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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 21[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]


Hyppo, Augustine
Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
18th July, 3065


Galen had grown his beard back out in preparation for a discreet journey back across the border and Alys had used her influence over Augustine’s government to have an FWL passport issued to him under the name of Jerrard Cranston. That and contact details for a free trader operating out of Rochelle should get him as far as Solaris VII and from there he could rely on his contacts in the AFFC and ComStar.

Isis wasn’t sure she liked the beard. Galen looked good with it, but it had been itchy when she kissed him goodbye in the drop-port lounge.

“Public displays of affection already?” Alys asked him once they were back in the discreet groundcar that would whisk them back to the ducal palace.

“Just maintaining cover. We looked like family seeing him off and all the other wives were doing that when they or their husband was departing.”

“Oh, planning the marriage already?” coyly Alys asked

“I only kissed his cheek, Alys!” she snapped, hoping her cheeks weren’t too red.

Her cousin laughed. “Well you’re probably not pregnant just from that…”

“Oh shut up!” Isis snapped.

Officially, Alys was the only one who had arrived on her homeworld. If the security services thought Isis was still in transit somewhere then they might have to spread their resources thinner. It would be extremely bold for them to try to arrest a duchess at the seat of her power, but a visiting cousin might seem like a softer target.

The elder of the two didn’t shut up, but she did change the subject, “Are you sure you don’t want to go directly back to Irian?”

“As tempting as it is, our two worlds alone won’t be much of a firebreak.” said Isis

Thomas ‘Marik’ and his family had successfully reached a jump point with two warships before the FWLS Corinne’s adherents had managed to catch up. From there they’d taken refuge within Christopher Halas’ Duchy of Oriente and were busy welding together a coalition to stand against the usurper. While messages via the Blakist-controlled HPGs should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, it seemed that both the Duchy of Orloff and the neighboring Protectorate - once Anton Marik’s power base fifty years before - had pledged themselves to that cause, providing a solid power bloc on the Capellan border, if the scattered Orloff and Oriente regiments could be re-amassed.

Corinne’s own position was also solidifying with both her paternal grandfather, the Earl of Stewart, and the more distant Graham-Marik kin acknowledging her as the Captain-General. She hadn’t received much more than that though, and many federal units hadn’t declared themselves… at least, not as far as Isis or Alys had managed to find out.

The two largest provinces not to commit so far were the Principality of Regulus - naturally, given Kirc Cameron-Jones’ ambitions - and the distant Duchy of Andurien. If the latter sided with Thomas then Duchess Humphreys would almost certainly bring the entire Ryerson Military District with her, seriously threatening the Regulans’ ambitions. If she declared for Corinne then it would leave the deposed Captain-General and the Regulans with enemies on all sides.

But even more likely than that was that Dalma would renew her grandmother’s ambitions for independence from thirty years ago. And there was very little in the way to stop her. Both the Canopians and Capellans bordered that corner of the Free Worlds League but it would serve both of their interests to have a comparatively weak buffer realm there rather than the mighty League.

“Everything between Stewart and Terra is in flux,” warned Alys. “it would only take one officer in the wrong place and you could find yourself in custody.”

“If I do nothing then I might as well be in custody.” Isis glanced out of her window. “Sigmund Hughes granted me representative authority when I left for Atreus, second only to that of our MP. Since she gave her duress code during her statement of support for Corinne…”

Honestly, the coup on Atreus had been so mis-managed that she was beginning to think that it hadn’t been planned with success in mind.

“I can negotiate with the governments of Savannah and Connaught before returning home. If they agree to a pact of neutrality then we can rely on Technicron and Kong Interstellar as well as Irian to supply whatever forces we can field.”

Alys nodded. “I’ll send word to officers I know and talk to my own neighbors.” she confirmed. “Van Diemen IV may be feeling vulnerable now that the Third Oriente Hussars pulled out to head for home, they might be willing to throw in too. Not that they have much but militia-grade troops, but every little helps.”

“Be careful about your neighbors,” warned Isis. “they may be more loyal to Corinne than you want.” Augustine was still part of the Marik Commonwealth after all. Three of its nearest neighbors were also members of House Marik’s personal province, while Berenson was base for the Fifteenth Marik Militia, a reinforced regiment that seemed to be cautiously favorable to Corinne’s regime.

“Right now, Corrine has more to worry about at the other end of the Commonwealth. Atreus is only two jumps away from Regulus, and Cameron-Jones is only holding off his own candidacy because he’s still pulling his own forces together.” Alys reached across and took Isis’ hand. “The real worry I have is the FedCom. You know Peter Steiner-Davion better than I do. What will he do?”

Isis frowned. “Not very well,” she cautioned. “But… I don’t think we have to worry about a sweeping assault, like Operation Rat. He doesn’t have forces in place and this probably caught him as offguard as the rest of us. Besides, he’s on New Avalon…”

“His brother is on Bolan.” Alys told her

She conceded the point. “He’s also worried about the Clans. The Jade Falcons have invaded three times in the last fifteen years, and Clan Wolf’s Khan openly told Victor that they’re just waiting for the Truce of Tukkayid to run out. If we collapse into small conflicts, the Chaos March all over again, I couldn’t rule out opportunistic attempts to take soft targets.”

Alys nodded in understanding. “The Sirians, for example. The Concordat is like a dagger against his Terran Corridor, but if federal forces move out then there’s only the three regiments of the Sirian Lancers to defend them.”

“That would be the high end of what I’d expect,” Isis agreed. There are also isolated worlds - it wouldn’t take much to push the border far enough back that he was in position to threaten Dieudonne. That would essentially let him neutralize half his border with the League, which could be tempting if the bulk of his mobile forces are committed elsewhere.”

Dieudonne was the command center for the military district that took its name from the world, almost a quarter of the Free Worlds league, including both Irian and Augustine. Losing it, or even having to worry about reorganizing around another headquarters would severely hamper any coordinated military action by the FWLM in the area.

Alys pursed her lips and leaned back, releasing Isis’ hand. “Then building a power bloc wouldn’t just deter the various claimants from trying to drag us into their mess,” she observed. “it would also warn the Archon-Prince off.”

“I agree. It’s very unlikely that anyone would be able to convince him to authorize an attack that could drag him into a wider conflict. If nothing else, that could drag the Star League in and right now he looks like being the only viable candidate for First Lord in 3067.”

“I thought that you said he didn’t want it?” Alys gave her a questioning look.

Isis shook her head. “He didn’t want the title then, he was still feeling out how to handle his new responsibilities and needed to show his focus was at home. But by the next Whitting Conference, election would cement his status as having brought his realm back from the Civil War. I’m not saying he has to have it, but it would be a useful political point to score and it probably wouldn’t be difficult for him to get the position - unless they open it up to new members, it has to be him or the Captain-General and what do you reckon the chances we are there’s a clear Captain-General by then.”

Her cousin frowned. “A year and a half from now… Worse than they would have been if Thomas had died, or had the good grace to just live in exile. Corinne could probably have accepted his being under Halas protection.”

“Grace isn’t something he does well.” Isis thought about her aunt Therese and then about her grandfather Janos, who she didn’t remember having met - he’d died when she was a baby. “I suppose most Mariks are like that. Maybe it’s a learned behavior.”

“The keyword in ‘being a good loser’ is ‘loser’.” pointed out Alys, which rather seemed to prove Isis’ point.


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