BattleTech: Galava

Warding Guard (Story Six)

Aike sat in her room not wishing to be around others or to run into Clara right now due to the fact that she was still being treated with a cold command attitude by Clara after the incident with the Black Rats and a very heated argument when Aike learned that the pirate crew known as Hopper’s Hard Kills, led by the pirate Captain James Hopper, would be joining the Wardens escape. Aike had heard the name Hopper’s Hard Kills, as had Clara, as they had raided Galava years ago back when they were only kids, but the fact that they had preyed on the people of Galava and now Clara was willing to work with them ate at Aike and had driven a wedge between her and Clara’s friendship like nothing before.

Aike hated this arrangement, and had hated it from its conception when the Captain of the Beast, Den Xavier, had informed Clara that he had arranged to form an alliance with a crew of pirates and smugglers who like the Wardens didn’t wish to be caught by the Black Warriors for their own reasons. All the Wardens had to do was make sure that the pirate’s Rose class Dropship made it to their smuggler friend’s Jumpship by protecting it with their aerospace and Leopard. That little arrangement had cost the Wardens an aerospace pilot and ship and had hurt the Beast a lot, but true to its nature the Leopard had broken through the light blockade screen and made it to the Tramp class Jumpship.

Just then the young woman Becka came into Aike’s room. “Cap says you are to get refreshed and changed and then report to the briefing room in thirty.”

Aike, not being in a mood to talk, just nodded her acknowledgments to the girl she had saved back on Hilad’s Landing who had been turned into Clara’s Command Aide. At first Aike had agreed with and supported giving the seventeen year old girl a job to occupy her so she couldn’t get herself into trouble, but now with Clara spending time with a pirate and forcing Becka to be around the man it just one more thing that seemed to keep this argument between Aike and Clara going.

It didn’t take Aike long to get changed and cleaned up, but she made sure to be a few minutes late. As she walked into the briefing room, she found that she was the only one there. Slightly annoyed, Aike moved to take a seat and propped her legs up lazily to wait, but her relaxed state didn’t last long when she heard someone walk into the room from behind her when she turned to see who it was she came to her feet with a jolt and her had fell to the grip of her sidearm. Standing in the doorway was Captain James Hopper, who despite his hard looking face was leaning relaxed against the doorframe with his arms crossed and clearly way from any weapons, “You don’t like me much do you girl?”

Aike had the deep desire to pull her pistol and shoot the man right there, cold blood murder was all a pirate deserved, but instead she moved her hand away from her pistol grip. “You’re a pirate, I hate you all and if it was not for the Cap I would kill you without a second’s hesitation. Your kind, are all murders, thieves and rapists who willingly live as you do on the lives of others until you die in some hellhole or another.”

James didn’t even flinch at her words, but just nodded as if agreeing, “It’s true I have done things such as you say and death is what I may deserve, but me and my crew have found peace with our lot and are just trying to live our lives for as long as we can. It may surprise you to know that I have a family of Galava, a daughter and a woman I only think of fondly. So I ask you this, is a man his past or his current actions? Can we rise above our mistakes, the ghosts, and crimes we left behind us? You yourself have your share of ghost and crimes, am I not mistaken Aike?”

Aike’s hand fell back to her pistol grip as her anger rose along with the desire to shoot this man down. How dare this scum lecture her? He was one of the filth that had beset her world and had terrorized her family and townsfolk. It was men like him that had killed her father and took away her mother. “You may have the Cap convinced of your new found soul, but for all my crimes they are nothing compared to what you have done in the name of your own gain. I see you, pirate, for what you are and no fancy words will change that so please do me a favor and reach for your gun so I can shoot you and free the galaxy of one less scum who destroys people’s lives.”

James didn’t answer back for several seconds, but instead seemed to look deep into Aike’s eyes. Then he pushed himself off the doorframe and addressed her with a quite dark tone. “It seems I have found my judge. I will not try and convince you of any such soul, but I will give you the one thing I can. I promise you now on the only thing I care for beyond my own life is that of my daughter and her mother, and that while among your fine company I will do nothing to cause you to raise arms against me or my crew. I know you want your vengeance, and as much as it must sting you set it aside you must. Not for me or you, but for the one thing we share; the love we hold for others and their safety. I promise you one other thing as well once we have discovered and dealt with this threat to Galava I will agree to meet you on the field of battle to face your judgment if you so desire it still.”

With that James, moved aside and into the room before allowing Aike to answer, and that was when Aike noticed that Clara was standing just a little ways down the hall from the doorway. Clara stepped into the room and looked down at Aike’s hand on her gun. Aike removed her hand and placed it at her side. Clara moved on into the room and turned to James. “It goes without saying but Captain Hopper if you do anything out of line I will have to deny Aike the pleasure of your date on the field of battle and will kill you myself. With that said, it’s time we moved beyond our hatreds and past and prepare ourselves for what’s to come because I now know where our search is to take us next, we will be leaving for the Circinus Federation in search of the hidden vault for clues as to who is filling them for the Black Warriors.” Looking sternly at Aike, “We, includes us and the Hard Kills.”

Aike took her seat once more and looked from Clara too James, “Well it seems like you have already come to a decision on this so why am I here?”

Clara took a seat and sighed with something akin to defeat in her manner before looking back up, “Because without you I can’t do this. Aike if you are to fight me on this then the Warden’s will become divided and don’t lie to yourself by saying your action do not affect the rest of the crew. There are a few unspoken truths about this unit that the crew has come to rely on and one of those is that my second would follow me to hell and back and if they see you fighting my lead then they will know our path is wrong and will falter. Aike I need you beside me on this if we are to continue on our hunt of this new threat to the Periphery.”

Aike was taken aback a little by Clara’s words it wasn’t because of the fact that Clara was being so honest as they have always been so with each other, but that the fact that she was speaking this way in front of someone else. Clara usually kept this part of herself nicely hidden away for only those times when she and Aike were alone. Aike took a few moments to thank about what Clara said before speaking up once more, “Okay Clara I know why you are set on this path and understand why you need my blessing and support but what I don’t know is what the pirate’s angle is?”

James just nodded once more and spoke in is steady quite tone, “I’ve made an enemy of the Black Warriors and it has become harder and harder to keep one step ahead of them and if someone is giving them advanced weapons and mechs then it concerns me and my survival, but more than just that I wasn’t lying when I said I had love ones living on Galava and I will do anything in my power to keep them safe. I’m not the only one on my crew who has set roots on your lovely world. Like it or not I have come to call Galava my home and as it and your mercenary unit grows more and more people will do the same and in the end if the Black Warriors are looking to expand the Circinus Federation with their new arms Galava will look more and more like a nice target. We need to find a way to throw a wrench in their gathering of power of arms for Galava safety, not to even speak of the other planets they may attack, and if this lowly pirate has understood what Lady Clara has told me about the Warding Guard is it not the safety of Galava what you are to stand for?”

Despite his quiet tone, the way he questioned Aike’s commitment to what the unit stood for made the muscles in the back of her neck tighten up and bring out ideas of kicking him somewhere that could cause a lot of pain. Aike knew she could not trust James Hopper, as he said one of his main reasons for joining forces was his survival and Aike felt that if it came down to it that would be his guiding light. Aike took a deep breath for a moment to gather her racing mind and as she looked over at Clara she noticed the light shining off of the SLDF Company D button that all Wardens wore and it reminded her of just what she was, a Warden. Throughout Galava’s harsh history the men and women who had come to be known as Wardens had done what they could with as little as they had to help protect the people of their planet sometimes doing dark and dirty work. There were stories of Wardens sneaking into pirate camps at night to cut them down in their sleep and other such dark tells. The Wardens were not ones to let anything hold them back from defending the people of Galava.

Aike stood up and came to attention and addressed Clara, “I’m a Warden, I will defend the defenseless and help those who have need, I will sound the warning for I am ever vigilant, I will walk forth to meet the enemy before they bring harm to those I have sworn to protect, I will do that which must be done not for honors but for the peace of the many under my guard. I am a Warden.”

After reciting the old Warden motto Aike then relaxed a little. “I’m with you Clara as I have always been, and you should have known that from the beginning and I will accept working with Captain James and his crew for as long as you see fit and maybe he will prove to me that his current actions can outweigh the ghost of his past.”

Clara smiled and stood up and moved to hug Aike before realizing she was still in the company of Captain James and stopped in mid step to straighten back up. “I’m glad to hear it so we are set then. I will have a word with our Jumpship Captain and we will set course for the Circinus Federation at all speed.”

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Warding Guard (Story Five)

Aike Rhodes leaned against the building allowing the shadows cast off by the light of the streetlight on the street just in front of the alleyway she was now in to conceal her presence from searching eyes. Things had gone wrong in a big way, and it was all her fault for losing control. Had she just played her part and kept her blackness down, none of this would be happening. Aike looked away from the street just long enough to check on the young woman setting next to her. She wanted to blame the little blonde curly haired stick of a girl, but Aike knew she couldn’t. It had been her that had set these events into motion, well most of them anyway. She had nothing to do with the Black Warriors Dropships and Battlemechs headed planet side at the moment to kill every last thieving rat in the port city in their words.

Everything had been going as Clara had planned. The Wayward Girls had preformed for the Black Rats and then had been allowed to ‘tidy up’ before being taken to a private estate for an after party where Clara and Aike were to be the personal dates for Captain Jim Hines. Aike had taken the opportunity to prepare for anything, in way of being equipped with weapons hidden in boots and half jackets while she and Clara had tidied up. Aike had not been to keen on allowing Clara to take on this role. She had been able to prevent this by taking all the dates that expected personal companionship at the end of them up to this point, but Clara had insisted that she was willing to do anything it took to search out any threat to Galava. So the party got off in full swing with drinking and more. Then one of Hines’ Lieutenants brings in his entertainment for the night in the form a slave girl who looked about as fresh off the boat as anyone could and scared with tear stains down her face and when Aike looked at her she saw her lost childhood friend Isa and that was when her dark twin called to her.

Aike couldn’t remember the first time she had realized that she had a deep darkness inside of her, but she knew wholeheartedly when it was born—the day of her father’s death and her mother’s capture at the hands of pirates who had attacked Scrape Hold when she was eleven. It had been that darkness that had saved her as she hid listening to the cries of help and being helpless to act. Upon seeing this blonde haired girl, her darkness came at once and with a fluid motion she had stood twisted her wrists in such a way for her two spring holstered holdout lasers to come flying out and shot the man holding the girl before going about the now half remembered task of gunning down every pirate in the room. It was less of a fight and more of a massacre and Aike didn’t come back to her senses until she stood over the now shot and dying Captain Hines telling him she would see to his wound if he told her where the ‘mechs and weapons had come from. Hines told her that they had found them on a planet outside of the Circinus Federation border in a hidden vault. Aike had plainly stood up and shot Hines one last time before looking up to see Clara staring at her with a mixture of honor and sadness in her eyes. Clara was the only person beside Aike’s mentor who knew of her darkness, but this had been the first time she had lost control while a member of the Warding Guard.

Clara quickly took charge after that sending Aike to guard the hall and to give her time to download as much of the Black Rats’ data files as she could and it wasn’t long before Aike was holding back pirates at a right bend in the hallway. So focused on her task and trying to make every last shot count in her holdout lasers due to their limited number of shots and reloads, she had not noticed when the blonde girl had come up next to her in the hallway and when Clara gave the evacuation order Aike knew she couldn’t follow. On her own she may have made it, but as soon as she quite covering the hallway the pirates would be upon the slow moving girl. So Aike reacted on instinct shooting out a window and grabbing the girl to jump down two floors to a secondary roof using her body to break the fall for the girl, but she had misjudged and they rolled off the secondary roof to fall another floor to the ground below.

When Aike tried to stand, she discovered that her left ankle wouldn’t support her weight. She slumped back down and reached for her hidden handheld communicator, but when she activated it to call for help all she got was static, someone was jamming her communicator. Before Aike could react to this knowledge, a message broke through the static. “Black Warriors to all people of Hilad’s Landing know that we are here to kill every last thieving rat and will give no quarter or mercy!”

The message continued to loop, but would not allow for any outgoing messages on Aike’s communicator. Aike knew they were in trouble far worse than she had ever been in before. Hurt and knowing the Black Warriors could come to the planet’s namesake port city first, and she was now stuck in the middle of a pirate haven with two shots left in each of her pistols. Aike had been so engrossed in her lack of options and trying to decide what her next move should be that she jumped causing pain to shoot up her left leg when the blonde haired girl touched her ankle. The girl didn’t seem to notice and just ripped a piece of her skirt and grabbed a near by bar and spoke up for the first time. “Hold still and I’ll brace it. I can’t believe you killed them all, why did you do that?”

The girl seemed to be talking more to herself than Aike and continued to ramble on as she worked on the makeshift brace. By the time she was done, Aike had learned that the girl was called Becka and had been taken from her home planet just two months ago and had been spared the worst of pirate treatment ‘til now so that she would fetch a better price on the slave market. While she did this, Aike tried to figure out what it was about her that had set her off so. Aike had seen several slaves since she had come to Hilad’s Landing; it was a fact of life and she had held back her anger at seeing it until tonight. For better or worse that face had brought out a part of Aike she kept deep down, a survival and primal part of her that fought and killed without question, a part that scared Aike to her core.

With her brace in place, Aike looked about hoping for some sort of option and finding one given to her by some lazy pirate who had left a motorcycle leaning next to a shed instead of locked away in the motor pool. Aike grabbed Becka’s hand and led her without questions over to the bike and promptly started going about the task of stealing it for use of their escape. It didn’t take long to break the lock on the bike and get it started, and as the two ladies went flying around the corner Aike could already hear the steady sound of Harvey’s machine pistol. As she rounded the building, she saw that the Wardens were already loaded up inside the Armored Transport and jeep with the larger six wheeled vehicle taking point. They were all loaded up if you didn’t count Harvey who was sitting on the door hanging out the jeep’s window firing his large clipped custom machine pistol at the guards trying to close the fences on the fleeing Wardens.

Aike pulled up along side the jeep next to Harvey who smiled from ear to ear as if he was some kid having the time of his life. Through the gun fire and wind he started shouting a conversation at Aike, “Well here is our lost lamb and look she found another [machine pistol fire] you would think the Cap could [Fifty Caliber fire] so if you keep running away from me I’m going to thank you found someone else to [Armored Transport crashing through gate] once we get settled in you and me need to have a talk about you skipping out on me! I mean how can I keep up with your pretty ass if you keep jumping out of windows every time a cute girl comes walking [machine pistol fire and car crashing behind them] I mean the Cap was all scared and such…”

Finally having enough Aike screamed back at Harvey, “So help me Harvey if you don’t shut up I’m going to crash on purpose just so I don’t have to listen to you!”

Harvey smiled back still hanging out the window despite the increase of the jeep’s speed with his long brown hair flying about him unkempt as always. “Now my Wildling if you keep saying things like that I might just get the idea you can’t resist my charms. Now move into center position, and I’ll guard you two girls’ asses ‘til we are back at the Beast. And no agruements, this is from the Cap.”

Aike just yelled back that Harvey was going to get himself killed one way or another before gunning the bike to bring it into position between the Armored Transport and the jeep. Feeling at least safe for the moment, Aike took a quick glance skyward to see the star like lights in the planets atmosphere that spoke of the Dropships that were bringing death and fire for the city whose streets she was currently speeding down. The Warden convoy, such as it was, continued its mad dash to freedom and for another ten minutes before the Armored Transport slowed and stopped. From behind Aike, Harvey called for her to ditch the bike and climb into the jeep.

After climbing off of the bike Aike turned to Becka, “So girly here is were you make a choice come with us Wardens or cut and run on your own. We are not pirates, but neither are we the safest persons to hang out with. Take Harvey there for example the dude is a gun crazed madman. It’s your choice but make it quick.”

Becka looked back and forth from Aike to the jeep with Harvey still hanging out the window, and then for some reason down at Aike’s badly bandaged leg and moved next to Aike putting her arms around her to help support Aike’s movements. Aike was tempted for a second to say she didn’t need the help, but decided against it and let the girl help her to the jeep where Harvey waited for them with the back door open, “Your carriage awaits ladies and please enjoy your ride.”

Once they were in and even before Harvey had his door shut all the way, Ben sent the jeep into motion once more with skill and focus that only seemed to surface in him when things were the most exciting. With that the Warding Guard headed for the Beast, and onto face a mad escape from the confines of Hilad’s Landing or to face a daring fight against the Black Warriors that may mean the end of everything that had been Aike’s world for the past five years.

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Warding Guard (Story Four)

Ben wondered if he would ever understand his unit, here he was on a mission that had nothing to do with what he had been trained to do, in fact other than the threat of unruly drunken pirates it was about as far away from battlemech combat as one could get. Part of him sighed and admitted that it was somewhat fortunate because if the Warding Guard’s mission did involve mech’s he would be out of the roster as his Blackjack had been destroyed in his last mission and his new salvaged Grim Reaper GRM R-PR 29 was currently under repairs and refit and customizing to fit in with the rest of the mechs of the unit. If there was another good thing about the unit’s current mission, it was that at least on the pirate world of Hilad’s Landing a busy pirate base in the no-man’s land in-between the boarders of the Circinus Federation and Marian Hegemony, finding black-market weapons and components was just a matter of finding a seller and the last time Ben had checked in with Chief Toren he was only looking for a good set of jump jets for the feet and a decent Medium Pulse Laser to replace the faulty one and his Grim Reaper would be ready to go.

Ben sighed as he brought the jeep to a final stop at the side entrance to the club the Hade’s Hideaway that was his destination and he climbed out feeling almost naked in the cold night air without an armored warmachine to separate him from the hostile world around him. In place of a mech, he wore a simple black and grey suit with undercover armor underneath, a hidden knife and baton along with his large 12mm Revolver in a shoulder holster as his only protection but as he opened one of the back doors for his first passenger climbed out he knew he had nothing on nakedness compared to the stunning woman who was the first to step out.

Aike wore a slip of a shirt that showed of the skin tight halter-top underneath and a hip hugging ‘schoolgirl’ skirt that had a slit up half its length that didn’t cover much with only the help of knee high stockings and high heel black boots. Aike’s shoulder length long hair was pulled up to show off her neck line and the plummeting cut of her top. Her hair color and make-up looked like it had been done up by a fairytale hairdresser and she gave Ben a smile as he helped her out of the armored jeep as she took a few steps to stand next to Harvey who was attired much as Ben was.

The next beauty to take Ben’s offered hand was Clara who was dressed in a sheer see through dress of a bluish tint with a bright pink skin tight body suit underneath. She wore her hair down except for the two braided strips that framed her face and although her hair was not colored she too had bright make-up and face paint patterns. She gave Ben a warm smile that made his breath catch in his throat as he admired her deep blue eyes. Where Aike had a physically attractive body and a playful look, Clara had an elegant beauty that drew your attention and made you almost embarrassed for the ideas that came to mind upon looking at her.

In Clara’s hand was a black case, her only equipment for the mission, a mission that had the Warding Guard now called the Wayward Girls and Ben and Harvey playing the part of bodyguards along with all of the Marines of the unit and several Tech’s functioning as the band’s crew. When Clara had learned where the terrorist’s weapons and mechs had come from she had set about a bold mission that involved the unit gathering information and keeping tabs on possible threats to their home planet of Galava and many others. The Warding Guard couldn’t just show up on a pirate planet as themselves and if they had masqueraded as pirates that would have made them competition and fair game to other larger pirate bands instead Clara had devised the idea of traveling as entertainment as no one paid much attention to the entertainment or wished to run them off without good reason.

So Ben found himself gathering information by day and fighting off overeager pirates who tried to rush the stage to get a more hands on performances from the two women on stage. It was a job that Harvey seemed far more adapted to do to his upbringing in the slums of city of Trade Port and his affection for card games and conversation. Ben had focused his efforts on gathering information to general observation and logistics intelligence gathering because even in the chaos of a pirate port one could tell the difference between a merchant smuggler operation and a pirate raiding band. Ben had identified three possible sellers for the terrorist’s weapons, and with Harvey’s beer assisted investigation they had narrowed it down to one pirate crew that had branched into weapons smuggling just in the past year and now high ranking member of that crew including the Captain would be at this club tonight and it would be up to Aike and Clara to get a closer look at who they were dealing with by way of a little tempting company.

The Wayward Girls and their assorted crew and guards made their way into the packed Hade’s Hideaway nightclub that was a spacious cross between a gambling den and a saloon with a stage and dance floor. Clara and Aike stayed backstage as the crew set up and their Marine ‘security’ positioned themselves in front of the stage as Ben and Harvey would be handling security from backstage watching the girl’s back as a hidden last line of defense. When the time came for the show, Aike stepped out on stage first to load applause and wolf whistles followed by Clara who got less cat calls but far more applause, and Ben took the opportunity to get a good look at the gathered crowd filling the dance floor. The Wayward Girls had been on planet for two months now and had a large following of fans already and as Ben walked the streets in the day time he had heard more than one person spreading word about the great act to land on planet.

The Wayward Girls had very few instruments, two band extras on drums with a keyboard in the background, but the stars of the show was Aike’s voice and dance moves as she seductively danced and twirled about the stage while Clara passionately played her violin as she would easily switch back and forth from a very rock like sound to a soft soothing melody only stopping to add a few back up vocals to Aike’s performance. Ben had to admit it, they were good and had drawn attention as they had hoped they would as the band’s overseer he had been petitioned several time for private concerts and dates from the ladies which Aike and Clara had skillfully chosen who was worth the time and who to ignore. Ben didn’t like the idea of them going on the dates, especially Clara, and maybe she knew this as every time he had been assigned to escort Aike on her dates and not Clara.

It was one such date that Clara hoped to received tonight from Captain Jim Hines of the Black Rats, the pirate turned gun runner who they now believed had sold the mechs and weapons to the terrorist on Merton, but there was one thing that all of Harvey’s talk and Clara’s computer skills could not figure out, just were they were getting their wares. If this was just a small amount of weapons, it wouldn’t be that surprising, most likely stolen goods but they seemed to only leave Hilad’s Landing for a few months and returned with ship loads of merchandise. That spoke of a supplier or hidden vault of goods, if it was a supplier, who was it and what did it mean for the Periphery and if it was a vault, where had the pirates found it and could it mean trouble for the surrounding planets. All questions that needed answered and Clara was willing to risk and do much to find out, far too much in Ben’s opinion.

The concert took on a fevered pitch as it neared the end of two hour long set before the Wayward Girls would break for a shot rest. The girls ended the set with a performance that had Aike dancing around Clara before springing off to dance at the edge of the stage as if to illustrate the message of the song that spoke of leaving and returning to a lover who one just couldn’t seem to get over. When the two ladies stepped backstage, they were sweating, especially Aike who Harvey promptly handed a bottle of water while Ben took Clara’s violin before she also grabbed a bottle from Harvey. Both ladies had bright smiles of their faces and Ben wondered just how much they were losing themselves in their roles, and decided that maybe a few minutes of being a star wasn’t that bad for them as they seemed to enjoy it.

It was at this moment that Ben caught sight of a man approaching them being lead by one of the Marines and Ben recognized him as one of Captain Hines’ Lieutenants. That blissful moment of fun was gone, and although Clara tried to hide it Ben saw her shy away at the sight of the man who walked forward to extend an offer for the Wayward Girls to put on a private concert and too entertain the Black Rats and enjoy the hospitality of Captain Hines. Ben stepped up, falling into his role as manager easily enough that he hated himself as he haggled over price and just what was the band was allowed to bring and just what functions the ladies were to play at this party. It made Ben sick inside when the Lieutenant refused to negotiate the fact that the ladies would be expected to be acceptable to the Captains wishes and the hidden threats if the band backed out was enough to make Ben’s blood boil. The thing that ate away at him the most was how easy it was for him to hide all of this from his face and how he was able to say yes without a break in his voice. His father had taught him too well on how to be a noble and how to cut off any feelings over lesser individuals to get what he needed.

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First Impressions

Shawn walked back into the his home, a large two story house that set dwarfed in the center of the Wardens Hall Academy complex, after returning from the disaster of a interview. Upon walking through the front door Conner, Shawn’s younger bother and at eight years old the baby of the family, came running into the foyer at the sound of his mother and father entering. He made a mad dash for Shawn in an attempt to tackle him. Shawn quickly dodged and grabbed his brother in a bear hug while messing up his hair which earned him a look from his mother.

Shawn released his brother and followed his parents into the large family kitchen and dining area that served as the family’s normal gathering area. Shawn’s fifteen year old younger twin sisters were already seated at the large family table and looked up from what they where doing as their parents entered. Danielle, known by all as Lee, and Talia were as different as identical twins could be. Where Lee was a tom-boy with skinned up knees and sport inflicted scars, Talia was a bright intelligent artist at heart. It wasn’t just the girls’ outer personality that differed, but also their inner selves as well. Lee was all bravo on the outside, but Shawn knew that she was very sensitive and easily hurt; and where Talia was all quiet on the outside she had an emotional strength that was unmatched by any of his other siblings. It came as no surprise to Shawn to notice that Lee was reading a sports article from the newspaper while Talia was reading one of the many large books that she had received from Aunt Ky.

No one had spoken on the way back or since they had entered the house until his mother Hesper broke the silence, “So that could have gone better, but there is nothing for it. Shawn what is done is done. Now girls, come help me with lunch.”

With that Shawn’s mother had put the matter to rest as she saw it and walked off with Lee and Talia in tow. Lee gave Shawn a concerned look while Talia seemed as to not have noticed Shawn’s mood other than to give him a brief smile before following their mother. While Conner headed off towards the kitchen area, most likely in search of a pre lunch snack; Shawn took a seat eyeing the book Talia had been reading. Shawn’s father took a seat across from him with a look on Reese’s face that he normally had when he was concerned over one of his children or students.

Reese smiled and broke Shawn’s silent brooding, “So it was nice to see Dakota’s daughter Eva, she sure had grown. The rest of the Cadets seemed like an interesting short. Val has made her choices like a good teacher, and I have a feeling this group will have something to show the people of Galava.”

“I didn’t even recognize Eva, and then again I never really did hangout with her like I did her rogue brothers,” Shawn answered back, but he wasn’t really involved in the conversation as he just couldn’t pull himself away from his thoughts. Shawn knew his father was trying to get his mind off his self imposed doubt over the interview, but Shawn knew that the reporters were being unfair and had ambushed him and his fellow Cadets. It irritated him to see how politics were working their way into his life once more as his Aunt Val and her school came under the press’ scrutiny.

Out of nowhere someone grabbed him into a hug from behind; lost in his thoughts Shawn hadn’t heard his sister Serena come up behind him. Serena was the second child at the age of sixteen and the family trouble maker to the point that the papers had coined the nickname ‘the MacGregor Siren’ do to her flirtatious behavior and her dress out in public and the few scandals she had started at the mere age of fifteen. Shawn loved his sister and was very protective, but he really worried about her he feared that her uncaring attitude about the press was just a front and wondered how much of what they said stung her. Shawn’s parents had tried to shelter them from the attention of the press as much as possible, but when your parents are a former Knight and protector of the planet and a founding member of Whitestone and planetary leader it is kind of hard not to draw attention everywhere you go.

Serena set down beside him flashing her good daughter smile despite what she was wearing towards Reese before turn back to Shawn, “So brother, all ready to stop being just another student and taking on the role of Cadet and future hero of Galava, huh? Now don’t mess up or anything Sir Perfect.”

Shawn was about to respond in kind to his sister when Val walked in through the back door with her dark haired nine year old daughter Kenze in tow. Shawn stood up and gave Val a sorry look as he addressed her, “Lady Val, I’m sorry I let the interview get out of hand.”

Val gave Shawn a stern look before her face softened to smile, “Shawn I’m just Val in this walls and don’t worry about it, you guys didn’t do anything wrong. Well, we could have done without the spoken Pikkinese protest from Miss Pixie. Although I did get an interesting call after the interview was aired, Miss Tamaka O’Dell has requested to be the official Cadet spokesperson.”

Shawn’s face reddened uncontrollably and he heard a snicker from his sister Serena, but he couldn’t help it. Tamaka was so annoying it didn’t matter if she was his name sake’s daughter. Shawn wasn’t sure when it had started, but she had been at odds with him for so long. Unlike most girls who either treated him with interest or keep their distance from him, Tamaka seemed to go out of her way to fight with him or place herself as his rival for anything he did. Just like now, Shawn had hoped to become the public face of the Cadets as it was obvious he should as he had the most experience with the press and the public, but no Tamaka was already trying to work her way into the position.

Val’s voice brought Shawn out of his dark feelings over Tamaka, “On another note, the final instructor showed up today. I think Marshal Joss Kroeker will be a good addition to the Academy with all his experience as a Master of Arms and Police officer. He has lots to teach and share with the students. Also, I got an official invitation for all the Cadets and Instructors to attend a Pikki Party tomorrow night right before I left to come over for lunch.”

Out of the kitchen area Hesper’s voice came, “Don’t even thank about it Serena. You’re still grounded. So, no party for you,” and with that Shawn’s sister got up in a huff and headed for her room.

Shawn thought about going to the party and although he knew that Tamaka would be there he was looking forward to meeting all the other Cadets. So far, the only ones he had met personally besides Tamaka was the ones who had been at the interview, and he had not had all that long to get a good feel who they where. Shawn had butted heads with Olan, but he could tell that the other boy was a strong leader type use to looking after others. Olan’s sister Pixie had been rebellious and jokingly defiant during the interview, but Shawn didn’t know if that was what she was like all the time or just that moment. Eva had turned into an attractive young woman since last he had seen her, but she seemed to have a chip on her shoulder that Shawn just couldn’t place and didn’t seem all that interested in being at the interview despite the fact she had handled herself well during it. Then there was Blixt, a much quieter individual than his others siblings. Shawn was surprised to find out that he was the only other Cadet at the interview that was not enrolling in the Mechwarrior program. Then, there was the quiet Catalina who he discovered was called Cat; she had seemed to be intelligent but not all that confident in herself. Shawn knew that first impressions could be deceiving and wondered what he would discover about his fellow Cadets in the following years and just what they thought of him in return.

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Winds of Change

Eva’s mind wandered back over the last couple of days as she danced. The cadet interview invite had said to go to the church. She had spotted a boy lurking outside like she was. As she was headed his way, one of the reporters spotted her and let her know that the interview was inside. The guy had come to her rescue and led the way through the throng. Eva had correctly pegged that the guy was a fellow cadet, but Walle hadn’t really joined the interview. Considering the disaster it wound up being, that probably was a good thing. Eva had gotten him to agree to go sailing with her and he’d taken it in stride when Olan, Pixie, and Cat had joined them.

Sailing had been a trip out of the past. The way Olan and Pixie acted reminded her of the way she and Brandon acted before they came to terms. She found out that Walle was in fact the kid who had showed her Penance’s Wolverine. Walle also knew how to handle a ship in a storm and had been really calm, cool, and collected. He’d followed her lead, but also taken the lead when she needed him to. Walle was the type of guy she’d always wanted, but had been too scared to actually go after. She’d always wanted someone who could accept her for who she was and who could see beyond her looks. Walle was that way, but he hadn’t shown the normal signs of interest so she’d been uncertain of his response when she’d hit on him up by the Academy Lighthouse beacon.

Eva smiled as she remembered how tentative he had been for their first kiss. It was so sweet and had brought stars to her eyes. Walle actually liked her back. They’d sailed out at first light after she’d cooked breakfast and taken Zak some coffee. They’d gone swimming and she explained what her tattoo was and meant. Brandon had taken her to his tat artist for the Lake Turtle on her tummy. She’d have to pay for it now that she was abandoning their boy in every port scheme and her parents would have to start worrying about him again. Eva had given Walle a gentle kiss as they got off the skiff and invited him to lunch.

When she’d gotten to the White Lady, she realized that Andrew and Brandon were going to try running Walle off. And that wasn’t what she wanted at all, she actually liked Walle. Shocked and stunned might describe her family and Walle too. He obviously hadn’t realized that he’d be meeting her family. She’d never brought a boy home to not be run off and her mom had given her some pointed questions while she painted her new jeans as Walle toured the White Lady with her Dad. Her mom had known the symbol of River’s Rest though and so she’d added it to the bottom of her new jeans under the lighthouse and added it to the graffiti on her phone.

Eva’s Mom had chided her in French to make sure that she took her phone in case she lost track of time. Eva never lost track of time and there was some look between her parents as she let Walle help her down and they headed off to the MechWorks. Death Bringer was as impressive as she’d remembered and actually getting to go somewhere in it had been awesome. She wasn’t the only one excited by their time in Death Bringer and watching the sunset over Sister Lake from out by the salt flats. Walle had even let her pilot a bit of the way while he kept the Wolverine balanced. He’d given her a gentle kiss before helping her out of Death Bringer.

Eva had sent Brandon a text while Walle changed for the party. Brandon hadn’t responded to “I got to pilot a ‘mech! He’s so nice. :)”, but he had been the first to spot her and Walle walking into the party with their arms around each other. Yeah, she’d been early to a required event for once in her life. Walle had dropped his arm, but still held her hand as they’d approached her family. And he’d acted nervous when she’d gone off with Penance for a talk, but Laura had been pretty neat. Enough so that Eva had slipped up and said something she’d been thinking about without having talked to Walle. Koty had picked up on it and made a big deal which made her blush. Andrew had made a choice comment that embarrassed both her and Walle. Walle had come to her rescue again by inviting her out to dance.

Eva looked at Walle and paused in their dance. “I opened my mouth and said what I’d been thinking without talking to you. Is it okay with you that I said you were my boyfriend? I do actually want you to be.” He responded, “I would be honored” before kissing her with actual passion instead of gentleness. Eva blushed as she heard Koty going “Ew, she’s kissing him” and Andrew and Brandon being vulgar. Eva just ignored her brothers and went back to dancing.

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Glimpse of a Pixie

Pixie very carefully mixed her browns and blacks as she and Cat were getting ready for the Caravan Cadet Party. Both her caravan and the Dover caravan would be there. Ro hadn’t been at the interview session, so she hadn’t been able to flirt with him to annoy Olan. She had managed to trap Olan into the sibling argument at the lighthouse though which led to Eva wandering off with Wally. Olan had invited himself, her and Cat to join Eva and Wally’s sailing date…and so she had to pay him back for being a brat. He was kind of in her good graces though since all she’d done at the interview was talk in trade talk instead of English, but he’d said in plain English that the planet would die. And he had been the gallant type during the storm – keeping the weather away from her and Cat and helping Cat when she’d thrown up. Pixie looked over at Cat, “I know he’s annoying, but tonight I’m playing nice with Olan. He has been the good sort the last couple of days.”

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The Fall of Ro Dover
A series of newpaper articles

AIRPLANE CRASH AT WHITESTONE SPACEPORT

Galava World Herald – 6 July, 3069

Yesterday afternoon at 17:23, Whitstone Spaceport had the misfortune to experience its first crash landing. Fortunately, there was no loss of life. The craft involved was a Karnov UR Transport Aircraft owned by Mr. Valak Dover. The occupants included Mr. Dover and five of his sons. Contrary to initial reports broadcast over the unreliable Caravan News Network, the craft was not shot down during an anti-smuggling militia operation. Whitestone Port Authorities are investigating the crash. Preliminary evidence points to pilot error, equipment failure and hazardous weather conditions.

INVESTIGATION CONTINUES INTO CAUSE OF AIRPLANE CRASH

Galava World Herald – 7 July, 3069

Yesterday evening, Lead Gerald Rivers, Security Chief for Whitestone Port Authorities, held a press conference regarding the recent airplane crash at the Spaceport. According to Lead Rivers, Mr. Valak Dover and five of his sons were flying to Whitestone in a Karnov UR Transport Aircraft to purchase supplies from the recently docked dropship “Viborg Pride”. The pilot reported equipment malfunctions upon final approach to Whitestone. Lead Rivers released records from Whitestone Control which showed an erratic flight path upon approach. The pilot has stated in interviews that weather conditions contributed to his loss of control of the craft. The craft crashed 1,000 meters north of the dropship landing pads. However, Lead Rivers insisted that the ships docked at the port were never in any danger. Lead Rivers explained that the flight instruments and controls were under investigation and that a final report would be released when the investigation was complete. When asked to confirm rumors that a teenager was piloting the aircraft, he replied, “Yeah, that damned fool Pickey had his 18 year old son at the controls.” The Galava World Herald has confirmed that the pilot was Valak’s youngest son, Ro Dover.

PILOT ERROR LEADS TO AIRPLANE CRASH

Galava World Herald – 7 August, 3069

Yesterday, Whitestone Port Authorities released the official report of their investigation into last month’s airplane crash at Whitestone Spaceport. Port Authorities have determined that pilot error was the sole cause of the accident. The report confirms that the craft involved in the accident was a Karnov UR Transport Aircraft owned by Mr. Valak Dover. The pilot was Ro Dover, Valak Dover’s youngest son. Ro Dover reported equipment failure upon his approach to Whitestone, and the investigation did confirm that the altimeter and the fuel gauge were both malfunctioning. However, the report concludes that an experienced pilot would have been able to safely land the craft without the assistance of those nonessential gauges. The other factor of the investigation was the weather condition at the time of the crash. The sky was overcast and crosswinds had been reported earlier in the day. However, there was no precipitation and visual conditions were good. The report states that Ro Dover did not report poor conditions until after the crash. The most scathing topic of the report was the fact that Ro Dover was at the controls at all. Valak’s oldest son Hash was on board at the time of the crash and Hash Dover is a qualified pilot that has logged well over 5,000 hours in the air. The report concludes that if Hash Dover been piloting the craft, the accident would never have occurred.

WARDEN’S HALL ACADEMY ANNOUNCES NEW CLASS OF CADETS

Galava World Herald – 15 August, 3069

The Warden’s Hall Academy has officially announced that a new class of cadets has been accepted for training. The Academy will train these cadets for two years. The program is designed to produce ten mechwarriors and a team of support personnel. It is particularly interesting to see that one of the cadets is young Ro Dover, the pilot responsible for Whitestone Spaceport’s first crash landing. Cadet Dover has apparently been accepted into the Battlemech Technician Program. The Herald applauds Sir Reese MacGregor for giving this youth a chance to earn one of the support positions. Sir MacGregor obviously sees that poor flying skills do not impair Cadet Dover’s ability to faithfully serve the brave mechwarriors that graduate from Warden’s Hall Academy.

CORRUPTION AT WARDEN’S HALL ACADEMY

OpEd Article

Galava World Herald – 1 September, 3069

Investigative reporters for The Galava World Herald have uncovered some ugly truths about The Warden’s Hall Academy. Apparently, to get into the premier flight training program at the Academy only requires a young man to plow an aircraft into a field outside Whitestone and to have a wealthy father to bribe Academy instructors and administrators.

This scandal involves the notorious Ro Dover, the delinquent responsible for the disastrous airplane wreck at Whitestone Spaceport. Contrary to previously released information, Mr. Dover has not been accepted into the Battlemech Technician program. His has in fact enrolled in the school’s most advanced program: The Land-Air Mech flight school. It is impossible that Valarie Wittmore and personnel at the school are unaware of Mr. Dovers poor behavior, so bribery can be the only explanation for his admittance into such a prestigious program.

If Mr. Dover were simply taking flight lessons, there would be no issue. In fact, all of Galava agrees that Mr. Dover would benefit from basic flight classes.

However, the nature of the Battlemech programs at The Warden’s Hall Academy make it objectionable for a person of Mr. Dovers low quality to be admitted. The Battlemechs used in the training programs are vehicles that have been recovered by the noble mechwarriors of the Warding Guard. It is through their blood, sweat and tears that Sir MacGregor’s academy is able to put students into mechs. For Mrs. Wittmore to allow such an incompetent failure as Mr. Dover the opportunity to destroy one of these machines is an insult to the Warding Guard, to Sir MacGregor and to the academy that he has founded.

Sir MacGregor has been unavailable for comment. Lady MacGregor has made herself available, but as usual, her comments are not fit for printing.

Trev Achison, Editor in Chief, Galava World Herald, Main Bureau, Tradesport

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Warding Guard (Story Three)

Ben Wetly, known by the call sign of ‘Blue’ looked at his Blackjack BJ-3 battlemech’s instrument readouts as he went through his permission checklist, a holdout behavior from his days in a Lyran Military Academy. And like all such behaviors it had been drilled into him to the point that he would never loss them, despite his current unit’s lack of military protocols. The Warding Guard was a small unit made up of one lone Lance of ‘mechs with air support and a joke of ground support. When he had joined up with the unit, it had been just a way to get off of the Periphery planet of Galava which his father had dragged him to, but now part of him questioned why he was still with them and the other part plainly knew why, Clara.

Clara was like one of those heroines one reads about in stories, but knows deep down they just don’t existed. Ben learned that apparently they do and Clara was the proof. She held to a knightly code, no joke an actual code of chivalry handed down to her by her uncle, an un-landed Knight of Randis. Her moral code, heart and drive was what had held this unit together far more than any money or national loyalty could, and because of this they were like no other mercenary group he had ever known. As her heroine ideas made her a figurehead for the Warding Guard, they also made her vulnerable to those who didn’t hold to such standards in their dealings; something Ben was starting to believe she didn’t see as plainly as he did and that was why he found himself compelled to protect Clara from herself.

It was just such a situation that had Ben strapped into his Blackjack in the Mech-bay inside the Leopard Dropship the ‘Beast’ heading to a hostile LZ for a hot-drop and an assault on an enemy force that most likely outnumbered them two too one if not more. When the Merton governmental forces showed up in large numbers a week ago to ‘draft’ the refugees in the camps that the Warding Guard were hired to protect, it came to no surprise to hear that the Commander of the military on planet had an alterative offer to just drafting all the refugees. All Clara had to do was agree to work for him and the camps would be protected by marshal law and the refugees free from the threat of the draft. It had all been a ploy to place Clara and the Warding Guard in-between the refugees and harm forcing the unit to either agree to his terms or fight, outnumbered and with innocent people at their backs. Ben knew that Clara had made the right call in agreeing to the Commander’s terms, but it didn’t mean he had to like it.

Ben’s heart rate picked up as the bay doors opened up in front of his ‘mech and the view of fast moving landscape spread out in his vision. Then Clara’s voice came on the com, “Wardens we drop in five minutes starting, now.”

Ben was apprehensive about this mission for several reasons, but the biggest reason he believed had to do with the fact that he had been paired up with Aike Rhodes, known by all as ‘Card’ as in a wildcard that she was. Ben accepted the fact that Aike was a skilled pilot who had apparently been trained by someone who knew how a military unit should function. Aike could fit into a battle formation as well as he could, but her lack of military protocol and her wild reckless nature just annoyed Ben without reason. Clara had paired up the lance to provide one ‘gunner’ and one ‘guard’, Ben’s job as the gunner was to snipe the greatest enemy threats as they presented themselves while Aike’s job as the guard was to watch his back and take on everything else that dared fire at them. Meanwhile, Clara had flagged herself as gunner for her pairing with Harvey during the assault on the enemy’s valley base.

Ben’s watched the landscape fly by while one of the pair of unit aerospace fighters came into view flying parallel with the Dropship before banking to the left and down to start its attack run on the terrorist held valley that served as their ‘mech resupply and staging base. Then it was his turn, his operations clock ran out and he sent his boxy looking Blackjack out of the bay and into the open air and kicked on his ‘mech’s jump-jets; which were normally employed to make the 45ton war machine jump into the air, but were now being used to soften its gravity assisted fall to the hard rocky earth which was over a thousand meters below the ‘mech and coming up fast.

Ben less aimed for and more hoped for a clear landing spot as there was not much time to change his ‘mech’s freefall path towards the earth, and he luckily didn’t land on anything – well anything large or explosive that was. The landing was bone-rattling in the cockpit even with the ‘mech’s mechanical myomer muscles, armored frame and structure absorbing most of the force of the landing, but it only took Ben a fraction of a second to refocus his eyes on the battlefield in front of him. The first thing Ben noticed was just how uncomfortably close Aike’s Black Hawk had landed next to his Blackjack. The next thing was that one of the enemy ‘mech was already powered up and firing a Large laser at him.

Ben fought back shock as he shifted his ‘mech position to get a better shot at the attacking ‘mech who was the cause of his surprise, not because of its coming fire but for the tactical information his targeting computer was providing him about his attacker. It was a Grim Reaper. What was a ‘poorly’ equipped terrorist group doing with such an advanced ‘mech, especially one that was mostly seen in the hands of ComStar or their splinter group the Word of Blake? Ben held his ground through the storm of laser and SRM missile fire now coming from the Grim Reaper as it tore chunks of his Blackjack’s armor off, and Ben knew he needed to take this monster down quick. Ben patiently lined up his right armed PPC on the cockpit of the closing ‘mech and let loose a shot with skill and a little luck to hit the Grim Reaper in its head which held the cockpit and pilot. Ben’s shot ripped into the head armor and even into the internal structure around the cockpit which must of injured or knocked out the pilot because the ‘mech leaned back with the force of the blow and didn’t right itself and fell on its back which caused even more damage to the mech.

With the nearest threat taken care of, Ben glanced down to his sensors to see what was happening with the rest of the assault. Clara and Harvey had teamed up on an 80ton Victor while Aike was squared off with a fast 35ton Specter that Ben hadn’t even known was at his back. While Ben changed his focus to a 70ton Archer that now coming to life, the two aerospace fighters of Crow Wing dropped bombs onto an 80ton Awesome. Aike finished putting down the Specter just in time to turn into a storm of LRM missiles released by the Archer. Ben’s heart jumped as he saw Card’s mech disappear under and cloud of smoke and fire, but the Black Hawk emerged from the cloud firing. Ben added his defiance towards the Archer in the form of both his PPC’s and two of his medium lasers which sent the heat climbing inside his cockpit. The Archer survived the joined attack and closed sending four medium lasers striking into Ben’s Blackjack setting off alarm which told him that he had just lost all his armor on this left arm and the medium laser in that arm was no longer functioning. Ben and Aike moved to attack breaking apart to flank the Archer. As Ben was forced to use his jump-jet to hop a building that was blocking his path, he incurred fire from a fast moving armored jeep. Now flanking the lone Archer, Ben and Aike let loose with another attack that sent the enemy ‘mech’s fusion engine into critical with an issuing explosion that tore apart its mech and destroying a few nearby buildings.

Ben moved his ‘mech towards the center of the base while Aike moved to deal with the harassing light vehicles. In the distance, Ben saw Crow Wing dealing with a 30ton Urbanmech that had shown up from over the valley ridge while Clara and Harvey were still trying to take down the Awesome. There seemed to be something wrong with Clara’s Maelstrom’s right leg and Harvey’s Thunderbolt looked like its left side had been chewed up by some large beast. Ben saw his chance and moved to put himself on the Awesome’s right side and fired both his PPC’s into the large ‘mech. The Awesome’s response was not one Ben expected as he only fire a medium laser and a few SRM’s at Clara’s Maelstrom while both its right side ER PPC’s turned on Ben.

One moment Ben had been staring at the large enemy ‘mech as it turned its guns on him; the next he was staring up at the sky with smoke in his cockpit and blood in his mouth. Ben thought he heard Clara’s voice frantically calling over the comms, but he couldn’t tell with all the ringing in his head and the alarms going off. He looked over at his damage readouts and saw with horror that the whole left side of his mech was gone, no arm or leg was left and there was damage all through his mech’s torso. Then through the haze of the smoke and watering eyes and ringing ears, Ben realized that someone was opening the hatch to his mech’s cockpit, and it wasn’t Clara’s voice on the comms but just outside his cockpit. Although his heart jumped with relief at seeing her face and realizing they were both alive. he also wondered why she was out in the open in hostile territory, and not leaving his rescue to other lower ranking members of the unit. Would she never learn?

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Behind the Glass

Kei Hattori looked down from his window, watching the workmen digging a trench, their skin dark from the many days under the heat of Galva’s sun. The trench would bring water up from the Black lake and feed his fathers tobacco fields. His father the Honorable Kimotei Hattori owned the majority of the land surrounding the Black lake allowing the families who only a generation ago would have claimed land rights themselves, to continue to work and live as they had for years. The only difference was that instead of trading the results of their labor with each other for survival they worked for pay, and had access to the many planetary imports that the Honorable Hattori brought on-world. His father had created civilization where once there were only waste wanderers and fishing hovels. His father wished for Kei to one day control all that he had built upon Galva. Looking down Kei could see several of the younger workers taking a break from their labor and kicking a ball around, the game had become fairly physical as the boys shouldered into one another, dust and elbows flying. From the melee a clear victor had arisen.

Spinning Sezume Sato feinted with his right foot and flipped the ball up into the air with his left, his eyes never leaving the whirlwind that was the group of boys fighting for control of the ball. Using his shoulder to push past the nearest combatant his head connected with the quickly descending ball. With a burst of speed he was off leaving the boys unknowingly still entangled in the scrum. With a triumphant shout he turned his left foot resting upon the now stationary ball.

Kei smiled seeing Sezume taunting the other boys, he wished he was free to make his own decisions, to run with the locals, to leave the planet if he wished. He was the Honorable Kimotei Hattori’s son though and was expected to spend time learning the history of the inner sphere. He knew his father only saw Galva as a staging ground for re-entering life within the inner sphere. He did not know why his father had left his holdings within the inner sphere for this backwards planet. As valuable as a resource water was, it would not have caused his father to permanently move away from the inner sphere, he could send servants to manage the Black lake if that was the case. Whatever the cause his father did not speak of it. Sighing in resignation, Kei picked up the book he was to read from, its pages crisp and new.

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Warding Guard (Story Two)

After the attack on the road, The Warding Guard had divided up their forces to provide security to the three major refugee camps with the other smaller ones being given air support by the Mercenaries in the form of the Beast with its two aerospace fighters. Clara and Aike had teamed up to take the western most camp and the closest camp to the latest hostilities on planet. Meanwhile, Ben was teamed up with the unit’s only tank with support from the few security force officers who were assigned to the southern camp and Harvey was guarding the northern camp with two armored trucks and the unit’s squad of BattleArmor.

Things had been tense since the attack on the road, and the Wardens scrambled to protect all the refugee camps as best they could. Maybe, it was just the fear from not knowing who their attackers were and just who could have been behind an hostile attack on unarmed refugee convoy, but Clara was staring to wonder what was scaring her more – the fact that their enemy could be waiting for the right moment to attack, or that they may not show themselves again and leave Clara in the dark as to just who they are.

In a room that had more in common with a cleaning closet than an office, Clara sat at a makeshift desk with her head in her hands. She had been looking at the daily reports from the refugee camp’s doctors and administrators on the total numbers on mobile and non-mobile persons they had in camp and the numbers were not what she was hoping for. For better or worse, the camp was now stuck where it was as they no longer had the means to transport all the refugees in the camp that needed assistance to move. On paper, they were just numbers, but in a half dozing state Clara could hear children crying just outside her officer window and knew that she was what stood between them and some unknown hostile.

Clara was still in her half dozing state when a knock at her office doorway made her lift her head to see Aike standing in the doorway with a weary smile on her face, “Dreaming of Ben?”

Clara’s face reddened despite herself before she could put on a stern face and stand up behind her desk. Looking at her sweat covered friend, she tried to remind herself that Aike had just gotten off of a twelve hour guard detail before opening her mouth. “You should have radioed me when you stood down. Get some rest and a shower; I can smell you all the way over here.”

Clara added the last with a bit of a smile, but her smile faded when as she was walking out of the office. Aike saw it fit to give her a big smelly hug before trotting off towards their shared room. Clara and Aike had been friends since they were eleven and thirteen. The formal command relationships that Clara had with the rest of the Warding Guard just didn’t seem to fit the two of them, but then again Clara know that Aike would never leave her back and always do what she was asked. Then again, Aike being her best friend she also knew all her buttons and just how to push them if things where not going as she believed they should, just like right now.

Clara walked the dusty path out to the makeshift ‘Mech hanger that was little more than an oversized warehouse. She looked up to see her newly repaired Maelstrom gleaming in the beams of sunlight that shined down from the many holes in the warehouse’s roof. Somehow, the sight brought back a flood of memories about her father and mother’s funeral and the following week when her uncle Reese had shown up to take guardianship of her and her older sister Val. Her Maelstrom reminded her of the first time Clara had looked upon her uncle’s Marauder MAD-3L and had learned that all those stories about her uncle being some kind of MechWarrior Knight were true. On that day, he had become some kind of unfaultable hero in her nine year old eyes and Val had taken a point to hate him at her thirteen years of age. Although one day Val had decided she would follow in his footsteps to knighthood just as Clara was doing now.

Clara brought her Maelstrom to life as she went through her startup check list almost in a mind numbing routine state. Her mind drifted back to life on Galava with Reese and Val and her replacement mother — Hesper, Reese’s wife; Hesper’s sister, Ky, and the life she had left behind there to take on this one. There were so many people back on Galava she missed and knew missed her, but this unit had been a dream created by her uncle and Val who was now overseeing the creation of an even bigger second unit. The unit would be nice to have right now, but they were not scheduled to be operational for another two years. With the merchant captain Shawn O’Dell’s help, Val was already accumulating ‘Mechs, a dropship and other elements for its creation. In the end, life is where you are and Clara hoped that those who’s lives where here would see an end to all this violence soon.

The next hour seemed to slip by as Clara checked over her ‘Mech and made a few patrol passes around the camp. On her third pass, a broadcast from the camp come over her comm. “Warding Lead, we have a report of Drafters heading in this direction some forty minutes out. The force seems to be made up of jeeps and trucks, but I have reports of a few tanks and even a ‘Mech escort bringing them here.”

Clara knew that the refugee camp had its own form of security—mainly in the form of informants and spotters, but it seemed they were far more capable than she had believed to have such forewarning of Drafters. Drafters were soldiers who where being sent out to draft citizens to do their civic duty and protect their government. They would put weapons in untrained hand of young men and boys and place them so the well trained and armed terrorist could cut them down while the normal soldiers where held back for more strategic operations. The Drafter didn’t just take the young men and boy from the camps; they also took women and girls as well and not always for official duties. Clara would not have any of her charges taken or used in such manner so with a grim face she called back.

“Received Camp and have someone get Card up and into her Black Hawk ‘ASAP.”

Clara switched to a Wardens only channel on her comm. “Breaker to Beast. Beast, I need Crow Wing down here for air support. I repeat Breaker requesting Crow Wing air support. Armed government forces are moving on western camp.”

There was a second of static before Den Xavier, captain of The Beast—the unit’s Dropship the Beast came over on the comm. “Copy that Breaker. Crow Wing is inbound. Breaker, we just received a report of government forces also moving on the southern and northern camps as well. It’s looking like they are coordinating an all out roundup Breaker.”

Clara could hear the concern in Den’s voice and that concerned her on many levels, because if there was one thing nice you could say about the whole Xavier family was that they keep their cool under pressure. “Beast, Delay that last order and reallocate air support forces as need and you deem fit. To all Wardens, we are not looking for a fight here, but our duty is to the camp personnel and refugees in their care. Beast, feel free to come down planetside and join the fun.”

Clara had a feeling things were about to get interesting. She was now about to possibly put her Warding Guard on the hostile side of not only the terrorists, but also the planetary government. As long as the refugees were inside the camp, they were under the protection and jurisdiction of the Human Right and Safety Cause and therefore not subject to the government’s unjust drafting policy. That was the thin law that Clara would be standing behind when she went to war with the local government.

As Clara turned her Maelstrom to start heading down the road towards the approaching governmental forces, she saw Aike bring her Black Hawk online as her voice come over the comm. “Card reporting in and ready to kick some ass.”

Clara smiled despite herself, “Card form up and put your game face on as this might get dicey. Camp, Warding Guard is moving to intercept hostile forces. Breaker out.”

With that Clara’s Maelstrom and Aike’s Black Hawk turned and started down the road at a clip of about 80kmph, Clara could see through her cockpit that the camp personnel and refugees running about in an organized chaos as they tied to prepare for what was to come.

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