Shred of Honor [Part I]

Counterattack

[Author’s note: This was a story I started back when I was assisting with the secret production of Jihad Secrets: Blake Documents. I had intended for it to be published via Battlecorps shortly after the book’s release, but then completely forgot about it. I rediscovered it during my Wars of Reaving writing, did some tweaking to fit that material, and then promptly forgot about it again. Until about a week ago. I decided I needed more of my stuff on my blog, even if it’s not ‘canon’ to the universe, so here it is.

That said, this is entirely a work of fan fiction and not canon, mainly defined as such because the details do smudge off a bit from Jason Schmetzer’s more excellent novella detailing the Ice Hellion/Jade Falcon war. So with that in mind, I do hope you enjoy it. ~BHR]

Bangor Pass
Evciler, Clan Jade Falcon OZ
12 August 3071

The gigantic machine of war moved slowly, each step ponderously pummeling the grassland beneath it. Occasionally a heavy footstep would fall into a standing pool of water, spraying the remnants of last night’s rain into a glittering shower before falling back to the dirt. The machine did not stop; its forward-mounted canopy fixed like a cyclopsian eye on the ridgeline ahead of it.

As if the fates decreed it, the massive Jupiter assault ‘Mech crested the ridge just as the system’s primary burst from the hills behind him. Inside the darkened canopy, the pilot smiled as he saw with his own eyes what his sensors had told him several minutes before: the valley below him was filled with the enemy.

Scattered with chaotic cohesion, the Ice Hellion forces below him were a work of confusion. The Jupiter’s pilot could see the Hellion headquarters building, a pitiful portable contraption roughly two kilometers away. Surrounding it were a rough breastworks of toppled trees and in a few cases, burned-out ‘Mech skeletons. The offal of the battlefields lay behind him, irreparable scrap that the Hellions chose to waste rather than attempt repairs.

The camp was already stirring; he knew they were not blind to his approach. The message he had directed to Ice Hellion Khan Raina Montose less than ten hours ago had specified the time and place of his arrival under a flag of honor.

He drew a deep breath, held it. Blew it out slowly as his eyes flicked from enemy to enemy searching for prey. He was Clan Jade Falcon.

He would wait.

32 hours earlier

The water drained from the sink slowly, the silt and grime circling the rusted drain in a tightening spiral. His arms posted to either edge, Galaxy Commander Brian Pryde stared down into the miniature whirlpool, his thoughts slipping along with the current.

His entire Star, dead. Slaughtered like so much Erewhonian rabbits, snapped up and crushed by the Ice Hellion horde.

He, the only survivor. Shamed. Disgraced.

How could he honor the Bloodname he so recently grasped with such a dishonorable display of war?

Brian shook his head, shaking the water from his short, spiky red hair. He half-snorted, realizing that had finally fallen low enough to become equal with the rest of the warriors under his command. Closing his eyes, he scraped his face with his hands, pulling the remaining grime into sweaty streaks across his visage. Staring into the camp mirror at his own parody of a death mask, he sighed again at the whirlwind of disgrace rattling around in his head and splashed the remaining water at his face.

His first command with the Pryde name and all he had to show for it was four shattered BattleMechs and four dead warriors.

He heard more than saw the latrine’s door open. A scrawny technician stuck his face in. “Galaxy Commander Pryde, the saKhan requires your presence.” Without waiting for a reply, the man withdrew as the door slapped shut.

Well, that did not take long. He snatched a scrap of linen from the rack nearby and patted down his face and neck, doing his best to remove as much of the sweaty streaks as possible. Evciler’s heat was not helping anyone stay clean, so he stopped after getting the worst of it transferred to the rag.

Time to suffer the consequences of his dishonor.

The saKhan’s quarters were simple, much like the rest of the Clan’s temporary battle camp. Set up on the fly by the Clan’s efficient technical corps among the remains of a local campground, it served its function admirably as a Spartan collection of shelter, foodstuffs and supplies. Alpha Galaxy had nearly perfected the art of mobile support over the last several months in their valiant defense of the Clan’s holdings against the intruding Ice Hellions.

Simple though it was, the weather-resistant cloth could not contain the smoldering anger of saKhan Samantha Clees. As Brian approached, he could hear the steady slap-slap-slap of the saKhan’s fists impacting the punching bag she had installed in her quarters. The verbal grunts and occasional epithets exploded like autocannon rounds from the open tent flap; the Falcon warrior wisely stepped to the opening and remained at attention. He took in the room’s simple furnishings as Clees continued pummeling the worn canvas bag. Aside from the compact holotable tucked into the corner, the tent could have been mistaken for any of the other resident tents in the hastily-made compound.

Presently, Clees came to the end of her physical tirade, putting one hand out to still the creaking bag and wiping her face with the towel draped over her shoulder. She turned to face him as she snagged a canteen and motioned him in. “Please, Galaxy Commander, enter. I will be brief because time is currently at a premium.”

“Yes, my Khan.” He stepped in and took the seat she waved towards.

The Khan snapped on the holotable and sat down opposite him. “As you can see, the Hellions have been most successful in repulsing our forward lines these last two days. In fact, Raina Montose’s flanking attack is quite close to breaking into our southern area, where she could conceivably sever our supply line in two and force us to abandon our forward thrusts.” As she spoke, various symbols lit up across the holotable, illuminating the Clan’s losses over the last two days. Brian winced as he saw Alpha’s symbol flare and withdraw; the vector graphics giving his real losses a sterility that only made his head ache.

Clees let the silence stretch for a moment as the troop movements played out across the table. “Our counterassault has begun in a less-than-ideal fashion.” Her voice broke the quiet, an underlying current of anger rippled out from her in waves. “For a Clan poised to lose every world they’ve gained in this reckless gambit, they have a surprising resilience to death.”

Brian folded his arms and slumped back in the camp chair. “Agreed. I cannot say, however, that I am surprised.” He placed a finger on his chin, looking at the holographic map. “From the information that the Loremaster has been passing to me, the Hellions seem to have an air of desperation these days.”

The saKhan nodded, standing up. She began to pace in the center of the tent. “A conclusion I came to as well,” she clipped. “This is a problem, however. And one that needs resolved immediately.”

The Galaxy Commander nodded, cupping his chin as he examined the icons scattered across the holographic map. “Interestingly, they are showing a behavior pattern very similar to the ice weasel they are named for. Specifically, the fact that the Ice Hellion is a ferocious fighter when backed into a corner.”

“Which is what we have done to them.”

“Aff, my Khan.”

“Galaxy Commander, what I am about to ask you to do is fit only because of the special nature of your unit,” said Clees. Her face tightened into a grimace. “Even trying to put this to words is an affront to the honor of the Clan, but it must be so.

“We must lose Evciler. More specifically, we cannot just retreat and give the planet over to them. The Falcon must bleed Montose’s runts, and badly, but ultimately we must cede the system to the Hellions.

“For now.”

The Galaxy Commander’s eyebrow shot up. “We would suffer defeat at the hands of such a lesser Clan?”

Clees emphatically shook her head. “We would be retreating for a temporary moment, to reconsolidate our defenses into a more cohesive counterattack.” She stood up, pacing the perimeter of the makeshift room. “I have been talking with Pershaw at length about this conflict, and he reminded me of something very useful that we can use against Montose.”

Brian looked up at Samantha, who stopped and returned his gaze, silent.

The young officer’s mind whirled with possibilities and other variables, and then his eyes widened as it came to him. Pershaw’s position on the Council gives him insight into ALL the Khans…

“Her ego.” He knew his response was correct. Clees’ short nod only confirmed it.

“If we make a press and then let the Hellion’s turn the tide in some manner, you can coordinate a withdrawal and control our losses.”

He tapped his chin rapidly. “It would be a blow to our Clan’s honor, surely. Many of our younger warriors will not find this ‘loss’ very comforting…” He trailed off, realizing why the saKhan had called for him. “That is why you want Alpha to lose. Our honor is already gone, so who would expect otherwise?”

Clees looked at her Galaxy Commander thoughtfully, her hands relaxing from fists as she locked eyes with him. After a moment, she spoke. “Know that I do not toy with honor so lightly. But as our Khan has shown us time and again, the Clan is everything above individual honor.”

Seylah,” he replied, turning his attention back to the symbols parading across Evciler’s holographic terrain in an endless loop. He watched his command hammered over and over, the symbol of his Star winking out each time. It never changed.

The saKhan joined him at the table. “Look, the truth is more than just a simple order from the Khan. If the Hellions walk away with a victory, they will tie down forces to defend it. The victory will also serve to inflate Montose’s fragile ego and cause her to overextend again.” She leaned back, cracking her knuckles. “We have it on good authority that Montose has already shredded her own invasion timetable by a factor of months, forcing saKhan Rood to scramble and leave very thin defenses elsewhere.”

Brian nodded after a moment. “So we want the Hellions to spread themselves too far, too fast, and spread out their defenses to the point where we can sweep everything back up in one concentrated push.” He ran his fingers through his bristly hair. “And you think letting them take Evciler will do that?”

“Aff.” Samantha replied. “Montose will order her next wave even as Rood is not prepared for it.” She grinned. “And that is when our allies of convenience will strike.” Clees waited for him to put the pieces together.

The Galaxy Commander pondered the table for a moment, then looked up. “The Horses.”

“Aff.” Clees nodded.

“They’re the greater threat on our border. Which is why Khan Pryde is making a deal with Khan Cobb.”

“Aff.”

Brian manipulated the table controls, bringing up the Falcon’s Periphery border, dotted with both Hellion and Horse colors. “We cannot fight them both off, so instead we make a deal, keep them in the Wolf backyard, and isolate the Hellions.”

“Aff.”

“Then we come back and shove the Hellions off this planet.”

“Aff.” Clees smiled, a predatory grin that promised dismemberment before death.

“Pardon my temerity, my Khan, but you have grown quite devious in your term as saKhan.”

“Aff. Now shut up and tell me how you will insult the Hellions enough to make them push Alpha off this planet. And then when you are done, I require your personal touch. For the rest of the evening.”

Seylah.”

[Watch for Part II soon.]

 

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