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- Hegemony - EPILOGUE -

10 Years Later

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Lover's Departure[]

Caesar's Palace, Alphard
Marian Hegemony
April 1st, 3172

Cyrus O'Reilly – ruler of the Marian Hegemony – knew he was being childish. He'd come to grips with his accidental rise to power after the assassination that rocked his House and state. But watching Rachel Papadopoulos smiling as she moved briskly through his apartments in the Palace finding the bits and pieces of her personal life and carefully storing them in the boxes he shared the bed with like the skilled archaeologist she was, he wasn't sure if he was sending her on the expedition of a lifetime – or to her death.

The AsRoc intelligence Core that had prompted Interstellar Expeditions to send the team of computer forensics experts had taken years to decode and yield its secrets. Still, the Hegemony – and Cyrus himself – might still benefit from its discovery. Chosen for her expertise in Republic history and artifacts and fluent in the polyglot of languages that made up the Republic, the potential discovery of a hidden base had drawn them together as the Core was analyzed and deciphered; the amateur historian reading of famous discoveries from across the human universe, and the young archaeologist looking to make a name for herself in the field.

Their relationship had quickly progressed, until Cyrus found himself wondering if those knowing looks and martyred sighs among his closest friends and allies within the Palace might – possibly – be right about the situation. After nearly two years of living together in his apartments in the Palace, he wasn't sure if it was the thought of going and seeing it himself, or the risk of losing his Fiancé her that ruined his mood more.

"It's not so bad," Rachel remarked suddenly. "with the partial command circuit in place, Ignotum is only three months away."

Cyrus just grunted. Fortunately, IE never sent explorers without a small group of escorts. The outside chance of something significant being discovered, however, allowed him enough latitude to send a small force to represent the Hegemony's interests. His proposal to send the Hegemony's top military representative with Tertia Cohors of the elite I Legio had shocked the Consilium Securitatis until Rachel had explained their discovery's potential; then, it became necessary to ensure the Cohort could be relieved in time should it become necessary.

The system identified in the Core was supposed to contain a JumpShip maintenance Yard, roughly six months travel time Rinward of the Hegemony. The system had already been identified by IE as the home of a small colony, but was one of dozens with enough weapons and equipment to protect themselves and unwilling to answer probing questions from explorers. The co-ordinates, however, identified a location of interest further out of the system where travelers were less frequent.

Fortunately, the Hegemony had been carefully evaluating a handful of neglected technologies that might help. Despite peace initiatives and honest dealings with the Magistracy, the Centrellas remained unconvinced of his intentions. He couldn't blame them, really; the Hegemony's freebooters had left them wary of such things. The Niopsians still barely accepted the Hegemony's humanitarian aid, after all.


Jerked out of his thoughts, he jumped slightly as he turned to look up at her. "What?!"

Rachel's stern face dissolved as she pushed him back onto the bed before laying down beside him with a smile.

"You're forgetting the best part of saying goodbye."


Five weeks into the Deep Periphery past the borders of the Lothario League, the Hegemony Navy - with the assistance of their Lothian allies - established a short command circuit to speed the expedition past the observers expected to be watching their movements. Moving individually in a seemingly random series of directions, IE's DropShip and military contractors (Walter's Wanderers, a Lance-sized mercenary unit hired by IE.), Tertia Cohort of I Legio (escorted by Ala Rosu), and I Quarta Auxilia Legio managed to evade observers before joining their transports and mercenary escorts in the Deep Periphery.

The Ordo Vigilis had been aware of the intense speculation surrounding the arrival of Interstellar Expeditions' representatives for some time; rather than risk losing control of the possible treasure trove revealed in the AsRoc Core, Hegemony representatives concluded secret negotiations with Solo's Scorpions, a Battalion-sized mercenary company in November of 3170. The Scorpions were to provide security for a convoy of cargo DropShips into the Deep Periphery and in the event of military action, the Scorpions would provide an unexpected reserve if the plan hatched by Cyrus and his advisors failed.

As plans for the expedition were more widely circulated and became noticeable, agents of the Magistracy Intelligence Ministry discovered the co-ordinates revealed in the Core sometime in early March of 3172. Along with the location of a suspected RWR outpost, MIM identified the possibility of a major storage facility used to supply the Periphery-wide military build-up that was revealed in the New Vandenburg Uprising. The information spurred the dispatch of the Second Magistracy Highlanders and an independent Wing of AeroSpace Fighters in pursuit, but the command circuit allowed the Marians to outdistance their pursuers. The Canopians thought they were a significantly larger force, unaware the information had been leaked and a trap set to protect the base – just as Cyrus intended.

Deepspace Engagement[]

Deep Periphery, Location Unknown

"Four contacts confirmed, Skipper."

Captain Martin Unrah considered the targets displayed on one of his secondary screens, a direct feed from the telescope in the nose of the Merchant-class Jumpship. Not one of ours, not in that livery. And no Hegemony IFF.

The crew of the Quintus Marius had Jumped into the system further from the system's Primary than normal a week ago as they took their turn as sentry, watching for new arrivals. As familiar with procedure as he was, he had barely opened his mouth before another member of the crew continued.

"Mix of Merchant and Invader-class Jumpships, skipper. Eleven collars total, doesn't look like any have been held back. Figuring 1G standard thrust, readings say one Overlord, six Unions, 2 Leopards, and a single Seeker. All loaded, near max capacity."

Probably Canopian, maybe some Capellans mixed in. Martin looked away from the screens for a few moments, thinking. The former RWR shipyard they had been sent to investigate was weeks away from the Zenith Jump Point, anchored to and concealed by a large asteroid in the system's Kuiper Belt at the edge of the system.

"Keep us dark and cold – we're out of radar range but thermal is a concern – and they probably won't see us. Markie, signal to the planet, directional tight-beam; Masada. Attach the contact report. June, Ballistae status?"

"Systems are still re-orienting and reporting back, skipper."

Martin nodded. The silent Ballistae satellites had been allowed to spread across the Jump Point without active sensors or radio transmitters to betray them, trusting to the volume of space to hide in and laser tight-beam communications to control them. This was their first opportunity to prove themselves; for the Navy's sake, he hoped the expense had been worth it.

"Fire as you bear, Time-on-Target, boost only. Go active just before the sub-munitions separate. Confirm?"

"T-O-T, no active emissions, boost-phase ignition only with acquisition radar just before separation. Got it, skipper."

"And what shall we do with you, Apollo?" He asked, looking at another of the secondary screens.

"Dump-and-Depart sounds like the best option, Skipper. We don't want to endanger our ride or let them know we're here until those sails are toast – we're not as fast as those Leopards or the Seeker, so they have to get further away before we can engage. Give me surprise, and those JumpShips are toast. Glowing toast, if necessary."

Buccaneer DropShip (Full Thrust - MWO Version)

Buccaneer Class DropShip

Martin grunted. The modified Buccaneer-class DropShips were ambush hunters; average speed, but heavily armed. The Apollo's Heavy SCC and twin Piranha missile tubes were likely to be enough to intimidate the enemy ships if the Ballistae were able to cripple them successfully, and its Aerospace fighters and boarding shuttle meant they could probably dissuade a panicked Captain from 'hot-loading' their K-F Drive and trying to Jump out.

If the Ballistae do their jobs, none of those DropShips are going to be able to resupply them, he thought with satisfaction.

"Wait for the Ballistae to do their jobs, first. That's enough prize money to make every one of us rich enough to buy Patrician status, with more besides."

A murmur of agreement filled the Marius' Bridge before discipline reasserted itself.

Deploying to Apanemo[]

Apanemo System, Deep Periphery

"Zenith Picket picked up at least one Regiment and supports burning for Apanemo, Imperator."

Imperator Peter Cluff leaned back in the Cockpit of his Awesome, considering. The locals – the surviving remnants of Amaris' military abandoned in the system – had already been warned what was likely to be following them. Some of the mish-mash of surviving military hardware was ready to be brought on-line, while Legion techs and supplies tried to help lash together the remaining bits and pieces and the civilians retreated to cower in their homes or evacuate to isolated cabins and homesteads.

"Who's our picket?"

"Unrah and the Quintus Marius, sir."

Peter grunted approval. The Marius was one of the Cohort's dedicated JumpShips. Unrah would stick to procedure and launch the Ballistae before updating the troops on the ground and leaving the Apollo to guard them, Jumping out of reach before they could Hot-Load their batteries. If they caught them before they were ready, the modified artillery missiles would leave them with the fuel they had on-hand to recharge. Not that they were likely to leave an inhabitable system this deep in the Periphery without a source of fuel unless they wanted to risk being marooned somewhere along the way home.

Now, we just have to keep them from putting things back together again, he thought idly. He wondered if the enemy JumpShips might not be the first to benefit from the mothballed shipyard, then shook his head. The RWR servicemen had been careful to mothball the facility rather than risk Amaris' fury before abandoning it for the planet, but the effort to locate and resolve the subtle booby-traps and sabotage left by the crew wouldn't be finished for some time, even with the records kept to allow them to safely try and maintain the most delicate equipment before the Long-Range Shuttles became useless due to age and lack of maintenance.

More likely, the JumpShips would have to wait for parts before being able to leave the system.

Mid-flight interception[]

The Highlanders were half-way to Apanemo by the time the ballistic missiles acquired targets in the final phase of the attack; multiple sub-munitions from multiple launchers at different angles of attack were used against each of the enemy JumpShips. The attack concluded with the successful elimination of Jump Sails across the entire enemy fleet, rendering them immobile until repairs could be made – or additional hydrogen fuel from the planet could re-supply the limited supply on hand for their maneuvering thrusters, once that was consumed recharging the Jump battery – rendering them incapable of Jumping out of the system.

The departure of the Marius and panicked reports in the clear of a Pocket WarShip taking station on the helpless JumpShips underlined the seriousness of the situation nicely; Peter had almost felt sorry for the Highlanders' commander as they continued to burn for the planet, abandoning their JumpShips. Once the Ballistae fired, those crews could never be allowed home to report. The Caesar was perfectly aware secret weapons were just that – secret – and if the crews were smart enough to keep their heads they could stay aboard their ships and ply their trade between the new colony and the rest of the Hegemony. Probably not enjoy paying taxes and acclimating to Hegemony customs, but the Caesar wanted happy, productive citizens, not burned-out rubble.

Rachel had taken over as the Caesar's representative, offering a cease-fire and parlay rather than risk losing control of the situation. It was a shrewd move, he felt. She was showing herself worthy of Cyrus' trust; the Apanema had already accepted her offers of humanitarian aid and were eagerly clamoring for Hegemony citizenship, largely due to her efforts. The Caesar would be pleased, even if he had to raise a Legion and enough troops to defend Apanemo and the colonies sure to pop up between them.


Hegemony Tempoary HQ, Apanemo Deep Periphery

"Your options suck, ladies. Your JumpShips are stranded without fuel to recharge, and by the time you could hope to transit back to the Jump Point, we can damage or cripple enough of them it wouldn't matter."

He accepted another full glass of wine from the Legionnaire serving the head table. Colonel Linda Ginsburg of the Magistracy Armed Forces, her second-in-command and the local Governor-General and his wife were still on their first, but he and Rachel were trying to bluff the two women into accepting their offer. He'd ordered the rest of the officers attending the banquet not to worry about getting a little drunk in front of their hosts and the rest of the negotiating party, as well – the rest of the Cohort was still operating in small detachments with native guides to help keep them out of trouble.

"I, on the other hand, do not want to violate my orders and risk a court-martial, either."

"What orders?" Colonel Ginsburg asked coldly. "It seems to me like you've managed to catch us flat-footed."

"There are two, Colonel." he said, turning his attention back to his plate. Amaris had set up a small farming operation to help supply the station and small planet-bound garrison, and the descendants of the former military personnel had volunteered to host the dinner but the risk of famine always loomed over small colonies isolated from supplies and the Hegemony had brought enough supplies to make a major contribution to the survivor's diets if they could leave peacefully. Chalk another good idea up to history, Cy.

"One, these people don't deserve to be pawns between us. Fighting would only endanger them – and their survival – and the Caesar's representative," he said, waving at Rachel, "Would be furious. Given she might be his wife someday, I'd like to keep that from happening."

"Two," he said, taking another sip before dropping the pretense of friendly conversation and glaring at the two women. "You're not leaving Apanemo except in boxes, until I say so. The Caesar was clear – he wants good relations with the Magestrix, but you're trapped here until we let you leave. I can assure you, we'll follow the Ares Conventions to the letter, notify your government you're being held at 'a remote location', allow communications with your families – suitably screened to prevent Intelligence transfers, of course – but if you agree to surrender, we can work out an agreement."

"Ideally, you'd be mercenaries defending the Apanema from pirates for a few years and allowed to go home peacefully after we set up enough infrastructure to allow them to defend themselves," Rachel interjected.

"What of our JumpShips?" The Colonel asked bluntly.

"Almost everyone," Peter amended. "We were careful not to permanently damage them, but we aren't going to give them back. You tried to attack us; their crews surrendered, unconditionally, rather than freeze or starve to death aboard their ships. The Merchant is the property of the provisional government; the rest belong to the Hegemony's merchant marine."

"I want my JumpShips back!"

"You're acting like you've already won." added her second-in-command, a Major whose name Peter hadn't bothered to try remembering.

"We did," Peter snapped. "You might get them back eventually, but my orders are clear. This is a Hegemony world, and bitches don't come to my table begging!"

"The Caesar and the Magestrix will either negotiate and come to an agreement – or not," Rachel said evenly. "Until then, your JumpShips are going nowhere, and our main concern is the safety of the colonists."

"If it's your world, defend them," the Colonel ground out. "Or you're going to force my hand. I have my orders, too."

"And that may still happen," Rachel said in the same tone. "but we didn't realize there could be survivors. So. We'd like a truce until we get orders, one way or another."

"You must be lying to them!"

"We gave them the entire historical database of our Dropships – why don't you give them yours, to compare them then?"

"I'll consider it," Colonel Ginsburg said grimly. "Once I get back to my command."

"At least enjoy your dinner, first." Rachel suggested.

Arrival of the Caesar[]

The arrival of the Caesar two months after the arrival of the Highlanders was anticlimactic in some ways – the command circuit had been extended after negotiations with the Magistracy, allowing him to make the trip to meet his new citizens and rescue his fiancé in a reasonable amount of time. The crowds of onlookers watched in amazement as he strode down the loading ramp of the Apollo with the Canopian Ambassador in tow, forcing her to totter on her high heels and the more heavily burdened Praesidii Praetoris to struggle to keep pace with him, and Rachel burst into laughter at the sight of them.

Cyrus didn't really care; he'd regretted allowing her out of his sight for months, and politics could damn well take a back seat for once. The two met and embraced as laughter and cheers broke out among the Legionnaires, and Cyrus finally pushed her back far enough to get down on one knee as he pulled a small box out of a fold in his formal robes.

"Rachel, will you-"

"Yes!" Rachel yelled over the sudden roar of the watching crowd, pulling him to his feet.

Cyrus pulled the small ring from the box and helped her put it on beside the sparkling engagement ring as Peter clapped a hand on his shoulder.

I wish you could meet her, Mom, he thought in satisfaction as she jumped back into his arms. And I think dad would approve – he married for love, too, after all.

"Let's go somewhere we can talk." Peter said in an amused tone as he gestured to the confused dignitaries waiting behind him.

Cyrus and Rachel separated long enough for Rachel to translate for Cyrus to greet the dignitaries as his bodyguards loomed around them and Legion personnel in dress uniforms began to attach themselves to couples and individuals as escorts to chivvy them to the vehicles waiting to transfer them to their capital buildings.

The non-descript APCs of I Quarta Auxilia Legio were rough, but still superior to most of the transports remaining to the colonists – Peter had shoved the two of them into the first one they had come to, and the three friends secured themselves for the bumpy ride as the vehicle started moving.

"I've read the briefing," Cyrus said as he raised an arm to put around Rachel's shoulders and she leaned against him. "What do you think of the Yard?"

"I.. Don't know." Peter admitted. "This is beyond me – we're going to need trained personnel, and a lot of them before we can even finish the first surveys. Most of the hardware survived, but some of the computers were damaged. We're having to work around them-"

"The Ships?" Cyrus demanded eagerly. "A pair of Pintos? And another Star Lord! Did any of their logs survive?!"

Peter raised his hands defensively, snapping, "I have no idea! They might be docked and mothballed with the facility, but that's all I know right now."

"What I can tell you, is we have the data and blueprints for most of the Periphery's domestic WarShips – as well as DropShips and common AeroSpace Fighters – including the Tracker, an intelligence vessel apparently flagged for priority repairs."

Cyrus slumped back in his seat, relieved – the enormous risk and expense had been worth it.

"It's going to take a long time," Rachel said over the ground noise. "but we can do it together."

Cyrus sighed and pulled her tighter against him. "I can't wait."

The End

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