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Federated Suns Reborn (Chapter Cover)

The Federated Suns Reborn
- Chapter 249
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March 3072
Interlude: A Family Reunion


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


"So this is what you ran away from, Paul? I can see why! I mean who would want to be stuck living in the lap of luxury with your every whim catered too!" Major Sandy Reich chuckled as she snagged a glass of champagne from a passing waitress. Taking a sip she waved her free hand around the huge ball room filled with the great and good of Tikonov and even a few of the surrounding worlds along with the officers from not only the Wild Geese mercenary command, but also the 2nd Tikonov Cossacks and the Tikonov Martial Academy staff and from the Training Combat Group. There were even two dozen officer cadets who the staff from the Academy and the Training Combat Group's officers were riding herd over with a grim determination to avoid their charges creating a scene.

Colonel Paul Bowman, commanding officer of the Blackhorse Squadron of the Wild Geese, glanced at his counterpart from the Ironhorse Squadron and sipped his own glass of whiskey. Finally at least they had managed to win free of the crowd of well wishers and courtiers who wanted to welcome them to Tikonov. He motioned for his aide to stay close, in case he should need to find a reason to, well, escape. Speaking in low tones, they conversed, punctuated by her nodding, indicating her understanding of whatever escape was planned. Satisfied, he allowed himself a proper appreciative grunt at the quality of his grandfather's whiskey he answered her. "You wouldn't understand, Sandy."

"Is it because of Alexandra? I mean I know the House Achernar and House Ryan-Bowman aren't exactly friends..." Sandy risked mentioning her friend's wife who last time she checked was on New Avalon taking part in some sort of government research project with Achernar Battlemechs.

Paul sighed and shook his head. "No. My estrangement from my grandfather came long before that. Alexandra and I happened only because we met at NAMA…under the LIDAR so to speak… almost ended before it really got started there too. She stayed with me after I had accepted the commission and joined the Wild Geese..."

"Was that it then? That you bucked tradition and declined several prestigious appointments to learn from a most unconventional set of mentors who led a mercenary regiment?" Sandy probed tentatively, knowing that she was stepping out on dangerous ice, despite their years of friendship.

The young colonel glanced over to where his grandfather was laughing alongside a group of Tikonov Cossack officers and Brigadier Faulkner before turning back to his friend. "In all honesty, it was because I was pro-FedCom, well more like pro-Davion and my grandfather was up to his elbows in the whole Free Tikonov moment. First and foremost, we disagreed on politics, Sandy. Secondly, I was going to marry who I wanted and not be saddled with an arranged marriage. That set him off more than the politics I think."

"I'd heard that the Duke was involved in Free Tikonov..." She finished her champagne and placed it on a passing tray and collected another as she guided Paul towards the bar to get him a refill of his glass as well. He looked like he could use it. "Still by all accounts he's came around. He's probably one of the most vocal supporters of the First Prince in the whole FedSuns! Hell he's usually mentioned in the same breath as Cunningham and Tyler!"

Paul nodded as he indicated the bottle to the bartender with a finger and waited as the older man poured the amber liquid over an ice cube and placed it down in front of him. The bartender discretely nodded before moving off down the polished bar to get another person a drink. Leaning against the bar Paul swirled his drink around the ice. "I know, I know all too well. I'm just not sure if I trust his sudden change of heart... Even if I did some things were said that can't be unsaid..."

"Bollocks." Sandy grunted out with all the tact she usually showed when firing her Thug's ER PPCs into an enemy line. Thinking for a moment, she changed her tone to a more conciliatory and diplomatic pitch. "How bad can it be that you and your grandfather can't sit down and talk it over... We both know he pulled a lot of strings to get us assigned here. Sounds to me he wants to talk it over."

Still playing with his drink rather than enjoying it Paul shrugged. "The last time I spoke with him I called him a traitor and stormed off... I was burning for orbit the next day. Not my finest moment." The maudlin tone tapered off as he handed the drink to his aide and sighed loudly.

"Nor mine." A gravelly voice spoke from behind them and the older Ryan-Bowman leaned between the two shocked officers to take his grandson's glass from the stunned aide. The aide’s stunned expression was matched by the two senior officers as the Duke, with a casual flick of his wrist, downed the dram of whiskey in a single gulp. Hissing out he placed the glass back down on the bar. "I'm not a whiskey drinker but 30 year Northwind Talisker is too good to let waste... And too expensive. Bartender, vodka. Three."

Moving as though by coincidence over to place Major Reich between himself and his grandson the Duke of Tikonov nodded as the bartender rushed over and from a bottle set aside poured three small glasses to the brim with vodka. The old Duke smiled icily as he raised his in salute to the two young officers and then downed it just as he had the whiskey. Without a second thought, Paul mirrored his grandfather and downed the vodka without spilling a single drop. When Sandy Reich attempted to emulate the two Tikonovites she nearly burst into a coughing fit as the smooth liquid burned like fire down her throat. Chuckling the older man smacked her hard between the shoulder blades. "The trick is to remember to breathe, Major... Now as I was saying, it might not have been your finest moment Paul but I have to take the lion's share of the blame."

"You weren't the one that left Grandfather..." Paul got out a bit shakily.

Waving a finger for the vodka to be refilled Paul's grandfather barked a laugh. "Paul... For a bright boy you sometimes have some blind spots. Do you honestly think you got out of MY palace, across MY city, in one of MY cars and then boarded a dropship at MY spaceport and nobody told me...? Come now... You know better than that. I knew you were leaving before you'd reached the end of the driveway. Which I admit is a long driveway but still. One call to the Okhrana, the guards at the gate, the police or to the operations tower at the spaceport and you wouldn't have got off world. All I had to do was pick up the phone. Hell, I could have just told my secretary to make the call. And don't think I didn't want too. Hell, I even gave the order once only to cancel it before they reached you."

For a split second Paul looked at his grandfather in total shock. For years he had believed he had just walked away and the old bastard hadn't cared enough to stop him! Seeing the look on his grandson's face the Duke burst into laughter which Sandy found herself joining almost without thought. A few seconds later even the younger Paul found himself chuckling. Still laughing, the Duke picked up his glass again and downed the vodka with a twinkle in his eyes. The two Wild Geese officers followed suite, this time Reich managing to avoid choking. As the Duke nodded at her in approval his grandson asked. "Then why didn't you? Have me brought back I mean?"

Despite knowing the question was coming Paul Ryan-Bowman took a few seconds to think about it. In which time the bartender who was very visibly not listening poured another round of drinks. "Pride. I was too damn proud to have you dragged back here. I wanted you to have to come back tail between your legs and admit I was right! But, you also had every right to be your own person, to try and fail, to be your own man. In the end, you had to leave home and make it on your own. Tikonov would always want you, but you, you had to want Tikonov as well."

A third shot of vodka followed the other two as the Duke forced a crooked pained smile onto his face. "The great irony is that I finally had to pull every string and favor I was worth to get you brought back here anyway... and I had to do it not to have you tell me I was right but to admit to you that YOU were right! They do say there is no fool like and old fool Paul and I have to admit in this case it's apt!"

Downing her third vodka on top of the champagne she had already drank Major Reich knew when she was out of her depth and on dangerous ground indeed. Pushing back from between the two men she clicked her heels and inclined her head to the Duke. "I thank you for the drinks, Your Grace, but if you will excuse me I think I see an officer I knew from my time at Albion... I'm sure you and your grandson have a great deal to talk about. Paul, Your Grace." With a half salute she almost took off towards the first Academy officer she saw. Leaving the Duke of Tikonov and his estranged grandson standing at the bar in a clear bubble of space in which to talk for the first time in decades.

Now Paul began to chuckle as his Grandfather looked on in disbelief. “Oh my Grandfather, apt is so descriptive and you too have blind spots, amid all of this…”, he gestured to the vastness of the Great Hall. “…the whole time you have seen… but not observed.” The Duke shifted to the fullness of his height and scanned the room as Paul’s laugh rose. His observation of the room ceased when Paul reached back to offer his hand to his aide. As she placed her hand in his, realization struck the older man like lightning as he felt tears forming in his eyes. He realized how he had underestimated his own. He stared at the young woman as his grandson spoke – “May I present Duchess Alexandra Achernar, Bowman, my wife. Darling, as I promised. This as you know, is my Grandfather, the Grand Duke of Tikonov.” As she released her hand from her husband’s, the older man wasted no time in taking both of her hands in his own and kissed them. “Alexandra, I welcome you here, this is your home, now and always. Forgive an old fool for being absent for you before today.”

A handful of nondescript individuals in expensive suits took up positions around them at the bar, to all appearances to drink but in reality to keep anyone else from interrupting the impromptu family reunion. The only one close enough to listen in was the bartender who continued to keep the two men's glasses full of the Duke's personal reserve of vodka. Then again he wasn't exactly a bartender but like the men in suits and the various waiters, waitresses, musicians, etc... one of the best agents the Okhrana had...


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