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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 89 - By the Horns[]

Taurus Broadcasting Corporation Studio A
Samantha City, Taurus
Taurian Concordat
March 17th, 3026

Patrick Ross looked up from his notes as the producer said, "Five seconds. Three. Two. And you are . . . live."

He smiled at the cameras, "Welcome back to Good Morning, Taurus," he spoke to the cameras. "Joining us in the studio today are some special guests: Marshal of the Armies Brenda Calderon, Exchequer of the Concordat Semyon Cantrell, and Minister-without-a-Profile and Advisor to the Protector, Raoul Calderon. Gentlemen, my lady, welcome to the program."

"Thank you for inviting us here today," said Raoul as his two companions nodded in agreement.

"Thank you for accepting the invitation," he paused and his smile faded. "As you no doubt surmised, the subject of this interview is Edward Calderon and his actions on New Vallis. There is a large portion of our population who view what he did—paying the ransom for Davion soldiers so that they could return home—as a travesty against the Concordat. Public reaction has taken wild swings over the past weeks as video of his departure from New Vallis was released to the public." The anchor paused for a moment. "Members of the late Grover Shraplen's Concordat Reunification Party have called for an official investigation into his conduct—and his removal as an officer of the Taurian Defense Force, as well as for the Protector to renounce his actions and disavow him as Heir-Designate."

Brenda Calderon bristled and then she leaned forward. "Brigadier Calderon acted with honor and loyalty towards the Concordat and the Protector on New Vallis, Pat," she sternly told the anchorman—and the millions of viewers watching the live broadcast. "En route on a diplomatic mission for the Protector, he learned of the upcoming attack on New Vallis, hired mercenary forces out of his own pocket, and returned to New Vallis to aid in the defense. While there, he was made second in command of the defense by Marshal Corey Calderon, commanding I Corps. It was his plan—and his actions—that allowed us to defeat the renegade Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers in detail and with lower casualties that any of us could have otherwise predicated."

"None of that is in question, Marshal Calderon," the journalist answered. "It is his actions following the battle which some Taurian citizens are criticizing."

Raoul Calderon shook his head. "No. They are not questioning or criticizing, they are slandering my nephew, Pat. Think about this . . . as the direct representative of the Protector, he offered terms for the former members of the Sixth Syrtis Fusiliers to lay down their arms and surrender—fair terms: Five years of labor to help build infrastructure on our new colonies, with the provision that they may be ransomed early. Over six thousand of their personnel accepted those terms and—with the voice of the Protector himself—Edward assured them they would be treated fairly, justly, and humanely. And what happened?"

The Protector's younger brother paused. "Members of the Constabulary decided that Sir Edward's word—the Protector's word!—was not good enough for them. After stopping one group from murdering prisoners," and Raoul shook his head as Pat inhaled sharply. "Let's not mince words, that was exactly what they were going to do. In defiance of what Sir Edward—in the name and voice of the Protector himself—had promised, they were going to exact bloody vengeance upon prisoners in their custody. There is a reason that Governor Fredrik Dupont was relieved of his post by the Protector—for cause!—and Edward Calderon not only promoted to Brigadier, but knighted as a Noble of the Taurian Concordat."

"There are rumors—mostly from hard-line members of the CRP—that Protector Thomas himself was quite displeased with Edward's actions and only promoted and ennobled him because he is the Protector's son," Pat quickly spoke. "They insist that had Edward Calderon been any other officer, Thomas would have sacked him—not Fredrik Dupont."

"Those rumors are incorrect," interjected Semyon Cantrell before either Brenda or Raoul could speak, and those two took a moment to collect themselves. "Protector Thomas is quite pleased with how Sir Edward acquitted himself on New Vallis. And extremely displeased with how certain members of the Constabulary and the government of Concordat attempted to circumvent his orders and pervert his given word."

Pat started to ask another question, but Semyon held up one hand. "We are talking about the honor of the Taurian Concordat, here, Pat. When we give our word—we keep it. Always. When we make a promise, swear an oath, enter into an agreement, we hold true to what we have said. That is what makes us different from the people of the Inner Sphere, that is what makes us Taurians. And when some of our own people decided that the word of the designated representative of the Protector was not what they would have done and took action to break faith with the Concordat . . . well, Sir Edward made sure that the honor of the Concordat remained intact."

"Fearing that because of a handful of men and women who were willing to just dismiss the promises of the Protector, he spent his entire fortune—after paying for those two mercenary units that came to the aid of New Vallis!—to pay the ransom and send those former soldiers home to where they could be safe and treated in a humane fashion. The Concordat did not pay that ransom—Edward did. He paid the ransom out of his own pocket to prevent a handful of oath breakers from shaming the whole of the Concordat."

For a moment there was silence and then Brenda spoke before Pat could ask another question. "Your colleagues have interviewed Raphael Montoya and Erwin Tyrell and Fiona Jameson and Tanis Verbret and Corey Calderon—you have interviewed men and women who served alongside Liam Zahra. And every last one of those people have endorsed the actions of Sir Edward. Which is why my office has been flooded with donations from serving members of the Taurian Defense Force, Taurian Concordat Navy, and Taurian Aerospace Command. Donations of twenty, fifty, one hundred Bulls—all with the note that they are paying their share for the honor of the Concordat, all made to repay Sir Edward for what he spent when he saw the need to do so. When Sir Edward returns, he will find that he was not alone in standing to protect us all from the shame that Dupont and those who followed his orders would have stained us with."

"Our own people---the vast majority of our own people," added Raoul, "stand behind Sir Edward and Protector Thomas. What the Concordat Reunification Party needs to understand is that they will not dictate policy to this government. Not today, not tomorrow, and never will the Protector or his Ministers change what is best for the Concordat as a whole to make the hard-liners who live on hate feel better."

"Speaking of Sir Edward's return," Pat smoothly changed the topic as the timer above the camera began blinking, indicating a commercial break was coming up. "Is there any truth to the rumor that he is in the Federated Suns conducting high-level negotiations with First Prince Hanse Davion? Negotiations that may well see one or more of our lost worlds returned to the Concordat?"

Raoul laughed. "More rumors from the CRP, Pat? You know that neither I, nor my colleagues, can comment on ongoing diplomatic negotiations before they are concluded. I can tell you this, however, Protector Thomas himself will be traveling to New Vallis to meet with Sir Edward on his return—and that the Comstar Interdiction may be lifted soon after that."

Pat raised one eyebrow. "Are you saying that Sir Edward is meeting with Comstar to end the Interdiction?"

"I did not say that, and I cannot comment on . . ." Raoul began, but Pat nodded.

"Ongoing diplomatic negotiations. Thank you all for joining us today. Coming up after the following commercial break, we will have the local weather forecast for Samantha City and Cynthia Devries will be reporting on continuing efforts to repair Samantha City infrastructure damaged during the terrorist attack on the University of Taurus last month."

He smiled and then heard the producer announce, "And . . . we are out."

Pat took off his microphone and he stood, holding out his hand to shake those of Semyon, Raoul, and Brenda. "Thank you again—tell Thomas I hope that helps." he said warmly. "And give Edward—Sir Edward!—my best." Pat paused for a moment, and then he took out his wallet and extracted two bank notes, each valued at one hundred Bulls. "And add this to funds being given to repay that young man for keeping our honor intact, Marshal."

Brenda smiled and then she laughed. "I certainly will do so—Brigadier Ross. You still hold that reserve commission, yes?"

"I do, Marshal."

"Well, if you ever want to come back on active duty, I can plug you right into our public relations department."

"God forbid!" Pat exclaimed. "If I ever come back, I expect nothing less than a battalion of my own!"

Then he smiled and both he and Brenda began to laugh, because both knew Pat Ross had spent his entire career in the TDF doing PR on behalf of the Defense Force and Protector. A career which had then opened the door to this particular job offer once he left the uniform behind.

And then the smile faded. "You—all of you—know that this won't change the minds of the hardcore CRP members. Shraplen—his father before—did too good a job driving these people's emotions to a fever-pitch; people who don't understand what a war—a real war—would cost all of us."

"Yes," Raoul sighed. "The hardliners of the CRP are going to be a long-term problem. Especially since Thomas pretty much gave Shraplen carte blanche to say whatever he wanted to—and those people assumed that since Thomas never contradicted him in public that the Protector agreed with Shraplen . . . and them. Finding out that is not true is wreaking havoc on the fragile illusion of reality that what they believe in is right and good and just."

"We will deal with it," added Semyon. "And if the CRP—which has never gotten more than fifteen percent of the popular vote outside of a few isolated strongholds—believes that they can dictate policy to Thomas Calderon . . . HAH! They will learn the hard way how it feels to get gored and trampled by an angry bull!"

Raoul chuckled at that and even Brenda cracked a smile. But Pat just shook his head. "They don't see reality the way we do—they still believe that even after five hundred years of Davion occupation our "Lost Worlds" have hidden cells of citizens plotting for some way to return to the Concordat. And that Hanse Davion will back down if we just show we are strong enough to be willing to take back those worlds. I see all kinds here in these studios, and you need to understand—the fanatics at the core of the Concordat Reunification Party? If Edward is doing what I hear he is doing—hammering out a deal and a peace treaty with Hanse Davion, and no, Brenda, I'm not giving up my source on that or reporting it on the news for that matter!—they are going to go ape. They may well decide that both Thomas and Edward and everyone in the government is a traitor and try to do something about it. And you need to be ready for that."

Raoul started to speak, but Pat held up one hand. "They don't have the numbers to make a coup stick—they don't have the leader," and Pat smiled slightly, "at least not anymore, who is charismatic enough to bring the moderates onboard. But that doesn't mean they can't cause a lot of damage before they get put down. I've interviewed three people this week who—given a chance—would string up Edward Calderon from the nearest light-post, consequences be damned. Although right now, they are more focused on seeking revenge," and Pat paused. "Their hard-liners believe that Grover Shraplen was murdered and the government is covering it up to avoid starting a war."

"And just who do they think murdered Grover Shraplen?" asked Brenda in an icy voice.

"They think Hanse Davion smuggled in an MIIO kill-team to assassinate Shraplen. That he gave the order to kill him in order to silence him from speaking the TRUTH, as they see it, about the nefarious Davion plans to conquer the Concordat. And they are trying to find a way to strike back, even if that embroils the entire Concordat in a war. A war that they see as inevitable."

And then sighed. "And yes. I'm sat down and spoken about all of this with Henri earlier this week—and he is worried. And that alone makes me very worried."

"Special Intelligence and Operations are not the only people keeping their eye on the CRP fanatics." Raoul said quietly. "We are aware of the potential . . . problems down the road."

"Good." answered Pat. "They don't understand much about reality, but they do read their history—don't learn from it, but they read it just the same. Especially the parts about how many Protectors throughout our history have been assassinated—and life just goes on."

Semyon frowned and he looked at Raoul, then Brenda, and he saw the same somber vestiges on their faces, and he winced. "That's why you put all those extra precautions in place," he whispered and they nodded.

"Like I said," Raoul spoke just as quietly. "SIO aren't the only ones who keep an eye on those who mean the Protector—or his family or his government—harm. Messer Ross is just confirming information we already had."

A production assistant cleared her throat from several feet away and Pat Ross looked up at the clock. "Time for me to get back to work—my next segment is in two minutes. Good to see you again, Raoul. Brenda. Minister Cantrell, it was a pleasure, Sir."

"Godspeed, Pat," Raoul answered as the news anchor walked away looking over briefing notes on his next segment on the most popular morning information show on Taurus.

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