High-Value Target

High-Value Target
Story information
Author Philip A. Lee
Pages 35
Type Short story
Product Counterattack
Era Succession Wars era
Timeline 9-26 April 2996

High-Value Target is a short story by Philip A. Lee published exclusively in the fifth BattleCorps print anthology, Counterattack, in 2014. Unlike all other stories in the book, it has not been published online via BattleCorps.

Plot summary[edit]

Captain Cyril De Milo is proud to be a member of the elite First Orloff Grenadiers, though he is at the same time painfully aware of his (and his unit's) lack of real combat experience and fears they may have become parade soldiers.

On 9 April 2996 elements of the Orloff Grenadiers are sent to Tsinghai as an entourage for Skylar Orloff, son of Duke Reinhard Orloff. De Milo has great respect for the Duke, but he quickly comes to resent his spoiled son who alienates the soldiers with every word and keeps a priceless mint-condition Awesome in parade colors just to show off although it is easily the best-maintained and most powerful BattleMech in the entire detachment.

Skylar Orloff has the Orloff Grenadiers parade before the prime minister of Tsinghai on 25 April to demonstrate the Duchy's strength in an attempt to make the planet join the Duchy. De Milo begins to wonder if he underestimated Skylar, as the elite Grenadiers outshine the local militia to the point where they might be seen as a de-facto occupation force, leaving the prime minister litte choice but to accept the "offer". His musings are cut short by a ComStar missive informing Skylar Orloff that his father was killed, making him Duke. Almost at the same time a Capellan Confederation invasion force arrives to reconquer the planet (which the Confederation had lost in the latter years of the First Succession War, some two centuries prior).

The surprise attack is a quick rout for the vastly outnumbered Orloff Grenadiers, with De Milo's lance making for an escape DropShip five clicks away. Skylar Orloff has never piloted his Awesome in battle, and will be a liability despite the powerful machine. Accepting his duty to protect Skylar, who is now Duke Orloff, De Milo offers to switch 'Mechs with Orloff so that the Duke may escape in De Milo's faster family heirloom Trebuchet while De Milo, with a poorly adjusted neurohelmet, pilots the lumbering Awesome.

Captain Lin Wei Jiang of the Fifth Confederation Reserve Cavalry seeks solace from her troubled state of mind through frequent meditation, with mixed success. She has been considering retirement, but feels she owes the Confederation one more successful mission. Piloting a Vindicator during the invasion, she is notified of a possible high-value target, namely an Awesome with Orloff Grenadiers parade scheme but no unit markings that is withdrawing under the cover of a medium lance. Disobeying explicit orders, Lin Wei decides this is her big chance to score a substantial victory before retiring. She diverts two lances to hunt down the Awesome.

In the end, De Milo and at least two of his lancemates are taken down and captured while shepherding the ineptly piloted Trebuchet towards the DropShip. Carried off as a prisoner of war, he finally sees the DropShip lift off and smiles, knowing that Orloff apparently reached it in time.

As it turns out, Lin Wei Jiang has been suffering from neurological symptoms impairing her piloting. She suffers a breakdown after personally downing the Awesome, losing the ability to speak clearly. On the following day her CO, Major Petrowski, arrives at her bed in sickbay, furious that she would send two entire lances after what turned out to be a mere Captain. However, upon learning that she suffers (and is apparently dying) from Huntington's Disease, a neurodegenerative condition, Petrowski sympathizes and promises to see if he can obtain some incense for her meditation.

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  • The story mentions Earl Reinhard Orloff and how his son Skylar Orloff succeeds him in 2996. This does not correspond with House Orloff as described in House Marik (The Free Worlds League). In an official answer/ruling on the BattleTech Forum in this thread, author Philip A. Lee admitted to an oversight in factchecking and offered the following ruling to explain the situation:
    Vicente is a cousin of Reinhard and Skylar Orloff, and his father (who I believe is unnamed?) still had some political pull but was removed from the line of succession due to estrangement or some unforgivable slight. In the story, you might notice that the characters all refer to the head of the duchy as "Duke Orloff," not "Earl Orloff."From Orloffian perspective, an earl can't head up a duchy: it'd be called the "Earldom of Orloff" if that were the case. So Reinhard and Skylar style themselves as "Duke," much to the nobility's dismay, and Vicente's father, technically an earl under Reinhard despite the estrangement, still has the Captain-General's ear, and thus so does his son—hence why he was invited to dine with Janos Marik in 2991. A lot of legitimate dukes in the FWL don't take kindly to Reinhard's arrogance for using the title, so when Reinhard is killed by a Maskirovka assassination (which was designed to give the CCAF leverage for the attacks on Tsinghai and a failed thrust into the Duchy of Orloff) and Skylar the buffoon takes over the duchy as "Duke," Reinhard's enemies seize their chance to exert political pressure on the duchy and get "Duke" Skylar stripped from political power (or assassinated by rivals, perhaps?). Then Vicente's father is installed as the proper "Earl of Orloff."
    By virtue of being a ruling in the official "Ask the Writers" section of the forum, this answer is fully canonical.