From The Ashes - Shattered Sphere: The Arcadian Free March

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From The Ashes - Shattered Sphere: The Arcadian Free March

Post by Steve »

So I've had creative problems lately. Just can't get my other projects going. But I found one that finally got my block loosened. For those like Siege and Shroom who recall SDNW shenanigans, this is something like that, if even more spreadsheet-y and game-style than SDNW3 and 4. Slacker from SB has been doing a space opera game called From The Ashes for a while, and to tweak his ruleset with a PvP focus, he decided to make the new incarnation a BattleTech AU game. Well, it's been on since April, and I admit, I had a lark, and it grew, and I joined last month. We do a yearly quarter a week so I just started the second in-game year for my faction, the above-titled Arcadian Free March, which controls a section of both sides of the old Lyran-FWL border (one of the few spots available for new players). The AU revolves around Kerensky dying when defeating Amaris, no Exodus that forms the Clans, and the Inner Sphere's Great Houses breaking apart in the 29th Century under the strain of the Succession Wars.

As for why I'm posting it here? I admit it's just for fun, but also, I gave Shroom a fun little cameo in one bit. Plus everyone can enjoy some homage character references and stompy robots blowing things up.

Edit: Also, for Shroom's sake, I'm not gonna post the Field Manual: Arcadian Free March pages, I think he'd go crazy from the rank list alone. :P Will link to the thread if someone really wants it.

The point of divergence: 2780. Terra lies in ruins, the SLDF successful at toppling Amaris, but at a hideously high price. Perhaps most devastating for the morale of the broken army of liberation, its commander, General Alexsandr Kerensky lies dead, victim of a nuclear decapitation strike in the liberation of Moscow.

What happens next is...unfortunate. Kerensky’s second, Aaron DeChavilier, is unfortunately not him, and the SLDF splinters as the House Lords begin to prepare for Armageddon. The formation of Comstar happens, but with the SLDF staying behind and fortifying an “inner ring” around Terra, Jerome Blake’s vision is stillborn and they’re just a phone company, with none of the religious undertones.

The First Succession War is correspondingly both more brutal and more even, with a number of New Dallas and Kentares type incidents. It also exposes the fundamental cracks in the Great Houses. The Second Succession War takes a hammer to the splintered glass, and each of the Great Houses fragments into a number of Successor States. DeChavilier’s successors have, meanwhile, fortified the inner Union and rebuilt those worlds, at the cost of letting dozens of worlds go. They care not for what happens beyond the border providing the Ares Conventions are kept to, an important caveat that probably stops a complete degeneration into barbarity. As the Second Succession War sputtered to a halt, the survivors looked around at an Inner Sphere that had fifty states where five once stood and was home to hundreds of independent worlds.

The Third Succession War was never officially declared, but a new age of warfare was upon the Inner Sphere-with resources exhausted, worlds shattered, technology lost, and most of humanity’s FTL capable ships in ruins. The era saw raids for resources, the occasional atrocity, and endless suffering. It also saw scraps of hope, as without Comstar’s active attempts to suppress recovery, and the Union’s willingness to intervene if war crimes got out of hand, the Successor States managed to slowly recover some of the technology lost to them.

The year is now 3030. Dozens of small states are scattered across the Inner Sphere and are now jockeying for worlds, prestige, and technology. A Second Age of War is upon the Inner Sphere. Welcome to From the Ashes: Shattered Sphere.

The Arcadian Free March

Capital World: Arcadia
Capital City: Roslyn/Laughlin Capital District

Major Worlds: Gienah, McAffe, Dar-es-Salaam, Concord

Minor Worlds: Launam, Ford, Giausar, Megrez, Nestor, Uhuru, Hyde, Seftenberg, Zwenkau, Eilenburg, Hollabrunn, Mariefred, Togwotee, Danais, Bondurant

National Flag: The hoist half of the flag is blue, the opposite red, and a stylized white hawk spreads golden wings in the center.

Head of State: March-Princess Sara-Marie Proctor, Duchess of Arcadia

Head of Government: March-Princess Sara-Marie Proctor, Duchess of Arcadia; some authority divested to the current Lord of the Privy Council, Duke Simon Allen of Togwotee.

Legislature: Bicameral. The Free March Assembly, elected by commoners from each world under a democratic scheme of representation, has certain powers regarding limits of taxation, regulation of commerce and industry, and criminal and civil law (including both feudal and non-feudal contract law). Final authority rests in the March-Princess, who retains the power to accept or deny proposed legislation. The Ducal Council, a body made up of each ruling planetary family in the Free March, functions as an advisory body for the Assembly and the March-Princess, although with a unanimous vote they can reject legislature outright instead of merely returning it for Assembly reconsideration with a majority negative vote.

Speaker of the Assembly: Jessica Maxwell of Concord
Chairman of the Ducal Council: Duke Abdulla Qadim Rayhan of Dar-es-Salaam

Currency: Arcadian Pound Sterling (£). The C-Bill is also widely employed as recognizable currency due to its inherent value.


The collapse of the Great Houses brought chaos to their former borders. While some worlds managed to retain some semblance of law and order under beloved noble families, others were not so fortunate.

In Arcadia's case, the rule of the local dynasts, the Duncans, ended bloodily. The planet fell to a broken collection of LCAF units turned into warlords, each vying for control of the planet's vital Star League factories as well as the farmlands needed to feed their troops. The residents of the world, noble and commoner alike, were reduced to destitution and were often forced into labor under various guises of debt peonage, even outright slavery. A planet known for being a paradise turned into a hell.

On February 17th, 2890, the harbinger of change came, in the northern township of New Salem when a local farming family brought their only daughter into the world. Sara Proctor grew up among a religious community. At the age of 14 she was one of many unfortunates whisked away by the labor conscriptors of one of the warlords, "Prince" Carl Tabot. After four years of degradation and suffering as part of Tabot's household staff, Sara fled, stowing away on the DropShip Melanie before it departed Tabot's capital of Sannazaro. To her good fortune, the crew under Captain Fabian Comeau took her in, and she began fifteen years of travel across the breadth of the broken Inner Sphere. It was during this time that she picked up the skills she would later find useful, be it the diplomacy of trade, maintaining ships, and dealing with mercenaries and regular troops. She learned to pilot a BattleMech, initially as a backup to one of the crew's regular pilots, and would grow in skill as time passed.

By the time she was in her mid-30s, Sara was an accomplished traveler, even something of an adventurer, with stories of battle and romance swirling about her. She inherited the Melanie from Captain Comeau after his death in a pirate skirmish, and the proceeds for their business gave her the resources that could easily have become a business empire. A life of luxury was hers for the taking. But a new, burning desire to do something about her homeworld turned her thoughts back to Arcadia. Her resources went toward the recruitment of mercenaries and other adventurers like herself, and it was at the head of an impromptu band that she led the Melanie back to her home.

In her absence Tabot had consolidated power and was on his way to becoming ruler of the planet. His reaction to her arrival was a growing anger that would become all-consuming rage, such that his own followers avoided using her name and spoke of her only as "Nemesis".

The war between the two raged for two years, with Sara gaining an early advantage in aerospace forces due to a strategic blunder by Tabot and the support of Greek-Arcadian districts on the continents of Constantine and Islay. Bit by bit, she liberated the rest of the planet, although not without loss, and prevented an attempt to wipe out her home region at great cost to her forces and almost at cost to her life.

Starting in March 2928, Sara began a series of offensive moves that drew Tabot's loyal forces out of Sannazaro and Poussin. Tabot was convinced she'd overstretched her forces, and hearing she was personally leading the central force, he went for a decapitation strike with the bulk of his forces by striking her headquarters at the town of Parnon.

In truth, he was masterfully deceived. Sara had used herself as bait, drawing his forces into the fight and then holding against superior numbers long enough to bring her flank forces in. Tabot's forces were encircled and swiftly rolled up. Tabot himself perished at the hands of Sara, his Zeus falling to her Black Knight.

Triumphant in war, Sara turned her energies to revitalizing Arcadia. A convention of the surviving nobility and the representatives of the townships and cities declared Sara the Duchess of Arcadia. The planet's tattered legal system was overhauled to eliminate debt peonage and the other means of forced servitude that made slaves of the populace. Land reform and other means were taken to dismantle the warlords' holdings and provide for a return to a civilian economy with guaranteed rights for commoners and nobles.

Arcadia's surviving industrial works gave the planet the means to rebuild swiftly and to resist encroachments from pirates and grasping neighbors. An old Star League naval yard was refurbished with the growing proceeds of trade receipts, expanding the system's trade networks and bringing neighboring worlds into its economic orbit.

A lostech 'Mech factory, and careful work on recovered machines from the decades of fighting, allowed for the Arcadians to put together a striking force of Star League-era BattleMechs. Old veterans of Sara's campaign of planetary liberation formed two crack units, the Arcadian Guards and the Arcadian Rangers, that loyally serve House Proctor to this day.

Between economic influence and the military power of Arcadia, Sara achieved the lasting legacy of her life in 2956, with the foundation of the Arcadian Free March by the accessions of Gienah, Launam, and Hyde. She took the title of March-Princess as ruler of the new state. The slow process of consolidation began. Six more planets - Nestor, Giausar, Ford, Megrez, Concord, and McAffe - would join over the next thirty years before her death in 2986 at the age of 96.

Her son, William Proctor, inherited the throne as March-Prince. His reign would be marked by the continued expansion of the Free March through peace and war, including a protracted five year conflict with Dar-es-Salaam over Senftenburg and Mariefred and a two-year conflict on Dar-es-Salaam itself that finally ended in their admission to the Free March. When March-Prince William passed in 3008, he was succeeded by his daughter Sara-Marie, at the time only 25 years old.

The current ruling March-Princess has seen her realm's mostly-peaceful expansion to its current count of twenty worlds, with only minor conflicts with pirate bands to mar the peace. But in the wake of recent conflicts among the Successor States, it is clear Arcadia's time of quiet is coming to an end. Whether or not Sara-Marie will have to draw her grandmother's sword, that is for the forces of history to determine…

House Proctor

Coat of Arms: A lowered sword of white fringed with a golden aura splits a pair of dark gray manacles, framed by the family motto in gold, all on a shield of blue and red. Motto: Audemus Jura Nostra Defendere (We Dare Defend Our Rights).

Current Head of the House: HSH (Her Serene Highness) March-Princess Sara-Marie Abigail Proctor, Duchess of Arcadia (2983-)

The ruler of the Free March for the last 24 years, March-Princess Sara-Marie is the granddaughter of the Liberator and third ruler of the realm. Her reign has been marked with primarily internal expansion, broadening the base of the Free March economy, without the military actions that so characterized her father's reign. She has a sense of duty to her family and people that will be sorely tested as the Second Age of War continues to rock the Inner Sphere, and at times, even traditions will not stop her from acting as she believes she must.

Her Husband: HGH (His Gracious Highness) Prince-Consort Thomas Reginald Heresford, Earl of Martleford on Ford (2984-)

A scion of the English nobility that governs the planet Ford, Prince-Consort Thomas never imagined he would attain this rank. It was by chance that, as a young cadet at Ayrshire, he met the Heiress-Apparent and developed a rapport with her, even after her father's illness required her to withdraw from the AFFM and devote herself to her future role as March-Princess. The two remained in contact and, inevitably, married. To say they are passionately in love would be a misstatement. What they do have is a mutual affection, and Thomas - while austere - has a warmth that provides his wife the emotional support she needs while seeing to the fates of twenty planets and over forty billion souls.

HH (His Highness) Captain Prince Thomas George Proctor, Company CO Arcadian Guards (3006-)

A dutiful young heir, Prince Thomas - "Tom" to his parents and siblings, distinguishing him while sharing his father's first name - nevertheless chafes under the social demands of his rank. Observers and commentators note that he often seems impatient at long social functions and much prefers his military duties. It is noted that upon his graduation from the Ayrshire Military Sciences Academy, his mother assigned him the family BattleMech Liberator, Sara Proctor's Royal SLDF-model Black Knight.

HH Lieutenant Prince Mark Henry Proctor, Lance CO Launum Armored Cavalry (1st Free March Cavalry Brigade) (3009-)

Prince Mark has the customary "middle child" issue even as a twin, as his twin sister was the first daughter of their parents and received special attention (or so he felt growing up). This drives his swelling ambition to stand out in the AFFM and prove himself every bit the MechWarrior and officer as his older brother. He pilots a 55-ton Fusilier BattleMech, an original design of the Free March, that has been upgraded with recovered Star League-era technology.

HH Lieutenant Princess Melissa Prudence Proctor, Flight CO AFMS Ranger ASG (3009-)

Princess Melissa grew up with a fascination for space that led to her decision to pursue a career as an Aerospace pilot. In her studies at Ayrshire Military Sciences Academy she proved herself more than capable as a pilot, leading to her assignment to the Audacious-class DropShip Carrier Ranger as the pilot of an SLDF-model Lightning Aerospace Fighter. Melissa's great joy is to fly her craft through the void and enjoy the quiet black of space.

HH Princess Abigail Maria Proctor (3014-)

Now eighteen years of age, Princess Abigail - "Abby" to her family - looks like an Amazon from her size, but in truth is the gentlest of the children. While military service is widely expected by the rest of the family, she personally harbors a desire to go into veterinary studies and tend to animals.

HH Prince William Patrick Proctor (3016-)

The baby of the family, "Willy" is keen to follow his older brothers and sister into service and prove himself an inheritor to March-Princess Sara the Liberator. He gets along with family, but has an unfortunate tendency to long for pretty girls beyond the usual expectations of teenage boys.

Other Prominent Family:

HL (His Lordship) General Lord Alexander Robert Proctor, Landgrave of Lowen on Hyde (2970-) (Son of Sara Proctor's second son Jacob)

Like his father and uncle, Lord Alexander has served in the AFFM for much of his life. He now oversees the Planning Staff, giving him great influence in operating the military, and is an open advocate of expansionism even if it requires the use of military force. In his marriage with the Landgravine of Lowen he has produced five children, all of which have become officers in the AFFM.

HL General Lady Tabitha Raquel Proctor, Countess of Parnon (2974-) (Daughter of Sara Proctor's second son Jacob)

Early in her career, Lady Tabitha signed up for service in the Military Intelligence Department. Now she serves as the Department Head and oversees the Free March's efforts to gain the information to protect their nation as the Second Age of War rages around them.

HL Doctor Lady Rachel Elizabeth Proctor-Smythe (3002-) (Daughter of William's second child Gabrielle, Socialite and Activist)

The niece of March-Princess Sara-Marie and daughter of the current Baron of Staffordshire on Ford, Lady Rachel eschewed the family's traditional military service due to her personal convictions and became a civilian doctor of medicine. As a physician she is conscientious and capable, but outside of her ruling aunt - whom she has called "Auntie Sara" since childhood - and Princess Abigail, who admires her, her relations with the rest of the Proctor family is strained.

HL Captain Angelina Sara Proctor-Grimke, Company CO Arcadian Guards (3006-) (Daughter of Lord Alexander)

The third of Lord Alexander's children, Angelina is an exceptional MechWarrior and military officer, strengths that have led to her assignment to the premier unit of the AFFM, the Arcadian Guards. She pilots an SLDF Black Knight built by the Kong Interstellar Defense Works on Arcadia.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Opening - The Ruler

Post by Steve »

Ducal Palace
Roslyn, Arcadia
Arcadian Free March
30 December 3032

The capital city of the Arcadian Free March stretched out from the balcony of the Ducal Palace. Home to the planet's rulers since the era of the Star League, and the world's time in the Lyran Commonwealth, the Palace enjoyed its place on a promontory overlooking the harbor and Sinclair Bay beyond it. From her place on the balcony, March-Princess Sara-Marie Proctor could see the combination of fishing vessels, pleasure craft, and cargo barges that filled her capital on the daily basis.

Her homeworld was a planet of quirks. Sara-Marie mused, with a quiet grin, on a planet named for a reputedly idyllic region of Greece on Terra that had only a small Greek-speaking minority (her paternal grandfather, Baron Julio Kalios, had come from that community) and with cities named for everything from mid-2nd Millennium painters to old New England towns. Her capital was no different. Supposedly the old Terran surveyor, Henry Sinclair, named the settlement after the legendary Rose Line so important to esoterics and Grail scholars on Terra. Perhaps he felt inspired by the countryside. A couple hours' maglev trip would whisk one away to the environs of Loch Clydesford and the cool, green-covered mountainside of the planet's temperate zone. The ancestral Proctor hometown of New Salem was an hour's maglev trip to the east of that, on the Plymouth Peninsula of the Northern Ocean.

Baroness of New Salem. It was one of her lesser titles, a noble investiture to her grandmother to cement her acclamation as Duchess of Arcadia. The family kept a small estate there for vacation purposes, as much as the ruling family of a Successor State ever got such reprieves from the tasks of state.

Enough of letting my mind wander. Sara-Marie re-entered her personal study. Her eyes took in the paperwork that represented her duties of state, waiting ever so patiently for her at her desk. Above the ornate desk, a portrait of her grandmother in her prime of life continued its quiet vigil of her descendants. The oil painting was made by Tristan de Cunhal, one of the Terran Union's greatest painters of the 30th Century, depicting Duchess Sara Proctor of Arcadia a few years after her victory over the cruel "Prince and High Lord of Arcadia", Carl Tabot. Her grandmother, for all her reputation, had not been an exceptionally beautiful woman. Her face was plain, roundish, perhaps a little rosy. De Cunhal nevertheless caught that shine in her blue eyes, the glint of steel that turned the daughter of New Salem farmers into one of the most romantic adventuresses in the history of the Inner Sphere. A woman who claimed the throne of her homeworld by dint of blood and sweat and tears.

She wished she could remember more about her departed grandmother. Sara had children only later in life, when she was past forty years of age, and Sara-Marie's father William had himself married late as well after serving a long career as a MechWarrior of the Arcadian Guards. She had only wisps of memory as a small child, remembering a white-haired old woman who treated her kindly before she was gone.

Before she could turn her attention to the monotony of State, Sara-Marie's desk vid-phone came to life. The face of her husband, Prince-Consort Thomas Heresford, came into view. "Thomas. Anything I should be worried about?"

"Nothing but the drama one has with a sixteen year old pining for a girl he cannot have," Thomas guffawed. A nobleman of the major world Concord, his marriage to Sara-Marie was one of those arranged marriages that proved stronger than the usual noble match. What they had was love of a sort. Not the fiery, passionate love that poets and musicians touted, certainly, even if they'd had five children. It was the love of two people who knew what duty meant and helped one another bear the burden. "I am more worried about you, dear. I'm told Alex is being a headache."

The invocation of "Alex" - Alexander Proctor, the son of her uncle Jacob and a ranking General of the Armed Forces of the Free March - prompted a sigh and a nod. "The expansionists will not be completely denied, whatever sentiment may wish. I will deal with him as I must."

"Your darling niece will not be happy."

"No, but I am March-Princess, and the future of our people hangs on the razor's edge. I fully expect her to be engaged in the Skye War relief drives anyway." She settled into the desk chair. "You will be back for the New Year's Ball?"

"Of course. It's my place to be at your side."

And it will make the social duties tolerable. Already she could see the line of honorees, the writers and musicians and scholars and business magnates and military officers she would be expected to grant titles to as part of the New Year's Honors List. The list had to be assembled meticulously to keep the people of twenty worlds happy.

If Alex gets his way, it will be more than twenty worlds soon enough… She turned her attention to the paperwork and got to it, wandering what 3033 would bring to the Free March.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Opening - The Heir

Post by Steve »

Arcadian Guards Base
Fort Defiance, Arcadia
Arcadian Free March
31 December 3032

The morning's routines were a comfort to Thomas Proctor, Prince of Arcadia and heir to the throne of the Free March. The twenty-six year-old man, with his brown hair cut to the right-swept military perfection expected of the AFFM, preferred the bivouac and the barracks to the social affairs that his station required his attendance in. This evening would be no exception, with the New Year's Eve Ball as a sort of preliminaries for the New Year's Ball and Honors that he, likewise, would be expected to attend.

War is spreading across the Inner Sphere. Skye, Hesperus, New Dallas… and look at what's been done to Andurien. Not to mention Lancaster. And I have to go dress up to socialize.

The thought aggravated him in the midst of his usual favored part of the morning; piloting rounds. To enjoy the moment, and ready himself, he strode into the 'Mech hangar in cooling suit BDUs. It was a particular innovation from the cooling vests and light clothes that MechWarriors had worn for so long, one that the Free March had every right to be proud of. The twin gold bar with a hawk that marked him as a Captain was one of the few adornments, as was the patch of the Arcadian Guards, a hawk with swept-wings bearing a sword in its talons, a sheared pair of manacles in its wake. His great-grandmother had adopted that patch while leading the War of Liberation against Carl Tabot, and the Arcadian Guards bore it with pride.

For Thomas, there was an even greater reminder of his great-grandmother, the foundress of the Free March. It loomed ahead in the berth where he'd left it the prior day: Sara Proctor's Black Knight.

The machine that killed the Slaver Lord wasn't a standard Black Knight. It was a 6b variant, built right here on Arcadia in Kong Interstellar's BattleMech Factory in the Star League-era industrial complexes outside of the city of Roslyn. Sara claimed the first one to come off the resumed assembly lines when her forces captured the city in mid-2927, a replacement for the Crusader she'd had shot out from under her in a skirmish. Whatever lack of romanticism might come from having not won the war in the 'Mech she started it in, Thomas felt Sara more than made up for it by slaying Tabot in her new machine. She would never fire the guns of her 'Mech in anger again, it was said, as if she and the machine had seen their fill of bloodshed.

It still went down in legend as the Liberator, passed down from Sara to her son William, to William's daughter, and now, to Thomas himself.

The humanoid machine was painted in the red and blue dress colors of the Arcadian Guards. The unit patch was painted in exquisite detail on the chest, over where a person's heart would be. The family coat of arms - the sword of light and gold severing the chain linking shackles on a shield, the family motto wrapped about the emblem - was likewise present on the opposite breast of the machine. The weapons were all energy models, Star League technology, with the PPC an extended range weapon and the large lasers of the Pulse variety. It would run hot, but it could devastate 'Mechs of its weight class with accurate fire.

Not that I would know.

He readied to climb up the gantry to the cockpit when he noticed movement beside him. The long dark hair and sharp features of his cousin, Captain Angelina Grimke-Proctor, prompted his immediate attention. "So, do you think we could just go on extended maneuvers with our companies, Tom?" she asked in a bemused soprano. "We could avoid the entire miserable social occasion."

"Knowing my mother and your father, Brigadier van Reiter himself will get on the comms and call us back in," Thomas sighed.

"Probably," she agreed. By blood they were distant cousins, her maternal grandfather the uncle of Thomas' mother, but as they were born in the same year and raised in the Ducal Palace and the New Salem estate, Thomas felt Angelina to be more his sister than his actual sisters. "Your mother is going to try to hook you up again."

"She worries."

"What, that you'll be like your Grandpa Will? March-Prince William didn't marry young, after all."

Thomas shook his head. "I don't intend to repeat history. If someone proper comes along, well, I'll let things fall where they may."

"And if your parents don't need to marry you off for politics," Angelina pointed out, crossing her arms.

"Yes. True."

"Well, I'm told Duke Rayhan's got a couple lovely daughters, when he lets them out of the house," Angelina grumbled. The reference to the Duke of Dar-es-Salaam brought a twitch to her face. The Rayhans were mostly reconciled to their status in the Free March, but old pride and religious differences could still cause rankling, and Angelina had no love for the strict Islamic lifestyle the Duke and his nobles maintained. "A marriage alliance would consolidate things."

"Or cause even more problems, unless you think the people of Dar-es-Salaam want a Christian Duke," Thomas pointed out. He gestured upward before tapping his timepiece on the outside of his suit. "We don't have a lot of time left. I'd like some time on the range before spending the next two days in my dress reds pressing hands with half of the Free March."

"Fair enough." Angelina stepped away. Her own Black Knight was across the way. "One of these days we're going to need to run Bravo and Charlie Companies through another war game, you know. You might even win next time!"

He flashed her a grin as his reply before scaling up the gantry to his cockpit hatch.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Opening - The Lovers and the Voidseeker

Post by Steve »

Heiermark Suites
Sannazaro, Arcadia
Arcadian Free March
1 January 3033

The warm yellow sun that brought life to Arcadia lit up the coastal suites facing to the east on Sannazaro's sunny shoreline. In the Heiermark, one of the mid-range beach hotels that catered to Arcadia's vacation-goers, the windows auto-tinted to prevent the light from becoming too harsh.

Regardless of this, the internal clock of Lieutenant Danielle Verdes of the Arcadian Guards, 2nd Battalion, woke her at about 0615 Local Arcadian Time. On base she'd be fifteen minutes late for morning reveille, but like many officers and troops of the Guards she'd won leave for New Year's. It was a welcome respite from the rigors of serving in the premier unit of the AFFM.

Danielle - or Dani to friends and her closest comrades - got out of the bed and headed toward the bathroom. She stood facing the mirror for a moment with her emerald green eyes. Her dark hair was disheveled, flowing down to her shoulders in clumps of twisted locks that she would have to straighten out following her morning shower. Her skin's dark bronze tone was a useful trait for a MechWarrior, given how even the AFFM's cooling suits didn't prevent the occasional sunburn from a 'Mech overheating from heavy weapons fire, and her natural skin tone did a lot to resist it.

That thought brought a bit of a half-smile to her face. Dani hadn't intended to be a MechWarrior at all. She accepted a berth at the Military Sciences Academy in Ayrshire because she wanted to finish her engineering degree (and get away from her mother for other reasons). The AFFM needed engineers just as much as any service, after all, and while some of the protocol and conventions of military service rankled, it wasn't insurmountable. She'd do her time and go into the civilian economy with her AFFM service as a lure for any number of firms.

But the neuro-aptitude tests changed all that. They showed she had a natural capability to be a skilled MechWarrior. The same brain that made engineering such a fun challenge allowed her to efficiently operate BattleMechs. The AFFM pushed and pushed until she finally agreed to join the MechWarrior officers' program in adjunct of her Engineering Corps classes. She graduated as a Lieutenant either way, but with her Engineering course studies incomplete, she was assigned to a line regiment.

Not just any line regiment, either. Because of her high course scores and skill, she'd been brought into the unit for new graduates: the Arcadian Guards, one of the AFFM's elites, equipped with only the best Star League-level technology. In her case, an SLDF-built Marauder-2R model was assigned to her and a berth as the Command Lance Lieutenant for the commander of Charlie Company, Prince Thomas himself. It was the kind of posting most of her classmates would have possibly killed for.

She hated it.

Oh, the Prince was fine enough, if you let him run around in his great-grandmother's legendary 'Mech and play soldier. If anything, she sympathized with his disdain for his social role. But unlike Thomas Proctor, she wasn't following anything close to the life plan she'd had starting out. She wasn't an engineer yet, and the AFFM was unlikely to let her transfer into the Engineering Corps until she'd put in another several years as a MechWarrior. She was part of the most storied unit in the AFFM, with all the crushing social expectations that led to. In a battle the life of the Free March's heir was almost literally in her hands, and given the state of the Inner Sphere… she could feel the day where she'd be fighting cresting toward her like a wave.

The only amelioration of this condition was something that complicated it further.

She was in love.

"Dani." The voice spoke softly, indeed, a little groggily. Dani turned away from the mirror and toward the figure rising from the other side of the bed.

Lieutenant Rebekah Shameel - "Becca" to friends and comrades - was a classmate at Ayrshire. They'd been too busy studying and training there to be more than friends, but once they were clear of the Academy and had personal time, things changed. There were the usual clumsy social cues, the little smiles and private hand-holding, and eventually, even after their posting to the Arcadian Guards, they accepted what they felt. Military regulations complicated things, but their equivalent rank and differing postings - Becca was an Archer-2Rb pilot in 2nd Battalion's Fire Support Company - meant they were on the safe side of the fraternization rules. For now, anyway.

"The AFFM's got our internal clocks set," Dani opined as Becca finished sitting up. "And I figured the wine would undo that. And staying up past midnight."

"Dear Adonai, my head hurts," Becca murmured. "I didn't drink that much last night, did I?"

Memories of the previous night made Dani's smile turn bemused. "You went a bit harder than usual. Now all I have to do is introduce you to the joys of a BLT, and your journey to the Gentile Side will be complete."

That won her a playful glare. Becca was from one of the Mizrahi Jewish communities in the Free March, on Gienah, and could be self-conscious about it from time to time. She wasn't the most observant as it was, but she drew the line at pork products. "You've corrupted me enough. My parents are still hoping I'll serve out my AFFM time and come back to Eilat and marry a nice man, a rabbi or a doctor, and raise little babies for them to spoil and plan bar mitzvahs for."

"Take it from someone who has been there, Becca. They find out eventually, and it can make it worse."

"No." Becca shook her head. "Not the 'come out' speech again."

I'm just trying to help. Nevertheless Dani let the matter drop. We're supposed to be enjoying a leave together. Pretend we're a normal couple. Ignore that the AFFM might transfer either of us one day, or that Colonel Kosinski might order us to stop if she fears a scandal. Ignore that we might die… Dani returned to the bed and sat down, letting her wrap an arm around Becca's bare shoulders. She pulled her close, took a long look into those soft brown eyes, and planted a heartfelt kiss on Becca's mouth. The kiss was quietly returned until both needed air. "It's still been worth it," she insisted.

"Yes." Becca leaned against her. "Adonai help me, it has been."

They remained silent, allowing both to wake up further and fight off the haze from the night's wine, some of which still stained the bed from some of the ways they imbibed it during the height of the festivities. I wonder if the maids will talk.

"Well, we have three days of leave left," Becca said. "And I still want to see the Liberation Memorial. It's one of those things you're supposed to see in Sannazaro."

Dani nodded. The marble plinth was dedicated to all of the people who died defeating Prince Tabot and liberating the enslaved citizens of Sannazaro. As the second city of Arcadia, Sannazaro had particularly profound memories of the Age of Chains. Dani remembered the documentaries as a child, the holovid footage of the chained up work gangs, the camps… the slave markets.

Well, that's why the AFFM is supposed to exist. To break chains. It was more a lie than a truth, but the lie could still be pleasant. "Alright, there's the Liberation Memorial today, and the Star League Museum is supposed to have some exhibits of old technology that I'd like to see. Maybe we can also catch a hopper and visit the Verdant Isles? A day out there before we return from leave, maybe a rented bungalow to spend an evening in…"

Her suggestions for the romantic getaway in Arcadia's most lovely tropical islands were cut off by a tone from the nightstand. Becca was closer and scooped up her noteputer before Dani could get to her own. Her eyes passed over text flashing on the screen, at an angle Dani couldn't read it from. Her brow creased and her jaw dropped open a little. 'What is it?" Dani asked.

"It's a notification from the AFFM Personnel Network," Becca said. "They just canceled our leaves. We have to report back to Fort Defiance today."

Dani's only reply was a bewildered frown of surprise.

AFMS Ranger
AFFM Naval Training Range, McAffe System
Arcadian Free March

The first morning of 3033 greeted Princess Melissa Proctor like most mornings did while she was on active deployment. She woke from her bunk, in a room shared with three other pilots of the Ranger's Aerospace Group, and made her usual visit to the head and the pilot shower room. Space on a combat DropShip was at a premium and the shower stalls traded size for privacy, giving her little room to move as she washed. Once she was out, a towel draped around her shoulders and another drawing the water from her dark brown hair, she fixed her equally-brown eyes on the messages showing on her personal noteputer. Her parents, older brother Thomas, twin brother Mark, and younger siblings Abigail and William (Abby and Willy as she knew them) each sent her a vid message wishing her a Happy New Year. Undoubtedly they were recorded, not simply to allow a longer delivery time and lower costs from ComStar, but the busy social schedule of the family over New Year's was not conducive to sending live calls over the HPG network. She'd sent her own similar message to the others the same way given her own duties as a Flight Lieutenant on the Ranger made a live call equally difficult.

Most of the family was on Arcadia, but duty held her and her twin brother Mark away. The Ranger, and her partner ship the jump-capable corvette Eagle, were in the McAffe System for training and patrol, and Mark was a Lieutenant in the 1st Free March Cavalry on Gienah. This wasn't the first year the family was not able to gather for the holidays on Arcadia, but it still made her melancholy for when they were children and could at least spend these days together.

After Melissa saw to her messages, she prepped for the rest of her day. The meeting of the Flight Lieutenants of her assigned wing passed without incident. Her squadron CO, Squadron Captain Wendy Harrison, approved her and her wingman getting a slot in the training flights for the day, allowing her to make up her flight hours after a bout with the "Gienah flu" around Christmas kept her in the Ranger infirmary.

After changing into her flight suit she met her wingman, Lieutenant Fariq Karim al-Khomsi, outside of the port hangar deck. He was from Dar-es-Salaam and was, like many of his world, a devout Sunni Muslim. "Lieutenant," he said, his English accented from Arabic being his first language. "I hope you have enjoyed your Christian New Year."

"It feels like any other morning," she admitted. "But thank you. Ready to hit vacuum?"

Fariq gestured toward the hatch leading through the hangar's protective bulkhead. "After you, Highness."

She gave him a sardonic look for using the formal style. It was a joke more than anything, but if overheard it would result in some undesired taunts and jokes in the pilot wardroom later. Among AFFM pilots, or at least the naval aerospace contingent, nobility were expected to go by rank and given name, maybe a callsign, but never their formal style. "God made the vacuum of space to make Mankind truly equal", the saying went. She briefly considered referring to him as Lordship - his father was the Bey of Daryanah, a city on Dar-es-Salaam's western sea - before deciding to let it slide with a grunt.

Stepping through the opened hatch brought her into the hangar. It faced toward the Ranger's port side. While the vessel was so big it was considered incapable of atmospheric landing, it still had a roughly aerodyne shape. The Free March based the Ranger and her sisters on the Vengeance-class DropShips of the Star League, but modified into dedicated carriers with enough hanger space that the AFFM had yet to actually fill out the full capacity of it's carriers. It simply hadn't had the production capacity to build the desired number of aerospace fighters to man all four ships to full wing capacity. As it stood, each carrier enjoyed the employment of four wings of fighters.

Multiple hangers gave each wing its own hanger space. The port side hanger they entered was for the medium fighter wing of the ship's ASG (Aerospace Group), designated the 10th Naval Aerospace Wing by the AFFM. The 10th employed LTN-G15b SLDF-style Lightning fighters, a model that the AFFM luckily acquired the schematics and license to produce despite the advanced Gauss Rifle built into the fighter's main body. The cockpit was located above the muzzle of the Gauss Rifle with sensitive electronics protected from the electro-magnetic discharge of the weapon by crafted insulation. Wing-mounted medium lasers, two normal models and two pulse-fire ones, gave extra punch once the range was closed, but that main gun was what made the Lightning a deadly long-range fighter.

The flight crew had her fighter and Fariq's prepared. She looked over the cursive script of her name painted on the space below the cockpit canopy and felt a surge of pride. She was the first of the Proctors since her great-grandmother Sara to try her hand at any piloting, and even the Liberator herself was said to have been more of a DropShip captain than a proper pilot. Flying fifty tons of armor, fusion engine, and alloyed steel through the void of space or any number of atmospheres was a dangerous, difficult job, and she'd trained long and hard to prove she could fly with the best pilots in the Inner Sphere. She carefully made her pre-flight inspection and checks before signaling for the air crew to help her into the fighter. She slipped on her Star League-designed neurohelmet before connecting it to the fighter's systems, while the enlisted man standing over her on a ladder plugged her flight suit's coolant lines into the cockpit tanks. She tested the pedals, the flight controls, and the touchpad interfaces before giving the crewman a thumb's up. He locked her cockpit into place and climbed down.

A minute later, a placement vehicle rolled up and hitched her Lightning to its cables. Another vehicle did the same with Fariq's fighter. Together they were pulled into place at the hanger's launch catapults, where other members of the air crew locked them into place. Melissa took in a final breath and waited for the launch lights to start flashing from red to orange, signalling they were charging the EM catapult that would push her fighter into space. Behind her the air crew finished sealing the launch tube's airlock door to protect the deck's atmosphere.

Seconds felt like minutes, but finally the light over her head turned to orange. Another half a minute later it went yellow, and the Traffic Controllers for the Ranger patched into her comms. "Charlie One, Charlie Two, you are clear for launch. Standby for release."

"Charlie One, ready for launch."

"Charlie Two, ready for launch," Fariq echoed.

The last seconds passed. The light flashed green.

The raw acceleration of the catapult pushing her craft out of the tube always hit Melissa hard enough to knock the air out of her lungs. It didn't matter how much she prepared for it, it always happened, and she always had to expend a lot of will to overcome it. Even as she drew in the first first post-launch breath, she let her delta-v carry her further away from the Ranger before applying pressure to her acceleration pedals. The GM 200 fusion engines that powered her fighter drew in more of the helium-3 fuel from the tanks, intensifying the fusion reaction powering her craft and directing the byproduct into thrust. She gradually pushed the thrust up to a respectable acceleration while bringing the fighter on course to the targeting field.

The empty void of space was something pilots were trained to deal with. Human minds didn't always react well to it. But Melissa found something of a comfort in being out here. Free from gravity, free from the aerodynamic rules that governed atmospheric flight… free from the sometimes oppressive social expectations of being second in line to the throne (or perhaps third, the order of inheritance got tricky with twins).

She never doubted her parents love, of course, and she remembered fondly growing up with her older brother, her fraternal twin brother, and eventually her younger siblings. But even as children they'd learned there were Rules and Responsibilities. They were Proctors, the descendants of the Liberator, who reportedly romanced the princes of a dozen planets, fought off mercenaries and pirates on twice as many worlds, and eventually liberated her own homeworld and became ruler of the planet by her own hand (well, so to speak). Her blood flowed in their veins and her legacy was the burden on their shoulders.

On top of that, their mother was the March-Princess, and a bad sickness or a terrible accident - or even an assassin's bullet - might yet place the crown on any of their heads.

Either way, for the good of their people, they had to behave a certain way in public. Say certain things, go and do certain things.

But out here, she wasn't a Princess of the Free March. She was a pilot of the AFFM sitting on fifty tons of fusion plant and steel, and that was all that mattered.

"Charlie One to Ranger Actual, we're on course for target training. Everything ready in the range?"

"All targets are at safe delta-V, Charlie One. Simulation sensors set and drones are ready for operation. You're… standby."

"Ranger Actual?" Melissa wondered what might have prompted the standby order. She eased off the throttle and reduced her acceleration toward the target zone.

Another voice came in, crackling with a strong German tone. Melissa recognized it immediately as Commander Karl Reiher, the Ranger's CAG (Commander Aerospace Group). "Charlie Flight, you will break off your training run now and commence CAP."

CAP? Melissa wondered if something was wrong. The Ranger already had a squadron of its light fighter contingent on Combat Air Patrol as standard operating practice. Why would they be adding to the CAP?

The question could wait. Right now Reiher was waiting for the only response that she could properly give. "Roger that, Ranger Actual. Coming back for CAP duty."

Without being prompted, Fariq spoke. "On your wing, Charlie One." Her sensors showed his fighter move almost perfectly in time with hers. Without atmosphere their turn was more of a spin, changing their heading back toward the Ranger. At first their thrust had to cancel out their previous delta-v, but within five seconds they were on their way back.

"I wonder what happened," Melissa said, having swapped her radio to the tight-beam link connecting her to Fariq. "An enlarged CAP implies they expect an attack."

"Or that we're about to embark on an active operation," Fariq noted. "Either way, we will serve, and Allah will see to what comes."

"I suppose so," she answered, settling in for the monotony of a CAP flight. At least I'm still out here, she thought, while her cockpit displayed the distant form of the Ranger and the fighters already surrounding her.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Opening - Expand or Die

Post by Steve »

Ducal Palace
Roslyn, Arcadia
Arcadian Free March
31 December 3032

The New Year's Eve Ball left Sara-Marie tired and ready to retire for the night. Only the quiet summons her chamberlain passed on kept her from returning to her bedroom to rest with her husband.

Instead, she found herself in a crowd of uniformed men and women, the leaders of the AFFM, wearing their red dress uniforms with blue trim and golden epaulettes. The stars on their collars marked their ranks as generals. At the head of the table the AFFM's Chief of Staff, General Lewis Harding, saluted respectfully. He was a commoner from Concord who rose through deserved merit. If he were from Arcadia or another world of the Free March he would have bowed at the waist, but Concord's people did not defer to nobility so easily. She was used to it, indeed, she found her husband's people to be refreshing with such lack of obeisance. "Serene Highness," he said, using her style fully with his gravelly voice.

Beside him was the quiet countenance of Her Grace Mary Katzenburg, Chief of Naval Operations and the Duchess of Hyde. She saluted as well. Military protocol was more important to her than social conventions. General Sir Moshe Golan, a tan-skinned Mizrahi Jew from Gienah, likewise saluted. He served as the AFFM's Air Marshal, the highest ranking officer to serve in the aerospace forces. Lastly she noted the stern presence of the Count of Ritterwald on Mariefred, General Manfred von Halbach. He was the AFFM's Field Marshal, the senior commander of the BattleMech regiments and other ground forces that defended the Free March's planets.

The other officers, almost all older than Sarie-Marie, made their salutes in turn. She recognized the head of the AFFM Planning Staff for the intent gaze he directed at her. Lord Alexander Proctor was a cousin, the son of her father's younger brother, although her father's late marriage meant Alexander had over a decade on her age-wise. He was a life-long AFFM man, like his father Jacob, and even his daughters and son were all in AFFM red. His wife was the Landgravine of Lowen on Hyde, though he remained officially an ennobled citizen of Arcadia.

When she nodded and the salutes were released, Alexander's eyes remained on her for a moment longer, the crow's feet beside his eyes the product of age and stress. He waited while Sara-Marie took a seat at the smaller table beside theirs, allowing the Command Staff to all look toward her. General Harding took the lead, as was appropriate. "We thank you, Highness, for taking the time to see us before the night was over. Time is running short."

"There have been new developments in the war?" she asked.

"Skye and the Interstellar Council are collapsing," stated another relative. Alexander's sister Tabitha, a noblewoman in her own right styled the Countess of Parnon as a reward for her decades of AFFM service, looked something like what Sara-Marie expected she would be like in twenty years, undoubtedly aided by her time with AFFM Intelligence. "Tabby" (whom no one would ever call such to her face) maintained a grim countenance befitting her wrinkled face and snow-colored hair. She tapped at a computer control and activated a holo-map of this side of the Inner Sphere. Several worlds were no longer showing IGC colors. "The Marik Commonwealth has already successfully detached the Grand Duchy of Zion from the Council. We expect the complete disintegration of the rest of the IGC and its war effort in the coming months, and while some of their worlds may go over to the Consolidant or other powers, we expect Marik will make a number of gains as well. The same is true of Skye, and we anticipate many of their worlds will end up under New Commonwealth or Consolidant control." Tabitha nodded gravely. "I have spoken with our top analysts and they concur with these assessments universally. Our neighbors are about to get much stronger."

"And you fear they will turn towards us at some point."

"It is an undeniable possibility, and poses an existential threat to the Free March," Alexander said.

Sara-Marie folded her hands on the table. "I have personally spoken with the ambassadors of the belligerents, and all expressed their continued peaceful intentions towards us. While I am not naive enough to believe such unconditionally, I fail to see any immediate threat. Neither side will want to introduce ten more BattleMech line regiments to the ranks of their enemies at this juncture. They need time to end the war, replenish their forces, and defend their new holdings. We can use that time."

"Indeed, and that is why we are here, Your Serene Highness." Alexander used the full formal style with clear deference. As far as Sara-Marie could tell, this meant he was trying to be respectful, and thus, trying to win her over immediately.

At the press of a key by Alexander, the map highlighted five worlds within one jump of the Free March's systems. One, Kitzingen, was Coreward of Eilenburg and Dar-es-Salaam. Fianna was another, in the direction of the DefHes Consolidant. Amity, Sheridan, and Gannett were all within one jump of McAffe and Concord, and at times each was the source of aggravating raids on Free March worlds. "The orders are ready. The ships are in place. We can have the units embarking in two days."

So it comes to this then. "You wish to secure the independent worlds before anyone else can?"

"Or before they can establish further defenses and force us to greater lengths to secure them," Harding confirmed.

"Negotiations with Duke Hatzfeld are continuing…"

"He is stalling. That much our intelligence has made clear," said Tabitha. "The Kitzingen defensive forces have been increasing their tempo of training. They know either we or Donegal will come for them. Hatzfeld is too arrogant, he believes he can play us against each other and retain his independence. His daughter is more pliable."

In other words, you would remove Duke Hatzfeld and convince his daughter to accept the Free March. "And you believe we can win with minimal bloodshed?"

"This is what the Arcadian Rangers train for, ma'am. We anticipate that if they do resist, the Rangers will be quite capable of breaking up their defenses. The 24th Militia Brigade will help mop up and secure the planet." Tabitha pressed another key. More worlds lit up. "We feel just as confident about the other worlds, particularly Fianna. The Arcadian Guards alone will make swift work of their militia if they try to fight."

Sara-Marie noted the listed units. Much of the line strength of the AFFM was being committed, including over two-thirds of their naval assets. "Five worlds. You know this will not be ignored by the other planets. Or the other governments."

"They all have their own concerns. And this is just the first wave," said Alexander. "Your Serene Highness, we have a year, maybe two, to consolidate our borders and bring new worlds into the Free March. By then the Skye War will be over, and whatever its ultimate outcome, we will face stronger opposition to any expansion. Our independence itself could be threatened. You speak of time? This is what we must do with our time. These worlds have resources. They will strengthen the economy of the Free March. Every world we add will give us the means to expand our forces and remain competitive. If we fail to take this opportunity, we will eventually be surrounded, and most likely, conquered or suborned."

It was clear that those at the table were all in agreement. The AFFM was officially asking her to let them loose upon the independent worlds.

Sara-Marie wasn't naive, whatever her thoughts. Whatever their ideals, her realm was not innocent of aggression. The Free March's expansion had always been a combination of diplomatic persuasion and military coercion. Dar-es-Salaam, in particular, resisted for years before they accepted the Free March. Father, you would give the order in a heartbeat, I know this, she thought, speaking to the spirit of a man who departed her life a quarter century ago. I know my duty too. But I think of the suffering of these people. The soldiers who will die. My sons, my daughter, who may face battle… That thought struck her particularly hard. She noted the Arcadian Guards were slated for one of the attack forces, so Thomas would be leaving, as were the 1st Free March Cavalry and her second son Mark. And Melissa's ship is in another attack force. Lord my God, three of my little ones face the fire.

"Highness?" Harding's voice sounded almost gentle. "I have had my disagreements with General Proctor, but I have to concur. The race for territory has consumed the Inner Sphere, and we are three years behind the other realms. We must act now, or the Free March may not survive to see its centennial."

"So that is to be it, then?" Sara-Marie asked. "We face the point of the blade, and our choices, my choice, is down to two: Expand… or Die."

"That is the choice, Highness," Alexander said.

A glance at the clock told her that she could beg this off. It was almost midnight. She had the New Year's Honors Ball tomorrow. She could reconvene them then, or the day after, or even the day after that, before making her final decision. They'd have to understand, given her many duties as March-Princess.

But that was the thing about duty. However her heart may quail at times over the necessities of her station, Sara-Marie would not, could not, shirk it. She was the granddaughter of the Liberator. The legacy of Sara Proctor, of all the men and women who died fighting so that Arcadia and her neighbors could be free, was on her shoulders. The responsibility lay with her and no other.

"Then my duty is clear," she said aloud, ending the silence in the room. "Expand."

Color lit up outside the windows of the Ducal Palace, a display of fireworks marking the coming of midnight to the celebrants of Roslyn.

The year 3033 had come, and with it, a new course for the Arcadian Free March.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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Re: From The Ashes - Shattered Sphere: The Arcadian Free March

Post by Steve »

Since I'm not sure how popular this is proving, I'll just show the fun part that Shroom approved. I'd conquered a planet in former Marik space, Pingree. Despite my low "bad boy" level meaning I typically faced light opposition, the RNG hated me and rolled a large garrison by the standards of my low BB score, including six regiments of infantry, two fanatical, and enough aerospace wings that I lost an aerowing in the landing phase. While I won in the end, taking the planet, my regiments suffered a good deal of damage (relatively low roll) and the sheer amount of opposing infantry versus my very slim victory margin meant I was given an insurgency of three quarters requiring a minimum of two basic units to keep suppressed (the mods don't do much with insurgency, admittedly, mostly just force you to tie down a unit holding the planet).

Since I try to write vignettes for my operations, I came up with a particularly silly and fun one for Pingree despite the vicious fight, and Shroom approved.

So here it is. :)

Aparri, Pingree
Arcadian Free March
29 September 3033

Ramon Medrano couldn't remember a worse day in his life than this one. The young man, a twenty one year old volunteer to the Luzon Defense Corps, sat with the rest of his platoon in the warehouse district of Aparri, where the company of soldiers he was a part of were recuperating from the lost battle for Tuguegarao.

Before this moment, he would have thought the worst day was about seventy hours before, during the fighting for Tuguegarao, as he and the others fought against the BattleMechs of the 4th Free March Regiment. The machines were monstrous things, towering up to ten meters tall, and carried weapons he normally associated with tanks or fighters. The Luzon Rifles fought like men possessed to drive them out of their lands, but for every 'Mech they brought down with explosives or traps, two would come up and commence slaughters that left this group the only survivors of their entire battalion. He could still see his old friend Luis Pedrano torn in two by a kick from the machine…

Today was worse because it'd been for nothing.

They watched the government in Manila, the same men and women that called them to arms, sign the surrender, and the feeling of treachery simply choked Ramon. His leaders were submitting. After a hundred years of asserting their independence, even against the Yanqui-dominated planetary government in Bennington, the people of the New Philippines were submitting to foreign rule yet again.

It can't end like this! No!

A grim silence gripped the room. Their commander, Captain Kian Rivera, turned away with disgusted tears in his eyes.

"So… we lost," one of the others said. "We fought so hard and we lost anyway…"

"We've failed our people."

More silence came. The depression threatened to smother them all.

The last of Ramon's neighbors in the unit, Manuel Ybarra, stepped up to the television. "Time for something we can all enjoy," he said, and with a couple of button presses, he switched the channel.

The screen now showed a room painted in variable colors. The man on the screen was a Sino-Filipino, and he spoke with a Viscayan accent.

Eyes drifted toward the screen, and Ramon noticed a couple wan smiles appear. Everyone on Pingree knew the voice and quirky mannerisms of Jon Lee Vincento, the Cebu City comedian responsible for The Shroom Man Family Hour, with its trippy pop culture jokes, surrealism, and potty humor, not to mention pokes at the governments on the Philippine continents and over on the continent of Chamberlain. There wasn't a child in the country who didn't play "Bragulans and Solarians", in reference to the animated science fiction action shorts of the show. The animation quality could be poor at times, but many still found humor in the stories depicting a species of totalitarian alien bears with nuclear weapons and acid guns trying to conquer the overly-aggressive, Yanqui-inspired Solarians with their muscular, steroid-abusing Marines and hyper-capitalist society.

The host, known and beloved as "Shroom Man" or just "Shroom" to his fans, started a monologue in front of the flag of the New Philippines. "Well, now that we're live on the air again, I'm sure everyone knows what has happened. The New Philippines Republic is no longer its own country, and I'm not just talking about the people in Bennington that try to tell us to stop eating our balut. The Arcadians have come with lots of BattleMechs, and they've decided we have to be members of their Free March. And so here we are!"

Behind him, a flag unfurled to cover the Philippine flag. It was blue on the left and red on the right with a white hawk in the middle with wings spread.

"Our new flag as citizens of the Free March, everyone!" Shroom grinned widely at the camera, an anticipatory one to draw interest. "Don't you just feel freer already? Those BattleMechs they sent liberated the shit out of us, didn't—"

Suddenly he seemed to double over, as if in pain. "Oh no… speaking of shit… I had too much balut…"

There was a ripping sound and a spray of brown liquid coated the Free March flag.

Shroom turned toward the soiled flag. "Oh no!" he wailed, the tone exaggerated to comical proportions. "What have I done! Oh, curse my love for duck fetuses!" He looked offscreen. "Quick, bring down the portrait! I have to apologize."

A picture was rolled down from above to cover the soiled flag. The woman was dressed like one would expect a ruling noble of the Inner Sphere to be dressed, middle-aged and with a quiet, strong look about her. She was, to them, clearly Yanqui in skin tone and appearance.

Shroom genuflected to the picture. "Oh, Princess Sara-Marie, my new ruler, I'm so sorry! My favorite balut, I just can't turn it down, even when it makes me… oh no!"

He doubled over again… and, naturally, turned. Another spray of brown liquid coated the portrait.

When he was done, he clasped his hands on his forehead as if in mortification. And then, suddenly, he started laughing. "Well, there it is, friends, we're all in the Free March now! But these things stink, so I'd really better get them off-stage." He faked a wince. "And myself, before I spray again. Be back after these commercial messages from our capitalist friends!" He rushed off stage.

As he did, the soiled image was removed, as was the soiled flag, leaving the quite unsoiled flag of the Philippines as the last image before the commercials began.

Manuel turned the set off, still chortling. "Of course. It feels good to see Shroom giving them what he gives our other leaders."

"He left our flag there at the end," another voice called out. "He's on our side still!"

"He is, and we're not done yet." Captain Rivera's expression oozed defiance. "The government has ordered us to stand own and accept defeat. Well, I say to hell with them!" Some of the others cheered. "Our people have always known foreign oppression. The Spanish, the Americans, the Japanese, the Mariks… this is nothing new. And every time, every time, we drove them off in the end. It may take years, maybe decades, but if we keep fighting, we can have our Republic back!"

And Luis will not have died for nothing… thought Ramon.

"But we don't have many weapons to fight 'Mechs with, or their battlesuited infantry," protested one soldier. "How can we keep fighting enemies we can't hurt?"

"We catch them outside of their machines. A MechWarrior not in his 'Mech is just a man, as weak as any of us. The same is true for their armored troops." Rivera clenched a fist. "Join me, my brothers and sisters. We will find others who agree, and together, we will save the Republic! Whatever the price, we will have our independence again!" He raised the fist high. "Independence forever!"

"We must keep the faith with our fallen comrades!" Ramon shouted, standing. He met Rivera's eyes and raised a fist. "Independence forever!"

With a few exceptions that slinked off, the others did the same. The cry of "Independence forever!" filled the warehouse.
"A Radical is a man with both feet planted firmly in the air." – Franklin Delano Roosevelt

"No folly is more costly than the folly of intolerant idealism." - Sir Winston L. S. Churchill, Princips Britannia

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