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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:18 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers Field HQ
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


“How many are following Slocum?” Michael Hasek-Davion gritted his teeth as he asked his staff the question.

There was a pause and the men and women in his command center looked at each other before one sighed. “Your Grace, every unit—except for your own command headquarters—has reported at least a few desertions. The ‘Mech battalions and armored regiments have the fewest . . . but we have lost the entire support command and nearly half of the infantry.”

“Damn that traitor Russert,” Michael hissed as he stared down at the map. Then he glared at his aerospace commander. “Can your fighters get to his DropShips while he is in the air?”

“No, Your Grace—they have already lifted off and should be landing at Edward’s surrender coordinates any time now.”

Michael didn’t respond; he just looked at the map and then he nodded. “We need to show those peasants that Edward’s offer is false—that he means to kill them all. Otherwise, gentlemen, we will piss away our strength to the point where we stand no chance of taking Port Sheridan and holding until relief arrives.”

“Relief, my Lord?” one of the armor commanders asked in a sudden start.

The corners of Michael’s mouth twitched. “Relief, Tom. Whether it comes from my supporters in the March or from . . . other avenues, we will receive reinforcements. But we must hold the Sixth together until they arrive,” he finished as he considered the map. And then he nodded.

“How will our soldiers react if they see Edward has used this surrender point as a trap to eliminate our assets? If say, the boy prince of Taurus instead of putting them to work in a POW camp or penal colony instead just drops a nuclear weapon atop of them?” Gasps erupted from the staff and line officers alike, and Michael ginned. “We know that the Taurians have an obsession with weapons of mass destruction—what happens if Eddie-boy drops one right atop of Slocum?”

“He won’t, Your Grace,” stated Karl Oldendorf bluntly. “He’s not that stupid—if he did, the Fusiliers that survived would never surrender; they would fight to the death because that would be the only choice they had.”

“Yes, they would, wouldn’t they?” Michael purred with a broad smile on his face. “I want an ASF strike package assembled—if the Taurians play true to form, they will intercept us as we head to hit Slocum.” Michael paused and he smiled. “And who’s to say which side drops the nuke atop of that traitor? Am I understood?”

Nods answered the Duke and Michael sighed. “Of course, we open ourselves up to counter-attack . . . which is why we must launch our ground offensive immediately. The Sixth must break through the Taurian defenses and secure Port Sheridan to keep Edward’s people from nuking us in retaliation.”

“That won’t be easy,” the Fusiliers executive officer, Major General Orville Corn said slowly. “The scouts are reporting dense minefields and prepared positions between us and the Port—with ‘Mechs and armor in place defending, along with infantry and artillery.”

“We aren’t going to charge in like the Light Brigade, gentlemen,” Michael shook his head. “We have enough anti-mine munitions in the field artillery to clear a path—and every fighter, both aerospace and conventional—that isn’t delivering our message to Slocum and Edward—will be concentrated here,” he said pointed at the map.

“There are weaker points on their defensive line,” one of the armor battalion commanders mused.

“Which are intended to draw us into a trap—those weak points will let the Taurians catch our formations in an enfilade with entrenched forces on our flanks . . . and more defenses on the far side. No,” Michael ordered as he tapped the map. “We won’t play their game—we will hit them here and smash right through them after the artillery clears us a lane. If we are fast enough, if we are good enough, we can get inside Port Sheridan before they redeploy and hold it until our relief arrives. Make no mistake, gentlemen,” Michael said in a grim voice. “If we fail to accomplish this task, each and every one of us are dead—we have to take those civilians as shields and secure the parts and provisions in their warehouses or we have no chance whatsoever. Between the simple fact that we are in a vise and ‘Edward’s’ first use of nuclear weapons on Slocum, you should have all that you need to amply motivate your men.”

There was a moment of silence and then—one-by-one—the senior officers began to nod their agreement. “Then let’s get cracking.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:28 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TDF Field Headquarters
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


Edward and Arden entered the communications room at a run, and the young Taurian saw the ashen looks on the assembled officers and staff as a frantic voice continued to emerge from the speakers.

“Look, I don’t have much time—this is an atrocity that I cannot let happen. You have to stop the fighters! You have to!”

Cory lifted the transmitter and the fury of his expression caused Edward to wince. “Colonel Bragg . . . you claim that Michael Hasek-Davion is going to use a nuclear weapon on his own men? On Taurian soil? And blame us for it?”

“Yes, yes, you damned fool! That’s what I’ve been telling you! The fighter strike is getting ready to launch right now—you’ve got to stop to this! I can’t! He’s going to kill them all—our own people! And then you will respond and we will all die in this miserable damned desert!”

Ardan cursed and Edward’s face blanched.

There was a pause, and in the background a faint voice was heard. “BRAGG! You traitor!”

“No, I can exp- . . .,” but the voice was cut off with the sound of gunfire . . . and then the radio transmission ended.

“Are the Fusiliers launching fighters?” Edward asked.

Cory nodded. “Two strikes—one is inbound against the southern flank of our defensive lines and the second is still forming up,” he paused and looked at the map. “Recon reports that Fusiliers are moving en masse towards the 1st Hyades Lights,” the old man shook his head. “Are they deliberately trying to get us to split our response? Make us chase after this smaller force of ASF while they pummel our lines undisturbed?”

Ardan shook his head. “No. This is just like Michael—he sees the men who surrendered as betraying him personally . . . and he wants to exact his revenge,” he winced. “And Colonel Russert has confirmed that Michael has a dozen Alamos at his disposal, taken from the Strategic Weapons Depot on New Syrtis.”

“Can our fighters intercept theirs?” Edward asked.

“It’ll be tight,” Cory said after a moment. “The big problem is their base is almost a hundred klicks closer to the surrender point than our fighter bases—and our fighters will have to move through their incoming strike to get to the second flight. Fifty-fifty,” he finished with a shrug.

Edward shook—it wasn’t fear that was causing the young man to shake, Ardan realized, but absolute, implacable fury. “We have four thousand of our own people—three-quarters of them civilians!—there to provide medical care and security for those who quietly stood down. What about in orbit? Where’s Fleet Marshal Vickers?”

"Saucy Sam suffered an engineering casualty after her jump,” Cory said with a sigh. “She’s making her way from the jump point to orbit—but she’s limping and still an hour out. Those guardships are in orbit, however, and they carry four fighters each.”

“Michael has got twelve Corsairs and eight Stukas in that strike,” Ardan pointed out. “Not good odds at 5-2.”

“Better than nothing,” Edward growled. “Get them moving, Marshal Calderon,” and he stood up straight and took a deep breath. “As Ambassador Plenipotentiary for Protector Thomas Calderon, and acting as the Protector’s Heir, I, Edward Calderon, do hereby instruct you, Marshal Calderon, that the retaliatory use of nuclear weapons has now been authorized.”

Ardan’s head snapped around; his jaw dropped and he began to protest.

NOT NOW!” Edward barked. “Michael Hasek-Davion wants to unleash the nuclear genie on Taurian soil? In order to intimidate us? He will kill civilians—and his own captured personnel—just in an attempt to intimidate and cow ME? Not today, Colonel Sortek—not today nor ever will any Calderon submit to nuclear blackmail.”

The command center was silent. “Cory,” Edward said in a softer voice. “You have a squadron of Stingrays on alert, do you not?”

“I do—armed with F61s,” the old Marshal answered.

“Do we have a fix on Michael’s headquarters?”

One of the staff officers nodded. “It’s on the move—but we have it.”

“Marshal Calderon—show Michael Hasek-Davion the errors of his judgment,” Edward ordered in a dead flat voice. “I want maximum yields on the devices, mind you.”

Cory smiled and he nodded, then began to bark orders.

“Just his command headquarters?” asked Ardan quietly, in a voice that was somewhat relieved. “Not the entire combat formations of the Sixth?”

“They haven’t ordered the detonation of a nuclear weapon on Taurian soil, Ardan—Michael has. And besides,” Edward smiled grimly, “the forward elements of the Sixth are too close to risk using nukes unless I want to accept heavy losses from collateral damage.”

“With Alamos? That’s the only fighter delivered ordnance,” Ardan asked in a skeptical voice. “Even six might not take out his HQ if he is dispersed.

Alamos are the only fighter-deployable nuclear-tipped missile in service, Ardan,” Edward corrected. “The F61 is a gravity bomb—and is capable of adjusting the yield from a minimum of 10 kilotons to a maximum of approximately 200 kilotons.”

TWO HUNDRED KILOTONS!” Ardan snapped. “That’s the yield of four Santa Annas!” He paused and then he shook his head. “Your crews are going on a suicide run, Edward.”

Edward snorted. “Bombers have delivered nukes like this for centuries, Ardan—ever hear of the loft bombing technique? The aircraft approaches the target very fast at low level—and then it climbs steeply on maximum thrust. At a certain point, the pilot releases the bomb, which continues up and forward on an arc as the aircraft rolls over and retreats,” Edward smiled. “It’s very effective at delivering ordnance when you don’t want to be in the neighborhood at detonation. Our pilots practice that—for just such an occasion as this.”

And then the smile faded. “Damn Michael for making me do this,” he whispered.

“You don’t have to, Edward,” Ardan said just as quietly. “We have the firepower to take the Sixth conventionally.”

“No, Ardan—I have to do this. I cannot—literally can not—let this go unanswered. If I did, the public would demand my head . . . and Father would give it to them.” Edward paused. “And the Old Man would be right in doing so. We’ve warned everyone since the fall of the Star League—use a weapon of mass destruction on our soil and we WILL retaliate in kind and with an order of magnitude greater destruction. I won’t be the Calderon who showed the galaxy that threat was a bluff, Ardan—I won’t. I can’t.”

Cory walked over the two men and he nodded. “They’re airborne—it’ll be about twelve minutes, my Lord,” he said with a bow of his head.

“And Michael’s strike?”

Cory paused and then he shook his head. “They’ll be in range of Alamos in seven minutes—our own fighters will take at least eight to catch up; well, except for the ones in the orbit, but as your friend here said, five-to-two is long odds.”

“SIR!” one of the enlisted technicians yelled out. “It's TITAN! She’s diving into the atmosphere alongside her fighters!”

WHAT?” shouted Cory, Edward, and Ardan at the same time.

“She’s not rated for atmospheric operations!” screamed the Taurian Marshal.

“Space Master Liam Zahra on-speaker, Sir,” the com tech reported—and Cory snatched up the microphone.

“What the hell do you think you are doing, Zahra?” he thundered.

“Going to the sound of the guns, Sir,” a distorted voice broke through the static. “She’ll hold together.”

“She wasn’t designed to fly in an atmosphere, you damn fool!”

Static hissed, “. . . –ck about what she was designed to do, Marshal, she can take it! She’ll hold toget- . . .,” and the speaker crackled with static again.

“Can she? Can that ship get in range of the incoming strike?” Edward asked.

“If she doesn’t break up in the upper atmosphere? If she doesn’t lose control over the target? If she doesn't shear off her radars and fire control systems—and weapons—during reentry?” snapped Cory. “If she holds together—she might. She just might.” Cory paused, and then he nodded. “Damn me if I wouldn’t have done the same,” he said with a sigh. “I think, my Lord Calderon, that if Zahra survives—and if I don’t throttle the imbecile—he might be worthy of the Standard of Taurus.”

“If he stops that nuke, I’ll recommend the Brand myself,” Edward replied, and Cory nodded.

“Just let me sear it into his flesh. Damn all pilots—doesn’t matter that he is flying twenty-five thousand tons of ship, he still thinks and acts like a fighter jock!”

“Stand in line, Cory—stand in line,” Edward said with a grim chuckle that held no humor . . . but his hand was caressing the beads of his rosary and cross.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 09, 2015 2:00 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Taurian Concordat Navy GuardShip Titan
Local Space, New Vallis System
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


Sweat poured off the face of Space Master Liam Zahra as the immense—and aerodynamically unstable—DropShip plunged down into the atmosphere. Titan shuddered and she groaned with a metallic shriek as she was buffeted by the unyielding atmosphere.

“Main radar dish off-line!” a rating reported, then he paused. “The dish is gone—it tore off the hull.”

“Secondary arrays?” asked Zahra.

“Resolution degraded—but still with us, skipper.”

Alarms were beeping and hooting and emitting shrill tones, amid the red and yellow flashing lights of warnings and cautions. “Keep it together, baby,” he muttered, and then there was a ripping sound and a massive thud.

“We’ve lost turrets Six through Eleven! Hull breaches on Decks Three, Four, and Five!”

“Maneuvering, shallow our descent angle . . . raise the nose seven—no nine!—degrees.”

“Increasing positive nine degrees on Z axis, aye, sir,” the helm crew chief answered. “Just tap the forward ventral and stern dorsal RCS, Perez—easy now,” he paused and looked over at the commander. “She’s wallowing like a pig in slop, skipper.”

“She’ll hold, Chief—she’ll hold. Reduce mains to ten percent power,” Zahra ordered. “Let gravity finish bringing us in.”

“Mains at One Zero percent military power,” the chief answered. And the rough shaking began to subside. “She’s settling down—we are dropping like a rock, skipper.”

“Understood, Chief. Tracking, do you have a fix on the FedRat strike?”

“Rough locus, Space Master,” the technician answered. “No hard fix—twenty birds . . . intercept in thirty seconds.”

“Tie the tertiary Targeting and Tracking Arrays into the sensors—get me a lock, damn you!”

“Aye, sir—TTAs are on-line . . . negative weapons lock, sir.”

Guns,” Zahra growled.

“We’ve lost half the forward battery, Skipper, and the nose tracking arrays took heavy damage from reentry—recommend we rotate thirty-five degrees to port to unmask the starboard battery.”

“We ain’t in vacuum, Guns.”

“I know that, Skipper—fifteen seconds to weapons range.”

Zahra clenched his fist and then he nodded. “Maneuvering, rotate thirty-five degrees to port—maintain descent angle and take the mains to standby.”

“Rotating ship Three Five degrees to port, mains on standby,” the helm crew answered . . . and the severe shaking resumed. “Rate of descent is increasing—she’s fighting me!” And in a softer voice, the man continued. “It’s like flying with a herd of bloody damned rhinos on your back!”

“Starboard TTAs are LOCKED!” targeting cried. “Starboard battery is clear!”

“GUNS!” Zahra barked.

The gunnery officer twisted a key and then pressed a single button. “Take this, you sons-of-bitches,” he muttered.


Headhunter Lead, 80th Syrtis Aerospace Wing
Inbound to target, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“Headhunter Able,” Major Fred Larson called out as he armed the two Alamo missiles beneath the wings of his Stuka, “go hot on the special ordnance. Headhunter Baker and Charlie, keep those Taurians off our ass.”

“Baker Two to Headhunter Lead,” the radio crackled, “I’ve got incoming descending from orbit . . . got a lot of clutter here, but it looks like eight medium-weights and a [crap]-load of debri- . . . HOLY [crap]! Incoming DropShip!”

Larson looked up from his sensors and he sucked in a deep breath as he saw the massive fireball that surrounded the DropShip plunging down through the atmosphere—and then it swung around and he recognized it. Oh [censored], he thought.

“ALL HEADHUNTERS! EVASIVE MANEUVERS!” he yelled as he jerked his own stick to the left and rolled. But at that moment, sixteen Class 2 autocannons, four LRM-15 launchers, four PPCs, four Large Lasers, six Class 5 autocannons, four Class 10 autocannons, six Medium Lasers, two Class 20 autocannons, four SRM-6 launchers, ten Small Lasers, and sixteen Machine-Guns began to spit fire as the massive DropShip plunged into range.

The staggered formation of the Headhunters broke apart in chaos as a third of the fighters either exploded or spun out of control—and then the Fusilier pilots flew past Titan and entered the firing arc of her port battery and fresh weapon batteries began to fire missiles and shells and beams.


Taurian Concordat Navy GuardShip Titan
Local Space, New Vallis System
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“FULL POWER ON THE MAINS!” Zahra barked. “Alter course to pursuit vector—I want those survivors to have the fear of God Almighty put into them!”

“Going to military power on the main drives,” maneuvering reported—and Zahra slammed back into his seat as the powerful transit drives accelerated at six-Gs. “Pursuit vector . . . stabilized,” the Chief reported with a shake of his head. “She’s holding steady at ten thousand, skipper,” then there was a groan and THUD as another piece of hull plating and armor tore loose and slammed against the hull before falling towards the ground. “But she can’t take much more of this.”

“She can. She will, Chief,” Zahra answered. “Guns?”

“We are overtaking the Feddies, skipper . . . forward battery will enter range in . . . fifteen seconds.”


Headhunter Lead, 80th Syrtis Aerospace Wing
Inbound to target, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“She’s chasing us—she’s gaining on us,” a panicked voice called out over the radio.

Larson gritted his teeth . . . with full external loads, the Stukas flew much like a brick; the assault-weight fighters were slow and relatively unable to maneuver—and that Taurian bastard back there was ignoring the escorting Corsairs and concentrating on the fighters carrying the nuclear ordnance.

“Sixty seconds to target, Able Three—sixty seconds.”

“We ain’t gonna last thirty seconds, Lead!” the radio crackled with static, and then the other pilot sighed. “Who the hell put so many damn AC-2s on a frigging DropShip?” The sole remaining Stuka—other than Larson’s own bird—began to shiver and smoke as a hail of light slugs slammed home, followed by flight after flight of LRMs. “EJECTING, EJECTING, EJECTING!” the pilot cried as the hundred ton fighter’s engine suddenly died and it rolled over and began to spin towards the ground.

“[crap]!” cried Larson as he wildly maneuvered his bird. “Baker and Charlie—where the hell is my cover?”

“Baker Two, Lead—the Taurian fighters have arrived . . . we are keeping them off your ass . . . SIR.”

Larson looked at his scope and he shook his head. He would never survive to launch range—not with this hulking monster on his tail—and two Alamos would do jack and [crap] to the dispersed formations unless he deliberately aimed for the hastily erected buildings that sported the universal sign of non-combatants on their roofs . . . a big red cross in a white circle.

He cursed under his breath, and pulled back on the stick while pressing the throttle to the stops. “You want to play chicken, you Taurian SOB?” he growled as he locked the Alamos onto the oncoming DropShip. “Well let’s play.”

As the shrill tone of a lock sounded in his ear-piece, Fred Larson pulled the trigger; first one and then the second missile streaked away from the rails—just moments before his fighter ran head-long into a storm of shells, missiles, and beams.


Taurian Concordat Navy GuardShip Titan
Local Space, New Vallis System
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


The damaged and overstressed sensors of Titan never saw the two small missiles that sped forward—not until it was too late to respond. Liam Zahra heard the cry of, “INCOMING NUKES!”, but before he could even get the first syllable of his order to abandon ship out of his mouth the Alamos slammed home against the nose . . . and detonated.


Last edited by master arminas on Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 1:32 pm 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
Today is a good day to die...

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:11 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Hammer Flight, Taurian Aerospace Command, New Vallis Detachment
Inbound to Point Sunshine, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“Approaching Sunshine, Hammers,” Cornet Shelly Lee said crisply; “Eagle Lead are we go/no-go to deploy?”

The lead pilot of the four escorting Stingrays of Eagle Flight clicked his transmitter twice. “Hammer Lead, the sky is clear of all bogies—you are GO for mission. Eagle Flight is breaking off and returning to base—good hunting, Hammers.”

Shelly inhaled deeply and she made certain her oxygen mask was tight against her face. She looked left and right, and then at the rear display . . . the three remaining Stingrays of her wing were tucked in tight as they flew low and fast over the parched wastes below.

“Arm the weapons,” she ordered as she toggled two switches and lifted a safety cover to slide a third home. On her HUD, the icons of the two F61 bombs changed from red to green—all systems go. “Confirm tritium injection for maximum yield,” she continued, double-checking her own gauges . . . all were good.

“Hammer Two, confirm.”

“Hammer Three, confirm.”

“Hammer Four, good to go—it’s Hammer Time, boss.”

“Central, Hammer Flight is go for loft toss . . . request final authorization,” she broadcast.

“Hammer Flight, Central—you are GO. Repeat GO for delivery.”

“Roger that, Central—all Hammers, ten seconds to Initial Point,” Shelly broadcast. “Stand by for maximum overthrust climb.”

As the counter in her HUD raced down to zero, she slammed the throttle to the firewall and pulled back on the stick, making certain to keep her bird steady—the slightest rocking of the wings could send these firecrackers kilometers off target . . . and she wasn’t about to waste a pair of 200-kt warheads on empty desert.

The Stingrays accelerated as they climbed steeper and steeper, clawing towards the vertical—and all of the pilots felt the crushing pressure as the G’s piled on their bodies. But still they climbed . . . until the HUDs flashed green and Shelly squeezed the pickle once, and then a second time as she yanked the stick back and hard to her right.

The Stingray rolled over onto its back and continued rolling until it had righted itself, rocketing away along its original course as it dove, adding still more speed to the stressed airframe as it put kilometers of distance between Shelly and her target with each passing moment. The two F61 bombs, however, they flew up and away on a ballistic course; they were now in the capable hands of Sir Isaac Newton . . . well, him and the local jetstream.

Eight nuclear weapons flew up on the curve of a parabola—until gravity remembered that it was charge here; the bombs reached the apex and then they began their long descent towards the target far, far below them. Down they plunged towards the silent desert, separating slightly to box in the target between the eight detonation points. At 610 meters above the desert floor, a pressure detonator in each of the F61s clicked on . . . and eight massive fireballs blossomed into momentary existence, heralding the release of almost unimaginable amounts of energy.

Energy that slammed into the Command Headquarters of the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers from all sides before hurricane force winds ablaze with fire formed into eight mushroom-shaped columns of ash and soot and dust visible for scores of kilometers.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 10, 2015 2:28 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Command Lance, 1st Hyades Light Infantry, TDF
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


Smoke rose from the shattered hulls of scores—hundreds—of armored fighting vehicles strewn across the rocky and broken ground. Brigadier Tanis Verbet shook her head, sending droplets of sweat flying across the cockpit of her Griffin. The Fusiliers might be idiots to follow that moron Michael into the grave, she thought, but none here today could deny their courage. Fountains of dirt showered into the air as their artillery landed yet another barrage—piled atop the craters left by the supporting aerospace fighters.

She hadn’t thought—not really, not in her heart—that the Fusiliers would press the assault, not after Edward had destroyed their headquarters in nuclear fire. But they had. The best part of four regiments of armor had thrown themselves forward . . . and if they had gutted themselves in the process, they had managed to shatter the armor and infantry defenders of the New Vallis garrison—and no few of her BattleMechs as well. She had started the day with forty-six BattleMechs under her command . . . all lights and mediums that she had thrown into the fire again and again to support the tanks and entrenched infantry. Of those, just twenty-three remained; all were short on ammunition and many had little-to-no armor remaining.

But the relentless waves of former Davion tanks—Manticores and von Luckners, Shreks and Demolishers, Vedettes and Bulldogs and Scorpions—had done their job. The minefields had been cleared, the defenders were exhausted . . . and now the full force of the Fusilier’s ‘Mechs were approaching. Untouched heavy- and assault-weight BattleMechs.

“Nomad Alpha Six Actual,” she broadcast over the radio. “They’ve started the real assault—we can’t hold for long.”

There was a crackle of static, and then a voice answered her. “Roger that, Nomad Alpha Six Actual; you are authorized to bug-out when your position becomes untenable. Be aware, the hammer is about to drop.”

Tanis chuckled grimly and she didn’t answer the Marshal—she just double-clicked the transmitter to let him know that she had received the message. Untenable. Twenty-three heavily damaged ‘Mechs, low on munitions and armor, less than forty tanks (out of the three hundred with which she had begun this fight), and a few handfuls of shell-shocked infantry. There were no more minefields between her and the Fusiliers, her air support was all but fought out, and her artillery support had exhausted their stocks of shells nearly a quarter of an hour ago. It was already untenable.

“Nomad Alpha and support elements,” she croaked through a painfully dry throat. “Pull back—fighting withdrawal. Let’s suck them in a little bit more,” she paused. “Lord Edward and Marshal Cory are closing the jaws of the trap on these bastards—payback is incoming, people.”

Mutters of exhausted voices answered her as the tracks began to reverse down the slope of the ridge and infantry piled into the few remaining transports, her ‘Mechs covering their retreat . . . and in the distance, the Fusilier ‘Mechs began to pick up their pace.

Tanis smiled. They think we are running—damn fools, she thought. Brave fools, but fools nonetheless. And then she snorted. It won’t matter how foolish they are if they catch you, Tanis, she thought as the first ignitions of long-range missiles blossomed among their point-guard. Time to go, and she stood on her jump jet trigger and took cover behind the sheltering ridge.


TDF Field Headquarters
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 23, 3025


“I thought she would have taken less casualties,” Edward said quietly as he stared at the map; the map where Taurian staff moved markers representing Colonel Jameson’s force of Wylie’s Coyotes and two Taurian ‘Mech battalions down from the Glimmerstream . . . they almost in range to fall on the northern flank of the advancing Fusiliers. From the south, Colonel Erwin Tyrell and his volunteers of the combined noble’s regiments of New Vallis advanced as well. And in the center, moving towards the retreating Taurians under the command of Tanis, the Calderon Red Hand and the Foxhounds were moving as well—the anvil on which the Sixth Fusiliers would break and die this day.

“Young Edward,” Cory answered just as quietly, “just because a man fights for a cause you consider wrong, it does not necessarily follow that he will fight ineptly. Those boys and girls out there are skilled and experienced—and they have no lack of courage. They know they are going to die—and they want to drag as many Taurians down to Hell with them as they can before they fall.” Cory sighed. “She’s held at bay more than four hundred tanks and three thousand infantry for four hours—with just forty-six ‘Mechs, three hundred tanks, and two thousand infantry of her own. Outnumbered in artillery—and outweighed, since most of the guns supporting Tanis are Thumpers, whereas all thirty-six of the ones that the Fusiliers have are Long Toms—and ground-strike ASF and conventional fighters . . . no, Edward,” Cory sighed again. “She did damn good to pull as much out as she has—and she shattered the conventional elements of the Fusiliers in the process.”

Edward didn’t answer, he just nodded, and Cory laid his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “It’s never easy to watch and wait from the sidelines, Eddie boy. You have to put your trust in the men and women out there now—Colonels Jameson, Tyrell, and . . .,” Cory winced as he shook his head at the irony, “Sortek will end this invasion today. We’ll be picking the pieces, though, for months to come.”

“Do they have enough?” Edward asked. “If they are bound and determined to fight us to the last breath—do we have enough?”

Cory snorted. “The enemy has a standard FedRat ‘Mech regiment over there—around one hundred and thirty-two ‘Mechs if they were at 100% of their TO&E composition, boy! But they aren't at full strength--not anymore. We have damn close to three hundred and fifty fresh ‘Mechs of our own about to hit them. Plus the fighter reserve, and the artillery that we held back until theirs exhausts their stockpiles of munitions—and they must be scrapping the bottom of the barrel. No,” Cory shook his head. “We have enough, Lord Calderon—enough, at least, that I am not about to throw you and your company of bodyguards into the fray,” he finished with a chuckle.

Now Edward sighed. “It was worth a shot,” he said in a quiet voice. “Should I give them one last chance to lay down their arms?”

“These are the hard-core fanatics that followed Michael of their own free will, Eddie. You’ve given the FedRat assholes more chances than I would have—and a good number abandoned the Sixth to accept your offer. All another warning would do is give them a chance to try and escape before we spring this trap shut on them,” Cory answered and then he shook his head. “Fleet Marshal Vickers is in orbit now,” he mused. “We could pull everyone back and let her bombard the crap out of them—we could win this without losing another Taurian life.”

Edward shook his head sadly. “We’re going to need that salvage to recover our losses, Marshal Calderon. Ortillery, if the lectures at the Ècole Militaire I sat through were correct, doesn’t leave much usable material behind. But I wish that we could—too many of our own are going to die out there today. Too many already have,” he finished in a quieter voice.

“Your instructors were right, and we do need the salvage,” Cory replied. “Just wanted to see if you would admit that to yourself, Eddie—or if you are still viewing the world through those rose-tinted glasses. People die, son. We do our best to cut the losses to the minimum—but we don’t always succeed. We [censored] up; we make mistakes—and people die. Our people.” Cory paused. “Even if we get everything right—because war is hell, my boy. As a commander on the field, you can change a good many things—but you can’t change that one simple, sad axiom: no matter how you try to prevent it, people will die. Others lose limbs. Some lose their souls. And you can’t stop that—no matter how hard you try. We do our best to give our boys and girls every last chance . . . but in the end, it is their bravery, their courage, their willingness to risk life and limb in defense of the Concordat; in the end, they are the willing sacrifice that we have to place on the altar. And pray that God sends us a ram before the knife falls.”

There was no answer—no verbal answer, anyway—but Edward nodded.

“Sirs,” one of the staff officers interrupted. “Colonel Tyrell reports his command is in position—so does Colonel Jameson. Colonel Sortek and Brigadier Montoya are ready to commence their assault upon your final authorization—artillery and close-air-support are standing by.”

Edward stood straight and he nodded again. And if there was moisture pooling across his eyes, neither Cory nor anyone else made any comment. “Marshal Calderon, will you pass the final orders?”

Cory nodded as well and he laid his hand once again on Edward's shoulder. “Send to all commands—finish it.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:03 am 
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Chapter Three

ComStar Executive Medical Facility
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 24, 3025


Julian Tiepolo woke with a sudden gasp—he attempted to sit up, but a sudden weakness caused him to collapse back upon the bed. He tried to speak, but his throat was extremely dry and only a hacking cough emerged.

“The sleeper wakes,” a quiet voice said as the lights slowly increased the room’s illumination. “Here—sip this,” and the face of a dark-haired, rough-hewn physician came into Julian’s vision holding a cup with a straw sticking out of the lid.

Julian tried to sip, but his throat was too dry, too constricted, and the man sighed. He raised the cup at an angle and slowly water trickled down the straw and Julian gratefully swallowed.

“Enough?” the man asked as he took away the cup—and Julian nodded.

“Do not try to speak yet,” the doctor ordered as he checked his patients vital signs and returned the cup to a tray. “I called for those in charge of this mad-house when you began to emerge from your coma.”

“C-c-oma?” Julian asked in a weak voice, and he began to cough.

“It was necessary to allow your heart and brain to recover—you suffered a near-fatal combination of cardiac arrest and a mid-grade stroke.” The doctor snorted in amusement. “Perhaps it should have been fatal; but the equipment you people have here is astonishing.”

The Primus blinked. And then he realized he didn’t recognize this physician—and he knew personally all of ComStar’s senior medical personnel on Terra. He began to open his mouth, but the door swung open and a smiling man with hair the color of sand entered the room. He was tall, lean, and he wore the pure white robes only allowed to the holder of the title Primus. The doctor bowed and exited the room quickly, leaving the Primus and the newcomer alone.

Ves-Ves-Vesar?” Julian stammered.

“Ah, you do remember after all,” Vesar Kristofur said with a bow. “How are you feeling?” he asked with a slightly sardonic smile on his face. “No chest pains? No numbness in the hands?”

“Where is Nicolas?” Julian whispered.

“Dead—my successor as Precentor ROM is dead, Julian,” Vesar said bluntly and Julian looked up in alarm. “So is Myndo Waterly—the two idiots nearly destroyed Hilton Head in the war they fought against each other; the rest of the First Circuit were simply . . . collateral damage.”

Julian blinked. “How long was . . .,”

“Were you sleeping? The doctors have kept you in a medically induced coma for the past month. To ensure your eventual recovery.”

“A MONTH?” Julian hissed in alarm.

“Yes—well, twenty-seven days to be exact since your heart attack and stroke.”

“Wh-who’s in charge?”

“Well, since you asked,” Vesar chuckled as he pointed a thumb at his own chest and the robes he wore.

“I exiled you, Vesar.”

“Yes. Yes you did, Julian,” he said as he shook his head. “But given the recent . . . events in the Concordat, certain members of the First Circuit . . . suggested that I return. I was already en route when you suffered your attack and ComStar nearly suffered a schism which we could ill afford.”

Julian blanched. “You do not have the support,” he whispered.

“I did not—not when you controlled the First Circuit so tightly, old friend,” Vesar smiled again. “But Nicholas and Myndo managed to eliminate them with quite the bang—and you weren’t here. No one was here to stop me from putting an end to the violence. For reminding our people of what ComStar has as its mission—to unite Mankind once more under our rule. Rule from Terra, Julian.”

“I’ll fight you—you know that.”

“I do. But it is a small matter, Julian. You have been complacent and failed—I shall not. This matter with the Taurians has gotten too far out of hand when it should have been handled far more directly far sooner,” and he grinned.

“You threaten all that ComStar stands for,” Julian pleaded.

“Old man, you are the threat. You have allowed these periphery barbarians under Thomas Calderon to seize control of the HPGs; you are an embarrassment. An asteroid? Playing puppet-master with Liao and Hasek? Sending the Fleet—what little there is—to Taurus? An outline of a plan to kidnap Edward Calderon and replace him with a dupe . . . or brainwash him into your puppet? You would take us from the shadows when we are not ready, Julian. I will not allow it to happen—the Taurians will pay; all who oppose ComStar WILL pay.”

“Enlighten me,” Julian commanded in a bitter voice.

“Have you forgotten your history? The Core means nothing without scientists and engineers to decipher it—the ship means nothing without a trained crew. Holy Shroud III will take care of those individuals . . . even if it requires years.”

Julian winced. “We haven’t enough agents in place,” he protested.

“Soon enough we shall. I have issued orders already—and ROM is moving. Soon enough the assets will be in place and we will strike at the heart of the matter. Burn the books, burn the teachers; and the Bulls will gain nothing but misery from their possession of this Core. As for Thomas,” Vesar shrugged. “He will pay as well. The ruler must bear the price of his people’s sins . . . Thomas and his heirs will die.”

“We have never acted so boldly, Vesar—you are risking it all.”

“I am saving humanity, Julian,” the new Primus of ComStar said simply. “If Thomas needs to die for that to happen, so be it.”

“He’s not the threat—this alliance between Hanse Davion and Katrina Steiner should be your concern.”

Vesar snorted. “An Alliance that requires just one additional thing, Julian. One little act where two people—a man and woman—exchange their vows. Stop that simple ceremony and the alliance will never be born.”

“You are mad,” Julian whispered from the bed. “We have never struck directly at the leaders of the Great Houses—they will destroy you. And ComStar.”

“Only if they know who is responsible; it matters not the least that you object . . . the orders to terminate Melissa Steiner are already dispatched. With her death, this Federated Commonwealth nonsense will be stillborn—and we can devote our attention to the true threat.”

Vesar stood as the doctor reentered the room, and he sighed. “I fear that it is past time for your reign to end, Julian. The good surgeon here—one of my people, mind you—has the final dose of your medications. I’d wish you a peaceful rest in Blake’s arms . . . but I don’t believe in that nonsense anymore than you do. Goodbye.” Vesar turned and he exited the room as the physician approached with a syringe in his hand.

Julian began to struggle—but he was weak and exhausted; he began to whimper as the doctor inserted the needle into the intravenous drip connected to his veins, and he began to cry as the cold liquid entered his blood-stream. All around him faded to black and his limbs felt as heavy as lead; within minutes Julian Tiepolo no longer saw or whimpered any longer as his eyes closed for the last time.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:17 am 
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First Circuit of ComStar
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
November 25, 3025


Vesar Kristofur waited until the last of the sixteen members of First Circuit had entered the chamber and then he nodded at the guards. In response, they bowed low and sealed the doors—completing the enclosure of the Faraday cage built into the walls, isolating the First Circuit from all eavesdropping.

All sixteen were new to their posts; their predecessors having died during the October Coup . . . or the month that had passed since. Yet, while new to their posts they may have been, some still had questions for their so-recently ascended Primus. Questions . . . and concerns about the orders which he had issued.

Vesar smiled and he nodded. So be it, he thought. I do not want sycophants advising me or serving me—that path leads to leaders like Julian Tiepolo and Myndo Waterly. And he nodded to himself. Give me men and women strong enough to question me—to make me consider my actions. A Council worthy of serving me—of serving Terra.

“Precentors, the Chamber is sealed,” he began. “Ask of me your questions—and I shall answer them plainly.”

“This plan, this order, that you have sent out,” snarled Vincent Palmer, Precentor Oriente, “Holy Shroud II failed to accomplish its goals—yet you seek to start this Operation a third time?”

“Our goals are not as ambitious—Holy Shroud I and II both sought to destroy the research accomplished by scientists of the Inner Sphere, as well as the scientists themselves, throughout the entirety of the Inner Sphere. Destroying information on two thousand separate worlds is an ambitious goal, one that we are not attempting to duplicate. Holy Shroud III will be concerned solely with the Taurian Concordat,” Vesar said with a grim smile. “I do believe that ROM and our special operations units augmenting them will be able to deal with scientists and researchers and educators on a mere thirty-eight worlds. We need not destroy the Taurian Core, ladies and gentlemen; if we kill those who can unlock its secrets than it poses to us no threat.”

“The Taurians have already shown that they are not willing to be pushed—look at the blow they dealt to McCarron’s Armored Cavalry!” interjected Tabitha Shaw, Precentor Sian.

“Ah, Tabitha,” Vesar laughed. “But here there is no invasion of the Concordat. No hated foe which to focus the Taurian people against . . . it is a war of knives in the shadows. A type of war that we excel at . . . and one that the Taurians will not realize is coming until it is far too late. Their domestic intelligence services are good, I will grant—but they are not in the same league as ROM. Do you disagree?”

“No, Primus,” Precentor Sian answered. “I would caution, however, that Thomas Calderon is not one to underestimate; others—in this very chamber—have already done so to their great regret.”

“You need fear nothing upon that score, Tabitha,” Vesar nodded his agreement. “He may be a barbarian from the Periphery—but he is a crafty and cunning barbarian. Rest assured that soon enough, Thomas will be of no concern to us; nor his family.” The Primus smiled. “In fact, with the demise of the Calderons, I would expect that internal turmoil will occupy the Concordat for years to come.”

“There are a great many Calderons, Primus,” warned Neil Kikwete, Precentor Altair. “Destroying them all is rather . . . ambitious.”

“Forgive me, Precentor Altair,” Vesar laughed. “I should have said the ruling line of the Calderons—once Thomas, his brother and sister—and all of their children—have been eliminated, strife between the remaining Calderons will need no prodding from us to commence. We will, of course, be targeting high-ranking Calderons in their government and military, as well as the ruling line . . . leaving only those distant relations who will squabble and,” Vesar smiled, “with no small amount of gentle prodding, instigate a Civil War in the Hyades.”

“True,” added Precentor New Avalon, Janice Kirk, “but as you have said, Primus; the Taurian domestic intelligence is rather good. Their security for the Protector—and his family—is substantial.”

“ROM has already considered that . . . haven’t you, Charles?” Vesar answered with a nod at the very young man whom he had appointed to run ComStar’s intelligence agency.

Charles Seneca nodded and he smiled. “We have indeed. It helps that the Calderons do not isolate themselves or their families behind fortifications; they are seen among the denizens of their capital quite frequently . . . which gives my people a shot at accomplishing this task.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 12, 2015 12:18 am 
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Dennis Rainer (Precentor Tharkad) snorted. “That’s all well and good—but I can tell you for a fact that Melissa Arthur Steiner is a far more difficult target.”

Vesar laughed. “She is indeed—but she has a wild heart, Dennis. I do believe that I read in the dossier that she loves to leave behind the Triad and wander in the wilds surrounding Tharkad City . . . with a very small detail trailing her.” He shivered theatrically. “Brings to mind several faerie tales of little princesses getting lost in the woods, all alone. But this faerie tale will not end well for little Melissa; no, not this time.”

“It won’t be as easy as that, Primus,” Dennis said as he shook his head.

“Nothing ever is, Precentor Tharkad,” Vesar answered with a bow. “Any further questions? Inquiries? Requests?”

For a moment there was silence, and then Jan Chow, Precentor Dieron looked up from his podium. “I would know more of these . . . foreign mercenaries which you brought with you to Terra. They are not ComStar, but now? With your assumption of power? Now, they are here in great numbers, even more arriving with every DropShip—and their equipment!” Chow barked in trepidation. “These are no mere mercenaries, there are not enough mercenaries available for you to have hired them on such short notice!”

Vesar laughed. “I was exiled to the Periphery after the Marik Civil War, Precentor Dieron. Not to serve as an honored Precentor on Canopus or Taurus or Alphard—no,” he continued in a sour, bitter voice. “Julian Tiepolo sent me away to die in ignominy. But he never considered what I might discover out there in the long-lost stars of what was once the Rim Worlds Republic.” Vesar paused and then he nodded.

“Almost eight years ago, I discovered—rediscovered,” he corrected himself with a smile, “a group of eight worlds reduced to barbarism,” and his smile vanished. “Eight years. It is hard to believe that such time has passed, for I have been busy in the Periphery.” He paused again and nodded, then he continued. “Kerensky and his campaign was thorough in the Rim Worlds—and the Lyrans finished that realm after the Exodus. But the man wasn’t a god and the speed with which he had to finish the campaign and turn his attention to Stefan Amaris on Terra; well,” he grinned again. “Let us say that he missed some choice assets that Amaris had gone to a great deal of trouble to conceal.”

“Rim-worlders?” Precentor Kirk asked in an incredulous voice.

Vesar nodded his head. “Incredible, is it not? A small cluster of worlds that lost the ability to travel between the stars—whose populations reverted to barbarism and a mythology concerning Stefan the ‘Great’ and his promise to one day return to them. The factories there were long-ruined, but for many, many years after they lost contact with the Inner Sphere and Stefan Amaris, they continued to produce and store military equipment. These were the same factories that provided the Territorial States with the hidden armies they used to good effect in the Uprising.”

A shocked gasp emerged from the ranks of the Precentors and Vesar’s grin grew larger. “They may be barbarians and unused to our amenities—quite mocking of the truth of Blake’s Word as well—but they retained their warrior culture. And they have agreed to serve me. Only me,” he said sternly as the smile vanished and the temperature in the First Circuit seemed to drop several degrees.

“How large a force are we speaking of?” asked Precentor Shaw.

“They have three thousand ‘Mechs in storage—ten times that number of tanks. And in a few years time, they will have enough trained soldiers to man all of that equipment.”

“Rim Worlds equipment from before the Coup—our own ComGuard and Militia uses advanced Star League combat vehicles and ‘Mechs. Will not this dilute our force strength?” Tabitha Shaw continued.

Vesar laughed a second time. “Quantity has a quality all its own, Tabitha. And twenty-seven plus regiments of ‘Mechs—ten times that of armor—is a force that could make even the Great Houses stand up and take notice.”

The Precentors began to exchange glances with each other, nervous and worried. “Can you trust these neo-barbarians from the Rim, Primus?” Palmer asked.

And now the laughter of Vesar Kristofur deepened and he slapped his own knee in amusement. “I do not trust you, Precentor Oriente—I trust no one. Not anymore,” he said after he finished his laughter. “The ComGuard will be expanding as well and when we recover all of their equipment, then we will dispose of the Periphery trash piloting those ‘Mechs. And replace them with good, loyal members of ComStar.” His grin became infectious. “Firm believers in the Word of Blake and the Supremacy of Terra one and all.” He gestured at the First Circuit. “Unless, that is, one of you have a better plan to deal with all of the many threats arrayed against this organization at this time?”

For several moments there was only silence as one by one, the Precentors exchanged glances and then slowly nodded. Finally, Precentor Atreus spoke. “I move that the First Circuit approve the plans suggested by the Primus—by acclamation. I see no need to bring it to an official vote; is there a second?”

“Aye,” another Precentor whispered.

“All in favor?” Vesar said in an amiable voice—and he smiled wider as each and every member of the First Circuit spoke at the same time. “Good. Then let us begin.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 16, 2015 12:34 am 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Happy birthday to you; happy birthday to you; happy birthday, dear Thomas (Uncle, Dad); happy birthday to you!”

Thomas Calderon tried his best to look surprised at the song as the lights snapped on in the third-floor parlor with its balcony overlooking the lake. And through the double doors which led to the hall (and the elevators beyond), the staff were wheeling in a cart and with it, the frosted cake bearing forty-one lit candles.

“Happy birthday, Tom,” his brother Raoul laughed amid the chaos created by Thomas’s three youngest children (well, until the arrival of his next child, for Katherine was visibly expecting), Raoul’s twins, and their sister Nicole’s three! Of his immediate family, only Edward was absent today—and Thomas smiled at the thought of his eldest son.

He was proud of the boy—proud of the way he had conducted himself on New Vallis, and prouder still that he was proving himself a worthy heir to the seat of Samantha Calderon herself. The final battle on New Vallis had proven every bit as bloody as his son had feared . . . and it would be months before the forces there managed to recover their full strength, if not a full year or more; Thomas frowned at that. But the salvage recovered—both Taurian and Davion—was sufficient to not only restore those battalions to their pre-fight strength, but might just prove enough to raise another regular force battalion of the TDF.

Thomas snorted as he stepped up to the cake and nodded his head at his kin (and security), raising one hand to get (somewhat) silence.

“Thank you all for this wonderful surprise,” he began—although it hadn’t been a surprise, not really anyway. “I have presents of my own today for the Concordat—from messages that I received just a short time ago. First, there has been an official inquiry by Colonel Jaime Wolf of Wolf’s Dragoons as to whether or not the Taurian Concordat would be interested in hiring his Regiments for a five-year contract to garrison our worlds and act as a training Opposition Force against which the TDF can benefit from the Dragoon's hard-won experience.”

“Son of a bitch,” Brenda Calderon—newly returned to Taurus from her fight over MacLeod’s Land—whispered in a shocked voice. Shock that was mirrored on the faces of many of the other adults. Shock that quickly faded into glee as Thomas nodded his head, telling them, yes, this is the truth.

With the Wolves on the border watching the Federated Suns and Capellan Confederation, the fears and warmongering of many of his most Davion-phobic supporters would be—somewhat—relieved. Contracting Wolf would increase the overall strength of the TDF by at least a third . . . and no one in the Inner Sphere or the near Periphery discounted the sheer élan and experience of Jaime Wolf and his command. The shot-in-the-arm for morale alone would be worth the expense; the possibility of having Wolf’s troopers teaching their hard-won knowledge to Thomas’s men and women was of inestimable value.

“And secondly,” Thomas’ face grew solemn. “I have received a message from ComStar. Julian Tiepolo has suffered a severe stroke following our actions here in the Concordat,” and a cheer went up from the guests as Thomas smiled, “and he is not expected to live out the month. Primus . . . Kristofur,” he paused to make certain that he got the name correct, “has inquired as to how we want Julian’s head delivered—and when we can begin talks to work out our current . . . differences.”

“Tell them they can stuff their talks up their freakin- . . .,” muttered Raoul, and Thomas laughed. And then he sighed.

“I wish we could, but Vandenberg Mechanized Industries and Taurus Territorial Industries, among others, are already complaining—vehemently!—about the loss of foreign revenue since we have been cut off from ComStar’s banking. And I did tell ComStar that we would talk about a resolution if they sent me Tiepolo’s head,” he snorted. “Wouldn’t want them to think we Taurians don’t keep to our word.”

“They’re gonna ship his head from Terra to Taurus? ICK!” commented Janice, the five-year old daughter of Thomas.

“They want to send a delegation to Taurus?” asked Henri Jouett—one of the few non-family members present today.

“They’ve offered just that—or a meeting on a neutral planet of our choice. And Primus Kristofur has informed me that due to the crimes committed against the Taurian people by Precentor Taurus, he will not be demanding the return of that individual—although he does expect to see a trial under Taurian law. Should we—somehow—find the good Precentor innocent of the charges levied against him, the Primus did indicate that ComStar will prosecute him for abuse of his power on station here. In fact, they already have tried him in absentia and found him guilty—sentenced him to death, to be precise.”

“Holy [crap],” whispered Henri—and now the shocked silence was deafening.

“If this offer is genuine,” Thomas continued, “we need to consider it,” and then he scowled. “Of course, they are going to want their HPGs back, so it might not come to much.”

“Enough politics, Tom,” Katherine ordered as she stepped forward and handed the Protector a knife. “You’ve got candles to blow out, the ice cream is starting to melt, and the children—even the grown-up children—want a slice of cake.”

“Yes, dear,” Thomas laughed as he took the knife and leaned over the cake.

“MAKE A WISH!” the children yelled and Thomas closed his eyes and smiled. Then he BLEW. And applause erupted as the forty-one candles were extinguished.

“What did you wish for, Uncle Thomas?” Isabella asked.

“No, dummy,” chimed in Amelia, “you can’t tell anyone your wish or you don’t get it to come true!”

“Not true!”

“Is too!”

“CHILDREN!” boomed Thomas, and the twins stopped their argument. “If you are going to argue, you aren’t getting any of my cake!” he threatened with a wide smile, and the noise level immediately dropped.

“And when everyone has their cake and ice cream,” Raoul said as he walked over and put his arm around Thomas’ shoulders. “Then we will retire to the theatre where Tom will get his present.”

“The theatre?”

“Yes. You have NO IDEA how difficult it was to find an original copy of your favorite movie—or what it took for Taurus Light & Magic to restore it.”

“My fav-. . .,” Thomas sputtered, his eye growing wide. “You got me an original copy of The Magnificent Seven? Not that bull-[crap] remake from the 2400s?”

“Language, Thomas! There are children here,” Katherine growled, and Thomas waved one hand, acknowledging the point.

“Remastered and the score performed by the Samantha City Symphony Orchestra—complete with performances by that bald-headed fellow you like so much.” Raoul nodded to Nicole, who smiled and she turned on the intercom and the theme from that ancient film began to play throughout the room.

“Oh my god,” whispered Thomas, and then he smiled. “This is the best birthday, EVER.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 17, 2015 11:19 pm 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
University of Taurus Campus Quad
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Max, don’t get too close,” the whispered voice emerged from the wireless receiver hooked over Maxwell Danforth’s right ear.

“Right, CONTROL,” the SAFE agent answered as he sat down on a bench and unfolded his copy of the Samantha City Tribune—one of eight daily newspapers that the Taurian capital boasted of. And probably the best for hard news reporting, Max thought as he opened the old-fashioned hard-copy to a random page and pretended to read . . . while he was actually watching a group of surprisingly fit ‘students’ moving crates into the Performing Arts Center. A structure that was located less than a hundred meters across the tree-lined boulevard from the heavily guarded Computer Sciences Center.

Max sighed and he turned the page, peering over the edge of the news sheets and he shook his head slightly. While today was a national holiday in the Taurian Concordat—the Protector’s Birthday—the campus wasn’t as deserted as he would have thought. No, like the rest of the population of the city, the Taurians had turned out for a PARTY. And Max smiled. Live bands were set up, and the students—and people of similar age and mindset!—were dancing in the streets, sampling food from a hundred different grills and chests, drinking beer and alcohol and coffee alike . . . all waiting for the sun to go down and the fireworks to begin.

The SAFE agent snorted to himself. It shouldn’t have come as a surprise that the Taurians—of all of the major and minor Houses throughout the Inner Sphere and Periphery—were in love with fireworks of all kinds. The official program listed no fewer than eighty-two different displays in the hours leading up to midnight . . . capped off by the multi-million bull display paid for the Calderon family themselves. Never mind the fireworks purchased by individuals who were already letting off screamers and sparklers and poppers.

Max turned the page again as a woman sat down beside him and he glanced across at her and returned her smile.

“You aren’t having any fun, sweetheart,” she said with a bat of her eyes. “Buy a girl a drink?”

“Oh, but I am having fun, my dear,” Max answered as he folded his newspaper and stood, tipping his hat to the young lady. “Watching you and the rest is quite the experience.”

“New to Samantha City?”

“Not really—but this is the first major holiday I’ve spent here,” the field agent answered. “Are they all so . . . raucous?”

She laughed. “Christmas is quiet . . . usually cold and snowing too. The Protector’s Birthday is one of the big ones, though . . . only the Fall and Exodus Celebrations are bigger and louder. Founding Day,” January 23, Max remembered, “comes close.”

Max nodded. Only the Taurians had a national holiday celebrating the Fall of the Star League; August 12 of each year. Then, on July 8, they had yet another holiday commemorating the Exodus of the Star League Defense Forces into the unknown. He reached into his pocket and handed the young woman a five-bull note. “While I don’t have time to buy you a drink, I’ll let you buy one for yourself,” he said with a smile.

The girl beamed at him and she stood and kissed Max on the cheek. “You get some free time tonight, come back and dance with me!” Then she sashayed away, and Max sighed.

“Focus, Maxwell,” grumbled a different voice—a woman’s voice—in his earbug.

“On it, CONTROL,” he answered as folded the newspaper and looked at the very well-defined rear-end of the young lady walking away. “I do have to stay in character though—are you getting the picture okay?”

“We’re getting the picture,” the woman snarled. “The whole picture.”

“Okay—making my pass. Record their faces; we can hope that we have their IDs loaded in the facial recognition program,” he ordered as he placed the newspaper under his arm, adjusted his hat and tie, and then walked down the street and right next to the van that the ‘students’ were unloading.

One of them looked up at Max as he approached, and the agent suddenly took a tumble, holding his ankle and cursing—the man shook his head and ignored Max as he picked up another box and headed inside.

“That wasn’t smart, Maxwell,” the woman hissed.

“You okay?” another student—this one actually looking like a student!—asked Max as the young man knelt down next to him. “We’ve got an aid station set up right down the street if you need help.”

“Only my pride is bruised, thank you sir,” Max answered. “If you could give me a hand?” he asked as he held out one hand—and the athletic student helped him up as Max looked at his hand-held phone . . . and the blood drained from his cheeks as the device translated the data from the sensor concealed in his right shoe heel.

“Sure you’re okay? You look a little pale,” the good Samaritan asked in a worried tone.

“I’ll be fine, thanks—if you could help me to my car right there?”

“Sure,” the young man answered and he assisted Max to the type of cheap sedan commonly used by junior instructors at the University, and after reassuring the man that he was indeed fine to drive, Max shut the door and started the engine.

“Uploading the sensor runs now, CONTROL,” he announced. “I picked up traces of Plutonium-239; they’ve either got, or have been close to, a fissile package.”

There was silence for a moment and then the earbug crackled. “We confirm, Max. How many?”

“At least a dozen personnel, CONTROL—too many for us to deal with.”

“Alert Taurian security?” the woman asked as Max started the car and began to back out, then put it in drive and rolled slowly down the street—being careful to keep his eyes away from the van and those unloading it.

“We do that, we lose any chance at nabbing the Core ourselves,” he answered after a moment. “The Bulls will move it and triple security across the board.”

“And we lose it if that bomb goes off, too.”

“You know, CONTROL, my grand-father always said that half-a-loaf is better than no loaf at all.”

“No. No. Maxwell Danforth, we are NOT going to invite MI-4 and the others to get in on our play.”

“Option 1, we do nothing and we lose the Core when the big firecracker goes off. Option 2, we call the Taurians and lose the Core because they move it—and the big firecracker might STILL go off. Option 3, we already know they are here—the other agencies. We can’t take these guys alone—I’ll bet you a thousand C-Bills they are Death Commandoes or DEST, probably here on a suicide run. But if we team up, we might still get a copy of the Core and save tens—if not hundreds—of thousands of innocent lives. Depending on how large their firecracker really is.”

The woman groaned. “Central Command on Atreus will go freaking ballistic—we will never get a promotion or a good field assignment again!”

“If you have another idea, I’m open to suggestions,” Max said and then he began to count. Before he reached five, the woman sighed.

“I don’t. And I guess that you know where they are? The Davions and Centrellas and the Steiners and probably even the O’Reilly’s!”

“As a matter of fact, I do know a local café, CONTROL,” Max said with a smile. “Just do me a favor.”

“What?”

“Keep that ass Krogh behind a desk in the Embassy—he’s screwed up this op more than enough already.”

“Done. I left the Ambassador my own handcuffs.”

“The padded ones?” Max asked with a raised eyebrow.

“No, darling, I keep those for you.”

And Maxwell Danforth laughed as he cautiously drove through the celebrating streets of the Taurian capital.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Sep 18, 2015 1:13 am 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
It's always good to stay in character. :)

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:08 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Café la Fleur
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


Not again, Phil thought as a shadow fell across the table he was sitting at in the bustling café and he looked up at the man who was joining him. It had been a pleasant day, warm for the late autumn, but with a nice gentle breeze blowing through the trees that lined the streets. Streets that were filled with celebrating people and music.

“You have to acknowledge that the Taurians do know how to throw a party,” Victor Li mused as he sat down at the table and sipped at his cup of espresso.

“What do you want?” the MI-4 agent asked sourly, setting down his own cup of sweet—too sweet—iced tea.

“Some of those bar-b-que oysters on the half-shell would be nice—say, is that the famous la Fleur stuffed artichoke you have there?”

Phil frowned, and then he sighed and slid the plates across the table; Victor smiled and he lifted a piece of the artichoke stuffed with peppers and crab meat and placed it within his mouth—he smiled as he chewed with his eyes closed.

“Oh, that is good,” he said after swallowing.

“What do you want?” Phil asked again, and then he frowned as he saw the Samantha City Metro ticket that the Capellan had set on the table. “Going somewhere? Not staying around for the fireworks tonight?”

Victor smiled and he shrugged. “I hear the fishing is good along the coast—they are biting tonight.”

Phil’s eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “Your boys are making a play for the Core tonight—we both know that they are. Why are you leaving before the job is done?”

“Not my boys—they don’t work for me,” the Capellan answered as he placed the ticket back in his jacket pocket. “And they don’t play by the normal rules, Phil,” he warned.

The Davion agent nodded slowly. “Didn’t think they looked like normal field agents from the Mask—Death Commandoes?”

Victor smiled, but he said nothing, and Phil nodded again.

“The Chancellors bully-boys themselves; they planning on shooting their way in and extracting the Core?”

“Phil,” Victor chuckled. “I do like you—you are one of the better agents that Quintus has out here in the real world. You know I cannot answer that.”

“I know that you wouldn’t be leaving on the eve of the mission getting underway . . . unless,” Phil suddenly sucked in a deep breath of air and then he cursed.

“The fireworks will be rather . . . spectacular tonight, so I understand,” the Capellan said with a nod. And then his face grew rather serious. “If things go according to plan, I would imagine that you could see them from orbit!”

Phil looked around, but the two men were—relatively—isolated in the bustling open-air patio. He leaned forward and whispered. “Are they out of their [blanking] minds?”

Victor shrugged again. “To those men, the mission comes first—and if the Chancellor cannot have the Core, then they intend to ensure that no one will.”

“The Bulls will go berserk, Victor,” Phil hissed quietly, and then he blanched. “Michael. You got Davion warheads from Michael, didn’t you?”

Victor smiled—but he didn’t answer. He didn’t need to.

“[crap], [crap], [crap],” whispered Phil. “Why tell me?”

“I respect you—you are a worthy opponent, Phil Sheridan. You can do as I am doing—and leave Samantha City before the . . . display erupts. Or, you can try to stop them from lighting the fuse. Either way, I owe you for the time you saved my life on Kittery. Consider that debt paid, whichever choice you make.”

Phil sat back and he exhaled slowly . . . and he nodded. Field intelligence work sometimes made for strange bed-fellows, he thought. And if Victor Li was anything, it was honorable. Or as honorable as the job allowed for.

“You won’t be lending a hand, I presume?”

“Against loyal Capellans operating at—what has to be—the direct authority of the Chancellor? Would you go against an operation that you knew Hanse Davion had started—even if you objected?”

“I’d like to think so,” muttered Phil, “but it would all depend on the circumstances.”

Victor bowed his head, lifting one hand to acknowledge the point.

“What the hell am I supposed to do?” Phil asked in a bitter voice. “I’ve got two other field agents—both MI-4—tasked with observing this cluster-[censored], not getting in the way. There are at least a dozen of those Commandoes—how the hell can I stop them by myself?”

“Well, you can ask for help,” chuckled a woman’s soprano voice, and Phil groaned as Victor smiled.

“Nicky Kirkland,” the Capellan said as he rose to his feet. “It is good to see you again,” he told the MIM agent. “And your companion?”

“Victor Li, Phil Sheridan,” she said with a smile, “may I introduce Hauptmann-Kommandant Gerhadt Manstein.”

Retired Hauptmann-Kommandant, my dear,” the Lyran added. “Now, I am just a Lyran businessman who seeks to return a profit to my home.”

Phil cursed again, and Victor chuckled. “And business is good, ja?” the Capellan asked.

“Business . . . could be better,” Gerhadt answered. “It has been difficult to break into the Taurian markets. At least through conventional practices.”

“This just gets better and better,” muttered Phil. “A Norn and Nicky. This is my backup? To stop your guys?”

“They are not my guys,” Victor repeated. And then his smile got even larger. “And it looks as if we have two more guests arriving.”

“Does everyone on this freaking planet know we are foreign agents?” Phil muttered.

“Only those of us who take the time and effort to observe, Mister Sheridan,” Maxwell Danforth answered as he took off his hat and bowed to the Canopian agent, “Mademoiselle, it is a pleasure,” he said as he kissed the back of her hand.

“Phil, you could learn a thing or two from this gentlemen . . . who is?” Nicky cooed as she batted her eyelids.

“Maxwell Danforth—agent of SAFE,” the Marik spy answered.

SAFE?” four surprised voices sputtered in unison.

“SAFE,” Maxwell said with a grin, “you don’t think we are ALL as incompetent as Walter Krogh, do you?”

No one answered and Max laughed. “And may I introduce to you Osami Koga, of the Draconis Combine Internal Security Force.”

“Who’s next—the Outworlders?”

“They are busy trying to find the Core on the Gamma continent,” Maxwell answered with a grin. “But we—we six—have something that we must discuss. A certain Death Commando operation that will kill many, many innocent Taurians this very night unless we manage to stop it.”

“I am here because you asked, Danforth,” replied the Kurita, “but why should I care about the lives of Taurians, innocent or otherwise?”

“Because the Commandoes will be destroying the Core that your master sent you to recover, Osami,” Max answered simply. “The Core that we are ALL tasked with recovering. I doubt that any of you have orders NOT to cooperate with other agents—I know I do not.”

“That’s because it is so insane that none of our superiors would WRITE such an order!” sputtered Phil, and there were nods of agreement.

“A dozen Death Commandoes and at least one nuclear device, ladies and gentlemen,” Maxwell continued. “Alone, we cannot stop them from reaching the Core and destroying it—along with a good part of the University of Taurus, perhaps even a large chunk of Samantha City. Together? Ah, together,” he said with a smile. “Together, we can stop them AND recover a copy of the Core for our superiors.”

“You say that as if we do not have our own plans for the Core,” replied Nicky.

“You mean those two nubile young women you have snuck into the chief researcher’s bed, Miss Kirkland? Yes, they will DIE tonight when the Death Commandoes barge in . . . and those Commandoes will seize their copy of the Core that they are making. And then the nuke will go off.”

She started. “How the hell did you . . .,” she began.

“We aren’t all Walter Krogh, my dear. My team and I have been watching you since you arrived on Taurus—and I have access to certain . . . assets that can even the odds.”

There was silence for a moment and then Phil sighed again. “We team up and stop the Death Commandoes and get a copy of the Core—what’s going to keep one of us from back-stabbing the rest and running off with it?”

Maxwell laughed. “My dear Phil—at that point the game will be afoot! That is all part of the fun.”

And one by one, each of the field agents slowly nodded—even Victor and Phil.

“Good. We don’t have a lot of time, so if you will join me at my safe house, we have MUCH to discuss and prepare for and a very short time in which to do so,” Maxwell finished as he stood and threw a hundred-bull note on the table.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:18 pm 
Offline
General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Sandra, my dear, you are a genius—genius, I say!” exclaimed Karl Mosley as he finished running the last diagnostic on the Vickers Core where it stood upright in the center of the room . . . right beside an identical (albeit empty) core. “Suggesting that we borrow the empty core from the Navy War Museum saved us weeks—weeks!—of work on bypassing the lock-outs and safe-guards on the prize.”

“But we couldn’t have done it without your work, Doctor Mosley,” Sandra Ingram whispered in his ear as she stroked the Taurian scientist’s back (and ego) with one firm hand. “I just thought that since we had this old, empty core sitting in the museum, you could compare the two and see what modifications the Navy made—and what extra traps they installed.”

Karl chuckled and he turned around to give his assistant a quick peck on the cheek. “Of course, darling,” he drawled with a chuckle. “I am the foremost authority on Taurus on these cores,” and then he frowned. “I still wonder, though, how the Science Museum managed to misplace their core example. We had two—one in the Naval Museum and the second here on Taurus, but the second one is missing. Pity. It was in better shape than this one.” He sighed. “But ah well. We will make bricks without straw—as usual.” He paused and then leered at Sandra. “What say you, me, and Angelina celebrate tonight? My apartment?”

“Whatever you want, Doctor Mosley—whatever you want,” Sandra answered in a husky voice as she nibbled on his ear lobe playfully.

There was a click from the Vickers Core as the diagnostic finished running—and Karl began to grin. “All safe-guards are bypassed—starting decryption protocols . . . now.”

“You are certain that this is the correct decryption key?” Sandra asked, and Karl frowned.

“My dear, I am the expert here. Yes, the key is working and in . . . fifteen minutes . . . the core will be accessible.”

“Good, Karl,” Sandra whispered as she nibbled again. And began to work his way down his body; as her head passed his waist, the scientist's trousers hit the floor—and he flinched as he felt a sharp fingernail poke him in his now bare buttocks. But the pleasure he was receiving from his assistant put the momentary discomfort from his mind. Especially when Angelina entered the room and passionately kissed him, even as Sandra kept working on him. So caught up in the moment was Karl that he never noticed when he could no longer feel his muscles—not until he collapsed onto the floor with a thud.

“Nice technique,” Angelina said as the Core beeped and she began to transfer the unlocked information to the scarred example borrowed from the museum.

“Curare takes ten-to-fifteen minutes to work—had to keep him occupied,” Sandra said as she wiped her mouth on a paper towel. “Got the plastique?”

“In the bag—according to Nicky we’ve got fifteen—maybe twenty—minutes before those Death Commandoes come barging in. Will the down-load be complete? And did you get his signature on the order transferring this Core back to the museum?”

“Yes and yes—and you don’t want to know how,” Sandra said with a grimace as she pulled the explosives from the bag and attached them to the outside of the Vickers Core. “Pig,” she muttered as she kicked the paralyzed researcher in the head. “The bigger question is can we get this thing out of here and away from the blast radius in time?”

“She says she and some ‘friends’ are working on that,” and the two Cores beeped in unison.

“That’s it,” said Sandra as she armed the explosives, setting the timer for five minutes. “Time to leave.”

“The guards are just going to let us walk this out of here?” Angelina asked as she loaded the museum core into its transport case.

Sandra waved a sheaf of papers. “Signed authorization to move the museum core back to storage,” she said with a laugh. “And the serial numbers match. They’ll send two guards with us . . . but if you can’t handle two Taurians at once, I think we need to send you back for a refresher course, Angel.”

The second MIM agent stuck out her tongue, and then lifted the case. “You're right, past time to go,” she said. “What about him?” she asked, pointing at Mosley.

“What about him?” Sandra answered and she kicked him again. “Either the explosion will kill him, or the Death Commandoes will kill him, or Protector Thomas will kill him for giving us access.”

“Yeah . . . but he’s still awake and aware. Are you really going to torture him with not knowing his fate?”

“Damn straight, Angel. Let’s go,” Sandra answered as she held open the door to the lab . . . leaving Dr. Karl Mosley lying helpless on the ground unable to make a single sound or lift a finger.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:23 pm 
Offline
General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Stormwater Drainage Tunnels
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“You are positive of this, Danforth?” Phil asked in a sour voice as he walked through the ankle-high runoff seeping down into the deeply buried pipes and conduits that ran beneath Samantha City. The pale blue illumination of a cold-light glowstick gave little relief from the oppressive darkness—or the squealing of the rats and chittering of insects. “I’ve examined the building plans—these pipes don’t connect to the research facility.”

“Officially?” Max answered without pausing as he slogged onward. “You’re right—there is no connection and it isn’t on the building plans. Unofficially?” The SAFE agent shrugged. “You think people as paranoid as the Taurians wouldn’t have an emergency means of evacuating their main computer research lab? A route that doesn’t appear on any blue-print or schematic available to the public?”

Phil cursed as he stepped on another rat—the offended creature squeaked and scurried away. “Please tell me that you have more than a hunch.”

Max stopped and he turned around; his grin was wide as he tapped a ladder leading up towards the surface. “Check your map, Mister Sheridan.”

The MI-4 agent pulled a small electronic tablet from inside the water-proof lining of his coveralls and he shook his head. “That isn’t on the plans—how did you know?”

“SAFE isn’t always incompetent; indeed, we have very good analysts and information gatherers working for us—it just doesn’t always get translated into effective action, mind you. Thirty years ago, a contractor was brought in to perform maintenance work on these drains—and he bored a new tunnel at the direct request of the Taurian government. Went out of business ten years ago—gambling debts are such anchors dragging at a man’s life, after all—and sold off the schematics that he kept,” Max smiled again, “schematics that he shouldn’t have kept in the first place, to one of our folks for a tidy little sum that managed to keep his knees from being broken by a local loanshark.”

He paused and looked up at the ladder. “This should lead up to a floor hatch in a supply room just outside of the main research lab,” he tested the ladder for weakness and then satisfied that it would support his weight, he pressed a button on the radio clipped to his belt. “Control, we are in position.”

“Roger that,” a woman answered. “Be advised that Team Two is preparing to enter the building—and the honey-bees have just exited bearing gifts and are awaiting transport.”

“Damn it Nicky,” Phil swore.

Max just chuckled. “Transport has been arranged, Ninety-Nine?”

There was a pause and then a frosty voice answered. “Maintain communications protocol. And yes—their transport is waiting . . . just not the one they are expecting. Team three has managed to bypass the remote alarms on the lab sub-lev- . . . wait one,” the voice paused. “The honey-bees are away and none too soon. Our opposition has taken the field and local security at the front doors are down. Game time. Team Two is . . . in.”

“Acknowledged, Control,” Max answered as he turned to face Phil. “Ready with the cutting torch?”

“Ready. How the hell did I get stuck down in these tunnels with you?”

“Would you rather be upstairs with the swordsmen slowing down the visiting team?” Max asked as Phil began to climb the ten meter ladder to the metal hatch above.

“I’d rather be in the van—my job is to observe and report, not crawl through rodent-infested tunnels, get into a fire-fight with Death Commandoes, and incidentally to defuse a nuclear weapon.”

“Maybe you could submit a voucher for a bonus based on performance above and beyond the call of duty?” Max suggested.

“Yeah, right. You don’t know what a freaking tight-wad Quintus Allard is. Commendations? Sure. Medals? Plenty of ‘em. Money? Not on your life.”

“Well, maybe he will give you a vacation at least,” the SAFE agent replied as he began to ascend the ladder behind Phil.

At the top, Phil pulled on a pair of goggles and lit the tip of the cutting torch. “Last time Quintus suggested I take a vacation I ended up here, on Taurus. 'You'll love it, Phil', he said. 'Nice, quiet duty station where you can enjoy the beach and the girls because nothing ever happens on that front'. Not again; never again,” and the Davion agent gritted his teeth as the flame began to cut through the metal sending drops of molten slag to hiss in the dirty water below. Max continued to climb and from his bag he extracted two hand-holds that he applied to the hatch, their adhesives bonding almost instantly.

“Got it,” he said as Phil continued to cut.

And then he grunted as the hatch fell towards him, but he pushed it up and to one side. Phil dropped the torch and rapidly climbed up the ladder, drawing his needler pistol in one smooth motion. Then he reached down and helped Max up and out.

“Ready?” Max asked as he laid one hand lightly on the control of the door. Phil nodded and Max pressed the control; the door hissed open and he bounced into the lab, swiveling left and right to confirm that there were no hostiles here waiting to open fire. Max was right on his heels.

“Clear,” Phil snapped.

“Clear,” answered Max.

And then the two of them saw the paralyzed Doctor Mosley and the bomb attached to the casing of the Memory Core . . . a bomb whose timer passed 1:00 and continued on to :59, :58, :57.

“Nicky, I swear when we get out of here, I’m going to give you the spanking of your life,” Phil muttered. "And you are not going to enjoy it."


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:28 pm 
Offline
General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


Victor Li grunted quietly as he slapped the disconnect on the straps securing him to the glider; bending his legs, he dropped the four meters to the roof of the computer sciences building, landing in a roll that hid him behind the facilities main air intake shaft. A second soft thud—almost lost amongst the cracking and thundering of fireworks in the sky—signaled the arrival of Osami Koga.

One of the security guards stationed on the roof turned at the faint sound and Victor held his breath as the beam of the flashlight played over the rooftop structures. There was a faint crunching sound as the guard took a step closer—but at that moment, there was a loud BANG against the side of the building.

“He’s distracted,” Control’s voice emerged from Victor’s ear-piece. “Alarms are remotely bypassed on the shaft, Two—you are go for descent.”

Victor didn’t bother to answer; instead he stood and lifted the access hatch as Koga crawled inside the narrow shaft and began to lower himself down. Taking care not to make a sound, Victor followed, lowering the hatch shut behind him.

“Guards weren’t expecting a fireworks misfire,” whispered Control in his ear. “But you are behind schedule, gentlemen. Move.”

With their hips against one wall of the shaft, feet on the opposite, and gloved hands braced against the two side walls, the agents quickly climbed down past branching ventilation tunnels that opened intermittently.

“This junction,” Control ordered. “North fifteen meters and you hit the elevator shaft. Be advised—your opponents have just entered the building.”

“Not very subtle are they,” whispered Koga as faint alarms began to sound.

“They are Death Commandoes on a suicide run—subtle isn’t as important as completing the mission.”

“You are certain that Riese will be the one carrying the nuke?”

“Mostly,” answered Victor with a chuckle as he pulled himself into the horizontal tunnel and began to crawl after Koga towards the elevator shaft.

“What if he has a dead-man’s trigger?”

“Then we are dead—but I doubt that he does. If he gets killed in the initial assault, then the device goes off. And the lab with the core is five levels underground and heavily reinforced—damn thing is a bloody bunker, and their nuke isn't that big. He’ll die at the Chancellor’s order, but not for nothing. No,” Victor mused as he reached the elevator shaft and pulled himself into it’s cavernous interior. “It’s on a timer with a manual trigger so that if he goes down another member of his team can get the device down there and then set it off.”

Koga grunted his agreement as he hooked Victor’s cable-grab onto the proper elevator cables; his own was already hooked up. “Control is certain that the elevator is only way down?”

“If I weren’t don’t you think I would have already told you?” she answered dryly. “This shaft is the only passage from the main building to sub-level five—no stairs, no alternate route. It requires a key-card pass . . . which the opposition has probably pulled from one of the dead guards. Slut reports they are approaching the elevator; engaging in a fire-fight with the internal guards.”

Victor snorted. Nicky was furious with the Marik agent for the code-name she had been assigned; not that Control had seemed in the least affected by her displeasure.

“Mandarin,” she continued and Victor nodded as he recognized the code-name for one of Phil’s juniors, “reports that armor and infantry from Fort Snowden have hit the streets en route. ETA . . . five minutes in the current traffic congestion. Songbird,” a Marik observer drafted from the embassy, “says ‘Mechs are scrambling from Fort Gaines.”

“Game time,” muttered Victor. “You ready for this, old man?”

Koga snorted as he loosened the katana that he wore in a sheath on his back. “I was one of Takashi’s chosen samurai long before I joined the ISF, Capellan. This does bring back memories, I must say, of comrades long dead and fell deeds long past.”

“All right, then. Three,” he looked down and grimaced at the dark shaft, “two,” he took a deep breath, and then he bent his knees and prepared to jump from the girder he was standing on, “GO!” he snapped and the two men plunged down the elevator shaft into the darkness.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:30 pm 
Offline
General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 27, 3025


“Elevator is on its way down, Phil—hurry up,” Max ordered as he finished assembling a compact assault rifle and chambered a live round, before beginning work on a second.

“Disarming a bomb isn’t that easy,” Phil snarled as beads of sweat popped out on his forehead. “I cut the wrong wire here and we are toast,” he finished softly as the digital counter continued to slowly click down towards zero. “Got it,” he said in a relieved voice as the display blinked twice and then froze at :17.

“Get the Core in its travel case—without the bomb, Phil. Company is coming.”

“Yeah, yeah,” muttered the Davion agent as he removed the explosive from the side of the ancient Taurian memory storage unit and set it on the floor. He opened the case and lifted the Core before setting it gently in the padded interior—and then he froze.

“Tell me those aren’t what I think they are,” he asked with a sigh, jerking his chin towards a pair of pressurized cylinders resting on a shelf against the far wall, and bearing hazardous material warnings—along with three black, blocky letters: VXM.

Max looked over and he cursed. “If you are thinking Taurian VXM nerve gas dating back to the Reunification War, then I could tell you they aren’t—but I’d be lying.”

Setting the Core inside, Phil closed and secured the case, sliding it across the floor to Max, who slid it into the anteroom to rest beside the hole cut in the floor. He then stood and walked over the deadly gas cylinders and gingerly touched one.

“I’d leave those alone—four hundred years has a tendency to fatigue metal, after all,” the SAFE agent warned. “But the gas inside should still be lethal . . . unless,” he mused, “they drained the cylinders.”

“That’s a negative,” Phil answered as he checked the gauges. “Full pressure on both—god, I really hate Taurian paranoia.”

“All the more reason to leave them the hell alone,” Max said. “Ten seconds,” he cautioned as the elevator display showed the car was still descending.

“Except . . .,” Phil muttered in a sour voice, “in a few moments there are going to be bullets flying—what happens to that four-hundred year old metal if one of them gets grazed?”

Max stopped and he turned his head to stare at Phil and then he nodded. “You see anything solid to put the gas cylinders behind?” he asked.

“Nothing I’d trust to stop a bullet cold,” the agent from MI-4 muttered as he lifted two of the cylinders gently and quickly looked around the room . . . and he began to grin as he saw the paralyzed researcher sprawled on the floor. “But bodies are pretty good at absorbing bullets,” he continued as he knelt down and pulled Karl Mosley up and onto his side before sliding the cylinders down the front of the Taurian scientist's pants. “There we go,” Phil muttered as sweat began to pour off of the good doctor’s face and the Davion agent turned his body so that his back was facing the elevator.

And with that, Phil rushed over to lift the second assault rifle, taking shelter behind the edge of the door to the lab—just as the elevator DINGED and the doors began to slide open.

"For what we are about to receive," Phil spoke sarcastically.

"Amen," whispered Max.

And the two squeezed their triggers in unison.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Sep 19, 2015 12:31 pm 
Offline
General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Well, folks, that is where the story stops--for now. I do want to resume this tale; it is a matter of finding the time to do so. I hope that you have enjoyed what I've written so far.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Sep 21, 2015 4:07 am 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
This is a very fun story.

I hope to see you continue it. :)

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"I'm gonna Tea Party like its 1776." - Medron Pryde
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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Sep 22, 2015 5:25 am 
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Sergeant
Sergeant

Joined: Thu Sep 03, 2015 11:25 am
Posts: 53
Great story .... good to see something positive on the Taurians!


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