Battletech Mercs Unleashed

Yvonne, Princess of Camelot

12/06/3062 04:19 Location – Castle Davion, New Avalon

Princess-Regent Yvonne Steiner-Davion was sleeping, she had long moved into the First Prince’s apartments although she never used Hanse’s Office, to many bad memories. She was however eager to move out she needed a change of scenery, maybe somewhere in the nicer planets of the Outback far away from all the responsibilities thrust upon her.

When her brother Arthur completed his five years of service in the AFFC he would be First Prince and she could do something different, she just wasn’t sure what that was yet. She was scared for his safety when she heard about the DCMS incursion but was relieved when Arthur told her he was unharmed. Yvonne had tried to talk him into taking an assignment on New Avalon or Argyle or somewhere safer but he was adamant about staying in the Draconis March.

Yvonne was roused by one of the castle staff, who respectfully stayed out of her room though yelled into it. “Princess something terrible has happened that requires your immediate attention.” Yvonne got up dressed quickly, if it was something terrible that required her personal attention rather than Bishop’s it was bad and she was dreading it. “What happened?”

“I’m sorry Princess, this just came in from Robinson.” Turin pressed a data chip into her holo-viewer

{Prince Arthur Steiner-Davion stands addressing the people of Robinson concerning the threats posed against them and speaking of what kind of First Prince he will be next year. A small explosion engulfs the stage as the camera cuts out.}

_“What! no, not Arthur, Why?”

“I’m so sorry for your loss Princess.”_

12/8/3062 Location – Castle Davion

Yvonne had taken a few days to deal with the loss of her brother, she still couldn’t believe he was gone, was still expecting a message from him in his goofy voice like old times. It unfortunately got easier but she wanted it to feel worse. Arthur and her were so close but she had already been to so many funerals with Steiner or Davion on the tombstone. Yvonne didn’t even have a body to bury, at least Katherine had Victor’s corpse to lay to rest, all she had was memories. She had already attended the state funeral at the Cathedral of New Avalon, her brother’s death flag now was encased in the Princess-Regent’s quarters.

Katherine had offered to come but Yvonne turned her away for now. She was the Princess-Regent for real now, there was no one else, and that actually made her feel worse than the loss of her brother. Despite all the help her sister had given her she was going to have to find a way to deal with it herself.

Intelligence Secretariat Tancred Sandoval walked into the Office of the Princess-Regent, it had once been her room as a girl but now was a fully furnished office, mostly with leftovers and painted a pale green but it still had a great view of the sunrise. Since he had been trusted as an adviser to her by Victor Yvonne had been growing more accustomed to the work of First Prince, there was no training like on the job training. Her desk was made of Mahogany and Cherrywood, she sat behind it in a high backed chair looking very small in comparison wearing a cream and pink dress that neatly complimented her shoulder length auburn hair.

“Count Sandoval, please sit down”

_“Certainly Princess, what did you want to discuss?”

“Tancred I am concerned that your father will overreact to my brother’s death, he treated him just like a son and both of you are as close as brothers so this must be just as difficult for you. I want you to go to Robinson and make sure your father doesn’t do anything rash. I don’t want to start a war with the Draconis Combine while there are so many questions left unanswered, I already have one rogue March Lord. You will leave tonight understood?”

“Of course Princess, my agents are working diligently to answer all of these questions. I would already have been en route to make sure we don’t miss anything were it an option but I can’t make the Jumpships run on my time.”

“I’m glad we’ve come to an understanding Tancred, please report anything you find that can be verified immediately.”

“Certainly, I’m sorry for your loss. This must hard for you, if you need anything please ask.”

“Thank You Count Sandoval”_

Count Sandoval departed the office, Yvonne triggered the room security system, they read green, no signal would depart this cage and the door was locked. _ “You may come out now Nikolai”_

A false door opened on the far wall, out of sight for anyone but Yvonne, momentarily breaking the security grid but quickly closing and resetting the scrubbers. Nikolai Makari was dressed very fashionably, handsome, black hair, brown eyes looking every bit the wealthy Free Trader that was his cover. In reality he was a former Tikonov Cheka agent sent to assist Yvonne by Katherine.

_“Good evening Nikolai, what word do you have from our fellow travelers?”

“Good evening Princess, I’m afraid I haven’t got enough sources in the Draconis March to give you a better picture. My focus has been elsewhere as I believed your brother had it under control.

Otherwise Sun-Tzu and Candace are close to coming to an arrangement ending the St Ives War. Duke Hasek has been forced to pull back or risk it becoming a bigger meat grinder. I’m not sure how he will take your brother’s death but he has bigger problems if Trinity and St Ives keep fighting. He will nevertheless maintain the border and prevent Sun-Tzu from getting to adventurous especially in the Disputed Territories.”

“Nikolai I want you to go undercover with Tancred to Robinson, investigate what happened parallel him. I would like you to keep an eye on the Sandovals for they have long coveted the Throne of New Avalon and tried to influence me and my brother to that end. Had James a daughter no doubt she would be betrothed to Arthur, as such Tancred has attempted to seek my hand these past five years. If you find anything verifiable that this is some Sandoval conspiracy to seize the throne…well there are other Sandovals that might be more amenable though it would be unfortunate to lose such a valuable retainer.”

“Understood Princess”_

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Katherine, Daughter of the Fox VI

8/17/3052 14:37 Location – First Prince’s Office, Castle Davion

Katherine Steiner-Davion was walking to her father’s office after spending the morning on the practice field for the NAIS Equestrian team. While she was still in the process of getting her education at NAIS Victor was on New Avalon sharing his experiences from the Clan Front at NAMA, Tukayyid still being very fresh in the minds of the Inner Sphere.

Katherine had enjoyed this rare time with her brother whom she almost never saw, both of them having been kept far apart for most of their formative years. She was also enjoying the time spent with her brother’s friend Hauptmann Galen Cox with whom she had struck up a romantic correspondence (the steamier parts of which were privately couried on bonded transports, COMSTAR didn’t need to know about her love life). Her professors had actually noticed a change in her performance and made a comment of it, which was shrugged off, some distraction wouldn’t hurt her.

Victor would take a break from whatever he was doing at around 15:00 every day, then both of them would have afternoon tea/coffee together with their father discussing current affairs. Hanse liked to play both of his older children’s minds against each other and point out pros and cons to a course of action. They would eventually run the largest interstellar empire in the Inner Sphere, he wanted to make sure both of them were prepared for the great responsibility they would bear one day, hopefully a day long in the future.

That day was unfortunately short in coming, Katherine walked into her father’s office and saw him slumped in his chair. Initially believing he was taking a nap, something that was a frequent occurrence, she quietly crept up to him. He normally could sense she was near and would wake up to her great surprise but that didn’t happen.

“Dad, Dad. Wake up Victor is going to be here soon.” No response

Concerned, maybe he put in to many hours last night, he was normally a light sleeper. Katherine pushed his shoulder, “Come on Dad, wake up”, she pushed harder “This isn’t funny Dad, wake up!” Nothing

Panicked she grabbed the phone on his desk, “Emergency, Code Blue, Prince’s Office”, Castle Davion’s internal alarm system triggered and called for a medical response to the Prince’s Office. Katherine checked Hanse, he was still warm but had no pulse. Victor rushed in on her trying to perform CPR on her father quickly followed by the Castle’s EMTs who took it from there.

It was too late though, First Prince Hanse Davion had passed less than an hour ago.

18:48 Castle Davion Infirmary

Katherine was still in shock, “If only I had been there sooner, maybe…”

Victor while also grieving had seen death before, just never this close, “Don’t do that to yourself sister. He was gone when you got there…sometimes it just has to happen that way.”

“But…” Victor put his finger to his sister’s lips, “No, look Katherine I’ll take it from here. Go find Yvonne, she is missing and the castle staff is concerned.”

Their youngest sister Yvonne was only 13 and had spent nearly her entire life in Castle Davion with her father. Hanse having a wider stable of advisers and more experience being First Prince than his wife Melissa had being Archon insisted his youngest daughter have a more stable arrangement than the middle children. Hanse and Melissa also wanted to protect at least two of their heirs should the Clans keep attacking so Arthur and Yvonne were predominately raised in the Federated Suns far away from danger. This unfortunately left Yvonne without a mother raised by maids and she gravitated strongly to her older sister as a result.

Katherine was still grief-stricken but Victor had given her something to focus on instead of their father’s death. She asked her little brother Arthur if he had seen Yvonne but he was still upset and hadn’t seen her that day. Peter was on Tharkad at Nagelring, Victor was dealing with other matters, her little sister had to be in the Castle somewhere but it was a big place. Yvonne was a big fan of hide and seek, regularly finding hidden passageways that had been lost to generations of Davions, she was also small.

She started in the girl’s room, which was painted rose with pictures, some self-made, of horses and sunrises (her room faced East because the staff didn’t want to wake her up in the morning) on the walls. The dresser was open and partially emptied and she had taken snacks from the Kitchen according to the staff. Several pictures were clearly missing from Yvonne’s desk and Kat opened one of the drawers to find a recently written note. It was a raw and sad poem from a mourning daughter to her deceased father and it hit Katherine hard.

21:29 Sub-level 3D

Katherine had spent hours looking for signs of her sister, she had gone into every secret passage that she knew. There were others but her adult body couldn’t fit into them like when she was Yvonne’s age. She had to get a Class U Passcard in order to continue her search having walked through most of the public portion of the locked down Castle. It gave her time to come to grip with her emotions but she was afraid Yvonne might have hurt herself.

In one of the many utility tunnels under Castle Davion Katherine heard a girl crying, following the noise she came to a large pipe long since abandoned in place. Katherine couldn’t see around the bend or fit but spoke into it,_ “Yvonne, please come out”_

“I don’t want to! Just leave me alone Kat”, Katherine sat down, her back against the white concrete wall in which the pipe was anchored, gray sweatpants settling on the cold floor, “I’m not going anywhere Yvonne.”

After about twenty minutes of crying and talking, Yvonne crawled out of the pipe, her clothes were dirty and she was cold and wet. Katherine gave her sister the sweatshirt she was wearing and they shared a long hug.

“It will be alright Yvonne, we can get through this together, and I’ll always be here for you”

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Katherine, Archon-Princess VI

10/22/3065 22:33 Andrew Davion Memorial Spaceport, Avalon City, New Avalon

Archon-Princess Katherine Steiner-Davion and her daughter Morgan arrived at New Avalon at record speed. Katherine couldn’t take more than one jump per day because she had a bad case of TDS, again the medicine had gotten better but it still wasn’t pretty. Morgan did not though, the Wolf Scientists having removed that particular weakness along with others during her creation on Tamar.

It was good to be the Leader of the Federated Commonwealth and thus capable of putting together a twenty Jump-ship Command Circuit in place across the increasingly stable Chaos March, slowly the AFFC was reclaiming loose worlds lost during Guerrero, Loki and Rabid Foxes joining in to deny the Word of Blake a new Terran Hegemony.

Her Monarch drop-ship FCS Princess of Avalon landed at the Spaceport occupied by the 19th Arcturan Guard and 4th Royal Guards. The New Avalon Grenadiers (consisting of a Battle Armor and Vehicle Battalion supported by a Regiment of Infantry) locked down her route to Castle Davion, Dark Blue Fenrir’s with Dual Grenade Launchers and Cavalier Battle Armors were holding back protesters waving signs while NAG Riot Police maintained the crowd.

_“Mommy, why are those people mad?”

“Not everyone loves your Mother Morgan, some of them are unhappy about all of the things I broke last time I was here.”

“What happened?”

“I saved a Princess from a Castle”, Morgan looked at her mother incredulous, “No you didn’t”

“Oh I did Morgan, ask your Aunt about it”_

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Katherine, Dawn of the Second Star League III

The Return of the King and St Ives War (3060-61)

Isis Marik narrowly escapes the Blackwind Lancers and is let go by First Lord Sun Tzu Liao. Heartbroken and in tears she runs away to the Palace of Summer Winds on Luthien, home to her friend Omiko Kurita, unwilling to return to Atreus after spending so much time away. Sun-Tzu begins courting Magestrix Emma Centrellas’ daughter Naomi and solidifies her realm’s assistance to the Confederation. In the process Sun-Tzu has to reposition some forces to check the now former Allied Free Worlds League. Insurrections rage across the New Colony Region even as Magestrix Centrella and Protector Calderon plan a summit on Detroit concerning the Trinity Alliance.

SLDF Peacekeepers occupy the St Ives Compact despite George Hasek II’s protests, Yvonne as Princess-Regent refuses to allow him to launch an unauthorized action to support St Ives especially against the Star League. As far as she, Katherine, and the Star League are concerned right now the SIMC was the aggressor.

INN Update

Precentor Martial Anastasious Focht and the rest of the Task Force has returned with heavy hearts from the Clan Homeworlds. While news of The Great Refusal and death of Morgan Hasek-Davion was released the full casualty list had not. When the Task Forces returned to Luthien on March 15th the sheer scale of devastation was revealed.

General Victor Steiner-Davion perished during The Great Refusal fighting against the Jaguar Khan Lincoln Osis in single combat. His family Archon Katherine, Princess-Regent Yvonne, and Leftenant Arthur Steiner-Davion have called for a month of mourning. Their fallen brother is be buried on Tharkad at the end of the Second Whitting Conference in November.

His body will remain on Luthien for three months, then go to New Avalon before returning to Tharkad so that all may pay their respects to him for his noble sacrifice.

Archon Katherine despite her succession of the Lyran Alliance has decreed that she will not condone any demonstrations that celebrate his death. He died protecting the Inner Sphere from the Clans and is deserving of respect.

End Transmission

Second Whitting Conference

Archon Katherine Steiner-Davion has been with her fallen brother and the rest of her family since it landed on New Avalon in June on the anniversary of the Battle of Coventry. Despite what Bishop Sortek, Tancred Sandoval, or George Hasek thought; she had a right to share her grief with her brother and sister. Her reception on New Avalon was cold and met with many protests from her critics regularly requiring her Diplomatic Guard personnel break up crowds so that she could pass.

Returning to Tharkad, a pall was cast over the entire conference, there was much less enthusiasm and everyone wore black armbands to show solidarity to the sacrifice of so many. Duchess Candace Liao’s requests for intervention against the Confederation were voted down; although the 2nd Star League did vote to withdraw the Peacekeepers from the St Ives Compact and classify the issue there as an internal Liao problem rather than a foreign invasion.

The vote for new First Lord came down to a tie between Coordinator Theodore Kurita and Archon Katherine Steiner (-Davion). Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht resigned and appointed the Commander of the Com-Guards 2nd Army Alexander Crocus in his place who votes for Kurita.

There is no Gala celebrating the Archon’s birthday this year, the Royal Ballroom instead hosts the fallen Victor Steiner-Davion dressed in his 2nd SLDF uniform with his katana. The room is always filled with mourners and an honor guard of 10th Lyran Guards, 1st Crucis Lancers, and 1st Genyosha stood in silent vigil.

11/28/3061 10:07 Location – Cathedral of the Heavenly Host, Tharkad City

The Cathedral of the Heavenly Host was built during the reign of Richard Steiner nearly 300 years ago, Modeled after the ancient Cologne Cathedral on Terra, its Gothic spires are just as majestic as the original, which still stands today even after the Amaris Crisis. The whole edifice carries a solemn weight, its intricately carved stones having witnessed too much tragedy. A light dusting of snow covers the ground and the guard is heavy, the LAS Yggdrasil loomed above almost visible to the naked eye, having sped across the Alliance following its launch ahead of schedule, all three Royal Guards regiments, and Polizei from across the Alliance were on high alert around the Cathedral.

An Honor Guard of all five Successor States and COMSTAR served as Pallbearers. A seat was left open for Peter Steiner-Davion in case he showed up for his brother’s funeral but it remained empty another solemn testament to loss. The Church, capable of holding two thousand comfortably was packed with dignitaries from across the Star League and the service was being recorded and broadcast throughout the First Circuit courtesy of COMSTAR, at no charge to the Lyran Alliance.

Archon Katherine was to give the final eulogy and it choked her up. The last time she had wanted to be in a church was her wedding day nearly five years ago but that was so long ago. She had avoided them since then, afraid her many sins might suddenly burst forth in some divine revelation; so that she might face her judgement in hell like she deserved. Too many good, noble people had been taken instead of her, every casualty of the Clan War was more worthy then she believed herself to be and so many had fallen, or were fated to fall before it was all done.

As she walked up to the lectern she saw Omiko Kurita weeping in her black kimono sitting next to the rest of the Kuritas. Katherine was envious and angry at them; they knew her brother better than she did and that was wrong.

Her eulogy was filled with praise for her brother’s deeds but only in the third person. There were precious few first person anecdotes she could deliver and that made it even sadder, because there would never be any more.

He was gone forever

“May he rest in peace and the Inner Sphere strive to be worthy of his sacrifice”

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Katherine, White Wolf V

08/18/3060 04:52 Location – Tamar Starport, Wolf OZ

The Tamar Starport was incredibly busy, Khan Vladimir Ward had returned from the Homeworlds with Materiel and Castemen from the Home-worlds, and Warriors gained from the Harvest Trials. Brightly lit Lion, Union-C, Confederate, and Mule drop-ships were parked as close as safe, Wolf Patrol and Elemental Guards wormed their way through watching for sabotage and managing the numerous Laborers and Technicians working to unload their cargoes. The Wolf Factors were working around the clock to find places and allocate resources to the new arrivals and nearly one million tons of Cargo, even with advance notice and planning it was a logistical nightmare. Dozens of C-1 Dropshuttles were scattered about, their bulbous tops emerging from the permacrete like mushrooms carrying all manner of goods from the three Warships (CWS Provider, Bloody Fang, and Dire Wolf) that orbited Tamar. Khan Ward had decided that the Inner Sphere would be more hospitable to Clan Wolf and begun preparations to transfer the whole Clan there; ready to pounce on Earth when the Truce ended.

The newest arrival was different, rather than the Crimson and Steel Grey of the Wolves this one was a White, Gold, and Blue K-1 Dropshuttle marked with the Archon’s Crest. Khan Vladimir Ward and a group of Wolves walked across the still warm permacrete and stood a safe distance from the small craft. The Dropshuttle’s bay door opened up and Archon/Star Commander Katherine walked off toward Khan Ward followed by a small entourage. She was wearing the red leather jacket that Vlad gave her two years ago with her uniform underneath. Her once golden hair was now streaked with copper and brass, an unfortunate side effect of her Davion parentage surfacing, and she kept it in a short ponytail.

“Welcome back to Tamar, White Wolf”

“It is good to be back among the pack, Vladimir.” Katherine looked around at the massive star-lift operation taking place, “You have been busy while I have been away.”

“You have been away a long time. I am sorry about your trothkin Victor Katherine. He died gloriously but The Great Refusal should have never taken place, better to have allowed your people to properly annihilate Smoke Jaguar.”

Katherine looked Khan Ward dead in the eyes, “You didn’t kill him did you?”

“I did not, his foe was Lincoln Osis, late Khan of Smoke Jaguar. Victor could have killed him from afar but was goaded into closing and engaging him with his sword.”

“Good I might never be able to forgive you. I was always afraid his courage would win out over his cranium. May we get moving Khan? I only have two weeks before I am missed.”

Katherine was first forced to retake her Trial of Position to maintain Warrior status, having literally only one day as a Wolf Warrior before leaving to return to Tharkad. She used a Stormcrow to defeat an Adder and Viper/Dragonfly to retain her Star Commander Rank and silence protests that the Khan was to close with a soft freeborn whose codex was bare. Fortunately Khan Ward’s critics never realized she was the Archon of the Lyran Alliance or there might have been very difficult questions asked. She still had to settle some Trials of Grievance before they were satisfied, defeating her opponents unaugmented. Katya demanded she be debriefed to ensure there wasn’t a sudden change of heart that might have led to hostility toward the Clan.

Vlad took Katherine on a tour of the new construction that had taken place, the War College of Tamar was now fully repaired and older trueborn sibkos just transferred from the Homeworlds were busy on its practice grounds. They showed great promise and the War College’s facilities were now nearly on par with those in the Home Worlds.

A new Genetic Repository was being constructed in the former University of Tamar, technicians were rapidly working to bring it online. The first new Trueborns in the OZ would be six months away and the whole program would be in the Inner Sphere within three years, the sibkin produced now would be too young to take part in the next invasion but they would grow up in the ilClan.

Vlad had reduced his hostility to freeborn replenishing the ranks of his Touman, having witnessed a Freeborn kill the ilKhan, Hellion Freeborns fight him to a draw, and one particularly lucky one becoming a Khan even if it was over the False Wolves. The Harvest Trial warriors were young Trueborns and would have to serve as the leading edge of a new Invasion. If all went as planned perhaps the Jade Falcons would be weakened enough that he could finally get his revenge and absorb them instead of the other way around, taking Terra would not be an easy feat even with the Lyran Alliance as an ally and there was plenty of Glory to be shared.

The Star Port had been expanded, new equipment had to be manufactured in the OZ and added as most had been damaged when Clan Wolf took the planet. It needed to be ready as there were going to be large quantities of men and material flowing into it for years to come. Khan Ward had strengthened the Wolves’ alliance to the Hell’s Horses and they would soon join Clan Wolf in leaving the Home Clans and their isolationism behind.

The Clans’ destiny was in the Inner Sphere; they could no longer hide and wait to be destroyed by the Successor States. Katherine was impressed with the way things were going but the Wolves were known for planning ahead even the Crusaders. Perhaps Vlad actually took some of Ulric Kerensky’s advice to heart and mellowed with his responsibilities as Khan while maintaining a sharp edge capable of defending the Wolves rightful place at the top.

08/23/3060 21:48 Location – Khan’s Palace, Tamar

Star Commander Katherine and Khan Vlad had been expecting to spend every night together, in fact Katherine was eager for the opportunity. She still couldn’t place what drew her to the Wolf Khan but it was heartily reciprocated, they were both equals in the partnership even if on paper they should be enemies. Their nights together were not quite as intense as the first time, she was much more balanced now than she was after ten weeks of hell. It was pleasant but manageable, both doubted they would have been able to walk if they could even sustain that amount of passion for two weeks.

Before turning in for the night Katherine grabbed a data-chip from her pants which were now lying on the bed. The couple were standing intimately close to one another still reveling in each other.

_“Vlad I have something for you.”

“What is on this?”_

“I had the University of Tharkad and Nagelring Archivists pull up as much as they could from Aleksandr Kerensky’s time there, including some of his writings. It’s incomplete but I want you to have it. I added a few other things that might interest you as well including a very extensive Star League and Succession Wars historical. I figured it would give you something to do while you are stuck on a starship between the Homeworlds and here.”

Khan Ward tentatively took the offered data-chip unaware of how to receive a gift politely and placed it into his personal Noteputer. _ “Thank you Katherine, I have never received anything like that before.”_

_“You are welcome…while we are here, I have something really important that I need from you.”

“What could you possibly need from me that you cannot get in the Alliance?”_

_“I need a Legacy Vladimir, with my brother gone it is only a matter of time until someone moves against me. I need someone to carry the Steiner-Davion name on for me and only you can give me that because I can’t do it anymore.”

“What do you mean?”_

“I cannot have children naturally anymore. Which means that I cannot continue the dynasty and might be enough cause for my enemies to remove me as Archon. As much as I would love to spend the rest of our days together I do not want to lose what I have worked so hard to get. The Iron Wombs can give me a chance to protect myself.”

“You want a sibko? The Scientists would never allow that. It is one of the few things they can veto even the Khan on.”

“I do not need a whole sibko, just eight spots, mix them in if you have to as long as I can determine the timing. I need a few quickly though, they can be ours… I know you only have one Steiner-Davion sample but it should be enough for your scientists to work with.”

“That is not entirely true Katherine. I do not want you to be upset because it is a great honor but I have your brother’s DNA as well, taken from his body as it lay in state within the Wolf Enclave of Zolotaya Gora on Strana Mechdy.”

Katherine slapped Vladimir hard across his cheek, “*YOU WHAT*! Is THIS (pointing to her mostly nude body)_ just some weird science experiment for you! I’ve never felt so violated.”_

Vlad grabbed her hands to avoid a slap again, no doubt that would bruise,_ “That’s not it at all. I have never been so honored to be among such promising individuals, surely this is a time of destiny. We stand poised to win one last time and begin a new Golden Century after the ilClan, whatever form it takes, reclaims humanity’s home-world. Everything is coming together, the Clans have created a Second Star League and returned to the Inner Sphere just as it was foretold by Kerensky.”_

Katherine growled as she tried to escape his grasp, “Let me go Vlad!”

“I cannot. I have grown quite fond of you Katherine and it will pain me to see you leave next week, you are so close but so far away. I will help get your Legacy and I want your help to get Terra or allow me to die trying so that another Wolf might, I do not even care if it is a False Wolf. The goal I seek is Clan Wolf as the ilClan…and if possible you at my side.”

While still tense Katherine relaxed slightly and was released, _“You really mean that?”

“I do”_

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Rise of the Hellions

04/24/3060 00:01 Location – Hall of Ice, Hector, Kerensky Cluster

The Bloodnamed of Clan Ice Hellion were gathered at Hector to elect a new Khan, their previous one the Ristar Asa Taney having fallen fighting the treacherous Nova Cats. The Hall of Ice was an impressive structure built during the Golden Century and it had fared as well as their small clan throughout history. Its winged buttresses were elegant and its light gray structure mimicked an Ice Hellion lying in wait. Since they were such a small clan they had slightly less than 500 people in attendance many of their blood-names having been Reaved during one of the two Hellion Civil Wars so nearly all of the bloodhouses were below 20 and some below 10 active counts, the only one at 25 was Cage, the founder’s bloodname.

The saKhan Weilland Cage was the favorite to succeed Khan Taney but a challenger emerged from the Hellion’s atypical Delta Galaxy, Star Captain (Ale)Xander Drake nominated by his abtakha Ghost Bear Star Colonel. As the commander of the Hellions’ only Supernova Trinary, the Elemental was well respected despite the disdain most of the Trueborn had for their infantry.

He had won many trials for the clan during the Hellion’s Fury Campaign nearly ten years ago and was one of the more charismatic Ice Hellions. During the past decade he had been sent to Clan Goliath Scorpion, where he dancing the scars and participating in the Circus Honorae, and Clan Fire Mandrill’s Mattilla-Caroll and Mick-Kreese Kindraa as part of joint development efforts winning a Cage’s Clasp in the process. He stepped forward from his position in the balacony standing a head taller than the assembled Mechwarriors.

Unlike other Clan Elementals he was a Hellion and traded bulk and brute strength for speed and grace, built more like an NFL corner or professional soccer player than a Linebacker. A testament to Prapa Drake, founder of the Bloodhouse and a Pentathlete at Sandhurst later serving as an infantry officer in the 72nd SOG who fought against the usurper.

“You dare to challenge me Star Captain Drake?”

“I do saKhan, I am the superior candidate. Under your command Beta Galaxy has lost many excellent fighters to the hated Wolves due to your lack of Vision. You were unfit to command that Galaxy and you are unfit to command this Clan. I on the other have grand plans for the Hellions that will earn us the respect we so richly deserve.”

“We shall let the Bloodhouses decide”

Star Captain Drake won by a narrow margin (219 to 213), saKhan Cage issued a Trial of Refusal over the results, First Blood. Khan Drake slashed him across the throat killing him and in the process drawing first blood. Star Captain Joan Norizuchi of Beta Galaxy succeeded him as saKhan and the Hellions were mobilized to take Londerholm (under Norizuchi and Beta Galaxy) and Huntress (under Drake using Alpha and Delta Galaxies).

04/27/3060 Location – Grid 8-37, Huntress

Commander Sarah Jol of MIM Active Response Team GOLDLEAF carefully picked her path through the overgrown jungle. The rest of her team followed loosely keeping alter to avoid Smoke Jaguars of the two and four legged variety in this awful place. She swatted away at the alien flies that buzzed past her ear and flew into her curly brown hair. Since Major Danai Centrella and General Victor Steiner-Davion had died they had to revert to their secondary orders, grab as much as you can and don’t tell anyone. The Magistracy of Canopus would likely only have one chance to go to the Clan Homeworlds and there was a wish list given to her ARC team by the Magestrix for things to acquire from the Smoke Jaguars.

Their recently acquired Anhur transport had to land 20 kilometers south-east in a small glade to not attract attention to their true target. Her unit had captured multiple technicians as isorla and interrogated them to find any easy targets. A Hellion Flurry unit was operating in the area no doubt looking for the same remote research outpost. The world of Huntress had become a free fire zone between five different clans and remnants of the Smoke Jaguars that managed to evade the 2SLDF’s forces, her platoon had to be cautious sub-machine guns and grenades would do nothing to a Clan Elemental Point or a single Protomech.

Nearby Hellion Khan Xander Drake jumped out of an Anhur and used his Hellbat’s Jump Jets to land softly on the spongy jungle floor. A point of Donar Attack Helicopters was orbiting the area while he went down to investigate the intercepts his force had regarding where the Roc Protomech scientists were located. The Hellbat was a new design developed to support Scorpion Seekers, it could carry a Machine Gun or Active Probe and had a built in vibro-blade that could easily be swapped out for some other useful tool, Improved Jump Thrusters gave it more mobility that standard Elemental battle armor but he wasn’t going to risk leaping through this mess. It had plenty of armor to deal with anything he encountered here and the remainder of his Command Point were outfitted in the standard Hellion Elemental Armor (which removes the SRMs and replaces the small laser with a cERSL). With the Active Probe nothing would catch his unit by surprise.

Khan Drake and Commander Jol arrived at the site, initially the ARC Team had their weapons leveled against the Elementals that did the same but the commander met in the middle, there were more important things to do then waste some spheroids. Following Clan Honor Commander Jol issued a Trial of Possession for the site allowing her to leave with as much as she could carry on the Anhur.

Sarah Jol watched as the Khan of Clan Ice Hellion who were well known for their love of speed and hand-eye coordination got out of his armor. She figured he was an Elemental but was surprised when a fairly normal sized man walked out, he had dirty blonde hair and blue-green eyes, and his skin was pale from spending so much time out of the sun. _ “Aren’t you a little short to be an Elemental?”_

“Commander, I am an Ice Hellion we are kilo for kilo the best fighters in the Kerensky cluster. I am willing to accept your challenge. How will we decide the winner?”

The MIM operative was no slough in hand to hand but this man was a Warrior born and bred for it. His thin tank top and shorts revealed many scars from duels with other clanners so she decided on something she knew better than he did. _ “The Trial will be decided by the most exquisite test of skill in my homeland, Rock, Paper, Scissors. I win if I beat your throws seven times and you win if you beat me five times.”_

The Khan couldn’t hide his curiosity he was a bad bluffer that was good, “What are the rules for this “Rock, Paper, Scissors” I will not accept a challenge using some stravag nonsense that I do not understand.”

Her ARC teammates barely contained their amusement as their Commander explained the rules and allowed the Khan some practice throws, allowing him to win more than he lost. When they called the official trial a MIM operatives and one of the Elementals were the judges. Sarah beat the Khan and her unit was allowed first pick of the research center. Meanwhile the Canopian Intelligence Officer continued to chat with the Khan gathering intelligence along the way. She showed him the meaning of “*quickie*” while the rest of her platoon was working. RPS and Quickie both were rapidly included into the Hellion Clan upon the Khan’s return.

The Anhur was called over and a landing zone was cleared to allow the Magistracy operatives to leave with a pair of Harpies, a group of pilot trainees, four scientists, and copies of the data banks and interface modules used to create the direct interface. The Ice Hellions had possession of more and called in a small craft to begin loading up the tooling and other necessary infrastructure to build Protomechs taking it to Hector.

06/17/3061 Location – MIM HQ (“Mirror Palace”), Crimson, Canopus IV

Commander Sarah Jol returned for debriefing at HQ, their captured Smoke Jaguar material was sent to Selene Station in the Niops Association for investigation and reverse engineering. Magestrix Emma Centrella and the Directors of the Magistracy Intelligence Ministry were the only ones invited to this very secure meeting. Commander Jol went through all of her experiences and had a video documenting the Clan Elemental Phenotype’s “prowess”. All of it was very interesting but the Magestrix had to classify the video as ULTRA TOP SECRET, CMDR Jol asked why and the Magestrix responded, “Girl, if I let that video out among the other MIM Commanders I will have to fend off demands to return to the Homeworlds in order to bring back specimens. We have more important things to do.”

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The Message

04/27/3060 09:17 Location – The Triad, Tharkad, Lyran Alliance

Archon Katherine Steiner was busy running the affairs of the Lyran Alliance, the latest reports from the SLDF were encouraging but heavily out of date. She sent her condolences to Duchess Kym Sorenson-Hasek for the death of her husband and Katherine’s cousin Duke Morgan who had been killed en route, but the DRUM relay was slow, taking nearly a month to get word back. Unless of course you used the Clan’s HPG system which could shrink it down to a few days but as far as she knew she was the only one that got direct clan transmissions.

Her primary concerns were the impending launch of the Yggdrasil Mjolrnir Battlecruiser from Alarion, she had sunk massive amounts of Kroner into building up the LAAF’s Fleet assets and it would soon come to fruition. Having experienced the awe inspired by Warships she knew these would give her fledgling forces a psychological edge while General Esteban and her officers honed their physical edge into something truly terrifying. As long as COMSTAR continued to provide them with Compact K-F cores she wouldn’t need Vlad to trial the Snow Ravens for it. Coventry Metal Works was close to being truly overhauled although Duke Bradford continued to prove his disdain for her reign, she had slowed the rebuilding process due to that very attitude.

Additionally all of the Lyran combat academies were adding Naval programs and Battle Armor training was being added to Basic Training throughout the Alliance. The Alliance Military-Industrial complex couldn’t make enough of the stuff to satisfy the LAAF’s desire for the technology. She was even looking to acquire licenses to produce the Wolf Trap Battlemech from House Kurita through Rasalhague connections to LAW while commissioning several new programs with Defiance and Bowie Industries (Uziel, Cobra, Defiance, and Razorback). Her wishes to upgrade the Aerospace forces required assistance from the Outworlds Alliance as there were not enough Academy trainers in the Alliance for her ambitions.

While writing a message to President Avellar her Loki courier entered the office, he was dressed like every other professional civil servant in the palace, poorly. However, Kobin Diras was not a man to be trifled with, intensely loyal to Loki he could kill a man fifty ways with just the pen in his pocket. He carried a medium manila envelope in his small satchel along with an H&K 597 Machine Pistol. “Archon I bear a message from GARM, I know nothing else”, Katherine eyed the envelope intently and concerned, “leave it on the desk Herr Diras, you are dismissed”, he bowed slightly, “I hope you have a pleasant day Archon” before turning and leaving her office. She pressed the “secure room” button in her desk and a series of jammers and locks activated as the curtains drew down.

Removing the smaller foil-sealed package from the larger envelope she disabled the immolation charge built into the holder. From it she removed a verigraph and pressed her thumbprint into it, the blocky metallic print appeared on the thick paper.

_“White Wolf

Your Prince has come and gone and now joins the ranks of the 800. His example is an inspiration to even the Warriors of Kerensky. Though he fell his end was swift and glorious and he leaves us victorious. He has shown that the Inner Sphere is not beyond redemption. It is an honor to live in such a Golden Age and a deep sadness to have lost such a noble exemplar.

Alpha”_

Katherine was stunned and re-read the note again and again. Her brother was gone and it was only a matter of time until the rest of the Inner Sphere knew. She didn’t know how much time; days, weeks, months? Would Focht try to keep this low key until they returned to not cause too much disruption. Vlad had given her advance warning which was nice but still difficult to deal with. She triggered the burn capsule in the note and tossed it into the secure disposal bin where it consumed itself.

NO! Now Yvonne was trapped as Princess-Regent for a two more years at least until Arthur could be First Prince, damn your selfishness Brother. This would crush her, she already was straining under the pressure and they never let her do anything anyway. What would they do now? There were too many unknown factors and she would need to come up with a plan to deal with the fallout. She was really hoping Victor would just come back the hero and she could just hand him the Alliance recognizing that he was now worthy of it. She didn’t care who was Archon-Prince of the Federated Commonwealth as long as she still controlled the Lyran worlds. Failing that she already had a plan in place to fight him for it or flee to Tamar if her support evaporated, either one was acceptable though she didn’t want to fight him.

Would Peter come back if he could? He was the only stronger candidate but she could deal with him if necessary. Arthur was impressionable but she wasn’t quite sure how much of a grip the Sandovals had on him already, she could pull strings but it would be difficult to do with him so far away. Yvonne was solidly on her side but she couldn’t count on much support from the other March Lords they would have to be more forcibly convinced.

However, she could deal with any of this today and canceled the rest of her meetings for today choosing to take the next day off due to “fatigue”. Boarding her private KR-61 she was transported to the Royal Hunting Lodge. It was a quaint structure comparatively and built in the middle of a vast wilderness preserve near a series of hot springs, the facilities included a stable, in house vintner, and smaller cabins scattered about the preserve and since it was spring wildflowers were growing in the meadows. The Lodge was a place for simple luxury and seclusion the only more remote place she could be was on her yacht; but she preferred to use that for private business purposes, she never brought work out here.

04/28/3060 06:38 Location – Royal Hunting Lodge, Tharkad

Archon Katherine woke up face down on the heated wooden floor, her mouth was dry, and her head hurt. Attempting to stand she got to her knees before falling into a richly upholstered chair. Her vision was blurry but she blinked several times and looked at herself, her nightrobe had come undone and there were small scratches and bruises on her arms and legs. As her vision cleared she looked upon the parlor, picture frames were broken, various items smashed including a couple of crystal bottles, curious she grabbed the one nearest her. Skye Spirits Select 3017, Archon’s Reserve, damn that was expensive brandy. Her Grandmother would have killed her if she knew it had been wasted this way, she couldn’t have gotten blackout drunk on Acrux Avanti or something cheaper. Even when she lost Hanse or Galen she hadn’t lost control like this, Victor was gone and though she did feel numb it didn’t numb the raw emotions she still felt.

She staggering rose and went to the bathroom suddenly having the urge to vomit. Summoning a maid Katherine haltingly rose and went out to meet her, “I’m sorry Mara”, the older woman had grown into one of Katherine’s friends over the years, grateful that they had someone that could truly appreciate this place, “It’s not a problem Archon. We can get this squared away in no time”, Mara looked over the Archon, she was an utter mess and pitiful sight, “Shall I draw you a bath?”

“That would be nice, and coffee”, Katherine put her hands on her head which ached, “black, leave the pot.”

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World of Monsters

04/17/3060 18:39 Location – Hall of the Khans, Strana Mechdy, Kerensky Cluster

Wolf Khan Vladimir Ward and his SaKhan Marielle Raddick left the Hall of the Khans in disgust, both removed their ceremonial masks and handed them to the attending Laborer. His former Bondswoman’s trothkin General Victor Steiner-Davion was waxing lyrically about the evils of the Clans. Vlad and Marielle had abdicated the vote but it mattered not, the Grand Council had betrayed their very nature by allowing this Freeborn a chance to refuse the invasion. Cowards that they should make deals with pretenders, the Star League was to be reborn under the Clans and a new Golden Century would follow. Nevertheless he would win this “Great Refusal” as he has overcome every challenge set before him, the Wolves cared not for the concerns of sheep.

The relocation of Ghost Bear and betrayal of Nova Cat were unwelcome surprises. However, Khan Ward already had plans on their soon to be former holdings. No doubt that was cause for Abjuration or Annihilation but one step at a time.

04/23/3060 15:17 Location – Bloody Basin, Strana Mechdy

General Victor Steiner-Davion sat in his Daishi as the last pulse burst brought down the final Ebon Jaguar of ilKhan Lincoln Osis’s Binary. All that remained of the Jaguars was twisted steel in the sands and three Elementals. The battle had been hard fought, his foes had broken all the rules of Zellbrigen; Danai Centrella and others had been lost, a senseless tragedy but the risk anyone takes when they strap in to a Battlemech. At least she had a good evening before she died, Victor felt guilty that he had brought her to this terrible place and over what Omi might think; she couldn’t hold it against him they weren’t married yet, it actually would have felt worse had he said no.

_“Lincoln Osis, this is Victor Steiner-Davion, surrender your forces and accept the results of this trial. You are defeated and with it the Smoke Jaguar threat is ended.”

“Victor you may have defeated my Mechs but I challenge you personally. The whole purpose of a Trial is to find out who is a better Warrior not who has the better War Machine. Come out and fight me… or cowardly shoot me from that Dire Wolf.”_

Lincoln Osis stepped out of his Elemental Armor, his dark skin covered in sweat, he limped and had several injuries left over from the defense of Huntress. No doubt his injuries were what kept him out until the end. He was not at the top of his game but he was a monster, topping 2.3 meters and 172Kg of Battletested Clan Elemental.

Victor thought about for a moment watching the man through his Daishi’s targeting screen. His mech had been heavily damaged and most of its weapons were offline but there were still enough lasers to turn the man into Char in the blink of an eye. Now without a radio uplink Lincoln postured and beat his chest daring Victor to come out and fight him, making crude gestures of where to shoot him if he was a coward.

While Victor was normally even-keeled and pragmatic but he was enraged and decided to finish the Smoke Jaguar by his own hand and put this long and bloody campaign behind him. The Daishi knelt down and Victor grabbed the Katana given to him by Coordinator Theodore Kurita as a pre-wedding gift. Walking towards his foe his combat boots kicked up the fine red sand that gave the Bloody Basin its name; the sand blew in distinct “veins” it was a figurative heart of the Clans, a heart that Victor would cut out to save the Inner Sphere from their tyranny. Along the way he discarded his cooling vest and drew the Katana its polished blade reflecting the light of the alien sun it now fought under far from home, placing its scabbard into his belt.

He had been preparing for this moment all his life, the culmination of all the training and sacrifice he had endured for the people of the Inner Sphere. Once Lincoln Osis was defeated he would return The Hero, marry Omiko, and remove his scheming sister from Tharkad if he had to in order to claim his Birthright of First Lord. Then the Second Star League would bring about a new Golden Age and he wouldn’t need to win another battle. He was sick of war, had seen far too much of it in his thirty years, tales of Valor were no comfort to the families of the fallen.

Victor drew closer to the Smoke Jaguar Khan, both were ready to do battle and his remaining unit was watching in the event that the Jaguars try something. Lincoln Osis cracked his knuckles and stretched his neck. _ “I see you are not a coward, good”_

The pair began their duel, Lincoln Osis was slower but he wasn’t as injured as he let on from a distance. His fists were hardened by decades of combat and hit like Sledgehammers. Victor had been in many fights and slashed with his sword dealing what would have been mortal wounds for a normal man. But Lincoln Osis was no normal man, he was a Clan Elemental, the Khan of Smoke Jaguar, and the ilKhan; his will was iron, just as deadly as Victor’s steel and he reveled in the melee. Sensing the end was near Lincoln gave Victor a golden opportunity to stab him, the Prince took the bait and drew closer stabbing his Katana into the monstrous man. Faster than he had ever seen Victor’s sword arm was grabbed and pulled deeper trapping him, in his death throes the Elemental had one last strike to give and Victor knew it would the end.

As he saw the bloody fist coming down on him time slowed, every mistake and triumph, all of his good and bad deeds were remembered. He knew better, the first rule of combat was never fight someone who has nothing left to lose but had been blinded by passion. Everything that could have been, was, and never would be flashed through his mind as the instrument of his death neared. He was at peace with it, he had done the best he could, and prayed the Inner Sphere would prove worthy of his sacrifice.

IlKhan Lincoln Osis’s death blow took the life of The Golden Prince. The two Warriors fell, their blood mixing with that of so many others that had fallen this day. The red sands covered the fallen as the Kathil Uhlans ended the Smoke Jaguar Elementals in rage and wasted the fallen Mechwarriors. Colonel Andrew Redburn jumped out of his Hellbringer and pushed the dead Jaguar Khan off Victor attempting to treat his injuries but it was too late and he cradled the dead man, weeping for his loss and that of the Inner Sphere.

Khan Vladimir Ward watched the end of this Trial from the wreckage of his Gargoyle and mourned the loss of Victor Steiner-Davion in his own clan way. The Inner Sphere may have lost one of its best, some portion of his mind felt compelled to do something, and later inform the White Wolf of what had occurred here.

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Katherine, Dawn of the Second Star League II

After becoming the Hero of Coventry with few shots fired, First Prince Victor Ian Steiner-Davion issued a long and grandiose speech about uniting the Inner Sphere against the Clans, the plebs ate it up. Archon Katherine Steiner offered to host a Sphere-Wide Conference on Tharkad, “grateful” for her brother’s assistance and “inspired” by the show of multi-nationalism fighting against the Clans. Secretly she seethed and raged that Victor had cost her a chance to kill Clan Jade Falcon since she was aware of their weakness after the Refusal War. Victor left Alliance space to return to Tukayyid and his war games, morale high, and would stay there until the Whitting Conference occurred in October.

Archon Katherine Steiner spent that time dealing with the confidence crisis that arose from the Coventry operation. LIC Operatives and the LAAF’s Public Relations were kept busy, some officers were cashiered out, others were sent to the Periphery March to take over garbage posts as punishment, and General of the Armies Nondi Steiner was allowed to retire. General Maria Esteban took over as the LAAF’s Top General, this was a controversial move as both Katherine and General Esteban were both NAIS Alumni. There was an unfounded fear among the Lyran Academy graduates that their foreign influence would prove disastrous.

With new blood in command the Archon commissioned the Alliance Jaegers LCT (Light Combat Team) Brigade using equipment from the former FedCom RCTs. The aim was a regionally sourced rapid reaction force easily transported to hot spots and capable of dealing with an opponent until a heavier formation could respond. Katherine wanted young officers eager to make a name for themselves as their commanders. These new officers could experiment with different tactics much easier as a smaller formation. The commands would never go beyond five battalions, more would just be split off and added instead. The prestige of being the 1st of something meant that the slots filled quickly. Archon Katherine also rebuilt the 11th Lyran Guards and 3rd Royal Guards using up excess equipment and appointed more loyal and capable commanders.

Loremaster Katya Kerensky had covertly built a HPG repeater circuit from Tharkad to Tamar allowing the Wolves to have an inside peek on the Inner Sphere’s current events. She was quite eager to see what Katherine had planned for the proceedings.

The Whitting Conference needed to go off without a hitch and be a magnificent display of her young Lyran Alliance to the rest of the Inner Sphere. Delegates and various government ministers of the five successor states, COMSTAR, and the Free Rasalhague Republic began arriving in September to hammer out the agenda. Bringing together this many conflicting nations to even talk peaceably would be the ultimate test of diplomacy and negotiation.

Even with her extensive micromanagement the core portions of the Whitting Conference still strained Tharkad’s extensive infrastructure to cater to that many VIPs. Katherine had been forced by polity to allow her political and personal enemies to attend. The 2nd Royal Guards kept a close eye on the Kell Hounds, Grand Duke Morgan Kell and Exiled Wolf Khan Phelen Kell were enemies of the state as far as everyone in the Alliance was concerned. Lohegrin operatives watched Intelligence Secretariat Tancred Sandoval, who arrived as part of the FedSuns delegation and “monkeywrenched” their covert opponent whenever they could. Omiko Kurita also had tails, there was too much potential for her to be a spy; it would be a shame if “Free Skye sympathizers” took this golden opportunity to kill her.

Ultimately it turned out to be a successful conference and birthed a Second Star League with associated trade and non-aggression pacts between the member states. A new Star League Defense Force would be formed from existing combat commands of all six states and the ComGuards. This SLDF would launch a massive offensive against Clan Smoke Jaguar (despite Katherine’s insistence it be against the Falcons she was the only dissenting vote). A new First Lord and Commanding General would be elected to head the endeavor. COMSTAR would only cast a vote in the event of ties.

Now the main event; who would be the first First Lord of the Second Star League? No leader could appoint themselves and every one of them had a single vote.
Archon Katherine Steiner(-Davion), First Prince Victor Steiner-Davion, Coordinator Theodore Kurita, and Captain-General Thomas Marik endorsed Sun-Tzu Liao.
Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao and Elected Prince Haakon Magnusson supported Katherine Steiner.

While she was enraged that her gambit to be First Lord had been foiled she had to admit that Victor had finally started figuring politics out and that might be a problem especially if he came back a conquering hero.

After the votes were cast he empowered his little sister Yvonne Steiner-Davion as Regent of the Federated Suns during his long absence and in the event of his possible death to serve until Arthur took over after his five years of military service. Katherine was incensed by this announcement because her double, Lady Voight, had told her that Yvonne wanted to study at the University of Tharkad and that Victor hadn’t allowed her to leave New Avalon despite her dropping out of NAIS in protest.

Katherine had never imagined her brother to be so cruel as to deny one of the only friendly relationships between the Steiner-Davion siblings. The other being Victor and Peter, who still was missing despite the LIC looking for him for the past few years. Arthur was close with Yvonne early one (the so called “twins” were legendary for the mischief they caused in Castle Davion) but had chosen to live with the Sandovals on Robinson after First Prince Hanse Davion’s death and seemed happy with his adopted family. Perhaps Victor had spent too much time with the Kuritas, the snakes were notoriously cold-blooded when it came to blood.

As Katherine could no longer have any her little sister was the closest thing she could have to a daughter and both sisters were equally angry with their brother for his actions. Yvonne was only 19 and woefully under-prepared for this kind of responsibility having never been groomed for succession. Victor was never at Castle Davion already and Marshal Bishop Sortek, the Prince’s Champion, had finally accepted he would be Minister of the Crucis March until Victor tired himself out fighting. Now as regent she would have to return to New Avalon and would be tied down with responsibilities that would put her at odds with her beloved sister. Katherine fumed, Federated Suns Princes’ predisposition to lead from the Front was THE reason that the office of Prince’s Champion existed.

11/16/3058 07:17 Location – Archon’s Office, The Triad, Tharkad

Archon Katherine Steiner(-Davion)‘s 26th birthday was today but no one came bringing her the present she wanted the most, The First Lordship of the Second Star League. Especially her brother, General Victor Steiner-Davion, who was the first appointment on a very packed agenda for today even as things began to wind down after three months of day to day meetings where she had actually lost weight from skipping meals. She was dressed casually, having been treated for nearly seven months for the physical scars she had from Tamar and it still would be at least till spring before she could wear anything “exciting” again. She was looking forward to tonight’s gala, a final party before people she didn’t like started to leave so she could get back to work and stop pretending she liked them.

Victor arrived in a SLDF Formal Uniform looking sharp, medium green and gold with three polished silver stars rising out of each Epaulet. Having designed the new uniforms Katherine was impressed at her handiwork; 2nd SLDF guys were going to be lady-killers, especially if they came back. She walked out from behind her desk; no Archon or First Prince, just brother and sister having a private conversation.

_“Good morning General, I trust you had a good rest”

“I did yes, in my old room. Drop the act Katherine.”

“Fine Victor, you have my assistance and that is all you shall have. Words cannot describe how angry I feel at you for showing me up in my Capital.”

“You mean the one you stole from me! You will never have my support sister not while you play games with other people’s lives. When I come back things are going to be different and if you stay on this dark path… I will come for you.”

“Well do come back brother, I hear those clanners are monsters. It would be shame to lose you.”

“I will take my advice on the clans from someone who knows what they are talking about, sister. alles Gute zum Geburtstag und wir sehen uns heute Abend.”_

With that he turned and walked out no doubt plenty busy, returning to her desk and taking out her Codex she ran her hand across it’s raised Wolf’s head, “Ah, brother if only you knew”

Thinking about it she was fairly certain that was the only time he had wished her a Happy Birthday in person. Apparently their family dysfunction was to be driving force in the Inner Sphere, she had never wanted that to happen, thought if Melissa was out of the way there might be a chance. If she hadn’t lost everything at Solaris she would have refused the full duties of Archon to raise her and Galen’s children. Would have been a better mom than Melissa who took them on to early and in the process split up the siblings until they hardly knew or liked each other. So many things could have gone differently that would have made the Inner Sphere a better place, and she was guilty of at least two.

The rest of the day went well. Katherine had a long lunch with Yvonne and Arthur, spending most of the remaining time preparing for her Birthday Gala that evening. General Steiner-Davion’s escort was Omiko Kurita and though she couldn’t help but show her displeasure at the couple there was little she could do about it. The Grand Ballroom of the Royal Palace was filled and that was impressive, she couldn’t imagine all of the logistics involved but if it’s one thing the Lyran Commonwealth was good for it was logistics.

The formal constitution of the Second Star League was signed the following week and Victor left with the Kurita and COMSTAR delegates toward Luthien to prepare. Katherine spent two weeks with Yvonne until she tearfully had to return to New Avalon.

As her sister’s dropship lifted off, Katherine was left alone again.

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Katherine, Dawn of the Second Star League I

04/18/3058 Location – Asgard, Tharkad

Archon Katherine Steiner entered the situation room in a 1st Royal Guards uniform without insignia, she was after all nominally in it. General Nondi Steiner had come out of retirement to become her General of Armies until she found a more long term appointment. She walked up to her and Mandrinn Liao at the head of the holo-table surrounded by the Top Brass of the LAAF.

“I would like a situation report General Steiner.”

“It is good to have you back Katrina. Here is current situation, the 14th Donegal and 11th Arcturan Guards are leading two paired task forces to cut the Falcons off from their Occupation Zone. Mandrinn Liao has retained the 71st Light Horse, two Regiments of Dragoons, and Waco’s Rangers with their Crazy Eights to reinforce the garrison or defend Tharkad should the Falcons come here.”

_“General Savinson, what are the odds the Falcons will strike here?”

“Poor, Archon while we have imposed a media blackout in the afflicted area our sources on-planet have reported that the Falcon’s primary objective is Coventry. They have six clusters and we still receive sporadic reports that the garrison and academy cadre harry the Falcons. The Khan hasn’t made any other moves beside clearing the corridor for their logistics.”_

_“Will three regiments be enough to hold the Falcons on Coventry until the 14th and 11th can get into position?”

“Current estimates have a 70% confidence interval that a one time reinforcement should give Generals Steiner and Esteban a chance to completely cut off the Falcons. They have been slowed by a lack of Jump-ships to move their RCTs.”_

Katherine quietly cursed herself, if she hadn’t given those Jumpers back to her brother they would already be there. She wouldn’t be stuck in a war of attrition which even with the Falcon’s Touman in a damaged state would still look bad and cause a lot of damage. By the FedCom accords she didn’t have to give them back, if they were in the Alliance they were under General Steiner’s command. Victor wouldn’t have been able to sell that to the March Lords though and no doubt the whole Davion Brigade of Guards would be dropping on Tharkad by now if she hadn’t returned them. She knew the Waco Rangers hated the Dragoons, there is no way the two commands would work together well despite their elite skill.

Katherine looked over the holomap, it was showing the current force map of the Falcons, she pointed to a world near the edge. “70%, I don’t really like those odds. Mandrinn Liao would Waco’s Ranger be able to launch diversionary raids in the Falcon OZ around the Blair Atholl? There is almost a full command circuit to speed them back there, I just used it. They can be at the Falcon’s borders in a a little more than a week.”

Colonel Wayne Waco was brought up on the long range and after some haggling that gave him a lot of Falcon salvage he accepted the terms. He would raid the Blair Atholl and worlds near the attack corridor. That would also give Khan Ward a chance to take advantage of the Falcons when he got the next round of War Materiel to reinforce the Touman from the Homeworlds.

“If Khan Pryde thinks we can attack her back lines in force, she might have to pull at least one cluster back to deal with the threat. They can’t keep fighting if they can’t resupply their forces. That should give us a chance to do some damage and force her to act on the defensive.”

The War Council finished up other situation reports with the recently arrived Archon their current high level duties completed she was dismissed for the day, her Realm was in good hands. Before leaving she took a look at the holo-map, the circled Task Forces were inching their way across light years of void. She hoped they would get there in time. Every day Khan Pryde spent on Coventry was another she could spend destroying Coventry Metal Works and increased the chance that something would leak which might be worse.

04/22/3058 Location – Archon’s Office, The Triad, Tharkad

Archon Katherine was busy managing the various crises that afflicted the Lyran Alliance, it was becoming increasingly difficult to keep up the media blackout about the Falcons on Coventry. She was going to have to go public about it soon and face whatever credibility crisis arose from that issue. The Mercenary Relief Force had arrived and was beginning operations against the Falcons. Waco’s Rangers had begun to attack the Provisional Garrison Clusters that were left behind when Khan Pryde engaged in this bold attack. The twin Task Forces remained slow, several jump-ships had suffered technical problems and they needed to find alternate transport while it was being repaired. Problems always arose when you tried to move things the size of RCTs on a dime across hundreds of light years. It’s not like she could rent more jump-ships or dragoon civilian ones, questions would be asked.

The phone on her desk rang, she grabbed the elegantly crafted device, “Archon, your brother is demanding an immediate audience via HPG concerning Coventry”

She knew that he wasn’t on New Avalon, Prince’s Regent Bishop Sortek was there managing the Crucis March. Her dear brother had been very public about his multi-month training exercise in the Combine with Hohiro Kurita and Precentor Martial Anastasius Focht, no doubt spending quite a bit of his off time with Omiko. Coordinator Theodore Kurita had taken full advantage of her love-struck brother and was angling to either make an alliance (by him marrying Omi) and get him to put down the immediate rebellions that would occur, or allow him to die on an Anti-Clan operation that ultimately benefited the Draconis Combine alone.

No doubt he (Teddy) wanted to get a Kurita-Steiner-Davion (“KSD”) kid as quickly and quietly as possible, that way if her brother died on some field of battle he could still be useful. His lack of guile never ceased to amaze her and it was concerning that he knew about Coventry, no doubt ROM had leaked something to him from Duke Bradford.

_“Hello Brother”

“Katherine, the Falcons are on Coventry, yet you didn’t tell me. I am coming in whether you want me to or not with the 1st Genyosha, ComGuard Invaders, and the Davion Heavy Guards. So you can help me by telling me how many Falcons there are or I am coming to Tharkad after that.”

“Dammit Victor, the LAAF has this under control I already have forces in motion that will deal the death blow to the Jade Falcons. If I have to I will send both Royal Guards to fight them off and lead them myself. I am not some shrinking violet that needs her big brother to bail her out. I am The Archon of the Lyran Alliance.”

“Katherine how many Falcons are there on Coventry? I am going to fight them, the Lyran Alliance was my nation first and you don’t know what you are doing.”_ His tone left no room for negotiation, Victor had roughly three regiments near Tukayyid right now. The Falcons certainly would be eager to fight him, he had long evaded them during the initial Clan invasion and they probably would try to take him as a Bondsman. An amusing thought crossed her mind, Vlad declaring a Trial of Possession for him with Star Commander Katherine bid in the fight, he would lose his mind.

The extra regiments might prove a greater diversion that might allow the task forces to set up and would save the LAAF three regiments that could be raiding Sudetan or Twycross instead. He would probably try to pick up forces from the Kells and Exiled Wolves if he knew there were still six Clusters on-planet but she didn’t want the Falcons defeated utterly by them, it would be catastrophic to LAAF morale.

_“There are four Clusters on Coventry right now Victor, I have already sent three regiments to reinforce the garrison until the main task force can get into position. You have clearance to enter and priority access to charging stations en route to Coventry.”
_
Now that it was out of the bag it was only a matter of time until it hit the airwaves and she needed to go into damage control mode. She had no problem making her brother a hero but she was not going to have his foolish ass in her seat. The Archon issued a wide band broadcast throughout the whole HPG Net,

“Citizens of the Inner Sphere, I have a grave announcement, the Jade Falcons have launched a large attack on Coventry and while the LAAF are fighting them as we speak, we cannot prevail alone. The Archon-Prince has offered aid to the Alliance and I am imploring the other Successor States to show the Clans that we will not succumb to petty rivalries while they wage war against us all. The Inner Sphere will stand or fall together under this threat.”

While Captain-General Thomas Marik and Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao were not entirely supportive of the Lyran Alliance neither of them wanted the factories of Coventry to fall into Clan hands. They were not willing to expend themselves though so they both sent a few Battalions. Archon-Prince Victor Steiner-Davion gathered more forces from the Kell Hounds and Exiled Wolves and showed up to Coventry at the head of six regiments equally matching Khan Pryde in numbers, any fight would be hard fought. The Jade Falcon’s Khan knew that Wolf Khan Ward stood poised to attack her Occupation Zone if she didn’t leave but was honor bound to engage and eager to claim The Archon-Prince as a bondsman.

Then Victor, the man who never met a problem he couldn’t solve with enough Battlemech, did something no Inner Sphere Commander had ever done to achieve victory. He let the Falcons go, allowing the “defeated” Falcons to leave honorably as Wolves stood poised to kick the Jade Falcons out of the Inner Sphere. Katherine was stunned, she watched the progress reports from Waco’s Rangers and the Generals at Asgard, the Falcons managed to stay one step ahead of the Task Forces. They returned to stop the Wolves and severely damaged Waco’s Rangers who nevertheless grabbed a lot of Clan Tech salvage.

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