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 Post subject: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:01 pm 
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Okay, guys. This story IS NOT FINISHED. I've taken a hiatus from it, but do hope to resume it sometime in the near future. But, I will post what I currently have (at a few snippets per day rate, as usual). Hope ya'll enjoy it.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:03 pm 
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BY THE HORNS

An Original Work of Fiction set within an Alternate Universe of the BattleTech Game System

By

Stephen T Bynum

All Rights Reserved

This work is for not for profit


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:07 pm 
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Prologue

TCS Samantha Calderon
Omega Anchorage, Hyades Cluster
September 27, 2596


“Jack, we need that drive back on-line,” pleaded Helena Vickers, the last remaining flag officer of the Taurian Concordat Navy . . . the last one qualified for a command in space, at any rate.

“Aye, Admiral, that we do,” the sandy-haired engineer answered with a sigh of his own as he ran his hands across the thinning crown. “But I’m an engineer, not a miracle worker. Saucy Sam here needs a full ship-yard, instead I’ve just got my own boys and girls down below decks.”

“And the engineers from the other ships in the Flotilla,” Helena added. Jack Fletcher held up a placating hand and he nodded.

“More trouble than they are worth, truth be told, Admiral, despite being there to turn to a wrench or lift a cable. I cannot change the laws of physics, ma’am,” he pleaded, “you have to give us the time to track down that fault in the drive core. And until we do that and fix it, we cannot risk a jump.”

Helena closed her eyes and she shook her head. “Jack, if we don’t jump before the Terries come out here to picket the Anchorage, we won’t ever get the chance to jump. We—and those other ships out there—we haven’t complied with Marantha’s surrender. In their minds, that means we are pirates and can be shot on sight. And if they realize how many of our people are escaping, and just how many ships of the Fleet remain intact as their escorts? Jack, they will spend the next hundred years tracking us down to destroy our children and the new homes we are supposed to be building out there past the borders.”

“I know,” Jack Fletcher said in a very quiet voice. “But right now, if we jump we die. That means, Admiral, that you are going to have to give the order for the Flotilla to proceed without us.”

Helena winced . . . but she nodded at the engineer. “Can they accommodate any more of our personnel?” she asked quietly—already knowing the answer.

“No, ma’am. But the good news is, if I can find the damned fault and repair it before Satan’s Legions of Damnable Fornicators gets out here, we might be able to catch up with the rest.” If the long-abused Kearny-Fuchida faster-than-light drive managed to hold together went unsaid.

The Taurian Admiral knew well that the odds of that were . . . remote, to say the least. But for the morale of her people, she nodded. “There are always possibilities, Jack,” she whispered, as she leaned back in her chair.

The War—the twenty-year long Reunification War—was finally over and done with. Well, most of it was over and done with. And it was a war that Taurus has finally lost. Not due to a lack of courage; no, the Taurians may well have lacked many things, but courage was never one of them. No, the Concordat simply had too many enemies; too many foes; and whether in space or on the surface of a contested world, the Star League and its member states had sent millions to fight and die. All in an effort to make the Taurian people accept membership in the Star League against their will.

Helena sighed and she looked out the armored plexi that covered one of her bulkheads; she gazed upon the thick, red, roiling clouds of gas and dust and micrometeoroids that comprised Flannagan’s Nebula. The thick armored hatch that covered the view-port was retracted at the moment and she gazed upon the clouds that—in all likelihood—she would never again see.

She stood, and she laid her hand upon the desk of the ship that she had served upon for the past two decades—the Flagship of the all-but-annihilated Taurian Concordat Navy. The first—and now last—battleship of the TCN. “She deserves better, Jack.”

“Aye, ma’am; that she does. She needs another half-a-year in the repair slips to set everything right—but we don’t have a half-a-year; nor even a quarter.”

“No. Jack,” she said with a sudden gleam in her eyes, “you know, the more I think about it, the better a chance the rest have at escape is if we take the fight to the Terries one last time. The K/F Core will not last forever; not without more spare parts than we have on-hand—if you can get me one more jump out of her, Jack, . . .,” and Helena’s voice trailed off.

“Aye, ma’am,” Jack Fletcher whispered. “We’ll do the Old Girl proud.”

Helena pressed the transmit key on the intraship comm and she waited until her bridge crew answered. “Order the Flotilla to proceed without us, Commander Stiles,” she instructed crisply. “Have Navigation compute an FTL jump to Gateway—when Commander Fletcher and his people get the Core back on-line, we are going back to kick ass and take names.”

“Understood, Admiral,” the voice of her XO replied. “She deserves a better ending than the scrap-yards, and we’ll take more than a few of the Terries to Hell alongside us.”

“Jack,” Helena began, but the engineer simply nodded.

“I’ll get us there, Admiral. Come Hell’s Heart or High Water, I’ll get us there,” and with a nod of his head, he turned and left the Admiral’s stateroom set on one of the Saucy Sam’s four grav decks.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:18 pm 
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TCS Samantha Calderon
Omega Anchorage, Hyades Cluster
October 1, 2596


“All hands, prepare for jump drive activation. Repeat, all hands, prepare for jump drive activation. Jump drive initialization is set for . . . one minute from my mark . . . MARK,” Helena tightened the restraining belts that held her in her command chair as the sober—somber—crew quietly attended to their duties.

“Admiral, all weapons are standing by,” Commander Daniel Stiles reported from his station. “Nuclear warheads are loaded in tubes Five through Twelve and are ready to armed upon your command.”

“Make it so, Mister Stiles,” Helena answered as the jump clock slowly ticked down.

“All hands, stand by for jump,” the petty officer at the master helm station announced, “in five . . . four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . JUMP!”

The massive drive core at the center of the ship began to receive the tremendous amounts of stored power hoarded by TCS Samantha Calderon over the past eight days . . . and with that power it tore open a hole in the fabric of the universe. Just as it did every single time the jump drive was activated, this very short-lived hole allowed mankind to traverse interstellar distances in . . ., well, no one had ever actually managed to measure elapsed time during a jump.

But any feat of engineering that allowed humanity to bypass Einstein’s speed limit had within itself the potential of doing far, far, far more than merely displacing the ship thirty or so light-years. And despite Jack Fletcher’s attempts, not all of the drive core damage suffered by Saucy Sam had been found—or repaired.

This jump, Helena realized with a start, seemed to last forever—and then the ship emerged into real-space once more; it emerged with a BANG and a shudder and red emergency lights lit up the bridge as desperate voices clogged the comm channels.

“GUNS!” she snapped. “Target all SLDF vessels in range!”

But only shocked silence greeted her order.

“GUNS!”

“Ma’am,” the young officer finally answered, and he swallowed heavily. “Admiral, I am reading no WarShips within range—and Gateway Station is gone. Gone.”

“Impossible,” whispered Helena and then she looked down at her own consoles. Sure enough, the massive space station that had for so long guarded the path into Hell’s Heart was missing—but then she detected the transponders coming from within the asteroid fields that surrounded the jump-point. The troopers of the Special Asteroid Support Force—the SASF—were on the ball at least. But those troopers were supposed to be dead. And there was no way the SLDF would be broadcasting Taurian IFF!

And then her eyes noticed a . . . discrepancy in the transponder data. She gasped; her eyes grew wide, and she barked out a hurried command. “SAFE ALL WEAPONS! NOW!” Helena unbuckled her straps and she flew across to the communications station and she hit the transmit keys.

“This is the Taurian Concordat Navy ship Samantha Calderon—hold your fire! We request a communications link to the Protector of the Taurian Concordat, over.”

For several seconds only static emerged from the radio, but then a voice—a very quiet and disturbed voice—came through. “Hold our fire? Lady, I hope to God you are holding your fire! I’ve sent a message to Taurus, but it’ll take a while to wake up Protector Thomas—who the hell are you again?”

“Thomas?” Helena asked; Marantha Calderon had been Protector until her suicide just weeks ago; no successor had yet to assume the throne. She shook off the thought and picked up the microphone. “SASF, this is the TCS Samantha Calderon, Battleship Number One,” she paused and closed her eyes, “Admiral Helena Vickers, commanding. Confirm today’s date.”

A new voice, stronger and more in control came over speaker. “Admiral Vickers, this is Commodore Ethan Mendoza . . . today is the 1st day of October in the year 3025. I believe that we need to have a serious chat, you and I—until the Protector manages to get this news and send orders out this way, at least.”

Utter silence fell upon the bridge, and Helena swallowed the lump in her throat. “Agreed, Commodore Mendoza. I will be expecting your shuttle.”

She sat back down and made her trembling hands stop shaking as she grasped the arms of her chair. “Intra-ship,” she ordered, and Daniel Stiles nodded after a moment.

“Shipmates,” she started with as she began to inform the crew that their ship—HER SHIP—and all souls within her mighty hull, had been displaced more than four centuries into their own future.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:20 pm 
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TCS Samantha Calderon is described in detail on the following link to Solaris VII.

Samantha Calderon

For those who aren't familiar with this ship (not canon, created by yours truly) and that don't want to wait. Enjoy!

Edit: There is also a version on this site, but the link above is to the latest version and is the one from this story.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:34 pm 
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TCS Samantha Calderon
The Gateway, Hyades Cluster
October 1, 3025


“My god . . . am I dreaming?” whispered Ethan Mendoza as he touched the solid bulkhead reverently once again.

“Here,” Helena answered as she handed him a crystal glass filled with liquor, keeping a second one for herself. “Dan?”

One of us needs to stay sober, Skipper,” the XO answered with a grim chuckle. “If you are dreaming, Commodore, then for us it is a nightmare come to life,” his smile and chuckle faded away. “Just based on what you have said, the Star League was more vindictive than even we thought they could be . . . all of the yards are gone?” he asked in a shocked voice. “The graving docks over Samantha; the orbital foundries at Jamestown; the component and weapon factories on Taurus itself? According to your information, we have a single yard—in the entire Taurian Concordat!—one yard barely able to produce JumpShips!”

“The Star League was rather . . . perturbed,” Ethan said with a shake of his head, “at our continued intransigence following the War, Commander Stiles,” and then his face clouded and red anger—a deep and broad anger that was clearly visible on his face and body—welled up from inside him. “The bastards didn’t want to ever have to fight us again; so they crippled as much of our industry as they could. Crippled and maimed us enough that when the Star League fell we lost about half of our worlds thanks to their policies that didn’t let us build vital components out here.”

Ethan shook his head and he swallowed half of his whiskey in one quick gulp—but the shock of the powerful liquor calmed him down . . . somewhat.

“They stole half of our worlds, and when we rebuilt, their death throes destroyed half of those we had left, Admiral, Commander. Which isn’t to mention the pirates and renegades that have plagued us non-stop since authority collapsed outside our core systems. Oh, we have had peace—for a given definition of peace,” he spat sourly, “but the incessant raids and attacks on our people, the need to relocate millions of civilians as power and water failed on a score of worlds; all of this and a series of unfortunate . . . accidents kept us from rebuilding. And when we finally managed to stop our slide we discovered that the nice people from the Star League who just wanted to help their backwards and primitive cousins had censored and edited all of our libraries. They didn’t just make an effort to remove blue-prints and plans, because that would be too easy to overcome,” and Ethan laughed grimly. “No, the bastards actually changed text in instructional manuals and textbooks; they deliberately removed the knowledge that we needed and so [screwed] up the basic learning materials that we haven’t been able to rebuild back to what we had in the Age of War even now, two centuries after it all fell apart.”

Helena exchanged a look with her executive officer, and he shrugged; she nodded in reply—and then she smiled. “Commodore,” she began in a quiet voice, “I do believe that you count on that part of history being over and done with. As I said earlier, we were part of an expedition that intended to preserve the best parts of the Concordat independent of Ian Cameron’s damned Star League. The rest of the Flotilla, if they survived,” she added, “are still out there somewhere—we just have to find them. And,” and here she grinned broadly, “my flagship carries aboard her a Data Core containing the accumulated knowledge of the Taurian Concordat, as of the year 2596. You still have printers? Because engineering textbooks, blue-prints, and schematics are NOT going to be a problem.”

Ethan blinked and he swallowed the second half of his whiskey before setting down the crystal tumbler. He nodded. “It is indicative of the sad state of affairs, Admiral Vickers, when I tell you, without exaggeration, that the information you have offered is quite possibly more vital than the entire firepower of this WarShip.” And then he winced. “A WarShip . . . we have a [blanking] WarShip, a working WarShip. Hanse Davion and Maximillian Liao will go [blanking] ballistic.”

Helen sighed again. “Unfortunately, Commodore, we are working and functional only for a given definition of working and functional," she smiled at the younger man as she deliberately reused his turn of phrase. "Commander Fletcher might be able to restore the drive . . . given a few months to make repairs; if, IF, that is, that you are able to retool factories to produce the components that we need.”

“Understood, ma’am,” Ethan answered, but then he grinned. “But your guns work, and so do those big-ass transit drives back there on your hind-quarters—you can fight and you can maneuver, and ma’am, no one has had a WarShip able to do that in more than a century.”

“Oh, yes, Commodore,” Helen laughed, “our guns work and I’ve got a full load of nuclear ordnance aboard. I would say that I pity anyone that tries to attack Taurus on my watch—but my pity reserves are just about depleted,” she finished in a cold, cold voice. “Someone jumps into this system on my watch, planning to strike the capital, their JumpShip and DropShips are going to be devoured in nuclear fire. Unless I am feeling like playing with them; in which case our Naval Lasers and PPCs will tear them apart a millimeter at a time.”

And Ethan drew himself up and swallowed heavily. He had read—in secondary school and then at the Academy—about the heroic Helena Vickers and her twenty years of fighting against the League. She was a national hero, for all that the Star League bureaucrats had tried to extinguish all mention of her—but only now was he beginning to understand, to see, the unremorseful and utter hatred that ran through her body at the merest thought of those from the Inner Sphere invading even this Concordat—a Concordat so very different from her own centuries past.

“There are different rules today, Admiral,” he whispered. “JumpShips—all JumpShips—are sacrosanct. They are not attacked, but can be boarded and captured.”

“Really?” asked Helena in an acrid voice. “Does that apply to this ship as well?”

Ethan blinked, but then the Admiral waved off his reply before he could voice it. “I’ll comply with your rules—your time, your universe . . . for now, Commodore. But if defending Taurus means blowing an Inner Sphere JumpShip and every living soul aboard her to Hell, then that is what I’m going to do,” and she took a sip of her own whiskey.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:35 pm 
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“Dan,” she continued, “while the good Commodore is still in a state of shock, perhaps you can inform him of what else we are carrying.”

“Aye, aye, Skipper,” the XO answered cheerfully. “Commodore Mendoza, as part of the Expedition of Exiles, we gave up two of our four docking collars to transport the Fourth Battalion of the Calderon Red Hand. Their Legionnaire-class DropShips carry two ‘Mech companies and two ASF lances apiece—so we’ve got a full strength Battalion of the some of the most fanatical defenders of the House of Calderon on hand,” he smirked. Dan Stiles actually smirked at the two higher ranking officers. “I am given to understand that units today are a hodge-podge of different ‘Mechs and vehicles; your logistics must be tangled to Hell’s Heart.”

Ethan frowned. Where was this popinjay going? And then the light bulb went off as Dan Stiles nodded.

“Aye, Commodore. In our day, we fielded entire battalions and regiments of the same model BattleMech. The Red Hand is outfitted exclusively with Typhons, Commodore, supported by eight Skyhawk aerospace fighters.”

The Taurian Commodore coughed, his eyes going wide. “Both of those are extinct designs! The League did not allow us to retain them!”

“[censored] the League,” whispered Helena. “In addition to the Red Hand, we are carrying two Mirage-class Assault DropShips for escort, four Orbitmaster heavy lift shuttles, a quartet of Defiance-class gunships, sixteen Banshee light ASF, and sixteen more Skyhawk medium ASF. All with combat veterans at the controls—just like the rest of this ship and her crew. And I’ve got more than two hundred colonists intended for the Exiles in my passenger quarters; there wasn't room aboard the other ships to move them across, so they came with us in what we intended to be a final send-off to the SLDF from the TCN,” and Helena sighed. Then she smiled again. “Engineers, scientists, doctors, and teachers are among the passengers . . . all of whom should be able to help you correct those errors that the League bureaucrats introduced.”

She paused, and then she sighed again. “But right now, at this minute, I need to know the current passage through the Asteroids—we are dreadfully vulnerable sitting here immobile at the Jump-Point, Commodore.”

Ethan winced. “Ma’am, until the Protector gets word here, I cannot give you the navigation way-points for an exit lane.”

“That isn’t a request, Commodore,” Helena snapped. “WarShips are most vulnerable to a surprise attack when they are anchored at rest within weapons range of a Jump-Point. All it would take is one ship—ONE SHIP—that isn’t even armed to materialize just slightly off-target and vaporize half of this vessel in the process!” She paused and bit her tongue as she saw Dan slowly shaking his head. “Commodore Mendoza,” she continued more calmly, “Ethan. I need to get this ship off this jump-point ASAP. You are a flag officer in the Taurian Concordat Navy, mister! Start acting like one and show some initiative!”

“And if I don’t? I suppose you will make your way through the field like a bull in a china shop?”

“Guns blazing, Ethan. If you don’t give me a lane, then by God I will clear one,” Helena answered softly, and the younger man nodded.

“Damned if you won’t, will you?” he shook his head and grinned. “Very well, Admiral; you will have your lane and a parking assignment outside of the Jump-Point itself—but I will fire into you if you move so much as a meter from that parking orbit without my direct authorization; is that clear, ma’am?”

“Crystal, Commodore Mendoza—and it is what I’d expect from a Taurian naval officer,” Helena answered with a grin.


Last edited by master arminas on Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:38 pm 
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The Banshee, Skyhawk, Defiance/Orbitmaster, Mirage, Legionnaire, and other designs can be found on the following link at Solaris VII.

MA's Solaris Armory

The Typhon BattleMech, however, is HERE:

Typhon

Ignore the fluff; it is NOT a Star League 'Mech, but a Taurian design originally built for this AU. I had to change the background, however, to fit within a design contest on Solaris VII, so that is why it is different.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 09, 2015 11:43 pm 
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More to come--we are just getting started.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 8:57 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:00 pm
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Location: At the base of America's Mountain
Have you posted a version of this story before, MA? It sure does look familiar.

_________________
[b][color=#BC851A]Wielder of the Ferro-Carbide Bat of Doom™[/color][/b]
[color=#400080][i]I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.[/i] - Confucius[/color]
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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2015 10:52 pm 
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Quote:
Have you posted a version of this story before, MA? It sure does look familiar.
On other sites . . . but it is new here.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:56 am 
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General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 1, 3025


What did you just say?” Thomas Calderon gasped for air; he felt as if a giant had taken a sledgehammer to his chest.

Brenda Calderon, a distant cousin and the youngest woman in the history of the Taurian Defense Force to earn the baton of a Marshal, shook her head. “Commodore Mendoza’s report made me wonder if he was drunk or stoned when he sent it, Tom,” she said softly, “but the sensor data isn’t lying. There is a bloody damned big Calderon-class Battleship sitting at Gateway Point—Ethan dispatched a report to us immediately after he met with her commander . . . Helena Vickers.”

Dozens of throats suddenly inhaled, and Brenda nodded. “Yes, apparently it is that Helena Vickers, gentlemen and ladies. Our best guess at the moment is that this ship—the TCS Samantha Calderon,” and an unbelieving moan passed through the room, “suffered a misjump that sent her to the here and now.”

Thomas blinked and he just stared at his relative. “Pop,” a quiet voice spoke up, and Thomas shook himself out of the shock. The Protector turned his head to face his twenty-three year old son—and heir—Edward Calderon.

“Yes, Edward,” Thomas finally said. “How this happened no longer matters. We must concentrate our attention on what this means for the Concordat of today—for our people, today.”

“This is an opportunity, Tom,” a middle-aged man began to hurriedly speak. “The FedRats have nothing that can stop this ship—this is our opportunity to retake the Pleiades!”

Brenda winced—as did most of the serving military officers at the table, and more than few of the civilian advisors. But before she could answer, young Edward spoke up.

“This is one ship, Governor Shraplen,” he said firmly. “A single ship. A ship that Mendoza reports has obvious unrepaired damage—we don’t even know if she is capable of conducting offensive operations . . . and even if she were, one ship does not change the balance of our ground-based military capabilities.” Edward paused. “Hanse Davion has close to one hundred Regiments of ‘Mech at his disposal, including mercenaries—we have just twelve. Twelve, Governor.”

“Hanse Davion cannot afford to pull regiments away from the borders of the Combine or Confederation,” Grover snapped, “and he won’t dare attack our troops with a WarShip overhead!”

“The Fox will dare much,” Thomas intervened, holding up one hand. “If he deems it is in his interest. And make no mistake, the Fox will be extremely interested in this vessel and her crew. No, Grover,” he sighed, “it would be folly for us to invade the Federated Suns—at this time,” his voice grew louder as his old friend began to turn red and draw in breath for another exclamation.

The Protector sighed and he closed his one remaining organic eye. And then he opened it. “However, all of that is moot if this vessel cannot leave Gateway and Taurus; I believe that you said their Kearny-Fuchida Drive is currently inoperative, Marshal Calderon?”

“I did, Protector,” Brenda answered.

“We already know how difficult it is to repair a capital WarShip, ladies and gentlemen—the New Vandenberg is a prime example of just how little we know,” and Thomas scowled. “When we should bloody well know considering that we built better ships than that boondoggle without Terran aid in the past.”

He frowned and while his cybernetic eye clicked and whirred, he sat motionless and then Thomas nodded again. “Commodore Perez,” he firmly said to the commander of the Taurian Aerospace Command, “I want that ship moved away from Gateway—can we clear all civilian traffic from Station Three?”

The grey haired former pilot—a gunship pilot—considered and then he nodded. While not a full yard, Station Three was tasked with supporting the DropShips and small craft of the TAC and the Taurian Concordat Navy; of course, with the limited numbers of DropShips and auxiliary craft at hand, it also had a decent amount of civilian traffic. And while Station Three in its orbit over Taurus lacked any ability to work on K/F Drive Cores, it did possess a number of very capable machinery and electronics shops.

“We can divert all traffic and have the civilians clear in twenty-four hours, Sire,” he answered after a moment.

“Good. Brenda, invite Admiral Vickers to dock her vessel at Station Three—get with Mendoza and Hamish here to find out what sort of supplies that they might need and get them up to the station at once. And do not lie to yourself, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to need to redeploy as much of the Fleet and air-defense assets as we can afford to. I want Station Three isolated—no unauthorized traffic is to close within any possible weapons range. Is that understood?”

One by one, the men and women at the table nodded their agreement.

Edward cleared his throat, and Thomas waved at his son to go ahead.

“Looking over this dispatch,” he said holding up sheet of paper that he had been reading, “I do believe that we need to take additional precautions with dealing with the information that is going to be flowing off of that ship,” he shook his head in disbelief. “A complete, unaltered, Data Core from the Reunification War—Taurus at its height, Pop. This is . . . incredible. It has the potential to revive the Concordat,” and then his expression fell, “and everyone will want it.”

“MIIO, SAFE, ISF, LIC, the Maskirovka, MIM, heck, even the Outworlders will have teams here trying to pry out the secrets in months,” chimed in Henri Jouett, the head of the Taurian Concordat Office of Special Intelligence and Operations, “if they do not already have intelligence teams in place. Some of them do, ladies and gentlemen—and we do not know the identities of all of them.”

“Right,” snarled Thomas. “Henri, you and . . .,” he paused and then nodded at the young commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Taurian Guards, “Brigadier Doru coordinate with the Constabulary—I want a full-court press on keeping the lid on this for as long as we can. Each and every one of those people—those Taurians—aboard that ship are now priceless and we will treat them accordingly.”

“Speaking of which,” the Exchequer of the Concordat said in a dry tone, “there is the small matter that we may well owe these people back-pay for four centuries.”

WHAT!” shouted Thomas.

“I am not saying that they will ask for such a sum, but,” and Semyon Cantrell set his jaw, “under one interpretation of our laws, they might well be entitled to exactly that. It will probably have to be decided by the Courts—but we are speaking of millions of Bulls—at the least.”

Thomas gritted his teeth, and then he sighed. “We’ll find the funds when we have to. IF we have to. We are already looking at breaking our current budget just in repair costs—if that white elephant New Vandenberg is anything to judge by.”

“And those funds will come from the Far Lookers?” sourly asked Aramis Hall, the leader of that group of explorers and colonization effort.

“Not completely, no,” Thomas answered with a chuckle. “These . . . Exiles,” he continued in a more somber voice. “If they are out there and they survived, I want them found. And to do that, we need to increase your exploration efforts. We might not colonize as many new planets as you want, Aramis, but we are going to be looking out there in the Deep Black.”

Hall nodded his agreement—he wasn’t happy, but he agreed with the necessity.

“Good,” Thomas said again. “And now, ladies and gentlemen, just how the hell are we going to tell the people—our people—about all of this without creating a panic?”

And the table got very quiet once more.


Last edited by master arminas on Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:54 pm 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
I like this.

:)

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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 Aug 11, 2015 11:26 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
DropShip Gayle Lowden
Outbound to Gateway Point, Taurus System
Taurian Concordat
October 3, 3025


Heinrich Shultz took a sip of the hot coffee and he sighed. It would be such a shame to give up Crewman Jonas when they arrived back at Victoria, but orders were orders. And despite his personal sense of loss over the only crewman who knew how to make a proper cup of mocha coffee, he wasn’t about to deny the newly promoted Adept the honor of his next assignment—tasked to the Explorer Corps, Jonas would see far more use of his ability to resolve sensor images than he would on one of ComStars covert operations vessels tooling around the Inner Sphere. Well, the Inner Sphere and near Periphery, Shultz thought as he considered their latest mission. Whatever the ROM team had been after, it had gone flawlessly. And now the ‘Gayle Lowden’, a Capellan-flag merchantman by all outward signs, was heading back to dock with the JumpShip and proceed to their next assignment.

He drank another sip and he looked on the old converted Union-class cargo carrier with pride. She wasn’t much—but she was his. For now, at least. Until he finally got promoted to command one of ComStars JumpShips, that was.

“Skipper,” the comm officer called out, “we are being hailed by a pair of ASF.”

Schultz frowned and he straightened up in his chair. “On speaker.”

Gayle Lowden, this is Obsidian Flight—you are entering restricted space. Alter vector to 237 mark 41 immediately,” and the message repeated.

“Obsidian Flight, Gayle Lowden,” Schultz replied. “We are on the course that Taurus Flight Control issued.”

Gayle Lowden, Obsidian Flight. That course has now been changed—alter vector immediately or you will be fired into.”

“This is damn peculiar,” Schultz said to no one in particular. “Jonas, give me a 360-degree passive scan—no actives. Maneuvering, alter vector to comply with their instructions.”

“Aye, aye, Sir,” the crew barked.

Jonas bent over his sensor hood and his voice emerged. “Taurian ASF are changing course, veering away . . . there’s something strange here, I can’t identify the fighters . . . I’ve got the cameras rolling, Skipper . . . okay, let’s look at our original course track . . . HOLY [crap]!” he screamed as he stood up, his hand toggling the control that sent the image from his station to the main viewer.

And Schultz spat hot coffee out of his nose as he stood. “Magnify!” The image zoomed in and a low moan sounded across the DropShip’s bridge. “Bring Jayne’s data-base on-line and confirm the class,” he ordered in a quiet voice.

For several moments there was no sound on the bridge of the DropShip, and then an Acolyte looked up from his station. “Jayne’s gives a 95% positive match for a Calderon-class Battleship, circa 2576-2596, Skipper. There aren’t supposed to be any surviving examples.”

“Scheisse,” Schultz muttered as the distant image slowly shrank into the distance. And then he shook his head. “Tell me we recorded that, Jonas?”

“On tape, and copying to the secure data-base, Skipper.”

“Okay, people. Game faces on—the Primus needs to see this as soon as possible. Maneuvering, don’t violate ANY Taurian regulation—we are officially in Injun Country, folks, until we get back to Victoria.” And then? And then, Shultz thought, it was likely that every man and woman aboard would be ordered directly to Terra in order to be debriefed by the Primus and ROM. Scheisse.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:29 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCS Samantha Calderon
Station Three, Taurus System, Hyades Cluster
Taurian Concordat
October 5, 3025


Fearless souls who cross’d the sky; in search of home to live and die; men who swear we will live free; far away from your tyranny.

Thomas looked up in surprise as he crossed over the broad yellow line painted on the deck of the boat bay. The music was not being piped into the reception area; no, there was a line of drummers tapping out the beat, musicians blowing upon horns, and a chorus of singers—all dressed in the uniform of the Taurian Concordat Navy. But that was the lesser shock; this song had been detested by the Star League—not a single complete copy or recording had survived their occupation.

Our lady that we follow; deep inside Hell’s Hearts' Hollow; bound in clouds of reddish dust; our new home, to find we must.

One lady, an older lady dressed in the uniform of a Taurian Admiral—equivalent in rank to a Corps Marshal—strode forward and she saluted sharply; a salute that the Protector returned just as solemnly.

Taurus home, from now to end; a land that we shall ‘ere defend; with hoof and horn, blade and gun; we will fight until the day is won.

“Protector Calderon,” the woman said, “I beg leave to report that TCS Samantha Calderon, bearing aboard her eleven hundred and twenty-four souls, has returned home.”

None today shall ever know; the pain we felt, as our children go; but for our pride in their brave; we vow t’send our foes their grave.

“Welcome home, Admiral Vickers,” Thomas said warmly, and he extended her his hand. Helena took it and the two shook.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2015 11:35 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The song in the above snippet is set to the tune of The Ballad of the Green Berets by SSGT Barry Sadler, with all apologies to the song-writer. You can rest assured that there ARE more verses, but I haven't written them.

Ballad of the Green Berets, Youtube video

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 1:21 am 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
I can't wait to read more.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:21 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCS Samantha Calderon
Station Three, Taurus System, Hyades Cluster
Taurian Concordat
October 5, 3025


“Our drive damage aside, Protector Thomas,” Helena briefed the Protector, his heir, and their staffs—along with the senior members of the TDF military, “our problem is that no one here has produced NAC shells or Capital Missiles in centuries. I’ve got twenty-seven Class 25 Naval Autocannon onboard Samantha Calderon—with a total of one thousand, three hundred and fifty units of fire. Fifty salvoes, gentlemen. My missile magazines are even shallower—three hundred and sixty missiles, just thirty salvoes all told for my twelve launchers; forty of those missiles are armed with nuclear warheads.”

She paused and then she nodded. “Of course, given our probable opponents and the decline of technology, that is sufficient to wipe out any invading force—provided that the attackers are considerate enough to come to Taurus since I can’t go after them. Now, I do have eighteen Naval Lasers—a mix of 45cm and 55cm—and a dozen Naval PPCs, neither of which require munitions, but compared to my main guns those are small fry. The flak-belt,” and she smiled slightly, “won’t do more than kiss a capital ship, but serves well against fighters, small craft, and DropShips. I’d imagine they’d do just as well against JumpShips . . . if you revoke that silly rule that Commodore Mendoza told me of, the one where Jumpers are out of bounds and safe from attack.”

She waited until she was certain that everyone present understood, and then Helena sighed. “But the single largest problem that we are facing is a simple one . . . my people are tired,” and as she spoke, Helena Vickers looked every day of her sixty-seven years. “We have—most of us—fought for the past two decades,” and her lips curved slightly in a wry half-smile, “to us at least, in the most brutal war ever fought by humanity. We knew we were leaving our loved ones behind, but Protector, we are bone-weary and in serious need of some time to unwind our levels of stress.”

“And you will have it, Admiral Vickers,” Thomas answered her. “Despite what some of my advisors might think, I have no intention of starting a war—but your presence here cannot be concealed for long . . . and I fear that soon enough others may start one with us. A war that will come about because they fear us possessing your ship while they have none of their own.”

Thomas cocked his head, and he considered, and then he nodded. “But that is months down the road, and this vessel is going nowhere until her drive is repaired—if we can make those parts you so desperately need. They may have to be hand-made, until we can get a factory up and running, Admiral.”

And Helena winced at that. Thomas chuckled grimly. “Don’t worry, we will be inspecting every part with a micro-meter—you won’t get sub-standard parts from Taurus, Admiral. In the meantime, I think that you—and your crew—could use some rest. Marshals Grenadine and Calderon,” he continued, nodding at the two senior officers, “have advised me that just granting liberty to your people is a bad idea—something about being able to de-stress in a controlled environment before being released into civilian society.”

“They are right, Sire,’ Helena answered. “Some of my people are so wound up that they are ticking time bombs . . . they also need counseling, many of them.”

“They will receive it,” Thomas decreed. “As it just so happens, there is a medical delegation from the Canopians on Taurus—a psychological delegation. The Canopians have the finest healers—physical and mental—known, Admiral. They will make certain your people get taken care of,” and Thomas frowned, “and we have also taken measures to ensure that none of your folks are abducted and spirited off world.”

“Is that a credible threat?” Helena asked.

“It is a possibility,” replied Henri Jouett. “One that we cannot dismiss lightly. Admiral, you must understand that your knowledge of technological systems—your crew’s knowledge—is something that any of the Successor Lords would kill in order to obtain for themselves. None of them are above abducting one or two of your shipmates and interrogating them for everything they know.

“That is for later, Henri,” Thomas said sadly. “For now, I would like to invite the Admiral and her senior officers to dinner this evening—at the Protector’s Palace. We have much, much more to discuss, Admiral Vickers.”

“Indeed we do, Sire. Starting with the issue of . . . pay,” and she smiled as Thomas winced. “Don’t worry, Sire. We aren’t going to clean out the Treasury, but my people deserve to be taken care of.”

“You have my word on that, Admiral,” Thomas snapped, and then he waved his hand in apology. “They are loyal Taurian citizens who have served the Concordat faithfully and we take care of our own. Always.”

“Good enough for me, Sire. Now,” she said as she stood. “I believe that you and your staff wanted a full tour of Saucy Sam here.”

Saucy Sam?” asked Thomas.

Helena laughed. “It is a long story, Sire, and rest assured. The boys and girls could have named her a LOT worse.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 12, 2015 2:39 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 11, 3025


Thomas looked up from his desk as Edward was ushered into his private office. The doorman closed the thick wooden panel, leaving the Protector alone with his eldest son. The father smiled—a rare event for Thomas—and then he waved his son into a seat. Today, Edward was wearing his TDF uniform—complete with his rank as a Subaltern, what would be a Captain in most militaries.

“Official business Subaltern Calderon, or personal?” Thomas asked. Edward blushed; he had made a habit of never approaching his father in uniform for a mere Subaltern shouldn’t be cavalier when it concerned the chain of command. In uniform, Edward, and here Thomas smiled again, insisted on being merely Subaltern Calderon and not Heir Apparent to the Protectorship.

“Personal, Pop,” he answered. “I have to report to duty shortly, and considering what I want to broach with you, I might not have time to change.”

“Oh?”

“Yes, Sir,” his son answered and then he paused, collecting his thoughts. Gathering his courage, Thomas thought—and he frowned. Edward was seldom so . . . cautious.

“Spit it out, boy,” Thomas growled.

“Have you looked over the précis on the contents of the Vickers Core?” Edward asked.

“I’ve skimmed it, son.”

“Pop, it is literally the holy grail. Engineering data, computer sciences data, mathematics; every single accomplishment of the Old Hyades before the Reunification Wars began are contained within it. All of our scientific achievements, plus our literature, the arts, music, everything. This could change the Concordat forever.”

“What is your point, Edward?”

His son looked Thomas directly in the eyes and he nodded. “We have no right to hoard this; not from our own people. Pop, we’ve long had the finest institutions of learning among all of the nations of humanity—we’ve got the highest literacy rate of any House, Great or Minor. We need to organize a new university, a new institution whose sole purpose is to restore our knowledge and safe-guard the information on that core; to make certain that is never again lost.”

Thomas frowned, but he nodded. “That will cost quite a bit of money, Eddie. Right now, the coffers are pretty damn bare.”

“The expense has to be borne—we’ve got to get this information downloaded and distributed before something happens, before some accident damages the Core and we lose this information forever.”

Thomas inhaled sharply and he nodded again. Already, there had been one such ‘accident’, with a man whose identity Henri Jouett had been unable, so far, to discover. That man had come close to damaging the Core—but the guards had managed to stop him. How he had even known it was being transported was something that Henri was feverishly investigating—and how he came so close (wearing a vest of explosives, no less!) just as intently.

“I agree, Eddie, but I can’t conjure funds out of thin air.” And Thomas frowned at the look on his son’s face.

“Maybe we can,” Edward said quietly. “Hanse Davion would pay . . .,” but Edward was cut off by his father.

ARE YOU MAD!” Thomas bellowed as he stood. “I stood beside you Edward, against Grover, because you were right and Grover was wrong. Attacking the Federated Suns is a fool’s errand. But the Davions are our Enemy—they have always been our Enemy and they always shall be. And you want to share this, this, treasure trove with them?”

“Not share, Protector Calderon, sell. Between Mad Max Liao and the Fox, whom would you rather have as your enemy?”

“They are both our enemy, Edward!”

“Pop, the Davions haven’t crossed our border in force since the end of the Reunification Wars—four hundred years ago. Four centuries. They haven’t once seriously attacked us since then; while the Capellans? They raid our border worlds almost constantly--looking for loot to take home. And you well know just how many of the 'pirates' out there are funded by Sian. Just look at it. If we lift the embargo on our companies selling to the Federated Suns, look at how much more income we will have. And I am not advocating giving the Fox everything; hold back the information on WarShips and he will still pay an Emperor’s ransom for the rest.”

Edward paused and he stood and he placed his hand on his father’s arm; the older man's muscles trembled with both shock and rage. The young officer sighed. “You said yourself that Hanse Davion will desperately want this—he might well go to war for this knowledge. For our WarShip. Let’s take that option out of the equation. Let’s stabilize our borders and with the funds we can wring from Hanse Davion we can build the Concordat, over the next ten or fifteen or twenty or twenty-five years, into a force that it would take a Second Star League to conquer.”

“I’ll think about it,” Thomas growled, and then Edward nodded and sat back down. “What would you want to name this new university?” And then the older man grinned. “The Taurian Institute of Technology and Science?”

Edward chuckled. “I’ll let you be the one to tell Katherine you are funding and opening TITS, Pop.”

Thomas barked out a laugh. “What would you suggest?”

“The Samantha Calderon Academy of Research and Sciences” Edward answered, and Thomas laughed again.

"SCARS, eh? I can live with that, Eddie."

Encouraged, his son pressed on, “It would be your legacy for all future generations of Taurians. We could break the ground this fall and be ready for classes by spring if you hammer out an agreement with the Fox.”

“I said, I’ll think about it, Edward Calderon,” Thomas growled again. And then he sighed. “Grover will have a stroke, if I even suggest it.”

“So? He’s a planetary governor; you are the Protector of the Taurian Concordat.”

“He’s a friend whose advice I value; and he is not he only one in the Concordat who would consider any agreement with any Davion an utter betrayal of their principles.”

“Yes, there are others in the government and the nobility who hold the same views--but answer me this: have you ever changed your mind on a decision that you made for the good of the entire Concordat because some interest group didn't agree and is pissed off about it?"

Thomas snorted and Edward smiled at his father. "Grover Sharplen's a Liao-phile who is convinced that our future depends on allying with the Confederation. Sian is a snake-pit ten times worse than New Avalon—you don’t need me to tell you that."

“No, I don’t,” Thomas said quietly and he tapped the top of his desk and stared off into space for several minutes.

“If I decide to take your advice, and make Davion this offer, Edward, it needs to stay absolutely black until the deal is inked and dried. That means no HPGs, no aides, no assistants, no Ambassadors.” Thomas nodded again. “Are you willing to take a sabbatical from that uniform to represent me on New Avalon—if I decide to do this, son?”

Edward drew in a deep breath and he nodded.

“Then I’ll think about it. I promise you this, Eddie,” Thomas said as he stood again, “I might say no, but I will give heavy thought to this.”

“That’s all I can ask, Sir. It is time we buried the past and moved on—past time.”

“And speaking of time, aren’t you running late, Subaltern Calderon?”

“Oh, damn,” Edward cursed as he looked at the clock. “Permission to be dismissed, Sir?”

“Granted. You better run if you are planning on making it to Mt. Santiago on time.”

But Edward was already sprinting from the office.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:24 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
First Circuit of ComStar
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 11, 3025


WHAT DID YOU JUST SAY?” bellowed Julian Tiepolo, and Nicolas Cassnew—Precentor ROM—felt beads of sweat trickle down his neck.

“The Taurians appear to have found and salvaged a WarShip, Primus,” he repeated very softly.

“Someone must pay for this,” Precentor Dieron spoke up in her acid voice. “Someone failed in their Holy duties to Blake!”

“Is this vessel operational?” asked the Primus as he glared at the commander of ROM.

“For a given definition of operational—yes,” Nicholas answered.

Several of the First Circuit snorted at the evasive answer, and the Primus shook his head. “Define operational for me, Nicholas,” Julian said very, very quietly.

“According to my source, the Kearny-Fuchida drive is not functional.”

“But the rest?”

Nicholas withered. “Yes, Primus.”

“Where is this ship at the moment?”

Precentor ROM looked up at the man who had appointed him and he shivered. “In orbit of Taurus itself. Docked at one of their military stations and heavily defended, Primus.”

“But that isn’t the worst of the news, now is it?” asked Myndo Waterly, Precentor Dieron, as she lowered her hood.

Damn that witch! Nicholas thought. But he merely nodded. “It has not been confirmed, but Demi-Precentor Taurus believes that the vessel contained a-a,” and Nicholas swallowed, “a Reunification War era Taurian Data Core.”

Utter silence hung over the First Circuit.

“ROM on station decided to risk an attack on what the Taurians believe was a data-core,” Nicholas continued.

“And was this attack successful, Nicholas?” asked the Primus.

“No, Primus, it was not.”

“I see,” Julian said quietly. “What do you suggest we do next, Precentor ROM?”

“I-I,” Nicholas stuttered and then he hung his head. “Primus, we must arrange for this ship and the core to be destroyed.”

“And how? Without revealing our hands?”

“We leak information on the ship and core to Maximillian Liao. He is desperate enough—and mad enough—to risk an assault on Taurus. We give him our astrographic charts as well, showing him the undefended path into the Hyades—the one the Taurians call Back Door.”

“And if Max Liao doesn’t take the bait, Precentor ROM?”

“Then we arrange for . . . unknown raiders and pirates to attack in their place. Our own Com Guard and Militia disguised as raiders and pirates.”

“Too little, too late,” Myndo spat. “My sources indicate that the Liao, Janos Marik, Katrina Steiner, Takashi Kurita, and Hanse Davion have already been informed—or shortly will be so informed—of the existence of this ship. We must act now to stop this travesty from going any further.”

“How, Precentor Dieron?” asked the Primus.

“Send our WarShips out there to destroy this relic—and the Data Core.”

“You are speaking of an attack upon a populated world, Precentor!” another member of the First Circuit shouted.

“Better that Taurus dies in fire than the House Lords resurrect their technology, Precentor Sian,” Myndo spat. “And I believe that Precentor ROM owes us a great deal of pain before his death.”

“Control yourself, Myndo,” the Primus said. “Precentor ROM, you have several teams close by Taurus, do you not?”

“I do, Primus.”

“Very well. You and I shall have a long conversation in private about your failings in this matter, Nicholas, but perhaps we can salvage something from this . . . disaster.” The Primus paused. “Precentor Hawke?”

“Yes, Primus,” the commander of ComStars small WarShip fleet answered.

“Prepare your ships—we may have need of them on the Taurian Rim—if all other options fail.”

“At once, Primus.”

“You are too lenient,” Myndo pushed from her podium. “This one has failed—and you give him another opportunity. He must be replaced.”

“Are you volunteering for the job, Myndo Waterly?” the Primus asked.

“You would have me give up my seat on the First Circuit? Be demoted?”

“That would be a no, then,” the Primus answered himself. “We shall meet again in six hours time,” and the Primus glared at each member of the First Circuit. “At that time, I want ALL of the information we have on this ship and any communications concerning it that were passed to the various Lords of the Houses. I also expect to have a plan of action on how to salvage the situation,” he finished as he glared down on Nicholas again. “Until then, we are in recess. Precentor ROM—not you,” and his voice was as cold as ice.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:31 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Celestial Palace
Forbidden City, Sian
Capellan Confederation
October 11, 3025


Maximillian Liao stroked his long mustache as he listened to the panicked voices of his advisors—of his younger daughter. Even Pavel Ridzik, the Senior Colonel who commanded the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces in Maximillian’s name, even Pavel had succumbed to his fright. The Chancellor frowned—perhaps I need to rethink certain assignments; perhaps it is time for dear Pavel to retire. Permanently, he thought with a smile.

However, there was one present who was not chattering inanely; one who showed no signs of panic; one whose studied face was deeply in thought—and the Liao smiled.

“Silence,” he hissed. And at his command, the chaos faded away, with all eyes upon the high Throne upon which the Liao sat. Max stroked his mustache again and he frowned upon his court. “So the Taurians have managed to locate and salvage a long-dead WarShip—and upon this news, my Court, my Advisors, my finest Military Professionals scamper like mice fraught with despair at the coming of a cat.”

No one spoke, but several looked down, ashamed. That number did not include his daughter Romano, whose fear disappeared, replaced by anger. Good. “You should all be shamed by this—we are LIAO. And if the Taurians now have a WarShip, it matters but little. Candace, your thoughts?” he asked, and he smiled as Romano jerked in fury.

“Celestial Wisdom, the report from our merchant vessel indicates that this ship is at least partially active. It jumped into the Taurus system and proceeded under its own power to orbit. Now, whether the Taurians have the manpower to crew, and fight, such a leviathan—trained personnel who can learn to operate and maintain such ancient systems—that is another story.”

“Indeed. And having consulted Our archives, this particular class of ship relies quite heavily upon munitions—munitions that are no longer produced anywhere in the Inner Sphere. Or the Periphery States. It is a threat, true, but not an existential threat to either the Confederation or the House of Liao.”

Max leaned back against his throne and he closed his eyes. “The additional information from our agent, that this ship carried with it a complete Data Core,” and Maximillian smiled, “ah, but that is the more important piece of information of the two.”

“A Taurian Core,” muttered one of the Advisors. “Periphery trash, nothing more.”

“So you believe, Colonel Sedgewick?” Max asked. “Need I remind you that during the Age of War, the Taurians were a power with which to be reckoned—they required twenty years for the full might of the Star League to defeat. They had, at that time, a Navy second only to that of the Terran Hegemony. Consider what might be contained within that Core—and how the Confederation can make use of it.”

“Attack Taurus?” snapped Pavel. “Celestial Wisdom, such an undertaking . . . ,”

“Where one can not attack directly and openly, Colonel Ridzik, it may indeed be possible to attack indirectly . . . and covertly,” interrupted the Chancellor. “Major Riese?”

The commanding officer of the Death Commandoes smiled. “At your command, Celestial Wisdom.”

“You will coordinate with Maskirovka assets—but you shall be in command. You will infiltrate Taurus and you will secure for Us Our property which Thomas believes is his alone. The resources of the Confederation are yours for this—use them wisely, Major Riese.”

“Understood, Celestial Wisdom,” the officer replied with a deep bow. “If it proves impossible to recover Your Core, Sire?”

“If I cannot have that technology, then neither shall Thomas Calderon, Major Riese. If you cannot obtain it for me, then destroy it.”

“And their vessel?”

Maximillian smiled. “A secondary priority—concentrate on the Core, but if the opportunity presents itself, such a technological treasure trove would be more fitting in Sian orbit than cloistered within the distant Hyades. Understand me, Major,” the Chancellor said firmly as he cast his gaze down on the officer, “the ship is nothing more than a toy—a sideshow. Your first priority is the Data Core—that vessel is only a consolation prize in the grand scheme.”

“Understood. If we have the opportunity to take or destroy it, however, . . .,” Riese began and the Liao smiled grimly once more.

“Yes. If the opportunity arises and if you have acquired or destroyed the Core, then the WarShip itself you may retrieve—or render useless. To that end, I shall grant you the use of our special weapons. Make certain they are put to good use, Major.”

Gasps arose from the Court—even Candace was shocked by the ease at which the Chancellor had just given permission to the Death Commando to utilize a nuclear weapon. Maximillian Liao leaned back against his throne, and closing his eyes, he smiled as he slowly stroked his long and elegant mustache.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:39 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The Palace of the First Prince
Avalon City, New Avalon
Federated Suns
October 12, 3025


“Christ,” whispered Hanse Davion as he stared at the image, “that is a Taurian Concordat Navy Calderon-class Battleship.” He looked up at the two men seated before his desk and he gave them a wry grin. “Please, tell me that this is archival footage; that this is some sick joke.”

“Unfortunately, Sire, it is neither. A free trader who is rather . . . indebted to my agency,” Quintus Allard said with a grim chuckle, “managed to record those images as he was leaving the Taurus system. She’s real and she’s mobile—real-space, at least,” the Intelligence Minister cautioned, “but as she was on course from Gateway Point—the sole known jump-point into the interior of the Hyades, by the way—to Taurus orbit, it is a good bet she has a working K/F Core as well.”

“Never figured you for a historian, Hanse,” the third man said with a smile. “But you recognized that ship quick enough—it took some digging before the two of us were able to identify it.”

“Ardan, that is because neither of you built the models of the Ships of the Reunification War that I did as a child. I had them all, but I most especially loved the battleships—the Terran Hegemony Monsoon and Farragut, the Federated Suns Golden Lion, the Marik Atreus, the Kurita Mikasa, and the Taurian Concordat Samantha Calderon. Truth be told, as much as my inner Davion denies it, the Taurians made a damn fine ship in those old battle-wagons—more aesthetically pleasing as well.”

The Prince’s Champion—Ardan Sortek—laughed, and even Quintus broached a smile, but then First Prince leaned back in his chair and he rocked as the smile on his face faded into a frown.

“First, that free trader is no longer indebted—his remaining sins are now forgiven, Quintus,” Hanse said bluntly, and Quintus nodded, making a note on his pad. “Second, where the hell did they find that? The histories that I read,” Hanse pointed out, “said that the Taurians scuttled every surviving Calderon at the end of the War—specifically to keep them out of the hands of my fore-fathers and the Star League.”

Quintus sighed. “There have been rumors for four hundred years that the Taurians faked that scuttling, Sire. An entire mythos has arisen about a hidden pirate point deep within the Nebula where the Last Taurian Fleet sleeps, waiting for a just ruler to find them. No one has ever found anything, though, so pretty much we dismissed those rumors as wishful thinking. Now?” Quintus shrugged. “The rumors may have been right—even if exaggerated.”

“I hope that they were exaggerated,” whispered Ardan. “Because according to the story I read this morning, there are supposed to be four of those leviathans in that cache, along with a baker's dozen of lighter vessels.”

Hanse held up one hand. “We’ll panic if another ship suddenly arrives over Taurus—I presume that you have already arranged for near constant surveillance of Gateway?”

Quintus just smiled and Hanse nodded. “If they salvaged her, that means they need a crew—trained JumpShip engineers and technicians, as well as specialists for weapons that no one has used in a century and a half. She’s damaged,” Hanse pointed out as he replayed the tape again, “see those pockmarks on her port armor—that is the impact point of shells from a NAC-35,” and he smiled again, “if my memory serves me correct. And she’s got hull burns from Naval Lasers and PPCs. Odds are, she is going to take a lot of work to make serviceable—and I seem to recall that the Calderons were very dependent on munitions. No one manufactures that type of munitions these days.”

“All true,” answered the Champion. “But even so, this is a game-changer.”

“Is it?” asked Hanse. “She is one ship, probably lacking ammo for her guns, that can be in one place at one time—and gentlemen, we all learned during the First Succession War that enough fighters armed with nuclear weapons can kill ANY unsupported WarShip, no matter how individually powerful that ship may be.”

“She’s a morale boost, Hanse,” Ardan pressed on, shaking his head. “With her in his possession, Thomas might just get more aggressive than he has any right to be.”

“Thomas Calderon is many things, Ardan,” answered Quintus, “but a fool is not one of them. Hanse is right—the ship alone doesn’t change the balance of power on the Taurian Rim. But this, on the other hand, just might.” And with that the Intelligence Minister handed across a document folder stamped TOP SECRET—SPECIAL ACCESS.

Hanse took the folder and he began to read. “My God,” he said a few moments later, and he looked up at Quintus. “Is this confirmed?”

“Yes, Sire. We have an agent on Taurus and he managed to get us this précis on what they are calling the Vickers Memory Core.”

“Who?”

Quintus winced. “Sire, it endangers the life of these agents with every single person who is aware of their identity—even you. One slip is all that it takes, and this man is dead.”

“Who, Quintus?”

“Three years ago, we were contacted by a middle-level TDF officer, Sire,” Quintus answered, shaking his head. “Since then he has been a regular conduit for information on their government—not their military. Information that has helped us defuse tensions on a number of occasions.”

Who, Quintus?” Hanse snapped.

“The personal bodyguard and military advisor to Edward Calderon—heir of Thomas Calderon. Subaltern Jon Kincaide.”

“Bloody hell,” muttered Ardan, and Hanse slowly nodded.

“And you think that Kincaide is a middle-man for Edward—that Thomas’ heir is actively passing us information?”

“Edward Calderon is advocating—by all accounts—for a . . . normalization of relations between Taurus and New Avalon. He has pushed for an end on the embargo against the sale of Taurian goods to our consumers—and for a free trade agreement between the Concordat and the Suns. Sire, we do not know for certain if Edward Calderon is funneling us information—but if he is, then . . .,” and Hanse cut off Quintus.

“Yes. And now I see exactly how sensitive this is. If Thomas finds out, he will disown Edward; his paranoia will amplify if such a betrayal—and that is exactly how he will see it, gentlemen, a personal betrayal—comes to light. Damn,” Hanse whispered as he shook his head.

The antique clock on the mantle slowly ticked and tocked as the two men waited on their Prince. Hanse stood up and he nodded. “We need to try and get a look at that Core, gentlemen—but I am not authorizing the invasion of Taurus to do so.”

“Thank God,” whispered Ardan.

Hanse glared at his Champion for a moment and then he chuckled. “Don’t worry—I’m not going to feed the Heavy Guards into the nuclear maw of the Taurians at Gateway. Quintus, can you and DMI get an MI4 team on the ground?”

“Already done,” Quintus said as he laughed. “I’ve got MI4 teams on most capital worlds, Sire.” MI4, the Covert Operations Division of the Department of Military Intelligence, was tasked with gathering what was once called ‘hum-int’; intelligence garnered from the real live traitors that every state had waiting in the wings, Quintus thought with a smile. You just had to find them first.

“Good. They may need some backup though—can you sneak in a team of the Rabid Foxes?”

Quintus winced. MI6—Special Intelligence Operations—was known as the Rabid Foxes for a reason. An elite commando force—one on par with Kurita’s DEST or Liao’s Death Commandos—the troopers of MI6 were renowned for accomplishing their mission . . . but the body counts they often left behind were considerable. And Quintus much preferred . . . quieter means of gathering information.

“I do not advise that, Sire,” he answered quietly.

“MI4 will need backup on this, Quintus. This is like . . . Takashi trying to sneak someone into the NAIS and make off with our data. The Stealthy Foxes aren’t going to be able to do it alone.”

The Intelligence Minister sighed and then he nodded. “I can get them in—getting them out might be a problem.”

“Volunteers only, Quintus,” Hanse ordered in a very somber voice. “And make it clear to them, they cannot be taken alive.”

Ardan winced, but he nodded, and Quintus said, very quietly, “Yes, Sire. They will understand.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:25 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Humphreys Manor
River City, Andurien, Duchy of Andurien
Free Worlds League
October 13, 3025


“So,” Dame Catherine Humphreys, Duchess of Andurien, said simply to the woman who knelt in her presence. “Did Kyalla send you?”

“The Magestrix grants this one leave to serve her without needing to approve my every action, Your Grace,” the woman replied. “Much like your own Andurien Intelligence Agency benefited from our training in this regard—they are far more capable than your average SAFE agent.”

“Indeed they are,” mused Catherine. “This information from Taurus—a trick? A trap?”

“Unknown. But it would behoove both our nations,” and the nameless woman smiled, “if we were to have access to this Core.”

“And the ship?”

“We cannot smuggle in the manpower to either steal it or destroy it—but why should we worry? The Davions and Liaos will fight over it and wind up breaking the toy between them—each blaming the other. So typically male.”

“Possibly—but they will be after the Core as well.”

“Yes. But their best agents are men—men who while capable tend to still favor brawn over brains. Our agents will take a different tack. After all, Dame Catherine, we need only a few minutes of access to the Core in order to make a copy—perhaps a quarter, maybe one half an hour at most. And knowing Taurus,” the woman smiled, “the vast majority of their guards will be male. And therefore quite vulnerable to . . . shall we say, penetration? By my agents. Our agents.”

“Then let it be done.”

“And Janos?”

“He has SAFE, does he not? In a decade or two they might realize there is something worth pursuing on Taurus—until then, why bother the old man?”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:32 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Sanctum of the Primus
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 13, 3025


“Tell me, Demi-Precentor,” Julian asked as he sipped his tea, “what would keep the Taurians from seeing this weapon coming at them?”

The young Omega Division researcher lowered his head and then he looked the Primus directly in the eyes—even as Nicholas Cassnew felt fresh beads of sweat forming. The six hour break had devolved into over two days, but maybe this was the solution that the Primus would favor, thought Precentor ROM. Certainly, it might be enough to save his own neck.

Demi-Precentor Walter Manson sighed, “I cannot guarantee that they won’t detect it, Primus,” he said bluntly. “However, they cannot watch ALL of their surrounding space. The drive package that our engineers will attach to the asteroid will create a visible plume for a very short time as it accelerates—that is our window of vulnerability. Afterwards, our chosen approach vector comes along a corridor where few asteroids originate. I might add, this method will be completely deniable.”

“And if they detect the drive plume?” Julian asked as he sat down the cut of tea and rubbed his jaw.

“They will . . . but there are so many small craft and mining vessels in the Taurus system that the odds of them zeroing in on this single plume—far from any of the known jump points AND identifying the asteroid upon which the drive section will be installed is very remote.”

Julian nodded and he continued to rub his jaw. It was audacious; Manson had proposed selecting a nickel-iron asteroid some two hundred meters in diameter—and accelerating that piece of rock on a collision course for the Taurian WarShip. It was elegant and brutal . . . and it might well work.

“This will take time, Demi-Precentor—what if the Taurians move the ship?”

“Unlikely, Primus. For the next few months, their techs and engineers will be swarming over the vessel examining in a vain attempt to rediscover the secrets of that lost technology. They will be training crews, mapping out the ships systems and wiring, taking weapons apart in an attempt to learn how to construct them. And yes, it will take time—but so to will deploying our forces from here on Terra to Taurus in a raid that cannot be denied.”

“And if the asteroid misses?”

Manson and Nicholas exchanged a look, and then the Demi-Precentor shrugged. “If we aim the Sledgehammer correctly, it will not—but there is a . . . possibility that Taurus itself will be hit by fragments afterwards—fragments that will impact with the force of a fusion warhead.”

Julian waved off that concern. “No one can make an omelet without breaking a few eggs, Demi-Precentor Mason. And the Core, Nicholas? What do you propose about that?”

Precentor ROM swallowed heavily. “I have alerted all available ROM teams within a hundred light-years of Taurus. We will find the Core—and destroy it.”

“Before they unlock it?”

“It is unlikely that they will be able to do so before we can act, Primus,” Nicholas answered. “Taurian Cores of this era were designed with great paranoia—if the wrong access codes are entered, the entire Core will wipe itself clean. Destroying all data. They have to search their . . . incomplete,” Nicholas said with a smile, “archives to find the correct codes for the specific core that they have—or the overrides; information which the Star League mostly destroyed. And that we have slowly and gradually over the decades since tried to eliminate. It is possible that even possessing the Core, the Taurians may never be able to access it.” And Nicholas held up a hand as the Primus began to interject. “And it is possible, Primus, that they might—which means we must destroy it ourselves. I believe that we have a good chance of success on both fronts with this plan.”

Julian frowned and he leaned back, lifted his cup and saucer and took another sip. It was a complete plan of action—and far less risky to ComStar than attempting to use the Fleet. But would it be enough? He nodded his head. All things were risk—he knew that well after climbing the ladder of ambition in these treacherous ranks. The First Circuit would approve it—and Julian smirked, although Myndo would insist on using multiple rocks, probably to scour all life from the planetary surface. She was that blood-thirsty; even so, she still had her uses.

“Very well, and I intend to turn up the heat on Protector Thomas myself. Perhaps we can scare him into surrendering that vessel with the mere suggestion of an Interdiction.”

Nicholas winced. “Thomas will not give up the ship, Primus. He can’t, not even under that threat.”

“In that case, he will learn anew the lessons in a War where his enemies can communicate swiftly and his forces cannot.” Julian nodded, a crooked smile on his face. “Nicholas, I’m impressed—frankly, I thought you were a dead man two days ago. Now, I see there might be some small benefit to salvaging you and your career.”

“Thank you, Primus,” Precentor ROM whispered.

“Don’t thank me yet—you still have to brief the First Circuit, including Precentor Dieron. And she wants your head mounted on her wall—literally, Nicholas.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:37 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

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Location: At the base of America's Mountain
MA, how much will this differ from the version available at the OBT website? I remember reading this and I'm wondering how much it will differ.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:44 pm 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 15, 3025


“What the HELL happened with our security!” Thomas bellowed at the table of high-ranking military officers and civilian members of government that he stood before. He slammed his fist down on the polished surface. “I was asked—ASKED—by journalists this morning about rumors floating around not only concerning the WarShip docked in orbit, but the Memory Core as well! If our journalists know about it, you can damn well bet your collective asses that the Inner Sphere spies know it—and their leaders will know it in short order!”

Thomas’ cybernetic eye whirred and clicked as he glared at the men and women before him, but then his head jerked up as one man began to laugh.

“They know because I deliberated leaked that information, Protector Calderon,” answered Henri Jouett.

The Protector’s jaw dropped, he made an inarticulate growl, and his remaining natural eye bulged outwards—and the shocked expressions on the faces of everyone—except Edward—at the table mirrored his own.

TREASON!” shouted Grover Shraplen after he regained his tongue.

“Hardly treason, Governor,” answered Henri as Thomas still struggled to find his composure. “It was necessary—and as the ancient saw says, it is easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.”

Thomas sat, and he shook his head, looking down at his shaking hands—shaking with rage and fury—and then he glared at his Intelligence Minister. “I should have you shot, Henri.”

“My Lord, the information would have eventually leaked—it was inevitable. Far too many people know about the ship for it not to have leaked. Not to mention that every civilian ship within a million kilometers of Taurus has now seen the Saucy Sam for themselves—and some of them have spies for other powers onboard. Denying this information in the light of what their own eyes and sensors see gains us nothing.”

“That might explain the ship—but not the MEMORY CORE!” Thomas bellowed.

“Pop,” Edward whispered, and Thomas turned his attention to his son. “Listen to Henri—I knew about this. And I knew that you would never have allowed his plan . . . which is why I told him to go ahead without your okay.”

“Y-you told h-him,” Thomas stuttered and spat, and then he forced himself to relax. He took a deep breath. “This had better be good.”

“Thomas,” Henri said softly, “if you really think Edward and I are traitors to the Concordat, take us outside and have us shot. Yes, I had the information leaked and it is probably in the hands of every leader of the Inner Sphere at this moment—well, SAFE might still be arguing about whether or not Janos Marik needs to see this, but every other leader in the Inner Sphere.”

Despite themselves, several of the men and women at the table chuckled at that. The ineptitude of the Marik intelligence organizations had become the punch-line of jokes across the Inner Sphere—although, by and large, the agency as a whole was far better than most presumed.

“I leaked the information on the Vickers Core because it distracts them from the Saucy Sam, Thomas. And it dilutes their efforts. Make no mistake, they all want the ship and the core—well, that or to see them destroyed so that we don’t have them. But now, they have two targets instead of one, and whereas smuggling in one team might possibly get past our security, multiple teams? From multiple powers? In a set time frame? When we are expecting them to make a play?”

Henri snorted as Thomas slowly nodded his head.

“Thomas,” Henri said seriously he leaned forward. “If I had not leaked the information, it would have eventually come out—and they would make a play for the Core at a time of their choosing. Now? It’s a race. They not only have to get through our security, but they also have to get to it before their opponents do.”

Murmurs of understanding circled the table, and Helena Vickers raised her cup of coffee in silent salute—Henri nodded, his hand over his heart.

“By way, did I mention that my leaks—which foreign intelligence agents will note that I am desperately attempting to quash—indicate that we salvaged that ship; a ship abandoned and derelict for four hundred years?”

“Oh, you tricky bastard,” muttered Helena. “You want them to think that Sam is just barely operational, don’t you?”

“Exactly, Admiral Vickers. That WarShip—obviously with battle damage as anyone can see in the visual records—must be in a perilous state of disrepair after drifting for so long. And we have no one who understands those systems, knows how to work those system, repair those systems . . . to them, it appears that she is nothing more than a hanger-queen at this time.”

“But Helena Vickers and her crew . . . ,” protested Grover before Henri cut him off.

“You will note that I have held that particular piece of information rather tightly, my Lords—it hasn’t leaked. Not to the best of my knowledge—so far, neither foreign nor domestic source yet knows about the gallant Admiral and her crew.”

Henri smiled. “Furthermore, the leaks from my office lead one to believe that the Vickers Core is encrypted—and that we are moving heaven and earth to try and locate the decryption codes from archives four centuries old. Archives that the Star League gutted during their occupation.”

“But we have the decryption keys,” Shraplen asked in a bewildered voice. “Why . . .?”

“Governor Shraplen,” Edward said slowly and gently. “Those who want the Core will believe that we cannot yet access it. Taurian Cores of that period were routinely booby-trapped with explosives and even nerve gas,” and Henri nodded his approval at the young man, “and will wipe all their data if someone attempts to bypass the security systems. Oh, it can be done, given enough time—but if they want the Core before we open it, then they must make a play soon.”

“Not to mention that the leaks place the Core in a TDF secure installation outside of Samantha City—a research station that is normally only lightly guarded, but which we have only this week tightened and enhanced,” Henri added. “And we do have a duplicate Core module there . . . an empty one. Well,” he laughed, “one filled with rather useless information that is quite thoroughly encrypted.”

“Where then is the real Vickers Core, Henri?” Thomas asked.

“Remember that loon who wanted to build an entire city under a mountain—named the bloody place Erebor after that old film?” Henri said with a smile.

Thomas winced. “Ralston bankrupted his family for that project—you didn’t?” he questioned with a slowly expanding smile on his face.

“Oh, but we did. He had dug out dozens of levels all buried under hundreds of meters of granite, Tom. We’ve decided to build your new SCARS—and a city to support it—inside Erebor. One way in, one way out—and it will be heavily defended.” Henri snorted again. "That bloody mountain will laugh at even nukes."

“So, the Inner Sphere will vie for a Core that is a fake—and they will assume that Samantha Calderon is crewed by trainees who haven’t a clue about what they are doing . . . with many of her systems possibly off-line.”

“Yes, my Lord. And as we all know, assumption is the mother of all [censored]-ups,” Henri added.

If your plan works.”

“My plan depends only on human nature, Thomas. And which is more believable—that we salvaged that ship or that it jumped across Time to arrive with a fully trained crew and an unlocked Memory Core?” Henri smiled again. “No, they will use Occam’s Razor to arrive at exactly the wrong conclusion; and gentlemen, ladies, when their teams make a play for the Core . . . well, they can report home that it was destroyed. Their survivors can report, at least; the handful that we permit to escape off-world.”

Thomas nodded, and then he smiled. But then the smile vanished. “Next time, Henri, I want to be informed beforehand—understood?”

Henri’s lips twitched at the phrase next time. But he merely said, “Yes, my Protector.”

“Until then, what do you need to arm the jaws of your trap—and how are we going to play this with the media? I need to answer them before the end of this day on this subject.”

And with that, Thomas and his government rolled up their sleeves and went to work.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:46 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Quote:
MA, how much will this differ from the version available at the OBT website? I remember reading this and I'm wondering how much it will differ.
Not a lot. Just cleaning up some grammatical and spelling errors, mainly. I just wanted to post it here for the members who only seldom get to other sites.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 7:52 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Field Headquarters, Wolf’s Dragoons
Eisner Plateau, Capra
Draconis Combine
October 17, 3025


Jaime Wolf leaned on the balcony railing as he stared out at the distant stars. Although well past sunset, the sounds of activity filled the mercenary compound. After all, there were always jobs to see to; repairs to be made; personnel to be replaced.

And Jaime sighed. Too many of his personnel had to be replaced over the years—far too many.

“Okay, Colonel, what the hell is wrong now?” the worried voice of Natasha Kerensky snapped Jaime Wolf out of his reverie.

“Not much, Natasha,” he said softly as he nodded at her and turned to look at the stars again.

“Like hell! The staff pukes are avoiding you like the plague and you are up here—where you always go—commiserating with the stars instead of a bottle.”

“I am not that bad . . . am I?” asked Jaime in a bemused tone.

Natasha frowned and she looked left, then right, then up, then down. Satisfied that no one was lurking in earshot, she cleared her throat and began to softly sing. “Gloom, despair, and agony on me—deep dark depression, excessive misery. If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all . . . gloom, despair, and agony on me,” she finished and cleared her throat again. “That’s you in a nutshell tonight, Jaime.”

“That bad, eh?”

“That bad, boss. So what’s got you looking towards home?”

And Jaime glared at Natasha, but the woman just smiled at him. And Jaime Wolf sighed again.

“I had a meeting with Indrahar earlier today.”

“Thought so, I saw him and his retinue leaving the compound. What did the good old half-fossilized Director of the ISF, Subhash Indrahar, want with you this time?”

“He was here on behalf on Takashi—to discuss a possible new raiding mission for the Dragoons.”

“Oh?” Natasha asked brightly. “I’m game, as long as it is more challenging than Quentin was—what’s the target?”

“Challenging . . . definitely the right word.”

“Come on, old man—what’s the target?”

“Taurus.”

Natasha Kerensky blinked. She opened her mouth and then she closed it again. Then it opened, and still without a word, she closed it once more. She blinked again.

“Taurus? Taurus? TAURUS? As in the bloody damned capital of the Taurian Concordat--you mean that Taurus?”

“The one, the same, Widowmaker,” Jaime said, his lips twisted in a grim smile.

“Is Takashi absolutely insane?” she blurted.

“No, and someone has given him coordinates to an undefended jump point in the Taurus system . . . three guesses who, ‘Tasha.”

“Don’t need them. The not-so-local phone company, am I right, Colonel, Sir?”

“That’s what WolfNet believes. And no, he’s not crazy; he’s actually . . . concerned, Natasha. Seems like the Taurians have hit the jackpot—they found and salvaged one of their Reunification War era Calderon-class Battleships; it jumped into Taurus sixteen days ago.”

Natasha sputtered. “I’ll bet ComStar is shitting bricks right now!”

“No wager, ‘Tasha. Everyone wants that ship—or at least wants to be sure if they can’t have that no one else does either. To make matters worse, the Taurians also have recovered a Memory Core from the same era.”

Natasha stepped up beside Jaime and leaned on the rail as she nodded. “That . . . might make carrying out Kerlin’s orders a bit easier, Jaime. Depending on what information is stored away inside there.”

“According to Indrahar: the damn thing is an idiot’s guide for building pre-Reunification Wars WarShips—the Taurian edition; among other things.”

The Black Widow exhaled sharply. “Damn. Look, Jaime, I know I said I wanted something more challenging, but . . .,” she was interrupted by Jaime Wolf.

“I told him no. Then he asked about using the Kommando along with DEST in a run at the Core and I said again NO. He didn’t care for that. I do not expect that he hears that word used too often in his presence.”

“Yeah, I kinda of doubt it too,” she paused and then grinned. “Jaime. You know . . . we haven’t yet taken a contract with a Periphery state—I’m thinking Taurus is kind of lovely in the late spring/early summer months.”

“We already have a contract with the Dragon, Captain Kerensky.”

“Like they haven’t already given us a dozen reasons to invoke our escape clause; if we stick around Samsonov is going to try and own us—damn me if he isn’t dumb enough to try it.”

Jaime snorted in agreement.

“You know,” Natasha said impishly, “if we were still sending reports back home, the Ravens would go ape over the chance to fight a real-live Taurian battleship.”

“Yeah, until the Taurians break out their nuclear stockpile—then they would just go absolutely berserk.”

“There is that,” Natasha said with a smile. “Why don’t people just like a good fight anymore?”

“Because most people are saner than you or I, Natasha.”

“True,” she answered with a broad grin. “Come on, Jaime, let’s go get drunk. And then we can go kill something—I don’t care what or who, just something!”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:09 pm 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
I like the twists in here.

:)

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:51 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Chapter One

Taurian Concordat Navy DropShip Black Bull
Samantha City Spaceport, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 22, 3025


Space Master Anton Lefebvre stood as his passenger entered the compact bridge of the DropShip that was normally reserved for the use of the Protector of the Taurian Concordat. “Lord Calderon,” he greeted the young man with a salute. “The Protector wishes to speak with you before departure."

“Thank you, Space Master,” Edward replied with a nod—not saluting in return since he was (technically) not acting in his role as a TDF officer today. No, for today and the duration of this assignment, he was instead the Protector’s Heir and designated Special Ambassador to the Federated Suns. “Open a channel, if you please.”

Anton nodded and snapped his fingers—the highly experienced crew was already anticipating the order and in short order the image of Thomas Calderon appeared on several monitors.

“Ah, Edward,” he said as he saw Edward’s image appear on an identical screen within the palace. “I-I . . .,” he stuttered and then paused, and Edward blinked.

“It’s okay, Pop,” he said softly. “I know how far go I’m allowed to go in the negotiations—and you’ve given me the best pack of bodyguards in the Concordat. We’ll do you proud—we’ll do the Concordat proud.” Indeed, the old Fortress-class vessel was filled to capacity with a two companies of the elite First Battalion of the Taurian Guards, one ‘Mech and one Armored, supported by ninety of the finest infantry troopers that the Concordat could find. Plus, one of the Concordat’s rare Union-class marine assault carriers—a variant of the more common ‘Mech carrier heavily refitted to carry eight Aerospace Fighters, four small craft, and a company of zero-G Marines—was assigned as escort.

Thomas swallowed and then he nodded. “I know you will, son,” he whispered. “God speed—and good hunting.” Thomas paused again and then he lowered his head and shook it and pursed his lips before looking back up at the camera. “Lord knows, I told myself I wouldn’t mass a fuss over this—but you come back, understand? You come back home after this is done, boy. And in one piece.”

“That’s the plan,” Edward whispered as he swallowed a lump in his throat, and Thomas nodded, his one organic eye shining with unshed tears. Then the image abruptly ended as the Protector cut the transmission.

“Space Master Lefebvre,” the young man said after a moment. “I will return to my quarters—you are authorized to lift at your convenience for transit to Gateway and docking with the JumpShip Auroch.”

“Sir,” the veteran officer said simply as he remained standing until Edward Calderon had been escorted from the bridge. “Comm, inform Taurus Flight Control that we are ready for boost to orbit—confirm that our flight-space is clear and our escort is standing by.”

“Flight confirms we are go for launch, Sir—Onslaught is holding in planetary orbit to match vectors and velocity.”

Anton nodded crisply as he sat down and secured his safety straps about him. “Sound acceleration warning and begin sixty-second countdown to main engine ignition.”

A loud WHOOP, WHOOP, WHOOP echoed through the ship as the klaxon wailed its message; alerting all of those onboard that take-off was imminent. “All hands, we are at T minus fifty-five seconds until launch—stand-by for acceleration boost to orbit,” the Comms rating broadcast.

Black Bull shuddered as fuel pumps began to circulate the fuel prior to ignition; Anton looked down at his instruments and he nodded.

“T minus thirty seconds,” the intercom broadcast.

“Power, life support, and comm umbilicals have been retracted,” reported a rating from the engineering station. “We are on internal power and comms—all systems green for launch.”

“T minus twenty seconds.”

“Set laser igniters for automatic firing,” Anton ordered, “fuel flow to maximum.”

“Aye, Sir, igniters to automatic, fuel flow to maximum.”

“T minus ten seconds. Nine. Eight. Seven. Six. Five.”

“Ignition!” screamed a voice from engineering as the fusion drives lit off and the DropShip shook.

“Four. Three. Two. One. Lift-off!”

The building thrust from the drive pods began to lift the six thousand tons of metal and alloys, slowly at first, but increasing exponentially every fraction of a second. The ship shuddered and shook and rattled, but it lifted on columns of fire and streaked away toward the distant sky.

“Passing fifteen thousand,” the maneuvering officer reported. “All engines at max thrust.”

“Taurus Flight reports we are in the corridor and looking good,” said comms.

“Approaching Max-Q,” engineering snapped as Anton watched the altimeter climbing faster-and-faster. The most dangerous portion of any ascent, max-Q was when the dynamic aerodynamic stresses on the DropShip reached their maximum—a failure of the any system at this point could be catastrophic.

“Stand by to reduce main engine thrust to 60% power at Max-Q,” Anton ordered, “in three . . . two . . . one . . . MAX-Q!”

“Powering down to 60% on mains One through Five, skipper,” maneuvering barked. “All systems still green—passing forty-five thousand and still climbing!”

The thundering of the drives roared through the ship, but ahead of them, through the viewports, Anton could see the sky fading away to the deep black of space. And he released a breath he hadn’t quite realized he was holding.

“Approaching MECO,” engineering reported as the DropShip neared the moment for main-engine cut-off and a stable orbit. “In three . . . two . . . one . . . MECO!”

And with that, the roar of the engines died and Black Bull coasted along in orbit above Taurus.

“Comm, signal Onslaught that we will await them to match vector and velocity before we begin transit to Gateway,” Anton ordered.

“Aye, Sir. Onslaught reports they will come alongside in two minutes.”

“Outstanding, people,” the DropShip commander said warmly. Now, we just have to protect the Heir all the frigging way to New Avalon—seventeen jumps.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 9:56 pm 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Taurian Concordat Navy GuardShip Titan
Local Space, Taurus System
Taurian Concordat
October 24, 3025



“Most impressive,” Helena Vickers commented to Space Master Liam Zahra as the tour of the twenty-five thousand ton Assault DropShip came to a close. “But I understand that there are just two of them in the entire TCN? Is that correct?”

“Yes, Marshal Vickers,” Liam replied crisply. “Several years ago we captured a pair of Behemoth-class cargo ships taken by pirates,” and the Space Master smiled as he patted one of the structural bulkheads. “We can’t produce those ships—but we know how to work welders and cutting torches. Our engineers sliced this thing down to size and managed to make it the most heavily armed DropShip known to exist today,” then he sighed. “But, as you said, there are just two of them and we can’t make any more. I reckon, though, that they will provide your WarShip with sufficient protection until we get you fixed up.”

Helena shook her head, at both the audacity of the ship she was aboard and her newly bestowed rank of Marshal—she had always been a fighting officer, and those promoted to Marshal were mostly stuck behind desks. But Thomas had insisted—and now she was the senior officer of the entire Taurian Concordat Navy. What little there was of it.

“Forty-eight Class Two autocannons?” blurted Daniel Stiles. “Why in God’s name would you do that?”

Liam laughed. “You still aren’t getting the loss of technology we suffered—for this time, the Class Two AC is the longest-ranged weapon system available. Does a pittance of damage, but forty-eight of them will still give ASF fits—and tear apart the armor of any DropShip out there. And that is the just the long-range ballistic guns, Commander. We also carry four ASF of our own, plus eighteen Class Five ACs, a dozen Class Tens, a half-dozen Class Twenty, a dozen LRM launchers, twenty-four PPCs and Large Lasers, eighteen Medium Lasers, a dozen SRM launchers; not to mention the thirty Small Lasers and forty-eight Machine-Guns installed for point-defense!”

“Exactly,” said Helena. “They did the best they could, Dan—and it is a remarkable piece of engineering. 6-G’s max thrust, you said?”

“Yes, Marshal, slimming this girl down to twenty-five thousand tons from one hundred-k made her one of the fastest ships in space—and left enough room to give her as much armor as many a Star League cruiser!”

“And you’ve still got your docking gear?” Helena asked.

Liam grinned broadly. “Aye. And according to the Protector, both Titan and Goliath are going to be assigned to the Saucy Sam when she gets all of repairs done; after all, after detaching the Red Hand, you’ve got two free collars.”

“They’re assault boats from Hell, ma’am,” Stiles muttered. “Damn, what I would have given for a dozen of these during the War.”

Helena nodded with a grim smile. So many things were so different today—the backwards technology and ideas of limited warfare . . . but then there were exceptions. The TCN of her day would never have spent funds on a 25,000 ton displacement DropShip—not when it needed raw ship numbers. But this design had definite possibilities. And those Hyper-Pulse Generators that she had been told were run by ComStar . . . she winced as she thought of the wacky pseudo-religion that had sprung up in the fall of the Star League. In her day, there had been no FTL comm; just courier ships that needed to recharge their drives between jumps. What might have Marshal Santos been able to accomplish if he had these HPGs? And a government willing to carve up and rebuild entire DropShips to suit their needs instead of trying to build them from the ground up—only because they lacked the knowledge to build the necessary drive systems?

Still, she thought to herself. I don’t like the idea of someone else handling our mail—it was far too tempting to imagine that they didn’t read it. Human nature being what it was, she would have been shocked if this ComStar actually did pass along messages without sneaking a peek—but she was certain that they took that peek. The biggest question was, though . . . what did they do with that information?

Information was power—and ComStar had a tremendous amount of power at its fingertips. What’s their game, she thought?

“Marshal Vickers? Space Master Zahra?” the GuardShips XO interrupted. “There is priority request from Samantha City for the Marshal and her staff to return immediately to the surface. From the Office of the Protector to be exact,” he concluded.

“Very well, prep my shuttle for immediate launch,” Helena ordered. “Space Master Zahra—an excellent inspection. I cannot wait to see this ship and her sister in action.”

“Thank you, Marshal. I’ll pass that along to my crew.”

“Dan?”

“Yes, ma’am,” her XO and chief of staff said as he held open the hatch to the bridge.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:01 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The Goliath Guardship is posted on Solaris VII. To summarize, it is a Behemoth cut-down from 100,000 tons to merely 25,000 tons--gaining a LOT of space for guns, armor, and fighters in the process. I've kept the same engines and same structure, so she's tough and fast as well as extremely heavily armed.

In many ways, she's a pocket WarShip armed only with conventional weapons.

Hope ya'll like her.

MA


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 13, 2015 10:20 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 24, 3025


Helena Vickers trotted into the War Room buried deep in the labyrinth of the Headquarters of the Taurian Defense Force, Dan Stiles trailing in her wake. She steeled herself upon seeing the shocked faces of a handful of the ranking officers and ministers of government present, some of whom stood, others sat—a few with their faces cradled in their hands in expressions of utter disbelief. Oh, [crap], she thought. What now?

As she scanned the room, she realized that they were still awaiting the Protector, and she drew in a deep breath to still her racing heart.

“Marshal Vickers?” an attractive woman—barely in her mid-30’s—whispered to her. “Glad that you have arrived—Thomas should be here in a moment . . . and we are waiting for one more besides the Protector to join us.”

“What’s happened, Marshal Calderon?” Helena asked, but before Brenda could reply, the doors opened again and every officer rose to his feet as Thomas entered the room, followed by a hustling—and white-faced—Grover Shraplen.

“Be seated, gentlemen, ladies,” Thomas said bluntly. “Six hours ago, the First Battalion of the Pleiades Hussars, under the command of Brigadier Boris Tharn, attacked the ComStar compound on Jansen’s Hold in the planetary capital of Theo,” he snapped—and Helena came to the realization that this was what utter and absolute fury looked like on the face of Thomas Calderon.

“We are aware of this only because ComStar has informed us of these actions—we do not at this time have Brigadier Tharn’s version of the events that occurred in Theo. This is what we know, however—the Hussars, under the command of Tharn, surrounded the ComStar compound with ‘Mechs, tanks, and infantry. They then demanded that two recent converts to ComStar be surrendered immediately, citing evidence that they were in fact Davion agents working to undermine our defenses on Jansen’s Hold. When the local ComStar Demi-Precentor refused to surrender them, Tharn assaulted the compound and seized one of the two suspected spies—the second, along with eighty-seven other members of ComStar, died in the assault.”

Stunned silence filled the room, broken only by a low groan from several officers. Thomas nodded. “I have been summoned to the Alpha station on Taurus—summoned!” he bellowed. “In two hours time, I will be asked to explain this in a real-time HPG communication with the Primus of ComStar himself! Grover,” he barked, turning towards his friend and long-time ally. “He’s your man—you pressured me, against the advice of my senior officers, to give him a Battalion. Has he gone insane or has he always been this incompetent?”

“It has to be a lie, Thomas! Boris Tharn is a loyal Taurian officer—he would never do such a thing,” and Grover shuddered, “unless it was to defend your realm," he added.

“DEFEND IT? THAT SON-OF-A-BITCH MIGHT HAVE JUST DESTROYED IT!” Thomas thundered. Then the Protector drew in a deep breath and clenched his fists together; he leaned forward on the table. “The word interdiction was used in the communication from Terra, ladies and gentlemen. Interdiction! Have you no clue as to what that might entail for the Concordat, Governor Shraplen?”

Helena cleared her throat, and Thomas jerked his head around with a scowl on his face, but then he calmed himself and nodded.

“Will ComStar allow us to speak directly with Brigadier Tharn?” she asked. “To assess his version of the events?”

“That is quite impossible, Marshal Vickers,” answered Henri Jouett. “As Brigadier Tharn died in the assault on the ComStar compound—his Ostroc suffered a direct hit to the cockpit that penetrated the armor and killed him instantly. Strangely enough, his executive officer and all three company commanders were also killed—the only casualties inflicted on the Hussars was to their battalion and company level command officers.”

Henri paused and then he shook his head. “Such . . . rather implausible . . . targeting aside, I have to wonder just how Boris Tharn knew that the two men he was pursuing were in fact Davion agents? Considering that information was far above his need-to-know, and closely held by this very assembly here on Taurus. Perhaps the good Governor can shed some light on this matter—bearing in mind that my office will be launching a full investigation.”

“Grover?” growled Thomas.

The skin of civilian from MacLeod’s Land blazed red and he shook his head. “They were Davion agents, Thomas! I was working to protect your Realm—that smug ass,” he said pointing to Henri, “would have done nothing but watch them! We needed to send a message—but I had no idea that Boris would violate ComStar neutrality!” he bleated.

Thomas glared at Grover until his friend wilted and then the Protector sighed. “We will discuss this later in private—you and I, and it will be discussed in full, Grover,” and then Thomas sat down heavily and he rubbed his unruly hair with both hands. “This is one hell of a problem that we didn’t need—not now. I want options, people.”

“One, we make a public apology to ComStar and pay restitution—in whatever amount—they demand,” said Henri. “Which possibly includes handing over all surviving members of the First Pleiades Hussars for trial and execution by ComStar on Terra,” and officers around the table winced.

“The second option is accepting the interdiction, Protector Calderon. ComStar has proven notoriously consistent in the past with such incidents—whether it is a Concordat wide interdiction or not, . . . ,” Henri shrugged.

“There is a third option,” mused Helena quietly.

“Well, this should be good,” interrupted Henri. “And what, pray tell, is this third option?”

“We go all in—seize every ComStar compound and HPG in the Concordat,” Helena said bluntly.

“MY GOD!” someone shouted as chaos erupted around the table.

“Mademoiselle Vickers,” Henri spoke slowly—as if to a child, “even if we were successful in seizing their compounds and the HPGs, we do not know how to operate them.”

Helena shrugged. “The ComStar adepts and acolytes do—and they will talk given sufficient persuasion.”

“Torture,” muttered another officer. “We are better than that.”

“Bullshit,” said Helena bluntly. “We are human—that means we do what we have to do. We do things horrendous when necessary in order to survive. I thought that Taurians learned that along with their mother’s milk?”

“When necessary,” snapped Thomas. “It is not—in my mind—necessary . . . yet.” He shook his head. “No. We—the Protectors before me—gave our word that ComStar could operate here in safety. I will not throw aside that to take what does not belong to Taurus. To the Concordat—we are not thieves, Marshal.”

“My apologies, Protector,” Helena said, not sounding all that apologetic, “but you did ask for options—and that is one option.”

“So I did,” he said. “And if it becomes necessary, we may revisit your third option, Marshal Vickers. But until then . . . how much can the Treasury scrounge up?”

“Barely enough to rebuild a Class B station, Sire,” the Exchequer sighed. “In hard currency, at least. Between the Far Seekers and the money you are throwing into Erebor and the diversionary Core—you and Henri, that is, Sire—we are all but tapped out for this quarter. If ComStar insists on hard currency . . .,” he looked down at his hands and then directly into the Protector’s eyes. “We may not have it. Not enough.”

Thomas sighed. “We will cross that bridge once I speak with the Primus—for now,” he said softly, but with an iron core that no one at the table mistook. “For now, I want readiness orders for a possible Concordat-wide interdiction issued to every unit on a world with an HPG—and I want a courier ship taking those same orders to EVERY SINGLE WORLD—HPG or no—of our Concordat within the hour. Henri, Brenda, and I have been digging through the contingencies, and Case Vermillion is the one in question. Inform all commands that they may have to act independently and without confirmation from Taurus.”

He paused. “DEFENSIVE OPERATIONS ONLY, gentlemen, ladies. I will hang any officer from the nearest light post that decides to go a’viking—is that understood?”

A chorus of voices answered in the affirmative. “Good. Now get cracking and get those orders issued immediately—and God help us all.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 11:56 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar Class A HPG Station
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 24, 3025


Thomas gritted his teeth as the robed figures searched him—physically patted him down! But he endured the indignity without a word as the Adepts and Acolytes completed the check for weapons, and their leader nodded.

“Your guards—they are not needed within the confines of this Holy Structure,” the man spoke from behind the folds of his hood. “Only you have authorization to pass this point, Protector Calderon.”

John MacLeod—the head of his security detail—bristled, but Thomas held up one hand. “Taurian law requires that the Protector be escorted, Adept.”

“Taurian law does not apply here within the Sanctum, Protector Calderon—only the Holy Writ of Blake and the will of the Primus. They shall remain at this juncture or you shall all be required to depart.”

Thomas glared at the man, but he forced himself to swallow the first answer that boiled to the surface of his brain. Telling the man to have intercourse with himself would not, after all, be in the best interests of the Concordat.

“Agent MacLeod,” he ordered at last, “you and the detail will remain here until my return—that is a direct order!”

“Yes, my Lord,” the body-guard answered through gritted teeth of his own.

“Then if you will follow me, please, Protector Calderon,” the Adept said with a wave of his arm.

The Adept led, and Thomas followed, trailed by three beefy looking fellows, who—despite their robes—obviously were security. Winding passageways led them deep within the domed structure that stood in the center of the ComStar compound—and Thomas inhaled deeply at the sight before him. A massive piece of machinery being swarmed over by Adepts and Acolytes, chanting lines of liturgy as they made adjustments to the control systems, filled the room to capacity; one long arm—resembling nothing else so much as a cannon of some sort—almost touching the hemi-spherical ceiling high above.

“That is the Hyper-Pulse Generator?” he asked.

“Indeed . . . it is the Sanctified and Divine Device through which communications is made possible—designed by the Blessed Blake as he wrote down his teachings which guide us to this day.”

Thomas stood there, and he gawked—until one of the three beefy men behind him pushed him forward. The Adept lowered his hood and he shook his head. “None of that, Acolyte—the Protector is a guest. Still, guests must abide by the restrictions their hosts place upon them. You are no Servant of the Blessed Blake, Protector Calderon—the Engines of his Magnificence and Holy Power are not yours to observe; you have had sufficient privilege to cast a merest glance upon them. This way,” he said, pointing towards a chamber set to one side.

The chamber was dim and the Adept ushered him within—to where Precentor Taurus stood waiting. “Ah, Protector Thomas; thank you for answering our request to attend us at this hour.”

“It was an offer that I literally could not refuse, Precentor,” Thomas answered slowly.

“Of course, you could have—if you wished to sign the death warrant of the Concordat,” the leader of the Taurus A Station replied with a smile. “If you will stand there,” and the Precentor indicated a circle upon the floor, “we are ready to proceed.”

Thomas stepped into the circle and the lights dimmed still more—then a light began to emerge from the darkness. It coalesced into the image of a man dressed in the purest of white robes—Julian Tiepolo, the Primus of ComStar.

“Thomas Calderon, I greet you in the Name of the Blessed Blake. Peace be upon your House this day.”

“Primus,” Thomas said simply with a bow of his head.

“Ah, you are almost a stereotype of Taurian intransigence and refusal to bow down to anyone. It has been too long since I have personally experienced such, Thomas.” And then the Primus’ face grew cold and somber. “But that is not what we are here to discuss this day, is it?”

“No, Primus, it is not. I can assure you that no orders originated on Taurus calling for an attack on the Jansen’s Hold compound—further, all those responsible will be identified and they will be punished for their actions; severely, I might add.”

“It is good to know that you take your responsibilities so gravely, Thomas—however, ComStar cannot allow such an affront to take place without . . . retribution.”

“We are prepared to offer restitution to ComStar for the facility and the loss of life,” Thomas said through jaws almost locked into place by his tense muscles.

“What value do you place upon a soul, Thomas? Eighty-eight of my people perished—eighty-eight souls who might have accomplished miracles in the future; now all have been cut short. Our neutrality has been violated, our territory intruded upon, our blood has been spilled. What price would you place on such?”

“That is for you to determine, Primus; we will, of course, offer to share all of our investigative findings with you on this matter.”

“Too little, too late,” Julian said with a grim smile. “My own advisors on the First Circuit tell me that you threaten the balance of power within Known Space, Thomas—combined with this attack, whose order most definitely originated from Taurus,” and Thomas hissed in shock, “these two together make Us question as to whether or not you desire to see peace . . . or if you are as blind as your fore-fathers and only want to see the Inner Sphere in flames?”

“This order—I did not authorize any such thing,” Thomas growled.

“Thomas, your name was not upon it; but I doubt that anyone would have dared to authorize such an action without your approval. Still, a Holy Interdiction of the Taurian Concordat will cause great pain and suffering to your people. Especially as we inform your neighbors that you are under Interdiction for Crimes waged against this Holy Order. Liao and Davion and the pirates of Tortuga will have a field day—and your forces will be isolated and alone; easy prey as they fall one world after the next.”

Thomas bit his tongue and he nodded. “What price do you demand as a starting point?”

“Am I a merchant to haggle, Thomas? No. I am PRIMUS of ComStar. You will pay full restitution for the reconstruction of the Class B HPG station on Jansen’s Hold—and pay full cost for the construction of a new Class B facility on another world. You will compensate the families of the dead for all of the future efforts which those Holy Servants were capable of making—and you will surrender unto us this WarShip which draws unto you greedy Successor Lords like flies drawn to honey.”

Thomas clenched his jaw. “The ship is ours—it belonged to Taurus before, it belongs to us now.”

“That ship will be the cause of your destruction, Thomas—I seek only to spare you and your people. ComStar does not desire this vessel for ourselves; indeed, we intend to cast it into your sun at the center of the Taurus system—to destroy it and remove from you the instrument which your enemies so greatly desire. With it gone, Peace shall have a renewed chance to flourish. Retain it . . . and you shall have more War and Pestilence and Famine,” and Julian smiled again, “and Death, oh, yes, Death; you shall have more of these things than you can possibly imagine, Thomas.”

The Protector swallowed and Julian raised his hood. “It is great burden, leading the Taurian people, Thomas. And it is difficult for you to accept that this must be done—but it must. And it shall be. If it is not, then a Holy Interdiction shall I declare upon your people and your worlds. Still, it is a shock to you, after all. I give you . . . four days—ninety-six hours in which to make your decision. I trust that you will come to the realization that only one course is the correct one—the true one; the one which will preserve the lives of your people, Thomas. Precentor Taurus will remain here to put you in contact with me at any time before the expiration of that dead-line. But my patience is not finite, Thomas—come the passing of that dead-line and Excommunicated from all messages you shall be.”

The image flickered and then it winked out. Thomas blinked, and he glared at Precentor Taurus, who just smirked—SMIRKED—at him. “Escort him from this Holy Sanctum.”

Thomas didn’t say a word when he rejoined his guard detail; he didn’t say a word as they walked across the flag-stone lanes of the manicured ground; he didn’t say a word until after the ground car was sealed and swept for bugs and driving quickly away. When he did speak, it was but a single sentence, and then Thomas sat gazing out upon the capital city of his realm as the car traveled to home.

“Assemble the War Council—make certain that Helena Vickers and her people are present.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 12:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar HPG Station Prime
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 24, 3025


“And now we wait,” said the Primus as the transmission ended and the lights slowly brightened in the central hub of the HPG network. “Your thoughts, Precentor ROM?”

Nicholas sighed. “I am worried that we went too far—pushed Thomas too much. You all but admitted to him that we are reading their mail, Primus!”

“In a conversation which he has no proof of—no copies, no data. Just his word against that of ComStar . . . following an incident in which his troops slaughtered our people.” Julian smiled. “That was nicely done, by the way, Nicholas—how long have you had Boris Tharn on our payroll?”

“A few years, now, Primus,” Precentor ROM answered with a grateful bow. “Although he wasn’t expecting the retirement package he received—still,” Nicholas mused, “it would not have been possible if you had not altered Shraplen’s message to push him into attacking the facility. Certainly his troops would have not have followed him without that order.”

Julian smiled. And then the smile faded as another—bitter—voice spoke up.

“Yet, you did not address the Data Core,” Myndo Waterly spat. “We could have wrapped up this entire operation in one fell swoop had you insisted upon that as well.”

THAT would have pushed Thomas over the edge, Precentor Dieron,” Julian snapped back. “And it would have risked revealing to the entire human race that we—ComStar—are engaged in stopping technological progress of all of the Houses both Great and Minor alike! ROM will destroy the Core, preventing the dissemination of technology—demanding that it be surrendered would have been one demand too many, yes?”

“I disagree,” Myndo said as she shook her head. “We are talking about the Taurians here—a minor power with little, if any, ability to defy you. A Great House—perhaps. Perhaps, a Great House would have stood against you, but Thomas Calderon? A broken man leading a broken people, clinging to delusions of greatness from four centuries ago? No. He would have complied with your demands because he knows that is the only way he can preserve his Concordat.”

“They fought the Star League for twenty years when all they had to do to stop the conflict was to join the League, Precentor Dieron,” Nicholas said. Myndo Waterly spun around, and she sneered.

“I did not ask for your opinion, Precentor ROM—speak when you are spoken to! Unless you wish that tongue removed!”

“I am pleased with Nicholas at this moment, Precentor Dieron,” Julian snapped again. “In fact, I would hear more—Nicholas?”

Nicholas swallowed and he nodded and then composed his thoughts. “Thomas might be no Nicoletta or Henry or Mitchell . . . but he is a Calderon. If we push him too far, too fast, there is a good chance that he will simply say ‘screw it’, and strike back at us—the consequences be damned. Threatening an Interdiction against a Great House with four or five hundred star systems is one thing—the Concordat has just twenty-eight inhabited star systems outside of the Hyades Nebula. Twenty-eight, Primus, Precentor Dieron. Half of those lack HPG Stations to begin with. Because of that, Thomas already maintains a courier system in place—inefficient, yes. But he has enough JumpShips that he can keep one or two stationed at every system. I fear that our Interdiction threat might not be received in the same light as a Great House where you can cut the communications lifeline on ten or twenty times as many worlds.”

“You fear too much, Precentor ROM,” Myndo sneered. “Thomas will be cowed by this threat—and even if he is not, his friend Grover was certainly . . . vocal enough about his displeasure over Thomas’ brat and his covert mission to New Avalon. Though I do wish that he had complained about the specifics more to Tharn—still, it is enough to know that Edward Calderon is en route. If Interdiction will not deter Thomas, then perhaps holding his eldest son and heir as hostage will,” she mused.

Nicholas winced. “Precentor—Primus. My personnel are already occupied with planning operations against that ship and the Data Core—adding another high-risk mission . . .,” he began.

“I wasn’t asking for your personnel, Nicholas,” Myndo cooed. “I am handling this particular tangent myself. With the permission of the Primus, of course.”

“Of course,” Julian answered with a slight frown. “Alive, Myndo,” he enunciated very slowly. “Alive and unharmed—Thomas Calderon is already unstable, and I doubt that news of the death of his eldest son and heir at our hands would result in a change of this situation to our liking.”

“Oh, do not worry, Primus,” Myndo answered with a smile. “Soon enough he will be in our clutches—and then, whether or not Thomas chooses to cooperate, we can . . . instruct Edward. Make him believe in Blake and the supremacy of ComStar.”

“Brainwash him,” muttered Nicholas. “Not a reliable technique.”

“Where is your faith, Precentor ROM?” Myndo hissed. “Once we have Edward and he is one of us, then we have little need of Thomas should he prove . . . intransigent, I believe was the word that you used, Primus.”

Julian nodded. “We have many arrows in our quiver—best to use them all to make certain that this Memory Core does not spur a technological renaissance.” He sighed. “Very well, Myndo. Edward is yours to toy with—do not make me regret this.”

“Why, never, Primus,” she chuckled, and then left the two men behind her. For a moment there was silence, and then the Primus said a single word.

“Nicholas?”

Precentor ROM sighed. “Yes Primus. I will have my people watch hers—closely.”

“Good, Nicholas.”

“I remain concerned about the ultimatum you delivered, Primus,” Nicholas pressed on. “I’d like permission to increase the threat alert of all of our operations in the Concordat—just in case.”

Julian considered. “You think Thomas might—in truth—attack ComStar, Nicholas?”

The younger man sighed. “I don’t know—and that scares me. He can’t run the HPG stations—but he can certainly abduct our people and tear their knowledge from their bodies before dumping their corpses in the nearest star. Damn, I’d feel better if we had a few battalions of the ComGuard and Militia out there.”

The Primus nodded, frowning. “Do it. Put all of them on alert—but without being able to work the HPGs, I think we can discount an all-out attack. Your other idea—that sounds like Thomas to me. And no, we can’t deploy the CGM so quickly, but . . .,” the voice of the Primus trailed off. “We have hired mercenaries in the past to defend our installations. And there are some out there who would jump at such a safe contract. I will contact them, myself.”

“Yes, Primus,” Nicholas said with a bow as the Primus turned to go, but the older man stopped and stood in the entrance way.

“And despite what Myndo wants, Nicholas—I believe that we will leave the pot alone to cook for a while. We have too many spoons in the pudding as it is. Too many cooks arguing about the recipe. Time to leave it alone and trust our agents to do their jobs.”

“Yes, Primus—by your command.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Aug 14, 2015 8:16 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
As one of those who does not frequent many of the boards thanks for posting MA.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:39 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 24, 3025


“They want MY ship? They want to send my ship to burn up in the sun?!?” snarled Helena Vickers. “I’ll shoot a [blanking] nuclear warhead right up his damned ass, if you let me, Protector Calderon!”

“Aside from the small matter that Sam cannot leave this system at the moment, Marshal Vickers,” interjected Henri, “we also have a dead-line on this ultimatum. And confirmation that they are reading our mail—is there anything out there that I need to know about, ladies and gentlemen?”

“No,” growled Thomas. “I have made certain that nothing about Edward’s mission was spoken of over HPG tranmissions—and none of our people are stupid enough to leak any information on the Core . . . yourself excepted, Henri.”

“Thought of as lazy and stupid—just the cover us intelligence types dream of, my Protector,” Henri said with a grim laugh.

“On the dead-line—we do have a contingency for this already prepared. CASE CYAN,” Brenda Calderon said bluntly. “We can dust it off and update it; be ready to go in . . . thirty-six hours,” she said after a moment of consideration.

“Odds of success?” asked Thomas.

Brenda shrugged. “We’ll take the compounds—ComStar doesn’t have enough security to keep my boys and girls out. And with a little bit of luck we’ll do it before they wreck the machinery too bad.” She sighed. “We’ve had this contingency on the books for quite some time—over a hundred years, Marshal Vickers, Protector Thomas. But the plan requires lethal force—you might not have that many survivors to put to the question.”

“Jack?” Helena asked.

The chief engineering officer from TCS Samantha Calderon shrugged. “I can’t make promises on equipment I’ve never seen—or read—about. But, my boys and girls are the absolute friggin’ best at what they do. If anyone can make it work, we can. It would help to know what the blasted thing is supposed to look like, but I don’t expect the archives have any pictures, do they? Or even better, an Operator’s Manual?”

Nervous laughter erupted from the table, but Thomas Calderon just smiled. “John,” he summoned his body-guard over to the table with a wave. “I can’t do it myself—I just can’t.”

“Understood, Sire,” the man said as he took out a cord with a pair of data-plugs; the table grew quiet as Thomas lifted his chin and the guard held his head steady with one arm—and then inserted one of the plugs into Thomas’ cybernetic eye. “That’s got it,” he said as he attached the second end of the cable into a slot on the table—and a holographic image arose.

“That’s the HPG itself, Commander Fletcher,” the Protector said. “I’ll download the data and Henri here can distribute the pictures—he’s the one who installed the video camera and dedicated memory after all.”

“I was hoping that they wouldn’t remove your artificial eye—even paranoids have limits, my Protector,” the Intelligence Chief laughed.

“So they do,” answered Thomas as he nodded. “Done, John.”

The body-guard removed the plug and there was a CLICK as the hidden port in the eye closed once more. Thomas shuddered. “Will that suffice, Commander Fletcher?” he asked—but the engineer from the past was staring at the hologram, zooming in on various components.

“SON OF A BITCH!” he yelled. “That’s a heavily modified miniature Kearny-Fuchida projector—not a drive, but a real-life no-[crap] projector!”

WHAT?” shouts rose from the table.

“Jack,” Helena said gently, “you can’t operate a K/F system in a gravity well—what makes you think this is one?”

“You can't transport ships in a gravity well, skipper,” Jack Fletcher said in an awed voice. “But this? This was theorized ever since Kearny and Fuchida made their first equations. Think back to Jump Engineering 101—artificial jump points, skipper. Artificial [blanking] jump points,” he continued in an awed voice.

Vickers frowned. “I remember that from the Academy—but the energy costs were prohibitively high; it would require the total power output of this planet to create a stable jump point large enough to send even a corvette through.” And then the light bulb went off. “Oh, bloody hell. How big a bubble do you have to create to send a burst radio transmission?”

Jack paused and then he shook his head. “A few centimeters in diameter? Perhaps even a millimeter? Less?” Jack cursed. “Why the hell didn't we ever think of this? Protector, you don’t need the technical [crap]—get me in there, and I’ll make that son-of-a-bitch work!”

Thomas snarled. “That confident, are you Commander? Good; because we are going to get you in there. The Primus of ComStar wants to threaten me? He wants to threaten the Concordat? I think he has already declared WAR on us, ladies and gentlemen—and that he was behind the Hussars attacking Jansen’s Hold. I would put money on it—that smirking bastard Precentor Taurus, he knows something. That one, I want alive.”

He exhaled deeply. “ComStar wants a war? Well, they’ve got one. CYAN is approved, Marshal Calderon. Marshal Vickers, mind if we borrow Commander Fletcher for a bit?”

“Will I get a chance to blow a very nasty, very big hole in Julian Tiepolo?”

“Doubtful at the present time, Marshal—but if he and his continues to piss me off, once we get your ship repaired, I might let you nuke Hilton Head Island on Terra.”

Helena Vickers laughed. “I’d hock my soul for that chance, Protector Thomas! You’ve got a deal.”

“Good. Understand me, ladies and gentlemen, as of this moment—WE ARE AT WAR.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Aug 15, 2015 11:55 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Shraplen Estate
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 25, 3025


“House arrest! I cannot believe that Thomas thinks I deliberately had anything to do with this attack, Henri—you must tell him. You must convince him,” Grover begged to the head of Taurian Intelligence.

“You misunderstand the reason for this visit, Governor Shraplen,” Henri said very quietly. “I have already questioned your men—and they have been most revealing. About how you raged at Thomas when you learned that he was seeking an accommodation with Hanse Davion, that he was sending Edward to New Avalon to meet with Hanse Davion.”

“We can’t trust the Davions—Thomas should never trust the Davions! They stole our worlds! They took from us our strength! Without them, the Star League wouldn’t have come for us!”

Henri shook his head. “Governor Shraplen, you are wrong on so many levels that it is not even funny—you believe that Maximillian Liao would be a better choice for an ally? The Liao do not have allies . . . they have servants and enemies.”

Grover began to reply, but then he shut his mouth. “You cannot prove anything.”

The Intelligence Chief chuckled. “In Wartime, Governor Shraplen, Special Intelligence and Operations has special . . . authority. And yesterday, the Protector declared war. On ComStar.”

“ComStar?” Grover spat. “He will destroy the Concordat when our communications are sundered and Hanse Davion invades! We should regain our worlds, now—ally with the Capellans, and make restitution to Terra!”

“Such a noble son of Taurus, Governor Shraplen—how long have you been taking money from Maximillian Liao?” Henri asked, and Grover’s face went white.

“Aren’t a good poker player, are you? As I said, in wartime, my office has special authority. Over the past decade—at least that far—you have received quite a bit of funding from Sian. Quite a bit. Now, that doesn’t—exactly—make you a traitor, Grover, although it does make you stupid . . . but Thomas will not be at all pleased with you all the same.”

“Damn you,” Grover whispered.

“I want to know one thing, Grover. One little thing,” Henri paused. “You see, I have spoken to Thomas’s valet—the one that you suggested he hire because of his qualifications. And the valet told me that he . . . informed you that Edward Calderon was leaving the Concordat secretly. Travelling into the Federated Suns to start talks with Hanse Davion. Before you had that little blowup with Thomas.” Henri's lips twitched. "After which, since he hadn't told you, the Protector ordered me to find the leak and seal it. Because no one outside of a select and very tight-lipped group is supposed to know a thing about Edward's trip, much less his destination."

Grover snarled, but Henri just shook his head and he drew his pistol—Grover stared at the man in shock.

“Did you share that information with Boris Tharn? With anyone else by HPG, Governor Shraplen? HPGs run by ComStar—whom we are now at war with . . . and who read our mail. Did you?” Henri smiled. “Before you answer, consider that by this time tomorrow the Samantha City ComStar Compound will be taken by force and I will have access to their archives—lie to me, and you will not survive the week.”

“I-I,” Grove sputtered, and then he swallowed heavily. “I might have mentioned it to Boris . . . and a few others—not who he was meeting, but that he was travelling incognito to New Avalon.” And Shraplen looked up at Henri with implacable fury in his eyes. "To sell us out to those Davion [censored]-sons!"

Incognito? Did you mention his heavily armed escorts?”

“No.”

“You are certain of that?”

“YES!”

“Good,” Henri said as he stood and holstered the pistol. “Our interview is at an end, Mister Shraplen—I believe that Thomas will probably strip from you your title and your world for your selling of information to Max Liao. Such a pity that is—a stain upon your name, and it alerts Max to the fact that we know about you.” Henri sighed. “Officially, however, there isn't a thing we can do about your little indiscretion involving Edward and his trip. Not that I am bothered in the least by that fact. If you had any honor at all, I'd leave you a pistol and one bullet and the matter would be ended. Of course, you are too much the coward to take such an honorable exit—so I am doing it for you.”

WHAT!” shouted Grover as two of Henri’s men stepped forward and grabbed the powerful nobleman. A third unzipped a leather case and extracted a syringe and a vial; the powerful drug concoction sprayed into the air after he loaded the syringe.

“You CAN’T! I have RIGHTS!” Grover shouted as Henri rolled up the man’s sleeve and his agent fixed a rubber tourniquet around his bicep. Finding the vein, he inserted the needle—and the overdose of the illegal narcotics within. Grover twitched as the tourniquet was released, then he spat and began to spasm—before he collapsed, bubbles foaming at his mouth and nose amid the blood.

Henri nodded and the agent bent down and placed Grover’s hand and fingers on the syringe, and then the three gathered their gear and left.

“Good-bye and good riddance, Grover,” Henri said as he placed his hat on his head and exited through the servant’s wing of Shraplen’s empty manse.


TCOSIO Headquarters
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 25, 3025


Henri worked quickly and alone as he slowly encoded the message that simply had to be sent before the attack. The code used was old—but it had never before been used for communication. He shrugged as he double-checked it; not even ComStar could be expected to break this—not without additional samples, not on the first use ever.

Satisfied, he finished the message form and then he pushed the buzzer on his desk. Summoned by the shrill noise, his secretary entered his office.

“Amanda,” he said as he passed the document across to her. "I need this sent to,” and he checked his file again, “one Riva Allard on New Avalon—by a courier not associated with this office. Immediately, I am afraid—can we squeeze this one in?”

The middle-aged woman smiled. “Consider it done, Chief. Standard or priority?”

“Oh, priority. Most definitely priority. And use Governor Shraplen’s account codes—no sense in depleting our own. He won’t be missing them.”

“Yes, Sir. Will you working late again, Sir?”

“Unfortunately, yes, Amanda.”

“Well, try to remember to eat—it isn’t healthy to miss too many meals,” she chided as she left the office with the document case.


The Palace of the First Prince
Avalon City, New Avalon
Federated Suns
October 26, 3025


“Not bad news, one hopes?” Hanse Davion asked after the guards left, leaving Quintus Allard and the First Prince alone—Allard had insisted.

Incredible news, my Lord,” the Intelligence Minister answered as he removes a few sheets of paper from his briefcase and slid them across the desk. And then he sighed. “My daughter received this communication this morning—and she recognized the first line. Knowing my work, she then delivered it into my hands.”

Hanse frowned, and he picked up the piece of paper. “Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their laws we lie.”

“It is a code phrase that Henri Jouett and I agreed upon when we met for the first and only time ten years ago,” Quintus said simply. “It means that we need to talk—the body of the message was thoroughly encrypted. But I have the decryption key,” he smiled.

The First Prince nodded and turned to the second page and began to read—and then he looked up in shock. Quintus nodded, and Hanse resumed—he started from the beginning, not once, not twice, but three times. And when he was finished, he sat down the papers and he stood, beginning to pace.

“Thomas Calderon is sending Edward Calderon here—to negotiate with me over the price for a copy of the Vickers Core. Did I read that right?”

“You did.”

“And he is—probably at this very moment—attacking ComStar facilities across the Concordat and is about to suffer an Interdiction? I read that right—that isn’t code, is it?”

“No, Sire. You read it correctly, Sire.”

“And this—Henri Jouett—that runs their intelligence believes that ComStar is going to try to kidnap or kill Edward . . . and he wants me to protect him.”

“In return, Prince Hanse, for the secrets of HPG operation—which he claims the Concordat has available.”

Hanse nodded and he walked over to his wet bar and poured an amber liquid in a crystal glass before he downed it. Then he poured another.

“Is this real, Quintus—or am I dreaming?”

“I’m not wearing the French maid outfit again, am I, my Prince?” Quintus answered with a laugh. “If not, this is real—if I am, you are dreaming.”

Hanse snorted. “I’d be picturing Melissa Steiner in a French maid outfit, not you, old friend,” and then he sighed. “If this is real . . .,” and his voice trailed off.

“Yes.”

“Pass the word—NOW. Before the interdiction begins—abort all operations in the Taurian Concordat. MI4 is to observe only—the Rabid Foxes are to return to base immediately.”

“And Edward?”

“We need to get Ardan in on this,” Hanse said with a smile. “Perhaps we can start a tradition of him rescuing current and future heads of state.” He took another swallow and then he grabbed a second glass and the bottle and set it on his desk. Pouring another for himself and one for Quintus, he raised the crystal again. “If this isn’t a dream . . . then we have a chance to damn those robed bastards to hell, Quintus.”

“Amen, my Prince,” Quintus answered as he clicked his glass against that of his sovereign and both men drank deep.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:52 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar Class A HPG Station
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 27, 3025


“Hey, Bob,” one of the guards called out to his companion, who sighed.

“Look, Jeremy—Chief Waters is going to have both our asses if you keep talking when you are supposed to be standing post. What?”

“You ever seen one of those before?” the relatively new ComStar recruit pointed at the ‘Mechs moving along the boulevard—a late night exercise, according to the TDF. Nothing to worry about, the guard thought. The Taurians often conducted exercises of tanks and ‘Mechs and infantry at odd hours—even here in the core of the capital.

“They’re ‘Mechs,” he said . . . but then he actually looked at them. And he frowned. They were ‘Mechs, to be certain, but of a design he had never before seen. And the Battalion marching by . . . every last one of the ‘Mech were that same unfamiliar design. What the hell? No one fielded entire battalions of the same BattleMech—not since the Fall of the League, at least. And that insignia—Robert Grey knew the shoulder flash of every TDF unit on Taurus, but he had never before seen that flash . . . and his eyes grew wide. Not outside of a museum, the cold realization came bubbling up from the depths of his memory.

He reached down and placed his hand on the phone—and that was when the line of ‘Mechs and tanks and infantry carriers suddenly wheeled and began advancing on the compound. “[crap]!” he screamed—but the incoming PPC bolt tore apart the guard shack before he had the opportunity to trigger the alarm.

Of course, the explosions and weapons fire was more than enough to alert the men and women who called the ComStar compound home.

********************************************************

“What is happening?” Precentor Taurus screamed as he entered the control center—he was still pulling on his robes of station.

“Thomas has gone mad—I do believe that this is his answer to the Primus,” the ROM Chief of Station said bitterly. “He’s attacking the facility.”

The ComStar leader blanched . . . and then he cursed. “The HPG—I’ve got to get to the HPG,” he said. “Can you hold them off?”

“How long do you need?” the ROM officer asked with a grimace—and both men ducked as an outlying structure erupted in a fireball . . . and hundreds of Taurian infantry darted in through the breaks in the compound walls.

“Five minutes minimum—ten would be better.”

“My boys can give you three—maybe four. May I suggest you implement the Omega Protocol, Precentor?”

Precentor Taurus nodded. He inserted a key into one of the computer stations of the command center; entered a short code, and then he turned the key. “Omega Protocol activated,” he said. But the ROM Agent was already gone, leading the men and women of the security force in trying to hold back tanks and ‘Mechs and infantry with only small arms.

Damn you, Thomas Calderon. You have condemned the entire Concordat to death with this action, he thought as he knelt in the entrance—looking at the twenty meters that separated him from the entrance to the communications dome at the center of the compound. Twenty meters—just twenty meters. However, it was twenty meters filled with weapons fire. Gritting his teeth, Precentor Taurus dashed out, zigging and zagging as he rushed toward the entrance of the dome. He never saw the Taurian paratrooper drifting down from above who fired a burst into his back as he sprinted across the open courtyard.

********************************************************

The outer compound was child’s play to secure—but the dome itself featured multiple levels, many beneath the city streets. And the tight quarters, plus fear of causing damage to the invaluable HPG restricted the weapons that Corporal Mueller and his maniple could carry to light-weight SMGs and pistols, along with a handful of flame incinerator units.

Say what you want about their beliefs, he thought, the robes were throwing up heavy resistance in his path. And that made him wonder—why does a religion that preaches peace need to have so many well-trained and heavily-armed people? He stopped next to a corridor junction and then he nodded at one of his men—the one carrying the flamer. The trooper gritted his teeth and he stepped forward, extending his arms around the bend and squeezing the trigger . . . and screams began to fill the corridor, along with a few initial gunshots.

“Go,” Mueller ordered, and the maniple of ten troopers rounded the corner—firing single shots into the burning figures ahead of them. It was a mercy, really, he thought. Better than letting the fire finish its work.

A single pistol shot snapped ahead of him, and Mueller crouched—but he didn’t hear the passage of the bullet. And then he heard another. And a third.

He broke into a run and entered the HPG chamber itself, and without thinking he raised his SMG to his shoulder and fired three bursts into the back of the security officer who was casually shooting the technicians in the head. Shooting his own people in the head, Mueller thought as he swore.

The next tech in line, the one that the ROM agent had been about to execute, sobbed. “Thank Blake,” he cried. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Mueller and his men spread out and they searched the chamber—but the security man with the pistol had been the last line of defense. “Bravo Three-Two,” he broadcast. “HPG secure—we have live prisoners,” and then Mueller frowned as he saw the red flashing lights on one console. That can’t be good, he thought. Then he blanched. “Central, they’ve set their reactor on overload—we have . . . five minutes to core detonation.”

********************************************************

“I thought you were the best, Harper?” the sergeant growled at the Explosive Ordnance Disposal tech. “Disarm the bloody thing right quick, now!”

“It ain’t a bomb, Sarge! It’s a bloody damned fusion reactor! And the controls are locked!” Patricia Harper snapped as she wiggled her way into the wire-filled outer containment vessel.

“Just turn the damn thing off!” the Sergeant bellowed again. Already, the Taurians were evacuating the troops above—and the civilians in nearby residential sections. If this thing blew . . . well, several thousand people would have a very bad morning. Pat crawled through the outer containment vessel and then she found what she was looking for.

“Got it!” she snarled. “Time to core overload?”

“Forty seconds,” the radio squawked.

“It’s all about the fuel,” she said as she worked. “These things can’t sustain a reaction without the fuel feed—cut the lines and avert the overload.”

“Can’t be that simple, can it?” asked the Sergeant.

“Making a bomb is easy, Sarge—making one that will go off on a moments notice and NOT blow up when someone bumps into on a daily basis; well, that’s a bit more difficult. But they don’t need to use a bomb, not when they can overload this generator.”

“Thirty seconds.”

“Problem is, unlike a bomb, it takes time to build up to detonation—and a LOT of fuel. Cut,” she grunted as she finished wrapping the det cord around the fuel flow lines and began to fit the detonator, “the fuel lines and the whole thing goes cold.”

“Unless you breach containment—you are right up against the interior vessel, Harper.”

“Twenty seconds.”

“Teach your grandmother to suck eggs, Sarge. I’ve got it—backing out now,” and she began to crawl away from the fuel lines . . . and then she cursed.

“[censored],” she whispered as she tried to move—but she was caught on the wiring, hung up good.

“Ten seconds,” the radio whispered.

“Get out of there, Harper!” the Sergeant yelled.

“No time, Sarge,” she whispered as she lifted the trigger for the detonator. “No time,” and she closed her eyes as she hit the clacker twice. The explosion tore apart the fuel lines—and the reactor’s safeties automatically shut off the fuel flow as sensors indicated a leak in the outer containment vessel. Without the fuel, the fusion reaction in the INNER vessel slowly weakened and then began to dissipate, the temperatures and pressure falling back into the safe zone.

She had saved thousands of lives—at the cost of her own. And she was only one of hundreds of Taurians who sacrificed themselves for their Protector, their nation, their people that day.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 11:57 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar Class A HPG Station
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 27, 3025


Thomas stepped gingerly through the rubble of the formerly immaculate courtyard in what had once upon a time been the premier ComStar installation in the Concordat. Despite protests from his security—and Brenda Calderon, and Helena Vickers, and Henri Jouett—he had insisted on seeing this with his own eyes. Well, his own eye, he thought with a slight snicker.

But the amusement faded away as he saw the lines of dead being respectfully covered and the wounded being tended.

“How many, Brenda?” he asked.

“Ours or theirs?”

“[censored] theirs—how many of ours?”

“Fifty-three dead, three times that wounded. Primarily in the infantry—ComStar didn’t give up without a fight.”

“Could have been worse,” muttered Henri Jouett.

“It would have been worse if not for Tech-Corporal Harper,” Brenda Calderon said with a sigh. “She saved a lot of civilians—and a lot of our people, not to mention the HPG itself.”

“John,” Thomas said to his body-guard, “made a note that I want to see her family myself—at the Chateau, when they have had time to grieve.” He nodded to himself. “Ask them if they are willing to accept the Standard of Taurus on her behalf.”

“Yes, Protector,” the body guard said with a bow, and Brenda nodded her agreement.

Conversation came to a halt as Thomas knelt down next to a wounded soldier, and spoke with him quietly, then he moved on to the next, and then the next. Finally, the Protector left the wounded men and women and the group moved on.

“Has your Commander Fletcher had any luck in figuring that thing out?”

Helena snorted. “He’s happier than a pig covered in slop, Protector Thomas—as soon as the reactor is repaired, he thinks that he can bring the HPG on-line.” She chuckled. “Of course, having several live technicians from ComStar helps; and the fact that their own security was trying to kill before we took over has rather . . . inspired some of them.”

Thomas nodded and he frowned. It was amazing how much finding out that your own people wanted you dead could focus one’s attention—the surviving techs, many of them Alpha Division, had (for the most part) experienced a conversion experience in the maelstrom of that assault. Some were cooperating—others, not so much. But some of them, shocked beyond belief that ComStar lacked any trust in their ability to keep silent, that the organization would rather kill these men and women themselves than risk their secrets emerging . . . ah. It rather warmed Thomas’ heart that a few of those had their eyes opened.

And then he smiled grimly as he came upon another stretcher.

“Precentor Taurus—did you receive my answer on this morning?” Thomas asked the wounded man as he was being carried past.

“You are a dead man, Thomas Calderon,” the ComStar leader whispered. “ROM will not rest until you and all your heirs are dead—until the Concordat is history, lifeless and depopulated. You have started a war that you cannot imagine—and you will pay for it with all that you hold dear.”

Thomas knelt and his smile faded. “If the Primus of ComStar wants a war, then a war he has, Precentor. As for you—well, there are many secrets that need to be extracted from that skull of yours. And even if you die before saying a word, Precentor, I promise you that death will be long in coming—and pain will fill every last moment of your life until the end.” Thomas stood. “Maybe I’ll send the Primus your head—as an example of what ComStar can expect if they interfere with the Concordat.”

“You’ve damned yourself beyond all redemption,” the Precentor whispered. “Blake will devour your soul.”

“My dear Precentor,” Thomas said gently, “Blake was just a man. Not a god—a man. I know—it was my own ancestor that nominated him to be the last Director of the Star League Communications Division. Your fraudulent mysticism and fabricated beliefs do not frighten me.”

“You will learn to fear the Word of Blake before your end, Thomas Calderon,” the Precentor spat, and then he grimaced at the pain from his wounds.

“Not likely, charlatan,” Thomas whispered in the ear of the man. “See to it that his wounds are treated—I want him healthy when he is put to the question,” the Protector ordered the medics.

“Helena,” he continued to the Marshal. “Light a fire under your man—I’ve got a message to send to the Primus . . . one that will make him sit up and take notice.”

“Of course, Protector Calderon,” she answered quietly as Thomas continued his tour of the damaged compound, speaking with the people who earned this victory.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:02 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar Class A HPG Station
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 28, 3025


“Jack,” Helena growled. “You said you could get this to work—what’s the hold up?”

The engineer crawled out of an access hatch on the side of the HPG, and he sighed. “Boss, I don’t know what half of this gear is supposed to do. Typical piece of Terran crap with a dozen different components where any sensible engineer would use just one! Everything is cross-connected to the Nth degree—it’s like they deliberately designed a Rube Goldberg machine specifically to spite anyone who ever got their hands on it! I’ve got power flows all the place here, leading to circuits that don’t seem to do anything! But if I cut out those circuits, the whole frigging thing goes dead!”

Helena glared down at the engineer—and the team of scientists assembled from those embarked on Saucy Sam, along with the surviving ComStar Adepts and Acolytes who had agreed to cooperate.

“Damn it, Jack,” she snapped. “I’m not asking you to build the blasted thing from scratch—just make it work!”

“Boss, I . . .,” and seeing the look on Helena’s face, he sighed and rubbed a greasy hand through his hair. “Fine. But if we are going to be using this-this . . . piece of sh-- . . .,” he winced as Thomas walked over and quickly adjusted his word choice, “junk, then we need to understand what each of these components are supposed to do—and right now, I don’t. Know. What. Purpose. Half. Of. Them. Have.”

“Understand it later,” Thomas commanded. “Right now, I need this on-line—can you do it, Commander?”

Jack sighed again and he began to mutter. “Blood paranoid Terrans, none of these technicians know anything other the SINGLE system component they were assigned to run. The only ones with a complete knowledge were killed by ComStar security.”

“ROM,” corrected Henri Jouett as he smiled. “And Precentor Taurus probably knows—but he will take some . . . persuasion to reveal his knowledge.”

“Did you know they don’t have a single manual of operations? They memorize their tasks—rote memorization without understanding the basic underlying theory of how the bloody thing works!” Jack whined.

JACK!

“Okay, okay, okay,” he muttered. “We may burn out half of the circuits that I don’t know what they do, but okay.” He steeled himself and he stood up from the floor and turned to the senior Adept that had changed sides—Dennis Frasier. “Is the generator aligned?”

“On target, Pre-,” the man blushed. “Commander. HPG is on target and auto-stabilized.”

“Charge capacitors and prepare to establish communications wormhole.”

Dennis nodded and the team of former ComStar personnel began to sing out the litany as they worked the dials and pressed the keys.

“I hate Gregorian chants,” Jack groaned as the machinery hummed to life. “Ready to record and transmit—if I am reading this board right,” and he crossed his fingers.

“Then let us begin,” said Thomas.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 16, 2015 12:08 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar First Circuit
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 28, 3025


“. . . and the Pronouncement of Interdiction has been distributed across the HPG Network, Primus,” the Adept reported. “As of two hours ago, the Taurian Concordat has been officially Interdicted as per your command.” Then he paused, and he swallowed heavily. “I must report, however, that the Taurus ‘A’ Station has missed its past three transmission windows—and we have no confirmation from Taurus that the Interdiction has begun.”

Julian frowned, even as the members of the First Circuit started to whisper among themselves. It wasn’t unheard of for an ‘A’ Station to temporarily go off the air—but the timing was . . . worrisome. “Contact directly one of the Concordat ‘B’ Stations—have them confirm and see if we can determine what is wrong with the Taurus HPG.”

“Primus,” the sweating Adept said with a deep bow, “we did so six hours ago—none have yet replied to our transmissions.”

“It takes time to realign the HPG,” one of the Precentors of the First Circuit began, “and ‘B’ Stations are limited . . . perhaps their response is just delayed.”

“Even a ‘B’ Station should be able to respond to a priority transmission from the First Circuit in less than two hours,” snapped Myndo Waterly. “Unless the Precentor in command is incompetent—did we send all of our fools to Taurus?”

Before anyone could reply, the sound of pounding feet came from a corridor and an Acolyte ran into the First Circuit. Ignoring the Primus and the circle of Precentors both, he whispered to the Adept, even as Julian ground his teeth. The Adept jerked, and his head snapped around to stare with horror at the Primus—and his jaw dropped, leaving his mouth open.

“Pr-pr-primus,” he stuttered. “We have received a transmission from Taurus—relayed here. I-I . . .,” his voice trailed off.

“CONTROL YOURSELF!” Julian snapped. “Play the transmission.”

The Adept swayed. “Pr-primus . . .,”

“Did you not hear the instruction of the Primus?” Myndo interupted. “PLAY IT,” she commanded.

The Adept bowed low and he walked over to a system control and adjusted the lights. A holo-projector in the center of the floor activated; the image was shaky, filled with static, and slightly out of focus. Julian frowned.

“Adept,” he said softly. “Are we experiencing technical difficulties?”

“N-no, Primus—the transmission from Taurus was not precisely attuned,” he answered with an audible swallow of the lump in his throat. “The computers are processing and cleaning the transmission as . . . we . . . speak,” and he grew quiet as the image solidified—the color base still slightly off and shaky, but it was not the image of Precentor Taurus. No, the image that stood in front of the First Circuit was that of Thomas Calderon.

Sharp intakes of air came as several of the Precentors gasped, and Julian grabbed the sides of his podium in grips so tight that his knuckles faded to white.

“Primus,” the image spoke as it wavered. “I have received your . . . ultimatum and carefully considered a reply. In the words of General Anthony McAuliffe during the Siege of Bastogne in Terra’s Second World War—NUTS! Or, if you aren’t a fan of history, then a simple PISS OFF is our answer to you. Part of our answer, anyways,” he said with a chuckle. “I believe you recognize the chamber I am in? Your own ‘A’ Station on Taurus? It is mine now; it belongs to the Concordat.”

Horrified—and furious—voices began to echo around the chamber, but the transmission continued.

“As you might notice, your Precentor Taurus is not present—he is under arrest and the evidence is damning. I have been assured that he will be sentenced to death for his crimes against the Concordat. My forces have seized not only this ‘A’ Station on Taurus, but every ‘B’ Station within the Taurian Concordat—and we, the men and women of Taurus, are operating this station now to send you this message.” Thomas paused and canted his head as he smiled. “Seriously, you did not think that the sons and daughters of Samantha Calderon could figure out how to operate this technology? If so, Primus, you are a fool.”

And someone in the chamber drew in a quick, rather horrified, intake of breath.

“We here in the Periphery have much experience with the perfidy of Terrans, Primus Tiepolo. Your demands were unacceptable to us—and your actions in causing the incident upon which you based those demands were unconscionable.”

Julian’s face went white, and the image sneered at him. “That’s right—we have access to your archives here on Taurus. And it was orders from Terra that instructed Precentor Taurus to alter Grover Shraplen’s message to Brigadier Tharn of the Pleiades Hussars. Those altered orders and communications which resulted in the attack on your facility on Jansen’s Hold; without them, the attack for which you blamed US would have never occurred. I don’t know what is more contemptible, Tiepolo—your callous sacrifice of men and women who served you or your greed over what the Concordat possesses.” And Thomas paused before he waved one hand.

“But that is now over. I hereby declare ComStar an outlawed organization within the territory of the Taurian Concordat—all who owe it allegiance will leave immediately under pain of death for defiance of this order. I hereby nationalize your HPG stations—we Taurians will operate them ourselves, for our own good. Of course, we will consider handing them back to you—in exchange for the head of one Julian Tiepolo. Nothing attached—just the head,” Thomas said with a grim smile. “There is an old expression, Primus, which you should have considered before this gambit began—[censored] with the Bull and you get the horns. Don’t push us into going further, or By the Horns, you will regret those actions forever.”

The transmission flickered again, and then it abruptly ended. And utter chaos descended on the Chamber of the First Circuit.

Julian swayed and he tried to speak, but he couldn’t draw breath—and then he staggered as the pain in his chest exploded. He collapsed onto the floor.

“PRIMUS!” someone shouted, but Julian couldn’t see his face—his voice seemed so very far away. “GET A DOCTOR IN HERE!” And everything faded to black.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:10 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ComStar First Circuit
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 28, 3025


“So, to repeat,” the physician-Adept from Kappa Division reported, “the Primus remains unconscious in critical condition . . . but we anticipate a full physical recovery from the cardiac event that he suffered.”

“And mentally?” asked Myndo.

“Treatment was provided within minutes—there should be no permanent mental impairments,” the doctor answered.

“Very well,” Myndo snapped. “With the Primus incapacitated, it falls upon us of the First Circuit to respond to this travesty on Taurus. I believe that my fellow Precentors now see the need to act decisively to eliminate this threat to our very existence.”

“How?” snapped Precentor Sian. “He has at least one HPG under his control and he has made a broadcast! Once the Great Houses learn of this, they will . . .,” but she didn’t finish the sentence.

“One broadcast—possibly using traitors within ComStar forced to work the machinery at gun-point,” Myndo interrupted. “He doesn’t understand the technology—and he cannot replace any of the parts. Only we, here on Terra, can do that. And we all saw that message—he cannot even work the HPG properly!” Myndo paused and she nodded. “The Concordat already lies under interdiction—if he broadcasts again, the message will be stopped at Stations loyal to us. Now is the time to respond to this affront—to make certain that Taurus regrets the day it lifted a hand against those who are faithful to the Word of Blake!”

“And what do you suggest, Precentor Dieron? That we send the Fleet? If we do that—and the Great Houses learn of it—we are done,” Precentor Tharkad bluntly asked.

“Taurus is their economic, military, industrial, and spiritual heart, Precentor Tharkad,” Myndo said with a grim smile. “The Station which they took by force lies there, in Samantha City. Where the Protector and his family reside. Where their military and intelligence commands are headquartered. Where their most prestigious universities and service academies are located. Where their industrial strength is concentrated.”

She paused and smiled at the members of the First Circuit.

“I submit that this city which is home to Thomas Calderon is a cancer which must be removed—doing so will cripple the Concordat and show the Taurians that not even on Taurus behind their asteroid defenses and their nebula are they safe.”

“Destroying their capital city?” Nicholas asked into the silence. “Are you mad, Myndo? We are speaking of ten million civilians living within an area the size of Greater London. Even with Backdoor allowing our Fleet to bypass the asteroids and enter the Taurus system without engaging their main defenses, what makes you think they will survive to enter orbit? We all know how the Taurians will respond to three WarShips entering THAT system—their fighters will be carrying nuclear weapons; the Concordat has a tremendous stockpile of tactical devices that they will not hesitate to use.”

“Precisely, Precentor ROM,” Myndo snarled. “I do believe that you have at least one agent in place in the facility which produces their tactical weapons—Fission Utilities, Consolidated and Unlimited? That is the name, yes?”

Nicholas sighed. “I do have an agent there. But those are small—TACTICAL—devices, of about 35 kilotons each, Precentor Dieron. Even if I sent my agent an order to detonate one, it wouldn’t destroy the entire city.”

“No, one device will not suffice. Nor will multiple devices concentrated in a single location,” Myndo mused. “But, if I am remembering your reports correctly, the Taurian Defense Force must regularly replace their existing warheads with new ones—half-life being such a bitch for these . . . primitive weapons.”

“Yes,” Nicholas whispered.

“And this Foo-Coo does so in bulk, yes?”

“[censored] you,” Nicholas said with a hint of a smile.

The Chamber went silent as the blood drained from Myndo’s face—she drew in a breath and began to open her mouth in fury, but Nicholas raised one hand. “It is pronounced ‘[censored]-you’, not ‘foo-coo’, Precentor Dieron—although many in the TDF and those who work there simply refer to the facility as ‘Nukes ‘R Us’.”

The silence dragged on as Myndo struggled to compose herself, but then at last she nodded. “Thank you for that correction, Precentor ROM,” she snarled. “They produce replacement warheads in bulk, do they not?”

“Yes.”

“And they ship them in blocks of one hundred, yes?”

“That is a typical delivery—one hundred warheads, once every two months,” answered Nicholas.

“You agent will supply other ROM teams with the next scheduled delivery—and they will appropriate it. A single 35-kiloton detonation will not achieve our goals—but one hundred? Distributed throughout Samantha City? And I do believe that these Taurian weapons—being intended for use in space—leave massive amounts of lingering radiation behind, yes?”

Nicholas nodded, but he set his jaw. “Do you believe that the Taurians will not move heaven and earth once they realize that someone has stolen one hundred nuclear warheads?”

“Are you saying that ROM cannot accomplish this, Precentor ROM?” Myndo asked sweetly.

“We can accomplish this—if the Primus orders it. You are not Primus, Myndo Waterly.”

“The Primus is . . . unavailable, Precentor ROM,” she answered in a sharp voice. “And if the First Circuit commands it—you will act. Or you will be replaced.” She paused. “To the rest of humanity it will appear as if the Taurian obsession with these weapons of mass destruction resulted in a tragic accident that took the lives of so many millions of their own civilians. I dare say, we might be able to convince the Great Houses to begin reducing their own stockpiles—for if this can happen to the Taurians, it might happen to them.”

“Any analysis of the blast patterns will indicate . . .,” began Protector Atreus.

“They will analyze information that passes through our HPGs—we will give them the data that conforms to our story. It’s not like Hanse Davion or Takashi Kurita or Maximillian Liao will visit Taurus to confirm the story with their own eyes. We control the flow of information—and through it, we SHALL control humanity,” Myndo snapped. And then she glared at the members of the First Circuit. “Which is why we must end this Taurian Crisis NOW. Before the situation escalates even further out of control.”

One by one, the voting members of the First Circuit slowly nodded their agreement, and Nicholas sighed.

Myndo glowed with delight, and she nodded as well. “And in the wake of this unfortunate . . . tragedy . . . we must begin to look to our own defenses in the Outer Worlds. Perhaps it is time to address deploying the ComGuard and Militia to defend our compounds—slowly, of course.”

She turned her gaze back to Nicholas. “One final matter,” she said. “Have an intermediary pass along to Maximillian Liao and Michael Hasek ALL of our information on the latest deployments of the TDF—border defenses, what units are present. EVERYTHING. With an Interdiction already in place, I doubt very much that those two can resist the . . . opportunity to wrest a dozen or so worlds away from the Concordat.”

She paused again, and smiled. “When our Great Work is finished, we will have completed the job that the Star League began—and the Taurian Concordat will no longer be a thorn in our side.” She waited until the voting members nodded their agreement. “Then we are in recess—Blessed be Blake! May his Word bring Peace to all Humanity. United under our rule—of course.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:15 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
ROM Command Center
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 28, 3025


“This is madness, Charles,” Nicholas muttered quietly to his aide. “Killing individuals is one thing—we are going to be slaughtering millions here. Between the detonations and the radioactive fallout . . . I will personally be responsible for my very own Kentares Massacre.”

Charles Seneca grimaced and he sighed. “She doesn’t understand the meaning the words discretion or subtlety, does she?”

“No. But if I balk, the First Circuit will replace me with someone who will carry out their orders without question—probably with that syphocant Harriman.”

Charles winched again. “It’s all so pointless—if they would LET us do our jobs, we could go in and eliminate the captured personnel and all of the Taurian scientists who MIGHT understand how to make it work. Hell, we could take out Thomas Calderon and his family, if that is what the First Circuit wants—if they don’t interfere or micro-manage. And give us time to get the deed done!”

HAH. They want absolute control over everything—and heaven forbid if you tell them the sky is blue when they think it should be pink,” Nicholas fumed.

Charles looked around the room and then he swallowed heavily. He leaned in close to his superior and began to whisper. “There is another option, Nicholas—one that doesn’t require you to become a mass-murderer.”

“Oh?” Precentor ROM answered just as quietly. “What are you suggesting, Adept?”

“With the Primus incapacitated, you control the security apparatus—except for the details assigned to each of the First Circuit. But they are lightly armed . . . we have two thousand loyal agents here on Hilton Head that answer only to you—and the Primus.”

“They answer to me as long as I am Precentor ROM, Charles. As soon as the First Circuit sees fit, they are going to replace me—I know that is what Myndo wants.”

Charles swallowed and he looked around the room again. “They can’t replace you if they are dead, Precentor ROM.”

Precentor ROM’s head jerked up and his eyes grew wide. He began to speak—and then he closed his mouth.

“Myndo is a threat to the Order, boss,” Charles continued. “That is the precisely the reason we were formed in the first place—to eliminate threats to ComStar. That she holds a seat on the First Circuit shouldn’t have any bearing on our duty.”

Nicholas licked his lips which had gone dry, but still he said nothing.

With a sigh, Charles made one final effort. “How long do you think the Primus will live if Myndo gets a taste of wielding his power—he’s helpless in the hospital right now, boss. She’ll smother him herself—you know that. If you don't stop her, put an end to her madness, before she can act.”

At last, Nicholas nodded. Reluctantly, but he nodded. “We have to take them all at once—the voting members. We cannot risk a schism because we missed one or two.”

“Just give the order, boss—give the order and you will be in charge until the Primus wakes up.”

Nicholas closed his eyes and then he nodded. “Do it. Today.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 11:19 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Evacuation Tunnel Alpha
Hilton Head Island, North America
Terra
October 28, 3025


Myndo cursed as her guards pressed her back against the wall; the Acolyte who led them into the passageway staggered as his body absorbed the hail-storm of bullets emerging from the side corridor that connected to the evacuation tunnel.

DAMN HIM,” she snarled. Who would have thought that Nicholas Cassnew would have dared such an action? That he would have the audacity to attempt to overthrow the First Circuit itself! “When are our reinforcements arriving?” she asked her security chief.

The Adept shook his head. “Precentor Dieron,” he said slowly, “the ComGuard and Militia has declared itself neutral in this conflict—they refuse to support either side; we have no reinforcements coming.”

“Options?” she asked. Of all of the members of the First Circuit—the ones that mattered, the ones with a vote and a power base—she was the sole survivor. If—IF—she could get out of this trap which Nicholas had transformed Hilton Head into, then she was certain that ComStar would rally to her cause. But it all depended on getting free of Hilton Head Island and the massive facility built beneath the surface of the land and sea.

“ROM is coming for us, Precentor—we have no way out,” the security man paused. “It is time to consider a negotiated end to this be-. . .,”

NEGOTIATE? Nicholas is the one that has spilt blood here on Holy Ground, Adept! HE is the one who has abandoned all that Blake commanded of us—there can be no negotiation! Do we still have communications with the outside world?”

“No, Precentor.” Comms had been among the first thing that Nicholas had severed with powerful jamming devices blocking almost all signals. Only the land-lines and optical cables had not been affected—but now, even those had been cut.

“Toyama foretold that this day would come,” Myndo snarled. “When those who deny the Word of Blake attempt to seize the power of Terra and plunge humanity back into chaos and confusion—only through Blake can we know Peace.” She sighed. “Can we get to the Device of Last Resort?”

Her security chief winced as his men exchanged fire with the ROM agents loyal to Nicholas—and then he nodded. “Perhaps, Precentor. If he has not anticipated us attempting to trigger the device.”

“Blake will grant us a way, Adept—lead us there; leave half of your men here to cover our passage. Their deaths will give us time to initiate the self-destruct of this compound.”

“You would kill every member of the Order here on this island, Precentor?” asked the shocked voice of Myndo’s aide-de-camp. “Destroy this facility completely and leave ComStar leaderless and adrift?”

“Precentor ROM has already done just that!” Myndo barked. “If they follow Nicholas Cassnew and fail to abide by the Word of Blake, then those who fight us are heretics—apostates! A new First Circuit will arise from the ashes, one which will lead us into a Golden Age.” Myndo smiled. “Besides, Sharilar,” she said. “There is an evacuation pod accessed in the device’s chamber—we shall make our escape and rebuild the First Circuit—as Toyama and Blake intended.”

Myndo paused. “And then we will deal with the Taurians once and for all time.” She smiled. “They were the cause of the downfall of the League and they seek to do the same to ComStar—we will implement a final solution to the Taurian problem. Never again will they threaten humanity!”

Sharilar Mori just shook her head in disbelief at first, and then as the gunfire in the corridor increased, she drew a pistol from the folds of her robes. “As the Primus orders,” she whispered.

Myndo Waterly smiled broadly. “Yes. You see the Truth, Sharilar. I am the true Primus of Com . . . what are you do- . . . PUT DOWN THAT PIS- . . . !” she began to yell, her eyes growing wide as her aide raised the barrel until it was aligned with the chest of Precentor Dieron—the guards reacted quickly, but they were not quite fast enough. None had expected such a betrayal here, among the inner circle of Myndo’s chosen—and that gave Sharilar time enough to steady the weapon and squeeze the trigger.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 17, 2015 12:33 pm 
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Supreme Mugwump
Supreme Mugwump

Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 3:42 pm
Posts: 3183
lupus lupii homo

_________________
typos and spelling-mistakes are property of the finder. english is not my mother-tongue.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 1:56 am 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
I love how you use so much canon stuff and twist it just a bit. :)

_________________
Medron Pryde - The Great and Terrible :blah:
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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 Aug 18, 2015 2:01 am 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
I agree with Medron. The fact that things are close enough to be familar, but new enough to be fresh is a great thing.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:21 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCJS (Taurian Concordat JumpShip) Patrick Flannagan
The Gateway, Hyades Cluster
Taurian Concordat
November 1, 3025


Aramis Hall sighed as he considered the meager number of ships at his command—a mere dozen. He had been assigned just twelve JumpShips to search for the Lost Exiles of Taurus in the trackless wastes of deep space beyond the Taurian Rim. “You are certain that this is the intended route that they took?”

Helena shrugged on the monitor screen. “It was the planned course, Master Hall—whether or not the Flotilla followed that plan . . .,” she shrugged again, “c’est la vie. Still,” she continued, “unless circumstances forced a radical change, “they should have proceeded along this route—with the intended destination of this small cluster of stars here, one thousand five hundred and fifty-four light-years beyond our borders. Analysis of those stars indicated there should be at least three—perhaps four—planetary bodies capable of supporting human life. And being so far distant, we doubted that even the Star League would pursue us so far.”

“Fifty-two jumps minimum,” Hall mused, “it will take a full year just to get there—another to return.”

“And you have supplies and fuel for three years,” Helena added. “Look on the bright side, Master Hall—you will go farther than any recorded expedition in the history of the Concordat. The data that you return with should establish jump coordinates for many systems rather closer for your Far Lookers to begin a colonization effort.”

“If we survive this Interdiction,” Aramis sighed again. “Still, you are correct. One way or another, we will make history on this expedition,” he straightened up and saluted the older woman—after all, like the majority of Far Lookers, Aramis maintained a Reserve commission in the Taurian Concordat Navy. “Request permission for the Task Force to depart, Marshal Vickers.”

“Permission granted, Master Hall—good hunting,” she replied as she returned the salute. “And vaya con Dios.”

Gracias, senora Vickers,” Aramis answered in the Third Language of the Concordat—after English and French. Helena nodded and the image faded from the screen.

“All vessels—prepare to make Jump One. Set and confirm coordinates and make certain everyone has been to the bathroom and has all their luggage,” Aramis ordered with a grin. “We aren’t coming back because someone forgot their teddy bear—or something more important.”

One by one, each of the eleven other ships reported in and the board slowly turned green. “Initiate Jump Number One in . . . thirty seconds . . . MARK!” Aramis commanded, and then he sat back in his leather-clad command chair. And so it begins, he thought.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:26 am 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
General Headquarters, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry
Douala, Menke
Capellan Confederation
November 2, 3025


“Audacious, Duchess Liao,” Archibald McCarron said as he closed the manila folder atop of his desk and turned his gaze to the youngest child of Maximillian Liao. “I do not, however, see your father’s seal upon those orders—could there be a reason for that?”

“Father does not wish to be seen as overly aggressive, Colonel McCarron,” Romano answered in a bitter tone—she did not care for being questioned, Archibald thought. Not one whit. “That no longer matters; we have been given an opportunity here—the Concordat lies under Interdiction and we have the current Taurian Defense Force deployments.”

“And today, my Armored Cavalry is present on Menke in full strength—which gives you an opportunity to show that you are Candace’s equal, at least, in the realm of military operations . . . am I right, Your Grace?” Archibald drawled with a narrow smile on his face.

“Laconis and MacLeod’s Land lies defenseless before us, Colonel McCarron!” she snapped. “Only their Constabulary and a handful of Noble’s Regiments stand against restoring these worlds to their legitimate Liao rule.”

Legitimate?” the mercenary laughed. “Your Grace, those worlds NEVER belonged to the Confederation.”

“History is written by the victors, Colonel,” Romano answered coldly. “They will become Liao worlds in truth—the Home Guard, the Maskirovka, and our police forces stand ready to aid you; they will garrison the worlds once you conquer them. And then we can turn our attention to the two largest prizes outside of the Hyades—Pinard and New Vandenberg.”

Archie inhaled deeply. “Those worlds are not undefended, Your Grace. Or even lightly defended. And I will guaren-[blanking]-tee-you that the Taurians will fight tooth and nail for both of them.”

“Which is why the 5th Reserve Cavalry will be supporting your operations on Pinard as will Warrior House Fujita on New Vandenberg.”

“And the rumors that the Bulls have managed to salvage an honest-to-god WarShip, Your Grace? What happens if that thing manages to crawl into orbit above a pair of my Regiments?”

Romano smiled. “This operation will give our operatives a better chance to either . . . secure that vessel for ourselves or see it destroyed. Of course,” she said with a sniff, “I can always let it be known that Archibald McCarron has become too cautious and unwilling to assume risks of war. Jaime Wolf might well favor a new contract with the Liao, after all.”

Don’t push me,” Archie growled, and he nodded as Romano drew back in sudden fright at his expression. “You might well be the child of Maximillian Liao, but you are a LONG way from home, girl—and on this world, I make the rules. So stop trying to play me,” he barked, and then he looked at the map and the closed folder and he sighed. “Triple pay—no less, and we get 100% salvage. Plus command rights over the entire operation.”

“THAT IS OBSCENE!” Romano howled.

“Then get your FATHER to affix his SEAL OF STATE to that order, girl! Triple pay, ALL OF THE [blanking] SALVAGE, and TOTAL COMMAND RIGHTS, or you can get your ass on that DropShip and run back home to DADDY!”

Romano’s eyes flashed, but then she nodded. “Fine,” she spat. “I will remember this, McCarron.”

“See that you do, girl—and bear in mind, so will I.”

The youngest child of Maximillian Liao turned on her heel and she strode—almost ran—from the office. Archie stood there for a moment and then he nodded. He lifted the phone. “Brett?” he asked as a voice on the far end answered. “Leadership meeting—all five regiments—thirty minutes, in the main briefing hall. And upload all of our maps and latest information on Laconis, MacLeod’s Land, Pinard, and New Vandenberg.” He winced as the voice on the far end came through much louder. “Yeah, the Taurian Concordat—load them!” Archie ordered and then he slammed down the phone.


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