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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 100 - By the Horns[]


Cháteau des Calderon
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
July 15th, 3026


". . . and Precentor Taurus reports that—as of this morning—every HPG in the Taurian Concordat is once again operational and interstellar communications have been restored." Semyon Cantrell concluded.

Thomas frowned. He still wasn't happy about having ComStar back in the Concordat, but then he nodded. "Good. What about the fund transfers from the Magistracy of Canopus, the Free Worlds League, and the Draconis Combine?"

"First installments have been transferred to the Treasury, Thomas." Semyon answered with a grin. "At the moment—even after paying the initial fees to Colonel Wolf for his services, the government is flush with capital. Stocks are on a sharp rise and exports have almost doubled since we lifted the ban on exporting to worlds of the Federated Suns, even with the embargo on the Capellan Confederation."

"Good. Erebor?"

Raoul cleared his throat, even as Edward smiled. "We will be ready to begin the first classes in August, Thomas." his brother answered. "Right now—and probably for the next two years—we are going to be focused on retraining educators, engineers, and scientists. Thankfully, they aren't going to need to go through the whole program—just focus on their particular professions and process, then integrate, the information from the Vickers Core."

"Which," Edward added, "has now not only been downloaded and copied multiple times, but we are beginning to distribute the various texts and art and music to libraries across the Concordat. We've got a ways to go yet, but the knowledge is starting to flow out."

Brenda Calderon nodded. "Our industries which we gave a first look at the engineering data are almost done gearing up. In six months Vandenberg Military Industries will start producing the upgraded model of the Talos that was included in the Core. Taurus Territorial Industries say it'll be a year, but we are going to be building the Typhon as well. Even Pinard Protectorates are getting into the act—they are going to put the Skyhawk back into production at their ASF facility within the next nine months. The Rattlesnake is now in full production as well, and we are getting requests from the AFFS and LCAF to buy any surplus production."

Joachim Perez, the Commodore who commanded the Taurian Aerospace Command, cleared his throat. "The Outworlders have already asked about licensing the Skyhawk design—they took one look at it and fell head-over-heels in love!" And he smiled broadly. "We are looking good right now and will be a whole lot better in just a few years. Still not where we should be, but we are getting there, Protector Caldeorn."

Thomas nodded and he leaned back in his seat. "Give them the license with my blessing and what are my people saying about all this?"

Raoul grinned. "Your support among the citizenry of the Concordat has never been higher Thomas—by-and-large, the people approve of what you are doing. Not only are you the Protector who smashed McCarron's Armored Cavalry and the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers into wrack and ruin, but you ended the interdiction and got Wolf's Dragoons out here to keep us safe. Not to mention ended the Cold War with House Davion. And the information pouring out of the Core—the non-military applications—the public sees that we are on the very verge of a new Renaissance. Well." he paused, "except for the CRP hard-liners who are absolutely furious over the Treaty Edward signed in your name."

"Henri?" the Protector asked.

"We are watching them, my Lord Calderon. We are watching them closely." Henri replied in a somber voice. "But, at this moment, they are only exercising their right to speak. I have, however, increased security for you, your family, and senior government officials considerably. If they decide to try something, we will be ready."

"Like the Lyrans were ready for that attempted assassination of Melissa Steiner by one of Hasek's fanatics?" Brenda asked sharply.

Henri shook his head. "That came completely out of the blue." and Henri shook his head as he remembered reading the confidential messages sent to Hanse Davion on New Syrtis via the Model K-0 and the scathing and shocked replies! "No one was expecting anything like that—and it was well planned weeks if not months in advance. The Steiners got lucky."

"How is that going to affect our plans?" asked Thomas.

"Right now, the Lyran Intelligence Corps and Davion's MIIO are conducting intensive interrogations and running a thorough investigation throughout the Capellan March and the Hasek family. They really don't have a choice—it isn't sitting well with Davion's own hard-liners who aren't happy with how he is currently treating the Haseks or for signing the treaty with you."

Thomas sighed. He sat back and he felt his stomach roll—his throat was actually dry at what he was forcing himself to say. "How can we help?" he finally spat out. And Thomas felt a hand on his shoulder and he turned his head to look at Edward and put his own hand on top of his son's as he nodded at the approving face.

"I do not believe that we can—at the moment, Sire." Henri answered. "Other than keep our own hot-headed fools under control."

TThomas nodded his understanding. And then he chuckled. "Never once in my life did I think I would be asking my government how we can help the damned Davions!" he whispered. "Helena?"

The Fleet Marshal shook her own head. "I well know that feeling, Protector Calderon." she said in a wry voice. "On the naval side, Chandler Shipwrights has completed the first Spacedock and started work on the second." and she too chuckled. The grandiosely named 'Spacedocks' were little more than orbiting scaffolding for unpressurized repair—and construction—yards. They were a far cry from the state of the art and extensive shipyards of her own time, but something that the Concordat had lacked for far too long. "Vandenberg will start her overhaul and retrofit mid-August, and when Spacedock 2 comes online, we are putting the Saucy Sam in her to finally repair the armor damage and fix some issues with her systems."

"We have also received the first two Behemoths—the ones that the AFFS said they were sending. Chandler has begun cutting them up and starting their conversion to the Goliath-class escorts. It will take six months—at a minimum—but things are looking good on those two fronts. The addition of the eleven JumpShips we captured from the . . . pirates . . . at New Vallis has given the TCN and TDF more options, but finding crews for those ships is stretching manpower. And that will get worse after we get Vandenberg operational. We are expanding training classes, but the TCN has been a rather low priority in this Concordat for quite some time."

"Well that is going to change, Helena." Thomas growled. He nodded at the commander of the Taurian Concordat Navy. "How is your crew adapting?" he asked in a rather more quiet tone.

"Most of them are well—some are having problems adjusting." she answered in a voice just as quiet. "Some want to leave the service and retire. I have managed to convince most of them to stay a while longer, at least until we can get replacements trained and ready to take their place, but there are some in my crew who just want to go home. Or at least make a new home." she finished sadly.

"Hearing that beach on Brisbane calling your name, Fleet Marshal?" Thomas asked in a voice that was—only slightly—teasing and Helena smiled at him.

"When the work is done, Protector Calderon. Not until after we deal with the Capellans, at the soonest, I'm afraid." And then she smiled. "Although, according to one interpretation of the TCN Regulations, I have amassed quite a bit of shore-leave."

Thomas chuckled. "Take a vacation, Helena. One of us needs to take one, anyway."

"After we deal with the Capellans, Sire." she answered with a smile. And then that smile faded. "Are you sure you can trust these Dragoons?" she asked. "They don't strike me as your typical mercenaries. During the tour, they were asking all of the right questions for people who don't know the first thing about WarShips. Some of them were asking anyway. I don't think they believe you salvaged that ship."

Thomas leaned back in his chair and he sighed. "They have always honored their contracts, Helena; even when they suffered a lot of damage in the process. Are they going to a problem for us, Henri?"

"I don't believe so, Sir. But, having spoken with their Major Blake over the past few days, I think their intelligence assets are quite a bit more extensive than we realized. That man is sharp—and his sources are good."

Rdward cleared his throat and Thomas nodded at his son.

"What difference does it make if they know the truth about the Samantha Calderon and Fleet Marshal Vickers, Pop?"

"They aren't Taurians, son." Thomas snapped, but then he paused. "But they are good at keeping secrets, right Henri?"

"After all these years, not one of them has ever revealed where exactly they came from, Sire."

"You think we should tell them, Edward?" Thomas asked.

"We are trusting them with getting the TDF and Constabulary trained and ready for war, Pop. I think telling them the truth will get us their respect—it will show them that we trust them. And if we can't, if they tell others, well." Edward shook his head, "then that is something we need to know and know before we get them integrated too deep into our operational planning."

Henri chuckled and Thomas looked at his son for several moments and then he nodded. "Okay, Brigadier Calderon. I'm sending you back to New Vallis—as aide-de-camp to Corey out there at I Corps HQ—so let's kill two birds with one stone." and the corner of Thomas' lip raised slightly as he saw the shocked expression on Edward's face . . . and then the grin as he realized he was going to see Moira again. "You are authorized to fully brief Colonel Wolf and his staff on the truth. Henri." he continued, turning his gaze on the intelligence ministers, "you keep an eye out and an ear out. If they betray that trust, I want to know." Thomas paused. "If they don't, I still want to know."

"It will be done, Sire." the intelligence minister answered with a slight bow of his head.

"Are there any other matters of concern before us today?" Thomas asked.

"Security needs to know just how many of the family will be attending the playoff game next week, my Lord." Henri said. "You are still planning on watching the game from the Protector's Box?"

"First time in eighteen years the Samantha City Cavaliers have won the division pennant? I'm not about to miss that—and Katherine and the children are just as big baseball fans as I am. Raoul, you and the twins are coming as well, right?"

"Barring any unexpected illness among the girls, we'll be there, Tom."

Thomas smiled. "Okay, Henri. Tell security to plan on the whole family—minus Edward, sorry son, but your transport to New Vallis leaves tomorrow—will be attending."

"Send me the video afterwards—without spoilers, Pop, if you don't mind!" Edward said with a grin.

"I think we can do that. And if there is nothing else for today, I think we are finished." Thomas said as he stood, followed by everyone else at the table.


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