Epaulet Mate

Epaulet Mate.jpg
Epaulet Mate
Product information
Type Novella
Author Phaedra M. Weldon
Pages 91
Publication information
Publisher BattleCorps
First published 08 November 2008
Era Civil War era
Timeline 3063 - 3065
Preceded by En Passant
Followed by Fianchetto

Epaulet Mate (Tagline: "War does not determine who is right—only who is left") by Phaedra M. Weldon was published online on BattleCorps on 08 November 2008. Set in 3065, it is the sequel to En Passant, but largely narrates events that occurred one or two years earlier through flashbacks.

Teaser text[edit]

In the aftermath of the assassination attempt on Päl Wyndham-Sandoval and his family, Robinson and the Sandoval dynasty is in a flurry. Päl's accusation against Katherine Steiner-Davion of carrying out the attempt doesn't help any. Now the Duke of Robinson wants to speak with Päl—and he wants the truth. Both about the assassination... and about what happened to Päl on Ashio...

Plot summary[edit]

Duke Tancred Sandoval personally visits the Wyndham-Sandoval estate on Robinson as Päl Wyndham-Sandoval and his wife are recuperating from the injuries of a recent assassination attempt. The Duke insists on hearing Päl's own accounts of the Robinson Rangers' recent defeat on the Draconis Combine planet of Ashio. Ordered to recount the events despite his pleas and outright attempts at refusal, Päl is forced to re-live the traumatic campaign from December 3063 through June 3064 in flashback scenes:

In Ashio's omnipresent heavy monsoon rain, the Rangers capture the capital city of Iscariot, but are driven out again with losses. They retreat into a jungle on the Heshial continent. Päl feels they are being herded but Captain Falcot will hear none of it. In the jungle, relentless artillery fire wears the men and machines down to the breaking point. Over the course of more than eight weeks, accidents, disease, rotting wounds and the insufferable circumstances of jungle warfare cause severe losses and morale dwindles to the point of fights breaking out among the troops. Päl is present when man from his lance has his toes amputated without sedation because the wound he suffered while rescuing Päl from a falling tree would not heal. Later, a very young tanker corporal is executed by firing squad for having mortally wounded a MechWarrior with a rock in a fight following an argument. The execution estranges Päl and his company leader, Captain Falcot. Päl believes Falcot could have prevented the fight in the first place, but did not as he expected the stronger MechWarrior to teach the frail boy a lesson.

When Päl refuses to continue his story, he is confronted with his own barely coherent logs from a voice recorder and the Duke probes further against Päl's mounting resistance. The voice recordings relate how Päl, after catching a near-terminal disease, and the barely half-strength Robinson Rangers punched through the encircling enemies and broke out of the jungle trap. The recordings also document the waning sanity of the soldiers. Päl relates how he watched a fellow soldier slit his wrists; his own grip on reality seems to loosen.

General Mai Fortuna rallies the Rangers and re-deploys them to capture the city of Touren-Ke. The Rangers take the city but are again encircled and besieged by enemy forces. During the siege, the fighting degenerates into a nightmarish haze. On several occasions Päl witnesses fellow soldiers being killed right next to him by mines, snipers and ambushes, and barely escapes an attempt at abduction where he has to kill a 10-year old girl in self defense. Other soldiers in the city are abducted to be tortured to death. Morale among the increasingly paranoid Rangers fails, and like most of his comrades, Päl becomes addicted to Brace over the horrors, a local drug that eases the tension to bearable levels. Eventually, Päl snaps when the mutilated body of a female 'Mech Tech, arms and legs hacked off, is thrown at them from a passing van. Nearby civilians start to laugh, and Päl, realizing they knew what would happen, proceeds to shoot them until stopped by a lancemate.

Soon afterwards, the entire accompanying Battle Academy Battalion is killed when the ammunition plant explodes which they were assigned to guard. This pushes the Rangers over the edge, and it is implied in Päl's report that the frenzied troops razed the city and massacred the civilian population; Päl considers his own actions (which he does not elaborate on) atrocious war crimes. Finally enemy reinforcements tip the scales, and the Rangers are evacuated under fire on 13 June. There is insufficient place on the DropShips and troops have to be left behind to be overrun, adding to the overall misery. In the aftermath, Päl's drug addiction has to be treated for two months on Mallory's World before he can return home.

At the conclusion of the report, Päl admits when asked that he still hates the Dracs and wants to kill as many as possible, despite being told that it was the Yakuza and not actually the civilian population who committed the atrocities on the Rangers in Touren-Ke and who detonated the ammunition plant. Following this confession, Duke Sandoval reveals that he is aware of Baroness Wyndham-Sandoval's plot against Päl, her own son, and asks Päl why he lied and named Katherine Steiner-Davion to be behind the attempt. Päl truthfully recounts the events around the attempt, and that the assassin claimed the Baroness Wyndham-Sandoval to have hired him.

When the Duke proceeds to promote Päl to Captain, impressed by his honesty, Päl refuses and hands in his resignation instead, hoping to withdraw to Exeter with his wounded wife and infant son to keep them safe. However, when he arrives at the hospital it turns out that they have already been taken by an unknown party in the meantime. Päl confronts his mother, who explains that Päl's family was abducted by none other than Katherine Steiner-Davion.

Featured characters[edit]

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The story is named after a chess situation where a King is checkmated because the only squares to which he could escape are blocked by pieces from his own side.