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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 30[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Fox’s Den, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
4th February, 3066

Despite being buried under the mountains several miles away from Castle Davion, a high-speed underground railway carried Peter to the nerve center of the AFFC in a matter of minutes. First Princes through the centuries had used the time in various ways. The train was set up with it’s own toilet, it’s own bedroom, office facilities… he’d spent an afternoon with Victor back when his brother had time off from NAIS exploring every corner of the train during which time when their father had gone too and from the Fox’s Den. On the way back, Hanse had confided doing the same with his own brother back when they were a similar age.

Peter had left a bilingual copy of a Capellan romance novel there and was working through a few pages on every trip. The story was simple enough he wasn’t losing track of it, although he was mostly hoping the female protagonist would punch the man he suspected was intended to be the main love interest repeatedly in the groin. His Mandarin was getting better according to the scoring on regular tests, but he suspected he’d never approve of some aspects of Capellan culture. Which was probably for the best.

The access route from the station to the actual command center was a literal maze made of armor panels that were moved at least twice a week. An assigned NCO escorted Peter through, taking directions through an earbud. Even the Archon-Prince had no need to know the correct route.

The maze was well lit, for the benefit of firing platforms looking down into it. It took Peter’s eyes a moment to adjust as he moved into the slightly dimmer rooms where actual decisions were made. The low light levels made the holo displays stand out more. While Peter took a visceral pleasure in the walk-in holotank that had been added right before Victor left for what had eventually become Operation Bulldog and Operation Serpent, today’s meeting took place in an older conference room.

The room was round, with consoles lining the outer edge on two levels. The conference table was on a low dais in the center, angled with a narrow head-end and a broader foot that faced a large 2-D screen. Peter took his place at the head of the table and officers who had been spread out, examining data on the consoles, turned and took their own seats.

“My apologies for the delay.” Peter began, glancing at the clock. He’d been a little late getting out of his last meeting.

“It gave us a little more time to prepare.” Bishop Sortek was seated at his right hand. “Where would you like to begin?”

“Unless there’s been any operational updates…?”

Sortek shook his head, indicating that there had been no reported action other than the usual low tempo raids along the long borders with the Clans and the Periphery.

“Then tell me about the Free Worlds League.” decided Peter.

Stephan Cooper shifted slightly in his seat. “We should have taken Sirius and Procyon back when we had the chance. They aren’t covered by the armistice your brother agreed.”

“Perhaps,” Peter conceded. “but we discussed that at the time. There’s too much chance that it would have acted as a rallying cry for the League, the way the Jade Falcon attack was for us after Tharkad. We still haven’t fully recovered from the damage of our own Civil War and we have little more than a year before the fifteenth anniversary of Tukkayid. If one or more of the Clans resumes the invasion then we can’t afford to already be fighting the Free Worlds League.”

“You’re just mad that your Crushers don’t get a crack at Alys’ Krushers.” chided Sortek lightly.

Cooper snorted, but not angrily. “Not at all. Though Marshal Venger might want revenge on some of the units in that part of the League.”

The commander of the Federated Commonwealth Corps sighed heavily. Even with Tancred Sandoval carrying some of the weight, Marshal Venger seemed bowed under the weight of his duties. “I can live with my disappointment.” he told his counterpart from the Davion Guards in a reedy voice.

“The League, gentlemen?” Peter reminded them.

Bishop Sortek nodded and a staff officer brought up a map of the relevant quadrant of the Inner Sphere, the traditional purple of House Marik now an outline around several distinct regions.

“The main fighting between the Marik Commonwealth and the Principality of Regulus remains focused on Atreus.” the staffer reported, highlighting the world. “The defenders still haven’t been reinforced and it seems probable that the Mariks will lose their last foothold on the national capital unless that changes. With friction along their border with the expanded Silver Hawks -” Half a dozen worlds around Marik and Augustine lit up with markers indicating troop movements. “- that may not be feasible for Corinne Marik.”

Peter shook his head. “Consequences?”

“It’ll boost Regulan legitimacy and further undermine Corinne Marik. Her failure to secure Thomas Halas during her coup and the continued closeness with the Word of Blake are already damaging. I doubt a loss here will break her entirely, but she needs a victory somewhere or her chances of winning over the remaining provinces that haven’t committed to one of the major players will be essentially gone.”

“Does it put Kirc Cameron-Jones in a winning position?” Taking New Avalon and Tharkad had essentially decided their own civil war.

“Not while his rivals are alive and at large.” Bishop Sortek told him firmly. “We lucked out with Kathrina not reappearing after her departure from New Avalon. If she’d resurfaced and continued to provide leadership, we might still be fighting. A lot of the units and worlds that declared neutrality only did so because she was no longer visible as a rallying point and Nondi couldn’t fill that gap.”

Peter rubbed his jaw. That was essentially his own take when he looked back. It raised the worrying possibility that if she returned, many worlds might still be willing to take up her cause. After all, Victor had been gone for longer and worlds had rallied to him.

“Thomas Halas’ jumpship strength has been committed to bringing Oriente’s Hussar and Fusilier regiments back from their farflung postings without facing naval interception.” the staffer resumed. “That goal has largely been completed so it’s possible that he may launch an attack on Regulus from their rear. However, Oriente has other concerns.”

More lights, covering the block of worlds cleaving to the semi-deposed Captain-General along two flanks. Peter frowned. “What’s Sun-Tzu doing?”

A second officer spoke - Peter recognized her as being from Military Intelligence’s Capellan desk. “Capellan regiments and ships are active along the border with Oriente and to a lesser extent the Silver Hawks Coalition. Officially it’s defensive in case the war spills over, but unofficially there’s real concern inside the court on Oriente that Liao may be planning an invasion. It’s tying down six regiments and two of their available warships.”

Which more or less cut away Oriente’s edge in numbers over the other claimants. As the only claimant with an external border to worry about, Thomas Halas was already at a disadvantage. “And Andurien?”

“We’re expecting a formal declaration of independence in the next three months at most.” the first officer advised. “Duchess Humphries has almost everything in place. It’s likely her first moves will be to seek diplomatic recognition from as many realms as possible, and convincing her smaller neighbours to join her. With an alternative of the Capellans and Canopians she may get some traction there.”

“And on the diplomatic front?” Peter asked them

There was an uneasy silence and then the sound of boots from the mezzanine level. Peter looked up and saw an officer leaning over the rail. “It’s hard to say, Your Highness. It’s slightly more probable than not that the Capellans would support Andurien and Canopus would object, reversing the position during the previous Andurien Secession. But Chancellor Liao and the Magistrix are playing their cards close to their chest and the Star League’s position on the matter is a huge question mark.”

“Mansdottir isn’t having an easy term of office.” Peter agreed. Then again, nor had either of the previous serving First Lords.

“There are two other situations of concern in the League, Sir. One potential and the other confirmed.”

The Archon-Prince looked at the map, with the lights already reflecting crises. “Start with the latter.”

“Yes sir.” Another light, this time glittering in the swathe of undecided worlds between Marik, Regulus and the Periphery. “The Marian Hegemony hit Kendall a week ago. Initial reports suggested a heavy raid but follow up waves of troops have been ferried in and we believe this is an attempted occupation.”

“Say what?” No periphery power had tried to invade the Inner Sphere since the Canopians hit the Capellan Confederation after the Fourth Succession War. Given how poorly that had gone, Peter would have thought that the lesson in the sheer resource disparity would have sunk in. Then again, a new generation often thought they could surpass their elders…

“House O’Reilly’s significantly expanded their realm by conquest.” the officer on the mezzanine reminded him. Most likely he was an expert in the Periphery realms. “We believe that the Marians see this as a once in a lifetime chance to occupy a significant industrial world. It could be years before any of the claimants wins out and is in a position to take the world back, allowing House O’Reilly to funnel the production of the Kali Yama and Brooks Inc. factories into their armed forces.”

“Remind me about Kendall.” There were over two thousand inhabited worlds in the Inner Sphere. Peter couldn’t reliably remember the details of all of them, even second-tier industrial worlds.

“Kali Yama build the Orion and Hercules heavy ‘Mechs there.” Sortek reminded him diplomatically. “Brooks are a major source of the Galleon and Main Gauche light tanks. Our last information was that the garrison was a mercenary regiment, the Bad Dreams.”

“What do you make of their prospects?” asked Peter

“Without reinforcements, not much.”

Peter looked at the map and then shook his head. There was nothing in reach to do anything about it, even if it was in his interests to do so. Even the SLDF regiments moving to reinforce Tamarind would have difficulty justifying moving up there and he had no authority to order them to do so. “And the other issue?”

“There was a desertion from Alys Rousset-Marik’s Krushers when they set out for Marik.” the League-expert reported. “One JumpShip was believed to have misjumped, but new information suggests it’s intentional. Less than a battalion of troops led by her brother-in-law, Major Serge Bernstein.” He paused. “Investigation is a strong word. Duchess Isis Marik sent us word that Serge tried to smuggle his son aboard his dropship before he left and left a delayed drop letter for the media, denouncing Alys for inviting Lyran troops in.”

“Did he get the boy?”

“No sir. Duchess Alys interrupted and Bernstein had to abort and pretend there was a misunderstanding. That only clarified in hindsight. The letter was intercepted before delivery so the public is unaware so far.”

Peter looked at the map and then groaned. “If Bernstein goes back for his son - Alys’ heir - then he’ll be in a shooting match with the Twenty-Fifth Skye Rangers.”

“Best case he makes for the Chaos March, sir.” The officer sounded apologetically. “Worst case, he hits Commonwealth worlds. It was AFFC troops that killed Ana Marik and his letter suggested that he had vengeance in mind.”

“I take it my brother has been alerted?” Victor was going to have a hot potato on his hands if forces that could claim to be from the Silver Hawks began raiding into the Federated Commonwealth.

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