AUTHOR'S NOTES: Uh…heh heh. I sort of forgot that I hadn't posted this. Whoops. But anyway, this is the LAST chapter of the Snowbird Saga. I really mean it this time. Sort of.

REVIEWER'S CORNER:

Texray: Thank you very much. The honor is mine.

Moisin: The actor/character list is somewhere in the review corners somewhere. I don't know where myself. Besides, the list is so out of date now that I have no idea who could play who. I have some Photoshopped pictures of Famke Janssen as Sheila and Carrie-Anne Moss as Senefa, but given that most of the characters are under the age of 20, I really don't know who could play who. Maybe we'd just go the Avatar route and CGI them all anyway. After reading Wishful Drinking over the holidays, though, I somehow see Carrie Fisher as Marion Rhialla.

Pacificuser/Bien: Great to hear from you! Hope you're doing better now.

Reader: Thank you. I don't know what or when I'll be writing next, but sooner or later the muse will ambush me.

Peaslums: Thanks for the great compliment! As for publishing the Snowbird stories, I doubt that'll ever happen. For one thing, I mess around with Battletech canon and occasionally steal outright from war movies. I am working on two novels that I hope to get published someday (they have nothing to do with Battletech, though one has a pretty tough female in a Sheila mold, except that she really is immortal…Reader will love that one…), but breaking into the writing business is very tough.

Rogue: As always, thanks.

MUSIC CORNER: No idea. It's an epilogue, after all.


EPILOGUE

The Clan War was over. However, the Snowbirds story does not end there, of course. Their adventures may yet be written someday, but for now, this hopefully will suffice.

Calla Bighorn-Vlata retired from command of the Sentinels after the Battle of Sudeten, though he made a full recovery. He went on to briefly accept a position teaching at the Thorin Military Academy, where the Sentinels were posted after the war ended. However, the forced inaction of a man who had been a MechWarrior and in command for so long grated on him, and he would briefly attempt to retake command of his beloved Sentinels. The regiment, as Mira had predicted, had passed him by, however, and it briefly caused a rift between himself and his daughter. They have since patched up their differences, however, and Calla now has settled into retirement—though he occasionally pilots a new, modified Battlemaster into combat when the Sentinels need an extra hand, even as he nears seventy.

Arla Bighorn-Vlata also retired alongside her husband, handing over command of the Sentinels Light Infantry to Mikkansia Jackson. She then went into politics, though was never particularly successful above the local level due to her tendency to speak her mind. She and Calla separated over the issue of Calla attempting to return to command the Sentinels, but have since gotten back together. She, however, is satisfied to "putter around" in her flower bed and enjoy her retirement.

Mira Canis-Vlata, after the death of Todd, remained as Sheila Arla-Vlata's second in command until the Sentinels finished rebuilding in early 3053. She then also retired and went into politics on her home planet of Shensi. She had better luck than her cousin-in-law Arla, and eventually became Duchess of Shensi in one of the last acts of Melissa Steiner-Davion before the Archon's assassination in June 3055. After Shensi returned to the Capellan Confederation, Mira had become so popular that the people petitioned Chancellor Sun-Tzu Liao to allow her to remain Duchess. Surprisingly, he agreed. Mira retired from that position in 3070 and returned to Grunwald, where she lives just down the street from her cousin and former commander Calla.

Catherine Houndlikov retired from the Sentinels as well after Sudeten, buying a ranch and living in semi-reclusion on Grunwald. Like Calla, she had occasionally gotten back into her trusty Marauder and fought alongside the Sentinels, but this ended after nearly being killed on New Avalon in the Federated Commonwealth Civil War. She died in her sleep in 3071 following a stroke.

Kazumi never achieved his Bloodname, but with a battlefield promotion to command of Gyrfalcon Galaxy (albeit only until the Battle of Tukayyid) remains the highest ranking non-Bloodnamed Jade Falcon. After Tukayyid, in which he played a minor role, he accepted command of the Jade Falcon training program. Out of loyalty to Cavell Malthus, he refused to ever meet with Vandervahn Chistu or Elias Crichell, but after the death of both men following the Refusal War, became a valuable ally to new Khan Marthe Pryde. He also maintained a relationship with his faithful second-in-command Lina, who eventually won her Bloodname and became Lina Malthus. Lina has since risen to command the 4th Falcon Talon, and is among the loudest voices urging Clan Jade Falcon to take the field against the Word of Blake. Kazumi remains in command of the Jade Falcon Training Program; quietly and quite illegally, he maintains communication with Senefa Malthus when he is able.

Nicia Caii remained Master Tech of the Sentinels, and retains that position to this day. Though fighting arthritis and losing two of her fingers in an armor saw, Nicia is still every bit as good of a tech now than she was in 3050, though she continually claims that the Sentinels' insistence on modifying every 'Mech they acquire is going to kill her long before anything else will.

Mimi Stykkis has never regained full use of her legs, and so remains one of the only physically-challenged MechWarriors in the Inner Sphere. Promoted to Major in 3055 and given command of her own company, Mimi has since refused further promotion, stating she is exactly where she wants to be. She and Troms Fiordur lived together in a common-law marriage for some years, but split up after Mimi revealed that she was bisexual and having an affair. While Fiordur left the Sentinels, Mimi remains, regarded as one of the most tenacious company commanders in the regiment. Her involvement in gay/lesbian causes around the Inner Sphere is a source of embarrassment to the more conservative Sheila Arla-Vlata (who is a firm believer in "don't ask, don't tell, just fight"), but they still remain friends.

Tessya Blackthorn and Philip Scott stayed in the Sentinels and had two children. Tessya, after Sheila's promotion to command the Sentinels, became the second commander of the Snowbirds SMCAT, while Philip took a break from being a MechWarrior to go back to his lawyer practice. Tessya suspected—falsely—that Philip was having an affair with his clients, and the two finally divorced in 3059. Tessya then left the Snowbirds and the Sentinels, but eventually returned in the first year of the Word of Blake Jihad to take command of Alpha Battalion. Philip also returned to his MechWarrior career, but has never risen above lance command. The two have no contact beyond joint custody of their children.

Danielle Blackthorn got her own lance, the Buffalo Hunters, in the Sentinels rebuilding period, and was continually promoted until she took command of Gamma Battalion in 3068. She has since proven to be a superb battalion commander, eclipsing even her sister, and is known as "Green Blackthorn" for her devotion to environmentalism, to the point of requiring that her battalion police up a battlefield of even the tiniest piece of trash.

Kahvi Falx formally changed her name from Kimiko Matsushima in 3054 on her father's death, so as not to cause a succession crisis in Tanadi Electronics. They never reconciled and in fact he refused to acknowledge that he even had a daughter, even after her role in the defense of Kagoshima was revealed. Kahvi also got a lance command during the Sentinels' rebuilding, working her way through the ranks; upon Tessya Blackthorn's abrupt departure from the Snowbirds, Kahvi became the third Snowbirds commanding officer. She offered to commit seppuku after hesitating and nearly being overrun by Smoke Jaguar forces during Operation Bulldog, but Sheila refused and ordered her back to duty; Kahvi then led a counterattack that destroyed a Jaguar Cluster. She married Hohiro Noribetsu after a long courtship and has since given birth to a daughter. Kahvi remains commander of the Snowbirds…for now.

Frederick Matria has never been promoted since joining the Sentinels in 3051, because he "doesn't want any responsibility." Instead, he has become the regiment's communication specialist, with hacking skills better than any Word of Blake operative. Nor has he ever married, claiming women were more trouble than computers, which can be replaced when they break down.

Ariel Munroe recovered from her wounds and likewise rose through the ranks, eventually commanding Gamma Battalion. She once more was nearly killed, this time in the retreat off Tikonov during the FedCom Civil War, losing both her legs. She retired and took command of the Sentinels' Training Battalion.

Chuck Badaxe and Maria Thyatis, after a long courtship, married in 3053, divorced in 3055, and remarried in 3057. So far, it seems to be holding this time. Badaxe became the head of his father's myomer manufacturing firm, but lost everything when the company was nationalized by Katherine Steiner-Davion in 3065. He however seems content with his MechWarrior's salary.

Cecilia "CeeCee" Masterson went through lance and then company command, remaining with the Snowbirds battalion. Many said that CeeCee was the one who actually commanded the Snowbirds, since Kahvi Falx rather timidly went along with whatever Masterson said, no matter how reckless. Though she took quite a few lovers, none were ever able to replace Kassy Holliday. Masterson was killed in 3071 leading a suicidal charge into a former Castle Brian occupied by the Word of Blake on Thorin.

Felisanna and Bien Canonizado have never been seen again by any member of the Sentinels. It is known that they did go to Mayetta, Canonizado's home planet, but from there they disappear. Rumors persist that they had children who have gone on to become skilled MechWarriors in their own right, perhaps fighting under assumed names, perhaps even in the Sentinels themselves.

Elfa Brownoak and Tooriu Kku remained with the Sentinels, with Elfa in line to become the Snowbirds' second commander. This went to Tessya Blackthorn, however, when Elfa decided instead to retire and raise her children. Tragically, she was to do it alone: Tooriu Kku was killed by a Taurian artillery strike in the Sentinels' first post-Clan War battle along the Periphery, against a "rogue" Taurian unit. Mourned by the entire unit, the Snowbirds' artillery lance remains known as "Tooriu's Box of Hell" in his honor, and Sheila places flowers on his grave on a regular basis—but never lilies or violets, for dead BattleMech pilots.

Robert and Betsy Drakon recovered from their wounds on Kagoshima and returned to duty. Like Matria, they have refused any promotion and remain simple MechWarriors, mainly because of their fear of being split up. They are known as the "Blackjack Twins," and are a feared sight on a battlefield. Their parents were never found, and remain classified as Missing in Action.

Glynnis Griffin, with a grand total of fifteen 'Mechs shot out from under her by 3060, decided to retire. This proved only temporary, as she returned to the Sentinels to fight in the FedCom Civil War, and then left once more to join Wolf's Dragoons as a training officer. Following the Word of Blake's nuclear strikes on Outreach, her current whereabouts are unknown.

Fianna Cassidy and Dennis Dorinson married just after the Battle of Sudeten, with Cassidy giving birth to a son in August 3052. They both rose to platoon command before retiring after the FedCom Civil War. They decided to remain wherever the Sentinels go and not return to Northwind (which proved to be a good idea). Dorinson became a teacher, while Cassidy a DJ. Their son, Sean Cassidy, joined the Sentinels in 3070 as a MechWarrior.

David Moore remained commander of the Snowbirds' Ceta Company, and though offered command of the Snowbirds and later Ceta Battalion, refused. He is perfectly happy where he is, Moore says.

Maysa Bari learned that she could not have children—ironically, due to a genetic quirk identical to Sheila Arla-Vlata's. Like her friend, she and her husband Daniel Polycutt decided to adopt a little girl, Vikka, who was found abandoned and near feral on Steelton during a Sentinel raid on that world in 3057. Vikka was the apparent result of a rape by a Clan warrior, and her mother killed herself after Vikka turned three. Since Maysa herself still has no knowledge of her biological parents, she could appreciate Vikka's situation. While Polycutt eventually became a company commander, Maysa's extraordinary climb has continued, becoming a lance commander, a company commander, command of Gamma Battalion (leaving her beloved Snowbirds), and finally command of the Sentinels' Rapid Deployment Force, the regiment having expanded to two regiments by 3060—being the youngest in regimental history in all four positions. As Sheila Arla-Vlata's second in command, if Sheila decides to retire after the WOB Jihad is over, Maysa will become the third commander of the Sentinels, the culmination of an entire life inside the regiment.

In between Maysa also managed to become a Inner Sphere-renowned singer (with Daniel as her manager), with a voice so perfect that she actually reduced a Clan commander to tears after he heard her singing before a battle on Koniz in 3055.

Marion Rhialla remained with the Sentinels after the Clan War ended, but after Alfred Dennison was killed in 3054, decided to retire. This lasted for a few years until, bored, she asked Sheila Arla-Vlata if she could come along as an "observer" when the Sentinels were sent to Morges to meet the exiled Wolves led by Phelan Kell. She fought in that campaign very well, but failed to answer muster after the final battle at Desolation Bay. She was found a day later, her Perennium barely touched, surrounded by four destroyed Clan light and medium OmniMechs; Marion Rhialla had a massive heart attack, but somehow lived long enough to finish off her opponents.

She died with a smile on her face.

Senefa Malthus likewise remained with the Sentinels, though she took a year off to complete a bachelor's degree program at the New Avalon Institute of Science (having already completed two years in correspondence courses). Following her return to the Sentinels, she formed a Trinary of expatriate Clan warriors, consisting of freebirths disgusted with their lot in their respective Clans, non-Bloodnamed warriors captured by the Sentinels and given up for dead, and a Bloodnamed Smoke Jaguar who, like Senefa, had become disillusioned with his Clan and defected to the Inner Sphere. She also met up with Vornzel the Elemental, who was never exchanged after the end of the Clan War. He was considered "contaminated" due to helping the Tharkad avalanche rescuers. With nowhere else to go, he accepted Sheila's invitation to join the Sentinels Light Infantry, where he leads a company. He and Senefa became lovers again, and are more or less as married as trueborn Clanfolk can ever get. The Jade Falcons technically still have a price on her head, and four times since 3052, a Clan warrior has arrived at one of the Sentinels' postings to challenge her to a Circle of Equals. None have ever won, or survived.

Senefa's friendship with Sheila remains sound, and her "Clan Sentinel" is pound-for-pound the deadliest unit in the regiment, having annilihated a Liao battalion on Indicass in 3059 and becoming known as the Thin Green Line on Dieron versus the Word of Blake in 3071. Every December, Senefa traditionally challenges Sheila to a renewal of their Circle of Equals. She has never beaten Sheila, though admittedly she also pulls her punches—though Senefa has put Sheila in the hospital twice. Their relationship is so close that they are simply known as "the Sisters" in MechWarrior circles. Senefa remains determined to one day return to Clan Jade Falcon in triumph, though she has also stated she will never leave the Sentinels.

Maximilian Canis-Vlata also remained with the Sentinels, as Sheila's aide-de-camp. It is known that, while Sheila commands the regiment, Max runs it. He has discovered a knack for logistics, and is superb in his staff work. However, if it becomes necessary (and it frequently does), Max is not afraid to go into combat in his Battlemaster. Content to live in his famous wife's shadow, Max has turned his attentions to more scholarly pursuits, having written several books and articles on the Sentinels and Snowbirds' exploits during the Clan War and since. He received a Ph.D. in History in 3068 and plans on retiring at some point in the near future to teach. He and Sheila remain fiercely in love.

Sheila Arla-Vlata became the second commander of the Sentinels formally in May 3052. She has since proven both Mira Canis-Vlata and Melissa Steiner-Davion correct, having commanded the Sentinels ever since, fighting the Clans, Taurian raiders, the FedCom Civil War, and lately the Word of Blake. Under her command, the Sentinels not only were rebuilt, but expanded to two regiments. She remains popular with her regiment and her friends (which include Victor Steiner-Davion, who Sheila enthusiastically supported during the Civil War), and feared by her enemies. Her crowning achievement came in 3056, when the Sentinels rescued Ryuken-ni on Virentofta, only to find themselves up against three Nova Cat frontline Clusters and two Smoke Jaguar garrison units. Over the next six months, she played both Clans off each other, outmaneuvered both, and finally liberated Virentofta. For that action, she became the first foreigner to receive the Katana Cluster from Theodore Kurita. Other battles include the defense of Koniz from a Jade Falcon raid, helping to rescue a trapped Victor Steiner-Davion on Tikonov, and fighting the Word of Blake Jihad on Dieron and Shirotori.

She remains known, to friend and foe alike, as the Snowbird.


Sentinel Base Virentofta

Virentofta, Pesht Military District, Draconis Combine

5 January 3072

Robert Habersohn's head throbbed as he half-staggered down the stairway leading to the Sentinels' underground 'Mech bays. He fervently wished he had told some people to keep their money and their drinks the night before after the graduation ceremony, when he had become formally inducted into the Sentinels RCT. He had been very proud and honored to be selected for the elite Snowbirds Special Missions Combined Arms Team. "That's where the action is," his former roommate had told him. "I got assigned to boring old Alpha Battalion." Habersohn hadn't felt like mentioning that Alpha Battalion might be considered staid and boring compared to the wild and wooly Snowbirds, but Alpha was also where most of the Sentinels' assault 'Mechs were concentrated, and the Snowbirds had the higher casualty rate.

Entering the 'Mech bay, he instantly promised himself he would never drink again. The place was alive with BattleMechs undergoing repairs or modifications; the sound of riveting, pounding, and hissing seemed to find a permanent place behind his eyes. Still, he couldn't exactly call in sick on his first official day, so he resolved to find the lance he had been assigned to. He knew he had gotten Alpha Medium, known better by its nickname, the Royal Green Jackets. Every Sentinels lance got a nickname, usually from some famous historical military unit, or from a former Sentinel who had died heroically or had just been with the regiment forever. His roomie had gotten Canis' Cuirraissiers, named for Todd Canis-Vlata, whereas the Royal Green Jackets were the old riflemen of ancient Napoleonic times. Or so he'd heard, anyway. Unfortunately, that had been all that been heard before his friends carted him off to a night of partying and drinking in celebration. He didn't even know who his lance commander was.

He moved down the 'Mech bay, passing a damaged Bushwhacker, which had myomers snaking out of various inspection ports, and detoured around a taped-off section where techs were testing the hip actuators on a Sagittaire. Habersohn paused for a moment, checking out the huge Sagittaire, which was a hunched over assault 'Mech bristling with lasers. In some ways, he wished he had one of those, instead of his trusty but somewhat outdated Wolverine. He was so engrossed with watching the Sagittaire that he tripped over a power cable. Habersohn went sprawling, but was caught by powerful, grease-covered hands that somehow maintained their grip.

"Thanks, man," Habersohn remarked, then straightened and came to attention when he looked up at the hands' owner. "I mean, Master Tech."

Nicia Caii stared down at him. "Be careful, fella. This isn't a place for noobs to be wandering around."

"How did you know I was a noob?" Habersohn asked.

"Noobs stare at 'Mechs and trip over power cables." She read his nametape. "Huh. Habersohn? Was your dad Jim Habersohn?"

"Yeah. He was killed on Sudeten when I was two."

"Almost twenty years to the day. Huh," she repeated. "Well, welcome to the Sentinels, Mr. Habersohn. What are you looking for?"

"My lance, ma'am. I know the Snowbirds have their 'Mechs down here, but I don't know where the lances are assigned. I'm with Alpha Medium."

"The Royal Greens." Caii smiled. "Well, you're either going to love that lance, or you're going to hate every minute—" She spotted something over his shoulder. "Hey, MechWarrior Asagiri!" She waved a three-fingered hand at a young Kuritan woman. "C'mere!" Once Asagiri had obeyed, Caii shoved Habersohn forward as if he was meat to be inspected. "Here's your noob. Make sure he doesn't get killed down here. Good luck, MechWarrior." Caii lightly patted his back, and sent them on their way.

"Hi!" the woman brightly greeted him, taking his arm and leading him further into the 'Mech bay. "You're Robert Habersohn? I'm Yurika Asagiri. Pleased to meetcha. Do you go by Robert, Bob, or Bobby?"

"Bobby. Same here, meeting you." Wow, she's cute, Habersohn thought. Asagiri wore her black hair long, which many MechWarriors did not; Habersohn had cut his hair close to his temples, Steiner fashion. She was short and looked feisty. "I hope I'm not late."

"Nah, don't sweat it. We know you were out drinking last night." She winked at him, then noticed he was staring at the red shoulder boards on her fatigue tunic. There was a single stripe atop the single chevron, indicating that Asagiri was a MechWarrior like himself, but had also been on "independent operations"—a euphemism for raids or in handpicked task forces that Commander Sheila Arla-Vlata liked to lead herself. Habersohn was surprised: Asagiri looked about nineteen, but she had to be older if she had already gotten the IO stripe.

Further questions had to wait, because Asagiri kept chattering, talking about how he was going to love it in the Snowbirds, where the duty was easy, the fighting hard, and the accomodations perfect. "We're the Commander's old battalion, so she has a soft spot for us," Asagiri prattled. "Oh sure, that also means we're usually the first into the crap and the last out, but the people are great. Don't believe that 'the 'Birds are stuck-up' crap the line battalions give us. We're pretty laid back here. Kahvi Falx is a great CO. Don't see her much; she's a classic samurai that way, but it also means that she kinda lets us do our own thing. Though I wonder how much longer she's going to be in command, since she just had a kid not too long ago, and she's kind of burnt out after Dieron. Ever been to Dieron? That place sucks. The Wobbies wanted that planet bad."

"How bad are the Wobbies? Bad as they say?" Habersohn finally got in a word edgewise.

"Worse. Ah, they're not all that tough in battle, compared to, say, the Clanners are, but you definitely don't want to get captured by them, so I hear. Speaking of Clanners, you met any of the nuts from Clan Sentinel?" Asagiri rolled her eyes. "Man, talk about Puritans. They don't know how to have any fun at all…ah, here we are." Asagiri turned and put out her arms. "Welcome to the Green Jackets, Bobby! We already got your 'Mech down here." Habersohn nodded, seeing his old Wolverine. It had been a gift from his uncle, who had been the only father he had really known; he had only hazy memories of his biological father. His mother had never remarried. He saw that techs were already painting it in the mottled white-and-gray winter camouflage the Snowbirds favored.

"We'll slap on the green stripes later," Asagiri informed him. She pointed to a Valkyrie. "That's mine. Now check this one out…" She slapped the side of a 'Mech Habersohn had never seen before. "This is one I bet you've never seen before," Asagiri chirped. "It's a Vixen. We captured this baby on my first mission, when we raided Courchevel two years ago. Clan 'Mech. Since the lance took it down, we got dibs on salvage. Dick Davis runs this baby. Dick? Hey, Dick? You around?"

"Dick's at chow," a female voice replied, muffled. "Who are you talking to, Yurika?"

"Our noob, LC. You know, Bobby Habersohn?"

"Oh yeah, the Wolvie jock. I saw him last night but didn't get a chance to talk." Habersohn followed the voice to a shapely female derriere dressed in MechWarrior shorts sticking out of an inspection panel on a Nightsky. He quickly averted his eyes as hands snaked out of the panel and pushed the rest of the woman out. She wore a grease-smeared Snowbirds T-shirt and lifted a pair of goggles away from her green eyes, perching them atop a thick mass of red hair, pulled into two braids that fell to her small breasts. She sized him up and down. Habersohn abruptly came to attention, realizing this was his new lance commander. "Robert Habersohn reporting for duty, ma'am." He handed over crumpled orders. The lance commander smoothed them out, glanced at them, nodded, and then stuck a hand out.

"Hi, MechWarrior Habersohn," the woman said. "I'm Louisa Arla-Vlata."