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Federated Suns Reborn (Chapter Cover)

The Federated Suns Reborn
- Chapter 219

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October 3070
Interlude: Fugitive

Ducal Palace, City of Tikograd
Kazan, Tikonov
Achernar PDZ, League March
Federated Suns

The huge sprawling Ducal Palace of House Ryan-Bowman held many treasures and secrets, that any tourist guide touting pamphlets around the city would be sure to tell you. What few if any would tell you (if they even knew) would be the rumoured cells deep underground that were operated by the Duke of Tikonov's feared secret police - the Okhrana, an organization that while it officially didn't exist was perhaps one of the worst kept secrets on Tikonov. Modelled upon the famed MASK of the former Capellan Confederation (although proud Tikonovite's would, if they were prepared to speak about such a topic, tell you that it was MASK that was modelled upon the Okhrana not the other way around), they were the secret guardian's of House Ryan-Bowman's rule upon Tikonov. Although they had become somewhat less heavy handed and less brutal in their methods since the conquest of Tikonov in the Fourth Succession War. Which didn't mean that they didn't still operate. Or that they didn't still conduct certain clandestine interrogations deep within the Ducal Palace when it was required.

Walking slowly down a bare concrete corridor that on certain official maps was listed as being for the purpose of "storage, dry goods" - and which didn't appear on most at all, the Duke of Tikonov Paul Ryan-Bowman (Senior) himself reflected that most ruling houses wouldn't have kept interrogation and holding cells under their own palace but might have kept them at arm's distance, somewhere safe and out of the way. And indeed the Okhrana's main holding areas and interrogation facilities were hidden elsewhere. Yet sometimes he and his ancestors had required that someone, usually highborn, be dealt with closer to home. Somewhere that they themselves could visit the person if they needed too without having to create convoluted reasons to temporarily disappear. When you ruled a world with over six billion citizens, it wasn't always easy to just drop of the radar even for a few hours! Much easier to smuggle someone into the palace through several hidden tunnels when nobody was looking for them. It was just such circumstances that had led the Duke down into the maze of tunnels below his home.

Beside him the agent clad in an unmarked military style uniform who had met him at the heavily disguised entrance and guided him through the narrow corridors and steel reinforced doors stopped and indicated the door ahead of them. In a surprisingly pleasant voice for a man who looked like he chewed nails for breakfast the agent explained. "He is detained within, Your Grace."

"Thank you, Captain Aslanov." Paul Ryan-Bowman indicated the locked door. "If you would be so kind...?"

"Of course, Your Grace." Captain Aslanov opened the door and stepped inside first, hand on the electric maul at his waist just in case. Checking the prisoner was still securely chained to the desk he was sitting at the Okhranan officer stepped aside to let his Duke follow him in.

Stepping into the room the Duke shook his head at the hunched figure sitting naked on a metal chair, his huge hands restrained by chains to a bolt set into the metal desk securely fastened to the floor. "Not quite the fancy uniforms and comfortable palaces you had got used to is it Leftenant-General Baranov...?"

The bear of a man, his famous thick beard now liberally shot with grey and with his powerful figure sunken in upon itself looked up and recognition flared in his eyes. "Duke Paul...!"

"Hello "Bud"..." Duke Ryan-Bowman continued into the room and sat in the metal chair opposite the prisoner with little regard for his expensive suit on the rough metal of the chair. "Welcome back to Tikonov..."

The former Emperor of Hall and Supreme Leader of the Free Tikonov Province of the Free Worlds League shifted in his seat, eyes flickering to Aslanov who hadn't left the room but stood near the door, close enough to intervene with the shock maul he now had out and merely awaiting the pressure of his fingers to activate. Despite himself William Baranov shuddered, having experienced more than once just how painful those mauls were. Turning back to face the Duke he tried to force a friendly smile onto his face. "Not exactly how I saw myself returning home..."

"No, not quite the triumphant conquest you had in mind I'm sure. For one thing, as I recall from the transcript notes of Captain Rosilov's interrogation, you thought the next time you saw me would be when you put a pistol against my head and blew the back of my skull out... Wasn't that what you told him and the rest of your little group of traitors?" The Duke raised a single finger to stop the blurted denial before it could begin. "Don't even bother. The late captain's evidence was more than collaborated by others from your inner circle who confessed your plans for me if the so called "Free Tikonov" movement managed to take Tikonov. Shot as a traitor to Tikonov and a collaborator with the Davions I think was how most of them put it..."

Baranov grunted. "So they talked..."

"Oh they all did." Paul's smile had nothing of joy or kindness in it. It was the smile that an Ufa Steppe Deer might see on the jaws of a Tikonov Dire Wolf just before the end. "Before the end."

Baranov shuffled slightly, sitting back with the chink of chains, trying to look resolute and stoic in the face of that news despite the impossibility of doing that while chained naked to a metal desk. "So what now? You hand me over to the Davions to shoot as a traitor?"

A genuine bark of laughter came from the Duke. "Hand you over? Why do you think I would do a stupid thing like that? No... I didn't tell my agents to find you, capture you and bring you here so that I could hand you over to MIIO or even the DMI..." The Duke glanced around the room. "I do hope you like it here, Bud,... Because you are going to be here for a very, very long time. Captain Aslanov and his colleagues are going to get to know you very well... They are going to find out ALL your dirty little secrets down here in the dark. You see Leftenant-General Baranov... Officially you aren't here. Officially you are somewhere else, hiding from justice. Probably some flea pit periphery world, looking over your shoulder while you plot your grand revenge on those who betrayed or failed you or who denied you your rightful place as ruler of Tikonov... Hell the official reward I put up for your capture of 2 million C-Bills will remain open. I might even increase it to 5 million... Yes I think I just might, it will amuse me to offer a reward for a man that I already have down here in my cellar."

The Duke stood with that same dark smile on his face, rapping a knuckle on the metal table. "This is your new home, Bud. For as long as there is a single ounce of value or whisper of information still to be wrung from your treacherous lips. Until finally you are of absolutely no value. Then and only then I'll have you quietly shot in the back of the head, still down here in this room. Your body will be smuggled out the same way you were brought in and then dumped in the deepest, most foul bog that I can find out in the wilderness."

Walking to the door the Duke turned around with a chuckle. "You won't see me again, Bud. I'm too busy to indulge myself further with petty vengeance against a minor nuisance like yourself, even if I do have to admit I'd probably enjoy it. I have a world to run, the very world you dreamed of ruling. My world." Turning to the Okhranan captain he inclined his head. "I expect regular updates on the progress you are making with Leftenant-General Baranov here..."

"Of course your grace." The captain followed the Duke out and slammed the door shut locking it. "If you will follow me, Your Grace, I'll escort you out."

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