Who's that Lady ? cont. by Rich
Big info dump here.Briefing room at Ranger HQ
Hannah Miles cleared her throat and took a sip of water. She checked that the recording system was on, knowing that the record would be viewed by other interested parties. Then she began to speak.
"Natasha Kerensky was born either in 2973, or in 2980, depending on which story you believe. It's generally agreed, however, that she's what the Clans call 'trueborn', which means she was conceived through a process that you'd probably call in-vitro fertilization, combining DNA from two different warriors; and gestated in an artificial womb, as opposed to a more natural birth, which the Clans call 'freeborn'. She was raised in a 'sibko', a group of children born in the same way and at the same time. Like all such children, she was trained from infancy for her chosen caste; in her case, as a warrior."
"That sounds pretty harsh." said Sanchez.
harsh. The Clans use a pretty rigid caste system, and in almost all Clans, the warrior caste dominates. The price of that dominance is hard training, strict discipline, and adherence to a rather demanding code of honor. Only about 10 % of those born into the caste actually succeed in joining it. Those who fail are demoted to lesser castes, assuming they survive at all."
Sanchez said "That sounds almost like the Navy Seals."
"In Natasha's case, it might actually be worse than that. Because the Wolf Clan is the chosen Clan of Kerensky, who founded the whole system. The Kerensky DNA is especially prized, and so there are many members of his bloodline; but by Clan law, only twenty-five at a time are allowed to use the 'Bloodname
'. And according to rumor, her personal bloodline also includes DNA from Clan Widowmaker, which the Wolves absorbed a while back, and that might have been considered a point against her. She had to fight a series of 'trials' to win the right to the name, and there would have been a lot of other contenders; we don't know how many."
"We do know that she was a 'Star Captain' in command of a Trinary in 3000. A Trinary is roughly equal to a Company, in your terms. She made 'Star Colonel', in command of a Cluster or battalion, in 3003, and she commanded a 'Galaxy', the equivalent of a regiment, in 3004."
"Okay, hold on. Even by the earlier estimate, she wasn't much over thirty in that year. How did she achieve that rank at that age ?" asked Sanchez.
"Because she was that good," answered Hannah. "and bear in mind, in the Clans, officers have to literally fight
for position. There would have been one of more trials for each one of those promotions, sometimes against multiple opponents."
"And these were elite units, too." she continued. "Both Jaime and Joshua Wolf, who later led Wolf's Dragoons, served under
Natasha Kerensky during this period. Later, that changed."
"How did that happen ?" asked Sanchez. "Did she screw up ?"
"Actually, just the opposite, Major." Hannah answered. "This will sound a bit weird to anyone who doesn't know the Clans...when two or more Clans are competing for a particular mission, they can settle it in two ways; either by a trial, which is a ritualized combat, or by bidding. The Clan which offers to do the job with the least
amount of force will get the assignment. And Kerensky's troops were so good that they were considered equal to a much larger force of ordinary warriors, so..."
"They got held back, so as not to screw up the bid, right ?" Sanchez finished the sentence for her.
"Exactly right," Hannah said "She was such a successful commander that she was only used for the biggest or toughest jobs, and there weren't that many of those. So she accepted a demotion in order to get into Wolf's Dragoons in their mission to the inner sphere. She basically started all over again, as a 'Point Commander' - the equivalent of squad leader."
"By 3015, she'd worked her way back up to second in command of the Dragoons, a force which at its' peak included several regiments, with their own starships and mech manufacturing facilities, and bases on several different worlds. They were really more of a Corps than a regiment." she continued. "So basically, by the time she was a little over forty, or thirtyfive if you accept the later birthdate, she'd made general twice over."
"I can't tell you how many battles she won in that time, and I doubt that she could either."
"We do know that in that year or the year before, Joshua Wolf was betrayed and murdered by one of the Dragoons' employers. And sometime before then, he and Natasha had become lovers, and may have actually married - in the Clans, the distinction isn't always clear. Natasha personally led the attack that killed the betrayer, charging through a forest fire to get to him. It was after that that she got her 'Black Widow' reputation."
"You could think of it as her third career. The Black Widow Company was a unit within the Dragoons, but which operated independently most of the time. It specialized in raids and spearheading assaults, and was recruited from among malcontents, misfits, and bordeline psychotics; and if you believe the stories Kerensky kept them in line by being just as tough, violent and crazy as they were. There were stories of barroom brawls, and back alley fights, that sometimes ended in death - always for her opponents, of course. She was an expert at personal combat, with or without weapons; as deadly outside of her mech as she was in it."
"How long did that
go on ?" asked Sanchez.
"Some think that it never entirely ended," replied Hannah. "Even up to the time of her death, she wasn't someone you'd want to cross. But she'd mellowed at least a little by 3031, when the Black Widows were expanded to a battalion. But even as a Company Commander, she had a lot of influence. She was generally included in command meetings, for example, along with officers who were technically two or three grades higher. Crazy or not, she was both very aggressive and a master tactician, quite apart from her personal prowess; which was legendary by that time. She also had a lot of imagination, which isn't exactly common in the Clans. Supposedly she had a good sense of humor; not that that's really relevent."
"Some people consider it a sign of intelligence." offered Major Sanchez.
"So Captain Crook has told me." responded Lieutenant Miles.
She went on. "From 3035 to 3042, the Widows were used mostly as a training unit for the rest of the Dragoons. In the late '40s, the Clans issued a recall order, in preparation for the upcoming invasion."
"Most of the Dragoons had been freeborn to begin with, and they'd recruited a lot of people from the inner sphere; after all, they'd been there for about forty years at that point. Jaime Wolf refused the order, and threw his support against the Clans."
"Natasha Kerensky returned to Clan Wolf, and had to fight another series of trials to win acceptance; she defeated four
opponents to re-earn the rank of Star Colonel...again. The Wolf Clan was also opposed to the invasion, but they lost a '"trial of refusal' - at four to one odds, by the way - and were forced to take part in it anyway. In fact, they fought so well that when the il-khan, the head of all the Clans, died, the head of Clan Wolf was appointed as his successor. He in turn apponted Natasha to succeed him as khan of Clan Wolf."
"In 3052, he negotiated a battle on Tukkayid..."
"Wait," said Sanchez, "he negotiated
a battle ?"
"Yes," replied Hannah, "essentially it was like a Clan 'trial'; each side would send its' strongest forces, and they'd fight it out. If the inner sphere warriors won, the Clans would agree to a truce. And the inner sphere did
win; of all the Clan forces, only the Wolves actually won a clear victory in their part of the fight, and Natasha can claim a lot of the credit for that - her regiment reportedly defeated four divisions
of the enemy. The Ghost Bears won a marginal victory, or maybe a draw; the other Clans were defeated."
"Ghost Bears ?" asked Sanchez.
"Ghost Bears." responded Hannah, "Be glad it wasn't the Diamond Sharks or the Goliath Scorpions. I didn't name them, you know."
"As a result of Tukkayid, the war was put on hold. Pressure mounted to abandon the truce, and even in the Wolf Clan Natasha had to answer several challenges to her authority, and I use the word 'challenge' literally. In 3057, the Jade Falcons - yes, I said Jade Falcons - wanted to resume the invasion, which led to a war between the Falcons and the Wolves; the so called 'Refusal War'. Technically, I guess you'd say that the Falcons won the war but the Wolves achieved their goal, since the invasion wasn't resumed; but the Wolf Clan was almost destroyed, and the survivors were split. More to the point, Natasha Kerensky was killed fighting a singlehanded rearguard action against the Falcons."
"Fetterman said that they left her mech standing where it was, as a tribute." said Sanchez.
"That's the story," said Hannah, "Personally, I think they're just afraid to go near it. It would be just like her to boobytrap the thing."