adjusted her mission orders so that her unit could raid Clan supply bases or could make layovers on worlds with LAAF or other allied supply depots.

As the war drew closer, relations between the two units deteriorated even more. The addition of the Knights of St. Cameron to the mix only worsened the situation—while the unit technically declared itself neutral in the growing factionalization of the LAAF, they did recognize Archon Katherine as the legal ruler. The commanders of all three units wisely chose to keep their units separated, lest their men initiate an "incident." Unfortunately, that also meant that effective control of Ft. Loudon's defenses defaulted to Precentor Cheryl Raume, commander of the Com Guards' Forty-eighth Division, also headquartered on the world.

The populace of the world was just as divided. Almost daily, protests of one sort or another rose up on the streets of Ft. Loudon Prime, capital of the world. The world had a vocal, if small, movement of anti-Katherine protesters. Soldiers and police officers patrolled the world's cities in full riot gear, immediately cracking down on any potential public protest. The governor of the world clamped down on the media, preventing word of the protests from spreading through anything but word of mouth. Encouraged by Marshal Orsina's views, however, the anti-Katherine movement persevered.

As soon as word of Arthur Steiner-Davion's assassination reached Ft. Loudon, Marshal Orsina again publicly called for the Archon's resignation, hoping to bring some of Ft. Loudon's people to her side. Instead, her call forced Leutnant-General James Ito, commander of the Fifth Alliance Guards, to spring into action. Acting on orders from Pandora Theater commander General Walther Gothard, routed through him from General of the Armies Nondi Steiner, Ito pressed the issues of loyalty and integrity with the Knights of St. Cameron, extracting a promise of assistance from them should revolt or uprising threaten the planet's security.

Ito used just that excuse when he activated the planetary militia on the 2nd of December, and later on the 4th when he placed the world under martial law. On the 5th, he ordered the Fourth Davlon Guards to give up their base in Yulio and relocate to a new base over 1,500 kilometers away, in the middle of an arctic wasteland. When the Fourth Davion Guards had yet to move a single person or piece of equipment by the 7th of December, Ito ordered Orsina to step down from command and accept a replacement. Orsina, of course, refused and launched a preemptive strike on the Fifth Alliance Guards.

While Ito had expected Orsina to do something like that, he had not anticipated the sheer power of her assault. Reinforced by a brigade of elite "free" mechanized infantry of FedSuns descent, each with dozens of raids on Clan-held worlds under their belts, and further complemented by several special forces companies, the Fourth Guards hit the Fifth Alliance Guards hard. They disrupted command and control within the LAAF forces on Ft. Loudon for two weeks by hitting key communications centers, command posts and supply dumps. Orsina's 'Mechs visibly sortied forth from their Yulio base, gaining Ito's attention, while her battle armor units and companies from the three mechanized regiments snuck past the Fifth Alliance Guards' lines to hit the Loyalists' rear areas. They made a point of avoiding all civilian targets, as well as the Com Guards and the Knights of St. Cameron, however.

With the might of Ft. Loudon's planetary militia behind him, Ito still had the advantage over Orsina's elite units. Within hours of her first strike, Orsina launched half a dozen more fast raids designed to keep her opponent off-guard, hitting them while Ito and his staff was still trying to regain control of the situation, but after years of fighting the Clans, the Lyran troops were not as green as Orsina had assumed. One enterprising officer, Hauptmann-Kommandant Heinrich Sands, began using civilian wireless transmitters—though expressly forbidden by LAAF regs—to coordinate operations between his 'Mech battalion and a nearby militia armor unit. Within hours, the Lyrans reestablished a tentative command net using civilian means, means that Orsina was unwilling to knock out in her operations.

By the 12th, the two sides had fought several hard engagements, though neither could claim any strategic victories. Knowing that her unit would be locked within a hostile Alliance for some time yet, Orsina refused to commit her unit to any fight that would likely end in major casualties. She gave Major General Robert Davion-Zibler, commander of the free mechanized beigade, the go-ahead to operate on his own, however. While Orsina limited her movements to patrols and probing attacks close to her Yulio and Carentan bases, Davion-Zibler made several bold moves, including a raid into Ft. Loudon Prime, capital city and headquarters to Ito's Fifth Alliance Guards.

Tired of watching the Knights of St. Cameron sit on the sidelines, Ito forced the issue on the 28th of December. Ordering the mercenaries to form the left and right flanks of a massive assault force aimed at Orsina's smaller Carentan base, Ito hit the Fourth Davion Guards headlong, while sending a combined militia brigade to cut off the retreat path between Carentan and Yulio through the D'ennes. With a combat command of mixed armor and infantry in the gap between the two bases, plus some two combined-arms regiments in Carentan, Orsina ordered her Guards onto the march.

The so-called battle for the Carentan Plain lasted almost a week, as both sides refused to give an inch. With Davion-Zibler running interference against militia reinforcements and hampering command and control, Ito barely kept the reigns on his Loyalist RCT, but also kept the Fourth Davion Guards effectively bottled up within Carentan. Three times Orsinia ordered an attack from the D'ennes Forest that managed to link up with the Fourth Guards within the city and three times Ito opened the gap again.

On the 2nd of January, Ito managed to get a squadron of fighters through Orsinia's heavy aerospace umbrella—though only at the cost of almost a third of his fighter contingent—to bomb the Fourth Davion Guards' position within Carentan. Backed up by a combat drop that placed a battalion each of Fifth Alliance and Knights BattleMechs in the city, the attack turned into a resounding success, forcing the Davion Guards from their positions. Though Orsinia and Davion-Zibler immediately launched their own attacks, it was too late. Ito finally took Carentan, destroying or capturing some two regiments of Orsinia's troops.

The next two weeks saw vicious, but ultimately indecisive, fighting between both sides. At that point, Orsinia recognized that neither side would claim victory any time? soon and that the only true losers would be the people of Ft. Loudon. Even with hundreds of citizens daily braving arrest or worse by taking to the streets in protest of the Archon and looting businesses that publicly supported the Archon, Orsina knew she didn't have the support she needed.

She quietly prepared her RCT for transport, pulling her outlying units back to Yulio under the guise of bolstering the city's defenses. By the beginning of February she was ready. Surrounded by Ito's forces, she waited until he rotated the Knights of St. Cameron to guard the city, knowing they wouldn't attack. On the 3 February 3063, her DropShips took off, under the watchful eye of her two air wings plus the "shadow" of the Knights' own squadrons. Major General Davion-Zibler also pulled his regiments back, though he left behind many of his special forces detachments to keep Ito and his Fifth Alliance Guards "occupied" for the near future.

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