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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 26[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

New Bastogne, Dieudonne
Free Worlds League
12th November, 3065

The touchdown at Dieudonne’s main spaceport had shaken Isis for a moment, finding a reception party of FWLM infantry awaiting her. It quickly became apparent though that they were merely an honor guard, escorting her to meet with Marshal Anne-Marie van Creveld at her headquarters.

Of course, Isis thought morbidly, those same troops could easily become jailors to her and to Colonel Reissing if the meeting didn’t go well.

Rather than a formal conference room, she requested the use of one of the small formal gardens around the headquarters building and with crisp efficiency the Marshal’s staff transformed it with tables, chairs and refreshments. If it gave the afternoon (which promised to be crisp and clear, with only light winds) more the air of a garden gala than a furtive conspiracy then so much the better.

“So you’re Marik’s prodigal daughter.” Rhys de Bruys was the hereditary President of the Concordat of Danais and the current head of the Silver Hawks Coalition. The former was about as small as it could be and still count as a multi-system province, but the latter gave him rather shaky control over twenty-seven votes in Parliament and two regiments of BattleMechs.

Isis curtsied with some irony. She’d had courtly manners drummed into her in the expectation she might be Thomas Marik’s heir one day, but this was hardly a circumstance where he’d prefer that she use them. “President de Bruys. Thank you for accepting my invitation.”

“Bein’ honest, I’m mostly here for the chance to speak to Thrall,” the short redheaded man admitted. “House Marik’s not lookin’ like the strongest investment right now.”

“Perhaps I’ll win you over.” she replied mildly. “If not, I wish you well with the General.” General Helen Thrall commanded the Sirian Lancers, three regiments who had been in exile from their home province for almost thirty years. The four Sirian worlds had ended the Fourth Succession War firmly in the hands of the Federated Commonwealth and even Operation Guererro hadn’t fully liberated them. Thrall’s decision to launch an unauthorized attack to completely relieve them could have ended her career… but it instead turned up a gruesome regime imposed by a renegade ComStar precentor and with both public opinion and the Word of Blake backing her, she remained military governor of the Sirian Concordat.

De Bruys shrugged. “My thanks for the sentiment, and it costs me nothin’ to hear you out.”

Isis nodded and gestured in invitation for him to take a drink from one of those at the time. “You won’t have long to wait.”

She joined Marshal van Crevald at the front of the garden and a moment later Colonel Reissing joined them. “Are you ready?” he asked her. “This is the biggest hurdle so far for you.”

“Ready or not,” Isis admitted, “it’s now or never.”

They clinked their glasses of spring water - neither wanted to get even slightly drunk before this and then the Marshal stepped up to the small stand she’d arranged. “Thank you all for attending,” she greeted those present. While Thrall, de Bruys and Protector Justin Stroud of the Border Protectorate were the major figures, more than a dozen other provinces were represented. “The security of the Dieudonne Military District is of concern for us all and your willingness to discuss our options during the current… unpleasantness is rather heartwarming.”

The conversations among the guests had died down as the Marshal spoke across them. Once she was sure she had their attention, van Crevald turned towards Isis. “I’ll begin by introducing Duchess Marik of Irian, who has an interesting proposal for us to consider.”

Isis moved up and took her place. “I don’t suppose that any of you are so ill-informed as to be here without knowing who I am, but I gather there’s some questions about my agenda.”

“Behind putting you on the Captain-General’s throne?” someone catcalled. The price of the relative informality.

“I don’t even know where the throne is.” she riposted. It was also unfortunately true. The Regulan advance had reached Atreus City and the Hall of Parliament had been looted. Kirc Cameron-Jones was allegedly livid but Isis didn’t know why he was even surprised. The damned thing was covered in gold and jewels. Or had been. There was no way he was paying his soldiers enough not to loot it.

“Neither myself nor my cousin Alys believe that adding additional claimants will cut the Civil War short.” Isis smiled wryly. “If we did then you might have been right because it would be quite bad enough if the war ended tomorrow and I doubt that we can expect that.”

That got a snort of laughter from Justin Stroud. “It’ll get worse before it gets better.” the Protector commented loudly.

“I must agree, Protector. Which means keeping the war away from our worlds rather important, wouldn’t you say?”

The burly man nodded. “If we can.” he added bitterly. One of his nieces had been killed in a ferocious argument over whether or not her regiment should support Corinne Marik. The Steel Guards had joined the Marik’s cause quite literally over Colonel Marilyn Stroud’s dead body.

Isis nodded in agreement. “If we can and we should similarly see to the security of our worlds against the Federated Commonwealth, against the Capellan Confederation, and against any overflow of trouble from the Chaos March. Quite a challenge for Marshal van Crevald. However, I would argue that we are in quite a strong position to achieve those goals.”

That got a ripple of interest.

“You don’t exactly have a military record to suggest that you’re an authority on the matter.” observed de Bruys, but there was a glitter of interest in his eyes.

“No, but I’ve been through one civil war already, and I spent it as part of Victor Steiner-Davion’s staff. I saw what he did that worked, what failed… and I saw what his brother did to end the war.” She gave him a sly look. “Some might say that I have more experience of this kind of war than anyone else here.”

“To your misfortune.”

“Quite.” Isis paused for further interruption and when none was forthcoming, she pointed at General Thrall. “You have three regiments of BattleMechs. Protector Stroud can field two, as can President de Bruys. The worlds and regiments pledged to the neutrality pact that Alys and I have been building can match those numbers.” Besides the Krushers, the Twelfth Dragoons, and the two regiments on Irian, three additional regiments of the Marik Militia had joined them and there might even be an eighth regiment by now, if Alys’ current mission to meet with the Sixth Free Worlds Legion bore fruit.

“With fourteen BattleMech regiments we collectively can field forces to rival that of any of the putative Captain-Generals.” she continued. “Not enough to force them to break off their ambitions, but enough to keep our corner of the League intact, if we work together.”

“And you’d lead us?” asked de Bruys skeptically.

“No, President de Bruys. I had you in mind actually.”

He paused. “I.. what?”

“If we are to work together over what is likely to be an extended period then we need not only the military structure that Marshal van Creveld can provide,” Isis explained. “but also a political structure that can fill the gaps that have been left by the disintegration of federal authority - and preferably without having to fight the provincial governments every step of the way. The Silver Hawks Coalition, which is already an alliance of provinces, seems to my mind to be best available model for us to follow. I am therefore requesting membership for not only Irian, but all the provinces that have signed our neutrality pact.”<r>

There was a laugh from Stroud. “Well, I will be damned.”

“Possibly.” Thrall muttered absently, but her mind was clearly working overtime.

The Protector glanced at Marshal van Creveld. “Are you on board with this, Anne?”

She nodded stiffly. “It seems to my mind to be the best way that I can fulfill my obligations to the League, on the understanding that I would be recognizing the Coalition as a temporary substitute for proper federal authority.”

“I’m not sure that I’d want to just recognize a single leader with no checks and balances. Even with the Coalition’s leadership council.” muttered Stroud.

Raising her hand for quiet, Isis received it. It was a heady feeling, to have the leaders of worlds - sometimes of several worlds! - attend upon her words. “I understand that the Coalition would have to be modified to meet our needs and there’s no need to fully replace all of what the Free Worlds League does. The League originally functioned as a triumvirate of executive leaders, all answerable to Parliament. While House Marik eventually subsumed the authority over trade once held by House Selaj and over foreign relations by House Allison -” neither of the other two founding Houses had survived the centuries, “- I suggest that we agree upon a similar division of power.”

“A Director-General for internal affairs, a Minister-General for foreign policy, and a Marshal to command our combined armed forces?” asked Rhys de Bruys. “It has promise though I’m thinkin’ that we cannot abide a Marik holding the last of those roles. Too much temptation, or the appearance of such.”
“Marshal van Creveld would be the logical choice.” Helen Thrall observed, getting a nod from Protector Stroud. “Since the Silver Hawks existing leadership can hardly be frozen out, that suggests you as Director-General or Minister-General, doesn’t it President de Bruys.”

“I would suppose so.” he agreed quite happily.

Isis dipped her head. “I understand that we cannot decide such matters on the spur of the moment,” she assured them - while knowing that with the major leaders on board, the core issues really had been decided already. “So I open the floor to discussion of how this may be made to work.”

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