Paid in Full
October 3, 3066
Celestial Palace, Sian
The bodyguard escorted the Chancellor into the room, warily glancing at the square half meter shipping container resting on the table. Sang-jiang-jun Zhang noticed the glance and addressed the Chancellor.
“We’ve run every scan, there’s no poison or a bomb, just the message.”
Sun Tzu looked into the box and scowled, “Do we have a confirmation?”
The Director nodded. “Yes, we’ve matched the DNA, it’s Jiang-jun Hyung-Tsei”
Liao nodded, “let me see the message.”
Zhang picked up a piece of paper gingerly, wary of touching the teeth marks at the top of the sheet.
Sun Tzu had no such compunctions and snatched the paper from Zhang’s hand. It appeared to be a bill of sale except that instead of merchandise there were four names listed. A simple message was scrawled in the payment section, “Paid in Full”. Liao’s eyebrow rose as he realized what the flaking maroon ink really was.
“It’s Hyung-Tsei’s,” Zhang confirmed.
“So it is,” the Chancellor murmured as he discarded the note and turned towards the door. “So it is.”
Long after the ruler of the Confederation had departed, the message sat on the floor.
August 7, 3066
Kerensky Parade Grounds
The Dragoon officer stood at the edge of the field, looking on. One of the largest open spaces on Harlech, the grounds hosted Gerhardt’s Grenadiers in their entirety. Nearly four thousand people stood at attention listening to their commander speak.
“I won’t lie to you, this won’t be a cake walk.” He said, as he seemed to make eye contact with his entire command. “We are planning on infiltrating deep into the Confederation to hit one of their most elite units.”
Gerhardt paused to survey the group once again, “Once there, we will execute our operation and if feasible extract as much material as possible.” Again Gerhardt paused and seemed to look into everyone’s eyes again, “but make no mistake, this is not about making a profit, this is about principle. Nor is this about revenge, this mission is not for Jannsen, Caruthers, Lewis, or Stanky. This is mission isn’t even about those who surrender in good faith with the expectation of fair treatment. This mission is about what separates civilization from barbarism.”
The Lt. Colonel began to pace across the stage. “Our ancestors learned the hard way what warfare without restraint could do. Through the ages we have had the Geneva, Nuveo Gorrado, and Ares conventions to prevent warfare from dragging us into the Dark Ages.” Gerhardt paused a second and even from this distance the Dragoon could see the pain in the Lt. Colonel’s eyes. “When someone does what was done to our comrades, they show a blatant disregard for the tenets of our civilization. When such actions go unchecked, the foundations of civilization begin to erode. If left unchecked, you eventually find that you have nothing left but ashes.”
Gerhardt again looked into their eyes, “That’s why I am going, I don’t want ashes.” He then pointed out into the assembled mass. “But what you have to ask yourself is that reason enough for the Grenadiers to go.”
A buzz arose from the crowd as Gerhardt stepped from the stage. The conversations went on for five or six minutes before a woman stepped on the stage. Her collar marked her as a major and the infantry badge on her uniform allowed the Dragoon to identify her as the Grenadiers’ XO, Karen Singultary. As she took the stage, the buzz died away to total silence.
She surveyed the crowd then spoke, “Ok, you’ve heard the Colonel, you know why he’s going. The question is are the Grenadiers going with him?”
The crowd talked among itself for a few more minutes and then hands began to be raised. The Dragoon was surprised to see nearly a full three quarters of the assembled room give their assent.
Singultary nodded. “Ok, so we go; however, this is purely voluntary. Anyone is entitled to stay here, and if they so desire we will furnish letters of recommendation so that they can sign with other units.” She looked at each of them carefully. “Think carefully about this for a second.” After a moment, she spoke again “Alright, all Grenadiers going step forward, all others are dismissed.”
The ground under the Dragoon fairly rumbled as nearly four thousand people stepped forward as one. The Dragoon smiled to himself as he watched the display. Some people thought that mercs fought for money, others claimed it was glory, and some said it was just for the homicidal joy of it. In looking at the Grenadiers’ solidarity, he was reminded that it was for a far simpler reason, brotherhood.
The Dragoon nodded as Gerhardt approached. “Colonel”
“Major Noketsuna,” Gerhardt greeted the Dragoon with a salute.
“You’ve got a good bunch there, Colonel, “ Noketsuna said as he nodded towards the Grenadiers. “I’d suspect that if you come back that your rating will warrant an upgrade.”
“When we come back, “ Gerhardt corrected him, “and this isn’t even remotely about our Dragoon rating.”
“I know, “ Noketsuna said soothingly as he handed the noteputer to Gerhardt. “Here the data you requested.”
The Colonel took the ‘puter and nodded his thanks. “Have your people contact my administration team before we leave and we’ll get the payment squared away.”
The major shook his head, “Not necessary sir, this info is courtesy of the Commander.” Noketsuna hid a smile at Gerhardt’s reaction, it wasn't an uncommon one. After all, the Dragoons had only ever had one commander.
“It’s like you said, it’s a matter of principle.”
September 16, 3066
Tormax Liao Training Facility
Exact Location Classified
Jiang-jun Michael Hyung-Tsei walked his Emperor around the assembled soldiers with a feeling of intense satisfaction. In his mind, the men and women assembled below him represented the best the Confederation could offer. Two years ago they had been nearly two hundred strong. Since that time they had been tried and tested. Though only a handful had voluntarily quit, eighty percent had died in training while another thirteen percent had been permanently disabled. Twelve though had persevered and thus earned the right to be called Death Commandos. Now it was his command lance's privilege to personally welcome them into their unit.
Hyung-Tsei turned from the assembled warriors to look at the mechs standing silently behind them. Each was brand new and Confederation-made, he noted with more satisfaction. His admiration of the lines of a new Archer was interupted as his ears began to discerned a low rumble. Almost simultaneously, his comm system began to chirp urgently, a priority message form his dropship!
“Speak,” he commanded as he keyed the mike.
“Jiang-jun, two dropships have just broke from their assigned routes and are headed in your direction.” The Celestial Wrath’s captain informed him.
“Class,” Hyung-Tsei demanded.
“Two Mule class dropships, Jian-j… stand by,” the captain abruptly paused. “Is that one breaking up?” he asked to some unseen crewman.
The rumbling was growing louder, below him the warriors began to look around in confusion. “Talk to me, Sang-wei,” the Jiang-jun ordered.
The captain came back, sounding considerably more anxious. “Sir, second dropship had some kind of deceptive hull plating which it just shed. The target is actually an Overlord, I repeat Overlord class vessel!”
Hyung-Tsei keyed his external speakers, “All warriors to your mechs, this is not a drill!”
As people began to scramble towards their mounts, Hung-Tsei began to formulate a battle plan in his mind. He couldn’t help but smile at the misfortune of the poor pirates for choosing this area to raid. The chirping of the comm interrupted his thoughts again.
“Jiang-jun, the dropships are now broadcasting IFF codes, they are identifying themselves as Gerhardt’s Grenadiers.”
Hyung-Tsei racked his mind trying to remember why that sounded familiar. Then his smile faded as he remembered who they were and what he had done to them.
“Jiang-jun, targets have altered vector and are on an intercept course with your position, repeat are on an intercept course with yo… stand by.” When the captain came back, his voice was a mixture of wonder and panic “Sir, the Overlord has begun drop operations, you are… under attack.”
As the dropships began to light the sky like a new-spawned pair of suns, Hyung-Tsei looked out at the mechwarriors scrambling into their machines and knew that they would never make it in time.