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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 79 - By the Horns[]


DropShip Black Bull
Nadir Jump Point, Lindsay
Taurian Concordat
February 17th, 3026


"And according to the message I received," Ardan Sorek continued, "the First Prince has decided to come in person to New Syrtis to calm things down in the Capellan March. Which means, Sir Edward, that after we jump to Electra, you only have one more to make to meet with him on New Syrtis."

Edward nodded. It seemed that the reaction of the Capellan March to Hanse Davion's broadcast labeling Michael Hasek-Davion as a traitor and renegade—and the declaration of the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers as pirate and mutineers—had set off a firestorm among the former Duke's more die-hard supporters in the March. Tensions, always high in this area in recent years—since Michael Hasek-Davion had assumed his role as Duke, in fact—had ratcheted up several more notches.

To the point that the First Prince himself, along with the remainder of the Davion Heavy Guards RCT and the entire 1st​ Davion Guards RCT had come all the way to New Syrtis from New Avalon to put his own house in order.

And Edward sighed. That had been before word had reached—carried out of the Concordat aboard merchant vessels—of the defeat of the Sixth on New Vallis . . . and the death of Michael Hasek-Davion.

"Understood, Ardan," he said finally. "Is he certain that New Syrtis is the place to have this meeting? My presence there will be like," and Edward finally gave a hint of a smile, "waving a red cape in front of an enraged bull."

Ardan snorted. "Oh, I doubt anyone will try anything while the 1st​ Guards and Heavy Guards and the First Prince himself—along with Michael's wife and son—are there to keep everyone in line."

Marie Hasek-Davion, Hanse Davion's half-sister, and his nephew Morgan Hasek-Davion both stood staunchly behind the First Prince, according to the intelligence briefs that Edward had received. Although that might well change when word reached New Syrtis that Michael was dead—killed in the fires of a Taurian nuclear strike.

"My own people are not very happy with this sudden change in our plans," Edward continued.

"I don't doubt it," Ardan answered in agreement. "Still, this will save you months of travel time . . . and let you get back home all the quicker once you and Hanse sit down and hammer out this agreement." He paused, as he considered something and then he nodded. "Besides, by the time we land on New Syrtis, news should have arrived that the survivors of the Sixth have been ransomed and returned to the Federated Suns—and that you, personally, are responsible for that."

"I didn't do it for a political or public relations advantage!"

Ardan held up one hand. "I know that, and as much as I hate playing politics and spinning events to the advantage of your reputation and standing in media, I do believe that in this case I would be remiss to advise you not to take advantage, Edward."

And even as he said that, Ardan had to swallow a bit of bile that rose in his throat. He hated the political games in which he himself had been embroiled, and yet, here he was advising this Taurian Prince to use those same political games for his benefit—and that of Hanse Davion. Despite knowing that Edward probably despised them as much as he did.

"Marshal Sortek is correct, Sir," added Jon Kincaide; the Subaltern served not only as Edward's personal body-guard and aide, but was his close personal friend. "Once the media starts talking with the returning Fusiliers and getting their stories out—how Michael betrayed them, not once but multiple times, tried to use nuclear weapons to punish those who abandoned him at the direct order of the First Prince, and how you, personally, intervened to keep them safe from malicious harm by our own hard-liners, it can only paint you—and the Concordat," and Jon paused for a moment, "the sane part of our Concordat, at least—in a better light."

Edward sighed again and he nodded. "My Father, Henri Jouett, and Helena Vickers would all agree." he said quietly. "Okay," and he looked Ardan in the eye. "so what is our timetable for the meetings after we arrive at New Syrtis?"

"Still tentative, but it appears that the First Prince has blocked out an entire week to spend with you and the team of negotiators that your father sent along. Once we arrive in the New Syrtis system, Black Bull, your escort, and my Heavy Guards will continue to the surface, probably to an official state reception—including at least two state dinners, so I hope you brought along your formal wear."

"Lovely."

"Afterwards, there will be a series of meetings between lower level members of each delegation, followed by a series of private meetings between you and the First Prince, and then a signing ceremony, if you two can hammer out an agreement."

"I have not come all this way to go home empty handed, Ardan." Edward said, but his voice was worried.

"And you can rest assured that neither has the First Prince."

Edward nodded his understanding. "Okay. We have one week to prepare, Jon, so we had best be getting started."


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