Catoptromancy

Jump Ship Sweet Surrender

Nadir Jump Point

Cursa, Free Worlds League

 

Something was wrong.  Not just in the sense that whole portions of the Inner Sphere seemed to be disappearing to the Clans; whatever they were.  Something else.  The bar had gone quiet.  Mason, looked up from his noteputer slowly.  His hackles weren’t up, but certainly something was wrong. 

“Mister Garrilac?”

He grabbed the zero g bulb still half filled with whiskey from its magnetic base on the bar and jammed the narrow end into his mouth.  If things were about to be bad he figured one last drink couldn’t hurt.  He squeezed the bulb, savoring the burning of the liquid and carefully turned around to face the voice.  It was a young man in a bridge uniform.  He had friends; four of them.  He peered past the speaker at the muscle he had brought. One was obviously a mechanic and the others wore security uniforms.  This must have been half the contingent on shift.  Quite the disruption for a civilian jump ship.

“Can I help you son?”  Mason smiled, as he slid his hand into pocket of his robe that held a small needler pistol.

“Yes, Sir.  The Captain would like you to know we have received an encrypted transmission from Cursa and that they are waiting to speak with you.”

“Really? That’s odd.”

“It is, Sir.”

“Why the muscle?” The young officer looked sheepish and lean close, whispering.

“We were told that you were a VIP and that your safety was of utmost concern.  These men will serve as your bodyguard for the time being.”

“I’m just an old man trying to get home.”

“Of course you are, Sir.” The officer winked at him and Mason rolled his one good eye.  Things were definitely not normal, but he didn’t feel any danger yet.   Curiosity is all he felt.  A small voice warned him that nothing good came to the curious, and he knew it was right, but he couldn’t help himself.

“Lead the way, son.”  Mason unbuckled from his seat and placed his slipper clad fleet on the adhesive strips that would allow him to “walk” in the zero G environment of the jumpship and casually pulled his hand out of the pocket.

*****

Mason had been taken to the bridge and shown to the Captain’s anteroom there. Whatever was going on they treated him like he was Hanse Davion.  It weirded him out but still there was no sense of danger.  The vidscreen came to life when he approached and he found himself looking at an aged but familiar face.

“Talon?”

“Lord Commander.”

“What the hell is this all about, not that I’m not happy to see you; uh, is my granddaughter still with you or did she finish her training as the ISF academy?”

“Vijaya has done well and she has decided to stay beyond her tutelage to serve as my adjunct.”  Talon stepped out of frame and in the background a young woman in military fatigues stood silently at parade rest, her face severe and unreadable. She nodded and Talon stepped back into frame.

“Good for her, I, uh… this isn’t a social call is it?  Why are you on Cursa?”

“I, that is to say, we, are not.  We’re on Outreach.”

“Wait, are you telling me this is a live HPG call, that’s incredibly expensive.  What’s so important; did something happen to my daughter or the Emperor?”

“Nothing like that, look we know you fought the Clans a few months back. That you managed to survive them.  Things are in motion.  The Coordinator and Director Indrahar have asked for the names of certain kinds of people.  Your name came up and you are wanted on Outreach before 3051 rolls around.”

“Look I appreciate the gesture, but I’m done.  Me and Carlyle screwed the pooch and I’m going home to retire the way I should have decades ago. Besides I’m months, almost home out and wouldn’t make it till February” 

“That’s not going to work Mason; look, I’ve got someone here who wants to talk to you.” Talon stepped back from the camera and a new face entered the video.  The man on screen was rail thin, almost gaunt and in a way a mirror image of Mason.  Where mason was dressed in black traveling robes, the man’s were white and gold.  Both were missing an eye and both bore the look of men who had seen more than their share of hardship.  Mason squinted, studying the man and noticed the blue disk and star emblem on his shoulder.

“Motherfucker, Talon you get your ass back here I’m not talking to ComStar!” The man remained unruffled by Mason’s demand and Talon did not return.

“Lord Commander Garrilac, a pleasure to meet you.”

“Who the hell are you?”

“Anastasius Focht, Precentor Martial of ComStar.”

“Alright ‘fucked‘, what do you want?”  Focht diplomatically ignored the slight.

“I understand you went to Apollo to retrieve HPG tech but failed to do so, that your world is ready to rejoin the Inner Sphere, is that correct?”

“Yes, and how the hell did you find out?” Mason noted that his hackles were up.  Here, was the danger.

“ROM, of course, also the Emperor of Zathras, your daughter, and the planetary Parliament.  I’ve spoken to them all and they filled me in on what transpired.” Mason staggered like he had been slapped.

“I’ve made a deal with them, one that I need to finalize with you.  I have provided your world with acolytes to return the HPG there to function, and they will answer not to ComStar, but to your government.  We will even train your techs on how to operate the equipment.”

“Very generous; but not to repair it?”

“I had a hard enough time convincing the first circuit to give you this.”

“I’ll bet.”  Mason’s words came out as a growl. “So what did Zathras give up for this… beneficence.”

“You.” A chill ran down Mason’s spine, the world seemed to teeter. “You have twice defeated ROM, and now survived the Clans.  You have a history of tactical and strategic thinking that is nearly peerless.  You make the hardest of calls, and you managed to do it with only the most limited and primitive of resources.  A talent, I need.”

“I don’t understand.”

“The Clans are coming.  I’m arranging a unified response.  In exchange for your cooperation I’m giving your world what it needs, and I’m going to give you something too. Vengeance.”  Mason’s senses snapped back into clarity.

“For my grandson.”

“Yes.”

“What’s the price?” Blood was pounding in Mason’s ears like a drum

“Like I said; you are the price.  We want you to join ComStar, to help me prosecute a war that will rival the  scope of the fall of the Star League.”

“Seems like a small price.”

“The Inner Sphere itself is in danger, all of it, even Zathras.  You’ve seen what the Clans can do.  Imagine that on your world in 2 years time.”

“Fine, what do I do?”

“You will take a shuttle to the Jumpship Marcus Aurelius.  From there I have a Command Circuit set up to ferry you to outreach by new year’s eve.”

“What about my dropship and my troops?”  Focht stepped away from the camera.  Vijaya stepped forward.

“Mother has asked that you send them on, leaving the highest ranking officer in charge.”

“Easy enough.”

“The Emperor asks that you take care to insure my brother is still secure and that he is returned for honors.” Mason swallowed hard.

“Of, course… and Carlyle?”

“Mother wants his remains spaced. He doesn’t get to come home.”

“And me…”  Mason’s voice broke. Vijaya leaned close to the camera.

“Penance first.”  Mason nodded.  Focht returned to the camera.

“Are you ready?”

“Excellent.  I look forward to meeting you; I think we have much in common.” Focht smiled.

“Maybe. Are you missing one of these too” Mason held up his red cybernetic fist.

“Not yet, but we can compare scars over Highlander Scotch later” Focht left the camera’s view and Talon reappeared.

“You sold me out?” Talon shook his head.

“Just honoring the Dragon, you know how it is.”

“Do I ever.”  Talon turned and nodded to Vijaya who moved close to the camera and microphone.

“Mom’s angry.”

“I can tell.”

“Not at you though, at Carlyle and Arjun.  She’s mostly just feeling lost.”

“And your father?”

“He didn’t handle it well.  He was always soft on Arjun.  Lilavati hasn’t been told yet.  She’s still studying at NAIS.  They plan to tell her when she comes home to visit in the spring.  They didn’t want to keep her from her Doctorate studies.”  Vijay looked out of frame.  “Look, we have to go.  I’ll see you soon Grandpa, I love you.”

“I love you too, peanut”  

The screen flickered and went dark.  Mason made his way out of the anteroom and back onto the bridge.  He explained his need for a small shuttle and asked that his Dropship Captain be sent to meet him in the bar.  The Jumpship Captain graciously agreed and Mason made his way into the passenger area of the ship, security entourage in tow.  Floating down steel corridors he vaguely wondered if he would look good in a white robe, and whether or not he would ever see Zathras again, or put an end to these Clans and find peace for Arjun.