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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 17[]

State of the Union - Book 3[]

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal
Clan Jade Falcon Occupation Zone, Federated Commonwealth
November 1st, 3067

The Archon-Prince was pacing his office, crossing it every few strides, frustration evident. “If the timing could be worse, I’m not sure how.” he declared.

“I’m not sure I want to find out.”

Michael Searcy had noticed in the past that Brigade General Terias Sortek had been able to persuade their ruler to relax more than most of the Fifth Royals’ staff, but this time it seemed that her words weren’t reaching him.

The broad-shouldered royal turned sharply as he reached the wall. “I’ve put it off as long as I can.”

“Let me put it this way, Your Highness.” Some levity might help, Searcy thought. And if he got his head bitten off, well that would probably get an apology later. Peter Steiner-Davion did try to rein his temper in. Most often he even succeeded. “If you fight Clan Wolf it’s possible that you’ll survive, but if you ditch your sister’s wedding. I don’t like your chances of seeing out the year alive.”

Peter stabbed one finger in his direction and then paused and shook his head. “I’ve thought the same thing myself.” he admitted. “And Victor’s already sent his apologies, which leaves very few of our family to attend… but the realm’s at war! For the Archon-Prince to simply abandon his command post and go home for a family occasion when no one else in the AFFC has that luxury, it’s the sort of special privilege that wrecked the Lyran high command for generations.” He shook his head, sending his long hair flying (it made him look more like his late cousin Morgan than his father, for a change). “And not unheard of in the Suns, at times.”

Lucy Davion folded her arms. “I hope you’re not planning on trying to join the reinforcements heading for New Exford, Sir.”

“I’m sitting hard on my inner adolescent.” was the reply. “Arc-Royal needs to be protected too, so I can justify remaining here with the Fifth Guards. It’s going back to Tharkad that feels like it’s letting everyone down that’s fighting for my - our - cause.”

Terias pursed her lips. “I assume you’ve weighed all the pros and cons exhaustively?”

“To the point of praying for divine guidance.”

“I assume that none was forthcoming.” observed Phelan Kell, entering the room with his father. “I’m sorry, did I miss a memo about a last minute staff meeting?”

“I’m trying to decide if I should return to Tharkad or not.”, stated Peter

“Ah.” Phelan considered the question seriously. “Well, I suppose you could attend the Star League Council remotely. ComStar would bill you through the nose though.”

Peter actually winced at that. “I trust Yvonne to handle that if it comes to that. She’s got Tancred with her to help and Catherine will be there.”

Morgan Kell shook his head. “Has there ever been a case of a Council Lord not attending? Since the League reformed, I mean. Not the original.”

“Ragnar had some really extenuating circumstances.” Peter reminded the old man.

The Rasalhague head of state had been elected when his father Magnus Haakonson stood down, despite the fact that Ragnar had been captured by the Clans and had been unavailable to actually carry out the duties of his office. Ironically, only months before that election the young prince had been here on Arc-Royal, part of the exiled Wolves - but he’d then been captured again by Clan Ghost Bear, eventually rising from bondsman to warrior for a second time. Christian Mansdottir had been appointed as regent, only to then be appointed as First Lord. It made for a tricky situation now that the Ghost Bears were moving to unite with the handful of Rasalhague worlds not conquered, meaning that Ragnar was expected to take up the duties that had been notionally his for six years.

“The only other example is Sun-Tzu abstaining from the last election of a First Lord.” Searcy offered. “He left, didn’t he? The media made a lot of hay out of it.”

“He did.” Peter agreed sourly.

“I think that there’s very little chance of you being elected First Lord if you don’t attend.” Lucy Davion looked serious.

“I’m inclined to take that as an argument to stay here.”

That got a snort from the Davion general. “You and Victor finally agree on something?”

“Someone has to hold the office, but it doesn’t have to be me.”

“There are a very large number - billions of them - who think it’s more than time that a Steiner-Davion did that.” she told him. “If you go back, you may feel that you’re letting down the armed forces but if you don’t then you’re letting down the Commonwealth.”

Peter looked stricken. “I know. But I… it’s not that easy for me! I set this up, it’s my orders that brought us here. I can’t just walk away.”

Morgan Kell sighed. “So you see both sides. And from your comment on praying, you’re sufficiently unsure that you’re seeking some higher judgement?”

“Yes.”, he told Morgan

The silver-haired Mechwarrior moved to the desk. “I can’t claim to be the Good Lord, Peter. But may I present an argument that may leave me some moral standing to give you direction in this matter?”

The Archon-Prince looked at him sharply. “Yes.” he agreed, stepping back. “I would appreciate that.”

Reaching into his coat, Morgan produced a billfold, and from it a yellowed and tattered piece of paper. Without a word, he laid it on the table.

Searcy, and the others, moved forward to look at it over Peter’s shoulder as he examined it.

The letter was little more than a note, set above a rainbow colored patch woven into the paper itself. Six handwritten words of content: Deny this man, Morgan Kell, nothing.

It was signed: Katrina Steiner, Archon, 22 July 3007. Beneath that, in another hand, had been added Melissa Steiner, Archon, 17 March 3039. And again, Victor Steiner-Davion, Archon-Prince, 5 July 3055.

“My god.” someone muttered. It might even have been Michael himself.

“Not quite.” Morgan Kell tapped the patch, quite unnecessarily, and it changed colors to confirm his identity. “But I am someone that has received a great deal of trust from your family, Peter.”

The Archon-Prince looked at Morgan and then reached for a pen. In a blocky print, he added his own name and the date, beneath that of his brother, and then passed the sixty year old document back to its owner.

Morgan folded the letter and put it away. Michael couldn’t help but think that it might be better in a museum. “Peter, there are many people, some of them in this room, who can lead the fight against the Clans. By leaving, you aren’t abandoning us. You are trusting us. But the Star League Council is a battlefield that none of us can fight upon. Only you - so it is your duty to stand for us there.” He paused. “And if others think less of you for it, they are fools and you will know not to pay heed to them going forwards.”

Peter stared at the old man, and then chuckled drily. “Well, that sounds like good advice.” He extended his hand and Morgan took it in his one flesh and blood hand.

“And look at this this way.” Michael suggested. “If you were still here, your highness, then Khan Ward might be too intimidated to come any closer.”

The redhead shook his head again. “If he was only so easily intimidated.” He pulled a hair-tie out of his pocket and started to secure his long hair. Terias Sortek stepped in and took the hair-tie, taking over the process.

“I will be going to New Exford personally.” the elder Kell added, almost offhanded. “I am leaving my home in good hands.”

Michael saw Khan Kell’s head snap up - evidently his father had not shared this decision with him until now.

“Well, I cannot deny you that.” agreed Peter, holding his head still as his subordinate put his hair into a pony-tail.

“I’m sure you’ll do fine.” Morgan added to his son. “But young Scott Bradley doesn’t quite have the reputation that Dan or Akira have among the AFFC. It will help to reassure the local defenders that we are working smoothly together.”

Phelan paused and then nodded in acceptance. “You have fun on Tharkad, Peter.” he told him. “Show Terias a good time and come back in a couple of months with the Star League’s affairs in order. We can keep things under control for a couple of months without you mother-henning us.”

“I already said I was going.” Peter muttered. “I don’t need abuse too.” But he was grinning.

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