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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 22 - By the Horns[]

ComStar First Circuit
Hilton Head Island, North America
October 28th, 3025

“So, to repeat,” the physician-Adept from Kappa Division reported, “the Primus remains unconscious in critical condition . . . but we anticipate a full physical recovery from the cardiac event that he suffered.”

“And mentally?” asked Myndo.

“Treatment was provided within minutes—there should be no permanent mental impairments,” the doctor answered.

“Very well,” Myndo snapped. “With the Primus incapacitated, it falls upon us of the First Circuit to respond to this travesty on Taurus. I believe that my fellow Precentors now see the need to act decisively to eliminate this threat to our very existence.”

“How?” snapped Precentor Sian. “He has at least one HPG under his control and he has made a broadcast! Once the Great Houses learn of this, they will . . .,” but she didn’t finish the sentence.

“One broadcast—possibly using traitors within ComStar forced to work the machinery at gun-point,” Myndo interrupted. “He doesn’t under the technology—and he cannot replace any of the parts. Only we, here on Terra, can do that. And we all saw that message—he cannot even work the HPG properly!” Myndo paused and she nodded. “The Concordat already lies under interdiction—if he broadcasts again, the message will be stopped at Stations loyal to us. Now is the time to respond to this affront—to make certain that Taurus regrets the day it lifted a hand against those who are faithful to the Word of Blake!”

“And what do you suggest, Precentor Dieron? That we send the Fleet? If we do that—and the Great Houses learn of it—we are done,” Precentor Tharkad bluntly asked.

“Taurus is their economic, military, industrial, and spiritual heart, Precentor Tharkad,” Myndo said with a grim smile. “The Station which they took by force lies there, in Samantha City. Where the Protector and his family reside. Where their military and intelligence commands are headquartered. Where their most prestigious universities and service academies are located. Where their industrial strength is concentrated.”

She paused and smiled at the members of the First Circuit.

“I submit that this city which is home to Thomas Calderon is a cancer which must be removed—doing so will cripple the Concordat and show the Taurians that not even on Taurus behind their asteroid defenses and their nebula are they safe.”

“Destroying their capital city?” Nicholas asked into the silence. “Are you mad, Myndo? We are speaking of ten million civilians living an area the size of Greater London. Even with Backdoor allowing our Fleet to bypass the asteroids and enter the Taurus system without engaging their main defenses, what makes you think they will survive to enter orbit? We all know how the Taurians will respond to three WarShips entering THAT system—their fighters will be carrying nuclear weapons; the Concordat has a tremendous stockpile of tactical devices that they will not hesitate to use.”

“Precisely, Precentor ROM,” Myndo snarled. “I do believe that you have at least one agent in place in the facility which produces their tactical weapons—Fission Utilities, Consolidated and Unlimited? That is the name, yes?”

Nicholas sighed. “I do have an agent there. But those are small—TACTICAL—devices, of about 35 kilotons each, Precentor Dieron. Even if I sent my agent an order to detonate one, it wouldn’t destroy the entire city.”

“No, one device will not suffice. Nor will multiple devices concentrated in a single location,” Myndo mused. “But, if I am remembering your reports correctly, the Taurian Defense Force must regularly replace their existing warheads with new ones—half-life being such a bitch for these . . . primitive weapons.”

“Yes,” Nicholas whispered.

“And this Foo-Coo does so in bulk, yes?”

“Fuck you,” Nicholas said with a hint of a smile.

The Chamber went silent as the blood drained from Myndo’s face—she began to snarl, but Nicholas raised one hand. “It is pronounced ‘fuck-you’, not ‘foo-coo’, Precentor Dieron—although many in the TDF and those who work there refer to the facility as ‘Nukes ‘R Us’.”

The silence dragged on as Myndo struggled to compose herself, but then at last she nodded. “Thank you for that correction, Precentor ROM,” she snarled. “They produce replacement warheads in bulk, do they not?”


“And they ship them in blocks of one hundred, yes?”

“That is a typical delivery—one hundred warheads, once every two months,” answered Nicholas.

“You agent will supply other ROM teams with the next scheduled delivery—and they will appropriate it. A single 35-kiloton detonation will not achieve our goals—but one hundred? Distributed throughout Samantha City? And I do believe that these Taurian weapons—being intended for use in space—leave massive amounts of lingering radiation behind, yes?”

Nicholas nodded, but he set his jaw. “Do you believe that the Taurians will not move heaven and earth once they realize that someone has stolen one hundred nuclear warheads?”

“Are you saying that ROM cannot accomplish this, Precentor ROM?” Myndo asked sweetly.

“We can accomplish this—if the Primus orders it. You are not Primus, Myndo Waterly.”

“The Primus is . . . unavailable, Precentor ROM,” she answered in a sharp voice. “And if the First Circuit commands it—you will act. Or you will be replaced.” She paused. “To the rest of humanity it will appear as if the Taurian obsession with these weapons of mass destruction resulted in a tragic accident that took the lives of so many millions of their own civilians. I dare say, we might be able to convince the Great Houses to begin reducing their own stockpiles—for if this can happen to the Taurians, it might happen to them.”

“Any analysis of the blast patterns will indicate . . .,” began Protector Atreus.

“They will analyze information that passes through our HPGs—we will give them the data that conforms to our story. It’s not like Hanse Davion or Takashi Kurita or Maximillian Liao will visit Taurus to confirm the story with their own eyes. We control the flow of information—and through it, we WILL control humanity,” Myndo snapped. And then she glared at the members of the First Circuit. “Which is why we must end this Taurian Crisis NOW. Before the situation grows out of control.”

One by one, the voting members of the First Circuit slowly nodded their agreement, and Nicholas sighed.

Myndo . . . glowed with delight, and she nodded as well. “And in the wake of this . . . tragedy . . . we must begin to look to our own defenses in the Outer Worlds. Perhaps it is time to address deploying the ComGuard and Militia to defend our compounds—slowly, of course.”

She turned her gaze back to Nicholas. “One final matter,” she said. “Have an intermediary pass along to Maximillian Liao and Michael Hasek ALL of our information on the latest deployments of the TDF—border defenses, what units are present. EVERYTHING. With an Interdiction already in place, I doubt very much that those two can resist the . . . opportunity to wrest a dozen or so worlds away from the Concordat.”

She paused again, and smiled. “When our Great Work is finished, we will have completed the job that the Star League began—and the Taurian Concordat will no longer be a thorn in our side.” She waited until the voting members nodded their agreement. “Then we are in recess—Blessed be Blake! May his Word bring Peace to all Humanity. United under our rule—of course.”

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