Think like a Liao

Think like a Liao
Story information
Author Susan Putney
Pages 10
Type Short story
Product Shrapnel (anthology)
Illustrations Jeff Laubenstein
Era Succession Wars era
Timeline 10-21 January 3026

Think like a Liao is a BattleTech short story by Susan Putney. It was published in the 1988 anthology Shrapnel.

Plot summary[edit]

Tormana Liao is the estranged son of Maximilian Liao, Chancellor of the Capellan Confederation. He has constantly failed to please his father or at least live up to his expectations, and has consciously stopped trying by now. The most recent falling-out between them occurred because Tormana married Hanya No Cha, who was born to a commoner family on Brazen Heart, the secret prison colony in the Sarna Commonality, and refused to divorce her despite his father strongly disapproving of the marriage.

During a reception following a public parade on Liao on 10 January 3026 to celebrate the Year of the Tiger, Tormana inadvertently insults Edgar Bentley, the father of a Davion regimental commander working for Michael Hasek-Davion. It sickens Tormana that people constantly look for a deeper meaning in his every word and action and always assume him to be scheming simply because he is a Liao, although he has no political ambitions whatsoever and really only wants to serve his beloved nation as a good soldier. Refusing to apologize to Bentley, Tormana fails what his godmother Chandra Ling cryptically calls his "very last chance" to reconcile with his father despite the her urgings and those of his elder sister Candace, and leaves the room instead.

Early on the morning following the festivities, he transfers back to the planet Kali in the Algol system, where he serves with the 1st Ariana Fusiliers, aboard the DropShip Thunderfist.

Eleven days later, a mere six hours after his arrival on Kali, a message with the Brazen Heart emblem is slipped under his door calling him to come alone to coordinates some sixty kilometers from his post at Warex Base.

Shortly before arriving at the given coordinates in his Vindicator, he muses if he might be walking into a trap when suddenly another Vindicator appears and deactivates Tormana's 'Mech with a remote control. The other pilot explains that he has been surgically altered to take Tormana's place as a Doppelganger on Maximilian Liao's orders. Even if Tormana would somehow manage to return to base alive he would be killed by agents there if he did not give the correct passwords. However, the Doppelganger is unaware of the note when Tormana mentions it and claims he simply followed him out of the base when Tormana suddenly left. He discards Tormana's warnings about a possible trap as a trick, but just when he is about to kill the helpless Tormana they suddenly intercept a radio transmission from a nearby Davion strike force. It turns out that the note had indeed been a trap. Only having his 'Mech deactivated before arriving at the indicated place saved Tormana. Now 21 enemy BattleMechs are moving out against the unsuspecting Liao base, presumably seeking to exact revenge for Tormana's insult during the reception.

Since the atmosphere on Kali is not breathable, both Tormana and his Doppelganger realize that they will die if their base is destroyed and have to cooperate to save the base (and thereby themselves). They agree on a truce: Tormana provides the secret passwords to his ComStar trust accounts and other personal information while the other man reveals his Maskirovka connections and passwords. Thus, if the Doppelganger lives, he can take Tormana's identity; if Tormana lives, he can pose as his own Doppelganger to avoid being killed.

Using Tormana's intimate knowledge of the barren planet, its peculiar natural anomalies and the base's defenses, the two men proceed to prepare an ambush for the Davion force but they have to remember that they are mortal enemies at the same time, as only one of them must return to their base alive. The doppleganger repeatedly taunts Tormana about "thinking like a Liao" but is ultimately defeated when Tormana dishonorably breaks their truce earlier than expected—thinking like a Liao.

Featured Characters[edit]


  • In the story, Algol is described as a system with four suns "collectively known as Algol": Belial and Bael (blue-white pinheads, close together), Ahriman (a red dot) and Asmoday (yellowish) trailing behind it. However, other official (canonical) material from LinkNet describes Algol as a G5V sun with 9 planets without mentioning multiple suns. This does not technically rule out altogether 4 suns, and a "yellowish" sun (Asmoday) might be the primary star; G5V indicates a yellow star.
  • Similarly, Kali is described as a barren and inhospitable planet without even a breathable atmosphere in this story and with (at least) one "great moon", Ratra. The LinkNet article described the system's fourth planet as a veritable breadbasket world. It must therefore be assumed that Kali is another planet in the same system.