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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 25[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
3rd October, 3065

After almost a week, Peter had finally managed to carve out a precious afternoon for practice in his ‘Mech. His coronation had taken six entire hours of carefully choreographed ritual, surely he could make at least that much time for something practical.

And then, right as he was halfway through powering up his Mackie, an urgent message had come down from from his office. Apparently Duke Aristotle Felsner, the Minister of Foreign Relations, had called ahead and requested an urgent meeting with both Peter, Quintus Allard Junior, and the Free Worlds League ambassador.

Fortunately, the youngest Allard sibling (who had quietly dropped the ‘Liao’ from his surname) was readily available since he was one of the ad hoc lance assembled for the run. Given the time available, the two men grabbed the bare minimum clothes to be presentable and changed into them as an elevator took them from the hangars buried deep under the mountain up to the formal chambers of the Castle.

If the diplomats were surprised to find the Archon-Prince and his Intelligence Advisor wearing windbreakers over AFFC uniform pants and boots as they entered the meeting room, they were naturally too diplomatic to mention it.

“Your highness.” Ambassador Hercule Ramage was an exquisitely mustachioed man who hailed from one of the many small provinces along the periphery border of the League. He bowed stiffly as Peter took the chair at the head of the table.

“Ambassador, Duke Felsner.” Peter did his best to hold back from glowering. “You asked for this meeting so unless we’re waiting for someone else…”

The Duke inclined his head a little stiffly. “Your grace, we have received a message from our embassy on Atreus which I felt you should be appraised directly of. I believe Lord Allard would normally be advised of this through normal channels within the day but…”

Peter gestured sharply to indicate that he understood. “The message?”

Felsner turned slightly to include Ramage in the conversation. “Our embassy reports that on the first day of this month, a substantial flotilla of JumpShips jumped in-system and delivered an invasion force to the surface of Atreus.”

The ambassador blinked for a moment before his sang-froid reasserted itself. “An invasion force, you say?” He reached up and twirled one of his mustache ends thoughtfully. “Under the current regrettable circumstances, I must enquire as to the specific identity of these invaders.”

“Our ambassador felt it best to send a preliminary report rather than waiting for all details, in case the HPG became unavailable, so we cannot definitely confirm that.” admitted the Minister. “However, the available information suggests that two different regiments of theRegulan Hussars participated, spearheaded by elements of the Third Free Worlds Guards.”

Peter’s eyes narrowed. The Free Worlds Guards were the equivalent of his own Royal Guards and the Davion Brigade of Guards. The very best of the FWLM, vetted heavily for both competence and loyalty. If even part of their number was siding with Kirc Cameron-Jones then the Regulan might have more sway that he had thought. “That sounds like a surprisingly small force to take the national capital with. If nothing else, were there no warships on guard?”

Ramage spread his hands. “I am, alas, in no position to discuss military specifics.”

“There have been reports that Corinne Marik ordered reinforcements to Marik,” offered Quintus Allard quietly. “exactly what she was sending wasn’t clear. It’s not impossible that she drew down the garrison of Atreus in the hope that no one would expect her to risk uncovering her capital.”

“What’s threatening Marik?” demanded Peter. The Marik Commonwealth was a long and narrow region, functioning something like a spinal column for House Marik’s influence within the Free Worlds League. Atreus was at the rimwards end, near the Regulans and Gibson, but Marik itself was at the coreward end. Perhaps not entirely out of reach of Thomas Marik’s allies but nothing so far had suggested that he was preparing an offensive.”

The ambassador’s lips pressed firmly against each other, refraining from any explanation.

Quintus paused for a moment. “Nothing that I am aware of. However, Marik is very close to Augustine and Alys Rousset-Marik has declined to pledge allegiance to her cousin.”

Peter considered that and then shook his head. “That makes no sense. Diverting forces to fight someone who has declared neutrality only makes more enemies when Corinne already has two hostile powers. Tell me, ambassador, you were appointed by Thomas, not by Corinne. How does that affect your position?”

“That…” Ramage paused and coughed. “My duty is to the Free Worlds League as a whole, not to any one figure within the government.”

“Very moral.” And then Peter paused. “Of course, Kirc Cameron-Jones has already sent a message accrediting a new ambassador in your place. I wonder, will Corinne or Thomas be next?”

“It is your privilege to determine who you elect to recognize as representing my government.”

Felsner shook his head. “My prince’s point is that there no longer appears to be a single government within the Free Worlds League. With Atreus under attack, the federal leadership will be significantly disrupted and you cannot effectively serve multiple Captain-Generals.”

After letting the moment hang, Peter allowed Ramage off the hook. “I believe you will need to communicate with whoever you deem to be your government, Ambassador. I have no intentions of intervening to try to decide this internal disagreement and any external mediation, were it sought, should be requested of the Star League rather than the Federated Commonwealth. Of course, that means that neither you nor I is likely to determine the outcome of this conflict.”

“Your highness.”

All eyes turned to Quintus Allard, who was studying data from a console built into the table. While the conversation had gone on, he had contacted his colleagues in the Intelligence Secretariat to see what new data they could add.

“I believe,” he observed with a self-possessed expression, “that I can suggest an explanation for the reinforcement of Marik.”

“Oh?” Peter rubbed his jaw. “Please do.”
“I believe that something has persuaded Corinne Marik that her cousins Alys and Isis are building a power base for their own bid to place one of them on the Captain-General’s throne. In that scenario, attempting to knock them out of the race before they can enter it would be a sensible strategy for her and seizing Marik would be a likely first step for them to take to establish legitimacy as the leaders of House Marik.”

Peter frowned. “I don’t recall any serious support for the idea that that was their end goal.”

“I don’t believe that they are, Sir.” The younger man shrugged lightly. “But our views may be very different from that on Atreus. Personally I would have thought it more likely that Therese Marik would resume her campaign to position one of her sons as a candidate, perhaps as a compromise to bring Thomas and Corinne together against Kirc Cameron-Jones. Even that would be fairly unlikely while Tamarind lacks a widespread power base.”

“While the cousins Marik have tied over a dozen worlds to their neutrality pact, including several critical industrial nodes,” Peter noted. “I suppose in terms of reach they might appear more threatening, except…” He paused and then glanced at Ambassador Ramage. “I’m not sure that you’re aware of this, ambassador.”

The mustachioed man looked intrigued. “Of…?”

“The Star League Council has received an official request from Duchess Isis Marik and Duchess Alys Rousset-Marik to commit peacekeepers to ensure the security of neutral provinces of the Free Worlds League against internal and external threats until such time as a single federal government can resume function.”

If the ambassador had been wearing glasses, or even better a monocle, it would have probably have steamed up and necessitated wiping them clean as he huffed indignantly. “That treads very close to being treason, Your Highness.”

“Very close to,” agreed Peter. “in the Federated Commonwealth it would be. The Free Worlds League is in a very slightly different position though. While I doubt that they would have risked that while I was the First Lord in case I repeated Chancellor Liao’s behavior with regard to St Ives… Or the Coordinator’s when it came to the Lyons Thumb, I don’t believe Christian Mansdottir would be inclined to let me get away with a veiled conquest of League provinces.”

“Do you intend to vote to accept this request?” asked Felsner thoughtfully.

“It’s an interesting question.” Peter mused, watching Ramage’s face. “After all, if we approve then what would stop Tamarind making the same application? Or Andurien? We might wind up with the SLDF tied down keeping half the Free Worlds League from being set on fire by the other half.”

Ramage swallowed, his face paling significantly.

“I really think you need to communicate with your government, whoever you decide that to be.” the Archon-Prince told him with all the chill of a Tharkad winter in his voice. “I’ve already had to deal with one civil war, I would very much rather not see another one spill across my borders.”

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