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|Author||Reinhold H. Mai|
|Cover artwork||Franz Vohwinkel|
|Publisher||Fantasy Productions GmbH|
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Series||Classic BattleTech Novels|
Die Albatros-Akte ("The Albatross file"), by Reinhold H. Mai, is a German-language BattleTech novel published by FanPro in 2005 as the 6th in their line of Classic BattleTech Novels. It has not been translated into English so far.
Unusually, the novel is written as fictional within its fictional setting according to the preface, i.e. does not claim to narrate events that actually took place in the BattleTech universe. Arguably, the preface could alternatively be taken to mean that the secret operation was covered up and that official sources deny it ever happened.
Set between 9 August and 21 December 2838 when a team of MechWarriors calling themselves "Team Albatross" is tasked with investigating the actions of a Lyran Archonet who has begun to expand his realm with a weapon that can disable BattleMechs.
Written in German and exclusively published in that language so far, Die Albatros-Akte does not technically meet the current criteria for Canon in the BattleTech universe. As an official product published under a valid license, it should be regarded as apocryphal instead.
From the back cover (translated from German)
|“|| In the year 2838, war rages in the Inner Sphere. After a brief pause, the Second Succession War is pitting the great Houses of mankind against one another again. And once more the Lyran Commonwealth is beset from two sides. In this situation, all powers must be focused to overcome the enemy.
But in the hinterland of the Protectorate of Donegal a new threat arises. Archonet Christian Delcord of Mahone is in the process of carving out his own little realm from the possessions of House Steiner, and none of the 'Mech garrisons on the worlds under attack can stop him. The powerful machines fail to function as if by magic when facing his troops.
Does Delcord possess a new weapon that enables him to dethrone the kings of the battlefield? If yes, then it must be prevented from falling into the hands of an enemy superpower. The Lyran secret service LIC puts a team of four top agents on the case to remedy the situation before the enemy learns of it.
The back cover for the 2013 Epub edition adds two sentences:
|“||But what is Delcord's secret? And even if the agents manage to uncover it, will they be able to close Pandora's Box again that he opened?||”|
A preface states that the following narration is fictional—none of the detailed events ever occurred and the real Archonet Christian Delcord died of heart failure in December 2838 after long service to the Commonwealth.
Archonet Christian Delcord of Mahone has been expanding his sphere of influence recently, conquering Lyran systems by means of conventional military forces. Opposing 'Mechs simply fail to function at the onset of the battles, leading to the worlds of Blumenort and Timehri falling without a shot being fired. Delcord also reportedly refuses to employ 'Mechs in his own forces, and has any and all captured 'Mechs scrapped.
Analysts believe that the next system to be attacked will be Ludwigshafen. In August 2838, the Lyran Intelligence Corps thus sends agents Krause, Balikçi, Schlüter and Sonnenschein to Ludwigshafen to investigate with four BattleMechs and two techs aboard the Leopard-class DropShip Sternenstaub ("Stardust"). Nominally the Fire Lance, 2nd company, 17th Lyran Guards regiment, they decide to call themselves "Team Albatross", in reference to Delcord's mystery weapon which is said to make 'Mechs tumble like an albatross.
Enroute to the planet within the Ludwigshafen system they make contact with the Gazelle-class tank carrier Friedensbote ("Peace Envoy"), a Delcord-affiliated DropShip. Both DropShips demand the other to stand down, but neither complies. Since agent Schlüter was assigned a damaged Phoenix Hawk with a faulty sensor array, a combat drop from orbit is out of the question and Team Albatross decide to follow the Gazelle planetside and land nearby. Meanwhile, the planetary militia under Hauptmann Obadiah Jackson is confident that they can defeat the tanks, as they are sure their 'Mechs were not sabotaged like the others presumably were. However, when facing a company composed primarily Goblin and Demon tanks the gyroscope on Jackson's Thug fails and his 'Mech, like all others in his unit, crashes to the ground uncontrollably. Team Albatross also deploys their 'Mechs, also sure that they cannot possibly have been sabotaged, but they, too, lose control of the machines as soon as they encounter Delcord's tank forces. Only Schlüter's Phoenix Hawk is not immediately affected and manages to fight back for a short time.
After Team Albatross' capture and internment, Krause is interrogated by one Sgt. Thomas Neumann, ostensibly a member of the Delcord military but in truth the agents' contact officer on Ludwigshafen. They briefly discuss the Phoenix Hawk that curiously did not immediately succumb to Delcord's unknown weapon. Neumann mentions that the tanks are equipped with a special data crystal for their radio systems, presumed to be the weapon (or part of it) which is thought to affect 'Mechs through their sensors. Since Delcord's forces dismantle all captured 'Mechs and immediately scrap their computers, and do not use 'Mechs themselves, they deduct that his weapon cannot be set to spare friendly 'Mechs.
Neumann goes on to suggest that Krause and Sonnenschein should escape from the prison, while Balikçi and Schlüter should let themselves be recruited into Delcord's forces. The plan is carried out with Neumann's help. Balikçi and Schlüter pretend to be appalled and hurt by their comrades' flight and being left behind. Working hand-in-hand with recruitment officer Neumann to convince military intelligence officer Anja Migoyan that they really want to defect to Delcord's forces, they end up assigned to the crew of a J. Edgar hovertank from the local garrison, i.e. one without the new weapon. On their first patrol they learn that Krause and Sonnenschein have been identified at a police checkpoint and are moving towards the city of Dover in a car. Due to the speed of the J. Edgar they catch up with the car faster than any other pursuing unit save for a police VTOL monitoring the situation from the air. A warning shot from Schlüter accidentally sends the car over a cliff; it falls down and is ripped apart in an explosion, indicating it carried explosive cargo.
Having feigned their deaths with the teleoperated car, Krause and Sonnenschein prepare to travel to the world of Mahone. They masquerade as businessman Hank Keane and his daughter Joy, requiring Krause to wear a fake beard and Sonnenschein to use tanning lotion on her skin to match her "father"'s dark skin color. During the trip on the Monarch-class DropShip Goldener Elefant Krause earns the gratitude of Alec Rosin, a wealthy businessman from within the Delcord empire, when he rescues the unconscious Rosin from the ship's sauna. The thankful Rosin invites Krause and Sonnenschein for a dinner in his cabin. Believing that "Keane" is going to take a job in the fiscal administration on Mahone, Rosin privately admits to his newfound friend that he is actually opposed to Delcord's liberal economic policies. While cashing in on the situation like any businessman would, Rosin fears that Delcord's simplistic but popular policies will ruin his realm soon, even though they have achieved a short-term economic growth. Krause and Sonnenschein are surprised to learn that Rosin and other tycoons would prefer to remain under Steiner rule, as opposed to Delcord's.
Meanwhile back on Ludwigshafen, Schlüter is reprimanded for killing the escaped prisoners and denying Migoyan a chance to interrogate them. Captain DeSoto reminds her that they are supposed to be peace keepers, not an occupying force, and that lethal force is discouraged. She is removed from the tank crew and posted into the administration. Her place as gunner on the J. Edgar is taken by Patrick Schuermann. It turns out that Ludwigshafen is not entirely pacified, probably owing to Schlüter having inflicted the first losses on Delcord's forces with her Phoenix Hawk. Balikçi and his tank crew face increasingly dangerous situations during patrols, narrowly avoiding having to shoot at protesters. During one patrol they unexpectedly encounter a decrepit Flea with an obviously untrained pilot. Although they are not equipped with one of the data crytals, they engage the renegade 'Mech and easily bring it down. The pilot turns out to be a farm hand and an acquaintance of tank driver Hanne de Koning. The tankers decide to let her go, reporting the pilot ejected and escaped.
For their victory over a BattleMech, the tank crew is promoted to one of the Demon tanks. Balikçi and Neumann have a talk and Neumann warns about removing the data crystal, as they are heavily secured. He also explains that the unknown weapon, called Z-4 by the Delcord forces and Albatross-Effect within the LIC, could best be researched by examining a 'Mech that has been influenced by it. Neumann suspects that the Flea incident may have been an attempt by someone to obtain a 'Mech sample affected by Z-4; the LIC had nothing to do with it but SAFE, a foreign secret service, has been receiving messages from an unknown source on Ludwigshafen.
During the following night, an alarm is raised at the tank garages. Hanne de Koning reports that two masked men with a foreign accent shot a guard and narrowly missed him, then escaped. Subsequently, a tense and paranoid mood among the garrison makes it difficult for Balikçi and Schlüter to continue their investigations. They eventually come up with the idea to import a Kanga jump tank from another garrison outpost, because the jump tank shares the unique gyroscope and control systems of BattleMechs and might therefore also be affected by the Z-4. Schlüter, now a logistics officer, arranges for the delivery of the vehicle. The two techs from the Sternenstaub are also inserted into the Delcord forces. Once the Kanga's computer registers a total failure of the jump stabilizer, they blow one of the jump jets on purpose to consign the tank to the garage where the techs can remove the computer for close inspection.
On 13 November, Balikçi and his tank crew are confronted by military intelligence officer Migoyan who arrests Balikçi for killing the trooper during the recent attempt to steal a Z-4 unit. She explains that she found the Kanga's computer missing, which is condemning evidence. De Koning, realizing that Balikçi knows he is the SAFE agent and that is cover is blown, shoots Migoyan and prepares to kill Balikçi, but is in turn shot by Schlüter. Patrick Schuermann is wounded in the shootout, while crewman Jorge Oliveira declares his support for the LIC agents after overhearing what was said. They report to DeSoto that enemy agent de Koning shot Migoyan and was shot in turn. Schlüter is promoted to tank commander on a Z-4-equipped Demon that is part of a lance being sent back to Mahone.
The techs meanwhile discover that the Albatross-Effect is effectively a computer virus that overloads the hardwired gyroscope controls. It is inserted via sensor feeds, thus bypassing the main computer and its anti-virus safeties. Balikçi orders the techs to take the computer and the research results to Tharkad on the Sternenstaub.
Balikçi and Schlüter are then transferred to Mahone with their unit aboard the Gazelle-class DropShip Friedensengel ("Angel of Peace"), traveling via the uninhabited Orathon system. Just before their Merchant-class JumpShip Almerya has finished the recharging process, a Draconis Combine vessel jumps in and deploys fighters. Balikçi volunteers to pilot a Spad aerospace fighter as a stand-in for its injured pilot. They narrowly manage to hold off the enemy fighters before they can destroy the Almerya's jump sail, but Balikçi cannot return to the hangar in time when the Almerya prepares for emergency jump out of the combat zone. Hoping to ride shotgun, he moves his Spad very close to the JumpShip's drive coil and manages to be carried along in the jump, although the fighter is mauled the process and Balikçi suffers injuries. He and Schlüter become heroes aboard the ships, and Balikçi is treated in the medbay of the accompanying Intruder-class DropShip Freiheitstaube ("Dove of Freedom").
Meanwhile on Mahone, Sonnenschein takes up work in a news agency. She learns that Christian Delcord's son and heir was killed on Kessel in 2835 when Inferno missiles hit the cockpit of his 'Mech as he was ejecting. The Duke withdrew from the public for half a year before he was made Archonet by Archon Marcus Steiner. Apparently, Delcord has become ultra-reactionary and wants to go back to the "good old times" before the invention of the BattleMech. She also learns that Helmer Mackenzie, the disgruntled anchorman of the news network, has access to military intelligence files. She manages to recruit him for her mission, starting an affair with him on the sidelines.
Krause is contacted by Jim Fitzpatrick, another military intelligence officer. Fitzpatrick remained loyal to House Steiner when Mahone went independent and jumps at the opportunity to help Krause once he recognizes him: they had met eight years earlier on Tharkad during training. Fitzpatrick can provide complete security codes for the ducal residence on Mahone. They prepare to infiltrate the residence during an interview by Sonnenschein's employer with Archonet Delcord, but the plan fails when Mackenzie slips on a bar of soap mere days before the interview and is replaced by another interviewer who insists on bringing her own team instead. By coincidence, Sonnenschein finds out that a garden party is planned at the residence where Alec Rosin is invited. Pretending to prepare a news story, Krause and Sonnenschein convince Rosin to pass Sonnenschein as his niece and bring her to the party. She manages to disable the security system and approach a security door in the basement but has to return when her time runs out. She also feels that she was being followed. From her findings and his own knowledge, Mackenzie deducts that Delcord has created a laboratory in one of the ancient bunkers of the ducal residence. He also traces the Z-4 to a brilliant young scientist named Scott Uhden who was researching into BattleMech controls, but reportedly died of unknown causes in 2837.
With Balikçi hospitalized planetside after they have landed on Mahone, Sonnenschein contacts Krause on 4 December and rejoins his team. Fitzpatrick has given them access to six forgotten BattleMechs in a warehouse near the starport that were confiscated from a mercenary unit named Rimmers Randalen. Not listed in the militia documents as they are technically still owned by the defunct mercenary unit, they were overlooked when Delcord ordered all 'Mechs on the planet scrapped. Schüter and Sonnenschein break a Shadow Hawk and a Warhammer out of mothballs and march on the ducal residence with their sensor units turned off to avoid the Albatross effect. They are intercepted by a pair of Sparrowhawk fighters, but it turns out one of them is piloted by a friend Schlüter made back on the DropShip. Still impressed by Balikçi's performance, he agrees to join their venture and shoots the other pilot.
Krause meanwhile infiltrates the residence and confronts Delcord, who turns out an embittered and somewhat lunatic old man. Delcord admits that Uhden designed Zentralsteuerung-4 (Z-4) for him and that he intends to use it to make BattleMechs useless, naively hoping to end the perpetual wars by removing these iconic war machines. His rants reveal that the manufacturing facilities for Z-4 are limited to the single laboratory at the residence. With this knowledge, Krause shoots the delusional Archonet and proceeds to destroy the secret laboratory. To his surprise, he finds another infiltrator preparing to blow up the facility and a gunfight ensues. In the end, Krause locks the other agent in by sealing the main door with his laser gun just before the BattleMechs piloted by Schlüter and Sonnenschein arrive and (it is implied) lay waste to the facility, terminating the Z-4 project.
- Akim Balikçi: LIC agent, trained MechWarrior. Abandoned aerospace training because of his fear of space travel; has nightmares of his father's death aboard the Black Lion-class WarShip Scharnhorst (it was destroyed in battle and his father's corpse was never found). He has a dark complexion and a notably trained, soldier-like body. His Turkish surname translates as "Fischer", leading others (especially Krause) to occasionally call him by that name.
- Jim Fitzpatrick: Military intelligence officer on Mahone, critical of Delcord. Sides with Krause and his team when he identifies them.
- Hanne de Koning: Tank driver in the Delcord forces, becomes a member of Balikçi's team. Later revealed as the SAFE agent who killed a trooper in an attempt to steal a Z-4 unit. Loses his nerve when Migoyan confronts Balikçi about the Kanga tank in his presence; killed in the subsequent shootout.
- Harald "Harry" Krause: LIC agent, trained MechWarrior and leader of Team Albatross. On Mahone, he adopts the identity of Hank Keane.
- Anja Migoyan: Military intelligence officer in the Delcord forces on Ludwigshafen. Uncovers Balikçi's actions, mistakes him for the SAFE agent and confronts him but unwittingly threatens to uncover SAFE agent de Koning in the process, prompting him to kill her.
- Helmer Mackenzie: Frustrated anchorman for World Link News of Tupan, Mahone where he feels he has been reduced to a well-paid news reading automaton with no journalistic perspective. Longes to get back to Antenne Donegal. Has a well-deserved reputation as a skirt chaser, but is easily underestimated.
- "Thomas Neumann": Cover name for the LIC contact agent on Ludwigshafen, working as a recruitment officer in the Delcord forces. He guides, shelters and equips Team Albatross on the world.
- Jorge Oliveira: A tank crew member (communication specialist) in the Delcord forces, yet loyal to House Steiner. Sides with the agents.
- Masako Schlüter: LIC agent, trained MechWarrior. Extremely attractive woman with Asian features. Although she is a lesbian, she pretends to have an affair with Balikçi to prevent them from being separated.
- Antonella Sonnenschein: LIC agent, trained MechWarrior. Tomboyish attitude, starts an affair with Helmer Mackenzie to learn his sources.
- Adelaide (mentioned)
- Blumenort (mentioned)
- Chahar (mentioned)
- El Aïdi (mentioned) - recently (as of 2838) abandoned Lyran colony world, implied to lie within the Protectorate of Donegal
- Gatineau (mentioned)
- Jardine (mentioned)
- Kandersteg (mentioned)
- Kessel (mentioned)
- Kumkol VII - research station in the Donegal district
- Muscatine (mentioned) - recently (as of 2838) abandoned Lyran colony world, implied to lie within the Protectorate of Donegal
- New Capetown (mentioned)
- Orathon (mentioned) - uninhabited system between Mahone and Ludwigshafen with B0-class star; used as jump stop instead of Gatineau
- Tharkad (mentioned)
- Timehri (mentioned)
- Phoenix Hawk
- Scorpion (BattleMech)
- Shadow Hawk
- Burke (mentioned)
- Demon (Combat Vehicle)
- J. Edgar
- Kanga jump tank
- Scorpion (Combat Vehicle) (mentioned)
- Horch-Alpine Tornado civilian car
- White Midget space probe
- The cover seems to portray the scene of Hauptmann Obadiah Jackson's Thug falling down with a disabled gyroscope in the face of enemy tanks during Delcord's initial conquest of Ludwigshafen. It depicts an unseen Wolverine in the background, an image that could not legally be shown following the legal issues pertaining to the "unseen". Presumably for this reason Ulisses Spiele created a new cover for their Epub (re-)publication of the novel, though the depicted BattleMech—a Zeus—does not actually feature in the book.
- The identity or affiliation of the other agent in the laboratory remain unknown. The team name the Draconis Combine and ComStar as their prime suspects.
Book cover. Art by Franz Vohwinkel.