Friday, April 4, 2014

Duel (A Wozniak's Wraiths story), Conclusion

Been goofing more than I should....But I am going back to writing! The "Ask a Battletech Writer"
( http://bg.battletech.com/forums/index.php/topic,38114.0.html ) thread on the forums is still going strong. Just keep asking away!

Now, the conclusion of Duel. It's not very long, and it's kind of crude, but I still like it...

***

       Grady was nice enough to close the bar down for us that night, so we could privately celebrate my victory. The four of us were sitting at our favorite table, drinking and talking about the fight, reflecting on the events of the day and on the duel itself.
       The aftermath had some interesting angles. Betting on the duel, though not officially allowed, had been heavy, and to my disgust, against me. Mikki and Tony were grinning like large cats let loose in a milk factory. Not only had they bet on me, they had dumped some serious money into the betting pool and had cleaned house. My own share was about two months pay, while Corlin’s share was an unusual large sum. I didn't think he was a betting man, but Corlin explained that he trusted me to win. For a guy that grew up in a society where money wasn’t a big thing, he’d managed to learn quickly. Even the First Prince made out like a bandit, with the Colonel sending the Prince’s share along with a small piece of the Thor’s shattered armor directly to New Avalon.
       On the technical side, there were already Headhunter techs crawling all over the Thor’s remains, learning everything they could, and MacGregger’s expression the last time I saw him that day was that of a man in nirvana. The Claymore was stored away, to be repaired sometime in the near future. It had done the job and would be moved up onto the active consideration list. But it wouldn't be me piloting it into battle the next time. It was too slow and heavy for my new company. A pity, but I was going to have to live with it.
       It took over an hour to described the duel. I detailed the fight, explaining everything I had done from the moment I entered the Gash to the calling in of the medevac teams. When I explained what happened when I started insulting him, Corlin shook his head.
       "I can not believe that an experienced warrior would fall to insults so easily," he said, sipping a beer. "Especially one who is a Star Commander and an experienced warrior."
       I shrugged. "From what I've seen of Tosig, I wouldn't think him capable of leading ducks to water."
       "He is a competent leader,” Corlin said. “What I meant was his anger in response to your insults." He looked puzzled. "Someone who gets angry like Tosig would not keep command long, because he would be killed, be it on the battlefield or in a Circle of Equals.”
       “Maybe that’s why he wasn't allowed to take part in the Trial of Bloodright,” said Mikki
       “True, no one of the Bloodname would sponsor him, for fear of contaminating the gene pool. But why allow him to leave Clan territory and challenge warriors to duels?” He shook his head. “It is a mystery I have no answer for."
       "I have an answer," replied the Colonel, as he strode over to our table. "May I join you?"
       We all turned around in surprise, because we had not heard him come in. Space was quickly made, and soon the Colonel was sitting with us, a drink in one hand, a folder in the other. He tossed the folder onto the table.
       "What is it?" asked Tony.
       "Tosig's medical report," replied the Colonel.
       I looked at the folder with distaste. Despite his efforts, Tosig had survived, though not without serious injuries. I remembered watching the techs cutting the Clanner out of his cockpit and hurrying him to the waiting VTOL and the hospital. I wondered if I was going to have to do it all over again once Tosig got out of a hospital bed.
       That was, of course, assuming we hung onto him. Ten minutes after the techs pulled Tosig out of his Thor, the MIIO observers ‘requested’ that Tosig and the rest of his people be turned over to them. The Colonel told them no. The MIIO guys threaten to take Tosig by force. The Colonel told them to go sit on a sharp spike. Then, the Duke got involved, and while he doesn't have the pull of a Sandoval or a Hasek, Duke Phillip Mallory is not someone you can ignore. Right now, the MIIO was trying to negotiate a settlement with the Duke. I didn't give them good odds.
       "What does it say?" I asked, staring at the folder and trying not to keep the anger out of my voice.
       "Beside the injuries you inflicted on him? A lot of interesting things. Like the reason for Tosig's insane rages."
       "Which are?"
       "Brain tumor." He let those two words sink in before he continued. "Tosig had a malignant tumor that would have killed him in another six months, a year at the outside. As it was, the tumor was in the right place to put pressure on the certain parts of the brain, causing irrational mood swings, including anger."
       "So why didn't the Clan med-techs remove it?" Mikki asked "They can't have been so blind to have missed it."
       Corlin shook his head slowly. "It would have been seen as a weakness in his bloodline,” he replied. “Even if they removed the tumor, its mere presence would indicate something wrong with his DNA. He will be denied a Bloodname and would be excluded from the breeding program as a matter of course. Even if the med-techs removed the tumor, Tosig is close to the end of his useful life as a front line warrior, and would be soon transferred to one of the second line units. And not much is wasted on those units."
       "But why this?" asked Tony. "Why let a terminally ill man go around challenging anyone he can find, and kill them?"
       "Among the Clans, with few exceptions, such as bondsref, suicide is considered a coward’s way out," said Corlin. "Tosig was not looking for victory in these duels, he was looking for a honorable way to die."
       We were silent for a moment, allowing that last simple statement to sink in. The thought then struck me. Tosig wanted to die as he had lived, as a warrior, not in some bed slowly and painfully. No one should have to make a decision like that, and I hope to the Higher Being that I never do.
       "What about the tumor?" asked Mikki. "Are our docs going to leave it there too ?"
       The Colonel glanced down at his chronometer. "They removed it an hour ago." he announced. "They expect him to completely recover."
       "Fine," I snapped "Then what do I do? Wait for him to insult me into another duel?"
       "No need. You beat him in fair combat, so he's in the same boat as Corlin here. Also, Tanni, the Elementals, and their DropShip are now ours as isoria."
       “Does Tosig wear a bondcord?” Corlin asked.
       “It went on right after he came out of the operation,” the Colonel replied. “I have no intention of letting him loose now.”
       “And the others?”
       “They didn't utter a single word of protest. Tanni seemed to be relived. I've assigned her to you as a bondswoman, while Tony and Mikki have an Elemental each assigned to them.” He looked at me. “You, have Tosig, of course.”
       “Of course,” I muttered into my beer. It took me a couple of seconds to realize what the Colonel had said. “Wait a minute! Isoria? How did we end up with the rest of them?”
       Corlin managed to look nervous. “That was part of the deal Tanni and I made,” he said.
       I looked at him, puzzled. "What deal?"
       The Colonel stared back at me. "Didn't Corlin tell you?"
       "Tell me what?" I had a sneaking suspicion that I was about to find out something I didn't want to hear.
       "They were included as part of the duel,” Corlin said. “I am certain that Tanni did not wish to return to Khan Crichell and explain Tosig’s death or defeat.”
       The Colonel nodded. “Because of your victory, the Headhunters are now two Clan pilots, two ‘Mechs, an point of Elementals, and a DropShip better off. I don’t know how long we can hold onto the ‘Mechs, but the personnel and the DropShip are ours."
       I sat there, mouth open for several seconds. "What did you promise them if I lost?" I asked Corlin.
       Corlin looked at me seriously and said "My friend, you do not want to know."

***

Note this was written way before I wrote anything for Battlecorps, and to be honest, it isn't my best work. But it's still a fun little story, without any pretensions to be anything of a higher nature. I hope you enjoyed it.

Craig

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