Daughters of the Legion

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Daughters of the Legion

Postby Francisco Duarte » Tue Jan 01, 2019 9:26 am

A Christmas and New Year present of sorts for this amazing community. It is part of a project that I discussed with Mr Newman back in the day, but never went past the proof-of-concept stage. I think enough time has passed for me to share this with you guys (if not, let me know, I'll pull it out). Hope you guys enjoy it.


Daughters of the Legion: Prelude


Francisco Duarte


Based on an idea by Vincent Baker and Joshua A.C. Newman



Alpha Base, outskirts of Vinayaka, Seara Nova
12, September, 0239, Space Calendar


She would never forget the day her life changed. Autumn Nadavi was 14 at the time and Summer was only 9, their tender ages contrasting with the brutal reality of their lives. It was coincidentally the same day they had finished their own first, true project.

In that warm afternoon in the peak of the dry season in Seara Nova's northern hemisphere, Autumn had decided to use a couple hours to think through the dilemmas she was facing, inner struggles that would one day define her very existence. As she always did in those moments she walked to the scrapyard, at the very edge of Alpha Base, the place where she'd lived most of her life up to that point. She could only guess that would be a normal perk of being the child of the leader of one of the many forces the Martian Foreign Legion had spread across the human space.

Nadavi's Legionnaires, as the unit was called, had started with a single company of outdated Mobile Frames, sent to the semi-independent world of Seara Nova more than twenty years ago to defend it from incursions of marauding pirates and the Ijad aliens. It had been the King himself who had asked for such help, as his Royal Guards had little firepower of their own to contend with such threats.

Colonel Iskandar Nadavi had commanded those people back then, and still did. Slowly, surviving desperate defensive actions and raids into other worlds, he managed to turn the band of Martian outcasts and local volunteers into a formidable fighting force. His allies had modified a factory in the capital to produce Mobile Frames, ST-07 Chubs, the Martian Foreign Legion's Standard, in order to replace losses and allow his forces to grow. His single company had turned into three and then five, deployed across the world to protect it from both foreign and local threats.

The Legionnaires had become a legacy. Iskandar knew that his creation could very well outlive him, and after discussing the subject thoroughly with his wife, Maya, he came to the conclusion that it would only be natural to pass the torch to their daughters once the moment arrived. The girls started to receive military training as soon as they could walk, hopefully molding them into the leaders that would one day inspire the Legionnaires. Although dedicated and caring as parents, Iskandar and Maya still held some military deference towards the girls, which eventually led Autumn to the dilemma she faced that day.

She sat on the roof of one of the many prefabricated metal shacks spread around the scrapyard. The manufactured military skyline of Alpha Base was behind her; in front of her was a natural landscape: rolling hills and green forests, under the clear blue sky. Alone, she mused about her future. As a teenager, Autumn knew her life would soon change, she would be forced to assume a responsibility she had never asked for and the perspective was tearing her apart.

Her reverie was interrupted once she heard feet crushing the gravel. Looking over her shoulder, Autumn saw a short and slender figure with long dark hair running among the piles of scrap metal, seeking solace in one of the hangars deeper into the yard. She recognized her younger sister, and concern sprung her into motion. Without hesitation, Autumn jumped from the roof and ran after Summer.

It wasn't hard for her to find the child. She went to what had become their regular hiding place every time something went wrong. The rusty hangar had the gates open wide. Inside there were piles of old industrial equipment spread along the walls. In the center was a Frame bench, occupied by a first-generation ST-07. The machine was laying on its back, the shoulders and hips supported by the maintenance scaffold. It was characteristically bulky, with wide and stubby arms and legs, round torso and disk-shaped head with a single “eye” in the front. It also had big antennas on the sides of the head, which had prompted Summer to nickname it the “Bunbun”. The Mobile Frame had all access panels open, exposing the complex internal machinery, the head also popped open to reveal the cockpit occupying most of the torso.

Summer was sitting over Bunbun's chest, legs folded, and face nestled among her knees, sobbing softly. Carefully, Autumn climbed to the bench and then to the wide chest plate. As she came closer she realized there was a bloody gash on the girl's left shoulder.

“Summer?” Autumn touched her sister's shoulder, slightly above the injury, and she immediately reeled with pain. “What happened?”

The girl looked at Autumn. Her dark-green eyes were sore, her face covered with tears.

“I screwed up,” Summer replied. “Kyrgiakos got mad at me, sis.”

“Did he do this? If that's it, then Father and Mother will get really mad.”

Summer shock her head. “No, it was me. We were practicing with the knife, and then I tried to show a trick I've seen the other day. He yelled at me and said I could have killed myself.”

Her voice trailed off as another shiver of pain hit her. Autumn simply nodded understandingly. Even among the colonists normal girls usually played with dolls. But they were not normal girls. Even at her age Autumn already knew a wide range of ways of killing other people using Mobile Frames, firearms, bladed weapons, or even her own hands. Summer wasn't old enough for the more dangerous and physically draining modalities, but she was already being trained in martial arts and close combat. Injuries were bound to happen from time to time and even Autumn had her fair share of nasty scars. Sometimes the duress they were exposed to seemed a little too much, but Master-Sergeant Augustus Kyrgiakos would always tell them that hard training made for easy combat and that it would save their lives one day. It sounded logical, but never distracted them form their discomfort.

“Wait a moment,” Autumn told Summer. She descended from the Frame and went to one of the shelves to get a first-aid kit. When she walked back to her sister she couldn't help but feel sad for both of them. Summer's blood was soaking her uniform, gray and blue and form-fitting, the standard-issue for Nadavi's Legionnaires. Autumn was dressed the same way. They were children in military outfits...

Autumn sat beside Summer and patiently tended to her wound. It didn't take long for the girl to calm down.

“Hey, how long do we have left before we can take this guy out for a spin?” Summer asked, taping the armored chest they were laying on.

“Not much,” Autumn replied while she packed the medical tools, “if the Chief got the cylinder fluid like I asked him to we might get it ready to go by the end of the day.”

The girl bit her lip.

“Can we?”

Autumn halted what she was doing and glanced at her. They had a lot left to do that day. Summer certainly had to return to the gymnasium and Autumn had to prepare for the Frame training seasons of the following days. But then she saw the look in her sister's eyes, imploring for them to do something together, something that didn't concern the adults but only the two of them.

“All right.”

Mobile Frames operated through muscle cylinders, fluid-filled mechanisms that acted like actual muscle once subjected to an electrical current. They allowed the humanoid machines to move with an almost organic grace, making them the most adaptable and sturdy ground vehicles ever designed. The two sisters had spent months repairing the old Bunbun and the only thing left to bring it back to life was to insert the fluid in the muscle cylinders. The maintenance Chief stood true to his word and Autumn found some drums of the stuff behind the hangar.

After filling the ST-07 the girls gave a final check on all the main systems and closed the maintenance panels. Satisfied, Autumn walked outside to get some fresh air. She noticed the sun was getting lower on the horizon.

“Maybe we should leave this to some other day,” she told Summer. “We're running out of daylight.”

The girl was still checking on the cockpit's systems. Upon hearing her sister, she peered out of the hatch.

“Come on, Autumn! It's just for a quick spin.”

Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, Autumn thought. Now they were utterly late for their duties but, then again, upon giving a good look at the machine she couldn't help but feel excited. For the first time in a long while she wasn't seeing some excuse for an eviscerated animal but an actual titan of metal and circuitry, ready to go back to action. Honestly, she wanted to know how it would feel like to operate it. Grinning, Autumn walked to the Frame.

“Who's going to drive it?” she asked her sister.

“I'll go!” Summer promptly asked. She sunk back into the cockpit, only to realize her head was under the hatch ring and her feet didn't reach the pedals. “Oh...”

“Don't worry, you'll grow,” Autumn told her. She was already feeling the hitch to pilot the machine, to feel it vibrate with a life of its own at the touch of her fingertips, walking graciously over the landscape. Combat never interested Autumn that much, in spite of her training, but simply commanding the machine, sensing it become an extension of her own body, made her feel alive like nothing else.

Furthermore, new machines were always an enigma. The muscle cylinders tended to adapt to the specific movements and mental patterns of a Frame pilot, sometimes becoming so finely tuned to them that they couldn't be used by anyone else. Fortunately for her Bunbun had been in store for so long that its cylinders had softened and with luck the machine was now responsive to a new master. That uncertainty excited Autumn, making her body shiver as she entered the cockpit after her sister had vacated it. Her hands reached for the control sticks and her feet sunk into the pedal pits. It was almost as if she was wearing the machine and not piloting it. She inhaled deeply and then pulled the switch to bring the Frame to life.

Bunbun growled and shivered, a titan waking up from a long slumber. Autumn looked around, to see if everything stood in place, but the machine seemed to be as sturdy as it should. “Hold on,” she told Summer.

The girl was sitting over the ST-07's shoulder, with one leg inside the cockpit, hanging against Autumn's left arm, one hand on the handle inside the head, still popped open, and the other on the hatch ring, for balance. She strengthened her grip, readying for what would follow.

Carefully, Autumn moved the arms, making the machine hold to the ground and then push. The torso rose from the bench, taking an excited cry out of Summer. Autumn bent the knees and then brought the torso forward, releasing the Frame from the bench and back to its own feet. Everything seemed correct as she brought the machine to its full height of five meters. Beside her, Summer cheered with contagious joy.

“Make it walk,” she yelped.

“Okay.” Autumn depressed the speed pedal and the ST-07 didn't disappoint, moving one leg ahead and crashing it into the tarmac with a loud 'thump'. It repeated the process a few times until it was clear of the hangar. At this point it stopped, the sisters exchanging a smile for their success.

“Oh, do you know what we should do now?” Summer asked, ever so excited.

“What do you have in mind?”

The girl leaned forward, closer to her sister.

“The highway.”

Autumn blinked in surprise. “I don't know...”

“What not? We have those tracks on the feet, we should see if they're also working!”

She was right in a way, Autumn considered. Contrary to most Mobile Frames Bunbun was equipped with tracks on its feet, probably a way the previous pilot had found to increase its mobility. The equipment was simple enough to be reliable, but still needed to be checked. Then again, taking the machine to the highway seemed terribly dangerous. She looked away from her sister, contemplating the issue... for about ten seconds. A few minutes later the Frame was already dashing through one of the access lanes to Highway One, passing by surprised civilians in their cars.

The tracks rolled under the big feet of the Frame, which kept its knees slightly bent to maintain balance. The sisters felt the wind blow at their faces and their hair trashing around. They laughed and cheered at the amazing experience. They weren't traveling too fast, but few drivers would dare to get in the way of a 7-ton metallic giant. Trouble, on the other hand, seemed to be devoid of such qualms.

Klaxons screamed in the distance, drawing the attention of both sisters to a bridge passing over the highway a little further ahead. An avian-like machine was running away from a pair of armored cars painted with the green and golden colors of the Royal Guard. At first Autumn thought it could be a Hi-Leg Mobile Frame, but as she closed in she realized it was holding something with a pair of skinny metal arms, which branded it as the civilian version of that machine, a Labor Frame.

Light and probably modified to be faster than a normal Labor Frame the fugitive machine quickly got out of sight. Behind it the armored cars fired the automatic rifles in their turrets but missed and kept pursuing.

“The Royal Guards are going after it?” Summer uttered. “It must be a criminal! We should do something.”

“Right.”

As the bridge drew nearer, there wasn't really much time to think. Autumn turned to the left and hopped to the thick metal railing around the support column. The structure bent slightly but held the weight. Then she held to the beam and jumped over the edge, falling with the torso leaned to the left, but quickly recovered her balance, switching the tracks back on and moving on pursuit. Shaken by the maneuver, Summer cried in pain and held to her injured arm.

“Are you all right?” Autumn asked her.

“I'm fine! Keep moving!”

The Chub accelerated, but even with the tracks it wasn't quick enough to reach the armored cars pursuing the Labor Frame. Still, they got close enough to see the later turn to the right, moving over a muddy path that trailed into the woods. One of the armored cars overshoot the path, braking violently and kicking a huge cloud of gray smoke into the air. The other one turned suddenly to keep pace with the Frame's impressive agility, but ended up sliding sideways, sinking all four wheels onto the mud. To Autumn it felt too obvious to simply follow the bandit, whoever he was.

“I have an idea,” she declared. With deft control she made the Chub decelerate and turn, taking a secondary road that preceded the muddy path. Shaking, the Mobile Frame regained speed as it slid over the asphalt zigzagging between the trees. “I know where he's heading, and he's taking the longer path.”

That road led to a small pier, set along the northern shore of the vital Krishna River and usually used by small transport boats. Given the size and weight of the Labor Frame it wasn't difficult to imagine that its pilot would try to escape through there. Autumn noticed the end of the path to her left and made the Chub turn and slide sideways, before finally halting in front of it. Again, the machine almost toppled over. She made a mental note of avoiding extreme maneuvers like that in the future.

“Listen,” Summer said, having heard the splashing on the mud before Autumn did. The chicken-like Labor Frame jumped from the bend up ahead and dashed into the Chub, the pilot having not noticed the war machine until it was too late. Autumn opened her arms, assuming combat stance. Only then did the fugitive realized what was happening. Showing surprising talent, he deftly slowed down, before halting just a few meters in front of Bunbun.

“Stop right there!” Autumn yelled, hoping the Labor Frame's sensors would catch her voice. “In the name of Nadavi's Legionnaires and the Martian Foreign Legion, you are under arrest.”

For a second she couldn't really know what would happen. Then the Labor Frame seemed to shiver, as if moved by the same apprehension that was taking hold of the pilot. The external speakers burst to life.

“You're just children!” said a mechanically distorted male voice. “Get out of the way!”

“Children!” Summer cried out, vexed by his words. “We are the daughters of Colonel Nadavi himself! Obey at once!”

Although she shared her pride on their heritage, Autumn couldn't help but think that that had been but a poor choice of words. The man's reply only confirmed her fears.

“What? You Solar Union scum think you can tell me what to do? This is an independent world, you bastards!”

Things were getting out of hand. Autumn decided to intervene again.

“Look, we don't need to escalate this any further. You were being pursued by the Royal Guard, so you clearly did something. Surrender now and no harm will come to you.”

“Enough of this!” The Labor Frame lurched forward all of a sudden, taking one hand of the crate it was holding and making it descend in an arc over the Chub's open hatch. Summer screamed as she saw the big metal arm coming crashing down on her, but Autumn was quicker, blocking the attack with Bunbun's left forearm. Using her machine's superior strength, she shoved the offending limb aside and stepped forward, making her other fist come crashing down on the egg-shaped hull of the Labor Frame, smashing metal and opening cracks all over the fragile plating.

Sparks flew out of the gashes, but the other pilot refused to give in. His free hand came up again, now attempting to punch the shoulder of the war machine. Once more, Autumn was quicker, her honed killer instincts kicking in for the first time in her life. Her left hand grabbed the cylindrical forearm of the Labor Frame and then the right fist punched through the elbow, shattering the arm in half. She threw the loose limb aside and closed in, grabbing the right shoulder of the other machine while she stepped on one of its legs, crashing it outright. Out of balance, the Labor Frame toppled over, dropping the crate, which cracked open as it fell over the asphalt.

But Autumn wasn't done yet. Ignoring the fugitive's remaining arm, raised as if begging for mercy, she lifted one of her feet, aiming at the center of the weakened hull. The impact flattened most of the structure as if it was an actual eggshell. The frail limbs jerked in agony before going limp, all motion ceasing in a single instant.

“Sis...”

Summer's voice reached Autumn's mind through the warm haze of blood lust. It was soft, a child's voice finding its way through the apocalyptic sounds of metal crushing metal. Blinking, the teenager felt her head growing colder, her heart calming down. A sudden void took hold of her stomach as she took the Chub's foot from the ruined Labor Frame and staggered a few steps back. She looked at her work and realized what she had just done.

“No...”

Not even having Summer embracing her tightly did anything to control the torrent of tears that came running down her cheeks.

Just a few minutes later the Royal Guard came to the scene and took over the situation. The girls climbed down from the ST-07 on their own and sat in the back of an ambulance. A captain, clad in the green and golden colors of the Guard, went to see them. Behind him the two armored cars stood guard while his men gathered around the destroyed Frame.

“What were you thinking?” the captain yelled at the girls, apparently indifferent to Autumn's sobbing and Summer's efforts to comfort her.

“We got the guy!” the child retorted.

“You killed the guy!” the captain replied, waving a hand at the mess behind him. “And this was a Royal Guard issue, not something for the Legion to meddle with. When will you guys learn to stop interfering with civilian matters? You are here because our King asked the Union some favors, but Seara Nova is an independent world, God damn it!”

While he spoke, a small helicopter appeared over the trees, moving around the combat area and then descending on a wider section of the road a little up ahead. Its down-wash kicked dirt and leaves all around, forcing the captain to silence any other chastising he had in store for the children. A man jumped out of the aircraft, tall and clad in a gray and blue uniform not unlike the ones Autumn and Summer wore. In spite of being already in his forties, Colonel Iskandar Nadavi still had an imposing build, shaped by decades behind the controls of his Mobile Frames in the battlefields of many worlds. He had brown skin and dark hair, both of which had been inherited by his daughters, and a presence that drew in the attention of those around him. Almost unconsciously, the captain felt compelled to salute him when he came closer.

“Colonel Nadavi,” he said, “I guarantee you the Royal Guard has this situation under control. We won't need more interference.”

“I guarantee there will be none, Captain Satrapi,” Iskandar told the man, having surreptitiously read his identification lapel. “This was no more than an accident.”

The captain shook his head in disbelief.

“An accident? Well, if you excuse my insolence, colonel, sir, I would like to humbly ask you to keep your people under control.”

“That is all I'm here to do. The command of this operation is all yours, of course.”

“Very well.” The captain saluted again. “Now if you allow me.”

Then he turned over his heels and walked back to his men, yelling instructions at them. Iskandar sighed and glanced at his daughters. They were looking anxiously at him, both with tears in their eyes.

“Explain, legionnaires,” he demanded.

Autumn sobbed a little more before shaking her head.

“This wasn't supposed to happen.”

“But it did. If it serves of any consolation, the man seemed to have been a terrorist, so the Guard was already using lethal force against him.”

While he spoke, Iskandar gestured towards the crate the Labor Frame had been carrying. It was shattered, the contents of four Frame-sized assault rifles spread over the road. They had no ammo, but it wasn't hard to imagine the terrorists had ways to find it. The fact offered no consolation whatsoever.

“He won't be coming back,” Autumn pointed out sadly.

“He won't,” Iskandar approached his daughters and knelt in front of them. Gently, he held Autumn's chin. “You weren't supposed to be here, indeed, but we can still learn from this. I'm also at fault. This is what I've prepared you to do - to take my place in the Legion once I'm gone. Our family's business is brutal, but important to maintain the safety of the Solar Union and all its allies, even if they don't agree with our presence.”

It was true; in her short life Autumn had already witnessed some terrible realities. She'd met men and women that departed one day to never come back, dealing with the aftermath along with their respective families. She'd seen pilots, including her father, wake up from a simple nap screaming due to the horrors that followed them into their dreams. She'd read history books to find out that such nightmares were as ancient as mankind. Still, she felt that her father was missing the point there. Yes, the Legionnaires existed to kill the enemies of the Union, but she had just ended the life of a random man she didn't even knew to be her enemy. Her stomach was still twisting with the realization and she felt increasingly disgusted with herself.

“Father, I don't think I want to do this anymore,” she mumbled with a weak voice.

Her father's expression changed. Not much, he knew how to hide his feelings from his men, but his daughters knew him better than that and could see that slight change of expression that betrayed his emotions. At that moment Iskandar felt confused, more than anything else.

“If that's your choice, my dear,” he brought himself to say.

In that day, Autumn's life changed drastically. She was no longer ignorant of the weight carried by soldiers. In that day she truly became a Legionnaire, and that would shape her future in ways she could not yet fathom.
Francisco Duarte
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Re: Daughters of the Legion

Postby VitorFaria » Wed Jan 02, 2019 8:47 am

Woah, fantastic!

This is the sort of material that should be in an official book!

Love how you describe everything in the setting, if I didn't know what a Chub is before I would sure have felt it completely from your descriptions alone!
"For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love." Carl Sagan
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Re: Daughters of the Legion

Postby Mantisking » Wed Jan 02, 2019 12:49 pm

VitorFaria wrote:Woah, fantastic!

Quoted for truth. Can't wait to read whatever else you choose to write.
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Re: Daughters of the Legion

Postby Francisco Duarte » Wed Jan 02, 2019 4:12 pm

Thank you so much, people. Your words mean the world, I mean it!

I did spend many a year writing BattleTech fanfics, trying to emulate the styles of the writers that marked my childhood - I really love the worldbuilding aspects of the early BT novels and Battlestar Galactica novelizations, and I learned as much as I could from those lessons. As someone who dreams of becoming a full-blown professional one day, I have dabbled here and there. writing adventure modules for RPGs and fiction for games. MFZ was one of those games I would love to write for on an official basis, so I put my heart and soul into this. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity and I'm really glad you guys had fun reading this short piece.
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