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Frederick Steiner and the Man (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 6[]

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Frederick Steiner and the Man Who Knew Too Little[]

Book 2

Aftermath of Victory[]

San Martin, Dieron
Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth
July, 3018

There was a sense of unreality to setting foot on Dieron. Katrina’s uncle had almost ruined the Commonwealth by drawing down garrisons to fuel reckless attacks on their neighbors. She’d been very afraid that committing troops to Frederick’s offensive might end in similar humiliation - or a debacle.

It was harsh to say that the Wolf’s Dragoons were being used for half the ‘Mech regiments assigned because they were expendable, but that was basically the truth. They were spying for a foreign power, even if the spying wasn’t all that intrusive, so if they were shattered it wouldn’t have been so bad. In Katrina’s experience, most other major mercenary units would have hesitated to accept such a high risk operation, even with the rewards she had offered.

Jaime Wolf had jumped at the idea.

The Archon wasn’t sure what that said about the mercenaries' point of origin, but she was sure that the risk had paid off.

She was met by a wall of sound: soldiers cheering her as if she was the one who had conquered this world. Security around the spaceport had been taken up by the forces she’d brought with her, so she was surrounded now by members of the units that had fought for Dieron.

The Wolf’s Dragoons. The Royal Guards. The Lyran Regulars.

Small detachments had arrived from the other three worlds that had been taken, so Team Banzai, the Lyran Regulars, and Skye Rangers were also represented.

And, outnumbering them vastly, the other regiments. Donegal Infantry, Arcturan Cavalry, Royal Tharkad Panzer. Regiments from worlds stretching from Tamar to New India. The often unheralded conventional regiments that bled for inches where ‘mechs were unavailable or too unwieldy.

Every man and woman knew that unlike almost any other Archon since the debut of the Battlemech, Katrina Steiner had served with them. Had gone from the Nagelring into the infantry, the armored cavalry and then the artillery. They knew that Frederick Steiner valued them… but that she understood them.

A part of her was saddened that she had to play this game with a general who had, however begrudgingly, proven himself loyal. Another part looked at the damage Anton Marik had done to the Free Worlds League and knew that the price was worth it. The same would not happen here, not on her watch.

Civilian officials greeted her nervously, knowing that just by being seen with her probably put them on the ISF’s watch list to be purged if the Draconis Combine managed to take Dieron back. But they’d come anyway, either because they felt a duty to the people they had governed and must now serve… or perhaps in hope that it would let them hold onto power.

For some of them it might even work. Importing every level of government for an entire planet couldn’t work. She’d have to trust that some, hopefully most, would adapt to and appreciate the Commonwealth’s laws.

After that line came the meat of the occasion: the three military commanders.

Frederick was in the center, their cousin Pete on his left and Jaime Wolf on his right - the fur and leathers of his dress uniform standing out compared to the blue and white of the two LCAF generals.

“Frederick.” She returned his salute. “I know you get impatient with honors and accolades, so I’ll confer upon you something I know you’ll treasure more. I doubted you… and you proved me wrong.”

Her cousin’s stiff demeanor cracked with a frosty smile. “I appreciate that you trusted me despite your doubts.”

Katrina clasped his shoulder briefly and turned to Jaime Wolf. “And you, Colonel… I trust that you are equally proud to have announced to the Inner Sphere that the Wolf’s Dragoons are undiminished by your service to Anton Marik.”

“Perhaps not quite as proud,” the short man replied. “I, unlike the noble General, am not too proud to accept other rewards.”

“Including other tough missions, I am sure.” She reached out and they exchanged a handshake. “But before the Dragoons depart Dieron - I know that you dislike garrison work and will not ask that of you - before you depart, I shall award each of your regiments the Dragonslayer Ribbon.”

A traditional Lyran award, one marking service with distinction against the Draconis Combine. It had been awarded to mercenaries before - and it was far cheaper than the other rewards the Dragoons had asked, and would be receiving. The Nagelring was going to be furious, but Dieron was worth the price of the four items that had once belonged to General Aleksandr Kerensky, the Nagelring’s most famous graduate. It wasn’t as if the real things were really on display anyway, they had been kept in a vault since before Katrina had been born.

A school rag, a cadet class ring, Kerensky’s academy thesis and also his final letter to Archon Michael Steiner II - which had never been opened. The latter had been penned and dispatched before Kerensky learned of the Archon’s death in 2760, filed unopened by Robert Steiner II and finally handed over to the Nagelring for their memorial exhibit by Robert’s sister Jessica during the First Succession War.

For any planet, much less one as materially and symbolic as Dieron? Katrina would give them up gladly.

And last, but not least.” The Archon turned to the commander of the Third Royal Guards. “Pete, I have discussed with the other senior officers of the Royal Guard how I should reward you and I believe that we’ve settled on something appropriate.”

The general looked puzzled. “The honors are due to my soldiers, your majesty. I merely have the privilege of standing at their head.” he said modestly.

“No longer.”

Pete Steiner’s jaw sagged.

“General Pete Steiner, I hereby relieve you of command of the Third Royal Guards.”

The soldiers' voices slowly fell silent as Katrina’s words spread. No one protested, but looking at their faces, she saw uncertainty and even anger. Good.

She looked at them and then smiled. “Today is a very particular anniversary, one with special meaning for the Royal Guards. A memory of one of the worst days of the brigade. The day that the Fourth Royal Guards, left abandoned to die upon New Caledonia, were removed from the rolls of honor.”

“Today,” Katrina Steiner announced, speaking clearly as microphones picked up her voice and carried it to every corner of the parade ground. “I hereby reactivate the Fourth Royal Guards, transferring to it the fourth battalions of the First, the Second, and Third Royal Guards. And I offer its command to Pete Steiner. A man who I know does far more than merely stand at the head of fine soldiers. He leads them. And he leads them well.”

There were tears in the corner of Pete Steiner’s eyes as he accepted the fresh uniform jacket carried out for him, one bearing his proper rank and medals… but also the unit patches of his new command.

Katrina was happy to give the general a moment in the spotlight and both Frederick and Jaime seemed similarly inclined, moving away to leave room for the other dignitaries to congratulate him as the soldiers cheered vigorously, particularly those of the Fourth Battalion of the Third Royal Guards, who had just learned they were following their general into the reformed Fourth Royal Guards.

“I’ll leave the Fourth here on Dieron to get organized,” the Archon told Frederick. “The other battalions being assigned to them came here as my escort, so the Third will escort me back to Tharkad before they move to their next posting.”

Her cousin nodded, looking distracted. “There’s someone else you should meet,” he told her in a low voice. “Away from the cameras.”

She stared at him for a moment. “Who?”

“Envoys from Hanse Davion.”

Katrina made a face. “The Davions are too useful as allies, but that doesn’t mean I’ve forgiven him for blurting out our possession of the Star League libraries. Do you have any idea how many of the Estates General have started petitioning for access to solve some problem, as if the data is a magic wand.”

“At a guess,” Frederick looked thoughtful, “all of them?”

“Pretty nearly.”

“I think I could convince Duran to elect Max to the Estates General, if you’d like at least one reasonable voice there.”

Katrina snorted. “What has he done to upset you lately?”

“Nothing yet,” her cousin admitted. “the envoys are right here, if you’d like to talk to them now. Or you can go back and join Pete’s impromptu promotion party.”

“There is nothing impromptu about it, I planned this very carefully.” she told him with a laugh. “He’ll need to get used to being a bit more public now anyway - the Fourth will be getting a lot of media attention. I can spare some time for these emissaries.”

Frederick led her to a small side-chamber. There were already two guards posted there, but Katrina’s ever-present security detail insisted on entering before her, to make sure there were no obvious threats.

“Who did Davion send?”

“General Green-Davion… and a colonel from the Davion Guards.”

Katrina arched an eyebrow. “Does the colonel have a name?”


She blinked. “You really don’t like him.” She parsed her memory. Sortek… she’d heard the name but couldn’t place it among the nobility of the Federated Suns. Not that that was all that surprising, there were hundreds of petty dynasties just in the Commonwealth. Still, if it rang a name. “What has your hackles up?”

“He smiles too much.”

Katrina felt a smile cross her face. “Something you’re not guilty of. And General Green-Davion? Does he smile too much.”

“She.” Frederick didn’t meet her eyes. “And no. Not enough, perhaps.”

Whatever was wrong with Frederick? He’d been a staunch advocate of the alliance with the Suns, but now these two had his nose out of joint. Katrina turned to her aide, a young woman with a noteputer and a memory that was almost as good. “Where have I heard of Sortek before?”

“Colonel Ardan Sortek was promoted from the Seventeenth Avalon Hussars last year, after one of the earliest attacks ordered by Ian Davion.” the aide reported without consulting anything. “Second-generation New Avalon gentry, his father and Andrew Davion were close friends and the younger Sortek is a close confidante of Hanse Davion.”

“That’s who you mean, Frederick?”


Katrina’s inquirers were cut short when the security team emerged and gave the all-clear. She decided to go in directly and see these envoys firsthand. Now she had two reasons to see them: to find out what Hanse’s excuses were and why they had Frederick so agitated.

Both officers wore full dress uniform, indicating that they weren’t trying to keep their presence low-key. And despite the different ranks, their body-language indicated that it was Colonel Sortek who was in charge. Sure enough, it was the boyish looking colonel who greeted her first. “Your majesty.” He swept a deep bow towards her, then kissed her hand when she extended it.

Katrina gave him a measured look and decided that his taking the lead meant that the personal connection mattered more than formalities. “Colonel Sortek. And you would be General Green-Davion?”

The woman was tall and blonde - in a Lyran uniform she’d have been able to slot seamlessly into the Triad or Mount Asgard. She also moved gracefully and seeing her step forwards teased out a memory of seeing her once before, in a report from New Avalon.

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Well, I see why Frederick decided to monopolize you at the royal wedding.” Katrina observed.

Nelitha Green-Davion didn’t blush, but her eyes did flick towards Frederick for a moment.

The Archon gestured towards the seats. “We don’t have all that much time before I need to go back outside, so let’s drop the formality. I’m sure Hanse Davion considers his reasons good for compromising the security his brother agreed to, so let’s hear them.”

Ardan Sortek nodded. “I’m not sure how much you know about the circumstances around the First Prince… the late First Prince’s death.” he began.

Katrina listened with half her attention, glancing at Frederick out of the corner of her eyes. He was trying to pretend that his full focus wasn’t directed at the female officer, not the speaker. Someone who didn’t know him well might have been fooled, but Katrina was not.

It seemed she’d have something to tell Donna next time they spoke. Now, how to arrange for General Green-Davion to be assigned to the Commonwealth for a while? She was going to have to forgive Hanse Davion for his indiscretion, but she’d still wrench all the concessions she could get out of him so some liaison officers would be a reasonable starting point…

Bitter Cheers to the Victor[]

Honor of Skye, Skye Federation of Skye, Lyran Commonwealth 25 July 3018

“To victory on Dieron!” The duke of Skye raised his glass high and everyone present did the same.

The champagne was from a treasured vintage, and normally Aldo Lestrade would have been delighted that his uncle had broken it out for him to sample… but on this occasion, the wine tasted sour to the Duke of Summer.

But he drank. He had to. It would be social suicide not to appear to be celebrating Frederick Steiner bloodying the dragon’s nose.

“A great victory.” Grethar continued.

Aldo had to cut this off or he might start retching. “Indeed, and my understanding is that Archon will not attempt to over-reach as her uncle might have under these circumstances.” A timely reminder that House Steiner had not always been an effective guardian for Skye, he thought. Best to veil any such criticism with praise.

“I’d have thought you’d be eager to see more of Skye liberated.” someone sniped.

Raising his glass to admire the crystal of the flute and the remaining champagne, Aldo let the moment linger and then shook his head. “I’d be eager to see any Skye world free,” he assured the gathering. “But the only one of the worlds the Duke struck at that was ever part of the Commonwealth was Yorii - and that a brief interval between the collapse of the Terran Hegemony and the First Succession War. I’d not say that it’s a Skye world yet. And the use of ten ‘mech regiments has undeniably wearied soldiers, emptied warehouses and diverted shipping. We can’t reasonably expect another major offensive for a year or two. I’d have preferred to see worlds like New Wessex or Vega freed… but I’m not the Archon, am I?” He laughed lightly and sipped from his glass.

The champagne tasted like ashes in his mouth.

Free Skye’s power was based on the fact that Tharkad’s interests were not those of the Isle of Skye, which was a proven fact - look at the fact that investments were being thrown into backwaters like Duran or Porrima (the latter at least in Skye) and not into industrial hubs like Summer. That was a blatant political move to geld House Lestrade further -

Aldo had to fight not to visibly snarl at the term that came to mind.

- to weaken House Lestrade further. The Steiners were funding the worlds they ruled directly as they sought to centralize power further and further.

And they were winning. The conquest of Dieron by two generals from the ruling house was a rallying cry for the idea that only House Steiner could rule over the Lyran Commonwealth’s worlds. And restoring the Fourth Royal Guards, the traditional champions of the united Commonwealth - the Pride of the Commonwealth, where each of the other three stood for one of the constituent realms?

No, he’d been dealt a defeat.

“Perhaps in a year or two, Aldo. Dieron’s industry will be a boon for now.” Duke Grethar told him in a lecturing tone. “Without it, the Combine’s ability to prevent us taking worlds back will be weakened.”

Aldo nodded. “We’ve certainly seen how attacks on our own industries have hampered us. It makes sense that the reverse is true.” he said in a conciliatory tone.

His uncle was a fool in many ways, but Grethar Lestrade at least ruled Skye - and House Lestrade. As much as Aldo knew that he could do better - would do better! - Grethar had his respect for the fact that no opening to take power had ever been presented. The strength of House Lestrade was the strength of Skye.

And if it was just his uncle, Aldo could wait. The man was childless, his nephew the only logical heir.

His eye caught on the shadow that followed his uncle and Aldo Lestrade found it necessary to hand his wine-glass off to a servant before he crushed it in his artificial hand.

The illogical heir, on the other hand… the bastard orphan that Grethar and his wife had adopted?!

Margaret Aten was no Lestrade. And the girl had drunk deep of the Steiner kool-aid. (Lestrade had looked up what kool-aid was once, and it sounded fittingly disgusting). Aten would ‘rule’ Skye as a mere viceroy for Katrina Steiner or whoever succeeded her - assuming she managed to inherit, which looked distressingly possible.

Aldo had even considered offering to marry her to avert that dreadful prospect but the slightest move in that directly by a disposable patsy, to test the waters, had aroused Grethar’s fury… and worse than that, his wife’s. The female of the species, Aldo reflected, was more deadly than the male. The patsy might have survived Grethar by simply avoiding the Skye court for a few months but the instructions that had sent the poor man off to the far edge of Alarion province on an assignment that would measure its duration in decades, not years, had actually originated in the duchess’ office whatever the official record said.

If the time ever came to… hasten the succession of a new Duke, it would require a matched set of caskets, Aldo thought. It was an increasingly common thought in his mind.

“I doubt.” Grethar told him, breaking his chain of thoughts, “That some of your more extreme contacts will see it our way, but hopefully your efforts to rein Free Skye back will be eased by such a major victory.”
“Energetic young men and women,” the younger Lestrade noted, “May find themselves less drawn to such causes if they can direct their energies into such efforts as will be required to integrate four worlds into the Commonwealth. A work of years.”

“Indeed. There’s going to be some heavy recruitment going on,” his uncle said knowingly. “I’d much rather that the hotheads were venting their passions on the injustices left by Kuritan rule than causing mayhem at home.”

And a few years of government service there could lead to some more right-thinking people moving into offices back here, Aldo thought. “I will do my best to encourage such patriotic thinking.”

“Would you consider taking such a role yourself?” asked Aten curiously.

Aldo tapped the metal fingers of his arm. “Alas, my medical circumstances preclude such adventures,” he told her smoothly. “But if you wanted to get your feet wet somewhere…”

“I think it best Margaret learn government work here on Skye, at least for now.” Grethar cut that thought off.

“Merely a thought.” And if she rebels against your constraints by going anyway…

Aldo looked for another glass of wine. The dance goes on. Now if only Frederick Steiner had been more biddable - having a capable soldier on hand wasn’t hard to arrange, but one with the prestige of the Steiner name to use… He’d have sworn that the man would need barely a push to accept endorsement in any venture that undercut his cousin, but instead he’d reinforced her by playing the role of the man reluctantly won over despite misgivings.

Had someone got to him? There was that newly-minted Baron - who was from Summer, as it happened. They’d crossed paths at some point. But Musterman was a nobody - he’d answered phones for a living, one step above sweeping the streets.

Alessandro was dead… who else might have been that influential? It was something to think of but it was also far too late. No, if Aldo wanted support outside of the Isle of Skye he’d have to either manufacture it or approach Selwin Kelswa…

Or both, he thought. Or both.

Meeting with the Dragon[]

Iscariot, Ashio
Dieron District, Draconis Combine
4th March, 3018

As a prefectural capital, Ashio was one of the thirty or so most important worlds in the Draconis Combine, but this was still Takashi Kurita’s first visit. Even the Coordinator couldn’t visit every world in the Combine - especially the Coordinator, in fact. Since his father’s death Takashi had traveled much less than he had as a military officer.

But with Dieron in the hands of the Lyran Commonwealth, the administration of the military district had to be re-established. Out of Dieron’s prefectural capitals, only Algedi was further from a hostile border and Algedi was one of the Azami worlds, a group somewhat out of step with the cultural mores of the Draconis Combine. Rather than give them more access to the levers of power than either the Internal Security Force or the Order of Five Pillars liked, Takashi had allowed his cousin Marcus to choose Ashio as his ‘temporary’ headquarters.

Theodore would probably say something sarcastic about that, which the ISF would insist on reporting. His son was either blind to political reality or just didn’t care. Takashi found each equally inconvenient but it would be easier to correct the boy if he knew which.

Three men were waiting for them in the Prefect’s palace. Each wore the immaculate uniform of a DCMS general officer - except for their swords. Those were elsewhere. The trio bowed sharply at the waist as Takashi entered and remained bent over, examining the floor, as he ascended the dais and sat in seiza upon the mat waiting for him.

Marcus Kurita followed Takashi but he remained standing at the edge of the dais.

Takashi let the moment draw on and then flicked his fingers. “Tai-shu Marc DuQuesne has disappointed me. Were he alive, I would remove him as Warlord and require that he explain his failures to myself and then his ancestors.”

The three generals straightened, but said nothing. Good.

“In dying, he has expiated his personal shame.” But not his responsibility for this failure. Still, beyond Takashi’s reach. And the late Warlord had neither wife nor children or siblings which made matters… easier. “And yet, you live.”

Again, silence. He had asked no question. They offered no response.

Takashi gestured to his cousin. “General Ch’uan. General Toshirov. General Koutri. I find it necessary to elevate another officer to lead the District of Rasalhague while my cousin Marcus brings his talents to bear on rectifying such deficiencies as he may find here.”

The new Warlord of Rasalhague was a steady man, but not given to innovation. On the other hand, Cherenkoff was not overly ambitious either. Takashi Kurita liked that in him - the man indulged himself in many ways but not in the ambitions Marcus was so poor in hiding.

Toshirov, of the Twenty-Fourth Dieron Regulars, bowed once more. “Greetings, Tai-shu.” The other two followed suit.

The Dieron Regulars included superb regiments, some of the finest in the DCMS. The Twenty-Fourth was not one of them. The Third - Chu’an’s command - and the Koutri’s Twenty-Seventh were reliable but average. The Eighteenth was a true loss though. Even the Sword of Light would be wise to respect them. Although Takashi was forced to admit, the sharpest blade of the DCMS was not always wise.

It was beneath the Coordinator’s dignity to grit his teeth. Losing the Fifth Sword of Light would have been bad, but getting it mauled and then losing the Eighteenth as well? What had DuQuesne been thinking? Expend a Legion of Vega? Fine - that was what they were for! Lose a Regular regiment? That you had better have a sound explanation for.

He gestured again, just enough that Marcus would see it out of the corner of his eye.

“Being new to Dieron District,” the new warlord enquired silky, “Please explain to me why you have withdrawn from your duties upon the district capital?”

“Sir, even the Sword of Light withdrew,” Chu’an offered. Perhaps emboldened by seniority among the three - the Third could trace their history to regiments that had come to serve the first Coordinator back before Dieron’s rulers deceitfully joined the Terran Hegemony.

Marcus shook his head slightly. “General Conti has made proper apology for his failure. As you hold yourself to the same standard, General Chu’an, you may do the same.”

A side door slid open, revealing the garden. A servant walked forwards into view, carrying a pair of swords. The staff here were quite efficient, Takashi noted.

Chu’an inhaled slightly. Bowed. Walked stiffly out into the garden.

The door slid smoothly closed. Takashi really did not plan to spend time watching someone who would fail so severely.

“Inform Tai-sa Kingsley that he is elevated to command of the Third Dieron Regulars,” Marcus instructed one of the aides.

“Lord.” The aide bowed crisply and departed.

Marcus looked at the two remaining generals. “Do your answers differ, generals?”

“Sir.” Toshirov spoke up first, again. “Warlord DuQuesne ordered withdrawal to preserve our regiments for future operations upon Dieron. Our regiments stand ready. It is for you to decide if we are fit to lead them.”

“A man may dislike his duty, so long as it is carried out,” Takashi observed, keeping his voice calm, focusing on no one.

“Such operations will take place,” the new warlord informed the pair. “I shall lead the Fifth Sword of Light personally, to restore their honor. Your regiments, and others, shall share that opportunity. There will be time for you to prepare your regiments, and for you to demonstrate your fitness to lead them.”

“We are honored by your trust,” General Koutri declared.

He was right. Second chances were to be treasured, Takashi thought. “Cousin.”

Marcus half-turned. “Lord.”

“I shall confer further with you. You may bestow half of the supplies I have brought upon the Dieron Regulars. The remainder is for the Sword of Light.”

His cousin showed no sign of displeasure that Takashi was making his subordinates aware that the generosity was from the Coordinator and not himself. “It shall be as you command. If I may enlighten my officers before they are dismissed?”

Takashi inclined his head slightly.

Marcus returned his attention to the two generals. “The fortunes have smiled upon the Dragon. Two SLDF dropships have been recently discovered adrift and abandoned in a system of the Draconis Rift. While the ships themselves are mere freighters, the contents were military equipment comparable to that recently seen in the hands of the Lyran Royal Guards. I trust that you appreciate the honor you are receiving.”

Both generals doubled over. “Please express our intense gratitude to Lord Kurita,” Toshirov all but whispered. “Our lives and loyalty are ever his.”

“From my ears to his own, from your lips to mine.” Marcus inclined his head austerely towards the pair. “You are dismissed.”

Takashi watched the pair depart and it was possible his eyes twinkled slightly as he stood. If so, he hoped Marcus did not notice. Perhaps it would be appropriate to confer a poem upon the Dieron Regulars before they set out to reclaim their homeworld? He would think on it.

“Subhash,” he greeted the man who had arrived silently behind one of the drapes.

Marcus twitched slightly and turned to see the unassuming man step into the room, signature smile directed at the pair on the dais.

“Lord Kurita.” The spymaster bowed. “Warlord.”

“What news?”

“The Wolf’s Dragoons have withdrawn from Dieron,” Subhash Indrahar informed them quietly. Alpha Regiment guards their dependents upon Mizar. The other four vent their war-lust upon our borders, their targets range from Vega to Kobe according to informants.”

“A vengeance strike at Mizar to draw reserves away from Dieron might be feasible…” mused Marcus, then shook his head. “No.”

“Correct. The Dragoons’ contract with the Lyran Commonwealth is coming to a close.” Takashi agreed. “They have proven their worth, and I am more than happy to pay their price if they will fight for the Dragon. If they do not, then we can consider vengeance. Until then, it would be premature.”

“An attack on dependents would certainly be ill-received.” Indrahar folded his hands within his sleeves. “In addition, Jaime Wolf has departed with certain senior officers - the Black Widow and the recently retired Colonel Ellman - upon a mysterious errand. His JumpShip has been sighted heading for the coreward periphery.”

“Another supply run such as that ten years ago.” The Coordinator noted with a frown. “Except… then they departed spinward, beyond the Outworlds Alliance. And now they depart along our other border. It seems possible that their origin is on the far side of the Combine from Terra.”

“The same direction Kerensky - the general - departed in...” Marcus observed.

“Whether there is a connection or they merely wish us to believe that there is one, I cannot as yet say.” Indrahar admitted. “Nonetheless, it seems the Dragoons will not be a factor in any battle for Dieron this year.”

“Which leaves the Fourth Royal Guards and the Seventh Lyran Regulars.” The Warlord’s eyes narrowed. “The latter would matter little, except for Frederick Steiner.”<br>

“A worthy foe.” Takashi paused. “And the Fourth rising from the grave… Returning them to that would humiliate House Steiner.”

Marcus nodded. “It would be overly optimistic to say that they could be destroyed before further Lyran reinforcements arrive, lord. Our ancestor Hugai Kurita trampled the pride of the Lyran Commonwealth on the battlefields of New Caledonia, but it was not a quick or easy campaign.”

“As pleasing as speed would be, cousin, all I ask is that you grind that pride into the dirt.” And if you fail, that weakens your efforts to usurp my throne. Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.

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