Shred of Honor [Part III]


[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. You can read Part I here, and Part II here. ~BHR]

Bangor Pass
Evciler, Clan Jade Falcon OZ
12 August 3071

0838 hours

In the time it took the Hellions to sort themselves out, Pryde’s Alpha Galaxy had formed a kilometer-wide circle, intermixed with various Hellion forces previously seen down below in the valley. He had not moved from his perch on the hill; as he scanned his HUD he could see the silent sentinels of his Galaxy surrounding him. A witness to his test of honor.

Or his death.

Brian was not clear on which they preferred.

He glanced at the countdown clock as the last minutes ticked away. He watched the last of the enemy below trickle away, making it clear who his opponent would be.

Brian wasn’t surprised at the Hellion Khan’s temerity, leaving behind a full Star of ProtoMechs. She truly wanted to make his loss as dishonorable as possible. Like stylized demigods of ancient Terra, the twenty-five oversized battle armor – or perhaps micro-sized BattleMechs? – pulled into formation at the bottom of the hill. Montose clearly thought she was being clever by using the smaller machines within the letter of Clan law for Trials, in order to bring down further humiliation upon the Falcons.

“I have given the honor of your defeat to Star Colonel Katya and her Blizzard Star,” crackled Khan Montose’s voice over the com system. “You may, of course, withdraw now from the field with no loss of honor.” Brian could practically hear Raina sneering as she spoke the words.

He shook his head, knowing full well the Khan could not see the motion. “Neg, Khan Montose. I gladly accept your challenge.” He glanced at the countdown clock, noting the last seconds tick away. “The Trial begins…now.”

The Hellions gathered below wasted no time and they surged up the hill towards him, drifting into Points. Calmly, he settled his targeting reticules on three different machines within one Point and gently squeezed his triggers. Pryde welcomed the short, rapid booms of his hyper-assault gauss cannons mounted deep in the Jupiter’s torso and smiled grimly as two Orcs dropped onto their backs, hideous rents belching black smoke. Another Orc tripped over its suddenly-prone comrade, dropping its head into line with Brian’s PPC beam. The headless ProtoMech flopped on top of its Pointmate but he knew it would rise again soon; he had been aiming for the machine’s torso, precisely where the tiny cockpit was located.

While he knew holding the high ground was tactically sound, it would only give him an edge for a few more moments. Once the Hellions crested the hill, they would utilize their superior speed and mobility in an attempt to kill him by pieces. He slipped his multiple crosshairs across his HUD, tapping fire commands with his fingers as they slid over the oncoming targets. Two more ProtoMechs stumbled to the ground, one with a leg amputated at the hip and another catapulting backwards down the hill, a smoking hole blasted through its chestplate. Missiles bloomed from his shoulder mounts, cascading explosive rain down into the mass of Hellion machines, popping delicately-tooled armor and scorching the grassy slope below in a hellish firestorm.

The Hellions reached optimal range halfway through their charge; several missiles clawed up the hillside towards the massive Falcon ‘Mech and crimson beams from lasers scythed across its legs. The explosions from detonating shells and autocannon fire shook the assault machine but failed to dislodge it; with rock-steady deliberation, Brian raised its left arm and cut loose with another PPC blast, eviscerating a Cercerops. It was the last ranged blast he could muster before the first ProtoMech point surged the hillcrest, the lizard-faced Basilisks swarming around him and unleashing their volley together.

Well, seems some of them learned how to cooperate. The Jupiter shook hard enough to force him in breaking his stance. Stepping back, he braced and spun to the left, sweeping a massive arm alongside him to collide with one of the Basilisks in the head, caving in half of the metal skull. Without thinking, he squeezed his triggers again, vaporizing the leg of an oncoming Orc. He barely registered the falling crash of the ProtoMech before turning again to vomit two full salvos of missiles. Two more Basilisks took the brunt of the attack and went down quickly as the Brian moved the Jupiter back a few more steps.

The battle devolved into a stream of consciousness. Without so much as a stop to breathe, the Falcon warrior had the Jupiter dancing along the ridgeline, slamming PPC and HAG fire into his opponents as he twisted and turned. The ProtoMechs tried to flank the assault ‘Mech with their superior speed but to no avail. The Jupiter kept moving in such a delicate martial dance, its weaker rear armor only visible for scant moments, denying all attempts to receive Hellion fire. The ProtoMechs unleashed volley after volley of lasers and missiles at the raging beast among them, the sheer volume of uncoordinated fire soon covering the ‘Mech with smoking pits, laser creases, and ragged gaps.

Within the Jupiter, Brian heard the quiet alarms, the burnt smoke tickling his nose as his eyes flicked with fierce determination from HUD to console to readouts and back again. The heat steadily rose in the cockpit until his skin was slick with sweat, his fingers twitching with purpose and finality as each shot was acquired and dispatched in the blink of an eye.

Gradually he began to notice he was running out of targets. Less than a point of ProtoMechs remained, the survivors more worse for his wear. With almost casual indifference, he dispatched another Basilisk with a PPC blast at near point-blank range, the ‘Mech’s left hand reaching out and grabbing a Roc with metal fingers. The diminutive machine struggled, firing its last missile salvo over the Jupiter’s head as Brian squeezed his hand inside the small sleeve on his command chair. Outside, the massive metal fingers closed into a tightening vice. He watched as a limping Cecerops fled down the hill; bracing the Jupiter‘s legs, he turned the war machine’s torso and unleashed the last shot from his torso-mounted HAG. The hailstorm of high-speed metal slugs screamed from the barrel and slammed into the back of the fleeing ProtoMech. It fell in a tangle of limbs, nearly cut in half from the violence of the shot.

“Khan Montose,” Brian bellowed into his microphone, watching the Roc go limp as the Jupiter’s fist continued to close, “this Trial is over. Clan Jade Falcon claims victory in this matter; release your DropShips to us.” He paused.

“And, as you will recall, you are now my bondsman.”

An incoherent scream of rage and bitterness erupted from the cockpit’s internal speakers.

Typical, thought Pryde, a small smile creasing his face.

The speaker crackled. “Clan Ice Hellion recognizes the victory won by Galaxy Commander Pryde of the Jade Falcons,” Montose responded, her voice flat. “The DropShips are yours.”

“Thank you, Khan.”

“You fought well, Commander. For a solahma Falcon.” He could hear the bitterness dripping from the Khan’s reply.

Brian snorted, turning the Jupiter to stare across the littered ridgeline into the valley below. “And your forces just fought.”

“But I regret to inform you that my duties as Khan interfere with being your bondsman.”

He swung the ‘Mech’s left arm forward, relaxing the left hand and letting momentum take the lifeless Roc forward. The ProtoMech crashed to the ground a short distance away, rolling a quarter of the way down the hill in a tangle of shattered armor and leaking coolant, mixed with bits of pilot. “Why am I not surprised that a Hellion cannot keep an honorable agreement?”

The Ice Hellion Khan spluttered a response but he ignored it, switching to Alpha’s frequency. “Alpha Galaxy, form up and march. Coordinates as previously discussed,” he said, pausing. “The Khan has also broken our well-bargained agreement. They are dezgra for as long as they exist on this planet.

“Therefore, you are free to remove their blight from this land. The end of the Hellion disease poisoning Jade Falcon space begins today.” Brian could not help but smile as he turned the battle-torn Jupiter back towards the Falcon encampment.

He saw the flashing light of an incoming message from Clees. One battle won, another on the horizon. He knew with the victory that he had violated the Khan’s orders.

As Alpha Galaxy moved around him to engage the now-fleeing Hellions, Brian switched the comm line over to the waiting saKhan. “My Khan…”

Samantha cut him off with a chortling, grunting laugh. “Well played, Galaxy Commander. While you have violated the letter of my orders to you, you have retained its spirit.” A brief explosion to his left punctuated the saKhan’s statement. A Falcon Marauder IIc stalked through the smoke and fire, moving away from him and seeking another victim. “You have goaded Montose into breaking faith, giving us an opening to eviscerate her forces in a proper manner in the Way of the Clans, as well as keep this system in our hands.” She paused. “Well done.”

Brian watched as the Alpha’s lone Turkina crossed in front of him, its low-slung HAG cannons belching thunder and fire. Was she praising him?

Her throaty voice continued to fill his ears. “Reclaimed your personal honor and furthered the Falcon’s goals on Evciler, giving us a victory when none could be found?” She chuckled. “You are more than Pershaw says.”

He swallowed hard, still grasping at her compliment. “Thank you, saKhan.”

“Finish removing the vermin, then return. We must plot our next step, and I require your…inventiveness.” She paused. Brian shuffled the battered Jupiter around, following his command as they pursued the retreating Hellions from their encampment.

“We will win this war, Pryde. And I am proud to have such a worthy warrior at my side,” Clees responded after a moment. “Venture forth, and claim the blood and spoils due our Clan.”

Seylah, my Khan.” Brian snapped the comm line off. The sounds of distant autocannon fire and the thrum of the Jupiter‘s systems enveloped him in comfortable familiarity. He felt himself relax, his fingers idly stroking the triggers underneath his touch. He smiled.

Today, my honor begins anew.


Shred of Honor [Part II]


[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. You can read Part I here. ~BHR]

Bangor Pass
Evciler, Clan Jade Falcon OZ
12 August 3071

18 hours earlier

Brian Pryde stood on the small rise, surveying the small Falcon encampment below. These were his people, his warriors. But they did not fight for him. Nor did they fight for the Clan.

They fought only for themselves.

Alpha Galaxy’s creation was not the inspiration of Khan Marthe Pryde, despite her official declaration. It was, in reality, the brainchild of Loremaster Kael Pershaw.

Formed from a mix of skilled Watch warriors and elite non-Bloodnamed solahma, Alpha was never meant to be a front-line unit. It was instead a Clan version of an Inner Sphere special operations unit; its members were carefully vetted and selected by some arcane process only Pershaw understood. The result was a carefully blended mix of skills, experience and temperaments where every member had two things in common—shame and age.

Alpha Galaxy was a disgraced Clansman’s ultimate second chance. Solhama units only went out to die a glorious death, in hopes that maybe their genetic material could be part of the nutrient bath that helped soak and birth the next generation of warriors. While Alpha did offer that, it gave its members a chance at redeemed honor. To die not just for personal honor, but for the Clan.

They were the perfect tool for saKhan Clees’ psychological tactics. None of these warriors cared if they were stained with the disgrace of retreat. They only cared if they could fight. And fight some more.

By the Loremaster’s decree—and by default, the Khan’s—none of the members of the Galaxy could possess a Bloodname, save their Galaxy Commander. Pershaw believed the lack of Bloodnames—and the lost hope of ever attaining one—made every member equal. The mix of skills, the reliance on teamwork over individuality, the shared ‘doom’ of never attaining the Clan’s highest honor, it was all designed to make the warriors bond into a fighting force that would help the Galaxy face down and complete operations that front-line units would never stoop to undertake.

Alpha’s warriors were nothing more than a blunt hammer, if used in this way. But in the hands of a warrior with the Clan’s honor at heart, they could be so much more.

A sword.

More specifically, the Falcon’s katana.

Fresh from a Bloodname victory for one of the prestigious Pryde lineages, Brian had been immediately promoted to command only a few weeks prior to their arrival on Evciler. His first test as the Galaxy’s commander came when the Hellions made planetfall.

And he had failed.

He shifted his feet as he thought again of the whirlwind assault by the Hellions that day. The attack was so quick, so fast, he had lost all of his Starmates within a few minutes.

The personal shame was enormous. The tension in camp afterward was so thick he knew he had immediately lost all of his warriors’ respect. His Bloodname, once the pinnacle of his Clan life, was now a dirtied, sullied albatross hanging around his neck.

He looked about, noting the deepening darkness. His knees ached, indicating how long he had stood on the hillock. But he did not move.

The Khan’s plan was sound. It was exactly what he would have done, in her position. He knew Alpha would do what was required.

But it would not regain his peoples’ respect. Not without adjusting the saKhan’s orders.

There was only one thing he could do.

I am Jade Falcon.

Breathing deep, he started down the hill.

Present time
0810 hours

As he waited for the enemy below, Brian settled back into the Jupiter’s command couch. He refused to be distracted by checking his systems over for the millionth time; he trusted this ‘Mech with his life. If Fate decreed he die today in this cockpit, so be it.

Soon enough, the command circuit clicked on. “I assume that is you in that monstrosity sitting atop the hill, Galaxy Commander Pryde?” The voice was full of ego and sarcasm; it could only belong to the Hellion Khan.

“Aff, Khan Montose. As we agreed last night, I am here to talk, warrior to warrior.”

“Quisling whelp to Khan, you mean,” Rood replied. Brian ignored the goad.

“I am here to declare a Trial of Possession, Khan.”

The laughter on the other end of the comm relay peaked into static. “A Trial? Surely you are joking, you senile old man.”

Brian suppressed a snort. “Yes, Khan, a Trial of Possession, in fact. For your DropShips.” He keyed in a series of coordinates.

The sound of Montose’s laughter crackled through the cockpit speaker. “Only my DropShips? No, no. That just won’t do,” she responded after a moment. “I suggest something with more flair, you tightwad of a Falcon. We will Trial for each other. I emerge victorious, all of your Galaxy is mine. And if you somehow defy the odds, then I­—and only I—will be your bondsman.”

Pryde frowned. He had meant to insult her with his Trial, but to put the entire Galaxy at risk? He noted a flashing light on his comm board. Keying the private channel, he said “That didn’t go as planned, my Khan.”

“Nonsense. I think it is working splendidly,” replied Clees, her voice scratchy through his earpiece. “I have faith in you and Alpha to do what needs done for Clan Jade Falcon.”

He nodded, swallowing hard, keenly aware of his own personal stigma weighing on his shoulders. “As you wish, my Khan.” He switched the comm relay back to the open band.

“The amended terms are accepted. With what forces do you defend?” Brian scrutinized the Hellions below as word spread their Khan was being challenged by the warrior on the hill.

“I will set aside my right for a champion and take you on myself. The entire Blizzard Star of the Forbidden Ice Cluster, part of the Ice Hellion Alpha Galaxy, will attend as witnesses.” Brian could hear the older woman smiling through the comm relay. “Here, on these plains, in a kilometer radius from where you stand. In thirty minutes.”

Interesting. “Seylah. Well bargained and done, Khan Montose. I await you with anticipation.”

“Enjoy your last thirty minutes in this universe, Galaxy Commander. Know that you have failed your Clan once again. Twice in three days, even.”

Brian winced. “You are a true Hellion warrior, Khan Montose, counting nerat eggs before they have even cracked. Pryde out.” He snapped off the circuit and switched to another line. “Did you hear, my Khan?”

“Yes. Excellent work, Galaxy Commander. Remember, Khan Montose is treacherous; I do not know why she mentioned who would witness this, and that gives me reason to believe she is planning something. You do know about this Star, do you not?”

“Aff, my Khan. They are ProtoMechs and fanatically loyal to the Khan. Some say too loyal, with no regard to the rest of the Clan.”

“Very well then. Keep in mind that if you fail, the consequences will be severe.”

“I understand.”

“Then make sure you lose. And therefore, win.”

[The story concludes with Part III.]

Shred of Honor [Part I]


[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.”


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.”


“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.”


[Watch for Part II soon.]