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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 17[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Atreus City, Atreus
Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
12th May, 3065

The ancient hall that housed the Free Worlds League’s Parliament had been rebuilt several times, sometimes due to expansions. It had once had only two hundred members, less than half the current size, and sometimes simply because maintenance had grown too demanding. The institution was in its eighth century after all, with the result that even architecture had fallen behind it. There had been talks about potentially closing and refurbishing it again in time for the octennial in 3071, but that seemed unlikely right now. The members would likely have other things on their minds.

Isis Marik wasn’t a member herself, but there was a sizeable visitor’s gallery that looked down on the purple and gold seating and the marble floor separating the chamber in two. Row after row of formally robed members sat there, with the highest seats on a level with the floor of the gallery above.

Enthroned at the far end of the room, beneath the great eagle emblem of House Marik, the Captain-General looked very small. He was dwarfed by the more than life-sized portrait in one of the arched niches above and behind the carved eagle. Isis knew from brief childhood explorations that the portrait, like the other three pieces of art on that wall, were changed every few years. Voting on that was one of the more minor issues that might be presented before Parliament.

Today, weightier matters had a hold though. She thought she saw tension growing ever deeper on the scarred face of the man she’d thought to be her father. But perhaps that was her imagination. He was probably too far away for that sort of detail.

A member from the Regulan Fiefs, one of the tiny provinces that were heavily influenced by their much larger neighbor, finished a denunciation of House Marik’s corruption. He differed in only a few words from that of some previous speakers, and she wondered absently if they shared a script or if there was just a dreadful lack of imagination to their preparations.

“You’re next.” Therese warned her, under her breath. The grey-haired Duchess of Tamarind was watching proceedings like one of the hawks she flew for sport.

“I know.” Isis left her seat and went to the end of the gallery.

The Speaker, Li Weaver, managed to make his formal thanks to the MP for his words sound almost sincere, and barely glanced at his agenda. “The House calls Duchess Isis Marik of Irian to address Parliament.”

“Objection.” a voice challenged even as the attendant started pulling aside the barrier that separated Isis from the stair down to the main floor.

She looked down but couldn’t tell which of the Members of Parliament had spoken. Their robes gave them some anonymity.

“We will hear the distinguished lady from Vanra.” allowed Weaver grudgingly.

The attendant gave Isis an apologetic look and held the barrier closed. She gave him a forgiving look, since it wasn’t his fault. Although if she’d come all this way to be sent away like a naughty child, it wouldn’t be amusing. Vanra was the main world of the Duchy of Orloff, a mid-size province with a more than respectable military force. Despite having broken off from the much larger Duchy of Oriente, their MPs usually followed the example of their neighbors and Duke Christopher Halas was the Captain-General’s father-in-law.

Either this was someone breaking ranks, or perhaps the Captain-General didn’t want her around for this. Given he’d awarded her Irian, that seemed unlikely. Unless he’d wanted her to stay there.

“There is no cause for us to hear from the words of a bastard whore of a Capellan.” the Member of Parliament declaimed with venom

Oh yes. Orloff was right on the Capellan border. That would do it, she thought bitterly.

Weaver scowled. “The distinguished lady is out of order. You may consider yourself reprimanded and if this inappropriate language continues then I will remove your right to speak.”

The woman sneered. “Then I remind the House that the woman invited has spent almost her entire adult life on Sian or following a Steiner around Lyran space. What weight can be placed on her words other than that they were put into her mouth by her foreign friends?”

Before the Speaker could pick up that verbal gauntlet, the Captain-General leant forwards to whisper something. Whatever the words might bem they were sufficient to sway Weaver. “Per our proceedings, it requires a two-thirds vote to overrule an invitation to speak by the sitting Captain-General. Do I hear a vote to sustain this objection?”

There was a murmuring of voices, although the actual vote was electronic. Isis couldn’t see any of the screens that discreetly reported them but it must have fallen short for the attendant pulled back the barrier.

“Thank you.” She descended to the marble floor and crossed the narrow aisle, reaching the podium next to the throne. The Captain-General seemed to have aged a decade since she had met with him on Tharkad.

Before beginning her formal speech she leant over towards him, pitching her voice to be picked up by the microphones. “Orloff still permit dueling, is that right?”

“...they do.” he allowed.

Isis bared her teeth. “Good.” And then she stared at the Member from Vanra. “Should the ‘distinguished lady’ wish to discuss my merits or failings in future, I will have no difficulty finding seconds.”

There was a ripple, a mix of amusement and of distaste through the seated Members. Clearly some would like to see the outspoken woman taken down a peg or two. Isis doubted there would follow any such challenge, but with this as groundwork, if there was any further outburst she could readily justify issuing one.

Isis might not be a Mechwarrior herself, but she had done some fencing and she suspected the Member didn’t. Sword duels were entirely permissible.

“Ahem.” Weaver cleared his throat. “Your grace, you have been invited to speak on the matter of allegations of gross misconduct by the Captain-General, based on your personal knowledge of him. Please refrain from other issues or from filibustering.”

“Of course.” She paused and looked around the room. “The sitting Captain-General has led the Free Worlds League for almost three decades. The results? Victory in war, prosperity in peace. There are few leaders anywhere not only in our recent history but that of the Inner Sphere who can boast the same.”

“Is he perfect? No. But who here can say with honesty that they have never made a mistake. Is he my father? Also no, but since the actual Thomas Marik has been absent my whole life I can honestly say that the Captain-General has done a better job of fatherhood than my biological parent.” As poor as that was.

“I am not a financial auditor, and I understand that experts are already reporting far beyond I could on whether funds have been misappropriated. However, the question rests on whether or not the Captain-General knew. I have no facts to report that can definitively answer that question. Based on my knowledge of him, and reports upon the Word of Blake shared with me by both the members of House Liao and House Steiner-Davion -” Take that, Member from Vanra “- I think that it is very likely that the Captain-General authorized some limited padding of contracts in order to support the establishment of the Word of Blake Militia, reasoning that they could serve as a reinforcement in the event that the Clan War spilled over into the the Free Worlds League, or that we found ourselves at war with the Federated Commonwealth.”

Isis shook her head lightly. “From what I understand, the expectation that that support would be repaid was let down and I hardly think that such a successful leader would have reinforced failure. However, the Word of Blake is not merely an organization. It is a doctrine and evidence overwhelmingly supports that it has supporters outside it’s known ranks. It would not surprise me - and more tellingly, it would not surprise analysts serving our neighbors to learn that significant elements of our government have been subverted beyond anything that would be permitted by the Captain-General.”

“Many of those individuals may feel that they, as the Captain-General surely did, were serving the Free Worlds League by supporting an ally. I doubt if any great number have a full grasp of the extent of their collective impact. Indeed, the factionalism within the Word makes it entirely possible that even their membership do not know how deep or shallow their support is within the Free Worlds. Yet it unquestionably exists.”

“For all his great successes, I must count this as a failure on the part of the Captain-General. Not outweighing his meritorious record, but it is the duty of this House to address his complete record, neglecting neither the good nor the ill. Alongside this there is a second failure: the rising tensions that could potentially undermine the benefits his reign has led us to.”

She turned on the podium, seeing that Thomas ‘Marik’ was stone-faced. “The long reign of Janos Marik and our sitting Captain-General mean that few now can remember the last peaceful succession of a Captain-General. The disorder around the brief reign of Duncan Marik is an example we should not wish to emulate. I will therefore presume to counsel the Captain-General to cap his career with one more act of genuine merit and statesmanship: oversee a peaceful transfer of power to a chosen successor rather than letting your tenure end in bloody and avoidable conflict.”

There was a spark of anger in the Captain-General’s eyes. Isis reached for the podium and found the microphone’s mute button. With her head turned she hoped no one would have a good look at her lips. “For your family’s sake, Sir.” she murmured.

Then she turned and nodded to Li Weaver, unmuting the microphone.

“Thank you for your words, Duchess.” The Speaker remained urbane. “I appreciate it has taken no small exertion for you to address the House today. I hope that you will be able to take the time to attend our ongoing debates.”

Isis nodded and then saw the Vanra representative standing again.

“Would the distinguished lady care to remember my former warning?” Weaver observed.

The woman squared her shoulders. “Duchess Marik, I withdraw and apologize for my previous remarks. I disagree with much of your position, but as you had the courage to present it. I am forced to recognize you as a true and patriotic daughter of the League.”

If that was sincere, it was something. She wasn’t sure what, but something.

Before she had reached the gallery again though, another Member of Parliament was at the podium. A distinguished gentleman from Regulus.

“I endorse the proposal that Thomas Marik should stand down, and put forward the name of Kirc Cameron-Jones as the next Captain-General.”

The response was a roar of mixed approval and opposition.

Therese Marik shook her head slightly as Isis reached her. “The moderate’s road is a brave one, but you’re just going to take fire from both sides.”

“Well, they say a politician is known by the stature of their enemies…”

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