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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 85 - By the Horns[]

The Obsidian Fortress
Saso, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
March 6th, 3026

Bartholomew Banzai shook his head.  “Whoever assembled this Data Core knew exactly what they were doing, gentlemen." he said.  “It is organized in various sections—Cultural, Historical, the Arts, the Sciences, Education, and then specific applied military and engineering technologies.  The Education Section alone is worth hundreds of millions of C-Bills." he paused and shook his head.  “The people who uploaded this information including every textbook that the Taurian education system had available in 2596—everything from pre-school texts teaching the alphabet to post-graduate thesis and dissertations.  We’ve got texts on math, the sciences, political science, history, and scores more subjects . . . and gentlemen, they are complete.”

He paused again.  “With the education section alone, we can decipher the Hoffman Collection—this is like getting the Rosetta Stone and being able to start translating hieroglyphs.”

There was silence at the table for a moment, and then Hanse Davion nodded his understanding.  “But that is only part of the data?” he asked.

Doctor Banzai nodded in confirmation.  “There is information and schematics and blue-prints and production plans in there for every weapon system and piece of military technology that the Taurian Concordat had available at that time—including systems that we today consider Lostech—Celluar Ammunition Storage Equipment, Ferro-Fibrous and Ferro-Aluminum armor composites—Improved Ferro-Aluminum for WarShips!—Target Acquisition Gear, TAG-seeker warheads for artillery shells, capital-ship scale weaponry . . . it is all in there.”

“We have design plans and schematics for every tank, ‘Mech, fighter, DropShip, JumpShip, and WarShip that the Taurians ever produced—and of those that they captured examples of.  There is data on prototype Endo-Steel II composites, double-strength heat sinks, Beagle Active Probes, and more . . . and I only skimmed the information in the Core.  Now, unlike what they had fully developed, the prototype information will not be of immediate use—but we can use it as a starting point to build our own components.  It will take years." the Doctor said with a sigh, “but this information will let the Federated Suns repair factories out of service for decades or centuries, build new factories to produce advanced technological components, and restore production across the board to what we could do during the Star League.”

“Including JumpShips and WarShips?” asked Hanse quietly.

“Oh, yes." Doctor Banzai replied with a chuckle.  “There is an entire section—almost an entire library—on Kearny-Fuchida engineering, WarShip scale transit drives, and long-range sensors/communications/tracking/targeting systems . . . enough information that we can get your inoperative shipyards back in service within a decade.  Perhaps less.”

And then he sighed.  “There’s almost too much information here.  NAIS is going to have a field day with this, Hanse." he said softly.

“And Thomas is going to sell this Core to both Kurita and Marik as well as us and Katrina." the First Prince muttered.

“The difference is." Quintus Allard said from his seat beside the leader of the Federated Suns, “they will be starting from behind us.  NAIS has already laid the groundwork to process, understand, teach, and distribute this knowledge—the others are going to take significantly longer to get working examples.  As will Taurus and Canopus.”

“And as I said." added Doctor Banzai, “there is far more in here than just material with military applications.  The medical section alone will take years to learn and then teach, but it is cutting edge—better than what anyone else had in the 2500s except the Terran Hegemony.  And then there is the Cultural/Arts sections; the Hong Kong Cavaliers are going to go ape when they see the musical database this thing contains—every song, every musical score, every concert . . . it’s all there.  All their literature, poetry, plays, holo-productions, music, art." he shook his head as his voice trailed off.  “I can’t begin to tell you what price to put on this, Your Grace.”

Hanse nodded.  “Okay, gentlemen.  We have until tomorrow before the meetings and Edward Calderon and his delegation resume—so what exactly are we willing and able to offer the Taurian Concordat for this Data Core?”

A truly intense discussion began.

The Obsidian Fortress
Saso, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
March 8th, 3026

“You know, Ardan," Edward said in a low voice, “my escort does not seem to be happy to have me here.”  The two men were being guided through the labyrinth of rooms of the command headquarters of the Capellan March, and the four men guiding them—and guarding them—all wore shoulder flashes of the 1st Davion Guards.  And none of the four looked as if they wanted to be here as they led the two deeper and deeper within the compound.

“It’s not you, Edward." the Marshal replied with a chuckle.  “Considering who we are having this private meeting with, they wouldn’t be happy under any circumstances.  Thank you, by the way, for agreeing to leave your own guards behind—that made arranging this visit a bit easier.”

Edward nodded.  “Any my people were not happy about that." he answered.  “Still, it is all about trust—or the perception of trust.  We won’t be able to make this work if we cannot trust each other—or at the very least, appear to trust each other.”

The two turned a corner and at the end of the hall was a simple unadorned door, but another four troopers stood there waiting.  Along with an older man—well, older than the soldiers at any rate.

“Minister Allard." Edward greeted with a half-bow.

“Ambassador Calderon." the head of the Federated Suns intelligence community answered with a nod of his head.  Then the spymaster of Hanse Davion knocked on the door and opened it.  “He’s waiting.”

Edward took a deep breath and then he stepped across the threshold and the door closed behind him with a click.

Inside the room was a luxuriously appointed office, and seated at the desk was Hanse Davion—the most powerful man in the Federated Suns.  Perhaps the most powerful in the entire Inner Sphere, Edward thought.  He looked around the room—no guards, no obvious ones at any rate.  Just him and the First Prince.

“Your Grace." Edward said simply.

Hanse stood and he nodded.  “Sir Edward; thank you for agreeing to meet privately with me.”  He gestured towards a pair of chairs sitting next to a roaring fireplace as he walked around to one of them.  “Would you sit?  Care for any refreshment?”

Edward sat in one chair as the ruler of the Federated Suns sat in the second.  “Thank you, Your Grace, but no.”

Hanse leaned back in his cushioned seat and he just looked at Edward for several seconds, then he leaned forward and steeped his hands together as he nodded.

“You are not quite what I expected, Sir Edward." Hanse said and then he chuckled.  “I do hope that I am not quite what you expected, as well.”

“No, Your Grace, you are . . .." but that tenor voice was interrupted.

“Hanse. Here in this private office, just the two of us, call me Hanse—and in return I will call you Edward, yes?  Unless that insults your dignity, that is?”

Edward smiled as Hanse used the exact phrase that he had with Ardan Sortek the first time the two of them met—Ardan’s debrief had evidently been quite thorough and his memory quite sharp.

“Your planet, your office, your rules . . . Hanse.”

“Good.  Are your people being treated well and with respect?  I gave very specific instructions to my people on that subject.”

“We are, Hanse." Edward answered.  “You have been a most generous host.”

Hanse inclined his head and then he pressed a buzzer. “If you don’t mind, I am going to have a cup of coffee." and in answer to that summons, a second door opened and a man entered the room with a serving tray.  Setting the tray down on the coffee table between the chairs, the main poured Hanse a steaming cup of coffee, added some sugar and cream, then bowed.

“Thank you, Byron, that will be all." Hanse answered as he lifted the cup.  “Unless you have changed your mind." he continued towards Edward.

“I’ll take a cup with you, Hanse." Edward answered.

The steward lifted the pot again and poured.  “Sugar, Sir?  Cream?”

“Just cream, thank you." Edward said, and he took the offered cup as the steward bowed and then exited the room, the door closing behind him.

Steam rose from the cup and Edward took a sip—the coffee was extremely smooth, not bitter in the least and Edward nodded in appreciation, then sat down the cup on the saucer.

And he waited.

After a moment, Hanse smiled and took another sip of his own beverage and then sat it down.

“Ardan is right about you—you are a very confident young man." Hanse said with a smile.  “I and my advisors have come to a decision regarding your offer to sell us the information on the Data Core, Edward and your other proposals.”

Then he paused and Edward nodded.  “And, if I may ask, what might that decision be?”

“We will conduct a plebiscite on all of the former Taurian worlds—in five years time." and he stopped and waited to see Edward’s reaction, but the young man only nodded.

“That will give you time to arrange for the votes—and also time to lobby your people to remain as part of the Federated Suns." Edward said softly.  “Will you allow representatives of the Concordat to present our viewpoints to those people during those five years?”

Hanse smiled.  Yes, this young man was just as sharp as Ardan and Quintus had told him.

“I will.  You will have five years to try and convince the people on those worlds they would be better off as members of the Concordat—it remains to be seen whether or not you have much success.  After all, they have been member planets of the Federated Suns for a longer period of time than they were part of the Concordat—or independent worlds.”  He lifted up the cup and took another sip.  “But, we will give them the opportunity to determine their own future—as a show of good faith.”

Edward took a sip as well and he nodded, but he did not speak.

“That information your father and your intelligence minister passed along on the HPGs," Hanse continued, “very detailed information.  And to work on the problem of replicating—or replacing—those components that neither you or I can build right now, well, that makes me believe that your proposed Free Trade Agreement is necessary.”

He paused.  “Ardan tells me that you informed him you—and your father—are constructing a new research institution in the Concordat to process and distribute the information in your own copy of the Core—what did he say you were going to call it?”

“The Samantha Calderon Academy of Research and Sciences." Edward answered.

“SCARS." Hanse said in an amused tone.  “Certainly rolls off the tongue easier than NAIS.”

“Father wanted to name it the Taurian Institute of Technology and Sciences, but I talked him out of it—he’s always had a low sense of humor.”

Hanse began to chuckle and then he smiled.

“I do have one condition on the FTA, however." and his smile faded.  “And it is non-negotiable.”  He waited until Edward nodded.

“I want an embargo on all goods—military and civilian—against the Capellan Confederation.  In return, your companies will have full access—without tariffs—to the markets of the Federated Suns . . . and those of the Lyran Commonwealth.  Maximillian Liao vexes me, Edward," Hanse continued in a quiet voice, “and I want those supplies he has previously bought from your factories to be no longer available to him.”

Edward paused and he took another sip of the coffee and then nodded.  “I would imagine that Father will agree to that—especially since the Capellans undertook their own invasion of the Concordat.  One which was defeated and driven back, but the Protector is still furious over their opportunism.”

Hanse waited and then Edward nodded.  “And the Data Core itself?”

“You have worked as your father’s aide for some time now, along with serving in the TDF." Hanse said with a sigh.  “You know that budgets exist for a reason and it is very difficult to reallocate large sums of finances on a whim.  Having said that, the Federated Suns is willing to offer the Taurian Concordat a series of annual grants—fifty billion C-Bills a year for the next ten years as payment for the information of that core.  Half a trillion C-Bills altogether." Hanse finished.

Edward sighed.  “Father would prefer the entire payment made in advance—but you are correct.  I know exactly how difficult it is to divert funds earmarked for other projects.  I can convince him—and in his name I can sign that agreement.”

Hanse sat back in his chair and took another sip of his rapidly cooling coffee, and then he sat down the china cup.  “Good.  And I thought that we—the Federated Suns and the Taurian Concordat—might sign, in a public ceremony, a formal peace treaty ending the hostilities between us.”

Edward paused, and then he nodded.  “That is acceptable and once again within the purview of powers granted to me on this mission by the Protector.”

Hanse smiled and he nodded.  “Good, there is one final matter that we need to address.  We—the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns—are planning, and have been planning since before Michael undertook this idiotic endeavor of invading the Concordat, a series of war-games, maneuvers, and training exercises in the Capellan March.  Later this year, about a dozen Regimental Combat Teams—that number remains uncertain, it might be less—will undergo about two months of intensive training there.  To test AFFS logistical capabilities and make certain that our units are capable of performing any sort of mission they might be required to carry out.”

Edward winced.  “Father will not like that, Hanse.  He is paranoid enough that the Federated Suns—and you personally—want to conquer all of the Concordat and finish the job your ancestors and the Star League began.”

“I realize that, which is why I am offering to allow TDF liaison officers to be assigned to each and every one of the units scheduled to participate in Operation Galahad.  These officers can report back to Taurus and assure the Protector that these are only war-games; not movements in preparation for an invasion of the Concordat.”

Now Edward paused and he lifted his cup and drained it.  For several moments, he remained silent and then he nodded.  “I think I can convince him of the soundness of accepting that offer." he said finally.

“Good.  Remind him that by the time Galahad begins later this year, he will have all five Regiments of Wolf’s Dragoons on station in the Concordat—and an operational Reunification War era Battleship at his disposal!  I’m not planning to start a war—not today, not tomorrow, not next year." and his smile grew larger.

For a few moments neither man said a word and then Edward nodded again.  “Then it seems we are in agreement, when do you suspect you will have the paperwork ready for the signing ceremony?”

“By the end of the week—and we will have the first transfer of funds ready to go by that time as well.  After which, you can return to Taurus and hopefully we can begin to wind down tensions along our mutual border.”

“From your lips to God’s ears." Edward said softly and then he stood.  Hanse stood.  And the two men shook hands.

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