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THE WRATH OF THE BANSHEE

Rose bracketed the Marauderwith the Shigunga missile launcher and fired again. He also triggered the medium pulse lasers, but at this extreme range, only two of the four scored hits. He knew it was too little, too late. Moving to the side, he saw the Bansheeemerge from the trees and approach the Marauder.Rose knew he was finished, but something screamed at him to keep moving. He checked the scanner and saw that Rianna was still too far away for a shot.

The Marauderwas bringing up both arms and the Bansheewas raising its right. Rose kept moving, but knew there was little chance either of the pilots would miss. The Shigunga was still in the midst of reload. By the time his missiles and lasers were ready to fire again, Rose wouldn't be around to press the trigger. As he took one final look out the cockpit, the Bansheeaimed its arm and fired.

BATTLETECH

LE 5245

MAIN EVENT

James D. Long

ROC

Published by the Penguin Group

Penguin Books USA Inc., 375 Hudson Street,

New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

Penguin Books Ltd, 27 Wrights Lane,

London W8 5TZ, England

Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood,

Victoria, Australia

Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2 Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

Published by Roc, an imprint of New American Library, a division of Penguin Books USA Inc.

First Roc Printing, May, 1993 10 987654321

Series Editor: Donna Ippolito Cover: Boris Vallejo Interior illustrations: Terry Pavlet Mechanical drawings: FASA Art Staff

Copyright e FASA, 1993 All rights reserved

REGISTERED TRADEMARK—MARCA REGISTRADA

BATTLETECH, FASA, and the distinctive BATTLETECH and FASA logos are trademarks of the FASA Corporation, 1026 W. Van Buren, Chicago, Illinois, 60507.

Printed in the United States of America

Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book.

BOOKS ARE AVAILABLE AT QUANTITY DISCOUNTS WHEN USED TO PROMOTE PRODUCTS OR SERVICES. FOR INFORMATION PLEASE WRITE TO PREMIUM MARKETING DIVISION, PENGUIN BOOKS USA INC., 375 HUDSON STREET, NEW YORK, NEW YORK 10014

If you purchased this book without a cover you should be aware that this book is stolen property. It was reported as "unsold and destroyed" to the publisher and neither the author nor the publisher has received any payment for this "stripped book."

Prologue

It is the year 3054. Mankind inhabits the stars, but has taken his warlike nature with him. The thousands of human-occupied worlds of the Inner Sphere were once bound together in a glorious, prosperous Star League. With the fall of the League in 2781, a Dark Age descended as each of the five surviving star empires warred for dominion.

For almost three centuries, the five Successor Lords fought among themselves in the endless conflict that became known as the Succession Wars. Millions died and a few worlds changed hands, but for all the fighting and dying, little changed until 3049, when the Inner Sphere met the Clan juggernaut.

With their superior war machines and superhuman infantry, these warrior descendants of the legendary Aleksandr Kerensky's vanished Star League Army came to reclaim the Inner Sphere. For three years, the Clans were unstoppable, until the Com Guards battled and bested them on the world of Tukayyid. Their victory bought the Successor States a fifteen-year truce, paid for by countless lives.

The Truce of Tukayyid has held for two years, but simmering hatred on both sides threatens to tear it asunder. Rival Clans raid each other's holdings, fanning the flames of civil war. Once more, the Inner Sphere trembles on the edge of apocalypse.

This time, no one may survive.

Part 1

1

Tara, Northwind

23 April 3054

 

As the hatchway of the Bristol began to open outward, a cool breeze and a host of fresh scents rushed into the cramped interior of the DropShip. Shuffling from one foot to the other, the passenger nearest the door waited impatiently for the opening hatch to meet the rising gangway. The moment the two connected, the man bounded through the hatchway and down the steps. Elsewhere on the ship other hatches began to open as spaceport workers began bringing in the trucks and cranes they would use to unload the huge DropShip.

Jeremiah Rose stopped to draw in a deep breath. The dawn breezes on Northwind had a scent all their own, one he had never forgotten in all the years away from his homeworld. The real thing was far better than any memory, but he had no time to tarry. Moving quickly Rose headed toward the customs building where his gear must first pass inspection before he would be free to enter the streets of Tara, capital of the planet.

Muscling his twin bags with practiced ease, Rose stepped lightly between and around the port workers as they hurried to and fro with their burdens. He trotted across the slightly damp tarmac and shouldered his way through the main entry. Startled custom agents in their regulation Stewart tartans stared at Rose as he pushed the unexpectedly light door open with a crash. Across the room a small man with service bars up his entire left arm turned to stare at Rose, while all around him the junior custom agents tried, and failed, not to show their amusement.

The hawk-faced old man, obviously the senior member of the staff on duty, motioned Rose toward his table with an evil leer. Rose had seen and worked with this petty-minded type before. King of this one shrall room, he was going to make sure Rose knew it. Rose's clumsy entrance had embarrassed him and now Rose would have to pay. All thoughts of a quick and easy entry into the city vanished as the man moved with deliberate slowness to examine Rose's belongings. For what seemed an eternity, he poked and prodded through Rose's cases, none of which contained anything unusual or even vaguely suspicious.

Rose was born and bred a warrior and his clothes reflected it. The warrior life was his heritage and, until recently, it had been his occupation. Returning to his homeworld, he believed it would be again. Like most soldiers, he traveled light. The three flight suits in the first case were identical to the one he wore. His single set of dress clothes was piled in a heap after the senior agent's search, but the mistreatment did not bother Rose at all. The clothes had been stored during the entire trip from Terra and they would continue to be packed away, in their current disarray, after the agent was finished. Shaving kit, underwear, socks, belts, and boots received the same treatment, winding up in the same tangled pile. Thirty minutes later the man moved to the second case. Around him the room filled with the passengers Rose had earlier outdistanced.

"So much for the first one, son. Now, what's in the second case?" The agent lifted the bag on end and attempted to work the double latches. Despite his best efforts, the case refused to open even though it was apparently unlocked. Rose smiled as the man looked up at him.

"Allow me." Rose set the case on its bottom and pushed open the two latches with his thumbs. Spinning the case around, he stepped back slightly. "It's keyed to open only on my thumbprints." The agent shot Rose an evil look. "Sorry," he added quickly.

1
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