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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 18, 2015 11:33 am 
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General
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The Obsidian Fortress
Sosa, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
November 2, 3025


"Hanse will blow a blood vessel!” sputtered Tamara Hasek, the commanding Marshal of the 5th Syrtis Fusiliers RCT. “Michael, he will demand your head if you go off half-cocked!”

Michael Hasek-Davion smiled. “Will he? New Ganymede is THE major source of Taurian germanium. Taking that system will ensure that our yards here in the Capellan March, in the Federated Suns, will have ample reserves—our information shows that only Taurian militia are garrisoning that world,” Michael snorted. “Between your 5th, Tamara, and Robert’s 1st Capellan Dragoons, you should have no problem taking and holding New Ganymede.” Colonel Robert Johnstadt nodded his agreement.

“True enough, cousin,” muttered Iona Hasek, “but New Vallis is a Corps Headquarters for the TDF! They have almost two regiments of regulars and mercs there, PLUS all of those Constabulary and militia units. I know that with the 6th and 8th going in there together, we should have enough to take the system but . . .,” she winced, “Michael, what if the Bulls break out their nukes?”

“New Vallis and New Ganymede are valuable—but not that valuable. Now, if this was New Vandenberg or—God forbid—Taurus, yeah, I’d lay even odds that the nukes would fly. But not even Thomas is crazy enough to nuke his own people if WE don’t start atrocities,” Michael said with a grim smile.

Colonel Stephan Cooper shook his head. “And then you want ME to move the Assault Guards—on my own authority, no less—and hit Jansen’s Hold? Your Grace, I know that Marshal Ashley is on leave, but you can’t think that I would be willing to launch an attack without authorization from New Avalon!”

“Coop,” Michael said fondly, “of course you wouldn’t do any such thing. Just as, if I had in my possession . . . audio and video recordings of . . . certain behaviors made by prominent officers assigned to the Davion Brigade of Guards,” Michael smiled as the regimental commanders face drained of blood, “such as the dreadful things that the said officer enjoys doing to prostitutes of Capellan origin and the lengths he goes to make certain that their . . . tongues will never render testimony against him.” Michael tsk-tsked at the man. “If I had such, then I would turn them over to the High Command of the AFFS at once! Certainly, Hanse’s reaction to one of his own chosen few being such a . . . perverted and criminal soul,” and Michael bared his teeth as Cooper wilted, “would be rather . . . extreme?”

No one spoke for several moments, and then Michael nodded. “You do have the authority to order the Assault Guards RCT to move—if you deem it necessary for the Federated Suns, Colonel. I suggest you discover that this move to Jansen’s Hold is necessary. Otherwise, who knows what information will wind up in the hands of Quintus Allard.” Michael paused, and then when Cooper slowly nodded, he smiled. “The New Syrtis March Militia will hit Jansen’s Hold alongside your Guards, Cooper—this first wave should take and hold all three worlds from any possible counter-attack which the Taurians can organize while under Interdiction.”

FIRST WAVE?” blurted Stephan Cooper.

“It all depends, Coop,” Michael said with a chuckle. “On how weak the Taurians actually are; if we CAN go farther—say to Sterope or Illiushin or Perdition—then I might just do that. But I might not. New Ganymede is the prize here—and a valuable one it is. New Vallis and Jansen’s Hold will protect the flanks of our new system, and if that is as far as we dare push, then I will be satisfied. Once the First Prince learns of it, he will have no choice but to support me—he won’t dare make me hand it back to the Taurians.”

“What about the Cappies?” asked Cooper. “We are out here to watch them, not to invade the Concordat.”

“I imagine they will be busy gobbling up systems of their own—but knowing Max and his spawn as I do,” Michael smiled again, “they will go directly for Pinard and New Vandenberg. No, the CCAF will be embroiled in a fight that I wouldn’t wish on Takashi Kurita for those two systems. We can safely count them out of this.”

“But it all depends on us attacking before the First Prince can shut this down,” Tamara pointed out. “Just one agent reporting to Quintus and this is over, Your Grace.”

“Oh, dear,” Michael said in a hurt voice, “did I forget to mention that Precentor New Syrtis has been kind enough to schedule the HPG here on planet for a major overhaul? We cannot receive or transmit orders for the next ten days—luckily, I have all of your regiments present here now. You lift tonight—you will avoid all systems with HPGs and you will take your objectives before any such order can arrive to stop you. Is that understood?” Michael asked.

One-by-one, each of the Marshals and Colonels nodded, and Michael smiled again. “Good. Then, ladies, gentlemen—a toast! Victory!”

“VICTORY!”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:37 am 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Quartermaine Hotel
Sosa, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
November 2, 3025


The agent of MI4 sighed as he gazed out of the glass doors which had a spectacular view of the distant space-port. He would have been on the balcony—had it not been thirty degrees below zero outside, and he snorted. One by one, dozens—scores—of DropShips began to lift into the sky and the agent sipped a cup of hot cocoa. Then he turned his back on the glass panels and sat down at his desk.

Opening a case, he removed a key-board and a cable and then set the case aside. Grunting with effort, he lifted another piece of luggage and set it upon the desk; he slid his thumb across a concealed panel and it opened—he plugged the cable into the outlet and unlocked the four latches before lifting the lid.

Except for a monitor screen, the interior of the case was consumed by a single metal object—ebon in hue and constructed from thick armor plating. It was marred only two buttons, one red and one green; he depressed the red button and the machine began to hum . . . the monitor flashed to life, showing an empty screen and a flashing cursor.

Opening a file, he drug down a priority message form and began to type.

Q.

MHD HAS LAUNCHED INVASION OF TAURIAN CONCORDAT.

NEW SYRTIS CMM, 5TH, 6TH, 8TH SYRTIS FUSILIERS, DAVION ASSAULT GUARDS, 1ST CAPELLAN DRAGOONS EN ROUTE TO TARGETS.

MHD ACCOMPANING 6TH FUSILIERS, DESTINATION NEW VALLIS. OTHER TARGETS INCLUDE NEW GANYMEDE & JANSEN’S HOLD.

ARE WE AT WAR AND DID YOU FORGET TO TELL THOSE OF US IN THE FIELD?

REQUEST INSTRUCTIONS. ASAP.

J.

And with that, John pressed the green button and the humming increased in volume—then the screen blanked and the words MESSAGE ENCODED AND TRANSMITTED appeared. John pressed the red button again and the humming died; he disconnected the cables and keyboard and closed the case before he picked up his cocoa . . . and then with a shrug, poured whiskey into the cup as he stood at the glass doors and continued to watch. And sip.


Last edited by master arminas on Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:44 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
November 4, 3025


Thomas Calderon leaned over the table-sized map showing the systems of the Taurian Concordat and those which surrounded them; he leaned and he frowned. “You are leaving the entire eastern-half of the Concordat virtually undefended!” he bellowed. “Only Perdition and Sterope have been provided with any of our BattleMech forces!”

“Yet every single one of your worlds has at least one battalion of armor and more than a regiment of infantry—some of those worlds have divisions of tanks, Protector Calderon, and entire corps of infantry, supported by artillery and conventional aircraft. Plus the Constabulary units,” Helena answered. “Right now, at this moment, the entire TDF BattleMech reserve—including mercenary units—consists of forty battalions. Forty. Sure, our battalions are larger—but we still have just forty of them.” She paused as Thomas glared at her, and then she sighed. “Protector,” she said, “just what does those systems out towards Badlands have that Hanse Davion wants? Other than Perdition and Sterope and their factories?”

Thomas stood silently as he fumed and considered the map, and Helena nodded. “Exactly. They have nothing that Hanse Davion wants or desires—NOTHING. The prize that our enemies desire is HERE,” she said as she pounded the western-half of the table. “Pinard. New Vandenberg. The mines at New Ganymede. The Hyades. If we lose New Vandenberg alone, we will have lost more people and industry than Amber Grove, Sterope, Euschelus, Perdition, Grossbach, Logan's Land, Norman's World, Dicallus, Celentaro, Organo, Cyrton, and Althea's Choice combined.” She paused as the military officers at the table slowly began to nod their heads.

"Flaum, Burton, Illiushin, Renfield, and Camadeierre are too far distant from Davion or Liao to be of great concern, and they are lightly populated with little industry of any note," Helena continued. "That leaves us with Mithron, Atreus Prime, New Ganymede, New Vallis, Jansen's Hold, MacLeod's Land, Laconis, Brisbane, Pinard, New Vandenberg, and Landmark . . . plus the worlds here in the Hyades."

She took a deep breath. "Atreus Prime and Landmark are close enough for a deep-strike to hit . . . but they have little of military or strategic value. And Brisbane, while home to rather stunning waters and beaches, has virtually no industry or wealth to tempt a conqueror. We have EIGHT systems, plus the Hyades to concentrate our forces on. That will allow us to put four battalions each on New Ganymede, New Vallis, Jansen's Hold, MacLeod's Land, Laconis, Pinard, and New Vandenberg, with three more on Mithron—an unlikely target, but one we can still cover—and that accounts for thirty-one battalions with two more in the eastern sectors . . . leaving seven battalions in reserve here on Taurus for rapid deployment anywhere we need them. And ALL of our deployments, except for Sterope and Perdition, are within one or two jumps of the capital. So if our enemies attempt to take advantage of this interdiction, we can shift troops quickly and in CONCENTRATED FORCE."

Helena sighed again as Thomas still glared at her and shook his head defiantly. Cursing under her breath, she circled the table and grabbed his jaw, jerking his head up and around to stare directly in his one natural eye. “Listen to me, Protector Calderon! We cannot be strong everywhere! We made that mistake in the first decade of the Reunification War—and we [blanking] LOST because of it! Yes, the eastern systems are extremely vulnerable, but that is the price we have to pay to hold onto what we have!” She stepped back and released Thomas as astonished Marshals and Colonels and members of the Advisory Council just stared at her—and a shocked Thomas Calderon sputtered and gawked, unable to form words.

“If necessary to make the point, I will hand you my resignation, Protector Calderon, effective as of this moment,” she said, laying her baton upon the table and letting it roll. “This deployment scheme—arrived at by your officers and my staff—gives us absolutely the best damned chance of stopping any invasion of our crucial systems dead cold! If you insist on defending everything, everywhere, we WILL lose it all—and Sir, I won’t watch that happen again. I won’t.”

Henri licked dry lips and he began to open his mouth—at the same time as Brenda Calderon; but both were interrupted as Thomas Calderon suddenly relaxed and began to laugh. He laughed and he slammed an open palm upon the table.

THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is how you tell me NO when I am wrong. All right, Marshal Vickers—issue the orders for redeployment.”

Helena smiled. “The couriers left three days ago, Sire,” she said, and Thomas began to chuckle again.

“You and I—we have got to play some poker together one afternoon, Marshal,” the Protector said with a laugh.

“Poker? What’s that? A game? I love trying new games,” Helena asked innocently as she batted her eyelids, and the senior military officials of the Concordat began to join the Protector in laughter.

“Very well,” Thomas said after a moment, when he finished laughing and shaking a finger at Helena Vickers. “I don’t like it—but as Marshal Vickers points out, we don’t have all that many options,” he finished sourly. “Approved. And gentlemen? Ladies? Let your Brigadiers and Colonels know that if an invasion comes I don’t want a single one of those son-of-a-bitches to get away. Not one.”


Last edited by master arminas on Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:50 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
November 4, 3025


“Marshal Vickers,” Henri said with a smile as the officers and civilians followed the Protector from the room—leaving Helena alone with the Intelligence Minister of the Taurian Concordat and Marshal Brenda Calderon. “May I say again, how much I appreciate your blunt character?”

Helena’s nose flared and she shook her head. “Quit blowing smoke up my ass, Messer Jouett,” she hissed. “I would appreciate instead if the two of you—and those ‘officers’ who just left—would start doing your [blanking] jobs.”

“Now wait just a damn minute, Helena,” Brenda snapped. “You don’t understa-. . .,”

“I don’t understand? Marshal Calderon, I stood in this room on the day that Mitchell Calderon was told about Forlough’s attack on New Vandenberg—three hundred and seventy four million Taurian citizens died when that fiend rendered an entire continent lifeless! I stood right here when David Santos had to tell the Protector that we simply no longer had the strength to launch a counter-attack—when the Protector was so furious that he was ready to fire EVERY single officer in this room.”

“That’s not fair!” Brenda said hotly. “This was our damn plan!”

“Yes, yes it was,” agreed Helena. “But not a one of your officers was willing to tell Thomas Calderon that he was wrong and he needed to man up and authorize the damned plan—they were frightened of being dismissed and sent home in disgrace. He isn’t almighty God, Marshal Calderon; he is just a mortal man—a man who happens to be our Protector. Protectors make mistakes, they make the wrong decisions, because they are only human. That man,” she said, pointing her finger in the direction of the door where Thomas had exited the room, “just as much as Mitchell Calderon. He needs officers who will tell him the truth—regardless of whether or not he wants to hear it. That is your job, Brenda Calderon. It is your job, Henri Jouett. It shouldn’t have to be mine alone.”

“We tell Thomas the truth, Helena,” Henri said quietly, “we just don’t pull him up as short as you did in public.”

“That wasn’t public, Messer Jouett,” Helena answered. “It was supposed to the senior officers and leaders of this realm giving that man—who is under more pressure than any ONE of us—the best possible advice we can. Instead, you people just stood there—and depended on me to hammer home to Thomas that he needs to let go of the illusion that he can protect EVERYONE. He can’t. And he needs to realize and accept that before it drives him mad.”

“Helena,” began Henri Jouett, but Brenda Calderon held up her hand. Henri closed his mouth and sighed.

“Different times,” Brenda whispered, “and we haven’t been through the twenty years of hell that you have. Alright, I’ll light a fire under my people—and make damn sure that they start acting like Taurian officers of old. But you have to understand this isn’t the Reunification Wars we are fighting again, Helena. Today—in this day and age—we have rules that are followed very strictly. And if you don’t, I’ll fire your ass. Comprende?”

Helena chuckled. “Si. And that is how I expect a Taurian officer to act, Brenda. Take no [crap] from anyone—and do your damn job, regardless of the consequences.”

And with that, the old woman turned and she walked out of the room.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:58 am 
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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
November 4, 3025


“I . . . I . . . I . . .,” Hanse sputtered after reading the dispatch. Quintus just nodded his agreement.

“Our agent on Kaitangata received the encrypted message and used a one-time pad to retransmit via HPG Priority Dispatch straight to us,” he said as Hanse collected himself slowly. “We have two days before those DropShips arrive at the New Syrtis jump point—after that, if Michael has any brains at all, they won’t go NEAR a system with an HPG . . . at least not until they fall upon three Taurian border worlds.”

“Does he,” the First Prince growled, and Quintus needed no explanation of whom the word he referred to, “believe that I will hail him as a conquering hero in the event that he captures New Ganymede?” Quintus winced as he could hear the molars in Hanse’s jaw grating against each other.

“The mineral output from New Ganymede is quite impressive—especially the Germanium recovery. And if he can take away three Taurian worlds there will be a LOT of the nobility asking why the First Prince isn’t taking advantage of the Interdiction to add to THEIR domains. All for the glory of the Federated Suns, of course.”

“Of course,” Hanse answered sourly. Then he cocked his head at Quintus. “Can you get a message there before they can depart New Syrtis? And have you an agent on Michael’s staff?”

“It will be close—and yes, my Prince.”

“Good. The 2nd Ceti Hussars are still on Frazer, correct?”

“They are, my Prince,” Quintus said with a nod. The Assault Guards had been en route to Frazer to replace the 2nd Ceti on the frontier as that unit rotated back to the Crucis March for a long overdue period of repairs to their machines and integrating replacements.

“Transmit this to Marshal Cline as well as to your people on New Syrtis—tell Alan that I want the 2nd to take up station along Michael’s invasion route. He is to MAKE those idiots hear my words if we miss them at New Syrtis,” Hanse paused, but it wasn’t to reconsider—it was to make certain that Quintus Allard understood his next orders fully. “And if Michael doesn’t back down—if he attempts to continue on, I authorize Marshal Cline to have his aerospace wing employ Alamos against Michael and any JumpShip and docked DropShips that follow him. That includes my Assault Guards, Quintus—if they decline to follow my orders to the letter.”

Quintus blinked as he stood there. The Alamo missiles carried a 5 kiloton fusion warhead—more than ample enough to kill any JumpShip ever constructed. And Hanse nodded grimly. “I’ll give my brother-in-law one chance to back off, Quintus—but if getting our hands on a copy of that Core means nuking the hell out of Michael Hasek-Davion and five or six RCTs . . . yeah, I’ll do that.”

“Sire,” Quintus said with a bow. “And if Michael doesn’t take one of the routes that Marshal Cline will be picketing?”

“Get the message out, Quintus,” Hanse whispered. “We’ll burn that bridge when we come to it.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:50 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
FSJS Samuel Davion
Zenith Point, Flintoft
Federated Suns
November 5, 3025


Ardan Sortek cursed as he reread the dispatch from New Avalon—the command circuit had brought him here in just nine days—and if he had received this message a mere eighteen hours ago, he would have been IN the New Syrtis system to put a stop to this, this . . . idiocy of Michaels. But the newly approved command circuits had not yet been fully built—and there weren’t enough ships to make it a two-way circuit. It would be almost a week before this JumpShip could recharge its drives and head back . . . and New Syrtis was two jumps behind him.

Hopefully, the commanders of the units following Michael would heed Marshal Cline when he made contact—and Ardan shivered. Alan Cline wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, but he was unflinchingly loyal to the House of Davion in general and Hanse Davion specifically. He wouldn’t hesitate to salvo a squadron’s worth of Alamos and tear out the heart of forces loyal to New Syrtis—if that became necessary.

“Marshal Sortek?” the voice of the commanding officer aboard Samuel Davion broke Ardan from his reverie. “We have detected the pre-emergence wave from Midale—it should be our guests.”

“Alert the troops, Commander Talbot, and prepare to hail them upon arrival,” he ordered. Lars Talbot nodded and passed along the orders to the crew of his Invader-class JumpShip—and to the detachment of the Davion Heavy Guards embarked aboard the three docked DropShips . . . an Overlord, an Intruder, and a Union-CV fighter carrier.

“Emergence,” the rating at Tracking called out in a clipped voice. “Confirm one Merchant-class JumpShip, two docked DropShips—one Union and one Fortress. Broadcasting Taurian IFF,” he finished.

“Hail them, Commander Talbot,” Ardan snapped.

“Taurian vessel, this is the Federated Suns JumpShip Samuel Davion with Marshal Ardan Sortek aboard—we have been assigned by the First Prince to escort you through Davion space to New Avalon.”

Samuel Davion, this is the Taurian Concordat DropShip Black Bull; requesting permission to speak with Marshal Sortek directly,” the speakers broadcast.

Black Bull, this is Sortek. Go ahead.”

“Marshal Sortek, this is Edward Calderon—we were not expecting an escort,” the young man’s voice echoed across the command bridge. “I take it that word of our mission has preceded me?”

“You could say that, Lord Calderon,” Ardan answered. “We have much to discuss—events have been set in motion that could have . . . disastrous effects upon that mission of yours, Lord Calderon.” Ardan paused. “Request permission to come aboard your vessel.”

Now the speaker remained silent; not for long, but it felt like an eternity to the Prince’s Champion. Finally, it bristled with static and then cleared. “Permission granted, Marshal Sortek—for yourself and a small party . . . an unarmed party.”

“Agreed, Lord Calderon. I will shuttle across in an unarmed small craft—until then, follow the instructions of Flintoft Traffic Control and prepare to begin recharge operations.”

A third Taurian voice emerged from the speaker, that of the commander of the JumpShip. “Understood, Samuel Davion. Auroch standing by for parking instructions and deployment of jump sail.”

“Radio transmissions ended at source,” the rating reported.

“Commander Talbot,” Ardan began.

“A bus is fueled, prepped, and standing by in Small Craft Bay Two, Marshal,” the commander answered with a slight grin. “I’d feel better if you went across with an armed escort, Sir.”

“No need to make our guests too paranoid,” Ardan answered with a shake of his head. Besides, he thought, this news from home will do that all to well.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 20, 2015 11:58 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCDS Black Bull
Zenith Point, Flintoft
Federated Suns
November 5, 3025


Ardan sat quietly as the twenty-three year old man across from him absorbed the news—in a rather surprisingly calm and rational manner, he thought to himself. But if the silent and reflective heir to the throne of Taurus was calm, his companions were not. The moment that Ardan had revealed what Michael Hasek-Davion was attempting, the cacophony had begun—until that boy, that man, had simply raised one hand and slowly silence came back into existence.

He—Edward Calderon—certainly had not been what Ardan was expecting. Not that he had really given much thought to his expectations—until this very moment, that was. Standing just an inch—maybe an inch and a half—shy of six feet (and Ardan snorted; even in this age of universally recognized metrics, the archaic terms of ‘feet’ and 'inches' were still used to denote height!), the Taurian Prince was stocky rather than lean. One could almost say ‘soft’ was the word to use—until one noted that the muscles beneath Edward’s skin were well-toned . . . and his green eyes were like flints of pure malachite. No, Ardan thought, soft is a cover that he wears . . . for camouflage, perhaps?

Contrasting with the green eyes, Edward’s hair was dark brown—not black, nor sable, nor even a shining mahogany—but just plain old dark brown. Dark brown hair closely trimmed, just as his face was clean-shaven.

But it was the look on Edward’s face which gave Ardan Sortek shivers—it reminded him of a much younger version of Ian Davion . . . before he had been killed on Mallory’s World.

“This,” Edward finally said, “this could be bad.”

“An understatement, Lord Calderon . . .,” Ardan began.

“We Taurians have many traditions,” Edward interrupted sharply. “You may not realize it by looking in, but we are a rather egalitarian society. Our nobles are those who have earned their titles in service to the Concordat, Marshal Sortek. I may be a Calderon—perhaps even the heir-designate for the Protector—but until I earn my title, I should not be addressed as ‘Lord’, ‘Prince’, ‘Your Grace’ or any other of the feudal trappings you people have enshrined.” Edward smiled. “Unless you are a sworn servant of my Father’s house in which case you may, legally, be entitled to address me as Lord Calderon—although you would have to renounce all obligation to Hanse Davion in order to be sworn as such.”

“Then what should I call you?” Ardan asked with a chuckle as he shook his head in an empathic gesture of NO.

“My rank of Subaltern I have earned, Marshal—it is, somewhat, equal to your AFFS rank of Captain. Or you may address me as Messer, or Mister, Calderon, but for today,” Edward’s smile broadened, “perhaps you can just call me Edward. And I will address you as Ardan—unless that insults your dignity, of course?”

“Your ship, your rules—Edward.”

The young man bowed his head slightly. “Touché, Ardan,” and then his smile faded. “Protector Calderon will—I am sad to say—renounce any collaboration with the Federated Suns if even a single one of those units set foot on a Taurian world and attack our people and our industry. Reason does not enter into this; this gesture of sending me is the limit of how far he is willing to go towards trusting you Davions. If your Michael Hasek lands his troops, the Protector will call me home at once—and there will be no exchange of information and financials between Taurus and New Avalon.”

“Prince Hanse did not authorize this and he is willing to use nuclear weapons on these units—including one of his own Brigade of Guards regimental combat teams!—in order to stop it. Does that mean nothing to you?”

“It means a great deal to me, Ardan—but I am not my Father; nor am I Protector of the Taurian Concordat. It pains me to say it, but if even ONE of your troops manages to land and kills a SINGLE Taurian on our own soil, I will be recalled. And the Protector will instead make a deal with Janos Marik for the Core.”

“If we stop them though—will he recall you?”

“We are under Interdiction, may I remind you,” Edward said with a grin. “If you stop them before they enter Taurian space, he will not. Even if they enter Taurian space and you manage to get them to turn around and leave—if my compatriots in the TDF and TCN allow them to leave, that is,” and Edward’s grin turned cold at that, “he will probably agree to any bargain that Hanse Davion and I strike. But you can kiss that good-bye if Michael lands any troops on the surface of those worlds.”

“Understood,” Ardan growled softly. “I’ll just have to make sure that Michael doesn’t cross your border, then.”

“That would be for the best, Ardan,” Edward answered a bit more warmly. “And, need I remind you, that we Taurians believe that all officer and diplomats need to be capable of acting on their own initiative when orders do not suffice. I have a small contingent of the finest soldiers of the Concordat here as my escort—can we be of any service in this matter?”

Ardan snorted. “One company of ‘Mechs, one of armor, two of infantry, and less than three squadrons of Aerospace Fighters—you aren’t offering me much to work with, Edward.”

“Ardan,” Edward said with a broad grin as he shook his head and went tsk, tsk, tsk. “This is a Taurian ship, bearing aboard her the Heir of the Protector—travelling into the very heart of our most hated long-time foe . . . well, only considering the SLDF and the Star League are dead and gone, that is. You mentioned that Marshal Cline and his 2nd Hussars are going to be packing nuclear weapons drawn from your depot on Frazer?”

And Ardan froze—then he slowly nodded.

Edward grinned and chuckled a bit. “Well, it just so happens that we are carrying four . . . ah, devices . . . of our own—just in case Hanse Davion decides that a hostage would be better than an agreement. You understand, of course?”

“Suicide devices or deliverable weapons?” Ardan asked coldly.

“A little of each, actually,” laughed Edward. “Rest assured, I do not in any way intend to nuke New Avalon—but Father insisted that I have the option; just in case. Now about those traitors of yours—would four Santa Annas deter them from going where the angels fear to tread?”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Aug 22, 2015 12:37 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
FSJS Bonecrusher
Nadir Point, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
November 6, 3025


Stephan Cooper drummed his fingers on the arm of the observer’s chair aboard the Monolith-class command JumpShip, assigned so many decades ago as the lead transport for his Assault Guards. He snorted. His. Yeah, in name only—and only until Marshal Ashley managed to come running and take it away again. But what choice did he have? In the absence of orders from New Avalon, Field Marshal and Duke Hasek-Davion was the command authority in the Capellan March.

Damn it. He wasn’t supposed to be the one making these decisions; Winston Ashley would have told Michael Hasek-Davion to go screw himself—he had the connections with the Court on New Avalon that would have kept him from facing a courts-martial. But not Stephan Cooper, Coop thought as he sighed. No, I just started my climb on the ladder of rank—hell, I’ve been a Colonel for only four bloody months! Other officers—Generals Ames and Gavin, the COs of the Infantry and Armor Brigades, respectively—outranked him, but tradition held that in the absence of the RCT commander and executive officer (Major General Erin Sorensen having retired last month and had yet to be replaced), the CO of the BattleMech Regiment at the heart of the Guards RCT was the acting commander. Cooper’s Regiment.

“Sir,” a rating called out from his station. “The final transport from the Sixth has completed their jump—we are next in the queue.”

“Very good,” replied the commanding officer of Bonecrusher. “Time to scheduled jump?”

“Three minutes with all transports jumping in sequence.”

“Start the clock—we will take the rear.”

“Status change! Emergence in the entry lane—clear of our safety perimeter, Sir!” tracking snapped.

Coop breathed a sigh of relief—the vast majority of ships were well aware that New Syrtis, indeed most civilized systems, had a designated area of the two major jump points for incoming and a separate one for out-going vessels. But there were always morons who violated the protocol . . . and when that occurred, if the incoming JumpShip emerged too close to an outbound vessel BAD THINGS tended to happen.

The communications Tech tensed at her station, and then she rotated her chair. “Skipper! The new arrival is broadcasting an omni-directional radio signal—SWORD encryption protocols, attention all AFFS vessels.”

“Authenticate, confirm, and decrypt!” barked out Stephan Cooper as he spat out a swallow of coffee. SWORD protocols were used only for dispatches directly from the First Prince of the Federated Suns.

“Authenticated and confirmed—computers are decrypting transmission . . . now.”

Over the ship’s speakers, a very familiar voice—that of Hanse Davion—began to play. “All AFFS units of the Capellan March—this is the First Prince of the Federated Suns. Stand down any and all offensive action into the territory of the Taurian Concordat effective immediately. Return to your normal garrison stations and await further instructions—disregard this order at your peril; I will consider any unit of the AFFS that violates this instruction to be in the act of mutiny against the Federated Suns and will pursue action against that unit and their officers accordingly. The Federated Suns and Taurian Concordat remain at peace—any offensive action against worlds of the Taurian Concordat is in direct violation of my authority. In addition, Duke Michael Hasek-Davion is to be immediately placed under arrest and transported to New Avalon on the first available transport. There he will be tried for conspiracy with Maximillian Liao against the Federated Suns and their rightful Prince. To repeat, . . .,” and the words began to repeat themselves.

“SIR! General Ames is demanding to speak with you!” the comm Tech shouted. “General Gavin, as well!”

Cooper closed his eyes. “Put me on the all-ships frequency,” he ordered. “All Crusher elements—this is Crusher Alpha-Six. Abort jump. I say again, abort jump! Stand by to receive new jump coordinates to our garrison station on Frazer.”

The Davion officer opened his eyes and turned his chair to the commanding officer of the JumpShip—that man nodded and snapped his fingers; techs and specialists raced to recalculate the jump coordinates.

“Commander Hale,” Coop asked quietly. “Are all units complying with the message from Prince Davion?”

“1st Dragoons and New Syrtis CMM have stood down—the Fifth and Eighth Fusiliers are arguing with the courier over the legitimacy of the order.”

“Open mike,” he commanded. “All Crusher and Lion elements,” he began, referring to the Dragoons and his own Assault Guards, “launch ASF contingents and prepare to embark boarding parties to take the Fusilier JumpShips. Syrtis Fusiliers,” he continued, “you will stand down or you will be fired into.”

Calls of protest arrived over the speakers, but Stephan Cooper just shook his head. “Marshals Hasek, I don’t give a damn if you think that the First Prince cannot issue those orders—he has! And by God and Davion, madames, I will fire into the first one of your ships to attempt to make a jump—stand by to be boarded! You will receive new navigation coordinates to return to your assigned stations.” And with that, Coop made a slashing gesture, and the comm tech cut the radio broadcast.

“What about the Sixth? And Duke Michael? They’ve already departed,” asked the CO of Bonecrusher in a whispered voice.

“Frankly, Commander Hale, I don’t give a damn what happens to them,” Coop answered just as quietly.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:35 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Chapter Two

TCDS Black Bull
Zenith Point, Flintoft
Federated Suns
November 6, 3025


“We managed to stop all but one of Michael’s units—the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers,” Arden reported. “That is the good news, Edward. The bad news is that every one of his RCTs was assigned their own route to their targets . . . and none of the commanders were given more than their own coordinates. On the plus side, we know when the Sixth are expected to arrive at New Vallis, as well as the systems that the Eighth was using to get there; on the bad side that gives us a minimum of six separate routes that Michael can take through uninhabited systems.”

Edward Calderon nodded as he considered the map. “And the briefing indicated that Cline’s Second Hussars have one of the jump points on one of those routes picketed—I presume that you are moving his Combat Commands Alpha and Charlie to cover two more of the routes?”

“I sent those orders immediately through the Flintoft HPG—Cline should be able to get into position to cover these three,” and Ardan pointed at three flashing lines, “well before Michael can make transit. But that still leaves three routes uncovered.”

“Three routes, yes,” Edward said with a sigh. “But we are forgetting something here—Hasek-Davion can choose to use either the Zenith or Nadir Point; well, he could also select a Pirate Point, but that is unlikely for such a large scale movement.” Ardan nodded. “Cline can only picket one of the two points—which means he can cover just three of the twelve possible paths that your Duke of New Syrtis will use.”

“True . . . but what else can we do?” Ardan shook his head. “Even if your Protector gave us permission to picket New Vallis itself—which he won’t—that means we have to cover as many of the approaches as possible to have a chance of stopping Michael. Maybe we can get lucky here,” he whispered, even though he well knew that even adding his command to the routes would still give Michael Hasek-Davion a three-out-of-four chance of slipping through.

Edward sighed again, and he sat down. “There is one way that I see of avoiding the worst of this, Ardan.”

The older man looked over at Edward and he frowned. “Why do I get the distinct feeling that I am not going to like this chance?”

“Because you aren’t,” Edward snorted. “And neither is Hanse Davion.” The young man pointed at a chair, and Ardan’s lips twitched as he followed the unspoken command and sat as well.

“If soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns strike a Taurian world, my Father will go utterly ballistic, Ardan. He will recall me and he will end this chance at normalizing relations—and you won’t get a copy of the Core. Which would be a bad thing for the both of us—I might not trust Hanse Davion fully, but he is rather more trust-worthy than Max Liao or Janos Marik . . .,” Edward’s lips twitched, “and with the purse of the Lyran Commonwealth behind him, he has more to offer us financially than those two combined.”

Edward paused and he shook his head looking at the map again. Then he steeled himself and looked Ardan square in the eyes. “The key words here being ‘soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns’.”

Ardan inhaled deeply. “There are many officers and men in the ranks of the Sixth who remain loyal to the Federated Suns—and many who belong to powerful families, Edward.”

“As I said, neither you or your boss will like it—but it has to be done. Hanse Davion has to—publically—declare the Sixth Fusiliers as mutineers and renegades no longer associated with the Federated Suns. He has to declare that they are pirates, acting under no laws but their own. And he has to do it today.” Edward sighed again. “Today, Ardan. The news has to be circulated via HPG AND cross into the Concordat aboard a merchant vessel . . . which means that he has to make the announcement and distribute it to everyone immediately. He can’t try and pull a fast one—he has to throw the entire RCT under the bus . . . if he wants the Core. There isn’t another way; not in the time-frame we have.”

Ardan shook his head. “Even if Hanse agrees—and I am not so certain that he will—Michael will land on New Vallis like the hammer of an angry god. And the Sixth Fusiliers are better than any unit you have—with perhaps the sole exception of maybe your First Battalion of the Taurian Guards.”

Edward nodded. “And New Vallis has only a Corps HQ and two BattleMech Battalions as its rapid-reaction force. Plus the local armor and infantry and the Constabulary—but those are barely even regular forces in terms of experience,” Edward said with a snort. “The regular Armor and Infantry have been thoroughly trained and spend a LOT of their time in the field . . . but they don’t ever rotate off-world and their combat experience is almost non-existent. Hell, even the 3rd Battalion of the Concordat Jaegers and the 1st Battalion of the Hyades Light Infantry have the majority of their actual combat experience in company-scale engagements against pirates—not in full-scale battalion or regimental operations. Whereas your Sixth constantly operates in at least battalion strength, and often enough in multi-regimental strength.”

Edward ran his hand through his hair. “Brigadier Tanis Verbet is the senior of the Battalion COs, but it is Corey Calderon,” Edward smiled, “yes, another cousin of my Father, Marshal Sortek; Corey is the Marshal commanding I Corps—and New Vallis is his HQ. Corey is pushing seventy—and he hasn’t commanded in the field for two decades. Tanis, on the other hand, she’s a devious sort and I wouldn’t put it against her to give Michael Hasek-Davion a run for his money.” Edward paused. “But she’s seriously outgunned. The Sixth has an entire reinforced regiment of one hundred and thirty-two BattleMechs, plus four regiments of tanks, six of infantry, a battalion of artillery, and eighty aerospace fighters—a full wing at the RCT level and one more for each of their ‘Mech battalions. If they are at full strength, which I doubt,” Edward drawled and Ardan nodded. “However, even at full strength Tanis would have just ninety-six ‘Mechs of her own—and just thirty-two ASF—to fight the Sixth Fusiliers; plus around five hundred tanks and roughly ten thousand relatively static infantry.”

The young man paused for a moment. “If she can draw him into a fight in the fortifications where our infantry and artillery are positioned, she might be able to win—but I don’t see your Duke or his commanders being that dumb, Ardan.”

“Gee, thank you, Edward.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:35 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
“No problem. No, once he realizes that Hanse has cut him loose, he’ll do his best to preserve the Sixth’s fighting strength—and take as much salvage as he can before he runs off to . . . well, somewhere else to live and fight another day.”

“Agreed.”

“So he won’t fight Tanis in range of her fortifications—he will make her have to come to him. And Corey, God knows I love him, but the man is a hard-headed ass almost the equal of the late Grover Shraplen, will order her to do just that because, of course, we can’t permit Davion boots on our worlds,” Edward continued with a wince.

“You can always nuke the Sixth on the approach,” Ardan said with a shake of his head.

“Eighty to thirty-two in ASF. At best, Ardan. Throw in another sixteen gunboats against your Assault DropShips . . . those aren’t odds I’d favor of getting into Alamo range,” Edward mused. Then he shook his head. “We might slip one or two nukes by, but we’d lose our entire air support in the process and the Sixth would STILL manage to land. And New Vallis isn’t New Vandenberg or Taurus—we won’t be popping out nuclear firecrackers on our own soil until and unless we have no other options, Ardan. And if he’s smart—and I think that even if he isn’t quite as smart as he thinks he is, he remains very smart—he won’t land in the area covered by the missile silos at I Corps HQ, which removes those from play.”

“You’ve given this some thought,” Ardan said softly as he looked down at the worried young man, who snorted again and began to chuckle.

“We Taurians have dreamed up nearly every possible scenario for a future Davion invasion—and we have contingency plans for each,” Edward said with a grin. “What happens to the calculus if we add another ‘Mech Regiment to Tanis and her forces? Actually, a Regiment, a Battalion, and a Company?”

“Oh, Christ,” Ardan muttered. “Edward Calderon, are you suggesting that I take my force and your body-guard and proceed to New Vallis? Thomas would utterly lose his mind at that. And where are you planning to get that other Regiment, by the way?”

“I believe that Wylie’s Coyotes are garrisoning Bromhead—it’s on the way. Did I mention that I am, as an individual, quite wealthy, Marshal Sortek?” Edward asked. “More than sufficient in my own right to hire the Coyotes even with a ComStar Interdiction . . . provided that Hanse releases from their contract early and a . . . trusted friend of the First Prince gives his personal assurance that I will pay them.”

“And my troops? Because your father will [crap] a brick if I land on New Vallis with a battalion of the Davion Heavy Guard.”

“That’s the second part of what you personally are going to hate—you all have to turn in your resignations, and become mercenaries. How does Ardan’s Avengers grab you for a name? Or Sortek’s Slashers?”

The older man winced. “Thomas will see right through this, young man.”

“Yes, my father isn’t an idiot, Ardan,” Edward barked right back, and then he forced himself to calm down. “But if we give him a legitimate excuse to officially overlook that you are really Davion troops and instead go with a fiction that you are all mercs? I might be able to convince him to accept that, for the good of Concordat, and your boss will get his copy of the Core.” Edward shook his head. “And if in the process of defending New Vallis, we utterly and completely kick the ass out of the vaunted Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers—that’s icing on the cake, Ardan.”

“What if your father doesn’t? What then, Edward?”

“Then he will have to disavow and disown me, Ardan,” Edward said quietly and simply. “Taurian law allows for an officer in the field to make decisions of great import—but he bears full personal responsibility for those decisions. If I am wrong, if my Father disagrees with me and this call, then he will have to publically renounce my actions. Strip me of all my lands and titles and wealth and . . . he will have to remove me as his heir. Send me into Exile. That is what I’m putting on the line here, Ardan Sortek—what is Hanse [blanking] Davion risking here? A battalion of house troops? A regiment of mercenaries?”

Ardan stared at the young man for a moment and then he nodded. “Foxhounds. I think I can live with the name Foxhounds. And yes, I do believe that I convince Enzo Wylie to accept your contract . . . my Lord Calderon.”

“See,” Edward said with a laugh. “THAT time you used it in the proper context, Ardan Sortek of the Foxhounds mercenary company.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 12:38 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
The Palace of the First Prince
Avalon City, New Avalon
Federated Suns
November 6, 3025


“If I sign this, I am sentencing nearly ten thousand men and women to death—slandering them and their reputations for all time . . . for following orders that, as much as I hate to say this, Michael had every lawful right to issue,” whispered Hanse Davion, as he took another gulp from the glass half-filled with potent whiskey. The glass that a moment before had been almost full.

“The decision is yours and yours alone, my Prince,” said Quintus softly. “The same would happen if Michael runs into Cline’s Hussars—and he refuses to stand down. You have already given those orders.”

“Because I had to, Quintus. But this? I am telling the families of these men and women that their sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers deserted the Federated Suns—that they mutinied. Abandoned their oaths and turned pirate. Their families will be denied all benefits that those soldiers earned—many will be reduced to poverty.”

“Yes. Is this Core worth that price, my Prince?”

Hanse lifted the glass and he exhaled sharply before he drank deep again, and then he nodded. “It is. It is worth ten times this cost.”

Quintus simply sat and he waited; he waited for several minutes until Hanse set the now empty glass on his desk and lifted his pen. The Fox signed the document, and then applied his seal over the signature. Standing, he closed the folder and handed it to Quintus, who also stood, accepted the papers and bowed low.

“It goes out today, Quintus,” Hanse whispered as he lifted the crystal decanter and refilled his glass. “See to it, would you?”

“Of course, my Prince,” the Minister of Intelligence answered as he walked to the door and closed it behind him; leaving Hanse Davion alone with the bottle of liquor. And his conscience.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:23 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Sat Nov 24, 2007 5:28 pm
Posts: 1828
Arden Sortek running a merc version of the guards is crazy, but I good kind of crazy.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sun Aug 23, 2015 1:26 pm 
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Supreme Mugwump
Supreme Mugwump

Joined: Wed Dec 06, 2006 3:42 pm
Posts: 3183
mutineers can be pardoned, mercenarys have been employed as house-units before. things can Change in many ways.

_________________
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 25, 2015 12:46 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Ivan Patrice Computer Sciences Center, University of Taurus
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 9, 3025


“Doctor Mosley . . . .,” the guard dressed in the uniform of the Taurian Defense Force muttered as he scrolled through a computer pad. “I’m sorry, sir—you aren’t on the authorized list for entry.”

Karl Mosley gritted his teeth and bit back his initial reaction; the myrmidon was just one of five stationed at the main doors of the PCSC, all of whom were armed with battle rifles and wearing combat armor. “My office is inside this building, son,” the doctor sputtered. “What do you mean I can’t go in?”

“Sir, this area is off-limits for all but authorized personnel—and you are not on my list.”

“This is ridiculous!” Karl snapped, as the new pair of female post-graduate assistants that trailed after him exchanged glances between them. “I go to Jamestown at the request of the government to examine the artifacts we recovered from that SLDF cache on . . .,” Karl paused, and he managed to recover his composure. The Celano cache was classified, and he had almost blurted out its actual location. “Never mind. Call Doctor Snyder. He will correct this misunderstanding.”

“Yes, sir; Dr. Snyder is on his way down,” the guard answered as the main doors buzzed, and then opened, and another tall man wearing a lab coat exited the building.

“Karl? What are you doing back here? My god, it is good to see you again—you’ve got to see what we are working on!”

“Matt,” Karl snarled, “these idiot guards are saying that I don’t have authorization to enter my office! Or even the building!”

Matt Snyder blushed and he nodded. “We thought you were going to be on Jamestown for the next two weeks—I’ll get everything cleared,” he answered as he turned to the guard. “Put Dr. Mosley on the list—my authority.”

“Sir, . . . ,” the guard began.

“He’s one of the foremost experts on pre-Star League computer technology in the Hyades, Corporal!” Matt barked. “If he hadn’t been on Jamestown when our new project arrived, he would have been the one we assigned to unlock its secrets.”

Unlock? Matt, did you people recover a data-base?”

Matt grinned. “That ain’t the half of it, old friend. We have a Data Core—an intact Data Core—from 2596; untampered with and chock full of information that we have to decrypt.”

“The fail-safes?”

“Bomb disposal has deactivated all three of the explosive charges and we have drained the cylinder of war gas—we think we got them all. It’s a Mark XI . . . a Naval Core, Karl.”

“Mark XI, hmmmmm,” the scientist pursed his lips. “There should be one more fail-safe—a second pressurized reservoir containing a chemical agent. We have to disarm that one before we can begin trying to break the encryption—I don’t suppose we were lucky enough to recover the keys?”

“No, not that lucky, but the government has given this top prior-. . .,” Matt Snyder began.

“Doctors, please. This is not a secure area for this conversation,” the guard snapped.

“Sorry, Corporal,” Matt said as he blushed again. “Get Karl cleared—I want him to start his examination of the Core immediately.”

“And my assistants,” Karl muttered. “And get my luggage moved to my offices at once—there are some fragile things in there, so handle them with care.”

“I can admit Dr. Mosley on your authority, sir, but protocol says the post-grads stay out here—along with the luggage until we do a full security scan.”

“Nonsense!” exclaimed Matt. “Corporal, people who work for the PCSC have already been cleared by the government; I know Karl, and if he says he needs those two women, he needs those two women. And his bags. Get them to his office and put all three of them on the cleared list—my authority.” Matt paused. “Unless you want me to contact Colonel Lopez?”

“No, sir,” the guard said as he snapped to attention and saluted. He then lifted a phone. “I need . . . three security and a carryall at the main entrance,” he ordered after appraising the pile of luggage. He racked the phone. “If I can scan your IDs, sir? Madams?”

Karl passed over his University ID, followed by the two very lovely women, and the Corporal uploaded them into his computer. “Wear your ID at all times—you will be detained if you are not wearing your ID in plain view or if you misplace it,” he warned, then he shrugged and stepped back, opening the doors.

“Picked up two new assistants on Jamestown, eh, Karl?” Matt whispered as they entered the building. “Easy on the eyes—but can they actually read and write?”

“Oh, they are bright girls, Matt. Very bright—and very motivated to secure a letter of recommendation from me when they move on to their own careers and research,” Karl said just as quietly with a smile on his face. “I cannot believe they were working for Paterson just cataloguing the Celano artifacts—wasted they were, working for that hack.”

“Paterson is a serious researcher, Karl,” Matt chuckled, “and he doesn’t fool around with his post-grads. Which is why he is in charge of the Jamestown Institute and you still work for me.”

“Politics,” Karl spat. “If there was any justice in the world, I’d have your job and you’d be slaving away for me.”

“No, it’s not politics, Karl; it’s you thinking with your zipper. I’m not going to have any complaints from these two, am I?”

“I didn’t make the first move—they came on to me, Matt.”

“I hope you are right, Karl,” the administer of the research facility said. “God knows, I can’t save your ass if one of them decides to file a complaint—you’ve had too many of those in the past decade as it is.”

“No worries this time, Doctor Snyder,” the scientist answered. “Now when can I see this Core?”

“Soon as we get you settled and you go through decon—I’m not taking any chances of someone wrecking the artifact before we get that information.”

“Good enough—you think this one is the Grail?”

“Karl, I believe this one is the Grail, the One True Cross, the Spear of Destiny, and the Ark of the Covenant all rolled up into one technological prize. If the précis on the contents are correct, this is the motherlode of all discoveries.”

Karl smiled as he pulled off his suit jacket. “Then let’s get to work—girls?”

The two nodded, one of them taking the jacket and the other handing Karl his lab-coat. And they followed behind the two scientists, exchanging another glance with each other.

“The guards are in better shape,” one whispered. “At least they are not fat and entirely unskilled like that buffoon.”

“Yes, but the guards can’t get us direct access to the Core, Sandra. This buffoon can—and you’ve had worse.”

“Don’t remind me,” the second agent from MIM drawled.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 12:58 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Quick Pick Convenience Store #1173
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 9, 3025


“What the hell is a taquito?” Phil Sheridan, field agent for MI-4, muttered to himself as he watched the long crispy-appearing cylinders rotate over a heating element. It looked like a stick of rolled tortillas—and just about as hard, but a pureed filling leaked out from the ends, the scent of beef, beans, and spices filling the air.

He grabbed a pair of tongs and lifted one—and he took a sniff. He winced. But then he sighed and he opened a bag and put the nasty greasy item inside, followed by another dozen. Along with all four of the sausages that had rolled on the machine beside them. He put several packets of salsa and more of sour cream into the bag as well and set it within the shopping basket he carried, and then he walked over to the chillers containing cold drinks.

Energy drinks in a dozen flavors all in metal cans, cans of distilled water, canned iced coffee, canned sweat tea (cans, what the hell was it with Taurians and cans?) . . . but almost no carbonated beverages. And the few imports that were present were three times the price a drink would normally be worth in the heart of the Federated Suns. But liquor? Beer? Wine? That covered three-quarters of the wall . . . along with an entire freezer just containing glass bottles of MILK. Almost the only item NOT in a can at least, Phil thought with a shudder.

Sighing, he began to put an assortment of the multi-hued cans into his basket—not even looking at the labels—and then he froze. Son of a . . . !

Standing four feet away from him (and looking just as shocked) was Victor Li . . . a Maskirovka agent with whom Phil had often sparred in the worlds of the Capellan March and the St. Ives thumb. Both men reached for their waist-bands—for the concealed weapons each carried under their jackets—but then they stopped at the same time.

Victor shook his head. “Long time, Phil,” he said. “What brings you to sunny Taurus? The food?” he said, pointing to the basket. “I’ve got to warn you—those are a bit spicy.”

“I’m on vacation,” Phil answered. “Yourself?”

“Strangely enough, so am I,” Victor replied with a smile. “I heard that the fishing is good off-shore.”

“Fishing? I’ll have to look into that.”

“Never know what you can catch if you spend an afternoon just casting lines, eh?”

“Right,” Phil answered, glancing to his left and right—and noting that Victor was doing the same. The store wasn’t—quite—full, but it was far from empty . . . and Phil nodded. Starting a gun-fight here and now would just bring the local Constabulary down on their asses—and pose questions that Phil really didn’t want to answer. Nor did Victor, it seemed, because he nodded and slowly lowered his gun-hand; Phil did so as well.

“Another time, eh, Phil?” the Capellan asked with a grin.

“Be seeing you around, Victor.”

“Not if I see you fir- . . .,"

"[crap],” the expletive was not shouted, but was heartfelt all the same as Phil felt the barrel of a gun prod him in the back.

“Okay, both of you—why are you two on Taurus?” a harsh voice asked.

“Who are you?” asked Victor.

“I’m asking the questions here, Cappie,” the man spat in a thick Marik accent.

“Wait just a damn minute,” Phil said as he half-turned in recognition of the voice, and then sighed. “Victor Li, meet Walter Krogh—the SAFE liaison at the Marik embassy on Taurus.”

“SAFE? SAFE?” Victor asked in disbelief. “What are you planning to do, Mister Krogh? Shoot us down in the full view of the customers of this store?” Some of which were beginning to notice the whispers—and drawn gun—and began to back off, a few dialing numbers in their mobile phones.

“Both of you are coming back to the Embassy with me to answer questions,” Walter answered and pointed a finger at Victor. “If you try to run, I’ll shoot him dead.”

Phil groaned and Victor laughed. “Did you just tell me—a Capellan—that if I run, you will, as means to stop me, shoot a rival Davionist intelligence agent?”

Krogh didn’t answer, he just jerked his head to one side. “Let’s go.”

“Excuse me, are you paying for those?” a woman asked.

“What?” Krogh asked as he half-turned—and grunted as a petite red-haired woman swung a fist clad in brass knuckles into his jaw. The SAFE agent dropped like a sack of bricks, and the customers began to applaud—two even gave wolf-whistles.

“That’ll teach you for trying to rob my boy-friends!” the girl shouted, and she winked at Victor and Phil before lowering her voice to a whisper. “Time to run, boys.”

WHAT THE HELL?” hissed Phil—and then he saw Victor cradle his face in both hands.

“Phil Sheridan, meet Nicky Kirkland—of the Magistracy Intelligence Ministry.”

“MIM? Oh could this cluster-[censored] get any worse?” moaned Phil.

A siren sounded outside and flashing blue and red lights began to dance off of the glass.

“You just had to ask?” Victor said with a sigh.

“There’s an exit in the rear,” Nicky said.

“I’ll bet there’s an entrance too,” Phil muttered, drawing a harsh glare from the Magistracy agent as the three of them left the Marik spy unconscious on the floor and headed into the backroom.

“HEY! YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR THAT!” the clerk shouted. Phil threw a wad of 20-Bull notes into the air in answer—and the crowded store erupted as people started to grab money.

The fire-door opened to an alley way—and a spot-light illuminated the faces of the three agents.

“HALT! SAMANTHA CITY PD—HANDS IN THE AIR!” a voice amplified by a patrol car's loud-speaker called out.

“Well isn’t this lovely?” asked Phil—and then five muffled gun-shots cracked in the dark. The spotlight shattered and died away, leaving two officers bleeding out on the ground next to their car.

Phil, Victor, and Nicky drew their weapons—but none of them fired as a fourth man exited the shadows. “I’d advise you to run; they’ve got your faces on the vehicle cams,” the stranger said, lowering his hood.

“Oh the [crap] has hit the fan,” muttered Phil. “ROM. Victor, Nicky, meet Adept Robert West—what the hell did you shoot them for?”

The ROM agent smiled. “Because they have your pictures—not mine. And while they are chasing you, they aren’t chasing me. But I do believe,” he said stepping back into the shadows and into a doorway set in the wall of the alley, “their fellow officers are rushing through the store to get back here to assist in your arrest.” He then closed the door and locked it. “Good night and good luck,” Phil faintly heard after the lock clicked.

“Suggestions?” he asked.

“Running sounds good,” replied Victor as he put his words into action.

“Yeah, don’t have to outrun the local cops, FedRat,” Nicky said as she took off, “just have to outrun you.”

Damn it all, Phil thought as he too began to run into the night—still carrying his shopping basket with the food!


Last edited by master arminas on Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:54 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 4:07 pm 
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Commanding General
Commanding General

Joined: Fri Apr 05, 2002 8:00 pm
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Location: At the base of America's Mountain
What I remember most from my first read through of this, the comedic pairing of Victor and Phil

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Aug 25, 2015 9:14 pm 
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The convenience store scene reminded me of Gross Point Blank. Since I love that movie consider that a positive.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 12:37 am 
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Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
That was a beautiful scene.

:)

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 1:03 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
November 10, 3025


“Henri, I think your plan to dangle irresistible bait in front of everyone has managed to work rather too well,” Thomas Calderon growled after his Minister of Intelligence completed the briefing on the incident just off-campus of the University last evening. “We have ROM agents still unaccounted for on Taurus, and now you’ve got teams from the Maskirovka, MI-4, MIM, and SAFE running around shooting officers of the law and trying to kill each other in a public store! All we are missing is LIC and the ISF.”

“Actually, we’ve identified the Lyran Intelligence Corps team—they are taking the slow and methodical, but traditional, approach of attempting to bribe several of our senior research scientists. And I am quite convinced that an ISF team is present . . . we just haven’t seen them yet, Protector Calderon. And you left out the Outworlders,” Henri finished with a smile.

Thomas buried his face in his hands. “We have a team of spies from the Outworlds Alliance that are trying to get to the Core as well?”

“Two of their agents—Fitz-Hume and Milbarge—landed on Taurus three days ago. Right now, they are convinced that the facility at the University is a decoy and that we are actually hiding the Core in the Calderon Nature Preserve on Gamma Continent.”

Thomas blinked. “The preserve is uninhabited and untouched—there isn't any infrastructure there, there aren’t any people living there!”

“Yes, and they are convinced the entire Nature Preserve is a cover to shield a secret facility dedicated to recovering lost technological secrets—I believe that they are in the process of hiring a boat to carry them across.”

The Protector groaned. “Henri, I want them all identified—we’ve got dead Taurians on our hands and I want these teams shut down hard.”

“If we do that, my Lord, then they will be back—and we will not have as much of an opportunity to identify them ahead of time. Last night’s incident was not planned—that much I am certain of. Messer Krogh was the triggering catalyst, but he is the SAFE liaison to the Marik Embassy—not a part of their team. After speaking with Messer Krogh for some hours last night, I am convinced that his own people shut him out of the loop, leaving him to try and abduct one of his competitors to find out what is going on in his backyard.”

“Henri,” Thomas growled, but he quieted as Henri held up one hand and bowed his head.

“If you insist, Protector Thomas, I will comply. However, none of these teams have yet made a run at the Core. I would suggest that we wait—perhaps even allow one of the teams to be ‘successful’ in their attempt—until they are convinced that one of the others has succeeded or the Core has been destroyed.”

Thomas grunted as he slowly, grudgingly, nodded his head. “I’d rather see them hung.”

“We can arrange that if you wish, Protector Calderon,” Henri answered with a laugh. “Starting with Messer Krogh.”

“Erebor?” asked Thomas.

“Quiet as a mouse—that information has not leaked. And our teams report that they have finished making another copy of the Core’s data--that memory unit is already aboard a JumpShip bound for Samantha for safe-keeping just in case something goes wrong here,” Henri shook his head. “The amount of information is staggering, Thomas," he continued in a quieter voice. "It will be years before we manage to process it all—if not decades.”

For several moments neither man said a word, and then Thomas sighed. “I’m not happy with this, Henri. Taurian citizens are dying—I’m not happy one bit. But for now—for now—we will play it your way. How’s Commander Fletcher coming with the HPG?”

Henri smiled broadly. “He is cursing all Terrans ever born, my Protector. But he believes that by tonight, he should have the HPG on Taurus fully operational,” Henri paused. “Not to the quality standard that ComStar had, perhaps, but good enough. In fact, last week he dispatched a team to New Vandenberg to restore their HPG to operational status as well—if both of the modifications prove workable, we can begin to restore communications between our worlds that possess an HPG—without relying on an outside source that will read our mail.”

“Good. The sooner we get reliable communications back up and running the better I will sleep at night,” Thomas said in a tired voice. “Any word from Ed- . . .,” but the Protector was interrupted by a stream of officers flooding into the room. “What is it, Brenda?” Thomas asked.

“Protector Calderon. Commander Fletcher’s rebuilt HPGs apparently work—we have just received a transmission from New Vandenberg . . . courier ships from Laconis and MacLeod’s Land have reported that those systems are under attack by forces of the Capellan Confederation—multiple regiments of McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, supported by a handful of Capellan House troops.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:06 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
DropShip Vixen
Inbound to Atmospheric Entry, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 10, 3025


Archibald McCarron frowned as he considered the data scrolling on the monitor screen within the cockpit of his GHR-5H Grasshopper. His pilots had cleared him a path to the planet—but at a cost. Too high of a cost for what he had expected to be facing. The intelligence that Romano had provided—the intelligence that he had on hand as well—none of that indicated this level of defenses. Forty aerospace fighters and sixteen gunboats had met his Regiments on the way in—and that was far too many ASF for the perennially fighter-weak TDF to deploy here. Unless those fighters had been attached to ‘Mech units below.

Which meant, Archie thought with a silent curse, that instead of facing off just against militia and armor and infantry, the Taurians had at least four battalions of ‘Mechs beneath the clouds ahead of him. And with their larger battalions, that meant he was facing somewhere in the neighborhood of one hundred and eighty to two hundred ‘Mechs. But then he smiled. To hell with the Taurians. Even if they had two hundred ‘Mechs on the surface, he had the Nightriders, the Wild Ones, and Rob’s Renegades with him—three hundred and twenty-two BattleMechs of his own . . . plus the first wave of Home Guard armor and infantry units. He shook his head with heavy sigh. Never thought I would be thankful to Romano Liao for anything--but she had arranged the command circuit of JumpShips that had allowed him to quickly move. And in concentrated force, as well.

Still, more enemy ‘Mechs just meant more salvage, he thought with a nod. “This is Mac,” he broadcast. “Throw out the game plan, boys and girls—looks like we are going to have a real fight after all. Primary target is Dougal—we take the capital and the Pinard lines there, and they are going have to come to us to take it back. Expect heavy resistance,” and he paused, “and throw out the rules of engagement. If it shoots at you—or looks like its thinking about shooting at you--kill it.”

“DROP IN ONE MINUTE!” blared the loud-speakers. Archie tightened his straps and pulled his leather gloves taut, and then as the LCD display slowly counted down, he took a thick cigar, placed it in his mouth, lit it, and began to puff as he returned his hands to the controls.

“Last one down buys the beer,” he growled around the smoking cigar and then the bay doors slammed open, the drop light turned green, and Archibald McCarron was flying through the sky towards the surface—straight into a veritable wall of flak. Above him he could see the Overlord-class DropShip stagger as anti-aircraft artillery slammed into her armored flanks—and he cursed.

Breathing smoke around the cigar, he chopped his jets and the Grasshopper fell like a rock—he plunged down through the atmosphere (and the hostile ack-ack) and stood on jump jets just before passing through the minimum safe altitude. The jets roared amid the winds and the storm clouds; his cockpit was plastered with drops of rain and ice, but then he broke through the ceiling and hit the ground running, the rest of the Nightriders following in his wake.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:20 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Command Lance, 2nd Battalion, Red Chasseurs
Dougal, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 10, 3025


Brigadier Michael Griswald reached down and armed the control panel located on the right arm of his ejection seat. He could not see the long lines of the heavy-weight ‘Mechs of McCarron’s Regiments advancing through the blowing storm with his eyes, but his sensors detected them just fine. Such storms were common here on MacLeod’s Land—that was why most of the planet’s structures were built under-ground; and those few necessary above-ground structures were heavily reinforced against the violent weather.

Structures like Port Caine, the main space-port complex serving the capital that Griswald now defended—the first objective that McCarron had to secure before he moved on to the capital itself. He had taken the Pinard Protectorates Limited factories outside the city, true (via a daring drop straight onto the factories grounds!), but Archie McCarron would need this space-port if he wanted to land more troops—or to leave MacLeod’s Land. And the extensive air-defense of Port Caine meant that if Archie wanted the port, he had to take it the hard way.

Wonderful things, these storms, Michael thought. Our air support may well be grounded (or rather the remnants that still existed after the battle in near orbit where the Taurian fighters and gunboats had concentrated on the incoming DropShips despite being outnumbered nearly four-to-one)—but so is theirs. Missiles were almost useless in these winds—and artillery was even more haphazard than normal, he thought with a snort. No, this fight would be up-close and personal . . . and Michael smiled. For the Second Chasseurs were not alone. No, the nobles of MacLeod’s Land had turned out their forces and an assortment of tanks, infantry, and some few ‘Mechs stood with him.

Behind him, the regular TDF armor and infantry manned the fortifications and bunkers that surrounded Dougal; well, most of them. A few of the furthest formations had been left to secure less vital cities. He looked at the distant icons of the tanks and heavily armed infantry and shook his head; then he nodded to himself. While he might miss their firepower today, he fully understood the need to keep McCarron’s Regiments outside of the densely populated capital—even though most of the population was underground, heavy battles could collapse the subterranean structures. So it was imperative to keep these Capellan mercenary scum as far away as possible.

Michael smiled. They think we Taurians aren’t ready for an attack? Well, we’ve got a few surprises for you, Archie. Including Gordon’s Armored Cavalry—all three battalions of the Regiment turned out in the Taurian style at four companies apiece, plus a command company. And if my Bright Flame troopers aren’t as skilled as yours, Nicholas Gordon’s soldiers sure as hell are—and they have a bone to pick with those who willingly follow Mad Max Liao.

Colonel Gordon was out there now, somewhere, swinging deep around the invaders—the hammer to Michael’s anvil. The console he armed began to beep and the Taurian Brigadier looked down and he smiled. “Bright Flame Two,” he broadcast, “attached auxiliaries. Time to earn our princely salaries, ladies and gentlemen.” He triggered the first band of command-detonated mines over which McCarron’s Regiments were advancing—and a thousand individual mines exploded in plumes of smoke and soil . . . and almost a dozen shattered ‘Mechs.

The mercs began to trot forward, still not at full speed, and Michael triggered the second band—and as many mines as before detonated in a second thunderous eruption. Now, the enemy was running at full tilt and he hit the final trigger, and the last band detonated—but half of these mines were infernos and 'Mechs covered in blazing streams of the viscous (and vicious) burning gel entered range at last.

“BRIGHT FLAME!” he yelled out, swinging the arm of his Centurion forward. “CHARGE!”

Outnumbered six-to-one, Michael Griswald led his battalion in the teeth of McCarron’s Regiments, supported by fire from a hundred tanks and crew-served guns manning the parapets that surrounded the oh-so-vital tarmac and hangers.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 4:32 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Command Lance, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry
Dougal, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 12, 3025


“WHAT THE HELL!” a panicked voice suddenly shouted over the command circuit—and Archie McCarron spat out his cigar in disbelief. Forty meters to his right, Olivia Sanchez and her Banshee was engulfed in a sheet of brilliant flame and smoke as an explosive geyser literally erupted from the ground beneath her. Dear GOD, Archie thought as the ground shook, rattling his ‘Mech even at this distance and a column of fire tore into the sky; the shocked MechWarrior and her 95-ton assault ‘Mech propelled into the air by the force of the blast.

It rose for one hundred and ten meters—both legs sheared off by the tremendous concussion—and then gravity held sway once more. The blackened and burnt shell of a ruin, shattered by the force of a man-made volcano, paused at its apogee—and Olivia triggered her ejection system as it began to fall back towards the ground.

“HOLY SHI-!” the pilot of a Valkyrie screamed in shocked disbelief and abject fear as the mangled Banshee tumbled out of the sky and slammed down atop the light-weight ‘Mech, crushing it to the ground in a pile of twisted scrap.

How much damn explosives did these Taurians have? Archie thought with a curse under his breath. He had never encountered a target this fortified—and he was still fighting on the outskirts of the space-port! His scouts reported that at least eight more battalions of tanks (and a dozen regiments of infantry) manned interlocking bunkers defending the capital city itself. All while the Wild Ones were tangling with that regiment of Taurian mercs—the traitors led by Nicholas Gordon that had defected from the Confederation a few years back—that were trying to get to the handful of his supply DropShips that had so far managed to make planet-fall.

DAMN ROMANO! And damn me for listening to her, Archie thought rather more soberly. This wasn’t worth triple pay—hell, it wasn’t worth five times normal pay! And the five DropShips—two Unions, a pair of Leopards, and a Fury—he had lost (one to the grim determination of the Taurian fighter pilots and the remainder to their unholy, vile, and unending artillery flak) just added salt to the wounds.

But he was winning—even if it was almost pyrrhic in nature. And even if it had had taken almost forty-eight hours to accomplish. The survivors of the Red Chasseurs had been forced to withdraw, leaving his units to fight dug-in tanks and infantry for the space-port tarmac . . . and the hangers, supply depots, and underground fuel bunkers in, around, and beneath the landing pads, runways, and taxi-ways. Still, the periphery scum didn’t seem to know when they were beaten—armor and infantry stood their ground and they died in numbers that would have made an Inner Sphere commander blanch . . . but they had fought back instead of running and their own fire had torn into Rob’s Renegades as that regiment finally cleared the Port of all hostiles. One last sweep and that objective would secure. Hell, the PPL factory hadn't been as tough a target as either the space-port or the capital!

He was winning . . . and the storm had almost broken. Already his air support was on the way back down into the atmosphere since the winds had died down—for how long, Archie didn’t know. But in the meantime, the bomb-laden fighters would be here supporting him . . . and extracting revenge upon the Taurians for their fanatical defense.

“Mac,” the radio crackled with static, “Fallen Angels inbound with heavy ordnance—confirm target?”

Archie snarled. “Dougal,” he spat as he lit up another cigar.

“Roger that, Mac. Be advised, we are carrying a mixed load of HE, cluster, and inferno.”

“Good—bust them up, burn them out, and make them pay, Fallen Angels.”

“Mac,” the exhausted voice of Frank Bronson—the XO of the Nightriders—burst from the speakers.

“Go, Frank.”

“Artillery is finally down and deployed, Mac; where you want the guns?”

"They in range of the capital?"

"Yeah, boss."

“Hammer that city, Frank—I want these fuckers to learn what it means to fight the Big Mac.”

Archie walked his Grasshopper to the top of a slight ridge and he snarled as the first flight of aerospace fighters passed by far overhead—oblong shapes tumbling down and down and down into the surface structures of city where they exploded in flame and fury.

“Boss,” the radio broadcast with the exhausted voice of Colonel Robert Heptig. “We’ve cleared and secured Port Caine—and captured two Unions intact.”

“Two? I thought we identified four?” Mac asked.

“Yeah, the others were manned and decided to fight—they aren’t lifting again . . . ever.”

“Good job, Rob,” Archie said with a tired sigh. “Get the rest of our Droppers down here—we need resupply before we go in there and make those bastards in Dougal surrender. Have the Wild Ones finished off Gordon yet?”

“Negative, Mac,” Heptig answered. “Gordon is damn good—he is withdrawing in good order and remains a threat to our landing zone.”

“Tell Linda to get her thumb of her ass! She out-masses Gordon and has more firepower—CRUSH THAT SON-OF-A-BITCH!”

“She’s got the firepower, but Gordon’s command is faster—he’s fencing with her, Boss, not engaging in a slugging match . . . and he is drawing her further and further afield. But if she lets him go . . .,” and Archie could picture Heptig shrugging. “We lose contact with that man and he can reappear almost anywhere.” Rob chuckled. “We should have hired that son-of-a-bitch ourselves five years ago.”

“Water under the bridge, Rob. I don’t want to be fighting Gordon here for weeks or months—tell Linda to get the job done or I’ll find an officer who can—understood?”

“Understood, Mac,” the voice paused. “First DropShips on final approach—our supplies are almost he- . . .,” the radio screeched and then went silent. Archie looked up, and then a distant BOOM sounded and he cringed at the massive fireballs rising into the air. From the Port—that damned Taurian Port.

“ROB!” he yelled into the microphone. “Any Renegade—REPORT, DAMN IT!”

The radio crackled, and then a shaken voice came on the net. “The Taurians detonated their fuel storage bunkers—and their munitions depots. Mac—the Port is closed. I repeat the Port is closed.”

“[censored] the Port!” screamed Archie. “Where are my Renegades!”

“Mac,” the voice came back again, “this is Captain Steele, Oscar Company. Boss—I think I’m the senior Renegade left. Most of the Regiment was in the Port—they’re . . .,” and then the sounds of retching came over the speakers. “Dear god, they’re gone.”

This contract is just getting better and better, Archie thought. “Okay. Here’s what we are going to do . . .,” he began, trying to salvage something from the disaster that was the Battle of MacLeod’s Land.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 8:22 pm 
Offline
Loki
Loki

Joined: Sun Sep 16, 2001 8:00 pm
Posts: 11444
Location: Minnesnowta
That's the kind of defenses and style of defending FASA lead us to expect would happen in any assault on the Taurian worlds.

Very nicely done. :)

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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:08 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Flight Operations Control Tower
Samantha City Spaceport, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 12, 3025


“Thomas, we are committing our reserves too early,” Brenda whispered to the Protector one last time as long lines of BattleMechs marched past the Tower on their way to board their waiting DropShips. “We know that there is still heavy fighting continuing on both MacLeod’s Land and Laconis—but this could be just the first push into our space by the Capellans. We can’t commit this much of our reserves yet—this deployment will leave us with just one battalion in reserve here on Taurus. One battalion—for the entire Hyades, Thomas.”

Thomas Calderon frowned and he waved away the crowd of aides and staff; his bodyguards formed a perimeter around him and Brenda and Marshal Vickers, leaving them within a bubble of semi-privacy. “War is risk—you both said that. I want to send a message to Maximillian Liao that he won’t soon forget,” Thomas spat. “I don’t just want McCarron and his men defeated—I want them dead, Marshals.”

“We can redeploy two battalions from New Vandenberg and Pinard, plus four from here on Taurus, Protector,” Helena answered. “That will give us the same numbers that you are sending—while keeping three battalions in central reserve.”

NO,” growled Thomas. “What if New Vandenberg and Pinard are their intended targets? We will send the Guard Corps out and we will shatter them.”

“Even if they plan on hitting New Vandenberg and Pinard, Protector,” Brenda continued, “they cannot have planned for Laconis and MacLeod’s Land having four battalions of defenders—plus the local regulars and Constabulary. Odds are they won’t have the force left to carry through an assault on New Vandenberg or Pinard . . . unless there is another wave coming from inside the Confederation. That, my Protector, is a contingency which we need to stand ready for—by preserving the Guard Corps here to respond if necessary.”

“My mind is made up, Brenda. Helena,” Thomas said in a calmer voice. “Yes, it is a risk—yes, it leaves our reserves dangerously weak. BUT,” he stressed, “if Edward and Henri are right—if Hanse Davion truly wants peace, then our border there will be secure. And we still have the garrisons on worlds facing Davion. Liao has invaded—in force. And Our Defense Forces will meet them—in force.”

“Hanse Davion is not the only leader in the Federated Suns,” Helena cautioned. “If they attack and our reserve is already committed to the far ends of the Concordat, the Guard will be out of position to react, Thomas. We don’t need the entire Guards and Velites regiments . . . we have to retain a reserve.”

“And how long would that delay this operation? The Guards are loading NOW, Marshal Vickers!” Thomas retorted with more than a little heat. “We would have to send a message to New Vandenberg and you, better than any among us, know that such orders take time; it takes time to ready a unit to deploy, even one that is supposed to be ready to go on a moment’s notice.” He snorted. “Hell, it took us two days to get the Reserve ready to lift. How much longer will our citizens have to suffer at the hand’s of that Butcher McCarron before we relieve these worlds if we wait? A week? Two?”

“Not that long, Protector,” Helena answered with a sigh.

“No, not that long, Marshal Vickers—but it will delay this deployment . . . or offer the Capellans a chance to defeat our reinforcements in detail with them arriving at different times and perhaps different jump points. Yes?”

“That is a . . . possibility, Protector.”

“No,” Thomas said again as he shook his head. “My mind is clear on this—we are sending in the Guards and Velites . . . and we are redeploying one battalion each from Pinard and New Vandenberg to garrison Brisbane. I’m not happy that they are hanging out there in the wind—a Cappie Home Guard unit could take that system.”

Brenda and Helena both winced. “Brisbane has armor and infantry units, plus the Constabulary, Thomas,” Brenda began. “They aren’t Ishtar, after all.”

Thomas didn’t answer, he just looked at the line of ‘Mechs loading aboard their transports. “You have your orders, Marshal Calderon,” he said at last. “Bring me Archie McCarron’s head.”

“Sir,” she answered, snapping to attention and saluting. Thomas nodded and then she did an about-face and marched off to join her troops.

“How are your repairs coming, Helena?”

“We have managed to jury-rig a number of components—at the price of gutting the K/F cores of four JumpShips. Samantha Calderon will be able to deploy—if it is an emergency—by next week. But I recommend we wait for the first of the newly machined parts; if we have another drive failure away from Taurus, we will be extremely vulnerable to attack.”

“I’ll bear that in mind, Marshal—not going to argue with me any more?” he asked with a crooked smile.

“You are the Protector, Sire—I’ll fight you tooth and nail if I think you are wrong, but this? This is a judgment call. I wouldn’t have made the same choice—but you’ve made up your mind. And I understand your reasoning, so no. I’m not going to fight you on this call.”

“Is it the right choice?” Thomas softly asked.

“History doesn’t tell us ahead of time whether or not our choices will be right, wrong, or fatal, Protector. We put our money on the table and we play the hands we are dealt—nothing more, nothing less.”

“No regrets?”

“Regrets I’ve had a few—but then again,” she said with a smile, “too few to mention.”

Thomas snorted. “I did what I had to do . . . and saw it through without exemption.”

Exactly, Thomas. Make your choice—and live with it. For good or ill, stand by it. Because right now, at this moment, we don’t know. And I really can’t say that your decision doesn’t appeal to me in assembling a force to utterly destroy those who dare to invade the Concordat. Whether the consequences are good or bad, I’ll back you. And I’m the one with the WarShip.”

Thomas didn’t answer, he just came to attention and rendered a hand salute, Helena following, as the standard-bearers of the Taurian Guards marched by—the flags of Taurus and the Concordat, along with the regimental standard, held high as the color guard marched over the tarmac and up the ramp to board the waiting DropShip.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:21 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Field HQ, McCarron’s Armored Cavalry
Pinard Protectorates Limited Facility Eight, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 14, 3025


“Tell me we got something worth our time and losses,” Archie snapped as he walked into his temporary Field Headquarters half a kilometer from the PPL production facility. For the past two days, the break in the weather systems had allowed the MAC to bombard Dougal, smashing buildings flat and starting fires—but the Taurians had not budged, nor had they asked for any terms of surrender. And Archie was beginning to believe that they wouldn’t. He was being pressured by Romano’s liaison—Major Eric Handel—to go ahead and assault the city . . . but Archie had no intention of doing that. Not after the meat-grinder of Port Caine.

The loss reports were bad—not quite as morbid as he had first expected, but bad all the same. The Renegades—Richard Steele’s Renegades, now—had more than seven companies worth of ‘Mechs out of the fight . . . and just half of those were fit for salvaging. That Regiment had suffered the worse, and the loss of two cargo ships filled with munitions and supplies had made the situation even more untenable. The Wild Ones and Nightriders had suffered less—but even they had nearly one ‘Mech in four fit only for rebuilding or spare parts.

So, no. Despite what Major Handel was demanding, Archie wasn’t about to charge head-long into the bunkers surrounding Dougal. In fact, he thought to himself, it is time to consider ending this will I still can—at least he had crippled the TDF’s battalion of Chasseurs; if they had so much as a lance left intact, it would surprise him. And that bastard Gordon—Gordon had made one mistake when he tried to double back and catch Archie’s DropShips in the Drop-zone . . . but Archie had been prepared for that and a composite combat group from the Wild Ones and Nightriders had been waiting for him. The lighter ‘Mechs of the Taurian mercenaries had been hit hard . . . and now Nicholas Gordon was somewhere out there licking his own wounds, having left behind nearly half of his command shattered on the field.

The good news was that his techs had been able to salvage several dozen of the Taurian and mercenary ‘Mechs to make up for his losses—well, recover, if not fully salvage. The latter would take time . . . more time than Archie knew he had. And if the excited reports from his search teams here at PPC/Fac 8 were anything to go by, then he might well have hit the motherlode.

Jethro Harper grinned at his boss—as the Chief Technical Officer of McCarron’s Armored Cavalry it was his job to keep Archie’s machines running. “I think so—lighter than we like, but it’s a gold mine in there, Mac.”

Archie grunted. “Talk to me.”

“Well, first off—Pinard was supposed to be producing three types of ‘Mechs here: Stingers, Locusts, and Clints according to intelligence. Intel was wrong,” Jethro chuckled. “The Taurians stopped production on their bugs and instead retooled to produce those new lights we’ve been hearing rumors about . . . and that you’ve spent the past four days fighting.”

Archie grimaced. The Taurians had fielded two new models of BattleMechs that he had never seen before—he had only heard a few whispered rumors circulated among mercenaries of some new Taurian scout 'Mechs. Both were thirty-tonners, light-weight fighters to be certain, but heavier than the traditional Stingers and Locusts by ten tons. The BDT-1A Bandit was heavily armored—for a light BattleMech—and carried pretty hefty firepower for a 30-ton war machine . . . while still managing to be as fast and mobile as the ubiquitous Stingers and Wasps. The PRT-1A Patriot sacrificed the jump jets for a larger engine; although not quite as fast as a Locust, it was able to match an Assassin or Jenner in a foot-race, and it too carried armor all out of proportion to what most ‘Mechs these days carried; along with a pretty decent package of guns.

“Apparently, they were getting ready to ship out another order to the TDF, Mac—there are ten Patriots and twenty-two Bandits completed and just sitting in the warehouse, with a baker’s dozen in various stages of construction. Along with a dozen finished Clints—they are producing those here, still.”

“The 2-3T? Or those slower ones we encountered?” asked Archie.

Jethro grinned again. “All twelve are those 3-3Ts you’ve been fighting—bit slower, but heavier armor and a few more guns.”

“Forty-four fresh ‘Mechs?” Archie mused.

“Hot off the production lines—and I’ve looted enough spares to keep ‘em running for years,” he looked down at the ground. “Mac, I’ve been ordered to wreck this place and I know that you didn’t issue that order. ‘Mech factories are too rare to just destroy for the hell of it, and frankly it goes against the grain.”

Archie winced. “Let me guess—Handel?”

“Right in one, boss.”

“Ignore his orders, Harp,” Archie said bluntly, “you work for me, not some Romano stooge. I want everything you can get loaded in the next thirty-six hours aboard the ships—we should have enough empty bays to get them all in. Then, we are going home.”

“Not waiting for Phase 2?” asked Jethro with a look of apprehension on his face.

“Not a chance in hell, Harp—if MacLeod’s Land is this heavily defended, I don’t want to even think about hitting New Vandenberg. This [blanking] campaign is over—that’s why I got us command rights from that Liao bitch.” Archie paused. “Thirty-six hours . . . can you do it?”

“It’ll be tight, but not having to divert men to wire this place to blow sky-high will help . . . we should be able to get everything loaded in what transport we have left, boss.”

“Then get to it.”

“What about Handel?”

“Oh, didn’t you hear?”

“Hear what?”

“About that mortar attack this afternoon,” Archie said with a smile. “Poor Handel was killed.”

“Boss, it’s morning.”

“Yeah, I know. Son-of-a-bitch doesn’t seem to want to fit inside a mortar tube, but I told the staff to break his hips and shoulder blades; that should make it easy to slide him down the tube of one of the big mortars. When they get him loaded, we are going to shoot him at Dougal,” Archie chuckled. “The report will read KIA in mortar attack—it won’t say that it was our attack or that he was our shell!”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Export Transshipment Warehouse
Pinard Protectorates Limited Facility Eight, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 16, 3025


“You’re certain that those SOBs haven’t rigged the engines to blow? Or the magazines? Or whatever?” Captain Walter Isaac Grey—known to his fellow soldiers of McCarron’s Regiments by the nickname of WIG—asked Jethro Harper as the wounded and dispossessed MechWarrior stood on the lowest rung of the boarding ladder, clad just in shorts, boots, and a cooling vest.

“For God’s sake, Captain,” Jethro spat. “We’ve spent the last thirty-four hours digging into the machines—there ain’t no explosives aboard them! The magazines are empty; there are no pressure triggers on the fusion engine to cause a catastrophic detonation . . . my Techs know their jobs, okay!”

“Sorry, Harp,” the MechWarrior answered glumly, his right forearm still encased in a cast and bandages wrapped around his neck and head. “These bloody Taurians have got me twitching at shadows—it’s like the whole damn planetary population has taken a course in building improvised explosive devices and made a pact with the devil himself on how to use them in the most fiendish ways possible.”

“Didn’t mean to snap at you, Sir,” Jethro answered as he ran one hand through his hair. “Haven’t had a lot of sleep these past few days, Wig,” he stepped up closer. “Look, we’ve checked every nook and cranny for explosives and even had a bomb-sniffing dog poke his nose inside. If they have anything rigged, it ain’t explosives or the fusion engine. The magazines are empty and my folks have even disconnected the laser from the power supply—just so that can’t be overpowered.”

“You’ve bypassed the lock-outs?” Wig asked, and then he shook his head and held up his uninjured hand at the angry expression on Jethro’s face. “Sorry, dumb question. I’m just surprised you managed to break forty-four encryptions in the time you had.”

Jethro snorted. “I’m good—but not that good. Turns out that PPL uses the same access key until the TDF accepts delivery . . . and Mac persuaded one of the execs to provide us with the security code.”

“Yeah, heard about that when I was getting the arm patched up—didn’t realize it was for all of the command codes for all of these ‘Mechs.”

“SOP for any manufacturer—the end-user selects his own access codes; the machines all get the same primary code when they walk out of the factory. Of course, that changes every shipment, so it ain’t as easy as it sounds to steal one and walk away, but it sure as hell made my job easier,” Jethro said as he aided the injured warrior up the access ladder and opened the cockpit of the 30-ton Bandit.

Wig whistled. “They might all be stubborn bastards who don’t fight fair, but damn if they don’t make a good-looking cockpit,” then he paused. “Where’s the ejection seat?”

The chief technician for McCarron’s Armored Cavalry snorted. “No ejection seat—no jump seat either,” and he grinned at the shocked expression on the face of the MechWarrior. “But you can still eject, Wig. The Taurians decided to make the entire cockpit itself detachable—the ejection rockets are beneath this . . . tub that contains your seat, the control systems, the main computers, AND the canopy. Yank the ejector--primary," he pointed to one handle, "or secondary," and then the second, "and the whole thing is blasted clear—it’s more complicated and costs more than standard ejection seats, but the Taurians swear by it.”

“Yeah,” Wig answered with a far-away look in his eyes. “I busted the arm when I struck the edge of the canopy ejecting out of my old Quickdraw—this sounds safer . . . if it works.”

“It works,” Jethro said with a drawl. “God knows enough of the Taurians here on MacLeod’s Land have punched out, after all.”

Wig eased down into the cockpit and the tech began to strap him into place—and then he saw the controls.

“Dials? Gauges? Where’s the Multi-Function Display?”

“You’ve got two small displays on the right and left sides,” Jethro explained. “The Taurians prefer old-school controls—all of the gauges are analog, not digital, if you can believe it! But they work,” and Jethro sighed. “And if something goes wrong with the computer, they STILL work, because they aren’t run by the computer—this puppy doesn’t have the hair-trigger response of most ‘Mechs, but it’s good enough . . . and a lot cheaper. Plus, if something goes wrong with a gauge, a good tech can fix it with a caliper and pair of pliers—modern MFDs you have to yank the whole damn thing and hope you have a spare in storage.”

Wig shook his head. “Same with the weapons—manual arming for the separate systems? God damn, the Bulls are paranoid aren’t they? Still, the leather seats are nice,” he continued as Jethro plugged his cooling vest into the cockpit interface.

“Go ahead, fire her up.”

“Access code?”

“Printed on that piece of duct tape,” Jethro said as he pointed at a combination of letters and numbers stenciled in black ink on the grey strip.

“Hail Mary full of grace,” Wig whispered as he began to flip switches and then gingerly depressed the red key labeled FUSN IGNT. There was a sudden hum coming from beneath the cockpit, and then the needles on the various gauges twitched, jumped, and settled on idle. He entered the sixteen digit alpha-numeric combination on an old-fashioned key-pad and, after a moment to think and confirm the code, the main computer brought the gyro on-line.

“All systems looking good,” he reported as Jethro set the heavy neuro-helmet over his shoulders and plugged it into sockets built into the cockpit. “HUD is . . . active,” Wig broadcast.

Jethro stepped back and he closed the cockpit canopy, giving the MechWarrior a thumbs-up, which Wig returned with his good hand. “Here goes nothing,” he muttered, and engaged the motive system—the 30-ton BattleMech took first one step, then a second, and (with confidence building by the second) Wig cleared the hanger and pressed the throttle forward until the machine was moving at its full normal walking speed of 64.8 kilometers per hour, two score other BattleMechs following him out.

Wig began to sweat as the heat from the engine bled into the cockpit, and he glanced down at the air circulating vents—nothing was flowing from them. His cooling jacket was working, but without the high-pressure air circulating from the cooling unit, the cockpit was rapidly becoming a sauna. He began to curse, and then he saw that there was a separate control panel for the chillers. Blushing, he activated the unit and it began to hum, and with the surety of any veteran MechWarrior, he twisted the dial to allow for maximum air-flow—and then he froze as a spray of fine mist erupted out of all of the vents.

“[crap]!” he yelled, and he brought the Bandit to a halt as he checked his chemical-warfare detection strip built into the cooling vest—all green, he realized, his heart pumping wildly.

“Problem, Wig?” crackled the radio.

“Negative—the chiller vents discharged an oily mist when I turned them on.”

“Acknowledged,” the voiced said and then paused. “Others are reporting the same—Harp says it might be oil in the ventilation unit . . . any chem-markers registering?”

“Negative. Proceeding to the DropShips, Central.”

Taking the throttle in hand once more, Wig began to accelerate, and then one of the two display screens flashed.

LEAVING PPL GROUNDS. ENTER SECONDARY SECURITY CODE.

“Central, it’s asking me for a secondary security code,” Wig broadcast—and he could hear cursing over the radio, including the voice of Harper in the background, “No one has TWO BLOODY DAMN security codes! No one!”

“Wait one, Wig,” Central answered. The screen blanked, and then the message repeated. And then it blanked again and repeated again.

"Guys, talk to me," the MechWarrior called out anxiously.

YOU HAVE EXITED PPL GROUNDS. ENTER SECONDARY SECURITY CODE IMMEDIATELY.

Wig brought the 'Mech to a halt and he began to turn around to reenter the perimeter of the factory. "Central, I'm returning to the . . .," he began to broadcast.

There was a sudden SNAP that sounded like high-voltage passing through the system, and Wig jerked his hands back from the controls. The Bandit began to go dead as every electrical system he had gauges for red-lined . . . and then flat-lined. They gyro died, along with his HUD and the neuro-helmet lost power; then the fusion engine shut down and everything quit.

Except for the access panels in front of the primary and secondary computers. Those sparked and crackled, and Wig could smell the melting insulation as the computers took far more voltage than they were designed for. “[censored],” growled Wig, as he activated the emergency radio.

“My computer just fried itself, Harp!” he barked. “Gyro is dead, engine is off-line—but, yeah, the gauges still work and it’s hotter than hell in here!”

That was the moment, when he was waiting for a reply, that Wig realized his skin was itching—he looked down and saw his naked arms, chest, and legs were bright red and already swelling.

“[crap]!”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Aug 26, 2015 11:33 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
***********************************************************

“HARP!” Archie bellowed.

“Look, no one uses two security codes, Mac!” the Tech yelled back. “We’ve got to pull the computers and . . . damn, we don’t have enough spares.”

“HARP!”

Ignoring his boss, the Chief Tech raised the microphone. “Get the heavy transporters out there—we are hauling the ‘Mechs the rest of the way by hand, people!”

“How long?” Archie said through clenched teeth.

“Six hours? Maybe eight?” Harp said with a shrug. “We are talking about more than fourteen hundred tons of ‘Mechs, boss.”

The sudden cacophony of screaming and cursing from forty-four cockpits interrupted Archie’s answer.

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

“I hate Taurians,” Archie muttered. “What the hell is urushiol and why didn’t the chem-strips detect it?”

“It’s the active agent in poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac, Mac,” the senior medical officer attached to the Armored Cavalry said. “Non-fatal, usually, and no one uses it in chemical weapons—but those MechWarriors were covered with the oil from head to toe. None of them are going to be fit to pilot a ‘Mech for weeks. And I hope to God I have enough anti-histamine ointment for all of them.”

“The oily mist,” Harp muttered. “The factory workers must have planted liquid urushiol in the cockpit blowers before they were evacuated. Those miserable damned hateful sadistic SOBs.”

“God damn, I hate Taurians,” Archie swore once again.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:12 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
DropShip Vixen
Boosting for Orbit, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 17, 3025


Finally, everything was loaded. And just in time, as the next line of storms were racing in towards Dougal and the factory at almost one hundred kph. One by one, the remaining DropShips of Archie’s regiments lit off their drives and they began to climb towards orbit and the JumpShips waiting at the pirate point. Two hours, and we will be out of here once and for all. He had already ordered one of the JumpShips—a Scout-class vessel—to inform Marcus Baxter that it was past time to leave the Concordat once and for all.

But it seemed as if the thrice-damned Taurians weren’t done with him, he sighed as he buried his face in the palms of his hands.

“What do you mean our new Taurian 'Mechs are useless?”

Jethro Harper swallowed. “Mac,” he began, “that bloody secondary code fried every processor and sub-processor on the 'Mechs. We don't have anywhere near the number of spares to fix them.”

“Well, replace them,” Archie growled. “When we get home, we’ll buy more computers and replace them.”

“Boss, it ain’t that simple. The fusion engines? The gyros? The sensors? The comm system? Every single sub-system requires a dedicated, programmed sub-processor that ties into the main computers. We can buy the equipment, no problem . . . well, except for the sheer number we need. But the programming? That comes only from the Concordat and I don't think they are going to sell it to us.”

“Okay, you said we got years worth of spares from the factory—plug in those spare computers!”

Jethro shrank down in his seat, and he mumbled something.

“What was that?”

“I said, there are not enough spare computers in the factory. We should be able to copy their programs and install them into fresh blank systems ourselves—but it will take months, boss. And quite a lot of C-Bills. And then they have to be installed, which will consume hundreds of man-hours for each and every 'Mech. It might take two years to get those damn Taurian pieces of [crap] back on-line.”

Archie began to snarl when the phone in his cabin buzzed. “YES!” he snarled as he lifted the phone. And then he said, “On my way,” and slammed it down before he buried his hands in his palms again.

The chief tech licked his lips. “Did we . . . miss . . . a booby-trap, Mac?”

“No, Harp. The JumpShips have just reported that a Taurian relief force—two regiments strong at a minimum—has jumped into another pirate point around this miserable mudball. And that they are launching fighters and gunboats; those should be able to intercept us before we can dock . . . although, thank the Devil for small favors, their DropShips will arrive after we’ve jumped.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:19 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
DropShip Vixen
En route to Proximity Point, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 17, 3025


Archie pulled himself onto the bridge of the Overlord-class DropShip. “Status,” he ordered quietly.

“Lots of firepower coming our way, Mac,” the DropShip skipper answered just as quietly. “Two waves of fighters and gunboats . . . but we may have an advantage here,” he said as he activated a holographic projector that showed the icons of incoming aerospace fighters and small craft—dozens of icons. Archie walked over, joined by a third officer dressed in a flight suit.

“The Taurians have launched fifty-two fighters and sixteen of their gunboats . . . but they are sending in their lighter fighters ahead of the second wave—and there are just twenty of them.”

“Twenty?” Archie mused with a sudden grin. “About time we caught a break. What’s their composition?”

“Wave I has twenty Hellcats . . . . Wave II is an even mix of sixteen Thunderbirds, sixteen Eagles, and sixteen Defiance gunboats.”

“Our own birds?” Archie asked.

“We took some losses, but we can still put about sixty up for operations from all three wings,” the skipper responded.

“Options?”

“Mac,” the third person present spoke up. Major Sarah Carmichael was the senior fighter pilot left among the Big MAC, and Archie knew her well. “I recommend two waves as well—we outnumber the Taurians and all of our fighters are heavy-weight sluggers. Sure, those Hellcats are dangerous, but we’ve got Eagles and Transgressors of our own that can match them in acceleration. We hold back a full Wing—thirty-nine fighters—and send the remaining twenty-one to engage the Taurians. Sure, it’s even odds in numbers, but our fighters are heavier, better armed, better armored, and we have better pilots.” She paused. “We should be able to defeat their lead element in detail AND have the time to get back to the ships as the second strike launches—with full loads of fuel and external ordnance to engage Wave II. While that happens, we rearm, refuel, and relaunch our first strike to take care of any stragglers.”

“Do it,” Archie ordered, and then he bit his lip. “Twenty? That’s an odd number for Taurians . . . and they don’t normally fly Hellcats.”

“Taurians operate in divisions of four birds, Mac,” Sarah answered. “That’s five divisions—probably one division shy of a reinforced wing. And the Hellcat is a common fighter out here—sure, not all Taurians fly them, but there are some in service.”

“You’re sure you can take them, Sarah?”

The pilot laughed. “Mac, those Taurians are brave—but these aren’t Reunification War veterans we are flying against. The TDF and TCN don’t have good training programs—that is why they have imported those Outworlders to teach basic flight and combat at their Flight Academy on Samantha. They’re brave, I’ll give them that—but frankly, they don’t know jack [crap] about flying combat.”

“Okay,” Archie said slowly and he looked at a shaking hand. “Go out there and tear them apart, Sarah—and then we are getting the Hell out of this hellhole.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:26 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Transgressor 311
Local Space, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 17, 3025


Sarah looked down at her display as the range steadily dropped between her fighters and the oncoming Hellcats of Wave I—and she grinned. The Taurians were idiots, she thought. All bunched up in one compact formation . . . it was really amazing that they hadn’t had any in-flight brushes against one another flying that tightly. Guess they learned their maneuvers from the Lyrans, because it looked like a flying wall of steel, she chuckled to herself. And then she activated her radio transmitter.

“Boys, you are about to get your asses kicked,” she gloated. “How about this . . . we make one pass and then you turn around and burn for home? After all, we don’t want to cost Thomas too many more of his precious few aerospace fighters . . . you know that you don’t stand a chance against our birds. We’re heavier and have a lot more combat time than you do—so do yourselves a favor and turn around before you get spanked.”

Several of Mac’s pilots laughed as they tightened their straps one last time and ejected empty drop-tanks once filled with fuel. But rather than inspiring the red rage she had expected, only a confident voice answered her—and it was not a Taurian accent.

“Now that would not be cricket, would it, lass?”

Outworlders,” Sarah hissed.

“Oh—she realizes now it is a trap,” the radio continued to broadcast. “You see, the Bulls did want to just rush in all at once—but I talked them out of it. Better that my boys and girls—the Ghostriders of the First Alliance Air Wing Third Regiment—cut a path through you for them.”

“Mac,” Sarah broadcast back to the command DropShip, “launch the reserve NOW. I’m going to need them.”

“Quite right, little girl—you see, we Outworlders take our responsibilities extremely seriously . . . and when you attack our friends and allies, you also attack us. Were you expecting, perhaps, that we would stand by and see the boys and girls we trained to fly go off and then drink a cocktail without a care in the world? If so, you were quite wrong—and unless you break and run for your carriers, in a very short time, you will be very, very dead. TALLEYHO, GHOSTRIDERS!”

And with that, the tight ranks of the Alliance fighter squadron suddenly broke into ten pairs of wingmen—performing the high-G maneuver as flawlessly as only the elite demonstration pilots and combat veterans could. And then the pairs broke apart and began to scissor towards the oncoming fighter’s led by Sarah—their noses spitting bolts of PPC fire.

“What the hell?” one of her pilots cried out as they realized that the Alliance pilots out-ranged them . . . because Hellcats did not carry PPCs. Normally, at least. But these particular Hellcats apparently did, and Sarah cursed as her sensors got a good read of just how those Outworlder fighters had been modified. The bastards had removed all eight of the lasers the medium-weight fighters normally carried, and replaced them with a pair of nose-mounted PPCs . . . and apparently they had sunk all of that remaining tonnage into increasing the armor thickness, because those Hellcats were shrugging off impacts and burns that should have penetrated.

Ten of Sarah’s fighters staggered as each was the target of four individual PPCs—and while the Transgressors and Eagles had enough armor to stop Large Lasers from penetrating on the nose, no surface on the heavy fighters was thick enough to stop a PPC bolt! Wings snapped off, fuel tanks and magazines detonated, and seven of her fighters spun out of control. Seven! In the first pass!

“Break off!” she yelled into the microphone as she slammed her throttle to the firewall and banked away from the combat. “Rendezvous with the second strike!”

And that slightly amused, crisply accented voice came over the radio one more time. “Ghostriders—let us plough the road, to use a Taurian phrase that our allies—and students—will appreciate. Shall we start the stampede, ladies and gentlemen?”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 6:48 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Thunderbird 214
Local Space, MacLeod’s Land
Taurian Concordat
November 17, 3025


Air Master (Senior Grade) Leslie Boyington was a hard man—one of the few Taurian pilots to have made Ace since the long-ago days of the Reunification Wars. But for the fifteen other pilots and scores of techs assigned to the Air Wing of the Taurian Guard Regiment, he was just the Old Man, the leader that had worked them long and hard to hone their skills and have a chance—just a chance—to live through the furball and come home alive afterwards. He almost never smiled, was always stoic and sober and somber. Today, however, today, he had a grin on his scarred face as he watched the Outworlders tear apart McCarron’s lead fighters like the wrath of an unholy God.

“Hell’s Heart,” he broadcast as he altered vector slightly. “Ignore the gnats—we want those eggs. Division Two take Overlord-Bravo; Three gets Overlord-Charlie; Four provide top cover on the attack run. Division One follows me into the fire to engage Overlord-Alpha. Arm munitions,” he ordered as he triggered the electronic arming circuits . . . and he cursed as the single Alamo missile that he carried ignited its booster stage and tore away from the heavy fighter.

“BELAY THAT ORDER!” he bellowed, even as he saw the flaming exhaust of more of the nuclear-tipped missiles streak away with no target lock. DAMN this new fire control system, he thought. “How many did we lose?”

“Seven, Pappy,” replied his wingman, “all from Divisions One and Two. Joker has the only missile left in the division.”

“Damn all engineers who want to fix what ain’t broken!” he cursed. “Divisions Three and Four—manually arm Alamos! Four take Overlord-Alpha; One will provide top cover for your run; Two covers Three against Charlie—understood?”

Double-clicks on the radio showed that his kids did understand, and Leslie bit his lip in frustration. “Break to attack run vector on my mark . . .,” he ordered and then paused as the watched the numbers and arrows in his HUD that showed vectors and speeds, “MARK!” he snarled as he banked the heavy fighter towards the Overlord that the Guards C3 staff had designated as Alpha.

Defensive fire blossomed from the impressive DropShip, but Leslie weaved his Thunderbird right and left, up and down—and his own missile launchers and lasers spat return fire.

“I’m hit, I’m hit, I’m hit!” shouted a voice over the radio, and the wing commander felt his heart harden a bit more as one of his pilots vanished in the glare of an explosion.

“Ghostriders, we need some cover!” he yelled out.

“Roger that, Hell’s Heart—our dance card is full at this moment, I regret to say. We should have top cover in . . . thirty seconds.”

Thirty seconds . . . it sounded like such a short time, but in combat those handful of second were an eternity. “Understood—Hell’s Heart . . . stay on target.”

“Hostiles on our six, Pappy,” his wingman said softly.

“I see them—shield Division Four,” he ordered—and with that command, Leslie and his wingman cut their thrust and slid between the Taurian fighters carrying the heavy missiles and the incoming bandits.

Large Laser and Autocannon fire streaked out towards the Taurian fighters, but then the incoming Reivers staggered under a hail of missile fire! A pair of Defiance gunboats streaked by, their sixty LRM tubes reloading as they swept across Leslie’s attack run.

“Hope that helps, Hell’s Heart,” sang out Air Master (SG) Paul Dixon aboard the lead Defiance.

“It did, now come back and do that again!” Leslie ordered.

“You always do want more, don’t you?”

“Damn straight,” the Taurian answered with a straight face. “And right now, I want some EGGS people!” he barked.

A second Thunderbird, and then a third, erupted in flame and fury, but five continued to bore in—finally entering the range of the Alamo anti-ship missiles . . . and their nuclear warheads. “FIRE!” yelled one of the Division Four officers and three heavy missiles streaked away, attempting to lock onto the erratically maneuvering Overlord.

One failed to achieve lock and it went wild before it self-destructed—the others, however, the second and third missiles flew straight and true and the contact nuclear warheads detonated as the missiles drove home. None of the crew or soldiers aboard the DropShip Vixen survived the twin detonation.

“PAPPY!” his wingman yelled as Leslie grinned at the expanding cloud of dust and debris that had once been a DropShip. Alarms began to blare as an enemy fighter swept out of the cloud and a fusillade of laser beams and missiles slammed home against Leslie’s Thunderbird—that was the last sight that the veteran pilot ever saw.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:08 pm 
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Interlude

Throughout the Inner Sphere and Major Periphery States
November 20, 3025


INTERSTELLAR NEWS NETWORK ALERT
INN SPECIAL REPORT #3025-1782A
AUTHORIZED FOR IMMEDIATE DISTRIBUTION TO ALL OUTLETS

STORY BY HELEN GRAHM—FILED FROM ROLLIS [CAPELLAN CONFEDERATION]

TAURIANS COMMIT WAR CRIMES AND NUCLEAR ATROCITIES!

(INN) NOVEMBER 19, 3025—ROLLIS

INN has received confirmation of the first use of nuclear weapons against forces of McCarron's Armored Cavalry deployed on MacLeod's Land by elements of the Taurian Guard Corps. Eyewitness accounts from survivors and research by INN reporters indicate that the following is accurate:

Answering a ComStar request for MAC to garrison local HPG stations on MacLeod's Land (in response to unprovoked Taurian attacks on ComStar facilities), Archibald McCarron and the Nightriders Regiment arrived on the Concordat world of MacLeod's Land, while other MAC regiments were dispatched to secure facilities on Laconis, Brisbane, and Landsmark.

MAC with hired with the blessing of the Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation with the understanding that the newly formed ComGuards and Militia (announced in late October) would seen be deployed to relieve the mercenary formations providing temporary and local security.

Local citizens of the Concordat responded to the arrival of McCarron and the Nightriders with illegal attacks upon his forces, conducted by non-lawful combatants using unconventional warfare. After the use of chemical weapons against his force, McCarron ordered all five regiments of MAC to withdraw from the Concordat in an effort to calm local sensibilities and deescalate the situation.

INN has confirmed that while lifted to orbit, two MAC DropShips were deliberately targeted and struck by nuclear ordnance employed by elements of the TDF. Among the known dead is Archibald McCarron. At least 500 additional MechWarriors, Pilots, Technicians, Engineers, and dependents have been confirmed KIA as well. Command of MAC has devolved upon Colonel Marcus Baxter.

To date there has been no comment from Sian concerning these developments.

INN has not been able to confirm at this time that other regiments of MAC came under sustained attack while garrisoning ComStar property in the Taurian Concordat. However, reports from Menke indicate that the support elements of MAC are preparing dependents on Menke for the worst of homecomings.

Reports from all five Great Houses of the Inner Sphere indicate that the outrage over the unprovoked and barbaric use of weapons of mass destruction is swelling, with local protestors clamoring for their governments to respond to these acts of barbarity.

ComStar has issued a call for all Great and Minor Houses to immediately embargo all commercial and passenger traffic to and from the Taurian Concordat.

TIMELINE OF EVENTS IN THE TAURIAN CRISIS

October 24, 3025--TDF units attack and seize a ComStar HPG facility on Jansen's Hold

October 25, 3025--ComStar demands restitution for the attack and the murder of it's personnel on Jansen's Hold.

October 27, 3025--Protector Thomas Calderon declares war on ComStar and orders the TDF to seize all ComStar facilities within the Taurian Concordat.

October 28, 3025--ComStar declares an Interdiction against the Taurian Concordat. Announces formation of the ComGuard and Militia to defend facilities against any future attempt to seize ComStar property and assault ComStar personnel.

October 30, 3025--ComStar reaches an agreement with Maximillian Liao to temporarily hire McCarron's Armored Cavalry to garrison several HPG facilities within the Taurian Concordat.

November 10, 3025--MAC lands on McLeod's Land and immediately comes under attack by Taurian irregulars.

November 16, 3025--Taurian forces, suspected of acting on direct orders from Taurus, use chemical warfare agents against Nightriders Regiment on MacLeod's Land.

November 17, 3025--Nightriders Regiment attempts to withdraw to defuse tensions in the region. Taurian aerospace assets use nuclear weapons to attack the defenseless DropShips as they clear the atmosphere. At least 500 individuals are killed, including Archibald McCarron.

November 20, 3025--ComStar calls for an immediate embargo of all commercial and passenger traffic to and from the Taurian Concordat.

THIS HAS BEEN AN INTERSTELLAR NEWS NETWORK ALERT


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Aug 27, 2015 7:15 pm 
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Celestial Palace
Forbidden City, Sian
Capellan Confederation
November 20, 3025


Romano Liao swallowed heavily as the Court of Sian grew silent at her entry. She had been summoned here—escorted by armed troopers of the Red Lancers, the fanatical guardians of the Chancellor himself. Colonel Judith Abermarle, the commanding officer of the Lancers, led the procession to the balk lines upon the polished floor and then she knelt, her head bowed low . . . and Romano was herself pushed down upon the flagstones by the guards beside her instead of being allowed to continue forward.

“Child,” Maximillian Liao beamed down at his younger daughter, and then his warm smile faded away into a stern look that felt as cold as arctic ice. “I must say that I admire your audacity—your . . . courage,” his voice turned into a snarl at that word and Romano shivered, “in attempting to seize the factories of MacLeod’s Land and Pinard and New Vandenberg for the Confederation.”

“Yes,” Max Liao spoke as he lowered his head, “it was an audacious plan that called for taking and holding at least four Taurian worlds with a handful of regiments . . .,” he paused and his eyes narrowed. “Tell me, daughter . . . where are my regiments now?”

“Re-returning to Menke, Father,” Romano whispered and Max nodded; he leaned back in his throne and he stroked his long beard with one hand—the other clenched the arm of his throne so hard that his knuckles had turned white.

All of them, daughter?” Max asked in a voice just as quiet . . . but one that echoed throughout the Court.

“I-I was not expe-. . .,” she began, but Max rose from his throne.

YOU DID NOT THINK!” he thundered, and Romano cringed. “The offensive arm of the Capellan Confederation Armed Forces—shattered! Marcus Baxter tells me that it will take years to rebuild the Armored Cavalry to their previous strength—right now, AT THIS MOMENT, DAUGHTER! Right now, of the five Regiments that you threw away, there are barely enough troopers and ‘Mechs returning to Menke to form two,” the Chancellor spat this last word and then he shook his head and sat once more.

Max stroked his beard with one hand as he looked down at the shaking young woman and then he took a deep breath. “My plans—to place the blame on Hanse Davion for the destruction of their Vickers Core and that ship in orbit; to bring Thomas Calderon into an alliance that would strengthen the Confederation . . . those plans are now useless child, thanks to your wanton appetite for bloodshed and utter lack of any strategic sense!”

The Chancellor sat back down on his throne, composing himself once more. “Thankfully, there are those who value preserving face for the Liao—those who are willing to help us by telling the Inner Sphere that it was not your rank stupidity which threw away my Regiments, but instead Taurian atrocities.”

“GUARDS!” he snapped. “Get this criminal out of my sight—she is to remain in exile at her estates on Quemoy until I send for her. Contemplate your sins, my daughter—in silence. And count yourself fortunate that it is not, at this time, Our Will that you be joined with Archibald McCarron in death.”

The guards seized Romano’s arms dragged her away—her last sight before the doors closed behind her was her Father turning to Candace.

“And now, Favored Child, we will address how to correct your idiot sister’s upheaval of my policies.”

The doors finished closing before Romano could do more than sputter in shock as the Lancers continued to drag her through the Palace and then to the space-port.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 11:55 am 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Taurian Defense Force Military Reservation (I Corps HQ)
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 20, 3025


“I should place you under arrest and ship you home to Thomas,” Corey Calderon said with a sigh. “You realize you are damn lucky I didn’t just blow your ships out of space when you showed up with a reinforced regiment—without any warning!”

Edward nodded, and Corey scowled at the much younger man. “Edward, son,” he said with a shake of his head, “Thomas is going to go ballistic over this whole damned mess. First off, you bring four battalions of FedRats . . .,” and as Edward frowned, Corey just held up a hand, “mercenaries—some of whom are mercenaries in name only, by the way—who just happened to work for Hanse freaking Davion yesterday; you bring them here and land them on New Vallis. Then, because you obviously have no concern for the status of my blood pressure or the possibility of me suffering a stroke, deign to inform me that Michael Hasek-Davion is due to arrive within the next few hours at the head of the entire Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT—with the intention of conquering this world!”

“Correct, Uncle Corey—except I am rather worried about your blood pressure . . . have you been taking your meds?” Edward interjected with a grin—and Brigadier Tanis Verbet snorted as Corey glared at Edward.

“But oh, oh, you weren’t finished, were you?” Corey continued after transferring his glare to the CO of the First Battalion, Hyades Light Infantry and then to her immediate superior—Colonel Fiona Jamesen—before looking Edward in the eyes once more. “No, you claim that Hanse freaking Davion has declared Michael Hasek-Davion—his brother-in-law, if I may remind you!—and the entire Sixth Fusiliers as pirates and renegades, who are just conveniently no longer members of the bloody damned AFFS. Hours before they launch an assault on a Taurian world! Sounds to me like something the Fox would pull.”

“For what end, Marshal Calderon?” Fiona asked. “If they return to Federated Suns space and are welcomed home, then we know it was an attempt to trick us—and that would inspire Thomas to devise a means to strike at the Davions just to show he won’t be rolled over. No, as much as I do not care for the House of Davion and their ambitions,” the older woman mused quietly, “we must look at what is happening here. Edward has brought four battalions—plus his own escort—to the sound of the guns . . . as any good Taurian should do,” she smiled at the Heir to the Bull as she said this, and Edward nodded his head to her. She continued. “He was expecting New Vallis to be defended by just two TDF battalions—Tanis and her First Hyades and Mikhail’s Third Battalion, Concordat Jaegers. He didn’t know that Thomas and Brenda redeployed the entire TDF to add the Second Hyades, my Regimental HQ, and the Calderon Red Hand.”

Brigadier Rafael Montoya nodded. “Ambassador Calderon,” he said, stressing the first word heavily, “had already departed before it was decided to reinforce the core worlds of the Concordat. And I too applaud the action of a Calderon who decides that defending a world of the Concordat comes first and foremost over all other priorities—even to the point of hiring this many mercenaries out of his own pockets.”

Corey—reluctantly—conceded the point with a shrug. But then the old man sat down in his chair and he sighed again. “Eddie, if you are wrong—if Hanse Davion welcomes these assholes back into his service—Thomas will have no choice but to officially disown you and send you into Exile.”

“Ardan Sortek,” Edward said, and Corey winced at the name of the commander of the Foxhounds mercenary battalion, “assures me that Prince Davion is quite serious—and he has provided us with a full and complete listing, as of four weeks ago, of the entire Table of Organization and Equipment of the Sixth Fusiliers . . . right down to the exact make and model of each and every vehicle and ‘Mech that they field.”

Rafael pursed his lips—and Tanis grinned broadly. Edward waited until each of the senior TDF officers present had nodded and then he continued. “Between your commands, you have basically six Inner Sphere battalions worth of ‘Mechs—plus seven regiments of armor and nearly twenty of infantry. Heck, Uncle Corey, you have an entire regiment of self-propelled Thumpers, along with a battalion each of Snipers and Long Toms!” Edward paused. “Between the Foxhounds and Colonel Wylie and his Coyotes, I’ve got just over four battalions of my own—that’s a total of ten versus the three that the Sixth can field.”

“And our conventional arms outnumber his,” Corey finished, “although not by quite the same margins. You understand that Thomas is liable to hang me from the nearest lamp-post as well, Edward?”

“Edmund Burke said it best, Uncle Corey—‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.’ I refuse to do nothing. Father may well not approve of my actions—but I take those actions for the Concordat. The Capellans have already attacked, according to the reports I’ve received—this is our one chance to stop a second war on another front. A simultaneous war, Sir; I would suggest that the Marshal ask Brigadier Montoya how that worked out for our people the last time around.”

“I don’t need some wet-behind-the-ears jackass to tell me my history, boy!” Corey snapped. But then his shoulders dropped and he sighed a third time. “Alright, son—I’ll back your play. God knows that every man we can put on the field will lower the numbers of our dead in the end, after all. BUT,” Corey said firmly, “I’m sending word to Thomas immediately aboard one of the courier ships. And if the Protector of the Taurian Concordat tells me to open fire on your mercenaries, Edward,” Corey paused and his eyes clouded, but he stared Edward straight in the eyes, “if he orders me to open fire on you—I will do so. Still want to take that chance?”

“Yes, Sir—but I would like to send a message to Father on that courier ship as well,” Edward answered in a quiet, yet calm, voice.

Corey nodded, and then he stood up and walked around the desk to take Edward’s hand in his own. “Whatever Thomas decides, son—it’s been an honor,” and then Corey snorted in a fit of laughter. “You realize, with all the strings that Thomas has pulled to keep you—his Heir Apparent—out of combat up ‘til now, he’s likely to insist I sit on your ass here in my HQ? That even if he gives the go-ahead, YOU aren’t likely to be taking the field . . . Subaltern.”

Edward’s mouth opened, and then he closed it. “I will follow my orders, Marshal Calderon,” he said quietly as he came to attention.

“Somehow, Eddie, I doubt that,” Corey answered. “Come on, boy—the radio transmitter is a'waiting and Michael Hasek-Davion and his Sassy Syrtis Fools are coming to play in our sand box real soon. Time for you to call home.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Sat Aug 29, 2015 12:03 pm 
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
November 20, 3025


Thomas stalked into his private office in the expansive home—one could term it as a mansion—that had served as the private residence of the Protector for more than seven centuries. And he slammed the door behind him.

It wasn’t dignified, his slamming of the door—and Thomas knew that. But it wasn’t his nature to yell at the servants . . . nor at his family for sins not of their own commission. Unfortunately, merely slamming the door did little to alleviate the anger—and fear—inside Thomas’ heart. Anger at the thought of the perfidious Davions landing on one of his worlds—a world he had sworn to protect. Anger at the very idea that still more Davions would be defending that world against their expatriate kin. And an absolutely furious red rage that it was his own eldest son that had invited those Davion defenders to land on New Vallis.

And fear. Fear that Edward—his first-born, the man on whom he relied above all others to tell him when he had gone, or was going, too far—would find himself in harm’s way.

“Damn it to hell, Eddie,” Thomas whispered as he shook his head. “You’ve put me between the rock and the hard spot now, son.”

“Why are you mad at Eddie, Uncle Thomas?” a frightened voice asked from the far side of the sofa—and Thomas stared at two pairs of green eyes peeking over the back.

“Amelia? Isabella? What in the world are you two doing here in my private office?”

The twins—the eldest children of Raoul Calderon, Thomas’ younger brother—stood up and looked down at the floor. “We are playing hide-and-seek, Uncle Thomas,” Isabella answered quietly.

“No one will look for us in here!” added Amelia.

“Would that be because the two of you are not supposed to be in here?” Thomas asked, and then he sighed. He sat down on another sofa and he patted the cushions. “Come here,” he growled, and the twins sighed in unison and crossed the office, sitting down one on his left and one on his right.

“Long ago,” Thomas began, in a quieter and calmer voice, “when your Grand-mama was Protector, I hid in here so that your Dada couldn’t find me,” and he laughed softly.

“Did he find you? Did you win?” asked Isabella.

“No, Raoul didn’t find me—neither did Teresa or my cousin Brenda or any of the other children, children. But grand-mama Zarantha found me—and I wasn’t allowed in here either way back when.”

“Did she spank you?” Amelia asked in a low whisper, clearly looking ahead at the possible fate which lay in store for her and her sister.

“No, girls—Mama did not,” and Thomas’ voice grew hushed as his natural eye focused on something far away . . . something many years past. “She sat me down and she explained to me that this room—this very room!—was her refuge from the pain of the decisions she had to make day-in and day-out as Protector. Her sanctum, where she could sit and leave behind the worry, the doubts, the fear, . . .,” his voice trailed off. After a moment, he resumed, in a hushed tone. “I never really knew what she meant until she was gone and this room became mine.”

Thomas looked at the two girls—whose eleventh birthday had just come and gone a month ago—and he smiled. “It’s okay, girls—you can hide here if you want too . . . I won’t tell a soul.”

Isabella beamed a smile at Thomas and she hugged him tight—but Amelia just frowned. “Uncle . . . why are you mad at Eddie?”

Thomas grimaced and he put his arm around Amelia and hugged her before he answered. “Eddie made a decision that I don’t like—a decision that may mean I have to send him away,” and his voice broke. “That doesn’t mean I don’t love him—it just means that sometimes, I have a duty to do something I don’t like . . . or want . . . to . . . do,” his voice slowed down as he realized just what he had said.

Isabella nodded. “Miss Carlyle told us at school that we have a . . . re-spon-si-bil-it-y,” she enunciated the word carefully, “to do the right thing even if we don’t want to do it.”

“Yeah,” added Amelia. “She told us about Great-great-great Aunt Marantha; said it was the hardest thing she ever had to do to give up and let the Star League win—that she didn’t want to give up, but she had to so that her children and everyone’s children would be safe. And because she did give up, then we are here now.”

“She did, Uncle,” piped up Isabella, not wanting her sister to impress Thomas more than she did. “She told us that our an-ces-tors were willing to fight and die—but that even if they did, the war was lost. Aunty Marantha did what she did because she had to—to save us, all of us. But she didn’t like it so much, she took a pill and went to Heaven.”

Thomas didn’t say a word, but he hugged the two girls—until a knock came on his door.

“Thomas?” a tenor voice asked—the voice of the father of the twins. “Have you seen Isabella and Amelia by any chance?”

“No, Raoul,” Thomas answered, holding one finger over his lips as the girls giggled in delight. “Did you misplace them? Should I call security?”

“No need for that, brother,” he answered with a chuckle through the still closed door. “Just playing hide-and-seek with them—like when you and I were children. Sorry to bother you,” he finished.

“Raoul,” Thomas said quickly.

“Yes?”

“It’s never a bother—come back in say . . . thirty minutes?” he asked, looking at the girls and they nodded. “I need . . . I need to talk.”

There was silence for a moment, and then a dry voice slowly answered. “Whenever you need me, Tom—I’ll be here.”

Thomas waited until his brother’s footsteps had faded away and then he kissed first Isabella and then Amelia on the forehead. “There—a thirty minute head-start,” he said. “And I do believe that Katherine is busy in the kitchen annoying the cooks as they make pastries,” and both the twins squealed. “I think they will let you have a glass of cold milk as well.”

“Thank you, Uncle Thomas,” the two said in perfect harmony as they stood and hugged the Protector again and made their way to the door.

But then Amelia turned. “Uncle,” she asked, “why are you crying?”

“Because you two made me remember something I had forgotten, girls. Now run on—your father is gone to find you . . . so take the back stairs,” Thomas answered with a forced smile on his face.

The two threw open the door, looked around the corner, and then raced off as one of the guards smiled and closed the door behind them . . . leaving Thomas alone once more.

He stood. He walked across the carpeted floor to his desk and he picked up the phone and pressed one number. It rang twice, and then a voice answered.

“Yes, Sire?”

“Send the courier to New Vallis, Henri,” Thomas ordered. “Tell Corey—and Edward—that I approve in full. And if one of my stubborn officers or nobles wants to make something of their choice, they will have to deal with ME.”

“At once, Sire.”

“And Henri?”

“Yes?”

“Inform Marshal Vickers that I approve her suggestion for deployment—she may depart as soon as she is ready. Give her the word, Henri . . . the word GO.”

“Yes, Sire—may I ask what changed your mind?”

“No,” Thomas answered as he hung up the phone and sat back down in an easy chair in front of his fireplace, watching the flames in silence as he waited for his younger brother to return.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:47 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Transient Mercenary Reservation
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


“I don’t like this, Marshal,” muttered Major Ann Adelmana as she took a seat next to Ardan Sortek and picked at the plate lunch that her hosts had delivered to the mercenaries of the Foxhounds—otherwise known as the 2nd Battalion of the Davion Heavy Guards RCT. “I don’t like this one bit.”

“The slaw is good, Major,” Ardan snorted with amusement, “and the sauce that they drenched the meat in is delightful,” and then his voice turned serious. “Although, I do think it would behoove us to remember that I am no longer a Marshal in the AFFS—just the Colonel commanding this mercenary venture . . . at least while we are here on the surface of a Taurian world surrounded by TDF formations.”

Ann winced and she nodded. “Sorry, Colonel,” she stressed the second word heavily. “I wasn’t talking about the food, however,” she whispered as she lifted a forkful of the shredded meat mixed with roasted sliced potatoes and took a cautious bite. Her expression changed and she nodded as her eyes grew wide. “That is good,” she expressed in surprise after she swallowed. “Lamb?”

“Some local critter, I’m given to understand,” Ardan answered. “Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to—that is my philosophy in life, Major.” Ardan sat back and he sighed. “I know the boys and girls aren’t used to this, Ann—being grounded here in this segregated area, walled off from the rest of the city and the other defenders. And yes, the Taurians have manned those turrets on the walls and the bunkers—and they are watching us, not the approaches.”

“If they decide to turn hostile,” she whispered, “we’ll take heavy damage even before we can begin to mount a response.”

“They won’t—I have Edward’s word on the matter and Thomas gave him carte blanche . . . Edward sent me a copy of the message.”

“They are all so bloody paranoid,” she whispered after chewing another mouthful of the dish Taurians had called Sheridan’s BBQ (whatever that stood for) Mash, followed by a quick sip of the ice cold tea (with floating slices of oranges instead of lemons!) to kill the heat from the spices.

“Can you blame them? Trying mixing it with the slaw—it cools it off a bit.”

Ann frowned. “What the devil is slaw anyway?” she asked as she mixed some with the meat, potatoes, and beans, all covered with a thick, dark, and spicy sauce.

“The servers said it was a salad of shredded cabbage, carrots, apples, plums, remoulade, vinegar, and soured cream—it isn’t bad and serves as a good counter-point to the heat of the rest.” Ardan chuckled. “This is the New Vallis variant—apparently, there are as many slaw configurations in the Concordat as there are planets. It seems to be a common side dish.”

“Different,” Ann mumbled as she chewed it slowly, “and you’re right, Sir. It does kill the heat.” She paused and then whispered. “Michael’s late—and many of those TDF officers I met yesterday are half-convinced this whole thing is a ploy to get Thomas and Edward feeling obligated to Hanse.”

“I know,” Ardan sighed. “We know that Iona Hasek and her Eighth Fusiliers were scheduled to begin landings five hours ago—but Michael and the Sixth hasn’t shown up yet. I’m hoping,” and Ardan winced as he said it, “that it was either a delay in transit or Michael was trying to be clever.”

Ann frowned.

“Knowing Michael Hasek-Davion—who is the greatest strategist since Alexander Davion, according to Michael Hasek-Davion—I don’t doubt that he was planning on having the Eighth hit planet to get the attention of the defenders, and then pop out at one of the pirate points and come burning in as the cavalry to the rescue. If everything went perfectly, he would be hitting the TDF from two sides with forces that should have grossly outmatched the defenders.”

“That looks good on paper, Colonel,” Ann said shaking her head, “but in the field? Against an opponent that doesn’t always respond in the exact manner you are depending on? That’s a recipe for defeat in detail—unless you are the second coming of Alexander with the tactical acumen of a Napoleon to boot.”

“Michael thinks that he is,” Ardan answered. “Like I said, I wouldn’t put it past him.”

“And what if it isn’t a delay or some grand scheme? What then? What if Michael has received word of Hanse’s proclamation from a courier that we don’t know about?”

“Then if he is smart he will stay the hell away from New Vallis,” Ardan said after a moment. “He will have three choices—first, he can go back to New Syrtis and dare Prince Davion to try and remove him. It would be civil war in that case because Michael has a lot of support in the Capellan March. Second, he can go renegade and turn pirate or mercenary—although that is a long shot. Third . . .,” and Ardan’s voice tapered off.

“Third?”

Ardan sighed. “Major, we have . . . suggestions . . . that Michael is in bed with Max Liao. Not hard proof—just indications. He might well jump across the border with the Sixth and take refuge in the Confederation—possibly as an overture to trying to wrest the March away from the Federated Suns and form a splinter state of his own . . . which would, in effect, be nothing more than an appendage of the CapCom.”

“If he turns traitor, the March won’t follow him,” Ann protested.

“Not all of it, no,” agreed Ardan. “But some worlds will—and so will some AFFS units. Not just the Fusiliers, Ann.”

She began to open her mouth but at that moment a Taurian officer approached the table and handed Ardan a folded note. Ardan took it, read it, and then he nodded.

“Tell him I will be there in five minutes,” he said as he patted his lips with his napkin and stood. Ann stood as well. “FOXHOUNDS!” Ardan bellowed. “The Sixth have just arrived at a pirate point in local space. Ann,” he turned to the Major, “get them saddled up—I have to meet with Edward and his command people.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:49 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
FSDS Damien Hasek
L4 Jump Point, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


Michael Hasek-Davion frowned as he adjusted the audio feed coming into the cockpit of his Marauder from the far more sensitive and powerful receivers of the Fortress-class DropShip that carried his Command Headquarters. Comm-links with the other forty-seven DropShips travelling in formation towards the planet was crystal clear—along with the links established with the eleven JumpShips that were even now deploying their sails to recharge their Drive Cores.

“Colonel Russert,” he growled at his aide over the radio, “why haven’t we managed to establish communications with the Eighth yet?”

“There is heavy jamming coming from the planet, Your Grace—we are picking up a few scattered fragments of transmissions on the frequencies assigned to Marshal Hasek’s RCT, but not to a degree that we can establish communication at this time.”

Michael nodded. “It does appear that they were quick off their mark to jam Iona after our arrival.”

There was a pause on the other end of the radio for a moment. “Perhaps we should delay the drop, Your Grace—at least until we have established communications via laser or maser transmitter after we have arrived in orbit.”

Now Michael paused, and then he sighed. “No. If Iona is pushing them hard enough that they are expending the resources to create this much jamming—then we need to relieve the Eighth as soon as possible,” and the Minister of the Capellan March and Duke of New Syrtis paused again as a thought occurred to him. “The transmissions—and jamming—are coming from her designated landing zone, correct?”

“From a large area that includes the landing zone, Your Grace.”

“Good. Good. We will proceed with the plan—inform all commands.”

“At once, Your Grace,” Russert answered and then the transmission died.

Michael tightened the straps that held him securely in his cockpit and he began to double-check the monitors and settings of various instruments of his ‘Mech. Twenty-five minutes, he thought as he glanced at the digital clock. Twenty-five minutes and we will show the entire Federated Suns that the myth of the dogged Taurian resistance is just that—a myth. His lips twitched into a slight smile as he pictured his triumphant return to New Syrtis—the Conqueror of the Taurians. And there wasn’t one damn thing that the bastard sitting on the throne of New Avalon could do to stop him.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:54 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TDF Field Headquarters
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


“This wasn’t what we talked about, Edward,” Ardan whispered quietly to the young man—the newly appointed deputy commander of the defense of New Vallis. “I didn’t give you the Eighth’s encryption codes and transmission frequencies so that you could sucker the Sixth into walking straight into a trap. You are baiting Michael into landing . . . I thought that we were going to give his soldiers a chance to make their choice.”

“We are,” Edward answered just as softly so that the members of Marshal Calderon’s staff could not overhear. “Just as soon as he is in deep enough that Michael can’t decide to run off and actually become a pirate with an entire FedSuns RCT behind him.” And Edward grinned slightly. “And just as soon as our reinforcements arrive from Taurus to seize those ships at the jump-point.”

Reinforcements? Seize those ships?” Ardan sputtered—quite a bit louder than he had intended.

“Michael Hasek-Davion made the deliberate decision to invade the Taurian Concordat, Mister Sortek,” Edward said in a flat voice. “Protector Thomas, in turn, has ordered Samantha Calderon to jump in once we confirmed his exact jump-point—the courier will be departing to bring that information to Gateway just as soon as our transmission reaches the Nadir Point. Samantha Calderon will be carrying more than twelve hundred troopers of the Special Asteroid Support Force along with prize crews who will board and seize Michael’s transports.”

“Those JumpShips do not belong to Michael—they are the property of the AFFS!”

“Hanse Davion has already written off those ships, Ardan,” Edward continued. “They have been stolen by these . . . pirates and renegades, as he himself confirmed when he released the news of the mutiny by the Sixth Fusiliers. We will seize them and we will integrate those ships into the Taurian Concordat Navy.” Edward paused and he chose his next words carefully. “However, with the plenipotentiary authority granted unto me by the Protector to deal with this crisis—and negotiate with Hanse Davion once our business is finished here—I will allow your ‘mercenaries’ to take the crews of those ships with you when you return home. They may be have been forced by Michael and his troops to provide transport, after all.”

“And the members of the Sixth who surrender? If any of them do surrender; what of them?”

“They will tried as pirates and renegades—all of those found guilty will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment on a Taurian penal colony . . . except their leaders, who will be hung by the neck until their deaths.”

Ardan shook his head. “Die fast or die slow? That’s their choice?”

“Their lives were forfeit the moment that Hanse Davion declared the Sixth to be in a state of mutiny, Ardan—you know that,” Edward whispered, and then he looked down and swallowed before he lifted his head again and stared the older man directly in his eyes. “Father wanted them all hung—getting this much of a reprieve is all that I can do. I will promise you this much . . . their term will be five years and they will not be sent to a hellworld. If they serve out their sentences with honor, they will be repatriated to the Federated Suns. This decision applies only to those troops who lay down arms after receiving the message from Prince Davion; those who fight on Taurian soil are dead men, whether they die hanging from a noose or fighting against the Defense Force, they will die.”

Ardan Sortek—the best friend and martial companion of the First Prince of the Federated Suns—stared at Edward for several silent minutes before he finally nodded. “You are going to be a dangerous man, Edward, when you become Protector. But I think Hanse will understand you—and be able to work with you to keep the peace out here.”

“I hope so, Ardan,” Edward answered as he slowly exhaled. “I pray it so—let this be the final battle between the Bull and the Sword,” and then he chuckled grimly. “The Blood of Christ washes away sins, or so I’ve been taught—perhaps this shedding of blood will allow us both to bury the past.”

“Amen,” Ardan answered—but deep in his heart, he knew that the problems and the hate that lay between the two nations and their peoples would never be solved this . . . easily.

“Lord Calderon,” Marshal Corey Calderon said with a bow of his head as he interrupted the two men. “The DropShips are entering low orbit."

“Very well, Marshal—cease the jamming and send the first message. In the clear and on a general broadcast,” Edward ordered.

“You heard the man,” Corey spat to his staff as he gingerly sat down in front of a monitor screen and put on a headset. “Do it. What’s the command phrase for if they don’t decide to lay down arms?”

“Let not one damn cur pass by,” a staff Brigadier answered with a wry smile.

Corey snorted. “How many of them can we make die! Damn straight, son,” he smiled at Edward. “Come Hell or Davions or the Star League Reborn, we’ll give them a fight that they won’t soon forget.”

Edward just patted the old man on the shoulder and then one of the staff turned around. “We are ready to cut jamming and transmit, Lord Calderon.”

“Make it happen,” Edward ordered—and only Ardan heard him whisper thereafter, “and may God have mercy on my soul.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 10:56 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCS Samantha Calderon
The Gateway, Hyades Cluster
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


“Sound action stations,” ordered Fleet Marshal Helena Vickers—and the corner of her lips twitched at the thought of the second promotion she had received in the past seven weeks. Thomas had decided that since the TCN was the senior service of the Taurian Armed Forces, she needed to have a rank higher than that of a Corps Marshal. In one sweep of his pen, he had made her the second-ranking officer of the Taurian Concordat—just one minute after he promoted Brenda Calderon to Marshal of the Army. It didn’t really mean that much, she thought, but it had been a touching gesture on the part of the Protector.

She sat strapped down in her command chair as the veteran crew quietly raced through their pre-jump checklists—and then the bridge lights altered to red in response to her orders.

“Fleet Marshal,” Dan Stiles reported crisply, “all stations are manned and prepared for combat—weapons are hot, the drive is charged and standing by. We are ready to execute the jump.”

“Thank you, Mister Stiles,” Helena answered before pressing a stud on her chair. “Jack . . . are we go?”

“I’d rather wait another eight weeks for the first of the new parts to be completed and checked, Fleet Marshal,” the engineer answered in a grim voice, and then he sighed, “but if you give the word, I’ll get the Old Girl moving, skipper.”

“The word is given, Mister Fletcher.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am. We are ready to start the clock on your order.”

“Maneuvering, hold steady for departure—engineering, initiate K/F Drive Sequence for transit to New Vallis Jump Point 5.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am,” two voices answered in twain. “Thirty seconds on the clock . . . mark,” the jump engineer stationed on the bridge added.

“Mister Stiles,” Helena said as she rotated her chair to face her executive officer.

“Yes, Fleet Marshal?”

“A little music if you please—broadcast it over the ship’s intercom.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am,” he replied with a broad smile. “Any particular selection?”

“I do believe that I am in the mood for Basil’s The Anvil of Crom, today,” Helena laughed.

“Excellent choice, ma’am,” Dan answered as he clicked a button and horns and drums began to echo throughout the ship.

“Jump in ten . . . nine . . . eight . . . seven . . .,” Helena rotated back to face forward and tightened the straps again and lowered the visor on her helmet—Taurian Naval personnel were trained after all to always wear pressure suits and helmets in any situation that had the slightest potential for combat . . . because Murphy was one right bitch with it came down to it.

“Three . . . two . . . one . . . JUMP!"


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Mon Aug 31, 2015 11:02 am 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
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Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TCS Samantha Calderon
Jump Point 5, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


Eleven massive JumpShips maintained station silently as they floated around the Jump Point—their sails blazing with the solar energy they absorbed and fed slowly into the drive core . . . and then the crews of these ships realized just how miniscule and powerless they really were.

With a flash of light emerging from nothing, from nowhere, from the strange and twisted dimension through which Mankind had learned to traverse the stars, a one point one million ton WarShip materialized in their midst. It emerged in knife-range, almost.

To say that the skippers of those JumpShips panicked would have been a colossal understatement.

“Comm, broadcast the following message—all frequencies, no encryption.”

“Hot mike, ma’am.”

“This is the Taurian Concordat Ship Samantha Calderon to all former Davion JumpShips present. You will immediately stand down your K/F Drive Cores and prepare to receive boarding crews—any resistance will be met with lethal force. Test my resolve—and my ship—if you dare.”

“Ma’am, three vessels are attempting to quick-charge their drives,” a rating called out.

“Identify and issue one final warn-. . .,” Helena began.

“Bandit Six has opened fire!” the gunnery officer suddenly announced—and Helena could feel a slight tremor as two standard large lasers burnt into the ablative armor of Sam’s heavily armored nose.

For a moment the bridge was silent, but then Helena rotated her seat to face the up-time Legal Officer that Thomas had insisted she bring along.

“I would suspect that when they open fire violates it their neutrality, yes?” she asked.

“Only that specific vessel, Fleet Marshal.”

“Very well. Damage report?”

“They ruined the paint job, Fleet Marshal,” answered Dan, “no damage to any primary, secondary, or tertiary systems. Armor is holding,” he finished in a dead-pan flat voice.

“Mister Bowen,” she said as she turned to face the gunnery officer. “Bracket Bandit Six with the starboard broadside—Naval Lasers and Naval PPCs only. Report when you have a firing solution.”

“Aye-aye, ma’am, locking starboard batteries on target,” Bowen reported.

“Ma’am, Bandit Six is broadcasting their surrender!” the comm officer chimed in quickly.

"It is traditional to accept such a surrender," the legal officer added quickly.

“Fire at your earliest convenience, Mister Bowen, ROE Four-Bravo,” Helena ordered. “They should have thought about surrender before someone over there took a shot at my ship and crew,” she continued—and the Legal Officer said nothing more, but he did sigh.

On the flank of the ship, six tremendous turrets swung outwards and locked their multiple barrels on the franticly (if slowly) maneuvering Invader—and then four Naval PPCs, four 45cm Naval Lasers, and three 55cm Naval Lasers erupted in a fury not seen in the Inner Sphere or near Periphery for nearly a century. All six turrets bracketed the JumpShip, the energy unleashed passing above, below, ahead, and astern of the errant vessel—some beams passing within mere meters of the hull.

“Put me on broadcast, Comm,” Helena ordered and she waited until the rating nodded. “All vessels—that was what we Taurians call a warning shot. You will not receive another. ANY attempt to evade, to power up your K/F Drive Cores, or to engage this vessel or our boarding shuttles will be met with immediate annihilation. If you believe that I am bluffing—go ahead and attempt to call me.”

“Ma’am,” Dan reported, “all vessels are powering down their weapons and K/F Drive Cores.”

Helena smiled. “Launch the SASF boarding shuttles,” she ordered. “Disengage docking clamps on Goliath and Titan—inform Space Master Zahra that he is authorized to engage any Davion DropShip lifting from New Vallis with lethal force. And pass the word—good hunting.”

She leaned back against her chair and Helena Vickers smiled as she looked at the images of her prizes floating in the holo-display. “And inform Lord Edward that the Taurian Concordat Navy stands by in the event that he requires orbital fire support.” Her smile broadened into a grin that any hungry predator would have instantly recognized—and avoided.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:15 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
FSDS Damien Hasek
Inbound for Drop, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


Michael cursed as the recorded voice of his brother-in-law finished its damning indictment of the Sixth Fusiliers—and of Michael himself. But the receiver was silent for just a moment; it crackled and then came to life once again.

“I am Edward Calderon, the eldest son of Protector Thomas Calderon, and the man charged with defending New Vallis against all threats, foreign or domestic. I offer one chance at life to the raiders who are now entering our atmosphere—one opportunity to avoid committing suicide. As that recording shows, you are now stateless men and women—pirates and mutineers, renegades and traitors. Your reinforcements have already been stopped—the Eighth Fusiliers will not arrive to provide you with relief. Your intelligence reports are in error—there are not two Taurian battalions of ‘Mechs on the surface—there are instead three reinforced regiments of BattleMechs alone. And should you, somehow, manage to overcome all of the odds against you and prevail; should you manage to accomplish this miracle—where will you go?”

Edward’s voice paused. “Take a good look at your sensors—look at your JumpShips . . . oh, wait, those JumpShips no longer belong to you. The Taurian Concordat Navy has seized them and is prepared to give unto my command orbital fire support should that be required.”

Michael ground his teeth together, and he slammed one fist against the console of his ‘Mech.

“Surrender and you will be tried—the vast majority of you will be sentenced to five years of labor on a Concordat penal colony. After which, you will be free to return home; need I remind you that dead men have no need to ever again return home? Those who choose to accept my offer of surrender will divert and land at the following coordinates . . . ,” and the voice gave a series of numbers that indicated a point on the map some two hundred kilometers from Michael’s drop-zone.

“Should you not accept this most gracious offer made by the Concordat to men and women who are actively engaged in assaulting one of our worlds . . . should you not desire to live for tomorrow, your wish will be granted. We will wage war against you to the knife—each and every one of you will die . . . whether that death comes on the battlefield or on the gallows will make no difference.”

Once again the voice paused, and then it resumed. “All of this, I swear upon my honor, my name, and my authority to be true—I am Edward Calderon and I await your answer.”

Michael’s mind raced and then he nodded and opened his own transmitter. “Fusiliers! My own Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers,” he cried out. “The First Prince of the Federated Suns has finally revealed his true colors as a despot—an event of which I have warned time and time again. We know the Taurians by reputation . . . we know that they are liars and murderous scum; do you think this offer is genuine? Your tanks, your weapons, your ‘Mechs, your fighters—they will keep these and send you to carve out a new world from a verdant Hell. And in five years, just one in ten of you, if that, will survive to be released—penniless to make your way home.

Fusiliers! The House of Hasek is much loved in the Marches—my people will answer our need. They will not permit this atrocity—they will rise up and support their rightful Duke! They will support YOU whom my accursed brother-in-law has slandered with this deliberate LIE! Aid will come; reinforcements will arrive. The Taurians have not three regiments to spare and deploy on this world below us—this is still a fight which we can win through. A fight that is but the first step in returning home to New Syrtis and deposing the Tyrant of New Avalon!

You know me, my Fusiliers—my beloved Fusiliers. And I am with you today, not shirking my duty in a Palace far from the frontiers. Here, now, I am with YOU. They fear us, my Fusiliers—and they seek to diminish our strength by diluting it to defeat us in detail. NEVER! They will FAIL, my brothers! They will FALL, my sisters! Because this system belonged to us the moment we arrived—they cannot hope to stand against our skill at arms—a strength and skill of arms not equaled by even the vaunted Brigade of Guards!

Fusiliers,” he pleaded in his most charismatic voice, “I ask you to stand with me in this hour of our—all of our—need. But no tyrant, am I—no despot sitting on a distant throne and sending men and women to die in my name. If it is your will that I die at the hands of these Taurians, if you trust this Prince Edward will enslave you for five years and then send you along your merry way as if nothing had happened; if it is these things that you believe, my Fusiliers, my brothers, my sisters, then offer them your surrender. Give them your ancestral ‘Mech, your tank, your fighter, you guns and knives.

I do not believe that you are such meek sheep—to fold at the first signs of impotent bluster coming from an untested boy! But I will abide by your decision—today, you determine my fate, Fusiliers. Make. Your. Choice.”

And with that, Michael cut his transmitter and began to hold his breath. For long seconds, no one spoke, but then a tenor voice cut into the net.

“The Second Syrtis ‘Mech Battalion stands with Duke Michael.”

And then another. “As does the 217th Syrtis Armored Regiment!”

“And the 344th Strike Wing!”

“The Syrtis Carronades!”

“The First Syrtis Royals!”

And then a chorus of voices came over the receiver—and Michael smiled. He keyed the transmitter.

“Very well, Fusiliers—today we may dine in Hell, but our foes will be there before us! Glory or Death, Honored Sixth!” Michael roared as the bay doors began to open and the howling wind entered the DropShip bays. “Let us show these Periphery barbarians the true might of The Duke’s Own!”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:19 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers Field HQ
Salina Diablo, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


The majority of the Sixth had chosen to follow him, Michael considered with some satisfaction—just four DropShips, all of them infantry transports, had diverted course to accept the offer of the Taurians. The rest had landed here, on the flat, barren, and featureless salt plains seventy kilometers to the east of Port Sheridan. Already his units were moving . . . because Michael had no intention to remain here where a single nuclear weapon—or a strike from orbit—might well annihilate his entire command.

The Tabernas Wastelands lay between him and Port Sheridan and Michael considered the map again as he stood in the oppressive heat of the parched basin. The broken and fractured terrain of the wastes would provide the Sixth with shelter—and the trackless canyons cut by arroyos, the wadis, would make it difficult for the Taurians to pin him down. But he couldn’t spend too much time avoiding the Taurian defenses . . . no, he thought with a shake of his head. Soon enough we will need fresh water . . . and the small pools of the wastes were nowhere near enough to keep the Sixth hydrated.

Which meant that he would have to march on Port Sheridan and take that city on the fresh-water lake which housed all of the provisions and supplies that he would require—if it came down to fighting.

“You understand your assignment?” Michael asked Colonel Malachi Russert—one of his most trusted aides. “And the absolute need to keep this close to the vest?”

“I do, my Lord,” the sandy-haired officer replied.

“Tell me so that I might be certain,” Michael insisted.

“I am to deliver your offer to Edward Calderon—that this is a just a misunderstanding. The Sixth is not here to invade the Concordat, but instead are seeking asylum against the tyranny of Hanse Davion—and a base of operations from which to free the Capellan March from his rule. I am to present your offer of an alliance to Edward—the full might of the Sixth Fusiliers to bolster his strength until you resume your rightful place on New Syrtis . . . and we are to offer in exchange the return of the Pleiades to Taurian rule.”

“And if Edward rejects that offer?”

“Then, Your Grace, I will suggest the second package—in exchange for your life and freedom, and transport to a neutral world, you will give the Taurians a complete copy of the classified information you have stored against future need . . . Davion secrets thought deeply buried that you have ferreted out and held close at hand. And to slake the Taurian need to show that they are not weak . . . you will offer them the Sixth as a sacrifice.”

Michael nodded his approval and then he sighed. “I should hope that it does not come to that, Malachi—the Sixth has served me well and would be the corner-stone of my efforts to reclaim the Marches. But, if to preserve my own self and secure our destiny, they must be laid upon the alter, then so be it.” Michael paused. “You have the tidbits of information to whet their appetite with?”

“I do, Your Grace.”

“Good, good. Remind Edward that if he wants to know the identities of Quintus Allard’s dirty little angels operating on Taurus—and other Concordat worlds—he must make a deal with me. Convince this child that I am of greater use to him alive than dead—make him believe that he needs me, Malachi. I am depending on you for this.”

“I serve only you, my Duk—Prince,” the officer corrected himself, and Michael smiled.

“Soon enough, my friend. Soon enough,” Michael muttered softly. And then his gaze hardened on the man again. “Six days, Malachi—you have six days. After that, our water will be running low and I will have no choice but to move to Lake Ashton . . . a move that the Taurians will surely attempt to prevent. Either that or to seize Port Sheridan—and if I do either, there will be no deal to be had.”

“I understand, my Prince.”

“Good. GOOD. Now go, go and secure me my future, Colonel Russert.”

“And if Edward rejects your most generous offer?”

“Then we are dead men anyway—kill him, Malachi. If he refuses to play the Great Game, remove him from the board.”

“It will be done,” whispered Malachi Russert and the man bowed deeply before he turned and exited the field tent, jogging towards a waiting VTOL on the flat salt plain of the dead lake.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:28 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
TDF Field Headquarters
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 21, 3025


“What the hell are we waiting for?” spat Erwin Tyrell—Baron Tyrell—one of the leading Taurian nobles resident on New Vallis. “The FedRats have landed on our soil—now is the time to drive them into their own graves!”

“This threat is no mere bandit raid, Baron Tyrell,” replied Edward. “The Sixth Fusiliers boasts a level of training and experience—actual combat experience—that is unmatched by any formation in the Defense Force . . . excepting Rafael’s troopers of the Red Hand, of course.”

“Of course,” Rafael Montoya answered with a grim smile. “And may I continue in your stead, my Lord Calderon?”

“Certainly.”

The veteran Brigadier who had come forward in time with battle-hardened troops under his command sighed. “Lord Calderon is quite correct—these are crack troops we are facing on terrain of their choice. A terrain which makes it difficult to use our artillery and air reserves to their fullest extent due to the sheer amount of cover and concealment that the Wastes provides. A terrain which further will require that we engage in small numbers, each unit isolated from the other; the same applies to our opponent, of course. But unlike our opponent, our forces—as valiant and eager as they may be—most of our forces lack the . . . elan, for want of a better word, to press home the attack in the face of such skilled defenders in this terrain.”

“Bullshit,” sputtered Tyrell. “You aren’t attacking because that boy,” he said pointing to Edward, “appointed to this post because of nepotism—not quality!—doesn’t want to kill any more of his new Davion friends than he has to! Are you a traitor, Edward—or just a gutless coward?”

Rafael began to step forward, his hand reaching for the combat knife in his belt—but Ardan Sortek grabbed his arm and held the furious Taurian back.

ENOUGH!” bellowed Corey Calderon as the old man stood. “THIS IS STILL MY COMMAND! It was I who appointed Edward Calderon as my second,” his voice dropping from a bellow to a growl as he spoke. “Baron Erwin Tyrell, you will offer apology for those words—or by God’s Hairy Balls, Sir, I will meet you myself on the field of honor and take from you your worthless life!” Corey snarled.

Silence hung over the command center for a moment, and Erwin Tyrell blinked. The Old Man was dead serious—and win or lose, engaging a TDF Corps Marshal in a duel on the eve of battle would see him standing before the Concordat Courts. He lowered his head. “I apologize, Lord Calderon, for my choice of words—you are neither a traitor nor a coward. But I will not apologize for my desire to send these Davion dogs a’running!”

“I accept your apology, Baron Tyrell,” Edward said softly, and Corey nodded before he sat once again. “And I apologize for not having explained to you my reasoning—adequately.”

Edward walked around the conference table and he paused as he looked over the map of the Tabernas Waste, the Salina Diablo, and the Glitterstream River that fed into Lake Ashton from the mountains to the north, cutting a long, deep, crooked canyon into the plateau before it plunged into the waters adjacent to Port Sheridan.

“How would you describe the Tabernas Waste, Lord Tyrell?” he asked.

“It’s a desert wasteland, Lord Calderon,” the noble answered with a snort. “Rocky and barren.”

“And hot?” Edward asked.

“It’s an arid desert, my Lord. Yes, the Wastes are quite hot.”

“Indeed they are, Lord Tyrell—I believe that during this time of the year, the average day-time temperature reaches 48-degrees Centigrade, yes?”

“Yes.”

“And at night it plunges to nearly freezing?”

“Yes—we know this, Lord Calderon.”

“And there is an overall lack of surface water in the Wastes—am I correct?”

“Yes,” the confused Baron answered slowly.

“How much water does a man require—does a soldier under combat conditions require—to function each and every day in the wastes?” Edward asked.

Erwin Tyrell blinked and then he began to inhale, his eyes gleaming as he slowly nodded.

Edward continued, “In the conditions of the Wastes, a single trooper requires twelve liters of drinking water each and every day, Baron Tyrell. That is straight from the Defense Force Desert Operations Manual, mind you. Twelve liters. Per man. Per day. Michael has a little less than ten thousand men under his command . . . that is twelve thousand liters of potable water every single day. In excess of one hundred and fifty tons of water every single day. Water that has to be transported from the DropShips to his troops in the field over an ever-increasing distance. Ardan, how much water does an RCT normally deploy with?"

"Around a thousand tons, give or take," the Davion officer replied. "we—THEY—do have equipment to purify local sources of water, I must add."

Edward nodded and he smiled. "But the wastes lack any significant sources of surface water. And, by and large, the water table is on average forty meters beneath the surface. Lord Tyrell, we are not wasting time or acting the part of cowards by not forcing the Sixth to engage us in battle . . . we are depleting their resources so that when we do engage them, they will perform beneath their expected capabilities. And at the same time, we will be skirmishing with them—with infantry, scout vehicles, recon ‘Mechs, intermittent artillery and air strikes. We will bleed them and make them sweat—force them to consume their water at an even greater rate. Does that answer your question?"

“I think that it does—and I withdraw my objections,” Erwin answered and he stared at the map. “They will make for the Glitterstream or Lake Ashton—those are the only sources of fresh water sufficient for their needs.”

“Exactly. And it for that reason that I have placed Wylie’s Coyotes, the Jaegers, and the Second Hyades Light Infantry—supported by a dozen regiments of local armor and infantry—in a blocking position between the Sixth and the river. Colonel Jamesen has dug in deep—field fortifications from which our troops can hold even against a force as skilled as the Sixth Fusiliers.”

“That leaves just Port Sheridan—or Lake Ashton, but he has to come close to the city to approach the lake,” Erwin mused.

“Hence the rest of our forces being deployed here—between him and the lake,” Edward answered. “But you were right in one respect, Lord Tyrell—I don’t want to kill any more of these Davions—or former Davions—than I have to. We are civilized human beings, gentlemen and ladies—not animals. We kill because we have to, never because we WANT to. If I have to kill every last soldier in the Sixth . . . I will. But I hope—I pray—that they break and decide to surrender; because the Lord knows I don’t want to have to watch ten thousand pairs of legs jerk as they fall through that trap-door of the gallows.” Edward paused. “And I believe, Lord Tyrell, that neither do you—not in your heart of hearts. I will defend the Concordat to the best of my ability—but I will not kill when I do not absolutely have to. If that is treason, Lord Tyrell; if that is cowardice . . . then I am guilty of both.”

“No,” whispered Erwin in the shocked quiet room. “Few men would have the courage to say that, even in private, Lord Calderon. Even fewer in public—and I can respect that. So you aren’t going to hang any we capture?”

Edward winced. “I’m sure we will have to hang a few—their leaders anyway. The ones that are pushing them. But,” he said as he stared at the map, “we’ve already had reports of a number of deserters attempting to make their way north to the coordinates I gave them,” Edward paused. “I want them watched—they might not be after surrendering; they could be retribution from Michael against those that ‘betrayed’ him. But if they don’t start the shooting, neither are we. If they manage to cross two hundred kilometers of the Wastes, we’ll accept their surrender along with the DropShips and personnel who diverted during the landing. Agreed?”

“Agreed,” a chorus of voices answered; some enthusiastically, others less so.

“Then let’s get down to the brass tacks,” Edward said. “Lord Tyrell—I want to send your combined arms regiment down to their southern flank, to guard against a break for the Misty Vale.”

“Three hundred kilometers,” Erwin whistled. “Their ‘Mech forces might make it—their infantry, armor, and support elements won’t.”

“I agree—it’s a long-shot, but we have to guard against that possibility. Plus, with your regiment on their flank, when the time comes to close the jaws on the Sixth—if the time comes—you will be in position to sever their supply lines to their grounded DropShips. And serve as the anvil to our hammer here.”

“I can do that,” Erwin whispered. “My retainers are all TDF veterans—we can do this.”

“I know that you can, Erwin,” Edward answered—and he extended the Taurian noble his hand. Erwin Tyrell took it and the two men shook.

“Okay. Okay. We can do this,” the noble muttered.

“The Red Hand and the Foxhounds, being our heaviest units, will form the central reserve of our forces . . . deployed here,” Edward said pointing to the map. “Meanwhile . . .,” and he continued with the detailed briefing for his officers and staff as Corey and Ardan both nodded their approval to the lad.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:33 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
3rd Platoon, E Troop, Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


Leftenant Henry Barksdale scanned the horizon with a pair of binoculars as he stood in the open hatch of his Packrat recon vehicle. He swayed slightly and he lowered the glasses to wipe away the sweat from his salt-crusted forehead.

“You see it, LT?” asked Sergeant Bobby Gordon who manned the sensors in the steaming interior—the powerful climate control system of the recon vehicle was having difficulties of its own in coping with the oppressive heat. “Those are trees over in that ravine—and where there are trees, there’s water.”

“Maybe,” Henry answered. “Maybe not. The water could be deep underground, Sergeant; some trees have roots that run for quite a ways.”

“But there might be, LT—right?”

Henry licked his parched lips and he slowly nodded. “Right,” he whispered. “Any word from HQ on when we can expect resupply?”

“Yes, sir,” answered one of the recon infantry housed in the rear compartment. “We’ve outpaced the support brigade—they say that it’ll be tomorrow afternoon before the dromedaries catch up.”

“Damn,” Henry muttered under his breath. The Taurians were proving quite a bit more elusive than he had imagined they would be—his lip twitched as he remembered the old stories his grand-father told of fanatical defenders . . . stories handed down from his grand-father, who learned them from his. So far, he had only caught brief glimpses of the enemy—scouts like him, not the heavy combat troops. And the little fire exchanged had mostly come from snipers who shot once and then hauled ass.

Bastards. The snipers hadn’t shot at him or the other vehicle commanders; no, they had targeted the canisters of fresh water his vehicle carried on the external bustle racks. ALL of them now had a pair of holes in them . . . and the water he had expected to last three days was gone. Only the dregs left in their personal canteens and camelbaks remained.

Henry placed one hand (rather gingerly) on the heavy automatic rifle one of his troopers had mounted up here on a pintle; it wasn’t a proper machine-gun by any means, but it would serve in a pinch against light vehicles or infantry—not such much against tanks or ‘Mechs. The weapon was hot enough to scald bare flesh, and the young Leftenant just four months past graduation from the small Numenor Academy of Military Sciences made sure that he didn’t grab it; he just swiveled it out of the way and looked at the green foliage in the distance once again. One of the less prestigious schools in the Federated Suns, it had been the only one which had accepted Henry as a MechWarrior candidate—after all, his family wasn’t rich, nor had they been MechWarriors.

Despite that, he had graduated seventeenth in his class and won his spurs . . . and was then promptly assigned to the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers where he had been told that they didn’t need another MechWarrior and didn’t have a ‘Mech for him if they did. No, those slots (and ‘Mechs) went to graduates from the Warrior’s Hall on New Syrtis—and Henry Barksdale found himself reassigned to the RCT Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion. To the Packrat scout vehicles of the CSR Battalion, Henry sighed to himself over the injustice of it all.

Sure, he was still an officer—still a platoon leader—but instead of a ‘Mech lance, he had four Packrats, the eleven NCOs and enlisted men who manned the vehicles, and a short platoon of twenty-four recon infantry . . . a six-man squad in each vehicle, divided into three two-man recon/scout/sniper teams.

“[censored] it,” Henry finally said in an exhausted voice. “Corporal Alexander,” he called out to the driver. “You think you can navigate us a way down into that ravine? Or should we dismount the infantry?”

“Hell, yes, LT,” came the answer. “There’s a slope about half a klick back that we can descend no problem.”

“Okay,” Henry answered and he keyed his helmet microphone. “Easy Three One to Easy Three Two,” he broadcast.

“Go ahead, Three One,” the veteran gunnery sergeant who served as his executive officer answered.

“Converge on my vehicle—we are going to laager for the night down in the ravine. There might be water down there and we’ve got shelter from the wind.”

“Permission to speak freely, Three One?”

“Go ahead,” Henry replied after checking to make certain he was on the private frequency between him and the gunny.

“Not a good idea, Sir. That ravine is tight—if the Taurians manage to ambush us in there . . . ,” his voice trailed off.

“Understood—but we need water and we are fifteen kilometers ahead of the combat formations. And it is going to get cold out here as soon as that sun dips below the horizon—very cold.” He sighed. “And half my boys seem to left their cold weather clothing back on the DropShips.”

Henry heard an answering sigh from the far end. “Understood—and I’ve ripped Alvarez a new asshole for doing the same. Moron is going to freeze his balls off tonight if we don’t break out the survival blankets for him.”

“Tell you what, Gunny, Alvarez can walk perimeter on two watches to keep warm, along with my band of idiots.”

A chuckle came over the radio at that. “Like the way you think, LT. Be there in five.”

“Roger that; Three One out,” Henry answered and he switched the radio back to the vehicle net. “Get us rolling, Alexander—Larson,” he ordered the senior of the recon infantry, “I want the entire ravine swept for surprises once we get down there.”

“On it, boss,” the recon grunt answered, just as the eight-wheeled Packrat began to accelerate towards the ravine’s distant entrance.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Wed Sep 02, 2015 6:37 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
3rd Platoon, E Troop, Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


“I’ll be damned,” muttered Gunnery Sergeant Joshua Franks after he dismounted his vehicle and spotted the pool of clear, clean water that surrounded the roots of about a dozen trees and a thick curtain of vines covering the shaded side of the ravine.

“We still have the problem of holes in all of our water cans,” Henry said.

Metal cans, LT,” the Gunny laughed. “And we’ve got welders and patches in the tool kits—thirty minutes, and we’ll have every damn canister capable of holding water again.”

“The Taurians will just put new holes in them,” chimed in Sergeant Bobby Gordon, and Henry sighed.

“We’re going to have to store the cans inside the Packrats—not on the external racks.”

The Sergeant winced, even as the Gunny nodded. “LT,” Bobby protested, “that’s twenty-seven cans per vehicle! There won’t be room for any of us!”

“We’ll make room,” growled the Gunny. “The food can go outside—it doesn’t matter if the bastards put a hole in that, we can still eat it. The hand tools—crowbars, shovels, picks. Our rucks with the platoon’s personal gear.”

“Gunny,” Bobby began, but the older man cut him off.

“You can live with a hole in your clothes, Sergeant Gordon—you can’t if you don’t have water to drink.”

“Agreed,” said Henry. “It’ll still be tight, but I want as much water under armor as we can cram inside. Second problem—that pool might not give us the twelve hundred plus liters we need.”

The Gunnery Sergeant shrugged. “If it doesn’t it doesn’t, LT. We’re still better off having half our allotment than none if we drain it before we finish filling the cans.”

“Yeah,” Henry said softly. “Suns already starting to set, Gunny—let’s get cracking on patching those cans and getting them filled and loaded.”

“Tonight?” asked Bobby. “The boys are worn thin, LT.”

“We’re on an enemy world in hostile territory sitting around a water hole that you think the Taurians don’t know about, Sergeant? I don’t care if the boys and girls are tired—get the cans patched and get them loaded—before any of us get any shut-eye.”

Joshua smiled . . . and Bobby sighed. “I’ll get on it, LT. Is the water safe for drinking or are we going to have to filter it?”

Henry grinned. “The test strips say it’s A-OK, Sergeant—got an odd taste, but then every planet tastes a bit different, doesn’t it?”

"Still got to be filtered," the veteran Gunnery Sergeant added. "Might have some local parasite in it . . . tell your boys and gals I will tear them a new asshole if they start drinking it without filtration, Gordon."

“Understood, Gunny,” Bobby answered as he walked off and began to bark orders at the infantry and vehicle crewmen—to be answered by groans and curses and then more barked orders.

Henry waited until the Sergeant had cussed the men into their work and then he turned back to Joshua. “Gunny,” he whispered, “admittedly, I haven’t been on too many worlds. But we have water here—in the middle of the desert. Why isn’t this ravine swarming with insects and birds, lizards and small mammals?”

“Yeah,” Joshua answered as he looked over the cliffs again. “It’s too quiet—we might have scared off the bigger stuff, but there should be bugs here still. Never seen a world that we colonized that didn’t have bugs.”

“Full security perimeter, Gunny—even if that slows down fixing and filling the cans,” Henry ordered. “Keep the lads and lasses alert and on their toes—I don’t like this.”

“Thinking about leaving just as soon as we fill up?”

“I am—is that the wrong decision?”

“You’re the officer, Sir—you make that call. But for the record . . . I agree. We patch the cans and fill them and get the hell out of this hole in the ground.”

That was when the first screams began.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 5:20 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
3rd Platoon, E Troop, Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


“I want to just lay down and let that water run all over me,” muttered Joachim Alvarez as he stared at the still pool of water in the shade of the cliff faces and trees.

“Alvarez,” snapped Sergeant Gordon, “you foul my drinking water with your grungy body and I’ll ride you from now ‘til the last light goes out in this universe. Dietrich, you and Kowalski join Alvarez in walking the perimeter—keep your eyes peeled for Taurians and local predators alike.”

“Ah, Sarge,” Ann Dietrich began to protest, but the Fusilier non-com cut her off short.

“Save your whining, solider, and get your ass moving. The rest of you—break out the jerry cans and the patches . . . we have work to do before we get a drink.”

As the rest of the platoon began to spot weld patches in place on the cans, the three—Alvarez, Dietrich, and Kowalski—began to circle the shallow pool towards the far end of the ravine.

“Too quiet,” mumbled Corporal Morgan Kowalski, his auto-rifle held at the ready. “Shouldn’t there be some of those local lizards here drinking the water?”

“Maybe they only come out at night,” Dietrich suggested. “The full heat of day has to be something that reptiles can’t handle all that well.”

“Not that hot down here in the shade,” Kowalski answered. Then he frowned. “What is that stuff having from the branches—moss?”

“Looks like it,” the lady scout said after a moment. “It’s on the vines and the cliff too.”

Hello,” Alvarez said softly. “I call dibs,” he said in a more excited voice. The other two stopped and they looked where the private was pointing—and protruding from the mass of moss was the blue alloy barrel of a Taurian service revolver.

“Leave it alone, dipshit,” growled Kowalski. “We’re not here to collect souvenirs.”

“Sod off, man. Damn if I’m going to invade a Taurian world and not come home with a genuine Taurian magnum revolver—their officers carry those, you know.”

“So you can ooh and aah the girls back on New Syrtis, Joachim?” Ann asked. “You going to tell them you picked up an abandoned piece—or you going to weave a story about prying it from the hands of a Taurian officer that you personally killed in hand-to-hand combat?”

“Whatever works, Dee,” Alvarez replied as he made his way towards the cluster of trees and began to crawl over their gnarled roots to get to the weapon. “This [crap] is sticky,” he said in a puzzled voice, and then he brushed his face. “There are more strands of it hanging from the trees.”

“Leave it, Alvarez,” Kowalski warned. “Get your ass back here.”

“I’ve almost got it,” the private grunted as he stretched out, his fingers scrapping over the muzzle. “Come here, you piece of [crap],” he grunted as he reached for the weapon—then he managed to get it in his hand. And snarled. “Damn thing is stuck,” he said as he pulled and the vines parted to reveal a large mass of the moss—four feet across—with the pistol tangled up inside of it.

“This isn’t a good idea, Private,” Kowalski snapped. “Leave the damn pistol alone!”

“I’ve got it, dude; quit your bitching already!” Alvarez barked back and he gave the revolver another yank—and it came free, along with the skeletal hand of the long-dead Taurian soldier still gripping it. Kowalski and Dietrich both inhaled sharply as the mass parted—because in that instant they realized it wasn’t moss. It was webbing that encased an egg sack.

“What the hell?” Alvarez blurted as he backed up, thousands of tiny diaphanous eggs spilling out—and bursting open as the immature insects inside suddenly awoke.

Furious at being disturbed before their normal hatching—and starving with hunger—the tiny creatures swarmed over the private, biting and stinging . . . and Alvarez howled in pain as they covered him from head to toe, the insects crawling up his nose and down his throat—across his eyes and into his ear canals.

“[crap]!” yelled Kowalski, but the Corporal didn’t move . . . his rifle was no use against such tiny targets and every instinct in his body screamed for him to run.

“CORP!” Dietrich yelled as faint strands of fresh webbing descended from the trees . . . and dozens of much larger insects slid down to begin cocooning the shrieking writhing private. They were almost spiders, a corner of Kowalski’s brain noted—six-legs, a body clad in dark chitin, two more limbs ending in claws like those of a mantis, clicking mandibles, and a sharp stinger protruding from the just above the snipperets. But these spider-things were the size of a terrier.

Dietrich fired—her rifle spitting a stream of bullets that tore into the crawling insects . . . and past them into the caves camouflaged by the vines. The vines quivered . . . and then hundreds of the adult spider-things emerged.

“[censored] me,” Kowalski whispered as he raised his rifle and began to service targets . . . while backing away as fast as he could on the uneven ground. “Dietrich! We are LEAVING!” he shouted.

But before the woman could begin to back away, several of the creatures crouched down and then jumped—they soared across the fifteen meters separating them from the soldier and she screamed as they began to tear into her flesh with their mandibles—and plunged those stingers dripping with venom into her body.

Kowalski blanched as tens of thousands of the hungry juveniles emerged from the vines and webs, their legs a blur as they poured out of the hidden caverns beyond and moved towards him in a living carpet with no other purpose than to suck away his blood and bodily fluids—he turned and began to run . . . but the adults were atop of him before he took three steps and the veteran soldier screamed in agony as four-centimeter long stingers punched through his combat utilities and into his back.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Thu Sep 03, 2015 5:25 pm 
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General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
3rd Platoon, E Troop, Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


“Sweet Jesus,” Henry whispered as the three scouts were engulfed by the swarm of creatures emerging from the hidden caverns behind the vines. But then he shook his head. “Get to the ‘Rats!” he yelled. “MOVE, PEOPLE!”

The troops needed no encouragement—many were already running, leaving empty water cans in their wake. The swarm turned, alerted perhaps by the heavy thuds of the combat boots on the baked soil of the ravine’s floor . . . and it was fast enough that not all of Henry’s people managed to reach safety in time.

Terrified screams echoed throughout the cleft in the rocks as the adults pounced on soldiers ahead of the arrival of the juvenile swarm, their powerful limbs sending them on fifteen and twenty meter leaps. Henry pulled out his pistol and he took a step forward—but a hand clamped down on his bicep like a vise and hauled him back.

“YOU TOO, LT!” snarled Gunny Franks as he pulled the officer away from the men and women being submerged under the tsunami of oncoming insects. The young officer tried to pull away—his face twisted with anguish over his men—his men—screaming in agony in front of him. “THEY ARE ALREADY DEAD, SIR!” The gunny bellowed again, yanking Henry towards the nearest vehicle.

The two men stumbled up the rear ramp of the closest Packrat—a ramp that the other troops had already begun to raise; and then the engine roared, the vehicle shook as the driver put it into gear, and the eight wheels spun like mad before they caught traction and the twenty-ton recon vehicle accelerated away.

The stutter of the pintle-mounted auto-rifle echoed in the stagnant and blistering heat of the troop bay. Henry half-stood and he looked out of the small armored periscope . . . , “Sweet jesus,” he repeated to himself as one of the four scout cars suddenly began to weave and then flipped over on its side—the spider-things had already managed to get inside. For just a second, Henry could see the face of the driver as he swatted at the juveniles . . . then a far larger adult closed those hideous claws around the driver’s head and squeezed. Blood splashed across the wind-screen . . . and then Henry’s ‘Rat rounded the bend and started up slope.

“Not your fault, LT,” the gunny whispered as he sat down next to Henry. “Not your fault, sir.”

“I’m in charge, Gunny—they were my responsibility.”

“LT, I’m going to tell you a secret that everyone who has been in combat knows—but no one really shares,” Joshua said after a moment’s pause. “[crap] happens. People die. And sometimes, LT, sometimes it isn’t the fault of any of the survivors. Just like this SNAFU today.”

“How many?” Henry asked. “How many of our boys and girls are gone?”

“Too many, LT,” the non-com sighed. “We still need that water.”

Henry looked up and he nodded. “One ‘Rat—volunteers only. And I want Infernos loaded in the missile launcher. I’ll take it down there.”

“Not your job, sir—that’s mine.”

“Today, Gunnery Sergeant Franks, today it is my job,” Henry whispered—and the experienced NCO began to nod his head.

“Get in, get the cans, patch them, get the water, and get the hell out, Sir,” Joshua said. “They are bugs—you can’t avenge the troops by killing them. Set up a perimeter with fire and grab that water and get the hell out of there, LT.”

“I won’t be sight-seeing, Gunny,” Henry said as the ‘Rat came to a halt at the top of the slope . . . the blazing sun already nearing the horizon and the winds beginning to howl. The ramp dropped and Henry walked over to the edge of the ravine and looked down—but the swarm had not bothered to chase the speeding vehicles. No, those spider-things were hauling his boys and girls—all wrapped up in silk strands—back towards the caves. Some of his men--his men--still writhing. “I need a driver and four more volunteers . . . can you talk them into it?”

“You’ll have them, LT.”

“Volunteers, Gunny—don’t strong-arm them if they don’t want to go,” Henry warned.

“You do your job, Sir; I’ll do mine. You’ll get your volunteers . . . Parsons, Hondo, Bowen, Chin, and Early—you just volunteered to ride with the LT. RIGHT?”

The five soldiers paused, but then one of them—Janice Early—sighed. “Might as well . . . if we don’t get that water, the desert will kill us as sure as those bugs.”

Henry frowned, but one by one, the other four nodded their agreement . . . and the very junior officer decided not to push it. “Break out the flamers and incendiary grenades,” he ordered. “Saddle up when you’re ready—Gunny, the platoon,” what’s left of it, Henry thought, “is yours.”

“We’ll be waiting, Sir,” Joshua said. “Good hunting.”


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2015 12:50 pm 
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General
General

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


Edward kept all expression removed from his face as the guards ushered in the ‘delegate’ from Michael Hasek-Davion. The officer was dressed in the field uniform of the AFFS—albeit covered with dust—although he lacked any (visible) weapons. And at that thought, Edward’s lips did twitch; his guards would certainly have made sure that there were no hidden weapons as well. In fact—and now Edward smiled a grim smile—he was reasonably certain his guards had strip-searched the man outside . . . and done a cavity search in addition to a complete scan for metal, ceramic, or plastic objects that could be used as a weapon.

The man—one Colonel Malachi Russert—stopped some distance away from Edward and he came to attention and rendered a smart salute.

Edward did not return it, nor did any of his officers. As the silence grew oppressive, Russert slowly lowered his hand and he stood there at parade rest.

“I understand that you bear a message for me?” the young Taurian asked as he poured himself a glass of water—and did not offer the messenger any.

“I do, Lord Calderon,” Malachi answered. And Edward’s lips twitched again.

“My rank is Subaltern, Colonel—you will use that title to address me. I should note, however, that it is Marshal Cory Calderon who commands the defenses of New Vallis,” he said with a nod of his head to the older man seated beside him.

“Here to beg your way out of the trap, FedRat?” Cory asked. “You can surrender now and be sent to a penal colony for five years—or you can dance at the end of a noose.”

Malachi nodded and then he smiled. “The problem with that is . . . I work for Quintus Allard, Marshal Calderon—Subaltern Calderon.”

Edward arched one eyebrow. “Really? I suppose that you have some code phrase which can confirm that?”

“I do—but you are not likely to possess the challenge,” Malachi answered. “However, if you can contact New Avalon my story will be confirmed.”

“We are under an Interdiction, Colonel Russert,” Edward replied. “That would be a bit difficult to accomplish—however, we have no need to contact New Avalon to confirm your story,” and he nodded to one of the guards who left the command tent. Only to return a moment later with Ardan Sortek in tow.

“Marshal Sortek!” Malachi snapped as he came to attention.

“It’s Colonel Sortek—commanding officer of the Foxhounds mercenary battalion.” He paused and considered the man and then he shrugged. “I’ve never seen him before—but the AFFS is a large organization and if he works for Minister Allard I doubt that I would have encountered him.”

“He claims to have a recognition phrase, Ardan,” Edward said. “You do know those, correct?”

“Some of them,” Ardan answered with a frown. “Hello darkness, my old friend.”

“You would pick that one,” muttered Malachi. “Life is a lemon and I want my money back.”

Ardan nodded. “It’s a valid counter-challenge, Lord Calderon.”

Edward leaned back in his chair. “Tell me then, mister secret agent-man—why is Michael Hasek-Davion still alive?”

Malachi flushed hotly. “I didn’t—and I don’t—have authorization to terminate the brother-in-law of the First Prince, the Duke of New Syrtis.”

“And if you had authorization? Would Michael be dead—or would you still be in his command staff wondering how the hell you are going to escape?” Edward asked bluntly.

The Davion officer jerked, his jaw dropped, his eyes widened. And then he bit his lip and forced himself to calm down. “If Hanse Davion issued an order for me to kill Michael, Subaltern, then Michael would be dead right now.”

“Fair enough,” Edward answered. “Why did he send you here?”

“To convince you that we are not invading the Concordat—that the Fusiliers are refugees seeking asylum from the tyranny of Hanse Davion,” Malachi answered with a slight smile.

“I would be a fool to believe that—do you think I am a fool, Colonel Russert?” Edward asked.

“No.” The Colonel paused and then he sighed. “As a fall-back, Michael offers to give you the Fusiliers on a silver platter—in exchange for transport off-world to a . . . ‘neutral’ power. For himself and a handful of trusted aides.”

“Ah,” Edward sighed as he considered the officer. “Why would Michael think I would consider such a deal—when I have the troop strength and firepower to defeat his Fusiliers without letting the Rat go?”

Malachi exchanged a glance with Ardan, who nodded, and then he sighed. “Because he is offering you the accumulation of two decades of dirty little secrets of the Davion family and their government. Secrets that will—would—cause Hanse Davion great difficulties both at home and abroad.”

“Tempting,” Edward mused, but then he tapped the desk top. “But it is rather like trusting a snake. Frankly, I’d rather see him hung than risk getting bitten.” And then the heir to the Protector smiled again. “He does command a great loyalty—the majority of his forces are following him to their doom.”

“Duke Michael doesn’t trust the common soldier, Subaltern,” Malachi answered. “Only the vetted crews of the DropShips and command-level officers heard your broadcast—the vast majority of low-ranking officers, NCOs, and enlisted personnel are not even aware the Eighth hasn’t made their landing on schedule.”

Now Edward frowned and he sighed. “We need your radio encryptions in that case, Colonel—I will give your . . . common soldiers . . . one more chance at preserving themselves. After that, when your water starts running low,” Edward shrugged. “That is when we will attack and annihilate Michael and his Fusiliers.”

“He is expecting that.”

“I do not doubt it, Colonel. You have his latest troop dispositions?”

Malachi nodded. “As of two hours ago,” and then he paused. “The crew aboard my VTOL are fanatically loyal to His Grace—and the bird is armed.”

Several of guards drew in a quick breath of air, but Edward just nodded. “Ardan?”

“Foxhound Actual to Hound Three Six—take the chopper,” the AFFS officer turned mercenary (officially, at least) spoke into a microphone. And from outside the tent came the roar of autocannon and the scream of missiles . . . and a lone VTOL on a pad half a kilometer away simply disintegrated under the weight of fire of an entire company of the once-and-future Davion Heavy Guards.

Edward smiled again. “They will present no threat to this headquarters, Colonel Russert. Show me where Michael is deploying—and tell me what his plans are,” he ordered.

And with a sigh, Malachi walked over to the map. “The Duke has deployed in three separate formations that are moving east-north-east along this line of ad- . . .,” he began.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Fri Sep 04, 2015 12:57 pm 
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General
General

Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
3rd Platoon, E Troop, Cavalry-Scout Recon Battalion, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


Henry sat down (he all but fell) on the ramp of the scorched Packrat—after his troopers, the three who had survived at least, had passed out the water cans. Soot and ash covered his body from head to toe; his hands and arms were red from the heat of the flames with which he had burnt away the infestation of those spider-things. He sat down and closed his eyes—and his hands shook. He shivered in the cold night air; for the sun had already descended . . . and the only light was the reflected the flickering remains of the pyre he had lit in the ravine to hold the creatures at bay.

“[crap]’s gotta be filtered first, people!” Joshua snapped as several of scouts opened one of the cans and started to refill their canteens and camelbaks. “Unless you like drinking pieces of burnt bugs and trees and the residue of inferno gel.”

With a groan, the recon troopers hauled out the filters and began to process the water—the priceless water that had cost them so very much. They bitched about it, but Joshua didn’t care; as long as the troopers did their job, it didn’t matter if they bitched and whined. And frankly, he wouldn’t have trusted soldiers very much who didn’t moan and groan. Then he knelt down next to the ramp and handed the young officer a canteen.

“You need some burn gel on your arms and hands and face, LT,” he said softly.

“I’ll live, Gunny,” Henry answered as he took the canteen and sipped the tepid water within. Although it tasted metallic from the chemicals used to purify it, in that moment the bitter water was almost the nectar of the ancient Greek gods. “We got twenty-five cans patched and filled before the pool became too shallow to drain more,” he added. “Not as much as I hoped.”

“That is more than I expected, LT. It’ll hold us for a day or two—but we have another problem,” the non-com said with a sigh.

Henry gave Joshua a tired smile. “My instructors at NAMS always said there’s no such thing as problems . . . only challenges.”

“Typical REMF bull-[crap]—life ain’t a Zen koan, LT. And we have problems,” Joshua snarled as he spotted a tiny spider-thing crawling on the ramp and squashed it with his boot.

Henry sighed. “And those are?”

“The invasion is FUBAR, LT,” the Gunny said in a flat voice. “You know Colonel Russert?”

“Duke Michael’s Operations Officer? I know of him—I haven’t ever met him.”

“He made a broadcast—apparently, he’s really part of the Department of Military Intelligence. And the First Prince is pissed that Michael has invaded the Concordat,” Joshua paused. “New Avalon has declared the entire Sixth to be in a state of mutiny—they threw us under the bus and there are AFFS forces here on New Vallis working with the Taurians to stop our assault.”

“[crap],” whispered Henry.

“Yeah—it gets worse. The Taurians have taken our JumpShips and consider us all pirates and renegades. We can surrender and get sentenced to a penal colony for five years . . . or we can fight and die.” The Gunny shook his head. “And if we do that and get captured, we get hung afterwards.”

“This is just getting better and better,” Henry muttered. “So no reinforcements? No incoming supplies? No way off this rock?”

“That’s about the size of it—and that moron Michael low-balled the defenses here by a factor of four,” Joshua added. “We don’t outnumber the Taurians—they have more ‘Mechs, more tanks, more infantry, and they are dug in deep to stop us from getting to Port Sheridan and fresh water supplies.”

Wonderful.” There was several minutes of silence and then Henry pressed his swollen hands into his itching eyes. “We get any instructions from Central Command?”

“Oh, yeah. Command says that the Taurians are lying—about their troop strength and accepting our surrender. But scuttlebutt says they aren’t lying about taking our jumpers—so we’re stuck here in the desert fun, LT.”

“We can avoid the Taurians—until we run out of water and die,” Henry said in a bleak voice. “Or we can go back to the DropShips, which the Taurians probably have targeted, run out of water and die. Or we can try to break through their lines and die trying. Or we can surrender and get killed by our own forces—and if we are lucky enough to avoid that fate, probably be killed by the Taurians anyway. They hate us, you know.”

“That’s about the size of it, LT. Major Potter wants us on the move by 0300—he wants the approaches to that river scouted out and we pulled the short straw.”

“You have a . . .,” Henry began, but the Gunny just smiled grimly and unfolded a map and turned on a red-light. “Thanks,” he finished as he considered the map and frowned. “Tight terrain—and I’m not really happy about taking Packrats into the teeth of the Taurians.”

“You got that right,” muttered the non-com. “Aerial recon wasn’t able to get pictures—half of them got shot down by flak approaching the sector that Potter wants us to recon.”

Flak. We don’t need to scout it—the Taurians are already there if they have flak emplaced.”

“Command believes that it is a small Taurian blocking force and that we can push through to the river and resupply.”

“Based on what?” snorted Henry. “Getting everything else perfectly right to date?” He shrugged and then sighed. “What do you suggest, Gunny?”

Gunnery Sergeant Franks paused and he looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping. “Three Packrats and less than a platoon of infantry aren’t going to make a difference, LT,” he said very quietly. “The Taurians might shoot us—or hang us—but they might not. And Russert said that we might get ransomed out early from that five-year sentence. If not, doing five is better than buying the farm or dancing Danny Deever.”

“Command will consider that desertion in the face of the enemy, Gunny,” Henry cautioned.

“Yeah—the Sixth will consider that desertion. But, we have orders from Hanse freaking Davion himself to stop this madness.” Joshua snorted. “Thank your lucky stars you are in CSR Battalion, LT. We get the folks who aren’t fanatical followers of the Haseks—unlike the ‘Mech and armor battalions.”

“Praise God for small miracles,” the Leftenant whispered. “If we broadcast our surrender, those fanatics will be on us in less than an hour, Gunny. They are only fifteen klicks back, after all.”

Joshua nodded again. “Russert broadcast coordinates—way the hell up here in the north,” he said pointing to the map. “Get there and throw down arms and we are golden, according to the Taurian prince.”

“The Taurians have a prince?”

“Yeah. Edward Calderon is running the show here apparently—something else we didn’t know going in.”

Henry considered for a moment and then he sighed. “We don’t have the water supplies to make it two hundred kilometers, do we? And . . . what about fuel?”

“If we ration the water hard—maybe, LT. Fuel, we’ve got enough with a bit to spare.”

“How hard on the water rations?”

“Six liters a day per trooper; maybe less.” Henry winced, but Joshua just shrugged. “Better half rations than none, Sir. And that gives us a reserve in case things go pear-shaped and it takes longer to reach the surrender coordinates.”

“You have a point, Gunny,” Henry acknowledged and then he sighed. “There’s really no other choice is there?”

“Not a good many of them, Leftenant.”

Henry looked out over the nineteen enlisted soldiers and lower-ranking NCOs that remained—in addition to himself and the gunny . . . and he sighed. “Start setting up way-points to the surrender coordinates, Gunny Franks,” he ordered. “We leave at 0300; I’m going to get a bit of shut-eye until then . . . that is, if you have things under control?”

“Can do, LT,” the Gunnery Sergeant breathed with a sigh of relief. “Just as soon as I have the Doc slather on some burn gel on your roasted skin—no arguments. I don’t want to lose you to infection if those arms blister up on the move.”

“Whatever you say,” Henry mumbled as he leaned back against a ruck sack—in seconds he was fast asleep.


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 Post subject: Re: By The Horns
PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2015 11:14 pm 
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Joined: Tue Aug 05, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 1201
Location: Hattiesburg, MS
Maintenance & Logistical Support Field Depot, Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers RCT
Tabernas Wastelands, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
November 22, 3025


Leftenant General Kevin Rostov—as naked as the day he was born—tumbled to the floor of his luxury climate-controlled trailer the instant he heard the gunfire from outside. Half asleep, he hit the carpeted surface hard and managed to take the sheets and blankets with him . . . which resulted in pulling the sleeping woman (also quite nude) who had shared his bed (no mere bunk for such an important man, even in the field!) down atop of him, where she landed with a shriek of her own.

“GET OFF OF ME!” Rostov yelled as he crawled across the floor and pulled down the direct phone to the mobile command center that the trailer was parked adjacent to. Shots continued to ring out—and one of the heavily tinted windows shattered above, showering fragments of glass shards over the two. “Have the Taurians found us? Are we under attack? Hello? Hawkins, report!” he yelled . . . but the phone was dead.

The gunfire outside slowed . . . and then there was silence; followed by a polite knock on the door of the trailer. The door opened, and Sergeant Major David Slocum stepped inside; he was wearing a sub-machine gun on a travel sling—the muzzle still smoking slightly.

“What the devil is going on?” Rostov asked as he brushed off the glass, trying to stand up as the woman quickly pulled on her uniform blouse. “Where’s my guard detachment, Slocum?”

“Dead, sir,” the Sergeant Major answered bluntly and he shook his head. “You and Major Calley are going to want to get dressed.”

“Taurians?” Rostov asked as he stood up and began to step into a pair of boxers.

“No, sir—we enlisted have decided that following the Duke of Morons to our death is a bad idea.”

WHAT?” Rostov screamed.

“The techs and engineers and support personnel, General Rostov, Sir,” Slocum repeated, “we are moving the DropShips and the supplies to the surrender point—and we are laying down our arms.”

“THIS IS MUTINY!”

Slocum shook his head. “It was mutiny when His Idiocy decided to invade another power without telling New Avalon first. It was mutiny when you officers decided to ignore the messages of the First Prince and failed to tell the rest of us that we were totally [screwed], Rostov,” Slocum spat on the floor. “We’ve recalled the dromedaries and ordnance transports—when they get back, we are lifting and leaving before the Taurians start bombing us.”

“THIS IS TREASON!” Rostov yelled, but then he drew a deep breath and forced himself to calm down. “Look, Slocum—Sergeant Major! Emotions are running a little high right now, but if you put down the gun, I won’t have you arrested and tried.”

A little high? I’ve spent thirty-two years in uniform, Rostov—thirty-two years and now I don’t have a pension. My family back on New Syrtis no longer has medical coverage—my wife and kids will lose the house because they aren’t getting my pay any longer. THIRTY-TWO [blanking] YEARS WASTED, YOU FAT INBRED CRETIN!”

“I am a superior officer, Slocum.”

“No, sir—just a higher ranking one,” the Sergeant Major answered as he charged the SMG with a fresh round in the chamber. “You and the other officers? You want to support the Duke of Dunces, you can go right ahead—we’re leaving your asses here in the desert. His Stupidity is ninety kilometers THAT way,” he pointed with the muzzle of the SMG. “Have a nice walk, Sir—because we are taking the vehicles. Oh, I’ll leave the trailer, though—gaudy civilian thing that doesn’t belong here anyway.”

Rostov’s face went white. “That’s murder, Sergeant Major—you can’t do this. You can’t leave the loyal people here with no supplies, no transport, no arms. You can’t!”

“Watch me, asshole,” Slocum growled.

“I’ll surrender,” squealed Major Calley as she pulled on a pair of panties to go with her blouse. “I’ll go with you and surrender!”

David Slocum frowned and then he shook his bed. “You made your bed, Major—your people consider you a worthless piece of ass who got your job because of your family connections and that you don’t mind sleeping your way to the top. You are lucky if I give you a uniform and boots,” and then he raised the SMG as Rostov pulled out a pistol from beneath the bed.

“DROP IT, SIR!”

“You will lower that weapon, Slocum! I’m not losing my command to mutiny that easi- . . .,” he began, but before he could finish raising the pistol, Slocum squeezed the trigger and held it down—thirty bullets tore across the trailer and ripped into Rostov and Calley.

More enlisted men and NCOs burst in through the door, and they looked at the bloody mess.

“Damn. He got off easy,” muttered one with a grimace as the smell of urine and feces suddenly filled the air; the muscles of the two dead suddenly releasing as the last bit of life faded from their bodies.

“Bury them, Sergeant Major?” asked another.

“Leave them to rot—and get the other officers and loyalists moving. We lift as soon as the supply convoys get back here,” Slocum answered.


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