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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 38 - The Other War

Later the corridor just outside the Trial by Fire's starboard shuttle bay was filled with spacers in three different uniforms lined up against the walls. First among them was Nina Tanaga in a tight fitting green-red quipao, a red triangle with three blue dagger stars in the corners represented her rank as Star Admiral, her name was stenciled across the right breast and Trial by Fire in Cantonese script along the right sleeve (Huozai Shenpan), and a jian hang to her left.

The shuttle doors opened and a muscular young man whose pallor was made more evident by his icy blue-white uniform, striking eyes, and short blonde hair stepped forward followed by a group of similar dressed spacers. The lead officer gave a quick salute, “Permission to come aboard Captain Tanaga.”

“Permission granted, Khan Drake.”
The Khan stepped forward and embraced her, “It has been a long time Nina. Nice to see someone from the Hellgate Academy once more.”
“The Ravens know how to pick and train them. More Ristars have come out of that academy than any other except perhaps the ones that gave us Marthe Pryde and Vladimir Ward.”

“If it would not be to much trouble I would like a tour of this vessel. Having seen it in action I am envious of its performance. There are three Lolas and an Essex among my Touman, perhaps I can provide business to your architects.”

Superior Regnar and Kindraa Leader Goulet were among the lead group, Drake shook Claude's hand. “This is Superior Derek Regnar of the SLS Shanghai, a Cloud Cobra yard. We owe him a great debt for his services.”

Xander looked toward the Newt Spacer with keen interest, “Indeed, how much did it cost? I have more enclaves under my command than ever before; we Hellions can pay more than some rogue Mandrills.”

The ever diplomatic and mercantile man nodded, “I can have the Roland Tusker, a jump capable shipyard, around Atreus or Hector in a matter of weeks. If you give us access to your Clan's mothballed ships we can perhaps reduce the amount of parts that need to be fabricated. The Trial by Fire and its sisters required longer to bring into operation from mothballs and repair the old damage than upgrade to their present configurations.”

“Make it happen. You have access to the HPG aboard the Pack Leader if you desire.”
“Thank you, Khan Drake.”

The four walked past all the spacers standing at parade rest and onto the ship. Once they disappeared the spacers changed from formal inspection uniforms back to their utility jumpsuits to begin damage control. Some were due to be transferred to the Rancor along with Star Captain Mick to enact repairs. Khan Drake and his Engineers asked questions of the Newts and Mandrills which were answered to their satisfaction. Hellion Engineers departed for the Pack Leader with the Superior while Khan Drake remained aboard with the Mandrills but changed out of his formal uniform into the standard duty one.

Faye Freelander found Claude and Xander on the recreation deck preparing to engage in a friendly game of racquetball. She had been aboard the CFM From the Ashesduring the battle. They were embarked on the Essex destroyer with the other Marines who detoured to the Trial by Fire at the request of Khan Drake. She whispered, “Find me before you hit the showers.”

Xander watched as she departed from the chamber, “Very impressive Jaguar you have there.”
The statement was answered with a nod.
“Where did you happen to find her?”

“Tanis strangely enough. Former Jaguar's Sword, her whole command has integrated well.”

“Not that they have much of a choice. Their Clan is dead. I was there on Huntress before the Inner Sphere left. Met a very fascinating spheroid from the Magistracy of Canopus. I will have to visit that place once I take the Hellions to the Inner Sphere. I want your help.”

Claude was silent for a moment as he absorbed that, the Ghost Bears and Nova Cats had done it and Vladimir Ward had made it clear that the Wolves' time in the Homeworlds was limited. The Jade Falcons and Hell's Horses attempted to leverage their IS holdings to homeworld's success with mixed results. No one thought the Hellions, long one of the smallest Clans were capable of such a thing.

He motioned to begin the game, the thrusters were on giving them roughly a half gee of gravity and changing the nature of the ball game. “You want me to come to the Inner Sphere with you?”

Aff, we can do this together Kindraa Leader. I have already sent scouts to determine a home base and we have access to Nova Cat way stations down the Exodus Road to the Outworlds' Wastes.”
“What about the Great Refusal?”

Drake slammed the ball into the bulkhead, “What of it? It only binds the Clans that wish to be bound. We will be Abjured if we leave and no longer subject to the Grand Council or ilKhan's whims whoever might arise from the Big Three.”

The Grand Council was deadlocked and increasingly divided along the Big Three; The Snake Alliance headed by the Star Adders, the Central Powers (Jade Falcon, Diamond Shark, Snow Ravens) who had no clear Leader, and a growing coalition centered on Clan Coyote.

Ward's Wolves traded Homeworld holdings to long time allies, the Goliath Scorpions, Hell's Horses, and Coyotes strengthening each clan slightly. No clear leader existed so far, the Scorpions and Horses had much to settle between them, and the Coyotes were internally divided but under a strong Khan.

Lesser Clans were left out of the power plays except as potential targets for Absorption. The Hellions and Mandrills had gained territory abandoned by the Ghost Bears and Nova Cats or left in the wake of the Smoke Jaguar's destruction. They were spread thin and this was seemingly allowed. Both Toumans could not hold all that territory but they could grow fat on it for later harvest.

“I hear rumor that your Kindraa might be picked off one by one.”

“I have not heard that rumor. Who says this?”

“Hell's Horses principally but Falcons as well. They need more forces to protect their dual Empires. Neither have made much effort of it yet, apparently some of the Warriors harvested by the Falcons proved 'difficult to integrate' and it has paused further attempts.”

“Many lies have been spread about the Mandrills but that is certainly not one. We are difficult. They must be getting desperate.”

“Or they fear me and my Warships. You have no such cover, or you did not. Perhaps that will change.”

Both Warriors could read the Chatterweb, there was a growing and subtle change among the Clans. The longer they were contact with the Inner Sphere the faster they became more like their enemies. Calls for a new compact in the wake of the Great Refusal were silenced with weapons fire before reaching the negotiating table. The Great Refusal and destruction of Clan Smoke Jaguar by the Inner Sphere had turned everything on its head and the results were still shaking out.

“How could that change?”

“I have captured two Star Adder Warships, the York Star Fire and Carrack Transport, the Black Adder. They were attacking the Nova Cats around Brim in violation of the Grand Council's order. So the Cage's Pride engaged them taking them as isorla, both are currently orbiting Hector. I need the Fire Eater until we are done the evacuation and they are yours.”

“Asking for a Potemkin in your move to the Inner Sphere strains our friendship, Khan Drake. What do you offer in collateral for its safe handling?”

“I figured you would ask so I came prepared.” He activated a handheld 3d projector which showed a sleek ship with large cannons in the prow, “There are two partially constructed Fredasa corvettes still in their cages around Atreus. They were abandoned by the Jaguars so it will take two or three years to finish them unless you bring more Technicians in system but the Faraday-Tanagas sought to take control of them only to be stopped by my Marines.

I am willing to give them to you as a gift. Admiral Tanaga's fleet is already larger than any in the Mandrills. Imagine if it grew. By the time those corvettes are done your Potemkin will no longer be needed.”

The Kindraa Leader stopped before the locker room and looked at the Hellion Khan, he extended his hand, “Bargained well and done. Khan Drake. I will inform Captain Xing of our arrangement and wish you luck.”

“You too Kindraa Leader Goulet,” He peered over Claude's shoulder to see Faye partially undressed through the cracked door, “Enjoy that shower Marine. You earned it today.”



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