Mercenary's Star (novel)
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- This article is about the novel. For the mercenary "homeworld", see Mercenary's Star.
|Author||William H. Keith, Jr.|
|Pages|| 367 (original)|
|Cover artwork|| David R. Deitrick (original)|
Boris Vallejo (reprint)
|Interior artwork||Jane Aulisio (reprint)|
|Publisher|| FASA (original)|
Roc Books (reprint)
|First published|| June 1987 (original)|
November 1992 (reprint)
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Timeline||01 October 3025 - 30 August 3026|
|Series||Saga of the Gray Death Legion|
|Preceded by||Decision at Thunder Rift|
|Followed by||The Price of Glory|
Mercenary's Star, by William H. Keith, Jr., is the second book of the Saga of the Gray Death Legion. It narrates the newly minted unit's first mercenary contract, supporting a struggling rebellion on the planet Verthandi.
The novel was made available on BattleCorps on 26 October 2010 as a PDF file (text only, without cover, pictures, or any other interior artwork except for the usual BattleCorps frame graphics). The PDF copy includes a disclaimer stating that it was created from a pre-final edition text that might differ from the printed version and that canon-wise, the print edition trumps the PDF edition.
From the back cover (1992 edition)
|“|| Galatea. The Mercenary's Star. Even the most down on their luck units can find work here. Leading the newly-formed Gray Death Legion is proving to be a hard task for Grayson Death Carlyle, so when a good job comes their way, he is only too happy to take it. The job: train the local resistance on the planet Verthandi to resist their Draconis Combine masters.
But things do not go well almost from the moment the Legion arrives at Verthandi. And Grayson may find that repeating his successes of the past may not be so easy this time.
Desperate for virtually any contract, the Gray Death Legion eventually accepts a contract with one Citizen Devic Erudin from Verthandi, the third planet of the Norn system, a former Lyran Commonwealth planet that had to be surrendered to the Draconis Combine around 3015 and is now ruthlessly exploited by House Kurita. A local guerrilla force has been fighting the Kurita forces for the past decade, but the iron grip of the Combine's Governor General Nagumo on Verthandi is tightening. The Gray Death Legion is hired to break through the blockade, smuggle a consignment of arms and equipment to the rebels, and provide cadre duty for at least 900 hours in-system according to the initial contract. Most Gray Death Legion members have misgivings about the contract because if the mission fails they will be stranded on Verthandi as insurgents and at the mercy of the excessively cruel Draconis Combine. However, when given the option to back out, none of the mercenaries do.
The unit sets out on the freighter DropShip Phobos, disguised as a Union-class military DropShip. Brought to Norn by Renfred Tor's JumpShip Invidious, the Phobos assumes a false identity, but a spy on Galatea has already alerted the enemy authorities of their arrival. On 25 October 3025, the Phobos is intercepted by aerospace fighters and DropShips from the base on Verthandi's moon, Verthandi Alpha. The freighter manages to break through, suffering severe damage and the loss of the Legion's two Chippewa fighters in the process. One of the Chippewa pilots, Sue Ellen Klein, survives and is captured by Kurita forces.
The Phobos crashlands on a shore 200 kilometers from its intended rendezvous with the rebel leadership, but makes contact with rebel forces and fends off a hasty attack by Kurita troops. It is subsequently set afloat on the Azure Sea with a jury-rigged steam propulsion system, headed for what is hopefully a secure port 500 kilometers away under the cover of the night and a storm front to prevent its capture by the Kurita forces. Realizing that their only chance to leave the planet again without being killed or captured by the merciless Kurita forces is for the rebellion to succeed the Gray Death Legion begins training the 'Free Verthandi Rangers', a disparate rebel army of BattleMechs, armed IndustrialMechs, infantry and support vehicles. However, the rebel leadership aims for a quick victory. Against Carlyle's advice, their Rangers soon launch an ill-fated attack against the capital city of Regis, hoping to decapitate the occupying forces' government. Although the Gray Death Legion was explicitly not hired to fight, Carlyle moves his 'Mechs to Regis on a hunch and, involving his unit in the fight against orders, manages to save some of the trapped Rangers and lead them back to their secret base on Fox Island. Almost against his will, he becomes their war leader following the death of the rebel general in the attack.
The Kurita forces dupe the captive Sue Ellen Klein into revealing the name of one of the Gray Death Legion's contacts, which in turn allows them to pinpoint their secret base. Nagumo orders a DEST raid against the base which costs the Rangers most of their equipment and support personnel, and most importantly, their support infrastructure. The bulk of the Rangers were away on a mission thus survive the attack. Under Carlyle's skilled leadership they begin a very successful guerrilla campaign against the Kurita occupation, and civil unrest spreads across Verthandi.
Carlyle's troops manage to send a signal to the Invidious when it re-appears at the jump point (as had been pre-arranged at the onset of the mission). Following Carlyle's message Renfred Tor returns to Galatea to organize support for the Free Verthandi Rangers. He contacts Salvor Steiner-Reese, the Lyran ambassador, unawares that the Kurita spy on Galatea was ordered to send assassins after him. Although initially reluctant, Steiner-Reese is convinced by the assassins' attack that Verthandi is obviously important enough for House Kurita to try and prevent Tor from obtaining Steiner-Reese's help.
Meanwhile on Verthandi, the Gray Death Legion moves back into the abandoned Fox Island facility, assuming it to be the last place where House Kurita will look for their base. Governor General Nagumo inadvertedly sparks a full rebellion by arresting and executing high-ranking government officials for supporting the rebellion, after having learned their names from a captive. Nagumo's Lord, none other than Duke Hassid Ricol, Carlyle's nemesis, arrives on-planet and is decidedly unhappy about the situation he finds. The cunning Duke divines that Carlyle's rebels would have reacquired the Fox Island base. However, Carlyle expected as much. When the Kurita forces attack, the base is heavily mined and fortified, but in reality just a decoy while the Free Verthandi Rangers use the opportunity to strike at the airfield near the University (and government center) to deny the Kurita troops their aerospace fighter support forthwith. Going against the plan, the Verthandi rebels storm the University tower when they perceive an opening in the enemy defense. The result is a rout for the Free Verthandi Rangers, and a falling-out between Carlyle and Verthandian Colonel Tollen Brasednewic.
Duke Ricol decides to leave Nagumo in charge after the battle (for lack of a better alternative) and leaves the planet. The Kurita control is soon reduced to Regis and the starport area. Nagumo realizes the rebels are still dependant on raiding Kurita supply depots, and prepares one to be a trap. Led by Carlyle, the raiding force narrowly escapes the trap but Lori Kalmar's Locust is destroyed and she is captured. Arguing that his executive officer could be tortured to reveal critical information to the enemy, Carlyle tries to organize an extraction raid against the University Tower (where the Kurita prisoners are held and tortured) but cannot bring Brasednewic to cooperate. Consequently, the Gray Death Legion embarks on the mission without the Verthandi Free Rangers. They sneak their BattleMechs and infantry onto the University perimeter through a secret tunnel and start a mass-breakout of prisoners (including Devic Erudin). Sue Ellen Klein confronts and (it is implied) kills Nagumo. Carlyle literally rescues Kalmar from a torture chamber. As the battle in and around the university building degrades into chaos, they commandeer an enemy Marauder from the repair hangar but before long, the Gray Death Legion find themselves and the prisoners cut-off and besieged. They are saved by the arrival of the Free Verthandi Rangers, after Brasednewic had a change of heart. The entire city of Regis joins in the uprising, ejecting the Kurita troops.
Over the next days, Kurita forces from across the planet move to the starport, the only area they still hold, and a standoff ensues. Both the Lyran Commonwealth and Duke Ricol have sent relief fleets which arrive within a few days of each other, keeping each other in check. Ricol has little choice but to accept the peace agreement the ranking Draconis Combine officer had already signed.
- Grayson Carlyle
- Gunnar Ericksson
- Devic Erudin
- Lori Kalmar
- Valdis Kevlavic
- Sue Ellen Klein
- Ilse Martinez
- Masayoshi Nagumo
- James Thorvald
- Hermes II
- Phoenix Hawk
- Shadow Hawk
- unspecified IndustrialMechs (variously referred to as AgroMechs, HarvestMechs, LoggerMechs, and PickerMechs) including quadrupedal 60-ton LoggerMechs, some refitted to carry weapons
- Galleon tanks
- Mobile HQ
- 3rd Strike Regiment (Draconis Combine)
- Draconis Combine Fifth Fleet
- First Tamar Fleet
- Free Verthandi Rangers
- Gray Death Legion
1992 reprint. Art by Boris Vallejo.
- according to the novel's presentation in BattleTech: 25 Years of Art and Fiction, p. 278; there are no timestamps within the novel itself