|Author||Michael A. Stackpole|
|Product||A Time of War (Limited Edition)|
|Era||Succession Wars era|
|Timeline||6-7 February 3004|
Vanish, by Michael A. Stackpole, is a BattleTech short story (or novella, in the author's words) about Katrina Steiner's stint as the Red Corsair, told from the perspective of Morgan Kell in first-person narrative. The story does not properly conclude, and ends with a "To be continued" note although no sequel has been forthcoming.
Published so far only as a special feature in the limited special edition of the A Time of War RPG rulebook, a preview of the first two pages was made available through the download section of the then official BattleTech website; following a forum hack in late 2010 the site had to be rebuilt and the download is not available anymore.
Eighteen-year-old Morgan Kell, freshly graduated from the Nagelring academy, arrives on Poulsbo with his cousin, Duke Arthur Luvon of Donegal, as part of a postgraduation Grand Tour of the Lyran Commonwealth. (The prodigal Kell entered the Nagelring at 15 and graduated in three years.) As they exit the terminal, the pair are greeted by a stunningly attractive blonde, who passionately embraces Arthur, much to Morgan's embarrassment. Morgan recognizes her as Leutnant-General Katrina Steiner, the guest speaker at his Nagelring graduation eight months previously (and designated heir of her uncle, Archon Alessandro Steiner). It turns out that the true purpose of the trip to Poulsbo was to surreptitiously allow Arthur and Katrina some time together, while appearing to be just one more stop on the Grand Tour. The two had been corresponding for years, and realized their true feelings when Arthur's JumpShip blew a coolant seal and could not make it to Tharkad for Morgan's commencement. They exchanged pledges of love via ComStar couriers and set up the Grand Tour hoping to meet in secret.
As they proceed to The King House hotel, Morgan notes that Poulsbo looks about a century out of step with the Lyran core, both in terms of style and level of technology, which degraded noticeably during the Succession Wars. Wanting to give the lovebirds some time alone, he sets off to explore the city of Bangor Heights. Morgan notes the city's low-rise urban sprawl and the use of nonstandard time units, due to the local rotational periods, and gets a local pocket watch to keep on schedule. He stops for dinner at a bar ("The Lost Locust") where the locals peg him for an outsider and won't give him the time of day. He notices a dartboard with Alessandro Steiner's silhouette on it, a tribute to the carnage engendered by the Archon's "Concentrated Weakness" strategy. He notices a rainbow-themed mobile hanging over the dartboards, and makes a special drink order ("bifrost yellow") at the bar, actually a recognition code for the local Heimdall cell. Shortly, he is approached by a man calling himself Grison, while Morgan introduces himself as Hound.
Grison asks Morgan why he is on-world, worrying that it might be connected to a recent upswing in Loki activity. He says he heard that Loki is worried about a potential attack on a high profile governmental official connected to the dedication of a memorial to the Stealths' defense of the world in 2812. The two suspect that Katrina Steiner is the target, since Poulsbo's remoteness would allow Alessandro Steiner to control the flow of information onto and off-world. Heimdall believes that an Archon who is willing to leave key systems defenseless would be more than capable of marginalizing and assassinating any potential threat to his power base.
Morgan wants to alert his friends, but Grison warns him off, fearing that if Katrina ever learned that Morgan was affiliated with Heimdall, she could use that knowledge as Archon to unravel the entire Heimdall network. Grison tells Morgan to meet him at another bar, the Lone Pine, if he needs to.
Morgan returns to The King House and briefs Arthur, who acts as though he expected something like this. He notes that Loki has not bugged his rooms yet (according to his surveillance-detecting chronometer), but expects that they soon will. He is not specifically worried about Alessandro, but his position as Duke of Donegal has made him a lot of enemies across the spectrum. He pulls two needler pistols out of a hidden compartment and gives one to Morgan.
On the next day, Morgan accompanies Katrina Steiner on an inspection of Bangor Military Base, during which the Archon-Designate attempts to shift attention to Morgan by hinting that he is a candidate to assume control of the planetary militia. The two take some 'Mechs out on the training course and end the day with a reception. On the way to The King House for dinner with Arthur, Morgan and Katrina discuss whether or not MechWarriors become one with their machines, as well as the backward-looking attitudes of most inhabitants of the Successor States. Katrina states her intention to create a better future for herself and her children, and Morgan infers that it is this quality that makes Alessandro see her as a threat to his power. He suggests that House Davion has a similarly ambitious vision for the future.
At the hotel, Morgan changes for dinner and finds a concealable knife hidden in his drawer to go with his needler pistol, apparently from Arthur. Appropriately attired (and armed), he awaits Arthur and Katrina in the lobby, where he is surprised to learn from the hotel manager that their departure has been moved up to later that night (to throw off any potential Loki attack). During a fabulous private dinner, Morgan stops to ask the time of one of the waiters. The man answers according to Terran Standard Time, rather than Poulsbo local, tipping Morgan off that he is an offworlder (likely a Loki agent). Katrina knocks him out and, searching him, they find confirmation that he was equipped for an abduction. They suspect that Katrina's security detail is either compromised or dead.
The group resolves to flee, and Morgan pulls the fire alarm to cover their escape. They disguise themselves as kitchen staff on the way out. Loki agents are covering the door, but Morgan and Arthur easily dispatch them. The group heads for the Lone Pine, where Grison had told Morgan to contact him if he needed help. Grison joins them and says that Heimdall is committed to keeping Loki from carrying out their plans. As they get ready to go, feeling safe, the night sky lights up as The King House explodes.
- The story picks up the "Red Corsair" mystery that was introduced to the BattleTech universe twenty-two years earlier as a background item in Michael Stackpole's 1988 novel Warrior: En Garde. In a blog entry on his homepage dated 19 October 2010, Stackpole explained that he meant to tell this story back when ROC took over the BattleTech line of novels. The novel Natural Selection (1992) should have been this story, but ROC wanted no flashback stories so he made something up on the fly and only retained some "Red Corsair" elements in the otherwise unrelated story. This led to the creation of another, distinct Red Corsair operating fifty-one years later in the BattleTech timeline.
- In the novel Warrior: En Garde, Katrina narrates the events to Grison's daughter Jeana Clay twenty-three years after they took place, although with some differences to Morgan Kell's first-person narrative in Vanish. According to Katrina Steiner, they met Grison only after escaping from the hotel — apparently she remained unaware of Morgan Kell's earlier meeting with the man. Also, regarding Arthur Luvon she says she had known him for years and was pleasantly surprised to meet him on Poulsbo. She goes on to tell that Grison provided them with new clothes after they fled from Loki, then led a Heimdall attack against the Bangor military spaceport as a diversion so that they could steal a small spacecraft that belonged to a Heimdall supporter from the civilian spaceport. Grison was shot by Loki agents after he had destroyed the spaceport's radio tower to enable the trio to escape. They posed as the Red Corsair pirate band, discovered and brought back the "Black Box" superluminal fax machines, and returned to the Commonwealth after a year through Free Worlds League space. Katrina Steiner subsequently deposed her uncle Alessandro and became Archon in his place.
The incident is also briefly mentioned in the Kell Hounds timeline in The Kell Hounds sourcebook.
- Historical: Reunification War (p. 25) states Katrina and her companions stumbled across an SLDF Black Box on Taran's World in 3005-3006. The 17th Royal Division's headquarters on Taran's World was destroyed by a dirty bomb in 2595. The site and victims were bulldozed and encased in ferrocrete. It is not known how they gained entry into the site or recovered the Black Box. However, irradiation might explain why Arthur Luvon and Katrina Steiner both died of cancer at relatively young ages (Morgan Kell would live on to become 97 years old). Arthur died in 3009, Katrina died in 3040, and Morgan died in 3083.
- In the novel Warrior: Coupé (chapter 9) the aging Alessandro Steiner privately tells Ryan Steiner that he had actually sent the Loki agents to kill Arthur Luvon, whom he had discovered to be a high-ranking Heimdall leader; it was an unforeseen coincidence that Katrina Steiner and Morgan Kell were present when the attempt took place and wholly unintended that Katrina would believe she had been the target. According to Alessandro, he saw a strong and competent leader in his niece and always considered her his heir and successor, but their relationship was forever poisoned after she returned from hiding.