Legends and Myths Twenty Five

Mech Regiment First Bn Barrack-Apartments
Phoenix Lancer Main Compound
Auburn Mountains, Cromwell
Evening of 20 April 3080

 It had been a long four days for LtC McCormack.  Between the meeting of Ghost Bear and Wolverine, the preparations for said meeting, then the events of the Trial and after… she was beat.  And very glad to be back at the main compound.  Her promotion at the beginning of everything…  had been part of the insanity she just experienced/witnessed… and being home finally gave her an opportunity to process fully mentally everything that happened.

  So, when she approached her apartment in the building that served as barracks for First Battalion of the Mech Regiment, she was somewhat distracted and missed the tell-tale she had left as a security warning.  AS she thumbed open her lock, the first clue something was amiss was her seeing the tell-tale on the floor.  Fuck… she thought as she opened the door and the lights clicked on in low setting at the motion of the door.

  Seated at a table was the rest of her Command Lance team and all of them wore smiles.  “Heyla!” Kris called out with a wave as she held up a tumbler of whiskey.  Maggie was seated next to her and had a bottle of beer in hand.  Shan Yoder also had a tumbler of whiskey to hand, an unlit cigarette in her mouth and a silly grin.  On the table was an assortment of snack food and chips… and a small sign with the silver oak leaf of Lieutenant Colonel on it.

  Shan spoke next.  “Congrats, Les!” the tough guy of the lance called out. “Its about time you got the rank to go with the headaches…

 A chuckle at the comment.  “Yeah… and it won’t get any better,” She added.  “It won’t get any better…”  The very tired McCormack walked to the table and took the offered whiskey from Kris.  “I need this,” she said and downed it in a gulp.

  Kris raised both eyebrows.  “Hey! Easy on that!” she exclaimed as she grabbed the bottle from the table to refill it.  “Maggie filled me in on some of it and all I can say is wow…”

 Les nodded. “Wow is a solid statement, Kris.” She replied. “Between the Trial and the hospital adventures, I hope whatever Clan comes next, this doesn’t get this crazy.  I mean, even the Dusal Elementals were down and behaving…”

 Shan nearly choked on her whiskey.  “Ow-what?”

 Leslie sat down on a chair; her dress uniform tunic now loosened.  “I know, right?  Not only is Krog down here guarding the injured Ghost Bears, he has most of his clan pulling Security… and they are doing a damn good job too.  Only two quote Disagreements unquote between local forces and clan troops given leave in Crossroads… and they are settling it pretty well.”

  Maggie sipped her beer.  “Sean says you should have an Elemental to keep the peace when other elementals are around….  This the case?”

  McCormack nodded.  “Yes…  The Dusals are enforcing local laws best they can- and invoking Clan Regulation and Trials for anything involving Ghost Bear individuals.  At the time I left, there had been five incidents involving members of Ghost Bear pilots.”  She shook her head.  “I thought allowing the Clans to have Shore Leave in Crossroads was a bit crazy… but John thought it would work and be good for everyone.  It’s a soldier town so they would be used to it…  and well, he does have the Dusal volunteering their services.  It also keeps them away from areas where the Returned may be living.  I can’t disagree with his reasoning… and it isn’t like we are at war with the Clans right now.  Just the occasional argument, as he put it.”

 Laughter… then Shan spoke.  “So, with you getting a promotion, where does this leave you and the Company?  I mean, ya a Staff officer officially now- he going to allow you to take the field if needed?”

  Leslie sipped her refilled glass.  “As near as we determined, it changes nothing really.  I was doing the job on the side before but with our nearing the size we were before Jihad, promotions were going to be handed out.  Second and Third battalions are also due to get someone risen in rank…  who, he’s still working it out.  Glad it isn’t me, though; I like all of them.”

 “Si, glad it isn’t me either…” Maggie replied as Leslie’s comm chimed.  “Oh no…  you are OFF duty.”

 Shan rose and attempted to grab the communicator as Leslie attempted to look at it.  “I’m with her…  you are Off DUTY, woman…”

 Leslie batted away Shannon’s hands.  “Am I really?” She said as she pointed at the sign with her rank on it.  Glancing at the caller, she frowned as she answered.  “Lieutenant Colonel McCormack.” It still sounded weird to her.  And while she was off duty, she knew she never really would be again.

 [Colonel, Base Security…  you have a visitor here from the CGB Den Mother by way of Crossroads,] came across the speaker she activated for all to hear.

 Glancing at her command group, she lifted an eyebrow.  “I see.  Who gave clearance and who is the visitor?”

 [Colonel, Colonel Tinney granted Loremaster Tseng clearance to come here after she requested permission…] The security officer on the other end replied.  [Captain Westerling is with her and provided both documentation AND security.]

  Leslie closed her eyes.  Westerling was one of the reserve Spectres and in charge of a battle armor platoon.  An old friend of hers and Colonel Tinney’s, if she was along as escort, the reasons for the visit were likely pretty good.  And if it was a formal visit, she’d have gotten a call from one of them warning her.  John was good for warnings ninety percent of the time…  “Ok, tell Westerling to escort her over here to quarters.  No need to have her see the insides of a mech hangar…”

 A chuckle over the line. [Yes ma’am.  They will be there shortly.]

  “Thank you,” Leslie replied.  “If I need assistance, you’ll know.”

  [Understood.]  He hung up.

  Leslie looked at her crew.  “Well, this will be interesting…”

 “Do you need us to leave?” Maggie asked.

 Leslie shook her head.  “No… actually, I’d like all of you here.  Tseng is a Mechwarrior like us… and as Loremaster, if I’m right, something of a mystic.  Or just very…. Open.”  She fixed Kris with a gaze.  “Which is where you come in…  I want your assessment on that.”

 The newest member of the Command Lance nodded.  A Medium and a classic witch, Kris was able to sense spirits and attachments…. And in some very limited cases, understand such entities enough to communicate with them.  It was an ability that ten centuries ago, would have seen her put in a psych ward.  That she would have been joined by the rest of the lance for various other reasons, well… the Lancer Coven (as they called themselves) stuck together.

  “If she is, I might sense it…” Kris replied.  “You know not all show it.”

 “I know.  But I have a feeling…”  Les replied.

 “Ooooooo-kay…” Was Kris’ reply.  She knew when Leslie had a gut feeling, no amount of argument was going to dissuade it.  Especially not with her track record on such things.

Maggie got up and went to the glassware cabinet.  “If this is a social call, may as well get her a glass…” She said with a shrug.  “I made plenty of taco salad and burritos…  Hope she’s hungry.”

**

 About two minutes later, the door chime sounded.  Leslie walked to the door and opened it, revealing the expected two guests.  Westerling was clad in fatigue pants with a plain navy-blue sweatshirt.  Tseng was in Ghost Bear working uniform, light grey-blue camouflage fatigues and a dark grey jacket.  “Come in,” Leslie said, noting that Tseng had a rather large field document satchel.

  Westerling smiled.  “Hello, Colonel…” The Spectre began.  “I was in the area when Ms Tseng was on her way here and was asked to make sure she got to you.”

  A lifted eyebrow.  “Were you now?”

 “Honestly, I was,” Andi replied.  “I was busy checking on a few things when Security was notified she was coming.”

  A smirk.  “Right….”  Leslie commented, knowing better.  To Tseng, she said, ”Welcome to my humble apartment, Loremaster.  May I ask what the occasion is?”  She motioned towards the inner spaces of the apartment where the rest of her lance sat on various pieces of furniture.

  Tseng stepped further into the apartment. “Thank you… and the occasion is two-fold.”  The Ghost Bear replied as she reached into the satchel and produced a scotch-bottle styled container with a liquid in it. “With your promotion, I should think you were going to celebrate it at some point; Clan Traditions after the initial Trial of Positioning… are not terribly different for normal advancement in Rank.  Or Position.”  Tseng handed said bottle to Leslie, who gladly took it.

  “This is one of the last bottles of scotch from the Home World, from when I ascended to Loremaster.  I had been saving it for some time and I got the sense to bring it with me when we departed Alshain to here.  And now that everything is settled, I thought to see if you wish to share of it… as celebration of your rank and perhaps, the end of something in hindsight that never should have happened.”

Leslie was taken aback.  “Oh my…”  She looked at the bottle and the very ornate lettering.  Some of which she recognized as Norse based.  “This was given to you then?”

“It was…  it is from a batch made about fifty years prior.  I had two bottles of it when I became Loremaster for all of Ghost Bear… and one was consumed then.”  A smile.  “I needed a special occasion for opening this last bottle… and with everything, I figured I would share it with the one who helped facilitate these past few days and help celebrate her promotion.”

  Leslie looked at Tseng.  “Why thank you for sharing…  Might I ask the second reason for coming by?”

  Tseng reached into the satchel again and this time she removed a modern data pad.  “On here… is the complete Remembrance of Clan Ghost Bear up to about two months ago.  I have been working on a few additions to it and wished your input as a Loremaster of sorts.”

  The stunned look on Leslie’s face matched the reaction of Shan’s and the rest of the group.  Not all were versed in Clan practices and lore… but asking a Non-Clansman for their input on what was a Clan document… had to be unprecedented.

 Leslie recovered quickly as she glanced at Westerling before looking at Tseng.  “Well… Um…  I’m honored, Loremaster.  But before we go any further, I am going to insist that we use no titles in here.  This is not my office…” She said with a smile.  “Here, I am Leslie… and the motley bunch behind me is members of my Command Lance.”

 Tseng smile back.  “Then Leslie it is.  My given name is Laurie.” She replied in kind. The rest of the lance introduced themselves and Tseng nodded at each in turn… “My pleasure to meet all of you.”

  “Now that introductions are out of the way, please join us.  We were about to have a very late dinner and celebrate said promotion.  Your contribution will be well received…” Leslie said.  “I am certain of that.  Andi, will you be staying?”

 Andi shook off her bulky sweatshirt, revealing the concealed pair of pistols in her waistband. “Absolutely…  though only one drink for me.  You have diet cola or tea of some kind?” She asked.

**

The next five hours passed fairly quickly, the women of the Lancers bonding with the Clan Loremaster and the sharing of stories- battles in, places seen or visited, and things done before becoming a soldier or mechwarrior… and since.  And their stories were fairly diverse…

  Maggie, being Major Farquharson’s wife, had taken to the warrior profession during the Occupation. She had been a cook prior to learning how to pilot a mech (a captured Banshee); the machine she had was the same machine she had learned on, though modified with captured gear.

  Shan Yoder was a medical technician and former juvenile delinquent from New Home who had been captured by a Blakist-affiliated merc group while part of a resistance cell there.  She had managed to break out of a prisoner camp and steal the Zeus of the camp commander- hacking the neuro helmet locks to allow her to use the thing. A few years of playing on simulators prior to the Jihad had helped her figure out how to run the assault machine… and her use of it in the breakout from the enemy camp was key in the prisoner escape.  She too still had the machine, since upgraded with various clan-tech weapons.

 Andi was a former Federated Suns special operations soldier who had known Tinney for years.  When she mustered out of the Federated Suns military, he convinced her to come be a Lancer; he needed someone to run the Special Warfare section and having someone he knew super well… was preferred. Nothing exotic about her or so she said; just really good at snooping in hostile environments, as she put it.

 Kris was the only one who didn’t have a crazy start…. But her prior profession was no less unusual. As she was the wife of Colonel Tinney, he had taken time to help her learn how to use a battlemech in case the Occupation were ever to happen again.  Others in the Lancers had helped train her up to standard of an academy grad and Leslie had her assigned to her company as additional help for her.  Before then, she was a veterinary physician and herbalist.  She still did it too…

  Her knowledge of Occult intrigued Tseng, as did her former profession as an animal doctor… and there was discussion about the actual Ghost Bear species… and questions about how to ensure the health of the species within the Dominion.

  Tseng was only slightly shocked at Leslie’s admission of being head of Lancer Intelligence; the Clanswoman stating the role fit one of her intellect and attention to detail.

  “… so, you see, I did figure out you had been gathering information on us but I never would have thought you were an intelligence officer.  It does make sense in hindsight though.  You must know that it was your action in introducing me to Khan Ward which gave me impetus to go looking for other information among old records.

  Between the First Loremaster’s notes I located in a nearly forgotten trove of data on an old server and what I had read courtesy of Khan Ward, I was able to piece together what really happened- or as close to it as I could.  And it was your action that helped me convince my Khan to travel this path.” She looked at Leslie.  “I assure you it was not an easy sell.  Khan Kabrinski is… a very determined individual.”

Shan laughed around her cigarette.  “I bet!  Tinney is a stubborn man about some things and we are just a bunch of mercs… So a Khan has got to be at least three times as much,” she exclaimed. “Though I imagine she’d have elementals to deal with elementals.”

  Tseng laughed.  “Yes, she would.  I heard about the altercation between the one known as Krog and your husband, Kristina.  Whatever possessed him to even offer a trial and to fight unaugmented…”

  Kris giggled.  “He told me he had a feeling Krog had a glass jaw…  so, he took the gamble.  I told him he was insane…” She said.  “He was like ‘it’s gotta be me ‘cause that two-legged box of rocks won’t respect me otherwise’…  It’s a good thing I was around when he did it though; I helped the surgeon fix his hand and it’s why my stupid lug of a husband can still pilot his battle-mech.”

  Laughter from all the women there as Leslie looked out a window and noticed the coming dawn.  “I hate to be the bearer of bad news…” She began then pointed at a window. “But I believe that ball of light known as the Day Star is about to show herself; While I have off today and can go galivanting around if I want, I should get some sleep.  Everyone should, really…”

  Maggie chuckled around a yawn.  “Oh, why did you have to say Sleep?” she groused. “Now I am tired…”  She got up and went looking for her coat.  “Sean is probably asleep on the couch…”

 Andi stood and stretched.  “I will arrange for transportation for Loremaster Tseng back to Crossroads; I believe I know who the duty driver is and who is the shuttle pilot working the Ashton flights; should be no problem.” She said. “Let me go give him a call…”  With that, she got up and stepped into the den Leslie used as an office to make the call.

  Shan and Kris both got up and started clearing dishes from the get together.  “We got this part,” Shan said.  “Between us, I think we can bust it out quick.”

Maggie called out. “I need to get going- you sure?”

“Positive…  You cooked.” Kris said as she moved dishes into the kitchen.

“’K…” she said then waved to Leslie.  “I’ll be back later for dishes.  Leftovers are yours!”  She then departed.

  Leslie for her part, eyed the nearly empty bottle of the Ghost Bear scotch.  Capping it, she took it over to her liquor cabinet.  “This can sit here and wait for a reason to finish it,” she said to everyone and no one.  Turning to Laurie, she continued.  “Sorry we didn’t really go over the Remembrance all that much…”

 Tseng held up a hand to forestall the apology.  “It is alright…  I have another data pad with the information on it…  Consider the one here and its contents a gift,” She replied. “One lore master to another. May it help you understand us a bit better… and provide knowledge of who we are as much as what we are.”

  The Lancer blinked.  “Really?”

  A smile. “Absolutely…  And should you find yourself within the Dominion, you will be welcome within my home.”

Andi came out of the den as Tseng finished.  “Ok…  a driver will be here within five minutes and a flight back to Crossroads will be ready by the time we get to the field.” She said as she put on her sweatshirt. “Time to meet him down in the building foyer.”

 Les looked over to Andi. “Thanks, Andi.”  She then looked to the Clanswoman.  “I thank you for the invitation…  and if I should find myself that direction, I will attempt to visit.  One hopes it will not be for reasons martial.”

 Laurie nodded and looked back at Leslie. “One hopes, Leslie.  One hopes and may you enjoy the reading.  Especially the last passage.”  Picking up her field jacket, the Loremaster motioned for Andi to lead the way.  “Congratulations again and may you have the success you deserve.”

“Thanks…” She said as she held the door for the two leaving.  Closing it after them, she looked over at Kris, who was drying her hands as Shan was finishing up the last of the bigger dishes.  “Well?” She queried.

  Kris’ brow scrunched a bit.  “I think so…  I sensed a presence here that seemed to follow her.  A very old presence.  I don’t think its family, per-se… cause the Clans are different.  But I do think it’s related in some fashion to her,” she said thoughtfully.  “They do blood lines, right?”

 Leslie nodded.  “They are very big on it.  Not all of a blood name are related, mind you, at least not often, if I remember correctly… but sometimes there is a distant connection. Why?”

  Kris set the towel down.  “I got the sense the attachment was benign… and while not family, connected, as I said.  And if it’s a blood thing, then through that.”  She shrugged.  “I’m not going to get an answer tonight- well, today.  But I can look into it; the more I think on it, the more I really think it might be one of the Blood Line involved in her Blood Name.  Tseng is a blood name, right?”

 Shan answered that one.  “Yup.  Almost never see a Clanner with a last name unless it’s a Blood Name or his Clan.  That Star Colonel… was an exception.  But he is apparently Rasalhague native son who beat the odds and was able to keep his name.”  At Leslie’s stare, she laughed.  “I had to find out- he’s kinda cute.”

 Kris threw the towel at her and the three of them shared a laugh as Leslie joined in with the final bits of cleanup.

About twenty minutes later, after Kris and Shannon left, Les thumbed on the data pad left for her.  Looking at the note left, she entered the password given to her for it after making sure her apartment wi-fi was disabled (never be too careful).  When it powered up, she quickly searched the device for the expected files pertaining to the Remembrance.

  She was pleasantly surprised to find the files dated by Era and Author.  Scrolling to the most recent entry, she opened the file and immediately went to the end of it, the last passage listed and read…

Change can come to the Bear…
As it often does, it came from an unexpected source.
This time, a free-sword, both soldier and spy…
Challenged long held beliefs,
Held by the Bear on subjects that could not be named.

The Bear, long sightless because of a father’s influence,
Remained blind by choice and shame,
For there was no belief their dishonor
Surrounding actions verse those Not Named
Could ever be removed.

But the one who was Spy and Soldier, a Scholar and Speaker,
 Forced the Bear to look again with her assertions…
And in that challenge, vision was regained
For The Bear learned it had aided a Great Lie…
And agonized how to Atone for what it had wrought.

Sometimes fate provides answers…
Often in unexpected ways.
The belief in those Wronged being all destroyed,
Which gave the Bear no means to atone…
Changed when the Un-named returned to the Realm of the Known…

With their return, the Bear had opportunity
To give redress for its part
in the Annihilation of those not named.
The weight of the Shame and Dishonor of those Actions…
 A weight of over two centuries in carrying…

Far outweighed any desire to leave it be.
 So the Bear, vision returned, acted forthrightly…
and Journeyed to the Lairs of the Phoenix,
Among the worlds of Sword and Sun,
Where those Returned sheltered from the potential storms.

The Bear offered Apology, upon encountering the Returned
 for those actions taken in Blind Trust of a fiction
and blatant Mis-information…
They Came Seeking to regain the Honor lost
 in those days of two hundred fifty years past.

“There is nothing that will bring back the lost…” It was said
“Nothing ever can. But perhaps no more need die
Over Falsehoods Spun out of Envy and Hate,
By one’s resentment of an others success,
Which caused the lie to be.”

Time would be the final judge of what was gained
In the Grand Grievance fought…
But no matter what,
The Words and Actions of The Bear
Will no longer be guided by the falsehoods of the Father

Falsehoods exposed by a Worker in Shadows
Enabling the light of Truth to potentially ease the pain
And help erase the stain of Twenty Three October,
Twenty-Eight Twenty Three
A fateful day in the rain.

 Leslie stared at the words on the screen and blinked several times.  She could hardly believe what she read here… and tried to process exactly what she read.  If so, she was now part of a Remembrance…

And this was some heavy, heady stuff.

 Setting the pad down, she looked at her watch then staggered off to bed.  There would be time for re-reading later.  As she settled in on her bed, she could not help but wonder if her actions had started something more than an end…

Legends and Myths Twenty Four

 Crossroads Military Hospital
City of Crossroads, Continent of Ashton
18 April 3080

 The city of Crossroads was something of an odd duck, as far as cities go.  Overall, its normal population was only a few thousand souls, as there was not terribly much here.  A few small Tech companies, at least one mining consortium and two desert racing companies (the Ashton Two Thousand was a very big deal every year).  Also out here was proving grounds for the Battlemech Upgrade program for Lancer Mechworx.

  The other reason Crossroads still existed was the four times a year surge of Militia and Lancer units for training.  Much like the continent of Outback on Outreach served for Wolf’s Dragoons, Ashton served much the same purpose for the Lancers- maneuver areas for combat training and testing.  A proper hospital had been necessary and was one of the early modern buildings to be built prior to Jihad…. And rebuilt once the Word had been kicked out.

  Crossroads Memorial was a well-equipped facility and due to the military training areas, had plenty of practice with trauma cases.  So when notified the MEDEVAC flights from the area of the Trial were coming, the hospital staff was very ready for them.  Security was also on hand- some of the injured were Ghost Bears and their commander was one of the first ones here.  Admin recognized the dangers involved with hosting their wounded… and made sure protections were in place.  The Word of Blake, despite the best efforts of Lancer Intel, still did have agents on the planet and if they thought to give a go at the wounded clanners, CM staff was going to make it really hard to do so.

  The first craft to land was the flight carrying Star Colonel Lebowski.  He had been stabilized at DS1 then immediately reloaded onto a Ferret for the fifty minute flight here, landing in the late afternoon of the 17th at the facility.  The VTOL was met on the pad by both a Trauma Team and security, with the former whisking their charge away to surgery.   The security troops maintained a watch around the area and were on hand when the other Ferrets arrived with heavily injured Elementals and two other mech pilots.

 These too were met by medical teams and moved into the hospital.  Some of the Elementals were walking-wounded… and had requested being taken to where their commander was going…  This was granted by Lancer Command- it was recognized that having their commander solely in the hands of Mercenary Forces, even well-meaning ones, was a point of contention…. So, sending the wounded power armor troops gave them an additional reason to be healed and a focus- an additional layer of protection for their Star Colonel as he was being helped.  It freaked out some of the facility staff, of course…

 However, the senior security person was a veteran of Bulldog… and had made friends with some of the Bondsmen Elementals the Lancers had.  A few phone calls and the group of retired Elementals that lived up in the Dusal Mountains came to town to help with keeping both the peace and calming the wounded Clan Troopers.

  Some twelve hours after all the activity on the hospital pad, a series of vehicles pulled up and Lt Colonel McCormack exited the second vehicle along with Loremaster Tseng.  Both women then moved for the main entrance to the facility.  As they moved to enter the building, Leslie spotted a familiar face with the Security Contingent off to the side and smiled.  Argyle had made it here and likely already knew who was trustworthy.

  The two were met by a Hospital Administration Staffer.  “Colonel McCormack, I’m June McKay, Trauma Surgery Chief.  Figured I should brief you when you got here…”

  Leslie nodded.  “Thank you, Doctor McKay. This is Ghost Bear Loremaster Laurie Tseng; she’s here to check on the Star Colonel and report on things…” She said with a smile.

  Tseng held out a hand. “A pleasure, despite the circumstances… and many thanks for caring for my clan mates.”

  McKay chuckled as she shook the offered hand.  “Oh no problem.  I have a very good staff and the injuries sustained by your folks are nothing they haven’t dealt with before, unfortunately.  Having Elementals here has been a challenge though…  None of our equipment really fits them.”

 Tseng looked surprised.  “Doctor, had we known, something off our ships could have been flown in,” she glanced at McCormack. “You did not say there was an issue.”

  Leslie looked at Tseng. “I was not aware…”  Looking back at McKay, she continued. “We have equipment out in Landing, if it’s still needed.”

  McKay waved off the comment.  “Colonel, its ok…  we were able to engineer something; we do have about two dozen or so who live up in the mountains that occasionally admit they get hurt and come in… so we are able to treat them.  Just very rare.

 Tseng blinked.  “You have Elementals living here?”

 Leslie confirmed that. “The Phoenix Lancers have had Elementals as bondsmen before.  A handful of them did elect to retire here after mustering out…  And yes, they all fought the Occupation, to my knowledge…”

 Tseng smiled.  “As one would expect.  Fighting is a part of their blood, no matter the clan.  The Phoenix Lancers essentially became their clan and well, one never truly retires.  As you do not have a Solahma, I suppose they would have relished engaging the Blakists.”

  McKay nodded. “Yes they did…  At any rate, members of Dusal Star came in and helped with your people… and have assumed guard duty on Star Colonel Lebowski.  And before you ask, yes, he did come through surgery ok.  Lucky man he is…  concussion, brain bleed, a few fractured ribs, several lacerations and a skull fracture on top of everything…  But he is through surgery and resting comfortably in a room.”

 “May I see him?”

 “Of course.  He may not be awake though…” McKay cautioned.

 Tseng smirked. “Doctor, I understand… but he might surprise you.  I would also like to see his Elemental guards, this Dusal Star.”

  “Right this way, Loremaster.”  McKay turned and led the way to the elevators.

**

  Krog Wolf Dusal stood outside the hospital room where the Ghost Bear Star Colonel lay recovering from his surgery.  He and his star-mate, Mongo Raven Dusal, had drawn the initial duty of watching over the very important guest within.  And it was a weird position to be in too, for him and the rest of the Star.

  The Dusal star was a collection of Elementals who had retired from the Lancers after their Service had ended or those who could no longer use the Elemental Armor due to injuries and mustered out.  Hailing from nine different clans, as a group they had chosen to live off the land on this continent and identify themselves as a mini-clan.  As such, their names were a mix of their given name and former Clan followed by the name of the Star.  It worked for them… and with the number of clans among the forty members of the near binary, it made identifying them that much easier.

Life in the mountains was among the wildest places on the world and there was plenty to challenge ones such as them up in the mountains. Terran Grizzly and Centaurus Lions were challenges to surpass for them and the Star did a good bit of business with hunting the animals… as well as helping maintain the areas of the mountains that the occasional tourist visited…. Or militia unit conducting training.

  When he had gotten the call about helping out with the Ghost Bear casualties, he agreed to come in.  After a quick poll of those within the Hunting Lodge at the time, he had a full two points of his Kin to come help at the hospital.  And it was the ten of them who descended on Crossroads, all in uniform of the Lancers (at least all who still fit- Jorgal Bear Dusal outgrew his) and ready for duty.  More would be down to spell them in the morning.

  It was weird guarding the Ghost Bear Star Colonel and for a few reasons.  Chief among them was the Ghost Bears even being here to fight the Wolverine survivors.  When THOSE people had been accepted by the Lancers, Krog had been one of the most vocal of the former bondsmen against them and had challenged the commander of the Lancers over it.  When the man agreed to un-augmented, Krog had thought he’d roll the commander and get his way.

  The knockout punch the Lancer Mechwarrior had delivered made him realize he underestimated the officer… and made him really listen to their story.  Not that he truly accepted the Wolverines, he just didn’t hate them as he did.  As far as he was then concerned, as long as they did their part with defense of the world he’d have no issue.

  When the Ghost Bears came calling, it was news for everyone… and for those among the Dusal, it re-awoke the question of the Wolverines and their presence here on Centaurus.  However, when the true reasons for the Ghost Bears being here was learned, it again caused a reevaluation of old hatreds… and how ultimately stupid some of it was.

Which is also why he deliberately chose to take the first guard shift.  While he was no fan of the Ghost Bears as a Former Wolf, the revelations about the Trial of Annihilation against the Wolverines, the lies they were based upon… and the Ghost Bear shame over participating in that lie for so long…  won them newfound respect from him.  Anyone who could admit they were wrong after all that… well, he respected the bravery involved.  It also lessened his animosities…

Considering the danger from not only normal threats but from his own possibly being stupid, it made him determined to be part of preventing that.

When the secure wing doors opened, Krog quickly looked at them, a hand on the sawn-off shotgun he carried as a side arm.  Seeing the Lancer officer and Ghost Bear member with the Surgeon made him relax slightly.

  As they got closer, Krog called to the doctor.  “He has been up for about five minutes, Doctor.  Maeve Falcon Dusal mentioned this to me as she went looking for a protein drink for him.”

  McKay nodded.  “Good… he’s awake faster than I expected then.  One moment,” Stepping in the room, she shut the door behind her, leaving the Clan and Lancer officers in the hall.

  Tseng noted the uniforms the two elementals wore, a variation on the Multicam that Lancer Security troops wore.  Seeing the name tag, she inquired.  “Wolf Dusal?  Might I ask the significance of the name?”

  Krog smiled.  “You may…  Dusal is our family name, we as a group chose the mountain range name as our surname.  The clan we hailed from is our middle name.”

 Tseng pulled a datapad and quickly scrawled a note.  “I see.  And of the family Dusal, how many clans are among you?”

  “Nine.  Among us, we have four former Ghost Bears.  None are blood-name, if you are wondering.” Krog replied.  “There is Wolf, Falcon, Ghost Bear, Snow Raven, Diamond Shark, Viper, Hellion, Adder and a single former Jaguar who was bondsman to me at one time.  That one is still kept on a leash.”  A chuckle at that last.  If his bond-mate heard she was described such, there would be a strenuous discussion later.

  Tseng looked thoughtful.  “Fascinating…  And your freedoms are no less than they would be in Clan Space?”

  “I would say greater… as we would all be Solahma, and thrown into battle for no good reason.  Here, we live in relative peace and choose to fight if necessary… or remain aloof, choosing when and where to be involved.  It is a good life for us old men and women…” Krog replied with pride.

  Mongo added from the side.  “Do not get him wrong, Loremaster.  The Dusal can and will fight.  We just want to do so on something resembling our terms.  Being among the Lancers, we have learned quite a bit about force commitment… and fighting smart.”

  Tseng scrawled another note.  “You are?”

 “Mongo Raven Dusal.”

 “Thank you.”

  McCormack was silent as the brief discussion was had.  The Dusal were a prickly bunch at times… and Krog must have been in a very good mood to speak on matters.  That or age has mellowed him.  Noting McKay approaching the door, she coughed once.  “Loremaster…”

Tseng looked over at McCormack then noted the door as it opened.  “Is he able to have visitors?”

 McKay opened the door wider. “Yes, he is…” She said and motioned her in.

  Tseng moved to go in. “Thank you…”

  McCormack held off.  “I’ll be in in a minute,” she said.

  When the Loremaster disappeared into the room, Leslie focused on Krog.  “Spill…” She said quietly as she tapped his chest with a finger.  “Real reason… you could have sent any ten.”

  Krog smiled as he rubbed his jawline.  “Let me say, the Ghost Bear reasons for being here were and are compelling.  If one adds in the physical discussion I had with your colonel six months ago, even an Elemental can learn to widen his perceptions,” he replied to the Lancer Officer. “Dragon Mother… I believe.  As much as it may gall me as former Wolf Clan, I believe the Ghost Bears and their reasons for their actions makes sense.  And even the rest of the Dusal support The Choice now, for more reasons than my command….

  And a good commander sends no one to do something he would not do himself.”

**

  In the room, Lebowski was sitting up, his head with some bandages wrapped around his head where some of the lacerations were.  “Loremaster,” The Star Colonel said in greeting.  “It would seem I lost.”

 Tseng smirked. “You did, Jeffrey, you did… but not for lack of trying,” she said.  “They were prepared and fought well.  Khan Kabrinski will not be happy, of course, but she was not here…Quaff?

 He chuckled. “Aff. Indeed.  She left it to me to resolve all this and up until the Gauss exploded, I thought I was doing alright.  Tell me, how many were lost.” A pause. “On both sides.”

  Tseng answered him, not believing the numbers herself but they were accurate.  “No mechwarriors on either side were killed. The Exterminator pilot of theirs lived but she will not be able to pilot a battlemech for some time.  Of the twenty-five Elementals who participated, sixteen were casualties.  Only five dead, which is something of a minor miracle; the Phoenix Lancer medical teams are quite good at their jobs and managed to prevent deaths that would have happened otherwise, armor medical equipment or not.  As such, six may require retirement or assignment to Solahma… unless The Phoenix Lancers would like new settlers.”

 Lebowski lifted an eyebrow.  “Explain, Quaff.”

 She pointed outside the room.  “Your Guards and the attendant are all Freemen Elementals, all mustered out of their forces and volunteering their services for our wounded.” She spoke.  “Perhaps rather than relegating those who no longer can wear the Armor to misery, if honored, at home… Perhaps a chance at new life. Considering everything else that has happened and is happening…  And perhaps I am enamored with what I am seeing here too.”

 The door opened and Lt Colonel McCormack entered with the very muscular Jade Green Mohawked female Elemental Attendant, clad in Fatigues (and medical flash on a shoulder) holding up a protein drink.  “As requested, the drink.  It is a local concoction that we among the Dusal find tolerable.  And I should hope we do as we are the ones who sell it in town.” She said with a smile.  “There is a good business among the militia that comes through here… helps with muscle healing.”

  Lebowski accepted the beverage with a smile of his own.  “Many thanks…” He said.  “I did not catch your name.”

  She stood at attention.  “Maeve Falcon Dusal, Star Colonel.  I am a trained Trauma Medic and a reservist with the Centaurus Guard.”

  Leslie added to the story from the side.  “Maeve has been with the Lancers since just before the occupation… and learned her craft here.” The Intelligence Chief commented.  “And from what I understand, gets fought over by the Marines when they visit.”

  A snort.  “Ma’am, all they want to do is see if I can be body slammed.”

  Tseng asked. “And have they?”

  “No.  One came close…” Maeve replied.  “And he got slammed when he said he wanted death by snu-snu…”  The smirk on the elemental’s face said she knew exactly what *that* meant.

  Leslie chuckled.  “Thank you, Maeve.”

  The Elemental gave a half salute and departed the room.  “Ring if you need assistance, Colonel.  Otherwise I will be back in a half hour.”

After she left, Lebowski looked at McCormack.  “I see you are here.  What of Khan Hollister?” he asked.

 Leslie glanced at the door then back to the Ghost Bear officers.  “He is the one who pulled you out of your cockpit and got you medical assistance.  He felt his presence here before you are up and moving around would be something of a distraction… He has been here looking in on his own pilot but elected to stay clear of your room unless you want to speak with him.”

  Lebowski took in that information.  “Please pass along my thanks at what he did, Quaff…  and that I think he and his people fought well,” he replied. “I should like to speak with him at some point; perhaps tomorrow…  as there is a matter of some of the items we have with us I was given by my Khan to grant as…. A gift, if nothing else, for them and perhaps yourselves as hosts.”

 A raised eyebrow.  “Oh?”

  A nod.  “Aff.  In the supply Mules are spare parts for our machines, food stuffs and items for trade.  Perhaps a chunk of it can be left behind to facilitate repairing or updating weapons systems.  After all, some of the weapons we use are due to their ancestors.  Especially the Extended Range Particle Cannon.  I noted the varied early age weapons on their machines and perhaps… an effort can be made to help fix that issue.

  I am certain other Clans will come calling… and Khan Hollister being better able to support the defense of this word would be a desirable thing by myself.”  A smile.  “It might just make those other Clans a touch mad, Queneg?”

A laugh.  “I don’t see why not… however, what would your Khan say?”

Tseng answered.  “To the victor go the spoils…”

Legends and Myths Twenty Three- The Trial

(for those who play Battletech, the list of forces is available on request.)

Foothills of the Dusal Mountains
Continent of Ashton
0615 hrs, 17 April 3080

  Colonel Hollister sat in the cockpit of his Pulverizer, deep in thought.  This is madness, He mused as he looked over his command for this coming battle. Pure and unadulterated madness.  But then, who knew our kin would even be remotely reasonable?

  He and two companies of Wolverine Machines were moving down from the landing zone further into the savannah hills of the mountains that ran along the northern edge of Ashton.  They were moving to contact against a foe he never expected to face on remotely even terms.  But the last 36 hours had been full of unprecedented events, enough of them to make one wonder if there were pharmaceuticals involved in this living dream.

  A day and a half ago, he had conducted a meeting with representatives of Clan Ghost Bear, whose ancestors had tried to destroy his clan some two centuries ago.  But with the desperate act of a year prior in coming to the Inner Sphere, it had set a ball rolling for this to happen.  But he never expected to NOT be fighting for his life.  Coming to Centaurus, he had taken a gamble and it had proven beneficial for him and his people.  They had real homes, stable lives… and a future.  A precarious one… but a future.

  He and all the rest of the senior members of the clan knew that they would be facing elements of the other clans.  But because of one person’s actions, at least one of the Clans would not be hunting him and his people.  Indeed, the Ghost Bears had made it plain they regretted their participation, especially in light of the found and resurfaced evidence within their own records.  And, he suspected, no little bravery on the part of their Loremaster in even broaching the subject and possibility of ending their part in the hunt.

  Their hosts, the Phoenix Lancers, once the meeting and agreement had concluded, sicc’d their considerable technical teams on the ready for combat machines and really went over every battlemech in the two Ready companies.  They even detailed personnel to apply fresh coats of paint…  As one technician said when asked, if you are going to go fight for your life and end a genocide, might as well look good doing so.  All of his machines had a full-updated Threat Matrix software, which had just about all models of Clan War Machines the Lancers had ever faced in it.  An edge in knowing what you were fighting was always a good thing to have… and Colonel Tinney was going to stack the deck as best as he could, within reason, for Hollister’s people.

  What they were about to face was three Stars of Omni-mechs and a full star of Elemental Battle Armor.  Battle-armored Elementals were new to his people to face, as the armored version came about long after they left Clan Space.  Education om them was quick and their danger was stressed.  If shots could be taken to remove the threat over an Omni, they took priority.  The handful of battle-camera footage he was shown… strengthened the notion.

  A diode lit up on the comm panel and he activated the channel.  “Wolverine One,” He said.

 [Hollister, its Tinney…  last bit of intelligence for you…] the Commander of the Lancers spoke in his headset.  [They have a few heavy hitters over there….  Lebowski is in an Executioner so be mindful of that.  Few weapons but all powerful.]

 “Noted,” Hollister replied.  “Are they a mix of speeds or all big and slow?”

 [Mix.  They have three Stormcrows and a pair of Novas; efficient in the former and downright deadly in the latter if the pilot isn’t dumb about it.  Healthy mix of other machines; only one Dire Wolf, which tells me Lebowski knows his business.  Had he brought more than one, he was either channeling his inner Jade Falcon or was expecting to roll you.

  They are big, slow and have large numbers of powerful weapons…. But their size is a detriment.  I’ve faced enough of them… and personally, I think most of their pilots rely on fear factor,] he cautioned. [Don’t buy into it. It is a scary machine but VERY beatable.  Looks like he’s going the maneuverable firepower route, which is more worrisome. He has a plan… which is a compliment in hindsight.]

  Hollister considered the words and took the advice.  It was a reminder to not get fixated. “Anything else?”

 [Not really- we went over a number of scenarios… and I think he is looking to mirror you to a degree.  Heavy firepower and good speed throughout his Stars.  This is going to be a shoot and move battle… but you knew this.]

 “I did and do.  Thank you for all your help, John.”

 [No worries…  and remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight in a brawl and that’s what this is. Even among the Clans.  Tinney out…]  The channel closed as the Lancer signed out.

  As he smiled at the parting line, the company channel came live with contact reports.  “Well… they are fast, as he said,” Hollister mused aloud as he concentrated on what was ahead of him.

Desert Strip One Command Building
Ashton Desert

 Tinney stepped from the communications room and went back to the building Conference room where others awaited.

 During the planning for the location of this Trial, he had offered as a pseudo neutral party to host members of the Ghost Bear Command here to observe the proceedings.  While an odd notion, it was very possible due to all the drones available for observation from the various training grounds.  Which meant the process and progress of the Trial could be watched by all parties. Hosting the Ghost Bear hierarchy would benefit any future dealings between the two clans… and the Lancers.

  Surprising him, Star Admiral Devon agreed to come planet-side for this.  He had expected the Loremaster- she had stated she was there to record things for their Khan; but when Devon indicated she was coming, he had Conigliaro get dressed up to be here too.  While the Ghost Bears didn’t have a dedicated Aerospace Pilot Blood Name, Tinney suspected that the Star Admiral was a pilot… having Mike here to chat her up and perhaps compare notes, was not a horrible thing.  And he knew Mike would do his best to get some good information on how they do things.

  As was expected, the two were off to the side, comparing notes about various craft each had flown, and foes fought.  Pilots…  He thought with a chuckle as he took up a location opposite Tseng where she was viewing the feed.  Leslie was nearby, looking at a data pad as the screens showed the initial engagement.

And the initial shots fired by each side mostly missed but were good for ranging.  A particle cannon hit there, an LRM volley here…  very exploratory exchanges.

  Then battle really got serious fast.  The lighter and faster Clan machines raced ahead and dumped off their Elemental passengers into the thick of it and the Wolverines responded.  The first few minutes of weapon exchanges were hard on the battle armored infantry as Hollister’s troops spared no effort in whittling them down.  The damage they took from the Clan machines was vicious… but the defenders had the numbers…

  Until a Ghost Bear Shadowcat dropped a Wolverine Exterminator with a gauss slug to the head assembly.  A drone arced in when the firing moved on to check on the pilot and noted they were alive.  Badly injured but alive.

  On the far right of the Wolverine line, an Ostroc and a Star Slayer tangled with a Stormcrow and its battle armored support.  A Phoenix Hawk joined them in trying to deal with both.  Then the Ostroc tumbled to the ground from damage and the pilot blacked out… causing the Elementals to pounce as the others were chased off by Adder and Dire Wolf fire.  Lebowski, in his Executioner shifted over and helped worry the Wolverine machines on this side of the field.

  In the distance, the two Catapults of the Wolverines launched their LRM payloads into the sky, the ordinance coming down on said Dire Wolf, causing him to fall over.  The big machine would get up quickly- but not quickly enough as the Wolverine battle plan began to play out…

  On the Wolverine left, a pair of Lynx and a pair of Griffins played cat and mouse with a Black Lanner, a Stormcrow and a Nova, attempting to dodge incoming lasers even as they attempted to give back damage.  A Battlemaster also made its presence felt, its lasers tearing at the armor of a Timber Wolf even as a Ghost Bear Mad Dog introduced it to LRM and lasers- missiles punishing the assault machine.  It staggered and fell, a squad of Elementals adding to its woes.

 Lebowski shifted to his right, wading his machine through a firestorm of fire from a Spartan even as he delivered punishment to a Wolverine Thug, who was now missing a good portion of its right superstructure and armor- the Short-Range system on that torso a smoking ruin and the arm an afterthought.  In doing so, it opened him up for the Starslayer to cut armor from him, the Wolverine machine making a mad dash to bring him into sight.

  As he moved to avoid the Starslayer, the cautious movedsof the medium weight machines to his right changed into a full on rush just as the Pulverizer rounded a hill with one of his Stormcrows harassing it.  Multiple warnings from weapon locks sang out in his ears as it seemed like everyone in the area elected to gun for him right at that moment…

**

Hollister’s Pulverizer staggered under the hammer blows of a Timerwolf  and the pursuing Stormcrow as he maneuvered around to get a clear line to Lebowski’s Omni.  Over the battle command coms, he could hear the damage being dealt to his people and noted on a side screen the quartet from his Strike Company still being cautious.  This had to change… Just then, he remembered the discussion from last night he had with Tinney and McCormack- then the last thing the Lancer commander said to him:

Remember, there is no such thing as a fair fight in a brawl

“Dragoon Beta lance, priority target the Executioner; all others, opportunity fire as situation warrants,” He called over the network.  “He drops, this is over…”

  The rules of a Trial of Grievance state that the battle ends when one or the other no longer can continue.  Even though this was a far bigger battle than a normal Trial… that rule had not been changed for this battle.  This was still a Grievance Trial; just with more variables…. But the rule that ended a normal Trial had NOT been amended for the adjustment in size…  Time to use that and save his people as another three machines fell to Ghost Bear guns.

  Accelerating forward, Hollister drove his machine at Lebowski, moving closer to take advantage of his weapons at a better range….

**

  Lebowski’s Executioner staggered under hammer blows inflicted by Particle Cannon and laser fire coming at him from multiple directions as he heard armor integrity warnings begin to sound.  A small trickle of blood from where he hit his head on a stumble of his Omni followed by multiple hits to his cockpit from short range missiles began to bleed a bit more.  “Cleaning this cockpit is going to take hours,” He groused to himself.  “Need to wear a better helmet next time…”  Noting the armor was now gone from his machine’s left arm, he reached a hand to shut off the Gauss Rifle so it would not explode if hit when it *was* hit…

  The explosion of the weapon rocked the Executioner with additional damage and the feedback of the electrical discharge blew screens within the cockpit.  The concussive force he was battered with knocked him senseless and he lost consciousness.  With being knocked out, his body went slack and in a battlemech, that was never good.

  A MechWarrior’s Neuro-helmet used a pilot’s natural balance to help keep a battlemech or an Omni upright.  It was not as advanced as the Word of Blake neuro-link cybernetics of the Manei Domini; that method was invasive as hell along with harmful to the pilot… but at its basic function, the pilot was what kept the machines upright when under operation.

  Lebowski blacking out… meant his Omni-mech no longer had a chance to remain upright with the punishment it had received.  And it fell to the ground as if poleaxed.  The other problem with being blacked out… is that odds were very against avoiding more damage from the fall.  VERY against.

  As the machine crashed to the ground, the sensors within the Omnimech sensed the pilot was no longer awake… and powered down.

**

  Hollister saw the weapon strikes to the Executioner’s head assembly as the Gauss Rifle exploded.  Almost like watching a train wreck, the Wolverine commander could only watch his opponent fall over with the near ring-side seat he had.  When another laser stabbed in seconds before the machine impacted the ground, he had a sinking feeling he’d won.  And not in a way he wanted.

“All Wolverines!!  CEASE FIRE!!,” He yelled into his network as his sensors registered the Clan mech powering down.  “I REPEAT CEASE FIRE DAMN IT!!”  Stepping his machine closer to the Executioner, Hollister unbuckled his harness and popped his own hatch.  Tossing the rapid egress rope out, he rappelled out of his cockpit quickly.  He could hear the repeated calls in his earpiece as well as the voice of Tinney indicating the trial was Complete….  Hosllister didn’t care- he just knew he needed to get to his opponent’s machine and in a hurry.

  Stepping up next to the head of the down machine, he saw the cockpit glass was starred all to hell and broken in spots.  Looking for the emergency release, he realized the cover for it was damaged.  “Shit,” he cursed and scrambled to get a different angle.  Seeing inside the lifeless form of Lebowski, he drew his sidearm and aimed at a window away from the Clan pilot.  Two shots… and he kicked out the remaining glass.

  Reaching in, he got a hand to the neck of Lebowski, noting the blood all over the cockpit, and checked for a pulse….


**

 Back in the bunker, all eyes were on the scene being broadcast into the area as Cease Fire commands were being broadcast.  Tinney had one eye on the screen even as he gave orders for recover teams to start heading out.  He hoped like hell Hollister hadn’t lost his marbles…

  Tseng and Devon stared at the screen as Hollister drew his weapon.  Devon hissed and quieted when Tseng laid a hand on her shoulder.  When the Wolverine pilot blasted a window then kicked it out, she knew this was not the actions of one trying to kill after the fact.  “He’s trying to get in there to check him, Kirsten…”

On screen, Hollister reached inside, his body going halfway into the damaged Executioner cockpit.  Then a mad scramble as the Wolverine Khan’s voice came across the open channel even as he backed out of the open window.  [Training Ground Command, Wolverine One; I need MEDEVAC here now!!  I have a pilot in critical condition. I will do what I can if I can get him out, but he requires evacuation as soon as possible.]

  [Wolverine one, Training Ground Command; we copy immediate need MEDEVAC. They are launching now- ETA to your location four minutes…]

  On screen, the pilot of the downed Timberwolf arrived with his own weapon out.  An exchange of words was had between him and Hollister then the Clan pilot holstered his weapon even as he pulled out a comm unit.  Within a minute, a trio of Elementals showed up and began to use their claws to rip apart the cockpit glass to make more space to get at the unconscious pilot.

  Nearby, a Ferret Medevac VTOL landed, and a medical team ran up as the Elementals pulled their Star Colonel out of the cockpit.  Setting him down, they backed away from the Lancer medics and let them do their job.  Several more Ferrets landed in the area and more teams began spreading out, being led by other surviving Elementals or other pilots- both Clan and Wolverine, to where wounded were.

  The Mech battle was over.  Now, it was in the hands of the medical teams.

 Tseng exchanged looks with Devon then looked at McCormack who was busy at a comstation quietly giving orders.  “Colonel, a word….”

  Leslie looked up at the Clan Loremaster.  “Loremaster, I’m notifying our main Medical Facility in Crossroads to get their Shock Trauma ward ready,” She said. “the medical facility here at this field is good enough to stabilize; having dealt with a Gauss explosion myself once, I know roughly how bad it could be for him and that’s within their abilities…  That he took multiple hits during the battle, he will definitely need more than what’s here.”

  Tseng nodded.  “Thank you.

  “Not an issue; he will be in good hands.  While we don’t exactly have the medical equipment of the Clans, what we DO have does the job pretty well.”

  Tseng nodded.  “Once we have seen to our people here, I would like Transport to your facility.”

  Leslie nodded. “Of course.”

  Tseng went back over to Devon as she was watching the medical team lift Lebowski off the ground on a stretcher, two Elementals doing the carrying towards the VTOL.  One Medic help up a bag of fluid for an IV as they made their way to the idling craft.   Devon turned to look at her clan-mate.  “They seem to be very good at field medicine here…”

  “A large amount of practice, I think.”

  “I can imagine.”

  “Lieutenant Colonel McCormack will make sure I get brought to where he will be going.  She said the facilities here are good, but he likely needs more than what’s here.”

  Devon frowned then sighed.  “I would think so.  His fate is in their hands… as is yours.  As is all of ours, really.”

The Loremaster looked around at all the Lancer troops in the command center then back at the admiral.  “Star Admiral, tell me something I do not know…” She said at last.  “It helps they act with Honor and care about both their men and their people… as well as ours.”

Legends and Myths Twenty Two

Jammack Military Landing Field
City of Landing Main Space Port
0605hrs (GMT+2), 15 April 3080

  In the hours since he was advised the fleet was on its way, orders had gone out to secure the Spaceport of all Planetary Flights starting at 0530.

 Three full companies of Infantry were moved to the complex and went about securing all areas with lines of sight to the Military Terminal Building and its small craft hangars.  Complete sweeps were made for explosives in the main terminal a half hour prior to the expected landing time; such checks were often done in the age of Jihad but with who was coming, extra effort was made.  No one wanted to be the one who missed something…

  In the meantime, the buildings on the Military Side were given a similar once over and within the Terminal, with all spaces given an additional cleaning.  Gathered within the Terminal, the well garbed reception party stood waiting in Dress Uniforms, swords adorning the officers as appropriate to their position and rank while many troops secured various things or took up guard positions at the building entrance.

    Lancer Dress uniforms were styled on the Star League form, as the Lancers were descended from those units.  Very little had changed overall, though there was a lot more variety in the World Sashes the officers wore.  Colonel Tinney wore the sash of the Albion Military Academy instead of the common World Sash, as was also the custom.  He was a Federated Suns native and was rather proud he managed to graduate Albion, one of the most difficult schools to do so.

  Major Farquharson wore a kilt with his, as befit his Highlander heritage.  The choice of ceremonial sword though, a Kurita Samurai’s Daisho, was the striking part of it and showed the honor bestowed upon him by the DCMS units that helped free the world almost eight years past.

  The former Major McCormack’s uniform was now graced with the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and she was still stunned by the very unexpected promotion.  Her world sash of Outreach was worn with a bit of pride; there were few that existed outside of world in historical record, and it was a source of pride for her.  In addition to the various awards that she and others wore, the insignia patch of her Spirits sat upon the shoulder crest of her sash- a statement of who she was.

The plainest uniform among them all was Hollister’s.  His Uniform was also that of Star League cut and styling, but in lieu of where the unit crest of the Phoenix Lancers would be on the upper section of the Sash, he had the patch identifier of Clan Wolverine and the original rank pin of Khan placed within the center of the patch.  It would be a very stark reminder of who and what he was to the visiting Ghost Bears.

  The Wolverine Loremaster, Jeffery Kosh, was clad similar to his Khan but wore the Star Colonel rank in the middle of his Clan patch.  A major’s oak leaf was the rank worn on his uniform.  He also was the only one among all gathered who did not wear a sword.

  At this moment, Tinney was on the comms making sure the final details were taken care of when a series of sonic booms was heard, the very blatant sound of nearby reentry into atmosphere. “… Ok, sounds like they are on final approach.  I’m out of your hair, Andi- all your show now,” he said into the communicator.  “Later.”  Hanging up, the Lancer Commander stepped back to the group.  Looking at Hollister, he commented.  “This is it.”

  Hollister nodded.  “It is.  And I am not certain how I should feel…”

  Leslie answered that.  “Scared, happy, curious, trepidation.  Pick one and at least two others will tag along, Colonel Hollister,” she said. “No matter what you ultimately pick, this is all quite real.”  She motioned towards the front of the Terminal and its windows.  “May as well watch them come in…”

  Off to the side, Sean was eyeing the three Bagpipers who were doing a final check on their instruments.  He knew at least one of them, a lad from Northwind who had joined up with the Lancer Infantry a few years ago.  The other two, he had not seen before.  Going over to Tinney, he leaned in close.  “Where did ye get the Pipers?”

  Tinney looked over to the musicians then back to Sean.  “One is that rifleman over in 3rd Recon.  The second one is one of the crewmen from the Matilda…  Third one is actually one of four pipers among the Returned.”

  “They have them?”

  “Apparently….” Tinney smiled wryly.  “Hollister had him flown in from Sage while I had someone in supply get find him a Black Watch kilt.  I don’t know how good he is… but its bagpipes; Doesn’t have to be good. Just can’t sound too much like strangled cats…”

  “Ach, ye smartass…”

**

  Outside, the sleek form of a passenger transport in Ghost Bear colors knifed its aerodyne shape through the air, a pair of Phoenix Lancer F-92 Stingray fighters flanking it.  Flying high overhead, the four Batu Omnifighters flew top cover.  If it was in the air and on its way here, it would not stay in the air for long.

  The group of craft circled around the city several times, bleeding off speed and altitude as the VIP shuttle eventually angled in for a landing.  As it went on final approach, the F-92’s broke off at the last second and the Shuttle landed gracefully.  Rolling along, a hovercraft with FOLLOW ME sign raced ahead of it and guided the shuttle from its strip around and to the Military Terminal.

  As the ship slowed on the pavement, its gear lowered the craft down some until it was roughly three feet off the ground.  Rolling towards the Terminal, the craft slowed even further, gliding to a stop some ten yards from the Small Craft hangar and the reception carpet.

  AS the ship approached its final position, the Lancer welcoming party began making its way across the tarmac to a point near the end of the carpet.  A trio of technicians rolled out a mobile stair that was low enough for the hatch on the craft in case it needed one.

  As the party approached the ship and the Pipers began playing, the main hatch on the shuttle opened and out stepped a pair of Elementals in Non-Powered Combat Armor.  Both had rifles slung and once the stair was in place, descended down and took up station on both sides of the unit.  Out next came the aforementioned Star Colonel Lebowski followed by Loremaster Tseng.  Both were clad in the dress uniform of the Ghost Bears, a simple grey shirt and blue-grey jacket and trousers, all accented with dark blue piping and gold buttons.  Both had black neckties and black claw patterns sewn on the shoulders with their ranks on their collars.  They both wore golden aiguillettes on their right shoulders.

  Both came down the stairs to the bottom and were met by the Lancer Officers, bagpipes ceasing their playing.  “Star Colonel Lebowski, Loremaster Tseng… Welcome to Centaurus.”  Tinney spoke formally as he gave the two Clan Leaders a hand salute, echoed by his officers, including the Wolverine Khan.  “May I introduce Lieutenant Colonel McCormack, Major Sean Farquharson… and Colonel John Hollister of the Three Thirty First, current Khan of Wolverine.”  Tinney saved Hollister for last, to watch for a reaction.  If this went poorly, he was stepping in the Wolverine Khan’s way…. with Andi Westerling’s overwatching snipers becoming very busy.

  And a reaction *was* had.  A very restrained one too, as both Ghost Bear Officers twitched at the mention of Wolverine.  The Elementals twitched a bit harder but based on Tinney’s estimates- both were veteran soldiers and likely picked for this duty because they would keep their cool.  Even out of their powered armor.  Star Colonel Lebowski recovered fast.  “A pleasure to make all your acquaintances,” he said.  “Believe it or not, I’ve been hoping to meet who I would be negotiating with from the start…”

  Tinney nodded.  So far, this was going well; he hoped it continued.  “If you and the Loremaster would follow us inside, we can discuss a bit more of why you are here and what events were that you mentioned in your message,” he said.  “Are the Elemental Marines part of your entourage?”

  Lebowkski shook his head. “They are guards for the transfer and for the Shuttle.  I am told by the Loremaster and representatives of our Watch that the Phoenix Lancers have a reputation for honesty and even dealings.  Therefore, if you are guaranteeing security, I shall leave my fate in your care.” He commented.  “Why complicate matters and worry your own Security about my bodyguards?  I sincerely doubt those swords you all wear are blunt…”

  A chuckle.  “Very astute, Star Colonel.  Right this way.”  Tinney motioned towards the Terminal.  “Restrooms and sustenance are within.”

  The group moved into the Terminal and security troops all over the complex relaxed a hair.  Part one of the Security Nightmare was over….

**

Inside the building, the main lobby had been set up as a small reception and conference area, with several Vidscreens powered on over to the side that showed aerial views of the Star port and a conference table was set up in the center.  Food and Beverages were along a wall with two of the Lancer Cooks manning the food as stewards.  As the group entered, Tinney moved towards the table.  “Ladies and Gentlemen…”  He began.  “Relaxation with food and beverage first, discussion or a bit of both?”

  Loremaster Tseng glanced at Lebowski, who shrugged.  She then turned to Colonel Tinney.  “Perhaps a bit of both.  I am desirous of something tea related and perhaps a small snack.”

  A Steward stepped forward.  “Ma’am, hot or cold. We have black teas here.”

 “Warm please. No sweetener.”

 “Right away…”  The Steward stepped off to acquire the beverage. As he moved, he spoke to Lebowski.  “Sir?”

  “No thank you.  At least for now,” Was his reply.

  Tinney motioned for everyone to sit.  The Stewards knew he’d take the same as whatever his guests ordered, if only to assure them it was safe.  As everyone sat, he took a seat last.  “Now then…” He began.  “Where would you like to begin?”

  Tseng pulled out a small datapad from an internal pocket.  Tapping a few times on the device, she set it down on the table.  “According to the histories that we among the Clans retained, the events of the 23rd of October 2823 were partially engineered by individuals outside of the dispute between Clan Wolverine and Clan Wolf with their allies.  Indeed…  the vast majority of the Clans were given a version of the story of supposed treachery by your clan in that a nuclear detonation of a warhead within your city of Great Hope was done at the command of Khan McEvedy… and subsequent second blast over the Snow Raven city of Dehra Dun was blamed also upon you.”  She paused.  “Efforts were redoubled to destroy your clan… and their destruction was done at a planet called Barbados, whose coordinates are lost.  Likely wiped from the Databases on order ilKhan Kerensky.  There were many things he ordered done afterward… especially when the machinations and treachery of Clan Widowmaker and its Khan, Jason Karrige, was learned of.

Incidentally, Karrige was killed in battle against your clan as per official histories.  Khan Tseng recorded the deed was done by your Clan’s Khan Hallis- though not in what fashion.  Our Khan left that information out of her journals and our Loremaster at the time didn’t say anything at all.”

  The tea showed up at this point and Tseng waited for it to be poured by the steward.  When her cup and that of Colonel Tinney’s were poured and he took a sip, she sipped her own and continued.

“ilKhan Kerensky orchestrated a coverup of events… because he could not afford to let ANY of the truth behind what precipitated the Annihilation to see the light of day.  And he managed to get other Khans to agree to the cover up…  Some of it I learned about through a deep digging of Ghost Bear Records- a bit of it was within the writings of our first Loremaster.

 Our Khan found some in the Clan Founder journals too… items and anecdotes that I suspect no one thought would be seen.  I am also privy to some of the ilKhan’s own words, courtesy of an associate of Lieutenant Colonel McCormack.  So, the truth was and IS out there in our records, in our archives, despite the efforts of the ilKhan and his supporters. 

  I am convinced beyond a shadow of doubt…  what was done to your Clan was done out of misplaced Malice, Jealousy… and in some cases, abject hatred of the success of Clan Wolverine.  And there are so many things that are in use among the current Clans that are built upon your clan’s efforts.  So much… and the origins hidden for the same reasons the truth was.

I am not certain how much of these events you and yours are aware of; it is plainly obvious that there was multiple groups of your clan that escaped the initial attempts to destroy you…”  Tseng finished then took another sip of the tea.

Hollister and Kosh glanced at each other.  Kosh had not been introduced and he did so now. “Loremaster Tseng, I am Loremaster Jeffery Kosh of Wolverine and I believe I can fill you in on what we know.”

  He produced a data pad of his own and glancing at it, began to speak. “When the Snow Ravens launched a strike at our holdings, Khan Hallas had the Bismark attempt to shoot it down.  It did but the craft accidentally detonated over Dehra Dun.  No amount of trying to convince anyone of it not being our fault it exploded was believed; Khan Kerensky had made his decisions and the Absorption Trial became one of Annihilation within two days.

  Khan Hallas had anticipated this and had our fleets split up to facilitate at least some of us avoiding pursuit a.  And it had worked for a while too…  My portion of our forebears, led by saKhan Ebon, managed to avoid being found and arrived at Barbados where we retrieved the few survivors of that group and continued on.  According to records, the Clans who were there had destroyed the members of Wolverine there… and never even tried to take the non-combatants…  they also crashed many of the various ships they defeated into the planet, ensuring few survivors as possible would be found or simply survive.

  It was absolute carnage… and would be constituted as war crimes in almost any era.  Indeed, the level of barbarity inflicted was on a level that we had accused Amaris of.

  Part of our not being there was due to a Jump Drive failure…. And trying to not leave anyone behind.  Had they had been there, what fleet Clan Wolverine may have had might have been enough to win through, though at terrible cost.  Or it might have died there too.  Snow Raven was the better naval force, after all… and they were there, or so surviving databank records said.  The fact remains we were late… and our arrival after the fact allowed us to see the results of the Grand Fleet handiwork.”

  Kosh paused, barely glancing at his pad.  The information within… he knew by heart.  It, along with the known details of what happened at Barbados was something every Loremaster since then committed to their memory.  To let it be forgotten… was considered a grave insult to the memory of those who were executed there.  And he knew this next part would be a shock to all but his Khan…

 “Unknown to anyone outside of our leadership at this point… is that Khan McEvedy did survive the bombing of Circe, albeit with heavy scarring from various injuries and burns.  She had been found by personnel loyal to Nicholas and had been present at the slaughter of Barbados as his prisoner.  When the fleets had finished their carnage, she was left on the planet to die.  She survived with her injuries through sheer force of will… to be found by saKhan Ebon when our fleet checked the surface for additional survivors.”

  “She was found burned and scarred… hobbled by injuries sustained in the bombing and afterward, prior to being marooned on the surface of Barbados,” Hollister finished.  “That information is in Khan Ebon’s diaries.”

The silence around the table was epic, the only thing heard was the sound of fighters in the air above performing patrols of the area for a good fifteen seconds.

  Lebowski spoke, his voice a touch husky at first but cleared up after a few seconds.  “Khan Hollister, Loremaster Kosh…  I believe I can assure you that had our founders had known of those deeds done to your Khan, of the true scope of acts that ilKhan Kerensky had done or planned… and the abject dark soul that man had, there may have been another clan chased off,” he said.  “Our Clan founders, based upon everything we know and our own Traditions, would have demanded action.  But this was not to be and it is to our shame that our founders unwittingly participated in the lie.

 Given the little bit of it I know of in briefings coming here, I am willing to bet my own life in that my Khan would be offering to help you in an effort to exact vengeance on those responsible.
  Unfortunately, all those who were responsible are now dead and buried… with Widowmaker being absorbed by Clan Wolf after their Khan killed ilKhan Kerensky, supposedly by accident.  That absorption was more a near annihilation, based on what records I have read.”

  Tseng spoke up then.  “Some revenge may have been carried out on your behalf; some of the notes I read of that event by Loremaster Cook indicate the destruction of Widowmaker was something desired by those who had been upset over the treachery of ten years previous… but not in position to do anything about it.  Either through lack of ability, lack of will… or both.”

Lebowski took up speaking.  “To my Khan, she wishes to repair some of the damage done to the Clan Wolverine… and to perhaps obtain at least a measure of neutrality.  What we were part of doing to your Clan… was wrong.  We know this NOW… and it is uncertain if any true healing can happen.  Part of an attempt to do so… is also part of a modified Trial of Grievance we seek for an event done in the name of your Clan.”

  Hollister crossed his arms.  “What event was this?”

Lebowski continued.  “Fourteen years later, there was a discovery of a genetic manipulation of two generations of our youngest warriors…  by an adopted former member of your Science Caste who was an expert on genetics.  He managed to insert either a mix of Ghost Bear-Wolverine DNA or pure Wolverine DNA into those Sibkos… which when found, caused them to be destroyed as per ilKhan Kerensky’s Edict of Annihilation against any warriors of your Clan.

  Per records, they chose suicide rather than be killed or hunted down.  This event caused a change in our oaths which is being re-done again by our Khan… and to be made possible by what is being proposed… which is a Clan level Trial of Grievance… for any other means does not fit.”

Tseng spoke next, and her words clarified a few things. “You must understand, this act by the Science Caste both impressed and infuriated our Khan at that time.  His own diary notes spoke of how impressed he was at the act of defiance, how he would have gladly led these warriors into battle as all of them were promising… and how detrimental the Edict was… and how much their culling due to that action had weakened us.  Time and a reexamining of this act after learning of everything else…  It was confessed by myself and by our Khan that if given the chance, we may have done the same act to attempt a piece of Vengeance against one who participated in the destruction of Ghost Bear,” A pause. “were it to have happened to us.

  It is these revelations, this information… that has caused a reformation within Ghost Bear of policies and an attempt to end the overall hunt that never should have happened.  There MUST be a repercussion for the deaths of those generations of warriors as far as our society is concerned.  But when measured against the acts that precipitated it… the response has to be measured.  And the closest method or means is that of Grievance.”

 Hollister considered the words of the Ghost Bear Star Colonel and before him, that of Loremaster Tseng.  And it was a large amount of information to filter through as well as attendant thoughts.  He was saved from an answer by Tinney.

 “Forgive me for intruding on this conversation…” He began.  “But if I am understanding this correctly, what is being proposed is a field battle size Trial of Grievance?  To include a Batchall?”

 Tseng nodded.  “Yes… at least a Modified Batchall… and I am pleased to note you understand our ways as it has been said,” She replied.  “Being such a peculiar idea for such a grievous act in our eyes, it was felt that modifying a tradition to fit made the most sense.  Khan Kabrinski no long wishes to see… Wolverine… dead and destroyed.  But something must be done to support this reform within the Clan… for that event affected so much and nearly caused our being absorbed.  Khan Jorgensson managed to hide our weakness then… but the legacy still survives with large amounts of anger.  So perhaps this trial idea would allow both sides a measure of closure.

  Lebowski nodded.  “No matter what result occurs, the Hunting of Wolverine by the Clan Ghost Bear has ended.  And any conflict after this will be as Clan to Clan.”

  Leslie got up.  “Forgive my getting up here…  I need to get something to eat… and I suggest before any bidding occurs, everyone else eat too.”

 Tinney looked at her then at the rest of the group.  “She’s right.  Its early and some food will help with thinking.”

  Loremaster Tseng then stood.  “Agreed.”  She said and followed McCormack to the food table to retrieve some of it.  A Steward was there to parcel out the contents of the various hot trays.

 Tinney looked at the remaining Clansmen at the table.  “If you cannot decide on what to use, as host I can figure something out that should work for the both of you.”

  Both Hollister and Lebowski shared a look.  “No…” Hollister said after a handful of seconds.  “I think I have a handle on how to do this and I suspect my opponent shares understanding.  I bid Half my ground based Touman, which is approximately a battalion all told.”  The offer made had to be from being punchy due to the time.  And lack of food.  But it was made…

  A smile. “I submit to you a supernova trinary.”  Lebowski’s reply caused Tinney and Loremaster Kosh to blink.  Sean smirked.
  Hollister countered.  “Two Dragoon Companies.”

 “Two Binarys.”

 “A SLDF Strike Company and Dragoon Company…”

 “I accept your offer and counter with a Nova Strike Star and a Binary.”

 “I maintain my last pitch as I feel it is Sufficient to beat your offer.”

 “My Dear Khan… your bid is acceptable as a reasonable counter to my own,” Lebowski replied.  “I call this Bid Well and Done.”  He held out a hand.

  Hollister nodded and took the hand offered in his own.  “Bid well and done.”

 Sean was laughing slightly as the Loremaster and McCormack came back to the table.  Seeing the handshake, Leslie looked at everyone and said, “I can only guess…” as the remaining Clan officers all got up to get food.

  “Lass… they elected to get food After they made their pitches.”

 Tseng blinked and looked back at Lebowski who was getting food alongside the Wolverine Khan and Loremaster.  “What?”

  Sean chuckled.  “Aye…  and it was pretty simple thing too.  No posturing, just some wee haggle.  The best part… neither dinnae know the overall stakes or where they will fight.”

  Tinney got up.  “I think they know what they are fighting for on both sides…  The rest, I think will be decided after food.  Sean, make sure their guards get some chow, even if you have to stand watch for them.   I do not think this is going to go sour…”

  Tseng held up a hand.  “Major Farquharson, tell them I said Copper Gold.”

 “Copper Gold?”

 “Yes.  It’s a prearranged signal that your offer is to be trusted.  Half will rotate in at a time- there is four others aboard the Shuttle.”

“Ach… Sure thing, Loremaster.” The Highlander said and ventured out to inform the Elementals guarding the shuttle.

Leslie shook her head.  “I will suggest then after we eat, we adjourn to ponder some of this and rest. Do the two of you wish to remain planet side or shall you return to your ship?”

  Lebowski answered as he returned.  “We will return to our ship.  Any further planetside excursion will occur after the final details of the Trial are settled….  We have deviated a bit already so another adjustment will not change anything overmuch.”

 Tinney nodded.  “Very well… then let us eat, discus other things… and depart on good terms until the day of Battle.”

 Hollister agreed to this as did Lebowski; the discussion around the table then changed to small talk as everyone consumed their meals.

Legends and Myths Twenty One – “So you’re the reason…”

Lancer Command Compound
Auburn Mountains
 0245hrs (GMT+2), 15 April 3080

News of the arrival of the Clan fleet arrived initially after midnight local time and the fast-thinking duty officer (Lt Rodriguez again) bought time for the command staff to be awoken.  Colonel Tinney was online via Video Call when the exchange between Sariah and the Ghost Bear command happened.  After listening to their content, he agreed to the two Wolverine Warships to go meet the fleet.  Strong Answer but not provocative, he hoped.

  After being patched through to Commodore Callahan, he stressed a neutral stance.  “Kevin, I cannot stress this enough; if they don’t want to be coming in guns blazing, I am fine with that.” He had said and the Wolverine Ship commander agreed.  Too much was at stake here if the Ghost Bears were true to their word.

  “I completely agree with you, Colonel,” He had replied.  “The less misunderstanding, the better.  Its peculiar enough this is even happening…”

 After the Commodore signed off, Tinney had Lt Rodriguez put out a call for the Majors McCormack and Farquharson then a request of Colonel Hollister to come to the main compound.  He himself then got up, dressed and headed across the post to the main Communications center.  All the action for the next four or so hours was going to be there.

 And a large amount of it there was.

  Scramble orders went out for all the Aerospace troops to be on standby.  Lt Colonel Conigliaro did complain some up until the why was mentioned.  After a few choice words about the situation (not the orders), he too headed for the pilot ready room.  He would be damned if he was going to let his pilots get into a possible scrum against Clan fighters…

  Alert orders also went out for the QRF companies of First and Second Battalions of the Mech Regiment as well as an alert order for the Returned Mech Battalion.  The Armored Regiment was next and when Tinney arrived at the Communications Center, he was notified of all units having acknowledged Alert Orders and that Major McCormack was on her way and would be there within the hour. Major Farquharson was being tracked down by the MPs.

So, when Major McCormack arrived with Sean in tow (as well as Maggie, one of her command lance pilots and Sean’s wife), all three were directed to the conference room when Tinney waited, the system map on the screen with approximate locations listed for the inbound fleet… and the statuses for the rest of the fully functional Wolverine warships.  The Bismark was station keeping on the far side of the planet while the other fully intact ship, the SLS Vincent was sitting guard on the naval dock in the asteroid field between Centaurus IV and III.  Tinney looked up and waved everyone in.  “Come on in…” He said, a notepad on the table in front of him.  “Good Morning, Mags..”

  Margaret Farquharson smiled at him when she entered and sat in a chair.  “Good morning to you too, Colonel.” She replied.  “Sorry to crash the meeting but Leslie insisted.  And since Sean was going, I figured I would tag along.”

 A chuckle.  “Well, you’ll hear about this soon enough- all the company and battalion commands got notice of what’s going on.”

 Leslie commented.  “Yes…  The expected Clan reply has come.  But why am I here?”  She too took a seat, a slight puzzled look on her face.

 Tinney answered her.  “Because you were mentioned by name….”  He then tapped a button and played the exchange between Sariah and the Ghost Bear Loremaster.  “So, you see… there is some explanations to be had, Les.”

  McCormack, for her part, maintained a pretty good poker face during the playback.  When she looked at her friend and commander, it was a look of puzzlement.  “John, I’m as surprised as you are over this.  I mean, yes I did meet her back on Galatea and before then, in clan space…  but I have no idea why- oh no.”  Les lifted a hand to her mouth, a sense of realization dawning on her.  “Oh no….”

  A lifted eyebrow.  “Oh no?”  he asked.

McCormack quickly tapped the surface of the conference room table to activate the seat’s terminal.  “I think I know why she wants to talk to me AND why they are here in this fashion.”  A few more keystrokes happened as she spoke.  “Remember I took the opportunity to catch up with Phelan while I was there?”

  “I do.  Surprised he had time for you but then, you were his babysitter at one time and his friend before he left with the Hounds,” Tinney replied.  “I imagine he would want to catch up some.  Inter-Galactic Mail is not always timely or completely reliable.”

  She tapped a bit more then cursed.  “Damnit… my notes are on the offline server….  Anyway,” She looked up at Tinney. “I took the opportunity to expand the knowledge of the Loremaster, who I met and befriended back when we hit Strana Mechty, post Grand Refusal.  All that research I was doing on Star League Depots and such?  I also tried to find information pertaining to the 331st.  She picked up on some of that and tried to steer me away from looking too hard.  Politely, of course.”

  Sean laughed.  “She dinnae count on you being a bulldog wi’ a bone when you are lookin’ things up.”

  Leslie nodded.  “No, she didn’t… I still got plenty on them; despite the history wipe that was pretty blatant in spots, they didn’t get EVERYthing.  And when Phelan had told me about some of the contents of the diaries he read of the clan founder and first Khan of the Wolves, I was pretty sure there was more evidence to be had out there… but that I would never get a chance to see it.  When I ran into now Loremaster Tseng on Galatea…  I kinda had to poke at the Bear, so to speak.”

  Tinney stared at her.  “What did you do?”

  Leslie closed her eyes briefly.  “In a round about way…. I told her about the Diary entries… and that the entire Annihilation of the Wolverines was based on treachery.”  She opened her eyes again and looked at Tinney once more.  “John, I even took her to meet Phelan.  And no, he wasn’t happy to see me there with a Ghost Bear Loremaster.  Took me ten minutes to convince him to even speak further on the subject than I had already.  He was that mad…. But then he realized he had opportunity here to maybe mess with another clan.  You remember his mischievous streak.”

  A nod.  “I do”

“So… he agreed to discuss it more in depth.  Even had a scanned copy of the diary and showed her some entries, after making her promise to not reveal he carried a copy with him to Anyone within his clan.  Ever.”  Leslie continued.  “She swore she would not speak of it to any one in another clan….   It was surmised this applied to her own as well.  If they are here for the reasons stated, I guess not.”

Maggie spoke up.  “Woooow…. Leslie, I think you might be the reason this is happening, you know.  I mean, they probably were going to come anyway at some point, once the clans found out the Wolverine survivors were here.”

“Agreed…” Tinney said.  “We knew they were coming.  Never expected for THIS reason though.  You think she found additional information that helped convince her Khan this was a good idea?”

  “Only thing that makes sense…” was her reply.

  “Okay then…  Then the welcoming party is set,” he commented.  “Go dig out your dress uniform, Major and tell Yoder she’s in charge of the company for now.  You are going to be at the landing pad when they arrive in about two hours.”

  Sean laughed as She blinked and guppy-ed, speechless.  “John, are you sure?”  She managed when she found words…. And the way she said it made Sean laugh even more, earning a punch in the arm from his wife.

 “I am…  One, you were requested.  Two, you likely are the reason for all this… and Three, having my Intel Chief on hand for this meeting just makes sense.”  Turning to Sean, he pointed.  “And I want your ass there too, Laddie.”

Sean clammed up. “Eh why?”

“Because, one should always have a Scotsman around to worry people.  Leave the Claymore home and wear your daisho.” He replied.  “It will send a message if they are up on their cultural knowledges… and If it’s a damn trap, your job is to get Hollister out.  I know that Katana will cut Elemental Armor,” He glanced at his watch.  “Speaking of which, Mister Hollister should be here shortly.”

Almost as if summoned, Hollister arrived and went straight to the conference room.  “Apologies, John…  I was out at the Outpost Castle with some of the older warriors, discussing changes to equipment when the warning order arrived.”

  “No worries, John; we were discussing our soon to arrive visitors and what brought them here…. Besides you and yours, of course.”

  “They are looking to continue the Annihilation?”  he said with a disappointed sigh.

  “Actually… no,” Tinney replied and hit the play back once more of the initial exchange..  After it finished, he commented. “Not what anyone here expected…. And I think I know the reason for it.”

  Hollister looked at the assembled.  “Why?”

  Leslie raised her hand.  “We think I am the reasons… or at least a catalyst…”

  Leslie spent the next few minutes explaining what was determined and her interactions with the Ghost Bear Loremaster… along with the revelations from Khan Ward.  When she was done, she looked at Hollister.

  “Colonel Hollister, I am so sorry for your clan.  When you and I discussed everything along with your Loremaster, we all figured something had been hatched, that it had been some sort of conspiracy but only one sourcing…  I never expected my one-off meeting on Galatea to instigate this…”

  Hollister pinched the bridge of his nose and closed his eyes.  “No, do not agonize over your role.  If nothing else,” He dropped his hand to the table.  “Our return gave their Loremaster the reason to even bring this up to her Khan.  As far as anyone knows, even speaking of the Wolverines is forbidden except as a curse even now.  For the Ghost Bears to even do this… is monumental.  I do confess not knowing what event that was done in Khan McEvedy’s name though.  It had to have happened long after our clan was declared dead or escaped.”

  A nod.  “Probably.  And to call for a Grand Grievance or whatever….  I’m not aware of a Grievance Trial being done for anything bigger than a pissing match between mech warriors,” Tinney commented.  “Refusal doesn’t cover it… unless whatever it was, is considered so bad that a bigger fight is called for.  Still don’t get it… but I won’t until they are here.”

 “I agree.  We will not know what it was until they arrive…” Hollister replied. “How soon?”

 “Ninety minutes or so.  Give or take.”

  A grimace.  “I think I will be cutting it close if I am to be on the landing pad awaiting their representatives and need a dress uniform. I am not sure I have one here.”

 “Well, go find out.  If not, something can be arranged I think.”

  Leslie got up.  “If that’s the case, I need to go get ready then.  Thankfully, I keep my dress greens pressed and wrapped.  Been some time since I wore them…  but they should still fit.”

  Tinney called out to her as she reached the door.  “Les…”

  “Yes?” She stopped and turned.  A small box was tossed at her which she caught and opened.  Looking in, her eyes widened. “Why?”

  “Because it was going to happen sooner or later, with as large as we are getting.  Being you wear two hats, the rank should go with it.  Its something I discussed with Hollister last week… as well as all the Governors.” He replied.

  “Congratulations, Ms McCormack,” Hollister added.

  She looked up at both of them.  “Like I deserve this…”

  A chuckle.  “Shut up…  if all this is because of you, I’d say it’s a deserved promotion.  And no, you can’t refuse it…  I don’t think your Sisters would let you.”

  Maggie, who understood what was going on, looked at her friend and commander.  “Leslie, I’mma gonna tell Shan and Kris about it in the next five minutes…  you are NOT refusing this,  we won’t let you.”  She exclaimed.  “Not when its an excuse for mead and food…  For after all this, of course.”

  Sean added.  “Lass, I wouldnae argue with her…”

  “I’m not…”  Leslie said.  “Okay, I’m out of here.  Maggie, get them all up and moving, ok?”

  “Si… now get…”

  The three Lancers departed as Hollister looked at Tinney.  “If she is the reason they are doing this, I cannot thank her enough.”

  Tinney looked up at the screen showing the plots of the inbound ships then at the Wolverine leader.  “John, I think it is a big part of it…. We will know for sure in about two hours.”

  A nod.  “That we will.”  With that, Hollister left the Lancer commander to his own thoughts in the conference room.

  Tinney for his part, looked back at the screen with the plots on it.  With a sigh, he got up and headed into the communications center main area.  There was a few more orders to be sent out before he too needed to get dressed.

Legends and Myths Twenty

Deep Space Sensor Buoy #3
Outer reaches of the Centaurus System
15 April, 3080

The remote sensor system sat on the outer reaches of the system and kept watch.  The buoy was linked to a small space station sitting in orbit around Centaurus VII via laser-comms, an older communication system that was reliable for this sort of work.  Granted, there was a little bit of lag involved but nothing crippling.  It was a sensor buoy, not a weapon platform so instant communication wasn’t needed.

 And it was this buoy that picked up on the jump signatures of three craft entering the system.  Three craft… of which the IFF identified as one Warship and two civilian jump ships.  And all three carried the identifiers for Clan Ghost Bear.

Deep Space Sensor Station Agnes
In orbit around Centaurus VII

  The four of the eight members of Gold Crew were awake when the transient alarm for Buoy #3 activated.  Casey Cochran, the senior tech on duty, floated over to look at the readout on the sensor station screen.  The usual process out here was set everything on Auto Alert and investigate as needed.  With the heightened alert over the Returned (as they were called on planet) and possible hostile visitors, there was double crews on all Sensor Stations to lessen stress.  And as extra eyes as needed…  In theory, there was live manning of the LIDAR stations but in practice, it was business as usual.  Just more folks to respond to an alert.

“Who is visiting today…” Casey Cochran muttered as the other three techs of the watch moved towards their own stations.  “Friend or foe?”  Tapping on a keyboard to bring up the data being beamed in, he let out a low whistle.  “Well shut my mouth…” He said afterward.  “Looks like we have company folks.  Clan Type.”

  From across the deck, Charlene McDaniel called out.  “Confirmed…  one Carrack Warship class and two Odyssey Jump Ships.  No emissions noted other than sensor sweeps yet.”

  Casey looked over to the third member of the duty team.  “Jonny, you and Mackie get the others awake; depending on how friendly they are, we might have to hit the shuttles and get the hell out of here.” He said. “Clanners are a long way from home- and this is likely not a social call.”  Jonny nodded and swam for the sleep-pod portion of the station, Mackie right behind him.

 Kiiko Yammishita, the resident Combine translator and communications technician pulled up the comm-panel into active status.  “Ready to send messages, Casey,” she said in her accented soprano as she started typing what they knew for an emergency message out.  “Only one warship?”

Casey responded.  “That’s what is showing, Kiiko.  No messages from them yet- wait!”  The Senior technician held a hand to the headset he put on about ten seconds before.  “Got one…  General System Freq…”  Tapping a few keys, he brought up the transmission on to the deck speakers.

[…Centarus System Control… this is the CGB Den Mother of Task Force Respite.  We are requesting SAFCON to the Fourth Planet of this System for a Parley pertaining to the events of 23 October 2823 and a Grand Trial of Grievance pertaining to actions taken in name of Khan Sarah McEvedy of Clan Wolverine.   

Repeat…

Centarus System Control… this is the CGB Den Mother of Task Force Respite.  We are requesting SAFCON to the Fourth Planet of this System for a Parley pertaining to the events of 23 October 2823 and a Grand Trial of Grievance pertaining to actions taken in name of Khan Sarah McEvedy of Clan Wolverine.

This fleet will await a reply at this location.  Aerospace elements are for self-protection only…]

 On the sensor screen, several small blips appeared, about a dozen in all.

“Oh, holy shit…” Casey breathed. A veteran of Operation BULLDOG, he knew some of the terms being used and last time he heard the Safcon request was during the end of BULLDOG in the landing on Strana Mechty when he was just a Stingray pilot.  This was huge… “Kiiko, send a copy of that transmission to the Lancer Command and notify the State of Grace and Yukon to stand to; things just got a whole lot complicated.”

“Sent,” Kiiko replied. “What do you want to send to the clan ships? I have the frequency ready.”

“FucifIkno…” Casey replied with a shake of his head.  At this point, the rest of Gold Crew came spilling into the deck.  “Lieutenant!”

Lieutenant Sariah Ford, the senior member on board the station, swam through the space and took up position next to Casey.  She looked at the screen then to her senior tech.  “So, Mister Cochran, your opinion?” She asked in her syrupy Southern accent.

“Ma’am…  this is what they say they are.  There is no way this is an invasion, not with one warship, a dozen fighters and maybe ten dropships.  Granted, its enough to move a cluster of forces, depending on what types they are; sensors show a couple Broadswords and at least two Union-C’s out there.  What’s on them, your guess is as good as mine.”

Kiiko spoke up.  “Message from Lancer Command.  They are saying figure out what they want; escorts are on the way.”

Sariah gave a thumbs up to Kiiko then looked at the sensor feed.  “Well, I guess I need to find out what’s up.  And my hair is a mess too…” a sigh. “Fire up the video feed, Mister Cochran.  Time to pull a rabbit out of my hat.”

Command deck
CGB Den Mother

  Loremaster Tseng stood on the bridge alongside Star Colonel Lebowski and the ship’s captain, Star Admiral Kirsten Devon, as they awaited the reply of the locals. She was the one who crafted the message sent to the local Sensor Control station.  Its contents had been debated on between the three Clan officers and it had been decided to be up front.

  Anything less would have been considered a trap… and at least the three ships here all had Lithium-Fusion sets to allow an emergency jump if this didn’t go well.  “Is this pause normal, Admiral?” She asked.

  The Star Admiral looked at her chronometer then looked at the Clan Loremaster.  “Considering this is an outpost station and likely does not have a micro HPG, I expect we will have a small wait.  We detected an FTL laser transmission, so I expect an answer soon,” she replied.  “Nervous, Quaff?”

 Tseng nodded.  “Aff

 Lebowski shrugged.  “It will be what it will be…” He said as he lifted up a data pad. “I will not stress over events I cannot affect until given an opportunity to affect them.”

  A communications technician called out.  “Star Admiral, video reply from the local station; Bringing up the feed now”

On the main screen, a woman with shoulder length platinum blonde hair appeared.  It was slightly askew due to the low gravity of the station she was on but neat enough as a headband helped keep it in place. Her accent was a touch thick for them but understandable.

 [CGB Den Mother, my name is Lieutenant Sariah Ford, commander of Centaurus Systems Outpost Three.  Your message has been received and relayed to my higher command. I am instructed to tell you that Escorts are on their way and to confirm your intentions with transit into this system.  Please do not continue further into system until their arrival.]  

  Star Admiral Devon looked at the screen then glanced to the Loremaster.  “Friendlier reply than I was expecting.”

  Tseng commented.  “Well, you know they must have been awaiting someone to come this way if only to verify rumor.”

  “Or they are that confident of their ability to deal with any and all comers,” Interjected Lebowski. “With their record, if true, I can see that confidence.  And they are polite about it, too.”

  Devon nodded.  “I noticed that.  And our reply should be as polite.”  She pointed to her communications technician.  “Technician James, go ahead and activate the camera.”

“Aff, Star Admiral.”

Devon positioned herself in a Parade Rest stance as she faced the video pickup, Tseng and Lebowski stepping back twice to leave the naval officer as the center of attention. Taking a deep breath to settle herself, the Admiral began speaking as she mentally willed herself to speak names not spoken openly in centuries.

  “Greetings, Lieutenant Ford.  I am Star Admiral Kirsten Devon of Clan Ghost Bear.  I wish to assure you and your guests that our intentions in your system are exactly what was stated in the initial message.  We wish to parley with the Survivors of…. Clan Wolverine… about the events of 23 October 2823.  We also wish to request a Trial of Grievance over an egregious and abhorrent act done in the name of the Khan McEvedy and Clan Wolverine.  With me-“

Deep Space Sensor Station Agnes

[-are Loremaster Laurie Tseng and Star Colonel Jeffery Lebowski.  The Loremaster is here to confirm our findings with what records the…. Wolverines… have and to attempt to repair relations on behalf of future generations.  Star Colonel Lebowski will be representing the Khan in whatever Trial is agreed to between parties over the Event we wish Grievance over.]

  The silence on the command deck of the station was epic as the Clan Admiral was speaking.  Kiiko was busy making sure the recorders were working and subsequently beaming the feed to Lancer Command.  This was groundbreaking… and judging by the shocked face on Casey’s mug, more than that.  He knew a thing or two about the clans, or so he had said; and judging by his reaction, this was against type.

  Sariah, for her part, maintained her pleasant Business Smile Face.  The LT was something of a fun boss… and Kiiko never saw her visibly get mad or get ruffled.  Oh, you could see it in the eyes and flare of nostril if she was furious… but the syrup voice was always present.  Sometimes it was a bit too sweet- then you knew you were fucked.

  “Star Admiral, thank you for your candor and clarification.  While I cannot perform ANY negotiation, I can and have been relaying this conversation to my superiors.  What I DO have is authority to welcome you and yours to the Centaurus System.  I can also relay to you my feelings that there may be a bit of relief for those you wish to speak with… as well as yourselves.”  She smiled then glanced off screen to Jonny, who held up two fingers.

  “Your Escorts will be here in about two hours, I am being told,” she said. “If you have any questions for me right now, I can do my best to answer them.”

  The microphones were cut off at that moment and she maintained her smile for the camera.  Even as she glanced at Casey, who was busy getting a bit better of a sensor read on the visitors.  As a matter of fact, all the stations were manned on the deck as the crew attempted to refine information on the newcomers.  Everyone else prepped for evac, just in case.

  Casey hit a few more keys.  “Carrack Class warship, with four Dropships.  One appears to be a Sassanid Elemental Carrier, one Mule, two Union-C.  The Odysseys each appear to have a pair of Broadswords and a pair of Mules,” he said.  “So, at the very least two trinary and a binary of mechs and a trinary of elementals…. Plus, whatever is on those cargo ships.  And at least a dozen aerospace fighters.  Lotta firepower; more than enough for a raid.  Not nearly enough for an invasion, not this far from their holdings.”

  Sariah nodded as she waited for an answer from the Clan folks.  “Noted, Mister Cochran.” She said quietly.

Command deck, CGB Den Mother

  Star Admiral Devon smiled in return at the Lancer Lieutenant over the cameras.  Turning to Tseng and Lebowski, she queried, “Either of you have anything?”

 Lebowski shook his head.  Tseng, however, had something to ask.  “I do, if I may.”  When Devon nodded, Tseng stepped forward and spoke, the microphones going live.  “Lieutenant Ford, I am Loremaster Tseng.  To your knowledge, does the remaining… Wolverine… members have a Loremaster of their own and would he or she be available?  I would also like to speak with your own keeper of knowledge, someone I met many years ago…”

Sariah lifted an eyebrow as she responded.  [Loremaster, I believe The Returned have one among their number; this should not be an issue, I should think…  As for a keeper of knowledge among us, whom are you referring to?]

A smile.  “She was a Major when last I met her, on Galatea.  A Leslie Anne McCormack,” Tseng said.  “I have some information for her and wish to compare notes.  If she is still in that role, of course.”

On the screen, a half-smile formed on Sariah’s mouth.  [Loremaster, I know the good Major; I am pretty sure she will be more than happy to speak with you.  I will pass along your request- details can be worked out when you arrive on planet.]

“Very good,” Tseng replied and then glanced to Devon.

 Devon stepped up again.  “We will await our escorts, Lieutenant.  This channel will be kept available and monitored should there be developments.  Until we speak again, Lieutenant.”  The video feed was faded out and the Communication technician indicated the channel was now in standby.  When it was indicated, Devon looked over at Tseng.  “What are the possibilities of them having Warships, Loremaster?” The Admiral motioned for the other two to follow her into a side conference room off the deck.

 Tseng looked thoughtful as she followed.  “The Wolf inventory of their assets indicated several missing warships; four, I believe.  As large as their Naval Touman was, their raiding of the mothball fleets was known to several of the Clans- notable among them was Snow Raven, who were rather fastidious on knowing who had what ships.  If the Wolverines possess any still,  I suspect a Texas class will be one as it was unaccounted for. All told, there was four known unaccounted for of the known Touman.”

  Taking a seat in the conference room, she waited for the door to close before she continued.  “Past that, I do not wish to speculate too much.  At one point, they had several Black Lions; I believe two were destroyed at the battle of Barbados but one was previously unknown to the Wolves.  Records are obviously incomplete… and during the buildup to REVIVAL, inventory of the mothball fleets showed several discrepancies.  Likely from the previous raiding.  It was after the Annihilation that security on the anchorages was increased and improved.”

  Devon blinked.  “How many discrepancies?”

 Tseng looked at a data pad and tapped a few spots.  “Twelve.  Majority of them Cruisers and Destroyers.  At least one Potemkin. At least three were discovered documented as destroyed at some point during the next few years.”

 Lebowski chuckled.  “They were a resourceful clan, were they not?”

 Devon interjected before Tseng could answer.  “Twelve possible ships in addition to the four known unaccounted for?  I have doubts on the three supposed destructions… Because Wolf lies and misdirections, of course.”

  Tseng sighed.  “As do I.  However, without facilities, I highly doubt that many would still exist in their Touman.  I would say maybe a third to half, if that many.”

  Devon shook her head.  “Well… I suspect we will learn of how many survived the two hundred fifty years since they left.  If nothing else, it will prove to be a lesson on how well constructed the old vessels were.”

Deep Space Sensor Station Agnes

  When the signal went to stand-by, Sariah held her giggle in for a good ten seconds before it exploded from her in a fit, catching the crew by surprise.  When she managed to get control of her mirth, she looked around at the concerned crew.  “What?” she asked.  “You never saw someone nearly die from laughter over an absurd situation before?”

  Casey shook his head.  “I have but not like that…  I thought you was gonna explode, LT.”  And the murmurs of agreement from the others, he continued.  “What’s so funny?”

Sariah laughed again.  “Y’all know who Major McCormack is, right?” She asked.  “I mean, beside bein’ a Mechwarrior, Head of Intelligence and Commander of a Battlemech Battalion?”

 Kiiko answered her.  “Ummm no…  I heard stories about her being something of a historian.  And a nasty rumor about her really being some sort of assassin.  Which is weird.”

 Charlene chuckled. “El-Tee, there are stories about her being more than she is…  She *is* from Outreach, after all and everyone knows folks from there are either hot shot mech jocks or really Wolf’s Dragoon Clanners.”

Sariah floated over to one of the seats and sat in it, locking down the seat bar.  “Ms Yammashita…  the Good Major is a downright vicious Bitch of a Spymaster…   and so unassuming too.” The LT chortled some.  “That helps if y’all are going to run an intel section.  I do know she’s no assassin but she does have a personal hit squad; I met one of them and he’s dreamy…”  A spacy smile graced her face as she said that last.

Casey laughed then.  “If she is a spook, then she managed to make an asset out of a Clan Loremaster.  Or fool one, at least. Oh, to be a fly on the wall when the clanner finds THAT out…”

  Sariah nodded. “Mister Cochran, I do believe that is an understatement…”

**

CGB Den Mother


Just under two hours later, the escorts arrived.

What they were, concerned the Star Admiral as she came on the bridge in the middle of a bit of a scramble.  “On Screen,” She snapped as she reached her command seat.

  A sensor technician spoke up as an image of local space popped up on the holographic display.  “Star Admiral, we picked up two ships approaching some ten minutes ago…  They were under EmCon until they were nearly on top of us and started deploying a handful of fighters.”

“Identified?” Devon requested as a yeoman delivered a data-slate.

Aff…  two warships, Identified as the SLS Yukon and SLS State of Grace”

 Loremaster Tseng, who had not left the bridge confirmed Devon’s thoughts on their identity.  “Star Admiral, the Yukon is known to have been part of their Touman.  The State of Grace is one of the missing reserve ships.”

  “Well, we now know where one went, Quaff?” was the Admiral’s reply.  “Have they hailed us?”

 “Not as of yet.  The Station has notified us they have arrived though.  No other messages as of yet and no targeting notifications.”

 “That is something.  Can we get a better image of them?”

 “Aff” the technician spoke some commands to his staff and on a side screen, a video image of the incoming craft was now visible.

  As the image zoomed in, it took in the lines of the Aegis Class ship that was the State of Grace; her hull obviously recently painted in the colors of the Old Star League Navy, with a white stripe going down both broadsides, piercing the deep green of the rest of the hull.  The ships name was clearly highlighted by a few specifically places spot-lamps.

  “Star Admiral, we are being hailed via holo-com”

 “Accept

  The Communications holo display, long a staple of the League Navy for the larger ships, had not been used outside of Clan transmissions for some time- the Inner Sphere having mostly lost the ability to make them outside of Comstar.  So it was a pleasant surprise for the Ghost Bear Admiral to have it used.

  Appearing in the emitter, A male figure appeared in the hologram, clad in what was obviously a Star League era-styled Naval Officer uniform.  The rank pins of a Commodore adorned his collar and after a second, he spoke.

[Greetings…  I am Commodore Kevin Callihan of the SLS State of Grace, in service with the Phoenix Lancers in defense of Centaurus IV.  You must be Star Admiral Devon…]

 Devon nodded as she spoke.  “You would be correct, Commodore.”  The Admiral watched both the holo and her crew, noting the yeoman was obviously looking at a data slate the Loremaster had given her.  Obviously, to look up the name of this man to see if he was one of the Old Blood Names.  Old habits…

[Very Good.  I wish to welcome you to the system further and request that your flotilla fall in between my ships…] Commodore Callihan spoke, the holo showing his relaxed state.  [This system is fairly safe but the Governor General and my Clan would have my hide if something befell any of your ships while in transit.  The System does occasionally have problems with raiders and pirates.  While I have doubts about any committing to an attack upon you, the Word of Blake defies sense on many occasions and might try to upset this meeting, if they know of it.]

Devon smiled slightly.  It was a bold statement, this offer, if they did plan on bringing harm to her fleet.  It would be in poor form, violating SAFCON… but then, it was known to be the way of the Lancers to honor any word given and not go back on it.  And it also was a reasonable offer.
  And it wasn’t like her ship could tangle with both a Lola III and an Aegis. She was good… but not that good.

 “Commodore, I will order my fleet to fall into formation with yours for transit to Orbit,” She replied at last.  “I look forward to the end of this journey and this conflict.”

  [As does everyone here, Admiral,] Callihan replied.  [As does everyone here.  My helm will be sending over movement plans about now and I hope to speak with you further soon.  Transit time is roughly two hours.]

“Very good, Commodore… I look forward to that.”

A smile.  [See you in two hours or so.  State of Grace clear.]  the Holo ended.

  .

Legends and Myths Nineteen

Ghost Bear Compound
1st Bear Guards, Alpha Galaxy Mech-Bays
Silverdale, Alshain.
1921 hrs, 1 January, 3080

  Omnimechs and supply carriers moved from the bays out the main door to the landing field at a brisk pace, the men and women of Theta Cluster, 1st Bear Guards knowing they were going on a long trip and one of great importance.  And the Khan watched them move from her position in the observation lounge even as she was deep in thought.

  Khan Kabrinski had come out of her offices sometime after midnight after some nine hours of researching and reading.  Loremaster Tseng’s revelations about the Annihilation of the Not Named had only one source- the diary of the Founder- but she had been right about other potential sources.  The First Khan of the Ghost Bears, Sandra Tseng, had written about some of the same items that her current Loremaster had commented on.

  Notable among the First Khan’s writings was her commentary on the reversal on Reforms made by Nicolas.  Khan Tseng had written her reservations on them, as she noted that Nicholas had used these very things in his condemnation of the Wolverines and how self-serving Nicholas had become.  Kabrinski noted that Khan Tseng continued using the True Name of the Not-Named in her writings; she supposed Tseng never expected anyone to dig this deep into the journals of the First Khan perhaps… and there were a great many things of note within them, among them the true history of the founders of Ghost Bear.  Most of which she knew, of course- all Ghost Bears knew of it.  The parts written about how close the founders came to being separated though, was not common knowledge.  Deep thoughts accompanied the information she read… and it made her decision that much easier, albeit no less dangerous.

  Of the Sphere Clans, the Snow Ravens would likely support her decision; they had a long history with the Not Named prior to their Trial and had been one of the only clans not to rabidly pursue them. Indeed, that clan had used some of the designs popular with the Not Named long after most clans dropped them.  Add in they had their OWN issues with their integration with the Outworlds Alliance, it wasn’t likely they would pursue the Not Named right now.

  The other four, the Hells Horses were an enigma on their possible response and the Novacats were more Citizens of the Combine now than anything else. The Wolves and Falcons were too busy fighting each other.  She expected complaints from the Wolves- after all, they were the Originators of the Annihilation in the first place and had complained over Amon’s (in)action way back then.  They might try something against the Bears for this new policy- if so, let them try.  The Ghost Bears were their own entity and it was time to not march to another’s tune… especially a Wolf-driven one.  There had been enough of that over the years….

  The Falcons were just blood thirsty… and were they to go to this world, this Centaurus IV, Kabrinski suspected it would not go well.  She had known of two defeats the Jade Falcons had suffered in the Invasion were at the hands of the Mercenary Force sheltering the Not Named survivors; when she read up further on them, she noted their use of Clan Engagement rules in one case and the other the ancient Dueling tradition for the other.   Any attempt to go there by the Falcons would be met by this Mercenary Force… and she suspected the same results would happen.  The losses they had taken to “honorless” scum had not sat well with the Falcons as she remembered, and it had cause many a rash action afterward.

  As one of her bondsmen put it, there was something to be said for getting in your opponent’s head and make them overthink.  Leads to mistakes…

 Speaking of her bondsmen, it was a conversation with them early this morning that helped solidify this decision.  It was the right thing to do, even if it might be a painful choice.

So, when she exited her office, she had gone straight to the communications room and started her staff in sending out movement orders.  She also convened another meeting of her Senior Commanders… in order to inform them of the choices made, and the new policy to be implemented… and of the warning of possible attacks from the other Clans over this decision.

The various Commanders present had protested but in laying out the reasons for her decision, she stressed the initial actions of Nicholas Kerensky had been wrong due to hubris, personal bias and perhaps misplaced anger.  One needed to put in work to move forward… and judging by the limited records available to review, the biggest crimes the Not Named were guilty of was being forward thinking… and family driven.

  That last comment had hit home with her Commanders.  One of the biggest advantages the Ghost Bears had, a great strength, was its sense of Family, its unity of purpose for all within the Clan.  It was a tenet set down by the Clan’s Founders and maintained over the centuries since.  That they helped kill a clan that had some of the same beliefs because of lies (or so their Khan said), it made more than a few mad.  Even the more crusader minded among her Commanders.

  She now had the support of her senior most commanders in this endeavor… and an official policy change was forthcoming.  But the task force needed to be gone before she put it out…. A Council Meeting could be called for it…. And she honestly did not want to fight a Grievance or Refusal battle over it.  This was the right call.  She could feel it in her heart… and who was she to argue with that?

The Door to the Lounge opened and Star Colonel Lebowski entered, a drink in hand.  “My Khan, another two hours or so and we will be ready to lift.  Any further instructions?”  The Star Colonel was relaxed as usual and even sported a small smile.

  Khan Kabrinski shook her head. “Neg,” She said.  “I do not have anything else to order or advise on other than do not lose.”

  A slight snort.  “My Khan, I never go into battle expecting to lose or win.  I just take advantage of what my enemy give me… and make it work.” He replied.  “I know the reputation of the Lancers; never met them or faced them, though so it is hard to plan based on rumors and hearsay.  In case they choose to fight in the stead of the Not Named, have you advice?”

 Kabrinski thought on that a few seconds.  “Do not expect Zelbringen though it is possible.  While they did figure it out early on, it has been thirty years since they used our rules on us.  Granted, it was on an impetuous Falcon commander, but the fact remains they do know it so be prepared to have it used.  From what I know of them and the Watch has compiled, they are methodical and certain commanders are known to gamble with tactics.  And for them, such things work.  It shows in their combat record; I do not take what happened to them at the beginning of Jihad into account.  No one truly expected that mess and I blame Comstar for not briefing the Task Force that tried to retake Terra properly back then.  To my knowledge, it is their only major loss but it was a loss for reasons out of their control.”  She paused.  “Lebowski, the little information we have on them states they do not lose.  They do not always win, but they just do not lose.”

“Lovely information, My Khan, as neither do I,” Lebowski replied with a smirk.  “Should I expect the Not Named to be as good if I face them?”

She pondered this as she watched an ammunition carrier make its way to the drop ships.  “No.  I expect they will have learned a thing or three from the Lancers but I do not expect they will have adopted their ways.  I expect Traditional Star League fighting style mixed with Early Clan methodologies.  It will cause a ‘hiccup’, as my bondsman would say, in their response to what ever you do.  Use that.”

 A nod.  “Aff…” Lebowski replied.  “One way or another, we will find out in three months, maybe a little longer.  Five hundred light years is not a short trip, even with everything able to double jump.  I expect 13 to 14 weeks until we are there.  Will we have Safcon for travel or will we have to lurk?”

 “I have already sent a message off to the Republic and to both the Combine and the Federated Suns ambassadors, indicating that your flotilla was not anything to worry over;” She replied.  “Your fleet is simply on a mission of Clan Import that does not concern any of them. As you are not the size of an Invasion force, I would expect no real issue.”

A snort.  “A truth within the Fiction.  Sneaky.”

“Aff.  Even I can learn from the Inner Sphere, Star Colonel.” The Khan replied.  “Loremaster Tseng should be aboard your flagship by now, yes?”

“I believe so.”

“Good.  Remind her I want a full accounting of everything seen… and perhaps, setting up a future meeting with the Not Named Clan hosts…  I should like to meet those who would court such danger within their midst,” Kabrinski looked over at the Star Colonel.  “And perhaps see what records THEY have of those Falcon defeats.  Our fellow clansmen are not very forthcoming with information other than that they were beaten.”

Laughter from the Star Colonel was his response.  “Aff…  If possible, I will see to the possibility.  May I be dismissed?”

“You may.  Good Luck and Good Hunting.”  Lebowski left as she returned to watching the operations within the mech bay.  This was to be the largest Trial of Grievance ever done.  Normally, such things were accomplished between warriors only.  But this…. Was bigger than a bruised ego.  What the Not Named had endured… could not easily be quantified.

  The Loss of an entire generation and a half of Warriors by the Ghost Bears… was not a small thing.  But it was a thing.  And perhaps this gamble would be allowed to happen and some resolution to ancient wrongs accomplished.  No matter who won, there would be no Ghost Bears pursuing the Not Named survivors after this…  Enough blood had been spilled.

 And if the words of the Exiles Khan were true, justification enough, as far as she was concerned, to end their part in all of it.

Legends and Myths Eighteen- unexpected revelation

Ghost Bear Dominion Executive Offices
Silverdale, Alshain
31 December, 3079

The voices emanating from the conference room of the Khan were several and quite loud.  For the last hour, Khan Kabrinski had been having a discussion with her saKhan Ragnar Magnusson and her Loremaster Laurie Tseng along with a few other senior Galaxy Commanders over the reports of strange settlers showing up in Federated Suns space.

To say that many in the room wanted to pursue the rumor of the strange settlers being of the Not Named, the potential to actually have enough to go after them… was a limiting factor.  The Khan, while wanting to immediately go after them with everything, was cautioned against it by both the Loremaster and the saKhan.  Various Commanders voiced support for the Khan but several also offered caution-  If they were to go to this planet where they settled, it would almost be a suicide run.
  One commander had cautioned the problem that it could cause- he had fought alongside and against the planet’s forces over the years… and knew how good they were. 

  The discussion raged back and forth, with the Loremaster strangely silent.  When she did speak, it was with measured words…

  “My Kahn, traditions hold true and, in many cases and times, should be kept and followed.  I will say this… saKhan Magnussen has a very valid point- does pursuit of the Not Named override our own security and the welfare of our people or are we to doom those who look to us for security to being preyed upon by the Falcons, the Wolves or the Horses?  If we send too much, there is only so much that our Touman can face, even with the Kungsarmie a part of it.

  She paused, knowing the grief she was about to receive for this revelation… but the words of Ragnar had made her think.  And perhaps, some sense was to be had.  It had been two centuries.  “My Khan, the Remembrance entries detailing their crimes… are not accurate.  And its not only ours that is flawed.”

The silence that descended on the room was epic.  And it was only broken by the Khan’s growled order.  “Explain yourself.”

Tseng closed her eyes for a few seconds.  She needed to explain her thoughts and why she had them… in a way that would not get her removed.  Or dead.  “My Khan… it begins with a conversation I had with those very mercenaries that are host to the Potential Not Named.

Many years ago, I had opportunity to meet some of the researchers going through the records on Strana Mechty and on Huntress.  Second Star League researchers and some of them were from this Mercenary Force.  I managed to befriend on of them, a Captain McCormack, who was digging into what data we had on old League facilities within the Inner Sphere.  She was a very pleasant person to speak with and quite knowledgeable on a great many things, as well as an accomplished Mech pilot.

  Her queries into certain subjects were… of a touchy nature, which was why I had reason to meet her.  I was able to help her with some of her searches and direct her in other directions away from others she should not see.

  One of the subjects was that of the Not Named… or information pertaining to their original designation.  We as loremasters know there should not be anything there… but flags are flags and must be addressed.

  I am certain she knew I was steering her away from some items…  for her safety as well as any others with her.  In any event, she didn’t seem to be bothered by this, for whatever reason.  I would learn later, she was pretty thorough as a researcher and despite my efforts, had managed to gain some of what she sought.

  When I ran into her again, it was on Galatea as she was there for the last meeting before Stone’s Operation Scour began.  There, she and I talked about a great many subjects, including the various differences in the various Clan Remembrances…  We were in private when the subject of the Not Named came up… and her informing me the reasons all the Clans targeted the Not Named were faulty.

  I protested this assertion… but when I calmed down some, she laid out everything she had found within various clan versions of the remembrances that were STILL there… and of her discussion with Khan Ward of the Exiles.”

 The Khan held up a hand as some of the senior galaxy commanders began to grumble.  “Silence…” her voice was still sharp and still full of menace.  “I will hear the rest of this story… especially as it pertains to OUR Remembrance.”  When the others quieted down, she looked at her Loremaster.  “Continue.”

“My Khan…”  Tseng continued.  “She had apparently spoke with Khan Ward; as she said, she had known him when he was a baby and had maintained contact with him over the years, having been a family friend.  He had mentioned to her during one of their talks about having seen the personal Diaries of the Founder… and the revelations within, especially as it pertained to the history of the Defense Forces, the foundation of the Clans… and the reasons for the Annihilation of the Not Named Clans.”

Tseng shook her head.  “Those reasons… It was personal.  The Khan of the Not Named was allowing many social thing, reforms… that ilKhan Nicholas did not approve of… and what was worse in his mind, that some of the internal reforms being done within that Clan were working and partial reasons as to how was they were being more successful than other clans- to include his own.  And it did not sit well with him… especially as that Clan’s Khan refused to bend to him… to give up authority over her Clan and its direction, as so many others did at the time- even us.”

The Khan listened.  “What about the nuclear strike at the Snow Ravens?”  Kabrinski, like all who rose to the rank she had, knew the Remembrance pretty darn well… and all who were Ghost Bear Warriors took an oath to pursue those of the Not Named…  What her Loremaster was now saying… was it may not be for reasons truly valid.  Though there was one thing that was… or so she thought at least.

Tseng held up her hands, palms up.  “My Khan…  I had opportunities to speak with Khan Ward while at that conference.  And according to him, it was an accident.  The other nuclear blast, the first one… was because of perfidy of the Khan of Widowmaker.”

“Wait, what?”  saKhan Magnussen spoke at last.  “How did you get permission to see him?  Who…”

Tseng nodded.  “The Mercenary who knew him as a child?  She introduced us… and no, he was NOT happy about her mentioning those contents to me.  But when she explained the WHY she had and the help I had supposedly given her back in Clan Space… he agreed to discuss the contents of that diary.

My Khans, this is not going to make anyone in this room happy… but a great many things laid at the feet of the Not Named, spoken of in our Remembrance and others… were engineered by the ilKhan and allies.  According to Khan Ward, Nicolas did express regret for what he did not long after it was considered finished.  And many of the caste reforms he had instituted much later, well, many of them were things he was AGAINST the Not Named Khan doing and used as reasons for setting up the Not Named to be Annihilated.”

Silence reigned within the room at this time…  and after the very pregnant pause, the Khan spoke.  “And the destruction of two generations of our warriors?”

 Tseng swallowed.  “One could say it was vengeance of one against that who helped kill his Clan; especially for all he may have known, no one had escaped.  Vengeance for what was done to his clan that were for reasons he likely knew were faulty, It is not like he would have had any say in correcting anyone.  But we are told from the moment we are able to understand that to be of the Clans is to be willing to fight and we are told we fight until beaten.  That science-caste member… did what he did as a final act of vengeance for a Dead Clan, because of the manufactured hatred of all things Not Named Clan or related to it..

  And my Khan… I can honestly say, after learning of all this hidden history, my opinions on a great many things have changed.  Some just a little, some quite a bit.  And I confess, I might have done the same as that science caste, were I in his position.  As horrific as it was for us, I do find I understand why it was done.

 “And we were party to the destruction of a Clan at the behest of those who are NOT our allies.  And this is to our shame.  Perhaps Star Captain Amon was more right in his thinking than we realized, questions of Honor be damned… The Wolves should have been able to do the job themselves.  That their inability to do the job THEY wanted…. and  their questioning OUR honor…

  No, in light of the truth behind what happened, there is no atonement for our part in all this. None!” That Tseng, an accomplished Mechwarrior herself and one of the more honorable warriors within the Touman (one of the reasons for her to become Loremaster) was saying such words, was strong stuff.  That her voice had risen as she spoke that last, was not her usual way of speaking.  It was plain that she felt great insult over this history.

And this was not lost on ANYONE in the room.

 Khan Kabrinski was quiet.  Her Loremaster had given her and her senior Commanders food for thought.  Food for a large amount of thought… and the revelations given by her Loremaster were not sitting all that well.  But when something you were taught since a babe in the Sibko might be a bit of Grand Bullshit, that it would not sit well was, well, a given.

  But the Ghost Bears were not rash actors.  History had taught them that rash acts have high tendency to blow up in one’s face… and that lesson had been taught more than once over the years.  Any decision to pursue this thread would be pondered and pondered hard.

“Loremaster…” The Khan began, her voice containing no menace.  “You have given much to think on but before I continue, do you believe the words of the Exile and that Mercenary?”

Tseng nodded.  “My Khan, I do.  Khan Ward was not raised among us so does not have the bias any of us raised on the Home Worlds would have on this subject.  He knows how much a huge thing it would be, were it to get out.  That the Wolves never revealed it and every one of their Khans has access to the same books… may be testament to their shame in all of it and that maybe some secrets should be left hidden, at least then.  So… I do believe him and the assertions of the Mercenary.  We, as in the Clans, were lied to by our Founder and the proof is in his own diary.”

  A pause.  “There is irony in that Widowmaker and their treachery was eventually repaid.  Given this conversation I had with the Exiles Khan, it made me rethink my understanding of ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky’s death. I think the ilKhan was killed deliberately… but there is no proving it now, some two hundred years later.  No evidence… unlike the decision to order the destruction of the Not Named.”

 saKhan Magnussen looked to his Khan.  “My Khan… perhaps there is opportunity to redress this wrong.  Too much has happened and too much time passed to reverse the damages done.  But perhaps, there is a way to find an honorable resolution to this… in light of the great dishonors unleashed then.  And perhaps, since.  I sincerely doubt anyone knew of the Science Caste member’s plan…”

Kabrinski sighed.  “You are right, both of you… and I will render a decision in the morning.  I have some reading to do…  most notably, the records and notes of Khan Sandra Tseng.”  Looking over to the Commanders who had been sitting quietly (for the most part) since the order to shut up, the Khan looked at one specific officer.  “Star Colonel Lebowski…”

Lebowski looked up from his com unit.  “My Khan…”  The Rasalhague native answered.  A fairly well built warrior, he always looked comfortable no matter what he wore and slightly unkempt.  A popular commander, he was known for being cool headed and going with the flow in the face of difficulties, be it in combat or politics.  It helped he was a good mechwarrior, as many tried (and failed) to get under his skin and make him get mad.  “At your Command…”

“You will be in charge of what ever the response will be…  Please get your command ready for travel.”

  A bow.  “Yes, ma’am,” He replied.

To everyone else in the room, the Khan ordered them out.  “Dismissed…  and that goes for everyone.  I need to think and to read.  I will let you know my decision in the morning at the earliest.”

Legends and Myths Seventeen

Lancer Command Compound
Auburn Mountains
0900hrs (GMT+2), 28 February 3080

  Activity within the Phoenix Lancer command compound had been busy for the last few weeks.  Since the Christmas Raid, the decision to spread out forces a bit more to cover other attempts had come about.  Mech Forces, now standing at almost three reinforced battalions, had been officially assigned to various continental bases.  First Battalion was now assigned to Cromwell on a full-time basis while Second was allocated to Ashton and the smaller continent of Cross, off the western coast.

  Third Battalion was on Forbes as they were the newest force and having the biggest growing pains as a re-constituted battalion.  Thankfully, they were not alone here, as some of the Lancer Armor was assigned here as was their guests, the Returned.

  The 331st forces were mostly stationed on Forbes going through a detailed Refurbishment, with at least a full company of their forces now stationed at the Outpost Castle on Sage.  The rest were slated for deployment to areas their civilians had chosen to live, which suited Colonel Tinney just fine.  Parceling out Lancer Armor and Mech assets had been a slight challenge- he’d never had to assign perma-garrisons for Lancers mechs before. In the past, the Armored Regiments had been plenty as well as the vast Militia the planet sported.  But the Jihad had changed thinking on that… as had the troubles that came with taking in the Returned.

  Those problems had been mostly minor so far, with minor disagreements within the bondsmen of the Lancers over the lineage of the Returned… and the one big raid from Christmas.  The results of that raid were still being worked out- Major Kassing and his Company having dragged down all but one of the escapees of the Battle of the Delta within 24 hours… The last one proved to be a difficult hunt for Major Clyburn’s company once they were operational; that one took four more days.

In the meantime, most of the Warships were now fully operational craft, with the Texas class battleship SLS Bismark now fully repaired and rearmed, along with the Aegis class SLS State of Grace and a Lola III, the SLS Yukon.  The Yukon had arrived a week after the initial fleet along with two other Warships, escorting a dozen jumpships).  All three warships were supported by assault Dropships of Lancer ownership- mostly Avenger class ships.  The handful of Lightning aerospace fighters that remained in the 331st’s hands were all updated and operational, thanks to a purchasing mission to (of all places) Capellan space for parts.

  An irony for the Lancers now was that, at seven warships and over twenty Jump ships, they now had a large navy.  Not on the level of a Great House, of course, but still damn large-on the level of Wolf’s Dragoons when they arrived in the Inner Sphere in 3005.  This was an expensive asset, of course but given how dangerous things were, it was a necessary expense.  That cost would be borne by the large amount of salvage from the Occupation still on planet and contained in known Fortress warehouses throughout the world.  Add in the now very resurgent manufacturing base of League Era items, the Lancers and the populous of Centaurus would do alright.

At least until the first Clan Groups came looking for Hollister and his people.  And that was the subject of this meeting of the minds this morning.

Within the main Conference room, the collected leadership of the Lancers sat or was on VidConference Screen.  Governor Sodher-Schaller’s image was front and center of the screen along with Colonel Hollister from the Outpost.  Chief Warrant Officer Charles Spiegel, head of the Lancer Technician Section was on the screen too, beaming in from Forbes where he and Governor Devine were working with The Returned Techs to continue the updating of manufacturing lines- those two had muted their microphone as they were talking, fairly animatedly too.  Also on screen was two other folks, sans pictures- Chief Ranger Calderon (who represented Interior Department) who was out in the field and Governor Joe Bondi from over on Johnson, where he was busy overseeing construction projects.

  The Various Lancer Component Commanders were in the room for this.  Along side the Colonel, Majors McCormack and Borton, (1st and 3rd Bn commanders, respectively), Lt Colonel Conigliaro from the Air side was here in his flight gear, fresh from landing and Lancer Infantry boss, Lt Colonel Hannings had just arrived- late as usual.  Warrington was on the screen as he was still in Ashton drilling recruits from the Returned on the Lancer armor.  Major Kassing had QRF Duty and was listening in via coms.

All in all, it was a large meeting and a very necessary one.

“Okay,” Tinney began as he looked around the conference room.  “I know everyone hates these meetings but this one is important in light of the information I was sent through MIIO sources.  Where they got it, I have no idea…

  It would seem word of our new settlers has reached Clan Ears and there is a bit of arguments brewing there as to who can and will come looking.  With the chaos in Clan space and reported destruction of at least four clans- either through absorption or annihilation, the list is pretty damn small fortunately.

  AS near as our friends over in MIIO are concerned, the only possible Clan forces that might come calling are Ghost Bear, Snow Raven and maybe Hell Horses.  None of the Home Clans have the ass or inclination to come out here and the Sphere Clans, as they are being called, are a mixed bag of ability and energy.”

Tinney paused.  “That said, the most capable is Snow Ravens and they are the closest to us- per MIIO, they are busy trying to solidify their alliance with Outworlds so might not give a go at us.  The Ghost Bears have the best odds- but may not be able to due to helping Stone and the Republic form up.  Hells Horses are a mess but its never stopped them before.

  What info I have gotten from both MIIO and an associate with Clan Wolf-in-Exile show both the Bears and Horses looking to send something this way…  Its believed that whatever they send will be enough- neither can really dedicate enough firepower with their own positions in flux.  Whatever they do send though won’t be small.”

  Borton raised a hand.  “Ok… so where’s that leave us?  Do we have to worry about them showing up tomorrow or so we have time to prepare?”

 Warrington also spoke.  “Valid point…  and what are we going to have to defend as a result? Can’t be everywhere….”

Tinney nodded.  “Well..  that leads me to my next part, expected defense.  Whatever does show up might be reasonable in leaving the fighting outside cities.  They are coming for what they believe to be Wolverines; especially the Ghost Bears who have some sort of giant hate for your ancestors, Hollister.  Irrational too, in my opinion…  But being a fairly family oriented clan, they might not go for it because of the potential for Civilian Casualties- not something they like doing, so I am told.

  The Hell Horses, on the other hand… might go for it.  They aren’t as careful.”

Conigliaro spoke up then. “What sort of aerospace might the Ghost Bears come with?  Neither of those two are known for leaving their planes away though the Bears tend to let their mech jocks do the talking.  The Fighters, as I recall, are dedicated to air superiority,” The senior aerospace pilot of the lancers held up three fingers.  “I mean, they were a key part of the retaking of Terra, at least in establishing local superiority if I remember right…  they might not commit them to a big fight here for three reasons…  one, securing their own spaces, two, protection of their shipping and three, just not enough of them because of losses in the Sol system.”

McCormack answered him.  “Mike, no one really knows that answer, I’m sorry.  I know if they do bring them, you will have your hands full; they like heavy craft though traditionally, they do not have many which is why they are usually used for superiority missions.  If they commit them and that’s an if, I would expect to see a lot of heavy fighters.”

“Joy…” Conigliaro replied.  “What about Hell’s Horses?”

Tinney took up answering him for this.  “They will bring them.  The Horses fight completely Combined Arms… which makes them unique among the Clans.  Strength and Weakness, really… as depending on the force make up, they can be very supply dependent.  And slow.  Anything coming here will be strike oriented, I think.  Which means your pilots will be very busy…  How’s your ground game?”

 Mike smiled.  “It’s there and likely needs practice…  Any idea who might come first?  You know it won’t only be one- though I don’t see them coming as a group.  Too much tied up in being the one’s to put down the Wolverines…  No offense, Hollister.”

Hollister smiled slightly.  “None taken, Colonel.”

Tinney looked at the notes in front of him then back up at the assemblage. “We know they are coming… and we know it will be a mess.  How much will be based on who and what comes; the when is also in flux.  MIIO thinks it will be soon; they just don’t know which one will be first.”

Diane frowned.  “How soon?”

“Within 30 days, its thought,” Tinney replied.  “If it’s the Bears, you might be able to turn it into a Refusal- I mean, they did get Abjured from Clan Space so one could argue their beef stems from when you both were among the Homeworlds.  Seeing you both aren’t anymore… maybe make it a Refusal over living in the Sphere instead?  Or a Grievance over even being a target over two-hundred- and fifty-year-old bullshit?”

 Kassing laughed across the coms. [Tinney, that is the most weasel lawyer-y stunt…] He said.  [What makes you think they’d go for a Refusal Battle versus Annihilation?]

 Hannings answered before anyone else.  “Resources.  The Ghost Bears have more than just themselves to look after now, with their more or less taking over the Rasalhague Republic.  They can’t afford to go haring off after a myth with most of their Touman.  The level of battle that Annihilation would entail is simply not cost or resource effective, not when they have territory to protect.

  For that matter, neither can the Falcons or the Wolves try to do it- those two are so locked into beating on each other; neither has the strength to jump into hunting the Myth with any sort of power and be certain the other won’t take advantage of weakened defenses. Add in we are kind of far away and you aren’t seeing either of them.

The Nova Cats are more or less Combine residents right now and Hells Horses are far away too.  I don’t see them trying though with the Horses, I could see a gamble.  I do see Snow Raven as possible because they are not that far from us… but they have a realm to see to as they are partnered with the Outworlds Alliance.  I don’t see them sparing assets to come either.

 Which leaves the Bears, maybe… and the Horses.” Everyone one present stared at the normally quiet Bill Hannings.  Bill, for his part, stared back for a second and then asked, “What?  Did I say something wrong?”

 Leslie shook her head.  “No Bill… you just don’t normally say anything; and rarely do you give a dissertation.  Especially on Clan politics or reasoning.  Well done.” She commented.  “Sounded good to me…”

  Bill shrugged.  “I have a small fascination for Clan motives and what makes them want to fight.  For the most part, there must be a really good reason for doing more than the occasional asset raid for most of them.  Pursuing Wolverines would be a good reason but most of the clans are in poor positions to do so.  Too much to lose in the process.  Or so I have read.”

“Sounds like a good theory, Bill,” Tinney replied.  “And it kind of supports trying to twist the pursuit into something a bit less final.  Couldn’t hurt to try that argument if they show up.”

Hollister shrugged from the other side of the screen. “Maybe.  Until then, we will work to be ready to take the field.  The rest of my forces should be through the technical refurbishment process within the next two weeks… and if they hold off that long, we will be ready.”  The Returned leader said.  “I suspect they will think it a trap and may not agree to it.”

“They might, they might not.  Considering Victor pulled a wording trick against the Council, they might look for similar.  In any case, I’ll worry about it when and if the opportunity shows up,” Tinney replied.  “Until then, there is preparations to make and readiness to improve. Third Battalion should be stood up fully within the month which will bring us back to a resemblance to our SLDF organizational levels… and more Aerospace is coming.  Any questions?

No one indicated any and Tinney breathed out.  “Ok then…  meeting in a Week unless situation dictates otherwise.