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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 40[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Saunders, Saiph
Saiph Triumvirate, Chaos March
12th September, 3066

Like any border world, Saiph had been littered over the years with more bunkers than the local militia knew what to do with. Even so, they were beginning to strain under the demand of containing a brigade and a half of the Marik Militia (who most of the populace still saw as the enemy that had lurked a single jump away from most of a century) as well as the Third Dismal Disinherited.

“No offense,” the colonel of the latter regiment told Isis. “my name aside, General Krieger would have my guts for garters if I let a FWLM officer take command of us. I know we’re all on the same side here, but there are contractual issues and it looks too much like a landgrab.”

“It is a landgrab,” Count Balatine told him. “but one I’ve agreed with. I hired your regiments.”

“Yes sir, but the command rights issue is tricky. If one of your officers is in charge, that’s all well and good. But Colonel Reissing answers to one of my distant cousins and Colonel Meyer answers to another…” The mercenary bore the name John Marik-Johns. Isis would have had to look it up to map the exact relationship, but they were very distant relatives.

“I’m more than happy to answer to the Duchess of Irian,” Cindy Meyer muttered. “At least she’s here with reinforcements, which is more than a certain so-called Captain-General managed. Any so-called Captain-General.” The colonel of the Tenth Marik Militia was taking the losses her brigade had suffered fighting clear of Ohrensen rather hard.

Marik-Johns shrugged. “I’m grateful for that, both personally and professionally. Without your troops we’d be much worse trouble than we are already. But if the MRBC decides we’re playing silly games regarding our authorities, the general will express his discontent with a rusty knife.”

Isis didn’t think that he meant that literally. She hoped so, anyway. The Dismal Disinherited were a storied unit who could trace their history to SLDF regiments that had served the Capellans briefly as regular forces during the First Succession War before mutinying and beginning a centuries long career as mercenaries in service of both the Free Worlds League and the Lyran Commonwealth. She was fairly sure they were more professional than to use rusty knives as a disciplinary measure.

“May I suggest a compromise,” she offered. “the SLDF has been deployed as peacekeepers to protect the worlds of the Silver Hawks Coalition. As part of the treaty that Count Balatine and I both signed yesterday, the Triumvirate are part of the Coalition. Would anyone object to taking orders from Colonel Cox?”

The eyes of those present shifted towards Galen, who had been sitting quietly to one side. He gave Isis a slightly reproving look, as if they hadn’t discussed this in advance. “The senior SLDF officer in the Coalition has accepted in principle that our area of operations does include worlds joining the Silver Hawks after our arrival.” He didn’t mention that actual deployment of SLDF forces was conditional on warships that neither they nor the Coalition had available.

Lloyd Reissing shrugged. “I have no issue with that.”

“Well, your reputation does rather go ahead of you.” agreed Colonel Meyer. She looked over to Colonel Marik-Johns. “How about you?”

He considered. “Well, I have seen the vids of your brief career as a Solaris gladiator.”

Galen covered his face. “I’m never going to live that down, am I? It was just the one match.”

“It was a very impressive match.” Marik-Johns grinned. “I think General Krieger will forgive any impropriety. Particularly if I can get him your signature.”

“As long as it’s on official orders not just an autograph.”

Isis hid a sigh of relief. She didn’t have any delusions that she could take charge of a military operation. She’d be at best a figurehead if she tried, at worst a detriment. But Galen was sufficiently well known that no one doubted his capability, and as a member of the SLDF he was officially neutral.

“The first thing we need to consider is emissions control.” Galen began. “If the Capellans can identify our command centers they may well deploy orbital fire and...”

There was a knock on the door and then it opened before anyone could give permission. Count Balatine looked up sharply. “What is it, Julia?”

The woman who had entered was middle-aged and dressed professionally. Probably a civilian on the Count’s staff, Isis guessed. Although not one that she’d met. “Traffic control reports a major jump signature. Emergency within…” She checked her watch. “Three minutes.”

There sound of intakes of breath and chairs moving was cut across by Galen. “Did traffic control say where the emergence was? And do they have a tonnage estimate?”

She nodded sharply. “It’s at the pirate point. And upwards of a megaton.”

“Less than three hours to land a dropship from there.” Colonel Marik-Johns noted quietly. He’d obviously been thinking about it. “Even if we wanted to pull out, we’d be hard pressed to on that timescale.”

“I trust that that isn’t your plan, Colonel Cox?”

Galen turned to the Count and smiled confidently. “No, Sir, it is not. However, I believe it would be best for the two of us to go to traffic control while other officers report to their regiments. A megaton rating almost assures us that a warship is inbound so we’ll want our troops mobile. Strict emissions control, colonels. Landline communication or directed laser com via satellites while we still have them.”

To Isis surprise; Reissing, Meyer and Marik-Johns all accepted these instructions without question. Then again, three hours wasn’t an awful lot of time so perhaps they were simply more concerned with getting to their headquarters before the Capellans arrived. Since she didn’t have a ‘Mech or a headquarters to report to, she followed the two men and Julia to the elevator.

It took them more than three minutes to reach traffic control, having to change elevators since the one used to access the military headquarters bunker attached to the drop-port wasn’t directly linked to the port’s actual operations. Probably for good reason. Julia had only gone as far as the turn off to the Count’s offices, confirming that she was one of his staff, which was probably for the best because traffic control was crowded.

“Alright, alright.” Balatine raised his voice. “We’ve all known this was coming and we all have a lot to do. Anyone with duties to take care of, clear the room and get back to them. It’s more important than rubber-necking.”

With evident reluctance, workers began filing past them back towards the exit. Balatine might not be the most diplomatic person that Isis had ever met, but he had a force of personality that at least partly explained how he’d managed to turn invasion and uprisings into a vest-pocket empire with little more forces at his disposal than some third-tier mercenary commands could field. The Dismal Disinherited had been hired on later.

“Thank you, my lord.” A harried, balding man in his shirtsleeves turned from watching the displays and dipped his head slightly to the Count. “It was getting a bit much.”

“You’re doing your job well,” Balatine assured him. “I expect the same of them. Can you give me any update? I gather that the jumpships have arrived?”

“Yes, Sir.” The manager led them to a console. “We’re matching mass and electronic signatures to our database and there are dropships sending us direct visuals to clean up and match to military records.”

“The reported tonnage suggested at least one warship?” Isis kept her voice level.

“Uh, yes Ma’am.”

“Permit me to introduce Duchess Isis Marik.” the count clarified her identity. “Any warship will be a problem but do we know how many?”

The traffic manager nodded. “Just one so far, but there are two other jumpships with it - big ones. We think…”

“Confirmation on two Star Lord-class vessels, sir.”

“Thank you, Murchison. That means we’re probably looking at a dozen military transports being carried. The warship might have more, or it might have assault dropships to add to the escort.”

Most military dropships carried something between a company and a battalion, Isis recalled. That meant that the small flotilla could be carrying anything from a single regiment to the equivalent of both the Lucky Thirteenth and the Tenth Marik Militia combined. “That seems a little light for invading Saiph.”

“It’s probably just the first wave,” Galen told her. “I’d imagine three jumpships is pushing the upper limits for safe transits through this proximity point?”

“Correct.” The manager seemed impressed. “The jumpships will need to clear the area on their maneuvering thrusters before it’s safe for another ship to arrive. Call it an hour at least.”

Galen frowned. “I’m half-tempted to risk asking for an aerospace engagement, but the Capellans have competent officers so I have to assume that they’ve loaded themselves with aerospace fighters and combat dropships for the first wave.”

Murchison looked up. “Sir, the warship doesn’t match anything we have for the Capellans. They only operate Feng Huang cruisers and Impavido destroyers, but this is too small for the first and too large for the second.”

Impavido Class Destroyer (Delane's Fighting Ships 3061)

Impavido Class Destroyer

Isis and Galen exchanged looks. Perhaps the Capellan warship program had build more vessels than was widely known? Or they’d salvaged a wreck somewhere. Centuries of warfare had left no small number of abandoned vessels that hadn’t been considered worth the effort at the time but now, with ship-building still recovering, standards for that were rather lower.

“Show me what you have.” Galen leant over Murchison’s shoulder.

“It’s not great, but this is our best visual.” The man brought an image up on the screen.

There was something familiar about it, Isis thought. “Can you rotate it through one hundred and eighty degrees?” Murchison complied and in its new orientation, the likeness was easier for her to identify.

“It can’t be!” Galen exclaimed.

Avalon Cruiser (in Space) Ironwinds miniature

Avalon-Class Cruiser

Isis reached over and tapped the screen. “It’s an Avalon-class, or a very good copy. I spent months on the Melissa Davion with Victor. If there’s any warship I’m likely to recognize then it’s this class.”

“What does that mean?” Balatine put his hands on his hips. “That’s a Commonwealth design. Is this a Federated Commonwealth invasion?”


Isis didn’t know. Of all the things she’d expected, this wasn’t it. “Have you challenged them?” she asked.

“No, ma’am. Er, Your grace.” the manager corrected himself. “We didn’t want to identify ourselves as a target so we’re just sending pinpoint signals to civilian traffic to get them clear.”

Fortress DropShip (Underthrust in space)(by2D 3D Cartoons)

FCDS Lucky Thirteenth, a Fortress Class DropShip

Isis gestured to one of the dropships that had brought the Lucky Thirteenth to Saiph. The Fortress-class ship was clearly visible out of the windows of traffic control. “Reroute it through my ship there. Whoever it is, they’ll know that there are military dropships here as soon as they take off.” Dispersing the dropships so they couldn’t be taken out early was so basic that even she knew it.

The manager looked to Balatine, who in turn looked to Galen. “Colonel Cox is in command of our combined defense forces.” the Count declared.

“Do it.” Galen glared at the image of the cruiser. “Even if we can’t trust what they say, how they say it should give a lot away.”

“Signal sent.” someone confirmed a moment later.

They watched in silence as reports came in of Dropships breaking away from the Jumpships. At least five Overlord-class ships - each likely carrying a ‘Mech battalion and a squadron of aerospace fighters. Those numbers would be challenging for the aerowings Isis had brought with her, she wasn’t sure offhand what the Third Dismal Disinherited could have added to that.

Overlord Dropship (In flight in Atomsphere - Dave School MW)

Overlord Class DropShip

“Colonel Cox?”

Galen looked to the manager. “Yes?”

“We have a signal from the warship.” The man swallowed. “Sang-shao Lucas Tolek advises he’s commanding a peacekeeping brigade of Capellan and Commonwealth forces. They’re here to disarm and pacify the Marik, mercenary and insurgent forces on Saiph.”

“Capellan and Commonwealth forces in a single task force?” Isis asked incredulously.

“Tolek…” Galen checked on his comm. “I know that name… Second St Ives Lancers, he took over recently. Kai’s sister is with them. Did he say who else he’s bringing in?”


Murchison cleared his throat. “The warship is pinging an IFF signal we can read, Colonel Cox. It’s identifying itself as the FCS Alexander Davion.”

Galen drove his fist down against Murchison’s console. “The Alexander just got out of repairs at Delevan.” he muttered. “Last update I had from the SLDF said it was shaking down a new crew. There’s no way Peter would send it into a crisis, much less subordinate it to a Capellan commanding officer. Not without warning us.”

“Well where else would an Avalon-class come from?” demanded Balatine.

“There’s one ship of the class unaccounted for,” Isis reminded the men. “We need to get an HPG message out - I think we’ve just found the missing FCS Lucien Davion.”

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