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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 34[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
2nd June, 3066

Breakfast at Castle Davion wasn’t always a private meal for the Archon-Prince. Sometimes when his schedule was too pressing, he had fit informal briefings in over a meal and today, with his departure for a quick visit to Galax scheduled for mid-morning, it was a last chance to touch base on some classified matters.

“You arranged this just so you could mooch breakfast.” he accused Quintus Allard-Liao in jest as the younger man stacked his plate with fried foods.

“Grandfather’s doctor banned all fried foods from the entire household. I suspect he’s just trying a back-alley approach to affecting all our diets, but admittedly none of us can keep the old man from sneaking food from our plates.”

Catherine chuckled from where she was sat at the end of the table, between the two men. “He’s a sneaky devil, but he’s our sneaky devil.”

“A legacy I shall do my best to live up to.” Quintus opened a folder next to his plate. “We’ve been able to get enough access to Blakist sources to confirm that ‘the Five’ and ‘the Hidden’ are almost certainly referring to hidden worlds, just as speculated. The other details I can’t confirm.”

Peter cut a strip from his omelette and methodically severed the result into bite-sizes. The five hidden worlds of the Word of Blake were something he’d learned of from Catherine’s memories. She claimed that ComStar had hidden away five depopulated or near-depopulated worlds during the early Succession Wars, obfuscating their exact locations and using them for various covert research projects and other similar purposes.

When the Word of Blake broke away from ComStar, the elements that had known of these worlds had joined them and they’d become bases for developing what would become the Shadow Divisions. An elite covert army that functioned in parallel with the Word of Blake’s publicly known armed forces. They sounded like a bad science fiction movie. Fanatical cyborg-soldiers armed with cutting edge hardware and backed by an arsenal that included weapons of mass destruction.

To be honest, Peter wasn’t convinced until the Wolf's Dragoons had very reluctantly admitted that their special forces and intelligence arms had been under attack by squads of soldiers matching Catherine’s descriptions. It was entirely possible that Jaime Wolf wouldn’t have shared that information if a diplomatic team on Outreach hadn’t spotted the aftermath of a firebomb attack that partially disabled the HPG station there. When they passed it back, the Intelligence Secretariat had sent a request for information to Wolfnet under Star League protocols and the mercenaries had been forced to confess that the attackers were at least a somewhat known entity.

“Nothing at all on locations?”

Quintus made a face. “Nothing new. We’re doing some discreet investigation of Odessa. Count Fisk and his family are dirty, we just need the proof before we can bring them down. It was fairly easy to sneak a few extra agents in and drop off a few covert observation satellites to fly past Odessa VI but it’ll be a while before we find the others. It’s harder when they’re not in systems we have a legitimate presence in.”

Peter forked some omelette into his mouth and chewed on it. Unfortunately, the spy made a good point. Catherine had told them that one of the worlds was within the borders of each of the five Successor States but those borders had moved over time - particularly the Capellan borders.

Odessa VI was the one that she knew most about, it had never been formally inhabited. It was a gas giant in a system not far from Tharkad. Unfortunately it was also allegedly a hidden reserve of damaged warships left behind by Kerensky when he led his Exodus Fleet out of the Inner Sphere in 2784. There had been plenty of time to repair those ships so there could be a small fleet of warships in striking range of Peter’s other capital.

“Given how little information we have, I’m not sure we can dedicate the resources to find the ones in Capellan and Draconian space.” Quintus continued. “We don’t know what the purpose of the former even is and while I’d be absolutely delighted to eliminate a factory dedicated to chemical and biological warfare, my understanding is that that eliminated itself some time ago.”

“If,” Catherine mumbled - she paused, chewed and swallowed. “if our source is correct. Which it may not be.”

“Perhaps not, but getting anything past the ISF to go looking is quite tricky. And while the possibility of simply sharing our data has been considered, we don’t have sufficiently credible information at this point.” He paused. “Also we have less goodwill than Prince Victor had when he was the ruler.”

“Briefly.” Catherine commented


She twirled her fork. “Victor only acted as a ruler from ‘55 to ‘58. The rest of the time, even if he was technically head of state, he wasn’t governing anyone. Less than four years.”

“Still two years more than me,” Peter pointed out. “I take it that the one in the League is equally difficult to get to?”

Quintus tilted his hand back and forth. “SAFE is a mess right now. It’s harder than Odessa and our most likely candidate is a system inside the Marik-Stewart bloc, which adds issues, but we might be able to get someone in. A full black mission would cause issues if spotted but we’re looking at arranging for a ‘free trader’ to use the system as a waypoint and do some very covert passive surveillance. Don’t expect anything until next year at best.”

“That leaves the one this side of the Federated Commonwealth.” Peter set down his cutlery and drove one fist into the palm of his other hand. “That one I really want.”

The League’s hidden worlds was allegedly where most of their cybernetic research was done. It was probably the source of the cyborg-soldiers and possibly even where the real Thomas Marik was hiding. But the last world, codenamed Taussen, was allegedly where BattleMech production and development took place. The only thing better than catching the ‘neutral’ Word of Blake having a hidden factory inside the Commonwealth would be if the AFFC could take it intact.

It would be something of a diplomatic breach with the Inner Sphere’s other HPG operators, but there were contingencies for that and interactions with the Word’s representation on the ppStar League council suggested that with the proper leverage, it might be possible to get some very desirable concessions out of the current Terran government if their alternative was having that much of their dirty laundry circulated.

“Well we’ll do what we can.” Quintus didn’t sound particularly confident. “Unfortunately, Versailles didn’t check out and we don’t have any other strong candidates.”

“Sooner or later, we’ll find them. They can’t hide forever.”

Catherine shrugged and took some french toast from the tray in the middle of the table. “I hope so.”

“Do we have anything else turning up that I should know about before I leave?” Peter reached out and took the last two pieces of toast. That got him a glare from his sister, as if the servants wouldn’t rush more out in a moment.

The other man made a face. “It’s not urgent, but there are some reports from the Capellan Confederation that suggest the troop movements near Oriente are more of a mask than substance. A maskirova if you’ll pardon the joke.”

Peter looked up sharply. “Something George Hasek should be worried about?”

“Not directly, we think, but it looks as if it’s been covering for the movement of dropships and supplies from the Andurien theatre towards the Chaos March. No troops have actually been removed but it’ll be harder for them to respond in force if Humphries tries to repeat her grandmother’s invasion.”

“Possible. But…” Peter shook his head.

“No, we don’t think it’s likely either. The Canopians are quite friendly with the Capellans these days so Duchess Humphreys would be facing a war on two fronts. More likely they’ve reached an accommodation and by reducing his own ability to strike at her now she’s got to stand on her own with such small forces - at least in the short term - Sun-Tzu is giving her the chance to gnaw away at the other factions.”

“Making trouble in someone else’s backyard, at the cost of shuffling a few dropships. That sounds like the Chancellor we all know and loathe.” He considered. “If the dropships are headed for the Chaos March, can we expect more troop movements there? A lot of worlds are still trying to figure out which way to jump. A major Capellan push now wouldn’t be a disaster but I’d rather we didn’t have to deal with one.”

“There are basically three possibilities - well, barring doing nothing.”

“Unlikely.” Catherine shook his head. “Sun-Tzu has made a lot of his success by fishing in troubled waters. And right now he has a choice of several fishing lures.” She paused. “Spots?”

“Spots,” agreed Peter. “The Chaos March and the Free Worlds League must both look tempting and if he waits too long then the opportunity could pass him by.”

“It’s at least possible that he’s considering moving forces to join the peacekeepers sent by the SLDF. He cited limited shipping and exposed borders with regard to factions that hadn’t requested SLDF support,” offered Quintus. “but he could easily see the need to provide a counter-balance to the soft influence that having AFFC regiments supporting the Silver Hawks is providing.”

It wasn’t going very far, Peter thought. But on the plus side, it meant that he’d been able to pull a couple of regiments off the League border, since the SLDF presence would make it much much less likely that raids or invasion could take place - and between them, Tamarind and the Silver Hawks covered essentially all of his border with the League. That might make all the difference down the line, having too many troops facing the Clans was barely conceivable, and not having to take them off the Capellan or Draconian border was a godsend when dealing with the Sandovals and Haseks.

“If he wanted to send peacekeepers in, then he’d be mad to do so without coordinating with the SLDF.” he said instead. “He offended most of the Council when he pulled out of the last meeting at the Whitting Conference, so unless he wants to stay at odds…”

Catherine cleared her throat. “If he feels that he has got nothing more to gain from the Star League…”

Peter rubbed his jaw. They’d talked about it before. If it happened then it would be a problem, but it would probably turn out worse for the Capellans than anyone else. After all, if they were the only realm that wasn’t inside the Star League then they’d be frozen out of not only the lucrative trade agreements. Which were having a measurable impact on the Federated Commonwealth’s recovery - but also on the mutual defense treaty.

Which would be a very appropriately Chinese form of interesting for Sun-Tzu Liao.

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