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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 5[]

State of the Union - Book 3[]

Old Connaught, Arc-Royal
Donegal Province, Federated Commonwealth
May 24th, 3067

Peter Steiner-Davion had been visiting a school on one of the many formal visits expected of any ruler who presumed to stray from the environs of his capital or the battlefield. It had been fairly standard - some child barely waist-high in comparison to the Archon-Prince had given him flowers on behalf of the community, there had been a ribbon for him to cut for the opening of some conveniently newly-completed part of the school, he’d made a speech and the children had been allowed to ask some questions.

The little boy who asked how he could get rid of his older sisters the same way Peter had Katherine was probably not going to enjoy his evening. Peter was just glad he’d not been using his water glass when it was asked. He’d managed to keep what he hoped was a level tone in explaining that he’d not misplaced the former Archon intentionally; and would, in fact, rather like to know where she was.

Exactly what Peter would do should he get his hands on Katherine was a question he occasionally turned over in his mind late at night. On the one hand, he had a lot of questions, but on the other… would he be able to trust the answers?

Other than that question, the non-standard aspect had been a terse text message advising that for non-emergency reasons, he should consider cancelling his schedule for the rest of the day and returning to Old Connaught. While Peter would have accepted almost any excuse to get out of another chicken dinner with local dignitaries, he’d withheld the decision to drop the duty on Lucy Davion until he could get somewhere private and receive a more detailed explanation.

That conversation had put him in a helicopter making a high speed run back to the planetary capital, the chicken dinner replaced by a hastily organized order from one of the local takeaways. The circumstances didn’t make the burgers and fries any more digestible than the chicken would have been - which was a shame because he suspected they’d been rather nice.

Anticipation was a good sauce, but only when you were anticipating the food - not bad news.

Peter almost leapt from the VTOL the moment it was on the ground and a staff car whisked him away towards the Kell Hounds’ headquarters - which doubled in the same role for the planetary militia and currently as the forward command center for all of Donegal Province. “Is it as bad as it sounds?” he asked Terias Sortek, who had been waiting for him.

The late Ardan Sortek’s daughter looked serious. “News is still coming in, but given we’re still getting new reports from further and further away… it might be worse.”

“What’s the latest?”, he asked

She shook her head. “We’re beginning to get reports from Melissia Theater as well…”

Peter took a deep breath. “We’re fighting on a broad front then.” The Lyran State Command divided its share of the Federated Commonwealth’s long borders into theaters. The province of Donegal contained Pandora theater, facing the Jade Falcons, and Kelenfold theater, facing the shorter border with Clan Wolf and the new Rasalhague-Ghost Bear union. Melissia Theater was Coventry province’s own border with the Falcons. If that was being hit as well as both of the Donegal theaters then the entire Clan border was (figuratively) on fire.”

“That’s what it looks like.”, Terias commented

He slammed his fist down on the armrest, started to speak and then paused, breathing in and trying to let the anger go as he exhaled. Old lessons from St. Marinus. “A new strategy then. And we’re facing both the Jade Falcons and the Wolves.”

Terias nodded seriously. “It’s not outside of the contingencies planned for. But…”

“Yes. But.” Peter sat back and rubbed his jaw in thought. Nothing new suggested itself, the possible scenarios had been discussed for years now. “Thanks for coming to get me.”

She smiled thinly. “I wouldn’t want to have to explain myself to cousin Bishop if I lost you.”

The car pulled into an underground garage and multiple doors closed behind them, securing the bunker-like entrance against many forms of attack. Security dogs and men with complex electronics swept the car first and then each of them individually as they exited the vehicle.

The time it took to pass through the successive security barriers was only measured in minutes but to Peter they felt like hours. When he entered the command center at last, the dim lighting and flashes as screens updated with new data left him bewildered for a moment, but the central holographic display drew him in and he found familiar faces around it.

“Sorry to interrupt the formal banquet.” his brother greeted him. “I know you were looking forward to the chicken a la carte.”

Peter tossed the slightly soggy bag half-full of fries he’d not finished at Victor. “Don’t say I never give you anything.” He glanced at the others. “Morgan. Phelan.”

“Peter.” The grey-bearded mercenary was sober as he looked up. “It seems that we’re facing a general offensive.”

In contrast, Phelan Kell was laser-focused on his display. “We knew Marthe Pryde and Vlad Ward were political allies, but I didn’t expect this. They aren’t competing for worlds, I think we’re dealing with designated targets under a joint strategy.” He indicated amethyst and jade lights over worlds marked in the blue of the Federated Commonwealth. “See how Vlad’s Wolves are hitting Pandora Theater while the Jade Falcons are hitting Kelenfold?”

Peter nodded. While the latter Theater didn’t directly face them, it was still within reach for the Jade Falcons. But for the Wolves to strike at the worlds they were, they must have either bypassed the Jade Falcon’s worlds or been given free passage. “Not just allies, but a coordinated plan?”

His elder (and now only, Peter remembered with a pang of sorrow) brother nodded sharply. “Exactly.”

Morgan Kell expanded the map to reveal the full border rather than only that of Donegal Province. “So far we haven’t had any report of attacks on the Mkuranga region.” he observed, indicating a small cluster of systems on the Coventry side of the border between the provinces. “It seems that the Falcon efforts against Adam’s command region are focused on the salients driven into their Occupation Zone.”

“That’s more in line what we thought we might face.” agreed Peter. It would be unfortunate if the worlds liberated were lost again, but it would also mean not facing a drive deeper into the Federated Commonwealth. “But here we have the Falcons beginning what could be a drive towards Terra along our flank… would the Wolves-in-Name-Only allow that without joining the race?”

Phelan shook his head. “That joke’s getting old, Your Highness. But no, Vlad wouldn’t risk the Jade Falcons becoming ilClan if they somehow succeeded.”

Victor reached into the holo-display and outlined the worlds facing attack by the Wolf Clan. “Crimond, Koniz, A Place, Morges… even Pasig up in Coventry province. They have one thing in common.”

“Yes.” Phelan looked up at Peter, eyes glittering in the reflected light. It gave him a somewhat inhuman aspect. “All of those worlds have elements of my Clan among their garrison. Vlad is targeting my Wolves.”

“If that’s the case then he’ll have to come here.” Arc-Royal was where Victor had granted the Warden faction of Clan Wolf an enclave to settle within the Federated Commonwealth during his reign, and it was still the home of the vast bulk of their people. “And Arc-Royal is almost halfway to Tharkad.”

“Marthe came even further when she struck at Coventry back in ‘58.” the Khan warned.

“Alright. Options?” Peter thought that he was up-to-date on the plans for this situation, but it was possible he was overlooking something.

The other three men exchanged looks. “Do you want to request assistance from the Star League?” asked Victor. “It’ll affect what forces are available.”

“What would that do in the short-term?” asked Terias. “Except for the ComGuards, there’s no one with forces in the area right now.”

Victor nodded in agreement, but his face said otherwise. “This won’t be over in a few weeks. If we want help we should be considering it now. I think we can count on the ComGuards. Some of their divisions are on worlds already under attack, but if we want the SLDF to redeploy from their positions in the Free Worlds League then we should ask as soon as possible.”

Peter rubbed his jaw and then shook his head. “I don’t trust Sun-Tzu Liao, and the other likely sources of troops are doing us more good as it is. The DCMS garrisons along the Ghost Bear’s border should hopefully keep them from getting involved or tie them up if they do. And the SLDF’s current deployments are the only reason we’ve been able to pull as many forces from the Marik border as we have.”

“You might be being a little ambitious.” warned Morgan. “The DCMS managed a win against the Ghost Bears but that was one Clan that was already under pressure from their neighbors. Two Clans working together could be more difficult.”

“We already have the ComGuards and Phelan’s Wolves alongside us.” Peter told him, hoping he wasn’t laying on the flattery of the Khan’s forces too thick. “If a third Clan was involved then that might be another matter, but we have more regiments and jumpships mustered here than my father needed in order to crush half the Capellan Confederation. The Clans aren’t an unknown quantity any more, so while I’d rather fight one Clan at a time, if they both want to hit us at once then I believe we’re ready for the challenge.”

“Marthe Pryde is using her warships aggressively.” Phelan pointed at icons over Orkney. “The Second Federated Commonwealth has reported limited bombardment of the main military dropport attached to their base.” His face darkened. “Half a regiment of your infantry and thousands of tons of supplies were lost. If that’s a pattern, you may need to bring in more warships.”

Peter hesitated. The truth was, that was one area where the Clans still had an edge in numbers. Between them, Wolf-in-Name-Only and the Jade Falcons might have as many warships as the entire Federated Commonwealth Navy and while some of them would be guarding their homeworlds, more than half his own fleet was positioned to keep his neighbors honest. What was left would be outnumbered and outmassed, even with the squadron at Phelan’s command. “The ships I extorted from the Blakists won’t be available until late in the year.” he admitted. “They won’t be fit for immediate use but they can at least replace one of our other squadrons. Until then, all I can do is expedite the corvettes for your fleet.”

Fox Class Corvette (Underway - BattleTech Space Wars Mod)

Fox Class Corvette

He’d promised two Fox-class corvettes in repayment for the naval support Phelan’s Wolves had provided three years ago. The ships were nearly ready for launch - if trials were carried out on the move as they headed for the frontlines, they could be at Arc-Royal by the autumn.

Morgan stroked his beard. “What about the ComGuards?”

“I’m sorry.” Victor shook his head. “Learning about Odessa has alarmed them about the size of the Blakist fleet. Until we have a better idea what they have and where, Dow is keeping his own warships on a tight leash. There may be a few ships escorting their transports but the bulk of the ComGuards Fleet won’t be available. And...” He glanced at Peter.

“And I’m not his favorite person.”

Phelan snorted. “You making secret deals with the Word of Blake hasn’t made you any friends in ComStar, Peter. I am not a huge fan of either group of toaster-worshippers, but at least ComStar is the devil we know.”

“I have a similar deal with ComStar on New Syrtis.” Peter pointed out, thinking of the Faslane-class yardship being laid down on the far side of the Federated Commonwealth.

“That makes it worse.” Victor told him. “Dow and the Primus thought that that meant you were on their side. But now they’re worried that their investment could be used against them.”

And I can’t exactly tell them - or any of you - that Odessa wasn’t something I knew about all the time, Peter thought. Terias was the only other person in the room who knew that. Victor’s discretion wasn’t legendary, Phelan’s loyalties were divided at the best of times and Morgan both had no need to know and if he knew then Peter would have to tell him to keep it secret from his son, expressing his distrust.

“Too late to change any of that now.” Peter walked around the holotable and examined the map. “Alright, options. Where can we hold them, where are reinforcements likely to make a difference…” He paused and looked up, “And where can we hit them back?”

Victor examined him for a moment and then nodded in what appeared to be approval. “The numbers of WiNO forces suggest that the Wolf Touman is heavily committed. I suggest we hit them.”

“I would really appreciate it if you dropped that nickname and the acronym.” Phelan almost whined.

The two Steiner-Davions exchanged looks of agreement that they’d tortured their distant cousin enough… for now, at least.

“Out of our contingency planning, Operation North Star and Operation Southern Cross both involve seizing worlds in the Wolf Occupation Zone.” Victor continued. “Because the target worlds border the Jade Falcons, they’d also pose a threat to Marthe Pryde and she may feel she has to pull troops out of her attacks in case we use them as bases against her.”

“I discussed North Star with Adam Steiner.” Peter confirmed. “Using Twycross as a launching point for the Ceti Hussars?”

“That’s the one. Southern Cross doesn’t have a similar base, but the Occupation Zone is narrower here anyway and we’d be sending four Regimental Combat Teams, not three.”

Peter nudged Phelan aside and overlaid both operations onto the holotable map, studying them. Then he nodded sharply. “Launch Southern Cross. I’ll instruct Adam to carry out North Star as well.”

Morgan hissed between his teeth. “You’re sending seven Regimental Combat Teams a long way behind enemy lines. You could lose them all.”

“What struck me.” he told the older man, “When I read about Operation Bulldog and Operation Serpent, was how outraged the Clans were that we would dare fight back at all. They seemed to think that what they hold is inviolable and what we hold is negotiable. I could lose those troops trying to hold the line here but this war won’t be won on the defensive.”

He reached out and tapped the icon of the Falcon capital on Sudeten and then the Wolf capital of Tamar. “These are Federated Commonwealth worlds, and I’ll see them free of the Clans again.”

“Just as long as none of those RCTs you commit are the Fifth Royal Guards.” Terias murmured from Peter’s side. “You’re not getting away from the Chicken a la Carte circuit that easily, Your Highness.”

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