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Chapter 4[]

Clover Spear - The Story of the '56 War[]

Book 1- A Time to Plan, A Time to Plot

October 8th, 3054
Celestial Palace
Forbidden City
Capellan Confederation

Sun-Tzu Liao was not in the best of moods, Getting anyone to do a damn thing around here without screwing it up is becoming difficult. And I am not my mother, so shooting them in job lots is out.

He re-read the reports recently presented by an official of the Ministry of Development. He had delivered his report with a nervous hilt in his voice, constantly tensing every time Sun-Tzu moved. My mother has done a lot of damage here, it seems “hopeless battle syndrome” can be found in the civilian bureaucracy as well. Even with the increased aid from his father in law’s “mysterious” benefactors,..whom I know to be the Word of Blake. SAFE’s attempts to cover this up was clumsy, and as usual,  the report’s findings were grim. Malnutrition and disease were stalking the worlds near the Periphery like the Christian angels of death. Millions had died on New Roland, Gunthar, and Ward. And it was only going to get worse.

The root cause of the humanitarian disaster was that the Capellan Confederation had been beaten badly in the 4th War. Losing most of Tikonov and Sarna had not just impacted the military production base, which had just now begun to recover, but the civilian economy, which was absolutely smashed flat with the loss of so much of the Confederation’s prosperity. The worlds on the Periphery border, always a little close to the margin, were pushed over, and in at least one case, on Hurik, the government had collapsed last year, necessitating Sun-Tzu to send in the Nightrider Regiment from McCarron’s Armored Cavalry to restore order.

It had been a bloody business, the Maskirovka “processed” some 30,000 “former citizens” for rebellion. Who knew how many servitors were among that number. Nobody bothered counting them. That was too reminiscent of my mother. Perhaps I made a mistake putting Kali in charge of that. Who knew she was a 21 year old sociopath? She is yet another problem I will have to deal with. He made sure to mentally note that idea, it was best it be done at a time where he needed a casus belli. He would order the Death Commandos to perform the deed, and make sure Davion got the blame. Regrettably, that is a part of the family tree that needs to be pruned, before it hurts the state any more than it already has.

A gong interrupted Sun-Tzu’s reverie, much to his minor annoyance. A junior courtier walked deliberately to the center of the throne room, and bowed deeply on one knee. “Celestial Wisdom, the briefers from the Ministry of Defense and the Maskirovka request permission to enter the throne room and inform your Excellency as to our efforts to defend the state and confound the Davion dogs!”

Sun-Tzu simply grunted his ascent. A few more briefings, and then I can get to what really needs getting to, as well as find my problematic wife…and convince her that it is our duty to produce a few heirs for the continuance of the Liao line! What was I thinking marrying a Marik? That had caused a bit of an issue on Pella II. Happily, the Maskirovka took care of that lot more quietly, only a half-dozen dead. Not to mention the dozens of nobles that have caused me nothing but grief about her. She is another branch that might need some pruning.

The usual teams of briefers entered the throne room, which was immediately cleared of all of the courtiers and hangers on, and the double doors sealed, with the air filling with an electronic hum of a white noise generator. The briefers were relatively junior level, and had at least one or more war wounds. This was tradition, and it was meant to be two-fold. The first aspect was to remind the sitting Chancellor of the price of war…and more importantly, the price of getting it wrong. The tradition was only interfered with in my grandfather’s day. By my grandfather himself. I know it is poor form to speak ill of the dead, but the state has prospered since my Grandfather’s “suicide”. A suicide he knew his mother had everything to do with.

And that lead to the second tradition. Many Capellan Chancellors had had taken “shooting the messenger” to an art form. If the Chancellor decided to eliminate the current briefing team…they could be easily replaced. His mother had been one of the worst offenders. I am still writing pardon scrolls to clean up some of her messes…some of the men and women she condemned to Brazen Heart were doing nothing more than their duty to the state. I must therefore, make it up to the survivors.

Sun-Tzu was beginning to remind himself of a commercial he had seen from his youth. It was for a kitchen mop that was supposedly made from the same material as moisture absorption systems used in a Battlemech Heat Sinks. The pitch man was loud, and obnoxious, and had he been a Capellan citizen, would have been executed by his mother for starting one of her “migraines”. As it was, he was a Canopean citizen and the commercial was broadcasting on Capellan entertainment networks announcing the arrival of the product in Capellan markets. But he was the Sham-Now, and there was just so much blood to clean up…and only one mop to do it.

And the laughter of my mother in my head does not help. Sun-Tzu mused.

The briefing had been droning on with internal rebellions being crushed here, an occasional pirate raid there, the briefers always saved the most distressing news for last. It increased their potential life expectancy. Sun-Tzu braced himself for the worst, he had been getting some private reports from Marcus Baxter, CO of McCarron’s Armored Cavalry, as well as from Yaquinto Yadi, House Master of House Immara, and by default, leader of the Capellan Warrior House Order. Both had many unofficial links throughout the Inner Sphere, and those links had proven useful to Sun-Tzu for a variety of intelligence data that the Maskirovka had either ignored, or missed. Why the Director of my own intelligence agency chooses to overlook these things intrigues me. It also perturbs me, but it intrigues me.

It was at that moment, that a statement by one of the military briefers mentioned, a young female Captain. She was tall, with features that suggested a mixed Chinese/Russian ancestry. She had a fire of intelligence and bravery in equal measure in her one good eye, and if not for the facial scarring, would have been considered pretty. There was no questioning her bravery, she proudly wore the Grand Cordon of Merit proudly on the breast of her uniform. “Celestial Wisdom, the most important part of the briefing is the movement of some 10 RCTs and another 5 unaffiliated regiments have moved from their base worlds in the Federated Suns State Command to unknown destinations, we suspect movements towards Lyran space.”

Sun-Tzu’s face hardened. “How have you come by the information? Captain? Could this be another Davion trick to precede them finishing what their Operation RAT began?”

“No, your Celestial Wisdom. Sources and Methods have confirmed the jump paths from the base worlds. We are not 100% sure where they are headed, but the signatures suggest directions towards Lyran space.”

Could be anything from reports from allied flag merchants, to Mask agents in place, to some Zhuang-de-Guang guerilla with a telescope, and a means to get the information out. Still, the quality of the information is maddening. “And what, Captain, if I were to ask you to stake your life on this information? Would you?”

“I have done so for the Confederation before, Celestial Wisdom. What would one more time be?”

Sun-Tzu smiled. “I like you, Major. You are smart and brave in equal measure. And I admire that. It is a pity more Citizens of the Capellan State lack your moral courage.” He then in one fluid motion drew a small automatic pistol and shot the head of the Maskirovka briefing team in the head. The report startled the palace guards, and reverberated across the walls for moments afterwards.  The team leader’s almond colored head snapped back, a rooster tail of blood streaming from the exit wound in the back of his skull as he collapsed to the floor like a puppet with his strings cut. The body slammed into the floor with a THUD. The smell of gunpowder was heavy, and fragrant as a wisp of smoke curled from the short barrel of the small pistol in the Chancellor’s hand.

Sun-Tzu surveyed the room, noting fear in the eyes in all but one, the newly minted Major. I like her. She is Capellan In thought, in deed, and in spirit.

“The failure you see before you is an example of the failure of the Chancellors that came before me. This man was promoted far beyond his station..or his competence.” Sun-Tzu hissed, acid dripping from his words “He was a favorite of my mother, and her consort. I play no such favorites. You must earn my favor, or you will end up like that refuse on the floor. I will reward competence, character, loyalty to the state, cunning, bravery, and above all, honesty. Respectful disagreement will be encouraged. Lack of respect, or worse, incompetence and acting like a fawning sycophant, will not.”

“Major, what is your name, and your former regiment?” he asked her

“I was a member of the Sung’s Cuirassiers, Celestial Wisdom. My company was shattered by a Davion battalion during a raid, but we made them pay for our lives! I got four of the dogs before I was shot out of my Cataphract and was badly injured during my ejection. I was brought into staff work at the Ministry after being discharged from the hospital here on Sian. My superior at the Ministry noticed I had a knack for intelligence analysis.”

Sun-Tzu smiled again, “You do, inform your superior you are now attached to the palace staff as a personal advisor, and about your promotion. Also inform him he is to be promoted as well. I will let the Ministry work out the details. Were there any survivors of your company, Major?”

“Regrettably, no, Celestial Wisdom. They all died in service to the state.” the Major seemed regretful at that last question. She struck Sun-Tzu as the type of commander who had cared for her people, and their deaths, and her own disability was a measure of shame for her.

Sun-Tzu stepped down off the throne, and strode over to the Major, placing one of his long, carbon-fibre reinforced nails gently under her chin, lifting it until her eye met his. “Major, I allow you a special privilege, as my advisor, I order you, except when rendering courtesies, to always look me in the eye. Because I need a clear-eyed teller of the truth to navigate the Capellan State. You see what I have to work with here…What is your name, Major?” as he swept his hand across the remains of the shocked Mask team.

“Shang, Alexa Shang, Celestial Wisdom.”

“Very well, Major Shang. I look forward to our time together. I believe it will be more than productive.” Sun-Tzu then snapped his fingers and a palace Servitor appeared as if by magic. “Move Major Shang into the guest quarters, and ensure that her office is ready by tomorrow. She will be treated well, and ensure that her background check is expedited by the Maskirovka. And summon my Senior Colonels, I think we need to reevaluate what can be done with this information.”

The servitor meekly replied “Yes, Celestial Wisdom.”

Sun-Tzu Liao returned to his throne as the briefing teams bowed and made to leave. He waved them onward. Major Shang stood off to one side, her face wan, as she took it all in with grace.

“So tell me, Major. Do you think with our new alliance with the Mariks, that we are strong enough to deal Victor Davion the blow he deserves?”

“No, Celestial Wisdom. The AFFC is strong enough to hold us off, but not strong enough to invade us. We would be bogged down in a conflict that would soon come to resemble the 3rd Succession War. But, I think these recent troop movements give us an opportunity, as you said. But I think it will depend on whether or not we can enlist the aid of the Captain-General.”

Sun-Tzu nodded. “You are correct. We must find a way to ensure that he has no choice but to participate. Were we to strike, Major, where would you do so?”

“It would depend upon the goal of the offensive, Celestial Wisdom, but I think it would be best to keep our own objectives limited, and doable. Overreach could be our destruction.” Shang said flatly.

“I concur, Major. This is why I want you when I speak with my Senior Colonels. Some, like Zahn and Rush are wise men whom skilled in the ways of war. Some, well, it is best to say that their zeal to serve the Capellan state outweighs their good sense.”

  • Sun-Tzu Liao was unlike most of the Chancellors in our then-recent history. He was mercurial to be sure, but he was wise and sane unlike his mother, and grandfather before him. The policy reforms in Capellan life that he has instituted since the war are sure to make him revered in the same breath as IIse Liao. It is not a comparison I make lightly. He has been a fresh air for the Capellan people. The fact that OPERATION EAST SEA almost worked was a testament to his cunning, patience, and intelligence. As it was, we taught the Davion to fear us again. It was a heady feeling to get our respect back even with what it eventually cost us.

    I wish I could say the same for our allies…or even for some of the Chancellor’s closest advisers.

My Years with the Chancellor”, Alexa Shang, Colonel, CCAF (Ret), Loyalty Press, Sian, 3075

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