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|Type||Short story (2 parts)|
|First published|| 30 April 2010 (part 1)|
2 May 2010 (part 2)
|Timeline||3-4 September 3068|
|“||The dangerous thing about conflict is that it always breeds more conflict: two men with knives face a guy with a pistol; the guy with the pistol a guy with a machine gun; a machine gun with a tank, a tank with a 'Mech. Escalation is always the enemy, as the Chagos Defense Force finds out...||”|
Word of Blake has come under attack from "FAST" (Free Access to Stellar Technology) terrorist on Chagos, including what is called the Harbor Three Bombing.
In a diner restaurant the city of Tabor, Word of Blake troopers attempt to arrest a man suspected of being a FAST terrorist on 3 September 3068. One patron (later revealed to be a former soldier and DI) points out to them that they are no cops, and not entitled to carry out arrests. The troopers slay the suspect, possibly inadvertedly, in an attempt to knock him down, and a fight ensues with the patron that quickly escalates to the point where Purifier battlesuits put the restaurant—and all people inside—to the torch with their flamers.
After the massacre, the Word of Blake claims it was a firebombing by FAST that killed three Word of Blake troopers and the innocent patrons in the diner. Captain Edith "Edie" Parker of the Chagos Defense Force (CDF) and her men arrive on-scene and find evidence (or lack thereof) suggesting that there was no bomb after all. All of a sudden, Edie finds her comm jammed and her men under attack by the Purifiers. A CDF Hunchback joins the fight and defeats the Word of Blake contingent. Shocked at the overreaction of the Word of Blake, Edie contacts the police and gets suspicious when she learns that Precentor Hanson was already informed of the incident while she herself had been unable to raise anyone in the Word of Blake. On a hunch she calls the Murdock Military Reservation and learns that the news already reported her killed in a FAST ambush. Just before the call is terminated, she can warn her comrades to evacuate—the newsreel also says FAST terrorists have infiltrated the Murdock barracks and Edie realizes that the Word of Blake is discrediting the CDF and moving in to kill them. Even while she is slipping away, Word of Blake BattleMechs arrive and destroy the CDF Hunchback in short order.
Edie returns to her appartment to meet with her lover Gerry Duladier, a high-ranking Word of Blake officer, hoping to sort out what happened. However, Gerry drugs her instead. She awakens early, just in time to overpower him, but Gerry tells her that Word of Blake propaganda has already marked her and the CDF as FAST terrorists and nobody will believe her; Governor-General Fleet has already "signed the orders". He also lets slip that Edie's troops weren't found at Murdock—they had apparently followed Edie's orders and evacuated in time. Edie resolves to find proof to present to the Governor-General to convince him of what truly happened.
On the next day, martial law has been declared in and around Tabor and Murdock. The diner where the battle took place has been cordoned off, but Edie still manages to find and secure the BattleROM from one of the Purifiers. She has gone underground and wonders about the safety of her CDF unit, now seven 'Mechs and a company of vehicles. Their evacuation point is on file in the main CDF database, and now that they're framed as FAST terrorists an attack is to be expected sooner or later.
Edie then drives her skimmer five hundred kilometers to meet her troops, but despite all the evidence has a hard time convincing them that the Word of Blake are really making a move on the planetary government, using FAST as a front to create a crisis they can conveniently solve while most of the CDF is occupied with desaster relief following an earthquake on the other continent. Edie's CDF unit is the only military unit besides the Word of Blake's HPG security team, who came following the FAST Harbor Three bombing attack, within six hundred kilometers of Tabor.
As it turns out, the recovered BattleROM is corrupted and no data is left from the battle in the city where the Purifiers and then 'Mechs turned on the CDF. However, there is a recording of what happened in the diner before, proving there wasn't a bomb. Precentor Hanson is on file explaining to the senior infantryman how to handle the situation. That rallies the troops behind Edie just as a picket reports a Word of Blake strike force is inbound.
The CDF vanquish the Word of Blake forces in a textbook ambush. Edie and Gerry, the Word of Blake commander, discuss the political situation over comm, with Gerry repeatedly stating that Edie's victory is hollow, as nobody will believe them. Word of Blake has already firmly painted them as FAST terrorists. According to Gerry, recanting his statements would not be an expedient thing for Governor-General Fleet to do. In the end Edie confronts him with a recording of his own musings plus the recording from the diner, and is confident that these recordings will make it appear expedient for Fleet to listen to the woman with the BattleMechs...
- Blue Flame
- Hermes II
- It is not revealed in the story whether or not FAST, whose terrorist actions set the vicious circle of escalation in motion that led to Governor-General Fleet siding with the Word of Blake, was a genuine terrorist organisation or a Word of Blake front from the onset.