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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 33 - The Other War


Somewhere on the fringes of the New Kent System a vast complex orbits an icy dwarf planet known as New Kinnison. Slightly larger than Terra's Pluto its eccentric orbit takes it both too close and far enough away to allow jump proximity points. A shuttle passes by revealing 'Master's Shipyard' printed on a cage larger than the others combined. During the Golden Century the Steel Vipers prized themselves on their isolation rivaling even the Blood Spirits for vitriol when interacting with their fellow Clans. The Vipers suffered for it forfeiting resources, political support, and trade relations to further their true cause and earning many enemies in the process.

What comprises enemies and allies was fleeting however; something disgraced former Khan now Star Colonel Natalie Breen thought about while she floating in microgravity watching the final parts come together. This Shipyard and the Shandrake Massif facility she commissioned when she was Khan would cement the future of her Clan. One she had only dreamed of after being foiled on Tukayyid but one she rededicated herself to under her malleable protege.

Resources were drawn from the Cloud Cobras and Star Adders, the Star Adders for services rendered by Viper Peacekeepers during the Burrock Absorption and the Cobras in return for surrendering claims to Enclaves seized from the hated Snow Ravens that the small clan could not take on their own. Other resources came from occupied spheroid worlds in soon to be former Jade Falcon space. The Vipers demanded high quotas from their spheroid subjects and five Snake Potemkins-Class Troop Transports (CCSs Wisdom of Ages and True Sight, CSA Renown, CSVs Ophidian and Serpentes) harvested everything they could from their enemy before returning it to the Homeworlds.

Despite the Steel Viper's small footprint their colonies provided 60% of the new resources for the Snake Alliance's Merchants allowing unprecedented expansion of all three Clans. Enough that they could challenge the Jade Falcons in the Sphere and hope to prevail. All current reports showed the Steel Vipers expanding in the Occupation Zone.

Marthe Pryde's sudden disappearance from Strana Mechty could not hope to turn the tide as Perigald Zalman raced her to reinforce his own positions. SaKhans Brett Andrews and Samantha Clees skirmished around Tokasha and Barcella but the Falcons had contracted the Hellions to reinforce their positions and launch raids to protect vulnerable enclaves. Lesser clans nipped at the Viper's enclaves as well hoping to take advantage of their invasion. All would fall in time.

Once the Falcons were removed from the Inner Sphere they could finally be crushed in the Homeworlds and the Steel Vipers would move into the Ascendancy of the Snake Alliance. The Star Adders thought themselves so smart and superior but they were reliant on the Steel Viper's military prowess and access to the Inner Sphere. Once the Steel Viper Khan became ilKhan and their enemies were Annihilated the invasion would start again and they would not lose this time or ever again.

A hologram of a grand battleship within the cage appeared next to her console, it dwarfed anything seen in Clanspace by an impressive margin and if the stats were correct could take down a full Binary of Warships on its own. It would need to be; the Jade Falcons, Snow Ravens, and Diamond Sharks still posed an existential threat to the Vipers and their soon to be subjects. “Begin the assembly process. There are to be no problems with this battleship, quiaff?”

Large dropships began maneuvering sub-assemblies from smaller cages into the larger one and the CSV Astarte, Leviathan Prime-Class Heavy Battleship began to take form.

Back on the SLS Shanghai the CFM Jungle Heat (formerly SLS Rondeau) slipped its anchors to begin maneuvering around Kuxing with a full crew under the command of Star Captain Nina Tanaga. Star Captain Claude Goulet continued training FireNewt and Mandrill Warriors incorporating Salamander Elemental armor which had been in short supply but was brought along with defectors from the Fire Mandrills. Scientist-Controller Calloway's mission to Tokasha had been scrubbed and his team recalled to Fortuna by month's end. The Kerensky Cluster was to dangerous for a secret mission and it didn't matter anyway their objective was happening. Vipers and Falcons were under constant attack and counter-attack with no side winning conclusive victories but lesser Clans waited with baited breath hoping to profit in the wake of this struggle.

Ronell Anderson and Erika floated along the Shanghai's corridors glad to be returning to their new home. The spacer version of shipboard life smelled and tasted much worse than that of the Fortuna Gardener vessels and there was no grand sunrise or sunset over a warm blue ocean. He had managed to profit from their time aboard finding temporary employment in the Shipyard which had given them a larger quantity of spending money. They had replaced their clothes and electronics with superior versions and purchased a few other items that would be welcome to their friends still on that ocean world.

As they passed by one of the compartments closer to the engineering decks a hand came out from one of the rooms to grab Erika. The small woman was held firm by a large man with a snake tattoo circling his neck, who had hers in a blood choke. Two others translated from the compartment, “We need our quota of Shipyard workers.” One of them handed him a comm-pad, “Sign here and we let her go. Otherwise you have a dead girl and we take you anyway. The Captain can't kill us. We are Steel Viper Warriors. He wouldn't risk it to save you or this little Laborer,” Erika tried to fight the man's stronger grip to no avail, “no matter how squeezable she might be.”

He looked beyond the trio of Snake headhunters finding one of the FireNewts slowly coming down the corridor. The FireNewt tapped one of the Snakes on the shoulder, “Real Warriors declare a Trial. I Refuse it.” Flechettes sprayed out from the Needler pistol ripping into the backs of the two Snakes while Ronell slamming the nearest one's head into the bulkhead shattering it.

Blood floated in crimson spheres around them and onto Erika's face breaking into smaller spheres and leaving a smudge behind. She was white as a ghost and Ronell embraced her choking form while the Newt bagged up the dead Snakes and vacuumed up the blood spheres. “Sorry, for the set up. We thought these snake-heads might try to take you. If we Shanghai someone its because its better for them. I will toss these into the trash where they belong.”

“What about the Steel Vipers?”

“They will never admit their Warriors were beaten by a Newt. We have never been more capable of protecting ourselves from them. I will have to tell the Captain to be more cautious with our supposed allies however.”

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