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Emergence (Concertverse)
- Chapter 44

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Prepartions for Departure[]

Royal Palace
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Royal Federation
17th February, 3143

The final preparations were over, and after nearly three months, Trillian Steiner-Davion was on her way home.

Her final day began with a normal morning routine of a particularly rich breakfast and an extra-long shower, given she would be going without either for months. Once she was dressed and ready she saw to a final check to ensure her personal belongings, as well as any remaining gifts, were accounted for and on their way to the Archon's Fist. The rest of her staff saw to the same process in their suites, though some of their belongings were not being sent to the cargo spaces on the DropShuttles from Archon's Fist, but rather to the moving trucks carrying them to the new Lyran Embassy, down near the Capital District.

After a habitual final check to make absolutely certain she forgot nothing, Trillian gave her suite a final look at the door. While she was long familiar with having temporary living spaces, this suite would stick in her memories for the rest of her life. I almost died here. And despite everything I don't think I've ever worked so hard and so persistently from a single set of rooms. I spent so many long nights here, dictating letters, going over treaty terms, checking finances, reading and compiling histories into the early morning hours, and all those days getting dressed up and readied for interviews and meetings… and now it's done. I succeeded and I can return to Tharkad, treaty in hand. I wonder if I will ever see these rooms again? With that in mind she closed the door a final time and handed her keycard over to a waiting palace staffer, who thanked her and disappeared down the corridor.

Before going to the lift she walked past the open door to Lord Marienberg's suite. He was overseeing the final stages of his move to the new embassy. "Lord Ambassador," she said to him, smiling as she did.

"Lady Emissary." The older man returned the gesture. "It has been an honor to work with you, and to have such trust placed in me."

"You more than earned it, my Lord," she replied. "You'll represent the Commonwealth proudly."

"So is my hope. Safe voyages to you, my Lady, and may you remain safe." He gave her a final gentlemanly bow, which she returned before stepping away.

The lift ride, she noted, was playing the same symphony she'd heard the day she arrived. Then again, they do loop the same pieces every day, so not much symbolism there. Along the way she noted a few signs of changes. More RSS personnel, fewer Lifeguards, and the occasional enlisted personnel moving batches of crates down the access halls on the way to the pad where her DropShuttle awaited.

For all this activity, there were no grand state occasions today, at least, and she could casually take her leave of Arcadia, as much as she might have enjoyed a chance to see more of the world without the pressures of her mission. Still so much work to do when I get back.

Despite expectations, she did have a small contingent waiting for her near the shuttle. Nathaniel, Sophia, and Peter stood together, wearing the flowing gowns of regular court dress. She bowed in respect to each of them, in turn. "Your Majesty, Highness, Ladyship."

"Lady Trillian. It was a pleasure, despite the difficulties, to work with you." Nathaniel said, giving his own slighter return bow of his head, the platinum hawk tiara settled on his brow as always.

"You have been a most gracious host, and it has been my own pleasure to deal with all of you," she replied. "I look forward to introducing you to my cousin and the others on Tharkad."

"I look forward to meeting them," he assured her. "And you'll have quite the head start on me." Nathaniel grinned at his grand-uncle. "Uncle Peter has seen to that."

"A command circuit has been prepared, you should be at the Atocongo side of the Glass in a few days." Peter gave Nathaniel a knowing look. "It should give you time to arrange your internal matters now that you have the treaty, and ensure the Commonwealth is ready to receive Nathaniel and the troops he'll be leading."

There was no mistaking the slight flash of uncertainty that came over Lady Sophia, but only Trillian caught it for how quickly it disappeared. Sophia hides her concern well. Trillian felt the familiar quiet come over her own expression. No use feeling guilty. It is what it is. Hopefully now the Commonwealth will survive and so will King Nathaniel. "We will be ready regardless of how long it may take you." Even if I have to instruct Roderick and Jasek to drag Vedet out of the Archon's office! "Not alone either, I imagine?"

"No, which is why I'm still days from my own departure. Unfortunately it takes time to get thousands of troops ready for such deployments. I will be coming along shortly enough, though, with my Lifeguards, the Second Proctor Guards, and the Arcadian Rangers in my company. The other units will follow from their own starting points and join as quickly as they can. I will likely have a short stopover at Timkovichi to give the JumpShips time to transit out to the jump points, but it will be straight to Tharkad from there."

"They will all be welcome." And necessary, if the Wolves keep advancing.

"A safe voyage to you, Lady Trillian," Sophia said. "Hopefully we will see you again, perhaps for the wedding?"

Trillian smiled at the invitation. "I would be honored to be there, just as I would enjoy seeing you hosted at the Royal Court on Tharkad should you come to visit afterward." That would be a sight, I suppose. An allied Marik queen being officially welcomed at the Court.

After a final exchange of pleasantries and farewells, Trillian embarked on the shuttle. She found her seat and waited the remaining few minutes as the takeoff clearances were given, flight paths confirmed, and their escorts lined up. The kick of the shuttle's main engines pressed her into her seat, signaling their liftoff, and she watched the Royal Palace recede from the viewing ports, then the skyline of Roslyn itself. Soon the atmosphere itself was fading away, the blue gradually replaced by empty black void.

It's done. Now to return to Tharkad, and see to Vedet.

Final Goodbyes on the other side[]

Field Base Carroll
Near Cirenholm, Aurum Continent
Timkovichi, Coventry Province
Lyran Commonwealth
18th February, 3143

The change was complete for Field Base Carroll. Mostly gone were the emblems of the cuirass-clad hawk that the Second Royal Cuirassiers and their support formations employed; many insignia now depicted a rearing horse under a pair of crossed lances, a death's head insignia between the lance handles and a crown above; the insignia of the First Royal Lancers, with their motto "Death or Glory" along the insignia's edge. The sunhawk of the Eighth Strikers and the hound's head of the Kell Hounds were fairly prominent as well, though most of those units were posted to other bases going up across the planet.

Overlord Dropship (In flight in Atomsphere - Dave School MW)

Overlord Class Mech Carrier DropShip, lifting off

The distant roar of a DropShip fusion engine brought attention skyward, to the lifting off of what proved to be an Overlord II-class DropShip, one of the Second Royal Cuirassiers' 'Mech transports. Watching the launch from the door of the Field Base Carroll Headquarters, General Singh ruminated at how empty the bays were compared to their arrival. None of his battalions came below a thirty percent total loss rate, in machines and personnel. Second Battalion was down to just a company and a lance worth of effectives. The armor and infantry regiments suffered similarly, and Air Commodore Weiss had only forty percent of her aerospace fighters and a quarter of her hard-hit conventional wings left, including the loss of Group Colonel Sharpe.

He drew in a breath at the feeling of pain it brought him. So many good people, brave soldiers true to the Federation, and they were gone. Lost under his command.

"I guess this is goodbye, then." He turned at hearing the words, noting Colonel Kell, Lt. Colonel Allard, and General Bridger were coming out the door. Bridger's duffel bag matched Singh's own, the personal belongings from their offices. He saluted his superior even before Bridger noticed him, prompting Bridger to respond. Evan and Nadia joined him. "General Singh, makin' it out too?" Evan asked in his slight drawl.

"Yes. The Sir Johannes is waiting for me, with the last of my command staff and Brigadier Shawcross' command company aboard," he replied. "I make it a point to be the last man offworld. Just in case."

"Just in case." Bridger nodded in agreement. "They give you the final confirmation on where you're rebuilding?"

"I imagined Arc-Royal, but General von Luckner has recalled us to Fort Marsden." Singh replied.

"Donegal, then. Well, a good spot, especially to get graduates from the RSMA, and all those TharDef manufacturing lines. Not as close to the action though."

"The Second Royal Cuirassiers are, regrettably, out of the war." Singh shook his head quietly. "Command estimates we won't be front line service-ready again until late '44, maybe '45."

"Well, even if the truce doesn't hold that long, we'll make sure to save some Falcons for you and yours, General." Evan joked.

"Assuming they survive what's coming." Bridger grinned. "Word is the Commies and Rasalhague won't be following the truce, not like they signed it after all."

"No, they didn't." Singh grinned. Perhaps it makes a liar out of me… but I cannot speak for allies my people did not yet have, can I? God will decide, I suppose. "But I cannot imagine it will be an easy fight for them." He inclined his head to Bridger. "What of you, General? You are joining me, I hear?"

"Heading out on a DropShuttle, actually, and I'm only going as far as Arc-Royal. Meetings with Archduke Ethan." Bridger's grin turned sardonic. "It's implied I may get my fourth star, and that His Majesty is picking me to be his OpGroup commander."

"Well now, congratulations, General." Evan offered.

"Thank you, Colonel. If it's true, expect me back around the time the King comes through the Glass. Until then…"

"Yes." Singh noticed the transport jeeps pulling up. "We have a timetable to keep with the JumpShips arranged for our transport."

"After you, General."

"One last thing," Evan said, bringing their attention back to him. He snapped a firm salute at Singh. "You and yours did your Federation proud, General Singh, fightin' the Falcons so hard, and your people deserve the break they're gettin'. Don't you worry, whatever happens, the folks you've left behind here… we'll see it through for them."

Singh drew in another sharp breath before nodding and returning the salute. "I trust our honored dead to you and to the people of Timkovichi. Thank you for your words, Colonel."

Evan nodded and lowered his hand, extending it forward. Singh took it for a wordless handshake before stepping away. Whatever was to come of this conflict, he and his troops had done their duty, they'd done it well, and it would be for others to finish the job. God bless them all.

Final words between Family and Love ones[]

Fort Defiance Military DropPort
Roslyn, Eastern Islay
Arcadia, Arcadia Royal March
Royal Federation
18th February, 3143

The day that Sophia Marik had been dreading for the past few months had finally arrived, and despite her misgivings, she came to see it through.

The DropShips arrayed about Fort Defiance's DropPort were in various stages of loading, some already hurtling skyward with their loads of soldiers and machines, bound for the reflection of their reality that lay beyond the Glass, and the savage Wolves that were to be their foes. Sophia could see them through the glass windows of Terminal A and the private command-officer entryway that would take Nathaniel and his RSS protection detail to the military tram waiting to carry him to his ship, where the RSS would formally relinquish their protection over to the Lifeguards. From her place she could look down into the terminal proper and the crowds of families and friends here to see loved ones off for what might be years apart.

The DropShip occupying the nearest pad, emblazoned with the insignia of the Lifeguards, was another of the spheroid types, a massive orb with engines and guns and giant bay doors that even now admitted multiple hulking BattleMechs and large, advanced battle tanks into its spacious interior. The AFS Hawk's Nest was the designated combat transport for Nathaniel and roughly a third of the Lifeguards. Sophia craned her neck at the hulking vessel, one she was told was a brand-new "Bastion-class Command DropShip", to look towards the shapes of two of the four colossal artillery guns stored in the ship's uppermost decks, almost two hundred meters in the air. Within the bottom decks, situated around the vital engineering spaces, seven bays provided for plentiful cargo as well as a company each of BattleMechs, vehicles, VTOLs, and armored infantry, plus bays for an embarked squadron of aerospace fighters and four DropShuttles. A number of weapons mounts showed on every facing, though she had little knowledge of what each weapon was. Beyond two more ships of the same design, the Hawk's Pride and Hawk's Glory, were on adjacent pads, embarking the last vehicles and personnel of the Lifeguards.

Unlike his well-wishers attending in civilian court dress, Nathaniel was in uniform today, wearing a regular AFRF duty uniform. It suits the moment, Sophia thought with a tinge of bitterness. More befitting the warrior-king leading his armies on a holy crusade, not the peaceful ruler he'd intended to be when he first landed here ten months ago. Indeed, he'd only belatedly acquiesced to an insistence from Lord Murray that he bring a couple sets of civilian court dress in the event of an official function on Tharkad, now stowed away in his quarters on the Hawk's Nest and likely to go untouched. Even the usual lightweight tiara was gone. Only his specialized rank insignia, the crowned hawk over a rank tab square, indicated he wasn't just another junior field officer waiting for deployment.

That… and the Sword of Liberation, resting in the scabbard strapped at his waist against his left hip, set so that he could lay the sword across his lap if needed. Bringing the weapon was a symbolic gesture, and not entirely popular among the Protocol Office or the Exchequer (responsible as they were for House Proctor's treasures, including the Regalia), but given what it represented, it would hopefully be inspiring for those fighting a cosmos away.

This is duty, she reminded herself. After all he's said, he can't back out now. He has to go through. He has to face the Clans in battle and see them forced back. A small shiver went through her. I care for him, perhaps more than I should. He will be a good husband, better than I'd hoped! But only if he comes back. God, please let him come back, he has so much to do to make the rest of this century the peaceful era we all long to see!

Peter was here, of course, in court dress like Sophia. His expression was somber but reserved. Beside them the Dowager Queen Sita stood, her court dress the traditional conservative Bolanese combination of sari, choli, and parkar, colored in red, green, and blue with gold-threaded trim. To Sophia it seemed she was about to break down in tears at seeing her son's departure. A realization came to her. If I did not know better, I would think they were both his parents, coming to see their beloved son off to war… though, I suppose, Nathaniel is the closest thing Peter ever had to a son. I wonder if they have ever thought of their relationship that way.

The last member of the entourage was the Regent herself. Lady Sara-Marie Proctor was by law a minor noble, her title a courtesy one for being the daughter of a prince or princess of the realm. Right now the nonagenarian looked more like a doting grandmother of Nathaniel's than a distant cousin, and her simple court dress struck Sophia as being very inspired by the inhabitants of the Plymouth Peninsula here on Arcadia, the traditional homeland of House Proctor. The dark blue gown was only visibly court wear by the House Proctor sigil over the heart and the Regent's Seal, the golden and crowned hawk insignia of the monarch's chosen stand-in, hanging from the silver necklace it was attached to. "You be careful, young man," she said, her voice hoarse with age, though the tone was gentle. "Your people expect much of you. They need you back."

"I have every intention of returning with my duty done, my Lady," he replied, bowing his head. "Just as I trust you three to see to the realm while I'm away."

"We'll keep Parliament on task, certainly, as well as the Command Staff." Peter nodded. "We had a couple lower-level resignations, but even our cousin Arnold is picking duty over pride. In time, perhaps we can reconcile you two."

"I would love to be, but I fear he will not be happy unless I give him what he wants, and that I cannot do." Nathaniel lamented. He turned to Princess Sita and his face fell into a frown, as if he were a child who'd just disappointed his parents. "Mother, I… I am sorry. It is a duty, dharma, and it must be done."

"I know, Nat. I know." She spoke the words with pain in her dark, reddened eyes. "I pray that your father's spirit will guide you, and that by the fulfillment of dharma you will be rewarded with a safe return."

He turned his eyes towards Sophia. "When I return, I hope the wedding will not wait long."

"As soon as you're back through the Glass, I'll order the invitations sent." she promised. She smiled wistfully, though it was difficult. "I'm smiling for both our sakes, I admit, because I don't feel it within. I fear for you, Nathaniel, just as much as your mother does. I know it is your duty to follow your pledge, but I can't help these feelings. These Wolves are said to be lethal warriors, moreso than the Falcons in some cases, and according to Trillian they've already killed the military leader of the Free Worlds. If you go into battle they're going to focus on you just the same."

"They will try, I agree. The Lifeguards will not make it easy for them, nor will I. I promise you that."

"It will have to be enough," she said, knowing for her it wouldn't be. If only the Glass hadn't formed. Things would be so much easier… but now I am giving myself to a flight of fancy. This is the reality we face.

To her surprise she drew close and placed a chaste kiss on his cheek. It was an act of impulse, not quite inappropriate nor particularly appropriate either. "A promise, then, of what will come, when we are married, and our people prosper under the renewed peace we will bring them when the Clans are dealt with."

He recovered from his surprise well enough. "A promise, yes, and I look forward to our keeping it."

The PA system came alive with a loud shrilling tone, made to draw attention. A man's voice barked in an Islay burr, <<"Loading of Hawk's Nest complete. All personnel report to transport trams, we are T minus thirty minutes to launch.">>

Sophia turned her head back towards the crowds, already thinning out. She recognized a few of the Lifeguards themselves, mostly infantry personnel who took up watches in the Palace, but she noted with surprise the presence of the Duke of Bondurant, Edmond de Fortemps, and his sons, separating from a fourth man of silvery platinum hair dressed in military uniform instead of their casual court wear. They behave as brothers and father, but I thought he only had two sons? Or, two legitimate ones, I suppose.

One could indeed tell the commoners from the nobles; the former had more open weeping and tears among the families, the latter practiced the "stiff upper lip" demanded of their station, though their hugs looked just as heartfelt. It reminds me of Mother whenever Father went away on tour. No matter the social station, all families face the same fear; our loved ones aren't going to come back this time.

"I suppose I could order them to wait," Nathaniel said. "But that wouldn't be appropriate."

"No. This is part of the life." said Peter solemnly. He put a hand on Nathaniel's shoulder and for all the world looked like he was about to embrace him, only to hold back for a moment until Nathaniel started one, a warm embrace. She thought that if a voice could genuinely melt, it was Peter's at that moment as he said, "Go, make your father proud, make your family proud, but by God, come home. We'll watch over matters here while you defeat the enemies of humanity."

Sita embraced him next and Sophia could hear a few low sobs escape her otherwise-controlled demeanor. God, the poor woman is living a nightmare, isn't she? Everyone says she truly loved Prince James, that their political marriage was one of those rare ones where the participants fall in genuine love with one another. And she lost him after only a few short years. Now she might lose her only son… no, no, for Nathaniel's sake, don't follow that thought. Smile, and let him go with a glad heart, not thinking how we're suffering.

After finally gently pulling free from his mother, Nathaniel gave them all one last look and a short, personal bow of the head. "I'll see you all when I come back," he said, his voice full of confidence, as if he weren't frightened at all it would be otherwise. With that said he walked down the accordion tube, disappearing around a corner.

Sara-Marie, gentle soul that she was, took Sita by the arm and led her away to a window, giving her a good view of where Nathaniel would likely pass on his way to the ship. Peter watched them go and sighed. "God, even now I couldn't bring myself to give him the hug he's earned. He had to start it. I scold him for it, but sometimes I wonder if he's right that commoners do it the right way."

"We get privileges they don't, so we must make amends for it by denying ourselves where they don't have to," Sophia answered. "Or so my mother once told me."

"Makes me think sometimes, maybe Ambassador Wotjak and her people have a point about aristocracy." Peter gave her a knowing look. "Though speaking of aristocracy, you didn't tell him about that last minute coronation 'gift' that's coming from Oriente, did you?"

Sophia sighed. "I didn't see the point, especially not when I looked up just who this 'Boniface of Montferrat' was." Not like it was going to make it here in time, it's only just been commissioned according to Lady Lucero. Consul-General Lady Gracia Lucero, the diplomatic representation of the Federation on Oriente, had dutifully submitted her report that a statue had been commissioned as a personal gift from Dowager Empress Eris to Nathaniel "in commemoration of his stirring coronation speech", depicting an ancient medieval Terran ruler from the 12th and 13th centuries "that his words much reminded me of". One quick check of the planetary infonet's historical sites provided the reasoning for the Dowager's taunting gift. "It's not like he doesn't know the Dowager would love to see him and the rest of the family dead. How is that woman still alive with so much hate poisoning her soul?"

"Spite is a powerful thing," Peter observed. "And it's an old tradition for the evil old hag to taunt the family. Usually sympathy cards whenever one of us is killed, especially if we die fighting the Empire. The messages were especially mocking when my father died." He clenched a fist.

"Really?" Sophia gaped in astonishment. "I know her grudge is legendary, but that's… I guess you don't report it very widely, I've never heard of this."

"It stays within the family. It's a personal grudge, after all, one we played a part in starting, wouldn't do to get the populace fired up about a stubborn old woman's taunts. Speaking of stubbornness, Senator Zento's already trying to hold up certain budget items vital to the war effort. We'd better start working to see that he doesn't succeed."

Of course he is. "I am at your service." she promised.

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