Katherine woke up in her new “home”, she was pretty sure it was yesterday that she had fought Khan Ward in combat and ended up in the infirmary. The MedTechs had treated her wounds and allowed her to clean up before escorting her to this small room alone where she passed out. Her body ached from the beating she endured yesterday and her stomach growled, she had no idea what time she had arrived in this room and was certain the Clans didn’t synchronize their chronographs to Tharkad time like she had been operating on.
She got up and turned the light on to get water and use the head almost tripping on a small duffel bag within was a paper copy of the Wolf Remembrance, red tank tops, gray cargo pants, and other clothes next to a new set of gray combat boots on the floor, everything in her size. After dealing with those needs and dressing she rubbed her right wrist, her bond-cord’s three woven gray and gold strains were the only adornment she wore now. It’s rough texture was a constant reminder that she was no longer the Archon of the Lyran Alliance, a Princess of Federated Suns, or anything but a prisoner to Clan Wolf.
What would Victor do? He always had some last minute plan to deal with any problem that threatened to overwhelm him. Of course he probably wouldn’t have done something dumb like challenging a Clan Khan to a sword-fight, he had a Battlemech after all, or even gone to Clan space in an attempt to get them to fight on his side. No those faults were hers alone, she always trying to exploit an angle or come up with a new scheme, never thinking long term and now all of her cleverness had failed her. She was aboard a Clan Warship surrounded by enemies with no help on the way and no idea what would come next.
Lacking any kind of formal order and afraid of attempting to leave before someone said it was okay, she opened the Remembrance and started reading the epic poem worthy of Ancient Greek myths. She wondered how much of it was really true or just artistic flourishes added to disguise past ugliness. Barely starting she was startled when the door opened and Wolf Lore-master Katya Kerensky stood in the door having switched to a less formal uniform with a a wicked looking whip on her hip. Katherine couldn’t get up fast enough and her eyes spent a little too much time on the weapon, afraid of what was to come.
“Katherine, the Khan has tasked me with your training until we get to Tamar in fifteen days. Clearly I have displeased him in some fashion but we both must follow his orders. Step out of line or fall behind and you will be punished. If you prove yourself a Warrior he has promised to release you and your unit who are unharmed. Failure will result in your death or assignment to a Labor camp in the Homeworlds. _ Do you understand?_” She confirmed and followed the woman to the mess deck.
She had ten minutes to eat the bland food served there before listening to lectures with a small group of other Wolf Free-borns. Lectures were followed by PT on the Gravity Deck, she mostly kept up but felt the excruciating lash of the Medusa Whip whenever she fell behind. PT was followed by simulator training, then more lectures, than sparring than dinner, than more lectures. She had never worked so hard in her life and passed out every night from exhaustion only to rise the next day and do it all over again. Everyday it got harder and the punishments more severe but she endured.
The final ride from the Dire Wolf to Tamar was the only rest she got. The Command Overlord Drop-ship Lair being too small for large training groups, instead she got personal attention from Katya, a strict taskmaster, fierce warrior, and absolute bitch although a grudging respect began to grow between them. Khan Vlad Ward stopped and watched her training several times and seemed impressed with his Bondswoman thus far. He was a cipher, she couldn’t figure him out yet.
03/01/3058 Alpha Wolf Training Site, Former Tamar War College Grounds, Barbale
The Tamar War College like many Regional Training Centers is located near as diverse a geography as possible, mountains were visible in the distance separating the grounds from the small city on the other side, large open fields of Quillar (an engineered plant similar to maize) were tended by Wolf Laborers, and a vast dense forest thinned by fire and lumberjacks.
It was a very nice place in it’s prime and Katherine knew that because her late fiancee Galen Cox had gone here. Once she liberated this planet she had already commissioned a statue to commemorate him, her heart would always belong to him even in death. The traumatic experience in the wake of his death on Solaris VII had caused her mental state to deteriorate to baser impulses better left checked by professionals and pharmaceuticals. It wasn’t as overwhelming as some of her distant relations but the possibilities were terrifying, it took all her self-control to moderate it.
Clan Warrior training even just two weeks of it was bad for her, it flipped everything that she had been trying to keep controlled. She might not be able to escape it even if she was released, the urges were so strong, the sweet release of madness so tempting. She wasn’t sure how long it could be kept at bay.
After settling in with her now meager possessions Katherine formed up with the rest of the 600 Freeborns on the Parade Grounds, each “pup” wore a red tank top with gray pants and combat boots. Some were from the Occupation Zone, others raised from the home-worlds after Vlad reformed Clan Wolf by killing the ilKhan in the Great Hall bare-handed. His Crusader Wolves had the standard bias against anyone not engineered and trained as a Warrior from birth serving as one, so they were very harsh but not overly cruel like Smoke Jaguars or Steel Vipers. Only a quarter of this group that survived basic training would even be granted a chance to achieve Warrior status and that was generous, many would still fail.
Their trainers were older hardened veterans of the Clan Invasion, Tukayyid, and Refusal War already beyond joining the ranks of the Blood-named but not quite old enough to be forcibly retired into Solahma units to die. Each had a Medusa whip on their hip to ensure their groups stayed in line and only the strong survived lest weak soldiers fail their Clan in a moment of need.
The trainees were grouped into 24 person platoons with a trainer, even with a two week head-start Katherine was still pushed to her limits during the training. It wasn’t just PT, lectures, and sparring either most of this training was more intense and complex, Mech simulator training, firearms training, martial arts, knife fighting, PT, and the occasional lecture and indoctrination session were all part of it.
Six more weeks passed, the mental strain eventually overwhelmed her, it was either madness or death and she embraced it becoming more ruthless, tougher, and meaner to the point that even the trainer was fearful she might turn the knife or gun on him.
She made it past basic but that was only the beginning she still needed to pass two Trials of Position to be a Warrior and gain her freedom and the respect of Clan Wolf. The first was un-augmented combat against two opponents, she had to defeat one and then defeat the victor of the other match up, four in, one out. The Second was the actual Trial, her Battlemech vs three of differing weight classes and skill levels.
She was given a light day to prepare and spent most of it wandering the grounds, she wasn’t nervous anymore, and that scared her. The next morning she was taken to the Arena, it was a welded steel cage, and the four combatants were locked in. The trainers gave her an initial opponent, a Freeborn with Elemental ancestry from her group, he outweighed her by nearly 20Kg and had 12cm more reach. He hit hard but she had gotten much tougher and killed him with a guillotine choke on her back after he charged her.
The second, a Tamar woman and thus a former Lyran citizen had beaten her opponent with a choke, the two of them pummeled each other but Katherine finished her off with an axe kick to the neck. Laborers removed the corpses and MedTechs tended to the injured man, and another four trainees entered to do it all over again. The rest of the day she just watched as the endless gladiator combat continued with the rest of the “pups” who made it out of the cage victors. It was carnage, unfettered by any rules other than the strong prey on the weak, everything was fair game. Laborers had to wash off the blood off the Cage’s surface three times that day, it was horrific but so was being a Clan Warrior.
The next day she engaged in a proper Trial of Position, since she had two kills already she had first pick of the mechs available and choose a Pouncer D as her ride, its combination of 6 ER Medium Lasers and 12 Streak SRMs along with it’s mobility fit her personal style best.
Her first opponent was a Kit Fox B and she defeated the mech using terrain to cover her swift advance from its firepower. The next opponent was an Ice Ferret Prime, it was faster but her advanced targeting system managed to give her enough of an edge to leg it.
The final engagement was against a Hell-bringer, the mech was nearly twice her size and she had already taken damage from her previous opponents who were not lacking in firepower themselves. The Pouncer suffering an ammo explosion that blew it’s side off and pummeled Katherine’s mind with neural feedback through her neurohelmet causing her to black out. She had made him work for it though, dodging and weaving with her more agile mech to negate at least one side of his weapons until the fateful blow.
An impressive record for a freeborn but she was the daughter of Hanse Davion and sister to Victor so her pedigree was impeccable as far as Clan Wolf was concerned. Khan Vladimir Ward cut all three strands of her bond-cord and awarded her the Star Commander rank at “graduation”. From 600 candidates, 187 didn’t make it past basic, 46 died after that, only 57 became Warriors and 3 of those were Star Commanders.
Clan Wolf still had plenty of rebuilding to do but it was a solid start, a little more than cluster of new Mechwarriors. Some of those that made it past basic and the first trial would be recycled through the next batch but most had blown their chance to be Warriors.
The next class would start in two weeks but this was the first class and thus filled with those most likely to succeed so the numbers would get worse from there which suited the Wolves just fine. The Wolf’s problems were more than personnel, their Occupation Zone lacked any heavy industry to replace material losses and while food was plentiful, minerals and metal ore were not, too many things needed to be brought in along the Exodus Road from the Home worlds which took months. With Jade Falcons still weakened by the Refusal War it was a race against time for Vlad to rebuild the Wolf Touman and stave off any attempts at predation by other clans, the Kell Wolves, or the Inner Sphere.