurigan Directorate’ before her father was killed by her cousin and she fled to escape justice for her many criminal actions.
“We wanted to wait for Tancred to leave as it seems like she was getting smuggled gear from Theodore’s rogue Ghost Regiments. Lots of old SLDF and DCMS designs, in poor repair.”
“Let me guess. The
Fusiliers couldn’t trace anything definitively?”
“On the money as usual Ian. Same sorts of people that attacked Corrine’s captors and your
Armored Cavalry on Zanzibar.”

Ian took a deep breath thinking about how many times he had almost died and lost men to white primer painted mechs on the Rim. “We will beat them like always.

I’ll talk with High Command and see if we can free up more AFFS and MIIO assets to cover the Capellan March. It’s going to be scant pickings unfortunately.
I don’t want to believe Tancred, but something is going on and we need to be ready to handle it. I can use Espionosa’s raids to camouflage this latest MIIO deployment in case I do need to quickly rendition Riva."

Flashback to a time when Golden Lion and Petard Clashed[]

Zangul, unclaimed world - 02/17/3042

The eight Battlemechs of the 2nd Federated Suns Armored Cavalry, C Company, and supporting arms from the Coalition and Canopian attaches approached the perimeter from their dropships. Their running lights and spotlights reflected off icy rime and bare metal of the darkened spaceport. Concealed within this windswept complex was Victoria Espinosa, her Catapult ‘Petard,’ and pirate crew of Directorate Security Forces.

“Captain Ian Davion, if you’ve come to be the knight in shining armor set on saving anyone you are ten years to late. Everyone froze to death when your mercenaries damaged the reactor that kept them warm. This world is as dead as you will soon be.”

UrbanMech (In Combat)

UrbanMech Light 'Mech

“You’re stuck on this world, Espinosa; my forces have captured your jumpships. Surrender now and face justice for your atrocities.”

Hunchback (Firing & Walking by TMC Group)

Hunchback Medium 'Mech in combat.

Petard powered up melting the ice that clung to its flat surfaces and suffusing Victoria’s vest with warmed water. “Not one for the carrot approach I see, Ian.”

“I hate carrots almost as much as pirates.”
Weak targeting signals emerged from the remote sensors scattered throughout the complex as Petard’s missile boxes shifted skyward. “To much family resemblance?”

Long Range Missiles arced across the warehouses falling amid their Battlemechs like explosive hail. Imperator-B autocannons roared from the arms of Urbanmechs and shoulders of Hunchbacks as the Armored Cavalry returned fire. Gendarme and Coalition forces flushed the Directorate tanks and mechs from their reinforced positions. Starport structures fell into each other with ragged screeches as the tempo of battle increased within.

Catapult (Walking by TMC Group)

Catapult Heavy fire-support 'Mech

Petard and Golden Lion faced each other on the desolate sea ice which cracked in wicked spiderweb patterns beneath their Battlemech’s mass. Victoria eyed her Catapult C4’s ammunition count and the Marauder’s damage across from her nervously. Her mech was already damaged from previous encounters that couldn’t be repaired. Cold air drafted through seals that couldn’t be replaced without time in a proper maintenance depot. “I’d rather die than let Kamea parade me through her kangaroo courts on Coromodir.”

Marauder (MWO Davion Guard - Bad weather)

Marauder Heavy 'Mech

Golden Lion’s PPCs glowed a dull red as the capacitors recharged and flushed the heat from the latest volley. Its reverse jointed legs were spread as widely as her own Catapults for stability on the undulating mass of sea ice. “That can be arranged.”

“You’re right it can.”

Victoria aimed the missile boxes down at the ice which shattered under the explosive payload of 40 missiles. Her jump jets fired, and the now empty Catapult plunged beneath the ice into the freezing water below. Cold water seeped through the hastily repaired cockpit, multiple alarm systems blared before their sub-systems were disabled by infiltrating water.

Within Golden Lion, Captain Davion felt the ice mass buckle beneath his Marauder and the DI computer blared out stability warnings, “High Caution Charlie, Victoria took the plunge. I am going back to solid land ASAP. Tagging this location for a salvage crew.”

Beneath the waves Victoria couldn’t feel her legs as the deep green water filled her cockpit illuminated only by bloody red emergency lighting. Petard’s fusion reactor was still operating with enough power to stave off hypothermia by piping warm water to her cooling vest. Life support was also operational meaning she would drown before dying of the cold unless she turned it off and went to sleep. “I choose when I die, not Kamea or Ian.”
She patted the pistol slung across her vest, “If they send anyone to get me, I’ll kill them too.” before wrapping her arms around herself as the shivering started. “As long as I can keep my hands warm enough to pull the trigger.”

Petard released a wired signal buoy when it detected the flatlining of its pilot, standard protocol for the recovery of drowned mechs. Just because pilots die doesn’t mean Mechs are allowed to stop fighting.

Even the Mechs knew Meat is Cheap, Metal is Expensive.

Revenge is best served Cold[]

Norman’s World, Taurian Concordat - 07/12/3048

Victoria Espinosa woke with a start as chill gripped her within a dark yurt. She looked over to the snoring man beside her wrapped up in a TDF general issue wool blanket. A firm hammer fist pounded his shoulder like brisket, “Vendel! You greedy bastard! Give me that blanket back!”

“Oww, damn Victoria. Here have it.”

She wrapped the blanket around her shoulders as she stoked the stove within her ‘winter quarters,’ that almost made living aboard a dropship seem worthwhile, almost. Bitter coffee warmed her hands as she donned her boots and stepped outside to look around and replenish the wood supply. Petard stood just outside crouching against the winter weather. Its massive metal body creating a windbreak that saved her quarters from the worst of the tempest.

Lights bobbed in the distance of the pre-dawn darkness visible through the flat, stable fields of Norman’s World that served as her base. She ducked back into the yurt and powered up the tabletop radio, “Precentor Brett, doesn't the Blessed Order have any appreciation for the weather?”

“Captain Espinosa, don’t you know that COMSTAR always delivers on time, regardless of local conditions. Its something we pride ourselves on.”

The bitter coffee galled her tastebuds, “You better have brought the coffee I requested.”

Photon Brett looked over to the vacuum sealed foil pouches he had in his cockpit, “Only the best for our friends.”

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