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PostPosted: Fri Aug 29, 2008 10:14 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:22 am
Posts: 2198
Yay! He's back on the saddle! GREAT thanks from Finland, my Bey :)

[i]You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights errant, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.[/i]


 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2009 10:14 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Jumpship Thuban
Alghedi System
Draconis Combine
January 6, 3053, 1530 Hours

Sho-sa As`Zaman Bey utilized the Invader’s conference room as his office while waiting for the jump to the Dabih system. The lights were dimmed and the room was illuminated by the holographic images projected by the sho-sa’s data terminal.
One of the room’s double doors opened slightly and the slim silhouette of Chu-i Miyamoto slipped through the opening. “My Bey, a packet delivered by a fast shuttle has arrived for you.” She bowed slightly before stepping up to the long conference table, placed the bundle of communiqués next to the holographic generator and stood awaiting further orders.
“Thank you very much, Miyamoto-san,” As`Zaman said. His eyes concentrated on the floating images before him. His fingers swirled gracefully from one image to another before he pulled a data crystal from his terminal. “Please have this data transmitted to the Comstar HPG Station immediately.” He placed the small crystal chip in the chu-i’s delicate hand and returned to his work.
“As you order, my Bey,” said Miyamoto. She executed a smart about-face and swiftly departed.
The sho-sa smiled and watched as his secretary stepped into the brightly lit corridor and closed the door behind her. He exhaled a sigh when he hefted the newly-delivered packet, “More work…” He separated the communiqués according to their priority levels and broke the seal of the first envelope.

There was a knock at the door. Mohammed Bey straightened in his chair and placed the missive he was reading on the table. The knock was loud and obviously that of a man with a purpose.
Both doors swung open and a tall man in the robes of an Azami traveler stood in the portal. From behind the man a smaller figure scampered into the room. Ahmed Bey ran around the heavy teak table and halted three paces from where the sho-sa sat. He saluted smartly, “Father, we shall be making the jump to Dabih soon!”
“A thousand pardons, my Bey,” the bodyguard apologized. “He wanted to make his report in a timely manner.”
The elder As`Zaman slowly rose to his feet and took his time in smoothing his uniform before he returned the salute. “Gunsho As`Zaman, your report has been noted- Is there anything else?”
The boy stood at attention and his eyes looked down as if in thought. “Um…will Chu-i Miyamoto be joining us for dinner?” He looked up at his father hopefully.
The sho-sa chuckled. “Huh, where did you learn that from?” he mused. “We’ll be dining in our reserved room at nineteen hundred hours. Perhaps the chu-i would join us if somebody would volunteer to invite her.” He looked at his young son and raised an eyebrow. “Are there any volunteers?”
Eagerly taking the cue, Ahmed Bey raised his right hand. “I shall volunteer to extend the invitation, sir!”
“Very good, gunsho!” Mohammed Bey turned to address the bodyguard, “Al-Murfiyyah, please escort the gunsho to Chu-i Miyamoto’s stateroom to carry out his mission.”

Fourth Arkab Legion Reserve Training Camp
Draconis Combine
January 21, 2200 Hours

Tai-i Ismet Wahid removed his headset and looked up from the communications console, “The drop didn’t go well at all.” He turned to the other officers in the mobile command center and pointed at the large illuminated map at the wall opposite from his position. “Not only has the Fourth Arkab Legion force that dropped an hour ago land widely dispersed but at least two of their battlemechs fell outside of the designated exercise field.”
“Do you wish to cancel the maneuver?” Chu-i Mamoud Misbah could not believe the ill luck- he knew a night drop was risky but he never expected things to go this bad. There was a long stretch of silence before the officers in the command center all turned to face the man who sat silently observing the exercise.
Wahid stood up from the console, “My Bey, what do you suggest? Shall I send out the recall order?”
Sho-sa As`Zaman eyed the map for several seconds before speaking. “Do you suppose that the defenders are aware of the drop?”
Misbah nodded glumly, “That is almost a certainty, my Bey.” He looked up at the map and shook his head. “Whatever surprise we may have had is now lost.”
“I shall inform Tai-i Majid that the mission is cancelled.” He walked over to the communications console and prepared the transmitter.
“Tai-i Wahid, I have to pose another question,” said As`Zaman. “Would the Clans allow you to cancel a mission if the drop didn’t go well?” He reached into one of his field uniform pockets, pulled out his briar pipe and dusted it off with a detached air. He appeared uninterested but the other men knew better.
The two Fourth Arkab Legion officers looked at each other. “The mission is on- Majid and his force are on their own until they complete the exercise.” Wahid turned to As`Zaman and bowed, “Thank you, my Bey.”
The Sho-sa returned the bow then calmly tamped the tobacco into the bowl of his pipe. “The real test of a unit’s commander is when he is forced to operate under less than perfect conditions.” He shrugged. “This isn’t much of an anti-Clan exercise as it is an Arkab scouting mission- if they happen to be forced into a fight there’s a good chance they’ll die in a very exciting battle and Tai-i Majid is quite aware of that.”

January 23, 0230 Hours

Tai-i Aaron Majid sat in the cockpit of his powered-down Wyvern and monitored the radio for activity- or lack of it. Earlier, the officer worried about how long it took to assemble his scattered battlemechs after the embarrassing drop but fortunately, the Clan forces were not as alert as expected and his two lances managed to avoid any patrols sent to investigate. While it was true the enemy was aware of his presence instead of actively hunting him down the units portraying Clan Smoke Jaguar elements chose to draw into defensive positions around several clusters of buildings a kilometer or so apart.
He heard three brief clicks on his receiver. He leisurely pushed the release on his harness and opened his battlemech’s access hatch.

Under the dense jungle canopy four men stood in the blackness and spoke in low voices. The stars shone brightly in the clear Dabih skies but very little light could penetrate the choking jungle vegetation that concealed the assembly of battlemechs and their conferring pilots.
“How are the lanes progressing?” Majid strained his eyes due to the darkness. He could barely see the black shapes of his fellow legionnaires.
The calm, familiar voice of Chu-i Hamara whispered a response, “Perhaps one more day.” The officer’s task of clearing paths through the undergrowth for his unit’s battlemechs to maneuver through was painstaking as it literally took place under the enemy’s nose.
“Good, take your time.” The Tai-i breathed a sigh of relief. “Opinions?”
“I am convinced that the enemy is expecting an attack by a heavier force,” replied Kashira Zahoor. “The enemy outweighs us and they patrol in pairs or threes.”
Majid grunted in agreement, “They are expecting a fight.” He felt suddenly optimistic and checked his watch. In the blackness, the device briefly illuminated his face with a blue glow which gave his swarthy skin a ghoulish pallor. “If that is all, we shall make our move two-zero hours from now.” The Azami men nodded in assent and without another word, turned away and silently made their way back to their battlemechs.

Hotel Plantagenet
Barheilabad City
Draconis Combine
January 24, 1330 Hours

Sharah Charef thought about the day and the duties she had to perform. Most of the servant’s time was spent as a lady in waiting to the first wife of a prominent noble among her people. Her duties brought her great prestige and just mentioning the As`Zaman name was enough to prompt salespeople and merchants to treat her as if she were the same social rank as her employers. As a young girl in her village on Alghedi, Sharah dreamed of working in a noble’s household. Until her teen years, she trained to work as a servant, sometimes under conditions that outsiders might consider brutal. She could remember the beatings and the nights she went to bed hungry because she didn’t learn fast enough or work as hard as her teachers demanded. When Ibrahim M’Touga Bey chose three women for positions as servants; Sharah was one of those picked.
When she arrived at the M’Touga household, she was trained just as hard as in her village but there was less brutality and she didn’t go without as many meals. The servants of the M’Touga household made certain that Sharah could perform every duty demanded of a maidservant before she was assigned as the personal servant to a teenaged sherifah.
As a personal servant, Sharah found her duties easier than expected. Her mistress was neither flighty nor spoiled by her family’s wealth. Like any servant, Sharah may have been held in the sherifah’s confidence yet could never be her friend. When her mistress told her she would accompany her to Dabih and work in her new home, along with a new master, she may have shared the sherifah’s joy but other than occasional hugs in private as a servant she would always be peripheral to her employers’ lives, their happiness and their tragedies.
Sharah Charef had two children of her own but they were at her Algedi home under the supervision of her own servants- a true indication of her employers’ wealth and influence. Instead of her own children she accompanied her mistress’ sons as they played on the sand-covered seashore just outside their hotel. Cloaked from head to toe in the traditional full purdah of a devoted Azami woman, she sat under the shade of a colorful beach umbrella and ignored the bathing-suit clad foreign tourists who sunned their oiled bodies as they enjoyed the beach.
Ahmed As`Zaman Beyzade gripped his short surfboard and looked at the waves that languidly lapped at the shore. Disappointed, he turned to his younger brother, “Aya Thaqid, the surf is horrid today.” He sniffed and hid a smirk behind a hand- those foreign women were almost naked…
The seven-year-old nodded even though he wasn’t so interested in surfing yet. Under his left arm he carried a smaller surfboard that he used more as a floatation device.
“Sharah, I’m going out to the wall to see how the waves are.” He pointed out to the breakwater between thirty and fifty meters from shore.
“Be careful, young master, it looks deep out there,” warned Sharah. “Keep an eye on Thaqid.” She dug a book out of her basket, sat back in her folding chair and found the page where she’d left off.
Ahmed made a noncommittal nod and strode across the bone-white sand, surfboard under his left arm. Thaqid fell in step behind his older brother and followed him to the water’s edge.

Forty-Third Floor
Hotel Plantagenet

Chu-i Miyamoto opened the conference room’s heavy door to allow the Room Service Attendant wheel his covered cart into the room. The attendant’s jaw dropped when he saw the long table heaped with electronic equipment, a handful of officers in DCMS tropical uniforms busily processing data and monitoring communications.
“Just leave it here,” Miyamoto instructed the attendant, “take this.” She handed the young man a five dinar coin.
“Arigato!” he executed a deep bow and left the room.
The chu-i removed the linen tablecloth draped over the lidded trays and assorted vessels. “How many of you want tea?” She counted the raised hands and noted that none of the Arkab officers bothered to look up from their terminals. She sighed and arranged delicate ceramic cups on ornate platters.
As`Zaman paused to look up from his terminal, “Is it time for lunch already?” He rubbed his tired eyes and stretched; his spine popping as he turned his torso from one side to the other. “I just realized how famished I am.” He stood up and looked over his staff members who were still busy at their own consoles- Like most DCMS staffers they would attend to their work until ordered to halt. “Go ahead and take a short break.”

The sho-sa stuffed the last bite of pastry into his mouth and washed it down with a gulp of green tea. The young administrative officers, all fresh out of the academy, were finishing their light meals as well. Mohammed Bey appreciated the number of new officers that filled the Fourth Arkab Cadre’s empty slots but he also knew that the overall quality of the unit would suffer- These young officers had never faced the Clans so how could they train others on how to fight the Clans? The latest packet of communications underscored the growing problem- Another handful of his more experienced officers- Men who had been with him for years, had been assigned to other units.
He picked through the packet of printed orders and cleared his throat, which stilled the buzz of small talk among the administrative crew and drew their undivided attention. “Anwar Sardan Bey, assigned to First Arkab Legion, First Battalion Command, promotion to sho-sa; Zaghlul Draco Bey, Training Officer, Sun Zhang, promotion to tai-i; Khalil Ahwaz, Dieron Command Staff, promotion to tai-i…” His eyes looked up from the bundle of papers and he saw how the collection of young officers fidgeted uncomfortably, “How does the DCMS expect me to run a training facility when they draw away my experienced officers and replace them with…children fresh out of the academies?” He noted how his aides averted their eyes. These bureaucrats had no idea what it was to be a warrior, let alone train warriors.
“My Bey…” Chu-i Miyamoto was listening as she collected the cups and saucers and returned them to the cart, “…if I may speak?”
As`Zaman nodded. “Speak.”
The young DCMS officer wiped her delicate hands with a soft cotton towel and bowed, “Thank you my Bey.” She stepped forward, “The Azami Confederation and Draconis Combine Status of Forces Treaty stipulates that where Arkab unit replacements are concerned, Azami academy graduates are given priority. Unfortunately, since the treaty never considered training cadres and their need for experienced instructors the Eighth Arkab is being treated as any other line unit.”
“That is correct,” Mohammed Bey said. He cast about the room, “We require solutions before the situation becomes critical.”
“Mohammed-sama,” one of the previously silent administrative staffers tentatively raised his hand. “Perhaps you could coordinate with Legion headquarters on Arkab and with DCMS Training Command to promulgate a new treaty or at least amend the current article so this command receives the personnel that it requires.”
The senior officer nodded thoughtfully, “That is an astute proposal, Chu-i Kagawa.” He motioned to another one of the staffers, “Chu-i Onishi, you are to take notes.”
“Yes, my Bey.” One of the other junior officers passed him a crystal pad and stylus.
Sho-sa As`Zaman paced as his mind worked. “Chu-i Miyamoto, please be so kind as to retrieve the Status of Forces Treaty file so we may examine the wording.”
“As you command, my Bey.” She took a seat at one of the terminals and began to search through the list of data files.
“Do not take this personally when I say that I would prefer an administrative staff made up of Azami devotees,” Mohammed Bey announced. “So far, there have been few problems with any of you and I am pleased with how quickly you learned accommodate the demands of my people as well as the many diverse volunteers who serve in the Cadre. I am also pleased how smoothly all of you have been keeping the vital data flowing in and out of our offices and I must certainly commend all of you for executing your duties in an efficient and exemplary manner.” He held up his crystal datapad and with a gliding finger called up a document on the glowing surface. “Refer to section forty-two.”

1430 Hours

Thaqid As`Zaman Bey was bored. The few minutes he had paddled along the shoreward portion of the long breakwater occupied him for a few minutes but he wanted to do something else –of course, he really wasn’t certain what he wanted to do. The wall that served to block the constant series of waves seemed like a dark, mysterious border between the boring shoreline and the turbulent, wild sea. Thaqid straddled his board and looked out toward the open ocean where his older brother surfed. At portions of the breakwater he could see other boys playing as the occasional wave washed over the concrete wall. The water was calm on the shoreward side, thanks to the breakwater. Thaqid saw dozens of tourists as they swam in the warm seawater, many of them using masks and snorkels to view the coral and rocks on the floor beneath the water’s surface. Thaqid wasn’t anywhere as good a surfer as his older brother so he really didn’t want to cross the barrier that prevented the waves from reaching the shore but he wondered what it would be like to stand on that long, dark wall. After a moment of thought the seven-year-old paddled toward a section of the breakwater.
At first he thought about joining the other boys playing on the wall but they were all much older and bigger. Instead, Thaqid decided to go to the nearest part of the wall and claim it as his own. As he neared the breakwater, the boy saw how the waves occasionally broke over the wall, causing the water on his side to roil fiercely for a moment. He paddled harder to get to the concrete barrier, which jutted half a meter above the surface of the calmer, shoreward side. Thaqid drew up beside the breakwater and reached out to steady himself by placing his hand on the wall. A wave struck the wall, washed over it and pushed the boy away from the breakwater- Almost two meters. Annoyed, the youth wiped the stinging salt water from his eyes and paddled to the wall once more.
The young boy leaned from the board he straddled and again attempted to grasp one of the basalt stones that jutted from the concrete. His small fingers slid over the stone, its surface slick with algae. Thaqid noticed that the entire length of concrete was covered with the slimy, dark green material just before another wave splashed over the wall and forced him away once more. Undeterred, he drew up beside the wall one more time and with a determined lunge, tried to leap from his board onto the wall. Of course, the board didn’t cooperate and moved in the opposite direction as the boy hit the water, his hands clutching the edge of the concrete barrier.
Thaqid sputtered and coughed as he pulled his torso up onto the meter-wide wall. His chest hurt, there were several abrasions caused by the rocks imbedded in the concrete and these stung. He gasped in a couple of breaths, looked for his short board and a quick glance over his shoulder revealed that the last wave had swept his board far beyond his reach. He muttered a small groan.
Determined to stand on the wall he after had gone through so much effort, Thaqid leaned forward as his bare feet tried to find purchase on the slimy rocks that made up the face of the breakwater. He looked out toward the ocean and braced himself as he saw a swell, much larger than the last, speeding towards him. He held his breath and closed his eyes as the blue mound of water rose up and swept over the wall.

“Instructors with adequate experience who are no longer fit for front line duty will be acceptable replacements as well- preferably with experience against the invaders,” Mohammed Bey recited. He watched the words appear on the document as he spoke. “Strike out ‘invaders’ and replace with ‘Clans.’”
Chu-i Onishi raised his hand. “Sir, are you certain?” He looked to his fellow junior officers for support. “I mean, how committed to the training program would instructors who have no future in the DCMS be?”
Sho-sa As`Zaman’s face concealed any emotion. “Ah, we now touch on the opinion that becoming an instructor is the end of a warrior’s career.” He could see the embarrassment on the faces of most of his staff. “That would make me a washed-up soldier as well, wouldn’t it?”

The group of Azami women stepped casually between the aisles lined with bolts of cloth. The fabric store’s manager eagerly responded to the slightest gesture made by the veiled woman who wore copious amounts of geometric and filigree silver jewelry, tafzint mark on her forehead denoting the mother of the firstborn. She was flanked by four maidservants who remained silent as she issued commands with subtle motions of her slender fingers.
Safiyyah As`Zaman Begum examined the weave of a bolt of hand woven material. “This pattern is of the Sorgu- have you more of it?” She wasn’t talking to anyone in particular but knew the shopkeeper was paying full attention to her.
The middle-aged manager dipped his head obsequiously, “Yes, yes, honored Begum!” He snapped his fingers at his employees, “Tasha, on the third shelf…bring both of the bolts here!” He turned to face the noblewoman and cracked a nervous smile.
While she waited for the fabric shop’s employees to return, Safiyyah suddenly turned away and blinked as if there were something in her eyes. She held up a hand to ward away her servants who gathered around her to see if she needed assistance. In the moment that she had turned aside and closed her eyes, the Azami noblewoman thought she saw swirling foam and turquoise water.

Thaqid could not tell which direction was up. His vision was blurred by the stinging seawater and he could barely tell when he stopped tumbling until he could make out the brilliant sunlight glistening through the undulating surface. A wiry, thin child, Thaqid possessed no buoyancy at all. The child struggled to swim up to the surface and gasped for breath. He spun around to look for his board while he tread water and saw that the wind and waves had pushed it a dozen or so meters away. On the verge of panic, he kicked about and saw that he was about five meters from the wall. He watched another large wave push over the breakwater, the force shoved him back another few meters and almost washed him under. Tiring, he spun around again to gauge the distance to the shore. To the small boy the beach where dozens of tourists lounged seemed kilometers away. The next swell caught him by surprise and he inhaled some water. He coughed violently; again he submerged for a moment before he swam toward the breakwater. Once he got there he planned to rest for a moment and catch his breath in order to make the long swim back to the shore. By the time Thaqid reached the wall he was exhausted. He had to fight the incoming waves when it was difficult to keep his head above water. With a slender arm thrown onto the barrier, the child attempted to simply grip onto the wall until his limbs stopped hurting then he would retrieve his board and go back to where Sharah waited.
Without looking up Thaqid braced himself for another oncoming wave. He could tell it struck the wall at an angle and its swift approach sounded like thunder. Faster than he could blink he was tossed under the foaming water again and swirled like a fallen leaf in the turbulent wind. Vainly he struggled, his kicks grew weak and through blurred vision the shimmering surface grew further away. For a brief moment Thaqid grew afraid but now he was very sleepy and no longer struggled. The water around him glowed with silvery rays from the bright sun and even the sand on the sea’s floor seemed to hold him in a warm, comforting embrace. Reposed on the soft sand, he hugged his chest and closed his eyes.

1445 Hours

“I shall answer that, my Bey,” Chu-i Miyamoto said. She pushed her seat back and rose from before her console to respond to the knock on the conference room door.
Sho-sa As`Zaman nodded in silent response without looking up from his own display. Their proposal to the DCMS Replacement Department completed, Mohammed Bey’s administrative staff was back at work handling the mundane day to day operation of the Eighth Arkab Training Cadre.
“Kagawa-san, what is the progress with the remote observation craft?” The Sho-sa continued looking over the reports on his display.
The Chu-i gulped, “My Bey, I haven’t completed the monthly report as of yet…”
“I just want an update on the current status.”
“Er, yes sir!” The junior officer quickly called up the latest file on the subject.
Chu-i Miyamoto walked over to where Sho-sa As`Zaman sat. “It is packet from DCMS Training Command, my Bey.” She bowed as she presented the thick, sealed envelope to her commander.
“Thank you, Miyamoto-san.” He broke the envelope’s seal. “You may continue with your update, Chu-i Kagawa.”
The DCMS officer cleared his throat, “Yes… As you are aware, the Special Communications Platoon received the order of a dozen remote-controlled aircraft of various sizes from Benjamin, each with necessary control devices. The lead technician, Shujin Sung, has included his findings on file one zero four.” He waited for the officers at the table to open the file on their respective displays. “As you can see, the medium to heavy designs have proven to be the most promising under most conditions. If you look…”
“I apologize for the interruption but I’d like to act immediately on this item,” Mohammed Bey announced. “The DCMS has offered to send several test battlemechs for our cadre to evaluate- all prototype designs.”
The gathered officers gaped in silence for a few seconds before congratulating their commander- It was a rare honor for the DCMS to select such a new unit to evaluate the latest equipment.
The sho-sa continued, “The Eighth is has also been selected to test new equipment- They don’t go into much detail but it appears to be a specialized communications link between battlemechs to enhance their combat efficiency.” He held up a page, “The battlemechs and other modules are already scheduled for testing before the end of next month so I suppose they are on the way here as we speak.”
“That sounds wonderful, my Bey,” Miyamoto said as she clapped her hands. “You are finally being recognized by the DCMS.”

“You were supposed to watch your brother,” Sharah admonished. She casually stuffed her book into her woven basket and stood up.
Ahmed Beyzade nodded, “I am sorry, Sharah. He most likely got bored of paddling and is probably playing around on shore.”
The servant made an impatient click with her tongue, “Leave your surfboard here and go look for him.”
“Yes, Sharah Hanim,” the youth replied in a glum tone. He carefully placed his surfboard under the umbrella’s shade and spun on a heel, ready to scold his younger brother for wandering off.

The sun felt warm on his honey-brown skin but stung when Thaqid opened his eyes. He felt as though he awoke from a long sleep and shook the fuzzy cobwebs from his brain. The boy lay on the sand just beyond the point where the languid water lapped against the shore and he noticed dozens of tourists under colorful umbrellas, walking along the white, powdery sand and playing in the water.
Thaqid saw his surfboard lying on the sand a couple of meters away and tried to remember how he got to shore but could not. The youth stood up on unsteady legs and thought about going back into the water to wash off the sand that clung to his chest, arms, legs and the side of his head. Something had happened but like the fleeting memory of a dream, his mind could not cling to the vanishing wisps of images yet none of the people he could see indicated that anything unusual had occurred. He sniffed and bent over to retrieve his board. The showers were not far away.

[i]And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.[/i] from The Koran, 33rd Sura- The Clans

 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Thu Feb 26, 2009 1:36 pm 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:22 am
Posts: 2198
The water around him glowed with silvery rays from the bright sun and even the sand on the sea’s floor seemed to hold him in a warm, comforting embrace. Reposed on the soft sand, he hugged his chest and closed his eyes.
The sun felt warm on his honey-brown skin but stung when Thaqid opened his eyes. He felt as though he awoke from a long sleep and shook the fuzzy cobwebs from his brain. The boy lay on the sand just beyond the point where the languid water lapped against the shore and he noticed dozens of tourists under colorful umbrellas, walking along the white, powdery sand and playing in the water.
WHAT happened here?

[i]You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights errant, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.[/i]


 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 10:47 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Plantation Sanhaja
New Dzayer Region
Draconis Combine
January 30, 3053 2000 Hours

Resembling Terra during its early Cenozoic Era, the planet Dabih is a lush, forested world with deep oceans and vast deposits of fossil fuels. The limitless supply of oil, natural gas and the production of numerous industrial petrochemical products drive Dabih’s powerful export economy and assure its inhabitants a constant flow of income which any system would envy.
Just over two hundred kilometers east of the coastal resort of Barheilabad, the terrain gradually rises toward the continental spine and a series of rolling hills covered with dense tropical growth. Among those hills, carved out of the rain forests are a handful of large plantations owned by some of the Azami world’s wealthiest and most influential families.
Named after a federation of Terran North African tribes, Plantation Sanjaha is one of the many the properties on the Zairikesh continent owned by the noble As`Zaman family. Overlooking the orchards and verdant fields is a collection of whitewashed structures that may have been transplanted from one of the thousands of villages that once dotted the Mediterranean coasts of ancient Terra. The spacious enclosed courtyards, the terra-cotta tiles that covered the shallow-pitched rooftops and the first basalt stones of Plantation Sanjaha were laid in place almost five centuries earlier under the strict direction of Jamshid Pasha As`Zaman, the holy Imam who led his followers among the Azami sect when they first left Terra to settle on Dabih.

A large pavilion stood in the center of the main living quarters’ courtyard. The servants were busy clearing away ceramic plates and ornate serving trays, the remains of the evening meal served to the several guests who sat on thick, hand-woven rugs. At the head of the low table the middle-aged matron of the As`Zaman clan Sherifah Shabh’a smiled broadly, her teeth brilliant white in contrast to her swarthy skin. The Azami woman had many reasons to be happy- Her eldest son had taken the time from his busy schedule to visit her earlier in the day, the seasonal harvest was nearly complete but most important of all she was surrounded by several of her beloved grandchildren. The Sherifah sat cross-legged on the thick, wool rug with a heavy, leather-bound book of obvious great age splayed upon her lap. He slim fingers traced the lines of handwritten script as she read and translated the ancient text to her rapt audience.

“Then Shahrazad went in to King Shahriyar and Dunyazad to King Shah Zaman and each of them solaced himself with the company of his beloved consort and the hearts of the folk were comforted. When morning morrowed, the Wazir came in to the two kings and kissed ground before them; wherefore they thanked him and were large of bounty to him. Presently they went forth and sat down upon couches of kingship, whilst all the Wazirs and Emirs and Grandees and Lords of the land presented themselves and kissed ground.”
Nine year old Mellila had been sitting on her favorite silk pillow so quietly all evening while listening to the last tale of the series of stories her grandmother had read to the children during visits for as long as she could remember. Usually the children would all sit in silence and pay attention; the younger ones would curl up in a servant’s lap and fall asleep the way six-year-old Leila had before half the story was finished.
The matron paused from reciting the story and tilted her head to one side, “Yes, Mellila?”
“Grandmother…” The young girl shifted on her silk pillow. “Is the story true? Did our family once rule over Samarkand?”
The Sherifa dipped her head, “It is all true dearest grandchild- although to outsiders, few, if any, know the full story.” She gently turned the hand-illuminated parchment pages of the ancient tome and finally closed the thick, leather and metal-bound covers. “Let me tell you the tale of our family’s name, As’Zaman.”

Forty-Third Floor
Hotel Plantagenet

Chu-i Miyamoto stood out on the conference room balcony and leaned against the railing. The night was clear and cool with a gentle breeze from the ocean. The stars shone brightly and the young DCMS officer could see lines of flickering torches along the pristine beach. Somewhere, from one of the lower floors, the strains of Amazighen tribal music drifted. The glass door slid open behind her.
“Miyamoto-san, As`Zaman-sama has dismissed us for the evening.” It was Chu-i Kagawa- he stuck his head out the door and eyed the view. “The rest of us are going to get something to eat- they’d like to know if you wanted come with us.”
Miyamoto thought for a brief moment and looked down. “Do you think that they are throwing a party down there?”
Kagawa blinked, “Excuse me?”
“The music,” Miyamoto said. “What kind of party do you think it is?”

“Just shut down the power- we can continue where we left off in the morning,” said Mohammed Bey. He buttoned his tunic and took a quick glance at his reflection.
Chu-i Onishi stepped into the conference room. “Sir, there is a man named Reis from the hotel staff inquiring if you are available to speak.” The junior officer bowed slightly, “Should I tell him that you are too busy?”
“Show the man in,” As`Zaman replied. “He works for me as well.”

The middle-aged Azami gentleman bowed, “Please forgive this intrusion, my Bey.” He wore the uniform of one of the hotel’s front desk supervisors.
Mohammed Bey returned the bow, “Good evening, Djamal. Is everything in order?” The Azami noble smiled. He gestured to the man, “Chu-i Onishi, this is Djamal Reis. He is the Assistant Manager of this hotel.” He nodded to Reis, “Djamal, this is Chu-i Onishi, one of my staff officers.”

Room 2808
2030 Hours

Chu-i Harumi Miyamoto looked at her reflection in the full-length mirror and sighed- She wished that she had more time to get ready but there just wasn’t enough notice- At least she had the opportunity to wear her evening gown. The knock on the door made her turn.
“Miyamoto-san, are you ready yet?” Chu-i Kagawa’s voiced sounded tinny through the small speaker.
The DCMS woman swiftly walked to the door and opened it. “Yes, I’m ready.” She then noticed the long, brown robe and white kefiyya Kagawa wore. “Where did you get that?” Her slim fingers covered her grin.
The chu-i frowned, “Mohammed-sama gave all the men these costumes.” He seemed noticeably uncomfortable, especially with the cloth headgear. “It isn’t fair- he didn’t make you dress like one of his women.”
Harumi covered her mouth and laughed, “Nobody’s forcing you to dress like that- it was a request after all.”
The Draconis Combine man growled and spun on his heel, “I, for one, will not take any chances- in the DCMS a commander’s invitation is no different than a direct order.”

The lift doors slid open and the two DCMS officers stepped into the hotel’s corridor. Chu-i Miyamoto was awed by the sumptuous décor, from the maroon carpet to the gilt-trimmed walls. She had always dreamed of visiting such a high-class vacation establishment but never imagined that it would be connected to her choice of a military career.
“That should be it up ahead,” Kagawa announced to Miyamoto. “I see Onishi-san, Fukuoka-san, Teruya-san and the old man waiting by the doorway.”
The young woman found the term “old man” somewhat annoying. “You shouldn’t speak so disrespectfully about our commander.”
The chu-i winced at the scolding, “Sorry.” He had forgotten that everyone in the Eighth Arkab Training Cadre staff was aware of how Miyamoto worshipped the sho-sa as a great hero.

Sho-sa As`Zaman bowed. “Thank you for accepting the invitation.” Like the other men he wore the tawb, a light cloth robe with embroidery over his uniform. Unlike the others, his robe was pure white and he wore the cylindrical felt tarboush headgear, green and wound with a white cloth. The Azami officer reached into a tunic pocket and pulled out several coins. “Before we go in I have to give you these.”
Miyamoto’s eyes were very wide. “Is that gold?” The other officers quickly surrounded their commander to take a look at the gleaming coins.
“Of course,” replied Mohammed Bey. “You are to give these to the bride and groom as they pass our table- I don’t expect you to give them your own money and it would be rude to accept their invitation and come empty-handed, would it not?”
“Thank you, sir!” chimed Onishi as several coins dropped into his open palm. He stepped away, eyes glued to the polished disks that reflected the light from the chandeliers. If he calculated correctly, each of the officers would be giving the couple the equivalent of a month’s pay for an active duty chu-i.
“Whose image is this on the coin?” Miyamoto asked. She shut her left eye and held the gold piece up so she could compare it to Mohammed Bey’s face.
“Oh, that isn’t me, Miyamoto-san!” As`Zaman replied. “That is my grandfather, Uzmir Mohammed Pasha.” He shook his head, “May the day that my image on a gold coin be many years away, for that would mean my grandfather and father have both passed unto Allah’s care.” He bowed his head and his usually cheerful face turned solemn for a brief moment.
The Combine officers suddenly felt very awkward.
“Come, my friends!” the Azami sho-sa returned to his usual, almost cavalier self, “Let’s not dwell on depressing possibilities but celebrate the happy future of the bride and groom!”

Parsippany Spaceport
Draconis Combine
0900 Hours

Sho-sa Elias Bahar bowed, “Welcome to Algedi, Tai-sa Graham- I hope your journey wasn’t too tiring.”
The taller DCMS officer returned the bow, “Thank you, sho-sa- We are a long way from Chatham.” His blue eyes squinted due to the bright sunlight. “Ah, I forgot to unpack my shaded visor when I claimed my luggage.”
Bahar signaled for the porters to load the visiting officer’s luggage, “Quickly!” He motioned to Graham, “Come, the limousine’s windows are sufficiently screened from Algedi’s harsh sun.” He opened the waiting vehicle’s door and waited for the tai-sa to enter the passenger compartment before following. With a quick glance he checked the other vehicles- The 9th Pesht had been pulled from the front lines for replacements and what was left of their battlemech forces had been sent to Algedi for training.
“I’ll be happy to rest in a regular bed- even just for a few hours.” Graham admitted. “According to the briefing packet we do have a couple of days to acclimatize, isn’t that correct?”
“Certainly,” Bahar relied. “It will take time for your equipment to be delivered to base and they all have to be fitted with the training simulation gear and have the proper software installed.”
The DCMS officer rubbed his tired eyes and nodded, “For once I’m glad that our battlemechs will take time to be ready.”
The Azami officer took his place in the spacious passenger compartment and the duty driver shut the door. “Please accept my apologies in the commander’s behalf- He is on Dabih with the training section assigned to that system.”
The 9th Pesht’s officer held up a hand, “I understand- It must be difficult to command a unit with personnel located on two different systems.” He looked at Bahar and noted the khaki academy braids and campaign patch with “Luthien” embroidered on its scroll.
Bahar noticed the officer’s expression of surprise.
“I see you were on Luthien.” Graham commented. The limousine glided forward as it departed the spaceport terminal.
Elias touched the patch with a finger. “The 8th Arkab fought on Luthien- this was our first and last battle honor.” He could see the officer’s further surprise and knew he would have little trouble entertaining the visiting tai-sa on the long drive to the military reserve.

Algedi Prefecture Miltary Reserve
1230 Hours

Tai-i Stephanie Rezin removed her compact neural helmet and secured it in the small locker located behind her Panther’s command couch while her personal technician and his crew scurried along the catwalks of the hangar’s repair scaffolding. She cracked open the primary access hatch and extended the lift arm from which dangled a stirrup attached to a woven metal cable. The Azami officer stood on her battlemech’s head and leaned over to address the tech who affixed cables to the open panel near the machine’s left heel. “Yattui!”
The swarthy man in his mid-thirties wore stained, khaki coveralls. He snapped to attention then tilted his head to look up at the female pilot and responded in a calm voice. “I am here, Mistress Rezin!”
“I shall be on the combat maneuver range tomorrow,” she informed Yattui. “See that my weapon systems are properly calibrated by zero six hundred, local time.” The officer placed a boot in the stirrup, gripped the cable in her left hand and activated the remote with her right. The arm swung out clear of the Panther’s torso and the cable lowered the pilot to the concrete surface.
The servant bowed, “I shall attend to it myself, Mistress!”

The tai-i closed the office door and sat down in the padded chair, her wrists on the armrests. The sudden quiet was welcome- the thick insulated walls were designed to prevent the sometimes-deafening noise of the active battlemech maintenance hangar from distracting somebody working on administration duties.
A fist thumped against the door. Rezin sighed and called out, “Enter!”
A Cadre infantryman opened the door and stepped into office. He snapped to attention and executed a crisp, Federated Suns-style palm-up salute; his right heel struck the floor in a comically sharp manner. “I deliver an official message, Madam Captain!” He shouted to drown out the din of machinery and work from the hangar. His left hand cradled a thick packet in a gray envelope.
The Azami woman rose from her comfortable chair and returned the salute. “Very good, soldier- Leave it on my desk and carry on with your duties.” Her slim fingers grasped the packet and she looked at the seal from Luthien Training Command. The soldier made a swift “about face” and Rezin realized something as he stepped out of the office. “And don’t slam the…”
Heishi Botsford shut the door behind him and froze- He did hear the first part of the tai-i’s order quite clearly and a split-second too late to prevent what subsequently happened- The portal closed with a thunderous crash that seemed to render all other sounds in the hangar trivial in measure. It was then that the soldier from the nondescript, backwater Federated Suns world of Hecheng concluded that he should avoid returning to the hangar area for the next few days.

At the left ankle of one of the Eighth Arkab’s spare Crab battlemechs, Master Battlemech Technician Ali Iften laughed as the infantryman scampered out of the hangar and sped away in a solar-powered groundcar. Unlike the other technicians, the thirty-six year old wore a white lab coat over his khaki coveralls. He returned his attention to his calibration equipment. “Tajj, the frequency readings are within tolerance.” Iften twisted the connectors, the cables pulled away and retracted to the portable console. The master technician tapped the keys on his communicator. “Mamoud, are you finished yet?” He impatiently stroked his mustache. “Yes, I know- We must have that unit operating by tomorrow if we have to work all night.” He tapped a small button on the communication unit, pulled a stylus from the breast pocket of his lab coat and took up his databoard. “Tajj, take a break- Mamoud has to replace his calibration table so his C³ unit won’t be ready for another hour.”

While Sho-sa As`Zaman was away on Dabih, Sho-sa Bahar took command of the Eighth Arkab Training Cadre. When a unit was scheduled for training the bulk of their assets would first train on the desert world of Algedi and a portion would train on Dabih, which had a wider variation of terrains and environs in which to hold maneuvers. Because Algedi had the larger military facilities, over two thirds of the Training Cadre called the arid planet their home, although the unit’s commander had a policy of rotating the unit’s trainers between systems, with about a quarter of the unit taking time off from teaching for a month at any time.
Bahar had greeted the commander of the latest visiting unit, the 9th Pesht earlier in the day and now that he was in the climate-controlled comfort of his office, there were important preparations to which he had to attend. His secretary, Gunsho Yasmina Ruza, stepped though the door holding a silver tray with teapot and ceramic cups. “Chai, sir?”
“Thank you, Yasmina,” Bahar said. “Are there any complaints from the Pesht people?”
The Azami woman shook her head, “Nothing as of yet, sir.” She poured steaming green tea into a cup. “The bladesmith delivered the order of jambiyas- I have seen them and they are very fine.”
Bahar sat up in his padded chair, “I’d love to have a look at them.” This would be the first time that he would be representing the Eighth Arkab in welcoming the officers of a visiting unit in the traditional ceremony, which included meeting significant members of the visiting unit’s staff, the exchanging of gifts, a very expensive meal and a series of toasts. The Eighth’s package of gifts included a high-quality, hand-forged jambiya with a blade containing layers of steel fused with an alloy of metal forged out of meteorite fragments found in Algedi’s vast deserts. Other gifts included a kilogram of green tea and a box of cigars from Dabih.

“You know,” Bahar said, “our last visitors just brought a few bottles of saki.” He shrugged at the thought. “I wish I was a visiting commander.”
Ruza shyly covered her smile with a hand. “Our Bey knows that word of these valuable gifts shall spread- That alone will make DCMS units less hesitant about training here.”
The Azami officer nodded. “That may be so but the gifts seem like more of a bribe for coming here.” He reached over to his computer and activated the holographic display. “Well, the Pesht people will have a couple of days to rest and acclimatize themselves.”
“How are they?” The gunsho asked. “I mean, they are the first DCMS unit to attend training here- What do you know about them?”
“Not very much, really,” replied Bahar. He inserted a memory chip and several blocks of data hovered over his desk. “They are rated as a reserve or garrison quality unit…”
“That isn’t good, is it?”
The officer shook his head, “Not good at all.” He highlighted a block. “It says here that they faced the Clans and took severe losses.” He expanded the section of text. “The surviving Ninth Pesht elements managed to withdraw by throwing their conventional forces, their armor and infantry, at the invaders to slow them down. The sacrifice allowed two battalions of battlemechs to escape.”
The clerk bowed her head slightly. “All those soldiers…”
Bahar nodded, “They are rated as a reserve or garrison unit- Even we were a front-line quality unit and I’ll be the first to admit that the invaders are a formidable challenge.”

Hotel Plantagenet
2200 Hours

Chu-i Toshiaki Kagawa bit his lip as the Banker at the Pharaon table discarded the first card from the deck and turned over the Banker’s Card.
“Queen of Hearts,” declared the Banker in a bland voice. The Croupier collected the chips placed upon the Queen of Spades. Kagawa cursed under his breath, collected what few of his chips that remained and left his seat.

Chui-i Harumi Miyamoto inserted another silver coin in the ornate machine and pulled the handle. The young woman calmly watched the spinning images in the three windows and as they stopped one at a time, dipped her slim fingers into the paper cup and drew out another shiny coin.
“Are you still playing this machine?”
Miyamoto turned. “Kagawa-san!” She was a little embarrassed as she had been dropping coins into the machine for over half an hour.
“You ought to try one of the card games- at least there’s some skill involved.” His eye found a mirror and he paused to check his hair.
“I really don’t understand cards.” Another coin rattled into the gambling machine’s insides and her tugged at the worn metal arm. Other than the chaotic ringing of bells and flashing lights the metal contraption refused to yield any reward. “Stupid thing!”
“I’m surprised you didn’t accompany the old sooltan to watch the show.” He examined the machine beside the one into which Miyamoto fed coins at regular intervals. “Wow, these are museum pieces.”
“I hate this stupid machine.” The Combine officer sighed as she slipped one more silver coin into the slot. She wasn’t as angry at the gambling machine as she was at herself- Why wasn’t she enjoying the show with the commander? She was just about to say something to the other officer when a sudden cacophony of bells accompanied by brightly flashing lights flooded her senses.
“Oh! Did I break it?” She backed away from the machine a split second before a torrent of silver coins spilled into the tray and overflowed onto the thick carpet.
Kagawa slapped his forehead with an open palm.

The singer had dark hair that fell in wavy cascades to her shoulders, a dark blue dress that shimmered under the stage lights and elbow-length gloves that matched her clothes. Her soprano voice didn’t have operatic strength but more of a youthfully delicate and languid quality.
“Parlez-moi d'amour
Redites-moi des choses tendres
Votre beau discours
Mon cœur n'est pas las de l'entendre
Pourvu que toujours
Vous répétiez ces mots suprêmes:
‘Je vous aime’”

“There you are, Mohammed-sama…”
The Azami officer held up a hand to silence the Chu-i. Without breaking his attention to the woman on stage, he motioned to the empty chairs at his table and indicated that the waiting DCMS officers take the seats. Without a word, Miyamoto took her place across the table from the commander. Kagawa kept silent, slid into another chair and waited for As`Zaman to acknowledge his presence.

“Vous savez bien
Que dans le fond je n'en crois rien
Mais cependant je veux encore
Écouter ce mot que j'adore
Votre voix aux sons caressants
Qui le murmure en frémissant
Me berce de sa belle histoire
Et malgré moi je veux y croire…”

Miyamoto had seen the commander similarly rapt in intense concentration while he observed unit maneuvers in his mobile command center. There was one difference- She looked at the table noticed that he had left his cigar sitting on a ceramic tray long enough for the tobacco to cease burning. She leaned over to her fellow junior officer and whispered, “He must really like the show.”
Kagawa rolled his eyes and tried to figure out a way to flag down a waiter and order a drink without the sho-sa noticing.

“Il est si doux
Mon cher trésor, d'être un peu fou
La vie est parfois trop amère
Si l'on ne croit pas aux chimères
Le chagrin est vite apaisé
Et se console d'un baiser
Du cœur on guérit la blessure
Par un serment qui le rassure…”

Federated Commonwealth
January 25, 3050, 2230 Hours

Club de Rivoli had a larger than normal crowd that night. Many of the regulars were there, numerous celebrities and of course, the paparazzi. That evening, Yvette Renaud was the main attraction.
At his private booth overlooking the dance floor, Lieutenant Mohammed As`Zaman Bey sipped his tea and entertained his close friends.
“I can't believe our unit is in such a slump for missions.” Lieutenant Elias Bahar complained. “Why doesn't Colonel Valborg wise up and move to Outreach where all the units with decent reputations have already gone.”
“I agree that it makes little sense,” Lieutenant Rachel Benhaddad commented. “Over the years, this place has gradually gone downhill and its like a ghost town compared to ten years ago.”
“Ten years ago, Galatea was already in decline.” As`Zaman said. “If a unit didn't want to be noticed, this is the place.”
Bahar took a quick glance at his watch. “Listen, I'm heading home- I hope the wife isn't waiting up.” He looked at Mohammed Bey. “You, dear brother, have two wives and your children to deal with- Get some rest.” He stood up and put the tasseled maroon tarboush on his head. “Good night, my Bey, Dame Rachel.”
Mohammed Bey stood up and bowed, “Good night, Elias. I'll see you in the morning.”
Benhaddad waved. “Good night.” After Lt. Bahar stepped through the curtained partition she turned to As`Zaman. “He's right, it is getting late.”
The Azami officer nodded. “Yes, I do agree but I am not here for me, dear Rachel, but for a friend.”
Benhaddad winced, “Morrigan...what does she need from you now?” She made the idea sound painful.
“She didn't say,” Mohammed Bey replied, “only that it was very important.” He pulled his cigar case from inside his tunic and opened it, “Cigar?” He smiled when Dame Rachel wrinkled her nose and shook her head. “Yes, a noxious habit but I have to relax.” He clipped the end of the cigar and used one of the candles on the table to light it.
“She always calls you when she needs help.” Rachel said. “I mean, I don't blame you for helping with the therapy to get over her addiction but she makes enough money from her recordings and holovids to hire better help- I thought she'd finally leave you alone after you got married.”
“Listen, Darya is my friend.” As`Zaman said. “When her parents were killed in the 3039 war, she had nobody else.” He took the woman's hand. “I am a man who has so much... I cannot abandon my friends, no matter how much they may stumble and fall.”
“You still love her.”
He lifted her hand to his lips and kissed her fingers. “I still love you.”
Benhaddad suddenly felt guilty. “Just be careful, Mohammed.” She sighed. “Alright, I guess I'll be going home as well.” He grabbed her stole and draped it over her bare shoulders. “Don't get up for me, my Bey.” She leaned over and kissed his cheek. “Tell the children that Aunt Rachel will pay them a visit soon.”

“Have you been waiting long?”
As`Zaman immediately recognized Darya Morrigan's voice. He didn't turn to look as she took the chair beside his but he put his cigar down when she kissed him on the cheek.
“I've accepted a contract in the Free Rasalhague Republic and I may be gone for a long time.” She told him. “I really need a favor from you since you are the only one I could trust.”
“Name it.” He replied without a pause. He could hear her begin to weep and turned. Darya was there, dressed in a flowing green velvet gown. He then noticed a young boy, possible four or five years of age, sitting in another chair at the table. The boy wore a school uniform and his eyes darted about the unfamiliar surroundings.
Morrigan took the boy's hand. “This is my son, Sean.” Her voice still wavered. “Please take care of him while I am away- The people who usually care for him have left Galatea and I don't have the time to find anyone else.”
Mohammed Bey's mind raced for a hundred different reasons why he could not possibly take the boy in but he stood up. “Of course- I shall personally see to it that Sean is taken care of as if he were one of my own.”
Darya stood up and hugged the lieutenant, “Thank you, thank you...”

On the stage, the singer finished the last chorus of her song:
“Parlez-moi d'amour
Redites-moi des choses tendres
Votre beau discours
Mon cœur n'est pas las de l'entendre
Pourvu que toujours
Vous répétiez ces mots suprêmes:
‘Je vous aime’”

[i]And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.[/i] from The Koran, 33rd Sura- The Clans

 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2009 4:38 pm 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Mon Jan 29, 2007 11:22 am
Posts: 2198
“Oh! Did I break it?” She backed away from the machine a split second before a torrent of silver coins spilled into the tray and overflowed onto the thick carpet.
Kagawa slapped his forehead with an open palm.
I did same! :rofl:
Good stuff!

[i]You know what they say, don't you? About how us MechWarriors are the modern knights errant, how warfare has become civilized now that we have to abide by conventions and rules of war. Don't believe it.[/i]


 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Sat Dec 12, 2009 9:27 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve
Draconis Combine
February 10, 3053
1600 Hours

The commander of the 9th Pesht Regulars sat in the lecture hall flanked by several of the unit’s company and lance commanders as well as a handful of subordinate officers. The collection of DCMS mechwarriors looked rather glum and snapped to attention when the acting commander of the 8th Arkab Training Cadre entered the room.
Sho-sa Elias Bahar wished that he didn’t have to hold this meeting. He dismissed his secretary and entered the hall alone, sparing the assembled DCMS officers the shame of being criticized in front of a mere NCO. He took his place behind the podium and signaled for his audience to take their seats.
“Before I begin this debriefing I want you to know that I have looked at your training records and have seen how often you have sought exercises with various other DCMS units since the time you faced Clan forces on Schwartz.” He held up a hand to preempt any comment. “Before you say anything, with such an intense schedule of voluntary training the mystery to me is how this fine DCMS unit could suddenly forget any concept of tactical training in the face of simulated Clan forces.” Again he held up a hand. “While I could have seen this event occurring in the very first maneuver here, just to see if the results were an anomaly, the training department allowed a second exercise.” He looked down to review his notes for a few seconds. “In the second exercise your unit charged the enemy, lost cohesion, made no attempt at maneuvering, did not use the terrain to your advantage and a host of errors that only cadets fresh from an academy would commit.”
He stepped from behind his podium. “You have faced the invaders before; you endured a week of classes containing over two years’ worth of collected data about the enemy and not once but twice you faced a typical Clan force and were not only defeated, you were slaughtered.” He looked from one officer's face to the next and could see their embarrassment. “I have placed your training on temporary hold until further notice- I suggest you review your study materials because your training shall begin once we mitigate this problem.”
Tai-sa Graham, the acting commander of the 9th Pesht's contingent stood up. “Sho-sa Bahar, could I ask what plans you have to resolve our problem?”
“The options are being reviewed as we speak.” the Azami officer replied. He was lying- The man really had no idea how to solve the issue but he had to reassure the visitors that something was being done. Hopefully, a meeting with his fellow training officers might produce a workable plan.

Dabih System
Draconis Combine

The chartered shuttle casually yawed as it cleared Shakti’s orbit and turned its pointed nose toward the waiting jumpship, still invisible to the naked eye.
Ahmed Beyzade’s dark eyes were wide in awe as he gazed at the blue-green mottled moon, dazzling in reflected radiance, a gemstone against the endless darkness of space. “Shakti is always so beautiful.” said the young Azami. He turned to the passenger in the next seat. “Sean, you should see this.” The other boy’s eyes were closed. Ahmed Beyzade shrugged mentally, his half-brother always napped for the most part of these flights.

Chu-i Harumi Miyamoto sat beside the 8th Arkab Training Cadre’s commander and winced as she watched the holographic video of the 9th Pesht Regulars as the Inner Sphere battlemechs were flanked, surrounded and destroyed in their first exercise against a smaller force of the Cadre’s Clan omnimechs. A quick sideways glance revealed nothing- or perhaps everything. Sho-sa As`Zaman’s face was devoid of expression. The Draconis Combine woman noted that her commander never displayed anger- something of a rarity in the DCMS. There were times that she would give anything to find out what the commander was truly thinking.
As`Zaman tapped a symbol on the smooth, crystal surface of his display. “Communiqué, 8th Arkab template; Header: Tai-i Leila Asano, 2nd Genyosha, Luthien; Body: Aloha from sunny Algedi! I hope you and your family are well. Allah has blessed my own brood with another warrior; Yusuf Khamal- Wife Huriyyah is fine.
“Paragraph: This is the meat of this missive: I have a unit in the training program that is in danger of failing due to what I consider a fatal lack of focus. Despite putting in many hours of intensive maneuvers against many quality front-line military units once combat in joined, all pretense of tactical planning dissolves. To be brief, the unit in training must accept a tactical doctrine- any doctrine, in order to have a fighting chance in combat against anyone. At present I have less than a month in order to retrain the unit in question as well as apply the training in accordance with the 8th Arkab’s mission.”
The Sho-sa took a breath then turned to smile at the Chu-i. The DCMS officer suddenly felt very self-conscious and again desperately wished that she could read the senior officer’s mind- Even though she heard every word he dictated to his portable data processor, it was as if half of it was in some manner of unfathomable code or a private joke. The momentary look he gave her seemed to underscore the mystery- She wondered if she should respond yet was totally at a loss at what kind of response her commander expected.
“Return; Paragraph: I have already send requests to Training Command: Deiron and Training Command: Luthien to begin the process, I humbly request your support in this matter and I humbly apologize ahead of time for the bureaucratic hornet’s nest of repercussions that we know this seemingly minor request shall cause. The Genyosha came to mind due to the quality of their training and the fact that I personally know one of the unit’s commanders. Again, please accept my apologies for any problems caused by this unusual request but the unit in question shall not survive without it.” He paused for a few seconds. “Standard closing; end message.”
Mohammed Bey’s fingers slid over the display’s menu of symbols. “Miyamoto-san, please have these messages immediately transmitted the HPG station as soon as we complete the jump to Algedi.”
“Yes, my Bey.”

Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve
Nafud Desert Training District
Draconis Combine
1330 Hours

Tai-i Elias Murom steered his Crab battlemech around a low hillock while looked over the satellite display. “Close up the formation- Keep up, people.” Flanked by another Crab and a Kintaro on his right and a Dragon to his left, the Azami commander examined the map overlay on his crystal display. “Here they come.” Five symbols, each indicating a Clan Nova Cat omnimech, glided along a straight path. “One star, mixed weight, two two five bearing, heading one three zero, speed approximately five five.”
“Hostiles in sight.” replied Cho-sho Suleiman Maliq. “Should I engage?”
“Negative,” Murom said. “Kuropatkin’s lance has not reported.”
The four Arkab battlemechs waited just behind the crest of a low hill. Several hundred meters to their right flank, a lance of fast, light machines loped over the sand dunes. In the lead was a Hussar, followed by another Hussar, a Mercury and a Mongoose. All of these battlemechs were ancient products of the Star League, passed down through generations to their current pilots. Two of the designs, the Hussar and the Mercury, looked like flightless alien birds with long, spindly legs. The Mongoose had more of a humanoid designed body yet the legs were still more of those of a beast and not humanoid at all.
Tai-i Murom’s company was assigned to test and evaluate new communications equipment. Eight select battlemechs were assigned the equipment which would allow the various battlemechs’ targeting systems to coordinate and use the closest member’s ranging equipment. He didn’t put a lot of thought into how the assignments were decided- He left that up to those under his command who would be engaging in the brunt of simulated combat.
“The Clanners are attempting to challenge Kateb’s lance.”

“Kuropatkin, whenever you are ready…” Murom began to perspire- An error in timing could prove fatal.
“Ten seconds, sir!”
Murom pushed his Crab over the crest. “Maliq, get them!”
“Sir!” The Kintaro leaped over the hillock, escorted by Chu-i Adah Ramsey in her Crab and Cho-sho Taq Yazeed in his Dragon.
“Ready!” Tai-i Iskandar Kuropatkin crouched his modified Catapult behind the same low hill that had previously provided concealment for Murom’s lance. Another Catapult lay in wait and a pair of Wyverns stood poised ready to advance.

Star Captain Ibn Assan’s Hellbringer trudged over another one of countless sand dunes that made this portion of the Nafud Desert so dangerous- if a mechwarrior wasn’t diligent in monitoring his sensors, a battlemech could easily crest a dune and find his machine turn into so many tons of metal colliding with another battlemech or vehicle trying to hide behind the opposite slope. What occasionally made these exercises risky were the numerous ECM-equipped machines the Arkab fielded to great success. Assan knew that training had to be as realistic as possible but he was always on his toes when sighting distances grew short.
“Star Captain, I have targets!” Gordon Al-Sayyid paused his Kit Fox Prime at the crest of the dune. “One light lance- Fast movers, bearing zero one five, heading zero nine zero at eight zero!” He adjusted his controls to raise the omnimech’s arms in challenge.
“We can’t catch them Gordon.” commented Assan. “Stay together, there are more out there.” He was glad that the sand turned to gravel and rocks but now every hill promised an ambush or flanking maneuver. His star easily negotiated the rocky terrain, the Inner Sphere battlemechs always just out of their weapon range.
“Right flank, ambush!” Tai-i Alcide Nikopoulos spun his Stormcrow A variant to face the rapidly approaching lance. “Kintaro! Don’t let it close!” He saw a flash of movement. “Left Flank!”

Al-Sayyid turned a second too late- An alarm screamed indicating his omni’s engine had sustained damage and a heat sink module was offline. His sensors indicated that the light lance had returned and the Hussar had scored a hit. His own return fire flew wide or struck the intervening terrain. Where did all these battlemechs come from? He saw at least two lances dashing toward his machine.
Spearheading the charging lance, Cho-sho Yazeed’s Dragon failed to hit any of its targets but attracted copious amounts of return fire.
Despite being staggered by the Hussar, the Kit Fox quickly focused on the closer target and raked the heavier machine with simulated energy, auto cannon and missile fire.

Chu-i Shirku Al-Athir just topped the dune when his Mist Lynx’s sensors indicated that the star was surrounded on three sides. He targeted one of the Wyverns as it ran over the crest of a hill but missed. He planned to continue down the slope when his omni’s display flashed a brief message informing him that his torso had been breached and his mount destroyed. Unable to do anything else, he initiated a shutdown and leaned back in his command couch. “Touché!”
In her Clan Mad Dog C variant, Chu-i Isadora Haidar calmly lined her gauss rifles up on the familiar Mercury before it reached the cover of a small dune. Even though her comm. system wasn’t linked to the opponents, she exclaimed, “Hey, Donna, I got you!”

Across the battlefield, Cho-sho Donna Mu`awiyah pushed her speeding Mercury through a corridor formed by sand dunes and rocky outcroppings. Her display suddenly went red when the simulation computer informed her that her cockpit was destroyed. During the brief shutdown routine she studied the informational readout. “Okay, Isadora- Good shooting.” The junior officer was relieved that this battle was merely a simulation.

Star Captain Assan unleashed all of his Hellbringer’s weapons at the approaching Kintaro and smiled when all of his weapons hit.
The Kintaro closed with the Clan Nova Cat Hellbringer, missiles flying. Cho-sho Maliq’s eyes grew wide when his damage alarms sounded. He was relieved to discover that his armor remained unbreached.
In his Dragon, Yazeed halted to take aim at the Hellbringer as well.
Assan struggled with his controls. The computer had determined that in the fierce exchange, his omnimech had lost its left arm and the left torso breached, its engine damaged. “Break off!” He could see the pair of Catapults as they strode over the crest and he knew what was coming- The Kintaro had managed to attach a homing beacon on his omnimech and the ugly situation was about to get absolutely hideous.

Algedi System
Draconis Combine
February 14, 3053
0800 Hours

“Gunsho As`Zaman and Go-cho Morrigan reporting as ordered, sir!” The boys wore tailored khaki DCMS field uniforms and each held a green felt tarboush- the traditional, black-tasseled cylindrical hat worn by Arkab Legion members, in his left hand. Ahmed Bey punctuated his sentence with a sharp and rather smart click of his heels.
Sho-sa As`Zaman sat the conference room table that served as a desk as he and his family traveled back to Algedi, accompanied by his assistant and his adopted nephew, Sean.
The officer gave the boys’ uniforms a quick inspection. “Very good, Gunsho As`Zaman, you both may stand at ease.” He bent down in his chair to retrieve something from a satchel under the table. “I have a mission for the both of you, should you choose to accept it.”
“A mission, father- I mean, sir?”
Mohammed Bey peeked over the surface of the polished wood. “Indeed- something of great importance, quite rewarding and with amazingly few risks.” He looked from his son to Sean, as if expecting an answer.
Morrigan snapped to attention, “What is the nature of this mission, sir?”
The Sho-sa sat up in his chair. “That, Go-cho, is an excellent question!” He began to place several small, ornate boxes on the large table. “Soldiers, if you would take your seats, we shall prepare these parcels for delivery.”

Ahmed Beyzade leaned over the table and immediately recognized that they were all little sample boxes of confections. “These are candies.”
“Yes, and you two are going to present them to the women of our entourage.” He placed a set of pens and cards on the table. “We are also going to fill out cards so that they know how much they all mean to us.” He continued, “Of course, women are only interested in handsome, young soldiers so your roles in this mission are vital for success.”
Sean was the quiet one of the two- He sat down and picked out a couple of the cards and began to write. “Uncle, does it matter to whom we address the boxes?”
“You’re supposed to call him ‘Sir.’”
As`Zaman sighed. “You are correct, Gunsho but as this is an informal pre-mission preparation session, as the ranking officer, I suspend the usual formalities.”
“Yes, sir.” Ahmed Bey took a seat and began to write as well. “I kapu the present for Chu-i Miyamoto!”
The Sho-sa winced. He knew the term “kapu” was used in the context that his son was claiming the right to the specific mission. The Hawaiian word had more religious connotations but even when used in context, the commander simply did not approve of the use of slang. “Now, now, is that how we allocate duties?”
The chastised youth concealed a snicker. “I mean, I volunteer to deliver Chu-i
Miyamoto’s present.” He looked over to Sean, “Would you like to deliver the candy addressed to my sisters?” There was the expected hint of distaste in his voice.
Mohammed Bey chuckled as the two boys proceeded to barter over which of the two would deliver packages to his wives and ladies-in-waiting in the party.

February 15
1120 Hours

“There is another communication for you, my Bey.” Chu-i Miyamoto sat at her portable office array and lightly tapped at the keyboard. “It is from the Kanrei’s office, regarding your request.”
The sho-sa sat at the opposite end of the conference table, his attention on the document projected over his own terminal. “Just send it to me- I am certain they just want a narrative including the justification.” He glanced at the digital time display. “I want this sent off along with the other messages- We don’t have any time to waste.”
The Draconis Combine officer relayed the message to her commander’s terminal. “Considering all the information you included with the original request, why do they keep sending inquiries?”
As`Zaman shook his head. “I have no idea- I send the same information to answer the same questions. All it does is delay things.” He looked up. “I guess every desk my request crosses cues an officer to send his own list of questions.” He shrugged. “My request shall be approved by the Kanrei because it makes sense but the bureaucracy has to justify its existence.”

Miyamoto almost jumped when she heard the sharp rap at the door.
“Enter.” Mohammed Bey continued reading the latest document.
Sean Morrigan entered the conference room, tarboush in hand. “Sho-sa As`Zaman, Go-cho Morrigan with a message from Sherifah Safiyyah.”
The senior officer nodded but still read the document. “Deliver your message, soldier.”
Chu-i Miyamoto hid a smile with her slim fingers.
“Sherifah Safiyyah wished to know if you shall be joining them on the gravity deck for the midday meal, sir!” The young go-cho stood at the position of attention and waited for the commander’s reply.
“Go-cho Morrigan, please inform the Sherifah that I shall indeed be joining her for lunch.” He finally looked up. His dark eyes met the boy’s wide green eyes. “You may deliver the reply.”

After Sean exited the room, Miyamoto commented, “You nephew is so cute- Is his mother on Algedi?”
“No, Chu-i, the go-cho’s mother is missing.” He completed saving a message. “From what I understand, her unit was overrun early in the invasion.”
The junior officer bit her lip. “What of his father?”
“Also missing.” replied As`Zaman. It wasn’t entirely true but it didn’t matter at the moment. “Have all the messages relayed to the HPG station as soon as possible.”
“Yes, my Bey.”

Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve
Draconis Combine
February 20, 3053
1045 Hours

The groundcar slowed as it approached the barrier. A guard stepped up to the driver’s window. “Your identification and business, sir.”
“I have an appointment with Commander As`Zaman.” said the middle-aged man dryly. He looked like he worked at a bank.
The guard looked at the man’s open wallet. “ISF…” He suddenly began to perspire and felt a little faint. “Yes, sir, Mister Caruthers, sir!” The DCMS soldier signaled to the gate operator to lower the metal barrier. He saluted as the groundcar drove into the military base and didn’t exhale until the nondescript vehicle drove out of sight.

“Chu-i, perhaps this would be a good time for you to take your lunch.” Mohammed Bey stood up and shook the ISF agent’s hand. “Could I offer you some tea?”
Caruthers waved him off. “That isn’t necessary, thank you.” He smiled and his eyes slowly scanned his surroundings. “My business shouldn’t take long.”
As`Zaman closed the office door after Miyamoto retreated to meet the other secretaries. “I was wondering how long it would be before you paid me a visit.”
“It seems that when you are busy, I am busy.” The intelligence officer chuckled. “Unfortunately, my own superiors have their own questions that must be answered.”
“Please accept my apologies for making your life too interesting.” answered the sho-sa, with a deep bow. “I am ready to answer all of your questions.”

1215 Hours

The man known only as “Mister Caruthers” bowed. “It is my turn to apologize, Mohammed-sama.” He stood up from the comfortable office chair and bent over to retrieve his briefcase.
“I hope your evaluation speeds the process- We’ve lost training time and it took a lot of work to convince DCMS Training Command in Luthien and Deiron to extend the 9th Pesht Regulars’ training schedule.” As`Zaman stood up from his chair and walked around the desk to open the door.
“I have been given permission to use my own judgment…” He placed the briefcase on As`Zaman’s desk and opened it. “Off the record, more front line commanders should show half the dedication to their duties as you do here.” He showed Mohammed Bey a thick binder with Classified stamped on its gray cover. “This is the digital software and a printed copy of the training program used by the Genyosha- Once you complete the course instruction you are to immediately return it and all copies to my possession for proper disposal, is that understood?” He held out the binder in both hands, his head bowed, in the traditional Japanese manner of presenting a valuable gift.
Mohammed Bey bowed and with both hands, reverently took the training document. “I humbly thank you, on behalf of our dojo.”
“Thank you, Mohammed-sama.”

1500 Hours

“All copies of the training material shall be strictly controlled- They are to be collected at the end of the training day and secured in the armory.” Sho-sa As`Zaman stood at the lecture hall podium before an assembly of select cadre officers. Each of the officers carried a thick, gray binder. “We have been given an additional month’s time to train the 9th Pesht but we also have to train the next scheduled unit…” He had to look at his notes. “…the 4th Benjamin District Provisional.” Mohammed Bey noted that some of his officers conferred with each other for a moment. “I must admit, I have not heard of them either.”

Chu-i Leah Zemarah stood up, “I’ve skimmed through the material- Some of it has been updated recently.”
“Yes, Chu-i, the unit that assembled that training material fought on Luthien and they included what lessons they learned in that manual.” As`Zaman cleared his throat and turned to face the large briefing screen. “The 9th Pesht brought one battlemech battalion- They have armor and infantry assets but those are being refit at their garrison so we have to provide our own support elements to supplement their training.” He used a palm-sized remote device to project the Pesht unit’s organizational chart. “Each of you is going to command a training lance attached to one of the three companies.”

Central Dining Facility
1730 Hours

“How is the Prime tonight?” Sho-sa As`Zaman placed a set of cutlery on his tray. The officers’ mess was busy that afternoon due to the temporary delay in training.
“It is top quality, my Bey!” replied the food line attendant. He was a local civilian, possibly Azami-Japanese mix. “Nice and rare!”
The senior officer grinned. “That’s the way I like it- A quarter kilogram for me, au jus and baked potato with extra sour cream.”
“No salad, my Bey?” Sho-sa Bahar waved from three officers down the line.
Mohammed Bey filled his personal insulated mug with cold fruit nectar. “I must have eaten a plantation’s worth of chopped vegetables while in Dabih.” He turned to address his fellow officer directly. “Not eating with the wife and family tonight?”
Elias pulled a bottle of sweet latte from the refrigerated display. “No, somebody in charge assigned me to train a DCMS battalion how to fight…oh, wait a minute, that was you, wasn’t it?”
“I hear the vacation facilities on Wolcott are getting rave reviews.” said As`Zaman. He noted how the junior officers sent by the DCMS to fill in the unit’s administrative posts pretended not to hear the banter between the two friends. He looked at the other Arkab officers standing in line. “Leah, Maire, Qalaf- I hope you will be joining us.” He picked up his food-laden tray and headed to the dining area.

“They are not like the Clan equipment we have but they are a start.” commented Tai-i Stephanie Rezin. “With a decent selection of well-designed pods, the Raptor will be a great training machine for future, heavier designs.” She signaled to one of the kimono-clad female attendants. “More tea.”
“I’d love to keep one or two of the evaluation prototypes Luthien sent us but we have more battlemechs than we have pilots.” Mohammed Bey went back to devouring his meal while he listened to his officers discuss the unit’s business.
“The concept seems so simple.” remarked Bahar. “I can’t believe this wasn’t developed earlier.”
“According to Master Ali’s initial report, the hardware isn’t complicated at all.” Rezin volunteered. “It is the software that calibrates the gyroscope, servos and other computer functions, such as the targeting systems that makes it all work.”
As`Zaman nodded. “I’ve read that assessment.” He used his steak knife to chop his remaining baked potato into pieces and smear the remains with butter and sour cream. “It would take over a day’s work by a tech and support crew to alter a battlemech’s design as radically as the swapping of omnimech pods allows with only a few minutes.”
“This seems to be a glimpse of the future.” said Elias. “Maybe I’ll be assigned a Luthien Armor Works-made omnimech sometime in the future.”

Rezin shrugged, “I’ll keep my old Panther, thank you.” She looked across the room. Several junior officers had gathered around the large holovid display. “I wonder what they’re watching.”
Mohammed Bey took a brief glance. “It looks like the early evening news program.” He thought about ordering a slice of custard pie but decided against it. He could read the Amazighen caption displayed along the lower portion of the holographic image. “Something is going on in the Free Worlds League.”
“That’s something…” added Bahar. “Comstar is being replaced?” He stood up to get a better view of the program.
“Who is this ‘Word of Blake’ group?” Rezin asked. “I’ve never heard of them.”
Sho-sa As`Zaman thought for a moment. “Do you remember when we had to relieve the HPG station last year?”
“How could we forget that?” replied Bahar. His face lit up. “Wait a minute! The prisoners we captured said something about Blake and that Comstar had betrayed them- Is that it?”
“It’s something like that.” Mohammed Bey said. “There’s some kind of philosophical rift among Comstar’s ranks and it looks like the faction in the Free Worlds League have taken over Comstar's operations- Do you suppose Comstar might split up in the other Houses as well?”
“It's about time.” injected Rezin. “They've been around for what seems like forever- Maybe a little competition will improve things.”
Bahar nodded. “We could hope.”

The Azami commander stood up, “Well, I have an early start- As do all of you.” He picked up his tray. “We have to squeeze six months' training in as many weeks for the 9th Pesht and we have the next unit due in a week from now.”
“This is becoming a train wreck.” commented Bahar. “Who are you putting in charge of training the next people?”
“It took some inventive schedule juggling but Rachel and Momtaz have agreed to handle it.” replied As`Zaman. “It looks like I'll be putting in some field time as well.”
Bahar nodded, Benhaddad and Kuyar would be the best choices. “It's about time you worked for a living.” He rose from his seat and took up his tray. “Is it alright if Amezwar visits with Sean, Ahmed and Thaqid tomorrow?”
“If it is fine with Safiyyah it is fine with me.”

[i]And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.[/i] from The Koran, 33rd Sura- The Clans

 Post subject: Re: Forging the Sword
PostPosted: Thu Sep 23, 2010 8:45 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve
Draconis Combine
March 14, 3053
1230 Hours

The representative of the Algedi ISF office placed his copy of the Ninth Pesht Regulars’ training evaluation report on the polished surface of the teak conference table. He leaned back on the padded leather chair and glanced at the piles of training manuals, each sealed in thick, synthetic bags, ready for disposal in the secured ISF furnace in the depths of that agency’s headquarter building.
“Commander As`Zaman, do you have any further comments regarding the Ninth Pesht?”
The Azami officer shifted in his chair. “Mister Carruthers, you have my complete report before you. If you want me to elaborate on a specific comment in my report I’d certainly be happy to do so.”
The ISF agent waved him off. “I was just fishing for any afterthoughts you may have had.” His bland smile screened any trace of irritation at the officer’s non-answer but he knew As`Zaman well enough to know that he could only get straight answers if he asked straight questions- something at which he wasn’t particularly good. “I think I have everything I need to know.” He casually slid the thick printed report into a secure envelope and sealed it. “Do you have any questions?
The Sho-sa leaned forward at the cue, “Why yes, I do have a few questions but not about the Ninth Pesht.” He gracefully waved a finger over his data terminal and the holographic display projected a dossier. “I have been trying to obtain information concerning the next unit scheduled to train- Could you provide any information on the Fourth Benjamin District Provisional Regiment?” He continued, “I haven’t been able to locate any references on that unit.”
Carruthers paused to don a pair of wire-framed spectacles. “Fourth Benjamin?” He squinted while reading the dossier. Mohammed Bey waited patiently while the ISF agent went through the paces of his deception- The Azami officer could tell that the spectacles were fake and just another subterfuge the agent liked to employ. Mr. Carruthers, a well-fed middle-aged gentleman of Eurasian descent, took great pains to look like a modest executive, perhaps a bank manager instead of the Draconis Combine’s security agency.
“Uh, yes…” Carruthers seemed to recall something. “They are a newly assembled unit so their data isn’t available through regular channels.”
Unconvinced by the answer, Mohammed Bey decided to continue the verbal chess game. “Of course, how could I have missed that?” He sat back in his chair. “My officers would be very interested in their training background, such as what academies the Fourth’s officers attended- This sort of minor information would give my trainers an idea with what kind of combat doctrine they are dealing.”
The ISF agent cleared his throat, an action that marked the end of the conversation. “Sho-sa, please let me get back to you about your questions…I just realized that there are other matter to which I must attend.” He stood up and reached for his briefcase.
“Of course, Mister Carruthers,” As`Zaman rose to his feet and bowed. “I’ll have an officer assist you in transporting these documents to your vehicle.”
Carruthers gave a curt nod but As`Zaman could hear a low, nearly inaudible growl as if the ISF agent was very annoyed at something.

Commander’s Residence
1900 Hours

Sherifah Huriyyah As`Zaman was the eldest daughter of the wealthy Al Na’ir industrialist Usem Nasraddi Pasha. When she became Mohammed As`Zaman Bey’s fourth wife in 3046 Huriyyah was only 14 years old and unprepared for her role as mistress of a household.
As a bride, the Sherifah didn’t meet her husband to be until a week prior to their arranged marriage. In addition to her parents and several close relatives, the young bride was accompanied by her longtime servant and nanny, Tanirt. The servant woman was already middle aged when Huriyyah was born and her many years of loyal service were nearing an end- Tanirt’s health was failing and while the young Sherifah’s husband provided her household with adequate servants, they weren’t her servants.
While the issue may seem trivial and unimportant to an outside observer Huriyyah had to establish herself as the true mistress of her household by choosing her own servants and rewarding Tanirt for her years of loyal care. It took weeks of reviewing women from a number of training houses for the Sherifah to finally replace her husband’s workers with servants of her own choice.
Taniert stood beside her seated mistress. As with all devout women of the Azami sect, the elder woman wore voluminous robes to hide her figure. Her head and face were also covered with only her deep, black eyes visible. Cradled in the servant’s arms was Yusuf, who was a year old.
The sherifah sat upon an elegant, ornate, gilt chair draped with fine, hand woven cloth. Her robes were of expensive fabric of simple, dark blue woven with subtle geometric patterns. While her head was covered she was in her home and did not cover her face.
Despite her wealth, the sherifah wore very little jewelry and only a slight trace of cosmetics. The As`Zaman family were a line of holy warriors- They often served as both soldiers and religious scholars. The flaunting of material wealth through ostentatious jewelry, clothes and cosmetics is traditional among the descendents of North African peoples and the Azami were no exception. Sometime after their migration from Terra the nobles among the various tribes agreed to adopt a policy of austerity, using their positions as leaders of their faith to support the decision. The unwritten tradition did not apply to the commoners among the Azami and the women who surrounded the sherifah were adorned with tinkling jewelry, necklaces of filigree and coins of gold and silver.
“First of all, I want to welcome the new additions to my household,” announced the Sherifah. “You are now part of an ancient and noble family, with many members who are leaders among our people in religious, military and political service.” The Azami mistress stood up and nodded to Taniert. “When you entered my home each of you were given a small booklet that outlined your duties, what was expected of you and my obligations to you.” She motioned to Taniert, “You were also instructed in detail about your obligations to my household.” She paused for a moment and her gaze slowly shifted from one of the new servants to the next. When she was satisfied that each of them was paying full attention, she continued. “You are here to replace servants provided by my husband. Make no mistake- They were the best servants any mistress could hope for and I shall expect similar service from each of you.” She again paused for a few seconds. “You might think I am young and inexperienced, ripe for being taken advantage of by fawning and flattering words- I assure you, I am mistress of this house and I shall crack the whip if need be.” She returned to her seat and continued. “Yes, my husband’s servants have servants, as do the servants of the other wives.” The Sherifah leaned forward. “You too could have your own servants but only as a reward- Do not expect such treatment merely for working under my roof.”
There was a soft knock at the door. “Enter.”
The door that led from the kitchen opened and the cloth-covered head of a young girl peeked through the slightly open portal. “Mother, father is here.” The girl carried two item wrapped in expensive cloth- a long object and something the size of a small melon.
“Show him in, Anya.”
The girl’s head retreated and the door closed for a moment. “The master of the house is here.” The Sherifah rose from her seat and knelt upon the carpeted floor. The servants all duplicated the action and when the uniformed officer stepped into the room the women bowed deeply, their foreheads touched the soft carpet.
Mohammed As`Zaman Bey entered the room and for a moment looked over the assembly of women. He turned to his young daughter and nodded.
“The master of the house bids you…” she bit her lip and tried to remember her line.
Mohammed Bey touched her shoulder and whispered.
“The master of the house bids you attend,” said Anya with renewed confidence.
The women slowly drew themselves up and regarded their mistress’ husband. As one, the servants saw their master. At 1.68 meters, As`Zaman wasn’t impressive in height or musculature. What did impress the women were the DCMS uniform, paired blades, medals, fouragere and other articles the man wore, most notably the tarboush with its white cloth wrap that denoted his office of imam.
His voice was a low rumble, calm and regal in tone. “You are the servants of Sherifah Huriyyah Hanim bint Usem As`Zaman.” He made a subtle motion with his right hand. Anya responded by unwrapping one of the objects and placed it upon the floor. It was a goat’s skull. She then drew the cloth away from her other burden and with some difficulty, placed its heavy length in her father’s hands. As one, the servants held their breath at the sight of the dark bar of iron.
“I will say this only once.” The Azami officer easily hefted length of metal. “My wife’s word is law under her roof and may Allah have mercy on anyone who creates an incident where I must intercede.” In a sudden motion he brought the iron bar down upon the goat’s skull and shattered it. Without a word he shouldered the long bar of black metal, turned on his heel and departed.

Parsippany Spaceport
Draconis Combine
March 20, 3053
0700 Hours

“Shuttles carrying Camellia Lines passengers arriving at gate eleven.” The announcer’s voice sounded bland and bored.
Tai-i Isadora Haidar was bored. As the newly-assigned Protocol Officer for the Eighth Arkab Training Cadre, her duties included greeting visiting officers scheduled to undergo specialized combat training to prepare Draconis Combine military units should they face the Clans.
A native of Algedi, Haidar was the eldest daughter of a wealthy Azami family with a long history of military service. As with ancient Amazigh tradition, women fought alongside the men- A tradition that seemingly ran counter to the Shiite origins of the Azami religious sect but to military families that lacked a son the tradition took precedence.
The Tai-i spotted several Draconis Combine officers assembled at one of the arrival checkpoints. Satisfied that these were the officers she was assigned to greet, the Azami officer approached the group.
“Tai-i Yamaguchi, I am Tai-i Haidar from the Eighth Arkab Training Cadre. Welcome to Algedi.” Haidar waited until Yamaguchi returned her salute. While the visiting officer introduced his fellows she noticed a few unusual details. All of the officers wore a sidearm- Very unusual outside of a combat zone and almost never while traveling. They wore regulation Class B uniforms but there was something different that she couldn’t immediately determine what it was. They all wore deeply tinted eyewear but that was expected among visitors- The skies of Algedi, even at this latitude, was still burned white by the sun and harmful to most unshielded eyes. Haidar did note that their eyewear were all very expensive designer brands.
The Azami Protocol Officer used her most cheerful tone as she handed out the neatly assembled welcoming packets- slickly produced brochures that described the Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve and its facilities as well as surrounding communities.
“Sho-sa As`Zaman wants all of you to take a couple of days to acclimatize to the arid conditions, get settled in with your temporary living quarters and review your study materials while your equipment is transported and readied in our hangar facilities.”
While handing out the packets Haidar was surprised at the ostentatious jewelry that adorned the officers’ fingers as well as the high-priced watches many of them wore- Like the eyewear, the watches were impressive examples of popular brand-name items, which made the Azami woman wonder about these DCMS officers. Were they simply acting like rich tourists or was it something else? With so much to do she decided to think about such unimportant details at a later time.
“If you will please follow me, we shall board the shuttles that shall take us to the Military Reserve.” Again, Haidar felt like she was herding a group of tourists- The officers wanted to stop and purchase items from the spaceport’s gift shops.
“Tai-i, we aren’t in so much of a hurry,” a Chu-i told her. “Your brochure doesn’t list any bars, gaming parlors or geisha houses near the base.”
“Pardon me?”
“You know…entertainment?”
Haidar frowned at the tone the visiting officer used. “Ah. I shall have Tai-i Akiyama brief you on those establishments.” She wondered if these officers were actually there for training. “The shuttles are this way…”
“Oh, that isn’t necessary,” said Tai-i Yamaguchi. “We have already reserved transportation.”
The Azami woman looked through the glass partition out to the street, where three limousines stood waiting. “Those are yours?”
“Yes, while the shuttle was inbound from the jumpship I saw the rental company’s advertisement in a magazine.” He smiled, “Their rates are very reasonable.”
“I shall have to arrange vehicular passes so they may enter the base.” Haidar stepped away from the small group and keyed her communication unit.

Algedi Prefecture Military Reserve
1230 Hours

“Do you believe they have a problem with discipline?” Sho-sa As`Zaman sat at his desk, surrounded by holographic data displays. He looked over what little information he could find on the visiting unit. Tai-i Haidar sat in the simple leather and rosewood chair in front of the commander’s elaborate work station. Like her superior officer, she wore the standard Arkab Legion variation of the Draconis Combine uniform with green piping instead of the DCMS scarlet.
The female officer shook her head. “It isn’t blatant insubordination, it’s that they seem to be going through the motions and not taking military protocols seriously- I really can’t put my finger on it but I would swear that these people weren’t in the military at all.”
“I must admit that they do carry themselves in a slightly different manner from most of the DCMS officers I know,” As`Zaman said. “They all have tailored uniforms, styled hair, jewelry and sunglasses. It’s almost as if they were actors or celebrities in DCMS costumes.” The commander shook his head. “They do have battlemechs and they know how to use them.” He glanced once more at the data on display. “The Fourth Benjamin District Provisional must be newly-raised because there is nothing in the DCMS records of this unit.” He shrugged. “Isadore, is there anything else?”
“I have nothing of critical importance -They do have an odd collection of battlemechs.”
“How so?”
The Tai-i thought for a moment. “Most Combine mechwarriors would have standard Combine machines, such as Panthers, Jenners, or Dragons. This unit has the kind of mix you’d see in your average mercenary unit, with battlemechs from all the Houses in almost proportionate numbers.”
“Do you think they may be mercenaries?” The Sho-sa’s interest was piqued. “Perhaps they may be ex-mercenaries?
“No, that’s what I can’t figure out,” replied Haidar. “These people are certainly Draconis Combine citizens, although I’ve noticed something else that’s peculiar.”
“What would that be?”
“There is a total absence of nobles in the Fourth.” She pointed at the roster on display. “None of their officers are from the nobility, which is unusual enough but the overall absence of academy graduates is also very unusual.”
Mohammed Bey calculated the odds in his head. “Demographically, the lack of nobles in a DCMS organization isn’t so unusual. Of course, our unit tips the scales in the other direction with almost half of the battlemech pilots being from the Azami nobility.”
“Do you want me to keep them under observation?”
The Azami officer shook his head. “That isn’t necessary- The DCMS sent them here, we’ll train them as we would with any other unit.”

Chu-i Arimaki meekly peeked through the office door. “My Bey, there is a call for you on line two -Kahman Mercantile.”
The sho-sa nodded and tapped the pulsing symbol on his terminal. “As`Zaman.”
Tai-i Haidar held her breath as she observed her commander’s face.
Kahman Mercantile was the large salvage firm owned by Mohammed Bey’s relatives. One of the executives of Kahman Mercantile was the sho-sa’s Uncle Ahmed, the brother of the Azami officer’s mother.
Ahmed Kahman Bey disappeared in mid-3050, his dropship, the Al-Idadah, was stranded behind the rapidly-advancing Clan front.
“Yes,” As`Zaman replied, “send a copy to my office and I’ll make sure it’s filled out correctly.” He ignored Haidar who sat listening intently to the one-sided conversation and looked over the form displayed over his holographic terminal. “Traveling through Orestes is the standard path from that portion of the Commonwealth through Rasalhague…” The senior officer frowned at a thought. “Make sure they stay on the jumpship while passing through Orestes.”
Tai-i Haidar looked on as the holographic display blurred and a stellar map took the place of the page of DCMS material. Her eyes grew wide when she saw the red path cross from the Rasalhague border, through the Draconis Combine and terminate at the system of Wolcott.
“It all appears to be in order -go ahead and submit it.” Mohammed Bey tapped at his terminal and the image faded. He turned to the female officer. “The mission to locate my Uncle Ahmed has begun. The team from our old mercenary unit is already on its way to Rasalhague.” He didn’t smile but she could tell that he was relieved.
Isadore nodded. “That sounds great!” Like many of the other members of the unit who knew the commander from their academy days at the Sun Tzu School of Combat and followed him into service with a mercenary unit, Haidar knew Ahmed Kahman Bey and shared her commander’s distress at hearing the news that Ahmed Bey was missing.
“I am not going to keep my hopes up.” Mohammed Bey told her. “It will take months for the team to track the Al-Idadah’s path and there is no guarantee of success.”
The tai-i stood up. “Your uncle is in all of my prayers.”
“Thank you, Isadore.” As`Zaman rose to his feet and nodded. “I have more work to do- please close the door behind you.” He bowed slightly and waited until he heard the metallic click before he took his seat.

Nafud Desert
Draconis Combine
November 12, 3032

The fierce star Algedi beat down upon bleached stones and rolling dunes of the planet of the same name as it had for hundreds of millions of years. Due to the size of the star and its proximity, the areas habitable to normal human beings are limited to the latitudes closest to the poles, leaving the vast stretches of arid desert and wasteland considered uninhabited- at least in theory. The fifth planet in a system of eight, Algedi was ignored for centuries after man ventured among the stars and colonized systems not even visible to the inhabitants of Terra. Early surveyors concluded the planet had nothing of value, no metals worth mining, no chemicals or other resources in volume to make braving the hostile environment worthwhile. There were trace metals and chemicals but nothing that would make Algedi worth the cost and risks for colonization.
Nobody thought twice, back in the early 24th Century, when members of the Azami sect established homesteads on the obscure world. When the imams declared huge swathes of Algedi’s wilderness as sacred and trespass by unbelievers forbidden, the declaration went virtually unnoticed. At first, some even believed that the settlers had found massive precious metal deposits but the relative poverty of the early inhabitants never changed so the rumors eventually died out.
The nascent Draconis Combine recognized the autonomy of the Azami Worlds, which were conveniently located along the borders of the Lyran Commonwealth and Terran Hegemony. These worlds, tenaciously held by a swiftly growing population of devout North African tribes, were considered too hostile for military outposts and as a whole, not worth fighting over.
The Von Rohrs Coordinators ignored the treaties honored by earlier Kurita rulers and waged war upon the Azami people who resisted with the fierce zeal of true believers. Matching brutality with brutality, the warriors of the Azami bloodied military units sent to crush their worlds. Despite the ability of DCMS soldiers to occupy towns and destroy the scattered settlements by day, the Azami ruled the night. Mornings in occupied territory would reveal sabotaged vehicles, sentries with their throats slit and looted supply stores.
Recognizing the real threat to the military’s morale, Coordinator Yama Von Rohrs decided to crush the Azami once and for all by sending three Battlemech regiments to Algedi. After six months of daily attacks and nightly counterstrikes the Combine forces, its commanders, support and transport assets suddenly fell silent.
The official story is that all of the Azami carry a latent virus in their bloodstream left over from the pandemics that raged across North Africa centuries before humanity traveled from Terra into the stars.

The Chameleon Battlemech trudged awkwardly across the hard packed gravel and altered its course slightly to avoid a rocky outcropping. The Algedi sun was low on the horizon and the fifty-ton war machine cast a long shadow over the flat ground. The Chameleon halted its slow march and its arms lowered from their usual half-bent striding position to its sides. The ‘Mech’s thick legs locked in a relaxed, slightly wider stance and its fusion engine powered down.
Inside the Chameleon’s cockpit, the fans in the life support system’s cooling vents whirred furiously as they struggled to maintain the comfortable air temperature against the heat generated by the Battlemech’s power plant as well as the ambient external temperature caused by Algedi’s relentless sun.
Small fingers touched the control screen as the pilot completed the last portion of the shutdown sequence. “All systems presently indicate idle status,” the youthful voice announced.
A deep voice rumbled in the boy’s ear. “Are you certain, young beyzade?” Ahmed Kahman Bey monitored his nephew’s progress as a battlemech pilot in training. As with most Battlemech-owning communities, the Azami normally began pilot training prior to entering an academy.
“I followed the checklist; I am certain, Uncle Ahmed.” The tone was firm and very self-assured.
“Ah, but are you certain that your checklist is thorough?”
The twelve-year-old removed his compact neural helmet, turned to his left and looked over his shoulder at his uncle, who occupied the instructor’s seat. “You composed the checklist, uncle. Are you telling me that your checklist incomplete?” He raised his left brow as he asked.
The man laughed at the question. “I see you truly take after your mother, Mohammed Beyzade.” He used a stylus to make notations on his datapad. “That’s one and a half hours for today.”
“Aw, uncle, I want to see the Ouyahia ruins!”
Ahmed Bey thought about denying his nephew’s request but he opened his navigation screen and quickly located the best route indicated by the satellite network. “If we depart immediately we can be back at the hangar in less than an hour.”
“Yes uncle!” The Azami youth smiled as he started the pre-operation sequence.
“I’ll be piloting because we have to move as fast as possible.”
Mohammed Bey sighed, “Yes uncle.”

The Chameleon Battlemech stood silent in the falling twilight. The older mechwarrior and his nephew knelt in prayer among the barely discernable ruins, mostly outlines of building foundations obscured by drifting sand. Here and there traces a low wall might be identifiable but from a distance, one couldn’t tell that humans had dwelt in the area at all.

“Ouyahia was one of the larger settlements destroyed by the Draconis Combine invaders in 2497,” Ahmed Bey said. “A battalion of Battlemechs appeared early in the morning and before many of the people could escape, the unbelievers laid the settlement to waste and destroyed the pumping facilities that provided water for the orchards and fields.”
“There are no markers here, uncle, nothing to tell people what happened.”
The older man shook his head. “There is no need –we are all taught in school about how the Von Rohrs violated the treaties between the Combine and the Azami.” He noted the glum way his nephew eyed the ruins. “Those outside of Algedi think that we all carry a virus from Terra that eventually killed off the invaders but that isn’t entirely true.”
“Is that so, uncle?” Mohammed Bey’s curiosity was piqued.
“It is also whispered among us old soldiers that the Azami brought the deadly virus from Terra but in the form of biological weapons- The military campaign against the Azami began years prior to the false Coordinator sending Battlemechs.” He paused for moment. “Why would the Combine soldiers suffer from the disease only after the invaders deployed three regiments of Battlemechs?”
The boy could only shrug.
“A pandemic would have manifested itself over the months of fighting, not overnight.” He chuckled. “For years our conventional forces drove the invaders from the field every time they dared venture out of their defensive positions in the towns.”
“Is that why Yama Von Rohrs sent the Battlemechs?”
Kahman shook his head. “It wasn’t merely that -Eventually the Draconis Combine troops were chased off of Algedi, Dabih, Arkab, Markab and Albalii. It was then the false Coordinator decided to break the Azami spirit by sending the best troops and weapons the Combine had available. He chose Algedi as it is considered the most sacred place among our people.”
As’Zaman stood rapt in awe at the tale with the thrill of hearing a very important secret for the first time.
“Come, nephew, it is time to take you home before your mother gets worried.”
“Yes uncle.” He fell in step with the mechwarrior and they returned to the silent Chameleon which stood waiting for them under darkening skies.

Sho-sa As`Zaman emerged from his reverie and ran a hand over his eyes. He was already tired yet he still had several more hours left in his work day. He tapped his communications screen. “Miyamoto-san, what is the first thing on my schedule for tomorrow?”
“One moment, my Bey.” The Chu-i sounded as if she was standing in the office.
The Azami officer listened as he glossed over his most recent correspondence.
“My Bey, you have scheduled to sign out a Mist Lynx in the C configuration at zero nine hundred for training time at Radulovic Range.”
Mohammed Bey nodded, “Very good, Miyamoto-san, thank you.” He wouldn’t have to remind Ali. His longtime servant and Master Technician would have the Clan Omnimech ready even if he arrived at the ‘Mech bays two hours early.

A symbol appeared on his communications screen and he touched it. “As`Zaman.”
“My Bey, I am calling to remind you that the dinner with the Fourth Benjamin’s officers has been rescheduled for nineteen hundred hours tomorrow evening.”
The sho-sa winced –He had been hoping that the visiting officers would want more time to settle in to their barracks. “Thank you for the warning, Isadora.”
“I have taken the liberty to inform Chef Serge at the sudden change of plans.”
As`Zaman was relieved at the news. “You are an angel, Tai-i Haidar.”

[i]And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.[/i] from The Koran, 33rd Sura- The Clans

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