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When Universes Collide
Remote sensors had been reporting unscheduled traffic in the qIj-lojmIt system for three days and thinking it to be mere pirates; Captain d'GamIq boldly entered the system ready for battle.
I was an engineer second class on board the IKC T'Ong. The Chief Engineer was my brother, Q'Tor.
"You lazy, Qa-Hom! Are you finished with that EPS link yet?" roared Q'Tor.
"I finished that link an hour ago and am now recalibrating the plasma flow sensor." I answered. "That petaQ, Jar`l fitted it but decided that finishing the job was beneath him."
My brother eyed me speculatively, "You know his mother sits on the High Council?"
I spat on the floor. "I don't care if she is the mother of qeylIS himself. It is he that shirks his duty, not her."
Q`Tor laughed. "Very well. Since this is not the first time I have heard of his incompetence, I shall find a suitable punishment."
"Good. May I now get back to work? I would like to fin....."
My sentence was violently interrupted. Being thrown over off the catwalk and to the main engineering deck below and then back into the air by a second heaving of the deck will do that.
The intercom blared with the captain's voice. "Damage report!"
My brother reached his MDC, the Master Display and Control, and began his report. "Aft plating ruptured! Warp drive at ninety-two percent! Impulse at thirty-five! Our cloak is disabled!"
There was no reply.
Non tlhIngonpu' are of the opinion that tlhIngonpu' are not graceful or skilled except for swinging a bet'leH, but they have never seen a veteran tlhIngon crewman in the heat of battle. The ease with which they can monitor the whole situation and anticipate problems before they occur is truly a thing of beauty.
That is what my brother was doing now, hands flying across control panels, eyes constantly checking readouts, issuing orders and coordinating the damage control teams’ efforts.
I was ordered forward to repair and reinforce a secondary power coupling to the main disruptor banks and was headed back to engineering when a secondary EPS conduit going to the shield generators blew apart. Four crewmen were incinerated and three others sucked into the Void. I was almost the forth before the atmospheric shields snapped on and sealed the hull breach. I began retracing my route to find another passageway to engineering when the captain gave the order to abandon ship. I was the only person in this passageway and had my choice of four escape pods. I jumped in to the nearest and tore out two extra EV suits, a case of rations and reserve oxygen cylinders. I stowed this additional equipment into the next pod, climbed in and activated the launch sequence. Three seconds later I was being hurtled away from the ship by six micro boosters; much like those used to thrust photon torpedoes after they leave the magnetic acceleration of the launch tube.
As my pod blasted free I saw the ship that had fatally crippled the T'Ong. A Romulan Battleship.
Our captain had been foolish. He had ordered his heavy cruiser into the system assuming we were to engage a bunch of ragtag pirates and win by intimidation, only to be ambushed by a ship nearly three times our size and four times our fire power.
Let this be a lesson about assuming.
What happened next, while it may have a scientific explanation, is completely indescribable. I do not think there is any word in any language that can convey the experience of being sucked into and exiting a temporal rift. Perhaps that is why I was unconscious for most of it; to save my sanity. What I do remember...well it was every place and every time, all sights, all colors, all sounds, all sensations completely and perfectly blended into absolute nothingness amidst the eternal Void.
And actually, I do not remember exiting the rift. My first lucid memory is of.....
PAIN!!! There's a little man running around inside my head, screaming in pain. It's me.
I'm lying on my back, on a pad. The light is painfully bright and I can't see. The noise, the roaring in my head and that incessant beeping!
I try to throw my arm over my eyes only to find that I am being restrained. I roar in pain and rage, straining against the straps that hold me. I hear voices. My right arm breaks free and I begin swinging at the voices; a couple of times I feel contact and I continue swinging my arm and straining to free the other.
I feel myself start falling to the side and again the world goes dark.
* * * * *
I awake again, not as painfully but thoroughly restrained. My upper arms, wrists, torso, upper legs and ankles all solidly anchored to a table. I feel things stuck to my head and chest. As I open my eye, I see humans, gowned and masked. Instruments and monitors showing biometric data. I recognize some of it.
Heart rate, chromosomal structure, biographic images. All tlhIngon. All mine.
One of the masked figures looks into my face and their eyes widen. "He's awake. Call Khan Ba'atan."
* * * * * *
In walks a human. Of this I was certain because I have seen humans up close. He was neither tall nor powerfully built, but he carried himself like a tlhIngon, like a warrior. When he looked into my eye I saw his spirit and knew he was a worthy opponent. I turned my face away just to be obstinate. .
He never hesitated; he came straight into my field of vision and looked me in the eye. "What is your name?" Now you have to understand that I speak nearly fluent Federation standard, so I understood everything he said. Nonetheless I simple stared back at him.
Again he asked, "What is your name?" I continue to stare at him. He steps forward and backhands me across the face with a strength no human should have. He wasn't tlhIngon strong, but he was far stronger than any human should have been. Perhaps it was just my weakened condition.
The man looked at one of the attending scientists, "Does he even speak?"
"Yes, my Khan, During his unconscious period he would at times cry out in some guttural language." answered the scientist, "At first we thought it merely some primitive grunting, but the more he did, the more we recognized that it had a syntax to it."
"What else do we know about it?" asked the Khan.
"Its physiology is unique. It has multiple organ redundancies, skeletal and muscular density twice that of human average, and judging by the size of its brain, it is at least as intelligent as a human."
"So it can learn to speak?"
"The mouth and larynx are very similar to a human's so I do not see why it could not." replied the scientist.
"My last question," Said the Khan, "what about it's genetics."
"Actually," said the scientist, "that is the amazing part. Its genetics are very human like. If I were to hazard a guess, my Khan, I would say that this creature is the result of random genetic experimentation."
"pataQ." I grunted. Both humans looked at me, the Khan's eyes narrowing.
"He understands us." said the Khan. I started laughing.
“Of course I understand you, tera'ngan Ha'DIbaH." I quipped, “What planet am I on? And how is it you came to rescue me?"
"How do you know you are a planet?" asked the scientist
I laughed again. "How do you know you are not? The scent of fresh air not recirculated. No vibration in the deck plates from the EPS conduits."
The two humans look at each other again.
"And another thing, I am NOT an IT. I am a tlhIngon warrior, or the House of melQ'e."
The humans look at each other again. Then the Khan says, "I think he is ready to be transferred." And he walks out.
Khan Zzohrn Ba'atan enters his spartan office followed closely by his second in command, SaKhan Bar Atul and Galaxy Commanders Lutz Rock and Storm McEvedy. The Khan presses control on a monitor and gets the feed from just outside a holding cell. In the cell is a humanoid creature, very human looking indeed with the exception of its size, well over two meters, and the pronounced cranial ridges that start at its brows and go back nearly to the top of its head.
They watch as the creature hangs from the top bars of the cell and does pull-ups. They watch as a guard brings the creature food and slides the tray under the door. The creature sniffs at its food and takes tentative bites before devouring it without using any utensils.
"The creature seems to have almost bestial senses." says Lutz Rock. "Every time we put even the smallest amount of any drug in the food, he either smells or tastes it and then refuses to eat the rest."
"Have you talked to it?" asked the Khan.
"It speaks?" asks Storm McEvedy.
"Quite well," answers the Khan, "If I did not know better I would almost say it was human instead of some aberration."
"What is it, it said about a House Melkay?" asked the SaKhan. "I do not recall any mention of such a House in the Remembrance, or any of our records."
"There is no such House. At least none that the Hunters have reported." said the Khan, "And we have no reason to refute their reports."
"Galaxy Commander Rock. What of the vehicle and debris we found at the crash site?" asked the SaKhan.
"The Science Caste has the wreckage." replied Lutz Rock. "The preliminary reports indicate that it is made of very sophisticated titanium alloy but there are elements that are unidentifiable." The Galaxy Commander points to a table. "Some of the components I have had brought here."
He picks up a wickedly curved piece of metal. "This appears to be some kind of two handed weapon."
He puts it down and picks up a pistol looking device. "This is of course a type of sidearm. It is not like our laser pistol. This weapon fires a single pulse of energy and has far more destructive power that a hand laser."
"How much more?" asked the Khan.
"Well, a hand laser this size will barely mar a piece of scrap armor." began Lutz Rock. "This weapon, on its lower setting will turn the armor to slag in just a few shots. On its upper setting, six shots will vaporize the armor."
"What!?" They all exclaimed in unison.
"Exactly. I had very much the same reaction when I saw the video. Three Scientists and six Techs were caught in the area and badly injured."
"Did it explode?" asked the Khan.
"Neg. It superheated and vaporized just as I said. It was the intense heat. They were simply too close." answered the SaKhan.
The Khan stands and paces for several seconds. "Do you think it is possible that It is what It says It he is, a warrior?" asked the Khan. "I mean he has the physiology, he had with him the tools."
"What are you thinking Khan Ba'atan?" asked Storm McEvedy, warily.
The Khan again paces for several seconds, obviously contemplating something bold.
"I believe it may be of use to us,” starts the Khan, then looks directly at Galaxy Commander Storm McEvedy, "we will allow it to escape. Recapture and bond it. If it is truly a warrior, them it will understand the bonding and not attempt escape because of honor."
Storm McEvedy looks horrified, Lutz Rock and Bar Atul are aghast at the proposal.
Bar Atul recovers first, "My Khan, that thing is not even human. You cannot be serious!"
Lutz Rock follows, "It is an aberration! An abomination! Better that we kill it now and destroy all the evidence before..."
"Before what?!" yells the Khan. "Before what? Before the news gets out? Before it contaminates our Clan?
“Look at it. Look at its DNA, at its physical attributes. It is more robust, heals faster, and is just as intelligent. It comes from who knows where and has Tech beyond anything we could imagine. Even if we are forced to kill it eventually, I still want time to study it, and question it.
"You said it sensed when you drugged its food, so tricking it will not work. If we drug it by force, it will still retain some psychological barriers, but if we bond it, give it the chance to make a choice, then we gain its trust and its knowledge."
The Khan looks directly at Storm McEvedy, "And you will be the one to capture and bond it."
* * * * *
In her quarters, Galaxy Commander Storm McEvedy fumes to Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock
“I cannot believe that he has ordered me to do this?!” railed McEvedy, “The very thought of that, thing, sickens me.”
“You could challenge him to a Trial?” offers Lutz Rock, “I am certain he would be understanding and merciful.”
McEvedy scowls at him, “I take you to my bed, why exactly?”
“Because you do not want your secret known.”
“Is this always how it is going to be?” asks McEvedy, “You coercing me with my past?”
“I am our Khan’s favorite,” answers Rock slyly, “and I will use whatever means I must to stay so. If I have to use yours and his dirty little secret to do so then so be it.”
“Get out!” McEvedy yells.
“Oh no, not tonight. Tonight I will enjoy the look of disgust on your face as I take you from…”
McEvedy steps forward and draws her dagger in one quick motion, letting the tip of the knife poke through fabric at the front of Lutz’s pants. “You will leave me now or I will take my chances with your murder and mutilation,” she says tightly.
What is it about humans and their need for absolute clean? I mean, it’s a latrine, who cares if there is a smudge on the underside of a wash basin, right?
“Filthy dog! You call this clean?! I said all of the rust stains were to be scoured out!” yelled Michel, a Labor Caste Sanitation custodian.
I give him a scowl, pick up the long handle brush and had just put the bristles back into the water filled commode when he speaks again;
“Good doggie. Good beast. I kne….*gurk*”
He never had a chance to finish. I jabbed the back end of the brush handle into his throat with every once of anger a tlhIngon warrior possesses. He dropped to the concrete floor as his cracked windpipe both collapsed and swelled shut, asphyxiating him in about 2 minutes without making a sound. “Dead human. Good human. I knew you could die like the weakling you are,” I said as he lay there twitching his last.
I left the latrine and walked out into the open quad at the center of the military compound I was being held in. I looked left, right and then started walking to the front gate, outside of which were the fields where other slaves toiled. The gate guard stopped me and asked me where I was going. “I am going to the fields.” I replied.
“Where is your keeper, creature?” asked the guard.
“He is still in the latrine inspecting. He ordered me to the fields until he comes out to assign me my next task.”
“Very well. Just be sure to stay where we can see you.”
“Yes sir.” I answered. So I proceeded to the field, stopped to pick up one of the implements they were using and kept walking. I was certain there would be some kind of alert sounded as soon as I was out of sight within the tree line, but there wasn’t. Stupid humans.
* * * * * *
Star Captain Benjamin Tucker approached Galaxy Commander Storm McEvedy.
“Excuse me, Galaxy Commander?”
“What is it?” she replied turning to face the junior officer.
“The creature has left. The guard reported him going to the fields and entering the forest.”
“It is about time. We gave him every opportunity over the last three weeks.”
“He killed his custodian.”
“How?” she queried.
“Single blow to the windpipe. Crushed it instantly.”
“Hmmm.” she mused. “Efficient and silent.”
“Yes, Galaxy Commander.”
“Very well. Assemble and brief you Trinary, Star Captain.” she ordered.
* * * * * * *
For eight days I headed toward the morning sun, toward a range of mountains.
I have no idea how far I traveled, I just kept moving, trying to put as much distance between myself and my captors, Clan Wolverine, as I could.
I came upon a small lake fed by a mountain stream, the lake was near the bottom of a cliff, and half of a kellicam away was a small cave in the base of the cliff.
I made my shelter in the cave, and set traps and snares around the lake to catch game for food.
I also went about making myself the weapons and tools I would need to survive; a heavy spear, a bow and several arrows, a club and a knife. All was quiet for a week.
I was sitting at the edge of the lake dressing and butchering some large herbivore I had just taken down with my bow when I heard the sound of wood splintering from across the lake. I looked up and saw what appeared to be a huge armored warrior crashing through the forest. At over ten meters in height, it moved past and between the largest trees but pushed aside and splintered trees over half of a meter in diameter. I heard a mechanical whine as it turned right and then left at its waist, apparently looking for something. It then seemed to see me and slowly raised its right arm in my direction. The machine then let loose a bolt of energy that hit the ground two meters from me, the concussion of the blast’s impact threw me back while the ionic discharge seized my muscles into a violent spasm.
I don’t remember landing or blacking out; I do remember waking up firmly strapped to a field litter in the cargo area of some type of rotary winged aircraft. Upon landing, the rear loading door opened downward and four, very large humans came in, each grabbing one of the corner handles to lift the litter. They carried me what seemed to be an aircraft shelter and set me down on the floor, then left.
Several minutes later a short, blonde, robust human female came into view. She was red faced and angry.
“Creature. I know you can understand me so listen to my words carefully for I will only say them once. Because of your physical attribute and skills you have shown, I have been ordered to offer you a chance to prove your claim to be a warrior of your people.”
“Face me in combat, human and I will prove my claim.” I growled out.
“Silence! I have been ordered to offer you the honor of becoming a bondsman.” She continued. “Acceptance means you will be placed into a position of servitude to the Clan warrior that holds your Bond and will remain so until such a time as your Bondholder deems you worthy to enter the ranks of our Clan.”
“I am a tlhIngon warrior and will not be held captive or prisoner by any cage or chain.” I responded.
“HA!” she barked. “If you are a true warrior as you claim, then no cage or chain could hold you.”
“Then how do you propose to keep from escaping again?” I asked.
“With your Bondoath and you honor.” answered the female.
I was a warrior. I had gone through both Rites of Ascension, been to the training academy on Q’onos and served under my brother on a tlhIngon warship. I was a warrior, I understood honor.
More importantly, I was a tlhIngon. My honor was more important than my life. I could die here as a captive without honor or I could accept this Bonding, become a warrior for these humans and use it and them to find a way back to Q’onos.
I boldly said, “I will accept your terms, tera'ngan. I will take this Bondoath and show you the difference between a tlhIngon warrior and a human. Who will take my oath?”
“I will.” She replied. She tied a black and red cord around my right wrist and walked away.
For the most part my days were filled with menial chores. I would follow McEvedy around like a dog and do whatever she ordered; run this here, go get that,; all the while she would explain how her Clan worked, its philosophies, rules and customs. It sounded almost as if these humans were trying to live like tlhIngonpu.
As the weeks passed, I came to understand that this was not my universe; these humans were Augments but had never heard of tlhIngon, Romulans or even Vulcans. They had no idea what a starship was, although they did have space vehicles and a strange means of FTL travel called ‘jumping’.
I also learned that this was not my century. I came from what the humans in my universe reckoned as the 24th century, these humans reckoned it as the 31st, yet their technology was far less advanced. I had to explain to them the basic workings of the tricorder that had been in my escape pod and my disrupter pistol was of great interest to them
McEvedy even allowed me to have my d’k tahg and bet’leH.
Every couple of days Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock would find some reason to approach McEvedy and make some snide comments to her. Apparently she had a secret that he was privy to and he used it as leverage against her.
I came to the obvious conclusion that Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock had no honor.
“How goes the animal training?” asked Lutz Rock
“It goes as it goes,” answered McEvedy.
“You sound like this creature has impressed you in some way,” retorted Rock
McEvedy cocks an eyebrow at him. “Suffice to say that I may prefer the company of an animal to that of some Clansmen I am acquainted with.”
Rock laughs. “That is why I like you, Storm. You are so protective of the weak. It makes you …malleable.” Rock walks away.
McEvedy’s face turns red and she grinds her teeth in rage.
I walk in from another room. “It is the duty of the warrior to protect those that cannot protect themselves.”
McEvedy’s looks up at the towering tlhIngon with cold fury in her eyes. “Tend to your tasks beast,” she manages to squeeze out between clenched teeth and storms off.
I knew then that Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock must die.
Nine months into my Bond, McEvedy approached me with a knife in her hand.
“Hold out your arm,” she ordered. I did so and she cut the cord.
I looked at her quizzically. “Do not look so stunned, I am releasing you from your Bondoath,” she said.
“Because the Khan has decided that you are to begin training as a Clan warrior.”
“I thought you were the only one who could release me from my Bondoath?” I asked.
“I am.” She replied and began walking away. “Follow me.”
* * * * * * *
“Come on you freebirth freak of nature!. Come die on my blade!” says the young human, Terry. He has no last name or as the Clan calls it, a Bloodname, nor will he ever. I chuckle to myself quietly as I face this human with his tiny blade. I feint to the right and he comes in quick from my left, I grab his knife hand with my free hand and squeeze. He clenches his teeth in agony as bones break; as he begins to scream in pain, I plunge my d’k tagh deep into his left eye; he crumples to the ground, his body shudders once with its last breath and he is dead.
I look into the eyes of each of my human classmates as they stand at the perimeter of the Trial area, this fight or Trial being called a Circle of Equals.
“I am a tlhIngon warrior,” I start, “I am not your equal. Each of you is the result of genetic engineering, made to be faster and stronger than the average human. I am a tlhIngon warrior. I am faster, stronger, heal faster and more resilient to battle damage than your species due to eons of natural selection. I have decades as a warrior in my culture and more time in combat than any one of you has been alive.” I am thoroughly frustrated. “How many more of you must I kill in these useless challenges? Another eight?” I turn and begin walking back to the barracks.
I arrive to find Galaxy Commander McEvedy waiting for me. “What do you want?” I ask.
“How many have you killed?” she asks.
“They are young and eager to prove themselves,” she quips.
“They are foolish.”
“Perhaps it was a mistake to put you with a trueborn sibko.”
I laugh sardonically.
McEvedy continues, “How old are you, Q’Temoq?”
“In human reckoning I am 60 years old. In tlhIngon terms that makes me a young adult, roughly equal to 20 human years, lifespan wise.”
McEvedy looks at me closely. “How long have you been a warrior in your culture?”
“About 40 Earth years.”
She continues to stare at me. “We are going for your fitting. Follow me.”
* * * * * * *
I am sitting back in large padded chair with a newly constructed neuro-helmet strapped to my head, its data leads are plugged into an interface cable at the base of the chair and I have a splitting headache.
“Just two more data nodes to calibrate and we will be finished,” announces the Tech who is calibrating the neuro-helmet to my individual neural profile.
I feel a wave of nausea roll my stomach as a peculiar buzzing vibrates through my head.. I groan aloud.
The sensations abate and the Tech announces we are finished.
“Hab SoSlI' Quch!” I mutter as I sit up and remove the helmet.
“What was that?” asks McEvedy.
“I said, ‘Your mother has a smooth forehead.’ in tlhIngon Hol.”
“Your native language, quiaff?” she asks.
“That is meant to be some kind of insult?”
I look her straight in the face, “Every tlhIngon is proud of their cranial ridges. What do you think?
* * * * * * *
“yIntagh!” I yell as my head and back slam into the command couch of the Commando class light BattleMech I am learning to pilot.
“Say again, Cadet K’Temoc. Are you having problems?” calls Star Commander Terry “Grey Death” Whitley over the comm link.
“No sir. No problems at all,” I respond.
“Then get that ‘Mech back on its feet and join the rest of the class.”
I hear snickering over the comm link. My new classmates having a bit of fun at my expense, at least they refrain from committing suicide by tlhIngon.
I manage to get the Commando to its feet and walk it the fifty meters to join the rest of my class. My class is now a group of Freeborn MechWarrior cadets. Apparently someone decided it was bad for moral to let a non-human kill off an entire sibko of Trueborn cadets.
“Now that we are all here; Good Morning and welcome to Basic BattleMech Operations.” Whitley started, “Cadet K’Temoc little mishap is a good example of rule number one: Stay on your feet.
“This might seem rather obvious, but I watched as you all powered up your ‘Mechs. Every one of you wobbled a bit as the sensory feedback to the gyroscope kicked in. This is perfectly normal and after a few hundred hours in those cockpits anticipating and correcting for the initial feedback will become second nature.”
The rest of the day was spent in simple walking maneuvers; marching together in formation, simple calisthenics, etc. All meant for us to become familiar the neural feedback from the BattleMech’s gyroscope that is used to keep the ten meter tall walking machines upright and fighting.
In the weeks that followed we progressed from basic operations to managing all aspects of our ‘Mech’s abilities; weapon groupings, heat management, sensors, communications, and gunnery. We also trained and qualified in various weight classes of BattleMechs, although since we were a class of Freeborn we would likely never advance our careers far enough to pilot the larger ‘Mechs. Such is the prejudice of the Clans.
In the middle of our 28th week, we were woken up before dawn by the sound of the alert siren. We were taken into a briefing room and told that several unidentified DropShips had landed approximately five hundred kilometers away, over a 10 kilometer area. Orbital reconnaissance indicated that they were deploying ‘Mech force but their actual composition and intensions were still unknown.
“Finally! A chance to shoot something other than derelict chassis,” proclaimed one of my classmates. A tall, lanky human named Daniel.
“Neg, Cadet Daniel. Engaging this force will go to more experienced warriors.” explained Star Commander Whitley. “However this class will take part in the ground reconnaissance of the DropShips.”
This news was met with obvious disappointment. We were then broken up into five teams of four cadets. Each assigned a small scout vehicle with mounted communications equipment. We were then given the coordinates of our assigned targets and we left.
* * *
“Base this is Recon Three. We are in position and elements have been deployed. Over,” came the voice of one of our fellow recon units. We were designated Recon Two.
“Recon Three this is Base. Roger. Out,” came the reply.
Suddenly our vehicle stopped. “Alright everybody, we stopped a kilometer short of our destination to stay out of their radar range. K-T and Jayne dismount and proceed on foot. Take the video unit,” said Michael, our team leader on this mission.
Jayne and I got out and start walking toward the DropShip landing zone, all the while alert for any patrols or sentries.
I stop and sniff the wind then check the navigational unit. “Good.” I say.
“What?” asked Jayne.
“The wind is in our favor.”
Jayne shakes his head and grins. He has been the victim of my better than human senses.
After an hour of carefully moving through tall grass and scrub, we get to the edge of the touchdown blast area; this is typically a three hundred meter diameter circular area created by the blast of the fusion thrusters used to control a DropShip’s decent. It flattens grass and can uproot shrubs and small trees.
“Recon Two this is Stalker. We are in position and beginning surveillance Over,” Jayne says into the transmitter’s handset.
Stalker this is Recon Two. Roger. Other teams are reporting medium and heavy ‘Mechs at their locations. Over.”
I look through the video unit and got a count of ‘Mechs, personnel and equipment.
“Four light ‘Mechs, stockpiles of supplies,” I take in a breath to continue my report and stop, “I don’t think there is anyone there.”
“You don’t see anyone moving around?” asks Jayne.
“Don’t see anyone and don’t smell anyone.” I reply.
Jayne gives me a look but reports what I said.
“Stalker this is Recon Two. You are ordered to enter the camp and gather further intel. Over.”
Jayne gives me a look of surprise and I nod back.
“This is Stalker. Roger last. Will report back when completed. Over.”
“Recon Two. Out.”
I sling the video unit back over my shoulder and draw my disrupter. Jayne draws his laser pistol. With a look we both start to creep forward.
After about ten minutes we both realize that there is no one here. The DropShip is completely powered down, the tents are empty and the field howdahs are in position to lift pilots to the ‘Mechs.
Jayne gives me a quizzical look and I smile back.
“What now?” he asks.
“Call up the other two, we can steal these ‘Mechs and deprive our enemies of some of their firepower.” I reply.
Jayne smiles and makes the call. After about twenty minutes more of investigating the site, we hear a vehicle pull up. It’s the rest of the team.
Michael gets out and walks over to me. “You want to steal these ‘Mechs?”
“Yes, for several reasons.” I reply.
“Okay, list them.”
“One; Deprive our unknown enemy of some firepower. Two; It will take less time to get back to base. Three; It will be easier to protect this Compad with a copy of the invasion plan.” I say as I hold up said Compad.
Michael grins broadly. “I like it.”
* * *
We were making our way back to base after taking a slight detour. No, we didn’t get lost, we decided to start off in a direction ninety degrees from a direct path back to base. We figured, if we were followed at least we wouldn’t be leading the pirates straight to base.
After four hours our detour, we decided to power down for a few hours of sleep.
How did we know they were pirates? Simple. Two of the ‘Mechs we stole were Brigands, a light, pirate built ‘Mech. The other two were a Commando and a Jenner, both light ‘Mechs and we figured were either stolen or salvaged,
After our nap and with no sign of pursuit, we started off again traveling straight for home base, a journey of about six hours.
Four hours later, we entered the forest area I had used to escape all those weeks ago when I got a hit on my radar. “All stop!” I called out, and we waited. within minutes two targets appeared on out radar and they were headed straight for us.
“Front one reads as a Shadow Cat, the other a Chimera,” Michael said over the comm, “Both mediums weight.”
“Fight or flight?” asked Jayne
“Concentrate fire on the Cat, the Chimera is no real threat.” I said.
“That settles it then,” said Misty, the fourth member of our team. With that she charged forward to engage the enemy, Michael right behind her.
Upon seeing the captured pirate ‘Mech the Shadow Cat stopped short and took the brunt of Misty’s laser assault in the center torso, Michael jumped his Brigand up and over Misty’s Brigand and came down in a text book ‘Death From Above’ maneuver effectively kicking in the Shadow Cat’s cockpit, likely killing the pilot. Misty moved to the side and called the target, ”Right leg!” as we all moved up and fired at the Chimera’s right leg. The enemy ‘Mech went down in a pile, its leg a melted and blasted ruin.
Another ‘Mech suddenly shows up on the radar at less than four hundred meters and hits Misty’s “Mech with a volley of laser fire, slagging nearly all of her rear armor, pitching her machine forward to the dirt. The pilot of the Nova switches to an open channel, “Freebirth filth! How dare you attack our planet! Now feel the wrath of Clan Wolverine!”
“Bronson? Is that you?” I called back.
“Who is this?” he demands.
“It is I, Q’Temoq, son of Du’voQ.”
“You filthy, traitorous beast!” he screams. “You killed my sibkin! Now you join up with this pirate scum to kill more of us?!”
Michael opens his comm, “We are not pirates. We are freeborn cadets who were doing reconnaissance on one of the pirate landing zones.”
You could hear his sneer as Bronson answered. “Three freebirth and the beast. How fortunate; a chance to cleanse the Clan and put down a wild animal.” With that he triggers his jump jets into a graceful arc backwards and looses a emerald barrage of laser fire lancing my ‘Mech’s right arm. and destroying the Short Range Missile pack mounted there. We started firing to cover Misty who was desperately trying to get her Brigand back on its feet, Michael’s Brigand took the brunt of Bronson’s next salvo as Jayne and I went wide to get the Nova in a cross fire. Bronson fired his jump jets again, this time going forward and landing on the back of Misty’s Brigand, driving it back into the dirt. From under the Nova’s feet we all see a bright white flash as the Brigands reactor is breached. Before Bronson can move, we all fire at him, the majority of it destroying the left arm of his Nova, reducing his weaponry by half.
“Filthy Savashri! You fight like the barbarians of the Inner Sph…” a blast of static finishes Bronson’s transmission as the ionized discharge of a PPC fired from behind us, buries itself into the Nova’s cockpit. We all see a Panther headed straight for us but it stops two hundred meters out.
“This is MechWarrior Franklin of Clan Wolverine. You cadets are to follow me back to base immediately and detained until formal charges can be brought against you.”
“Formal charges for what?” was Michaels response.
“You four are being charged with insubordination, absent without leave and treason.”
Michael replied again, “MechWarrior Franklin. The only charge that has any basis in fact is; absent without leave, because we did not report back in as scheduled.”
“I cannot say what basis these charges are based on. My…our orders were simply to escort you back to base.”
“Very well, “ I break in, “we will follow you as is our duty.”
Franklin pauses for moment. “Thank you.”
* * * *
We piloted our ‘Mechs to the bays and as we dismounted, Khan Ba'atan approaches with a detachment of guards, at his side is Galaxy Commander Storm McEvedy. A guard walks up to each of us as we stepped on the ground and they push us to our knees having us place our hands atop our heads. We are searched for weapons, restrained and then stood up and brought to face the Khan. The Khan removed his gloves and slapped each of us in the face. “Insubordination. Disobeying orders. You were to observe and report only. Absent Without Leave. You missed a scheduled report and were unaccounted for, for two days. Treason, two charges. Cooperating with know hostiles. How else could you have gained access to these BattleMechs? And firing on and killing superior officers in the Clan touman. Galaxy Commander, read off the formal charges.”
McEvedy holds up and reads from a Compad she had had under her arm. “23 April 3045. Heare ye! heare ye! To all that can hear the sound of my voice; know all that Cadet Michael; Cadet Jayne; Cadet Misty and Cadet K`Temoc, son of Du’voQ are hereby promoted to the rank of MechWarrior for displaying exceptional ingenuity, performing actions above and beyond the call of duty and exceptional teamwork and esprit de corps. Your actions during your final exam reflect great credit upon yourselves, your trainers and your Clan.
“Let all know and fear our wrath. Signed: Zzohrn Ba’atan; Khan. Clan Wolverine.”
Khan Ba’atan then reaches into his pocket and hands us each a rank insignia. Behind him McEvedy used a dagger to make a cut on each of our foreheads, formally ‘blooding’ each of us.
“Welcome to Novo Franklin and welcome to Herne’s Hunters. I’m Donovan Herne and my nominal rank is Star Colonel but out there you will refer to me simply as Colonel.” started Colonel Herne in way of greeting the twenty of us newly graduated Clan Wolverine MechWarriors.
The Colonel’s speech was informative; Herne’s Hunters is a battalion sized unit and is used as an advanced training unit for blooding all new Wolverine MechWarriors, giving them invaluable combat experience. The Hunters were also the Wolverine’s primary intelligence source, gathering information on the various Houses ruling the Inner Sphere over the duration of the various contracts the Hunters accepted, as well as intel on the various mercenary units they interacted with and fight against.
* * *
Several weeks pass, during which time I am assigned to a ‘Mech lance and begin training with my new comrades. Endless hours of simulator time help me familiarize myself their unique fighting styles and they with mine. We learn to anticipate each other, compensate for each other, and work as a cohesive team.
Walking through the ‘Mech bay to check some repair work on my Jenner, MechWarrior Dennis, one of my teammates walks up behind me. “Hey, K-T. We are ordered to the command bunker.”
“I am not sure. The entire battalion is to report at 1400 hours.”
I check my chronometer; 1350 hours. “Hmm.” And I follow my comrade to the bunker.
* * *
“Battalion. Atten-TION!” calls out the battalion Sergeant Major and we all snap to our feet.
“As you were.” says Colonel Herne as he approaches the podium at the front of the auditorium. “Today is a fateful day for all of us.” He begins, “Normally I would address you simply as Colonel Herne but today I am dropping the Inner Sphere pretence and address you as a Star Colonel of Clan Wolverine.”
The entire room hushes dramatically.
“One week ago The Kell Hound’s third battalion was dispatched to The Rock in the Oberon Confederation, to engage and destroy assets of the pirate group known as Ryan’s Rebels. While on The Rock, an unknown ‘Mech force was encountered and engaged by the Hounds. They fielded large numbers of never before seen ‘Mech chassis and advanced weaponry.” The wall behind the Star Colonel becomes active as a holo-display showing low resolution images of the ‘Mechs in question. “These images were taken from the battle-ROM of one the Hound’s surviving ‘Mechs and transmitted to Outreach for general dissemination among the mercenary units.” He pauses. “Obviously this new threat is of some concern. What makes this relevant to us is this.” The holo-display zooms in to show a blurry, red, rectangular unit insignia. The ‘Tech operating the holo readjusts and clarifies the image into a red, snarling wolf’s head superimposed over a horizontal, red bar with star across it. The entire room inhales with recognition of the insignia. Star Colonel Herne continues, “Clan Wolf has invaded the Inner Sphere.”
Colonel Herne then begins a recitation of the history of Clan Wolverine, its dispute with the other Clans, Wolf in particular, its exodus from Clan space back to the Inner Sphere and then beyond its borders to colonize the planet Gaia, the planet my escape pod had crashed on.
After the colonel’s recitation he informed us that he was on his way back to Gaia to brief the Clan Council and discuss what actions will be taken. Meanwhile we were to begin preparing for war as he was certain there would be a need for mercenary units in the near future.
* * *
Back in the ‘Mech bay I am going over every system of my Jenner with one of the Techs ensuring it is ready for battle, when MechWarrior Misty, the same female from the reconnaissance mission, walks up.
“I did not know you had any technical skills,” she said .
I look at her with a mild scowl, “I was an engineer aboard the T’Ong before I crashed on Gaia.”
“The Tong?” she asks.
I grin at her mispronunciation of the unfamiliar word. “A K’T’Inga class heavy cruiser of the tlhIngon’wo. That is, Klingon Empire.”
“I thought you were a warrior?”
“Only warriors serve on starships but the ships do not repair themselves.”
“Ah. The reason I came to see you was that I never properly thanked you for your part in saving my life on Gaia,” she said stone faced.
I returned her look asked, “Would you have done the same for me or any in our team that day?”
“Yes,” was her simple, honest answer.
“Then you need not thank me for anything,” and I returned to my work. She turns and starts to walk away then turns back and asks, “You knew that would be my answer, quiaff?”
I nod once, slowly, “HIja’”
* * *
In the barracks, I am sitting on the edge of my tlhIngon style bed. That is to say, the mattress has been replaced by an animal fur atop a sheet of bonded wood layers. I am reading a ComPad on the detailed history of the Wolverines and their blood feud with the other Clans when my lance commander, Sergeant Derek Froehlich sits next to me. I look up from my reading.
“So what do you think?” he asks.
“Fighting the Wolves”
“tuHluH DuH reH” I said, “There is always a chance.”
“So you think it will be a difficult fight?” he asks.
“I hope they are worthy opponents.” I answer.
“They have better weapons, and other unknown advanced equipment and that battle-ROM showed them taking down an Awesome with little effort. Does that not frighten you?” he asked.
I grin and reply, ”targh tIn’be SuvDaq ’ach Suv tIn targhDaq.”
Derek looks at me quizzically, “And that means what?”
“It is not the size of the Targ in the fight but the size of the fight in the Targ.”
Sgt. Froehlich starts laughing as he stands to check on the other lance members.
“How do you recommend we proceed, Star Colonel?” asked Khan Ba’atan.
“That we do as we have always done. Gather information and wait for the right time to strike.” answered, Herne.
“WHAT!” shouted Galaxy Commander McEvedy. “You would not take your revenge on the Clan that destroyed our home. That killed our people because Kerensky was too much of a coward to face Sarah McEvedy in single battle?!”
“Restraint, Galaxy Commander,” said Khan Ba’atan.
“I would wait to learn exactly what our old enemy’s strengths and weaknesses are before I waste one Wolverine life on a debt of blood two hundred years owed,” answered Star Colonel Herne. “When I attack it will be to make them die as fast and in as great a number as possible,” he finished coldly.
“Very well, Star Colonel, gather the information we need. In the meantime I will order the reinstatement of the reserves,” stated Khan Ba’atan.
“Are you sure, Khan Ba’atan?” SaKhan Artemev asked hesitantly.
“If the Wolves are coming, I want every available warrior ready,” answered the Khan.
“Very well sir, I will notify the Scientist Caste, “said the SaKhan.
* * *
And so it began, we began our transformation from a peace time mercenary unit to a war ready, resurging Clan. I learned many things in the following weeks; like the true extent of the Wolverines hatred of Clan Wolf.
Since their colonizing of Gaia and Novo Franklin, the Wolverines worked extensively on improving corporeal stasis technology. That is being able to put a person in suspended animation for indefinite periods of time. Indeed, as an engineer, I had read reports on the technology of the Federation and the Romulans and it seemed to me that the Wolverines had reached that level of technology.
It seems they used this technology to ‘store’ many of their experienced MechWarriors, AeroTech pilots and Armor crews, and over the course of the past two hundred years they had managed to build a reserve force consisting of fourteen Galaxies; roughly fourteen Regiments in Inner Sphere terms and a sizable force by any military measurement.
Of course they also had built up vast stock piles of food and munitions to supply these troops and when I asked, I was told that enough food, water and other expendables was stored to supply the entire Clan, newly awakened Reserve units as well. for a span of seven years. All of this was stored in strategic, hidden locations all over Gaia and Novo Franklin in sites called Castles Brian. Literally, huge fortresses carved into mountains with enormous storage areas and extensive repair facilities.
I also learned that they had built numerous DropShips and Jumpships which they stored on the systems asteroid fields, covered in ferrocrete as both a protective coating and as camouflage against any hostile force that may enter the system.. Engineers spent nearly a month cutting them free and piloting them to their respective destinations.
At the end of six months, all the castles had been prepped, the DropShips landed and the Reserves had been revived.
During that time more intel became available. This wasn’t a case of the Wolves searching for the Wolverines this was a full Clan invasion. The Clans Wolf, Jade Falcon, Ghost Bear, and Smoke Jaguar had all been attacking a wide front along the core-ward side of the Inner Sphere and as Star Colonel Herne had predicted, calls were going out to all available mercenary units. Ridiculously high offers because the House militaries seemed unable to even slow down let alone stop the advance of the Clans.
* * *
“Archer 1 this is Archer 3, over.” MechWarrior Misty called into her neuro-helmet microphone.
“This is Archer1, over.” I replied.
“I just reached my last Nav Point and there is no sign of the Jags. Request instructions, over.”
“Bring it back in slow. Archer 4 is about two klicks behind you and I want him to catch up with you, over.” I said.
“Any word from Archer 2, over?” asked Misty.
“Neg. Which I why I want you two to link up. Once you do, I will move out to meet you and we can search for him, over.”
Just them, the magnetic sensors on my Catapult indicated an EMP had just occurred. Normally this happened when a ‘Mech’s reactor goes critical.
“Archer 3 did you just get that? Over.” I asked.
“Aff. Location is off my radar but I have a bearing. I’ll hold here for Archer 4 and will investigate, over.” replied Misty.
“Roger. I am headed that way now. If you hear me scream, step on it. Over.”
“Roger. Out.” she replied.
And then I was off. My throttle lever thrown all the way forward and my sixty-five ton Catapult was sprinting across the broken and blasted terrain of Luthien at 65 kph. Like Misty, I had nothing more that a compass bearing but Archer 2 was twenty minutes overdue and that was a very bad sign.
I hadn’t gone more than 5 kilometers when my radar went blank. I tried calling up the sat-link but found that dead as well. So I tried calling Misty.
“Archer 3 this is Archer 1. Over.”
Nothing but static, so I slowed it down and turned it around and started heading back when I felt the buffeting of missiles on the left side of my ‘Mech. I punched the throttle and twisted the torso to get a look at my attacker. A Smoke Jaguar Vulture. A nasty piece of ‘Mech. Five tons lighter than me, and almost 30kph faster carrying better armor and a better weapons loadout. If Lucas had run into this with just his Jenner, the fact that he survived about fifteen minutes before he died said one of two things. Lucas was a much better pilot than he normally showed or the Warrior driving this Vulture was a complete rookie. One thing I was certain of, where there is one enemy ‘Mech there are always more.
I started turning my Catapult to better bring my own weapons to bear when four ruby flashes and a single hot blue one stab into the knee joint of the Jaguar ‘Mech and topple it to the ground.
Seconds later, I see Misty’s Commando and Randy’s Panther come up over a small rise. Misty used her Mech’s arm to tell me to take off, so we did. After about forty-five seconds I hear Randy’s voice crackle through the static.
“We should be out of range of their EM jammer now. You ok, boss?”
“Yes,” I reply. “I’m fine.”
“Good,” said Misty. “There are four more heavies and they were pretty hot on our tails. Keep moving and we will scrimmage them if we have too. You just keep running for the base.”
So we went in file, me in front, Misty second with Randy last keep an eye on our backs with his B.A.P. equipped Panther.
The trip back was uneventful and all three of us were debriefed by Star Colonel Herne. The next day a memorial service was held for Lucas Miller, the MechWarrior who had piloted Archer 2. He was the only Warrior the Hunters lost that day.
* * *
“U.A.V. recon has shown a steady build up of Jaguar forces North of the Imperial City. If they take the city, Luthien Armor Works is next, and we all know what that means,” finished Colonel Herne. “We can likely expect a direct assault on the city within the next three days. Dismissed.”
The Draconis representative attempted to get to the briefing podium, but the Colonel cut him off and they shared a few terse words about protocol.
Misty glanced in their direction, “Who’s your pick?”
“nuq?” I ask.
“All of it.”
“The colonel, Inner Sphere, you. In that order,” I reply
“Me?” she asks.
“Both of us,” I reply and walked away.
* * *
“Here they come,” said Colonel Herne, his voice scratchy through the comm. So many BattleMechs powered up in such close proximity and all the building in the Imperial City was making communications glitchy.
Our assignment was to hold a defensive live ten kilometers North of the Imperial Palace on Luthien. This planetary defensive was a who’s who of mercenary units; Eridani Light Horse, Wolf’s Dragoon, the Kell Hounds and Hanson’s Roughriders were just the beginning. In all, eleven mercenary units, battalion strength or larger were now in the Imperial City and dozens of smaller outfits were mixed in or attached to larger units to defend particular areas.
“I just got a blip on my radar. Shadow Cat, moving fast,” I informed my Lance. The Cat’s pilot was either young or stupid because he came racing up the street at full throttle and as he entered the small public square, came to an abrupt halt nearly toppling his ‘Mech. It goes without saying that his mistake got him killed.
After that it wasn’t nearly so easy, Omni and BattleMechs of Clan Smoke Jaguar entered our area from all directions; Summoners, Hellbringers, Novas, even a Warhawk came in to play and then there were the unending waves of Elementals. Clan power armor infantry specially trained to shred Mechs like wet paper.
At the end of three days, of the two full BattleMech companies stationed at the square, only three of us were left; myself in my Catapult, Randy in his Panther and a pilot with the callsign Slingshot in a battered Thug. We spent the night making our way slowly back to base and learned that the Jaguars had been beaten back.
The Jaguars left the planet with less than a third of their landing force, the defenders stayed behind with but one forth.
* * *
Over the next few weeks as per our contract with the Draconis Combine, we not only received our monetary fees but were able to salvage additional Clan ‘Mechs as well as get our original ‘Mechs repaired.
I was upgraded from my original Catapult to a salvaged Clan, Ebon Jaguar or as the Inner Sphere named it, Cauldron-Born.
Along with my new ‘Mech came a promotion. I was now in charge of a Lance of four ‘Mechs.
My new Lance consisted of myself, Randy, who also got a ‘Mech upgrade to a medium weigh Assassin, Slingshot, whose real name is Iam Deveine (don’t ask) still in his Thug assault ‘Mech and Gregory, a replacement from the Home planet, Gaia. He came with his assigned Locust light ‘Mech.
As a Lance Commander, I had the option of naming my Lance. I chose “ batlh’etlh “ or Sword of Honor. I used the image of a batlh’etlh as our Lance marker and our callsign is Sword Lance.
* * *
“Sword Lance, this is Hunter Actual. Over,” came the call over my lance command channel. The entire lance came to a stop behind me.
“Hunter, this is Sword. Over,” I replied.
“Sword, you are to hold position and await replacement by Third Lance, Alpha Company and then report back to base. Over.”
“Hunter, this is Sword. Roger. Nature of change, over?”
“This is Hunter, will be briefed upon return. Out.”
Well that was that. Our orders were given, I sent Gregory with his Locust to patrol our left flank and Randy with his Assassin to patrol the right. About ninety minutes later Gregory calls over the comm; “Sword One this is Sword Three. I have one lance moving our way. Looks like Three Alpha.” Gregory pauses. “Confirmed by I.F.F. and visual, Three Alpha inbound.”
I switch over to the Hunter’s channel, “Three Alpha this is Sword One, over.”
“Three Alpha this is Sword One. Over.”
Still no response and my instincts are telling me this isn’t good. I switch back to my command channel, “Sword Lance this is Sword One, Form up on me.”
Four minutes later, my lance forms up and within just a few more, the approaching ‘Mechs come within four hundred meters and stop. A Nova takes an additional three steps forward.
“This is Three Alpha One to Sword One. Over.” comes a gravelly voice over a separate channel. I hear a distinctive sneer when the speaker says, ‘sword’.
“This is Sword One. To whom do I have the privilege of speaking. Over,” I reply coolly.
“Do you not recognize my voice, beast? It was your filthy little band of cadets that killed my sibkin and ruined my career,” replies the voice.
“veQ! Bronson. You are here to relieve us, quiaff?” I ask, doing my best to not fire my AC-20’s at his cockpit.
“Aff,” he replies, “I have that lesson to thank you for. I will follow my orders, but at some point in the future I will have my revenge.”
“To the future then, Lance Commander Bronson,” I respond. I then switch back to my command channel, rally up my lance and we head back to base.
* * *
Our return to base ended in a return all the way back to Gaia. The battle-ROM of our battles on Luthien along with reports from Colonel Herne had caught the attention of Khan Zzohrn Ba’atan. It was his wish that I enter a Trial of Position, a battle to acquire a higher rank. While killing to gain rank is nothing new to a Klingon warrior, I was skeptical of the Khan’s motives to initiate such a thing.
“K-T. Calm down,” said Randy, “No matter what happens during the Trial, you survived Luthien.”
“I am calm, but I am also uneasy. It is not the Trial that bothers me, it is being chosen for it. Should there not be a position opening somewhere within the touman for there to be a Trial of Position?” I asked.
Randy replies, “Normally, yes. But word has it that the Khan is creating a new unit and he needs experienced warriors for the command slots.”
“Then why not you, or any of the other humans?” I ask, “Are you not just as experienced as I?”
My friend and lance mate, Randy had no answer.
Seated in my Ebon Jaguar, I am positioned at the coordinates given to me in the sealed orders I was to open only after I was inside my ‘Mech. The orders read:
‘To: Q’Temoq, son of Du’voQ. Callsign: Sword One
From: Wolverine Command, Planet Gaia.
You are to proceed over land via your assigned OmniMech, an Ebon Jaguar with current weapons configuration, to the southern coast of the Amaz Pennisula. Coordinates, E54412.6 N0048873.1
Once there you are to await further instructions on frequency 78.2. Maintain radio silence.
Clan Wolverine, Khan.
I had arrived three days ago. During that time, I hunted and set up camp and ran patrols over a five square kilometer area. I carried my portable comm unit with me set to the appropriate frequency but no one called or approached.
Finally after six days I heard a hovercraft approaching the coast from the sea. I climb into my ‘Mech and await its arrival.
The hovercraft is a ‘Mech transport and when it beaches, four ‘Mechs unload and head off into the jungle. Several minutes later, Khan Zzohrn Ba’atan walks down the loading ramp. I power down and dismount my ‘Mech.
“Greetings Lance Commander Q’Temoq,” calls the Khan, “How are you today?”
“Curious and annoyed,” I answer.
“And with good reason, we took our sweet time getting here,” he said. “While it may seem otherwise, Q’Temoq, I am very interested in you and your future within our Clan.”
I look at him mutely with a slight scowl, he continues, “Most of the TrueBorn of the Clan believe you are no better than an animal. Some savage mutant that should be put down for the good of the Clan. Many of the FreeBorn feel the same way but I and a few other officers feel differently. Thus far you have shown yourself to be a skilled warrior both in and out of a BattleMech and a very resourceful individual as evident by your ability to survive in the wilderness both here and after your escape.”
I narrow my eyes, “Flattery is the weapon of politicians. Something you will find has little affect on me. Speak plainly.”
“So I will. The Clan needs you. It needs your skill, your abilities and your knowledge. For the Clan to fully accept you as a member you are going to have to prove yourself, to do that you must gain rank, to gain rank you must win Trials of Position. During the normal course of things, this would happen when an officer is killed and those eligible would Trial to replace him and thus the empty command position works it way down thru the ranks until the newly promoted Star Commander’s previous position is filled with a newly promoted MechWarrior from one of the sibkos.
In your case, I am making an exception. This Trial of Position will be done more like a standard cadets Trial. For every opponent you defeat, you will gain one additional rank. Defeat one and you become a Star Commander, defeat all four and gain the rank of Galaxy Commander. Do you understand?”
“I understand the process.” I answer.
“Good. Then starting tomorrow you will engage each enemy in single combat. You have the entire peninsula at your disposal. Any stray shot hitting a standing ‘Mech will allow that ‘Mech to enter combat and you will fight without rest or repair until you win or are defeated.
I will be monitoring from hovercraft two kilometers out to sea,” he finished.
“I understand.” I said.
“Good Luck, MechWarrior your first opponent will be a Wolverine.” and he walked back to the hovercraft which immediately pulled off the beach and headed out to sea.
* * *
After three hours of patrol I finally make contact with the Wolverine BattleMech.
“I am Q’Temoq, son of Du’voQ, MechWarrior of Clan Wolverine. I challenge the pilot of the Wolverine to single combat for procession of his rank,” I declare on an open channel.
“FreeBorn Q’Temoq, I am Star Commander Allen and I accept your challenge,” came the answer along with his opening volley.
The Wolverine is a medium weight ‘Mech, it’s fast and deadly. MechWarrior Allen kept his with the primary weapons loadout; two Extended Range Large Lasers, one Streak SRM-6 and an LBX AutoCannon-10. A good loadout with manageable heat.
On the other hand my Ebon Jaguar was still fitted for duty on Luthien which has a more temperate climate than I was currently fighting in. My loadout consisted of; one Extended Range Particle Projection Cannon (ERPPC), one ER Large Laser, three ER Medium Lasers, one Heavy AutoCannon-2 and a LRM- 5 missile launcher with an Artemis guidance system. Lots of Beam weapons equals lots of excess heat.
We spent the next twenty minutes slugging it out. Star Commander Allen staying out where I would only be able to waste ammunition on long range shots, and then occasionally darting in for a quick Alpha Strike and then turning back out again before I could get a clean shot.
Finally I saw a small niche in the hillside, just big enough for my ‘Mech and with enough front cover to force Allen into range of all my weapons if he really wanted to win. I only had to wait about two minutes before he came charging in. As he came around the edge of the niche I fired an Alpha Strike causing alarms to sound in my neurohelmet alerting me to the imminent overheating and shutdown of my ‘Mech. The entire volume of my volley landed directly in the right hip joint of the Wolverine effectively severing the leg and toppling Allen’s ‘Mech. He shutdown his reactor, the standard signal of surrender.
I then went looking for my next opponent.
* * *
Eighteen hours after I begin this Trial, I find my last opponent piloting a Battlemaster Assault ‘Mech.
My own ‘Mech was beat to hell. I had lost the right arm which held three medium lasers and most of the armor was stripped from that side. I had 6 round left for the AC-10 and ten missiles left in my LRM-5. Not much to work with.
I stop twelve hundred meters from the last ‘Mech and make my usual announcement when in reply I hear the voice of my former Bond Holder, Galaxy Commander Storm McEvedy.
“MechWar…excuse me, Star Colonel Q’Temoq, I have no wish to fight you,” she said.
“Such is the will of our Khan,” I reply.
“Such is the will of Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock. He is the one that suggested this impromptu Trial as well as your opponents.”
“Because he wants to be Khan. He knows he can beat SaKhan Bar Atul in single combat, but not Khan Ba’atan. So he staged this Trial to kill you and me.”
“That makes no sense. He dislikes us both but how will killing us make him Khan?”
“Khan Ba’atan and I were lovers for a time. We have a FreeBorn child together. Khan Ba’atan sent me away to bear the child on Novo Franklin, away from any scandal it might cause and Rock found out. With this knowledge he can call a Grand Council meeting and have Ba’atan disgraced and removed as Khan. Together with his decision to include your genes into the gene pool and the proof of the Khan fathering a child and covering it up the Council will vote his way and Ba’atan will be removed. Bar Atul will become the new Khan but Rock will challenge and defeat him,” she finished.
Just then a new voice sound over our channel. “Oh please do start fighting.”
Another ‘Mech drops from the sky, a Cyclops, carried by a Drop Cradle. “I would hate to soil my ‘Mech fighting the both of you,” finishes Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock. He unleashes the fury of his ‘Mech’s twin Gauss rifles into my exposed right torso, shearing off armor I don’t have and knocking my Ebon Jaguar off its feet and damaging something critical causing it to shutdown. He then turns his weapons on McEvedy and fires.
I can see the two assault ‘Mechs exchanging brutal assaults through my cockpit canopy and feel the ground shake with there footsteps and the stray shots that burrow into the earth.
I spend my time attempting to restart my reactor and get my Ebon Jaguar back into the fight; after several minutes of rewiring and cross-circuiting I am finally able to start my ‘Mech and get it on its feet. As I do, I see Rock’s Cyclops aim its left Gauss rifle at McEvedy’s cockpit. I aim and fire all of my weapons into his ‘Mech’s left knee. Just as Rock’s Cyclops reacts to the impact of my weapons by lurching to the side, McEvedy fires her own barrage, missing Rock, but coring into the ammunition magazine of the approaching Khan Zzohrn Ba’atan’s Warhammer. The Warhammer’s ammo lights off and tears the right and center torso areas to shreds and causing the reactor to go critical, effectively destroying the ‘Mech and killing the Khan. My weapons recycle just as Rock is getting his Cyclops to its feet; the angle giving me a clean shot at his cockpit.
Galaxy Commander Lutz Rock died like he lived: Without honor.
Khan Zzohrn Ba’atan died ignobly, like so many others, as a mere casualty of someone else’s greed and machinations. Not a Warrior’s death but an honest one.
The battle-ROM from my ‘Mech clearly showed Storm shot killing Zzohrn and clearly showed it to be an accident, so she was not charged with murder and there was no fuss made when she was promoted to Khan. Although the whole giving birth to a child thing was viewed with distaste, she wasn’t the only Clan officer to ever do so and probably wouldn’t be the last.
There was some controversy about my promotion to Galaxy Commander. Rock had not been one of the assigned participants of my Trial, he was engaged in combat with Khan Storm and he had clearly disabled my ‘Mech before that.
Mitigating those facts were the facts that he tried to manipulate events to his dishonorable end and that I did fire the shot that killed him thus defeating an officer of Galaxy Commander rank and meeting the terms of my Trial of Position.
* * *
“Galaxy Commander Q’Temoq,” calls out Khan Storm.
“nuqneH?” I reply.
“I have two requests to make of you,” she says as she approaches.
I wait patiently for her to continue.
“First I would like you to report to the Science Hall for genetic extraction.”
I frown at her, she knows I dislike doctors.
“I am having your genes put into the Repository,” she clarifies.
“Why?” I ask.
“Because as Khan I can order it done and because I can think of no one who deserves it more,” she says.
I grunt and shrug my shoulders, “You’re second request?”
“To become the new Commandant of the Academy,” she replies.
“You want me to become a teacher?” I ask.
“Neg. I want you to become the Clan’s new Chief Training Officer.,” she explains. “I want you to revise our training to give our Warriors the skills you posses, not only in wilderness craft and combat but in your terms of honor.
“I saw you fight. Not once did you waste a shot or waste a life by a needless death. You fought to defeat, not destroy.”
“Often they are the same thing,” I respond.
“Often, yes. But humans often let their passion rule them and they go to extremes,” she says.
I laugh. “You have never seen a Klingon with full battle lust.”
“No, but I have seen you. That is why I am making this request.”
I spent the next ten years not only as the Chief Training Officer but also as technical advisor and engineer developing new weapons and technology for the Wolverines. Eventually we were able to dispense with JumpShips altogether and replace them with warp drive ships, although we still use DropShips to transport mercantile and ‘Mechs to and from orbit.
I also took the first warp prototype, the Wanderer, and traveled to the coordinates of Q’onos only to find a planet populated by humans waging an unending battle against the native species of the planet called Nolans. They looked suspiciously like the fossilized remains of prehistoric Klingons.
On the trip back to Gaia we had a warp core malfunction and ….well that’s another story.