Writing the background for this army took significantly longer than the more comparatively cursory unit descriptions my Northern forces received. I came into possession of the Duellist’s Handbook, Southern Republic Army List and Southern Field Guide before writing this and so decided, as is my way, that if I was going to do this it was going to be done properly.
The immediate problem came from the fact I had just bought two Fer de Lances, and the Southern Republic Army List claimed on page 146 that only “a few dozen” of these Gears were in service, and “it is a capital offence for it to be used by any other Republican unit”. Thus I had to make a few adjustments to the background and came up with the Fer de Lance Beta (which is probably not strictly fluff-accurate, but sidesteps more awkward questions).
The only other major background howler I can think of is the move away from strict 5-Gear Cadres (something that the newest edition of the game rules and my choice of unit loadouts does not make particularly easy to do thematically).
[SK] Cadre I: Artillery Cadre
Razorfang Blitz Black Mamba: Gaelio Lak
Blitz Black Mamba: Millium Reise
Blitz Jager: Shinobu Mori
Blitz Jager: Elvira Mendez
Jager: Mika Lafter
Jager: Carta Turbine
Attached Chatterbox Iguana: Lupe Malandro
Every Section needs what trooper pilots call the picnic Cadre. The lucky ones who get to sit at the back and rain missiles, mortars and other forms of guided death from beyond visual range onto things that need to be dead yesterday.
Sous-Sergent Gaelio Lak is the model of an artillery pilot. He has a kill count eclipsing most of the Three-Ones, but at the same time if you listen to him he can’t remember the last time he was shot at. This is entirely due to the tireless work of Lupe Malandro, who is too tall to comfortably pilot an Iguana and thus hates her job with a passion. She has raised the question with Kyao a few times of switching roles with Sous-Caporal Turbine, who is a good eight inches shorter and so can get into an Iguana without getting her hair caught in the top hatch when it closes, and can pilot it for a long period without losing feeling in her legs below the knee.
Although two-thirds of Cadre I mostly avoid direct combat, they are nevertheless a tightly-knit unit; an artillery cadre relies on its spotters and skirmishers to call in targets and keep enemies away so they can concentrate. Outside of their Gears they continue the general amiability in the face of bureaucracy that keeps the Three-Ones sane, with Malandro and Mendez among the few pilots to stick with Issue even during her lowest moments. There was, arguably, an ulterior motive there. Malandro was one of Issue’s closest allies in her questionably effective black market ring, someone who knew enough people from Marigold to get cigarettes, beer and other fun goods in quantities beyond what an on-duty Compagnie would be allowed. When the Inspectorate were leaning heavily on a pilot with a lengthy disciplinary record whose career was suddenly precarious, anyone who had in the past been part of their schemes would naturally panic…
[SK] Cadre II: Urban Warfare Cadre
Command Jager Gunner: Hime Elfino
Jager Brawler: Hamada Houjou
Jager Brawler: Gauron Gurune
Striking Jager: Cosmo Murasa
Flamm Cobra: Ibuki Mitsurugi
Flamm Cobra: Hilda Alende
Attached Striking Iguana: Quattro Londe
If members of Cadre II are scared of Cadre II, it should be no surprise that elements of the unit are immensely unpopular among the Three-Ones. Transferred in to bolster the Compagnie’s close-operations capacity, Caporals Mitsurugi and Alende are by all accounts fine (if a little overly serious) people. From a first meeting, that is.
The Flamm Cobra is an unwieldy, uncomfortable unit piloted by a “special kind of pilot” – one who does not mind spending their active cycles inescapably smelling of smoke and chemical fuel and one who does not object too strongly to the implications of clearing buildings with fire. The two Gears assigned to Cadre II sit in the corner of the hangar, with their special service equipment and ammunition supplies an imposing bank of oily metal nearby. A sort of pervading greasiness and foul air surrounds them, something their pilots are inured to, but it is enough to make people steer clear (particularly if they are wearing freshly-cleaned dress uniform.) And a sordid, unpleasant Gear requires a similarly resilient personality to put up with its chemical patina – pilots who seem to ooze into social situations, pry and inquire in unpleasant directions and generally stick close to the ears that listen most readily to who is doing what.
Whereas Cadre V works like a finely-co-ordinated team, observers to Cadre II’s fighting style describe it as four Gears studiously trying to cover two others without looking at what is happening behind the wall of smoke and fire. And, back at base, card games will suddenly stop and the mess hall’s inhabitants will shuffle to smaller tables to not have to sit next to Alende or Mitsurugi. Even if they were not widely known to be sickeningly close to the Inspectorate, speak to any pilot and they will say they’ll try to find friends among anyone except individuals who can set people on fire on a routine basis without feeling too sick about it.
[SK] Cadre III: Ceremonial Cadre
King Cobra: Joe Aradis
Fer de Lance Force: Saphine Elise
Fer de Lance Force: Kyosuke Mizuha
Attached Striking Iguana: Tomache Cineau
It is rare for a ceremonial cadre to see as much frontline combat as Caporal Aradis’ team does; the common complaint levelled at the Fer de Lance is that is is incredibly unsuited for combat, especially in extreme conditions such as the equatorial desert. As if things could not get any more impractical, the units assigned to the Three-Ones’ ceremonial cadre are (to get around the Republican Guards’ strict rules) prototypes of the failed Fer de Lance β mass production variant. This design was an ill-advised idea from SRWI to capitalise on the “morale-boosting” effects a well-armed and ceremonial Gear could bring to a regiment by taking aspects of the 1st Republican Guards’ own unique, made-to-order model and applying them to a cheaper frame.
There was much discussion between SRWI representatives and the highest elements of the Republican Army about whether using the “learnings” from the Fer de Lance project on a mass-production Gear violated the terms of the 1st Guards’ order. A cadre of prototypes were made using a modified Mamba chassis and the initial decision was that as long as there were “clear distinctions” between actual Fer de Lance units and beta-models the project could proceed.
Production was halted before it even began when the optimism of procurement officers ran up against the cold reality of military budgets, and a project that relied on taking an expensive Gear frame still very much in active service and adding extraneous systems, a new power plant and expensive weaponry to it was immediately mothballed. Of the five prototypes, two were refashioned into “proper” Fer de Lances following the opening of two new spaces in the 1st Guards, one was sold to a private collector in the CNCS (widely believed by Intelligence to be a Northern spy eager to get the blueprints of the South’s highest-tech Gear rather than an avid duellist) and the other two found their way to the Three-Ones.
As a result, its Gears are generally in a state of chipped paint, constant parts replacement and field repair with whatever parts can be found. The decision was made very early on by HQ to strip all the expensive guided weaponry and melee equipment from Elise and Mizuha’s Gears and replace it with “reliable” and “easily-serviced” energy rifles, to “synergise” them with Aradis’ King Cobra. Mild protests were made by the pilots and engineers, who had plenty of experience with the difficulty of cooling the energy weapons of Cadre V in deserts, but the decision was based on the belief that the unit would be used for its initially stated purpose. Miscommunication has, after all, come to be the watchword of the Three-One.
Efforts to keep the Gears operational have included additional cooling jackets for gun barrels, jury-rigged heat sinks and even a short-lived experiment in removing the cockpit hatch completely to improve air circulation in the cockpit. While they are variously successful in preventing the Gears’s weapons and computers from melting, they are never quite practical enough to be used for extended periods.
[FS] Cadre IV: Assault Cadre
Black Mamba: Daba Zabiarov
Black Mamba: Emma Branstein
Hooded King Cobra: Shou Kyao
Junglemower Support Cobra: Amu Kistler
Junglemower Support Cobra: Fuala Fanelia
Initially limited only to the three heavy Cobra-series Gears, Cadre IV was expanded recently by the arrival of two new Black Mambas to give it a little more flexibility; it had significant problems, previously, with having too much firepower concentrated across too few high-priority targets. Simply adding a couple of screening units to keep chaff away meant that the Cobras could sit back and do their job bombarding hard targets while Sous-Adjutant Kyao, effective frontline commander of the Three-Ones, exercises his marksmanship skills.
Kyao tries very hard not to be unlikeable. He genuinely cares for the Three-Ones, who are (with a few unsavoury exceptions) a very rough family to him. He excuses their minor indiscretions, tries to push for lighter sentences where he can (the exception being Alektra Issue’s incident). The problem is he is directly answerable to the joyless and absolutely unbending Lieutenant Littner, supreme commander of the Three-Ones. Littner works very hard to undermine everything Kyao tries to do, to the extent of going behind his back to complain to higher echelons about the “worthlessness” of his Compagnie. And it is Kyao who has to report all of the damning statements that come back. It is Kyao who has to tell the pilots that for the third time that cycle leave is cancelled. That once again anonymous sources have suggested that there is contraband circulating around the base and footlockers must be inspected (it is probably Alende).
The Three-Ones appreciate this, but it has sadly reached the point where Kyao’s appearance in the communal rest area or hangar is more often than not bad news incoming.
But if that is a harsh lot, spare even more sympathy for Sergents Kistler and Fanelia – Littner has decided to take them on as his advisors which means they have to do double duty – going out to fight and then coming back to sit beside Kyao at the back of long meetings about how the Regiment is going to screw them over this time. In many ways the arrival of Caporals Branstein and Zabiarov was a mercy; it meant there were finally two members of the Cadre who could simply focus on things like fighting, keeping the Gears in good order alongside the engineers and working on day-to-day onsite minutiae.
[SK] Cadre V: Heavy Cadre
Razorfang Blazing Black Mamba: Gin Medaiyu
Blazing Black Mamba: Io Medaiyu
Longfang Black Mamba: Shakti Mariela
Longfang Black Mamba: Duker Gauli
Attached Para Iguana Duellist: Alektra Issue
By far the most experienced and competent of the Three-Ones, Cadre V has become the de facto support for the Regimental Duellist; part honour guard, part minders. Armed with a mixture of high-yield rocket launchers and rapid-fire laser cannons, they are highly effective at their usual role of dropping into a hotzone and clearing out closely-grouped targets.
The promotion of the younger Medaiyu sibling to Sous-Sergent following their assignment to Cadre V was taken well by his older brother; the twins are an effective backbone for the cadre and bring some much-needed (in the eyes of many of the pilots) camaraderie. While Gin is happy to handle all the paperwork and administration alone (being well-attuned to what the higher-ups want to read), he works closely with Io when it comes to training and combat drills. The running joke among the other Cadres is that the Medaiyus run their cadre like a sports team, dividing it into two-Gear sections that run complex interference strategies and fine maneuvers. To this end, to celebrate his second service pip Gin was awarded a signed ball and “playbook” of tactical maps.
At the time of the Salamandine Incident, as a confused and angry Inspectorate decided to call it, Duellist Issue had become a popular member of the cadre because of her frequent indiscretions. An ability to find things for people, a willingness to take a few beatings in order to stand up for the honour of the Three-Ones and an unwillingness to take any nonsense or trouble from the locals – combined with the remoteness of their base outside of Marigold – had made her something of a morale asset for the rank and file, and something of an albatross for the commanders. This in turn made the aftermath of the incident particularly awkward; it was generally accepted a line had been crossed when Sergent Salamandine had ended up hospitalised (no matter how much it had been felt at the instant it had happened she deserved it), and the usual goodwill for the rough-and-ready Duellist began to evaporate.
Even now, after Issue’s swift action to save Marigold, the relationship with the “fifth member” of the team, once a friendly and welcomed face, is not quite as easygoing. Salamandine made a full recovery, and definitely deserved to be knocked down a peg, but things are not the same.
Alektra Issue: Prior to transfer to independent operations, Sous-Sergent Issue had managed to build up a disciplinary record including two counts of battery, five counts of minor insubordination, three counts of minor possession, one count of unlawful duelling and twelve recorded counts of negligence deemed serious enough to warrant notification of an inspector. This made her continued position as regimental duellist for the Marigold Army increasingly untenable, but at the same time combinations of events always seemed to ensure any potential long-lasting trouble would land on someone else.
It was her subsequent conviction for unlawful duelling resulting in the maiming of another regiment’s duellist that resulted in a sentence of transfer to the MILICIA. There was no getting out of this one, and Issue was in the process of making what peace she could with her regiment when the front line collapsed and, again, perverse luck prevailed. Foolishly, the enemy sent out their own duellist to “resolve the matter of the regiment’s surrender.” They lost. Issue now existed in disciplinary limbo – by all accounts her crimes were severe, but at the same time she had arguably saved the regiment’s honour.
With not a little grumbling the inspectorate was convinced to alter the sentence to a fine so large that even now, a year after the court-martial and with a significant number of duelling prize funds behind her, Issue has only begun to pay off the interest.