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…