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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 19[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]


Atreus City, Atreus
Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
17th June, 3065


The soup plates were just being removed by waiting staff and Galen could smell the steak on the plate being carried over when Isis grabbed her purse and pulled out her comm, which was visibly vibrating until she hit the accept key.

“How did you know it was going off?” he asked, bemused.

“It pages a receiver I’m wearing if anything urgent comes in,” she told him absently, reading the content of the unit’s screen. “I… Blake’s beard.”

“What?” Galen had almost never heard her curse.

Isis grabbed her purse. “We’re leaving,” she told him, not bothering to tell the wait staff anything. Then again, her staff had probably arranged how the bill would be paid at the time the table had been booked so that something as crass as money wouldn’t come up. It wasn’t as if House Marik would have trouble covering a couple of meals here, however outrageous the prices were.

Galen’s time with Victor had taught him that the rich were just like everyone else, except that they had money. And that royalty was just like the rich except that they never needed to even think about money. Well, not below the national budget level.

With a sad look at the steak, he pushed his own chair back and trotted after Isis. He sensed, rather than heard the waiter following him and looked back.

“Would you like this in a roll to go, sir?” the man offered as if this happened every day.

Hot damn, now this was service! “Will the chef kill me?”

The waiter gave a faux chuckle at the joke and made a gesture up ahead. Before they reached the door a half baguette in a napkin was ready and Galen exited with his steak nestled in the bread. Which was, of course, excellent. “What’s wrong?” he asked Isis as they reached the elevators, her bodyguards already moving up around them.

“Security teams were just ordered to get every member of House Marik on the planet back to the palace, as an utmost priority.” she told him, hammering the call button for every elevator in the restaurant lobby. “We have a matter of minutes before one gets here.” One of the doors opened and Isis held one hand out, blocking him from getting on. “Not that one.”

“What’s caused that?” Galen asked

A second door opened and Isis nodded slightly. Two of her bodyguards entered and unceremoniously dragged the two occupants out. The couple seemed more shocked than hurt. Isis, Galen and the four guards entered, Isis stabbing the button for the viewing lounge on the top floor of the building.

“Isis.”

She took a deep breath. “The orders came from Captain-General Corrine Marik.”

He hesitated. If Thomas had stood aside then this wouldn’t be necessary, probably there would be a discreet recall so that everyone in House Marik was singing from the same hymn sheet when the press started asking questions. But security teams… “A coup?”

Isis nodded jerkily. “The security teams should be taking orders only from the sitting Captain-General. If they’re moving then they’ve already been compromised.”

A vision of Katherina Steiner-Davion right before the explosion that demolished their hotel on Solaris VII crossed Galen’s mind. Family and politics. Damn! He hated this. “Why the observation deck?”

“The security team will have the parking garage and the exits below sealed,” one of the guards advised. “there’s no helipad so that should be the only way out.”

“I take it they’re wrong.” He bit into his steak sandwich. Might as well enjoy it while he could. The meat was delicious. He could only believe it would have been even better on the plate.

The man tipped his head slightly in acknowledgement.

“What about the others?” Galen asked as the doors opened onto the top floor of the skyscraper. It was domed in crystalline glass, potted plants and faux grass giving it the look of a garden in the sky.

“Everyone has an exit strategy.” Isis strode towards the southern view over Atreus City. “I don’t think anyone really wanted this, but it isn’t the first time House Marik has had an internal division. The question is, how many of those plans have been compromised.”

Her comm unit vibrated again in her hand. “Sixty seconds.”

One of the guards caught Galen’s hand and directed him towards a gazebo. “Ladies and gentlemen!” another announced loudly, catching the attention of those already in this part of the viewing deck. “For your own safety, please withdraw to the other side of the viewing deck.”

There was unsurprisingly a less than willing response. The woman removing an unnecessarily large pistol from inside her jacket was rather more convincing and almost everyone streamed away.

Galen tore another bite from his sandwich. It was just too surreal, he’d really rather be inside his ‘Mech if something was going on.

“Ten seconds,” Isis reported and crouched down inside the gazebo. “Take cover.”

He followed her example and then craned his head around as bright lights illuminated the dome from the outside. “What… oh you’re kidding.” He dropped his sandwich and put his arms around her protectively.

The southern side of the dome imploded as a helicopter descended, shattering the glass panels and snapping the metal struts holding them in place. Sturdier supports limited the damage but almost a quarter of the dome broke apart under the impact of the fuselage. Fragments rained down on the gazebo, none of them heavy enough to damage the roof or harm those beneath it’s shelter.

“Go go go!” one of the guards called, pulling Galen off Isis and hustling him towards the black-and-white painted VTOL that was shifting towards the edge of the rooftop. It hadn’t landed - even the partial dome would have obstructed its rotor blades, but enough was down that hovering just off the edge it could descend until the side door was level with the rail.

It took Galen a moment to recognize the design. “Where did you get a Kestrel?” he called as they reached the rail. As far as he knew, they were built exclusively for use by the Wolf Dragoons’ Seventh Commando special forces.

“This really isn't the time!” Isis called back as one of her guards lifted her and literally carried her in the brief hop across from the rail into the helicopter’s infantry bay. Someone inside was waiting to catch her.

Then it was Galen’s turn and he shook off the guard, making the jump. The Kestrel hatch opened downwards into the small wing surface that flanked the fuselage and that looked dangerously close to hitting the side of the building.

The man inside him who hustled him away from the door so that others could enter wasn’t wearing Wolf Dragoons pins, but his jumpsuit was the exact cut that Galen had seen them wear when he was on Outreach. He’d even worn some himself while going through training there.

There were other passengers aboard, Alys Rousett-Marik most prominently, and a half-dozen people that he guessed were her own bodyguards and staff.

“Fancy meeting you here,” Galen noted, taking a seat next to Isis and facing the other duchess. “do I want to know who’ll pay for the damage to the roof?”

“It’ll probably cost less than hiring this helicopter.” Alys muttered. “Really, Isis, the Wolf's Dragoons?”

“I was in a hurry,” the younger Marik said indignantly. “I haven’t had the time to get this sort of thing set up in-house? And the hotel will bill Corinne for the damage.”

“Will she’ll pay? Is there a book of rules for this game or can anyone play?”

“The first rule is that winning excuses anything.” Isis told him seriously. “And yes, she’ll cover the damage. It’d be poor publicity not to. Although she’ll probably try to confiscate my finances, which would off-set the expense.”

“We can cover Civil War 101 later.” Alys pursed her lips. “Are you coming with us, Colonel Cox?”

“I suspect that Corinne would consider me an accomplice just for being here, so let’s say yes. I do need to report in at some point though.”

“Given the Word of Blake are probably backing her through her father, I wouldn’t suggest going to an HPG station around here.”

“Point.” He felt the helicopter veer away. “I take it we’re heading for a hidden dropship?”

“Yes. We need to be away before anyone has a solid grip on the orbitals. I hope you didn’t leave anything behind that you can’t live without.”

“Military lifestyle is hard on that sort of thing,” Galen told her. “as well as the whole false identity didn’t help.”

“Do you have any details?” Isis asked her cousin.

“We got enough warning that most of the family have a shot, I think.” Alys closed her eyes for a moment. “The most likely people not to get away really is the Captain-General and his family. They would have been in the palace already so…”

“I’d have to imagine that he was Corinne’s primary target,” Galen agreed. “are we blind to what else is going on?”

“Not entirely, but we’re mostly monitoring military frequencies,” Isis told him, putting an earbud into one ear. “a lot of them don’t know what’s going on at the moment.”

The Kestrel wasn’t a slow machine and the lights of Atreus City were already invisible out of the tiny viewports. “Pursuit?”

“Normally, yes, but right now anyone with the ability to chase us has other concerns.”

It took less than thirty minutes before the helicopter descended, coming down what Galen would normally have said was an unsafe distance from a small dropship. It had barely touched ground before he felt it moving.

“We’re being towed into the dropship,” the loadmaster told him. “The dropship’s primed to take off the minute we’re locked down.”

Galen sat back in the seat. It wasn’t ideal to ride in while taking off, but better than some of the alternatives.

The ride up the ramp was as quick and efficient as he’d expected and interior lights for the troop bay brightened once the dropship door started closing behind them.

Isis sighed heavily. “Dammit.”

All eyes turned to her. “What?” asked Alys.

“Naval frequencies just lit up. The Captain-General and his family are aboard a warship and heading for a pirate point.”

“I’d almost rather Corinne succeeded,” her cousin said half-heartedly. “do you think they’ll make it?”

“The FWLS Corinth is moving to intercept, but one of her escorts isn’t on board with that…” Isis bit her lip. “I don’t know, but we have to assume he’ll get to the jump point, so House Halas won’t back Corinne. She has no leverage.”

“With two sides inside of House Marik, Cameron-Jones will have enough of an opportunity that he’ll continue his claim.” Alys concluded. “A three sided civil war. Damn, damn, damn…”

This is turning into a bad habit, Galen thought. Who’s next? The Draconis Combine? The Capellans?


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