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 Post subject: The Liaison
PostPosted: Tue Feb 05, 2013 3:49 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
McAllister Military Reserve
Pesht System
Draconis Combine
November 15, 3053
10:30 Hours

Shujin Andrew Shiroma looked at the digital time display then crushed out his cigarette in the glass ashtray on his cluttered desk. “Gulliford!” His old office chair creaked when he stood up.
“Yes, Shujin?” the young mechanic stuck his head through the doorway.
Shiroma took a quick glance at his own reflection in the mirror next to the door to make certain his uniform was in order. In his twenty-two years in the DCMS Shiroma had seen plenty of officers coming to his facility to pick out scrapped equipment but he could not recall any officer given the kind of deference by the people at Headquarters. “Damned officers.” He strode over to a secured cabinet, drew a tangle of keys from his trouser pocket and unlocked it.
“Listen; there are a couple of visitors coming to visit to pick out a chassis.” He pulled a small ring with keys from the cabinet, tossed it to Gulliford and took his datapad from his desk. “The brass sent me instructions to give these people our full cooperation so if you sync your pad you’ll have all the information you need on whatever they’re looking for.”
Go-cho Gulliford pulled his smaller data unit from the breast pocket of his stained coveralls and squinted at the display. “Got it.” He scratched his chin, “Wow, they sure are particular.” He attached the key ring to the clip at his belt.
“What are they looking for?” Shiroma returned to his well-worn chair, which groaned under the man’s weight, and looked at the data readout. “Is this a joke?”
“Nah, it shows we have four in the inventory but why they are so interested in that old variant?” He shrugged, “You’d figure an officer would want something new.”
“Don’t bother trying to figure how officers think, especially foreign officers.” Shiroma leaned back in his chair and held his datapad up to eye level to peruse the information. “They’d just be scrapped anyway so if they want to haul that junk off, it saves us the hassle of doing it ourselves.” His dark eyes checked the time. “They’ll be here at any minute, go to the front counter and make sure you do all you can to make them feel welcome.”
“I’ll deal with it.” Gulliford stuffed the palm-sized data unit back into his breast pocket and turned to the hallway that led to the front of the building. His loose, comfortable, duty boots clumped along the stained, threadbare carpet. He ran his fingers through his thin, blonde hair without thinking as he opened the door to the counter area. The young junior NCO enjoyed his current duty post, it was very low stress and on any normal day, it was like HQ didn't even know they existed. Any normal day... While an officer or two would peruse their regional Battlemech bone yard from time to time, it was usually a simple matter of making an appointment, fill out a few standardized forms, peruse an inventory list, then have an assigned escort show them what they picked out so they could approve or reject the selection. If the visitor wasn't interested in what he saw, he would have to make another appointment. His curiosity piqued, Gulliford was actually eager to see this officer.
Heishi Eva Torres sat at the main terminal and looked up when the door opened. “Hello David, need something?” She took a swift glance over to the table in the corner. We have tea but it isn’t fresh.” The soldier returned her attention to transferring the information in the stack of paper standardized forms to the database. Her uniform was clean and crisp, her hair and nails tastefully groomed and well within regulation. Torres was assigned to the position of clerk and she was happy that she never had to leave her desk.
“No tea for now, Eva,” Gulliford replied. “We got visitors and I’m showin’ them around.” He opened the door to a small, metal cabinet and took out a set of keys. “I’m signing out the eight-seater.” He checked his data unit once more and updated the necessary forms.
“Have fun but make sure you top it off this time.” Her slender fingers touched an icon on her display. “Your guests are here.” She stood up and faced the door. “Attention!”
Gulliford snapped to attention. The entrance doors to the building slowly opened and a female chu-i walked through the wide portal, followed by a sho-sa. Both had darker complexions than your average DCMS citizen, not swarthy but a shade or so darker than Torres’ tanned skin. The female officer was different. She wore the standard DCMS-issue dress uniform for daily wear, the white tunic with crimson piping and high collar with kanji rank insignia. The distinctive Luthien Campaign ribbon stood out among the bar of awards.
What truly caught the young go-cho’s eye was how the chu-i moved. Mechwarriors, like most combat solders, develop a kind of swagger in their step, and physical mannerism easily recognized by other soldiers. This young woman was graceful in her stride and poise, although not as a professional model and at the time Gulliford couldn’t quite place where he had seen anything similar.
The sho-sa walked behind the chu-i and slightly to her right. He stood at the same height as the woman, which was not so unusual in the Draconis Combine, although Gulliford could not determine the man’s ethnic background. This officer wore the DCMS utility uniform, which was unusual since most visitors looking for a chassis simply read over a list and picked out what they wanted, sight unseen. This officer looked like he was ready to get his hands dirty. The man’s stride was that of a warrior, and a leader of warriors.
He walked into the office as if he owned it and his eyes slowly swept the room from one side to the other as if he were looking for a target to engage. Those eyes were deep and black, his face calm and impassive. The sho-sa had a shaved a head and kept his graying beard close-cropped, which was a popular fashion among senior officers.
The chu-i paused and bowed. It wasn’t the informal bow that you would see when people meet in public but a deep, solemn bow. It was then an image flashed in the technician’s head –He had seen something like this in a holovid historical drama about the Luthien court at the time of the Star League and this woman displayed the kind of respectful deference of a member of the Order of Five Pillars. The idea made the hair on the back of his neck stand on end.
“Please accept the humble gratitude of my lord for the generous sacrifice of your valuable time.”
All of a sudden, Gulliford broke into a cold sweat and his heart began to race. He executed the kind of bow that he hadn’t done since he attended middle school. It was mechanical, stiff, and out of the corner of his eye he noticed that Torres had done the same. “You honor us, ma’am and m-my lord!” He straightened and saw another officer, a tai-i, step through the double doors. The man carried what looked like a large box covered with an embroidered silk cloth.
“Mohammed As`Zaman-sama, Sheikh of the Berheilabad Rif, Imam of the Algedi Council and commander of the 8th Arkab Special Training Cadre, has brought gifts for those in this office for their generous, attentive service. I am Chu-i Isadora Haidar and I serve my Bey as his humble adjutant.” The female officer bowed once more, as did the two men, in practiced precision.
The go-cho felt faint –Tech school never prepared him for this. These visitors have the pull with Headquarters to get special treatment; they could afford to hand out gifts, the officer was a foreign noble of obvious importance. Gulliford suddenly realized that the wrong word, the wrong gesture or a careless motion, something that would mean nothing to any normal human being, might cost him. He glanced over to Torres for some help but she stood there, her face somewhat pale, as motionless as a statue.
The accompanying tai-i wasn’t from HQ but at least he was Japanese. He placed the box on the counter and took a step back as the female officer moved forward to remove the silk cover. The box was of black, polished lacquer, not the usual, cheap, plastic facsimile every normal Combine citizen would buy, which was the traditional container for valuable gifts but when the chu-i removed the lid, Gulliford’s eyes went wide.
“There are five one-kilogram containers each of tea, chocolate and coffee beans, five cartons of cigarettes and five boxes of cigars –All products from my Bey’s Sanjaha Plantation of Dabih.”
The hallway door swung open and Shujin Shiroma strode into the counter area. He bowed low, far more humbly than Gulliford had ever seen him bow. “My most humble apologies –There was important equipment that had to be inventoried but I see my subordinates have taken care of you until I completed my duties.”
Gulliford turned his head, raised an eyebrow and thought, “What a lying bastard! He was watching on the security camera and bolted down the hall when he saw the gifts.” His eyes met Torres’ and they both knew that they were thinking the same thing.
“Well, well, well! Where are our manners? Heishi, why don’t you prepare some fresh tea for our honored guests?” He opened the key locker, withdrew a ring of keys and handed them to Gulliford. “Make sure the staff car is ready, like I told you this morning.”
The go-cho took the keys. “At once, Shujin!” He slipped out the door to the hallway, closed the door behind him and breathed a sigh of relief; Torres would have to suffer through the next few minutes of Shiroma’s obsequious brown-nosing.

12:45 hours

It was a fine Pesht day, the sky had few clouds, there was a pleasant breeze and temperature was comfortable. The Pesht Military District Central Asset Reclamation Facility was a vast, seemingly unlimited expanse of land dedicated to the storage, dissection, salvage, disposal and eventual destruction of every manner of military equipment. Every imaginable vehicle, aircraft, Battlemech, weapon or machine used by the DCMS could be found at one of these massive facilities, which were scattered throughout the various Draconis Combine military districts. Some covered such large areas of land that maneuvering through the maze of heaped equipment often required satellite navigation devices.
Go-cho Gulliford fought to conceal a smirk. Not only did Shiroma, his immediate supervisor, spend a better part of the day jumping through flaming hoops in order to impress the three visitors, but Chu-i Downes, a young officer, fresh from the academy, showed up and did his best to impress them as well, mostly with the kind of droning platitudes the academy drummed into his head about the ideals of bushido and quotes from classical literature often used in training. The pair of visitors nodded and smiled politely as if entertained by a child reciting obscure haiku.
The junior NCO, who was originally tasked with escorting their guests, was pushed aside and relaxed in the shade, satisfied with watching his superiors exhibit their ability to engage in obsequious posturing the stories of which shall provide no end to the entertainment in the mess hall that evening.
Shujin Shiroma’s uniform was soaked in perspiration and covered with dirt, grease and coolant. He was perched on the shoulder of a scrapped Phoenix Hawk Battlemech and peered into the open cockpit hatch. He shouted to Chu-i Downes, “Confirmed, the cockpit needs to be replaced.”
Downes turned to Chu-i Haidar. “Yes, the cockpit needs to be replaced.”
“Indeed.” The female office smiled politely and tilted her head. “This is a Sword of Light machine, is it not?”
As with all of the scrapped Battlemechs, the undamaged armor had been removed for use on working machines. What sections remained clearly painted matte red but there were no insignia of any kind present. “Could you determine which particular regiment?”
The shujin looked to Chu-i Downes, who stood on the gravel near where the base of the Phoenix Hawk's torso rested. “One moment.” Downes peered at his palm-sized display and his index finger slid across the screen. “I apologize, that information does not seem to be available.”
“The Luthien Battle reports shall have all the recorded tables of equipment for units involved in the campaign. It should also have information on the pilot.”Chu-i Haidar casually scanned over the data on her data display. “Ah, he was a tai-sa in the First Battalion.”
Sho-sa As`Zaman, who had been silent so far, nodded. He made a languid motion with the fingers with his right hand, to which Haidar responded with a bow and brief notation on her display.
“My Bey has decided to select this machine, please have it, along with the accompanying list of parts, crated for transport to the address on the standardized form.” The female adjutant bowed low. “Mohammed-sama would like to express his humblest gratitude for your splendid cooperation. My Bey shall personally communicate his appreciation to your superiors.” The two visitors bowed in unison.
Chu-i Downes bowed in return, “Thank you for honoring our unworthy facility.”
Thank you for allowing me to kiss your behinds,” muttered Gulliford under his breath. He dropped the butt of his cigarette to the gravel and crushed it under his boot. “Time to go.” He held the door to the staff car open for Chu-i Haidar and clicked his heels while he presented a very smart salute. The chu-i returned Gulliford’s salute and gave him a smile that he would always remember.

19:30 Hours

“Order up. Prime, medium rare, baked potato; roast lamb, couscous.” The waiter clipped the order ticket onto the carousel and spun it around.
“That’s him, isn’t it?” One of the female servers whispered to him.
“Yeah, no doubt.” The waiter waved the waitress off, “I have to make their salads.” He headed to the walk-in refrigeration unit.
The young woman filled two crystal goblets with ice and water, placed them on a silver tray then carried them out to the guests at her table. She walked from the waiter station out to the floor. The restaurant boasted sumptuous decor, the walls were white plaster with gilt trim, and crystal chandeliers illuminated the room. Polished bronze candelabra decorated each table, along with a tasteful floral arrangement. The dozen or so tables in the room were draped with white linen cloth and set with embossed napkins and polished silverware. It was early in the evening so only a handful of guests were seated. As she approached the table where two of her guests sat chatting, she looked them over, as she usually did, when trying to size up her guests in terms of affluence, and hence, what kind of gratuity she might receive. The man seated at her table was a DCMS officer in dress uniform, decorated too. His skin was like dark honey, obviously a foreigner. The woman seated at the table wore an expensive gown, decorated with delicate embroidery. It was difficult to determine if she was also in the military but the hue of her skin indicated that she was a foreigner as well.
The waitress placed the glasses of water before each guest and returned to her station. “Why is he so special?”
“I have no idea.” The waiter busily placed a large, wooden bowl on his cart. “All I’ve heard from other military guests is that he’s been getting all sorts of priority treatment beyond the norm.” He took a last glance at the vegetables before he placed them in the bowl. “I suppose it’s just normal for some people to complain.” He pushed his cart out of the station and onto the floor and passed the Head Waiter.
“A Merlot for the lady and hot chai for the sho-sa.” The Head Waiter wiped a silver tray with a cloth then took a wine glass and ceramic tea cup from the shelf. He leaned over to the waitress, “Make certain everything for those two are perfect.”
“Yes, sir!” The waitress turned to the full-length mirror next to the door and inspected her uniform before taking the tray out to the dining room.
“I hope you had your fun for the day.” Isadora Haidar took a sip of water and leaned back in her chair. “Those poor soldiers were terrified.” She stifled a smile.
“You seemed to be enjoying your role,” Mohammed Bey pointed out. “And you know how I get when I'm bored.”
“Please, don't remind me,” replied Haidar. “It was like you had purposely disturbed an ant nest, with soldiers scrambling in every direction to find the components on your list. That chu-i will probably be having nightmares for months, wondering if there will be repercussions if you weren’t satisfied.”
“Support personnel need an occasional provocation to break the monotony of their duties,” commented As`Zaman. “Doubtless they will be talking about it for quite a while.”
The chu-i leaned forward and whispered, “The servers here are already talking about you.”
“Yes, I noticed,” said the tai-sa. “That's what servants do. I would be surprised if they didn't listen in on the conversations between guests.” He turned to the waiter who stood at the cart next to their table, “Isn't that correct?”
The waiter, who had been conscientiously mixing their salad in a large, wooden bowl, froze for a moment and didn't respond.
“I didn’t mean to make you feel self-conscious,” said Mohmmed Bey, “if you happen to hear a conversation between guests it isn’t intentional, is it?”
“Not at all, sir,” replied the waiter. He gently placed portions of salad into delicate ceramic bowls for each guest.
“Please enjoy your meal.” The server bowed slightly and pushed his cart back to the station. When he was certain that none of the guests could see him, he slouched and let out a deep breath of relief. He wiped the film of perspiration from his forehead and turned to the waitress, “That…that foreigner! Be very careful with him!”
“What do you mean?” The waitress smoother her apron and handed him a glass filled with iced water.
He dipped a linen napkin in his glass and used it to wipe his face. “I can tell he owns a restaurant.” He noted the sudden look of fright on the waitress’ face.

21:15 Hours

“Taxi, your excellency?” The doorman bowed and raised a white-gloved hand to summon a cab.
“Thank you, that isn’t necessary. I have a driver waiting.” Mohammed Bey motioned to the staff car idling across the narrow street. The headlights glowed and the long sedan belched a cloud of smoke.
As`Zaman open the passenger door and held it as Chu-i Haidar entered the vehicle then closed the door and crossed around to the opposite door. As he was about to pull the door open another dark vehicle came to a stop beside his and the passenger window slid open.
“Mohammed-sama!” It was Sho-sa Nishio from the Pesht District Mercenary Liaison Office, he was grinning from ear to ear. “Do you happen to know how to play Bocce Ball?” Of course, he pronounced it “bocce bo-ru” as most Combine officers with Japanese as his first language would.
“I am familiar with the game, why do you ask?”
“Several of the officers have a league and some of them wish to meet you!” Nishio rubbed his chin in thought, “It’s a potluck so you should bring a dish as well –I’ll send the details for Saturday’s game to your office in a memo.” He turned and bid his driver depart.
The sho-sa gave a slight salute as the dark sedan rumbled off down the dark street. He entered the waiting staff car, turned to Haidar, looked at her quizzical face and said, “I have three days to learn how to play Bocce Ball…Driver, please take the chu-i to her quarters, and then take me to the senior officers’ billets.” He smiled, leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. “I shall make Caesar Salad and you should make some manner of dessert.”
“Was I invited?”
“I shall insist. I am not going to allow all that protocol training you took at the Al’Nair University to go to waste.” He rubbed his eyes and stifled a yawn.
“That Phoenix Hawk was a good find today, what design plans do you have for it?” Haidar looked at her datapad’s screen and reviewed the images she had taken.
“Little Ahmed shall be entering an academy soon so I have to prepare to transfer the Mongoose over to him,” he replied. “In its stead I require a ‘Mech capable of keeping up with a unit on the move.”
“And the Phoenix Hawk is a command ‘Mech as is your Mongoose,” added Haidar.
“Precisely,” he said. “In my new appointment, I may have to command a unit in the field.”
“Why didn’t you just volunteer for a command in one of the Regular units?” she asked. “You would at least keep your current rank.”
“I had a choice in becoming a Mercenary Liaison or a post in the DCMS Naval Fleet,” said As`Zaman. “I understand Mercenary units better than I do ship operation so that’s why I choose it. My job would be enforcing the units’ contracts and appraising their abilities and performance, including determining whether a unit is ready to face the Invaders.” He continued, “The Draconis Combine hasn’t openly hired mercenaries in over two decades so it’s like they are just starting, with many officers who have little or no experience dealing directly with mercenary commands and personnel.”
“I see why you are doing this, considering you spent ten years as a mercenary, yourself,” she replied. “This won’t win you many friends among the Traditionalists.”
“I’m not doing this for the Traditionalists, our allies need all the help they can get and mercenaries often possess the flexibility and initiative that DCMS units lack,” he said. “There is also strong incentive in the form of pay and salvage.”
“You’ll be getting a portion of that salvage as well, won’t you?”
Mohammed Bey smiled, “It is in my blood. Blame my Uncle Ahmed.”

[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: The Liaison
PostPosted: Sat Mar 16, 2013 5:26 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Vrydolyak Municipal Park
Draconis Combine
November 21, 3053
1100 Hours

It was an unusually sunny day and Sho-sa Mohammed As`Zaman Bey took a moment to adjust his shaded glasses as he concentrated on his target. The wind would not be factor and the range was relatively close, with only minor obstructions but his shot would have little room for error. He took a deep breath and concentrated on his aiming point before making his run.
He gripped the metal sphere in his right hand and in a smooth motion, released the projectile so that it gently struck the packed clay surface and rolled in a straight line, easily glided between the two metal spheres with a finger’s breadth clearance on either side and came to a halt a hand span away from the smaller, yellow ball. The sho-sa straightened and turned to his waiting team.
“Very good positioning, Mohammed-sama.”
“Thank you, Mariani-san.” A`Zaman accepted the other man’s hand and turned to observe the next player.
This was the second weekend that Sho-sa As`Zaman had been invited out for a potluck picnic and bocce ball. The rules they used were simple enough, not as stringent as the league rules and more aimed at informal competition but today’s game was not as informal as he was used to.
Paolo Mariani was a local restaurateur; he operated the highest-rated Italian restaurant in the city. Mohammed Bey met Mariani while traveling by rail from the main spaceport to Vrydolyak, on his way to report his arrival to the Pesht Training Command Headquarters for his present duty.
Mariani whispered, “This round we may be behind in points right now but our capo has yet to play.”
The Azami officer nodded, “His Grace impressed me with his skill last weekend.”

The next player, from the opposing team, tossed his boule in an arching vole in order to knock Mohammed Bey’s boule away from the yellow pallino, the smaller ball used to determine scores by the distance and position of the rolled or thrown boules. Fortunately he missed and his boule bounced out of the court and out of play. The two teams of eight men were made up of a mix of DCMS officers, businessmen and a couple of Draconis Combine nobles.

“It’s the Duke’s turn,” said Tai-sa Higuchi, an officer from the Pesht General Headquarters.
A tall, broad-shouldered man stepped into the bocce ball court, a large, gleaming metal bocce ball gripped in his right hand. His left hand stroked his thick, dark beard in brief contemplation.

Scoring in the game varied, depending on the league and what regional rules applied but in simplest terms, the team with more boules closer to the pallino scored more points. The boule was a hollow metal sphere filled with synthetic material to add weight and stability.
The first player rolled the smaller ball, the pallino, into position on the court. Subsequent players would then roll their boules down the clay-covered court and each boule’s position would be noted and marked. In order to negate an opponent’s superior position, a player could choose to vole, or throw their boule to purposely displace one of the opposing team’s boules. In a strict tournament game each player would be required to declare their intended play before taking his turn.
The Duke eyed the positioning of the boules and cleared his voice. “I shall execute a vole and displace the ball closest to the pallino, the ball placed by Sho-sa Sugiyama.” He hunched over slightly and took a couple of steps; his right arm launched the boule with a graceful underhand swing. The boule sailed in an arch and its polished surface reflected the morning sun before it struck Sugiyama’s boule at an angle that sent it bounding out of the court’s boundaries. His own boule also bounced out of play but his sacrifice cost the opposing team its position and its score.

Mohammed Bey leaned over to Mariani and whispered, “I could never make that kind of shot.”
“Duke Ricol is no amateur…and he desires to win,” replied the restaurateur.

Although many of the guests were members of the DCMS they all wore civilian attire. As the day grew warmer the men removed their coats and lounged in their waistcoats and shirtsleeves, ties loosened.
Among the women were wives of the men in attendance as well as a few female DCMS officers. Like the men, they wore formal yet comfortable, warm-season clothing and broad-brimmed hats to shade their hair and eyes from the sun. Those guests not actively playing the game lounged in comfort in the shade of a pavilion erected for the party.
A small orchestra played soft, pastoral music at the distant bandstand.

The men played the last round before joining the rest of their party for lunch. As`Zaman helped serve at the buffet table and several of the other guests congratulated him on scoring the most points that day. The compliments made the sho-sa uncomfortable since it was the superior skill of the other members of his team that actually won the games they’ve been playing. He found it all somewhat embarrassing.

“There is no need to be so modest, sho-sa,” said Higuchi. “Duke Ricol doesn’t invite people to these events for no reason at all so he must recognize some of your talents.”
Mohammed Bey raised an eyebrow, “Well it can’t be my ability to play golf or bocce ball.”
The tai-sa chuckled, “You’d be surprised.” He leaned close and whispered, “Do you have any idea how much you won today?”
“Not really,” he replied with a shrug. “I put a hundred thousand into the pot so I guess I should double that.”
Higuchi shook his head and ran his thin fingers over his short, gray hair. “You only bet that amount. The Duke and that gentleman there,” he discreetly pointed at one of the civilians who played on the opposing team. “Those two placed much larger bets on today’s game and your share would be based upon your contribution to the winning score.”
The older officer piqued As`Zaman’s interest. “Okay, how much is my portion of today’s purse?”
Higuchi warmed up, leaned close and whispered, “Well, since you are interested,” the senior staff officer appeared to be genuinely gleeful. “Your share, as I’ve calculated, is eight hundred thousand Comstar–Not bad for a morning’s work.”
“That much?” Mohammed Bey was stunned for a moment. He felt the blood drain from his face. “That’s half the price of a light Battlemech.”
“Young officers have such a strange view of the world,” pondered Higuchi. “You judge everything in relation to a Battlemech.”
“Eight hundred thousand…I am in the wrong business.”

1300 Hours

The day was clear and sunny and the rest of the guests at the party retired to the shade of the pavilion.
Tai-sa Higuchi bowed and addressed a stately, middle-aged woman wearing a white cotton dress. “My Lady, allow me to introduce Sho-sa Mohammed As`Zaman Bey.”
As`Zaman executed a deep bow.
“Mohammed Bey, I would like you to meet Tai-sho Sakade.”
The two officers bowed once more.
“I hear you made the salad today, my Lord. It was delicious.”
Mohammed Bey bowed slightly, “You are much too kind, Lady Tomoe.”
The tai-sho nodded, “I hear you are applying for a new position.”
“Indeed, I have already been interviewed for a Mercenary Liason post.”
“With over ten years of mercenary experience, I am certain they'll have a place for you...any preference for a station?”
“Pesht District is my first choice, my Lady,” replied As'Zaman. He noticed the bearded man approaching and bowed.
“Excellent Caesar salad this week, Mohammed-sama!”
As`Zaman bowed once more, “Your Grace, I wanted to try something else but everybody liked the salad so much last week that their vote was unanimous.”
“Exciting game today, Duke Ricol,” greeted Lady Tomoe, who offered a gracious nod.
The Duke towered over most of the people at the party and his deep voice underscored his presence.
“Thank you my Lady,” replied the Warlord, he bowed with a graceful sweep of his arm. “I am very glad you were entertained.” He slapped a hand on As`Zaman’s shoulder, “I had good support elements on my side today, isn’t that right, Baron?”
“Your Grace is far too kind,” replied Mohammed Bey. “I play at nowhere near the level as you.”
The man known as the Red Duke chuckled and turned to Lady Sakade, “My Lady, allow me to tell you something about this humble Sho-sa. Last week he presented to me a list of a company’s worth of Battlemechs and several combat vehicles that his unit managed to salvage under the very nose of Clan Nova Cat. They were the remnants of the 10th Alshain Regiment and he offered to relinquish his claim to the equipment if I desired to claim them.”
Sakade nodded, “Surprisingly generous.”
“Indeed, my Lady.”
“Did you accept them?” she asked.
Rocol shook his head, “I declined, the Sho-sa’s training unit is putting all that equipment to good use training the DCMS how to best defeat the invaders.” He continued, “Nonetheless, I’ll be keeping an eye on this officer, I do like the way he thinks.”

Simulator Lab
November 23
1100 hours

Perched upon the roof of a two-story building, the Phoenix Hawk stood as still as a statue. Sho-sa Mohammed As`Zaman Bey eyed his scanner arrays and adjusted the gains, the controls used to filter out interference and increase fidelity of the imaging. The small town was composed of computer-generated features and appeared somewhat blocky and lacked detail, something characteristic of the demands of the DCMS, which preferred live exercises over simulators so the technology suffered from neglect.
Beyond the grey rooftops lay a stand of forest and As`Zaman spotted the intermittent puffs of smoke caused by approaching Clan battle armor in jump mode. He gripped his controls and braced himself for a jump. His thoughts drowned out by the thunderous roar of his ‘Mech’s jets, he steered his forty-five ton war machine between several three-story buildings and set it down with the grace of a ballet dancer. He studied the map of the town on his display and maneuvered his Phoenix Hawk at a walk to an intersection where one of the streets was aligned with the stand of trees just outside of the town. The Battlemech stepped around the corner and Mohammed Bey triggered his pulse lasers as quickly as he rolled the aiming pipper over his targets. A small cloud of missiles emerged from the tree line and the cockpit vibrated as the twin antimissile defense units spewed streams of rounds in response. The holographic display strobed red when a pair of missiles struck the ‘Mech but not before the Azami pilot tugged the triggers that fired the pair of fusion-powered flamers that set the buildings on either side of the street afire.
As’Zaman backed his Phoenix Hawk away from the intersection, his hands on the weapons grips, ultra-heated air blasted at the line of buildings on the edge of town and created a wall of flame in the path of approaching Elemental warriors. Despite the buildings, flame, and smoke, the advanced sensors on his Battlemech indicated enemy targets as clearly as if they stood out in the open. He counted fifteen Points of Elementals.
The Phoenix Hawk’s jump jets belched accelerated air and scorched the pavement as the Sho-sa chose to retreat toward the center of town, in sight of his enemy but out of range of their missiles. His longer-ranged lasers tore at the invaders’ battle armor and Mohammed Bey grinned as targets dropped to the ground and disappeared from his display.
“Elemental Point number seven destroyed by fire,” stated the computer’s calm, detached voice. As`Zaman pointed his lasers at the next line of buildings and one by one, set them all ablaze. “Elemental Point number five destroyed by fire.”
The streets were obscured by thick smoke but the Phoenix Hawk calmly strolled between the burning buildings. Several clustered targets appeared on the display and the Phoenix Hawk broke into a long stride, lasers firing. Missiles flew wide, fired by the teams of battle armor perched on the rooftops. As the Phoenix Hawk streaked past the targets the flamers roared and spread more fires along the buildings.
“Elemental Point number ten destroyed by fire.”

The tallest building in the town stood four stories and from the rooftop the Phoenix Hawk could survey the countryside, save for the huge swath covered with dark smoke. Half the town was burning furiously and the enemy units were in retreat.
“Seventeen Elemental Points destroyed; damage to Battlemech minimal.”
Mohammed Bey hit the quick release on his harness and removed his neural helmet. The console went dark and the side door to the simulator cockpit swung open, “You look like you were having fun,” Chu-sa Rachel Benhaddad offered her hand to Mohammed Bey and assisted him from the simulator pod.
“I was having fun,” As`Zaman replied. The configuration with the flamers and pulse lasers makes a good Elemental hunter but it lacks the kind of range and punch to make me comfortable enough to take on Omnimechs. The dual AMS removed a good portion of the missile threat.”
“I’m sure you’ll write up a good report on your test, Mohammed.”
As’Zaman shook his head, “A few simulated exercises is not enough, I’d have to make a field test, facing an opponent that fights like the enemy and uses their combat doctrine.”
“You mean fighting the Clans,” added Rachel.
“That’s the only true test.”
She shrugged, “Then why don’t you just join one of the regular, front-line units? You’ll be appreciated and get to fight the invaders with your own command?”
“The Combine needs mercenaries and hasn’t dealt with hiring them for decades,” replied Mohammed Bey. “People with experience working with mercenaries are needed.”
“I see your point but you should be commanding a battalion or regiment of your own,” said Benhaddad. “I wish you could find a command here –I really miss the children.”
“I requested Pesht as my first duty station choice,” he replied. “But we know that the Combine will send me where I’m most needed.”
“If you are stationed here you’d be a shoe-in to join me on the Warlord’s staff,” added Rachel.
“I’m not so sure I want to get directly involved in the turf war currently raging between those who support Theodore and the Traditionalists.”
Benhaddad smiled, “Well then, it’s out of our hands.” She placed a hand on his shoulder, “Ready for a home-cooked meal?”

Live Fire Range
November 24
0930 Hours

Mohammed Bey rubbed his fingers together and wondered why every bunker he had ever visited had the environmental adjustments set on “freeze.” He observed the video screens linked to various cameras along the combat firing course and watched as a captured Clan Mist Lynx C variant, designated by the DCMS as a “Koshi”, navigated through the course and engaged automated targets at various ranges. Occasionally data links were lost due to interference from the Omnimech’s ECM unit.
As`Zaman keyed the microphone, “How are you doing, Tai-i Paige?”
The speakers on the console crackled, “This ‘Mech is awesome!” The Tai-i’s voice reflected significant exuberance, like a child with a new toy.
The Sho-sa chuckled, “All you have to do is take one away from the invaders.” He looked at the target sensor readout. “You are scoring at eighty-three percent.”
“Fantastic!” replied the Tai-i. “I never do better than seventy-five with a regular DCMS loaner.”
Tai-i Charles Paige was assigned to the Pesht Mercenary Liason Office and Mohammed Bey thought it would be a good gesture to allow the desk-bound officer a chance to familiarize himself with a piece of enemy equipment and add something special to his personal training records. There’s nothing wrong with making a friend and contact.

Special Training Division Office
November 25
1100 Hours

Sho-sa As`Zaman was busy at his temporary position running the Pesht Special Training Division, a training cadre responsible for preparing DCMS units for combat against the invaders known collectively as the Clans. Upon his arrival, Mohammed Bey discovered that none of the officers of the unit were prepared to train –they all may have had considerable combat experience, some even had exposure to the Clans but few had the necessary skills at training troops in an effective manner. Just a basic review of the exercise material revealed a flawed practice –The units would simply participate in scenarios with an expectation that the scenarios would provide insight into the fighting enemy. The scenarios were severely limited as well, primarily meeting engagements that ignored the more critical strategic weaknesses of the invaders. None of the exercises included a combat drop –A likely form of deployment when engaging the enemy on occupied worlds.
What As`Zaman found most disturbing with the training unit was the neglect of the fifty suits of battle armor, imported from the Federated Commonwealth, all left to gather dust in storage with no plan to utilize them in training due to the lack of guidelines in scenario design.
Once again, Mohammed Bey had to rely on connections with friends to gather the information he needed. He contacted his academy classmate, Leila Tanaka, now Sho-sa Leila Asano, serving in Luthien in the 1st Genyosha, for records of a recent expansive exercise that refought elements of the Battle of Luthien. Rachel Benhaddad was also very helpful in using her pull in acquiring staff, office space and access to equipment to assemble and publish quality training literature and documents while the unit’s regular cadre was undergoing sorely needed remedial training as trainers.
His original purpose was supposed to be a three month observation assignment terminating in an evaluation of the Pesht Special Training Division but it turned into a six-month assignment to overhaul the unit in order to make the unit function properly. It wasn’t because the officers were incompetent –They all had impressive military records but as As`Zaman put it, “Few Samurai can be the Sensei of a Dojo overnight.” They simply lacked the ability to pass on their experience in an effective manner and required more training –Their typical, ingrained DCMS inflexibility didn’t help. The unit’s officers also had to realize that there was more to training than sparring between units on a maneuver field and Mohammed Bey had to underscore that point as well.
There was a knock on the office door. “Enter.”
Chu-i Haidar stepped into the office, she held a communications packet. “We have received something from the Luthien Bureau of Mercenary Liason, my Bey.”
“Please read it.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Haidar. She broke the seal and pulled several papers from the envelope. “It says that your ISF clearance has been approved and there are more forms for you to fill out.” She returned the papers to the envelope, “Congratulations, sir!”
“Thank you,” replied As`Zaman. “The ISF wasn’t very happy about how well I scored in the German and Standard language comprehension tests.”
The communicator on the desk chirped. “One moment.” He tapped the screen and Sho-sa Nishio’s face appeared.
“What may I do for you, sho-sa?”
“Mohammed-sama, I have been asked to invite you to an informal golf outing this Saturday. Would your schedule be open?”
Az`Zaman looked up at Haidar and shrugged. “Nishio-san, I shall be happy to cancel any and all appointments in order to attend.” He flashed a “thumbs up” to the display. “Thank you for the invitation.”
“I shall see you on Saturday, at the municipal course, zero-nine-thirty.” said the Sho-sa before the screen went blank.
“You golf?” asked the Chu-i.
“I’ve only played it a couple of times while on Galatea,” answered Mohammed Bey. “I find the game rather boring to play and even more boring to watch.”
“Then why go?”
“Nishio relayed an invitation,” said As`Zaman. “That means he was instructed to invite me to the event by people interested in my presence.”
Haidar nodded, “I see.”
“So far, these social outings have been very positive,” said the Sho-sa. “Influential people are listening to what I have to say and are prepared to take action on my recommendations.”
“Is there anything else, my Bey? asked Haidar, about to leave.
As`Zaman handed her a sheet, “I plan to send this out through the HPG.”
The Chu-i looked over the message:

To: Trinary Commander Sargon Khatib
5th Jaguar Dragoons
31st Smoke Jaguar Assault Galaxy
Care of Clan Smoke Jaguar

Commander Khatib,

Greetings from Pesht! I hope you are doing well. I am doing fine and much has happened since our meeting on Luthien. I have been very busy with my special training cadre but it is time for me to move on in my career so I am currently assisting the Pesht Special Training Division in starting its own anti-Clan training operations.

I would like to extend an invitation to you to pay a visit to Pesht, I shall be here until the end of April and I have a lovely, captured Mist Lynx assigned for my use so we may settle our challenge and afterward share a fine dinner among friends, who are all very anxious to meet you.
Let me know if and when you intend to visit so that I may make adequate reservations, response is prepaid.

Your friend,
Sho-sa Mohammed As`Zaman Bey,
Commander, 8th Arkab Special Training Cadre,
Seconded to Pesht Special Training Division

“He was the one in the Grendel, wasn’t he?” inquired Isadora. She tilted her head and smiled, “I remember popping him with one of my lasers at long range.”
“I remember that and I’m sure he does, too,” replied Mohammed Bey. “Should I mention that?”
“Oh, no!” cautioned Haidar. “He might take that as a taunt –You don’t want to offend him.”
As`Zaman nodded, “I shall bow to your superior knowledge of protocol and etiquette, Isadora. He folded the message and stuffed the paper into an envelope. “Have this sent out immediately, with the attached files –They are images from Algedi and Dabih of the unit and my family.”
“I’ll go to the nearest Comstar Office, my Bey,” announced the Chu-i.

The communicator on the desk chirped. As`Zaman tapped the screen and Sho-sa Nishio’s face appeared once more.
“What may I do for you, sho-sa?”
“Mohammed-sama, please pardon the interruption but do you happen to play Mahjongg?
The Arkab officer could only smile.

[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: The Liaison
PostPosted: Sat Jul 27, 2013 9:04 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Buckminster City
Draconis Combine
January 15, 3054
1100 Hours

The limousine drove along the wide avenue; on either side of the street were properties with high, ornate walls and fences, well-manicured lawns and hedges, and ornate gates.
“As you can see, this is a safe community where the residents prefer privacy.” The agent, a woman in a business suit, motioned to the palatial homes the limousine passed, “I am certain the home you are scheduled to inspect will be suitable to your needs.”
The passenger nodded. She was definitely a foreigner –at least not an average citizen of the Draconis Combine. Her clothes consisted of layers of robes and a veil that concealed her hair and face. Even her hands were gloved. She was accompanied by two bodyguards, one swarthy and silent, the other a man of European descent who did most of the talking. The two men wore expensive, gray business suits and dark glasses.
“My Lady’s husband is an important noble, a decorated military officer, and expects to entertain many noble guests, including Duke Ricol, so his new home must meet the criteria he has listed,” said the bodyguard. “If none of the properties match his standards he will modify whichever he purchases until it does.”
The real estate agent seemed to be somewhat surprised, “Warlord Ricol?” She made a deep, respectful bow,” I shall make it my personal duty to find a home worthy of your family.” She held up her glowing datapad. “I see you have…quite a few children yet placed school location as a lower priority.”
“My Bey does not send his children to government-run schools and most privately-operated schools do not meet his standards so he contracts tutors or sends them to an academy,” replied the bodyguard.
“The military reservation is very far away; wouldn’t the commute be a problem?”
The European shook his head, “My Bey does not mind the commute –In fact, he would enjoy it.”
The limousine slowed as it approached a large, cast iron gate and it slowly swung open.

1130 Hours
“Al Murfiyya, what is your assessment of the security?”
“Sherifah, there are a few blind spots near the perimeter wall but nothing that cameras cannot mitigate. The grounds as a whole would provide an ideal defensive position if it were attacked. The hilltop position of the mansion does provide a commanding view of the surrounding terrain.”
The agent bowed, “As you have seen the stable area is relatively new and there is an area suitable for your desired Bocce Ball lanes.”
Al Murfiyya nodded, “This property is acceptable but needs improvement –five hundred thousand Kurita is our final offer.”
The agent paused for a moment to calculate her percentage then bowed, “I shall ready the contracts.”
“Al Murfiyya.”
“Yes, Sherifah?”
“You are to engage an architect of outstanding repute to ensure the grounds meet your master’s standards.”
“As you command, Sherifah.”

Nadir Recharge Station
Draconis Combine
January 15, 3054
1100 Hours

“My Bey!”
Tai-i Mohammed As’Zaman turned to see who was shouting in the passageway. He recognized a young officer in a Draconis Combine uniform. “Chu-i Yazeed, I see you are traveling on orders.”
The Azami officer bowed, “Yes, I am on my way to Pesht for my new assignment.” He shook As’Zaman’s hand, “Are you heading back to the 8th, Sho-sa?”
Mohammed Bey shook his head, “I have a new assignment in Buckminster, I am traveling without my ‘Mech so I’m not in uniform and traveling via commercial transport. And I’m a Tai-i now.”
“I see,” commented Yazeed, “I’m sorry to hear about your reduction in rank and I hope the training program does well without your guidance.”
“The 8th is in good hands,” replied Mohammed Bey, “If the unit cannot stand without me then it shouldn’t exist. My new rank is just part of being in the military.”
“I understand your point, yet our allies need training units like the 8th if they want to defeat the invaders,” Yazeed added. He glanced at his wristwatch and asked, “You must be waiting on a jumpship like I am –How long are you expecting to layover?”
The Tai-i replied, “The posted schedule indicates that I have about six hours’ wait.”
Yazeed nodded, “I have a ten-hour wait –if you are hungry I was about to check out the restaurant.”
The Azami officer paused to think, “I just passed it on my way to the DCMS officers’ lounge…I could use something to eat.” He pivoted on his heel, “Let’s go.”

1130 Hours
“My Bey,” said Yazeed, “I visited the DCMS officers’ lounge a couple of hours ago and I’d like to introduce you to some of the officers I met there –if you do not mind.”
“I don’t mind,” answered Mohammed Bey, “It would be a good way to get updates on how things are on the front lines.

1200 Hours
Since As’Zaman wore a simple, gray jallaba while traveling he had to produce his passport and DCMS identification. Few Dracomis Combine military personnel under orders were allowed to travel in civilian clothes so the Tai-i attracted much attention when he walked through the door.
Chu-i Yazeed stopped before a table at which several DCMS officers were seated and motioned to them, “Tai-i As’Zaman, allow me to introduce you to Chu-i Harano, Tai-i Isuzu, Chu-i Fukuda, Cho-sho Kam and Chu-i Simmons.” The officers exchanged bows and took their seats.
“I hear you are on your way to Buckminster,” said Isuzu, “To what unit shall you be assigned?”
“My orders are to command the newly opened Mercenary Liaison Office there,” replied As`Zaman, “I’m really looking forward to it.”
“That means you might be assigned under my command, Tai-i,” Isuzu said.
Mohammed Bey nodded, “If you are lucky, you might learn something.”
“Aren’t you worried,” asked Chu-i Simmons, “about Clan Ghost Bear? I’ve heard they execute the mercenaries they capture.”
“All the more incentive to succeed in missions,” answered the Azami officer, “I refuse to fear the enemy, no matter how barbaric they may be.”
“What kind of mercenaries would take a contract to face that kind of risk?” asked Cho-sho Kam.
“I’ve been reviewing my first assignment,” announced Mohammed Bey, “They are a small unit called Kandissen’s Company.”
“I’ve heard of them but I can’t recall where,” replied Chu-i Fukuda, “It was a long time ago.”
As’Zaman pulled the datapad from a pocket inside his jallaba, “Let me see…the founder and some of the members were once part of the 9th Rasalhague Regulars.”
“They were deserters!” exclaimed Harano. “They made off with a dropship.”
“The DCMS has reconciled itself with that issue,” observed As’Zaman, “The very fact that the DCMS hired them says quite a lot.”
“They had better watch their backs,” growled Isuzu, “It will behoove them to follow their contract to the letter.”
“That is my job,” injected Mohammed Bey, “I have been instructed to scrutinize them very closely, although as a mercenary unit they have a stellar record.”
“You had better keep an eye on their every move,” warned Fukuda.
“It is my job to be impartial,” replied As’Zaman, “I have to weigh the performance of every unit on an equal basis, no matter who they are and what their history may be. I cannot allow prejudice to cloud my judgment. My professional integrity cannot be questioned.”
“Shall you be commanding them?” asked Simmons.
“No, my assignment is to merely observe their performance,” replied Mohammed Bey, “I’d rather not take command of a unit that I haven’t trained with.”
Tai-i Isuzu nodded and reached into his tunic to pull out a deck or cards. “Mohammed-sama, I’ve heard you occasionally enjoy a bet among gentlemen.”
The Azami officer smiled and motioned for a waiter. “A round of drinks on me.”

Draconis Combine
January 20, 3054
2300 Hours

The dropship was just entering the planet’s atmosphere when the alarms sounded. Tai-i As’Zaman opened his eyes and sat up on his bunk. The stateroom was dimly lit and after the officer activated his datapad he took a few seconds to adjust his eyes to the flood of light. The planet was under Orange-level Alert status. The message on the display called upon all active military personnel to report to their commands, due to a Clan raid within two jumps.
Mohammed Bey noticed that he had received an urgent message.
“The Office of the Prefectural Commander requests that you report in as soon as you are able.”
“What could this be about?” He shrugged and began to dress. The day uniform, the uniform worn for office and formal duties, was lighter, more comfortable and far more practical than the DCMS parade uniform. After the dropship landed he would have to find transportation to the base and begin the arduous administrative process as a new cadre transfer. After he pulled on his boots he stood up to inspect his uniform in the mirror next to the stateroom door. The dropship was due to land within the hour so As’Zaman assembled his briefcase and travel bag.
While waiting for the disembarkation signal, Mohammed Bey activated his datapad and checked the local train schedules. The Buckminster Military Reserve was almost eight hundred kilometers away and he planned to catch up on his rest during the journey. Since the earliest train would be just before dawn, he decided to take a short nap on the dropship. He had just slipped off his boots when somebody knocked on the stateroom door.
“May I help you?” Mohammed Bey addressed the young DCMS officer wearing a day uniform who stood in the passageway.
Tai-i Mohammed As`Zaman Bey?”
“I am Tai-i Yoguchi Chandler, Buckminster Mercenary Liaison Office,” he announced. “I am here as your driver.”
Tai-i, are you telling me that you’ve been waiting for me at this hour?”
He bowed, “That is correct, Mohammed-sama.” He looked down and noticed that the other officer was not wearing his boots, “I suppose I could wait until you are ready to leave. Would you have luggage?”
“I won’t take long to get ready,” answered As`Zaman, “and I just have one travel bag.”
Mohammed Bey slipped his boots on and opened the door, “I can carry my luggage.”
“Please, Mohammed-sama,” the Tai-i requested, “let me carry your bag for you.” He glanced down at the Azami officer’s boots and he froze for a moment.
“Is there something wrong?” Mohammed Bey had seen that look before. The Tai-i’s eyes were fixed upon the Luthien Campaign badge under his left breast pocket. “Ah, that.”
“You fought on Luthien?”
As’Zaman smiled, “In fact, I did. You should have been there.” He noticed the offer’s slight shudder.
Chandler took up the travel bag, “Mohammed-sama, would you be hungry? The spaceport has a decent restaurant that’s always open.”
“I could use a bite before we head out,” As`Zaman said. “How long is the drive?”
“Very good,” said Chandler, “The drive should take about seven hours.”
“A good meal and several hours’ worth of nap time works for me.”

0100 Hours
“No, I’ve never been in any action larger than lance-on-lance,” said Chandler. “I’m hoping this Liaison position gives me some command time so I can advance to a line unit.”
“You mentioned something about orders from Mercenary Liaison Bureaucrats.”
The Tai-i seemed uncomfortable, “I’ve been told that mercenary units are not to receive supplies without their approval.”
“You’ve been told…” mused Mohammed Bey. “Did they give you that in writing?”
Chandler shook his head, “Not really.”
“This sort of interference caused numerous problems decades ago and the bureaucrats haven’t learned anything.”
As`Zaman showed him the message he received earlier, “What do you make of this?”
The Tai-i shook his head, “I don’t understand it, and you aren’t part of a line unit, why would they want you to report to the Commander’s office?”
“I’m buying.”

0600 Hours
As’Zaman opened one eye. From the rear passenger seat he could see the clear skies and growing light of dawn. The staff vehicle sped along a nearly empty stretch of wide, concrete highway, flanked by dense forestation. He sat up and looked over Chandler’s shoulder. The speedometer read one hundred sixty kilometers an hour.
“Are we there yet?”
Chandler tilted his head, “A few more minutes, Mohammed-sama.”
The Azami officer rubbed his eyes, “Very good, I apologize for not being a more entertaining traveling companion.”
“No problem at all, Mohammed-sama.”
The base was quiet as the staff vehicle passed through the main gate. “I’ll have to drop you off at Headquarters because the parking there is all reserved.”
“You just find a place to park,” said As`Zaman, “You are coming with me to find out why they want me.”
“Yes, sir.”
As`Zaman saluted the guards at the entrance of the Headquarters building, Tai-i Chandler in tow. The walls were trimmed in polished teak and reminded him of the interiors of the Genyosha buildings on Luthien. He strode past junior officers who stared, slack-jawed as he traveled along the wide corridors. Again, he noted the attention his Luthien award attracted. The two officers stopped at the reception desk in front the Prefectural Commader’s office.
Tai-i Mohammed As`Zaman Bey reporting,” announced the Azami officer, “My dropship arrived this morning and I received a message instructing me to come to this office.”
The Chu-i’s eyes locked upon the Luthien Campaign award and he sprang to his feet, “Please wait here, sir!” He bowed and scrambled through the heavy paneled door. A few minutes later the young Chu-i emerged from the office.
“The Tai-sho welcomes you and wonders if you wish to have a room at the officers’ quarters to refresh yourself and relax,” recited the young officer in a breath. “You may report to this office after you have fully rested.”
“Please relay my thanks to the Tai-sho,” said Mohammed Bey with a bow, “I should return this afternoon.” He turned to Tai-i Chandler, “Ready to go?”
“Yes, Mohammed-sama.”
The two men maneuvered their way through the wood-paneled corridors; they encountered occasional gawking office workers that scuttled out of their way as they passed.
The officers stepped out of the entrance. Mohammed Bey squinted at the sky, “It looks like it’s going to be a fine day.” They made their way to the general parking area.
Tai-i As`Zaman!” A guard pursued them across the street.
Mohammed Bey halted and turned, “Yes?”
The guard saluted and held out what appeared to be a business card with both hands, as if presenting a valuable gift. “His Grace welcomes you to Buckminster.”
As`Zaman returned the salute, “Thank you, Gunsho.” He looked at the card and it was from Duke Ricol. In the back of the card was a simple, hand-written note:
“Bocce Ball? Golf?”
The Azami officer smiled, “Tai-i Chandler, how are you with Golf and Bocci Ball?”
“Um, I really don’t have any experience playing either.”
“Tomorrow we’re going to the driving range for some training –Make sure your schedule is clear.
“Yes, sir!” He paused for a moment. “Why are you doing this?”
“First, I need someone to train with,” replied Mohammed Bey, “I also want to show you a part of the DCMS most soldiers never see.”
“That, and if you are going to go head to head with DCMS bureaucrats you will need some allies –And the bigger the guns you have on your side, the better.”
“I understand.”
“Do you?” asked the Azami officer, “I’m still not sure why a Tai-sho I’ve never met is worried about me getting enough rest. Let’s get to the officers’ quarters before he offers to lay out my futon and fluff my pillows.”

[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: The Liaison
PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 8:26 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Mercenary Liaison Office
Draconis Combine
March 12, 3054
1100 Hours

Tai-i Chandler looked over the briefing material, “This unit has a long history but Command wants you to personally supervise them.”
“I’ve looked over their file,” replied As ‘Zaman, “somebody wants them to fail in order to prove something.”
Chandler became defensive, “The Combine cannot trust mercenaries –We have to take precautions.”
“Don’t repeat that mantra with me, Tai-i,” the Azami officer warned, “the DCMS has a history of contract violations and has little room for complaint.”
“That kind of talk will have the ISF paying you a visit,” said Chandler, his voice lowered, despite nobody else present in the office.
The Tai-i sighed, “I’ll make sure the tea is hot,” he tapped the folder, “Have you noted that part of the contract is amnesty for all past infractions for the members?”
“I can’t believe their nerve,” declared the DCMS officer.
“The DCMS found that clause acceptable,” added Mohammed Bey, “they were declared ronin for behaving exactly as respectable samurai were expected to behave and were punished for performing their duties to their lord, a Kurita, by the way, instead of the interests of national politics –Does anybody even remember the 9th Rasalhague Regulars?”
Chandler shook his head, “That’s years before my time. But you sound like you are justifying their crime.”
“Exactly,” concluded As’Zaman, “The DCMS raises warriors to give their leaders unquestioning loyalty and a few of them messed up by trusting a leader of the Kurita line. Instead of offering reconciliation, the DCMS condemned thousands of fine soldiers to exile and may as well admit the error and get over their losses –Especially over a war few people even remember.”

Briefing room, Mercenary Liaison Office
Draconis Combine
March 15, 3054
1400 Hours

Tai-i As ‘Zaman stood beside the wall-sized display; the long, conference table was flanked by several seated men wearing a mix of Inner Sphere uniforms. “The last known unit on Rubigen was the 332nd Assault Cluster, Beta Galaxy; Composed of at least two trinaries, three binaries of ASF, and plenty of Elementals.” He changed the planet’s image to a broad panorama of vast snow fields. “The last known commander, a Sakhan, has declared mercenaries as ‘dezgra’ or dishonorable. The unit is known to be cautious, and they tend not to commit until they know what they are up against.”
Tai-i,” one of the mercenary Battlemech pilots raised his hand; he wore a utility uniform similar to that used by the Lyran military. “What does that ‘dezgra’ mean?”
As’Zaman took a breath, “In brief, it means no quarter will be given, no prisoners will be taken.”
The Mechwarrior bit his lip and made no further comment.

Transient Battlemech Unit Hangars
Buckminister Prefectural Military Reservation
Draconis Combine
March 23, 3054

“Your contract states that in lieu of payment your Battlemechs shall receive field upgrades,” said Mohammed Bey. He looked over the lance of four machines in repair cubicles, teams of technicians busily tending to them.
“Unfortunately, we are not allocated enough time before our first mission on Rubigen,” replied Tai-i Lothar Kandisson. “We will have to wait until we return.” He glanced about the hangar, “I thought you were a Mechwarrior –where is your machine?”
As’Zaman smiled, “My ride is currently undergoing repairs and shall be arriving here within two or three months. Your dropship only has room for one lance of ‘Mechs anyway.”
“That is true,” the Tai-i answered, “It will be very cramped aboard the Leopard as it is.”
A mechanic in stained coveralls approached the two officers and saluted, “Tai-i, the vehicle you requested has been delivered.”
Mohammed Bey returned the salute, “Thank you very much, Gunsho.”
Kandisson stood a head taller than the Azami officer, his brown hair was close-cropped and graying. His uniform was similar to that worn by officers in the Draconis Combine but many of the details, such as trim, piping and buttons were those of the defunct Rasalhague Regulars, the standing military of the old Rasalhague Military District, which was granted independence from the Draconis Combine in the mid-3030s.
The cacophony of a busy Battlemech hangar had the kind of homey familiarity which Kandisson found relaxing. The teams of technicians went along with their duties and didn’t require his direction or interference, which he found relieving. Few technical crews in the Inner Sphere prided themselves on the quality of their work than those of the DCMS. A feeling of nostalgia washed over him, of days long gone, of a time he proudly served House Kurita. The low rumble of an approaching vehicle drew Kandisson’s attention; A three-ton civilian lorry pulled into the hangar, a DCMS mechanic in work fatigues at the wheel.
“There’s my ride,” announced Mohammed Bey. He returned the mechanic’s bow and slowly paced around the vehicle, “Everything appears to be to my specifications.”
“You’re taking that?” asked Kandisson.
“Trust me,” commented As`Zaman, “You and your men will prefer a ride in this humble machine to making your way back to your dropship on foot.”
“But it looks like a civilian vehicle,” remarked the Rasalhague officer.
“That’s the idea,” Mohammed Bey answered, “I do not intend to paint a target on this thing.” The pounded the flank of the vehicle with his fist, “I want to blend in with other civilian vehicles, even while under the enemy’s nose.”
A man in the uniform of a Lyran Leutnant approached the two officers and saluted, “Sir, the Independenza is ready for field calibration.” Kandisson returned the salute, “Very good, DiBergoni, if Leutnant Caidin is ready, mount up and take a run through the fire and maneuver range.”
“Yes, sir!”
Mohammed Bey took his place behind the wheel and watched DiBergoni climb the scaffold to board his Firestarter. The Azami officer leaned back in the seat and thought about the Mongoose he once piloted. That Battlemech was now on Dabih, assigned to his son, Ahmed, who would soon attend the Sun Tzu School of Combat. It would be a while before he sat in a Battlemech cockpit once more.

Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
April 20, 3054
1030 Hours
Day 1

The Leopard Dropship entered the atmosphere and engaged in a series of turns to bleed off speed. Tai-i As’Zaman sat in his stateroom, he wore a set of earphones and monitored transmissions between the cockpit and the Battlemechs awaiting their signal for their atmospheric drop. As per Kandisson’s plan, the Leopard made a wide, gradual, spiraling descent, and dropped each Battlemech over a predetermined map quadrant. In the center of that spiral was a remote, abandoned airfield, where the Aerospace Fighters would deploy.
Despite momentary detection by a Clan Dropship in orbit, the jump into Rubigen System, the fast burn-in transit, and the atmospheric entry were, for the most part, undetected. Due to the spiral pattern used in descent, the planet’s defenders would have a difficult time locating the Leopard once it landed.
After a surprisingly smooth landing, Mohammed Bey joined the Leopard’s crew as they scrambled out of the Dropship and feverishly set up the camouflage nets and thermal screens. A Thunderbird and a Sholagar, deployed in space prior to entry, touched down on the snow-covered runway. They taxied to where their crews waited for them. His work done, Mohammed Bey made his way to the storage compartment where his vehicle waited, strapped onto a pallet. While looking over the cargo pallets, he noted several crates with familiar markings. They contained components of Battlemech upgrade kits. It was then he noticed that some of the crates had been opened and recalled that Kandisson’s Warhammer had been undergoing work during the recharge times between jumps.

Day 4
1300 Hours

Tai-i As’Zaman, please report to the cockpit.”
The Azami officer left his stateroom and made his way forward. The crewmen he passed along the way gave him room to pass and respectful deference. He reached the door to the cockpit and pressed the intercom button, “As’Zaman here.” A buzzer sounded and there was a metallic click. Mohammed Bey twisted the aluminum handle and stepped into the compartment.
“Please be seated,” said one of the crewmen, who handed him a set of earphones, “listen.”
Mohammed Bey’s eyes grew wide, the last three days had been unusually quiet and now there was a sudden explosion of Clan Ghost Bear transmissions. He pulled a pen from the pocket of his duty fatigues and began to write.
“Do you understand that?”
As’Zaman held up a finger, he wanted to concentrate on listening and transcribing what he heard. After about thirty minutes, the transmissions ceased. He looked over his notes and cleaned them up, crossed out lines and circled certain sections. He held up his notes and sat back in the padded chair, “It appears that our hosts have finally mobilized a search party,” he announced, “The leader of that search party is Star Captain Jillian Snuka.”
“I could barely make out what they were saying, replied the crewman.
“They are reacting to an earlier report,” said the Azami officer, “It looks like DiBergoni walked into a town and used his machineguns on several security troops. They are very angry about it and are sending a star, that’s five of their Battlemechs, after him.”

Day 6
0900 Hours

Oberleutnant Caidin was amazed at the Clan Omnimech’s speed. His recognition program identified it as a Viper, a forty ton machine. Caidin’s Griffin, Border Riever, bounded over the snow-covered terrain. The two war machines battled around a small hamlet of a dozen or so buildings, the terrified populace, taking cover in their basements and root cellars. With every shot he took, Caiden muttered a short prayer, hoping that his Griffin’s many jury-rigged systems would hold out for its long-delayed refurbishments. On his second shot, his Griffin’s particle cannon managed to tear the left arm off the Viper, which immediately used the cover of buildings to make his escape.
Caidin steered his own machine toward a stand of dense woods and hunkered down, as a pair of unidentified Clan ASF roared over his head, in several attempts to make him break his cover. The Oberleutnant was relieved as he watched the pair streak away.

Day 8
1430 Hours

Oberluetnant Caidin had to cross several kilometers of clear terrain along his patrol route. He feverishly hoped that he didn’t run into anything out here, because he’d be a sitting duck to any ASF that showed up. His heart jumped when he thought he made out a moving speck in the distance. The Griffin skidded to a halt, its head traversed to the left and right. There was no cover at all, save a meter of snow. The Griffin suddenly fell forward, and lay as flat as possible.
Despite how cool his cockpit may have been, Caidin was perspiring. Five minutes passed…then ten…The Lyran officer monitored his seismic sensors and the swift pace, most likely that of a light machine, seemed to draw closer. Fifteen minutes…
“What do you think you are doing?” It was a ‘Mech’s loudspeaker.
Caidin let out a heavy sigh. He pulled at his controls and the Griffin rose out of the snow. He recognized the Firemoth a distance away. “I’m on a scouting mission and trying to avoid combat.”
“I do not believe you.”
“Have it your way.” Caidin pushed his Griffin forward, particle cannon raised, a cloud of missiles in the air. The Firemoth broke into a run, which startled the Lyran by its speed. The Griffin halted and leveled its cannon, a ribbon of energy crossed the field and tore into the Firemoth’s left torso, and sent the corresponding arm spinning through the cold air. Once again, the Clan Omnimech exhibited its capacity for amazing speed as it turned away and swiftly retreated into the distance.

Day 9
0800 Hours

Lieutenant Darrel Costa guided his Shadowhawk through a small forest of snow-covered evergreen trees. The forest formed a small crescent around a small town and Costa could see the rooftops of the buildings and houses through the trees and despite the morning fog, he spotted a hulking form moving between the structures. He looked over his weapons array and maneuvered to a position where he could get an unobstructed view of what could only be an enemy machine.

DiBergoni’s heart pounded as a pair of Clan fighters streaked overhead. Small stands of trees dotted the terrain and the Firestarter move from one to another, and used the terrain to avoid detection. Fortunately for DiBergoni, aerospace fighters move too fast to be efficient reconnaissance vehicles –The pilots are too busy controlling their fast-moving craft to look for anything that isn’t out in the open.
One of the fighters slowed to just above stall speed and yawed over just above the small stand of trees. DiBergoni saw his chance and centered his aiming reticle on the delta-shaped aircraft. The Clan fighter flipped over and plowed into the deep snow, two hundred meters away from the Firestarter. The second fighter accelerated and climbed high into the sky before breaking off.

“I have lost contact with Lieutenant Costa,” Tai-i Kandisson reported, “I will head over to the sector Costa was patrolling to investigate.”
“Hopefully he is just maintaining radio silence,” replied Tai-i As`Zaman.

Day 10
1500 Hours

Kandisson stood in the middle of the snow-covered field and examined the wreckage of his executive officer’s Shadowhawk. A handful of farmers had described the brief battle, Costa’s Shadowhawk dealing damage at range with fin-stabilized autocannon rounds against a Clan Omnimech that Kandisson guessed, from the descriptions submitted by witnesses, was a Blackhawk. The farmers had told him that Costa’s Shadowhawk has been savaged in the fierce exchange of fire and the Lieutenant announced that he would withdraw from the field in concession. The Clan pilot refused to allow Costa to depart alive and kept firing upon the crippled Shadowhawk until its munitions exploded. It was unclear if Costa was killed while ejecting or after he hit the ground. The Tai-i, usually a calm and taciturn man, felt his very brain afire with a growing rage.

Yonkers Spaceport,
Free Rasalhague Republic
April, 3034

The 9th Rasalhague Regulars had been routed. The 2nd Genyosha was in full pursuit, destroying every so-called Ronin unit they could find and putting them to death for daring to oppose the commands from Luthien. The flight crew of the Leopard dropship, Lance Point, monitored radio traffic as broken unit called for help that would not come, and begged for mercy that would never be granted. By unanimous agreement, the captain transmitted a brief message to any surviving 9th Rasalhague unit: “Come to the spaceport and escape, if you want to live.”

Tai-i Lothar Kandisson pushed his damaged Warhammer through the ruins of the city, careful to avoid the bloodthirsty Genyosha units in pursuit. The elite DCMS unit had landed five days before and assaulted the 9th’s barracks, scattered its units, and gunned down any survivors, without a word, without any warnings. The Genyosha had maintained radio silence since they entered the Engadin system and without a word, set forth to slaughtering the men who chose to remain loyal to Warlord Marcus Kurita.
“Come to the spaceport, if you want to live.” Kandisson had considered staging an honorable last stand; worthy of a samurai warrior, but all the Genyosha offered was an execution befitting a criminal. He glanced at the map overlay; he could make it to the spaceport in less than ten minutes, if nobody tried to stop him.
The approach to the dropship was nerve-wracking, the industrial zone near the spaceport burned out of control and the Warhammer had to wander through streets obscured by dense smoke, with the constant threat from enemy Battlemechs patrolling the area. Despite a couple of close calls, where he was able to hide among the ruins and escape detection, Kandisson made his way to the flight line, where the Lance Point waited. He was the only survivor from the 9th Rasalhague Regulars to make it.

The Leopard lifted off the runway and received scattered fire from ground units that had formed a cordon about the spaceport. Caught unawares, the DCMS fighters engaged in running down Ronin units failed to chase the Lance Point out of atmosphere; they had made good their escape.

It didn’t take long to convince a commercial jumpship to give them a lift across the Lyran border but it cost them a few tons of spare parts to pay their way. Kandisson made his intentions to travel to Galatea and take up the mercenary trade known and the dropship crew asked if they could accompany him, having no experience outside the Draconis Combine military. The Tai-i shrugged and agreed to lead them.

Galaport City
Lyran Commonwealth
October 3034, 0800 Hours

Weinstube Wegner was a popular gathering place for the cadets of the local academies, artists, literati and occasional mercenary officers. The walls were wood paneled, decorated with paintings by local artists; the ceiling was high, with brass and crystal chandeliers providing warm illumination. Modeled after an ancient Viennese Salon, Weinstube Wegner offered its clientele fine dining, quality refreshments and relaxing entertainment in a comfortable, usually peaceful atmosphere.
Despite his Draconis Combine uniform, Tai- i Kandisson drew few inquiring looks from the other patrons as he walked through the wide, beveled-glass doors.
“Herr Kandisson?” A waiter approached him and bowed, “Please come this way.”
Kandisson nodded and fell in behind the waiter as he led him to a private booth, where a tall, thin man, wearing a simplified Free Worlds League uniform stood up and bowed.
“Tai-i Kandisson, welcome!” he extended a hand.
“Lieutenant Costa, thank you for the invitation,” replied the Tai-i, he took a chair at the large table, which was decorated with a faceted crystal vase with delicate flowers and set for two.
“Please call me Darrell,” said Costa, “I hope we shall be working together for many years, we may as well be less formal as soon as possible.”
Kandisson nodded, “If you wish,” he replied, “my fist name is Lothar and I hope you don’t mind if I prefer you call me Kandisson.” He didn’t want to go into a lengthy explanation about how people of the Combine rarely refer to each other by their given names.
“That’s fine,” returned Costa, “Kandisson is fine for me.” He set a datapad on the table and handed Kandisson some papers, “From your dossier, I have to assume you know little about the mercenary business –and it is a business, so there are many differences from being in a House military.”
“Yes,” added Kandisson, with a nod, “I must admit that I must depend on you to train me on what I have to know as a mercenary.”
“I will do my best to help you and your fellows transition to mercenary life,” announced Costa, “I took the time to put together a brief orientation packet for each of you, including places and parts of the city to avoid, as well as recommended places to stay, while you look for permanent housing –trust me, in the long run, it will be far more economical than paying for a hotel room.”
Kandisson picked up the folder and scanned over the pages, “Thank you Costa…er, Darrell, I know this will be extremely helpful, thank you for taking the time to make things easier for us.”
“Think nothing of it,” said Costa, “it is the least I could do to people with whom I shall be working with.” He took a moment to signal a waiter, “We are ready to order.”
The Tai-i took up a small menu from the table, “Do you recommend anything?”
“Breakfasts are usually light,” advised the Lieutenant, “have the coffee or tea, then a pastry or two; we’ll have something a bit more substantial for lunch, when we meet with the dropship crew.” He made a point to add, “I’m paying –The unit can write them off as business expenses.”
Kandisson had to smile.

August 3037

“Are you certain?” Kandisson’s heart was racing.
Costa nodded, “My contacts are 100 percent sure of their information and I vouch for their reliability.”
The Combine officer had to turn away, tears began to form in his eyes, “So, my family is alive and in a refugee camp?”
“Yes,” replied Costa, who had proven to be an able and loyal executive officer for their tiny unit. “My contacts have made arrangements to have them released and transported over the Rasalhague border –We can go pick them up there.”
“You did this for me?”
“You command this unit,” said Costa, “You will command better knowing you family is safe and living here with you.”
Kandisson used a handkerchief to wipe his eyes, “Thank you Costa, I owe you.”
“Don’t worry about it, sir,” the Lieutenant responded, “I’ll find a way to write it off as a business expense.”

Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
3054, Day 11, 0730 Hours

The Warhammer strode cautiously through an area heavily wooded with evergreen trees. From his cockpit, Kandisson could see though the spikes of snow-covered treetops and make out distant movement through the dense, morning fog. He zigzagged around the stands of evergreens in order to close with the target. Though the parting haze, the Tai-i could make out the squat form. Blackhawk!
Targeting reticles centered on the silhouette, Kandisson loosed both his particle cannon at long range. The target shuddered and halted for a moment after being struck. The Blackhawk Omnimech broke into a charge, crashing though trees in its rush to close.
Kandisson fired again, as soon as his weapons recharged. The Omnimech stumbled and turned, using the trees to cover its advance.
As the enemy machine drew closer, Kandisson could make out its pockmarked armor, evidence of previous battle damage, most likely with Lieutenant Costa’s Shadowhawk. Kandisson fought to contain his anger, he needed to remain cool and avoid errors by allowing his emotions to fog his reason…but this Clanner had to die.
The Blackhawk’s weapons were a brace of what seemed to be large lasers, which tore into the Warhammer’s armor. The battle between the two was brief, as the two combatants maneuvered through the evergreen forest, part of which burned fiercely as energy weapons missed their targets and blasted resin-filled trunks to flaming splinters.
The Omnimech suddenly collapsed in a heap, its torsos torn open. Kandisson wasted no time in closing with the crippled enemy ‘Mech. The Warhammer stood before the Blackhawk and waited.
“Face me, pirate!” commanded Kandisson, his hands gripped his weapon controls. The cockpit slid open and the scowling face of the Clan Ghost Bear Pilot peered out.
Kandisson placed the reticle belonging to the Warhammer’s right arm particle projector cannon squarely on the pilot’s face, its muzzle practically in the cockpit, and squeezed the controls.

[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: The Liaison
PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 8:27 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
***Duplicate post deleted***

[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

Last edited by Mohammed As `Zaman Bey on Fri Nov 28, 2014 9:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

 Post subject: Re: The Liaison
PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2014 9:32 pm 

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
well written...

Medron Pryde - The Great and Terrible :blah:
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"I'm gonna Tea Party like its 1776." - Medron Pryde
Who is John Galt?

 Post subject: Re: The Liaison
PostPosted: Fri Mar 22, 2019 10:25 am 
Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Aug 09, 2003 10:05 pm
Posts: 1471
Location: Kingdom of Hawaii
Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
3054, Day 11, 0745 Hours

“Report acknowledged,” replied Mohammed Bey over the comm, “All units, this is Spearhead, return to the LZ.” He paused as the units on patrol responded, then turned off the console. He thought for a moment then activated the console once more. He set the receiver to scan frequencies and monitored the transmission traffic.
The invaders were talkative that morning. Some of the transmissions were furious, especially after the Clanners found the wreckage of their Blackhawk. He tuned in to an unusually calm conversation between Clan Ghost Bear technicians. From their discussion, the Azami officer was able to surmise that the technicians were on a dropship in orbit and they were tasked with emplacing a communications satellite network. “Looks like it’s going to get a lot busier here, pretty soon,” he muttered to himself, “Time to pull up stakes.”
“Attention all crew, this is Az`Zaman, our mission here is done and as soon as our patrols have returned, we are to secure all equipment and expedite our departure from the system.” He paused to take a breath, “Have the ASF fully prepared to escort the Furin Kazan out of orbit.”

Day 12, 1120 Hours

Kandisson’s Warhammer trudged up the ramp and backed into its bay. The tech crew scrambled efficiently to lock the Battlemech in place for travel but didn’t utter a word to the commander as he emerged from the cockpit and climbed onto the catwalk. They stood at attention and nodded silently as he passed them, then they returned to their duties.
The mercenary was relieved to see that diBergoni’s Firestarter had arrived first and was already prepped for departure. That meant Caidin’s Griffin was still on its way to the LZ. He entered the long hallway that ran the length of his Leopard Dropship and headed to the communications room where the DCMS Liaison officer waited.
“Enter.” Mohammed Bey replied to the expected knock on the door. He rose from his seat and offered his hand, “Welcome back,” he continued, “allow me to express my condolences over the loss of a good officer.”
Kandisson took the DCMS officer’s hand and shook it, “Thank you,”
“Please, be seated,” offered Az`Zaman, “I made some tea, would you like a cup?”
Kandisson pushed the safety belt and harness aside and sat down across the table from the Combine officer.
“Are you alright?” asked Mohammed Bey, as he placed the ceramic cup on the table.
The officer shrugged, “I really don’t know…I just feel tired.” He picked up the cup and blew across the surface of the hot liquid to cool it.
As`Zaman nodded, “This snowbound world is gloomy enough on its own.” He sipped his own tea. “The aero are going to have to escort us out, there’s a dropship in orbit emplacing comsats and I have no doubt that they have fighters waiting to catch us as we depart.”
Kandisson nodded, “They don’t seem to be the kind to forgive and forget.”

Day 12, 2115 Hours

The Leopard turned its nose to the dark sky, its billowing plumes trailing brilliant flame. Several kilometers ahead, the escorting aero fighters blazed like stars, leading the way into the ink black void.
“Shepherd One, Enemy, three aero, two o’clock low, intercept course,” announced As`Zaman.
“Roger, Spearhead, have Enemy in sight,” replied Lieutenant Abbey, who piloted the Thunderbolt. “Orders?”
The Azami commander thought about the scenarios he had discussed with the aero pilots. “Issue challenges, remember the protocols.”
“Roger, Spearhead.” Shepherd One, the Thunderbird, and Shepherd Two, the Sholagar, yawed starboard in a slow arc toward the pair of Clan Ghost Bear Omnifighters.
“Clan Ghost Bear fighters, I, Lieutenant Abbey of Kandisson’s Air Lance, offer challenge in individual combat in my Thunderbird.”
There was a momentary pause before the reply, “Mercenary cowards, how dare you mock our tradition of combat between honorable warriors? Your kind sullies the very space that surrounds our planet. Prepare to be punished!”
“Since when do mere pirates punish legitimate soldiers? Prepare yourselves for a lesson in combat!” Abbey switched to an encoded frequency, “Karl, the one on the right is mine.”

Day 14, 1100 Hours

Lieutenant Lewis Abbey sat in the cramped recreation room and adjusted the settings on the holovid player, “It was at that moment, I knew I had him.” He enlarged the images of his Thunderbird and the Clan Sulla almost flying with their wingtips touching. “He made the critical error of trying to knife-fight with an aero twice his weight.” The Sulla pulled ahead of the Thunderbird and in its blind spot, the mercenary’s aero raked the lighter craft with all of its weapons. The Clan Ghost Bear omnifighter broke apart and the techs observing the replay of Abbey’s latest kill cheered and congratulated the pilot. Abbey was a tall man with a thin face, tousled brown hair, and pale skin liberally punctuated with freckles. Like many pilots, he exuded self-confidence and exhibited all the qualities of an experienced leader of men. Sergeant Karl Akita was unlike his Lyran wingman. A Draconis Combine expatriate, Akita was very reserved and was more of an obedient subordinate. Once in the cockpit of his Sholagar, Akita became a different man. He knew his machine and made a point to coax the maximum performance out of its design, including its unstable qualities. To an observer, Akita’s Sholagar appeared to be an acrobatic craft in the hands of a madman. Akita’s greatest change was his voice. Outside of his Sholagar, the sergeant was calm and soft-spoken. When the fighting starts, Akita’s voice goes up an octave, almost becoming a shriek. His words and syllables an unending staccato of near unintelligible lines spoken in the Satsuma dialect, to the pointy that people fluent in Japanese would have difficulty comprehending what he’s saying. In addition to all of his spoken words crammed together and spoken as one continuous word, his speech included scathing obscenities, insults, phrases and epithets that has more than once caused people to seriously question his sanity.
When Kandisson listened to the recordings of Akita’s fight with the heavier Clan fighter, he commented “Karl, I truly hope that there won’t be many ladies attending the mission debriefing at DCMS headquarters.” He shook his head, “I may as well be ready to apologize to the people making up the transcripts.” The taunts he hurled at the Sulla that fled the fight were particularly blistering, attacking the enemy’s honor, parentage, sexuality, abuse of small animals, hygiene, intellect, diet and piloting skill. The commander marveled at the man’s vocabulary in both Japanese and Standard.

Briefing Room, General Headquarters
Buckminister Prefectural Military Reservation
Draconis Combine
June 4, 3054 1000 Hours

“Thank you, Gunsho Akita, for your exciting and very colorful report.” Mohammed Bey paused as the attending officers in the room applauded and chuckled. He also noted the three female officers seated, in varying degrees of embarrassment due to hearing some of Akita’s transmissions played during the pilot’s holovid presentation. He was also certain that they had at least skimmed over the transcripts.
The Liaison officer continued his debriefing, “After that encounter, the Clanners ceased their pursuit and we rendezvoused with our jumpship without further incident.” He closed his briefing folder and walked to the front of the podium. “Before I conclude, are there any questions?” Several hands went up and he smiled.

Mercenary Liaison Office
1030 hours

Tai-i Chandler handed As`Zaman a sealed envelope, “New orders, my Bey.”
“Another fine adventure!” The Azami officer broke the seal and read the contents. “It looks like the initial briefing will be delayed as some of the attendees are yet to arrive.”
“Is that normal?” Chandler asked.
“It is,” replied the commander, “when the coordination of multiple units are involved and especially when multiple factions are involved.”
“Multiple factions?”

Secure Briefing Room, General Headquarters
Buckminister Prefectural Military Reservation
Draconis Combine
June 7, 3054 0800 Hours

Draconis Combine units seldom use their secure briefing rooms unless they expect some manner of external infiltration. It was clear that the DCMS knew some party (or parties) was interested in the content of the briefing, Mohammed Bey could not surmise who that would be. While the other Houses of the Inner Sphere may have some interest in Combine military operations, none would hamper or oppose any actions against the Clan invaders. The last people anybody would expect was the Clans. They may have ranked high as individual fighters but in the fields of strategy and intelligence, the Clans were rank amateurs. They had no concept of secure communications and so far, nobody had produced evidence of them using methods of communication interception other than asking their opponents about their weights and numbers.
The second mystery of the day was his seating. There were about 30 desks for the officers attending the briefing and a long table for a panel of five. Why was his name displayed for the end seat, to the main speaker’s right? It made sense that the middle seat displayed the officer in charge of the briefing, Tai-sho Kenjii Kato, 12th Deiron. To the officer’s left were seats for Comstar Precentor, Buckminster and Comguard Adept 14 Leo Etien, Commander Lvl 6 Luthien. Az`Zaman thought to himself, “Perhaps this has something to do with the rumors of political infighting among Comstar’s ranks. Details on what was going on was lacking, although there was an abundance of speculation, there was very little outside of the publicity war being waged by two factions claiming to be the “Real” Comstar. It reminded him of the orders issued to him by the Kanrei himself, to relieve the Algedi HPG station and rescue the Comstar personnel who were besieged by a hostile, fanatical faction from within Comstar itself. Then there was the place next to his seat that read, Marcus Nagamori, ISF. It was going to be a long day.
Due to the extremely sensitive nature of the briefing, none of the attendees were permitted to record, take notes or otherwise preserve any of the information revealed or discussed. All had to be committed to memory. The Tai-sho would have the briefing notes and data transcribed and submitted to all the participating parties, which would include Mohammed Bey, Kandisson’s Air Lance, the Comstar element, and the ISF team. The mission would be a raid and extraction on the planet Ardoz, currently under Clan Ghost Bear Occupation.
The Comstar delegation revealed the size of their force on Ardoz, The unit charged with defending the HPG was a mix of experienced Com Guards and mercenary veterans, who managed to flee into the wilderness before the Clan units hit the ground. The HPG station was attacked, so its status was yet to be determined, but considering they ceased transmitting soon after Clan Ghost Bear attacked, the HPG’s operational condition was doubtful.
The 12th Deiron had a Mech battalion stationed on Deiron and their condition was totally unknown, due to the lack of communication with anybody on the ground on Ardoz.
The ISF representative, Nagamori, reported that the ISF on Ardoz located a suspected Star League base, with plenty of intact material and data and stressed the importance of recovering as many of the ISF research team as possible. The briefing would have been bearable had the man not spoken in an incredibly irritating monotone. It took all of Mohammed Bey’s self-discipline to maintain a straight face and avoid showing the audience how mind-numbing he considered the entire ordeal. He just wanted to run out of the building so he could scream.

Officer’s Mess
1815 Hours

“I honestly thought I was going to slip into a coma,” said Akita, “If we just drop Nagamori on the enemy, he’d bore them to death, and war over!”
Kandisson whispered slyly, “That Chu-i in the second row looked interested in you.”
The commander nodded then smiled, “She looked like the kind who would want you to talk dirty to her.”

Transient Jump Point
Kiamba System
Clan Smoke Jaguar Occupation Zone
July 3, 3054, 1300 Hours

The Draconis Combine jumpship “Centaur” charged its batteries while it waited for the Union dropship to travel from the pirate point where its own jumpship waited, its solar sails fully deployed. The other jumpship didn’t wait long, it departed as soon as it was fully charged, as it had more military assets to deliver elsewhere. The dropship docked and the passengers were informed that they would jump to their destination within 48 hours.
Lothar Kandisson sat in the dining area of the gravity ring, looked over tech reports while sipping tea. He noted the arrival of the DCMS Mercenary Liaison, Mohammed As`Zaman and set his paperwork aside.
“Please remain seated,” said the Azami officer, he presented a large envelope to Kandisson, “The dropship brought this. In accordance with your contract, due to your performance in your first mission, the DCMS no longer disputes your claim for the Leopard dropship “Furin Kazan” and relinquishes any future claims,” he held out a hand, “Congratulations, you are now the recognized legal owner of your Leopard within the Draconis Combine.”
The mercenary leapt to his feet and grasped the liaison’s hand, “Thank you, Tai-i!” He bowed several times, “I’m overwhelmed by this news, I never expected the DCMS to follow through.” He took a breath to calm himself down, “Have a seat, my Bey, would you like anything? Anything at all!” Suddenly, he was in the mood to celebrate.
“Oh, thank you,” replied Mohammed Bey, “That isn’t necessary, really.” He pulled up a chair, “Elements of the 12th Deiron have docked, so you may see a few of them around.”
“I’ll make sure the unit members who wear non-DCMS uniforms to be aware and travel in pairs.”
As`Zaman tapped a second envelope that he carried, “The latest ISF report doesn’t contain much more than when was revealed at the initial briefing.” He leaned forward and whispered, “Both the ISF and Comstar have been sending teams to Ardoz and Clan Ghost Bear has been killing them just as fast as they can be sent.”
Kandisson frowned, “That isn’t good, these guys are too alert, why is that?”
“It’s obvious,” answered the liaison, “there are both DCMS and Comstar units fighting there…and doing a damn good job of it.” He smiled, “Our task is to pull them out so they can fight another day.”

Ardoz System
Clan Ghost Bear Occupation Zone
Day 1

The abandoned airfield had not been used for over two years and by some miracle, the invading Clan Ghostbear hadn’t discovered it. That raised the chances that the invaders hadn’t located supply caches and marshaling areas, either.
The mercenary Battlemechs were dropped along the Leopard’s route of flight, in order to execute their mission, which was to locate and evacuate the survivors from the 12th Deiron. The Combine unit had two years in hiding while being outnumbered and hunted by a ruthless enemy.
The ground crews were busily preparing the Thunderbird and Sholagar for their next patrol and they set about repairing the two abandoned Lucifers they had found in a hangar. If he could find a pilot of two, it would add to their odds of a successful mission.
The cramped communications room of the Leopard had been converted into a small command center, Mohammed Bey’s portable holopad would serve to project images of the terrain and displacement of the units once they were identified. It took a while to locate and link up with a damaged military satellite. The connection was spotty but he could navigate and monitor communications. He located some farms and a couple of stores in the area. The inhabitants would be aware of the airfield and would be aware of the Leopard, as no manner of noise abatement would have concealed their thunderous approach. Fortunately, the Clan forces have, for the most part, limited most of their movement to distant urbanized areas. The exception would be the very determined pursuit of the Comguard unit on the other side of the continent.
The Comguard elements were clashing with Clan Ghost Bear, who sent two trinaries to destroy them. From the scattered transmissions, As`Zaman could piece together some of their movement beyond a mountain range. The Ghost Bears attempted to locate the Comguard headquarters with a Headhunter team and that team was in turn, ambushed and destroyed by units laying in wait. With a data crystal given to him by the Precentor Buckminster, he modulated in an exclusive Comstar frequency and sent the unit commander a package of encrypted data. He was told to wait until the message was acknowledged. A Comtar icon appeared on his vid and he tapped in in acknowledgement. “It’s been two years and they are still giving the Ghost Bears an occasional bloody nose.” He made certain the information was saved to a data crystal, “That’s it, we have to save them.”
On his local map, As`Zaman found and tagged the Battlemechs of Kandisson’s Air Lance, that were patrolling their designated zones.
“Atlas One, Spearhead, report, over.”
“Spearhead, Atlas One, dropped one Viper, nothing else to report, out.”
“Atlas Two, Spearhead, report, over.”
“Spearhead, Atlas Two, negative contacts, out.”
“Atlas Three, Spearhead, report, over.”
“Spearhead, Atlas Three, negative contacts, out.”
Mohammed Bey noted the location where Kandisson encountered the Viper on the map; It was about two day’s travel from the nearest town, where its main unit would be located. He wondered if the Viper was able to send out a report. The Clan pilots suffered from a strange form of indiscipline, where they would be so obsessed with facing an enemy that they would often neglect the vital procedure of reporting any data of their opponent before rushing into battle. Another indiscipline was the fact that the average Clan Mechwarrior was reluctant to call for help, as if ashamed to appear weak in front of their peers. These barbaric traits may be admirable among savage warriors but would doom a modern military. It was egotistical and selfish, which made the Clans look more like a gang of willful children, with a pecking order in place of a chain of command. “But they do have the best toys.”

[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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