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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 13[]

State of the Union[]

Johnson City, Addicks
Draconis March, Federated Commonwealth
31 March 3063

When he envisaged meeting his godfather again, handcuffs hadn't featured. Peter shook them in front of him. The guards had used the good sort, not impossible to get out of but hard enough that even his SERE training wouldn't let him open before it was noticed.

It wasn't any great comfort that both Cat and Clovis were similarly bound, something that was clearly uncomfortable for the latter with his short arms. Cat shook hers in emulation of Peter. "I'm not a number," she declared. "I am a free man. Woman. I think."

The guards - members of the Eighth Crucis Light Infantry - glared at her. "Keep it quiet," one warned. "Or we'll put you in the brig until the Marshal has time for you."

"It's okay, Cat," Peter assured her. "Just do what the nice corporal said."

She moved her gaze around the four guards and then reached over to tug his sleeve. "I see a corporal," she whispered - not all that quietly. "But he's not very nice."

The man in question grabbed Cat's shoulder and pulled her back away from Peter.

"He means that one." Clovis told her. "For the Crushers, this is pretty nice."

Cat opened her lips and then paused, raised her hand and mimed zipping her mouth closed.

"Smart ass." the corporal grumbled.

The door to the detention room opened. The Eighth Crucis Light Infantry had essentially taken over a police station to manage the various captives they were dealing with. The three new arrivals were only a drop in the bucket compared to the Draconis March Militia personnel who'd been captured since Ardan Sortek arrived on the strategically placed world with the Davion Assault Guards Regimental Combat Team and the First NAIS Cadet Cadre. The Eighth were just a small part of his task force.

The first people through the door were additional guards - bringing the total number in the room to eight. After that came four officers in battle-dress - two quite young and obviously aides, accompanying a stocky grizzled man with a Marshal's rank badge in black on his collar and a taller, balding officer that Peter recognized at once.

The last man looked over the three of them for a moment and then shook his head. "Well if you're not Clovis Holstein, you're one hell of an imposter."

"There aren't many men of my stature," the dwarf said drily. "and fewer who have my panache."

"Is that another word for paunch?" Ardan Sortek said wryly. "Karla must be feeding you well."

"She does try."

Peter's godfater nodded. "You understand the need for security."

"I'm not so worried about the dwarf," the Marshal interrupted. "But these two... they can't really be who they say they are."

Ardan looked them over and a chill went down Peter's spine. He'd known Ardan all his life but never once had he seen this expression. "I'd like to think that they are, but it does seem far fetched," he said slowly. "And we don't have the means to check their bona fides."

"I gave your people my ID card," Peter offered.

"Yes." Sortek leant back against the table and continued to study him clinically. "Unfortunately, while duplicating an AFFC officer's identity card isn't easy, nor is it beyond the capabilities of certain agencies... and it would be easiest of all for those under Katherine Steiner-Davion's control. Since they have access to the normal process of creating such cards and such."

He cracked a smile. "Of course there's the question of who the young lady is, since the Archon has made several public appearances on New Avalon in the last few days, so it seems very unlikely she's rushed all the way here."

"Then ask me something only I'd know." Peter suggested. "There must be something that only the real Peter Steiner-Davion could tell you."

Sortek tilted the head. "I haven't seen Peter in years. I have no way of knowing what he might or might not have told someone... although I suppose there's one thing he probably wouldn't have willingly shared."

"Like what?"

"I was the first one to take you out in a BattleMech, wasn't I? What do you remember about that."

Peter closed his eyes. "Really?"

"I can't be sure Peter might not have been forced to tell such an anecdote somehow but he'd never have volunteered that information."

"So?" asked the Marshal. "What was so special about this?"

"Well you weren't the first to take me in a Mech." Peter pointed out. "Father did when I was just a baby but, I don't remember it. When you took me out in your Victor I was five."


He sighed. "If anyone repeats this, I'll kill them. I was so excited that you had to stop and let me use the cockpit toilet."


Sortek chuckled. "He's right, Stephan. That's how it happened."

So the marshal was Stephan Cooper, commander of the Davion Assault Guards. Good to know, Peter thought. "And I'd rather it didn't get around."

"We all have these little stories of our childhood." Clovis said cheerily.

"Yes, but only royalty's are of interest to all and sundry." Peter raised his cuffed hands. "Is that convincing enough?"

"For now. I'll want to check your story, but for now..." Sortek looked over at the corporal. "Uncuff them. You're now a security detail - keep them out of trouble but keep them safe too."

Peter waited while the key was applied and his wrists freed. "I wasn't planning on being here for long, Uncle."

"That's too bad." Ardan pulled back a chair and sat down, "May I ask where you were planning to go? I assume you have a plan?"

"What I had in mind was New Avalon," he explained. "I have some information from Catherine that suggests that... the Archon is planning to purge the First Davion Guards. I can't see your cousin standing for that."

"And you're going to stop her?" asked Cooper. "You and this lookalike?"

"Catherine is my sister, Marshal. I've checked that and you're welcome to do another blood test if you want." Peter leant forwards. "Our dropship is carrying more than a hundred partially intact BattleMechs. If I can find the right parts - and the right people - then I can reinforce Bishop Sortek with an additional regiment of BattleMechs. That might be enough to give him a chance."

"That's a rather ambitious plan." Ardan smiled though. "Your father might have liked it, but New Avalon is in the Crucis March and Katherine's hold is stronger there. She also has the Davion Guards outnumbered three to one on New Avalon. Not to mention several warships at her disposal. On first glance I don't like your chances."

"Nor do I. But I don't like this war either. It's only a few months old and it's only going to get uglier. Civil Wars are the worst wars for that - you must have had the same history lessons I got about the Davion Civil War and similar struggles. How long do you think it could last."

"Realistically, years." The smile slipped off Ardan's face. "We're still building resources and support. I'm sure you've guessed, that's why we're here."

"Addicks' Department of the Quartermaster base. It's one of the biggest supply hubs in the Federated Commonwealth, sending shipments as far away as Robinson, Kathil and even Skye." Peter hesitated and then decided to bet on what Catherine had told him. "My information is that the Sixth Federated Commonwealth RCT have dug in there and you're trying to talk them out."

Cooper leant forwards. "You have a good source of information. What is it?"

Peter's eyes flicked for a moment to Catherine and none of the others missed it.

Ardan nodded slowly. "Your sister."

"Cat." she introduced herself.

He bowed his head gracefully towards her. "And I am Ardan."

"I... think we've met," she said tentatively. "There was a rose garden... behind a manor house surrounded by wheat fields..."

Ardan nodded. "You're thinking of my family home no doubt. And how do you know this?"

"She -" Peter began to explain.

His godfather raised one hand sharply. "I asked her, Peter."

Cat stared across the table and then said slowly: "I remember things. An assassin chasing Omi Kurita from Mogyorod to Luthien. Kai Allard-Liao rescuing Clan warriors from ComStar and the Free Worlds League from my brother. An ambush at York, Bulldog, Serpent, Sharon Byran dying of pride and Falcon talons." She faltered. "I... It's a jumble. Marik burns Regulus and they destroy Gibson." Her words began to hasten, tripping over them. "Warships above Camelot, fire raining down on Avalon, Black Thorns on Galedon and Peacock on the Dragon throne -"

Peter reached out and caught her wrist. "Cat, enough. We're on Addicks."

Cooper leant back in his chair, eyes narrow. "Is she insane?"

"Seine is a river in Paris, de Nile is a river in Egypt,"the young woman snapped back. "Cooper and copper, guards versus guards, the sixth dies but the fifth fights on steadfastly."

Ardan blinked and steepled his fingers, eying Cat over them. "You said copper. Do you mean Louise Kopper?"

"You can't be taking this seriously," Cooper snorted.

Peter glared at him. "She led us to a cache of Terran Hegemony war material that had been buried for half a millennium. I don't claim to know how, but she's not been wrong yet."

"Butterflies everywhere." Catherine said with a nod.

"Kopper," Ardan said again. "What do you know about her, Catherine."

"Fifth Lyran Guards," she told him. "That woman sent them to destroy the First NAIS cadets."

He nodded. "That would match what we've heard. It's not impossible that they could come here, and casualties digging McConnel's Sixth RCT out will be bad enough. Adding another RCT probably wouldn't stop you Stephan, but it could cost us a great deal."

"If they really are coming."

"Do you really want to take that chance?" asked Peter.

The two senior officers exchanged looks. "Give him one more chance to surrender or withdraw, Stephan." Ardan ordered firmly. "But move your troops into position on Loknar because if he turns you down then we'll storm the base tomorrow."

"We already have the cadets picketing it." Cooper pointed out. "That just leaves the local militia to watch out for stray survivors of the DMM."

"I think that's an acceptable risk. We need those supplies." Ardan turned back to Peter. "And I assume that that's where you want to get parts from?"

He nodded, glad that things were going their way. "That's right."

His godfather turned to Clovis. "And these 'Mechs of his... you vouch for them?"
"It'll take time, but yeah. I can get them restored."

That got a nod from Ardan. "Another regiment of 'Mechs isn't something I can turn down. We'll see what we can do. As for the rest... well, we'll see."

"Really?" Peter's spirits lifted, but the old man shook his head.
"I said we'll see, Peter. In the meantime, make yourself comfortable."

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