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The Best of Enemies (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 10 – The Best of Enemies[]

“All warfare is based on deception. Hence, when able to attack, we must seem unable; when using our forces, we must seem inactive; when we are near, we must make the enemy believe we are far away; when far away, we must make him believe we are near.” -- Sun Tzu, 孫子兵法 (The Art of War)


Part 1[]

Recharge Station, Zenith Point, Connaught System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
0300 - 26th January, 2798 (Seventeen Months Since the Kentares Massacre Began)


Senior Traffic Controller Olivia Toledana waved to the man whom she was relieving at shift turnover while she swam into the control center for the traffic through the industrial hub of Connaught. “Hola, Pete, anything new?”

“Hey Libby! Military supply convoy forming up with some ‘Mechs from Kong about to jump out. Also the techs want a look at the #3 power lines when we have a slow period and can take them down.”

“Good, another shift, another ninety eagles.” Olivia grabbed hold of the chair back. “At least I remembered to take a long piss before getting on shift. See you in six, Pete.”

“Tell me about it, any more coffee and I’ll turn into a bean. Catch you on the flip side!” Pete vacated the seat and Olivia strapped herself in. She familiarized herself with the display of Jumpship traffic and movement vectors with the unconscious ease of most of a decade of this job. <“Star King, you are cleared for recharge docking, come to Zero-seven mark eleven at one-tenth gee for a three minute burn to get to 300 Kpm relative to us…”>

As the Monolith began to head toward the waiting outlets that would recharge its drive in a fraction of the time needed using the more normal method of solar radiation capture, Olivia slid a hand into the pocket of her overalls.

She touched the datastick there that she had picked up on her last planetside leave. According to the labels, it contained the uncensored version of the notorious Canopian ‘entertainment product’ Stewart Schlongs Sian, and had been waved through the security screening with a knowing laugh.

But now….

She bit her lip nervously.

I hope it’s not too long….

Fortunately, her nervous sweat was mistaken for the normal stresses of her job.


Part 2[]

0457, 26th January, 2798


“Copy that Star King, your exit vector is negative zero three eig--” Olivia said between sips from her coffee bulb.

“Unscheduled Emergence Signatures! ” The shout from Inbound Tracking cut through the room like a knife.

“Size?”

Olivia bit her lip again as her hand darted into the pocket and grabbed the datastick.

“750 kilotons! Warship!”

“Madre di Dios! Alert the planet!”

Olivia slid the datastick into a slot on her terminal and hit a combination of keys to put the title screen that popped up (showing the eponymous ‘Raging Stallion’ Stewart performing with an ‘actress’ that looked quite like an underdressed young Barbara Liao) into ‘boss mode’.

Alert sent, sir!”

Aegis Class Heavy Cruiser (by colourbrand)

Aegis Class Heavy Cruiser

Another keypress brought up a blinking cursor and Olivia typed in XCT and hit send.

An Aegis cruiser appeared, the Steiner Fist visible on the prow and the station commander paled.

“Get our fighters launched now!”

Unfortunately, it was too late as the malware on the datastick, developed by Sian University at the request of the Maskirovka team who had stolen Terran Hegemony SLIC e-war programs, locked down all internal communications. Moments later, the viral code disabled the long-range radio and data link between the station and the planet.

Part 3[]

0548, 26 January 2798


The mood in the station was grim.

The LCN cruiser hovered in space with its broadside guns pointed at them after making a leisurely pass around the station, destroying all the jumpships and dropships in the area and using pinpoint shots from the wing of ASFs that it had carried to blow the fighter bays apart.

Boarding shuttles had followed.

Lola III Class Destroyer (Space Background)

Lola Class Destroyer

While the message of the attack had been sent out, the FWL forces assigned here were four days away even at maximum burn. Doing that would risk the vital shipyards and factories on the planet should the Elsies dodge them and make their way to Connaught. Now their only hope was a naval squadron both able to jump here upon receipt of the alert and strong enough to overpower the cruiser, Lola I-class destroyer, and escorting pair of Vincent-class corvettes present.

Vincent Class Corvette (blockcade run) (by Colourbrand)

Vincent Class Corvette

Faint hope indeed.

The hatch opened.

Breaths were sucked in across the room as the command staff realized that the marines in armored spacesuits carrying laser weapons were not Lyrans. Instead their heraldry had the dao and arm in a triangle of the Capellan Confederation.

The leader raised his armored visor to show a Oriental face. “Good morning! We understand that you are in the recharge business and our ships need a top-off!”


Part 4[]

Aboard Aegis-class Cruiser, CCN Kalvar Lorix


“We have the station secured, Commodore!”

“Excellent, report that we shall be using Léitíng Plan Five to the forward strike team!”

The Commodore turned as the hatch opened. A middle aged Hispanic woman showing the pudginess of someone who spent too long in microgravity swam inside. “Service to the state, Agent EVITA. Now, please take a seat and you can watch what you have contributed toward.”

Olivia strapped herself in. “Service to the State. It’s good to come back to the home that my father told me about.”


Part 5[]


"FWLS Duchess Sofia Cameron-Jones", Enroute to Irian III, Irian System, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
26th January, 2798

Ilsa Liao looked up from the message that had been sent to the screen in the captain’s quarters and grinned. “Good, no hitches with the other half of the operation. No need to manufacture a ‘minor drive malfunction’ to slow us down. And at least the forces who will pull our strike team out are on schedule.”

Captain Sooraj Harish breathed a sigh of relief. “I… it’s a honor to meet you, Celestial Wisdom. So, if this succeeds, what will happen to me?” He then hugged his weeping wife around the shoulders.

“After we return to Sian, you and the other loyal Maskirovka agents who were key to this shall be honored. Considering your deeds on behalf of the Confederation, a waiver will allow for Citizenship for you and your family as part of the formalities for a landholding as hereditary nobility on Highspire or another planet of your choice away from the League. With some necessary changes to faces and names to avoid SAFE’s vengeance, of course.”

Sooraj’s eyes widened in shock.

“Yes, another team of agents are extracting your parents, and your wife’s grandfather as we speak. They shall leave behind bank records ‘proving’ that LIC has been paying you through ComStar’s banking systems to betray the League. After all, what other reason could there be for a couple born and raised in the League as the grandchildren of ex-SLDF soldiers from Highspire to turn upon it?” Ilsa said with an impish grin. “Along with my personal thanks for your devotion and loyalty to a state that you have not yet stepped foot into. Still, we are pricing the unhatched chicken here, We must first complete our mission to gain the rewards for loyal and faithful service.”

“Service to the State, Chancellor!”


Part 5[]

Secure Classified Location, Marik, Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
27th January, 2798


“Connaught then!” Kenyon Marik scowled at the map as it zoomed in on the planet that he had just named. He rubbed his aching ribs once more as that old pain flared up again. ‘What do we have that can join in?”

“Irian is closest and has the League II-class Destroyer, FWLS Tannenberg and the Vincent-class corvettes POS Valor and POS Victory from Regulus” Admiral Konstantopolous replied as he looked at his own displays.

Kenyon’s scowl soured. “Your recommendation?”

“Keep the Tannenberg and her escorts at Irian for now, Captain-General. If they go in unsupported, we will lose them upon arrival. The pirate point for Irian III is only five hours from orbit, so when the Lyrans commit to a fleet engagement at Connaught we can jump in behind them and pincer them.”

“Agreed. Stand them to and clear for action.” Kenyon turned to the rest of the League Central Coordination and Command staff. “What’s the ETA on the reinforcement of the border around Oliver and the shift of those units from Andurien?”


Part 6[]

AFFS Temporary Base ‘Slayer’, Strawn, Crucis March, Federated Suns
26th January, 2798


Paul Davion nodded to his cousin and spoke with anticipation. “Well, it’s time, Tom.”

Leftenant-General Thomas Halder-Davion nodded back. “Just stick close to me and concentrate on your shots. Let me handle the battles while you handle the war, Paul.”

“Father and Grandfather always said the real superpower of rulership was delegation to competent and loyal subordinates who could use their initiative.” Paul agreed as they walked down the hall to the ‘Mech Bay.

The doors hissed open.

The bay beyond was crowded to overflowing with Mechwarriors and Techs in the gray jerseys and light tan jerkins of the Avalon Hussars, the dark green of the Syrtis Fusiliers with the Hasek family’s diamond shaped ‘evil eye’ embroidered on them, and the dark blue with red and white trim of the Davion Brigade of Guards.

Past the open doors stretching as far as the eye could see, row upon row of Union and Leopard-class dropships waited, all a foreground to the towering ovoids of the Overlord-class transports beyond.

A roar of noise greeted him, resolving into a chant that echoed from the gantries and the metal titans surrounding them.

”PENDRAGON! PENDRAGON! PENDRAGON!! PENDRAGON!!”

Paul shot a sidelong glance at Thomas, only to see the broad grin on his field commander’s face.

Paul sighed mentally.

No help there. Well, time to fake it till you make it again, Paul. I wonder how Ilsa deals with this?

He raised his hand to acknowledge the shouts, which redoubled at his gesture.

”PENDRAGON!! PENDRAGON!! PENDRAGON!! PENDRAGON!!”

His men’s cries battered his ears with the noise.

He was jostled like a pinball by the slaps to his shoulders and back as he made his way through the frenzied crowd to the foot of his Battlemech.

He leaped to the broad cloven foot and then pointed upward to the monstrous ninety-ton bulk of his HGN-732b Highlander. Painted in dark blue with the red and white striping of the Davion Brigade of Guards, the Mech’s broad chest now had a new name painted underneath the Sword and Sunburst in blood-red letters as tall as a man’s torso.

‘DRAGONSLAYER’

He turned to the crowd and clenched his fist as he stared out over the sea of faces, then lowered his hand as his eyes stared into their souls.

Using his best command voice, he drew a deep breath and projected his words as the shouts died down to a more reasonable level.

“Fellow Soldiers, I won’t bore you with another briefing or fancy words. You know why we’re here! You know what the Snakes have done! You know your assignments and the plan! Mount up, try to keep up with me, and kick the Snake's asses back to Luthien like you mean it! Dismissed!!”

The shouts redoubled as he headed to the gantry lift where his personal Tech was waiting. He slapped the elderly man on the shoulder as the lift rose and the floor below him dissolved into the controlled chaos of battle preparation. “Jack, how’s she?”

“All ready to stomp some Snakes, My Prince! Full combat load of Artemis LRM and SRMs, and the lasers and M-7 Gauss rifle are green across the boards.”

“Good work. I’ll see you on Markesan then, Jack.”

The lift stopped at the top of the gantry. Paul stepped off it, and made his way to the hatch. A minute later, with a dull thud, the slab of armor plate closed and locked.

Now finally alone, Paul leaned against the cool metal of the hatch for several seconds. He shook nervously, then took a deep breath to steady himself. He spoke into the silence of the cockpit while he stripped off his uniform to pull on his cooling vest. “Ilsa, I wish you were here to fight alongside me. But I must win your love and this war first before I can wed you. If we can make that happen for us and our nations.”

He strapped himself into his command chair, and then slipped on his neurohelmet before starting up his Battlemech.

<{“Voiceprint Check.”}>

“Paul George Davion”

<{“Voiceprint confirmed, enter security passphrase.”}>

Paul grinned like the boy a third his current age that he had been when he first watched the film he had drawn the phrase from. The grin widened into that of the cartoon fox that was the hero of the pre-spaceflight classic that had stolen his heart at age seven.

“Aha! But remember! Faint Heart never won Fair Lady!”

<{“Welcome back, Paul Davion. Reactor Online, Sensors online, weapons online, all systems nominal. Dragonslayer awaits your command.“}>

Victor Assault Mech (Red Raiders - MWO Style)

Victor Class Assault 'Mech

With the rhythmic crash of steel on concrete, the 90 ton assault Mech began to march toward the waiting dropships. As the bulk of the Running Fox loomed over him, First Prince Paul Davion II grinned like the fox that was on the heraldry of his family as his doubts and worries fell away.

Grasshopper (Ruined City - Mini painted by Nardyes)

Grasshopper Heavy 'Mech

To one side, Thomas Halder-Davion’s Victor joined him, to the other, Mechwarrior Smith’s Grasshopper fell into formation. Behind him, a river of steel and myomer began to flow; brave men and women followed where he would lead them.

Operation SWORD had begun.


Author's Note[]

Author’s Note
And this concludes Book II as Paul and Ilsa lead their troops to commit to their do-or-die gambits against their mutual foes. Next up Kenyon Marik has a very eventful day and we check in on the Inner Sphere’s biggest douchebag (non-Amaris category). Expect some hawt Mech-on-Mech action next.

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