Category Archives: Fiction

What Might Have Been (Part 9)

Ducal Estate
Lyran Commonwealth
28 May 3006

Frederick Steiner stared restlessly through the window at the rain. A man of 38, he felt a bit childish at the caged feeling mere falling water out of a heavily overcast sky still gave him. As if he’d be running around outside playing if it weren’t raining.

“Your expected guest is here, sir.”

Frederick thanked the man — he didn’t recall the name. The fellow worked for Aldo Lestrade, at whose estate he was staying while visiting Summer. He supposed he didn’t see a need to remember the names of minor underlings of minor noblemen. He’d be archon soon enough and Aldo? The fellow might think he would be an easily manipulated puppet, but Frederick knew who had the upper hand in that relationship.

His guest was from outside this situation. He’d never met the man, which had made it an act of some boldness or desperation to approach one of the realm’s highest nobility unsolicited even if he were a Steiner (of a lesser branch, but a Steiner nonetheless) himself. He understood the man to be an ally of his cousin, Katrina Steiner, which made his request for an audience even more interesting. What could his cousin want? Had she decided to come out of hiding?

The doors to the auxillary audience room swung open and his guest — David Steiner — entered. He wore the uniform of an LCAF Hauptmann, which along with his name gave him just enough social standing to have requested this audience. He saluted, a gesture which Frederick automatically returned.

“Are we secure here, sir?”

“As secure as Lestrade’s people and mine can make us, which I imagine should be secure enough.”

“Then may I speak freely, sir?”

He had expected that. His cousin had something to tell him that she wouldn’t want their uncle to know. Perhaps she meant to propose an alliance, or trick him in some way to gain an advantage. Or both. Katrina was tricky, he’d have to ultimately go over any proposal with Aldo.

“Permission granted, Hauptmann.”

“Sir, your cousin is missing.”

Katrina had vanished months ago, rumors had it even the Archon’s agents couldn’t find her. Certainly Aldo’s people had no idea where she was. But everyone knew about that.

“That’s not exactly news to me.” despite his best efforts Frederick Steiner couldn’t quite keep the sarcasm out of his voice.

“General Steiner missed her last check-in, sir. She was supposed to be back in the Commonwealth by now. Sir, we have no idea where she is, and we think the Archon’s people — we think Loki may have been involved.”

“Then you’re?”

“Heimdall, sir. They sent me here to protect you.”

What Might Have Been (Part 8)

Clan Snow Raven Warship Storm Crow
Nadir Jump Point
Near Periphery
2 February, 3006

“Battlestations!” Star Commander Arianna Shu barked out an order she had never expected to issue at this point in her career as the unthinkable happened. In an uninhabited system, nearly thirty light-years from any object of strategic or human significance except for the weak M-class star at the system’s heart, another vessel was materialising less than a thousand kilometers off Storm Crow‘s bow.

Klaxons sounded as her order was put into effect and one of the veteran technicians who manned Storm Crow‘s night shift began speaking calmly over the massive vessel’s Public Address System “All hands man your battle stations. This is not a drill. Repeat: This is not a drill. All hands…”

Arianna had been left in command of Storm Crow‘s bridge precisely because such a situation was vanishingly unlikely. Senior officers had better things to do — such as paperwork — than sit idly on the bridge for days at a time, and it was thought that such a watch was the perfect opportunity for a junior naval oficer to get a taste of command. Storm Crow had had many such watches, punctuated only by drills, since leaving the Homeworlds six months ago. Dispatched by Khan Magnus McKenna in anticipation of the acceptance of his plan to assess the condition of abandoned Star League bases in the near Periphery, Storm Crow was only now approaching its first objective, an antique automated supply yard and drydock.

Had they been followed or their itenerary leaked? Was this an attempt by a lesser Clan to destroy or capture the Sovetskii Soyuz-Class Heavy Cruiser far from support? Taken alone, there were no shortage of hostile vessels that could be expected to overpower Storm Crow herself.

“Based on long-range transit, bogey is expected to be a Merchant-class or similar Jumpship. We cannot rule out a Warship.” That was the report from the sensors section, that last bit undoubtedly meant to remind the rookie commander that she should be cautious. I know that, but what is the right move? If it were a Merchant, keeping her distance until it could be confirmed would be seen as overly timid. If it were a heavier warship, closing with the vessel, still known only as a heat contact since it had yet to fully resolve in the system, could be disasterous, even fatal.

The worst thing a Clan Warrior could appear to be was timid. Brave and dead was considerably better.

“Give me maximum thrust. Close to optimum weapons range and ready for action.”

It was only moments later that Star Admiral Robert McKenna entered the bridge, beating his juniors by luck or foresight.

“Captain on the bridge!” Arianna snapped to her feet in the one and a half gravities of a Warship under acceleration and saluted, moving to one of the bridge tactical stations.

“At ease! Report!” the Star Admiral barked as he took his place at the heart of the bridge and switched on his tactal monitors.

“One Bogey, confirmed Merchant-Class Jumpship with two Dropships. Astrometry guesses those as Union and Fury classes. Range is eight-two-five kilometers and closing.”

“Identify us to the unidentified vessels. My compliments to their Captains and crew and I demand their immediate and unconditional surrender. I will not ask again.”

What Might Have Been (Part 7)

Hall of the Khans
Strana Mechty
25 December 3005

“Order, my Khans! Please!” Nadia Winson hammered furiously at the podium with her gavel, in a futile attempt to draw attention that for the moment simply seemed to add to the general din in the Great Hall. Resigned for the moment she just relaxed and let the noise wash over her. It was thrilling in a way, even if it seemed for a moment there that the Khans would come to blows. Magnus McKenna and Thaddeus Jorgensson had not got far into their presentation before the Khans had abandoned their traditional decorum in favor of a shouting match. Jorgensson, for his part seemed to simply be biding his time, waiting for the right moment.

“Silence!” he barked as the moment came. Nadia had no idea how, but it worked. The Khans settled into a kind of constrained, moody mumbling over which the Snow Raven Khan could be heard to clearly state “If you have questions, we will take them, but please, one at a time. Khan Smoke Jaguar.”

This last was directed at the massive Khan of Clan Smoke Jaguar who had thrust his massive hand petulantly into the air in the middle of the statement, and who now proceeded to speak.

“What is the purpose of this general warship refit you are proposing?”

The junior Diamond Shark Khan interrupted before Magnus could respond “Why to force you to spend your resources in his shipyard, of course.” There was another general explosion, but this time Nadia’s furious hammering brought the expected response and she turned the floor back over to Magnus.

“While we suspect that the Inner Sphere lacks large modern Warship forces and thus our older units should be adequate to defeat whatever they may supply to oppose us, They do stil have a large and well-organized aerospace corps. Our ships are of a traditional design and so lack significant small-scale defenses of their own. The proposed refits would simply remedy these and some other operational inadequecies in order to ready our fleet for the kind of action they can expect in the Inner Sphere.”

“Also, our vessels will need to be ready to withstand nuclear strikes.” This comment from Thaddeus Jorgensson might have provoked another roar of confused dissention, but somehow the Khans settled into a kind of shocked silence. Utterly serious and contemplative for once as a group. It was Khan Kerlin Ward of the Wolves who broke the silence.

“You truly believe they would stoop to nuclear weapons to destroy us?” There was a sneer of contempt in his voice, but it rang false against his earlier silence. It seemed clear to all that he had never considered the possibility. And yet…

“Intelser has asserted and confirmed that nuclear weapons played an important part in the devastation of the Succession Wars and that each House maintains a significant stock of weapons as a deterrent. We would be fools to discount this. It is a very real threat, and one we must be prepared to counter.” Thaddeus Jorgensson again.

The Smoke Jaguar Khan waited to be recognized again before speaking “But what is the purpose of spending so much of our effort on Warships? Do you not intend to destroy the enemy on the ground as the Founder intended? Surely you do not mean to answer nuclear weapons with orbital bombardment!”

Magnus shook his head “No, of course not. We intend the Warships to act in a supporting role as troop transports and as part of a blockade fleet. Any destruction of enemy Battlemech forces will be accomplished by conventional means.”

Any Destruction?” That would be the Khan of the Coyotes. The Coyotes were generally content to remain silent in Council and simply follow the lead of the Wolves. But trust them to pick up on a subtle philosophical point like the implicit possibility that such destruction might not be necessary.

Thaddeus Jorgensson chuckled. “Do not worry. There will be plenty of fighting for our Mechwarriors to do, I expect. The purpose of the blockading forces is to cut down the ability of the Inner Sphere lords to mobilize. If we can destroy enough of their ships, they will be unable to reposition their forces to oppose us. If we destroy their ability to move their forces, we destroy their ability to wage war on an interstellar scale. Ending the enemy’s capacity to wage war is the end goal in any real war, and make no mistake my Khans, this will be a real war.”

Magnus continued “A Successor State exists only so long as it excersises power across dozens or hundreds of worlds. If we can cut off Jumpship traffic, seize hyperpulse stations, and destroy factories, we can topple their regimes simply by rendering them meaningless. A united Lyran Commonwealth or Draconis Combine is a threat, but thousands of individual worlds are nothing. Once we have toppled these pretenders to the Star League Throne it is simply a matter of pacifying our territory, which we may do at our leisure. Intelser even suggests that most planets would not be unwilling to swear allegiance to a Clan as their interstellar protector.”

“This task, of course, is not as easy as it would appear. First we need better reconaissance. To this end, we are proposing that the Grand Council authorize the creation of five new Galaxy-sized units answerable to the ilKhan and to this Conclave. Wolf’s Dragoons have drawn significant attention by their size and by the oddity of their ways, but these new units can put what Wolf’s Dragoons have learned to work to blend into Inner Sphere society. Thus positioned, with one unit seeming to serve each of the Pretender Lords, they will gather intelligence and wait for the signal to strike. When we invade, they will act as our first wave, striking targets of vital import and sowing confusion in advance of our general invasion.”

“Five Galaxies?!” One of the Fire Mandrill Khans, no doubt contemplating the fact that such a force would outmatch his entire Clan, to say nothing of his own Kindraa.

“Five Galaxies. But we know this is a nontrivial force, and that we asked you for five Galaxies before. Therefore, we intend to raise only one such Galaxy every four years, assigning each as it is comissioned to the state that Wolf’s Dragoons has most recently departed. In the meantime, we will be building supply infrastructure for a grand envelopment campaign against the Inner Sphere. We have divided the Inner Sphere into twelve occupation zones, each of which will be the responsibility of a single Clan. If a Clan is unable to meet Grand Council objectives in that zone, it will be replaced.”

The Khans continued to argue over the details for several more hours. Finally, a vote was called. In the end, it was nearly unanimous. The Crusaders felt this would finally give them the promised Return, while the Wardens hoped that the McKenna-Jorgensson plan would delay matters long enough for them to rally support and crush the idea outright. Twenty-five years was a very long time, after all.

But for now, the Clans were officially at war.

What Might Have Been (Part 6)

Katyusha City Comissary (Sven’s Hole)
Strana Mechty
15 November, 3005

“I just do not see how we can defeat them” Garrick N’Buta’s otherwise shameful remark could be excused by two facts. First, he was more than a little drunk. Second, his statement mirrored the thoughts of many there assembled, including ilKhan Nadia Winson. The Inner Sphere’s armies were powerful, and they were growing. Wolf’s Dragoons had even discovered evidence that they were beginning to recover the technolgies lost to them since the fall of the Star League.

It would seem that the Clans had no option but to strike now, but no matter how she played it out, the ilKhan of the Clans could see no hope in an all-out assault.

It was Snow Raven Khan Magnus McKenna who broke the heavy silence that followed the drunken outburst “Actually, I can see a path to victory.”

“Yer an opthamist” countered Garrick, his words rendered into a near-incomprehensible slur by two more shots of fine Diamond Shark single malt.

“Oh, it will not be easy, make no mistake. We shall have to abandon some of our prejudices, yet still fight with greater skill and valour than before. But think back to your Trials of Bloodright for a moment. Nadia, when you faced an Elemental, how did you choose to fight him?”

“Augmented, of course.” For a Mechwarrior to engage one of the Clans’ gigantic armored infantry barehanded would be almost a death sentence. Only careful choice of venue would give the smaller warrior a chance. Nadia wasn’t sure she knew where the Snow Raven was going with this, and even less sure she liked it.

“Nikolai Bavros, how did you engage every opponent who won the toss against you?”

“In space, of course.” The Nova Cat Khan seemed confused as well, though he should have known what Magnus was getting at.

“In each case, you leveraged your advantages to ensure a victory, and yet you are all neglecting our two most important advantages.”

Nadia definately did not like where this was going.

“We have a massive advantage in Warship tonnage. Wolf’s Dragoons currently estimate that not more than ten million tons of Warships presently exist in the Inner Sphere, and this number is still unconfirmed. The truth is that they have not seen one Warship since their arrival, not even in orbit of New Avalon.”

Several of the assembled Khans groaned. Trust the Snow Raven to trot out Warships.

“Our other advantage is total strategic surprise.” that was Thaddeus Jorgensson, breaking his characteristic silence to back up the Snow Raven. Had they planned this?

“Of course, we will need more reconaissance. Wolf’s reports suggest that he was dangerously close to being compromised by the weak footwork Intelser provided. For one, his force is too large, and breaking it up now would look suspicious. For another, some of his common designs have turned up absent in the Inner Sphere since the Fall.”

“And we will need to take a serious look at retrofitting our fleet. Our main opposition will come from aerospace fighters, not from Warships, and we will need stronger countermeasures against nuclear weapons.”

Even the Ghost Bear seemed shocked by that one.

“These are Barbarians, no better than the Not-Named. We cannot simply trust them not to deploy the most powerful weapons at their disposal, not when they already did it to themselves!”

A grim consensus settled over the ilKhan and her retinue of moderate Khans.

“With your permission, Nadia, Magnus and I will put together a plan on how to proceed?”

“Granted. Have it ready by the next General Conclave.”


What Might Have Been (Part 5)

Hall of The Khans
Strana Mechty
11 November, 3005

“Five years to the day, My Khans, we sent out a reconaissance force to determine the strength of the Inner Sphere. That force has been to the Inner Sphere. Their reports have arrived. Now, if the Wolves and their Star Adder patsies are done wasting our time, I say that the time for the Return has come! I call for a vote for immediate invasion of the Inner Sphere and the destruction of the so-called ‘Successor States’ that defile our legacy. I call a vote to re-establish the Star League!”

Many in the Hall of Khans noded as the Smoke Jaguar Khan finished his rant, but one man stood against the tide.

Kerlin Ward. How I loathe you. ilKhan Nadia Winson thought to herself. That her own Clan could produce such a simpering coward let alone elevate him to Khan was beyond her. She had begun to suspect he secretly sympathised with the Successor States — a crime punishable by death among the Clans, if only she could prove it. But for now he is a Khan, quiaff?

“Khan Kerlin Ward of the Wolves is recognized. Why do you stand before this Conclave?”

“I have remarks to offer against my esteemed colleague’s proposal.”

“You may proceed.”

“While there can be no question that the Inner Sphere is horrifically debased, I submit that the time is not yet right for our return. The Successor States still command potent if diminished armies of Battlemechs. We had originally planned for a twenty-five year survey of their defenses while we built up our own forces. Surely we should wait while the reconaissance force finishes their mission?”

Several more in the Hall nodeed. Nadia had done her homework in preparation for this vote, and knew where each of the Khans would come down. Despite the pro forma speeches, the majority of votes were decided by ideology. The moderates would vote to delay, they always did. The more extreme Crusaders would vote to invade, they always did. The Wardens would vote against any invasion, it was anathema to them. Nadia wasn’t really sure where she’d come down herself, but she knew it didn’t matter. Though there were fewer Wardens in the Hall of the Khans than there had been five years ago, they still formed along with the moderates a bloc of unbeatable power.

She was about to call the vote when another Khan rose.

“Khan Thaddeus Jorgensson of Clan Ghost Bear is recognized. Why do you stand before this Conclave?”

“I have a question.”

“For whom?”

“The Wolves. The Jaguars. Any one of these assembled Khans perhaps. Can you tell me who the King of the Federated Suns is?”

“King Ian?” the Smoke Jaguar answered, with uncharacteristic hesitation.

“Ian Davion.” Kerlin Ward answered, confidently.

King Ian Davion? Something was wrong, but Nadia could not quite put her finger on it. It almost sounded right.

“Have NONE of you read this?” he hurled a datapad, presumably containing Galaxy Commander Jaime Wolf’s most recent report, across the chamber in apparent disgust “The Federated Suns has a First Prince, not a King! How many Regiments does the Draconis Combine Field, Khan Wolf? How many Mercenary Companies hire out of Galatea, Khan Smoke Jaguar?”

The two most powerful Khans among the Clans looked at the Ghost Bear Khan with a poorly-concealed mix of shame and resentment, somewhere between how dare he? and I should know that.

“Any of the Khans, which Successor Lord commands the most force?”

A significant pause followed.

“Perhaps before we go any further, we should take advantage of the intelligence that Intelser and the Ebon Guard have taken such pains to provide us. How can an uninformed decision based on blind ideology be anything more than a shot in the dark? The Founder would be apalled, and you should be ashamed.”

Clan Ghost Bear’s Junior Khan stormed from the chamber. Without him, the Crusaders stood even less chance of passing an invasion vote. Nadia had read the intelligence. She saw it as her duty, and yet the Ghost Bear’s impromptu quiz had left her momentarily puzzled as well. The answers finally came, and she repeated them.

“First Prince Ian Davion. Eighty Battlemech Regiments, with another two hundred in armor and another five hundred in regular infantry, according to preliminary estimates. Over a hundred mercenary companies hire out of Galatea, with no more than a third employed in any given month. House Steiner commands the most significant Battlemech force.”

The ilKhan of the Clans sighed heavily. “Something has been demonstrated to us this day, and I suspect our excitable junior member is right. I will command Intelser to prepare personal briefings for you. There will be a quiz afterward. This meeting is adjourned.”

What Might Have Been (Part 4)

Katyusha City Starport
Katyusha City
Strana Mechty
16 June 3003

Colonel Jaime Wolf looked over the parade grounds to see his command assembled in full — the last inspection before Wolf’s Dragoons would depart for the Inner Sphere. Since they would spend the entire trip sequestered in individual Dropships, this would be the last such assembly for at least a year. Their equipment may have been archaic, but it was proudly maintained and displayed. The five Regiments (they were still Galaxies on the Ebon Guard’s roster, but Wolf had agressively stomped out the tendency to refer to them as anything other than Regiments. That kind of thinking would give them away in the Inner Sphere.) were an impressive force — perhaps not a match for any of their size in the Clans, but certainly a match for anything they would find in the Inner Sphere.

The unit’s senior Galaxy Commander of five, Jaime had refused to accept a promotion to Brigadier, as the Clans had no equivalent rank. Galaxies were only organized together in a Clan’s touman itself, and taking a rank whose position was equivalent to that of a Khan was simply too disrespectful even for an old freebirth like him. As such, his troops had already begun referring to him as “The Old Wolf” (to distinguish him from his brother, also a Galaxy Commander/Colonel) or “The Old Man” (a reference to his position of command rather than to his age, as he was still young even by Clan standards.)

He was proud of his Dragoons. They had had much to learn, and had learned it almost flawlessly in the two years they had had to train. He expected no less from his own Clansmen, but the Dragoons counted in their numbers members from each of the seventeen surviving Clans, even if their bulk (and their highest-ranked officers) were Wolves (and the ilKhan had insisted on that. Jaime secretly admired Nadia Winson for getting the better of Old Kerlin like that.)

As he reached the end of the line of infantry troopers, each perfectly squared away in the new uniform, he saluted their commander, and dismissed the unit. They had prepared as well as they could. Only time would tell if that preparation had been enough.

What Might Have Been (Part 3)

Austral Continent Training Grounds
Strana Mechty
15 March 3001

Star Ca- that is, Captain Natasha Kerensky swore at her ancient MAD-3R Marauder as she desperately danced out of the way of a stream of autocannon projectiles from an “enemy” ANH-1A Annhiliator that had appeared seemingly out of nowhere.

The range was short, almost absurdly short by the standards of the school in which she’d learned to fight a Battlemech; but at just over 300 meters, the Annihilator had difficulty tracking even the sluggish Marauder with its equally antiquated Kali-Yama class-ten autocannons.

Natasha triggered the Marauder’s primary weapons interlock and swore again as the twin Magna Hellstar PPCs sent her heat scale sailing deep into “yellow” territory. The Marauder suddenly felt like a Dire Wolf as its actuators lost contraction efficiency in the intense interior heat.

In reality, the 75-ton Marauder was not all that different from the Timber Wolves she had piloted for much of her warrior career. In many ways, the Timber Wolf was a derivative design, though the Wolf’s chassis was more closely based on the smaller Catapult. It was, however, some 20% slower at a trot, a difference almost as maddening as its thin armor, limited firepower, and crippling heat difficulties.

She had hit, though. In reality, her particle cannons were powered down enough that they would barely give an infantryman a sunburn and the GM Whirlwind Autocannon on the Marauder’s back was firing mostly-harmless “mass simulator” rounds with none of the explosive punch required to penetrate even three century old armor designs. In the mind of the Annihilator’s diagnostic interpreter, however, the shots had hit the massive Battlemech like a hammer-blow, and the DI obediently knocked the ‘Mech’s gyroscopic stabilizer out of phase to simulate the loss of over a ton of aligned-crystal steel armor plating. The Annihilator slowed as its pilot righted it automatically, but did not stop. Natasha backed the Marauder as fast as its protesting legs would take it, barely maintaining the range with the charging Annihilator.

Just who got ambushed there? She asked herself, feeling a little smug. But they were learning, and that was a good thing. After all, it was her job, the job of the Second Agressor Trinary (already known as the Black Widow Company) to teach her fellows among the Dragoons to think and fight like a Spheroid. Or at least, how Intelser thought a spheroid probably thought.

Unlike some of her comrades, Natasha was under no illusions when it came to the reliability of Intelser data. Clan spies (in reality, mostly Merchants with as much skill in skullduggery as Natasha had in needlepoint) had had no direct contact with the Inner Sphere, and most of what she’d learned about managing a Marauder and a Company had been learned from leftover Star League training manuals that the Goliath Scorpions had dug out of a cache somewhere.

Still, how much could have changed?

The Annihilator let loose another torrent of shells, and some connected this time, knocking the Marauder off balance. Natasha disengaged one of her particle cannons and fired again, missing with the autocannon but connecting with the PPC. The Marauder began to cool off, and moved freely again. Even at a fast walk, it outpaced the Annihilator now moving backwards.

And now that she had a little space to think, she realised that her opponent had made another mistake. He might have tried to ambush her, but he was still thinking like a Clanner.

He’d come out by himself.

His Star had three other Battlemechs in it, somewhere. Just not here. Natasha’s friends were somewhat closer at hand.

“Three, Actual. Break.”

“Go ahead Actual.”

“Fire mission.”

“Link Engaged.”

Though antiquated, the Marauder’s Dalban Hi-Res Targeting and Tracking System was a fairly sophisticated device. Among its many capabilities was the ability to link to a compatible TTS to provide real-time targeting data for fire-support missions. Point Three, Lynn Sheridan’s CRD-3R Crusader had just such a system, the Garret A6 tied to its two Magna Longbow-15 Long-Range Missile Launchers.

“Give me sixty birds and have another sixty on standby.”

“Roger. On the way.”

Natasha fired again, this time striking with only the autocannon as she continued to backpedal.

“Fire, Actual. Break.”

“Go Ahead, Actual.”

“Move to grid H5”

“Moving out. ETA Five Minutes.”

Thirty LRMs arrived at or near the target, their dummy warheads wreathing the Annihilator in smoke and convincing its DI to cause another spasm. Natasha followed up with another salvo from the primary interlock, wincing as the Marauder’s heat headed back into the yellow zone. The Annihilator bucked again, overbalanced despite its pilot’s best efforts, and toppled over onto its face.

“Actual, Recon. Break.”

Right on time, Natasha thought.

“Major movement in grid J6” J6 was on her right flank, where she’d set half of her recon lance to guard.

“Five Battlemechs, Heavy Class.”


“Archer. Archer. Warhammer. Marauder. Rifleman.”

“Move to grid I5 and prepare to support.”

She eyed the Annihilator as it began to struggle to its feet. Takiro Akida’s Fire Lance could handle a lone, damaged Annihilator. Natasha was just about disengaged.

“Command, Actual. Follow in formation to grid J6”

What Might Have Been (Part 2)

Katyusha City Comissary (Sven’s Hole)
Strana Mechty
12 November 3000

Leaving one’s Clan was never easy, ilKhan Nadia Winson reflected. She was in a position to know, having now left two Clans. The first had been Clan Wolf, whose Khan was now her chief rival for power. As a junior Star Colonel, she had been captured in action against Clan Ghost Bear. Made bondsman, and eventually adopted into the Warrior Caste, the abtakha Wolf had worked her way up the ranks and finally been accepted by her peers to the point of being made a Khan.

It had been a long, hard road. She had had to learn the ways of her new Clan, and unlearn the ways of the old. A Wolf played her cards close to her chest, never letting others see the nature of her soul. A Wolf played games of dominance. She always fought, and she always won. Or she died.

A Ghost Bear was a different creature altogether. Though she hid from her prey, she was open with her family.  For over a decade, she had seen her fellow-Clansmen as brothers and sisters, and then she had been a mother to them. She had even begun a Great Work, a miniature diorama showing the entirety of the Great Father’s Regular Army at its height assembled as if for a parade through the streets of Old Washington. She had never finished it, and doubted she ever would.

And now it was time to set all that aside. She had been elected by her peers– by the Khans of Kerensky– to lead them into war. The coming war would be the greatest challenge the Clans had ever faced, and it was up to her to make sure they overcame it. She wondered how she would compare to the example of the ilKhans that had come so long before. Would she be hailed as another Jerome Winson? Or despised as another Tobias Khatib? Could she ever hope to live up to the example of the Founder himself?

Only time would tell, and her time among the Ghost Bears had taught her the right attitude to apply to the situation. She would be patient. She would wait and see. She would take what came when it came, even as the Ghost Bear did. But it was the Wolf she still remembered who would deal best with the other Khans. Especially Kerlin.

And there he sat, in the corner with his Warden cronies, doubtless plotting her downfall even as he “celebrated” her rise on her work-credits. So be it. The best of the Khans sat at her table as the Grand Council’s newest member entertained them all with his rendition of a 25th-Century rock ballad.

She thought she would never understand Karaoke, but Thaddeus Jorgensson was actually quite good…

What Might Have Been (part 1)

Hall of The Khans
Strana Mechty
11 November, 3000

“You are recognized, Khan Garrick N’Buta of the Star Adders. Why do you rise before this Conclave?”

The Oathmaster’s ritual words rang out across the Hall of the Khans to the considerable startlement of Wolf Khan Kerlin Ward. Kerlin had been about to call a vote on his most recent proposal, and the Star Adder Khan was, technically, out of order.

Let him challenge me to a Trial of Grievance if he does not like it. Like most Clan Warriors, Garrick was usually unfailingly polite: It never hurt to be polite when surrounded by people who would feel obligated to kill you at the slightest offense. This made the impact of upstaging the Wolf Khan all the more potent. Such a challenge could not properly be made on the floor of the Grand Council. Kerlin would have to wait while Garrick had his say or be embarrassed further. Still, he could well pay the price later. But this is important.

“I find your notion of sending a reconnaissance force to the Inner Sphere intriguing, Kerlin Ward, but I note certain deficiencies in the plan. Firstly, you would have this force placed soly under your own authority. While I cannot say that I do not trust you with such a charge, given your record and known political positions” — this brought a guffaw from the Smoke Jaguar Khan. He could afford to be rude. He was a Smoke Jaguar. “It seems unwise to me to leave a force acting in the name of all the Clans in the hands of a Wolf. Most exalted of Clans or not, Clan Wolf is only one among the many assembled here, and the charge of gathering intelligence for the inevitable Return to the Inner Sphere is too important to be left to the offices of any one Clan.”

Garrick held a hand up to forestall rebuttal while taking a drink of water. He was pleased that it worked. This meant he had the Khans’ attention.

“Indeed, this august body made that same determination when establishing Intelser twenty years ago. Even as Intelser reports only to the Loremaster and the Grand Council, a force of Clan Warriors sent to reconnoiter in force must report only to this Grand Council and its Warlord. My Khans, I second Kerlin Ward’s call for a reconnaissance force to be sent into the Inner Sphere itself, though I will stipulate that it must report only to this conclave. In the wake of this vote, which I trust will succeed,” he paused briefly for dramatic effect.

“I intend to call for the election of an ilKhan.”