Silver Eagle Incident
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The Silver Eagle Incident occurred in the closing years of the Succession Wars, when the Lyran Commonwealth and Federated Suns had made a pact known as the FedCom Accords. While officially formalizing a closer relationship between the two powers, a secret provision of the Accords planned for the marriage of First Prince Hanse Davion to Archon-Designate Melissa Steiner, unifying them into a new superstate. In preparation for this event, Melissa Steiner agreed to travel incognito to the Federated Suns aboard the luxury DropShip Silver Eagle in 3027. En route to New Avalon the Silver Eagle was waylaid by forces opposed to her marriage and came under attack from the Draconis Combine. Thanks to the fortuitous arrival of a mercenary company, the Kell Hounds, all aboard the Silver Eagle were saved and the secret of Melissa's mission was maintained.
On 24 April 3027, under the guise of "Joana Barker", Melissa Steiner contacted the Meier-Star Agency to book passage to New Avalon aboard the Monopole-owned Silver Eagle. The ship's route was a leisurely one over several months, with stops at Skye, Terra, Fomalhaut and Mallory's World, as taking a direct three-week voyage would've been too expensive on a teacher's salary. In the end the Silver Eagle was expected to enter Federation space 20 May when it arrived at Fomalhaut and arrive at New Avalon some time in mid-June. Once her trip was booked, "Joana's" personal data - food allergies, reading interests, body mass - were sent to Monopole's computer system to optimize her journey aboard the DropShip. Once done, her information was sent to the Lyran Intelligence Corps for background checks, then Immigration to review her medical history and ensure she had received the necessary vaccinations.
While in Immigration's computer systems, this personal data was secretly copied and examined by another program hidden within the system, which through an elaborate cross-checking process determined a high likelihood that "Joana Barker" was in fact Melissa Steiner. This information was then sent via complex method - including the crossing of several air gaps - to Baron Enrico Lestrade on Solaris. Enrico was part of a faction within the Lyran Commonwealth, led by his uncle Duke Aldo Lestrade IV, opposed to the unification of Houses Steiner and Davion. Hoping to upset the marriage by kidnapping the Archon-Designate, Baron Lestrade hired Gray Noton to divert the Silver Eagle on its route to the Federated Suns, though he did not tell Gray who exactly it was on the DropShip that he wanted. However, Baron Lestrade had foolishly included the passenger manifest with the information he sent, and Noton recognized names on the list which might be of interest to others. He hired Heimdall to hijack the Silver Eagle at Fomalhaut and divert it to Sirius with the intention of placing the ship and its contents to the highest bidder among the Great Houses.
Melissa Steiner boarded the Silver Eagle on 26 April, one of 350 passengers taking part in the sightseeing cruise, along with Lieutenant Andrew Redburn. Officially Redburn was returning to New Avalon as part of an officer exchange program between the two realms, but in truth he was there to act as her bodyguard. While the Archon-Designate settled into her modest quarters, Redburn would travel in the luxury suites and was given a tour of the DropShip by Captain Stefan von Breunig. The DropShip lifted off that same day to begin its journey.
By 5 May, the Silver Eagle had reached Skye, with both Andrew and Melissa 'by chance' meeting over dinner together with other guests aboard the DropShip. At the same time on Solaris, Gray Noton informed Justin Allard of the recent job he'd been hired for by the Baron Lestrade. While outwardly a traitor to House Davion, Justin was secretly a deep cover agent for the First Prince, and when he recognized his friend Redburn's name on the list he was determined no harm would come to him. Later that night when Tsen Shang entered Noton's office for their arraigned meeting about the list, he found the mercenary with his neck snapped and all information on the Silver Eagle gone. When the Maskirovka agent confronted Justin the next day about Noton's death, Justin explained the list had been part of a setup by MIIO's Counterintelligence Division and that he'd destroyed it to thwart their plot.
The Silver Eagle arrived at Summer on 6 May, with a planned departure to Fomalhaut on 21 May to link up with the JumpShip Meridian and then continue on to Errai. However, on 11 May two Heimdall agents, Danica and Clovis Holstein, had arrived at Fomalhaut on the Bifrost. They boarded the Meridian under false pretenses and arranged to meet with her captain, where they convinced him that there was an ISF agent aboard (which was true) and that he'd sabotaged the JumpShip's helium tanks (which was false). While Danica offered to send over one of their engineers from the Bifrost to "fix" the problem (in truth to sabotage the helium tanks for real), Clovis was able to get into Monopole's computer systems via the Meridian and designate the Bifrost as the Meridan's alternate. On their return to the Bifrost, Danica confided to her son that - though they had taken a job which seemed to harm the Lyran Commonwealth - they would not follow through with Noton's plan. Instead the Silver Eagle would be taken to Heimdall's secret base at Styx, where they would decide what to do with it then.
Hijacking and Kurita Attack
on 21 May the Silver Eagle arrived at Fomalhaut where, with the Meridian out of action, she rendezvoused with the Bifrost. Melissa and Andrew were on the DropShip's bridge with Captain von Breunig as the DropShip connected with the JumpShip and made the jump through hyperspace, and the captain immediately recognized something was wrong when the system they appeared in did not match Errai. The ship was taken the Heimdall's base, set up in planetoid which had once been part of a defunct mining operation in the system. The Silver Eagle was landed in the planetoid's cavernous docking bay while the Bifrost sat suspended in low gravity above it. The base housed 400 personnel, and while a number were Heimdall agents most were refugees from either the Lyran Commonwealth or Draconis Combine.
Two days later, on Luthien, ISF Director Subhash Indrahar reported to Coordinator Takashi Kurita they had received information which suggested Melissa Steiner was traveling in secret aboard the Silver Eagle and that it had been taken to the Styx system. When questioned, Subhash confided it had been based on information gleaned indirectly from ComStar and independently verified through their own efforts. In truth the information was purposefully leaked by Precentor Myndo Waterly to the Draconis Combine; she opposed Primus Julian Tiepolo scheme for the union of the two Great Houses and wished to prevent the marriage of Hanse and Melissa. Subhash's plan was for a a company of elite ISF jump infantry stationed on Dieron to jump to Styx and take Melissa hostage, a plan the Coordinator approved with one caveat: that the newly constituted Genyosha, led by his cousin Yorinaga Kurita and stationed in the nearby Nashira system, also join in the raid.
Later that day, Heimdall detected a Combine Invader-class JumpShip arrive at the system's nadir point, from which a Fury-class DropShip dispatched towards the base. Based on its acceleration vector they estimated 30-50 troopers on board and that it would arrive in 48 hours. Danica and Clovis brought Redburn, Melissa and von Breunig to the mining complex's command center and confronted them with the information. Melissa recognized, given the small number of troops relative to a Fury's capacity, that they had to be ISF troops; she confided this to Redburn so that he could bring it up instead and maintain her cover. At this Danica recognized that they must be after a specific passenger, and suggested that whoever it was be handed over so an exchange be negotiated. Rather than remain hidden and let others sacrifice on her behalf, Melissa declared her true identity to those in the command center...an action upstaged only by the detection of a second Invader with an Overlord-class DropShip, heralding the arrival of the Genyosha.
Expecting the worse, Melissa's reveal instead prompted Danica and Clovis beg forgiveness and swear that they would protect her at all costs; other members of Heimdall was informed of her identity, while the rest of those at the base were simply told an important Steiner envoy had been aboard and was the target of the Kurita raid. In the two days before the arrival of the first DropShip, Melissa took charge of organizing the defense of the base, positioning defensive fire teams and mining tunnels with explosives to block them off. All non-essential personnel were placed aboard the Silver Eagle in the expectation the Combine troops would not risk its destruction. Melissa would remain in the command center to oversee the overall defense with a few bodyguards while Redburn joined one of the Heimdall fire-teams.
The Combine DropShip arrived at the mining base late on 25 May. As it was originally an ISF operation, the honor of starting the attack went to the ISF troopers, whilst the Genyosha would hang back to provide support. Using drilling decoys to throw of the defenders, the ISF troopers breached the base in multiple locations, then split into roughly two groups: one to capture the Silver Eagle while the second took the command center. The Genyosha were shortly behind them and dropped close to the main hanger opening to help secure the Silver Eagle. Though Heimdall put up stiff resistance, they were quickly being overrun and wiped out by the elite ISF troopers, including Redburn's fire-team. By the time the Genyosha had made their drop - Yorinaga in his Warhammer, Narimasa Asano in a Crusader and the rest in Panthers - it was expected the ISF would have the command center within the hour.
The date was 26 May 3027 when an ISF team breached the command center; though Melissa managed to kill the last trooper, only she and Clovis had survived the attack. Before anymore could arrive, the two snuck out through the ventilation system. Exiting the tunnels, they discovered Redburn at where his team had been overrun, still alive but injured. Determined to get out of the base, the trio headed for one of the smaller hanger bays in hopes of finding a ship to take them to safety.
Kell Hound Rescue
During the course of these events, the Kell Hounds mercenary group had been stationed on Pacifica when, on 24-25 May, they were attacked by Combine forces. Thanks to a chance turn of events, the sneak attack had been repulsed, with only Lieutenant-Colonel Patrick Kell suffering a collapsed lung from a Katana wound. Colonel Kell was evacuated to the Kell Hound JumpShip Cucamulus to receive medical attention aboard the Manannan MacLir, while Captain Dan Allard oversaw the evacuation of the rest of the Kell Hounds aboard the Lugh and Nuada Argetlan. Detecting additional Combine reinforcements incoming, the Kell Hounds soon realized through signal intercepts that the Combine had been specifically targeting them for destruction. Captain Allard, Major Salome Ward, and Sergeant Clarence "Cat" Wilson meet with Captain Janos Vandermeer on the ship's bridge to discuss their options. With the expectation there were further ambushes awaiting them if they retreated to any Commonwealth system, Captain Vendermeer revealed an alternative plan: discharging debris to make it look like the Cu had suffered a misjump, the JumpShip instead fled into Kurita space.
On 26 May the Kell Hounds were in the A2341CA system when the executive staff, along with a somewhat recovered Patrick Kell, met to discuss their next moves aboard the Cu. Colonel Kell revealed that he and Janos had planned for 'fleeing' into the Combine to throw them off, but knew that either their pursuers or a random patrol would find them sooner then later. Given that it would normally take eight days to recharge the jump drives by the normal method, Colonel Kell decided they would "hot-load" the drives using the Cu's own powerplant. While this would recharge the drives in only 25 hours, there was a 28% chance of a misjump by doing so. Once the drives were charged, the Kell Hounds would proceed to Styx, which was suspected to house a Heimdall base where they might receive help. The Cu had been charging up for three hours already when they detected the arrival of a Kurita JumpShip, which soon discharged an Intruder-class DropShip that made straight for their position. With the DropShip's arrival in just 21 hours, that left only 19 for the mercenaries to carry out their dangerous plan.
Despite the added stress, the Cucamulus made the jump successfully to Styx, though the situation was lest than hoped-for: besides the Combine JumpShips and DropShips, they also detected five enemy 'Mechs on the planetoid's surface, guarding one of the smaller hanger bays. Luckily the Cu had used a pirate point to appear on the "dark side" of the planetoid, avoiding detecting by the Combine ships and preventing the 'Mechs from radioing their appearance. Immediately the Kell Hounds launched the Nuada Argetlan carrying two reinforced lances under Captain Allard's command (1st Lance: a Wasp, a Jenner, two salvaged Panthers and a Valkyrie piloted by Dan Allard; 2nd Lance three salvaged Panthers, a Wolverine and a Catapult), which would make a combat drop and destroy the enemy 'Mechs on the surface before proceeding inside via the hanger. Making a fast 2.5 G burn, the Nuada reached the drop point in under twelves minutes, and after landing on the surface the ten Kell Hound 'Mechs quickly destroyed the five Panthers for no loss.
Not recognizing the Genyosha emblem on the destroyed 'Mechs, the Kell Hounds proceeded inside where, after traveling down a winding series of corridors, they ran into Melissa Steiner and her group. Quickly realizing what Melissa's capture could mean, the mercenaries decided two of their number would escort Melissa back to the surface. There the Mac would pick her up, return her to the Cu and hot-jump out again, while the rest stayed behind to buy some time. However, Patrick Kell would not risk another hot-jump attempt with Melissa Steiner aboard, and so (as to avoid the Kurita forces from picking up their signals) altered the plan without telling the ground team: Melissa and her group would stay hidden in the base while the Mac made a run as though it had picked her up. Instead it would drop off a recovered Patrick piloting Ardan Sortek's Victor with the goal of destroying as much of the Kuritan force as possible.
As the Kell Hound team moved deeper into the base, they were contacted by sho-sa Tarukito Niiro, who offered them safe passage to meet their forces in the main hanger by the Silver Eagle. There they saw the Genyosha 'Mechs arrayed around the DropShip: twenty Panthers with a Crusader and Warhammer. Sho-sa Niiro informed the assembled group that they had one hour to produce Melissa Steiner or they would destroy the Silver Eagle. The Kell Hounds plead ignorance that Melissa was even on the planetoid, but nevertheless used the grace period to their advantage.
When the hour was almost up, the Kell Hounds readied themselves to attack when suddenly Patrick Kell made his dramatic entrance, destroying a Panther with a burst from his autocannon and announcing Melissa had made her escape towards the Cucamulus, which the Kuritans would never catch in time before it jumped. In the general melee which ensued, Patrick was untouchable as he continued to target the enemy Panthers, even as the Warhammer turned its guns on him. Dan quickly realized that the Warhammer was being piloted by Yorinaga Kurita as he began to land blows on Patrick's 'Mech. Patrick continued to ignore Yorinaga and focused on the enemy Panthers until a final, fatal shot caused his 'Mech to go critical. As Patrick attempted to eject, Dan saw his command chair caught in the blast of the exploding 'Mech, seemingly killing the Kell Hounds leader.
In a blind rage, and unable to target Yorinaga with his weapons, Dan slammed his Valkyrie into the Warhammer and activated the self-destruct before punching out. While only incapacitating the Warhammer, Dan's suicidal attack did forced Yorinaga to eject as well. With Yorinaga out of the fight, their numbers greatly reduced and no hope of reaching the Mac before it could escape, sho-sa Niiro ordered a retreat back to the Genyosha's DropShip. The Kell Hounds did likewise, where they discover not only Patrick's change in plans but that he had survived the explosion, albeit mortally wounded. Aboard the Silver Eagle - en route to the Cu with the passengers and Kell Hounds aboard - Patrick Kell and Melissa Steiner were reunited, where she revealed to him the reason for her secret trip to the Federated Suns. Wishing her happiness in her new life, Patrick Kell handed over command of the Kell Hounds to Salome and died.
The Kell Hounds and Silver Eagle arrived at Northwind on 5 June, where they were met by Hanse Davion, Quintus Allard and his staff to debrief them. Publicly, the First Prince was on hand to make a public statement thanking the Kell Hounds for helping to rescue the Silver Eagle from Kurita forces at Styx and honor the sacrifices of those who gave their lives. The MIIO helped spread the story that it was a high-level Steiner envoy traveling to New Avalon which precipitated the Kurita raid, while the members of Heimdall kept quite about Melissa's presence.
In a private meeting attended by Qintus and Melissa, Hanse personally asked for Clovis, Redburn, Salome and Cat Wilson to swear secrecy regarding Melissa's upcoming marriage, which the four had overheard when she confessed to Patrick. In return he rewarded Andrew Redburn a promotion to Captain; pardons for Heimdall in diverting the Silver Eagle and all the support they needed until they could return to the Commonwealth; and the Dragon Slayer's Ribbon to the Kell Hounds with a memorial to be built for those who gave their lives. Given the delicate nature of Melissa's journey, he also promised to induct them into the Order of Davion and posthumously award their fallen comrades the Medal Excalibur when he could. When asked how else he might reward the Kell Hounds, Dan suggested a scholarship in Patrick Kell's name for prospective MechWarriors.
On 15 July, the First Circuit of ComStar met at the Hilton Head complex to discuss the possible excommunication of Mydo Waterly from the Order. Primus Teipolo accused the Precentor of potentially revealing the covert operations of ComStar and tarnishing its neutralist image with her meddling. The Primus was also voiced concerns that the death of Patrick Kell by Yorniaga's hands might lead to Morgan Kell coming out of retirement to face his old foe. However, Waterly succeeded in staving off her excommunication, arguing her actions were no less subtle than past ComStar meddling, that waiting for the First Circuit to approve her actions would've wasted valuable time, and that there were no lasting consequences.
A memorial to the Silver Eagle incident was constructed at the Davion Peace Gardens on New Avalon before the end of the year. Surrounded by a grassy amphitheater, the stone-and-steel tableau includes a memorial flame highlighting three figures. A panther is seen recoiling from a bloodied wolfhound, mortally wounded but lunging towards the panther with fangs bared, while behind it a child crouches in horror. A rope around the child suggests imminent rescue to justify the hound's sacrifice. On the plaque below the scene reads the names of those who died and the following: "In Memoriam: For those who gave their lives to save the hijacked DropShip Silver Eagle, 26 June 3027. The fruits of your sacrifice will live forever."
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