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Chapter 76 - The Administrator[]

Tharkad System
Lyran Commonwealth

Meeting room with...

"" Sharon said. "I don't see how that's even remotely reasonable, Paladin. I'm fairly certain my sovereign, likewise, will find it unreasonable."

"The Republic fleet is ninety full-scale warships strong."

"That's reasonable." She said with a shrug, "A tad excessive in your upkeep costs but, reasonable. Freezing the LCN at current levels? Not so reasonable. Re-entry into the RUNT is completely unreasonable."

"You've had some success, but you can't tell me that the ratcheting slippery slope of an arms race is in your nation's best interest!" argued Howell

"You're right." she said, "It isn't. We'd be facing that regardless. Your fleet spent the last seventy five years in mothball, with no updates, no upgrades, and only one prototype we can almost pin on you making trouble in the Quarantine-which was defeated by LCN reserve assets operated by the Kowloon Coast Guard. That prototype, if it wasn't you represents a hostile naval power, and if it was you. It represents an implied threat that can't be ignored. Re-ratification and a return to the RUNT cripples the national ability to respond to undefined threats we already know exist. Your nation's history of backing up their alliances is, to put it very gently, nonexistent, particularly over the last fifteen years."

"The trade benefits-" Howard began to speak.

"Also nonexistent. We were in an economic recession when Comstar turned the phones off." Sharon said, "Over the last seven years the Commonwealth economy has grown by eleven percent per annum-this represents drastically restrained growth over the previous sixty years. We have also won the first war in generations without external aid. some of that has to do with naval expansion, but most of it has to do with having the chains taken off and being able to act freely for the first time since Hanse Davion and Melissa Steiner said 'I do'. believe it or not, Naval spending is still less than fifteen percent of the total LCAF budget, and it took five years to get spending up to where it had been in thirty-one-forty-three. A Naval Treaty won't yield the benefits Lear claimed and you're claiming." stated Sharon

She slid a Padd across the conference table, "The only thing it will do is give neighboring states a chance to catch up, and they're already taking that chance without a treaty."

"What is this?" he asked.

"Draconis Combine's Kaga class Fleet Carrier, on sea-trials." Sharon said. "They've been sitting on the design since the fall of the Star League. They've updated the drawings and gotten their yards working on prototypes. I don't think whoever's the coordinator or Gunji-no-Kanrei today is going to be as keen as the Honorable man who signed the original RUNT, do you?"

She slid another one. "Rasalhague Dominion's Dreadnought, Leviathan II class, we don't have a name yet, but she pulled into the Sea Fox maintenance yards last December. I doubt they're going to spend the resources to get that thing in operation on its own, just to honor a treaty with Devlin Stone. Some Semier Datatron security guys busted a Cappie spy ring on Duran. They were trying to steal blueprints for Shipyard equipment-they probably have their own ideas what a warship should look like. Given that the prints they were after are for compact-core foundry gear and controllers?"

She pulled another sheet out. "Your allies, House Davion. They've reactivated Fox capable yards and restarted the RX-78 and RX-79 programs, as well as something they're terming the RX-80. Which is wrapped in enough secrecy even LIC can't figure out what they're building...except that they're building something. NAIS has reopened their warship naval training center."

He stared at the holos.

" understand this could turn into a race..."

"Yep. It's already a race, we're already ahead. I don't see the advantage in sacrificing that lead." Sharon told him, "I think Trillian shares my assessment, as much as she wishes it wasn't so. Your Republic has ninety one warships and the most prime real-estate in the Inner Sphere. You're going to need 'em all."

"You did not include Clan Wolf." he said.

"That's because you already know what they have, and it would be redundant for me to point it out. The Wolf Empire has seven currently in service capital warships and a crash building program for yards to put more into production. If you get your fleet operational fast enough, you might be able to stop 'em before they take a big bite out of that juicy industrial base of yours."

"Seven?" asked Howell

"There was no advantage in retaining the Falcon Relics we captured at the end of the war." Sharon told him, "The Freds are better battleships, the Landmarks better destroyers, the Marsden IIIs are better cruisers, and we've got an experienced force of Cutters to screen fleet elements. It kept the Wolves from turning our direction, so we let them have the remains of the Falcon naval forces. They after all, helped us get rid of the Mongols."

"We should be allies." he said.

"Yeah, it would be nice, except for last sixty years we called you allies and you screwed us over." Sharon said, "The whole 'through thick and thin' thing vanished when Nikki Minh caught a Fidelis team of your best trying to nuke the Boojum shipyard in the Kowloon system in 3105. Friends and allies don't stab each other in the back. If you remember, you gave me this shiner when I pointed it out before."

"Then why are we meeting?"

"Because we don't have to be enemies." Sharon said. "Trillian Steiner desires peaceful relations with the Republic of the Sphere. I don't personally give a shit but, she does and it matters to her. Reactivate your fleet to defend your border and form your alliances. Do what you need to do but, we're officially neutral and intent on staying that way. WE are the one state in the Sphere that doesn't want to take what you have for themselves and leave you nothing."

"And you? what are you getting out of this, besides insulting me?" he asked.

"If you can present a treaty your government will actually honor, and is acceptable to mine? I get to retire." she said, "I get to hang it up and go do the fun things I dreamed about while mom was in meetings and Grandfather was pining for the old days, Just me, a cutter, and a big blank map full of unexplored places that I can go, if I'm not chained down securing the safety of a nation. With a proper treaty built on facts? I can give Trillian my resignation and she will take it."

He scoffed, "Would you really?"

She blinked at him, and leaned forward, "In a heartbeat. I want to be up there with Kearney, and Pathfinder, and Armstrong-there's a first contact out there, and I want to be the one who makes it. Do you even have the capability of imagining what kind of a change that would bring? proof of nonhuman, extraterrestrial intelligence? Can you imagine a nobler quest than seeking that out, instead of pounding each other back to the neolithic?"

"If it is hostile?" he countered.

"Well, it's a good idea to be ready, isn't it?" she asked, "Consult your Exarch, Paladin, let him know his offer is unacceptable but we're still willing to deal. Bring me something I can endorse to my Archon."

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