Free Worlds League


Pryde Family Estate

September 18, 3054


Clean, softly lit, and richly decorated, the main hall cutting through the Pryde Mansion was the typical home of a lower-rung noble family.  Sporting artwork and sculptures that showed everything from mountain landscapes to BattleMechs in the middle of their strides, it was the epitome of the fast-fading relics of the Succession Wars.  MechWarrior Families, long the basis of the Houses’ ability to fight, were being driven out of existence by the increased industrialization made possible by the Grey Death Memory Core.  Most of them couldn’t afford to maintain their ’Mechs to the standards of modern BattleMechs, forcing them to either go in debt, or sign over their old machines for modern ones.

Either way, the MechWarrior Families were becoming a thing of the past.  But there were still some in existence.  The Pryde Family, long loyal to the Mariks, was one of them.  Able to trace their name back to medieval Scotland, and their blood back to the Scandinavian Peninsula, the decorations found in the Pryde Mansion celebrated both heritages.  Not that those decorations were on the minds of any of the four people standing awkwardly in the silent hallway at the time.

“You,” Terra Belmond growled angrily towards Medron Pryde as he took a step back towards a statue standing against the wall.  “Are such a bastard.”

“You haven’t ‘exactly’ met?” Robert Grissom asked, looking back and forth between the two nervously.

“Not exactly,” Medron repeated just as nervously and took another step back past the statue towards the door that led to the main audience hall he and Robert had just exited.

“Oh no you don’t,” Terra growled and followed, grabbing him by the throat with one hand.  “You are not getting away that easily,” she continued angrily, slamming him up against the wall next to the statue hard enough that he saw stars.

“Ok, ok.  I get it,” he rasped as he grabbed her forearm with his right hand, trying to pull it away from his neck.  She relaxed her grip, not letting go completely, but he sighed in relief as his airflow opened up again.

“And you stay back,” she ordered as Robert and Avis Bulger moved towards them.  “This is between us two,” she added and they looked at Medron questioningly.  He nodded and they stepped back to the other side of hall.

“Nice to see you again,” he whispered cautiously and her eyes narrowed as she leaned in closer to him.

“You have no idea how much you cost me,” she growled softly enough that the others couldn’t hear and he gulped nervously.

“Look, Sardelis wasn’t going to take ‘no’ from you as an answer for much longer,” he whispered desperately.  “I did you a fav-”  Her hand squeezed again, cutting off his sentence in mid-word and her eyes flashed angrily.

“You cost me my job,” she growled as she relaxed her grip.  “Do you have any idea how long it took to infiltrate Sardelis’ Mansion?  Any idea how long I spent trying to get access to his computer?  And then you come waltzing in, working for that bastard Pittenger, taking advantage of my information, and taking all the credit for the bust.”  His eyes opened wide as her words registered.  So that was why she’d been there.

“You’re SA-”  She clamped down again, cutting him off a second time, and his eyes bugged out.

“You say it, I use your jewels as hacky sacks,” she promised dangerously as she slipped up closer to him, her leg brushing close to his more sensitive area and still talking quietly enough that Robert and Avis couldn’t hear.  He just gulped and nodded, the back of his mind hoping she would calm down so he could enjoy their relative positions.

“Pittenger took the promotion that was supposed to be mine.  Then do you want to know what he did?” she asked and he nodded in response.  After all, she’d probably tell him either way, and right now he didn’t want her any angrier with him.  “He fired me, and put a black spot on my record so large no one else on the right side of the law will give me a job,” she muttered in a cold tone.  “Because of you, I don’t have a job anymore.  So you are going to give me one to repay for that.  You understand me?” she finished, gripping his throat a bit harder as an added benefit.

“How did you find out-”

“That it was you?” she finished for him.  He nodded and she leaned her head even closer.  Oh how he wished she wasn’t angry right now.  “He didn’t fire me soon enough,” she growled, her breath playing across his cheek.  “I used my access to get your name first.  And now you’re going to repay me for my lost job.  Aren’t you?”

“I’d love to help,” Medron answered nervously.  “In fact, I’ve got job opening for MechWarriors right now,” he added in a quavering tone and she squeezed his neck again, glaring at him with a gaze that would have left him a quivering puddle of goo if looks could kill.

That’s why I’m here.  I’ll take triple the normal salary…” she growled.

“Sounds like a deal,” he whispered back as rapid as possible and her eyes sparked again, showing her anger.  Then she released his throat and walked away proudly, his eyes tracking her movements until she hit the first corner and turned out of sight.  Then Medron sighed in relief and slid down to the floor.

“Damn,” Avis finally whispered and turned back to Medron.  “What did you do to her?”

“If I told you, she’d kill me,” Medron whispered back.  “Or at least make me wish she’d killed me.”

“Ah.  Well, good luck, man,” Avis muttered and turned to follow Terra.  “You’re going to need it,” he added and left as Medron simply sat in place and breathed deeply, trying to get enough air back into his lungs to operate better.  All the while Robert simply stood in place, watching him.

“What do you want?” Medron finally asked and Robert looked at his left arm meaningfully.

“You could have knocked her out any time you wanted,” Robert whispered and Medron feigned surprise at the idea.  “Don’t try that, kid,” Robert added, stopping Medron in mid-act.  “I saw it twitch.  I saw you stop it.  I don’t know why she’s mad at you, but you should be careful around her.”

“Don’t worry, old man,” Medron returned.  “She wants me alive.”

“That doesn’t mean she can’t hurt you,” Robert noted as he tapped Medron’s left leg with his foot.

“Oh…right,” Medron muttered as Robert turned to walk away.

“Be careful,” he added and left Medron alone with his thoughts.