Flash: 16 December 3062

Just a few light years away from Ft. Loudon, Rasalgethi likewise sits in a precarious position at the tip of the Clan Occupation Zones, though unlike its sister world, Rasalgethi is located above the Tukayyid Truce Line—and thus remained threatened by the Clan menace. For these two reasons, the world had been heavily garrisoned for more than a decade.

Concerned more with the defense of the Lyran Alliance than the partisan politics gripping the Federated Commonwealth, the senior officers of the Seventeenth Donegal Guards did not vocally declare their support for either Archon Katherine or her brother. Instead they went about their normal lives, protecting the Alliance.

Unfortunately. Leutnant-General Seth Alpert did not see matters the same way. Having allegedly spent a great deal of his career within Loki, the commander of the Sixth Lyran Guards was used to seeing different shades of gray, but also demanded absolute loyalty. To him, the refusal of Leutnant-General Quitman Brown and his staff to declare their support for their Archon was tantamount to treason.

Though he made no overt moves against the Seventeenth, he did take every chance he had to express his distrust for Brown. For his part, Brown dismissed Alpert's allegations, even communicating to General Walther Gothard, commander of the Pandora Theater, personal assurances on the loyalty his entire command felt toward the Archon and the Lyran Alliance.

To Alpert, those assurances rang hollow. After Victor Steiner-Davion made his broadcast, Alpert became far more watchful of everyone around him, almost to the point of paranoia. When news of fighting on Ft. Loudon reached the world, he began to implement tighter and tighter security precautions around the world; though no significant anti-Katherine protests had ever taken place on Rasalgethi, Alpert's new security measures were in many ways more stringent that those used on worlds where major anti-Katherine rebellions were taking place.

General Brown finally recognized the writing on the wall on the 14th of December. Both he and Alpert were receiving daily reports from Ft. Loudon and other embattled planets. Already the future was looking bleak for the LAAF units that had declared their neutrality. Rumors of secret orders from Tharkad instructing loyalist commanders to either "turn" the fence-sit-ters or destroy them were circulating among the de facto network of neutral officers, while more factual accounts of the orders given by the Archon and her subordinates in the Federated Commonwealth were given even wider circulation. By officers on all sides.

Brown drafted an operations plan that night that would ensure that his Seventeenth Donegal Guards would not be caught off guard. He also placed quite a few of his own officers and senior NCOs—all vocal Loyalists—under protective custody, including Colonel Cedar Rhodes, one of his infantry regiment commanders.

The day of the 14th, Brown's Seventeenth Donegal went about their usual business, with a battalion of his BattleMechs moving into the field to meet up with several of his conventional regiments for a two-day training exercise. That night, he sor-tied several more units into the field. Though Alpert attempted to keep an eye on the Seventeenth Donegal's activities, his scouts lost them in the night and heavy storms. The scouts did report activity in the Camp Kalmar firing range, setting the general at ease.

Brown's units were not in the range, however. While their combat engineers set off a long series of pyrotechnics, simulating the combat exercises, the Seventeenth Donegal made a forced march across hundreds of kilometers of farmlands to reach Ranne, the headquarters of Alpert's Sixth Lyran Guard. They took Alpert's Guards by surprise, catching much of the command still asleep in the early morning hours. The 'Mech and armor companies on guard died in mere minutes, but they were able to make the general warning call that woke up the entire base.

The Seventeenth Donegal pushed well into the base, nearly overrunning the entire complex in the first hour, but could not quite manage a complete lockdown. Alpert's own headquarters building was overrun by the First Rasalgethi Force Recon regiment, and the general nearly captured, but Leutnant-Colonel Delia Milner organized a hasty defense from the cockpit of her Banshee, sending mixed demi^ompanies out Into the fray as quickly as she could gather together enough 'Mechs, armor and infantry to form them.

Brown likely would have gained complete control of the complex had he not assigned nearly a third of his force to the R0nne Air Base, where he disabled or destroyed nearly all of Alpert's fighters, and severely damaged the DropShip pads, preventing Alpert from using them against his Seventeenth Donegal. Having succeeded beyond expectations, Brown ordered the air base task force to hold the site, unwilling to give up that prize.

Unfortunately, that order ultimately cost him total victory within Ranne itself. While Alpert made his way out of the command center through air ducts and electricah access tunnels, Milner eventually brought enough force to bear to take back the southwest corner of the massive base. With at least some repair and logistics support behind her, she systematically pushed the Sixth Lyran Guards forward. Brown gladly gave ground to her, hoping she would overextend herself. Of course, as his men fell back from the slowly advancing Lyran Guards, they laid waste to every building, giving Milner nothing for her efforts. By the afternoon, Alpert had extracted himself from his command center and assumed command of the decimated RCT, but he faced a stronger entrenched enemy.

The battle for R0nne lasted another three days, by which time Alpert received reinforcements in the form of another Sixth Lyran combat command that had been stationed a thousand kilometers away. Less than half the combined-arms unit reached R0nne, having been dogged by Brown's fighters and scout battalions the entire time. He desperately needed help, but the planetary militia commanders refused to even talk to him while Leutnant-General Fritz Gorman, commander of the 371st Cavalry Brigade (Light), curtly informed him that he would not involve he or his soldiers in this "civil uprising" and remained on high alert at his Karlstad base on the other side of the planet.

Trapped, nearly out of ideas and with his men reaching the point of exhaustion, Alpert fell back on his Loki training. Calling upon the LIC agents on the planet, he dispatched a head-hunt-ing mission against Brown and his senior officers. He likewise ordered several sabotage missions designed to cause even more confusion in the ranks of the Seventeenth Donegal Guards. The missions were only partially successful, however. Expecting a headhunting attack sooner or later, Brown frequently moved his command post around and gave his subordinates wide latitude to do their jobs, just in case the RCT command was killed or incapacitated. Brown lost only a few officers to the nearly suicidal LIC attacks. It was the sabotage attacks that actually affected the Seventeenth Donegal Guards, causing enough confusion to allow the Sixth Lyran Guards to push them out of the rest of their Ranne base.

Brown regrouped his unit at the airbase, where they still held the majority of the Sixth Guards' DropShips. With Alpert's base only fifteen kilometers away on the northeast side of Ranne, more than a regiment of his infantry actually inside the

city and another regiment of armor surrounding the base, effectively boxing Alpert in, Brown began to shell and bomb the massive base with wild abandon. For ten days, he mercilessly dropped thousands of tons of ordnance on the base, stopping only for two brief hours at midnight Christmas Day. On the 2nd of January, he moved into the rubble of the base. While not a single building still stood, the extensive underground bunkers still held a considerable number of surviving members of the Sixth Guards.

Brown spent two weeks trying to storm various bunker entrances before finally giving up and resolving to demolish every entrance, air vent and bit of supporting structure he could. While concentrating on the underground Rpnne complex, he tasked his fighter squadrons and several combined-arms combat formations to hit two minor Sixth Lyran Guards' bases, facilities that still housed slightly less than a quarter of the RCT.

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