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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 23[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
7th September, 3065

“So, I think we have one last thing to decide,” Peter said as the meeting with Angela Hasek wound to an end. “unless you can think of anything more?”

She shook her head. “If you mean the decision about the new Capellan March Militia unit, then that’s the last point on my agenda.”

Peter leant back in his chair and massaged the fingers of his right hand. He’d signed so many papers since becoming Archon-Prince that he was beginning to think the Kurita system of a hanko stamp might be sensible. “Are there any new arguments from Tikonov or from Nanking?”

His cousin shook her head. “They both have reasonable arguments but we really can’t afford both.”

“They also both have some rather unreasonable arguments and are trying my patience. Particularly with Earthwerks and Ceres Metals dragging their feet for thirty years on expanding their production to what it should be.” Peter brought up a map of the region again, he’d had to consult it a few times already this meeting so it was at least close to hand. “I don’t want to reward this sort of behavior.”

“Well, it’s really going to have to be one of them.”

Peter’s eyes picked up a name on the map. There was something… “Remind me,” he said slowly. Hampton’s Hessens… the mercs. I heard something about them receiving substantial military donations from the nobility of New Hessen, back in 3062?”

Angela paused. “I’m… not sure.” she confessed.

Typing a query into his console, his ever-efficient staff returned a reply in moments. “Yes… they did. They’ve been rebuilding gradually since we took New Hessen back in 3028 and destroyed two of their three regiments. It seems like they’re planning on heading to Galatea and seeking new contracts.”

“Honestly, I’m not sure they’ll be much loss.” she said

Peter nodded slowly. “They refused point blank to be sent to fight the Clans, but to be fair, that was 3050 when it was a chancy proposition anyway. Otherwise they’ve been very loyal to their homeworld.”

The Minister of the Capellan March gave him a puzzled look. “What does this have to do with the March Militia?”

“I don’t really want that much metal running off and New Hessen has at least been quiet. It’s not badly placed either, if we do need another March Militia in the Chaos March area this would space the command worlds out. So we’ll designate New Hessen as the command world for the PDZ for now and base the March Militia there. Let’s harness some of that martial fervor for our own benefit. We might be able to tempt some of the Hessens to stay and join.”

“That’s…” Angela frowned. “Well, it’s Solomonic, I’ll give you that. I was leaning towards Nanking personally, since they were at least loyal through the collapse of the Sarna March.”

“If this works out we should be able to divert some of what we needed to build the new CaMM unit into creating a Training Battalion on Nanking. That gives them something and it’d be the seed for their own March Militia if we decide on that later.”

“Well, it’s a decision. Not the one that I was expecting, but at least that’s off the list of pending business.” His cousin made a note. “With that, we’re more or less done on time. I’d offer to stay and socialize, but honestly, I have plans tonight so I want to get prettied up.”

“Have fun.” he told her and started clearing his desk. As his cousin left he heard an exchange of greetings with someone else in the outer office. “Hildgard, is my sister here?”

“Yes sir.” his evening secretary confirmed. She was a practically-minded young woman from a baronial family on Gallery, a world with strong ties to House Steiner. He hadn’t met her with hiring her in mind, she’d been one of the many ladies of suitable age and social status paraded through the royal court after he accepted the post of Archon-Prince. While they hadn’t hit it off the way her as father had hoped (probably because she was currently seeing a lieutenant in the Fifth Royals), he had remembered her name and evident intelligence when he saw her name on new hires being vetted for staff positions.

“Send her in.” Peter directed. “And if you’ve cleared what’s on your desk, you can take the rest of the evening off. I don’t have anything official left on the schedule.”

“Are you sure, sir? I believe you could work in press release if you really want?” But her voice was teasing.

“Get out of here while you still can.” he growled with mock menace.

Catherine slipped through the door and closed it behind her. “You know there’s serious money riding in the two of you having a secret relationship.”

“I could do worse, but no.” Peter shook her head. “Besides, she and Fredrica are very sweet together and please stop bringing up my need to marry. I get that enough from almost everyone else.”

“Captains shouldn’t marry, majors may.” his sister recited. “Lieutenant colonels should and Colonels must. Archon Princes… um, that didn’t really fit in.” She thumped her head in frustration. “Colonels should and princes must?”

“I think the moment has passed.” he offered. This was going to be difficult but at least that seemed to just be a more normal flub rather than her actually ‘skipping tracks’ as he’d heard it explained. “Take a seat.”

“Can I? They’re much nicer than my office.” Then she paused and shook her head. “No, just one seat wouldn’t match the rest of the decor.”

Peter rubbed his jaw. “Are you playing it up?”

“A bit,” she confessed as she sat down facing him. “if people think I’m a little dotty they underestimate me. Of course, sometimes it’s for real, but less often than it used to.”

“How is therapy doing?” Peter asked

“I don’t think that my therapist believes half what I say, but I guess she’s still helping me so I don’t take that personally.”

Turning his chair slightly, Peter looked at the sky outside. The office was so high that the light pollution from Avalon City at the foot of Mount Davion was barely visible. “Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if you hadn’t wandered up to St. Marinus,” he confided. “Then I remember what you predicted and I don’t want to know any more details.”

Catherine nodded soberly and said nothing.

Breaking what was coming to be an uncomfortable silence, Peter worked up his nerve. “Cat, we need to talk about where you’ve been spending some of the Davion family funds. They’re not quite as deep as the Steiner Trust, but you’re pushing a lot of money into some of your ventures and it’s having some knock-on effects. Not to mention it’s going against some of the policies I’ve been setting.”

She blinked, looking suddenly on the brink of tears. “Sorry.” she mumbled and he thought she was apologizing for her actions, but then she pulled out a handkerchief and wiped her eyes. Was she actually crying? Catherine took a deep breath and then faced him. “I’m sorry.” she said again. “That caught me off guard for some reason. Go on.”

Peter nodded slowly. Was Catherine more fragile than he’d thought? Or - horrible thought but almost reflexive after the last two years - was she manipulating him. I should speak to her therapist, he thought. And Yvonne. Doubting her motives made him feel sick, he was trusting her with so much and who else could he trust?

I must find someone, he thought. If nothing else, I’d want her to come to Yvonne’s wedding so she’ll need to leave New Avalon for a while then. “You know we’re looking at possible withdrawing from Twycross and removing the factories there if we can do it without crippling the tooling in the process. So why did you send an expedition to the system to prospect for some sort of chemical compound.”

“Ah.” His sister looked troubled. “I thought… no, blast it. I hadn’t told you, had I? I could have sworn… I must have rehearsed pitching it to you and then got that in my head as if I’d gone ahead.”

“Cat?” Peter asked her

Harjel.” she told him abruptly. “The stuff the Clans use for sealant on their battle armor, even for some of their warships?”

“Yes, I know about it.” It was one of the technologies that they hadn’t managed to reverse engineer even in a lesser version, as they had with other advanced that the Clans had made in their long self-imposed exile from the Inner Sphere. The ability to close breaches in their armor was a small advantage, but it was there and as with many things, if you piled enough advantages on each other than it could prove to be decisive.

“There’s a source on Jonah’s Reach, a moon in the outer system.” explained Catherine. “The Diamond Sharks found… would have found it. The Jade Falcons decided against trying to take it back after losing the Falcon Guards there a second time, so the Diamond Sharks took it as a base of operations in the Inner Sphere and they found the source there. Harjel’s very hard to come by, they control the only source in Clan space and when they found it in the Inner Sphere they secured it to maintain their monopoly.”

“I see…” Peter paused and ran one hand through his hair. “In that case, if news comes out about it then they’ll probably try to seize it for the same reason then. Although at least that sounds as if we don’t need to worry much about the Jade Falcons launching a new invasion. Raids though…” He shook his head. “Alright, I wish I’d known this sooner but it’s probably too sensitive to share via HPG. I don’t think we can afford to try to set up a factory to extract it though.”

Catherine nodded. “If we can get a detailed report of how it’s formed, which seems to be a natural process, then it’s possible there might be other worlds where it can be found. A single factory probably wouldn’t be enough to supply large scale manufacture anyway.”

“The Clans seem to manage.” Peter commented

“The Clans are tiny.” Catherine replied

He shrugged. “Alright. Now, seriously, this Felix Industries you’ve sponsored to construct light tanks and missile carriers for us. How much of it do we actually own?”

“Uh, almost all?” she told him sheepishly. “Partnerships were slowing things down so much…”

“There’s a time to do things right, Cat. No wonder you’re pouring money into it. Bringing in partners wouldn’t just bring in more money, it would also bring in more expertise. And I bet you’re basically running them from here?”

She nodded again, penitently.

Peter sighed. “Please don’t make Victor’s mistake or for that matter, the even more common mistake of thinking you can or should be doing everything yourself. Bring in experts, give them high level direction and provide oversight. Anything else means you’ll make mistakes both because none of us can know everything, and even if you did, none of us have the time to do everything.”

“I promise.” Catherine assured him.

“Have your staff look at setting aside time so you can recruit a leadership team.” he ordered. “Assign someone to do the looking around for partnerships. GM and Johnston Industries are likely candidates - they know that Felix has contracts with the AFFC now, so they look more viable - and they’ll want to keep an eye on a potential competitor so they’ll likely buy in, which will pay back some of what you’re investing. I know you’re not spending more than we have available, but the margin is still narrower than I like. What exactly do you have lined up for them?”

“We have a light missile carrier vehicle based on the SLDF’s old Vali artillery vehicle, that’s in production, and a variant with the artillery capacity is being worked on.”

“Arrow IV missiles?” Peter inquired. Those had been the SLDF’s preferred artillery system.

“That and a variant with a Thumper light field gun. I think militias will prefer those.” she told him

'“It can’t hurt, particularly if there’s a lot of chassis commonality.”

“Besides that,” his sister ticked projects off on her fingers. Vedette and Myrmidons on license from NETC. That’s the main moneymaker, so far. We’re looking another mid-weight tank to carry a gauss rifle - something between the Vedette and the Capellan’s Po in design. Towards the former in weight, it’ll probably need to be a fuel cell engine.”

“Don’t those have shorter ranges? And it’s going to mean another fuel type…”

“We can just add larger fuel tanks. As long as they’re paired with something that has a fusion engine and access to water, like a Myrmidon or almost any BattleMech…”

“Not really suited to worlds with strategically relevant deserts either,” Peter noted. “but larger fuel tanks help… I suppose exploring the option as a fuel type can’t hurt, but don’t count on a contract from the AFFC unless those issues are considered.”

She smiled with warm reassurance. “I won’t. Uh… yes, there’s another heavier project like that with a pair of Gauss Rifles, it’s supposed to be a cheaper compliment to the Alacorns. A license for the Brutus -”

Alacorn Heavy Tank (By yukuzhelev 3D Model)

Alacorn Heavy Tank

“Good choice.” he agreed. Kressly Warworks was the only source for that heavy tank currently, so regaining access when Epsilon Eridani was retaken had been a boost to the AFFC tank corps. But another source - or two - would be a great step forwards.

“Thank you. And the last project is trying to recreate the Vector helicopter based on data from the memory core on New Dallas.”

“The one that you ran off alone to find?” Peter asked

She nodded.

“Remind me about the Vector.” Peter asked her

“Uh, SLDF main helicopter. It was built by General Motors… twenty-two tons, fusion engine. Came in four variants; an infantry transport, a gunship, a scout, and an electronic warfare platform.”

Peter rubbed his jaw. “That does sound useful, but it also sounds like licensing hell. I’d suggest selling that project to GM. You can tell them that I’ve authorized a limited production run and see if Cal-Boeing would be interested in a partnership. They have more current experience of building helicopters than GM do, and it’d let us keep an eye on the project.”

“You just pulled that together like that.” Catherine looked bemused, but also impressed. “Let me write this down.” She pulled a pen out of one pocket of her jacket and a notepad from another.

I suppose, Peter thought, that I don’t need to tell her that my staff briefed me on this earlier so I’d be ready for this meeting. I did tell her that no one could do everything, and if she finds out that I’ve been essentially having her spied on and that this was a test, she might not react well.

Thinking back, he wasn’t sure if Kathrina had played this sort of game on him when he was fresh out of the academy. One part lesson, one part manipulation. But he had to know if Catherine was still up to handling the responsibilities of serving as his regent.

“I’d like to suggest someone to head up your team for Felix.” he mused out loud, ‘spontaneously’ for all his sister would know. “Harrison Bradford… used to command the Third Royal Guards until that debacle on Northwind. He’s a relative of the Duke of Coventry so he has a background in the military industry and his career’s dead-ended since then.”

“Was he named for the current Duke’s father?” asked Cat

“Yes, he somewhat redeemed himself as a junior officer on Coventry during the Civil War. I can’t really justify giving him another major command, but we’re not exactly overburdened with competent staff officers. See what you make of him.” said Peter

Catherine nodded in acceptance. “But if he doesn’t fit, I’ll assign him somewhere else.”

“That’s understood. Felix Industries is your project,” Peter agreed magnanimously. “just keep me more in the loop going forwards.”

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