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The Other War (Cover)

Chapter 65 - The Other War
In orbit
Shadow Star System
Kerensky Cluster, Clan Space

[Gathering of the Troops]

The black and blue coated CSR Ark Raven gracefully orbited the J-class Gas Giant Shadow I. Its largest moon Shadow Ia served as the Fire Mandrill's capital just as it had done for the Mongoose's before them. Snow Raven Loremaster Klaus Harper, a large Marine, stood heads taller than his ship's crew in an equally proud uniform of black and blue. He folded his hands standing on the observation deck as his guests arrived and were shown to their quarters.

Kimagure Pursuit Cruiser (Underway)

CSR Ark Royal , Conqueror-Class Battlecruiser/Carrier

CSR Ark Royal's Star had recently returned from their maiden voyage down the Exodus Road. Khan Lynn McKenna had ordered him to open up diplomatic channels to periphery states in order to diversify Clan holdings. Chief priority was to find new markets for goods coming from the Dominion to repay the Raven's past assistance rather than carry them all the way back up the Exodus Road or transfer them to the Shark's growing Chainelane colonies. The Homeworlds were limited by peer competition, population, distance, and their own hostile worlds.

They had settled on a Coreward excursion over the Draconis Combine to the Outworlds Alliance terrifying their AMC with his Clan's presence. To their credit the fighter pilots offered a challenge and were victorious and had received a Titan dropship. He regretted that he failed to issue a “Take me to your leader,” challenge but President Mitchell Avellar had practically handed over the keys of a dozen worlds after he offered the barest minimum authorized. He could still see the relief on the man's face after he made it clear that the Ravens were not interested in conquest. Some of his people remained behind conducting clandestine assessments on the Quatre Belle Yards and Alliance proper.

His subordinate's HPGs enumerated the desperate state of Alliance's citizens. Dominion goods transported by Raven Merchants aboard the Bonaventure and the presence of the factory ship Venture Star were already making a measurable difference in their quality of life. Of course, for now House Avellar was allowed to take credit for this windfall and save its desperate position. It would be much harder for Mitchell to break their unofficial pact and explain failure if his people knew the cost.

Blood Spirit ilChis Jas Keller and Bri McFadden appeared in the observation deck behind him. Both were smaller than the Loremaster although Bri as an Aerofighter was more so than Jas. Each of them wore the formal Blood Spirit uniform of a bright red bodysuit with black accents. Bri the senior of the two Clan intermediates spoke, “It is my pleasure to inform you that Khan Boques is aboard.”

For such a giant among his phenotype his voice was calm and scholarly, “Good, I see that he brought the Carmine Justice with him.” An Aegis coated in black and red floated several thousand kilometers distant, hardly visible against Shadow's bloody atmosphere.

Aegis Heavy Cruiser (2750) (by mattplog)

Aegis Class Heavy Cruiser, Carmine Justice

Jas, the Mechwarrior attached to Khan Sainze of the Mandrills, “He does not trust the Mandrills.”

“Perhaps a wise decision on his part, but one that we will have to soften. There is much for both of your Clans to disagree on but I think there is a chance now in this uncertain times. You have common enemies and the potential benefits outweigh known costs.”

He lifted a noteputer which in his giant hands was no larger than even a common commpad, “What are the status of the Kindraa Leaders.”

“Many were already nearby, only Goulet and Faraday were beyond two jumps on Atreus.”

Klaus opened up the Raven Watch files on the two Leaders which had thrown the careful balance of Clan Fire Mandrill into disarray with their recent gains. “No doubt continuing the stir up trouble. Kindraa Leader Goulet and his lieutenants have won many Trials of Grievance and Possession for his recent gains.”

ilChi Keller whose staff were serving as impartial liaisons for the fragmented and territorial Mandrill Watch nodded, “They seem to have worked out a deal with the Hellions for warships and Enclaves.”

“Of which I am quite aware and even pleased. Xander, Claude, and Nina were trained by the best Clan Snow Raven could offer to our fellow Clans above Hellgate. Their success continues to validate our methods, just as the Newgrange Fara Church does the Spirits.”

Kindraa Leaders Claude Goulet and Marc Faraday sat across from one another with their staff. Marc was a mostly unknown quantity to Claude and he looked at Faye warily. She noticed it too, the Jaguar was not shy about her identity in fact she reveled in the reputation of her once proud now fallen Clan. She unzipped her jumpsuit even so slightly. “See something you like, Marc.”

“How can you share a shuttle with this Jaguar Claude? You know what her Clan is capable of.”

Atreus, home of the Faraday-Tanaga's was before their de facto Annihilation fiercely contested with the Jaguars. So much so that the Kindraa's proficiency was in defensive battles and they had gained a bit of a reputation as wimps better known for their Scientists than Warriors.

The Kindraa Leader looked over to Faye, “We have shared more than a shuttle since we first met. I find her a very capable commander of Warriors and reliable ally.” Nina Tanaga looked over at the pair with barely contained amusement, she had returned to her native Kindraa after the Trial of Position and oversaw training for Ignition Point's new crew and the Rancor's upgrades, “She is also very clean.”

“Only when I have to be.” She put a comb through her short tight braids, “Claude, I am afraid I will have to wash my hair again tonight.”

“Aboard a Raven ship during a 'Gathering of the Troops' you are insatiable.”

“You did have me wandering about all by myself for the past few months. This girl has needs.”

Tomin Mick watched this twisted charade proceed and eyed Marc, as a Mick-Osis the Jaguar insult had been meant for him as well. Adjacent to his sizable volume were three Aerospace pheno techs, normal sized people would have been pushed into the bulkheads. His rumbling voice filled the compartment, “What is this 'Gathering of the Troops' anyhow?”

Claude looked over to the Elemental, “I am not entirely certain Tomin. The appearance of the Carmine Justice makes me think it is some kind of conference brokered by the ilChis and Loremaster Harper. Every Kindraa Leader was expected to attend and,” he pointed toward the Techs, “Angel, Pren, and Karo needed to be transferred to Lum anyway if we are to get those Fredasas online in a timely manner.”

“A meeting of the Kindraa Leaders and Blood Spirit Khan aboard a Conqueror super-carrier over our Capital. Seems risky.”

“Afraid you cannot take down a Raven Marine Tomin. They are probably no bigger than I am.”

The massive Elemental crossed his arms whose biceps were almost as wide as the Tech's waist, “You did defeat me.”

Claude reclined back into the seat thinking of the big Elemental drifting off to the black. He sharply gestured forward to the large dark skinned man with his built but relatively puny dusky arm, “On a technicality.”

Marc looked over the group most of whom knew each other better than he knew his Star Colonels, “I still think this is a trap. The risk is great with so many leaders in one place. Excellent opportunity to decapitate at least two Clans and take out a powerful Warship in one fell swoop.”

No one was certain which two Clans or Warship he was referring to, even Marc. Nina seemed less concerned although she was never confident unless she was in command of a spaceship, “And invite orbital bombardment of New Kent. I doubt it. The risk may be great but the reward might be as well.

They could be offering us a contract. The Steel Vipers have been pushing them hard lately to make up for shortfalls after the Jade Falcons kicked them out of the Inner Sphere. We have some of the best Warriors left unengaged in the conflicts simmering across the home-worlds.

We just need weapons to send the Vipers back to New Kent in disgrace once more and the Ravens have those Ghost Bear factories.”

Their shuttle pilots chimed in on the INTERCOM, “Ten minutes to docking. Prepare for decel.”

The CT-46 Shuttle was already thrusters back matching velocity with the Conqueror that dwarfed it like a great space whale. Tanaga pilots matched heading with the RCS thrusters to line up their bay. Wide capture booms extended from dorsal and ventral surfaces as the shuttle while the same mass was not as precise with its attitude thrusters or instruments as a proper fighter.

A bay door opened and the booms caught braking wires which carefully cushioned the shuttle with only a small jerk to those aboard. It was guided into position by mechanical arms that pinched the wings dropping them slowly onto extended landing gear. The bay door closed and pressure was restored before the pilots released the airlock controls. “Feel free to move about the cabin.”

Claude and the others stepped off the shuttle and attached themselves to the deck with magnetic boots. After entering the unloading area they were greeted by Loremaster Klaus Harper, the elder Elemental looked Tomin right in the eyes. Tomin leaned down and whispered to Claude, “He is not very tiny.”

The Loremaster stood in front of ilChi Jas Keller and a group of Raven Marines in PA(L) suits their reflective black visors, white bodies, and electric blue Mausers gave them an alien mystique, “Welcome to the Ark Royal, Mandrills. I have high hopes for this gathering. If you would please follow me we can begin.”

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