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By the Horns (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 94 - By the Horns[]

Government House
Port Sheridan, New Vallis
Taurian Concordat
April 14th, 3026

Thomas Calderon looked up from behind the borrowed desk as the door opened and Edward entered the room, the guard posted outside closing the door behind him.

He stood and walked around the desk and then he hugged the young man tight.

"Hi, Pop." Edward said as he clapped his father on the back.

Thomas swallowed as he stepped back and looked his son in the face, still holding his upper arms with both hands. "You certainly took liberty with my instructions, Edward." he said finally, and then he smiled. "But you did good, son. You did good."

"I know it isn't as much as you wanted, Pop." Edward began, but Thomas interrupted him.

"As you—and others!—have repeatedly told me, I wasn't going to get everything I wanted." he barked. And then he chuckled. "And I'm not even that mad that you told the Fox about our plans for Rollis and Corodiz. We." and the older man paused as he finally released Edward and sat down again. "We managed to find a way to confirm everything you've been telling us. When we get back to Taurus, there is going to be a briefing for you on some, ah, developments in our intelligence gathering. Everything you suspected has been confirmed—at least we think it has been." Thomas sighed. "It is a new world, son." he waved one hand at the chair in front of the desk and Edward sat.

"I didn't expect to see you out here, Pop." Edward finally said. "When Corey told me to come planetside instead of heading back to Taurus, I was a bit concerned."

Thomas snorted. "What? You thought I might have you disavowed and sent into exile?"

Edward shook his head. "That was a possibility, Pop. I went and stretched your orders to the limit—and I know that the fast one that Katrina Steiner and Hanse Davion pulled on you has to sting."

Thomas waved that aside with one hand. "I was expecting that, young man. We've got responses—coded responses via HPG and then courier JumpShip—from both Janos Marik and Takashi Kurita. They are willing to pay even more than Hanse Davion did for the data from the Core. Kyalla Centrella as well and I have already released news of the upcoming plebiscites on the border worlds—right now. Young man, you are being hailed as a conquering hero by most of our population!"

Edward blushed and he shook his head. "I didn't conquer anything, Pop. Everything I did was done in your name—for the good of the Concordat."

Thomas snorted. "I know that. You know that. The citizens that are capable of thinking know that! They are still celebrating what you managed to achieve, son."

"It might not come to anything." Edward insisted. "Those worlds have been in Davion hands for longer than they were part of the Concordat, Pop. They might very well vote to stay in the Federated Suns."

Thomas waved one hand. "And if they do, it will silence most of those who insist that there are resistance movements on each of those worlds just waiting for Taurian soldiers to return them to the fold, welcoming us with open arms and cheers of long-awaited victory!" He snorted again. "If they vote to return to the Concordat or vote to remain under the Federated Suns banner, we will have taken the teeth out of most of the supporters of the CRP, and at least make them start to think." Then he paused and sighed. "Except for the fanatics, who will look at you and me and every Taurian willing to accept the results of these plebiscites that aren't in our favor as traitors to the Concordat."

Now Edward frowned. "I would have thought that they would have lost some momentum when Grover died."

"No, boy. Many of their hard-liners are convinced that Grover was killed by agents of Hanse Davion to silence him from warning the Concordat about Davion intentions. They have gotten even more radicalized since his death . . . and they are not at all pleased with you—or me!—right now."

TThomas sighed and shook his head. "Damn fools. I don't trust House Davion myself, but they are convinced that. You and I are going to sell the Concordat and our people out to the Fox and become an appendage of the Federated Suns."

Edward sat back in his seat and he nodded in understanding. "And they are using my ransoming of the former members of the Sixth Fusiliers as proof of our traitorous leanings, right, Pop?"

"That they are, my boy. On the other hand, the majority—the vast majority—of the Concordat are standing behind you. In fact," and Thomas smiled, "the TDF started a campaign to solicit funds to assist you in the payment of that ransom. It was picked up by civilians on Taurus and then throughout the Concordat. As of this morning, nearly two-thirds of your fortune has been returned to you by men and women of the Concordat who insist on paying their share to keep the Concordat's honor intact, Eddie."

"I didn't do it to be repaid, Pop!" Edward sputtered. "I did it because . . .."

". . . it was the right thing to do. Edward." Thomas said sternly, "do you think you are the only man in the Concordat willing to do what is right and proper when the cards are laid down?"

"No, sir."

"No. Those men and women want you—and all of Taurus—to know they stand with you. So take the damn money with grace and show some appreciation for their sacrifice."

Edward chuckled. "I think I can do that, Pop."

"Good." Thomas said as he leaned back in his chair and put his hands together. "Corey and I have been talking this past week—so when am I going to meet this young lady of yours?"

Edward blushed. "She's not my young lady, Pop." he whispered. "I haven't even had the chance to speak with her since I landed here on New Vallis."

Thomas just sat there and he looked his son squarely in the eyes, until Edward began to squirm. "Alright, I would like her to be my lady, Pop." he finally admitted, but he shook his head. "I don't know if she wants to be that, however."

"Moira Tyrell—good blood there. Erwin has always been loyal and you—my son that is most unlike me—has managed to get him on your side. No small feat—he's almost as conservative as I am, as Grover was. But unlike the CRP fanatics, he actually uses his head for more things than holding up his hat!"

Thomas snorted again and he shook his head. "I've never tried to arrange your marriage, Eddie, and I never will. Don't like that custom—I met and fell in love with your mother all on my own and I couldn't imagine what life would have been if I hadn't. And when she died, it was Katherine—once again someone that I never would have met if it hadn't been for your mother—who helped me pick up the pieces and I ever so slowly fell in love again. Take your time—make up your own mind. And if Moira Tyrell is good enough for you, well." Thomas smiled, "then she's good enough for me."

The Protector paused for a moment. "Of course, there is the question, are you good enough for Moira Tyrell?" And he chuckled as Edward blushed again.

"Gee, thank you, Pop."

"I don't think you have to worry on that score—according to Erwin, she's bouncing on her tip-toes to see you again." and once again, the blush returned and Thomas laughed.

"But that is for later. I'm out here on New Vallis to meet you because you and I and my government are going to be holding negotiations out here with ComStar to end the Interdiction."

Edward sat up and his face grew serious as he considered what Thomas had just told him. "When?" he asked.

"Three days." answered Thomas. "Via real-time HPG; ComStar has already sent out an advance team to ensure that the New Vallis station is ready and able to handle such."

Thomas waited for a moment and then he nodded. "So, if your lady love can wait for a few days, Eddie, you and I have work to do."

"Understood, Pop."

"Good. Now let's get started." and Thomas unbuttoned the cuffs of his shirt and rolled up the sleeves. "First . . ." and the Protector and his son began to make their plans.

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