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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 103 - By the Horns[]

Fortress-class DropShip Black Bull
Inbound to New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
July 27th, 3026

"Are you still brooding?" asked Jon Kincaide as he stepped over the hatch coaming and entered the small cabin that was not only Edward's sleeping compartment, but his office aboard the DropShip.

Dropship Re-entry

DropShip Blackbull approaching a the planet.

Edward snorted and he shook his head. "I'm not brooding, Jon."

The Subaltern chuckled and he sat down on the sole empty chair in the cabin and shook his head. "Sure, you aren't. I mean, you are the one who has been pushing Space Master Lefebvre for a 2.5-g run to New Vallis—and he has constantly said no. So, you've got another six days—instead of two and a half!—before you hit the tarmac and can say hi to your young lady doctor down there."

Edward blushed and Jon smiled broadly. "You've got it bad, Eddie." he said in a laughing tone. "You did get her radio message, though—she knows you are in-system and coming to see her."

Edward looked up and he glared at Jon, but the gaze didn't affect his best friend in the least and then he sighed.

"I got her message—and the ones from Baron Tyrell and Uncle Corey, as well the new Governor that Pop appointed. And damn if I know just how much time I am going to have to spend with Moira!" he snapped. "Uncle Corey wants me to report to his HQ right after we ground—Baron Tyrell thinks I should spend a month—a month!—touring and inspecting Defense Force installations scattered across New Vallis—Governor Hampton expects me, as my father's son and Heir-Designate, to spend what little free time I am going to have making public appearances with him to boost his own popularity!"

It was all that Jon could do to keep himself from laughing as he saw the expression on Edward's face. But, he managed to turn the laugh into a brief cough, and shook his head. "Guess you didn't get the other three messages that we received."

Edward groaned. "You mean still more people want me to spend my time with them and not Moira?"

"Well, Raphael Mendoza has extended an invitation for you—along with myself and the 'Mechs of your bodyguard—to participate in a field training exercise." Jon said with a smile. "The FTX will square off the Red Hand against elements of the Wolf's Dragoons Alpha Regiment and Zeta Battalion, by the way."

"Oh." Edward whispered as he sat up and then leaned back in his chair. "Oh!" he repeated in much stronger and more excited voice.

"Well, he thinks that since Corey and your father kept you out of the Battle of the Glitterstream, you might appreciate getting some time in the field with him and his troops for a week or two of maneuvers and training exercises against the Dragoons. If you are interested, that is."

"I am interested, Jon, very interested." but then Edward sighed. "But I doubt that Uncle Corey will authorize it. He's already sent me my work schedule and expects me to be ready to assume the role as his ADC the moment we touch down."

"Marshal Calderon did plan on you doing just that, Sir Edward." Jon said with another beaming smile. "The second message was from your father. At the request of Brigadier Mendoza, the Protector of the Taurian Concordat has amended your orders, changing the date on which you are to report to I Corps HQ as Marshal Calderon's Aide-de-camp from August 2nd​ to August 20th​. He sent a copy of the message to Baron Tyrell as well, telling him that you are not the Inspector General of the Taurian Defense Force and to stay out of your, ahem." Jon paused and cleared his throat, "affairs. And your father says not to worry about Governor Hampton—any requests he makes for your time are just that. Requests. Not orders you are bound to obey."

Edward smiled and he nodded. "In that case, hell yes, Jon! Get with the detail and get them up to speed—and have the Techs go over your 'Mech and mine to make sure they are ready." And then his smile faded. "Of course, being in a two week FTX means I won't see Moira for at least a fortnight!"

"The FTX is scheduled to begin on August 6th​ and conclude on August 19th​. We ground at the space-port early in the morning on the 2nd​ and you don't report to I Corps HQ until 0900 local times on the 20th​. That gives you three—almost four!—free days before the FTX begins." Jon informed the young man in a bright and cheerful voice and then he laughed at the look on Edward's face.

Jon shook his head as the laughter trailed off. "Come on, Eddie. Sure, it might be a bit of nepotism." and Jon held up one hand in a placating gesture as Edward glared at him, "okay, it is a lot of nepotism since the Protector doesn't often amend TDF orders for a mere Brigadier on a routine change of duty station. You could always message your father back and tell him thank you, but no thank you and report early to Marshal Calderon on the 2nd​. I'm sure he can find you some work to keep you occupied, if using the family influence for a bit of personal gain is too much of a cross to bear."

Edward began to answer then he shut his mouth and he began to chuckle. "I think I will accept a bit of family influence just this once, Jon."

"Good, because I'd hate to have to explain to Moira that you had a chance to spend three and a half days with her, but you refused to do so because of your own stupid pride."

"Come to think of it." Edward whispered, "so would I. She'd be pretty upset over the whole thing if I was foolish enough to turn it down, wouldn't she?"

"Oh, she wouldn't kill you—I think. Just a bit of maiming and possibly crippling." Jon answered with a chuckle.

Edward snorted. "Yeah. And the third message?"

Jon smiled again. "Oh, that? Moira sent you another message—your father mentioned in his message that he and your step-mother personally informed Moira Tyrell of the changes he made in your orders—and that he has also instructed Marshal Calderon and Baron Tyrell to give you both a bit of privacy." and Jon paused. "But you will have members of the detail present escorting you both wherever you two go and whatever you two decide to do."

Edward began to smile and this time, the smile finally reached his eyes. "Hopefully, just not in the same room." he finally managed to whisper.

"They will give you some space—but they are going to stay close in case someone decides they would like you better if you were dead, Eddie. And that isn't gonna change anytime soon, my friend."

"Did you . . .." Edward began to ask.

"Nope. Haven't opened Moira's message and I made damn sure that neither the detail nor the crew of this boat did as well." Jon held out a data-card. "Here you go." he said as he handed the message to Edward. He stood. "I am going to the 'Mech bay to make certain that the Techs have our T-Bolts ready to go when we land."

"Thanks, Jon." Edward said as he too stood and shook the man's hand.

"All part of the job of being your personal body-guard, aide, and friend, my friend."

And with, Jon exited the cabin and closed the hatch behind him.

Edward sat down at the computer station and inserted the data card and the message loaded, and he sat there rapt as he listened to Moira speak about her plans for the three—perhaps four!—blessed days they would have together.

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