Bruce Quest, Transit Trouble for Wayward Writers.

LordsFire

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I'm not sure how long it'll take to port the whole bloody thing over here, or even if I want to try to start moving the *whole thing*, but I can start posting new updates here, at least.

Here's the original thread, from SB:

Here's the second thread, from SB:
 
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LTR

Don't Look Back In Anger
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I never got into Quests I suppose... I was super active in the Story Debates however. Perhaps the time has come

Is this a Batman quest?
Oooohhhhh..... you wanna do a Batman quest. I can be Batwoman and you can be my Robin. :sneaky:

Oh wait nvm NSFW RP'ing isn't open yet.
 

7 Gold Eye Heals the Wise

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Operative word, right there.

Anyways, we need a "Battletech: Metal Wolf Rising" quest. It'd basically be "Metal Wolf Chaos meets Battletech". As soon as I'm familiarized with BT, I might make it myself.
 
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901. A heady message.

LordsFire

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AN: First update I'm cross-posting here. Seemed like a decent number to start on.

((()))

“Your highness.”

Katrina looked up from the memo she'd been reading during breakfast, to see Simon Johnson standing in the doorway of her quarters, a security team moving a cart with what looked like a thermally-insulated box in a transparent isolation chamber on it.

“What is it Simon?” Katrina asked.

“A package arrived today,” Simon said, “The sending name was 'A Lyran Patriot,' the addressing text and everything put together using some standard tradecraft tricks to make it fairly untraceable, especially given it was shipped in from off-world. The officer of the watch in the mail screening station called me in directly, and after reviewing its contents, I though you would want to see it first thing in the morning.”

“This must be fairly important then,” Katrina noted, rising from the small table where she had been eating, “Well, bring it in.”

“I am obliged to warn you,” Simon noted as the security team rolled the cart in, “The contents are rather unpleasant. I'm not certain if you'd prefer to finish your breakfast first or not.”

“I served in the infantry,” Katrina said, rolling her eyes slightly, “I'll be fine.”

“Very well,” Simon said with a nod, offering her a sheet of paper, “Here's a copy of the message it arrived with.”

Katrina took the sheet and read the message over; it didn't take long.

The game of houses can often call for subterfuge and intrigue, but there is a line between deception and treachery. When that line is crossed, the time comes for the tree of liberty to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I have a vested interest in seeing to it that the blood comes more from the latter than the former. With that in mind, I present a gift to the Archon; a little piece of mind, and a token of my esteem.

-A Lyran Patriot.


“At your word ma'am,” one of the security team said as Katrina set the message aside.

“Open it,” Katrina said with a nod.

The isolation chamber around the box was of the sort that came with a built-in set of long sealed gloves, so that whatever was within could be manipulated without the need of opening it. The leader of the security team stuck his arms into the gloves, and carefully unlatched the thermal box, before sliding the lid off.

The dead eyes of Aldo Lestrade stared up at Katrina.

“Well then,” Katrina said softly, staring at the disembodied head with powerful but somewhat conflicted emotions, “Somebody decided they'd had enough of 'The Dwarf.' Simon, did anything come with this that would give any kind of legal justification?”

“A recording of an extremely incriminating conversation with Duke Brecker,” Simon said, “Which included some limited incriminating information regarding Brecker, in regards to possible information leak through his daughter, who may have learned of the wedding before the official announcement. The overall course of the conversation, given this result, suggests that Brecker was knowingly fishing for incriminating statements on Lestrade's behalf to record.”

“What level of incrimination are we talking about,” Katrina said, stepping around the isolation box to study the frozen head from a different angle.

“He was speaking openly of planning to have yourself and Melissa assassinated,” Simon said, “Specifically in an attempt to derail the wedding.”

“It seems someone has both saved me the trouble,” Katrina said with a humorless smile, “And stolen my thunder. What of Brecker?”

“After the investigation into his affairs that just completed,” Simon said with a faint hint of irritation, “He has reportedly been vacationing on a private island for the last two months. In isolation, of course, so we can neither confirm that he has been there the whole time, nor find any evidence of him leaving it, much less traveling to Summer. I have a low-visibility team en-route to investigate; do you want me to add a more overt investigation?”

“No,” Katrina said, shaking her head and gesturing for the security officer to close the box, “Not after the last investigation just finished. The low-key team will do for now. I'll want to hear that recording though.”

“Of course ma'am,” Simon said, “What story will we be going public with regarding this?”

“The truth, of course,” Katrina replied, “It's no more or less than Aldo deserves.”

((()))

“What's the big bustle?” you say as you enter Aifric's room, closing the door behind you after Coaimhe gestures for you to do so.

“There's a big political shitstorm going down in the Commonwealth,” Aifric says, “Brunhilde just got squirted this ahead of the official announcement going out from the palace.”

You turn your attention to Brunhilde who, you find, is very blatantly pointing the camera on her tablet your way, an odd expression on her face.

“That news being?” you ask dryly, wondering what sort of reaction she's expecting.

“A few days ago,” Brunhilde says, “Someone delivered Aldo Lestrade's head to the Archon in a box, sans the rest of his body.”

Actual Aldo Lestrade's head?” you ask, “Not a clever forgery?”

“Certain enough for official diplomatic dispatches between the Triad and New Avalon,” Brunhilde says, scowling a touch at your lack of interesting response or quote.

“Well in that case,” you say with a toothy grimace that could, by some charitable definitions, be considered a smile, “I wish success to whatever investigative the Archon has assigned to track down the responsible parties, and that whatever sort of warning or threat they were attempting to send, the Archon will ignore it with her customary implacability.”

Mary starts giggling behind Brunhilde, and Coaimhe snorts.

“You forgot to mention that proof he had committed treason was delivered with the head,” Aifric points out dryly.

Dammit,” Brunhilde grumbles, “This is harder to set up properly than I thought. How do you lot do this all the time?”

“Practice,” you say with a small smirk.

“Let's try this again,” Brunhilde says, manipulating her tablet in a way that you suspect is ending one recording, and beginning another, “Rhiannon, what do you think of the official announcement that Aldo Lestrade has both just been proven to be a traitor, and his head has been anonymously delivered to the Triad?”

What say?
[] Write-in.


((()))
 
902. Words for public consumption?

LordsFire

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[X] "It is regrettable that whoever took this action could not arrange to see him delivered properly to the courts to see justice done in the light instead of with a dagger in the dark. Mostly because his death leaves little chance to determine the depths of his crimes that may have had no record outside of his own memories, and thus no chance to provide proper closure and restitution to the victims doubtless left in his wake. I would implore anyone who has previously been cowed into silence by his reputation and actions to come forward so that the most complete picture can be assembled."

-[X] " And improper as it may be, I would like to buy the person who did it a drink, and then kick them in the shins for preempting any vengeance I might have taken for the insult he offered to Clan Bruce. "

[X] Start in Gaelic, repeat in every language in which we we are fluent.


((()))

“Is cúis mhór imní é nár chuir é seo isteach i seomra cúirte é,” You say, “Ba chóir ceartas a dhéanamh go hoscailte, seachas déileáil le foirm níos amhrasaí le dagger sa dorchadas. Má bhí an cruthúnas dochloíte go leor do Katrina Steiner agus dá foireann dlí machnamh a dhéanamh ar an bhfear ciontach, áfach, is é sciar an náire gur deis caillte é an scéal faoi cibé coireanna eile a d'fhéadfadh sé a dhéanamh a tharraingt amach, go háirithe na cinn a bheidh a bheith dodhéanta go feidhmiúil gan a fhianaise féin a nochtadh.”

“...That's lovely,” Brunhilde says with a sigh, “But if you could repeat it in a language those outside of Somerset and Skye will understand?”

“It's a shame whoever did this didn't get him into a courtroom,” you repeat in English, “Justice should be done openly, rather than dealt in a more questionable form with a dagger in the dark. If the proof was conclusive enough for Katrina Steiner and her legal team to consider the man guilty though, the lion's share of the shame is that it's a lost opportunity to drag out the tale of whatever other crimes he might have committed, especially ones that will be functionally impossible to uncover without his own testimony.”

You pause for a moment to consider.

“Point of fact,” you continue, “Hopefully now that he's not around breathing down people's necks, whoever is in a position to do so will come out with evidence, or confessions, as to his crimes, including any they were extorted into taking part in.”

“That's a decent point,” Mary says with a nod, “I'm sure the Archon will have people on trying to draw people out, with rewards or plea bargain offers as appropriate.”

“Cleaning up as much of the seditionist wing of Skye loyalists as possible would be good,” you say with a shrug, “If Free Skye wanted any kind of legitimacy, they should have acted decisively when Alessandro was in power, acting as both a tyrant and failing to protect the realm. Arguments can at least be made for independence at times such as that, but after the tyrant is overthrown by someone both just and competent? Bad optics, right there. Now, Brunhilde, would you like me to repeat that in all the other languages I know?”

“Maybe later,” Brunhilde says, putting the tablet down, “I'm waiting for word from my father on this, but I don't need him to tell me this is big. Also, it'll be nice not trying to straddle two horses politically anymore. What do you think it'll mean for your position?”

“It means I don't have to plan for the Archon using me as her point woman to defeat him in the court of public opinion,” you say with a shrug as you look around Aifric's somewhat-crowded room for a seat, “Which is good, because I've got a tour of service to complete, which is almost certainly going to involve sustained heavy combat, and then I'm hoping to be starting a family, during which I'll have to deal with a variety of political and economic concerns around Somerset and the Capellan March. Having Lestrade out of the picture opens up my time for much more important tasks.”

“So he's just an irritant?” Brunhilde asks with some amusement.

“That's what I had thought,” you say, shaking your head, “But if he'd expanded into outright treason, he was a real and tangible enemy, not just another nasty political windbag with more clout than he deserved. If I didn't know he wouldn't go off the reservation like that, I'd almost suspect William set the whole thing up to help me cut down on stress.”

That gets a few laughs out of the Kitten Mafia, as well as a giggle out of Liadan, who is your current shadow, loitering just inside the door.

“I have to say I'm glad Nondi Steiner is out in Tamar again,” Mary says, “With Aten flexing her political muscle and Lestrade out of commission, there's going to be at least a few political actors that want Katrina out who are going to try to put some pressure on the other Archduke in play. He's in the Archon's camp, but less so than Aten, so there's not a whole lot of places for some of those Lestrade had been working with to go.”

“Alessandro still has a fair bit of pull,” Wentworth points out.

“Yes,” Brunhilde says shaking her head, “But unless Katrina's reforms to the LCAF prove as disastrous as Alessandro's Concentrated Weakness, that's just going to keep waning, rather than growing. Besides, rumors are that he's terminally ill. Speculated to be related to the reason he was never able to produce an heir, even though he's known to have had a number of witnesses.”

“Whether he's sick or not,” you say, shaking your head in turn, “Unless the DCMS has been undergoing the same kind of overhaul as the LCAF, at a minimum combat performance will improve, even if we don't see some serious ground made up. Hell, with the way that Hanse has been putting pressure on the Dracs, the only reason they aren't in retreat already, is because the Wolf's Dragoons shoring up their border with the FedSuns. Unless anyone here wants to argue that the Archon's reforms and new equipment roll-outs won't make a drastic difference on the border once they're finished?”

“Nobody here is going to try to argue that,” Wentworth says with a snort, “And Aldo being out of the picture may cause some short-term chaos in Skye because of the power vacuum, but unless someone a lot more effective than him swoops in to take over, this is good for the entirety of the future Federated Commonwealth. If nothing else, valuable intelligence assets can be watching external enemies, rather than being busy trying to track and impair a traitor within.”

“Well said,” Mary says, nodding respectfully to Wentworth, “So, what kind of attitude about this do we want to present to the Feddies? They're going to want our thoughts on this, especially in light of the wedding announcement, and how Skye is the essential conduit between the nations on the Lyran end.”

What say?
[] Write-in.


((()))

AN: Google translate, truly a wonderfully mixed blessing of a tool.
 

Ganurath

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I'm not sure how long it'll take to port the whole bloody thing over here, or even if I want to try to start moving the *whole thing*, but I can start posting new updates here, at least.
Maybe make a Story Only thread to archive the older contents? It'd have the added benefit of being able to touch up old errors and the like, and being able to do it in increments at whatever pace you're comfortable with.
 

Lancelot

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The game of houses can often call for subterfuge and intrigue, but there is a line between deception and treachery. When that line is crossed, the time comes for the tree of liberty to be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants. I have a vested interest in seeing to it that the blood comes more from the latter than the former. With that in mind, I present a gift to the Archon; a little piece of mind, and a token of my esteem.

-A Lyran Patriot.
I just noticed this evil, horrible, hilarious pun.

"With that in mind, I present a gift to the Archon; a little piece of mind, and a token of my esteem."

"a little piece of mind"
 
903. Timing Along Again.

LordsFire

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[x] We can be honest. The man's politics were deluded, personally he was a scumbag, and treason typically bears a death sentence for a reason. But he was slippery enough for the last years to avoid anything overt that would incriminate himself enough to justify further action against him. He's the embodiment of what was wrong with the Commonwealth, but was clever enough to exploit the privilege he had inside of it. So much so even his friends couldn't put up with him any longer, it would seem.

((()))

“I see no reason to be fancy about this in any way,” you say with a shrug, “Be honest with the best information we have. He was deluded politically, a scumbag personally, and there's a reason treason has a death sentence attached to it.”

“A good reason,” Liadan says with a scowl.

“Yes,” Mary says with a nod, “He was slippery enough to get away with his crap for years, but sooner or later his kind of BS catches up with him. Lestrade is an example of how the Commonwealth's system can be abused, especially for highly-privileged people. Given the person who offed him did so anonymously, it was probably one of his 'friends' that got tired of his BS behind this.”

“Can I see the actual text of the release?” you ask Brunhilde, “Does it include anything about what he actually did?”

“Certainly,” Brunhilde says with a shrug, passing her tablet over.

“Might want to take a seat before you read that,” Wentworth warns.

You give her an odd look, but given she in no way appears to be joking, and Wentworth isn't disposed to making such suggestions lightly, you find a patch of floor next to Mary's seat to seat yourself on, before reading the contents of the release.

From the Desk of Archon Katrina Steiner.

LIC's Triad offices received a package earlier this week containing both the mortal remains of Aldo Lestrade, and evidence proving multiple enactments of high treason. For reasons of security, copies of this evidence will not be made public, but later this week members of the press with security clearance will be invited to view said evidence, though recordings and copies will not be permitted; full release is likely within twelve to eighteen months, once possible vulnerability windows have expired.

Known treasonous actions on the part of Lestrade include, but are not limited to, conspiracy to assassinate the Archon, blackmail of peers of the realm, and passing information to the ISF which lead to the Battle of Thorin-


The tablet drops as your fists clench.

How dead is he exactly?” you ask sharply, something ugly flaring to life inside of your chest, “Because I want to know if he can be made deader.”

“He was decapitated,” Aifric says, “'Head chopped off' is pretty terminal. I can't say I wouldn't mind stepping on it a few times with my Rampage though.”

“Burn it,” you snap, “Then mix the ashes with raw sewage, and plant the stinkiest, nastiest flower you can find in ground fertilized with it. Then burn the flower, and salt the earth.”

“Someone's salty,” Aifric observes drily, “He tried to get all of us killed, you know?”

“And he did kill some of my men!” you shout, turning to glare at her, “I should have crushed his throat when I had the chance!”

Something touches your shoulder, and you whip around to see Mary with a gentle, sad expression on her face.

“He's dead,” Mary says firmly, before carefully pulling you into a tight hug, “He won't be sending kill teams after anyone else again, and you can bet that the Archon has everyone up to and including Loki out there rolling up what's left of his network, the parts that aren't already destroying each other without him there to keep them under control.”

“I'm sure Simon Johnson could use a little help,” you say, trying to push yourself to your feet, and failing somewhat as Mary holds you in place, “William and I have had to find his turned agents often enough as it is.”

Calm down,” Mary insists, leaning harder against you as you try to stand up again, “He's dead, the battle is over, we have all kinds of intelligence captured from both things to work against this happening again. Let go.

You grit your teeth and wrestle with the thing in your chest, taking deep breaths to try to vent what feels like furious steam boiling up inside of you.

“Rhiannon,” Coaimhe says, moving up to sit in front of you, taking one of your clenched fists and gently clasping it between her hands, “This is in the past. Killing him again might make you feel better if it was possible, but it's done and gone. Let go.”

You force the hand she's holding to relax, and as you do so, the thing in your chest starts to slowly calm down, allowing your body to relax.

“This sucks,” you grumble.

“It does,” Mary agrees, “But with Lestrade gone, it sucks a bit less.”

((()))

The next couple of days are kind of rough, as it feels like the part of you that died with your men at Thorin has been scraped bloody and raw all over again, but as it did the first time, the fury and frustration fades.

Which just leaves your full class-load, your combined Senior Design project, and the regular but smaller-scale training exercises you're put through. None of the exercises are all that long, part of Friday, all weekend, then part of Monday for the single longest, but it's very clear that Hanse and Katrina had clear requirements of the NAIS and visiting Nagelring faculty for the exercises.

In some exercises, it's straight Lyrans vs Feddies. In some it's mixed forces on both sides. In some it's mixed forces against faculty-controlled forces. In several of the exercises, cadet-officers command their cadet platoons in the field, though thus far only in small-scale simulations and a couple platoon-on-platoon infantry exercises in the field.

Knowing Hanse, his understanding of morale, and his sense of showmanship, you strongly suspect there's going to be a budget-breaking exercise at the end of the year designed to put absolutely everybody through the ringer together.

((()))

“I know it's not quite Christmas yet,” Hanse says one day in December during breakfast, one of the grins Mary has started commented about wanting to either punch or kiss on his face, “But I've got a bit of an early present for you. Care to guess what it is?”

What say?

((()))

AN: Chugging along again. Perception of time passing can be a very strange thing.
 
904. Flying Surprises.

LordsFire

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[X] Go full ham, hands drawn up under chin and eyes wide - "Is it a pony?"
- [x] *Gasp* "Or a Pony Warriors plushie?"
- [x] *Another Gasp* "No, wait, you've convinced the Odd Taste to start franchising across the 'sphere."
- [x] *Yet Another Gasp* "No, wait, you've got a Morgan for me?"


((()))

“...Is it a Pony?” you ask, affecting wide-eyed wonder.

“...No,” Hanse replies, raising an eyebrow at you, “I'm not familiar with any Dropships or ASFs by that name.”

“...Is it a Pony Warriors plushie?” you ask, affecting deep and careful thought about your answer.

“No,” Hanse says with a chuckle, “What would you do with one anyways?”

“Cuddle with it while I slept?” you say with a shrug, “Store it behind the headrest in my cockpit? I'm honestly not sure.”

“I'll have to consider getting one for Mel at some point,” Hanse says with a shrug, “She never mentioned a favorite in any of her letters from back when she was watching that show though.”

“Did you convince the Odd Taste to start franchising across the Inner Sphere?” you ask.

“Hah!” Hanse said, shaking his head, “It's probably too hard to find chefs with that particular kind of palette, where they can tell what will still appeal to plenty of people, in spite of being a very odd combination.”

“Well then,” you say, shifting your chair back from the table by a foot and a half or so, “If it's none of those, could it be…. A Morgan?”

“Bingo!” Hanse says, pointing towards you with one hand, while the other points towards the door, which opens just in time for your man to receive the flying tackle you've just launched off of your chair.

Slamming into Morgan's chest drives a half-grunt, half-chuckle out of the man as he wraps his arms around you, then fumbles around a bit to get you into the right position for a hello kiss and some tight cuddling.

“Hello Rhi,” Morgan says, his voice rumbling through his chest into yours, “I've missed you.”

“So have I,” you say, your own voice muffled against his shoulder.

Long moments past, spent just breathing together, Morgan laying his head over yours as he moves fully into the breakfast room and appropriates a chair.

“You know,” Hanse says with gentle amusement, “It's at times like this that I'm both how small, and how young you are. Mel would completely bowl me over if she tried a stunt like that.”

“Well,” you reply as you squirm around a little to get properly situated in Morgan's lap, “It's not Mel's fault that Morgan's better-built than you are.”

“A fair bit younger too,” Morgan says with a smirk, teasing the crown of your head a little with his chin, “I'd have written you ahead Rhi, but Hanse wanted this to be a surprise.”

“The Fox and his surprises,” you snort, rolling your eyes as you lay your arms over Morgan's, which are properly wrapped around your waist, “Hanse, if you don't look out, I'll start trying to pull surprises on you.”

Start?” Hanse says somewhat incredulously, “So what was the Jackson, not to mention Magnusson supposed to be?”

“Those weren't intentional,” you say dismissively, “I meant things I actually have some control over. Like whether or not to let you know William has gotten his hands on a schmuck like Rapperman. Next time, I might just show up to the big press event, and have William pull the big POW out of a hat then.

“That sounds more like a prank on the press and the PR branch than me,” Hanse says with a smirk, “But good news comes with the bad in this case, I'm afraid. Well, and some extra good news too; Marie is visiting, but Michael came with as well, and you're going to have to meet him to have a chat bout the whole relationship thing you have going there.”

“Good,” you say with a nod, “Better sooner than later. When are we scheduled to meet him?”

“This evening,” Morgan says, sounding distinctly pleased, “I've been transferred to the Third Guards RCT, so I'll be stationed on planet for at least a standard duty rotation.”

“Which is generally between nine months and two years in the AFFS, right?” you ask.

“Amongst junior officers, yes,” Morgan says with a nod, “So at a minimum, I should be here for the rest of your time at the NAIS.”

“He's up for promotion to Captain soon anyways,” Hanse notes, “And there isn't a slot open in the Heavy Guards, but there will be soon in the Third. It's a reasonable transfer, and like I told you some time ago Rhiannon… you will see the debts that the Suns, House Davion, and myself owe you repaid. Letting you have time with your beau is a fairly easy, and rather small, partial payment on that.”

You smile brightly as Morgan squeezes you a bit tighter for a moment.

“As cute as the two of you are,” Hanse says after a moment, “I'm quite certain Morgan hasn't eaten breakfast yet, so you probably shouldn't keep him from the table.”

“Bah,” you say dismissively, leaning forward and patting Morgan on the thigh to indicate he should scoot forward, “We can double-team breakfast just fine.”

Over the next quarter hour, the two of you work an amusing mixture of maneuvering arms around each other and helping feed each other as you finish your own breakfast mash, and help sate Morgan's prodigious appetite. You also exchange various bits of small talk and catching up, though there's only so much to do, given your regular correspondence.

“So,” Hanse says once you're reasonably un-distracted again, “As things are in the open in regards to me and Mel now, there's a lot less in the way of political consequences if the two of you decide to tie the knot. As Morgan is unlikely to end up as my heir now, you don't need my approval, though you have it nonetheless. What do the two of you intend to do about Michael?”

"I brought a certain Ring with me,” Morgan says, his posture shifting a bit beneath you as he squares up to stare Hanse in the eye, “And my father at least is aware of my intentions. I'll be asking him formally the day after he meets Rhiannon. If he tries to deny us without a damn good reason, mother has told me she'll divorce him.”

Um.

React how?
[] Write-in.


((()))
AN: Some people don't much believe in messing around.\
 
905. Getting Ready for Dinner.

LordsFire

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[x] I...don't know whether to be flattered she'd go that far for you and me or just sad she'd even have to consider it at all. I wish she didn't have any reason to.

((()))

“I'm not sure if I should be flattered she'd go that far for us,” you say, shifting around sideways on Morgan's lap so you can get your arms around him again, “Or just sad she'd even have to consider it. It has to be really hard for her to have a relationship like that.”

“It's not easy,” Morgan says with a grimace as he holds you close, “But she's not going to let my father walk all over her.”

“I don't think anybody in this room is the sort to be walked over,” Hanse says with a modest smile, “Now, is there anything else you'd like to discuss with me, before I get back to work, and let you two go find some music?”

“Nothing comes to mind,” Morgan says, shaking his head, a move you mirror.

“A good day to the two of you then,” Hanse says with a smile, before rising from the table, and heading out.

“So,” Morgan says, a smile returning to his face as he looks down at you, “I've been picking up a new form of dancing. Would you like me to show you?”

You grin.

((()))

You spend a good hour and change in a mid-sized room at Davion Palace getting a good workout in with Morgan

(((()))

Unfortunately, you still have classes and other responsibilities that call you back to campus soon enough, and you're back through NAIS security in time for lunch. The daily grind continues, though you find yourself humming happily rather than feeling restless throughout the day. You're scheduled to have dinner with Morgan and his parents at 7 PM at one of the fancy on-campus restaurants, and while you're not exactly positively disposed towards Michael, he can hardly be more imposing than Hanse or Katrina, and certainly not enough so to spoil your good mood about dinner with Morgan.

Things are winding along towards finals, and with the aggressive pace set in NAIS classes, that also means that the last week or so of class is review. Working through the same material again is a mixture of dull and interesting, as it is a rehash, but reviewing it in light of having some idea how it's actually applied, both in supporting later material, and in how you've ended up using it in your design project, puts it in something of a new light. It's also, thankfully, somewhat easier than continuing to cover new material constantly, allowing you to 'ease up' a little with the amount of frenetic aggression you put into things.

Of course, when Mary swings by to see if you're ready to go down for dinner, she finds out that you won't be joining the kitten mafia as usual, and why.

“Did you already get to dance with him?” Mary asks eagerly, grinning widely just reading your expression, “You did! Do you think I can blackmail Hanse into a double-date that includes dancing somewhere appropriately discrete?”

“...Probably?” you say, “Still holding not dancing with you at the Harvest Ball over his head?”

“You bet!” Mary says cheerfully, “I've only got so many months that I get to hold 'hiding me away in secret' over him for, so I need to take advantage of that while I can. Do you know if he's planning to propose while he's on-planet?”

A silly grin spreads across your face again, and Mary crows in victory.

“It's technically dependent on his father's approval,” you try to caution, “But that's mostly a formality at this point, which is also part of why I'm having dinner with him tonight, so that he can get to know me some. With Marie's support though, there's not much leeway he has.”

“Not to mention the whole 'instant ace' thing,” Mary says with a snort, “I'm still not sure if it's a good or a bad thing just how much more weight that carries here than in the Commonwealth.”

“If we weren't in a time of perpetual war,” you say, shaking your head, “I'd say it's unhealthy; war is ultimately about destroying the enemy, rather than building yourself up. But we have been at war for longer than our grandparents lived, and the Suns in particular aren't against enemies you can afford to lose to.”

“Yeah,” Mary says, sticking her tongue out in distaste, “But let's leave the more morose subjects for some other time. Do you know what you're going to wear for dinner?”

“My uniform?” you say, looking at her a bit oddly.

“No, no, no!” Mary says, shaking her head emphatically, “You might be on campus, and a military cadet, but it's a fancy restaurant. Half the fancy places on campus have live music in the evening; you might even get to dance. You should be wearing something appropriately fancy and formal, and no, your dress uniform isn't going to count! Something with a skirt.”

“Weren't we just talking about how the Feddies respect military accomplishments that much more than Lyrans do?” you shoot back.

“Yes,” Mary says, “But knowing Morgan, his father is already plenty aware of your accomplishments. You need to be ready to have a good dance with Morgan, and believe me, once Michael sees you and his son dancing together, he won't be able to argue against the two of you getting hitched worth a hill of beans.”

“I think you might be over-estimating his sense of romance,” you point out, “Marie hasn't had romance with him for… years, the way she talked about it suggests probably fifteen or twenty. If he hasn't learned how to be attentive to his wife in that span of time, if even just to suit his own purposes given he doesn't have any other children for marriage alliances, and his only shot at more power is through his marriage to her, I don't think he's going to be particularly susceptible to the warm fuzzies.”

“That's a far better point than it should be,” Mary says with a scowl, “A nice dress is still suitable for a fancy restaurant though.”

What wear?
[] Cadet Dress Uniform.


((()))
 
906. Meeting Michael.

LordsFire

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[X] Fancy Dress

((()))

Mary is more than happy to help you pull out a nice dress that is reasonable to move in, and you have to admit that one of the upsides to not growing much anymore, is that you haven't had to worry about changing dress sizes like some of the other girls have.

“One of the things that's both a blessing and a curse,” Mary says as she helps you with your hair, “For you more locally on Somerset, and for me… well, basically everywhere in the Sphere, is that with our wealth and social position, we are expected to be trend-setters. Seeing how well mother has aged, and how well your mother seemed to age, we'll be expected to be such probably at least until our forties. It means we won't be beholden to other people's ideas of appropriate attire, within reason, but some social sectors won't hold us in much respect unless we actually set a trend every now and then.”

“That's kind of silly,” you point out, “There are much more important things for a head of state to do than set fashion trends.”

“Yes and no,” Mary says, humming thoughtfully, “Part of why mother regularly wears a uniform, is it sets a trend in imagery, of focus on and respect for the uniform. I think that's part of why the Davions have that tradition, though Hanse admitted the original reason for it is rather lost. It's relatively shallow, certainly, but image does matter, and the image you put forth is part of what shapes the culture. For example, Somerset very clearly is much more modern in its fashion than most of the Commonwealth, and the fact that you've kept to that in spite of spending time on the Tharkad social scene, that communicates a message both to your people on Somerset, and people who see you, and pictures of you, elsewhere.”

“I'm not ashamed of Somerset's culture,” you say with a touch of heat, “We're not perfect, but the only real disadvantage we have compared to any other world is our relatively small population.”

“And the way you dress reflects that,” Mary says with a nod, before stepping back, “I think you're ready to go. Ready to lock horns with a March Lord?”

“Can't be any harder than it was with your mother,” you say with a shrug, “Hanse has always been very kind to me, so I can't say how it'd compare with him if he decided to be contentious. I'm ready.”

“Then go knock his socks off,” Mary says with a smirk.

((()))

Morgan does not much take after his father. Meeting Michael Hasek-Davion, you'd think he was the uncle, and Hanse the father, rather than the other way around. Michael is a lean, lanky man a good six inches shorter than his son, whose build could easily make him look like a featherweight, if it wasn't for the sheer intensity of him.

He dominates the private dining room you meet in easily, even though he's lounging semi-casually in his chair when you enter, five minutes before your scheduled meeting time, Morgan on one side of him, Marie on the other. Morgan rises to greet you with a hug and pull your chair out for you when you arrive, of course.

“Duchess Bruce,” Michael greets you with an easy nod and a ready smile, reaching across the table to shake your hand firmly, “You've made quite the impression on my wife and son, and the reputation of your military accomplishments precedes you. It's good to finally meet you.”

“Archduke Hasek-Davion,” you greet in return, looking him directly in the eye, “I've heard quite a bit about you from your family, and read more besides. I'm hoping I'll be able to look back on this meeting with fond memory down the road.”

“Hmm,” Michael says, studying your expression closely as he releases your hand and drops back into his seat, “Not a common response to a fairly standard greeting, but if I'm reading you right, you're not much for saying something you don't particularly mean.”

“I'm not looking for a career as a spook,” you say, shaking your head, “I know you have some history dealing with that sort of matter, but it's not my strength.”

“Something you share with my son, I think,” Michael says, glancing at Morgan, before turning his gaze back on you, “Probably part of why you get on so well with him; Morgan is honest to a fault, and doesn't have the mind for politics or intrigue. I'd hesitate to say the same about you though, given the circles you move in, within both the Commonwealth and the Suns. You're by no means of low rank, but I've read up on your history as well; before you, your predecessors in Clan Bruce usually only appeared on Tharkad to be presented to the Archon, or if military service brought them there prior to taking the ducal throne. You're very nearly the polar opposite of that, having spent more time off of Somerset than on since your parents unfortunate early passing, and you're on a first name basis with both monarchs of the nascent Federated Commonwealth. That's quite the accomplishment.”

“Some call it the 'Luck of the Irish,'” you say, shaking your head, “Which is better known as god putting a special blessing on certain people who are going to face special hardships.”

“It's certainly true that we don't get to control when opportunity comes knocking,” Michael says with a nod, “But that doesn't change that you've done an excellent job of seizing it when it came, and at a very young age too. How have you managed that, and perhaps more importantly, what do you intend to do with the influence and power you've amassed?”

What say?
[] “How? I tell the truth, I don't take any crap I don't have to, and I'm willing to serve something bigger than myself. What I intend to do with it? Defeat my people's enemies, and uphold Justice.”
[] “Hanse and Katrina have both decided I'm a future asset, and given me the opportunity to advance myself through excellence. I've worked damned hard to prove them right, largely because we all three agree that some enemies cannot be tolerated, and must be destroyed.
[] “Most of that's classified. Hard work, and a mutual desire for a strong nation able to defeat its enemies would be the rest.”
[] Write-in.


((()))

AN: It's been really hard to get a handle on Michael. I sometimes have a very rough time with competent villains, because it's hard for me to write them as being very intelligent, without realizing how counter-productive a lot of what they're doing is.
 
907. Words and Food.

LordsFire

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[x] "How is easy: the demand for competent, trustworthy service is almost unlimited, and one opportunity begets another. My intentions are as they have ever been: to secure a safe and prosperous future for my domain, my people, and my family — however those may expand."

((()))

“That's simple,” you say, “The demand for competent, trustworthy service is almost unlimited, and doing good work gets you more work to do. I'm sure you've had some experience with this yourself.”

“That I have,” Michael says with a nod, “From both sides of the equation.”

“As to my intentions,” you continue, making sure to look him in the eye as you speak, “I intend to secure a safe and prosperous future for my people, family, and domain, whatever those may grow to include. We've both faced enemies with lethal intent; we've both proven we're willing to kill to protect what we love.”

“With the attitude you have,” Michael says, glancing at his wife for a moment, “And what Marie has said about your flying ability, I have to say I'm glad to have you in my son's corner. People like to write holo-dramas about 'battle couples' fighting back-to-back against nigh-impossible odds.”

“I doubt regs will ever allow us to serve in the same unit,” you say with a snort, before favoring Morgan with a smile, “But it is a rather romantic image.”

“Indeed,” Michael says with a nod, “Unfortunately, my responsibilities require that I ask about more mundane, and less romantic matters regarding not your intentions towards my son, but towards my domain and people. With Hanse's 'little surprise,' you'll not be holding the responsibilities of the Royal Consort on top of everything else, but what would you intend to do with the role of First Lady of the Capellan March?”

“The big questions I see,” you say with a small smile, “And before we've even ordered, no less.”

“I ordered their full chef's sampler for a group of six,” Michael says, waving dismissively, “I know it has Steak and Lamb, which my son and wife like, and unless they've been lying through their teeth about your eating habits, you'd prefer a broad assortment to work off of yourself.”

“Indeed,” you say with a somewhat more toothy smile, “There goes my attempt to buy time and think through my answer more carefully.”

“Are you suggesting you haven't already?” Michael counters, “I'm not sure I'd believe you if you claimed that.”

“Oh,” you reply, shaking your head, “I have, but only in the most basic terms. I know I'm very accomplished for someone of my age, but I'm also very aware of the limitations to my experience that my age imposes. I think I've accomplished a reasonable amount in the time I've had to work with, but I've only a few months of direct governing experience, and have only functioned as a CEO-in-absentia. I rather doubt that 'find a wonderful and reliable regent to have run everything' is an acceptable answer.”

“Not in whole,” Michael says, smiling slightly in approval, “But it is an important thing to know about. My sister handing a great deal of the Administrative burden of the Capellan March competent has been absolutely key to how I have ruled it as a whole. I understand your uncle Thomas Bruce is your regent and proxy on Somerset?”

“Yes,” you say with a sharp nod, “And 'competent' would be too little to say regarding his performance. The man is principled, and able to delegate what he doesn't know how to handle in turn. That's worked very well for one world, one clan, and one corporation. I imagine the Capallen March and Hasek holdings are large enough that even as the spouse of the Archduke, it would carry at least as much responsibility all by itself.”

“It can,” Michael says with a nod, “But delegation is the one true superpower. Knowing who to delegate to, who can be trusted, and how to appropriately reward and honor such trusted men and women for their service, that is at the crux of good leadership.”

“Well,” you say with a broad smile, “I hope that you have many years yet to teach myself and Morgan as much of such things as possible before you retire.”

“As do I,” Michael says with a barking laugh, that sounds like an interesting mixture of deliberate and natural, “As do I. I think I've put your toes to the coals enough for now though. On a happier note, Marie told me you were quite willing to provide us with a great many grandchildren.”

“Father!” Morgan gasps, looking distinctly put-out with his father's sudden turn of conversation.

“Five is considered on the low end for Somerset,” you immediately say with a grin, “Seven or eight more normal. Twins pop up now and then in the Bruce lineage, if I had several of those, I wouldn't mind an even dozen. One of the advantages of getting through my years of service early, is it leaves many years for many babies.”

Michael laughs, Marie looks quietly pleased, and Morgan is wearing a mixture of 'doofus grin' and red embarassment.

“That sounds good to me,” Michael says, and you have the impression that if he were close enough, he'd give you a hearty slap across the back, “It's unfortunate Marie and myself were only able to manage Morgan, a great wealth of grandchildren would be a wonderful balance to that.”

Conversation is interrupted for a little while after that as a profession of professional waiters come in, and unload a positively luxurious array of high-quality dishes onto the table between the four of you. It's genuine gourmet cooking, and your mouth waters just at the smell; none of that 'we'll eat it because it's too hard to make and expensive for poor people' crap, this is the good stuff. Steaks from high-quality meat cooked just right, buttered seafood, mutton chops, rolls so fresh they're still steaming from the oven.

“So,” Michael says as you all begin loading up your plates, “On a lighter note, what's this I've heard about 'sheep-jousting' being involved in marrying into your clan?”

What say?
[] “Sheep Jousting is very serious business amongst Clan Bruce.”
[] “I'm afraid that's a clan secret, you have to be adopted or marry in to find out.”
[] “Oh, that old rumor? People like to make fun of what they think of as 'periphery hicks.' Clan Bruce has no problem making our own better jokes out of their bad jokes.”
[] Write-in.


((()))

AN: I think I've got a fairly solid handle on Michael now.
 
908. Dessert Question.

LordsFire

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[X] “I'm afraid that's a clan secret, you have to be adopted or marry in to find out.”

((()))

“You'd have to marry in or be adopted to find out,” you reply, “It's a clan secret, I'm afraid.”

“Are you serious?” Michael asks with some amusement.

“Quite,” you say with a nod, “It's nothing that involved, but much like fraternal orders keep their initiation rites secret, so the Clan keeps its secret.”

“That's strange, but fair,” Michael says with a shrug, “But then, many things in life are like that.”

The meal itself proceeds without much more than small talk, a few details about how life is on New Syrtis, a couple cute stories about when Morgan was a child, and that sort of general interesting, but not life-changing things. It's a little bit jarring, in a way, to interact with Michael like this. Aldo Lestrade, you knew from the words of people you trusted, was a snake, and that's more or less exactly how he acted around you. Michael, though you know from the words of both his son and wife is also far from trustworthy, but he's so incredibly genial in person.

It does make a bit more sense of why he was able to get Marie to marry him in the first place, and why both of them clearly hold out some faint hope that their relationships with him might one day be restored.

"Well,” Michael says, once you've all finished eating, “Now that it has been quite conclusively proven to me that my family wasn't exaggerating about your eating habits-”

He glances meaningfully at the bowl you mixed your mash up in.

“-I'm afraid I'm going to have to turn matters towards something more serious again. I'm aware there's a fair bit of what you've been involved with that is 'need to know,' and I'll not try to violate that, but it's well-known that whatever you're involved in, has resulted in you having close ties with Hanse Davion. It's also quite well-known, that the Prince and I do not see eye-to-eye about a number of issues, but primarily his and his brother's seeming near-obsession with the Combine. They're certainly fell enemies of the Federated Suns, but the Capellans are very much so as well, and given the Suns are hardly on the back foot on the Combine front, the neglect of the front that my people live in and defend, cannot continue. What are your thoughts on the matter?”

“I think that the Combine and Confederation both should be crushed,” you say bluntly, “Given I'm Lyran, and rogue Dracs killed my parents, I very much intend to take the hammer to them as best I possibly can. For the forseeable future, that's the most I can do to support the Suns front with the Capellans, relieving pressure on the Combine front.”

“In the short run, yes,” Michael says with a nod, “But what about the long run, when you have more strategic pull, either as a flag officer, or as an advisor to one of the thrones?”

“I don't know enough about the fine details of the strategic situation to give any kind of definitive plan,” you say, shaking your head, “And for the 'basic concept' level, it's the simple 'train harder, develop better technology, have a stronger economy, more war material, and more soldiers.'”

“As I'd expect for someone with so much trust put in them at a young age,” Michael says, nodding again in approval, “You've clearly put at least some basic strategic thought into things, and have some awareness of your own limitations. That said, I'm not going to let you get away with reasonable non-answers here. If you, twenty years in the future, found yourself as the First Lady of the Capellan March, sitting on the Privy Council to the First Prince, and the realm was beset by heavy assaults on both fronts, what advice would you give?”

“I assume from your inclusion of 'if I was the First Lady of the Capellan March,'” you reply, “You are asking this in the context of me having specific, personal responsibilities to the people of the March.”

“Yes,” Michael says with a nod, “Responsibility is a personal thing. Even when a result comes as the decisions of many different people, each of those people is personally responsible for the role they played in whatever the matter at hand was. If the threat on both flanks was equal in scope, and the First Prince had decided to commit reserves from the Crucis March, how would you advise him to commit it?”

“Well,” you say, raising an eyebrow at the man, “If it's a threat equal in scale, either the Cappies have upped their game, or let the Leaguers come through to help them in the assault. As to what advice I'd give…

What say?
[] “So long as the Draconis front wasn't in danger of collapsing, I'd request as much force be dispatched to the Capellan front as possible, so that we could swiftly defeat them before wheeling about to relieve the Combine front.”
[] “If the threat is equal on both fronts, I'd support roughly equal force deployment on both fronts, with whatever distribution of unit types best suits each front in specific.”
[] “I would give advice based on whatever I considered best for the realm as a whole, then if I was still in uniform, request leave to fight on the Capellan front personally. If I wasn't, I'd just leave to fight personally on the Capellan front regardless. Personal responsibility should be taken care of personally.
[] Write-in.


((()))

AN: A touch shorter than I'd prefer, but Rhiannon and Michael can only beat around the bush with each other for so long.
 
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