FORTY ONE

by RougeBaron and Ulquiorra9000

Olympus Recharge Station,
Oriente, Former FWL,
April 30, 3080

It was still fresh in Evee's mind when she looked out the window, watching the drab yellow Oriente squirm languidly beneath the recharge station as she talked to Kristoffer Hasek-Davion about the situation in New St. Andrews, her home that she left almost 8 years ago. The course of the war at that time made her question herself whether she would be able to look at New St. Andrews the way she looked at Oriente. Adelis' force virtually gobbled up world by world in the former Free Worlds region, and she was en route to Narvosk, the heart of the Commonwealth of Narvosk, for a showdown against Adelis' National Guard which arguably the best unit the Commonwealth had to offer. It was supposed to be just a small skirmish, but it blew up to be a drawn-out survival game.

And it was not that she undermined the capability of her crews. She had the most comprehensive line-up in years. It was just she had not seen the cost of human lives so cheap before. Her Cavaliers hung on with just six personnel left, out of nearly a battalion of Mechwarriors and pilots that joined her during the course of war. It was a staggering 80-percent casualty rate, one that the Cavaliers might never recover from. And Evee herself had had a taste of death when she was taken hostage, tortured and beaten by Adelis' operatives, wondering if she would ever see daylight again. It really downgraded her confidence, and if she were to do it alone, she'd have broken down long before she reached Oriente.

But it was all over, and Evee was coming home.

"The station is backed up and behind schedule, so it'll be two more days before it finishes refueling and recharging the jumpship." Parker sneaked behind her and squeezed her shoulders, drawing a soft purr from her lips. "There is not a lot to do here, but we just have to wait."

"What is two days if we have eternity?" Evee leaned on Parker's chest. "It's just a drop of water in a desert of time."

From the way his body tensed and his hands lost finesse in her shoulders, Evee could tell that Parker was annoyed. Born and raised in a straightforward culture of Clan Wolf, Parker could never keep up with her paradox and metaphor and innuendo, especially when she was feeling spiritual like this time. And it bothered her as much as it bothered him. She needed somebody to share her thoughts and feeling in a difficult time, but Parker would just stand there clueless.

However, his clueless self never left her side. She could always count on him.

"I can wait, honey," Evee released him from the torture of ignorance.

"Why can't you just say it like that?" Parker muttered in exasperation.

His comment made her smile. "Perhaps I like seeing you get pissed."

Parker answered her with a sharp exhale and a gentle nudge on her back. It flared her playfulness, but there would be plenty of time for teasing each other. Right now, she just wanted to sink in the feeling of being alive and coming home. She caught Parker's hand and pulled them, wrapping his oversized arms around her as she observed Oriente through the window. It made her feel warm, safe, and loved.

"I wonder what it's like back home," Evee cooed as she nuzzled cozily between Parker's biceps. Her fingers ran through the canals in between his muscle bundles, still hard like a 20-year-old gym rat's, and thanked the Clans for creating such perfection. "Liam MacGregor must've grown mature in 8 years. Do you remember the first time you came to New St. Andrews? Do you still remember Liam, the gung-ho leader of MacGregor family?"

"You hated him," Parker caressed her lush blonde hair with his chin.

"I did. I blamed him for the loss of my father. I still do, but I've made my peace. He was just a young kid with a lot of power and a bad taste of conquest. He should be a wise man by now… I hope."

"Everybody in New St. Andrews has a bad taste of conquest," Parker replied, but his voice was muffled by her hair. The musky scent of her sweat emanating from her hair tickled his desire, and he started to feel the need to sink himself in her softness. "You had been bickering with each other since your ancestors colonized New St. Andrews."

"I guess that's what makes us human," Evee beamed. "That is what we do best: to love and to war."

"It will change now," Parker tightened his arms around his wife. "Kristoffer will assume command of the Brannigan's army, if the Brannigans still exist. Assume Jeff Sterling is still in command. He's your ally, the staunchest one at that. You're the chief of MacGregor's army, and you sort of control Liam MacGregor. So three out of four families in New St. Andrews are now our liaisons. That leaves the Stewarts alone, but considering they have to fight three families at one time, they will not make a stupid move. Do you realize what this means?"

"Peace?" Evee chimed. "At New St. Andrews?"

"Peace," Parker kissed her head. "Under your fingertips."

Of course it was not true. There had never been a single figure that had that much power in the history of New St. Andrews. But Parker's paraphrase, however small, held the truth. Her position, her allies, and the loyalty of her unit cemented her as the most powerful figure in New St. Andrews, even though she was not a noble. She had surpassed her father's achievement, both as a military commander and a peacemaker. The realization bit her with the sweetness of Parker's lovemaking, and she felt her knees buckled from the excitement.

"You know how to make this old girl happy, old Clanner," she cooed. "I hope the Farlows and the Lorins will get their peace too."

"The Inner Sphere belongs to them now," Parker added. "They are still young, and they have to fight for it. They will have to fight another war and everything that come with it: pain, losses, deaths, fear, anger, greed, lust, but it's a part of growing old. And when they're as old as us, they will find their peace."

"So sure about it, aren't you?" Evee teased him with a soft mirth.

Parker replied with a shrug. "Look at us. Look at what we have gone through."

"Yeah, we've gone through a lot, have we?" Evee yielded and languidly leaned on Parker, glancing over the window to watch Oriente once again. The highlights of her life went flashing by at the back of her mind like a slide show. "If you could go back in time and fix everything you did in the past, would you go through them again?"

"Every single one of them," he whispered his answer on her ear. "I would not miss anything."


Hotaru didn't remember the last time she woke up feeling completely lethargic. Her muscles had lost any desire to move, and her bones had dissolved into pulp. She lied on her bed like a heap of flesh with no means for locomotion. Her eyes were the only ones that fluttered open, and it embarrassed her to no end when she found out that Tiger Wong had been watching her sleep for a while, possibly the entire night.

Hotaru didn't remember much about last night. Somewhere between the shower, the couch, and the bed, her world diffused into one blurry, fiery, shimmering firework whose end she never remembered. She did remember her wall of emotion was torn open and passion poured out like a flood, washing away fear, anger, frustration, and sorrow that had resided in her heart since the beginning of the war.

She didn't remember having a passionate moment like that with anybody. Tiger gave her his all: his gloom and his brilliance, his fear and his dauntlessness, his hatred and his love, so much that Hotaru felt she was taken into a world where nothing existed but Tiger Wong. And even when she woke up virtually paralyzed, Tiger was there, blanketing her body with his warm skin, watching over her for the entire time she passed out. Nobody had ever done that.

"Tiger-chan…" she smiled sheepishly, gently pushing his cheek to turn his face away from her. "I'm embarrassed…"

"Hotaru, ni zheng piao liang," Tiger mumbled gently as he caressed her hair. "Ni zheng ke ai! Wuo yong yuan bu hui li kai ni. Wuo yao yong yuan he ni zai yi qi."

Hotaru didn't really speak Mandarin, but she knew what he was trying to say. And as a matter of fact, he did not even need to say it. Hotaru already knew everything.

"Arigato," she whispered feebly. It was enough. What else was there to say?


Rocher was checking the flight roster at the main rotunda of Olympus when Chilali and Chad, the Cavaliers new chief technician, found him. He let out an exasperating sigh. He was hoping that his last days as a Cavalier would be quiet and uneventful, but it seemed that arguing was inevitable. Either he had to explain his decision to them, or defended it against a horde of derogatory remarks for being wealth-minded.

He could handle Chilali. The Inuit girl showed remarkable resistance to engage him in a long conversation, no matter how hard Rocher tried. She never reacted toward his rude and often lewd comments. Chad was a different matter entirely. There was not a single encounter with Chad that ended up being civil. He was a great technician, and he could do wonder in the hangar. But he was also brash and outspoken, just like Rocher himself. And there could be only one Rocher in the Cavaliers, or any unit for that matter.

"Heading out?" Chilali said, still without a glint of emotion. "Got a flight to catch?"

"Just checking what's available," Rocher replied with a little shrug. "There's one to Atreus in three weeks. There are many opportunities at Free Worlds, or what's left of it. Dozens of nations will try to conquer each other. It's a big pond to fish for mercenaries."

"I wonder what you said to Evee when she interviewed you a year ago," Chilali mused. "Did you tell her that this employment is temporary before you find something more rewarding? A stepping stone for something more lucrative?"

"Look, this employment is the first one after I left the Fed Suns," Rocher snorted. "I love working with the Cavaliers, no question about that. But this war opened my eyes about me, about what I am capable of and what I am worth as a professional mechwarrior. I am not a periphery farmer. New St. Andrews is not for me. I belong to the front lines. And do you want to know what Evee told me on the interview?" Rocher came closer, looking into Chilali's eyes in the earnest. "She said no. She rejected me. I was brought in three days later because the guy that she chose died in a stupid firefight. I was just a replacement. I never belonged to the Cavaliers in the first place."

"What about the Lorins?" Chad interjected. "Would you work for the Lorins?"

"Lorins? Bah!"

"Bah? Why 'Bah'?" Chad feigned a frown. "They're good people."

"They're boring! Just a bunch of self-righteous clowns. What are they gonna do after this war? Go home, breed, and produce more Lorins until the next asshole comes and threatens their home. Where's the fun in that?"

Chilali and Chad traded a meaningful look, and nodded at each other as a sign of relief. Parker never liked Rocher, and he had made public of his support for Rocher's departure. Chilali and Chad couldn't agree more. Rocher was a great asset for the Ridinghood Cavaliers, but for the sake of the unit's integrity, the Cavaliers was better off without him.

"Listen, Rocher, we never get to know each other courteously," Chad said, trying to be an adult, although he might be the only adult between the two. "I just hope that your decision is not affected by our encounters whatsoever."

Rocher replied with a wry chuckle. "Don't flatter yourself, Shaggy. I think of nothing but my future when I make my decision to leave the Cavaliers."

"Well, then, I guess this is goodbye," Chad said. "We're leaving in two days. Good luck in your new endeavor."

"Same to you," Rocher nodded at Chad, and then Chilali. "And you. I wish we had more time to know each other…"

"I know you enough, Rocher," Chilali quickly cut him off, knowing where he was going. "I will not forget you, and I hope you won't forget us when you're a big mercenary hotshot."

"No, I won't forget you periphery rednecks," Rocher grinned. "Stay safe and don't get killed. We may cross path again in the future."

"I look forward to it," Chilali said, trading another meaningful look with Chad. "I really do."


Olympus Recharge Station,
Oriente, Former FWL,
May 1, 3080

The JumpShip Chimera had its Kearney-Fuchida drive all juiced up, and the ship was ready to jump to a new system at any moment. All three Farlows had already packed all their belongings and had rented rooms in one of the dropships attached to the Chimera, but they had a little something to take care of before beginning their trip back to Tchamba's system.

"Parker, it's been an honor," Lane Farlow said sincerely at the passenger terminal for the Chimera. He extended a hand that Parker accepted, giving it a firm shake. Conrad stood by his mother's side, watching everything curiously.

"The honor is mine. It is good to see that the younger generations have bold and capable warriors such as you and your wife," Parker nodded once. Now that he was finally finished taking the war to the Commonwealth of Narvosk, he had finally donned civilian clothing; in this case, a red polo and black slacks.

"Only because I have the guidance of tough vets like you and Zack Mackenzie," Lane commented with a grin. "I still have a thing or two to learn, even after being trained on Tuani IV."

"With any luck, we might not even need to," Jennifer commented, clasping her husband's hand with hers. "If I recall, we've settled down..."

"True. A quiet backwater life beckons," Lane figured. "I feel like I've grown up awfully fast. Just ten years ago I was still learning the ropes of 'mech combat. Now... I have all this. Family, home... and, um, the scars to prove that I risked my life to protect it all." He reached down and gave his metal leg a pat, a habit he had gotten into. He could now walk comfortably with the artificial limb, but Lane doubted that he'd ever stop getting used to his false leg. He doubted he'd ever like it, either, but what else could he do?

Evee heaved a sigh. "I almost think I'll miss the adventuring life, too. I got the chance to see all kinds of interesting things during our fight against the Commonwealth. That includes Kristoffer, a fellow New St. Andrew commander. I'm really glad I got the chance to meet him and finish the war with him by our side."

"He definitely was a good commander," Lane agreed. "You should have seen him lead his men to victory in the underground base on Narvosk. That's one man I never want as an enemy."

"I can agree with that," Evee said warily. Then she knelt by Conrad, telling him warmly, "Conrad, your mommy and daddy are very nice people, and you're lucky to have them as your parents."

"Yeah," Conrad said, "but I really wanna go home. I don't like spaceships and all the strangers."

Evee gave Conrad a mock-hurt expression. "Are Parker and I strangers, Conrad?"

Conrad considered her a second. "No, you're nice, but Parker is so quiet and scary."

Everyone burst out laughing. "Am I so frightening, Eve?" he asked his wife with a small grin.

"No, hon," Evee smiled as she stood back up and gave her husband a quick pat on the abs. "But sometimes you make a chilly first impression. When we get home, you're getting a lesson or two on people skills."

"Are you considering a family life, Evee?" Jennifer suggested slyly.

"I... don't know. It's something to think about," Evee said thoughtfully. "You have a wonderful son, Jennifer. Raise him well."

Jennifer placed her hands on Conrad's shoulders. "Oh, I plan to."

An intercom's voice announced, "JumpShip Chimera will soon depart. All passengers, board at once."

"That's our call," Jennifer smiled as a number of other passengers carrying luggage crowded through the terminal toward the Chimera's docking ports. Then, Jennifer flung her arms around Evee, embracing the other woman in a tight hug. "It was wonderful meeting you, Evee Ridinghood. Get home to New St. Andrew safely, okay? Take good care of Parker. He's a great man."

"Oh, that's the plan," Evee smiled back, breaking free of the hug and running a hand through her curly golden locks. "Have a safe trip home, yourself."

"Thanks. But the truth is," Jennifer added, "there is one place Lane and I will visit before getting home..."


Cemetery, palace grounds, Tuani IV,
Former FWL,
May 23, 3080

"On this day, the twenty-third of May in the year 3080, we commit these fallen brothers and sisters to the earth from which they came, to become one with their home and rest for all time," intoned Mark Lorin before a crowd of hundreds of Lorins seated on fold-out chairs on a flat, well-trimmed field of the Lorin cemetery. They all wore their uniforms of smoky gray, including Mark himself as he stood at a portable podium to speak to everyone. Dozens of caskets lay in neat rows and columns, each one draped with the blue and green flag of Tuani IV and the Lorin family. Overhead was the typically bright blue Tuani IV sky with fluffy white clouds and a warm yellow sun, and in the distance towered a snow-capped mountain range surrounded by pine forests. A huge sparking lake lay to the south with gardens and footpaths all around it. The Lorin family mansion, a towering white facility, stood to the west of the cemetery.

Now I fully appreciate the price that was paid to resist Emmanuel Adelis' tyranny, Lane Farlow realized, seated in the second row with Jennifer to his left and Michael Lorin to his right. He clenched his fists tight, acutely aware of how heavy and false his metal leg felt. The Lorins prevailed, but damn... all these people are like family to me. They trained me and I married one. It was definitely the right idea to come here with Jenny.

A row of Lorin infantry raised their rifles, and at their commander's shouted command, let loose a volley of 21 shots. Then, the seated Lorins rose as one to slowly walk past the caskets, paying their last respects to the fallen.

"Follow me," Jennifer encouraged Lane, taking his hand and leading him through the crowd. Jennifer came to a halt before the casket marked "Rose Eirian Lorin", kneeling and resting her hands on the casket's edge. Lane knelt by her, letting his wife speak first.

"Rose, the war is over. Everyone's safe again, and our beloved home is still beautiful, and still nurtures us," Jennifer whispered to the coffin, bowing her head until her nose almost touched the cool wood. "I wish you could see it. The rose gardens were recently renovated, and they're so lovely this time of year. Maybe I can get permission to pick a few of them and dedicate them to you, okay? I'll get pink and white roses, your favorite color combination. It's perfect." Tears leaked from Jennifer's eyes, dripping onto the flag on Rose's casket. Jennifer gripped the coffin edge a little tighter as she continued, "Lane and I are doing fine, and we'll live a long and happy life together just like you hoped we would. You know, your nephew Conrad is getting really big. He'll grow up handsome and proud like his father and grandfather, I promise." She swallowed and concluded with, "Well, I'm sorry that I can't stay at the home world for much longer, but Lane and I have a life on Tchamba that was uprooted by the war against the Commonwealth of Narvosk. We're going to go back home where we can... how did Lane put it... get the daily paper, drive Conrad to preschool every day, and watch our favorite sports teams lose on the television." She smiled and sobbed once, then slowly rose and snapped a salute. "Goodbye, my sister."

Lane reached his arms out and wrapped his wife in a tight hug, running one hand through her soft hair. "I miss her too. Mind if I say a few words?"

"Of course, dear," Jennifer said quietly. "Go ahead."

Taking his turn to kneel before the casket, Lane cleared this throat. "Hey Rose, it's me, your brother-in-law. Look, I never got to know you as well as I would have liked, but I knew ever since we trained together that you were an exceptional woman and fellow warrior." He felt his throat tighten so he swallowed and continued, "I'll make sure that your sacrifice, and that of the other Lorins, won't ever be in vain. Guys and gals like me will make sure that peace and justice are always defended from the likes of Emmanuel Adelis, the Word of Blake, and anyone else. I'll miss you, sister-in-law. We had a great time."

He stood and joined Jennifer in the thronging crowd, offering his wife a small smile. "Well, that felt pretty good."

"It did," Jennifer agreed, wiping her eyes. "You know, would you like to... um, do you want to stay here for a few days? Catch up with the family, revisit your old training grounds, see what's new and what's the same?"

"That sounds fine," Lane said earnestly. "Yeah, I'd like to. I still remember when I came here as a teenager to complete my training. I was in awe of this place, and even now, I feel humbled by it."

"This is a home," Jennifer smiled. "It's nothing to feel intimidated by."

"I know," Lane admitted as he and Jennifer broke free from the crowds and headed to their rented rooms in the palace. "But sometimes, a little humility is good for keeping things in perspective. I've learned that the hard way. Just a little life lesson."

"Wise words," Jennifer agreed, taking Lane's hand again and planting a warm kiss on his cheek. "But now, let's set aside the hardships and enjoy ourselves for a good long while."

Lane nodded, eyes on the palace as he squeezed Jennifer's hand tightly. "Yeah. Let's do that."

THE END…

FOR NOW


I,Kere4sky marked the the first of the new era of I,Kerensky series where the entire story was written:
- in 3rd person's POV, allowing multiple authors to contribute to the story with seamless integration;
- with several main characters with various character developments, which is closer to BattleTech novels than the original IK1-IK3;
- with more illustration than IK1 - IK3 combined (all illustrations are displayed on Rouge's deviantART account).

There are a lot of persons to thank for during the creation of the this series, both from this forum and deviantART. The authors would like to thank the following individuals for much input, reviews, supports, and critiques:

The Colonel 382 for reviews, input, and an additional section titled "Sleepless in Seattle"... uhm, no, "Sleepless in Oriente". It's not uploaded here (because Rouge is a lazy bum), but it will be definitely included in the pdf version.

Sentinel28 for invaluable input on writing a good story. Sentinel28 is a professional fiction writer and a history professor, so his critiques are highly appreciated.

Xandre for some crazy technology design.

Stonegnome, SulliMike, Mosin, Natospec, pacificuser, FraserMage for reviews and critiques throughout the story.

Kat Wylder for the great, great, GREAT cover illustration for the pdf version.

And everybody who reads and enjoys this story.


So... what's next?

RougeBaron will combine this text (with some minor edits), The Colonel's "Sleepless in Oriente", and some illustrations into the pdf version, available for download fall 2012. If you have access to Rouge's deviantART account, watch out for release about the time college starts in the fall.

RougeBaron also has a running story Honor, Valor, Ambition, and The Way of The Clan which exploits Parker's early life pre-I,Kerensky series. Some minor characters from IK4 also make cameo.

Ulquiorra9000 has a running story Steel Wolf in which some characters from IK4 make appearance. He also has various fanfics in Star Craft and Magic The Gathering genre.

The Colonel 382 runs a BattleTech League sponsored by Catalyst Game Lab. Anybody interested in joining The Colonel's league can contact him directly.