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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 20[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
23rd June, 3065

Peter Steiner-Davion had slept on the dropship, scheduling it to arrive at a private landing pad behind Castle Davion first thing in the morning. That way he had his staff would have a whole day to get set up and deal with any immediate action.
His staff. Ha. That was hilarious. He’d thought when he was younger that his parents were overdoing it with the number of people they kept around them to support their work. Experience of actually serving as the Archon-Prince had shown him the error of his ways. So far it was taking four separate staffs to help himself, Yvonne and Catherine to keep track of everything. Yvonne’s own staff on Tharkad, Catherine’s here on New Avalon, his staff on Tharkad who were busy maintaining smooth interaction between Yvonne’s and the personal staff that had followed him to New Avalon… and one of the many chores he would have to do before his formal coronation in September would be establishing a permanent staff here to maintain communication between his personal staff and Catherine’s when he returned to Tharkad.

Even though the individual staffs were smaller than either of his parents, in total they needed more people just to get as much done. It really showed him the scale of the shoulders that he was stood upon.

Catherine was waiting for him, dressed casually and she surprised him by hugging him first. It had been almost two years since they met in person, he realized. And he’d been her main support from their reunion on Zaniah until right after the Battle of New Avalon. Peter wrapped his arms around her shoulders and let her cling to him for a few minutes. “Missed me?”

“A bit, yes.” She let go of him. “Did you have a good trip?”

“Draining.” He’d visited twenty different worlds on his way from Tharkad to New Avalon, meeting nobles, officers and officials to reinforce their support for his government. “I gather I have an easy first day?” He’d looked at his schedule yesterday, but something could have changed, for example… “Or has the Lucien Davion popped up again somewhere?”

Catherine shook her head. “I’d have mentioned that first thing.”

Peter sighed. “It’s like the sword of Damocles, hanging over us. Where is she? What is she doing?”

“If we’re lucky, a misjump. She’ll never turn up again, or she will, so late that she’ll be entirely irrelevant.”

Peter snorted. “That would be her getting off lightly and if we’re not lucky?”

His elder sister made a face. “Since she didn’t turn up a week or two after New Avalon and start getting her own version of events out? She had a bolthole somewhere and is there, plotting a return.”

Rubbing his jaw, Peter conceded that she was right. And agreed with all of the other analysis that he’d been offered. But where that would be… that was another question. “Well, I guess we can stick with the plan then. A informal privy council meeting and then military matters?”

“Dress fitting between the two, unless you count that as military.” Catherine told him as they walked into the Castle.

He gave her a look. “Dress uniform, Catherine.”

“A pretty costume for a special occasion is a pretty costume for a special occasion.”

She wasn’t entirely wrong, he conceded. There would be no skirt unless someone had snuck kilts into the uniform code without telling him. His coronation would be the highlight of his first Royal Court as Archon-Prince, so what he wore would actually matter, however little he enjoyed being fitted for a suitably ornate uniform. It would also essentially unveil the new dress uniform for the reunified Armed Forces of the Federated Commonwealth. The original uniforms had had distinct Lyrans and Suns versions, and that was just going to have to end.

A short elevator ride brought them up to one of the administrative wing of the Castle and they entered the traditional meeting room of the privy council. Most of those attending were dressed more formally than Catherine, despite the fact the meeting was supposed to be a low key way for Peter to get to know them.

At least he had plenty of recent practice pressing flesh, Peter mused as he worked his way around them. Most were somewhat familiar to him, at least by reputation. But that wasn’t a substitute for face to face meetings, particularly when getting a feel for what might be between the lines of their memos.

Having worked his way around from Count Garek Davion - one of Jackson Davion’s many close cousins and the Minister of Administrative Services - to his second cousin once removed Angela Hasek, representing the Capellan March Ministry, Peter took the seat at the head of the table with Catherine at his left hand and Bishop Sortek at his right. “It’s good to meet you all at last. I’d have liked to come here sooner, but the Whitting Conference slowed sorting out affairs of state on Tharkad.”

“I recall your parents wanted to operate a cycle of dividing the year between Tharkad and New Avalon.” James Sandoval offered. The Duke was representing the Draconis March Ministry in person, an unusual choice but a welcome one. Keeping the Dukes of Robinson and New Syrtis favorably inclined towards him would ease a lot of Peter’s burdens. “Do you plan to adopt that policy?”

“I don’t think it’s going to be practical in the short or medium term.” Peter rested his hands on the table. “With the Whitting Conference every three years and the current expectations for likely military threats, I expect to need to spend most or all of 3067 on Tharkad, so currently I’m planning on spending the next year and a half on New Avalon or nearby… up until Christmas next year, most likely. So for now it’ll probably be around eighteen months on each capital.”

There were nods around the room. Good, because that was more or less forced on him. “I know Catherine’s impressions but what would you say is the biggest issue we’re facing right now?” he asked.

Heads turned as the Minsters wondered who would be first to speak up. It was Angela Hasek, as it happened. “I would say the suggested creation of new Marches, your highness.”

“As we’re being informal today, you can all call me Peter when we’re meeting like this.” He glanced at James Sandoval. “Would you agree with that assessment?”

“It would be one of the biggest administrative events in over five centuries,” the older man observed. “which may mean that it’s time for something like that.”

“I’m less convinced.” Angela seemed to have strong opinions. “Other than trying to match the Lyrans by having five internal divisions, it seems to have little benefit.”

Peter raised his hand before anyone else could pour oil onto the fire. “Let’s be honest, the so-called Outback worlds have had legitimate grievances about how they’ve been last in House Davion’s priorities for far too long. Reforming the Outworlds March in some form is essentially a done deal, although I am quite content for it not to affect the Capellan March if you and George are confident that worlds under your administration wouldn’t benefit.”

Angela nodded and James glanced over at his counterpart for the Crucis March, Conrad Davion. The young man had stepped in as Peter and Catherine’s deputy for the traditional fief of House Davion after short but successful military and diplomatic careers. “I think Conrad and I have worked out a good basis for which regions should be included in an Outworlds March, drawing on current boundaries and economic numbers. There would still need to be new appointments for their leadership.”

“The area is already getting strong investment. Is a new March really necessary?” asked Tames DuVall. The Minister of Ways and Means was from another of the major New Avalon political dynasties, though his branch of the family had left the world centuries ago. “The budget is already strained.”

“Shortening lines of communication in the more farflung worlds will pay off in the long term.” Catherine commented quietly. “The Terran March is more questionable financially.”

Glancing around the room, Peter didn’t see anyone disagreeing. “That’s fair and most of the people I’ve met in the Terran corridor didn’t seem to be motivated to push for the idea. I still want a presentation on the possibilities, but if we can agree on the Outworlds then the Terran March can be put on the backburner. If nothing else, the situation there is still more fluid than I like.”

“If you want to save money,” offered Bishop Sortek, “I’d be delighted to switch our purchasing away from Quikscell. The amount of money we waste fixing everything that gets shipped from their factories is a nightmare.”

“Do we have alternative sources?” They built some benchmark vehicles for the AFFC and they were litigious when it came to anyone copying those designs.
To his surprise, Catherine spoke up. “There’s a new start-up building vehicles that could fill most of their roles. I’ve approved funding for them under the military industries reform program. Their factories can start building basic light artillery vehicles and mid-weight tanks.”

“Hmm. Parts?”

Sortek smiled toothily. “They have licensed spare parts production out to companies that operate a much better level of quality control. Without that we’d probably not be able to use their output anyway.”

Peter considered and then nodded. “Starting from the end of the next financial year, cut them out of procurement. Alright, open floor. I understand Jackson Davion is looking to retire, maybe managing the transition would be a good job for him to handle while his successor is getting up to speed - something to talk about this afternoon, Bishop. Alright, everyone. What else do you feel should be high in my priorities right - ?”

There was a chime from the console built into the table. Outside communications were usually filtered save for important and urgent matters during meetings.

“I haven’t been on-world for more than an hour.”

Catherine shrugged. “At least whatever it is waited until we’d all woken up.” Then she reached over and accepted the call.

“My apologies,” the speaker on the other side of the channel began. “there’s been a high priority message via HPG.”

“What about?” asked Peter, resting one arm on the table.

“The Free Worlds League appears to have broken out into a civil war, Your Highness.”

The Archon-Prince pinched the bridge of his nose. He could feel a headache coming on. “Well, I did just open the agenda for suggestions.” he muttered, half to himself. “Send the message through. Unless anyone has anything they feel is more important, we may as well all read this at once…”

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