Im Schatten der Bestie
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|Im Schatten der Bestie|
|Cover artwork||Karsten Schreurs|
|Publisher||Ulisses Spiele GmbH|
|First published||20 April 2016|
|Era||Star League era|
|Timeline||27 December 2766 - 2 February 2777|
Im Schatten der Bestie ("In the Shadow of the Beast") is the 31st in the line of original German-language Classic BattleTech novels that was published originally by FanPro and then continued by Ulisses Spiele. Written by Ingo Eikens, it was published on 20 April 2016.
Written in German and exclusively published in that language so far, Im Schatten der Bestie does not 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.
From the back cover (translated from German)
|“|| While most Star League Defense Force forces were destroyed in Amaris' coup or have gone to ground, some accepted the new lord—either out of fear, or having fallen for false propaganda.
Weary and injured, SLDF Major Gerald McKenniston is tranferred to Terra to train new forces. Between problems with Republic troops, SLDF forces, and inexperienced recruits, he even ends up in the crosshairs of military intelligence. The final war years soon turn out to be grinding for them all. With the iron ring tightening around Terra, McKenniston is facing a decision that he has long feared, and choses a way he never wanted to go.
After the murder of Richard Cameron at the hands of Stefan Amaris in 2766, the official line throughout the Terran Hegemony–now ruled by Stefan Amaris–is that Cameron was killed by an assassin sent by Aleksandr Kerensky in a bid for power. SLDF Major Gerald McKenniston is among those who believed Amaris over Kerensky in the evolving war, where Amaris's garrison forces and some remaining SLDF forces in the Terran Hegemony (such as McKenniston's) turn against the rest of the SLDF, the bulk of which is campaigning abroad under General Kerensky. In mid-2774, after his SLDF unit was decimated in combat against Kerensky's forces through indiscriminate artillery bombardment from his own side, McKenniston is put in charge of a nascent SAR training battalion on Terra. He arrives at Perekop on the Crimea peninsula where a backwater SLDF base complex, hours from the nearest spaceport at Nikopol, is reactivated. This base evolved out of a scientific outpost to study the drastic changes to the Crimea's landscape following tectonic events in the 22nd century.
Before long, McKenniston and his men come to realize that the Perekop base, which has all the charm of a prison, is a dead-end assignment and a dumping ground for unwanted or useless personnel. McKenniston's old Colonel Stinbjerk was reassigned prior to McKenniston's arrival at the base, and their parent regiment, the 1st Regiment of the 324th Mechanized Infantry Division, now answers to one Colonel Marcus Berger, who takes a more direct control over the commanders of the other two battalions while McKenniston's understrength training battalion, stationed at Perekop far from the others, is the lowest tier for supplies and mostly disregarded.
Mysteriously, although the Perekop base was supposedly just reopened after being mothballed for thirty years, its main computer was recently sabotaged. However, the acid charge was misplaced, leaving memory banks intact that prove something was going on here recently; but the files are encrypted. By the end of the year it is determined that the files predate McKenniston's arrival by two months, and were created by Colonel Stinbjerk.
As new recruits trickle in, McKenniston's greatest problem are the tensions between recruits from the SLDF and the RWR, who mistrust each other. With some effort, both camps are convinced that they have been dumped into this unit together. Republican MechWarrior Larissa Munk is a key player and something of a ringleader for the RWR soldiers, and in convincing her McKenniston eventually manages to pacify his subordinates and form some unit cohesion, though he has to dress down (and in the process alienate) SLDF Corporal Jacob Mbobwe while facing down Munk. He harbors no illusions about the nature of the assignment or the importance of his unit, but feels that it is advantageous insofar as it will keep his unit out of the fighting.
By mid-2775 it becomes apparent that Colonel Berger keeps diverting equipment and personnel from McKenniston's battalion to the other two battalions which are conducting strange objective raids, with high casualty rates. Dr. Kristensen meets another doctor at a congress and uncovers that Berger has blood relations to Amaris's closest advisor, possibly explaining the regiment's special status, but it still remains unclear why Berger was put in command of a third-rate regiment to conduct whatever his special assignments are, or why he is leading from the front. McKenniston's battalion effectively amounts to an administrative unit that will allow Berger to obtain more supplies for the other two battalions, which McKenniston is fine with given that his training battalion is thus even less likely to see actual deployment (aside from the newly trained recruits that keep being reassigned to the other battalions, with high turnover rates).
As Kerensky's forces draw ever closer to Terra, McKenniston is informed in late 2775 that his regiment is to get a liaison officer from the secret service. Around the same time, a pirate radio station takes up service on Terra with pro-Kerensky, anti-Amaris propaganda. On new years eve, McKenniston encounters several of his MechWarriors listening to the pirate media, which abruptly ends with gunfire. It turns out many members of McKenniston's unit have realized the Amaris Empire propaganda for what it is and that the war is going badly. Later that night, Captain Snyder–the creepy liaison officer–is promoted to Major and given command of McKenniston's battalion, while McKenniston is transferred to Colonel Berger's command lance.
Three days later, agents from Snyder's entourage spot MechWarrior Lucy DeVillar and three technicians listening to, and arguing over, a pirate broadcast regarding Amaris troops confiscating foodstuffs from a starving population. The techs are clandestinely killed shortly thereafter, but Lucy DeVillar is only wounded when her attacker is in turn ambushed and killed.
As McKenniston prepares to leave for his new assignment, he finds a data stick on his desk. The stick contains surveillance camera footage: Three secret service agents led by Snyder argue with, and finally shoot, two SLDF officers, one of which was Colonel Stinbjerk, and dispose of the bodies. Relizing that his life may be in danger, McKenniston informs Sanchéz an they mobilize the battalion (the personnel still being loyal to McKenniston personally).
Snyder indeed prepares to shoot McKenniston and Sanchéz during the trip to the starport, but just in time the convoy is attacked by a BattleMech lance and they are rescued. During the attack Snyder manages to escape without anyone noticing. Upon returning to the Perekop base, they find that McKenniston loyalists have started a mutiny and have forcibly retaken the facility from loyalist forces and Snyder's men. John Maloney, the SLDF agent running the pirate radio station (who had also saved Lucy DeVillar) had convinced the staff of Kerensky's mission, and that the Krypteia agents under Snyder would not hesitate to kill them all.
Over the next days Snyder manages to report the insurgence to Berger, who is ordered by his great-uncle (Amaris' chief advisor) to immediately retake the Crimea. A hasty strafing run by aerospace fighters causes moderate damage and casualties, including Larissa Munk. Her death galvanizes the troops - the assembled soldiers rip off their rank insignia and heap them on her body. Using experimental camo tarps found in the base, they move out and let Berger retake the damaged complex. They realize that the region is being seeded with supply depots, to trap a possible enemy landing force. (They know from Maloney that Kerensky plans to land on Terra soon.) As they raid supply depots, a cat-and-mouse game develops. Berger wants McKenniston's forces eradicated so that he can concentrate on repulsing the expected landings. Denying Berger a decisive battle, McKenniston stalls for time until he can meet Berger on his own terms months later: In a depot raid in October, Berger's forces are defeated and McKenniston and Berger finally meet face to face. Berger admits defeat, hands over a holodisc, and shoots himself with a concealed weapon that he could have used on McKenniston instead. The disc contains footage of Richard Cameron's murder, with voiceover explanations from Berger begging for forgiveness.
When Kerensky's forces finally land in early 2777, McKenniston provides them with information on the defenders' disposition, and hands over the holodisc with orders to pass it on to General Kerensky. He refuses to join Kerensky's army, though, figuring each and every soldier under his command would have to choose which, if any, side to take in the conflict.
- Major Gerald McKenniston
- Captain Diego Sanchéz - McKenniston's right hand man, to the point of effectively running the unit while McKenniston is still injured.
- Corporal Jacob Mbobwe - Trusted subordinate of McKenniston, drill sergeant in attitude if not in rank.
- Dr. Sonja Kristensen - Caught up as a field surgeon in the early SLDF/RWR battles of the Amaris Civil War, she witnessed war crimes and at one point found that a heavily burnt and crippled soldier in her care was actually her son. She killed him with an overdose as he was in pain with no hope of recovery. When she was found out she could have been executed, but an understanding superior arranged for her to be reassigned to Perekop instead. Disillusioned by both sides' conduct in the war, she becomes an early ally of McKenniston and a primary sounding board for the unit, while serving competently as military doctor.
- Larissa Munk - RWR MechWarrior who survived two weeks without support behind enemy lines after the company she commanded was destroyed. Assigned to the "penal battalion" for her failure. Hard, negative, and somewhat paranoid, she leads the RWR fraction among McKenniston's subordinates and locks horns with McKenniston whom she openly despises.
- Sigur Kowalski - An average 'Mech pilot desperately looking for employment. McKenniston initially refuses to sign him up, because his father Sigur Kowalski senior was a friend and lancemate of McKenniston and died in the same action where McKenniston was wounded (with Kowalski junior unwares that his idolized father is dead). He ultimately accepts Kowalski into his unit at Sanchéz's urging, to protect him from front duty and because the young man has no living relatives after his mother's recent death.
- Lucy DeVillar - Former RWR infantrywoman turned MechWarrior, with superior skills but problematic discipline.
- John Maloney - SLDF agent hiding in plain sight as a tech on the Perekop base. He runs the pirate radio station, and saves Lucy DeVillar. His relationship with McKenniston is uneasy because of mutual mistrust.
- Colonel Marcus Berger - Scion of a family of long-standing political advisors to Stefan Amaris, he was an eager young trooper who witnessed Richard Cameron's murder at Amaris's hand as one of Amaris's bodyguards at the scene, and is now plagued by guilt for failing to stop the madness when he could. Torn between his conscience and his loyalty to his family and House Amaris, he has resolved to kill Aleksandr Kerensky personally at all costs. Considered a possible security risk, he is allowed to follow this personal crusade and to give direction and a purpose to his pent-up feelings.
- Stefan Amaris
- Taborri Amaris, Stefan Amaris' wife. A shrewd politician in her own right, she likes the luxury life and is friend, advisor and sounding board to her husband, though neither of them seem to consider their marriage as exclusive.
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