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Chapter 52[]

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

Prologue, Book 2, The Hammer Falls

Briefing on New Avalon[]

Main Briefing Room
Mount Davion
New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
September 26th, 3057

Katherine Steiner-Davion looked over the wreckage of the recently concluded briefing. The map of the planets remaining to the Confederation burned into her brain. Yuris still flashed between the gold of the Commonwealth, and the green of the Confederation. It did so more brightly with Sian, and half a dozen other worlds alternated between purple and green along the Capellan-League border. All hell has broken loose there, but it's all the doing of the various regional militaries, Corrine has yet to mobilize the Federal units, heck, she's called her volunteers home, well, mostly. She's not giving up Van Diemen IV, Elnath, or Corey. Not happy about that, but that may be a problem to settle later.

Her attention returned to Sian, as her blue eyes took in the readouts displaying the latest information from the fighting. Her briefers from DMI and the AFFS had been very thorough in breaking it down for her, but she still felt there was something missing. She had severe misgivings about Kai's idea of an avalanche drop on the Forbidden City. One of the briefers said we'd lose a third of the droppers before they even hit ground, and half the total force in the fighting. That was assuming total success, and relief within five days, which I am not sure is possible. Neither was Jackson, which concerns me. She thought

A cough disturbed her reverie. She turned with a start, it was her brother Victor, resplendent in his 'walking out' uniform from his 10th Lyran Guards days. She smiled weakly.

"Still trying to find a way not to execute Dao?" Victor intoned

Katherine nodded. "The answer doesn't present itself. Kai has to know this is an invitation to suicide."

"I dunno, Katherine, if there's anyone who can pull it off, it's Kai and his collection of Clanners. Not to mention, he'll have Ross McKinnon and some of the Ceti Hussars with him. He'll be alright. A mixed battalion plus ought to be enough to hold the palace and spaceport till help arrives. At the very least, it will confuse things for the Capellans." Victor strode over and sat down in the empty seat next to hers.

Katherine nodded "He's good, Victor, but is he that good? I can't help but think of the story of Arnhem and how they thought it was a great idea then."

Victor nodded, their father had made sure their education had had a good basic grounding in history, especially military history. Dad wasn't 100% sure which one of us would wind up inheriting the family business, but it's a poor analogy here.

"Dear sister, the good news is that the terrain, while crappy, isn't Dutch polders and marshland. It's jungle. So, it's far more doable. Jungle cut through by several six lane highways, all leading to the Forbidden City. God bless the Liaos and their 'Hero Projects'. That said, I am sure even Sun-Tzu will expect it. Frankly, I doubt he's even in the Forbidden City anymore. The Capellans have leadership bunkers all over Sian. He's probably in one of those."

"That's the other thing that concerns me. Suppose we take the damn city, and Kai orders a surrender, but not everyone obeys. Now we have a civil war in a state on our other border, and we're already having issues with the one we have." she told her brother

Victor grimaced as if he'd been kicked in the ribs. "Yeah, I know. Omi has intelligence just as good as our own from her O5P sources, the ones that are left that is. That's drying up. They've been declared as ronin by both sides, and are being rolled up."

"She's not taking the news well, is she?" Katherine asked, her royal mask dropping for a second with genuine concern for her brother, and a woman that she now considered a good friend.

Victor nodded. "Shin Yodama brings her news on the casualties in the O5P weekly. She bears it stoically, at least in public, but with me? Well, we've both had a good cry about it. Me for our parents, and Omi for her family, and her people. You think Dad knew this would be the end result?"

Katherine shrugged "I don't know, brother. I would like to think he did. But our parents, dare we say it, were human. And I think he honestly thought Sun-Tzu Liao was a much craftier fellow than he's turned out to be, and would not bet the future of his nation on a 'pair of 8s' as Auntie Yvvone would have put it. He sure would not have thought that Sun-Tzu would have used terrorism on such a scale."

"I didn't either, Sister. I met him on Outreach. He was a survivor hiding behind the mask of a coward. This entire war was not the act of a survivor, but a man who wanted to prove he was better than his ancestors. He was grasping at an opportunity I think he believed would never come again." Victor sighed thoughtfully, his brow furrowing with concern.

"There is one other concern?" Katherine intoned.

"Yeah, and what's that?" Victor queried, the look in his eyes saying "I love you Sis, but damn your good points."

"With the command and control networks breaking down on the other side, what control do they have over their special weapons?" Katherine asked plaintively.

Victor swore in German a phrase that would have had their mother reaching for the lye soap. "Christ on a crutch. Last thing we need is some Capellan Arrow IV battery commander with delusions of grandeur getting ideas of 'Xin Sheng and pass the sunshine.' I'll give Quintus a call, we may need to have the Rabid Foxes seize their nuclear stockpile on Sian, we know where most of it is."

"Most, brother?" Katherine said, an upward lilt in her voice betraying not a small bit of concern.

"These are never a sure thing. There are still some loose nukes from the Falcon and Viper arsenals from when we overran Sudeten and Waldorff. We suspect they took them with them when they fled, or its shoddy paperwork...but..." Victor trailed off, looking off in the distance.

It was Katherine's turn to swear as both contemplated a dark future indeed.

Transmission to Gibson[]

Private Office of the Primus of the Word of Blake
Harrisburg City, Gibson
Free Worlds League
September 30th, 3057

"...and you are sure the Capellans will not manage to save the situation?" queried Precentor Martial Trent Arian of the image on the wall screen. This live (Real Time) HPG hookup was expensive, thousands of C-Bills spent per second. But it's useful in circumstances such as these. Precentor ROM Kernoff thought as he rubbed his chin thoughtfully.

<<"No, Precentor Martial.">> the image of Precentor Daphene Chrysler, commander of the Word of Blake Militia 2nd Division, looked drawn and tired. There were dark rings around her eyes that contrasted with her off-white field robes and the locks of stringy blonde hair that looked matted under the weeks of lacking even a decent bath. <<"I don't think the Capellans will last much longer than the middle of October. Even their legendary fanaticism is beginning to wane. The on-planet ammunition reserve is beginning to run down. It's my professional opinion they have one more good battle in them, and then their defense will collapse due to a mix of moral and logistical exhaustion.">>

"What of our own forces?" Precentor Martial Arian's voice raised an octave, knowing the answer he'd get, but was hoping he wouldn't.

<<"We have fought well, sir. But the fact is, we're the only functional formations the Capellans have outside of House Immara. And what concerns me is the Capellans have been talking about a counterattack into the teeth of the Commonwealth advance to 'save' the Forbidden City. I've taken a look at the operational planning. A first-year adept could do better.">>

Arian grimaced "So there is no hope for the Capellans at this point?"

<<"No sir, there isn't. It is my sincere recommendation that we evacuate and save what we can. I can get our people out within ten days of your order.">> Chrysler responded.

"Why so long, Chrysler?" Precentor ROM Kernoff said, the warning tone obvious in his voice. Has your loyalty to our holy cause wavered, Chrysler? Are you planning to surrender it all to the Davions and save your own skin?

<<"It's the Capellans, Sir. They've got lots of military police and Maskirovka assets roaming the rear areas, hanging anyone they think is deserting. And they've not been too careful about it. I've lost four men and women myself to their bloody-mindedness.">> Chrysler spat at the last comment.

"Chrysler, I hereby order you to save what you can. Our Capellan allies have failed, and we must see to ourselves. As shameful as that is, there is no other way to address it. Furthermore, I authorize you to activate CASE TALON upon your escape." Precentor Martial Arian stated matter of factly, but the gasps in the room gave proof that CASE TALON was anything but routine.

<<"Precentor Martial, sir. I will do as you say, but please Sir, please tell me that CASE TALON is at my discretion?">> Chrysler's voice had almost taken on a begging tone. Blake no, I can't think things are that bad! Kernoff thought.

"It is, but under the circumstances, I would suggest it. But again, it's up to you, Precentor Chrysler. You are furthermore ordered to not accept any demand to surrender, under any circumstances. You are to fight to the last believer and 'Mech in the event you cannot escape and this applies to ALL sides on Sian." Arian had dropped the other boot, and it was lead-lined.

Chrysler simply nodded and said <<"As you will, Precentor Martial. For the Blessed Blake.">>

The Precentor Martial simply nodded and smiled thinly, "For the Blessed Blake, Precentor. See to your command."

The screen terminated at the source, a Word of Blake Broadsword sigil against a blue background replacing the image of the Precentor light years away. Precentor Martial Arian turned to the rest of those assembled. "So, we can assume CORONET DAWN has failed then?"

Kernoff nodded slowly. "I do not see many other options but to assume complete failure. At least our base here is safe with Corrine's 'militant neutrality.'

"Is it, Kernoff? My own sources inside the FWLM are stating they are seeing troop movements they cannot account for; of units they've never heard of. And what of Paul Marik? He's been missing since the beginning of this month, and we have no idea where he went. If I were the Captain-General, and I were looking to get rid of us, it is how I'd go about it." Precentor Mulvanney said with a feral smile. I told these fools that backing the Capellan plan was madness. And now look where we are. We might lose two divisions on Sian and another on Yuris if we aren't careful!, he feisty thought

Primus William Blane, who had been sitting silently in a corner of the moderately sized living room-turned-conference-space, rose with a start, a look of disgust on his face as his robes twirled angrily. "No! Precentor Mulvanney is right. We are being set up for something. I see it in Corrine Marik's face whenever I get a ROM from her. She tells us sweet nothings, but I suspect she is setting us up. Whether its a blind eye to the Steiners coming here? Or she does it herself. Whatever the case? She is going to betray us, and soon. The Master has fortold-" Blane's voice was increasing in speed and volume, a fanatical light gleaming in his eyes.

Kernoff almost dropped his noteputer. "Blane, we don't discuss him!"

Blane turned to Kernoff "Whom do you think opened my eyes? The Master knows Corrine Marik all too well. He knows all. And he has saved his believers yet again. We must depart this place. Precentor Martial, how soon can we evacuate for Point Zulu?"

Trent Arian ran some numbers mentally, "Give me two weeks, and we can have this place a ghost town for whomever is coming."

Blane smiled "Good, and amend your instructions to Chrysler on Sian. She is to activate CASE TALON immediately to cover her own withdrawal. No sense in making it easy for Davion or Liao? Who knows, perhaps they will blow each other back to the stone age this time?"

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