Warrior: Coupé (The Warrior Trilogy, Book Three): BattleTech Legends, #59Michael A. Stackpole
BattleTech Legends: Warrior: Coupé
The Warrior Trilogy: Book Three
Michael A. Stackpole
BOOK I: TRUTH
BOOK II: DECEPTION
BOOK III: DUTY
BOOK IV: HONOR
BOOK V: COURAGE
About the Author
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The Warrior Trilogy comprised my first published three novels. They originally came out from FASA in 1988 and 1989, but they were born in the summer of 1987 at Origins. The DragonLance novels had been released to great success a couple years earlier, and FASA had brought out the first Gray Death Legion novel by that time. I’d written a fantasy novel, Talion: Revenant, that I was beginning to shop around, but which had not had any takers as yet.
At the convention, I stopped by the FASA booth. I saw Decision at Thunder Rift and commented to Sam Lewis and Jordan Weisman and Ross Babcock (at different times) that I’d written a novel and “if you have any needs, I’d be glad to work on something.” Back in those days, when I was a freelancer, that was my sophisticated method of cadging for work. Jordan showed me some material from the upcoming Renegade Legion game, and suggested maybe I could do a novel for it. Sam promised to send me some product, and Ross said he wouldn’t mind looking at writing samples.
So I got home, sent six chapters from the fantasy plus a SF short story (set in Steve Jackson’s Ogre universe) to show I could do pyrotechnics. Shortly after the convention I got a box full of stuff, including a lot of BattleTech material, with a note promising Renegade Legion stuff when it was ready.
I started reading. I devoured the source books (I had the Kurita one in proofs, the Steiner book in actual copy) as well as the novels. I found a really rich universe full of excitement and politics and history—all the things I love. I started getting some ideas for stories and jotted them down. This despite knowing I was going to be looking ahead for Renegade Legion stuff.
On a Monday, Ross called. “I liked the chapters you sent. I want to read the rest of the book.”
“Great, I’ll send the rest of it off to you.” Mind you, this meant creating a half-dozen 5.25 inch floppy disks, but I was happy to do it. And then, being a freelancer and cadging for work, I said, “Hey, I got all the BattleTech stuff you sent. It’s cool. If you ever need a book set in that universe, let me know. I have a couple ideas.”
Ross, deadpan, said, “That’s what I want to talk to you about. We want you to do a trilogy.”
The expression of my face—delighted surprise—scared my tropical fish.
Then he continued. “Three books, 100,000 words each. You have nine months. Can you do it?”
So in every writer’s life, there’s a serious gut-check moment. This was mine. If I said no, I got nothing. If I said yes, I had a boatload of work to do.
I had but one choice.
“Yeah, sure, piece of cake.”
“Great, we’ll talk at Gen Con.”
I should note, for the record, that it took ten and a half months to complete the trilogy. But, during that time, I also wrote the Kell Hounds scenario book and several other BattleTech-related articles.
Two other incidents I’ll relate, only because they were fun, and indicative of the whole process. When I’d sent the first book in, the editor, Donna Ippolito, called me. Once pleasantries had been exchanged, she said, “Well, this is like a real book.” To this day I’m not exactly sure what that remark is supposed to mean, but the editorial process was pretty easy, so I guess it was good.
Later, when I was writing Riposte, right around Christmas, Jordan Weisman called. (Actually, it was during the FASA Christmas party.) “So we’ve been thinking, and this is what we see ComStar doing during this second book.” And I’m thinking, You mean the book I’ve outlined, had approved, and am working on now? But I listened. Turns out that everything they wanted fit well into stuff I was going to do anyway, and really tightened the screws on the whole universe. In fact, the repercussions of it can still be seen in the fiction today.
With those books and all the others, I’ve been reminded of one thing: the abiding love all the readers have for the universe. Most folks look at the books as military-SF. Heck, there’s a vocal group of SF Literati who refer to such books as “war-porn.” This means, of course, that they’ve never read one, so they’ve never learned what the fans have. It’s not about war—it’s about soldiers and their lives.
I don’t get comments about how things blow up—okay, aside from ribbing about things that become “the Stackpole rule” and the like. No, the comments are about characters; how much people love or hate them. I’ve seen tears come to eyes when readers describe the passing of a favorite, or looks of joy when something goes right for someone they love.
And that points out the key to BattleTech’s enduring appeal: these stories are about life and heart, not violence and death. Writing that type of story has always been my goal. Achieving it got a fine start here in The Warrior Trilogy.
Michael A. Stackpole
COMSTAR FIRST CIRCUIT COMPOUND
HILTON HEAD ISLAND
NORTH AMERICA, TERRA
27 FEBRUARY 3029
“You are all fools, blind fools!” Myndo Waterly exploded. “Hanse Davion will drown you in your own juice while you sit here and stew. I demand action! I demand an interdiction now!”
Her outburst burned away the silent tension suffocating the oak-walled First Circuit chamber, but it did not crack Primus Julian Tiepolo’s composure.
“Precentor Dieron,” he said calmly. “You will refrain from such childish displays of emotion. You owe your fellow precentors an apology, for they are neither blind nor foolish. What we decide here will be based on intelligent, open discussion, and not be a knee-jerk response to someone shouting that the sky is falling.”
Myndo stared back at her vulture-faced superior. You are t
ired, old man, and you’re dragging ComStar into the grave along with you. I will not allow this to happen. She broke off her stare, then bowed her head in supplication. “I do apologize, but you cannot expect me to be dispassionate when I see Jerome Blake’s life dream withering.”
She looked around the chamber, taking in each of the red-robed precentors. “Like you, I have labored long and hard to see our mission is fulfilled. ComStar is the salvation of mankind and the Word of Blake is a guide to that salvation. Hanse Davion’s war against the Capellan Confederation unravels our work, yet you will do nothing to stop it. How can that be justified?”
Ulthan Everson, the large, blond man standing across from Myndo in the dimly lit chamber, accepted the challenge in her question. “Your vision of the future is not one we share, Precentor Dieron. You have cried wolf so often that we are no longer panicked by your words. You point at shadows as though they had substance. Hanse Davion’s war does not contradict Blake’s Word. It fulfills it.”
Myndo shook her golden hair back from the shoulders of her red silk robe. “Blake said wars would fragment the Successor States. Then, and only then, would ComStar rise up to lead mankind to its true pinnacle. Hanse Davion’s war has swallowed half the Capellan Confederation. It does not divide. It unites!”
“Pavel Ridzik has created his own nation from the Tikonov Commonality,” rebutted a slight, black-haired man. “Fragmentation, not fusion, Myndo.”
“Ha!” Myndo fixed him with a harsh stare. “You refer to that puppet state as a fragment? Please, Precentor Sian, do not waste my time. Hanse Davion allows Ridzik to appear to be independent, but we know the Prince has dispatched his trusted friend, Ardan Sortek, to be Ridzik’s watchdog.”
Myndo smiled cruelly. “You would be right to cite Maximilian Liao as working toward fragmentation, but all he’s doing is carving his own realm into bite-sized chunks so that Hanse Davion can gorge himself.”
Huthrin Vandel laughed. “Perhaps he hopes the Prince will choke to death.”
The Primus shook his head in silent rebuke. “Myndo is correct. Liao’s efforts have been ineffective at stemming the Davion tide. Let us not forget that Hanse Davion has justly earned the nickname of the Fox. None of us anticipated his purchasing the loyalty of Liao’s Northwind Highlanders with the world of Northwind. The Highlanders returned to their ancestral home and disrupted the Kurita assault on the Terran Corridor. It was a well-planned move on the Prince’s part.”
The Primus’s intervention on her behalf rattled Myndo slightly. Is it possible that he has begun to see the threat, or is he merely reining in his underlings? She studied Tiepolo’s face, but the man’s dark eyes and blank expression gave her no clue to his thoughts.
Myndo looked away toward the other precentors. “As I recall from our last debate on this subject, you, Precentor Sian, suggested that the Liao counterstrike in January would destroy Davion supply bases and blunt the advance on the Tikonov-Federated border. But Liao’s strike played directly into a massive Davion ambush. Capellan offensive capabilities have been destroyed, and their defensive strength is anemic.”
Precentor Sian shook his head. “May I point out, Precentor Dieron, that Hanse Davion’s troops have not moved forward since the ambush? We project that their next assault wave will come in May, at the earliest. You will recall that not all the Liao attacks were repulsed. The Fourth Tau Ceti Rangers hit Axton and managed to escape after raiding. This attack behind the lines has certainly soured the taste of victory for the Prince.”
Vandel ran his fingers back through his black hair. “As Precentor New Avalon, I can confirm that the court is not pleased that this attack was not anticipated. The Fourth Tau Ceti Rangers managed to hurt an NAIS training cadre.”
The Primus looked toward Precentor Sian. “Has your staff on the Liao capital yet figured out the significance of the message the Rangers sent out from Axton to Sian before they left? ‘Go Fish’ is a strange, though economical, communication to send during a military operation.”
In spite of herself, Myndo smiled along with her colleagues.
Villius Tejh let the snickers die before he answered the Primus’s question. “The message went to Justin Xiang. From what little we’ve been able to piece together, Xiang is hunting for a New Avalon Institute of Science facility that he believes could hold the key to a new generation of BattleMechs…”
Precentor New Avalon cut in. “That would probably be the Bethel lab complex. Very small, but staffed with some good people.”
Myndo looked to the Primus. “Our ROM agents have not infiltrated it?”
The Primus did not reply. Instead, he nodded almost imperceptibly that Precentor Sian should continue.
“Xiang has organized a strike on Bethel using the Fourth Tau Ceti Rangers,” Tejh said. “It is believed that their message from Axton indicates that they did not find the lab there. Xiang himself is supposed to lead the assault on Bethel.”
Ulthan Everson glanced at Precentor New Avalon. “What sort of defense will Xiang’s mission encounter?”
Vandel shrugged. “Davion is constantly moving troops around. If the attack goes off before the end of April, the Capellans will face a company of Davion Light Guards. If Xiang shows any of his usual inventiveness, his people will certainly win out.”
Myndo shook her head. “I cannot believe I’m listening to this chatter about one tiny aspect of this war. The Lyran Commonwealth has reshaped its border with the Draconis Combine, and Wolf’s Dragoons are single-handedly holding the Draconians out of the Federated Suns. House Marik is still at war with the Davion-sponsored separatist movements inside its own borders, and Hanse Davion is eating up the Capellan Confederation. What good can this assault by Justin Xiang do? What difference can it make?”
The Primus smiled coldly. “Precentor Dieron, are you well? How often have you admonished us that Davion is the devil incarnate because of his desire to recover the sciences lost over the last three centuries? I should think you would applaud this strike against an NAIS facility.”
“I would applaud Xiang’s effort if he were to attack the NAIS itself,” Myndo retorted angrily. Don’t try to strangle me with my own words! “Anyway, this discussion takes us away from the point of my original statement. I demand that we interdict House Davion now! If we cut off all their communications, not only do we hamper their military attacks, but we cripple the Federated Suns. The people of the Federated Suns will suffer if we allow no messages to go in or out of their worlds. This will lead to discontent, fear, and unrest. It will pull the carpet out from under the Prince. It’s the only way to stop him.”
Precentor Tharkad shook his head. “My dear Myndo, you demanded interdiction last year. We all agreed to set a threshold for what we would tolerate. We agreed to interdict communications if Davion forces attacked Sarna.”
Myndo fumed. “Need I remind you, Ulthan, that this agreement was made before Davion’s ambush and before the Prince’s only rival, Duke Michael Hasek-Davion, so conveniently took himself out of the competition? Things are far more grave now than they were then.”
“But Davion is no stronger,” Precentor Sian said heatedly. “Were we to intervene, it would make us seem partial. Hanse Davion could turn his force against us.”
Myndo Waterly raised herself to full height. “You sound as though you are afraid of him. We both know that ComStar has more BattleMechs hidden here than any of the Successor States can claim, and you know also that our machines are in better shape than anything even House Davion has. We have nothing to fear from the Fox.”
The Primus’s eyes smoldered. “In this you are very wrong, Precentor Dieron. Our impartiality makes us a trusted ally to all in the Successor States. Because of this, they allow us to transmit their communications. Through these communications, we learn about their strengths and weaknesses. We gain knowledge, and that gives us power.”
Myndo met Tiepolo’s dark gaze. “Of what use is power that we do not employ?”
The Primus’s granit
e expression did not change. “We have not said that we will not use our power. We will not use it bluntly. I will not give the order for our ’Mechs to be deployed because it would present an unfavorable image. I will, however, allow you to create a holovid of Davion troops razing one of our communications stations. With this as evidence, we have a valid excuse for discontinuing service with the Federated Suns.”
Precentor Tharkad narrowed his eyebrows. “Will the interdiction include cutting off information from Davion agents inside the Capellan Confederation?”
The Primus nodded. “In an effort to slow the Davion advance, I have already begun delaying messages containing intelligence on troop strengths and deployments going out from Davion spies.”
Myndo looked puzzled. “Why not betray the spies to the Maskirovka? I’m sure Maximilian Liao would be grateful for any enemy agents turned over to his secret police.”
Precentor Sian spoke up next. “I would not recommend that approach. Maximilian is under much pressure. He could thank us, or he could accuse us of collaborating with House Davion for not betraying the spies early enough to stop the Davion assault.”