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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 91 - By the Horns[]

The Obsidian Fortress
Saso, New Syrtis
Federated Suns
March 20th, 3026

Getting the agreement written—in a form acceptable to both sides—had not taken until the end of the week; it had taken almost two full weeks. But, it was finally done, and Edward waited until the applause from the assembled nobles had died down and then he turned to Hanse Davion and the two men exchanged the final pens they had used to sign the accords—all six copies of the accords!—and they shook hands.

And once again, the applause—and flashes of lights from the scores of cameras—erupted around them.

Still, the two men stood there, smiling at the cameras and the gathered high-ranking officials and military officers and nobility of New Syrtis and Edward forced the smile to remain on his face.

Finally, it was done and the noise slowly abated, even though the flashes of light from the cameras continued to pop around them. Hanse made a small motion with one hand, and Edward nodded; he raised one hand towards the crowd and then he exited the stage, the First Prince following him. And then the doors behind the two closed and there was only blessed silence . . . and constant, non-blinding lighting.

Edward could hear Hanse chuckle behind him. "You don't like the public appearance anymore than I do, I believe, Sir Edward." the First Prince said with a wry grin as he unbuttoned the collar of his uniform jacket and sat down in a plush armchair, before he raised a glass—that a thoughtful servant had already prepared, full of ice and whiskey on the wooden table set between the pair the of chairs.

"No, Sir, I do not care for the pomp and circumstance one bit." Edward answered as he sat and lifted his own glass. "But for what we getting in exchange, I think that I can live with it."

Hanse laughed. "I understand. There are days when I want to ship the entire Protocol Department off to Zanzibar and tell them don't come back—ever." He paused and took a sip, and then he sat down his glass and his face turned serious. "Will Thomas ratify this?"

"Yes." Edward said simply. "Everything we agreed to was within the limits that he set—although he held out hopes that he could have gotten more. Especially since you and Archon Steiner will be sharing your copy of the Core." Edward suddenly smiled. "The JumpShip that arrived yesterday with dispatches told me of the Archon's reply to his offer to sell it to the Lyran Commonwealth. Well played, Lord Davion." and he raised his glass in salute.

Hanse smiled and he raised his own glass again and clinked it against the one that Edward held and both men took another sip.

"Katrina isn't happy, but she is going to send you three of the Behemoths assigned to the LCAF and the AFFS is providing you with another two." Hanse paused. "While I must admit that supplying you with five DropShips—and the plans to build more—is well worth the discount of a billion C-Bills on the first installment, why does the TDF need five Behemoths?"

"We don't need five Behemoths, Lord Davion." Edward answered. "We are going to cut them up and convert them into five Goliath class Assault DropShips, to not just replace Titan that we lost at New Vallis." and Edward paused, taking another sip as he remembered the final moments in the life of Liam Zahra, "but to give us a total of six. And with those plans—that you got Katrina Steiner to give us—we should be able to make more starting in just five or six years down the road."

"I thought as much, but Quintus did ask me to confirm it." Hanse replied. "I take it the plans for those are not in the Core, are they?"

Edward shook his head. "No, we invented those ourselves, Lord Davion, rather more recently. Still, I would imagine that once the treaty is ratified and in place, we might—Father might—consider selling you—and Archon Steiner—the design plans."

"A twenty-five thousand ton Assault DropShip—that thing is basically a vest-pocket WarShip!"

Edward snorted, as he had just taken another sip, and then he nodded as he sat down the glass. "Pocket WarShip? You know, that is a good name to designate their type and role.", the young man paused. "They aren't designed for assault after all, but for system defense, although I'm sure that we will keep two assigned to the Samantha Calderon to provide protection against hostile aerospace fighters."

Hanse snorted. "They are more than likely to massacre incoming hostile aerospace fighters if the briefing I read on them is at all accurate." And then the First Prince paused again.

"What is your father planning to do to the Capellans?" he asked.

Edward's lips twitched and then he nodded. "For starters, we are going to take back Rollis—once the Wolf's Dragoons get here, that is."

Hanse nodded after a moment and then he smiled. "Just Rollis? No offense, but your father is not one to take an invasion of two of his worlds lightly—nor the attempt to use a WMD on the soil of Taurus itself."

Now Edward paused and then he pursed his lips and he nodded again. "We have other plans as well for Max Liao—rest assured, he will full well know just how angry the Concordat is with him right now or have you forgotten Ariana's War?"

For a second Hanse could not recall such a conflict, then his brain made the connection. "Well. Going to visit Sian, are we?"

"Not the entire TDF, Lord Davion. Just one very pissed off WarShip and her very capable commander."

Hanse leaned back in his chair as he considered and then they nodded decisively. "I would—request—that you hold off on such an action, Lord Calderon." he said quietly. "Not indefinitely." he continued, holding up one hand to forestall Edward's protest that had not even reached his lips yet. "But, perhaps, two years?"

"Two years? And what will be happening in two years?"

"In two years, I mean to put an end to the Capellan Confederation—and Maximilian Liao—once and for all. And that would give you—and the Concordat—your best possible shot at revenge. If you are willing to coordinate with us, that is."

Edward sat back for a moment and he just stared at Hanse Davion, who sat opposite him, grinning like, and Edward chuckled. Grinning like a Fox who had just emerged from the chicken coop with bloody feathers on his fur.

"Tell me more, Lord Davion. I do believe that I—and my father—would be more than willing to at least listen and do our part in this endeavor."

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