Tactics of Duty

Tactics of Duty.jpg
Tactics of Duty
Product information
Type Novel
Author William H. Keith, Jr.
Pages 352
Cover Artwork Romas Kukalis
Publication information
Publisher Roc Books
First published 1 August 1995
ISBN-10 0451453824
ISBN-13 978-0451453822
MSRP $4.99
Era Clan Invasion era
Timeline 17 April 3056-21 April 3057
Series Saga of the Gray Death Legion
Preceded by Blood of Heroes
Followed by Operation Excalibur

Tactics of Duty, by William H. Keith, Jr., is the fifth book of the Saga of the Gray Death Legion.

It wraps up the somewhat unfinished storyline from the fourth novel, Blood of Heroes, in flashback scenes and exposition before picking up its own story in the first chapter, beginning eleven months after the end of Blood of Heroes when the protagonists set out for the battle at Halidon. In turn, the plotline from Tactics of Duty continues in the next Gray Death Legion novel, Operation Excalibur.

The novel was made available on BattleCorps on 06 June 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.

The book is listed under two different ISBN numbers:

  • 0451454901 (ISBN-10) = 978-0451454904 (ISBN-13), 1st edition, August 1995
  • 0451453824 (ISBN-10) = 978-0451453822 (ISBN-13)

From the back cover[edit]

Tyranny. Rebellion. War. Treachery, tribulation, and a relentless slide into the bloody jaws of Armageddon! Insurrection sweeps through the fragmenting Federated Commonwealth, pitting Steiner against Davion forces, and civilians against their petty oppressors. On Caledonia, it's no different—except that the mercenary Gray Death Legion is caught in the middle of it all.

Alex Carlyle, haunted by the gruesome specter of war, and Davis McCall, a veteran legionnaire and native Caledonian, unexpectedly find themselves key players in a popular revolt against a cruel and despised Davion-backed governor. When the Gray Death Legion is called upon to put down this very rebellion, they all find themselves pawns in a deadly game of manipulation and betrayal. But Grayson Carlyle, tactician supreme and founder of the Legion, is bound by the highest duty—to protect civilization from self-destruction no matter what the odds or price....

Plot Summary[edit]

Defending Glengarry against Skye separatists in the Second Skye Rebellion, the weak on-planet Gray Death Legion rump forces under temporary leadership of Captain Alex Carlyle managed to repulse the initial landing and then two out of three nearly simultaneous landings by enemy troops. They then set out to engage the third enemy landing zone at Halidon, but in the face of strong enemy forces that battle became a rout, and Alex Carlyle subsequently led the Legion on a seven-month guerrilla campaign with sixty percent losses, until the Legion's line combat units returned to the planet and broke the siege.

By 10 March 3057, four months after the end of the campaign, Alexander Carlyle is still having bad dreams about it, feeling his leadership performance was inadequate and the losses too high, especially the death of his close friend Davis Clay. His overall performance is sagging, his relationship with Caitlin DeVries is suffering, and his father, Colonel Grayson Carlyle, is considering pulling him off-duty.

Also on 10 March, Major Davis McCall receives a message from his estranged family, informing him that his brother Angus was arrested and indicating all is not well on his homeworld of Caledonia. Greatly alarmed, he informs Colonel Carlyle who in turn sends McCall and Alex Carlyle to Caledonia on an intelligence gathering mission, reasoning that the Gray Death Legion may find itself tasked with putting down a rebellion on Caledonia should one occur, and that it would be good to have contacts there already.

Major McCall and Captain Carlyle leave Glengarry bound for the same JumpShip that brought Alex's mother Lori Kalmar-Carlyle and Jaime Wolf. Grayson Carlyle is to fight a simulator battle against the latter as a public event, which turns out to be a replay of the Battle of Gettysburg with simulated BattleMech forces. During the match, a sniper attempts to assassinate Grayson Carlyle, but only manages to wound him before he is in turn killed by his accomplice, Lieutenant Dupré. Dupré thus gains Carlyle's trust by pretending he killed the assassin to defend Carlyle.

News of the assassination attempt reach Alex Carlyle and Davis McCall shortly before their JumpShip leaves the system. They travel to Caledonia without BattleMechs, but secretly bring a pair of Mk. XXI Nighthawk suits with them. Arriving on Caledonia aboard the independent trader DropShip Tagalong on 31 March, they find civil unrest against Caledonia's unloved ruler Nelson Wilmarth and protesters being cowed by BattleMechs. At a meeting with McCall's family they learn that one Major Kellen Folker, an old nemesis of Davis McCall, is Wilmarth's chief military advisor.

McCall decides to visit Governor Wilmarth in his residence on Mount Alba the next day to discuss his brother. They meed Folker and encounter gruesome scenes at the governor's citadel where prisoners are tortured to death to make an example of them. The talks quickly degrade to the point where McCall and Carlyle have to fight their way out of the citadel, taking Folker hostage and freeing two prisoners in the process. They subsequently get their modified Nighthawk suits and stage a raid against the citadel on the same night to rescue Angus McCall from captivity. Thanks to the prisoners they rescued they are supported in this action by the Reivers, a local resistance movement under General Ambrose McBee that formed out of the original local militia (before they were gradually replaced by offworlders loyal to Wilmarth, a new militia called the Bloodspillers). The clandestine raid evolves into a firefight. Over the course of the battle over eighty prisoners including Angus McCall are freed, several guards are killed and several vehicles are wrecked, notably including an UrbanMech. Eventually, the defenders bring two Victors to the battle. McCall manages to cripple one with a satchel charge, sending it falling down a cliff and cowing the other Victor to take a defensive stance and let the prisoners escape, but he is wounded in the process. Carlyle barely manages to rescue him.

There is really a cabal of conspirators behind the situation. High-ranking Lyran officers and nobles are manipulating Wilmarth through Folker as part of what they call Operation EXCALIBUR, an attempt to gain control of Hesperus II and its BattleMech factories. Grayson Carlyle is being set up to either be suborned by the conspirators, or to move against them and lose his strategically important barony which will then fall to another of the conspirators. They feel it is a win-win situation.

On 7 April, the JumpShip Rubicon brings Grayson Carlyle and the Gray Death Legion's third battalion to the Caledonia system with orders to restore order. They are worried to find all frequencies dead or jammed. Major Folker has been awaiting their arrival at the jump point in a shuttle and meets with Grayson Carlyle aboard the Rubicon. There, he shows him footage of the attack on Wilmarth's citadel, accusing Carlyle's men of working with the rebels. Folker rides down to the planet with the Legion and orders them to deploy 'Mechs against the civilian protesters in the capital. When Grayson Carlyle refuses the order, Folker has him arrested but is in turn arrested along with his adjudants when Carlyle is freed by his security detail. However, Folker manages to escape.

Before long, the Gray Death Legion find themselves in battle against the "loyal" Third Davion Guards, a regiment controlled by the conspirators that had also been sent to Caledonia. In a final battle on 16 April—again with tactical similarities to the Gettysburg battle—the Legion vanquishes the 3rd Davion Guards in the field, but Grayson Carlyle's Victor was sabotaged and is helplessly shot from behind by Dupré, heavily wounding Grayson Carlyle.

The novel ends with the Legion preparing to return to Glengarry, which is already besieged by FedCom troops demanding the Legion's surrender—the Legion is accused of having broken their contract by siding against Wilmarth, and their future hangs in the balance.

Featured characters[edit]

Featured places[edit]

Featured BattleTech[edit]


Aerospace fighters[edit]






  • The world of Caledonia is repeatedly referred to as "Caledon".
  • SRM and LRM numbers appear to be reversed throughout the novel; Alex Carlyle's Archer fires 12-round LRM cassettes while the Pegasus fires 5-pack SRM volleys.

Foreign-Language Editions[edit]


A German edition, translated by Reinhold H. Mai, was published by Heyne in 1996 as Pflichtübung (ISBN 9783453094390).[1] This was republished as an EPUB by Ulisses Spiele in 2019 as BattleTech Legenden 29 : Pflichtübung (ISBN 9783963310911).[2]


A Russian edition, translated by T. Musatova, was published by Армада (Armada) in 1997 as Тактика долга (ISBN 576320395X). [3][4]



  1. Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Catalog entry for Pflichtübung
  2. Deutsche Nationalbibliothek Catalog entry for BattleTech Legenden 29 : Pflichtübung
  3. Science Fiction Lab Book description for Тактика долга
  4. National Library of Russia description for Тактика долга