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The Clans

[Prepared by Anastasius Focht, Precentor Martial of the Com Guards, Hilton Head Island, Terra.]
[Edited by Master Archivist George Macoukji]

The Exodus:

Whether General Kerensky knew where was leading the Exodus when he left the Inner Sphere is one of the questions historians have tried to answer for the past two and a half centuries. Information gleaned from my studies of the Clans make it obvious that General Kerensky had only a vague sense of his destination. Data from the computers of the Star League Astrological Mapping Corps were downloaded to the flagship McKenna's Pride in preparation for the Exodus, and the original Star League map and chart files were destroyed. The general may have had only a rough idea of his destination, but he made sure that no one from the Inner Sphere could track him or his followers.

The Inner Sphere has dissected and reassembled the life of General Aleksandr Kerensky countless times. Despite all this interest, several crucial facts about his private life have remained unknown until now. At the outset of the Exodus, the general stunned everyone by announcing that he had a wife, Katyusha, and two sons, Nicholas and Andery. According to Wolf Loremasters, Aleksandr had been married for more than 17 years before the Exodus began, but kept the identity of his wife and children secret to shield them from the political intrigues that swirled around him. During the Amaris regime, their anonymity saved them from possible harm by the lunatic leader and his cutthroats.

General Kerensky mounted an assault on Moscow in 2777, during the initial stages of Terra's liberation, in order to rescue his wife and her underground rebel cell. He kept their identities concealed even after Terra's liberation to protect them from the spies of the House Lords. Once the Exodus was underway, however, Katyusha and the two boys took their rightful places alongside the general.

Kerensky was strong and dynamic during the Exodus, shuttling between ships as much as possible to address his followers during the layovers between jumps. He made sure that each man and woman understood the ideals of the Star League. He explained why those ideals were best served by the Exodus rather than by staying and trying to force the House Lords into submission.

The fleet explored new worlds, taking consumable supplies (oxygen, water, and foodstuffs) on board when available. Kerensky changed course many times to discourage pursuit. He also sent out ships to jettison garbage and other debris in randomly chosen star systems to confuse any pursuers. As our own ROM Explorers can attest, the general's precautions were extremely effective.

Over the course of the first uncertain year, the strain and stress of the Exodus began to take its toll despite Kerensky's efforts to maintain unity. The most blatant challenge to his authority came nine months into the Exodus, when the crews and passengers of nine ships mutinied. Led by officers of the Prinz Eugen, a Texas class battleship, the group refused to continue on with the rest of the fleet, choosing instead to return to the Inner Sphere.

The general formed a task force and went after the mutineers, ordering them to surrender unconditionally. They refused, and so the general ordered his task force into action against the rebels. Kerensky's marines captured the Prinz Eugen in a daring boarding action, and the rest of the vessels quickly surrendered. A quick trial was held at the jump point, and all officers at or above the rank of captain were summarily executed.

Clans sources do not record the names of those executed. Research into our own records reveals that the leader of the revolt was probably Major General Wilbur Braso, a highly respected officer of Cameron blood, albeit a distant relation to the First Lord's line.

Hidden Hope:

The Prinz Eugen incident further lowered the morale of the fleet. The mutiny itself was shocking, but the general's swift execution of the ringleaders was not accepted without question. Kerensky's actions made it clear that he considered himself not only the fleet's commander, but also its ruler. Many began to suspect that Kerensky did not have a final destination for the fleet, openly questioning his authority and the decision to leave the Inner Sphere.

In order to quell the growing dissent, Kerensky published General Order 137. This document is etched just above eye level into the Common Room walls of every Clan ship. It is Kerensky's justification for the execution of the Prinz Eugen mutineers, the need to maintain discipline, and the harsh penalties for failure to obey orders or in any other way hinder "the smooth functioning of this emergency operation." His formal yet eloquent statement of goals for himself and those who followed him made this more than just a cold warning. General Order 137 expressed what became known as the Hidden Hope Doctrine.

In the general's own words:

Return to the Inner Sphere is impossible for us. Our heritage and our convictions are different from those we left behind. The greed of the five Great Houses and the Council Lords is a disease that can only be burned away by the passing of decades, even centuries. And though the fighting may seem to slow, or even cease, it will erupt again as long as there are powerful men to covet one another's wealth. We shall live apart, conserving all the good of the Star League and ridding ourselves of the bad, so that when we return, and return we shall, our shining moral character will be as much our shield as our BattleMechs and fighters.

His prophecy proved chillingly accurate in the light of the destructive Succession Wars the Inner Sphere endured.

Kerensky's order apparently served to renew his followers' resolve to continue the journey. How it quelled the swelling discontent is uncertain. Perhaps the dissenters' devotion to the general allowed them to forgive his harshness in hope that his words would prove true. The Jade Falcon Remembrance hints that the general had spies in the Inner Sphere who were already relaying information that illustrated just how pointless return would have been.

A New Beginning:

The ships of the Exodus traveled through barren star systems for another month without further incident, but the general must have realized by this time that unless he called and end to their journey soon, his followers would become truly desperate. The fleet, now more than 1300 light years away from Terra, arrived at a cluster of five marginally habitable star systems. The systems lay less than one jump apart and only a few jumps away from a large globular cluster. A thick dust-nebula soon christened Kerensky's Cloak hid them from the Inner Sphere. Short supplies and short tempers prompted Kerensky to announce that the fleet had reached its destination. The date, 24 August 2786, is still celebrated by the Clans as Founding Day.

The five worlds they colonized, Arcadia, Babylon, Circe, Dagda, and Eden were dubbed the Pentagon because of their nearly five-pointed arrangement. The planets were hostile: three hosted microbes that manifested in hideous forms on human hosts, while the other two gad only marginally viable ecosystems. The members of the Exodus nevertheless willingly set up camps and began to colonize the five worlds.

General Kerensky and his second-in-command, General Aaron DeChevilier, realized during their 21-month journey that their people lacked the cross- section of skills necessary to colonize new worlds. Overloaded with soldiers and military technicians and lacking experienced farmers and a manual-labor force, Kerensky knew that his new society required more members able to handle the non-military aspects of a community. Ironically, the Inner Sphere would face just the opposite problem in the years ahead: a lack of military technicians to fight the long Succession Wars.

Five months after the colonization began, warships intercepted a Rim World merchant JumpShip that was hopelessly off course. The vessel attempted to flee, but surrendered when boarded. The merchant vessel's crew unwillingly joined Kerensky and served as the seed from which would grow the merchants and laborers of Kerensky's new society. Interviews with the crew and information extracted from the ship's computer plainly showed that the general's grim prophecies were already coming true. The Inner Sphere's slide into destructive conflict was accelerating. Many of the Exodus felt more isolated than ever, and allowed General Kerensky great latitude in shaping their society.

The general's answer to the glut of warriors was obvious but subtle. He ordered a controlled demobilization of 75 percent of armed personnel. The mustering-out was not arbitrary, however. Kerensky introduced a series of tests that everyone from the lowliest private to the highest general had to face. The test left only the top soldiers in uniform. Those who failed were given another series of tests to determine where he or she would best fit in the new order. The use of tests was a shrewd move on the general's part, because those who tested out of the military could not blame anyone but themselves.

The demobilization program resulted in a surplus of military hardware. Huge storage caches were constructed to prevent material from falling into unauthorized hands. The Remembrance refers to those depots as "Brian Caches," an obvious reference to the Star League's Castle Brians. These caches were strongly fortified and guarded by the most loyal troops of the Regular Army. Excess naval vessels were mothballed in orbit around distant planets or moons in each inhabited star system.

General Kerensky's remarkable vision not only foresaw the coming of the Succession Wars, but also the resulting loss of information and technology. In the Inner Sphere, only our Blessed Order was able to preserve this knowledge. In order to prevent this loss among the new colony worlds, he ordered vast libraries of information to be created and stored in the caches. Everyone with technical or scientific skill recorded his knowledge for these libraries as quickly as possible, even when it meant neglecting important expeditions and projects.

The active naval vessels explored the nearby globular cluster that The Remembrance calls "The Kerensky Cluster" or "The Stars of the Protector." Many of the demobilized troops found a place in the Explorer Corps, a quasi- military organization whose sole aim was to explore and exploit the cluster worlds. The best worlds were colonized. Katyusha Kerensky named the most promising world in the cluster Strana Mechty, Russian for "Land of Dreams."

Though no maps or star charts were made available to me during my stay with the Clans, I was able to learn the names of some of the other worlds discovered in the cluster. They include Ironhold, Shadow, Hector, Gatekeeper, Brim, and Roche. Most of these worlds supported only small farming and mining communities at first. The worlds of the Pentagon remained the centers of development and continue as the heart of Clan society today.

Within a few years, the people of the Exodus had conquered their environments and overcome their lack of civilian skills to become fully functioning societies with individual economies and cultures. The makeshift camps grew into cities. Each planet's economy became self-sufficient, no longer relying on others to supply food and shelter. All the newly settled worlds boasted light industry, and heavy industry was developing quickly.

General Kerensky was the guiding force behind the progress. Once again taking the title of Protector of the Star League, he led a provisional government that oversaw the five planetary governments. The few references to the general's government call it the Exodus Planetary Council. Some Loremasters refer to it as "The Star League in Exile" as a reminder of their origins and future. As head of the government, the general encouraged large families by offering generous incentives of goods and land. He sought to expand the population base beyond chance decimation by any natural force such as disease. A large population would also have both the training and size to respond to any challenge or threat.

For a time, the Star League in Exile appeared to be a stunning success. The strong, united people were free and eager to pursue whatever course their believed leader suggested. Sadly, the plague of war racing through the Inner Sphere would soon stir hatreds thought forgotten.

Time Of Darkness:

Despite the efforts of General Kerensky and his staff, it gradually became obvious that not all was right. discontent among the civilians grew from grumbling about a lack of once-cherished luxuries to full-scale rioting on all five Pentagon worlds. The problem seemed to be linked to the resentment of demobilized soldiers who could not accept their new roles in society. To be treated as just another civilian was not the reward they thought they deserved for their faithful service to the general. These malcontents agitated for the creation of planetary militias in which they felt they would regain pride in their place in society.

Other tensions rose from cultural differences. The population accepted the concept of a unified world view, but cultural differences began reasserting themselves when demobilization broke up the artificial military culture. All the Pentagon worlds became caught up in the unrest because the political and cultural divisions (Hegemony, Capellan, Lyran, Federated, Combine, and League) reemerged after colonies became established. People of common backgrounds gravitated together and eventually began to view those from other societies with increasing suspicion and bigotry. The globular-cluster colonies did not suffer these problems as severely because they were settled by relatively homogenous groups. They were also too busy trying to survive to be concerned about past loyalties.

Eden's advanced industry and large population centers made the planet a natural focal point for the growing tensions. The Remembrance refers to Eden as "the Garden where the seeds/Of our downfall and birth were sheltered." Most of Eden's population had been raised in the Federated Suns or the Capellan Confederation, two societies not know for mutual cooperation.

Tensions between the colonists on Eden reached the boiling point 15 years after their arrival at the Pentagon. At first the violence was limited to local riots and minor clashes between villages, but it escalated steadily, even in the face of harsh punishment from the planetary government. After months of bloody, but still sporadic fighting, full-scale rebellion broke out. Several Liao settlements led the fighting, declaring independence and mounting an attack on one of the caches in order to arm themselves with BattleMechs and other weapons.

General Kerensky sent General DeChevilier and a detachment of troops to put down the rebellion. During the firefight, General DeChevilier was killed in his BattleMech by a fluke rebel hit from a hand-carried missile system. The cache was intact, but the loss of his closest aide and friend was a heavy price for the aging Kerensky to pay.

By any standards, the general's response to DeChevilier's death was brutal. Citing General Order 137, he ordered the execution of all rebels, ignoring any legal concerns. Whole settlements were razed and their remaining populations dispersed in what became known as the DeChevilier Massacre. However, instead of preventing further trouble, this overreaction only sowed the seeds of further resentment against General Kerensky and the standing military.

On Babylon, rioting broke out between citizens of Combine and Lyran heritage. Attacks against Exodus government facilities on Arcadia, Circe, and Dagda became common. With blood on their hands from the DeChevilier Massacre, the Regular Army tried to regain moral high ground by obeying orders to quell the violence in an even-handed manner using a minimum of force. Unfortunately, BattleMechs are not effective riot control vehicles. A 'Mech cannot control a crowd without fatalities, so the military's attempts to back off from the level of violence seen in the massacre were unsuccessful. The rioting and attacks continued and news of more massacres was widely publicized. Before long, the military and the Exodus government were universally despised.

Eden erupted in all-out civil war between the former Liao and Davion citizens. On other worlds, rebels successfully secured arms and weapons from military depots and caches. Soon, private armies staffed with soldiers who had been mustered out of the Regular Army controlled key towns and cities on all five worlds.

General Kerensky, by now more than a hundred years old, had been kept alive only by pushing the limits of Star League medical technology. Deprived of his closest friend and wife, who had died five years earlier from a mysterious fever, the burden of fighting another civil war proved too heavy. While preparing plans for a campaign to secure Eden, General Kerensky suffered a massive heart attack and died at his command post. Most people reacted to the news of the general's passing by igniting further civil unrest rather than mourning.

With both Kerensky and DeChevilier dead, the military was crippled. The general's designated successor was his son Nicholas, then in command of the 146th Royal BattleMech Division. Though he had the support of most of the Navy and the military units garrisoning the cluster colonies (no more than one or two regiments per colony), the division commanders on the five Pentagon worlds unexpectedly rejected him as a leader, citing his lack of active command experience. In a situation that oddly parallels the start of the Succession Wars, each division commander pressed his claim to take command of the government, just as the Lords of the Inner Sphere sparked the first Succession War. Within a few months, each of the five planets was divided into enclaves of rebellious citizens and armed troops. The situation was ripe for someone to trigger all-out war.

The 146th did not mobilize to enforce Nicholas' right of command. When his officers urged Nicholas to press his claim, he referred to the writings of his father, saying that "individuals stricken with greed, envy, and avarice hiding behind false patriotism and justice cannot be made to change: they must either burn the sickness out of their lives with years of futile fighting, or die a senseless death, as all fools do."

The young Kerensky saw that the eventual salvation of his people and the preservation of his father's ideals were far more important than fighting a "political squabble." Thus did Nicholas call for his own "Exodus" to the cluster world of Strana Mechty. Kerensky knew that he must save the civilians and scientists so vital to the survival of his people. He issued pleas through the media of all five planets, urging them to join him. For several tense weeks, loyal Navy ships collected those willing to flee, often under the guns of what were now enemy units. The last ship leaving for the cluster marked the exodus of almost 25 percent of the civilian population, including most of the scientific community.

Full-scale wars erupted on all five worlds within three weeks of Nicholas' Exodus. Passage after passage of The Remembrance describes battles that wiped out entire populations. The land was ravaged by the soldiers once considered the best humanity had to offer. Military units loyal to Nicholas resolutely stayed in the cluster, impervious to pleas for assistance, no matter how compelling or desperate. When the Navy withdrew to the cluster, communication between the Pentagon worlds quickly broke down, yet the fighting continued.

This period of unrelenting violence, called the "Exodus Civil Wars," lasted for almost two decades. The men and women on the Pentagon worlds pounded each other back into barbarism. By the time the civil wars finally ended, most technology was destroyed and the harsh environments, once controlled, were killing those few who survived the man-made holocaust.

In stark contrast, Nicholas Kerensky and his followers thrived on Strana Mechty and the other cluster worlds, furthering the technology their brothers and sisters had abandoned in pursuit of pointless battles and foolish wars. Nicholas bided his time.

Origins:

Nicholas planned the retaking of the Pentagon worlds for 20 years. While he waited, aided by Jennifer Winson, his wife and most trusted confidant, he moved to rid his supporters of the "last vestiges of that contaminated society that gave us such woe." Central to his plan was the complete and total reorganization of his military.

He declared the traditions of the Regular Army hopelessly tainted by its sinful past. He organized his strike force of 800 into 20 "Clans" of 40 warriors each. Gone were the lances, companies, battalions, and regiments favored by the Star League. As their base, the Clans used "Stars" of five MechWarriors each. Two Stars formed a Binary, and four Binaries formed a Cluster. Each Clan was a Cluster, and several Clusters formed a Galaxy. The most reliable evidence indicates that this germinal force contained five Galaxies, but conflicting records place the numbers at three to seven Galaxies. The original 800 warriors proved crucial to the final form of the Clan structure. Star League ranks, and every other aspect of that army glorifying the individual, were replaced by an organization stressing ongoing testing. The new order also stressed that each Clan was a family, a society unto itself. Using BattleMechs from caches on Strana Mechty, Nicholas equipped and trained his army according to his vision.

When the newly formed Clans returned to the worlds of the Pentagon, they found a nightmare situation. From the descriptions of the Loremasters and the intelligence holotapes taken by Nicholas' forces, it is clear that the Exodus Civil War was far more devastating than any of our Succession Wars. The soldiers who survived faced the Clans in barely functional 'Mechs. Even though the rebels on each of the five worlds had numerical superiority, the firepower and reliability of the Clan BattleMechs won the day. Battles were bitterly fought, and many Clan warriors died. Nicholas Kerensky suffered personal losses. In the final battle for Eden, his younger brother Andery was ambushed and killed by five rebel BattleMechs. Within a year, however, the Pentagon worlds were beaten and forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Nicholas and his Clans.

Many of the survivors hailed Nicholas as a savior. His physical appearance, strikingly similar to his father's, added to his mystique. The supplies he distributed freely saved countless lives. The survivors were so grateful to him and so unbalanced by the events of the past 20 years, that they virtually worshipped Nicholas. In fact, they often hailed him as his father, a mistake Nicholas seemed reluctant to correct.

The Exodus Civil War took a tremendous toll on the populations of the Pentagon worlds. A census taken soon after Nicholas' invasion found that the survivors numbered less than half the population of General Kerensky's Exodus. The war had cost millions of lives.

Nicholas reformed Clan Society utterly, so as to prevent such disasters in the future. Five castes make up the structure of Clan society: warrior, scientist, merchant, technician, and laborer. A sixth caste, called the dark, or bandit, caste, exists unofficially for those who cannot or will not fit into mainstream society. Each caste has myriad sub-castes based on specialties within a professional field. Using these castes, Nicholas created 20 original Clans. The Clans have their own language, and a unique form of government not found in the Inner Sphere.

Clan Trials:

Nicholas was determined that civil war would not claim his new society. Instead of banning warfare, which he considered part of human nature, he created controlled conflicts through regulations and rituals. Thus, the Six Trials of Combat were established. Each trial begins with the batchall, the formal challenge, by which the aggressor announces to his opponent his intentions, his goal, and his fighting force. For descriptions of the various Trials, click here.

Clan Wolverine:

Nicholas Kerensky's new society, with its formalized rules of combat, was not completely accepted by all his followers. In 2823, Clan Wolverine rejected a Grand Council decision on the division of equipment found in a Brian Cache in Wolverine territory, claiming that the cache belonged to Clan Wolverine alone. They invoked a Trial of Refusal and lost. They did not accept the ruling, but shocked the rest of the Clans by declaring Clan Wolverine totally independent. ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky declared that Clan Wolverine had become "tainted by the old ways of lust for power." He urged the Grand Council to vote for a Trial of Annihilation against the rebellious Clan. The resulting vote was swift and unanimous, and Clans Wolf and Widowmaker won the honor of annihilating Wolverine.

Wolf and Widowmaker took the opportunity of the Trial of Annihilation to expand their prestige, each at the cost of the other. The long-time rivalry between these two Clans was fierce and bitter. The bidding between the two Clans for the honor of destroying Clan Wolverine turned the bitterness into hate. The Wolf Clan version of The Remembrance states that Clan Widowmaker deliberately drove the bidding down to dangerous levels, then withdrew, leaving the warriors of Clan Wolf facing the majority of Clan Wolverine at very poor odds. Clan Widowmaker was pleased when Clan Wolf suffered major losses in the battle, but their hatred was fanned higher by Clan Wolf's eventual triumph over Clan Wolverine. The warriors of Clan Wolverine were dead, and the Grand Council moved to purge its tainted ways from Clan society. The Wolverine Bloodnames were eliminated from the gene pool, all Wolverine lower-caste citizens were sterilized, and all mention of Clan Wolverine was removed from Clan documents.

Rumors among the Clans say that some Clan Wolverine warriors escaped and fled the Clan worlds. It is probably no coincidence that the "Minnesota Tribe" that attacked the perimeter of the Combine struck in 2825, a year after the annihilation of Clan Wolverine. This tribe was reported as using brand-new 'Mechs, fighting in ways alien to the Inner Sphere.

Tensions between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf escalated into a bitterly fought battle that would mark the end of an era for the Clans. Warriors from Widowmaker claimed Wolf had cheated in its victory that annihilated the Wolverines. Clan Wolf responded by accusing Clan Widowmaker of misusing the bidding system to deliberately place Wolf warriors in hopeless situations. This animosity lasted through a decade marked by vicious Trials of Possession that often skirted the limits of the Grand Council's rules of combat.

Death and Absorption:

It was during a Trial of Possession between Clans Widowmaker and Wolf that the merchants of Clan Widowmaker lodged a formal protest against their parent Clan with the Grand Council. The cause of the tensions between the freebirth merchants and their Clan is unrecorded, but the warriors' response is well documented. Mass arrests and the execution of the protest's leaders were carried out with ruthless efficiency.

Emotions on both sides were running high, and they reached a flashpoint when Khan Cal Jorgensson of Clan Widowmaker publicly accused Clan Wolf of having agitated the Widowmaker merchants to rise against their Clan. Khan Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf vehemently denied any involvement. He countered by claiming that Clan Widowmaker's massacre of its own people invalidated their right to govern. Clan Wolf demanded before the Grand Council that Clan Widowmaker be absorbed.

Clan Widowmaker eventually lost the debate, but immediately invoked a Trial of Refusal. Clan Wolf competed for and finally won the right to defend the Grand Council's decision.

The trial took place on the Steitz Plains of Ironhold. Widowmaker was defending with a Cluster of ten Stars against eleven Stars from Clan Wolf. Off the battlefield, warriors from the other Clans watched the trial through a system of monitors and satellites. The Khans of the Grand Council, led by Nicholas Kerensky, officiated the duel to ensure that the rules of this bitter battle were strictly enforced.

The initial exchange was fierce, with both sides committing large forces to frontal attacks. Well into the battle, Khan Jerome Winson and Khan Cal Jorgensson mutually declared a Trial of Grievance. As the combat around them gradually died down, two Khans squared off. When it became clear that Khan Jerome Winson was about to disable the 'Mech of Khan Cal Jorgensson, a Star of Widowmaker BattleMechs leaped into the Circle of Equals and attacked the Khan of Clan Wolf. Whether they attacked orders or on the spur of the moment will never be known.

Nicholas Kerensky and the rest of the Grand Council immediately moved to defend Khan Jerome Winson from this cowardly action. A moment later, one of Khan Cal Jorgensson's large lasers discharged at point-blank range into ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky's cockpit. There is no way of knowing if the action was intentional. The melee came to an abrupt end as technicians and medics tried desperately to extricate the stricken leader from his 'Mech. By the time they reached him, ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky was dead.

In a fit of rage, Clan Wolf attacked Clan Widowmaker full force. The battle, which lasted for three days, was marked by uncompromising brutality. The Wolf Clan warriors, with the aid of the other Clans, tracked down and captured or killed all warriors of Clan Widowmaker. Clan Wolf emerged victorious and the Grand Council unanimously granted their demand to claim all Clan Widowmaker's resources.

The Widowmaker symbol, a red hourglass against the abdomen of a black widow spider, was removed from Clan records. It became synonymous with disregard for Clan rules and traditions. The bandit caste frequently uses the symbol as a sign of its independence. More recently, Khan Natasha Kerensky has adopted the symbol as her own, not because she is associated with the bandit caste, but because she believes that many Clan traditions hinder rather than help the Clans.

Rite of Forgiveness:

Recent discussions with members of the Third Battle Cluster revealed some curious insights into Clan honor from their reaction to the Invasion vote. The Wardens in Clan Wolf, those who disapproved of the invasion, were eager for the chance to show their extreme displeasure at having been outvoted, which I understood. I found it surprising that the Crusaders within the Clan, those who agreed with the idea of invading the Inner Sphere, were just as eager to accept punishment as a way of atoning for their Clan having dared disagree with the the Grand Council's decision. This instance of desiring to atone for disagreeing with authority was not unique. My research into Clan literature has uncovered many poems, by warriors and lower castes alike, describing the joy and pride with which the poet willingly endured punishments that we in the Inner Sphere would consider beyond the realm of human decency. All dissent is subject to the Right of Forgiveness. This holds true from the highest level (Clan against Council) to the lowest (laborer caste against warrior caste). In the latter case, however, proper atonement does not guarantee that the warrior will spare the laborer's life. I am not aware of an equivalent among Inner Sphere societies and governments for what the Clans call Surkai, the Right of Forgiveness.

Rebirth and Expansion:

The death of ilKhan Nicholas Kerensky, followed by the election of Jerome Winson of Clan Wolf as ilKhan, marked the first time that the Clans were not led by a Kerensky. Instead of marking the beginning of an age of indecision and uncertainty, the next century came to be known as "The Golden Century." All facets of Clan society experienced a period of intense development and growth during this time. The worlds of the Pentagon were reconstructed, erasing the final scars of the Civil War. Nicholas Kerensky, like his father before him, was elevated to the level of a demi-god, and both his writings and recorded speeches became objects of reverence.

Exploration continued in the Kerensky Cluster, but exploitation of its worlds lagged for two reasons. One was the sheer lack of people trained to take advantage of any discoveries, and the other was the Grand Council's desire to keep Clan society on a short rein. This did not prevent the Clans from bidding for newly discovered worlds. Although most Clans established only small outposts on new worlds, Clan Wolf seems to have taken fuller advantage of what they owned. They established major industrial complexes on the cluster worlds of Paxon and Tiber, despite rumblings within the Grand Council against such extensive colonization.

The scientist and technician castes reached new heights of excellence during the Golden Century. They perfected artificial womb technology, rebuilt the Clans' industrial base, and made advances in virtually every field of endeavor. Not surprisingly, it was in military technology that they made the greatest, and ultimately the most devastating, advances.

In 2854, scientists from Clan Coyote carried the concept of the Mercury BattleMech to its logical extreme by developing a 'Mech with a completely modular weapons system. The result was an "OmniMech," a machine whose weaponry could be completely reconfigured or replaced by a few technicians to suit the situation in just a few hours. This was the first significant improvement of the BattleMech since its development by the Star League, and it gave the Clans tremendous flexibility, which they have used against us to great advantage. Because of the OmniMechs, Clan Coyote enjoyed a considerable advantage until the other Clans could create their own versions. This took several years.

At about the same time the OmniMechs were being developed, Clan Wolf scientists were working on an armored infantry suit. It protected a soldier, allowed him to keep up with 'Mechs, and enabled him to carry weaponry that could threaten 'Mechs. The Wolf Clan used the first of these powered armor suits in 2868, when two Stars of Clan Wolf infantry defeated a light Star of Clan Nova Cat OmniMechs during a Trial of Possession.

Both the battle armor and those wearing it were called "Elementals" because they could fight in any element: air, water, fire, earth, or even space. It is interesting to note that some passages of The Remembrance mention specific elements when referring to the battle armor, which suggests that early versions of the units functioned in specific environments. The scientist caste began breeding larger and physically stronger warriors who could better cope with the strain of wearing the armor. Other technological and biological advances resulted in the Clans boasting troops of genetically superior Elementals before 25 years had passed.

During the Golden Century, the Clans matured into a society totally unlike anything with which we are familiar. Discussions with various Loremasters indicate that it was during this era that the Clans began to foster a hatred for the peoples of the Inner Sphere. Though The Remembrance couches the Clan's sentiments in quasi-religious tones, their view of us is made clear. We are considered unenlightened savages living in luxury, while a far more civilized people is forced to live on hostile worlds far from Terra. In In particular, they developed a strong contempt for the five major Houses, whom they consider responsible for the Star League's fall. Clan warriors see the worlds of the Inner Sphere, especially those of the former Terran Hegemony, as virtual paradises, but their view is distorted by both bitterness and idealization.

Crusaders' Call:

By 2980 many in the Clans were ready to return to the Inner Sphere. Citing The Remembrance, warriors noted that three generations had passed many times over, and that it was time to reestablish the Star League and end their self-imposed exile. This zealous faction called itself the "Crusaders." Other warriors embraced the Crusaders' views, not because they believed in the faction's interpretation of The Remembrance, but because they saw the Inner Sphere as an opportunity to prove themselves. Even the lower castes, particularly the merchants, who were always eager for new markets, began to agree that the Hidden Hope would be resolved by the Clans' return to the Inner Sphere.

The Grand Council had strong reservations about returning, mainly because of an almost total lack of information about events in the Inner Sphere since the Exodus. They expressed the fear that the Inner Sphere had not gone up in flames as predicted, but was united, as strong as or stronger than the Clans.

The council decided to form Intelser, an intelligence service whose operatives would move cautiously toward the Inner Sphere to gather information. Operatives traveling as independent traders made contact with and infiltrated the Periphery states, relaying what they learned to the Clans. By 2984, a somewhat confused picture of the Inner Sphere had begun to emerge.

The Clans learned that there had, indeed, been a holocaust, called the Succession Wars, as predicted by Aleksandr Kerensky. However, they mistakenly believed that the technological level of the Periphery domains was typical of the entire Inner Sphere. The Grand Council decided that the Inner Sphere was not a military threat. Those who wanted to return claimed that the conditions laid out by General Order 137 proved that the time was ripe: "When the time is right, when the strength of our will and our honor is humanity's only hope to struggle up from the ashes, only then can our strong descendants make the long journey to the home that is rightfully ours." The Crusaders felt these conditions had been fulfilled. The Grand Council agreed to discuss the Crusaders' call to arms, and thus began what would become known as the Great Debate.

The Clans eventually formed two camps, the Crusaders and the Wardens. The Crusaders were those who favored an immediate return to the Inner Sphere to reestablish the Star League according to the writings of the Kerenskys. The Wardens, on the other hand, believed that the Kerenskys had never meant their words to be read so literally. They asserted that the words were meant not as a command to future generations, but to stir courage. They believed the Clans' destiny was to develop their own culture, separate from the tainted ways of the Inner Sphere, but willing and able to come to the Inner Sphere's aid if menaced by any outside threat.

Though challenged to do so, the Wardens never clearly articulated what they meant by "outside threat." Some suggested intelligent life forms from beyond human-conquered space. Others made reference to the possibility of a despotic domain in the Inner Sphere whose principles ran so contrary to human decency that the Wardens would feel compelled to intervene.

At most, said the Wardens, the Clans should establish only the coolest of relations with the domains of the Inner Sphere, returning only if invited or if the Successor States collapsed through their own folly. Both sides supported their arguments with the writings of the Kerenskys, but neither side could claim a majority and force the issue. Individual Clans were divided over the issue, most being split almost evenly between the two suggested courses of action. This is the most divisive issue that the Clans have ever faced.

The debate lasted months, then years, during which the Crusaders slowly mustered a majority. Though Clan Wolf remained primarily Warden, even their influence could not stem the tide of support for the Crusaders.

Dragoon Compromise:

In 3000, Khan Nadia Winson of Clan Ghost Bear, sensing that the Crusaders had finally gained the upper hand, attempted to force the issue with a vote. She was stymied when Khan Kerlin Ward of Clan Wolf suggested a clever compromise. Khan Kerlin Ward contended that not enough information was yet available to make such an important decision. He proposed sending a sizable Clan force, under the guise of a mercenary unit, into the Inner Sphere to judge its military, economic, and political might, providing the Grand Council with a detailed report of the strengths and weaknesses of their future opponents.

The Grand Council agreed the plan had merit, and Clan Wolf was awarded the honor of mustering the force. Rather than risk their best fighters, they planned to use freebirths and other low-regarded warriors. If these warriors performed well, they would be rewarded by having their genes added to the gene pool.

The unit was dubbed "Wolf's Dragoons." Commanding the multi-regiment unit were Jaime and Joshua Wolf, controversial choices because both were freebirth. Many of the Clans balked at this choice, but the Grand Council finally decided that Clan Wolf had the right to outfit and staff the Dragoons as they saw fit. The roster of the Dragoons included several Bloodnamed warriors who volunteered for the mission, among them a young and feisty Natasha Kerensky.

The Dragoons left for the Inner Sphere in 3004, outfitted with pre-Exodus BattleMechs from some of the oldest Brian Caches. Other vehicles and equipment were retro-fitted with pre-Exodus parts to prevent advanced technology from accidentally falling into the hands of the Inner Sphere. Young freebirth "dependents" rounded out the appearance of a nomadic mercenary company.

The Dragoons made contact with the Inner Sphere a year later, after making a long, circuitous journey to prevent the curious from discovering their point of origin. They went on to make their historic circuit of service through the Inner Sphere, gathering detailed information on each of the governments and militaries they served. In 3009, the unit returned to the Clans for refitting. They also filed their first-hand reports on the Inner Sphere.

The Dragoons' reports contrasted significantly with the previous Clan perception of the Inner Sphere. The Dragoons reported that the Inner Sphere was not on the verge of collapse, but on the road to recovery. This revelation further divided the Grand Council. The Dragoons were ordered to return to the Inner Sphere and continue their mission, while the Clans considered the implications of their new information.

The Dragoons returned, but near the end of the Third Succession War, their intelligence reports to the Grand Council began to slow, for no known reason. It is possible the Dragoons found the freedom of the Inner Sphere, where there were no real castes and where growing old as an active warrior was accepted, to their liking. On the other hand, the death of Joshua Wolf may have played a key role in turning Jaime and the rest of the Dragoons away from the Clans' grand scheme. The Grand Council was unprepared for the Dragoons' sudden reticence, and could not agree on how to react or how to supplement their intelligence-gathering efforts.

The Wardens and Crusaders squared off for a new, more hotly contested debate in late 3029 when rumors from the Periphery suggested a possible union between the Federated Suns and the Lyran Commonwealth. The Crusaders claimed that if the rumors were true, such a union would represent a major obstacle to any attempt by the Clans to restore the Star League.

Khan Ulric Kerensky, successor to Khan Kerlin Ward in Clan Wolf, stalled a decisive vote in the Grand Council long enough for news of the Fourth Succession War to reach the Clans. This new war took much of the steam out of the Crusaders' argument that the Inner Sphere was on the verge of reunification. Khan Ulric took advantage of the situation by sponsoring a proposal to postpone the Great Debate until the end of the Fourth Succession War. The proposal was narrowly accepted, but Khan Ulric Kerensky had antagonized the leaders of Clan Jade Falcon, the most radical of the Crusader Clans.

Invasion:

I was stunned to discover that the incident that eventually tipped the scales in favor of invasion was triggered by our own Blessed Order. One day a ROM exploration vessel, "Outbound Light," appeared at a jump point near Huntress, a world dominated by Clan Smoke Jaguar. Sensing an opportunity but fearing that the Inner Sphere might be on the verge of discovering the location of the Clan worlds, Khan Leo Showers ordered that the vessel be taken intact, with the crew unharmed. Instead of instantly informing the Grand Council of the capture, as might be expected, Khan Leo first interrogated the crew of the explorer ship for several days.

When Khan Leo finally notified the other Clans of his discovery, he did so with superior knowledge of the Inner Sphere situation and of how ComStar, a force previously unknown to the Clans, fit into the picture. By manipulating what he had learned, Khan Leo Showers forced the Clans to reopen the Great Debate and consider several new issues. Most convincing was his argument that our Blessed Order might soon uncover the location of the Clans, thus exposing them to the entire Inner Sphere. The thought of Inner Sphere forces invading the worlds of the Clan, instead of the converse, was unthinkable to most Grand Council members. Khan Leo Showers laid out the facts of what was happening in the Inner Sphere. The Federated Commonwealth was now a battle-proven, undeniable fact. Also, there had been a sudden recovery of lostech, and the Inner Sphere was far from falling into shambles. The Khan extrapolated that the Federated Commonwealth might well subdue the rest of the Inner Sphere and declare itself the Star League reborn. This was a travesty every Clansman would be willing to give his life to prevent. It was an extremely persuasive argument.

The result was a Grand Council vote in favor of invasion. Only Clan Wolf voted against. Khan Ulric Kerensky demanded a Trial of Refusal for Clan Wolf. The odds began at sixteen to one, but the bidding reduced the odds to four to one. The warriors of Clan Wolf fought bravely, particularly those of the Third Battle Cluster, who bore the brunt of the action. They nearly seized victory from Khan Leo Showers and his forces, but sheer numbers prevailed, leaving the Wolf force devastated. Khan Leo Showers took advantage of pro-Crusader sentiment, and was elected ilKhan of the Grand Council. Preparations to invade the Inner Sphere began immediately. Their plan was named Operation Revival.

ilKhan Leo Showers, satisfied that he would soon see his life's ambition fulfilled, issued a formal recall order to Wolf's Dragoons, calling upon "our valiant warriors in the barbarian hinterlands to return home," despite his long-standing disdain for the unit. The recall was actually an effort to prove once and for all that Wolf's Dragoons had turned their back on the Clans and could no longer be trusted. He hoped to imply by this that Clan Wolf was also suspect. Natasha Kerensky, the only living Bloodnamed warrior of the Dragoons, was the only Dragoon to return to the Clans when called, which seemed to prove the ilKhan's contention.

The invasion was halted when ComStar negotiated the use of Tukayyid as a proxy battlefield for Terra. If the Clans won, Terra would be theirs, while if they lost, the Clans would cease hostilities for a period of fifteen years, ending in 3067.

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