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The Bull and the Genie[]

Chapter 45 - Book II - The Ninety-five Theses[]

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3042: Before the Plunge[]

Strana Mechty, Kerensky Cluster (Clan Space - Deep Periphery)

Frederick stared at the vast map set up in the strategic command room of the Battlecruiser Implacable orbiting a planetless Class-M star system. The Khans were there, either in person or via the HPG links that now extended from the front to the Homeworlds. IlKhan Leo Showers stood by him, glancing at Frederick.

Black Lion II Class Battlecruiser (Underway)

Black Lion II Class Battlecruiser Implacable

He had worked with Frederick, but was not happy. Especially when the Ghost Bears and Wolves had made their cooperation contingent on supporting Frederick's plans. That had led to at least one Trial with the Smoke Jaguars, over the demand that all trials be put on hold until the taking of Terra. They had agreed for Trials between Clans, but the Jaguars would not suspend trials within their own Clan. Other plans…

Had not passed.

Can we win? To even hint they wouldn't was heresy, but…

"We shall review our plans," Showers said. "Frederick, explain to the council."

He is distancing himself from me. Frederick himself had dealt with one trial, a young warrior who wanted to put the old man in his place.

It turned out that experience still counted for something.

"We have completed our preparations." He gestured and the image of the Inner Sphere appeared. "Our furthest logistics points are set up around planetless stars or in deep space, inside their current borders. We have not directly attacked the forces in the Periphery."

"What does it say that we skulk by them like thieves in the night?" the Jade Falcon Khan asked.

Showers said nothing. He agrees. That is why he did not use his influence on his own Clan. But he needs us. The Ghost Bears had had managed to sway many Warden Clans to the Crusader cause. Most Notably the Snow Ravens.

"My Khans," Frederick started, reminding himself he was speaking for both Warden and Crusaders. "If we attack every force, we give them warning. Our warriors are supreme, our technology unmatched, but giving the scavenger lords time may see them raise more units—or even use the tools they used in the First Succession War." There was silence. Even the crusaders had been shocked when the intercepts showed that had been done to the worlds of the Inner Sphere.

Now for the Wardens. "And even so, we must remember how many of the soldiers and civilians of the Inner Sphere have been deceived by the Scavenger Lords. Our mission is to liberate them and show them the ways of the Great Father, not simply kill them. They are… children, in need of teaching, and not irredeemable. It is not enough to conquer them, we must civilize them."

"That has been discussed. Continue."

"Yes, Ilkhan. We must extend our logistics net to support strikes on vital worlds. It doesn't matter how many forces they have garrisoning random worlds, if those worlds have no ability to supply their troops or move them, they can be plucked as we desire." Images gleamed on the Map. Hesperus II, Tharkad, other industrial worlds. "These are the worlds we must take." He nodded to Weston Cooper. "Clan Snow Raven will not have an assigned invasion corridor, but will utilize their WarShips to isolate target worlds, in cooperation with other Clan Aerospace Assets. In addition, spoiler raids will be launched to obscure our primary targets."

"Panic," Cooper said, his image flickering as he stood on his bridge. "We must panic them, and Clan Snow Raven will do just that."

"And the followers?" The Jade Falcon Clan's smirk was obvious. "Tell us of their noble role in Operation Revival."

"Yes, My Khan. Each frontline Clan has a partner Clan assigned to them, who will handle suppressing isolated enemy factions, integration of vital worlds into the Clan Way, and the recruitment of any Freebirth legions who wish to join as their periphery brethren have joined. Should a front line Clan suffer reverses, the partner Clan will leapfrog them into the FEBA, the Forward Edge of Battle Area, and maintain the momentum. And momentum must be maintained." Some of the Clans nodded, some smirked. The partner Clans had been a bribe to the Wardens, many of whom disagreed with the way the Smoke Jaguars and Jade Falcons handled opposition and their own lesser castes. By integrating the worlds, they would be able to use a lighter touch… and establish themselves while the Crusaders exhausted themselves in the charge to Terra. He could swear he'd seen the Diamond Shark Khan floating on the air as he spoke of integrating those worlds into a new merchant network.

How is it so many don't understand? Frederick shook his head. Foolish question. After all, so many Khans were focused on duels and arranged set piece battles, that he'd had to remind them what a FEBA was.

You could see that with the reaction to his ability to declassify suppressed books. On War, by the ancient thinker Clausewitz had been classified, but Frederick had sent it around.

The Jade Falcons had mocked it and he wasn't certain if the Smoke Jaguars had even read it. The Wolves and his own Clan… The Crusaders had seen the talk about moral forces as a vindication of their beliefs. Others… The Wolf Khan had interrogated his team, deeply about the total Inner Sphere economy and the speed they thought it could be turned to war production, before he'd walked off with a very thoughtful expression on his face.

And after that, the Wolves had scrapped their opposition to the leapfrog approach, and argued to bypass even more worlds, focusing solely on industrial and government nodes.

"If there are no further issues about the general plan, let us go over specifics." The Ilkhan gestured to the map.

And then they got into talking about specific worlds. Those issues had been decided long before, but every Khan wanted to get a word in. Frederick was ignored, and left to stare at the map.

I—my team, we have crafted the best plan possible. The Clans would go through the Inner Sphere like a hot knife through butter.

Just like Hannibal defeated every Roman army sent against him. Save the last one. Because no matter how many victories he gained, the Roman's always had another army…

Then he shook his head. That was something he could not say, not even with the patronage of his Khan.

Operation REVIVAL depended on the the simple question of the Scavenger Lords deciding they had lost. Because if it came down to who had more armies to lose…

"Vincere scis, Hannibal; victoria uti nescis."

"What?" Ilkhan Showers said, glancing down with some carefully concealed irritation.

"A thought, Ilkhan, nothing more. Forgive me. I am certain we will gain victory in every battle we fight."

You, Hannibal, know how to gain a victory; you do not know how to use it. Frederick shook his head, and tried to banish that thought as the Khan's finalized their work.

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