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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 35[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Szentgotthard, Marik
Marik Commonwealth, Free Worlds League
20th June, 3066

The meeting had been hard to arrange. While it would never have been as simple as exchanging comms and agreeing on somewhere to eat. Being Mariks there would have been other concerns just doing that in Atreus, but the level of trust was such that guarantees and assurances had to be made - and the two would be meeting under the guns of their supporters.

As much as Alys would have liked for the meeting to take place in some restaurant with a decent wine cellar, she was going to have to eat a fair bit of crow for the events of the last few months so it was kind of her fault.

The meeting was taking place on a river bridge and she walked her Perseus out onto it, conscious that there was a lot of fire control active on the far bank. Then again, there was a lot on the near bank too - and that was pointed at Corinne’s Warhammer as it walked out to face her.

If things went south, they’d have about thirty seconds to drop into the water or they’d both be shredded in the crossfire. On the plus side, Corinne had more to lose in that regard. Isis could keep the Silver Hawks going without Alys, but the closest thing Corinne had to an heir right now was Carlos Marik and he just didn’t have any public profile right now.

That might be a survival tactic by Corinne since Carlos’ father Duncan had taken the Captain-General’s office over the dead bodies of three of the family (assumed to be four at the time). It was possible the inclination didn’t run in the lineage but why take a chance that she didn’t have to?

The two ‘Mechs stopped face to face and Corinne opened a laser-link before Alys could. “Alright, Alys. You asked for this meeting. Do you want to keep this electronic or…?”

Alys made a face. Unstrapping and opening her cockpit to speak to her cousin directly would almost guarantee that she had no chance if someone started shooting. On the other hand, it was the only way that they could be sure they were both actually present and not sending a proxy forward in their ‘Mechs. “I’m game to get out if you are.”

The older Marik sighed. “Laser-comms then. Even if I trust you, there’s the chance someone else has a sniper present.”

Realistic, if sad. “Fair.”

“I assume that you’re not here to offer your surrender.”

Alys snorted, glad that a direct laser link meant that this conversation would be fairly private. “No, but perhaps it is time that we ended this.” The Free Worlds Guards had kept her forces on the run for weeks, but losses on both sides were around equal - which was a magnificent accomplishment for her Krushers and the inexperienced Eagle Regiment.

“You started this,” Corinne accused. “do you think you can end it as easily.”

“Oddly enough, I didn’t start this.” Alys heard her cousin start interrupting but talked over. “But I no longer believe that you did either and I’ve no taste for being a puppet, even if you can put up for it.”

There was a deadly silence and the arms of the Warhammer shifted. For a moment, the young Colonel wondered if she’d provoked the other woman into taking a shot. But after a few seconds the long PPC barrels settled again. “A hell of a lot of my people are dead for your tantrum, Alys. Keep a civil tongue in your head if you’re sincere about wanting to talk.”

“Your casualties might be in the hundreds at best, Corinne, but they’re all military. My people have been fighting clean, which is more than I can say for the raiders in the colors of the Eleventh Dragoons that hit worlds under my protection. Those ‘Mechs targeted civilian infrastructure.”

“The Eleventh haven’t been raiding your coalition,” the older Marik snapped. “I don’t expect your loyalty but until you attacked us I was willing to leave you be.”

“Oh, I believe you. Once I had access to the Dragoons paperwork there was too much evidence that they’d never left Marik. But until then…” Alys shrugged, keeping her hands well away from her controls. “Until then it looked as if someone was trying to discredit us. And doing a decent job of it. And if it wasn’t your Dragoons then I don’t have any reason to be here any longer.”

“You think you can just walk away?” Corinne sounded incredulous.

“Given the most likely candidates, I don’t think you can afford this battle, cousin.”

She waited and finally heard a deeply resentful: “Explain your reasoning.”

“There are three likely groups who’d want us fighting, Corinne. Firstly, Kirc Cameron-Jones must be delighted that you’ve come here with the First Guards rather than taking them to Atreus to retake the capital. And once he has Atreus, he’ll go for other worlds - how confident are you in holding the yards at Ionus?”

“That’s one.

She grinned. Hooked, and damn, this was almost as much of a knife-edge dance as fighting the campaign. But now that Corinne was listening, there was opening. “Then there’s Thomas Halas. He’s got most of his forces back and he must be looking for a way to eliminate both you and Kirc. You’re not that far from his nearest bases here - if he launches a fast campaign here then he can pick off the forces here and sweep half the Marik Commonwealth up. Particularly if you’re chewed up from fighting us to the bitter end.”

Corinne snorted. “And you’d make a deal with him if you weren’t eliminated first, just to get away.”

“Damn straight.” There was no shame in that admission. “And third, there’s Uncle Paul and Uncle Thomas.”

“Alys.” The self-styled Captain-General practically hissed the word. “That’s my father you’re talking about.”

“They’re both Toyamaists,” she shot back. “their doctrine expressly demands breaking the Successor States up into warring factions. What if some of those factions are declining to fight?”

“You’re reaching a very long way, cousin.” Corinne commented

“It’s one of three possibilities, but someone is playing games and the one thing that I doubt is that Halas or Cameron-Jones had anything to do with the mysterious raids that had the DCMS and AFFC fighting each other right as the FedCom Civil War kicked off. Practically the entire Draconis March force structure was sidelined, and that kept James Sandoval from joining George Hasek and forcing the Davions to come to terms. Isis had some very interest analysis of what could have happened if both March Lords had backed Bishop Sortek in removing Kathrina Steiner-Davion, but it could only work with both of them acting in concert. Once Sandoval was dependent on Kathrina’s loyalists for supplies to fight the Combine, the ingredients were there for a multi-year stalemate.”

“Until Isis’ good friend Peter Steiner-Davion returned and flipped the table.”

“Pretty much, but that was a close-run thing.” It might be interesting to get into an analysis with Corinne, but this wasn’t the time. “But we have our own civil war to worry about and any of the three possibilities is trouble for you. So you need me gone and I’m willing to leave.”

“Politically, I need a victory, Alys.” Corinne

“Will you accept a formal public apology for the attack?” Alys asked

“What!?” There was genuine shock in Corinne’s voice.

“I’m not the one trying to be Captain-General.” (And failing, but that would be provocative). “A reputation for being trigger-happy when it comes to the people I’m protecting isn’t going to hurt my prospects much - besides, I’m young enough to ride it out.”

“You seriously don’t want the Captain-Generalcy, do you?”

“I’ve seen Isis’ desk and she’s only carrying a third of the load for the Coalition. Hell no, I do not want to run this basket-case of a state.” Alys shook her head, knowing that the gesture was invisible. “Maybe in ten to twenty years I’ll be ready to handle a Marshal’s job, but if all three of you utter idiots got killed chasing after the position then I’ll nominate Photon for it and go into hiding. There’s a very nice monastery on Zaniah, good luck getting someone across the border to drag me out of it!”

Corinne Marik’s Warhammer took a careful, measured step back. Her microphone muted, although the laser link was still active. Alys counted thirty slow and painful seconds before she heard from her cousin again.

“I believe you.” The words seemed dragged out of her. “In exchange for your full and formal apology, and a complete withdrawal of your forces from Marik, I will consider this matter closed.”

“And claim victory?” Alys prompted

“You’d better believe I’m going to get something out of this debacle!”

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