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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 8 - Unexpected Changes
[]

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3023 - Samantha, Taurian Concordat


Promotion[]


Mary adjusted her uniform for the tenth time. Brigadier. She wasn’t supposed to be one, but then a quarter of her superiors had been shuffled out, and then Brigadier Sorenson had taken compassionate leave.

They had improved much of their technology, but late stage cancer could still be deadly. Mary didn’t begrudge him for wanting to be with his wife for her last few months.

But the orders had come as a shock. She was now twenty-three and young for her position, which required juggling a million more things than a humble company commander.

And now she was meeting the Protector. Zarantha had resigned in 2022, and nobody begrudged her it, but she was still keeping her hand in, scuttlebutt said.

Maybe your promotion was a clerical error and he’s here to let you down gently? The secretary opened the door and Mary walked in.

“Congratulations on your promotion, Brigadier Cheng.

Not a mistake. “Thank you, sir,” Mary said.

“No thanks are needed. You achieved it yourself. But now, we have a problem. Have you ever heard of the Aurigan Coalition?”

“Yes, Sir. We have disputed territory with them, but their military capabilities are more or less nil in terms of being able to support offensive operations, and they are currently engaged in a low level civil conflict.”

“Which is where we come in. We support Santiago Espinosa, who overthrew the current leadership. Ruthlessly. But… At least now he can negotiate with us, without the former council refusing to lead, follow or get out of the way. Then the heir, who we believed was dead, resurfaced, and she is obtaining financial support from the Magistracy.”

Mary was young, not stupid. “Who we are officially enjoying excellent relations with.”

“Correct, but they worry about what might happen if we gobble up the Reach or make them a client state. On the other hand, nobody is willing to fight a war over this. But right now…” Thomas turned to the screen and an aide Mary hadn’t noticed brought up a map. “That’s an entire region of space bordering the Concordat. I’ll be blunt, getting the worlds back is a secondary objective to avoiding some kind of long-term conflict that is going to destabilize the entire region just as we’re getting ready to plan for Operation Clean Sweep in Tortuga.”

“That would be unpleasant.”

“Which is why your unit is going to the directorate. Espinosa may not be the nicest leader, but he can at least make agreements without everyone and his brother having a veto. On the other hand, if our intelligence is right he’s burned a lot of bridges, although he still has widespread support.”

Mary had read some of the news reports. Burning bridges included evidently suspending most elected planetary leaders.

“And if he falls?”

“Lady Arano was the former heir, but she’s unknown to us, and the aftermath of a civil war, if she wins, could see the entire thing fall apart, and that might see the Capallans decide to make a grab for some of their worlds.”

Which would give us another hostile Border. Mary generally didn’t talk politics, especially since all too many of her fellows believed that Davion uniforms were designed to hide their tails and horns, but she really didn’t want a larger border with the Capallans.

Least they’re not the Draconis Combine.

“And my role, sir?” Mary paused. “With all due respect, I’m a bit young for something that might be… political.”

“We have the over all commander for that, as well as some of our diplomats. But you, Mary Cheng, are from Brannis. And you can talk to them about the benefits of a closer relationship with the Concordat.”

Which means politics. Is it too late to transfer to the infantry? But that wasn’t something you said to your boss.


Deep in trenches of Paperwork[]


Four Unions would handle the mech battalion, since TDF formations were larger than their Inner Sphere counterparts. Mary found herself deep in paperwork hell—the Aurigan Coalition couldn’t supply most of their spare parts, and they were actually taking along enough spares to build a few Battlemechs from scratch. That was especially true since the recon company had a fairly diverse set of mechs. They’d be imitating a regimental unit in small scale with two infantry battalions and one armor battalion coming along. The infantry and armor would be coming along with uparmored civilian dropships, since combat landings weren’t anticipated, something their commanders weren’t happy with, but their protests landed on deaf ears. They also weren’t getting any assault ships. The Navy had archly informed them that as none of the factions in the current conflict had a major fighter capability, let alone assault ships of their own, what were they expecting to find? The Children of Kerensky?

“And of course we don’t have any good information.” Mary tossed her papers to the side.

“Problems?” Thomas asked, her XO was going through some papers of his own, mostly thrilling adventures in ‘did you remember to pack enough toilet paper’.

“Oh, none, not unless you count a supposedly official and classified report referring to Director Espinoza as a ‘bright, shining hope.’” She shook her head in disgust. “It sounds more like the official papers talking about a Liao than a decent intelligence brief. As for his opposition, the reports seem to be divided as to whether she eats children, or merely uses them to lubricate her battlemech.”

“Make sense.” Thomas said. “Espinoza is a guy we can negotiate with. The diplomat who can hand the Protector a former Taurian world, even one that we abandoned, isn’t going to have to worry about his retirement benefits.” He grinned. “See, that’s what age gets me. If you’d been promoted the normal way, you’d have known this.”

“Colonel Sims isn’t happy about it.” Mary said. “I mean, some of the other…I know the people love him. The reports tell us, he’s universally beloved.”

“And?”

“So why are half his requests for crowd control equipment?” Mary sighed. “I mean, sure we can probably smash any 'mech units the opposition has, but we can only smash them where were are, and a world is an awfully big place.”

“True.” Thomas grinned. “Wanna have something else to worry about?”

“What?”

“If this blows up badly enough that they have to pull the reserve and cancel Clean Sweep, you’re one of the ten highest ranking officers in the expedition. I of course am just an unambitious…”

“Thomas?” Mary said, as she crumpled a paper into a tight ball.

“What?”

“SRM incoming,” And then she beaned the paper off of his forehead.

And with that, I’d better get back to work. At least I can make certain we don’t show up to save the day and then find out we left something at home. The logistics officers were handling this, but it never hurt to back them up…


Marching down the streets of Cordia City[]

Streets Cordia City, Coromodir, Aurigan Reach


Forty-eight Taurian mechs strode down the main parade street of Cordia City, the banners of House Espinoza and the flag of the Aurigan Reach next to the Concordat flag. Behind them came the armored and infantry units of the 1st Expeditionary Allied Force. The crowd was impressively big, people pointing as the metallic behemoths strode past.

I understand why… After all, there hadn’t been forty-eight mechs in one place on this world well, since forever. So hopefully anyone planning on supporting the rumored return of Lady Arano would think twice.

But right after this, they were going to have to divide them back up and send them to the JumpShips because only an idiot would go straight for the capitol.

And that means parsing out our light mechs, what few we have, or depending on the central government’s BattleMechs. Mary knew it was ironic, given the annoyance she’d felt at some of the… condescending comments about Brannis, but she didn’t trust a bunch of random noble pilots.

The problem was that Mary’s regiment had been designed to function as part of a full RCT. And her single battalion was very much focused on heavy mechs. Bad news if you were going to get into a head on conflict, but if it came to blows, the rebels, unless they were conveniently stupid, weren’t going to try and attack a bunch of Marauders. No, they’d go around them, which meant she needed medium and light mechs.

Of which she didn’t have nearly enough.

Marauder (by blue)

Marauder Heavy 'Mech

Probably the first time someone has bitched about having too many Marauders. Mary shook her head. Maybe they’d back down.

And now she was at the podium where Lord Espinoza and his daughter stood, shutting down Baby and getting ready to get out. Fortunately, they hadn’t been shooting at anyone, so the cockpit was actually cool.

Especially since Mary was dressed in a dress uniform for this display.

Pasting a smile of her face, Mary left the mech, joining her CO and the other’s on the stage to talk about the enduring friendship of the Concordat and Reach.

And as usual, she was the shortest person on the stage.

Blegh. I’ll just hide by the buffet table.


Introductions[]


“And this is Brigadier Cheng, a member of one of the Concordat’s newest members, Brannis.” The ambassador’s smile was bright.

“Hello,” Mary said. Dammit, you’re not supposed to notice people lurking by the buffet.

“Thank you for assisting us,” Espinoza said. “I expect that this is the harbinger of many wonderful developments. Why Ambassador Timmis and I have been speaking of the investment potential of this region. I believe you know of Taurus Territorial Industries?”

“I should hope so, TTI built my mech.”

“Yes,” Espinoza said, swirling his wine glass. Mary notices that it was the same glass he’d started with and it looked like for all he brought it to his mouth, he was barely tasting it. Ambassador Timmis was on his third glass. “I wonder what it would be able to do with a new BattlMmech factory on a world with, I’m told, lower costs than Samantha?”

Wait, what? For a moment Mary frantically tried to remember if she’d missed something, but no. There were some carrots in their bundle, but nothing to the scale of a full battlemech facility. Even with their economic windfalls, that wasn’t something you casually promised, especially to a nation that might not be there in the next ten years.

Is the ambassador holding this out in front of Espinoza as a lure? Mary didn’t know. She did know that it was unlikely that Timmis was able to pull the wool over Espinoza’s eyes. The Reach was not a prestige posting for the diplomatic core—and he just had his glass refilled.

“Andreas!” Another voice intruded, and a woman wearing a shimmersilk gown that cost more than Mary made in a month made her entrance.

Mary remembered the face on her briefing card. Ambassador Juleka Rogers, from the Magistracy. Also, believed to be MIM’s section chief here.

“Not introducing me to our dashing mechwarrior?”

“Ah, yes, Ambassador Rogers, this is Brigadier Cheng.”

“So young, and cute for your position,” she gushed.

“Don’t mind her,” Espinoza said. “Apparently behaving like an actress in a Magistracy movie is a requirement for their diplomatic staff.”

Timmis laughed, but Rogers and Espinoza didn’t, both of them staring at each other.

Can someone please find something for me to shoot? Mary had a brief, horrifying thought that she’d died, God had found her unworthy, and this was her hell, to be stuck here for the rest of eternity.

“I do have to wonder if your credentials equal the ability to keep your government from supporting the last hold outs of the old order.”

“You mean your niece? Oh, Santiago, we couldn’t turn out a member of your family. Besides, here you are, with the TDF assisting you, it’s only fair we provide a little help.” She paused. “I’m surprised they only came with the forces they did. After all, six new regiments, with supporting forces…”

“We’re not here as an occupying force,” Mary said. “Merely to assist the legitimate government.”

“Ah, but who is that? But I agree, there’s nothing here worth a war, especially since some people seem more interested in their stocks—oh, look, there’s Danica. I must congratulate her on her engagement!”

After a few more words, Mary consulted her watch. Surely she—nope, two more hours.

Lovely., Mary thought


Comstar's Revelation[]

Samantha - Taurian Concordat - Comstar HPG Station


Will leaned back as he looked at the data chips and text on his table. “So we found their dastardly secret out.”

“Yes.” Stacy said, calling up the imagery. Buildings with excavation equipment around them. “This was Brannis, which had a substantial SLDF and DoME presence. The Taurians, according to the documents we’ve managed to find, recovered a maintenance library while they were engaged in uplift operations.”

More images flashed through. “They’ve managed to reverse engineer a number of SLDF era developments, both civilian and military. In terms of civilian materials, they have the super conductor compound and have reverse-engineered the water filters. There may be more. In the military arena, they were able to suss out freezer tech, as well as improved alloys.” She paused. “And we actually have some proof of their sources.” She dropped a volume on Will’s desk. “A 2690 era reconditioning manual for a standard SLDF freezer. We were lucky—evidently, someone got lazy and just ran the whole thing through a duplicator, so we were able to trace signs of wear and tear on the pages, and it’s equivalent to what you’d get sitting in an archive for a few centuries.”

“So they're using that to develop Brannis as a fall back position, probably to prepare for the Federated Suns.” Will shook his head. The money tracks and everything else makes sense if you have more money to put into R&D.

“But nothing fundamentally destabilizing, Sir,” Stacy said. “More mechs, tougher mechs, but…”

“But the Concordat is too small to really be a player in the Inner Sphere and they’ve never been that interested.”

And I expect that Tortuga is going to occupy your attention for quite some time. “Good work, Stacy. Now let’s get our make up and perfume and make it look good for the First Circuit.”

“Yes, sir.” Stacy paused. “Make up and Perfume?”

“It beats my idea when I was an acolyte.”

“Which was?”

“I set up a routine to, when you were reading the message, have the computer boom out: HEAR THE WORD OF BLAKE and then start spouting obscene limericks.”

“You put that into our customer’s messages?”

“Of course not, It was just a joke, until my finger slipped and It was inserted into a message for… the First Circuit.”

“What happened?”

“According to what I was later told, half laughed, half wanted me excommunicated, and they compromised on sending me to Taurus. Let’s get to work.”


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