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"The Gathering Storm" is the first episode of BattleTech: The Animated Series.
The episode begins...Edit
on the Federated Commonwealth planet of Somerset, on March 2, 3050.
As an orb-shaped Dropship speeds towards the planet, a blond-haired tattooed man, identifying himself as Star Colonel Nicolai Malthus of Clan Jade Falcon, informs the planet that he intends to invade with a full Trinary of forces, and demands to know what the planet will defend itself with.
At the Somerset Military Academy, a very confused man who is on the receiving end of Malthus's challenge wonders out loud if this is some kind of joke. Incensed, Malthus tells the man to prepare to "feel the wrath of the Falcons Claws!"
Back on the planet, the confused man from earlier, who identifies himself as "Commander Steiner," orders the cadets to scramble to their mechs and prepare to defend the Academy. Outside, several Jade Falcon starfighters strafe the academy and blow a giant hole in a wall - revealing several battlemechs standing ready to defend the academy. Steiner boards a Wolfhound, while two other cadets mount Centurions and stride out to meet the Clan enemy. Upon seeing the enemy, however, even Steiner is unnerved - these mechs are unlike anything he's ever seen before.
After Malthus delivers another threat over the comm channel, Steiner defiantly opens fire on Malthus's Thor, followed by the other two cadets. Unfortunately, their weapons fire bounces right off the mech and does no damage. Declaring aloud to his rival, Star Colonel Kristen Redmond, that he will deal with the Inner Sphere mechwarriors alone, Malthus strides forward, activating his Enhanced Imaging circuitry as he does so - the first time we see this used in the series. The scene switches to computer imagery of the fight as the battle begins. Malthus easily dispatches two of his enemies, shooting off the leg of one Centurion and knocking the other one down. Steiner once again lunges at the Thor, firing away, but Malthus fires a storm of laser blasts that leave the mech severely damaged and its reactor seconds from going critical. Steiner punches out of his mech, but defiantly tells Malthus that it will take more than that to take Somerset. As a Jade Falcon Hunchback IIC catches Steiner's escape pod, Malthus replies that The Clans intend to take not just Somerset - but the entire Inner Sphere as well.
Three days later, on the Federated Commonwealth capital world of Tharkad...Edit
Another battlemech combat is taking place on an icy field. As an unknown female mechwarrior urges her lancemate to punch out - second before his Wolfhound is destroyed by fire from a heavily-armed Mauler mech - she decides to take on the leader, despite warnings from a female voice who the unknown warrior identifies as "Lieutenant Specter." Specter continues shouting warnings to the warrior - whom she calls "Kylie" - even as Kylie closes with the leader, piloting an Axman mech. With two ax swings and a barrage of missile fire, the Axman makes short work of Kylie's mech...
...And as the lights go out around Kylie, a computer voice says "simulation complete."
Knowing she's failed, Kylie crawls out of the simulator pod to face her instructor - Major Adam Steiner. Steiner and Kylie are both in the Nagelring War College, the most prestigious mechwarrior academy in the Federated Commonwealth. Steiner and Specter critique her performance, lecturing Kylie about teamwork. In the middle of the debriefing, an arrogant green-suited man, Ciro Ramirez, strides forward and chides Steiner for even thinking an "aerojock" could pilot a mech. Steiner reveals that he's trying to cross-train cadets in different branches of warfare to make them more effective warriors - a concept that Ciro, even though he's Steiner's assistant, scoffs at in his usual elitist manner before Steiner sends him off to grade exams. Kylie begs for a retest, appealing to their shared heritage as natives of Somerset, but Steiner apologetically refuses, saying that "not everybody's cut out for this program."
Later, as Adam is practicing on a punching bag, Specter frantically breaks in and tells him to turn on the vidscreen - Somerset has been attacked! Not only that, the invaders' mechs are more powerful than anything anyone has ever seen. Adam and Specter watch as smuggled vid footage of the attack on Somerset plays before their eyes. Adam curses loudly, blaming the Draconis Combine, FedCom's centuries-long enemy, for the attack. Specter informs Adam, however, the invasion was not from the Combine, but from beyond the Periphery - the very edge of human-occupied space. Adam fearfully looks on as he wonders whether his brother Andrew - revealed to be the "Commander Steiner" from the prologue - made it through the attack alive.
Elsewhere on Tharkad, at the Royal Palace, Melissa Steiner-Davion watches as the 10th Lyran Guards unit is sent off to fight the Clans. Her musings about the guards' chances are interrupted by Adam Steiner's entrance - much to Melissa's surprise, who seems unaware that Adam is a distant cousin. Adam makes a pitch to Melissa, volunteering to lead a unit to liberate Somerset, a request Melissa flatly shoots down - as she points out, Somerset is only one planet of many under attack, and the Federated Commonwealth cannot afford to leave its border with the Draconis Combine undefended in this time of crisis. Adam persists, however, insisting that this is about more than just Somerset - if he can lead a small, independent unit through the occupied systems, he could gather intelligence on The Clans that may prove useful. Melissa shows more approval for this suggestion, but is forced to turn Adam down again, as she has no Jumpships to spare.
Meanwhile, in orbit around Tharkad...Edit
The Draconis Combine Jumpship Katana prepares to jump out of the Tharkad system. As they prepare, however, a Dropship hails them with a distress call, flying wildly out of control. One of the men on board - a man identified as Franklin - suspects a trick and tells the Katana's captain to fake a malfunction of the docking collar, but the captain refuses to ignore a ship in distress for fear of the penalties, and the ship is allowed to dock.
Sure enough, though, the distress signal was a trap - the Katana is boarded by Federated Commonwealth marines, led by a single man - Captain Miles Hawkins, Federated Commonwealth mechwarrior. The Katana's marines initially put up some resistance, but Hawkins' brutal takedown of one marine is enough to force the rest of them into surrender. Hawkins then proceeds to the cargo bay, where he begins looking for contraband - which he eventually finds in the form of FedCom laser rifles being illegally smuggled aboard the Katana. With all the evidence he needs, Hawkins places the ship's captain under arrest.
Back at the NagelringEdit
Adam is beating himself up over not being on Somerset during the Clan invasion, feeling that he could have done something. Specter reminds him that had they been there, they likely would have only shared the fate of Andrew and the others - a fact that seems to comfort Adam little. Ciro breaks into the conversation with his usual complete lack of empathy by sarcastically wondering if Adam has any other relatives that could get him a command, leading Specter to shove him out of his chair and to the ground.
The conversation is interrupted by a transmission from Melissa Steiner-Davion, informing Adam of the Katana's capture. Adam is puzzled at first, wondering what the confiscation of the ship has to do with him, but Specter reads between the lines of the message - due to the current state of emergency, and because of his status as a field-grade officer, he can commandeer the ship and use it for his own purposes. Adam promises not to let Melissa or the Steiner name down.
A short time later, Ciro, Specter and Adam board a shuttle to take them into Tharkad orbit. However, their pilot turns out to be a very unhappy Cadet Kylie - due to Major Steiner's failing grade in the simulator earlier, she's stuck with ferry pilot duty, a fact that she doesn't hesitate to shove into the major's face. During the ride, Kylie overhears the major and Specter planning to go to Somerset, but when she expresses interest, Ciro flatly tells her to forget about it - "This mission's treacherous enough without you!"
Aboard the orbiting space station PrometheusEdit
Adam addresses the Katana's crew, telling them they can continue to serve aboard both the Katana and its Dropship, the Kwaidan, under Adam's command. Adam tries to warn them that The Clans pose a major threat to everyone, not just the Federated Commonwealth. Franklin doesn't take the news well, however, refusing to serve under Adam or any other FedCom officer, a sentiment that most of the crew seems to share - and which provokes an all-out brawl that ends with Franklin pointing a laser pistol at Adam's head. Franklin's advantage doesn't last long, however, as Adam throws him to the ground and points the gun to his head, angrily daring anyone else who has a problem to come forward.
The Katana's captain quickly subdues Franklin, however, telling him to try to maintain some dignity. However, Franklin raises another question - when The Clans are defeated, what happens to the Combine crew? Adam responds that they will be free to return to the Draconis Combine once the crisis is over, along with the ship. Much to the crew's surprise and anger, this response moves Franklin to accept Adam's offer. Franklin quiets the dissent among the crew by pointing out that serving under Adam will allow the crew to return the ship to Isesaki Shipping, the company that owns it - an honorable goal. This seems to settle the matter.
Later, in a corridor, Captain Hawkins complains loudly to Franklin and the Katana's captain about the "Major Schoolboy" he's expected to serve under and brags about his service with the 4th Skye Rangers in the War of 3039. His record, overheard by a passing Adam, is impressive enough to lead Adam to recruit Hawkins into his unit on the spot - as he is authorized to do with any unassigned personnel.
The Kwaidan lands and begins loading up the unit's battlemechs - Major Steiner's Axman, followed by Hawkins' Mauler and Ciro's Wolfhound. While the rest of the crew goes about prepping the ship, Specter shows Adam two more war machines - two experimental aerofighters, known as Banshees. However, Adam points out that they have no pilots aboard.
A short time later, as the Kwaidan lifts off, Ciro talks to Adam, claiming to know what Adam's plan is - getting the Combine to drop their guard so FedCom can attack them. Ciro calls the plan "brilliant" - with FedCom leading a united Inner Sphere, no one could stop them! Unfortunately, Franklin overhears Ciro's grandstanding, but misses Adam's response - that the only hope for the Inner Sphere to defeat The Clans lies in cooperation, and angrily telling Ciro to start his pet war under someone else's command.
As the Kwaidan links up with the Katana, Franklin uses a hidden communicator to radio the Katana's next hyperspace jump coordinates to an unknown party. Seconds later, the Katana jumps into the Hamilton system.
At the system's nadir jump point...Edit
Just as Specter is prepared to walk off her bout of jumpsickness, the Katana is rocked by weapons fire - two Shilone aerofighters were lying in wait as they jumped in-system and are now strafing the ship. As Adam and Specter wonder aloud who is responsible, Franklin strides into the room, saying that the fighters are piloted by mercenaries under his employer's command. Franklin says that the ship is going back to the Draconis Combine, where it belongs.
The mercenary pilots seem to have other ideas, however - they intend to destroy the ship, saying only that "we have our orders" to destroy the "traitorous" crew. Faced with losing his ship, the Katana's captain decides to fully throw in his lot with Adam. With the captain behind him, Adam orders Ciro and Hawkins to report to the mech bay and prepare to deploy - into the vacuum of space!
Hawkins berates Adam as the three mechwarriors deploy, pointing out that while his Axman has jump jets, his and Ciro's mechs don't, and therefore will be far less maneuverable in space. Adam points out, however, that they still have the element of surprise.
The battle starts out badly for the mechwarriors, as an explosion sends Ciro sailing off into space and Hawkins into the Katana's jump sail. Adam manages to retrieve Ciro, but the fighters are still active and attacking the ships. Adam orders the Kwaidan to detach from the Katana, but seconds later a Banshee flies out from the Kwaidan's fighter bay - piloted by Kylie! She destroys one fighter, giving Adam the opening he needs to take the other one down. With the threat to the ships eliminated, Adam guides Ciro and Hawkins back to the Kwaidan.
Back aboard the shipEdit
Kylie reveals that she forged Adam's name to papers drafting her into his new unit. Adam is surprised at first, but Hawkins points out that Kylie hasn't really committed forgery if Adam doesn't report it. With a handshake, Adam welcomes Kylie into his unit - the newly-christened 1st Somerset Strikers.
Elsewhere, Specter informs Franklin that he'll be dropped off with FedCom Security at the next jump point. However, a transmission arrives from Melissa Steiner-Davion seconds later. It turns out the Draconis Combine is also suffering from the Clan Invasion. An unidentified Japanese man joins in the transmission, informing Adam that the Draconis High Command has authorized the Strikers to operate as a coalition strike force against the mutual enemy, and that Coordinator Takashi Kurita, leader of the Combine, has warned his subjects against bringing him dishonor. Franklin informs Adam that giri (duty) demands that he honor his Coordinator's wishes, and as such, he will serve under Adam - for now.
Later on, Specter and Adam reflect on the disparate band that they've gathered to free Somerset. Specter tells him that they'll make it work - for Somerset's sake.
At the Somerset Military AcademyEdit
The planet's conquerors replace the flag of the Federated Commonwealth with that of Clan Jade Falcon as Star Colonel Redmond informs the planet's population that they are now the property of the clan. Malthus gloats that the Falcons will continue to conquer until the entire Inner Sphere belongs to them.
Inconsistencies with Battletech canonEdit
- The Centurion mech that Kylie pilots in the simulation does not have jump jets as part of its standard configuration, contrary to the scene that shows her jumping into combat against the Axman. While the possibility of the mech having been modified is there, it seems somewhat unlikely that such modifications would be allowed a cadet (especially one who's not even a mechwarrior by training) in a training exercise. This mistake is repeated in second episode, Well Bargained and Done, with Valten Ryder's Centurion, though in that case the possibility that Val modified it remains.
- Contrary to what Lt. Specter says, shooting at a Jumpship is not a violation of the Ares Conventions (rules of warfare that the Inner Sphere states signed over 600 years earlier intended to prevent excessive civilian casualties, prohibiting such things as fighting in urban areas). The prohibition on attacking Jumpships was simply an unwritten rule all sides of the Succession Wars adopted after the horrific First Succession War's destruction of almost all the Inner Sphere's Warships and almost half the Inner Sphere's Jumpships (according to the book BattleSpace) left the possibility of humanity losing interstellar travel forever a very real possibility.
- In the Battletech canon, Somerset actually fell during the second wave of the Clan Invasion, and so the planet's defenders had some inkling of what was coming. Given the complete and total surprise registered by the planet's defenders in this episode, however, the Clan Invasion seems to be in its first wave when Somerset is taken.