Friday, February 28, 2014

Searching for Story Ideas --- My process

Just a note: I've already blogged more this year (This'll be the 16th blog post of the year) then I did all of 2013....WOW!

Anyway, back to the matter at hand....

Story idea can come from anywhere, but a primary source for me are the Battletech sourcebooks themselves. With the one just released, Historical: Wars of the Republic Era, I will be reading through it carefully, seeing if there's anything that jogs an idea. It may be a situation, an event, or a setting, but we'll see....

Story ideas are not a hard and fast process for me. Sometimes they come to me full-blown, while other times, they come to me in fragments that have to be pieced together for a full story. Sometimes, what works in my mind doesn't work on paper --- Negotiation, The Promise and  Thirteen was a lot like that, needing rewrite after rewrite to form the story into something that worked cleanly. On the other hand, the first drafts for the The Lance Killer, Color of Authority, and Evacuation were easier to put down on paper, and needed only a few adjustments to the final draft. The rest fall in the between, with various levels of ease.

I have a long list of story ideas, and just need to spend time filling them out. If I gleam an idea from Historical: Wars of the Republic Era, I'll blog about the process (without too much detail, or else you wouldn't read it once it hits Battlecorps!) From creation to completion, how a story is written.



Thursday, February 27, 2014

DBK-2A Diamondback

Sorry for the delay! I know I'm a bit behind, but I was working on a non-Battletech project and forgot all about the blog!

Anyway, I was digging through some old papers and I found a few of my old 'Mech designs, so I'd thought I post a couple now and then. There are mostly old designs, but I have updated them to the modern battlefield, so there should be two or three variants per design

So, the first -- the Diamondback.

I built this as a compliment to the Rattlesnake 'Mech (As see in Battletechnology issue #21). Having a lance of three Rattlesnakes and one Diamondback would be a fast-attack lance, designed to hit one or two enemy units hard and fast. Ideally, this design would hang back as the other three lance members would dart in, laying down long-range covering fire. It's a little heavier than the Rattlesnake, but it matches its lighter cousin in speed and mobility. The -2A is a hammer with an ERPPC and four medium lasers. The -4A carries two Light PPCs and an extra heat sink. Otherwise they're pretty similar.

               BattleMech Technical Readout

Type/Model: Diamondback DBK-2A
Tech: Inner Sphere / 3050
Config: Biped BattleMech
Rules: Level 2, Standard design

Mass: 40 tons
Chassis: Endo Steel
Power Plant: 280 VOX XL Fusion
Walking Speed: 75.6 km/h
Maximum Speed: 118.8 km/h
Jump Jets: 7 Standard Jump Jets
Jump Capacity: 210 meters
Armor Type: Ferro-Fibrous
  4 Medium Lasers
  1 ER PPC
Manufacturer:  (Unknown)
  Location:    (Unknown)
Communications System:  (Unknown)
Targeting & Tracking System:  (Unknown)

Type/Model: Diamondback DBK-2A
Mass: 40 tons

Equipment:                                   Crits   Mass
Int. Struct.:  67 pts Endo Steel        14      2.00
 (Endo Steel Loc: 1 HD, 3 LA, 3 RA, 2 LT, 2 RT, 1 CT, 1 LL, 1 RL)
Engine: 280 XL Fusion                    12      8.00
   Walking MP: 7
   Running MP: 11
   Jumping MP: 7
Heat Sinks: 12 Double [24]              3      2.00
 (Heat Sink Loc: 1 RT)
Gyro:                                             4      3.00
Cockpit, Life Supt., Sensors:         5      3.00
Actuators: L: Sh+UA    R: Sh+UA   12       .00
Armor Factor:  134 pts (FF)           14      7.50
 (Armor Crit Loc: 6 LA, 6 RA, 1 LT, 1 RT)

                                Internal    Armor
                                Structure  Value
   Head:                          3           9    
   Center Torso:            12          16    
   Center Torso (Rear):                5    
   L/R Side Torso:         10        15/15    
   L/R Side Torso (Rear):           5/5    
   L/R Arm:                     6        12/12    
   L/R Leg:                    10        20/20    

Weapons and Equipment    Loc  Heat  Ammo   Crits    Mass
1 Medium Laser                     RA    3                      1      1.00
1 Medium Laser                     LA     3                      1      1.00
1 Medium Laser                     RT     3                      1      1.00
1 ER PPC                              LT    15                     3      7.00
1 Medium Laser                     LT      3                      1      1.00
7 Standard Jump Jets:                                             7      3.50
 (Jump Jet Loc: 2 LT, 2 RT, 1 CT, 1 LL, 1 RL)
TOTALS:                                        27                    78     40.00
Crits & Tons Left:                                                    0         .00

Calculated Factors:
Total Cost: 7,658,934 C-Bills
Battle Value 2: 1,556 (old BV = 1,390)
Cost per BV2: 4,922.19
Weapon Value: 971 / 971 (Ratio = .62 / .62)
Damage Factors: SRDmg = 22;  MRDmg = 9;  LRDmg = 4
BattleForce2: MP: 7J,  Armor/Structure: 3/2
                   Damage PB/M/L: 3/2/1,  Overheat: 1
                   Class: MM;  Point Value: 16


               BattleMech Technical Readout

Type/Model: Diamondback DBK-4A
Tech: Inner Sphere / 3132
Config: Biped BattleMech
Rules: Level 3, Standard design

Mass: 40 tons
Chassis: Endo Steel
Power Plant: 280 VOX XL Fusion
Walking Speed: 75.6 km/h
Maximum Speed: 118.8 km/h
Jump Jets: 7 Standard Jump Jets
Jump Capacity: 210 meters
Armor Type: Light Ferro-Fibrous
  2 Light PPCs
  4 Medium Lasers
Manufacturer: (Unknown)
  Location: (Unknown)
Communications System: (Unknown)
Targeting & Tracking System: (Unknown)

Type/Model:    Diamondback DBK-4A
Mass:          40 tons

Equipment:                                 Crits    Mass
Int. Struct.: 67 pts Endo Steel       14      2.00
 (Endo Steel Loc: 1 HD, 3 LA, 3 RA, 2 LT, 2 RT, 1 CT, 1 LL, 1 RL)
Engine: 280 XL Fusion                  12      8.00
   Walking MP: 7
   Running MP: 11
   Jumping MP: 7
Heat Sinks: 13 Double [26]             6      3.00
 (Heat Sink Loc: 1 LT, 1 RT)
Gyro:                                             4      3.00
Cockpit, Life Supt., Sensors:        5      3.00
Actuators: L: Sh+UA    R: Sh+UA 12       .00
Armor Factor:  127 pts (LFF)         7      7.50
 (Armor Crit Loc: 4 LA, 3 RA)

                              Internal    Armor
                              Structure  Value
   Head:                          3          9    
   Center Torso:             12         15    
   Center Torso (Rear):                 5    
   L/R Side Torso:          10       14/14    
   L/R Side Torso (Rear):            5/5    
   L/R Arm:                     6       11/11    
   L/R Leg:                    10       19/19    

Weapons and Equipment    Loc  Heat  Ammo   Crits    Mass
1 Light PPC                           RA     5                      2       3.00
1 Light PPC                           LA     5                      2       3.00
2 Medium Lasers                   RT      6                      2       2.00
2 Medium Lasers                   LT      6                      2       2.00
7 Standard Jump Jets:                                              7       3.50
 (Jump Jet Loc: 2 LT, 2 RT, 1 CT, 1 LL, 1 RL)
TOTALS:                                      22                     75     40.00
Crits & Tons Left:                                                   3         .00

Calculated Factors:
Total Cost: 7,614,834 C-Bills
Battle Value 2: 1,463 (old BV = 1,390)
Cost per BV2: 5,204.94
Weapon Value: 1,156 / 1,156 (Ratio = .79 / .79)
Damage Factors: SRDmg = 23;  MRDmg = 9;  LRDmg = 2
BattleForce2: MP: 7J,  Armor/Structure: 3/2
                   Damage PB/M/L: 4/3/1,  Overheat: 0
                   Class: MM;  Point Value: 15

I'll get something up tomorrow too!


Friday, February 21, 2014

A Time of War Character (Number 3)

I found this character hanging around not doing much of anything, so I thought I would post this. For the record, these aren't official ATOW characters, nor do they have the approval of Catalyst Game Labs. I'm posting it as a chance to give those who lay AToW something they can use.

Concept: Federated Suns Military Intelligence Analyst

Major Nathan Killian is one of the senior MIIO analyst in the Drconis March. Born on Doneval II, he’s a graduate of NAIS, specializing in intelligence. After a three year undercover mission, he has spent most of his career gleaming data from MIIO agents both on the border and inside Combine space. He has no love for the Combine, but has learned to understand the enemy's culture in order to be more attuned to the DCMS’ way of thinking. His interest in history has given him insight into the Combine’s future actions.

He is never far from his noteputer, and while he isn't the most skilled soldier in the AFFS, he is a solider and he can still fight.

Name: Nathan Killian
Age: 35
Height: 180cm        
Weight: 83kg 
Hair: Aubrun 
Eyes: Gray
Affiliation: Federated Suns

Attributes      Link         Movement(Meters Per Turn)
STR 4            +0            Walk 8     Climb 5
BOD 4            +0            Run 19     Crawl 2
RFL 4            +0            Sprint 38  Swim 9
DEX 6            +0 
INT 6            +0 
WIL 5            +0 
CHA 4            +0 
EDG 5            +0 

Traits                    Rules     Traits                    Rules
Alternate ID (1)           p. 108    Natural Apt./Strategy(3)p. 121
Combat Sense (4)           p. 110    Rank (O4)               p. 123
Connections (4)            p. 111    Sixth sense (4)         p. 125
Enemy (-3)                 p. 113    Vehicle (1)             p. 128
Fast Learner (3)           p. 117    Wealth (4)              p. 128
Fit                        p. 117  
In for Life(-3)            p. 120  

Skills                                 TN/C    Level
Acting                      CHA        8/CB     +1
Administration            INT+WIL      7/SB     +4
Art/Writing                 DEX        8/CB     +1
Career/Military Scientist   INT        7/SB     +3
Career/Soldier              INT        7/SB     +4
Climbing                    DEX        7/SB     +1
Computers                 DEX+INT      9/CA     +6 
Cryptology                INT+WIL      9/CA     +2
Driving/Ground Vehicles   RFL+DEX      8/SA     +2
Interest/Combine Culture* INT+WIL      9/CA     +7
Interest/Fed Suns History*INT+WIL      9/CA     +4
Interest/Terran History*  INT+WIL      9/CA     +6
Interest/Star League Hist.  INT        8/SB     +3
Interest/Military History*INT+WIL      9/CA     +4
Interrogation             WIL+CHA      9/CA     +1
Investigation             INT+WIL      9/CA     +3
Language/English          INT+CHA      8/SA     +3    
Language/Japanese         INT+CHA      8/SA     +3
Language/Swedeneese       INT+CHA      8/SA     +3
Leadership                WIL+CHA      8/SA     +4
Martial Arts                RFL        7/SB     +3
Medtech                     INT        7/SB     +1
Melee Weapons               DEX        7/SB     +1
Navigation/Ground           INT        7/SB     +3  
Perception                  INT        7/SB     +4
Protocol/Federated Suns   WIL+CHA      9/CA     +5
Protocol/Draconis Combine WIL+CHA      9/CA     +3
Running                     RFL        7/SB     +1  
Science/Physics           INT+WIL      9/CA     +2 
Security Sys./Mechanical  DEX+INT      9/CA     +2
Sensor Operations         INT+WIL      8/SA     +3
Small Arms                  DEX        7/SB     +3
Strategy                  INT+WIL      9/CA     +3
Streetwise/Fed Suns         CHA        8/CB     +1
Survival/Forest           BOD+INT      9/CA     +3
Swimming                    STR        7/SB     +2
Tactics/Land              INT+WIL      9/CA     +2
Technician/Electronic     DEX+INT      9/CA     +2
Training                  INT+CHA      9/CA     +4
*Advance tier

Equipment            Cost           Weight       Stats
Autopistol              50           500g       see p. 265
Reloads/pistol(2)        4           280g       see p. 265
Fatigues                30           .5kg       see p. 299
Work Boots              36          1.7kg       see p. 299
Military Communicator   50           100g       see p. 301
Micro-recorder         100           150g       see p. 302
Audio/audio-video chip(5)5            35g       see p. 302
Noteputer              500           500g       see p. 303
Jeep                 6,000                      see p. 324


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Favorite Five Mechs from TRO: 2750 posted their favorite four 'Mechs from TRO:2750, ( To stay consistent, I will name my favorite FIVE 'Mechs from the the TRO.

My copy of TRO 2750 is beat up and barely holding together, but it's still intact and it's a fun trip down memory lane every so often. I have this book for twenty-five years now, and I still like it.

So from lightest to heaviest, my five favorite TRO 2750 'Mechs: (Images are from the TRO:2750, via and FASA/Catalysis Games Labs. The images are not mine, nor do I have any claim on them.)


A fast-moving 'Mech with a decent amount of firepower and maxed armor for its size. With it's (brand new) Beagle Active Probe, this is the first real combat effective scout Battletech offers (The Ostscout, in it's original config, has no weapons).


Moves as fast as a 'Mech a third of it's weight, this 'Mech has enough firepower to to be noticed. The only real change I'd make to it is to replace the AMS unit with an extra ton and a half of armor. Still, with the changes made to the AMS rules (One shot of AMS ammo per missiles swarm and not the old "1D6x2"), I could run this on a board as is.


Another nice design. Could use more armor, but it does have CASE and a regular engine, so this design can fight on a lot longer than more designs of it's weight. I also like the look of the design -- it looks solid and menacing.


It's easy to call this a "Poor man's Awesome," but it isn't. For one thing, it's a lot faster than the Awesome, despite being only five tons lighter, and can run and fire it's three main weapons without overheating. It's armor is pretty close to max. It's close-in firepower is equal to some assault 'Mechs.


One of my favorites from any TRO. Max armor, with both strong long-range and short range firepower. And I LOVE the idea of a 'Mech who has a tactic named after it -- the "Highlander Burial". Not many 'Mechs can do 27 points of damage (in five point clusters, on the punch table). A tough customer, one that's nasty in any of it's variants.

Those are my five. What are your five? comment below or over at



Friday, February 14, 2014

Operation Slipknot (Part 4)

And the conclusion!


SLS Nicholas Cameron
Damocles System 
August 18, 2785

The observation area on the McKenna-class battleship was still a cramped area roughly the size of a small cabin. Tanaga watched the stars, ignoring the Star League warships for now. The rest of the fleet was jumping in to join the task force that had gone after the mutineers. In another day and the entire fleet would be assembled once again, to continue the journey.

But things were different now. The mutiny had been a shock, but the response, though appropriate, was just as much of an shock, if not worse. Tanaga had seen the mood of his people and the ship’s crew. Nothing obvious, but a frown that was on a face a little too long, words spoken a little too harshly, or a unnatural tenseness in the walk. Something was simmering below the surface of the ship, if not the entire fleet, and it boil over sooner then later.

It hadn't gone unnoticed by the officers and the General. Ship’s crews were being put through make work projects at a blistering pace, never giving them time to think about the events of the last several days. Soldiers were being drilled on a continual basis, going through every sort of training their officers could think of. Tanaga had made it a point to drill right alongside his unit, leading through example. As for the General, he was making his own plans, the first being on the sheet of paper he held in one hand.

When he heard the hatch behind him open, he did not react. “Major Tanaga?” a voice asked.

Again, right on time, Tanaga thought. He waited a few seconds before he said, “Come in Lieutenant. Close the hatch behind you, please.”

He heard the hatch close. “I think we've gone through this before,” Keller said dryly.

Tanaga smiled, then turned to look at Keller. “Not quite the same. What is the latest from the techs?”

“MacGregor was swearing up a storm the last time I saw him, but I think he’s happy to have his people busy, considering what else is happening.”

The Major nodded, his smile fading. “You don’t like the result of the court marshals?”

The court marshals had been swift, held at the Damocles jump point less then twelve hours after the Marines stormed through the asteroid field and seized the Rhine Knight in a short, bloody fight. The resulting executions had been equally swift, carried out less then six hours after the verdicts were rendered by firing squads. Tanaga hadn't watched them, despite them being shown in a task force wide broadcast.

Keller took a deep breath. “No sir, I do not. But that having been said, I don’t see where the General had a choice in the matter. The regulations are clear on that.”

“He didn't and they are. There are no winners in this situation.”

“Yes sir. May I ask a question?”

“You may, though I may not have an answer.”

“What were the final casualty figures?”

Tanaga snorted. “You mean the butcher’s bill?”

“I didn't mean –“

The Major waved his hand in dismissal. “Not your fault. Operation Slipknot cost us thirty-two Marines, four MechWarriors, and three aerospace fighter pilots. The Marines lost another twelve when they stormed the Rhine Knight. The mutineers....” He exhaled. “They lost.”

“I see.” Keller’s tone was flat.

“The bill would have been a lot higher had those DropShips not been taken out before hand. The mission, though bloody, was a success.”

“Sir, do you hate those people that carried out the mutiny?”

“Hate?” Tanaga shook his head. “No, I don’t hate them, especially after I did some investigating on the pilot of the King Crab.”

“What about him? Didn't he commit suicide?”

“Yes. What I found was a war hero, a man awarded the highest awards a Star League solider can receive, and a fine commander.”

“Then what went wrong?” Keller asked.

“He was dying,” Tanaga replied slowly and softly. “Some genetic disease that came to the fore after we left the Inner Sphere. No treatment, no cure, nothing the doctors could do about it. I guess he decided that he wasn't going to die in space, but planet side, even somewhere in the Inner Sphere itself. But there is no way of knowing his real motives.” He looked out the portal and into the darkness of space again. “How can I hate a man under those circumstances? Can I say that I wouldn't have done the same thing if I was in his shoes? I can’t.”

Keller nodded in understanding. “What did you want to see me about?”

“General Kerensky will be here in about six hours.”

Keller looked surprised. “I didn't –"

”Not many people will know until the last minute. He wants to speak to the Regiment and the ship’s crew.”

“Is that a wise idea? There is a lot of resentment among parts of the fleet.”

‘There won’t be any medals awarded or grand speeches planned. That’s not his way of doing things.” Tanaga turned away from the portal and handed Keller a sheet of paper. “You asked the General to explain himself. This is the start.”

Keller glanced down at the sheet. “General Order 137,” he read aloud.

Tanaga nodded. “The Order will be officially issued in twelve hours. He sent me an advanced copy.”

“How did you . . . ”

“Get the advance copy? Read the Order first.”

There was silence in the compartment as Lieutenant read the Order. He looked up at Tanaga. “You and he share the same view.”

The Major smiled again. “I know how he thinks. I served on his staff in the early years of the Usurper War, and I was given this battalion on his recommendation.”

“I never knew.”

“I don’t make it a point to talk about it.” Tanaga placed a hand on the junior officer’s shoulder. “I know the General, the man behind that rank, and I know he is the best chance we have of surviving, returning to the Inner Sphere and reestablishing the Star League. I have absolute faith in him.”

Keller met his superior’s eyes. “I don’t know him like you sir. I don’t have your faith in him.”

“Do you trust me?” Tanaga asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Then trust me, and I’ll trust the General. Fair enough?”

Keller was silent for several seconds, then he nodded. “I think I can do that, sir. After all, you trusted me. The least I can do is return that trust.”

“Good. The General wants to talk to you in person.”

“Me?” Keller asked, looking surprised.

Tanaga nodded. “I said some good things about you in my report, and if there is one thing the General likes to do is talk to men and women who exemplify what the SLDF stands for.”

‘But –“

”You didn't let your doubts interfere with your duty. You carried out your orders and put the mission above personal feelings. That isn't an easy thing to do, and as long as the mission is good and just, it one of the hallmarks of a good soldier.”

“I – “

Tanaga slapped the Lieutenant on the shoulder and guided him toward the hatch. “Come on, I’ll buy you a drink at the Officer’s mess. If you get me drunk enough, I’ll even tell you about the first time I met the General. It involves a pig, a field full of mud, and a rather lost Rim Wold Guards Locust . . . ”


Hope you enjoyed this. Now, back to writing!


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Operation Slipknot (Part 3)

Here is part three....


Asteroid Bastille 
Damocles System 
August 15, 2785 

Tanaga was the first warrior out of the DropShip. His Highlander reached the bottom of the ramp, followed by Turkle’s Cyclops, and the rest of his command lance, a pair of Victors. They fanned out, each covering a portion of the horizon. As the next lance from the Overlord DropShip deployed to take their place, Tanaga and his command lance pulled back to the DropShips to watch the rest of the deployment.

The rest of the battalion moved off the DropShips in an organized manner. Scouts from the Fifty-Fifth Light Horse regiment, once clear of their DropShip, dashed off toward the targets, while the battalion organized into their strike and guarding forces. Marines in space combat armor, about a company’s worth, rapidly deployed from their own DropShips, moving to join up with the 'Mechs assigned to carry them to the targets. A thin sheen of dust, kicked up from the DropShips’ landing and the force currently deploying, hung in the vacuum surrounding them.

The radio channels were almost bereft of conversation, a mixture of training and not wanting to give the mutineers any more information. The fact the mutineers knew they were here was a given, as the aerospace fighters had already destroyed several floating sensor pods as they swept ahead of the DropShips. The opponent – Tanaga didn't use the term enemy in his mind – knew they were here. It was up to them to decide how to respond . . .

Since the asteroid was relatively small, the gravity on Bastille was minimal, and the atmosphere was nonexistent. The only sound Tanaga could hear was the hum of the Highlander’s fusion engine below his cockpit. Outside the cockpit, the landscape, if it could be called that, was gray and black blurs of rock and shadows, dull and lifeless. The surface itself was mostly level, marked with craters, fissures, cracks, and uneven depressions. The curve of the rock hid them from the mutineer’s direct line of sight but the distance between the sides was short, one kilometers at most.

After ten minutes of watching the strike team assemble, Tanaga opened the Battalion frequency. “Hammer One-Six to all Hammer forces. One last word, people. We do not want bloodshed, but the mutineers may not be so inclined. We will not fire first, but if you are fired upon, return fire just as if we were dealing with the Usurper’s forces. I don’t want to lose any of you just because to hesitated to fire on a fellow SLDF soldier. The password is Red Nail. Hammer One-Six Out.”

In three separate groups, the strike teams moved out. In Tanaga’s group, Lieutenant Foster’s lance lead the way, followed by Tanaga’s lance to the left, Keller’s to the right, then Harris’ lance bringing up the rear. They moved in a loose diamond formation, each lance forming its own, smaller diamond. The going was slow, because of the need to walk carefully, to avoid long bouncing strides that could send them spinning off into space, and to avoid the natural obstacles.

Half an hour into the approach, sensors picked up a single object moving toward them. By the time the Light Horse Ostscout came into view, the company had shifted to a shapeless formation that allowed all the  'Mechs to target the newcomer. The Ostscout slowed even more at the sight, but continued toward them. Thirty meters from Tanaga’s Highlander, the recon 'Mech stopped and turned on one of its communication lasers. Tanaga did the same thing, and within five seconds, the lasers connected.

“Three kilometers farther,” the recon pilot said, not wasting time with a formal greeting. “The Adrianople is sitting in a shallow crater in the middle of a small plain. Data being transmitted. . .now.”

The transfer of data took ten seconds. Tanaga said. “Got it. Any sign of 'Mech deployment?”

“Negative, but there is high electronic interference on that plain. The Adrianople was buttoned up tight.”

The major scanned the data, which was now display on a monitor in the right side of his cockpit. The map was crisp and clean, all due to the Ostscout’s sensors suite. “Did they detect you?” he asked, not looking up from the images

“If they did, they gave no sign of it to me.”

“But?” Tanaga prompted.

The recon pilot took a deep breath. “But all my instincts are screaming something’s wrong. They had to know we were coming, but they are sitting there like a fat, dumb and happy target. So, I’m thinking they have an ambush set up.”

“Hmm.” Tanaga traced the area ‘north’ of the DropShip on the map with a finger. “These series of fissures on the other side of the DropShip. How wide are they?”

“Range between five and ten meters wide and two to three meters deep. They’re more like gullies then fissures. The floor of those fissure are uneven and have rocks all over the place.”

“Are they passable to 'Mechs?” Tanaga asked.

“Yes sir. It’ll be slow going, but the fissures can be used to get close to the Adrianople without being seen by the DropShip.”

“Good. Stand by while I consult with my officers.” The major turned his Highlander until Harris’s Crockett came into view. After the communication lasers synchronized, Tanaga passed the Ostscout’s data, and his conversation with the Light Horse pilot along to her. “Captain,” Tanaga said. “I want you to take your lance and Foster’s lance and circle around the Adrianople and come at it from the fissures. Keller and I will continue along our original path, and maybe spring that ambush the recon pilot thinks is there.”

“I don’t like the idea of splitting out forces,“ Harris replied. “There’s no telling how many 'Mechs the mutineers have ready to face off against us.”

“I doubt it will be that many,” Tanaga said. “Keller and I will attract their attention, leaving you and Foster to take out that DropShip. That is the important factor in the mission. Not me, not you, not mutineers, but that DropShip and the damage it can do to those Marines. Is that understood?”

“Yes Sir.”

“Your concern is noted, Captain. Get going. Move as fast as you can without alerting the mutineers. Take the Ostscout as a guide, and take all the Marines with you. If we haven’t moved in before you’re ready, pop a red flare and then move in. I want that DropShip neutralized, whether or not there’s an ambush waiting for us.”

“Right.” Tanaga could tell the captain wasn't happy with the decision, but she was a professional. She would follow his orders.

Tanaga broke the laser link to Harris, then turned toward Keller’s Guillotine. After the lasers linked up, Tanaga said, “Change of plans. You’re with me. Harris and Foster are taking another route to the DropShip.”

“Something wrong?” Keller asked.

“Maybe. I’m thinking we may be walking into an ambush. I want your lance a hundred meters behind mine, diamond formation. If we are ambushed, we’ll have to fight our way out of it.” Half to himself, he muttered, “Assuming we don’t have any second thoughts.”


“Let’s move out.” Let’s hope you make the right decision. My life could depend on it.


The plan Tanaga and his officers came up with was flexible when it came to the exact time of the attack. Aerospace fighters from the fleet flew regularly across the Dragoon’s paths, tracking their progress and keeping any mutineer aerospace fighter from doing the same. ‘Mechs from the Fifty-Fifth stayed on the flanks, like sheep dogs guarding their herds, wary of any possible assault from the wing. Once all three assault forces were in place, the Aerospace fighters would strafe the DropShips and the Dragoons would then move in.

It took another thirty minutes for Tanaga and Keller’s lances to reach the jumping off point for the attack. The Adrianople sat right where the scout had said, a shallow crater in the middle of a fairly open plain. The crater was deep enough to protect the Adrianople’s engines from long rang fire, but not deep enough to prevent the DropShip from firing its weapons.

The Adrianople, a tall egg-shaped ship, was sitting as peacefully as if it was sitting back on an SLDF base back in the Inner Sphere. None of the bay doors were open, no signs of any 'Mech or spacesuit activity, nothing. From the mouth of a small gully some seven hundred meters away, Tanaga took in what little the was to be taken in.

“Don’t like this,” Turkle muttered over the laser link. “Too quiet.”

“Agreed,” Tanaga said. “I hope Harris and Foster are making good time.”

Just then, the radio came alive with a frantic shout. “Hammer Units, this is Hammer Three-Six! We have a Rusty Axe! I repeat, Rusty Axe! Enemy is at least two lances strong!”

Tanaga scowled. ‘Rusty Axe’ was the codeword for ambush of one of the assault teams by the mutineers. The planned response was for the other forces to move as quickly as they could to their targets and take them as fast as possible. But the ambush indicated the mutineers were expecting them. Still, he couldn't wait.

He opened the communication laser pointed at Keller’s Guillotine, on hundred meters behind him. “You heard?” he asked without preamble.

“Yes,” Keller replied, his voice tense.

“I’m taking my lance out there. I want you to move up to this position, but I want you to stay out of sight until they spring their ambush. Then you move in. Understood?”

“Yes sir. What about The Captain and Foster?”

“Hope they’re thinking the same way we are and move accordingly. We move out in thirty seconds.”

“Yes, Sir.”

The next half minute was taken up by a brief flurry of orders given to the rest of the lances. When the last of the seconds dwindled away, Tanaga said. “Execute.”

The Battalion Command Lance charged out of the gully, heading for the Adrianople as quickly as they could in the low gravity. With bounding steps, the lance was five hundred meters away from the mutineer’s dropship before the mutineers reacted.

Puffs of dirt flew in every direction as 'Mechs exploded from concealed holes off to Tanaga’s right. Even as they stood, the mutineer 'Mechs were firing at them. Lasers cut through the vacuum, along with the crackling man-made lightning of particle projection cannons and autocannon rounds. Most of the first bursts of fire were high or off target, but some of it hit Turkle’s Cyclops and Johnston’s Victor.

Like a well-oiled machine, the Dragoons returned fire. As he raised his 'Mech’s arm to fire the Gauss rifle, Tanaga got his first good look at the Mutineer ambushers. There were five of them – A King Crab, Thug, Warhammer, and a pair of Flashmen. Heaviest 'Mechs on the DropShip, he thought as he fired his Gauss rifle. Propelled by the series of magnets, the ferro-nickel slug shot down the barrel, shot across the short distance between the two groups of combatants and slammed into the right arm of the Thug. The mutineer 'Mech staggered as nearly a ton of armor shattered and flew in all directions.

Tanaga fired a brace of lasers at the Thug, but only one glanced off the shoulder, scarring paint but not doing much more then that. The Thug returned fire, one burst of stripped electrons slamming into the broad chest of the Highlander. One of the Flashmen also fired at him, the 'Mech barrage of lasers striking the Dragoon 'Mech in the torsos and legs. The 'Mech reeled under the assault, but the major managed to keep it standing.

We can’t stay and trade fire like this, Tanaga thought. They outnumber and outweigh us. If we can get out of the range of the Crab’s heavy autocannons, we might have a chance. Another thought crossed his mind. Where’s Keller and his lance?

A quick glance told him that the situation was getting worse. Johnston’s Victor was seriously damaged, wisps of. air hissing from the left arm and torso. Armor breaches, he thought. The head seemed to be still intact though.

“Hammer One-Four!” he snapped over the lance channel “Drop back! One-two, One-three, concentrate on the Crab!” A quick tap opened the battalion command channel. ‘This is Hammer One-Six. Hammer One has a Rusty Axe! I repeat, Rusty Axe! Enemy is at reenforced lance!” It wouldn't get them any help, but it would tell Harris that he was in trouble. Where the Hell is Keller?

Johnston’s Victor staggered away from the battle, as the other three concentrated fire on the King Crab, hammering it with heavy autocannon, Gauss rifle rounds, and lasers. The assault 'Mech stood there and took the pummeling, its own weapons returning fire, while the other mutineer 'Mechs maneuvered. The Flashmen split up and headed off at an angle, intending to outflank the Dragoons on both wings. The Thug and Warhammer moved to support the King Crab, adding their fire to the one hundred ton behemoth’s attack.

The other Victor in Tanaga‘s Lance, piloted by a newcomer to the unit by the name of Larson, lost both legs, right torso and arm to armor breaches in a matter of a few heartbeats. As the Victor crumpled, Turkle’s Cyclops also fell, leaving Tanaga and the maimed Victor of Johnston’s as the only Dragoons standing.

The firing stopped, but the Flashmen continued sprint to the flanks. “We’re not going on!” someone shouted over a general frequency. “We’re going back and you can’t stop us!”

Tanaga switched to that frequency. “You can’t fight all of us,” he said in a calm voice. “There’s enough ships surrounding you to pulverize the entire asteroid field and you with it.”

“Damn it, why can’t . . . you leave us alone?” the voice asked again. There was a note of desperation in the man’s voice “We won’t tell them anything!”

“We can’t have them come looking for us,” Tanaga replied. “We can’t afford to become part of that madness.”

“We’ll wipe the ship’s memory core clean! We’ll make sure that they can’t find you!”

“We can’t take that chance. I am asking – no, I am pleading you to surrender.”

The King Crab stepped forward. “I can’t,” the same voice said, sounding a little more sure of himself. “We can’t go on. I. . .Maybe . . . maybe if we kill enough of you, the General will let us go.”

“He won’t,” Tanaga said. “All the other ships that sided with you have been captured. You’re alone.”

“We – I can’t go on.” The King Crab aimed both heavy autocannons at Tanaga. “I’m sorry.”

Tanaga snapped-fired his 'Mech’s entire weaponry almost at the same instant as the King Crab. The Gauss rifle slug hit the mutineer 'Mechs’s left arm, shattering the last remnants of armor and wrecking havoc inside the limb. It drooped, myomer muscles torn loose and internal structure shredded into uselessness. The lasers and short range missiles peppered the battered armor, but failed to violate its integrity.

But both blasts of autocannon fire slammed into the Highlander, staggering the ninety ton assault 'Mech.   Lights and warnings flashed in the cockpit as the entire center torso lost nearly two and a half tons of armor in the blink of an eye. Servos screeched and wires crackled as the 'Mech fought to stay on its feet. Lost in the cloud of fragmented armor and rapidly expelled air, the King Crab’s lasers slashed more damage into the Highlander’s armor.

Tanaga’s hands and feet moved rapidly to try and stave off the invariable, but even as he did, the Highlander’s power plant died, spewing the last of the air trapped inside the torso into the vacuum. The 'Mech staggered for two more steps, then like a tall oak tree, it toppled onto its right side.

With no chance of saving his 'Mech from a fall, all Tanaga could do was ride it out. The fall felt like slow motion, but the Highlander still hit the ground with enough momentum to jar his teeth. Even as his jarred nerves were pulling themselves together, he glanced at the readings of his coolant suit before yanking down the helmet’s faceplate, locking it into place, then unbuckled his harness. As quick as he could, he made for the cockpit door in the rear, using the low gravity to his advantage.

In here, the cockpit of a dead 'Mech, he was a sitting duck. Out there wasn't much better, hell it was liable to be a lot worse, but Tanaga wasn't going to accept death calmly. It hadn't been his way, and he wasn't about to change now. But the lack of Keller’s appearance was disturbing. Something was wrong, but he couldn't take the time to think about it.

More intent in making sure he survived the next few minutes, the major almost missed the flash off in the distance, near the DropShip, through the viewscreen of his 'Mech. As it was, he only caught it out of the corner of his eye. He turned just in time to see a red flare arc high over the DropShip before falling slowly to the ground, burning out long before it hit.

He hit the emergency release on the cockpit door and it released, opening the cockpit top the vacuum. He braced himself, allowing the air to rush past him and out before he pulled himself out.

He found himself in the middle of a battle.

A pair of Lancelots in Dragoon colors were standing on the low rise forming one shoulder of the gully, spraying the Flashman nearest the gully with lasers and PPCs. The barrage pummeled the heavier 'Mech, armor melting or cratering in numerous places. As the Mutineer Flashman staggered away, Tanaga caught a glimpse of a Guillotine and a Grasshopper racing towards the mutineers, firing at the Warhammer. Even as the Flashman under assault fell over, explosions racking the internals structure, Turkle’s Cyclops managed to sit up and fire a ragged volley at the King Crab. Johnston’s Victor, still standing despite the damage it had taken, added its heavy autocannon, the burst ripping up the mutineer assault 'Mech left leg and forcing it to backpedal.

In the lee of the Highlander’s head, Tanaga glanced in the direction of the Adrianople. There was battle going on there, the DropShip firing at and taking fire from something out of the Major’s view, but Tanaga knew who it was. Harris and Foster were carrying out their orders.

He turned back to the battle near him just in time to see the Warhammer loose its right arm in a shower of sparks. The Dragoon Lancelots had switched their fire from the downed Flashman to the heavy 'Mech, and the mutineer was dying in multiple blossoms of explosions.

Even as the Warhammer died, the Thug and surviving Flashman raced for the DropShip, leaving the much slower King Crab alone to face the Dragoon 'Mechs. The assault 'Mech shifted to confront Keller’s lance, a wounded buffalo facing off against a pack of wolves.

The fight didn't last long. Thirty seconds later, the King Crab went down, its left leg severed, atmosphere streaming from several locations. The Lancelots and the Grasshopper dashed toward the dropship and the retreating mutineer 'Mechs, but the Guillotine slowed to a stop near the downed Highlander.

The radio in Tanaga’s headset crackled. “Are you all right sir?” Keller asked, his tone worried.

“I’m fine for now,” Tanaga replied.

The Major could hear relief flood Keller’s voice. “I’m sorry, but just as you went out onto the plain, the Light Horse Ostscout came racing up and told us Captain Harris was in position and was about to pop a red flare. I tried to contact you by communication laser, but I couldn't make the connection.”

“And you didn't want to alert the mutineers by using the radio,” Tanaga said.

“Yes sir. I’m sorry, but –“

”You were correct, Lieutenant. The mission comes first. I’m just glad you were able to haul our asses out of the fire.”

“Do you want to take my 'Mech and continue to lead the mission?”

“No, Lieutenant. Lead your lance. I’ll supervise from Sargent Turkle’s Cyclops.”

“Yes sir!” With that, the Guillotine raced off. Tanaga began to walk toward the Cyclops. “Are you all right, Master Sargent?” he asked.

“Nothing that a few weeks lying on a beach somewhere wouldn't cure,” Turkle replied with a growl. “Lulubelle’s going to need some repair work though.”

“Johnston? You all right?”

“I’m about the same as the Master Sargent,” Johnston replied. “Larson a bit battered, but she’s intact. The techs are going to be pissed with us though.”

“They need something to do anyway,” the Major said briskly. “Master Sargent, Lulubelle’s communications systems still intact?”

“Yes sir. Captain Harris is giving them hell. I don’t think that DropsShip will be fighting for too much longer.”

“Do you have anything on Lulubelle to drink? I’m thirsty.”

Tanaga could hear the grin on the Master Sargent’s face. “I think I may have a bottle of bourbon tucked away somewhere in this cockpit.”

“Then break it out. I have a mouthful of dust to get rid of.”


Part Four will wrap up this story.


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Operation Slipknot (Part Two)

Apologies for not putting this up yesterday -- I was distracted by real-life matters. Here is Part two:

SLS Nicholas Cameron 
Location Unknown 
August 14, 2785 


Tanaga could feel the tension in the briefing room as he entered it. There was a total of fourteen people in the room, including him, all clustered around the central holographic tank that stood in the center of the room. The last several days of stress were clearly showing on their faces, and the Major knew he was about to add to them.

“All right,” he said, scanning each of them in turn. They were his people - all the officers of his command, Second Battalion, 111th Dragoon, Fourth RCT. To represent the enlisted ranks, Master Sargent Turkle, the senior Battalion NCO, stood in a corner of the room. This was his family now, the one that had replaced his tradition-bound father and like-minded siblings all those years ago. “Latest update on the situation.”

That got their full attention. Rumors had been rife, and mixed with half truths, speculations and opinion, what little in the way of hard facts had been lost. Tanaga didn't blame them. The mutiny had been sudden, and the lack of real information was hurting morale. They had been on the move for three days, one hyperspace jump, long hours in pursuit, with a few exchanges of missiles and naval cannon fire between the two groups. As ground troops, they had little to do in those three days. But that was going to change.

“As of six hours ago,” Tanaga continued, “Eight out of the nine ships that mutinied four days ago have been recaptured or surrendered, including the Prinz Eugen, the lead ship of this mutiny. That leaves one mutineer-controlled ship to deal with, and that’s our job.”

They, with the exception of Turkle, all looked confused. “That was my reaction when the Colonel summoned me,” Tanaga said dryly. “But this is a unique situation.”

He touched a pad on the holographic tank. It sprang to life, showing a start system of a dozen planets, a smallish blue-white sun, and several asteroid fields. “This is the system we are currently in – codename: Damocles. We and several other warships are moving to this area here.” The view changed to a close up of an asteroid field located between two large gas giants. “Between Damocles Seven and Eight is this asteroid field. This area is relatively stable, with little chance of the rocks colliding with each other – at least for now. That is where the target is.”

The view again changed to a close up of a small section of the asteroid. Among the floating rocks, an unnatural object sat. “The Rhine Knight,” Tanaga said. “A Potemkim-class cruiser, damaged in an exchange of fire with the task force. It moved into the asteroid field while the rest of the ships were being retaken, we think to effect repairs. They have refused all calls for surrender, and claim they are ready to fight, if they have to. General Kerensky wants the Rhine Knight recaptured.”

“But 'Mechs?” Asked one of the lieutenants. “Isn't that impossible?”

“The Marines will retake the Rhine Knight,” Tanaga replied. “But we have our own mission, codename Slipknot.” He tapped another set of buttons and small lights started to flash on the asteroids around the cruiser. “The Rhine Knight has released its DropShips and placed them on the asteroids around it. Their weapons cover all the access paths the Marines can use to reach the cruiser. They are shielded from any fire from our warships, but they can sweep the Marines’ access paths very effectively. Between them and the Rhine Knight, the intel boys estimates that the Marines losses could be seventy-five to eighty percent of the boarding force. The DropShips and their firepower are our targets. They need to be captured or destroyed.”

The major watched his officers exchange glances before he continued. “The 111th, 129th, and 146th Dragoon regiments will be the lead units in this operation, with attached Marine assets. The Fifty-Fifth and 221st Light Horse will supply scouts and flankers.”

“We’re going in with some of the ‘Double Nickel Boys’?” Captain Harris, Alpha company’s commander asked with a grin. Most of the others around the tank chuckled. The Fifty-Fifth Light Horse was the other half of the Fourth RCT that had survived the Usurper War. The members of the 111th considered the 55th ‘little brothers’, mostly because their 'Mechs were mostly medium and lights, while the 111th were mostly assault and heavy 'Mechs. Their rivalry was friendly, both units having shed too much blood together during to war to allow it to go beyond good-natured name calling or interfering with actual operations.

“Of course,” Tanaga replied, returning her grin, “You didn't think we’d let them wander off on their own, do you?” That brought another round of chuckles and the tension in the room eased a bit.

The view in the holotank changed again, focusing on part of the ring of asteroids surrounding the Rhine Knight. “The Regiment’s mission is this third of the defensive circle,” Tanaga continued, his tone of voice serious again. A slight adjustment to the image now showed a large asteroid with three lights on it.“Our battalion’s mission is the neutralization of these three DropShips – The Adrianople, an Overlord-class, the Younger and the Foster, both Union-class. Our part of Slipknot is code named Bastille.”

There was silence for a few seconds, then, Lieutenant Keller asked, “Sir, what are the rules of engagement we will be operating under?”

Tanaga looked at him. He still wasn't sure that his talk with the young man months before had been completely effective, but Keller had at least stopped openly expressing the opinion about the Exodus being wrong. Still, he was an unknown factor, especially under these circumstances. “As with the other mutineer ships,” the Major replied, “the General wants to limit casualties. We don’t know how many of the crew and soldiers are actively involved in the mutiny. However, if we are fired upon, we are to return fire and eliminate the threat as quick as possible.”

The faces around the tank became serious. “And if they don’t fire at us?” Keller asked. “If they surrender without a fight?”

“We thank our gods and move in before they change their minds,” Tanaga replied.

“What happens then?”

“Anyone suspected of participating in this mutiny will be court-marshaled.”

“And then what?” Keller asked, looking uneasy. He wasn’t alone. A few of the other officers shared the same expression.

Tanaga his expression sad, looked at Keller. “I don’t know. That will be up to General Kerensky and the officers of the Court to decide. But the rules are very clear on matters like this.” Tanaga saw the unease in his subordinate officers’ expression. “I don’t like the idea either. But as long as there is an SLDF, we will follow orders. Has the General ever failed to deliver on his promises?”

A few of the older officers, like Harris, shook their heads. “No sir,” Turkle replied. “Come hell or high water, the General has never broken our trust in him. He has a plan.”

“Then why doesn't he tell us?” Keller asked sharply, looking at the Master Sergeant. “We've been in space for nine months. Nine months! It’s been that long since most of us have breathed air that hasn't been recycled several hundred times!” He stepped away from the tank, then looked at Tanaga. “Why can’t the General trust us now and tell us what we’re doing hundreds of light years from the Inner Sphere?”

“Lieutenant!” Captain Harris snapped. “You are on –“

Tanaga held up a hand. “Captain,” he said firmly. “Let the lieutenant speak.”

“But, sir,” Harris replied. “It isn't –“

”I said, let him speak, Captain. I want to hear what he has to say.”

“Sir,” Keller said, his words quick and short. “I came along on the Exodus because there was nothing left for me back there. And I think you were right about the Council of Lords and why the General took us out of the middle of that . . . cesspool. But why not seize one of the Periphery states and wait the Lords out?”

“You know as well as I do that would have been no solution,” Tanaga replied softly. “What Periphery state was in better shape then the Hegemony? The only way to do this is to have a clean break with those we left behind. I have no doubt that the Lords sent ships of their own to look for us. Sooner or later, they would find us, if we stayed close to the Inner Sphere. But the farther we go, the less chance they will find us and drag us back into that cesspool, as you called it.”

“I know, but –“

”We could not stay, so we had to go. For now, the matter is closed. Is that understood?”

“But –“

”I said, the matter is closed,” Tanaga said harshly, giving Keller a hard stare. “We now have an operation to plan and execute.” He touched a few buttons, adjusting the view so it now showed a three-dimensional map of the asteroid. The object was about ten kilometers in diameter, somewhat more oval then round in shape, making it looked somewhat lopsided. The terrain was as rocky and devoid as any desert, mostly flat with some craters and fissures scattered across its face. Small images of the target dropships were in place on the holographic terrain.

“All right, the basics.” Tanaga said in a clipped tone. "In six hours, we’re landing on the opposite side of the asteroid from our targets, then moving in on them, using the terrain as best we can. Alpha Company and my Command Lance will go after the Adrianople. Jim, your Bravo Company has the Foster, and Jeanne, your Demon Company has the Younger as its target. I’m leaving Liam’s Charlie Company to guard our dropships and act as reinforcements, in case of trouble. Each of the attacking companies will have a platoon of Marines attached to go in and physically secure the DropShips once they surrender. Two companies of the Fifty-Fifth will act as our scouts and flankers. I want to hit all three DropShips at the exact some moment, so timing is going to be a critical factor. Let’s start planing.”


It took the officers over an hour to plan and refine the operation. It wasn't overly complex, as there wasn't much they could do. Questions were asked, to which answers either given or hashed out in a couple of minutes. Contingency plans were made, rallying points for both company and battalion were established, and information on the possible resistance was shared. Throughout, Tanaga led the discussion, involving all his officers by asking questions of them, inquiring for their opinions on certain matters and generally keeping it businesslike, but without the tension that had been there at the start. The only one who didn't seem enthused with the planning was Keller. He had been silent for the most part throughout the planning, speaking only when Tanaga addressed him directly.

Finally, the Major asked, “Any more questions?” There were none. “Good. Tell your people they have three hours to prepare for fighting in a vacuum. Full oxygen bottles and make sure all 'Mech cockpits have been fully tested. I don’t want to lose anyone just because someone forgot to patch a hole in their cockpit. Understand?”

There were murmurs of assent and the officers began to file out of the briefing room, Keller among them. Tanaga waited until the young officer reached the doorway before he said, “Lieutenant Keller, A word with you please, in private.”

From the looks the other officers were giving Keller, they didn't envy him and what they thought was going to happen. Keller stood off to one side until Master Sargent Turkle, the last man out, shut the hatch behind him.

Tanaga squared his shoulders. “You still have doubts, don’t you?”

Keller took several seconds before he nodded.

Tanaga eyed the Lieutenant. “Do you think these mutineers are doing the right thing?”

Keller bowed his head. “I don’t know sir.”

“Fair enough,” Tanaga said mildly. “The mutineers are in breech of several articles of the Star League Defense Force Code of Military Conduct. They are –“

”There is no longer a Star League,” Keeler replied quietly. He looked at the Major, his expression puzzled. “You said so yourself. How can there be a Star League Defense Force if there is no Star League?”

“Because we are all that is left the Star League,” Tanaga replied, keeping his voice level. “We are the ones – the only ones now – who carry the hopes and dreams of a united Humanity. That is why General Kerensky took us away from it and taken us all the way out here. If we had stayed there, we would have sunk in the morass, and SDLF units would have been fighting other SDLF units. It would be brothers and sisters fighting each other. We would have become no better then what we left behind. Do you want to see that?”

He took a step toward the Lieutenant. “We can’t let these mutineers leave the fleet. They will go back and they will tell them where we went. It will give them a trail to track. Sooner or later, they would find us.”

“But –“

”We can’t give them any hope of finding us. If we do, they will never stop looking for us. We are a resource they can use in their wars. They will tempt us with money, titles and land, use us in their battles, then throw us away after we are no longer useful to them. Do you want that to happen?”

“No, Sir.”

“Neither do I. As long as there is an SDLF, the hope for a new Star League still lives. We go back there, and we are as dead of the First Lord and his Family, and any hope of the Star League’s revival dies with us. Do you understand me?”

Keller nodded. Tanaga slapped him on the shoulder. “Good. Since your lance is going to be part of my unit, I suggest you make sure you’re ready to go.”

Keller looked at him. “You still want me to go with you?”

“You’re still in my battalion, correct?”

“Yes, but –“

”Do you think you’re the only soldier in this fleet who has doubts? Having doubts is not a crime. Acting on them by disobeying lawful orders is. Remember that.”

“Yes, sir.”

After Keller left, Tanaga looked at the holotank. Let’s hope all you have are doubts, he thought.

Part Three Next Tuesday.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Operation Slipknot (Part One)

I wrote Operation Slipknot as part of a fanfiction contest being held by I chose the Prinz Eugen incident during the Exodus. At the time I wrote this, there wasn't much detail about the Mutiny in print. Since I wrote this, the events around the Mutiny have been filled in, and makes this story out of continuity. However, it's still a good story on my part, and it did win the contest.
Below is part one. I have made a few small changes, but is still the same story.

Operation Slipknot 
A story of the Exodus 
Craig A. Reed, Jr. 

SLS Nicholas Cameron 
Location Unknown 
April 5, 2785 

The observation area on the McKenna-class battleship was a cramped area, roughly the size of a small cabin. The single occupant of the chamber didn't mind the smallness of the area. After all, he had grown use to the cramp conditions over the last year.

The single portal was about a meter thick, hardened to withstand the cold semi-vacuum of space, but clear enough so the occupant could see half a dozen of the accompanying warships. The access hatch was closed, though not secured. The rest of the chamber was stark, without anything to disturb his solitude.

He wasn't a tall man, but his shoulders were wide and strong, and the uniform he wore was clean and neat. His dark hair was cut short and showed a slight grey along the temples. A year in space with only a single planet fall had left his skin pale, but his eyes were bright, scanning the stars and the WarShips that sailed several kilometers away. He stood at parade rest, a stance as comfortable to him as sitting.

When he heard the hatch behind him open, he did not react. “Major Tanaga?” a voice asked.

Right on time, Tanaga thought. He waited a few seconds before he said, “Keller?”

“Yes sir.”

“Come in, Lieutenant,” Tanaga said in an even voice. “Close the hatch behind you please.”

He heard the hatch close. “You wished to see me, Sir?” Keller asked.

Tanaga, his eyes still fixed on the view outside the portal, raised a hand and urged Keller to come forward. He waited until he felt the Lieutenant was standing at his should before he said, “An impressive sight, is it not?”

“I guess so.”

“You don’t find it impressive?”

“I've never really given it much thought. But you didn't ask me here to show me the view, did you?”

To the point. Good. The Major turned his head to look at the Lieutenant. “Captain Harris wanted me to speak to you – unofficially.”

The Lieutenant was young – awfully young, Tanaga thought. He was half a head taller then the Major, but thinner, with short blond hair and blue eyes. “About what, sir?” he asked in a flat tone.

“She has told me that you have expressed the opinion that we’re on a fool’s errand more then once over the last several weeks.”

“Sir, I –“

Tanaga held up a hand to stop the Lieutenant’s words. ”Now, relax. What is said in here between you and I will stay in here. Understood?” The younger man nodded. “Good. I’m here to talk to you, not bite your head off.”

It took several seconds for the younger officer to try and relax, but Tanaga still could see the tenseness in his shoulders. Deliberately, Tanaga shifted his stance so he was facing him, forcing himself to relax. “I've read your record, Lieutenant Keller, and I find it to be a very solid one. The Army needs officers like you.”

“I know sir, but . . . ”

“But what?” Tanaga could see the indecision in Keller’s face.

It took several seconds for the words to come out. “But aren't we just running away from the problems back in the Inner Sphere? I though the General was going to withdraw until the Council Lords came to their senses.”

“If it was that simple,” Tanaga said softly, “We would have never left.” He looked out the portal again. “The Star League died with Richard Cameron, the war we fought merely made sure his murder didn't benefit from his death.” He sighed.

“But why didn't General Kerensky take the position of First Lord for himself?” Keller asked, now warming up to his subject. “You know that we would have followed him, and most of the citizens would have supported him. Why did he allow the Council to strip him of his role as Protector?”

“The Protector of what?” Tanaga asked. “Richard Cameron, his family, and any person with Cameron blood in them the Usurper got his hands on are dead. All we did was delivered justice for their ghosts.”

“You know what I mean!” Keller said sharply. “The General could have held together the Star League if he had stepped forward. Instead, he takes the Army and leaves! Don’t you see, sir, it looks like he’s running away!”

Tanaga took a deep breath. “Tell me,” he said in a soft, even tone, “what would the difference be between the Usurper on the throne and the General?”

Keller frowned. “Sir?”

“The Usurper sat on the throne because he killed The First Lord. Would you have the General do the same thing?”

“But it isn't the same thing!”

“Isn't it?” Tanaga asked. “The General would have held the throne only as long as he had the SLDF behind him. We would be surrounded by five major hostile states who would have done everything to remove him. How long could we maintain the peace in the face of that?”

“For a while, at least. Maybe long enough to get the Hegemony back on its feet.”

The Major shook his head. “The States were already beginning to recruit SLDF soldiers before the General decided to leave. How long could the General compete against the offers of better pay, better living conditions? Remember, they were barely touched by the war, while the Hegemony was shattered. We would have to be dependent on those same states for supplies and money, and they knew it. How long would the SDLF survive with parts of it lured away?”

“I can’t believe that our soldiers would do that.”

Tanaga sighed. “How much combat did you see in the war?”

“Some,” Keller replied. “Mostly when we invaded Earth.”

“Those of us who were with the General since the beginning of this war have seen too much destruction and death. After all that, offers of money, lands, and titles begin to sound like a very good idea.” He looked out into the darkness of space, his eyes lingering on the dim shapes of the ships. “That is all that would have been left to us, had we stayed.”

“But what about those soldiers who elected to stay behind? Don’t they feel the same way as the General?”

“I cannot speak for them,” Tanaga replied. “But I respect their decision to stay. Maybe they can do something to ease the coming storm.”

Keller turned and looked out the portal. For several minutes, neither man spoke. Then, Keller asked softly, “Sir, do you really think that the Lords would start fighting among themselves? After what we did for them?”

Tanaga exhaled slowly. “They will fight among themselves exactly because of what we did. The First Lord and the SLDF kept the peace, but neither by itself can do the job. It took the Council ten months to decide that the Star League would be no more. I spent two months there on guard duty, and I saw them discuss and debate the issue. Each was angling to claim the position of First Lord, but not out of any desire to serve the Inner Sphere, but to put their own agenda forward.”

“I still don’t like this idea of leaving the Inner Sphere,” the Lieutenant said.

“The General’s first duty is to the Army, its preservation and its unity. To stay would have seen it destroyed or co-opted by the other states within ten years.”

“But why so far?”

“To keep them from pursuing us and starting the whole thing over again. Where were you born?”

“On Helen, sir. Both my parents were artists, but they . . . were . . . ”

“Killed?” Tanaga asked.

“Yes sir.”

“Tell me Lieutenant, do you have any family at all back there?”

“No, sir. I am an orphan.”

Tanaga nodded. “I left a grandfather, father, two brothers and a sister back there.”

“Sir, why did you come along?”

“Because it is my duty.” He looked at Keller again. “I come from a family of soldiers. My father’s family has served the Draconis Combine for better then three centuries.”

That startled Keller. “Draconis Combine? I’m sorry sir, but I didn't know.”

“That is all right. I haven’t felt much of anything for the Combine in years.”

“I though the Drac . . . er”

“It’s all right to call them Dracs. I've used the term myself more then once in the past.”

Keller swallowed, then continued. “I thought the . . . Dracs didn't want any of their citizens in the Army.”

Tanaga smiled. “They didn't. But I didn't let that stop me. As soon as I was eighteen, I walked into an SLDF recruiting station and signed up.”

“Didn't your father object?”

“Oh, he did, most seriously. Threatened to disown me and everything.”

“Did he come around?”

The Major shook his head. “He never did. He struck my name from the family rolls and forbade my name to be spoken in his house. As far as he was concerned, I no longer existed in his eyes.”

“I’m sorry sir.”

“Don’t be. I came to terms with my birth family a long time ago. The army is my family now and has been for a long while.”

“Yes sir.”

There was a buzz, then a voice from an overhead speaker said, “One hour to Jump. Begin securing procedures.”

Tanaga motioned to the door. “You had best see to your lance. We’ll talk again later.”

“Yes sir.” Keller stepped back and executed a salute. Tanaga drew up to attention and returned the salute with a crisp one of his own. Keller left the compartment swiftly, leaving Tanaga alone with his thoughts.

I gave him my best reasons for this Exodus. But is it enough?


Part two on Friday.