The Dashing Adventures of an Interstellar Gentleman of Leisure
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
New Avalon, Federated Suns
“Is Barrington in?”
Bunter raked the questioner with a stern and appraising glance which took in everything from his lotion lacquer hair to unfashionable last season’s boots. Then he said, inclining an indifferent if respectful head.
“If you will be good enough to take a seat, I will ascertain if his Lordship is at leisure. What name shall I say, sir?”
“Oh Bunter you old bastard, you know quite well who it is. Just bloody announce me and be quick about it. Honestly, you’ve become too big for your britches since you’ve taken up with this crowd.”
A mischievous grin spread across Bunter’s lips as he prepared to announce the visitor.
“Who is it Bunter old man? said Barrington as he entered the waiting area. “Oh it’s you Monty, what brings you here. Short a few C’s are you? Really, so am I. Bunter cleaned me out again, though I’m sure it will all be back the next time I go look.”
Bunter coughed theatrically.
“He looks, my Lord, if I may so express myself, as though your Mother has kicked him out again.”
Lord Montagew Fisbourne looked harried and bedraggled. He looked like he had travelled rough or in some haste. His behaviour was nervous and paranoid, he startled easily to the smallest of noises, such as Bunter rattling the door knob.
“She’s out to get me Ackerley. I’ll be number four now you know. She’s already got her eyes for number five. She’s after me right now old man, you have to protect me. She’ll listen to you. You do like me don’t you?” pleaded Fisbourne with tears welling in his puffy red eyes.
“You are probably right Bunter. Mother did kick him out if he’s been carrying on like this. They all do after a while. Remember Cranky Caldwell? Check to see if the usual security detachment is outside and let them know he’s okay at the moment. Oh and see if they had any special instructions from Mother? You know what she’s like at times like this, she may want things handled quietly and discretely.”
Bunter left the entrance hallway and made his way onto the street shutting the door behind him. Fisbourne carried on with his grovelling performance and crying ever so loudly denouncing the vile behaviour of Duchess Victoria all the while using a handheld device to scan the area. At length finally satisfied with the results he palmed the object and embraced the younger man.
“God Ackerley I wish we could find a more plausible way to meet. Though I confess your mother does make the perfect front. The fleeing henpecked husband goes to friends or even enemies where alas all sorts of things occur - in this case a debriefing.”
Bunter returned from the bustling street to the entrance hallway with a satisfied grin and rifling a wad of cash in his hand.
“New security personnel my lords - clearly they must not have been popular with the bosses or they’d have been warned about me” he grinned expansively, “what fine and expensive restaurant shall we dine at tonight care of MIIO.”
All three men shared a hearty laugh at the thought of some accountant having to justify the expense on some ledger somewhere in the vast bureaucracy that was the Federated Suns. They entered the sumptuous living quarters and took seats, all except Bunter who did his assigned duties. Fisbourne placed his device on the coffee table and activated it.
“Right then Ackers. We have been getting yours, as well as Bunters regular encrypted messages which are as insightful as always. Of course the commander of this mercenary group is more than aware you pair must be a spies of some sort, but he clearly has no idea for who or just what you are reporting on. From what you have let slip it would appear to him it is routine intelligence data of planets and military assets. Your primary intelligence gathering mission continues as discussed, and that is proving exceptional.”
Both men looked please with the praise from their superior. Bunter passed round the drinks, the local TAB guide was left on the silver serving tray with circled suggestions in red. Both men looked enquiringly at Bunter who didn’t look abashed at all for his brazen attempt at some additional remuneration.
“Bunter” sighed, Barrington “I have given you all I intend to. Don’t get greedy. Damn it you already own two blocks of the lower north side of the NAIS university campus precinct. What do you need the money for?”
Bunter looked hurt at the comments from the man he clearly idolised.
“My lord, it’s a game of plus and minuses - of keeping scores. You know the old adage, he who dies with the most toys wins. Well I need to do something to keep myself occupied while you play soldier, tinker, tailor, and spy for the crown. I invest well for us my lord or me, which means you ultimately.”
Things looked like they were going to get awkward when Fisbourne interjected.
“I see Plucky Percy is going for his record 30th straight win Bunter. Put me down for 1000C-Bills.”
Bunter smiled voraciously, “and the Duchess will bet?”
“Stop it, let’s get on to the debriefing” cried Barrington.
As you are aware Bunter and I were taken on with a group of new recruits for a mercenary company called “Death Jesters” commanded by Kommandant Karl Volkov. The other recruits were Perry Cole, Margo Belsha, James Boar, and two individuals who's files you have flagged Tomoyuki and Jin Kariyn.
Volkov true to his nature logged simulation training for us new recruits. Bunter was off doing what he does best and his intelligence report corroborates much of what I have provided. I’d suggest that the next time the Prince “bumps” into the Coordinator he let slip some minor details of no consequence. The simulation true to all tests was not so much about who won or lost but about command decisions and when it was prudent for those who business it was to keep their limited resources beat a strategic withdrawal. The four recruits who were dispossessed (myself among them) handled ourselves well considering that two of our opponents were of greater calibre than us. My call to retreat ended the simulation, and I was justly acknowledged for making the right call. Throwing away assets for no potential gain is not what being a mercenary command is. Unlike the regular military of the state, there is no steady supply chain, logistical support and manpower available. Things will be difficult in constant combat as attrition eats away at supplies and units available. What the simulation did highlight was the lack of training still evident.
Our destination and mission was discussed. Volkov’s previous contract had been breached by his employer and the Mercenary Review Board had found the planetary guilty. Limited resources had been provided to allow Volkov to reclaim his lost resources including ‘Mechs, personnel and equipment. The travel time allowed the new recruits time to practice with and acquire skills with demolitions. At length the destination was achieved and the stealth insertion made.
The questionable pair with ‘mechs dropped onto the radar site while the team I was allocated to was given multiple goals to achieve. Clearly we had identified ourselves are the more gifted and trustworthy of the new recruits. I would have to agree so far with the assessment. Our primary goal was to destroy the fusion generators that powered the defense batteries at the base. Next was to neutralise the barracks, hopefully taking out, neutralising or containing the troops in them. Then came the reason why we were there, obtain the ‘mechs belonging to the Death Jesters. It was essential that Volkov’s target ‘mech be returned as a priority for mission success. Of course the freeing of Death Jester personnel and securing of company resources and materials would be a bonus if time was on our side.
Insertion was a success and we were not detected. The ‘mech managed to land with minimal problems though Tomoyuki showed his lack of discipline by face-planting his ‘mech on touchdown. The VTOL carry the team I was allocated to landed and after almost drowning in a very shallow creek arrived at a small secluded lake where two hostile military personnel were enjoying some downtime in the water. Sparrow (Cole) and Viper (Belsha) concluded that these must be personnel from the base and a visual search of the shoreline found their clothing and personal effects heaped in a pile. The enemy personnel were swiftly dealt with in an efficient and clinical manner. A further search of the area found a two seat buggy which caused some attempt to change the plan of attack. In the end though, this was discarded in favour of sneak approach.
The other infiltration team has also discovered a band of fishermen on the shore near the facility they had been tasked with destroying. These individuals were executed from a distance, there still upright corpses clutching the cast fishing lines into the inky darkness of the lake the last image left as the two assassins went about their task of demolition.
At the main base the band of four had found the guards to be very distracted and inattentive. One in particular was asleep at his post, the search light immobile. Some of the tower lights were active, clearly showing an alert guard, others immobile indicating otherwise. Entry was made into the tower of the lack guard and an entry to a subterranean tunnel system was found. We left the guard sleeping at his post – for now. It was soon found out as to why the base personnel were so distracted and inattentive. There was some major football match on – I’ll call it football as that’s it name though heathens call it soccer. This distraction was a significant boon, thanks to the pin point accuracy of my team members what base personnel we met was neutralised before they had any notion of what was occurring. The security office was fortuitously placed under one of the barrack buildings and Viper went about her business with exceptional skill. James Boar earned his call sign that day Der Reiniger or The Cleaner though he will argue it was not for his actual cleaning skills and hiding evidence of our presence. It was while cleaning up the evidence we found the maintenance uniforms and were able to use these to hide our presence further as we made our way through the tunnels and towards the fusion generator.
The two assassins had successfully planted their demolitions and returned to their inactive ‘mechs. All they had to do now was wait for the allotted time – and not do anything stupid.
The fusion generator was free of personnel. Clearly this was some football match, or this planet had no better entertainment to name. Viper placed the explosives, though I was concerned about whether the application would be too much and rather than just disable the generators it would cause a cascade and wipe out the entire base in some fiery inferno. Time would tell when zero hour arrived.
With the main goals of neutralising turrets and personnel achieved we now looked at the ‘mech situation. The first bay we looked in contained our primary prize. Excellent. The second bay contained the ‘mechs we had used in simulation. Our time was starting to count down. Decisions had to be made. Der Reiniger chose to pilot Volkov’s precious ‘Mech, I chose the next highest tonnage and deemed most salvageable ‘mech, Sparrow stuck with his Jenner and Viper her Firestarter. Finally the countdown ended. The demolitions went off, the ‘mech bay doors opened.
Things appeared to have gone according to plan. The generator was destroyed. The Barracks were destroyed, or more precisely the main building detonated and collapsed taking the second building with it. Most if not all base personnel were in the main building which was where the primary detonation occurred. Very few base personnel survived, the few that did were badly injured or immediately surrendered. Volkov was appraised of the mission success and the team was told of the ETA and of the dropship extraction. During this time the team released the remaining company personnel, the few technicians remaining were sufficient to pilot the ‘mechs into the dropship upon its arrival.
The two diversionary members of the insertion plan joined the main party and awaited extraction. It was then that we discovered that opposing forces were making their way to the based. The VTOL appraised us of the disposition and based on the firepower of a Union Class Dropship we hoped it would be sufficient to scare them off from coming closer. It did not, or they bluffed in the hope that things might go either way.
The team were able to extract all the ‘mechs and personnel that were at the base. The supplies for the company were unable to be retrieved. As the Dropship was leaving Volkov ordered it to fire upon the base and surrounding area, clearing leaving as scorched earth as possible behind for the enemy. Our mission was over.
The team was justifiably pleased with the outcome. Payments were made, bonuses were achieved until a hitch occurred. Yet again the venerable Volkov proved to have a faulty capacity of memory recall and written contract, certainly from as what was on my contract. My contract clearly stated that the dispossessed pilot could keep as bonus the ‘mech they left the planet with – with the exception of Volkov prize. I then discovered that the jumped up team “negotiator” had decided to lay claim to my prize and that the bully Tomoyuki is siding with him. Cat calls of “fight, fight” from certain quarters did not impress me and I held my ground. I knew quite well I would not win any contest that revolved around a stacked combat, not when either of my opponents had been tooled up prior to being recruited. Thankfully Volkov came to his senses, but then I noticed he was listening to his communication link, I glanced towards Bunter and saw him smiling and talking away over his own link. Tempers cooled, however I have little love for either of these two now, they have earned my enmity. If they will quibble over such matters as this then I fear they will not be people a mercenary company can trust within their midst.
Volkov awarded me sufficient capital to secure a replacement ‘mech of my choosing when we reach our new destination – New Avalon and NAIS. I was over the moon at news of our destination, home away from home and the chance to renew some contacts. Travel time was onerous but profitable and I have been at least able to improve many of my skills and traits.
“It seems you almost came to an untimely end there old man,” gasped Fisbourne as he threw open a window to let in some fresh air. “Honestly it’s a wonder you can breathe oxygen at all with all the tobacco you inhale.”
Bunter entered with an industrial strength garden leaf blower and aimed it at the open window, forcing considerable amounts of pipe smoke to leave. Thankfully the locals were well aware of Barrington’s peculiar behaviours, heaven help him if his residence ever does catch fire. With the majority of the smoke cleared and just the lingering smell of tobacco the window was closed and security maintained.
“Well I wasn’t exactly prepared to be slugging it out fisticuff style with lowlifes Monty certainly not over the perfectly legal interpretation of my share of a contract. I am going to ensure that this sod gives me everything in writing from now on. He can sign in his own blood now; clearly he has questionable ethics so his company will need to be placed on the watch list.”
Bunter interrupted the pair as he turned the vidviewer on and turned up the volume.
“This is Nannette Roux, NABCC reporting from the New Avalon Institute of Science where we are seeing the handover of an important piece of lostech to Dr Banzai.”
The view pans to a drone view of the ceremony. An impressive ‘mech bearing the emblem of the SDLF can be clearly seen on the vehicle. A number of dignitaries can be seen on the raised platform, among them Prince Hanse Davion, numerous court and military functionaries, members of Team Banzai and Kommondant Volkov.
“Shut it off Bunter I don’t want to see this.”
Bunter ignored his employer’s request.
The presenter droned on and on about the who’s who of notaries until they got to someone they couldn’t immediately identify.
“Hello Gunther, I’m afraid I have no idea who that young man is there next to the Duchess of Victoria. Could that be the heir apparent Ackerley Davion himself making a public appearance?”
“Yes Nannette, I’ve just had it confirmed from palace sources that that is indeed young Lord Ackerley. He certainly does cut a fine figure in that Team Banzai ‘mech dress uniform. That shaggy unkempt hair and beard is sure to set the trend this season I’m sure, either that or he’s making a poor attempt at a disguise.”
Much studio laughter is heard.
Barrington leaned forward from his seat and buried his head in his hands.
“Mother did a bloody horrible job didn’t she?”
Fisbourne and Bunter could not contain their mirth.
“Oh stop it the pair of you. It was dreadful. I got only a moment’s notice. Honestly I thought I had been kidnapped the way I had been dragged off the street and into that limousine. If Bunter had not been inside I would have had some perplexing notions if not motions in motion.”
“My lord,” gasped Bunter between guffaws “the startled look on your face was priceless. Though the time to wash your soiled clothing is not something we’ll discuss outside family.”
“Hush said Fisbourne here comes the good bit.”
The footage zoomed in on Prince Hanse and Duchess Victoria standing either side on what was clearly an uncomfortable young man.
“Hello Nannette, we seem to be having some audio difficulties here at the studio. Are you able to hear what is being said at the ceremony?”
“Gunther – no – the whole audio system seems to have failed and security has stepped in blocking much of what appears to be happening. None of the studios cameras can get a view of what’s being said so we can’t even get our lip readers to interpret the proceedings. Oh wait, the audio has returned.”
“I present to you people of the realms, Lord Ackerley Davion appointed heir to the Duchy of Victoria,” shouted a smiling Prince Hanse.
Bunter turned off the vidviewer.
“Its official now, Ackerley Davion will succeed as Duke Victoria, nothing bar his death will cheat him of that now.”
Story (c) John A McDonnell 21 April 2019