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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 23[]

State of the Union - Book 3[]

The Triad, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Federated Commonwealth
November 27th, 3067

The palace ballroom was set up with tables in a circle, the one gap filled by a podium. Isis Marik saw that the place of the Free Worlds League was the only vacant table, flanked between the three Steiner-Davions at the Federated Commonwealth’s table and that shared by Ragnar Magnusson and Christian Mansdottir, with the two Khans of Clan Ghost Bear sitting proudly behind Rasalhague’s official representatives.

There was an observer’s gallery that, at least for today, was mostly packed with various representatives of the Free Worlds League states. Isis saw the media were crammed into the gaps between, providing a physical buffer; and also the prospect of embarrassment in public, if tempers did flare. As a result, there was a chilly silence among those present in the gallery as moved to her reserved seat there.

A number of cameras followed her as she moved to stand next to her cousin Reginald. Speculation by the reporters sprang up almost immediately.

A large clock set high on the wall chimed the hour and the First Lord rose from his seat and walked around to the podium, timing his arrival so that he was ready when the last chime died. “My lords and ladies,” Christian Mansdottir announced. “I hereby convene the Fourth Whitting Conference.”

There was a rustle of applause at the brief formality.

“Before we move on to matters of debate, we must establish our membership.” The General turned his gaze around the room. “Chancellor Liao, do you represent the Capellan Confederation today?”

Sun-Tzu Liao tilted his head slightly. “I do.” Isis knew that there had been concern her former fiancé wouldn’t attend at all, but apparently they had been groundless.

Mansdottir continued, receiving confirmation from Theodore Kurita, Peter Steiner-Davion and Precentor Gavin Dow that they were representing their respective realms and ComStar. Rather than addressing the Free Worlds League issue, he then paused. “Since our last conference, the Free Rasalhague Republic has merged with Clan Ghost Bear. As the serving First Lord, I will continue to moderate discussion until my successor has been elected. However, the vote of the new Rasalhague Dominion will be cast by our Elected Prince.”

“I object.” Theodore Kurita kept his voice level. “By precedent set by the reunion of the Federated Commonwealth, we must vote on whether this new realm retains the membership once held by the Free Rasalhague Republic.”

“Surely if the First Lord’s realm has been disbanded then his tenure is at an end.” The Chancellor’s voice was also mild but that reasonable tone was deceptive.

“I believe that we elected Christian Mansdottir in his own right, rather than as regent for Prince Magnusson.” asserted Peter Steiner-Davion. He looked tired, but resolute. “However, if you wish to, we can certainly vote on the matter. I trust you have no objection to his moderating the vote.”

“It would be something of a conflict of interest.” Sun-Tzu complained.

Mansdottir shook his head. “Precentor Dow, if you would be so good as to take over for this matter? I believe your position as a neutral voice would make you a suitable choice.”

There was no objection and Gavin Dow moved to the podium. “Firstly, let us settle the status of the First Lord.” he declared. “A vote of aye affirms that the elected First Lord retains their office for the duration of their term, regardless of their realm’s state or their position within it, unless specifically removed by the Star League Council. A vote of nay affirms that a First Lord’s term ends immediately they lose office within their realm, if their realm merges with another or should it be otherwise disbanded. Determining how a new First Lord of the Star League would then be determined is beyond the scope of this vote.”

The Precentor-Martial of ComStar looked around the tables. “All those voting aye?”

Both the Archon-Prince and the Coordinator raised their hands.

“And opposed?”

Sun-Tzu Liao raised his own.

Dow nodded. “By majority vote, Lord Mansdottir retains his office. We have a new precedent. Would you like to…?”

Back at the Rasalhague table, Mansdottir shook his head. “Please handle both issues, Precentor-Martial.”

“Of course.” Dow paused in thought. “With a vote of yes, the Rasalhague Dominion is confirmed as taking up the membership of theStar League previously held by the Free Rasalhague Republic. A vote of no states that they do not, in which case we may then consider a provisional membership. Who votes aye, please?”

This time all three hands went up immediately. Isis wondered why the Coordinator had raised the matter if he didn’t support it. Trying to draw out Sun-Tzu? Or perhaps he had simply wanted it formally confirmed rather than assumed. She saw Catherine, by far the easiest of the three Steiner-Davions to read, giving the Coordinator a sidelong glance. It seemed she wasn't the only one bemused at the vote.

“So resolved.” Gavin Down stepped back, bowed slightly and then returned to the ComStar table.

Once again taking the podium, Mansdottir looked at the gallery for a moment. “If our provisional members will bear with us for a little longer, we have another member whose status is in question. There are, I believe, four petitions to take up the representation of the Free Worlds League.”

At the desk where the First Lord had been seated, Isis saw Ragnar shift. She’d met him back in 3051, on Outreach, the two of them the youngest of the young royals present.He had spent most of his time training with the Dragoons, while she had been… well, not doing anything that turned out to be worthwhile. He had presence now - the boy had become a man, and quite an impressive one. She was very happy with Galen, but that didn’t mean she didn’t have eyes.

“I do not see Thomas Halas, Corinne Marik, or Kirc Cameron-Jones.” he rumbled in a very bear-like voice. Or at least what Isis guessed to be bear-like. “Do they make no claim for the seat?”

Peter steepled his hands before him. “We have delegations from all three of them; but, so far as I have been informed, none of the three would-be Captain-Generals are on Tharkad.”

“Each of them has written to me, citing that they’re at war and asking that their ambassador be seated to represent the Free Worlds League.” clarified Mansdottir.

“I am equally unimpressed with them.” The Elected-Prince shook his head. “To comply with their requests, we would essentially be endorsing them as the Captain-General. How can we do so without taking their measure?”

Theodore Kurita glanced across at Ragnar and then nodded. “I am unconvinced that we should provide any endorsement at all, certainly not without meeting them. I move that we dismiss all of these petitions.”

Peter tapped his desk, twice. “I don’t find being at war a sufficient reason not to attend. You’ve spoken of three of these petitions, First Lord. Is the fourth of a kind to them?”

The general shook his head. “Rather different. I call the joint delegation of the Tamarind Alliance, Silver Hawks Coalition and the Commonality Defense Pact to present their petition.”

Isis’ cousin was first to his feet and offered her his hand up. Joined by Ardal Thomasson of the Commonality, they left the observer gallery with angry glares from the representatives of the three Captain-Generals. Mansdottir ceded the podium and Isis moved to it, flanked by the two men. They had discussed how to handle this and both had agreed that she should be the primary spokesperson. She was less sure, but she was also outvoted.

Before she could begin - before Mansdottir could reach his seat - Ragnar spoke up again. “Why should we support you as Captain-General?” he demanded bluntly.

Alright, a little off-script then… but she had anticipated the question. “You should not, Star Colonel.” Isis riposted, using his military rank. “Neither I, nor my companions claim the position. There is, to our minds, no current claimant fit for the office. And yet, the Free Worlds League is a member-state of the Star League and while the Captain-Generalcy is being fought over, our League should have voice and vote here within the larger League.”

“There are, by my count, currently seven major factions within the Free Worlds League.” Sun-Tzu leant back in his chair, face indifferent. “Even though you all speak, it is hardly with one voice.”

“Our three alliances, and several other provinces who have asked us to represent us on this matter -” a small number but it was important to show the breadth of their support, “- represent more than a third of the Free Worlds League. We have elected not to take sides with the three claimants to the throne, but nor are we seeking independence. For the duration of the Fourth Whitting Conference, we request that we be granted the right and and responsibility to speak for our own people’s interests.”

“You are proposing a temporary measure?” Mansdottir enquired.

“One would hope that by the next conference, in three years, that the situation will be clearer. We may even have elected a new Captain-General.” Isis tried to look more confident in that prospect than she actually was. “In the meanwhile, the worlds under our governorship and protection have continued to pay the taxes due to the Star League, and we are contributing troops to the current Star League military support.”

Five-sixths of that commitment was from the Silver Hawks Coalition, but to bring the her cousin Alys Rousset-Marik’s Krushers brigade up to strength, Photon Brett-Marik had dispatched a battalion of the Thirty-Seventh Marik Militia’s ‘Mech regiment to fight alongside them. Still, it was a somewhat multi-national effort.

“As we are bearing the burden of supporting the Star League in these matters, I do not see it as unreasonable that we should also serve upon this Council. We are happy to cede that responsibility to a Captain-General once there is one.” If she put a little more weight on that last word, who could blame her?

Gavin Dow cleared his throat. “Which of the three of you would vote for the Free Worlds League?”

They’d agreed that Reginald would speak if this point was raised. Isis stepped aside and the elder Brett-Marik replaced her. “The three of us will vote collectively, following our majority opinion. If at least two of us cannot agree on a point, we will abstain.”

“So long as you don’t need to waste our time with extended arguments amongst yourselves, that seems reasonable.” allowed Coordinator Kurita. “I amend my proposed vote, First Lord, to dismissing the other three petitions before voting separately on this one.”

Mansdottir stood but did not return to the podium. “I accept your amendment. My lords, please vote aye if you wish to dismiss the claims of Halas, Cameron-Jones and Corinne Marik at this time.”

The vote was unanimously in favor.

“And now, will you vote aye to accept the joint delegation before us as representing the Free Worlds League, or nay to decline representation to the Free Worlds League for this conference.”

“I dislike the latter precedent.” the Archon-Prince cut in. “I vote aye.”

“Aye.” agreed Ragnar.

The Coordinator also nodded. “I also vote aye.”

Sun-Tzu Liao gave a crooked smile. “I dislike this representation, but as unlikely as I find it, Steiner-Davion and I are of one accord when it comes to the precedent a nay vote would set. Aye.”

The First Lord approached the podium and shook hands with each of them in turn. “Please take your seats, my lords.”

Isis found herself bracketed by the two men again as they took their places behind the Free Worlds League table. Their staff members filtered down to sit behind them. If looks could kill, the glares the other Free Worlds League delegations directed at them would have been lethal - only the observers from Andurien joined the scant applause.

“And now.” Christian Mansdottir declared, “We come to the matter of our provisional members…”

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