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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 34

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Aftermath of Betrayal[]

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Royal Arcadian March
Royal Federation
26th January, 3143

Peter left the Privy Council meeting with the firm intention of returning to his rooms and checking on his ailing spouse.  But with every step his mind gravitated back to the practical implications of what he'd just enabled.  His endorsement, and the Privy Council's agreeing vote that included most of the Cabinet's votes in the affirmative, meant that the treaty was likely to pass in some fashion, and whether it did or not, could cause further disruption in Parliament if terms were particularly unwelcome or misunderstood.  There were parts of the treaty he wanted to see firmed up, with better wording, if it was going to pass Parliament's scrutiny.

By the time he made it to the lift, he'd decided that, as much as he wanted to see how Kevin was recovering, he needed to speak with Trillian first, and some of the particulars he had in mind.  He sent the lift to the eighth floor instead of the third.  Upon its arrival on the landing he was waived through the security checkpoint and into the wing of suites where the Lyran delegation was housed.  Trillian's rooms were the largest suite, set into the Palace's northeast corner, and he followed the appropriate hall until he came to the double doors.  He noted the electronic lock was secure and knocked at the door.

No one answered.

Every second was agony.  Crimson shades and blackness danced at Trillian's vision while she tried in vain to get free of MacCarter's deadly grip. So close, I'm so close, she despaired.  It can't happen like this! She struggled to get her hand under the wire but couldn't, nor could she pull away with how MacCarter had her pinned against the table.

Desperately Trillian pitched forward, as if to fully lay over the table.  It put even more strain on her choking throat to do so, but it ensured MacCarter came forward too.  Their weight, together, pushed the entire table over, causing both to fall on top of it.  It was a painful landing.  Even worse, MacCarter rolled with it enough to keep the garrote on her throat.  The assassin didn't flinch from keeping the pressure up, rolling to pin Trillian to the ground.

It was all for nothing.  She was about to die.

Just as the despair set in, the door flew open.  Through her bleary, diminishing vision Trillian faintly recognized the face of Prince Peter.  A moment later heat and weight pressed down on her.  There was a sharp blow, a crack, and an involuntary cry.  The press of the wire lost its strength and Trillian was finally able to get a hand under it, pulling it from her throat enough to suck in a breath of air.  Her aching lungs received it like a dying fire receiving fresh fuel.

There were more blows behind her before the particular buzzing noise of a needler gun going off.  A male cry of pain echoed in Trillian's ear and some of the weight behind her moved.  Trillian turned and looked up at the sight of MacCarter's right hand holding the needler towards Prince Peter, now laid against the fallen table with blood issuing from his shoulder.  The gun started to swing back towards her.  Self-defense training sprung into place and Trillian's legs shot out, one going up against MacCarter's shin while the other leg lashed out in a kick at the assassin's knee.  The blow didn't break anything, but it threw MacCarter's balance off.  She pitched forward.  While her head still felt like it was spinning in place Trillian forced enough movement to roll on MacCarter, grasping at her right arm to get the gun away.  One hand, then the other, managed to get onto MacCarter's wrist and twist.  The assassin hissed in pain, then yowled.  Just a little more, Trillian thought, urging her arm to keep the pressure up until the firearm was free.

The assassin's left arm moved.  It didn't move properly at all, given the damage done to it by Peter in freeing her from the garrote, but it moved fast enough that Trillian was taken by surprise by the punch.  Her head snapped to the side and her grip slackened.  Agony flooded her belly at the sharp impact there by MacCarter's knee, costing Trillian the breath she was taking and leaving her too stunned to keep her grip on the right wrist.  The assassin pulled the arm free just as Trillian, trying to recover her focus, turned her head back to face MacCarter.  With cold, unfeeling eyes, the assassin's needler came up towards her head.

Behind MacCarter, a massive form loomed into view, moving at high speed from the hall.  Clearing the open doors, they shifted from a sprint to what Trillian’s pain-addled mind still recognized as a diving rugby-style tackle, landing on MacCarter and crushing her, the large armored glove coming down on her hand and covering the needler completely.

"Clear the room!" a voice barked.  Trillian lifted her eyes at the power armor-clad soldiers appearing at the door, two of which moved inward.  Two more came up behind them, in the same colors and insignia of the Second Proctor Guards' Eighteenth Royal Rangers Regiment.  "Summon the medics!  We have wounded!"

Trillian fought her vertigo and pain to get back to a sitting position. The guard who made the dive on MacCarter was standing up.  There was no movement from Trillian's would-be killer.  Her hand was crumpled, the bones broken given the ferocity of the way the soldier grabbed it, and the needler held within looked like the barrel was slightly bent.  A few visible wounds now showed, where she'd been crushed enough to break skin.  Her cold eyes were now completely lifeless and her head hung unnaturally from her shoulders, the neck broken by the impact of the guard landing on her in his suit.

"Clear!  Moving on!"  The soldiers moved further in, the doors just large enough to permit clearance for their power armor.

"Are you all right?"  Peter's voice was tight with pain, but it was strong. She turned towards her unexpected savior.   The right arm of his suit was soaked crimson with his blood, now dripping onto the carpet.  His shoulder was a mess of fabric and torn flesh from the needler shot.

"Alive," she managed, her voice unintentionally harsh given she was still trying to get her breath.  "You're hurt."

"Flesh wound.  Mostly."

By this point the better part of a platoon were in the room, with one squad clearing the rest of the suite and another holding the entrance door and the guest parlor.  Trillian grabbed at the covering cloth of the fallen table and wadded it to press against Peter's shoulder.  "Thank you," she said.  "I… it happened so fast, I never expected…"  Maurer, it has to be.  He found a Loki operative disloyal to Melissa.  Vedet wouldn't have a chance of finding one.

"You're welcome, Lady Trillian," Peter said.  "I was coming to see you about the treaty.  Heard a crash through the door, realized something was wrong, called for help and went in."  He laughed bitterly.  "I always thought my days of getting shot at were over.  Even in politics."

"I envy your Inner Sphere that you can feel that way," Trillian said.  She focused entirely on treating the wound, all the way until medics arrived and shooed her away.  She went over and lowered herself into a chair, one not knocked over, and worked to regain her breath.  A glance at her noteputer and the inactive screen showed her neck was already turning blue from the garrote wire, and her cheek and eye were puffing up from the last blow she'd taken.  Her belly continued to ache as well.

The squad that went through the suite came back.  "Everything clear of hostiles," one of the soldiers said, voice slightly crackly through the suit radio.  "Ready for the security teams to do a full sweep."

"Good job."  Another of the armored guardsman turned towards her.  Given the bits of blood on his suit, she realized it was the guard who jumped on MacCarter.  "Sergeant John Laszlo, Lady" he said, in a slight Germanic accent.  "Do you need anything?  Another medic is coming for your wounds."

"A glass of water, and a printer," she replied, somewhat hotly.  Now that she was out of danger her fury at Maurer and Vedet was growing.  They sent an assassin with me.  And that assassin was so devoted as to try this over… over what?  Melissa's name on the treaty?  I should have known better.  Some of her fury turned inward.  I should have expected this from them, but I was so focused on everything else…

"Sergeant." A guardswoman in the same suit stepped up and saluted.  "Colonel Francis, Colonel Laughlin, and Director Mwangi are on their way."  Trillian recognized the second and third name mentioned, one being the commander of the Lifeguards Regiment and the other the Director of the Royal Security Service.  "SIS wants us to keep the suite clear until further notice.  EOD personnel en route."

"Put a team in each room and a squad here and outside the door.  No entry until personnel are cleared."

"And my printer, Sergeant?" Trillian asked.

"My Lady, we can get you one while you're seen to in the palace infirmary."

"I do not req—"  She stopped herself.  She could hardly return to Nathaniel looking like this, nor could she just leave Prince Peter's side.  And a suspicion gripped her. Was MacCarter the only one?  Could another of my staff be an assassin in waiting too, or working with them?  "Thank you, Sergeant.  Let me collect my noteputer and we shall go."

"I can provide you with another.  Everything here needs to remain for the security investigation, Director Mwangi's orders."

"Very well."  She stood.  She had some slight disorientation, but it was starting to fade.  The pain, however, was not.  "I'm ready, but I wish to go with Prince Peter."

"Understood, Lady Trillian."

The damaged doors swung wide, admitting a stretcher pushed by an orderly with nurses and a physician following.  The orderly and nurses went to work on Prince Peter while Trillian watched, getting her feet back.  They departed together.

Privy Council Regroups[]

In the AFRF's operational levels of the subbasement, the usual wardroom was set aside, and the meeting attendants gathered slowly as they made their way through the appropriate checkpoints.  Arnold fumed with quiet frustration at the even smaller ranks of their ad hoc committee, with some of his peers no longer attending.  Senator Stewart was likewise gone, though Zento and Deputy Director Rinaldi made due appearances, the latter coming in late.  "Apologies," she said before taking her seat.  "The fiasco upstairs had me dealing with Directors Mwangi and Frobisher."

"Lady Trillian survived, I hear?" Zento asked, in the tone of a man very much wishing to be wrong.

"She did.  Prince Peter came to discuss treaty matters with her and stumbled upon the assassin strangling her.  He was shot in the resulting altercation, but the Second Proctor Guards infantry who responded to his call stopped the assassin before she could kill either Peter or Trillian."

"A shame he was not a minute later."

A few sets of eyes glared toward Zento.  He returned the glares.  "She has poisoned the King's mind and turned him against our interests.  Her death would bring an end to this mockery."

"Or would require us to retaliate against her killers as a matter of principle," Admiral Lumwe replied.  "An attack on a royal guest, in the Palace?  That would have been a supreme humiliation we could not tolerate."

"An excellent point, Admiral," Arnold said.  "So let's be thankful for my cousin's sense of timing, and his survival."

"Even with the way he betrayed us today?"

To General Montague's question, Arnold nodded quietly.  "Yes.  I will have my reckoning with him for that, but he is still flesh and blood, he is a Proctor-Steiner.  Had he died we would have all been honorbound to demand justice from the Lyran assassins."

"Our battle is not yet lost," Juliana Steiner insisted.  "We can bring this fight to Parliament.  If Senator Zento and others can block support, then there will be no funding for the war, Nathaniel will have to back down."

Baroness Newson, the AFRF's Quartermaster-General, spoke up next.  "Yet you may promote a logjam on the spending we do need, since it will rile up the Peace bloc in the process.  Maybe Admiral Stewart is correct, we should accept the conflict is coming and ensure the buildup is directed towards what we need to resist the Empire."

"Even if we prevail in this fight, it is a distraction that moves us past our window of opportunity!" Arnold shouted.  "They will never defeat the Clans before 3145, not with how strong they are, Nathaniel's war will give the Empire the time it needs!  We have to stop it."

"You are being unrealistic," General Rosinsky, Newson's chief of staff, barked.  "The King's wishes are clear, he will refuse any proposal to strike the Empire.  We may as well use the fight he does want as a chance to build up our forces and prepare them for the next war."

"That's a defeatist sentiment, General." Juliaia retorted.  "We can still make this work."

"Not from where we're sitting," Newson said.  "You lost Peter's support, without Peter we have no hope of persuading the King.  It's time we accepted EAGLE CRY is never happening and begin preparations for alternative solutions."

"Then we will be at war with the Empire within ten years, and at a severe disadvantage." Arnold predicted.  I cannot believe I am hearing this.  I cannot believe everyone is giving up so easily, all because of my foolish cousin!  "And I cannot, in good conscience, simply give up the chance to turn things our way."

"You have no remaining options to 'turn things our way', Lord Arnold," General Paul Steiner-Brewer observed.  "Peter's words are clear.  The King will not be swayed, and he will not try.  We must follow policy or resign, and I will not resign for your ego."

Arnold's temper slipped loose.  His fists slammed on the table.  "Then go and be damned, coward!" he shouted.  "If you haven't the strength of will to stay with this fight to the end, you're no better than the diplomats who signed that damned Dieron peace treaty when we nearly had the Empire broken!  No better than the politicians of Parliament that forced Queen Jacqueline to give up on MORNING STAR right when we'd almost secured Sirius!  Time and time again our soldiers win battles and victories that people like you throw away out of fear!  Well, go off and join them, but as far as I'm concerned, you have no right to wear that uniform!"

Lord Paul's face paled with rage.  "I lost my eldest son and daughter in that war." he hissed.  "Unlike you. You lost none of your own children.  So don't you damn well evoke my dead children against me again, or I'll have you for a duel, regulations be damned."  His eyes swept over the room.  "I do not trust the Empire, and will do all in my power to make ready for their eventual attack, but this council is quickly becoming the sort of cabal that could bring down our Federation.  Come what may, we have a duty to stand with our ruler, wrong as he is, and ensure the war he is embarking on will be fought quickly and successfully, whatever our feelings.  Then we can resume our work to prepare King Nathaniel and the realm for our next war with the Empire.  It may not be under the circumstances EAGLE CRY would have allowed us, but we must face reality."  He glared at Arnold once more.  "No matter what is thought by some of our number."

"I am still going to endeavor to kill this alliance in the Senate, General, whatever you say," Zento insisted.  "The Isle of Skye must be protected, not Lyrans a cosmos away!"

If Zento had been hoping for angry repudiation, he didn't get it.  Paul Steiner-Brewer waved him off dismissively.  "Then do so, Lord Senator, and if you succeed, then so be it.  But if you do not, we must be ready to see our realm through to victory as quickly and painless as possible, and ensure we are ready for the battles to come."

"It is clear we have little more to discuss," said Admiral Stewart.  "We'll meet again after we see the results of Senator Zento's efforts."  He stood.  "I respectfully suggest everyone be careful in departing.  Security will be tighter than ordinary given this assassination business."

Nods and murmurs of agreement came as the assembled filed out.  Arnold stewed in his own unspent wrath and fury.  Damn that boy, damn Peter for spoiling him, damn Lady Trillian for her honeyed words, and damn the Devil for making that Hell-spawned portal in the first place!  Everything I've worked years to set up is unraveling!

"Marshal." The voice of Juliana Steiner prompted him to raise his head.  She and Deputy Director Rinaldi were the only people left in the wardroom.  "Our colleagues will only go so far.  I suggest we pave the way for them by ensuring they have the information they will need once the time for action comes."

"It  is about all we can do," he said, anger still festering.  "But I fear that the Empire will get the last laugh here."

"Oh, there are always methods we can use to progress matters." Rinaldi said candidly.  "But for the good of our realm, we must act within the confines of our system, as great as a struggle as it may prove."

"Exactly," Juliana agreed.  "Preparations have been made and must be continued.  We need you for that."

"Then I am yours," Arnold said.  "Come what may, we will save our nation from our King, even if we can't save him from his own idealistic stupidity."

Aftermath of an Assassination[]

Part of the first subbasement level was given over to the Palace Infirmary.  Staffed by civilian medical personnel hired by the Palace itself, it was primarily for the benefit of the residents and work force should medical emergencies arise, even containing a surgical theater, as well as a direct outlet to an outside helipad for evacuation to a full hospital if it was necessary.

Nathaniel entered the infirmary at a rapid pace, coming from his personal lift, flanked by a pair of Chasseur-clad Lifeguards of the Lifeguard Armored Infantry.  An attending nurse directed him to the wound care ward.  He approached the only occupied beds.  Peter and Trillian were already in gowns being treated.  "Thank God," Nathaniel said to them at approaching.  Peter still looked a little pale to his eye, with his shoulder tightly bandaged.  Trillian looked rather worse.  A band of purple-blue crossed over her throat and another splotch of the color marred the left side of her face.  "I was afraid of the worst.  You have my most heartfelt apologies for this attack, I have already demanded Director Mwangi launch a full investigation into how this could have happened."

"Thank you, Majesty," Trillian said politely.  As ever she gave the air of a natural diplomat, though Nathaniel thought she looked rather less poised than she'd been elsewhere.  Her body posture was still tense, even here in the safety of his infirmary.  Would I be any different had I been assaulted in my private rooms?

"Director Mwangi tells me your killer was working for the usurpers on your Tharkad?"

Trillian nodded.  "She said as much.  That was all she said, in fact.  Many in the LIC are supposedly on the fence, with Loki loyal to Archon Melissa, but Maurer may have found an agent willing to work for him instead.  Either way, it's clear I was being watched for 'disloyalty' to the new regime.  She must have seen the draft treaty and Melissa's name in Vedet's place."

"I've asked for security to confirm how she got through our checkpoints with a firearm." he asked

"They will find the needler is made of scanner-resistant composites, and may be a self-assembled weapon easily carrier in pieces that wouldn't identify as a weapon."  Trillian shook her head.  "LIC has their ways."

As does the SIS, I suspect.  Nathaniel nodded and turned his head to Peter.  "Uncle, thank you, is there anything I can do for you?"

Peter smiled thinly.  "Nothing I can think of at the moment, Nathaniel, and you're welcome.  Though actually… can you make sure Kevin is all right?"

"I visited him while waiting for clearance to see you, he's coming down as soon as he's cleared.  He's worried, but with Director Mwangi's help we reassured him you were in reasonably good health, so he's doing fine himself."

A small sigh escaped Peter's throat.  'Good.  I don't need him hurting himself out of fear for me."

"I made it clear to him, as his sovereign, that he had to care for himself to," Nathaniel said, grinning softly.  "He took it to heart."  All the same, he's right to be upset.  We all are.  This should not happen in the Palace!  Just looking at Peter's bandaged wound filled him with anger and a small sense of violation.  Someone must answer for this!

Nathaniel turned back to Trillian.  "The sooner we get the alliance signed, the sooner you can return home and sort out these usurpers, yes?"

She nodded once, briefly obscuring the angry bruise on her neck.  "Yes, Your Majesty."

"You may call me Nathaniel here, Lady Trillian, the infirmary isn't exactly a formal setting," he said.

"Very well, Nathaniel.  The same goes to you."

He nodded.  "When you are up to it, I should like to get the alliance terms finalized for Parliament's consideration.  In the meantime, given the state of your rooms, I have a spare suite in the family's wing I can provide, under the direct observation of the Lifeguards."

Trillian nodded, a small smile forming on her face.  "Thank you, Nathaniel, for that hospitality."

"You're welcome.  We'll also investigate the rest of your staff and see if any of them were in collusion with this."

"Lord Marienberg is above reproach," Trillian said, "as are my other advisors and domestic aides.  I can't speak for the entirety of the Archon's Fist's crew, obviously, but Kapitän Mullen would not be in league with the usurpers, nor can I imagine the same of his senior officers."

"I see.  I'll leave it to you, then, and see to it you receive all relevant information in our investigation."  It is better if her people do this, he reasoned. A terrible thing I cannot make my own displeasure known more greatly to the usurpers, but it would destabilize too much.  And to think today looked to be a triumph.  If Peter hadn't been there…  "Well, I had hoped to continue talks this evening, but I don't wish to impose given your condition."

Trillian's smile grew.  She reached under the pillow beside her and brought out a tablet noteputer.  "I am more than willing to continue our work, Nathaniel.  I consider it an appropriate response to the usurpers and their assassins."

"So it would be."  He glanced about until he found a nearby chair, which he pulled over.  "Uncle, I do not wish to impose?"

Peter chuckled softly.  "Better this than getting bored waiting for release. Perhaps you should call Lady Jessup and have her participate?  Remotely, if she doesn't wish to join us in person."

"An excellent suggestion."  Nathaniel pulled out his comm.  As he brought up Jessup's contact, a thought crossed his mind.  This is the kind of negotiation that goes into the history books for oddness, isn't it?

Still, despite the setting, he could think of no better way to respond to the assassin's masters than to get the treaty approved immediately.

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