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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 2 - By the Horns[]


General Headquarters, Taurus Defense Force
Mount Santiago Defense Complex, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
October 1st, 3025


“What did you just say?” Thomas Calderon gasped for air; he felt as if a giant had taken a sledgehammer to his chest.

Brenda Calderon, a distant cousin and the youngest woman in the history of the Taurian Defense Force to earn the baton of a Marshal, shook her head.  “Commodore Mendoza’s report made me wonder if he was drunk or stoned when he sent it, Tom,” she said softly, “but the sensor data isn’t lying.  There is a bloody damned big Calderon-class Battleship sitting at Gateway Point—Ethan dispatched a courier to us immediately after he met with her commander . . . Helena Vickers.”

Dozens of throats suddenly inhaled, and Brenda nodded.  “Yes, apparently it is that Helena Vickers, gentlemen and ladies.  Our best guess at the moment is that this ship—the TCS Samantha Calderon,” and an unbelieving moan passed through the room, “suffered a misjump that sent her to the here and now.”

Thomas blinked and he just stared at his relative.  “Pop,” a quiet voice spoke up, and Thomas shook himself out of the shock.  The Protector turned his head to face his twenty-three year old son—and heir—Edward Calderon.

“Yes, Edward,” Thomas finally said.  “How this happened no longer matters.  We must concentrate our attention on what this means for the Concordat of today—for our people, today.”

“This is an opportunity, Tom,” a middle-aged man began to hurriedly speak.  “The FedRats have nothing that can stop this ship—this is our opportunity to retake the Pleiades!”

Brenda winced—as did most of the serving military officers at the table, and more than few of the civilian advisors.  But before she could answer, young Edward spoke up.

“This is one ship, Governor Shraplen,” he said firmly.  “A single ship.  A ship that Mendoza reports has obvious unrepaired damage—we don’t even know if she is capable of conducting offensive operations . . . and even if she were, one ship does not change the balance of our ground-based military capabilities.”  Edward paused.  “Hanse Davion has close to one hundred Regiments of ‘Mech at his disposal, including mercenaries—we have just twelve.  Twelve, Governor.”

“Hanse Davion cannot afford to pull regiments away from the borders of the Combine or Confederation,” Grover snapped, “and he won’t dare attack our troops with a WarShip overhead!”

“The Fox will dare much,” Thomas intervened, holding up one hand.  “If he deems it is in his interest.  And make no mistake, the Fox will be extremely interested in this vessel and her crew.  No, Grover,” he sighed, “it would folly for us to invade the Federated Suns—at this time,” his voice grew louder as his old friend began to turn red and draw in breath for another exclamation.
 

The Protector sighed and he closed his one remaining organic eye.  And then he opened it.  “However, all of that is moot if this vessel cannot leave Gateway and Taurus; I believe that you said their Kearny-Fuchida Drive is currently inoperative, Marshal Calderon?”

“I did, Protector,” Brenda answered.

“We already know how difficult it is to repair a capital WarShip, ladies and gentlemen—the New Vandenberg is a prime example of just how little we know,” and Thomas scowled.  “When we should bloody well know considering that we built better ships than that boondoggle without Terran aid in the past.”

He frowned and while his cybernetic eye clicked and whirred, he sat motionless and then Thomas nodded again.  “Commodore Perez,” he firmly said to the commander of the Taurian Aerospace Command, “I want that ship moved away from Gateway—can we clear all civilian traffic from Station Three?”

The grey haired former pilot—a gunship pilot—considered and then he nodded.  While not a full yard, Station Three was tasked with supporting the DropShips and small craft of the TAC and the Taurian Concordat Navy; of course, with the limited numbers of DropShips and auxiliary craft at hand, it also had a decent amount of civilian traffic.  And while Station Three in its orbit over Taurus lacked any ability to work on K/F Drive Cores, it did possess a number of very capable machinery and electronics shops.

“We can divert all traffic and have the civilians clear in twenty-four hours, Sire,” he answered after a moment.

“Good. Brenda, invite Admiral Vickers to dock her vessel at Station Three—get with Mendoza and Hamish here to find out what sort of supplies that they might need and get them up to the station at once.  And do not lie to yourself, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to need to redeploy as much of the Fleet and air-defense assets as we can afford to.  I want Station Three isolated—no unauthorized traffic is to close within any possible weapons range.  Is that understood?”

One by one, the men and women at the table nodded their agreement.

Edward cleared his throat, and Thomas waved at his son to go ahead.

“Looking over this dispatch,” he said holding up sheet of paper that he had been reading, “I do believe that we need to take additional precautions with dealing with the information that is going to flowing off of that ship,” he shook his head in disbelief.  “A complete, unaltered, Data Core from the Reunification War—Taurus at its height, Pop.  This is . . . incredible.  It has the potential to revive the Concordat,” and then his expression fell, “and everyone will want it.”

“MIIO, SAFE, ISF, LIC, the Maskirovka, MIM, heck, even the Outworlders will have teams here trying to pry out the secrets in months,” chimed in Henri Jouett, the head of the Taurian Concordat Office of Special Intelligence and Operations, “if they do not already have intelligence teams in place.  Some of them do, ladies and gentlemen—and we do not know the identities of all of them.”

“Right,” snarled Thomas.  “Henri, you and . . .,” he paused and then nodded at the young commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the Taurian Guards, “Brigadier Doru coordinate with the Constabulary—I want a full-court press on keeping the lid on this for as long as we can.  Each and every one of those people—those Taurians—aboard that ship are now priceless and we will treat them accordingly.”

“Speaking of which,” the Exchequer of the Concordat said in a dry tone, “there is the small matter that we may well owe these people back-pay for four centuries.”

“WHAT!” shouted Thomas.

“I am not saying that they will ask for such a sum, but,” and Semyon Cantrell set his jaw, “under one interpretation of our laws, they might well be entitled to exactly that.  It will probably have to be decided by the Courts—but we are speaking of millions of Bulls—at the least.”

Thomas gritted his teeth, and then he sighed.  “We’ll find the funds when we have to.  We are already looking at breaking our current budget just in repair costs—if that white elephant New Vandenberg is anything to judge by.”

“And those funds will come from the Far Lookers?” sourly asked Aramis Hall, the leader of that group of explorers and colonization effort.

“Not completely, no,” Thomas answered with a chuckle.  “These . . . Exiles,” he continued in a more somber voice.  “If they are out there and they survived, I want them found.  And to that, we need to increase your exploration efforts.  We might not colonize as many new planets as you want, Aramis, but we are going to be looking out there in the Deep Black.”

Hall nodded his agreement—he wasn’t happy, but he agreed with the necessity.

“Good,” Thomas said again.  “And now, ladies and gentlemen, just how the hell are we going to tell the people—our people—about all of this without creating a panic?”

And the table got very quiet once more.


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