• The 'Comrade' title is now available in a fetching communist red for purchase by all of you capitalists who survived the Sietch gulag during the people's revolution. And in the spirit of all communists everywhere, it was broken until the capitalist pig dogs fixed it. ;)
  • Your beloved Boot here with a confession. The Boot tangled its laces and failed to properly set up the new Comrade user title. Thanks to the kind intercession of Emperor Tippy this failure has been corrected and the new user title is now actually on sale to everybody.

Battletech Welcome to the Jungle

Chapter 17

Speaker4thesilent

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Chapter 17​

Olivetti Weaponry Manufacturing Center, Outside Hamar, Sudeten,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
December 13th, 3015


The room had briefly been rather like a kicked anthill as Archon Katrina demanded information from both me and her staff. The CO and 2IC for the 8th Donegal as well as the Tamar Jägers had also been consulted and answers had arrived.

In the normal course of events, hiring most of a regiment of Elite Mechwarriors -even if it was one of her subordinates doing so rather than through the LCAF’s Mercenary Troop Liaison Office- with their own integrated Wing of ASF support would have definitely been something that reached the Archon’s desk.

Unfortunately, given our extended absence from the market along with our buildup and incorporation of new Mechwarriors, the MRB had downgraded Weber’s Warriors to merely Veteran status. Since I couldn’t tell them we’d been fighting a constant low-level insurgency against Catachan’s biosphere, that probably seemed generous to them. Hell, for all I knew, they were right.

It also meant that we weren’t quite big enough news to merit landing on Katrina’s desk the way a similarly sized Elite force would have.

With that stumbling block out of the way, the room had been secured. Only Katrina, her guards, and one aide were still present. As for the negotiations…

“I’m not asking for a continuation of our current taxation status, but I am requesting a lower rate than standard. The Catachan Arms Corporation is still a start-up, and we’re having to import our entire workforce at our own expense.”

“You’ve also already got an LCAF contract that, assuming you make your minimums, is going to infuse half a billion Kroner into your planetary economy each year.”

“Much of which is going to be spent before it ever arrives. We had quite a bit of seed money to start with, but we’d burned through more than ninety percent of it even with regular sales to Olivetti Weaponry. Hiring the sort of educated professionals we needed to get off the ground and then expand wasn’t and isn’t cheap. And retaining highly-skilled workers isn’t easy, especially on a planet with heavy gravity and without the ability to support even subsistence farming. We have to import almost all the food we eat, for instance, and that’s pretty much a full time job for one JumpShip and two dropships.

“I shouldn’t have to tell you what that does to prices. Wages on Catachan are very high, but so is the cost of living.”

The Archon’s eyes lit up.

“Very well, then. I propose a compromise. The LCAF extends Catachan’s government and the Catachan Arms Corporation the same deal extended to Defiance and Hesperus II. You pay your taxes -the full taxes- and the LCAF handles essential logistics for Catachan as a closed military system.”

“Leaving my JumpShips and Dropships free to bring in workers and import luxuries in greater quantity,” I said, and gave it a second as I thought it over.

“Do you have docum-” I began, but Katrina was already reaching for a noteputer. She handed it over and I took a few minutes to read the contract out. Then I did some mental math.

“Agreed, so long as you agree to keep up the deception we’ve been running about our location,” I said simply. The LCAF had the advantages of economy of scale in this case. They could do the job cheaper than I’d ever be able to. I also figured that I didn’t need to shill on Steelton or Tolland’s behalf. The Archon knew her business.

“Hmm,” Katrina temporized, “Speaking of, the Norns are divided between thinking you really are two jumps out or that Catachan is actually only one jump out, but you’re pretending it’s further.”

Way to ask without asking.

“If you draw a line between Steelton and Star’s End, Catachan is just a touch further than halfway on that line,” I told her, and again got to see her look shocked.

“But there’s nothing there!” she objected. “The Rim Worlds Republic never had a settled world anywhere in that region.”

“That they told anyone about,” I corrected. “That deep into Apollo Province? And with the sort of government Amaris ran? It was an off-the-books prison planet,” I explained, preparing my prop for this particular story.

“SLIC got a hint about it somewhere along the line, because my many times Great-Grandfather was the Captain of a spy ship. There was a mention of it in his journal,” I explained, setting the journal on the table between us.

“After the duke of Icar tried to seize the company's assets, we had nothing better to do while the MRB ran through our contract arbitration. So we went Lostech prospecting.”

I shrugged.

“We found a planet with a damaged space station and a wrecked corvette in orbit. We’d have been happy with the JumpShip parts, Ferro-Fibrous armor, and EndoSteel blanks we found onboard the space station. Instead, we found … far more than that.”

The Archon reached out and picked up the journal, opening it to the page I’d bookmarked. After a long moment she shook her head and slipped the aged pages closed.

“I can see that this has been through a lot. Do you mind if I have it analyzed to see if any of the damaged text can be recovered?”

“I hoped you’d offer,” I replied. “It’s not likely lightning will strike twice, but …” I trailed off.

Archon Katrina smiled.

“Indeed. If nothing else, the history is worth preserving,” she said.

That was … encouraging.

“It isn’t the only thing I brought to give you,” I told her, and stood. Her guards watched me closely as I moved over to the side table and lifted a secure case. “Well, honesty compels me to admit I brought it hoping one of Olivetti’s people could figure out and maybe fix an issue, but since you’re here …” I trailed off.

Moving slowly, I made sure to keep my hands visible as I unlocked the case and opened it.

Behind me, both the Archon and her guards gasped.

“Is that-” she asked, disbelievingly.

“A data core,” I confirmed, “The one we recovered along with the cache of Mechs.”

The Archon took a moment to pull her thoughts together. One of her aides had tears in his eyes. I … didn’t really understand. Not at a visceral level, and something like this drove it home. I was too much a child of the 20th and 21st centuries, rather than the 31st.

“What- I mean, how?” she inquired thoughtfully.

I took pity on her and started telling the story.

“It was assembled, in haste, in the aftermath of a revolt against Amaris’s governor. His political prisoners had subverted the Planetary Militia. They managed to surprise the regiment of Amaris Dragoons that was supposed to be preventing any such thing, but they failed to take out the space station where the governor lived. In the aftermath, Amaris’s governor dusted Catachan with a bioweapon.

“So the technical crew and the engineers set up all the Battlemechs for storage and loaded this data core with everything they thought the SLDF might want or need to make use of the Mechs they’d painstakingly upgraded and all the documentation for how to run the factories they’d been forced to labor in. This core contains not just blueprints for finished designs, but the iterative stages of the design work. It has users manuals, annotated by the users with the sort of information that never makes it into the documentation.

“It has not just the ‘how,’ but the ‘why’ for the manufacture of ER lasers and PPCs, LB-10X autocannon, 225, 240, 300, and 380 rated XLFEs as well as Ferro-series armor, EndoSteel, and Freezers. Left for us, because the SLDF team that landed found out the bioweapon was Anthrax, which sporulates. They got sick, so they never powered on the spaceport’s fusion generators to find the message Catachan’s people had left for them.”

The Archon swallowed, trying to bring moisture back into a suddenly-dry mouth. I recognized the symptoms.

“You’re saying … that you don’t just have working factories. You have the capability to allow others to create working factories,” she finally managed to get out past her disbelief.

I could contextualize the shock. Lostech had been a phenomena for centuries at this point. To just have an answer to a problem that old just handed to you …

“It won’t be easy, and we burned out the write head we had getting the last of the data for double heat sink production on it. But, yes. Amaris had the bad habit of ordering his slave labor decimated, in the Roman sense of the word, if they failed to meet quotas. So, just in case they were the ones whose straw came up short, the engineers took the time to explain, in detail, how and why the equipment operated. How to conduct repairs. How to make modifications.

“Baron Jones confirmed that with what’s on that data core, he could have a factory on a world like Tharkad turning out Lostech in less than ten years. It won’t be as efficient as the automated factories of the Star League, but since Amaris decided he wanted to run his factories with slave labor, they were built at a level that we can understand and replicate.”

Tears were streaming down the aide’s face now, and even the guards were starting to struggle to remain utterly composed. Archon Katrina was bright-eyed, but focused.

“And what do you want in exchange for this ‘gift?’” she asked.

“One, well two things,” I corrected myself. “For the first … I’ve spoken with Duke Olivetti, and he’s onboard as well. We would like you to push through the Estates General a change in how Patent and Copyright Law works in the Commonwealth.”

I could tell that request caught her off guard, but her expression tightened up in thought.

“Any such change would be incredibly costly in terms of both political capital and time … Sell me on it.”

Okay, then.

“Left the way things are, I could make the case that because my company rediscovered Freezers, ER weapons, and all the rest, as a result, anybody making them owes me a licensing fee for the rest of eternity. But …

“Look, part of the reason technology has stayed so stagnant for centuries? It’s the way the patent system is structured,” I explained. I’d had to lay it out this way for Olivetti too, and even then he hadn’t wanted to believe me at first. It wasn’t easy to accept that your nation had spent decades spiking your own best efforts to regain some of the ground you’d lost.

“Say you’ve got a patent on a kind of laser. The way things are currently structured, that patent is good until every star in the universe burns out. Since the LCAF is buying, why spend money researching improvements for that laser? Just running the research means that your fellows or other Successor States are going to be gunning for you, which would be bad enough. But if you get the project through to completion, what then?

“If you fail, then you are out those millions of Kroner that you spent. That’s obvious, but even if you succeed, then you have to spend yet more money retooling manufacturing lines in order to produce the new laser instead of the one that you are already selling. You have to invest time and energy lobbying for your new product, defending your advances from the same list of suspects that would have tried to shut your research down in the first place. It’s just a series of headaches. Unless it is a substantial improvement, there’s no guarantee that the money that you can negotiate for will make up for the costs you’ve accrued, not to mention that the whole process has been a pain in the ass.

“Much easier all around to just keep selling what you already make.”

Apparently, the Archon had never had the situation put to her in precisely those terms, because she was looking like she desperately wanted to point out the flaw in my argument, but couldn’t find one.

“So we want you to cause patents to expire after a certain amount of time. I’d like twenty years, but I recognize that you’ll need to find a number the Estates General will accept.”

“Twenty isn’t possible, but I can at least start there and count the number of coronaries it causes,” she allowed after a moment’s thought. “And the copyrights?”

“That’s easier to explain. I have the design information for machines that have not been produced in centuries, but are still for some reason restricted by copyright laws. If a design hasn’t been produced in 50 years, I propose that it no longer be subject to copyright protection.”

“The next Mech you intend to build?” Katrina asked.

“The Sarissa,” I replied with a nod, “Free Worlds League design. And unlike the Phoenix, the company that originally produced it still exists. Somehow, I doubt that I would be able to purchase a license from them.”

“That I can get done more easily. Some of the members of the Estates General won’t like the competition, but enough will be thinking about the new opportunities for ‘Mech ownership that voting will lean in favor,” she said. “And your second request?”

She seemed to be bracing herself for something unpleasant. I was glad to be requesting something she already wanted to do, even if it might very well be an even harder ask than my first.

“Second, I want you to take the information on that data core,” I said, pointing at the innocuous object, “and use it to end the Succession Wars.”

I could see surprise in her face for a moment, before determination became the dominant emotion in her gaze.

“Sounds like you’ve got my career as Archon planned out for me, Duke Weber, but, in this case, I’ve got no objections.”

XXXXX​

There had still been details to work out afterwards, but they were relatively minor. It was a good thing the old Executive mansion and government offices had survived in the Holdfast, because I was going to need to open them up just to help handle the influx of bureaucrats, bean counters, and inspectors. On the other hand, getting the green light to purchase military hardware and at preferred pricing was a big deal.

So was LIC effectively taking over my counterintelligence department. Another big gain was a pair of regiments: one of the Commonwealth’s best infantry, and another of heavy, short-ranged or anti-air armor to handle securing the Holdfast against the sort of attack that had knocked out Hesperus II for most of a decade.

Katrina had offered more ASFs as well. I’d told her that if Bauer ever got the Rapier back into production, that I’d love a Wing of them. Then I’d showed her the data on the Centurion refit kit we’d developed and offered to sell the design to Lockheed-CBM once I’d managed to get 240 XLFEs back in production. With a full ASF Wing with us, we only had our last two Squadrons available to act as home guard.

There were a few other issues to handle, but those were for after the attack on Sevren.

That was my current focus.

Security had held on just what our equipment list entailed. That meant a briefing on precisely what we were fielding and what our capabilities were, which I was finally drawing to a close.

“-to the need to maintain our logistics ourselves, and without much in the way of local stores, we limited the diversity of platforms we brought with us. We have the cargo area on our Triumph loaded with mainly armor and munitions, and the same with our Overlord. We can, thankfully, use conventional LRMs and SRMs, so we brought relatively few of those. Our ASFs, of course, carry an all-energy armament, so Aerospace stores are fully stocked with Ferro-Aluminum armor and fuel, with no munitions required,” I concluded, and immediately reached for my glass of water.

Everyone around the table was finishing with their notes. The CO of the 8th, Colonel Mitchell Weintraub, a prematurely balding man whose skin was approximately as black as pitch, managed to get his thoughts together first.

“That’s an impressive force, even with the weaknesses you outlined. The Mud Wrestlers have an Assault Battalion, but we’re mostly on the light and fast end of the spectrum: Zeus and Battlemasters with one Victor. We’ve only got two lances of slower Stalkers and Atlases, so your Devil Company is the heaviest concentration of metal in our entire force.”

Devil Company was the name I’d given to our independent Assault Company. With eight Mackies backed up by four of our Banshees, they were indeed mean combatants, especially if my Command Lance of four BNC-3Rs joined them.

“Last we knew, the Teak Dragon had an Assault Battalion. Figured it would only be polite to greet theirs with ours if they wanted to dance,” and the way they were organized meant their ‘Assault Battalion’ was actually a Company backstopped by a Company of Heavy Mechs focused on fire-support with a third of lighter Mediums for scouting. If they made the mistake of seeking us out for a rematch, I’d bet dollars -well Kroner- to donuts that they’d find that we were more than a handful for them.

“Well, we won’t ask you to do it alone, no matter what,” he assured me with an eager grin, “but we’ve got a couple plans in the works to see about forcing them into the sort of slugging match that favors us. One time being an Officer, but not a Gentleman, comes in handy.”

I snorted at that. After their actions in the Battle of Skye, up to and including declining to take Drac prisoners because it would have slowed them down and kept them from making their timetable, the Archon of the time had forbidden the 8th Donegal from wearing Gold Braid on their uniforms, asserting that they were, “not gentlemen.” I supposed that it was no mistake that their unit badge was a Zeus half-buried in a swamp. The Mud Wrestlers didn’t seem to be afraid to get down and dirty if that’s what it took to win.

I was rapidly changing my opinion of them. They might dress like popinjays, but their commander, at least, had substance. If, as now seemed clear, he’d thoroughly embraced the reputation the unit had earned brawling with Combine Mechwarriors at the Battle of Coopers’ Creek …

I wondered how long their current CO had been CO … and what the previous one had been caught doing. If I wasn’t misreading things, the new one’s attitude was one of the reasons they had Katrina’s favor.

“I’m more impressed with the artillery,” Jonas Shaw, the implausibly young, redheaded commander of the Jägers asserted, distracting me from my thoughts. “They may not be fast, but a Mech can just get places an SPG can’t. I’ve got a battalion attached to my command for this operation, but they were going to have to cover a half-dozen regiments. Adding on a fourth company will definitely make the job easier.”

“We’ve used them in exercises, and yes, with their jump jets Whiskey Company tends to end up in the damndest places,” I agreed. “The only issue is their relatively limited magazines. Two tons of Sniper rounds isn’t a lot of endurance; we’ve developed two ways of handling the issue. One is to reserve a lance after the initial two or three calls for fire so that we can rotate lances out to rearm while maintaining fire support capability. The second is to substitute ASF bombing runs while the whole company pulls back to reload.

“With the Centurion’s power to weight ratio, they make solid bomb haulers,” I asserted. “The only potential issue in this case is the need to rely on your forces for munitions.”

“We can work with that,” Colonel Weintraub said, thoughtfully. “Honestly, I’m just glad to have another wing of ASFs, even if they are mostly Interceptors. We’ve got a Wing attached to us in the 8th Donegal, but the Jägers are seriously light on air power.”

I nodded. Colonel Shaw had mentioned earlier in the briefing that a single Leopard CV carried the sum of the Tamar Jägers ASF assets; they also exclusively fielded dogfighters. At least for values of ‘dogfighter.’

I would have considered the Lightning a light Dropper-chopper, but I suppose the LCAF had to justify their procurement of Lucifers somehow. The Jägers fielded two of them and three Hellcats. As dogfighters, both were second rate: the Lightning because of its lack of range, the Hellcat because it wallowed like a pig in any atmospheric fight. Their final ASF was a Stingray that had been converted to a -90S, significantly reducing its effectiveness. Honestly, I’d call it third-rate.

I frowned.

“The Jägers ASFs have already been discussed. I know you’ve got a Wing attached to the 8th Donegal, but not what its composition is,” I said.

“We’ve got a more typical mix,” Colonel Weintraub said, “a squadron of interceptors: four Sabres and a pair of Seydlitz, a squadron of ground-attack strike fighters: a Thunderbird, an old Typhoon -A3, and four Chippewas, and a middleweight squadron for Dropper-chopping: four Eagles escorting two Lucifers.”

That was … pretty awful. The Sabre was a lighter, more poorly armored Centurion: its only virtues were its relative inexpensiveness and more modern electronics. Second-rate at best. The Seydlitz had a role, but it was very, very fragile. Again, second-rate.

The Thunderbird was the only Lyran strike fighter worth being considered first-rate. It was an unlovely beast, but it could bully dogfighters all day long, and in a ground-attack role it had a lethal one, two, three combo of LRMs, 8cm lasers, and 5cm lasers. By the time it pulled out of a strafing run, it was running a bit warm, but it could devastate any Mech or tank it picked out for special attention, and if it caught the enemy from behind, it could fell a whole Lance with a single pass.

The other strike fighters were … well, they sucked. The Chippewa carried even more gun than the Thunderbird, despite being ten tons lighter, and it paid for that by being hideously undersinked and carrying half the armor of the heavier bird, which was already a bit light on protection for its weight and role. Frankly, the Typhoon, a design that took me a moment to remember since it hadn’t been in production for half a millennium, was a better attack bird. If only because it could use all its guns without turning into a fireball as waste heat spontaneously ignited its fuel. Charitably, the Typhoon was second-rate. The Chippies were definitely third.

And the so-called Dropper-choppers notably lacked a single AC-20. The Eagle stood at the apex of the dogfighting world alongside its near-clone, the Transgressor, so that was good. The Lucifer, on the other hand was under-engined for a dogfight, and not equipped well for Dropper-chopping. Even outside it’s issues with the ejection seat, it was a third-rate design.

Call it five first-rate birds, seven second-rate birds, and a squadron of third-rate trash. Unfortunately, that was pretty good for an LCAF formation.

Realizing I’d been quiet for a bit too long, I spoke up.

“Since the 7th Sword will have one of those double-strength Combine ASF Wings, we’ll be glad to have those Eagles when we hit atmosphere,” I allowed.

“Not a fan of the Lucifer either, huh?” Colonel Weintraub asked, immediately improving my opinion of him another notch.

“Whoever the officer in Procurement is who keeps buying them should be shot for treason,” I stated bluntly. “They get far too many good men and women killed, and not just because of the ejection problems.”

Colonel Shaw winced, but I’d read Weintraub right. He laughed out loud.

“God, I hear you,” the man said, then shook his head. “Still, now that we’re all caught up on what assets we’re working with, I suppose it’s time to delve into the Ops Plan.”

A few clicks brought up more detailed information on Sevren than I’d seen thus far.

“The plan is to feign a raid in force, making as if to attack Nesmith Nuclear Industries and several of the smelting operations located in and around Landing while concealing our true numbers via the use of a stacked dropship formation.

“Commander's intention is to draw the 7th Sword out of their positions around the capital of New Cartris to attack the Tamar Jägers and Weber’s Warriors. Since they’re Samurai, they’ll almost certainly underestimate a force composed mostly of tanks and ‘lucrewarriors.’ Then, once they are committed, I’ll land the 8th Donegal Guard and our attached armor regiments behind them. If they press their attack on you, you can fall back on dug-in Demolishers and Weber’s Devil Company. If they push their attack on my 8th Donegal Guard, then your more mobile forces hit them from behind and keep them busy until heavier forces can catch up.

“I’d love to encircle them and wipe them out, but I don’t expect them to be accommodating. I’ll settle for wiping out their Assault and Medium battalions and their conventional support. Any questions about the generalities of the plan?”

Since things seemed clear enough thus far, I kept silent.

“Alright, then,” Colonel Weintraub said, “LIC thinks that our best landing zones around the old capital of Landing are here and here,” he said, pointing to a couple areas on the map. “Sevren has pretty prosperous mining and agriculture sectors even under the Combine’s rule and Landing is the center of that agricultural sector. The immediate area is almost all farmland once you get outside the suburbs. The exception is the industrial area around NNI. That means the terrain is ideal for your hovertanks, Colonel Shaw. Now, further out, there’s a range of tall hills or really short mountains between Landing and New Cartris. They’re pretty forested, but there are some landmarks associated with the mining sector, especially north of the highway cut. That road is the only practical way to move armor up from the capital, so one of our options is to close it behind the Sworders. It won’t stop their Mechs from running, but it will corral their conventional assets. If-”

As the balding Colonel continued the briefing, I took careful notes. The hammer and anvil plan was a good idea, but I’d read enough to know that plans seldom survived contact with the enemy. Any of the geographical details I could cram into my brain might end up being useful.

It was going to be a long few days before our departure.

XXXXX​

A/N: Thanks again to Seraviel, Lordsfire, and Yellowhammer for beta reading, idea bouncing, and canon compliance checking. This chapter is vastly improved by their efforts.
 

Tryglaw

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You know, for that data core you could have asked a lot more...
 

PsihoKekec

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He sure is on Katrina's good side now. Did he by chance just encourage her to send her peace proposal a few years earlier?

Since I couldn’t tell them we’d been fighting a constant low-level insurgency against Catachan’s biosphere, that probably seemed generous to them.
Problem is that you can get too used to one form of warfare ;)
 

PsihoKekec

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Since Weber's Warriors came a lance short of two battalions - 68 mechs this means a battalion of 36 mechs, two independent companies of 12 mechs each and regimental command lance, does this mean the extra lance is Levy's battalion command lance?
If they go command lance route (which makes military sense, but not in TT), they can go three battalion regiment, plus two independent companies and regimental command lance could be expanded to command company - 156 mechs plus cadre/reserves with 8 old WW mechs and 4 Catachan mechs. Or instead of command company, there would be a line company that would form a nucleus from which they could gradually build a fourth battalion with mechs from Catchan production and upgraded battlefield salvage.
 

Speaker4thesilent

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Since Weber's Warriors came a lance short of two battalions - 68 mechs this means a battalion of 36 mechs, two independent companies of 12 mechs each and regimental command lance, does this mean the extra lance is Levy's battalion command lance?
If they go command lance route (which makes military sense, but not in TT), they can go three battalion regiment, plus two independent companies and regimental command lance could be expanded to command company - 156 mechs plus cadre/reserves with 8 old WW mechs and 4 Catachan mechs. Or instead of command company, there would be a line company that would form a nucleus from which they could gradually build a fourth battalion with mechs from Catchan production and upgraded battlefield salvage.
I’ll go ahead and spoil it for you: Whiskey Company has a bodyguard/pathfinder Lance of mediums with jump jets to find the best route through broken terrain and watch the big boys backs when they’re distracted doing fire missions.
 

PsihoKekec

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Ah, so artillery company is actually four lances. Still, modifying Helepolis with jump jets is downright evil, it's like if you managed in the present day to combine the heli mobility of towed howitzers with protection and versatility of tracked artillery.
 

Speaker4thesilent

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Ah, so artillery company is actually four lances. Still, modifying Helepolis with jump jets is downright evil, it's like if you managed in the present day to combine the heli mobility of towed howitzers with protection and versatility of tracked artillery.
The way I've been describing it is that the Heliopolis is basically equivalent in mobility to an infantry mortar. You can get the damn things anywhere. It is equivalent in firepower to a howitzer. Why wouldn't you want a howitzer with the ability to get to any arbitrarily annoying firing position?
 

PsihoKekec

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In real world it's incredibly useful, but on tabletop it isn't, because it is multiple mapsheets away and the was majority of games just don't go for multiple mapsheet running fight, or have the rules for elevation influence on indirect fire. However since you can and are writing this fic as a real world, without 100% slavish devotion to tabletop (and honestly it makes it that more enjoyable to read), these modifications can be used to their full potential, unlike in the actual game. Can't wait to see how it will pan out in their conventional combat debut.
Therby writing the comments always makes me feel conflicted, because reading the comments and interacting with commenters probably eats into writing time, but that's how us fans are - not exactly rational critters.
 

Speaker4thesilent

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In real world it's incredibly useful, but on tabletop it isn't, because it is multiple mapsheets away and the was majority of games just don't go for multiple mapsheet running fight, or have the rules for elevation influence on indirect fire. However since you can and are writing this fic as a real world, without 100% slavish devotion to tabletop (and honestly it makes it that more enjoyable to read), these modifications can be used to their full potential, unlike in the actual game. Can't wait to see how it will pan out in their conventional combat debut.
Therby writing the comments always makes me feel conflicted, because reading the comments and interacting with commenters probably eats into writing time, but that's how us fans are - not exactly rational critters.
Actually, comments seem to feed my muse.
 
A Matter of Proper Reward for Services Rendered (Canon)

Yellowhammer

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A .N. -- My apologies for the delay in crossposting this over to here.

A Matter of Proper Reward for Services Rendered

(A Welcome to the Jungle canon sidestory)

Ali Kelswa Military Spaceport, Hamar, Sudeten,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
December 14th, 3015


A light blonde-haired young woman wearing an unadorned officer’s green field uniform with a Hauptmann’s rank insignia newly sewn on and the nametag J. STEINER opened the door to the room that she had been ordered to report to. Steel-blue eyes widened at the sight of the officer waiting for her inside and she snapped to rigid attention. “Hauptmann Julia Steiner reporting as ordered!” she barked out with a parade-ground salute.

Katrina returned the salute. “At ease. This conversation is off the record, Julia.”

The younger Steiner relaxed minutely at the words. She assumed the position of parade rest as the door closed and several white noise antisurveillance systems were turned on by the omnipresent trio of bodyguards for the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth.

Katrina minutely examined her second cousin’s oldest daughter. “First off, have the doctors cleared you for piloting Mechs again?”

Julia nodded with a relieved smile. “Yes. The neurofeedback from the ammunition explosion cleared up with therapy and I have a clean bill of health now.”

“Good. And your family ‘Mech?” Katrina said.

Julia sighed. “Gungnir needs a complete factory-level rebuild and replacement. The explosion of the autocannon ammunition in the arm blew into the left torso and wrecked the chassis totally. The power cables for the Thunderbolt A5M 8cm laser assembly shorted out when the shrapnel cut them and spiked the Mech's computers with a surge that fried them. Not that my automatic ejection did much good for the cockpit either, Aunt Katrina.” Her tone suggested that the Archon of the Lyran Commonwealth had far more important things to do than discuss the destruction of a family Mech with a Dispossessed Mechwarrior. Even a Mechwarrior that was a junior cadet member of the sprawling Steiner family tree.

Katrina gave a thin satisfied smile. “So your mother hasn’t arranged a replacement yet?”

“No. LCAF Medical branch wasn’t sure if I would ever be cleared to pilot because of the neural feedback and then the day after I got cleared the Mud Wrestlers boosted to Sudeten under communications blackout. She just knows that I’m still on medical hold and acting as a staff aide as per my last HPG to her a month ago.”

The thin smile widened. “Excellent. I have a job for you, Julia. I know that you wanted that transfer to the Tenth Guards now that you made Hauptmann on the battlefield rather than with politics, but I’m afraid Frederick will have to ‘do without’ on this one. It’s voluntary, though, so say the word and I’ll pack you off to the Thundering Elephants with my blessings.”

Julia snapped to attention. “I swore my oath to take the Archon’s Kroner to defend and strengthen the Commonwealth just as you and Mother and Uncle Frederick have, Ma’am! Say the word and I’ll do it!”

Katrina nodded sharply and pulled out a file folder from the desk drawer. She scribbled a signature on the forms inside and then slid it across her borrowed desk. “Effective immediately, you’re reassigned to Mercenary Troops Liaison as the permanent liaison officer for Weber’s Warriors. Officially, they will be part of the attack on Sevren and I need you to coordinate with the other elements of the plan. You placed first in your classes for tactics at the ‘Ring and I expect you to perform if the situation demands your tactical advice, Hauptmann Steiner.”

The younger Steiner took the folder. “And unofficially, Aunt Katrina?”

“Unofficially….” Katrina said slowly. “Mr. Weber has done the Commonwealth, done us Steiners a priceless service already. Get to know the young man, fight beside him on the battlefield, and work with him. I’ll be ennobling him as a Duke once I get all my chess pieces organized. When that happens, he will need to be part of Court and the nobility. He will need a… bodyguard… from some of the intrigues in the shark tanks on Tamar and Tharkad and I’m not inclined to let him get dragged under once he has to go out of his depth.”

Julia nibbled her lip, wheels spinning behind her blue eyes as she listened. “And Mother?” Julia finally asked.

“I’ll handle your mother when I return to Tharkad. Leave that to the head of the Family. Just stay blacked out on communications until the Ice Balls and then write her as normal with due attention to COMSEC restrictions..” Katrina ordered.

“Understood, Aunt. Anything else for me?” Julia inquired.

Katrina smirked and then pulled out a second folder labeled ‘TDR-6S-00001’ with classification tape sealing it from the desk drawer. “Just this. You better have packed your cooling vest because you have between now and dropping on Sevren to get up to speed with your new personal ‘Mech, Julia. I’ll want a report of the design’s capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses sent to my office so I can direct Asgard to write the doctrine on utilization once you get done stress-testing it on the Teak Dragon. Bring it, yourself, and Mr. Weber back safely.” The Archon paused. “Merry Early Christmas, Julia.”

Julia’s happy smile split her face as she read the specifications on her new Thunderbolt. “Zu Befehl, Archon!

---------------​

The Triad, Tharkad City, Tharkad,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
January 7th, 3016


Iris Steiner, Duchess of Furillo, automatically clutched her Odessan Sable fur coat tighter around her as she exited the private hoverlimo that had taken her from the spaceport to the center of Lyran power. She shivered at the feel of the arctic air and then decided that dignity and fashion be damned, she would lower the earflaps of her matching sable ushanka hat to prevent frostbite.

“This way, Duchess Steiner.” The escort from the 1st Royal Guards said, his breath frosting the subzero air as he gestured her away from the Royal Court or Government House toward the third massive building that made up the Triad.

The Royal Palace.

Iris raised a golden eyebrow at the unspoken message that was being sent by her cousin as she submitted to the first security screening and scanning with the aplomb and experience of a woman who had been a regular visitor to ‘Steiner House’ as it was nicknamed.

The eyebrow raised further as she was escorted deeper into the building through three more checkpoints. The priceless artwork and furnishings, some of which were actual Terran originals restored and preserved by master craftsmen, generated a mental hum as she walked alongside her guide to finally arrive at her destination.

The oak double doors, carved in the rococo 25th-century Neo-Baroque revival style, swung open and Iris stepped inside the sitting room.

The room beyond was decorated in a deliberately rustic decor with the heads of Gallery Night Boar on the wood-paneled walls, and wolf-skin rugs. In the corner, a priceless Black Forest grandfather clock ticked away the minutes next to a roaring fireplace. Likewise the furniture was solid dark hardwood, and the overall appearance was that of a trip back in time to the Germany of Grimm’s Fairy Tales on far-distant Terra. The modern conveniences of the 31st century were well hidden in the deliberately archaic setting that was one of Katrina’s favorite rooms.

Katrina Steiner stood up from where she had been working on paperwork with a bottle of Glengarry Private Select on the table at her elbow. “Guten Tag, Iris. Thank you for coming in response to my message.”

Iris curtsied and then shook the offered hand. “Guten Tag, Katrina. It was my pleasure.” She sat down in the offered seat. Her ushanka was placed next to the bottle of Kirschwasser and glass of ice cubes waiting for her. After seeing the crow’s feet carved in her cousin’s face, Iris leaned forward after pouring herself a drink of her favorite cherry schnapps. “Bad trip on the inspection tour up through Tamar? Was Kelswa being obstinate again?”

Katrina shook her head and sipped her whiskey. “It’s not Kelswa, not more than normal at least. Rather an unexpected development out of nowhere that impacts the Family. Positively. You’ll want to put your drink down for this one, Iris.”

Iris blinked but complied. “How so?” She asked curiously.

Katrina gave a wry smile. “Just that a Lyran patriot found a datacore with the key to Lostech on one of Amaris' hidden factory worlds. It checks out and I have already had copies made.”

Iris gasped in shock. “My God….”

Katrina steepled her hands and leaned her chin on them while she waited for her cousin to regain her composure.

Iris stared at the Archon and picked up her glass in shaking hands to toss back a stiff drink of cherry schnapps. “Thanks for the warning, Katrina! I’d hate to have to get my favorite coat cleaned unexpectedly during blizzard season. No shit??” The Duchess of Furillo gave her cousin a ‘don’t you dare be joking’ look as she refilled the glass.

“No shit, Iris. The problem is that what he wanted in exchange for it was something to benefit the Commonwealth as a whole rather than him specifically. While I’m happily giving him his price, it’s not tangible enough to be seen as a reward for exceptional service. Which is what’s needed.” Katrina said in explanation as she poured herself more whiskey.

Iris nodded along, visibly thought, then met her second cousin’s eyes. “Julia then?” The Duchess asked the Archon.

Ja, Julia. Mr. Weber is fighting on Sevren, and will need a LCAF liaison officer for his unit. And since I shall be making him a Duke, a minder to help him ease into court politics and manage them on his behalf will be vital.” Katrina said. “I know I’m asking a lot of you and your oldest daughter here since you had plans for her.”

Iris sighed. “She will be upset that the transfer to the Tenth Guards that she was hoping for now that she made Hauptmann won’t happen. She just had to get promoted the way that you did with no family connections used! So I’ll HPG her and give my girl the marching orders from her mother and just prepare her younger brother Caesar to take over Furillo then.”

Katrina smirked smugly. “I already spoke to her since her unit was tapped to fight on Sevren. She agreed to the request effective immediately.” The Archon gave a satisfied smile at the ‘you sneaky bitch!’ look on her cousin’s face. “The fact that she got the first Lostech new-build Thunderbolt since Kerensky departed in place of her lost Zeus sweetened the pot a great deal too.”

Iris stared at her smirking cousin. “Katrina! You just had to one-up my plans for her birthday present!"

A. N. -- I'd like to thank Speaker4thesilent here for idiot checking me and canon compliance for his universe. Weber may not have wanted a large and visible reward for doing the right thing, but the society in BT demands that this particular knight gets a 'princess' assigned to help him fight the Dragon.

To fill folks in, Julia Steiner is a canon for this story OC, the oldest daughter of Iris Steiner (Duchess of Furillo) and the older sister of Caesar Steiner (Dad had a man-crush on the Roman Empire when naming kids). She graduated top tier in her class at the Nagelring two years ago and elected to earn promotions through battlefield combat rather than family wealth and pull (she has a bit of hero-worship for Aunt Katrina as a role model). Several months ago, her company of the 8th Donegal was fighting the Dracs and her Zeus exploded from an autocannon ammo bin hit. The result is she got a wound badge, the field promotion for leading the remnants of her company out of the ambush was made permanent, the McKennsie Hammer, and a transfer to staff duties while they worked on her neural damage from the feedback. She's a good political operator, but prefers not to play politics, especially with men's lives at stake.
 

PsihoKekec

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Her new Thunderbolt has compareable firepower, armor and moblitiy to her old Zeus, abeit while being 15 tons lighter, so she should have easier time adapting to her new ride.
I reckon having a Steiner at his side will be a considerable boon for Weber when every opportunist of note within LC sets their sights on him.

This just came to me, while Alistair called his force harquebusiers, the lance protecting the artillery could be called fusiliers.
 
Last edited:
Thunderbolt, 3015

Speaker4thesilent

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Thunderbolt TDR-6S
Mass:
65 tons
Chassis: Olivetti Hybrid TDR
Power Plant: Magna 260
Cruising Speed: 43.2 kph
Maximum Speed: 64.8 kph
Armor: Ceramite 650
Armament:
4 Medium Laser
1 LRM 15
1 LB 10-X AC
2 Flamer
Manufacturer: Olivetti Weaponry
Primary Factory: Sudeten
Communication System: Vox 3000
Targeting & Tracking System: Augur Array Mark 4
Introduction Year: 3145
Tech Rating/Availability: E/X-X-X-E
Cost: 6,619,910 C-bills

Type: Thunderbolt
Technology Base: Inner Sphere (Experimental)
Tonnage: 65
Battle Value: 1,550

EquipmentMass
Internal Structure
Endo-Composite​
5​
Engine
260 Fusion​
13.5​
Walking MP:
4​
Running MP:
6​
Jumping MP:
0​
Double Heat Sink:
10 [20]​
0​
Gyro:
3​
Cockpit:
3​
Armor Factor (Ferro):211
12​

Internal
Structure
Armor
Value
Head
3​
9​
Center Torso
21​
31​
Center Torso (rear)
11​
R/L Torso
15​
24​
R/L Torso (rear)
6​
R/L Arm
10​
20​
R/L Leg
15​
30​

Weapons
and Ammo​
LocationCriticalTonnage
LRM 15 Ammo (16)
RT​
2​
2​
CASE
RT​
1​
0.5​
LRM 15
RT​
3​
7​
LB 10-X Cluster Ammo (20)
RT​
2​
2​
Medium Laser
LA​
1​
1​
2 Flamer
LA​
2​
2​
3 Medium Laser
LT​
3​
3​
LB 10-X AC
RA​
6​
11​
Sorry it took me so long to get this posted. As those of you who read BruceQuest might be familiar, EndoComposite is subbing in for the Mech’s EndoSteel limbs.
 

Tryglaw

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Hmmm, is infantry that much of a threat that you want a 65 ton heavy mech fitted with anti-PBI flamers, instead of mounting something that can better knock other mechs while outsourcing anti-squishie job to light / scout mechs in +/- 30-40 ton range?
 

Speaker4thesilent

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Hmmm, is infantry that much of a threat that you want a 65 ton heavy mech fitted with anti-PBI flamers, instead of mounting something that can better knock other mechs while outsourcing anti-squishie job to light / scout mechs in +/- 30-40 ton range?
If a Medium or Light is leading the way in an urban fight instead of an Assault or a Pocket Assault like the Thud, you’re doing something wrong.

And urban fights are where PBI can be the biggest threat to a ‘Mech.
 

PsihoKekec

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The other option being the machine guns, with all the wonderful qualities of their ammo.
 

Speaker4thesilent

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The other option being the machine guns, with all the wonderful qualities of their ammo.
I mean, it does have CASE, which mitigates the worst qualities of ammo bombs, but it’s still an extra crit that might turn into a side-torso shredding kaboom.

And the ‘Mech can afford the heat thanks to the wonder of freezers. Having the capability is important, as BruceQuest is currently demonstrating. City fights are just nasty.
 
A Matter of Proper Reward for Services Rendered II (Canon)

Yellowhammer

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A Matter of Proper Reward for Services Rendered II

(A Welcome to the Jungle canon sidestory)

Ali Kelswa Military Spaceport, Hamar, Sudeten,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
December 14th, 3015


Julia Steiner left the spaceport headquarters building with a spring in her step and whistling one of her favorite military marches from the Twentieth Century, which had been one of her preferred periods of study back at the Nagelring.

She got into the back of the jeep waiting for her and started to read from the first folder that had been given to her by Aunt Katrina as the Jeep accelerated back to the barracks.

Her steel-blue eyes narrowed in thought at the description of Weber’s Warriors especially Colonel Weber’s psychological profile generated by LIC. Her eyes narrowed even more as she looked at the file photo of the young man who had -- reading between the lines -- thrown a curveball at her Aunt Katrina’s plans. Still the words of one of the great military thinkers that she had studied at the Nagelring were as valid today as when Napoleon Bonaparte had spoken them twelve centuries before today when humanity was still fighting for power on Terra.

“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go.”

Since Weber had gotten Aunt Katrina’s positive interest, the moment that he would be revealed to the Commonwealth at large would necessarily make him a prime catch on the marriage market for the female nobility.

The other eligible noblewomen would be conspiring to entrap him as a potential avenue of power and influence for themselves and their families. The number of unmarried Dukes was not high, four in fact currently at last count, and unlike Uncle Frederick who was married to his military career and a lifelong bachelor as a result, she suspected that Weber would be at the top of everyone’s prize list until and unless he proved impossible to snag through means fair or foul.

Therefore, either she would need to wed him herself to keep the immense wealth and power that he would be bringing to the Commonwealth aligned with the Steiner Family’s control of the factions beneath them, or insure that whomever did win his eye would not fatally damage the Commonwealth.

Heaven help them all if, for instance, he married Margaret Doorns or Lucrezia Lestrade!

The last thing that the state would need is another coup attempt, after all.


Julia frowned and bit her lip again as she closed the folder and thought. The LIC file was informative, but clearly compiled at a remove from Mr. Weber. The map was not the territory, but just a starting point to learn what she needed to know about him.

It was a pity that he was a nice young man apparently. She wouldn’t wish him hurt by the inevitable court intrigues, but considering a few of her fellow young aristocrats in the ‘Ring who she had the distinct hidden displeasure of having to interact with, it was a matter of time before one of them would do whatever it took to ensnare him in her coils..

The jeep stopped and Julia thanked the driver -- one of her earliest lessons as a child was that ‘service flows both ways’ and ‘the men before yourself’ as an officer to set the example -- as she got out and headed to her room in the transit barracks.

Inside, her valet, who doubled as a hidden bodyguard and chaperone, already had begun to pack her belongings up. Sarah Ishikawa looked at the blond figure of her Mistress and spoke in her faintly Japanese-accented German. “Word in the mess hall is that we’re on the move soon, Hauptmann.” Julia closed the door and looked at the short Asian woman who was a decade older than the Steiner heiress.

Julia once more remembered the family stories of how Grandfather Raymond had led a daring cross-border raid on a Drac ‘re-education’ slave labor penal camp deep inside the Combine on Trolloc Prime to liberate some LIC agents who had been caught up in one of the ISF sweeps for spies and dissidents. He and his company had liberated those agents along with all the other surviving camp residents who were pulled from the Dragon’s talons to be resettled in the Commonwealth. Among those camp residents were the Ishikawa family of hidden Jews who had run afoul of the decrees of the Order of the Five Pillars that there would be no other God than the Kurita on the Throne.

A family that settled on Raymond’s domain of Furillo to produce three generations of fanatically loyal Lyran patriots devoted to the service of the nation and family who had rescued them from becoming straws piled in the furnace for burning and had liberated them to a nation where they could live and worship freely. It was no coincidence that weekly prayers were said for the departed soul of Colonel Raymond Steiner at the main synagogue in Telesian City down the street from where Julia had been born.

Julia’s lips quirked as she reminded herself once more that loyalty was a two way street. “RUMINT, as usual, is not just faster than ComStar Priority HPG but in this case less garbled in transmission. Two weeks from now we’ll be paying the Snakes a little visit in force along with a few friends.”

Sarah’s showing of teeth could only charitably be called a smile as she made a fighting knife appear and disappear like magic. The veteran Jump Infantry pathfinder looked her Mistress in the eyes. “Good. Pity you’ll fight it from the command staff’s HQ since we’re not on the line anymore.”

Julia grinned happily and shook her head. “Nein. Aunt Katrina came through and arranged a new Thunderbolt for me as a Christmas present. Also we just got transferred to Merc Command to coordinate with one of the other units going in. Pack up everything but my Mechwarrior togs. If I need to be formal, I’ll wear my Class A’s but otherwise field outfits are the order of the day since we’re going to need to bust our butts to get the edge sharp to put the boot in. Substance before show.”

Sarah nodded and slid the shined dress shoes into a plastic bag to keep them dust-free. “So who’s the lucky Mercs we get to babysit? The Roughriders?”

Julia paused in placing a blue jumpsuit from her wardrobe in a pack along with her gun belt. “Weber’s Warriors. I’ll be meeting them and then picking my Mech up onsite, they’re stationed at Olivetti’s factory complex.” With that she opened a drawer and picked up the plain, almost crude and deliberately primitive necklace within it.

Julia rubbed the 'Mech Charm that had been crafted from the shattered remains of her family's Battlemech with her thumb, remembering what it meant to her when the survivors of the company presented her with it after she awoke in the hospital. After a moment of silent contemplation, she slid the plain pseudo-leather of the necklace over her head to rest the palm-sized polished alloy oval upon her heart as a reminder of the costs of duty, honor, and victory.

Sarah nodded approvingly at her Mistress. “I’ll have you packed up and moved over in two hours, Ma’am.”

“Good, call my mobile comm if you need me to scream at someone being stubborn. I’ll see you there, Sarah.” Julia said as she grabbed her pack and headed for the door.
 
Chapter 18

Speaker4thesilent

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A/N: If you have not yet read Yellowhammer’s Canon Omakes, you may discover that you’re a bit lost.

Chapter 18​

Olivetti Weapons Testing Range, Bordering Michael Olivetti Nature Reserve, Sudeten,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
December 14th, 3015


I blinked a couple times, but nothing changed. It was awfully early, and last night had ended sometime this morning. Plus, I was still on my first cup of coffee. Still, I didn’t think there was anything wrong with my hearing. Either reports were wrong, and the SLDF neurohelmets could bite you even if you were the only person to use yours, or somebody had pulled a Comet and spiked the coffee pot.

“I’m sorry, I must have misheard you. Could you repeat that?” I requested.

“Certainly, Colonel Weber, I’m Hauptmann Julia Steiner, and I’ve been assigned as your Liaison Officer through the Mercenary Troops Liaison Office,” she said.

… Or I wasn’t hallucinating. Belatedly I returned her salute, kicking my brain into gear.

“Apologies, Hauptmann, but we weren’t expecting a Liaison Officer, nor were we notified ahead of time about your assignment. Do you have-?” I started to ask, but found her already extending a set of verigraphed orders, along with what looked like her complete file.

I still read the orders, top to bottom to make sure, but they appeared to be correct. Huh. Somehow, overnight, Katrina had scrounged up a liaison officer for us. One related to the royal family, even. I wasn’t sure if that was admirably efficient or vaguely horrifying.

Weber’s Warriors hadn’t merited a liaison officer since … well, certainly not since Grandpa’s time. I didn’t even know if we’d had one then. A battalion wasn’t a big ‘Mech force, but we’d also had an Aerospace Wing. That might have been enough to merit the attention.

Looking Hauptmannn Steiner up and down, the first thing I noticed was the … well, no, the first thing I noticed was that she was a very pretty blonde, which was a statement all its own. The first militarily relevant thing I noted was the small oval of metal on a cord around her neck.

Burnished though it was, the palm-length ovoid of armor still bore the telltale pockmarks of shrapnel damage. Combined with the upward-pointing arrow, a Tiwaz rune, symbol of courage and victory, that meant it was a ‘Mech Charm. Not only did it mark her as a member in good standing of the Cult of the Mechwarrior, but it was also sort of the equivalent of a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star smashed together.

It announced to the world that she’d been forced to eject after catastrophic damage to her mech. Given the shrapnel damage, that probably meant an ammo explosion.

It also meant that her unit had held the field when all was said and done, or there’d have been no way to salvage that bit of armor.

The second thing I noted was that her uniform was suspiciously bare of embellishments. Hauptmann was sort of young for some of the bullshit I’d seen the generals wearing yesterday, but she was only wearing a pair of Steiner Fist cufflinks and her Nagelring school rag, and that under a proper belt. That meant she either had much sharper political instincts than her superior officers or a serious case of hero worship for the Archon. Given the ‘Mech Charm …

I frowned, considered my schedule, then wondered if I should even ask, but I didn’t see an Eiwaz anywhere. I’d expect there to be a death rune visible if she was no longer neurohelmet compatible. Though, since she could still serve, it would probably be matched with Naithiz for necessity.

“So, Hauptmann, do you have a ‘Mech assigned or are you still recovering?” I asked, deciding to bite the bullet.

“I was cleared for active duty just before the Mud Wrestlers got our-their movement orders, sir” she responded. “My new ‘Mech should have been delivered overnight.”

That meant that, at best, she’d had a day or two to familiarize herself with her new machine, working around her old unit’s schedule.

Well, unless the replacement was a family ‘Mech she’d trained on growing up. Even then she’d need to reacquaint herself with it so …

“Well, since Catachan is a heavy gravity world, I’ve got my people scheduled for acclimatization until we need to load for departure. I was just getting ready to head out for some time in the hotseat myself. Care to join me?”

“Thank you, sir,” she said, and seemed to mean it, “I’ve been benched for three months, so I’m looking forward to blowing the rust off.”

Well if that wasn’t an invitation I didn’t know what was.

“Ammo explosion?” I asked as I headed towards the Mech bays we were borrowing.

She nodded.

“Yes, sir, battle on Suk II. I didn’t quite manage the torso twist in time. A Drac Catapult hit my Zeus’s Type J ammo,” she explained.

“Pretty fast recovery, all things considered,” I commented. “What ‘Mech are you assigned?”

A brilliant smile broke over her face at the question.

“I’ve got the first of the new Thunderbolts,” she said, clearly trying to restrain her enthusiasm, but equally clearly marveling. “I’ve been over the documentation, but I haven’t had a chance to see it yet.”

“They’re a damn good design,” I agreed. “Captain Fischer’s Heavy Company has five of the -5Rs that Olivetti based the -6O -well, -6S now- on. They’re short half a ton of armor and the left arm laser, since they don’t incorporate the EndoSteel limbs, but they’re otherwise identical.”

I turned away for a moment as I spotted one of the logistics people.

“Sandra, we get delivery of one of the new Thuds? Our LCAF liaison officer is looking for her ‘Mech.”

“Yes, sir, hangar six. It’s still in gunmetal grey, can’t miss it.” If the grapevine hadn’t already picked up the new gossip, it certainly would now.

“Thanks, Sandra,” I said before turning back to the Hauptmann.

“They stuck your ‘Mech in the same hangar as Devil Company and my Command Lance. Probably a good idea, the -6S is even more of a pocket Assault than a normal Thunderbolt,” I told her.

“Devil Company?” She asked. I swiveled my head to look at her, and she wasn’t quite at deer-in-headlights, but was definitely looking a bit information overloaded.

“Sorry,” I shook my head. Still wasn’t quite awake. “Devil Company is our independent Assault Company.” I paused. “How much information did they give you in your briefing packet?”

“Standard background data and intelligence assessments, plus a note that you’d discovered a cache and were fielding an all-Lostech unit,” she responded.

“Accurate but incomplete. For the Sevren campaign, we’re fielding our First Battalion as well as two of our three independent Companies. First Battalion is composed of a Scout Company under Captain Schmidt, a jump-capable Medium Company under Captain Levy, and a Heavy Company under Captain Fischer. The latter two are both composed of two Line Lances and one Fire Support Lance. The former is composed of two Recon Lances and one Hunter Lance. Questions so far?”

“Hunter Lance?” she asked.

“Dedicated scout hunters. In this case, four Commandos with 225 XLFEs and an all-laser armament featuring an extended range 8cm laser. The bugmech that can fight them and live does not exist,” I explained.

“Doesn’t sound like a fight any light Lance wants to pick,” she agreed.

“Aye. The Sword of Light aren’t chumps, but Sammy Schmidt is a veteran who’s managed to survive twenty years as a Mechwarrior when his preferred ‘Mech is a Wasp.” Seeing Hauptmann Steiner’s look I tacked on an, “I shit you not.”

“Why?” she asked morbidly curious, before tacking on a belated, “sir?”

“Because he’s a speed freak, and our Wasps also mount a 225 XLFE,” I explained.

“But that’s…” she trailed off for a moment as she did the math, “They can hit a hundred and eighty-four kilometers an hour?!” she exclaimed, eyes wide.

“Yeah,” I agreed, “for them speed really is armor. Going that fast, about the only way you hit them is blind luck, which is fortunate because their armor is still basically paper. Three tons of Ferro-Fib is better than a stock Wasp, but there’s only so much you can do with a frame that light.”

“That can’t leave much room for weaponry,” she objected.

I shrugged.

“They’re bugmechs. If they’re actually fighting anything but another bugmech, they’re doing something wrong. They’ve got a 5cm laser, but we swapped their right arm laser for a flamer, and we’ve never looked back. Much more utility that way, and they can deal with infantry, which is really all they’re good for outside of scouting.”

“Hard to argue with a flamer’s utility,” she agreed, still clearly thinking more about the sheer speed my Wasps had available. After a moment she reverted to your previous subject.

“You mentioned line versus fire support for your Medium and Heavy Companies, sir?”

“Hmm, yeah. Our Heavy Company’s Line units are Thunderbolts and Ostwars. Their Support Lance is a pair of Crossbows and a pair of Kyudos. The Kyudo is a Medium design, but it’s slower than the rest of our Mediums and doesn’t mount jump jets.

“We wanted to keep all our Mediums jump-capable for the mobility advantage in urban or broken terrain, so our Line Lances are Phoenixes and Sarissas with Galahads for support. The original, that is, not the Galahad II. All three designs are 50-tonners with 300 XLFEs and all-energy armaments. Galahad has a pair of ERPPCs. Phoenix has one and a fistful of lasers for secondaries. Sarissas have a pair of ER8s, and a similar fistful of 5s as backup.”

“That’s…” Julia began before trailing off. “Are freezers really that good at controlling their heat?” She asked after a moment.

“Really,” I agreed. “Now if you use their jets and tape down the Alpha trigger, you’re gonna get in trouble pretty quickly, but as long as you exercise some discipline with either your trigger finger or your jump jets, each of the three designs run remarkably cool for all-energy platforms. Standing Alpha Strikes are heat-neutral for the Galahad and the Phoenix. You can either have both of the 8s or one and four of the 5s on the Sarissa. We’re developing a version that drops the fifth 5cm laser for a flamer, to give them better options for dealing with infantry, but we didn’t bring either of the test platforms along.”

“It’s really astounding what advanced technology makes possible,” the blonde Hauptmann marvels, shaking her head.

“It’s not all advantages.” I pointed out, not wanting her to get the wrong impression. “The bigger engines make them more vulnerable once something does make it through their armor, and the way they favor their frontal plate means that if something does manage to outflank them, they’re very vulnerable to shots from behind.”

“Still, even once the enemy learns what they can do, I can’t think of any easy ways to handle them,” she said.

“Strike at the source,” I corrected her, “which is why we’re hitting Sevren. Only reasonable place for the Combine to stage a raid on Sudeten. Also why I made sure the Archon had our data core. The sooner Hesperus or Tharkad can start turning out advanced technology as well, the less vital a target Catachan becomes.”

There was a sound of something hitting the ground and scattering papers from beside me. I turned, expecting to see Julia picking up her dropped folders. Instead she was staring at me, jaw dropped and eyes wide.

Oh! Oh …

“Damnit, sorry! I’d assumed she’d told you,” I said as I stooped to start gathering the pieces of paper before the wind gusted up and scattered them.

Julia finally recovered from her brief BSOD and joined me barely a moment later.

“When she said you’d done us a great service, Aunt Katrina wasn’t exaggerating,” she said as I handed over the papers I’d beaten her to.

She was still a bit wide-eyed, but seemed much more in control of herself. I tried to decide how to proceed, briefly wondering how literal that ‘Aunt’ thing was, but before I could decide on a topic, Julia moved back to finish up the impromptu briefing I’d been giving her.

“You already mentioned Devil company, and your Command Lance. By my count, that leaves one more overstrength Company?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s Whiskey Company,” I informed her. Finishing up with the details being as good a way of changing the subject as any other. “They’re made up of three Lances of Heliopolis Artillery ‘Mechs. They mount a Sniper artillery piece in place of a right arm. Our modified version also mounts a trio of jump jets.”

Despite not being an artillery officer, Hauptmann Steiner grasped the implications immediately. She pursed her lips and whistled, seemingly involuntarily.

“That’d make tracking them down very difficult,” she asserted, then blushed. “Sorry, sir.”

I waved her apology off.

“Having been in exercises against them, it really does. They also have a bodyguard slash pathfinder Lance of mixed mediums.”

Our new liaison was frowning.

“No air defence at all?” she inquired, concerned.

I shrugged.

“We haven’t had a chance to pick up any Riflemen, but our ASF Wing is almost entirely Interceptors: upgraded Centurions and our CAG’s Stingray. As long as they’re just loitering, they don’t actually burn much fuel, so any enemy strike force is going to end up with a bunch of flying blenders on their tails.”

“Oh, that was in your file. Compared to the rest I’d almost forgotten it,” she commented distractedly before shaking the thought off as we arrived at the hangar.

XXXXX​

Julia gave Colonel Weber a smile as they waited for the security door to unlock. “I’ll see you in the cockpit then?” She spoke. “I have to input my passphrase and biometrics into the new ‘Mech, so I will be a bit.”

He nodded to her. “No problem, we have Range Three reserved, and we’re on tactical channel two.”

As the doors finally opened and they entered the Mechbay, Julia’s heart, as always, pounded a little harder, a little fiercer at the sight of the giants of steel and myomers towering over her. Weapons of war, waiting for her to awaken them from slumber once more to defend the Commonwealth.

Automatically her eyes swept along the rows of Battlemechs in their alcoves to the gunmetal gray Thunderbolt waiting for her. Her new Mech had the familiar layout of the cockpit buried on the left shoulder shadowed by the massive cylindrical long-range missile launcher dominating the right shoulder. To her experienced eye, the differences were obvious as she jogged to the gantry lift for it.

In place of the assembly for the Sunglow 8cm laser, the right arm had a longer barrel with the muzzle brake of an autocannon and an armored ammunition feed. Julia would have estimated about 88-105mm and quick-firing for the cannon, roughly comparable to the main gun of a Marik Orion. The manual she’d read called it a ‘95mm Vindicator Mark II,’ and insisted that the smooth bore allowed the fin-stabilized discarding-sabot munitions to maintain accuracy out to the same range as a PPC bolt. Likewise in place of the traditional twin 20mm chainguns for anti-infantry work, the left forearm had a 5cm laser assembly set above the twin muzzles of flamers to handle infantry and light vehicles.

Julia gave the waiting Tech a salute and smile. “Hauptmann Julia Steiner reporting to take our friend here out to stretch his legs on the range.” She handed over her verigraphed orders to the Tech and waited for him to unlock the gate to the lift cage. “I’ll be permanently assigned to this one, so I need to input my biometrics and security passphrase.” A data disk followed. “My personal data from my original Mech, can you upload that for me while I get set up in the cockpit?”

“Of course, Hauptmann! There’s a cooling vest and neurohelmet in the cockpit and a basic load of practice rounds for the Ack and LRM-15.” The Tech replied as the gantry carried her up to shoulder level. “You have piloted a Thud before, ma’am?”

“Basic familiarization only. My last Mech was a Zeus so at least the weapons mix was similar.” Julia replied as she touched the ‘Mech Charm to show what had happened to it. The cage finally reached shoulder level on her Mech and she took a deep breath. “So I’ll be down here as much as I can to get accustomed. Sweat more, bleed less, after all, ja?

Ja.. Bring her back in one piece to us, Ma’am.” The Tech unlocked the cage door and Julia stepped out onto the shoulder of her Mech. The armored entrance hatch in the back of the head assembly was next and she used the welded on grip bar to slide into it feet first.

“I’ll do my best, Master Tech.” Julia said, pausing half inside long enough to give him a handshake before working herself the rest of the way into the cockpit.

The hatch thunked behind her and locked as she surveyed the cockpit with a happy grin. While not as roomy as that of her Zeus, she was able to easily move around, helped by the fact that she was not as tall as some other members of her family. She opened the locker for the cooling vest as she rapidly unzipped and removed her field uniform, moving with the ease of hundreds of hours of practice in this role. Now in her custom-tailored sports bra and shorts (one of her few indulgences with her uniform since LCAF-issue tended to chafe her at times), she grabbed the neurohelmet and cooling vest waiting for her, replacing them in the locker with her uniform.

The first thing she noticed once she got it out of the plastic wrapping was how sleek and light the neurohelmet was.

“Hmm, must be a Lostech model from the cache.” She muttered with a thoughtful heft of the equipment. “Better get used to this.”

She pulled on the cooling vest and attached the medical sensors along with the subvocal throat microphone to pick up her speech with the trained habit of a decade piloting Battlemechs, then sat down in the command chair. After a moment of fumbling with the plumbing, she connected her cooling vest to the internal cooling mechanism.

“Coolant check…” She flipped a switch on the utility panel and was rewarded by the whine of the pumps and the feel of ice-cold snakes slithering across her bare skin. “Positive.”

She picked up the Neurohelmet in both hands and then put it on, adjusting it slightly to get the cold metal leads on her temples properly and then strapped it. “Neurohelmet, check.”

Finally happy with its positioning, she plugged in the cable and flipped two switches, putting the systems into configuration mode. The MFD screens flickered to life and faster than she expected began to display the diagnostic message.

NEUROHELMET PATTERN CHECK

CONFIRMING….

CONFIRMING….

NEUROHELMET USER PATTERN SYNCHRONIZATION

SYNCHRONIZING….

SYNCHRONIZING….

PATTERN UPLOAD COMPLETE.

PATTERN DESIGNATION REQUIRED.

Julia typed in on the provided keyboard. ‘Pattern Identification Hauptmann Julia Daphne Steiner’

PATTERN UPLOAD COMPLETE, JULIA DAPHNE STEINER.

PROCEED WITH VOICEPRINT PATTERN SAMPLE.

Julia spoke loudly and clearly, “Julia Daphne Steiner.”

VOICEPRINT SAMPLE STORED FOR JULIA DAPHNE STEINER

UPLOAD SECURITY PASSPHRASE YES/NO?

“Yes.”

SPEAK SECURITY PASSPHRASE, JULIA DAPHNE STEINER

Julia took a deep breath and then closed her eyes, remembering learning of the Elder Eddas from her father the historian. She quoted the passage from the sayings of the long-ago Vikings that had touched her heart the most.

“There's always a better choice than cowardice, if you have business to take care of. One day long ago my life was already shaped, and my fate was fixed.”

SECURITY PASSPHRASE ACCEPTED, JULIA DAPHNE STEINER.

GUNGNIR AWAKENS.

As she opened her eyes, the speakers sounded with the uploaded recording of her father’s voice chanting another stanza from the Eddas describing the final battle between Thor and the Midgard Serpent at Ragnarök.

“Wolf-time, wind-time, axe-time, sword-time, shields-high-time, as the world shatters and no one is spared by anyone.”

With those words ringing in her ears, Julia flipped the main power switch and the fusion reactor of her Battlemech awoke to full life once more.

XXXXX​

At the direction of the Tech, she stepped her Thunderbolt out of the cubicle and pivoted to march toward the massive blast doors. Ahead of her, a second Mech, a Banshee nearly half-again her weight was waiting for her. The Mech’s single hand waved to her and Julia waved back with her left arm as she continued her steady walk outside.

Static sounded and then Weber’s voice filled her ears. “Any problems?”

“None, my commendations to the Techs.” Julia said as she fell in alongside the towering Assault Mech. “The big problem will be getting used to my LRMs being on my right thumb button as opposed to my left forefinger. Well, that and the offset cockpit; I have to remember that there’s more of me to the right than the left. At least the autocannon trigger is in the same place with my joysticks!”

She grinned and got a bit of a teasing tone in her voice. “I propose a wager. The one of us with a lower score on our time on the range buys the winner their choice of refreshments for the AAR review of our runs.”

Maybe she could take advantage of the same AAR to ask why his Banshee was named Shiroyama.

XXXXX​

Later that evening, after nearly ten hours between runs through the range and AARs, Julia was nearly asleep when her eyes shot open wide.

“It didn’t ask me for a unit designation,” she said aloud, a cold chill running down her spine.

She hadn’t noticed in the moment. Normally one of the configuration steps was inputting a unit designation, but it hadn’t asked for the input.

But, somehow, Gungnir had known his name.

Tired as she was, it took a long time for her to fall asleep that night.

XXXXX​

Olivetti Weapons Testing Range, Bordering Michael Olivetti Nature Reserve, Sudeten,
Tamar Domains, Tamar Pact, Lyran Commonwealth
December 15th, 3015


The morning had begun with a meeting to cover the last few items to ensure smooth coordination with the 8th Donegal and the Jägers. The meeting had been scheduled to end around 11:00am, so of course it had run through noon. At least they’d gotten lunch delivered.

As my designated liaison officer, Hauptmann Steiner had to sit through the whole thing with me, and she’d been almost fidgety the whole time. My initial diagnosis was an acute desire to be in her new best friend’s cockpit. However …

“Colonel Weber, has anyone reported anything … strange about the new Thunderbolts?” she asked as soon as we were out of the briefing room.

Train of thought abruptly derailed, it took me a moment to gather my thoughts.

“How so?” I managed to request additional information.

“I’ve never had to switch ‘Mechs before, but to the best of my knowledge personal data from my last mech wouldn’t have included his name?”

The way it was worded might have been a statement, but the tone of voice clearly made it a question. For a moment, I had no idea why she’d be asking me that, but then it clicked. Seemed like Julia had had her first brush with Neurohelmet Weirdness.

“Let me guess, you went to input something in the configuration settings, in this case unit designation, only to discover that it was already there.” I gave her a moment to realize that I wasn’t dismissing her before pouncing.

“Do you follow Ásatrú?” I asked in an apparent non sequitur.

“Not seriously, no. I rather like the Nordic design aesthetic and … well.... My dad's a historian specializing in the Iron Age on Terra. He might prefer the Roman period, but I was always more interested in the Viking age. I started reading the Eddas because it got me out of listening to him recount Roman civil conflicts, and they are more exciting stories. After a while I decided I liked them for their own sake and their warrior ethos appeals to me quite a bit.”

That was disappointing; we’d had some fun with the couple Ásatrúar that had joined up with the Warriors. When they were already half-convinced that Battlemechs were avatars of the Old Gods, fully convincing them their ‘Mech was, if not alive, then some reasonable facsimile was remarkably easy.

“Darn. In that case, yes, we have noticed, and no, you’re not crazy,” I told her. “I take it you haven’t gotten around to reading the neurohelmet manual yet?”

“Um….” the guilty look answered the question.

“Not going to jump you over it. Everybody rolls their eyes and chucks it the first time. Used one Neurohelmet, used them all, right?” I shook my head.

“Wrong. I’ll give you a summary of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Just to double-check, but it was still in the plastic when you got it, right?”

“Uh, yes, sir,” she answered, looking put out by my changes in topic.

“Good,” I said, then explained, “because using someone else’s Advanced SLDF Neurohelmet has side effects that may include hallucinations, nausea, bleeding from the ears, eyes, or nose, partial to complete neural pattern contamination, insanity, and death,” I rattled off.

While she was trying to process that, I continued.

“For the layman, that means you can end up seeing the previous wearer’s memories or thinking their thoughts. That is the Ugly. The Bad is that resetting them for a new wearer requires specialized tools that are, currently, only available on Catachan. By this point, you likely have a question. Go ahead and ask it,” I invited.

“If they’re that dangerous, why use them?” She asked. All but one person we had introduced them to had asked some variation of that question, so I was ready to answer it.

“That is where we get into the Good. I’m sure you noticed yesterday that controlling your ‘Mech was a lot easier than you expected. You probably rationalized it as adapting more quickly to the new layout than you anticipated. Maybe because you’re more experienced now than the last time you tried to pick up a new ‘Mech, maybe because you’ve used a Thud before, and it’s like riding a bicycle.

“That was the Advanced Neurohelmet at work.” I told her. “Conventional Neurohelmets borrow your sense of balance to assist the Gyro in keeping your BattleMech stable. Advanced SLDF Neurohelmets have much better bandwidth, so they go a step further and subtly feed your brain proprioception information from your BattleMech. If the ground isn’t level, you feel it as though it was your feet on the ground rather than you ‘Mech’s. You can tell where your ‘Mech’s arms are in relation to the legs and the torso. You can feel it if the myomers start to contract irregularly like you’d feel a muscle spasm. All that combines to make piloting and gunnery much easier than they’d be otherwise.

“And that’s the most basic of the bonus features. Because everybody’s brain is different, the way the additional features manifest is differ for everyone. My 2IC, Comet, noticed that all she had to do was think about switching vision modes, and before her fingers could get to the controls, the view would already have changed. Same for switching radio channels. One of my pilots who is a qualified Tech discovered that whenever he had a maintenance issue, the report would already be filled out and ready to submit by the time he made it back to the hangar.” I shrugged.

“Sounds like you were thinking so hard about what you intended to name your new ride that the Neurohelmet picked it right out of your brain.”

“That’s … half amazing, and half terrifying,” Julia said.

I couldn’t really argue.

Our discussion had carried us through the walk to the hangar. On stepping inside, it was easy to see that some changes had taken place. For one, the overnight shift had managed to finish painting Julia’s Thunderbolt in the Urban Camouflage the unit was wearing for the op on Sevren. The only thing marking her ride out from the rest was the blue Steiner fist on the left chest instead of the blue outline of a viking warrior.

Ironic, considering that Julia certainly looked the part of a latter day Norse Shieldmaiden ready to go a-Viking.

The personal heraldry on the right shoulder though …

“Damn, who did the art? I think I might have to commission something,” the centerpiece was a spearhead decorated with what might be wolves or dragons. Fenrir? Or maybe Jormungandr. In either case, the background was a ring of braided wire with a pair of ravens superimposed from about eight to eleven o’clock and one to four o’clock. Each bore a Trinity Knot on their chest. Inside the circle was a series of interlinked runes that I wasn’t sure how to read.

At first they looked like two pairs of Inguz runes, but that struck me as … incorrect. After a moment, I realized they were probably meant to be interlinked Gebō and Ōthila runes, signifying that the Thunderbolt was a Family Mech. Maybe also meant to evoke Kaunaz or Jera? I wasn’t the best at artistic interpretation, and what I knew about Ásatrú outside the common Mechwarrior symbolism could be inscribed on the head of a pin.

Then I noticed the name stenciled on the Heavy ‘Mech and grinned.

“Appropriate too,” I added. If the spearhead was meant to be Odin’s spear, Gungnir, that probably meant the animals depicted were wolves. Probably Fenrir, in fact.

“Thank you! I designed it myself. The hardest part was finding an artist that could make it into a design that the automatic paint sprayers used on Battlemechs can handle,” my Liaison said. “As for helping you come up with something for yourself, that’s got a price attached,” she paused for a moment, then inquired. “Why in the world did you name your Banshee Shiroyama? I looked it up, but there aren’t any worlds by that name in the Combine, and it doesn’t seem to have any historical relevance.”

I grinned.

“Let me tell you a bit about ancient Japanese history …”

XXXXX​

A/N: Thanks again to Seraviel, Lordsfire, and Yellowhammer for beta reading, idea bouncing, and canon compliance checking. This chapter is vastly improved by their efforts.
 
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