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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 12
[]

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Interlude: Victoria[]

Beware true believers. They will be good and honest, and love their children… and commit atrocities that even a pirate band would flinch away from. The worst thing is, true believers can also change the world for the better—and sometimes you don't know which type you have until you are in too deep to back off.

Edward Calderon: Piles of Skulls, A History of Shining Dreams Turned to Nightmares. - Oxford Press, 3077.


For the Directorate[]


Coromodir, Aurigan Reach


For the Directorate. Victoria used that as her mantra. They had to make hard decisions but it was for the Directorate.

Her father had raised her with tales of the rise of the Reach. The trade partnership that had protected them from falling into utter destitution, becoming just another bauble for a pirate band to smash.

And then the Coalition, which had formed the foundation of a proud, independent nation.

But he’d also told her of other stories. The Outworlds Wastes, the lands where brief, shining moments had been dragged down into the muck and mire.

The Coalition was a foundation, but a foundation wasn’t enough, and her father had shown her that if they were to be a proud, independent nation, they had to keep moving. And part of that was being able to negotiate with the Taurians.

And part of that was, if need be, betraying her family and friends. Killing Kamea, because they just refused to understand. Her parents might have understood but they were dead, and now Kamea was tearing everything down.

For the Directorate.

You could see what unity brought you in the Taurian forces by her side. They weren’t as good, Victoria believed, on an individual basis as the Royal Guard… but that didn’t matter.

“Royal One, watch your interval.” Cheng said. “You don’t have our armor.”

Even if individual pilots weren’t as good, the whole made up for the weaknesses of the individual. Not that individual Taurian pilots were bad, they just hadn’t grown up learning to pilot their family’s BattleMechs.

And not just the pilots focused on the whole. Victoria had watched as the dropships had grounded on Panzyr, near the suspected rebel base. Temporary fortifications were thrown up, medical bays established, while aerospace fighters took up top cover, all done as if it had been done a thousand times before. They only had an over strength company, Royal Guard, and Taurian mechs, but they were screened by light vehicles—and those were all Taurians.

It had been something of a bitter pill to swallow when Victoria realized that Brigadier Cheng didn’t trust Victoria’s own forces to follow her instructions.

“No fighting to the death, not unless you have to.” she’d told the recon troops. “If they’re smart, and they haven’t been stupid, putting our eyes out will be a priority, and you’re our eyes. If you can force them to deploy for combat, fine, but nobody here try for a medal, just send us our information.”

And what was worse, she could understand it.

What could we do with an army like this?

“Taurus Prime, we just encountered combat vehicles. Tracked, no hovers, no VTOLs.”

“Confirmed.” There was a pause, then Mary’s voice echoed over the tacnet. “Right. By the numbers everyone. This looks like a supply cache, but I want records, and that means check your fire and don’t blow up things that aren’t shooting back. Royals, we also want to hang back so nobody can play games with minefields.”

The moved forward, and then suddenly Victoria’s mech rocked with detonations across it’s hull.

How did—but they were small detonations.

“Confirm, enemy vehicles are Pikes.” Mary’s voice was clipped. “They’re under cover. Support unit, give us some smoke. Move, everyone, get to PPC range, but do not try for a point blank range hit.”

“But they’d be helpless!” Victoria burst out.

“Which is why there’s a mine field in front of them, I’ll bet, or maybe a bunch of Hetzers.” Mary said.

The next several minutes were an exercise in misery. The thing to do was to close with those tanks, and even if their PPCs weren’t as effective, they could crush the tanks. But Mary merely had her forces advance, using some of the cover, until they were close enough to start hitting the Pikes. Meanwhile the few fire support mechs they had started lobbing LRM fire into the dug-in enemy tanks, along with VTOL strafing runs.

Victoria almost broke ranks, when suddenly there was an explosion of smoke warheads from the dug in forces and then several boxy units were roaring out at them.

Hetzers. How did she know? If she had been in command, they would have tried to close and…

But now the Hetzer Combat Vehicles were having to close on them, and the entire Taurian unit shifted their targeting to the little vehicles, the last one exploding before it got more than a single shot off, damaging, but not crippling one of Mary’s Marauders.

“Rebel force.” Mary transmitted. “You tried, but it didn’t work. Nothing’s keeping me from just lobbing LRMs into your compound, and unless you have a bunch of mechs we haven’t seen, you can’t win this. Surrender and I promise medical care and proper treatment for your forces.”

“They’re traitors!” Victoria said on the tacnet.

“Not as far as they’re concerned.” Mary said. “and I’d really prefer to not convince every rebel group out there to fight to the death. Half these people probably haven’t even held a gun before now, so it’s not like this hurts our war effort.” There was a pause. “Those Pikes are a Magistracy design. Granted, they would never provide weapons to rebels, but I’d like to find out what criminals have been shipping such weapons to the rebels and making the Magistracy look bad. Least we know this bunch didn’t get experienced military advice.”

“Why?”

“It was a good idea, but made no provision for the other side not taking the bait.” Mary said. The supply depot now had white flags, and there were detachments of TDF troops moving forward to disarm and take them into custody. “The moment we didn’t charge forward, they should have tried to back off, or at the very least had another unit in a position to flank us and force us forward.”

But I would have fallen for it, Victoria thought. She could see the future. The Royal units trained like this, people who were loyal to the Directorate, not a single house. A single, unified dream.

And wasn’t that worth doing things that those who never had to make such decisions might judge harshly?

For the Directorate.


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