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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 41[]

State of the Union - Book 2[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
29th October, 3066

“The Capellan ambassador is still stone-walling us.” Duke Felsner reported grimly. “He says that to the best of his government’s knowledge, the warship joined their peacekeeping force with Star League and Federated Commonwealth credentials so they didn’t question it.”

“What utter bullshit!” Peter snarled. “There’s no possible way that the Liaos would accept one of our warships without crying up a storm about it being anywhere near their borders. The Lucien must be there with a Capellan crew and that means Kathrina went to him for shelter.”

Quintus was calmer. “It could possibly be a third party conspiring with the Capellans, sire. There were unsubstantiated reports of one of our cruisers being seen in the League previously. I agree that Chancellor Liao must be involved but he may not be the sole or even leading agent behind this.”

The Archon-Prince glowered at the spymaster until Catherine leant forwards to catch her brother’s attention. “Do we have anything in range to intervene?”

Kirishima Class Cruiser (Matt Plog)

Kirishima Class Cruiser, FCS Covenant

Peter sighed heavily. “Not readily. The Covenant is up near New Syrtis and the actual Alexander Davion is the wrong side of Kathil to get to Saiph. I could send a couple of corvettes, but that might be what they want. A trap to chew up part of our fleet.”

“I thought we had four times the fleet that the Capellans had.” Felsner inquired delicately.

“Yes, but not on the border with them. Between covering our key systems and maintaining patrols on our other borders we’re still spread too thin.”

Garek Davion leant forwards. “If they do attack our ships it would be an act of war.”

“I begin to see why Victor found this job so thankless.” Peter muttered. “I will refrain from jumping on the Free Worlds League and then Serge Bernstein decides that he’s going to launch a one-man war against us.”

The widowed mechwarrior had hit three worlds in Bolan Province so far, although he’d been careful to avoid any of the frontline garrisons. That had been made easier by the drawdown of regiments there - with both Tamarind and the Silver Hawks eager to avoid provoking an opportunistic invasion he’d been shuffling troops out of Bolan and replacing them with more units for Victor to work with. Of course, that meant that his brother now had less to work with in hunting the Bernstein’s raiders with.

“If it turns into more than a one-man war then it could threat the new factories on Bolan.”

“I’m sure Quintus will warn us if the Silver Hawks or Tamarind start mobilizing for that.” Peter responded to Bishop’s warning. “We do have a strategic reserve for that level of situation.”

“Which is more than we had a few years ago.” added Catherine positively.

For a moment, Peter looked back at where things had been when he first sat in this room. The war had still been raging on many worlds. Something like a quarter of the available warships had been damaged to the point of not being fit for service and most of the major regional leaders had barely been willing to talk to him. Maybe Catherine had a point - things had been much worse back then.

“Looking at the positive side, at least we have a lead now. Following that up is Quintus’ job, Duke Felsner. I’d appreciate it if you can focus on our relations with the governments on Tamarind and Dieudonne. At the moment they’re a very useful buffer against the civil war inside the League and that doesn’t seem likely to end well. We’ll give them what support we can, including recognizing the Saiph Triumvirate’s decision to join them.”

“What if they decide to follow Andurien’s example and seek full independence?” asked Felsner cautiously.

Peter rubbed his jaw. “We got along very well with St. Ives and still do get on fairly well with Rasalhague, until Katherina decided to discard our alliances for no good reason. If I want to expand the Commonwealth then there are no shortage of places I can do so where it would be much less costly. I’d be quite content if more of our borders were covered by states on the friendly side of neutral, so we can focus our military efforts against the others.”

Unspoken was that the Intelligence Secretariat was expending some low key effort keeping Oriente, Regulus and Marik-Stewart at each other’s throat. Nothing that was officially espionage, mostly simply encouraging the media to slant polls and news reports in ways that suggested that each of the claimants had plenty of support in their own provinces but very little outside of them. Destabilizing the Free Worlds League had been Lyran policy for eight hundred years and Federal policy since the 3020s so it was business as usual, even if it made Peter feel vaguely dirty for using the same techniques Katherina had used to oust Yvonne less than a decade before.

“I don’t suppose that we have any good news?” asked Garek a little plaintively.

“Well, I think Catherine owes me ten sovereigns.” Peter joked and then pretended to wince as his sister leant over and punched his bicep. “What, you can’t still think that it’s Clan Wolf?”

“It could be!” she pouted. “It would certainly pay off for them if we’re busy fighting the Capellans next year.”

“It would, but do you really think they could pull that off?” he asked her.

Quintus shook his head, smiling slightly. “The Wolf’s Watch isn’t entirely inept and and the Jade Falcons did try a false-flag operation at one point, but that didn’t go well for them. I’m not sure Khan Ward would be willing to try something like this.”

“That’s why it would work!” Catherine whined. Then she straightened in her seat. “If Katherina is planning this, Vlad Ward might well go along with it.”

Peter sighed. The worst thing was, she might be onto something. He didn’t think so, but she’d been right about so much else. Unspoken were her visions, not everyone was cleared for those. “Alright, I won’t take your money… yet.”

There were chuckles around the table and Peter tapped it with his knuckle. “More seriously, I do have one more piece of news.” He fixed a grim expression on his face. “Yvonne sent an HPG message by priority and it arrived yesterday.”

Everyone settled down and looked at him, waiting for the next shoe to drop.

He couldn’t keep the facade up and cracked a smile. “Relax, people. It’s good news. Tancred Sandoval proposed to her. When the court returns to Tharkad at the end of the year, we’ll have to add preparing a royal wedding to our agenda.”

Felsner’s chuckle cut through the approving comments. “Quintus?”

The head of the Intelligence secretariat reached into his jacket, pulled out a billfold and extracted a ten sovereign note, sliding it across the table to the diplomat.

“You didn’t see this coming?” Peter asked in amusement.

“I thought he’d wait for Christmas.” Quintus sighed. “Have they set a date?”

“Not definitively,” Peter told him. “but given that so many people will want to attend a ceremony like that, she suggested November next year - when everyone’s on Tharkad for the Fourth Whitting Conference.”

Felsner slipped the bank note Quintus had given him into his pocket but brought out a handful of change. He dropped two half sovereigns on the table and then pushed them over to the spymaster.

“Only one sovereign?” asked Garek in amusement.

“I would have won another ten if they wanted to get it over and done rather than match Hanse and Melissa’s guest list.” Felsner harrumphed.

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