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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 17[]

State of the Union[]

Loknar DQ, Addicks
Draconis March, Federated Commonwealth
4 April 3063


Trucks rolling up to the Glowworm wasn't a surprise to Daniel. He'd expected that Ardan Morgan's mysterious acquaintance would want the BattleMechs off the dropship and in his hands as soon as possible. Perhaps Morgan would get his cut or not, that wasn't Daniel's problem.

The surprise was that the trucks were carrying crates, and if Daniel was reading the stenciled markings correctly - and he probably was, the amount of military hardware that his father handled made learning military shorthand advisable - the crates on the first truck contained Valiant Scutum ferro-fibrous armor.

"Are you sure that you're supposed to be bringing that here?" he asked dubiously as the driver of the first truck came to a halt.

"Glowworm, right?" the man asked. "Ya, we unload this and then we're taking on cargo for the Clarent, over there." He gestured in the direction of the next pad over where an Excalibur-class combined arms transport DropShip easily half again the size of the Glowworm had its hatches open.

Daniel rubbed his forehead and then stepped aside to let them get on with it. Glowworm was Mael Calium's ship, after all. He and his father could take the shuttle back to Bifrost and leave the dropship and Morgan to their own devices.

He'd just about made it to the shuttle when his father arrived in a military jeep. "I was beginning to think they'd locked you up." he called.

Clovis shook his head. "Just until they confirmed my identity. The usual precautions."

"If it's all the same to you, Dad, let's not take more jobs like this."

"You're young to be so jaded, Daniel." His father waved the jeep's driver away. "Some jobs need to be done."

"That may apply to maintaining a fusion reactor, but politics...." said Daniel

Clovis shook his head. "It's the same principle. Here, take a seat."

Daniel stared at him for a moment but when his father patted the steps by the shuttle hatch he sighed and obeyed.

"Societies are much like complex machinery," Clovis told him sagely. "..there are many many parts and connections, and it's very hard to make it work. When it doesn't someone needs to fix it."

"And Ardan Morgan figures he can fix it? That's kind of ambitious." He spread his hands. "This war's bigger than any one person."

"I wouldn't be so sure." His father paused. "You know who he is, don't you?"

Daniel gave him a suspicious look. "One of your old Heimdall connections?"

That got him a thump to the upper arm. "Didn't you ever look at him, Daniel? That's Peter Steiner-Davion."

"...what?" He shook his head. "Dad, that's ridiculous! What are you going to claim next? That his sister's..." His voice trailed off. Cat Morgan did look a hell of a lot like the Archon. "You're kidding."

His father shook his head. "Heimdall's business is to keep the Archon from exceeding their remit. We've been ill-prepared to deal with Katrina, too many people assumed she would follow in her grandmother's footsteps when they should have known better."

"It's not our job to keep the Steiner-Davion's in line, Dad. We run a jumpship. We provide engineering solutions. Not..."

"Poisoning a treacherous duke?" asked Clovis

Daniel blinked.

His father didn't meet his eyes. "I've never told you about your grandfather."

"I... thought he was dead. On one of the Skye worlds, during a Kurita raid? Grandmother she joined Heimdall after a raid back in 3005."

Clovis glanced around. "No. He was wounded then. Justice of a sort, since he raped my mother and his injury meant he could never do that again." There was a savage satisfaction to that. "But that didn't stop his plotting. Or his attempts to harm those who sought to defend the rightful Archon and her loyal allies."

"Dad, I don't understand, you said something about... he was a duke?"

"Have you ever heard of Aldo Lestrade?" asked Daniel's father

He thought. "One of Duchess Aten's family? She was adopted by the last Lestrade duke I think."

"You know," Clovis said. "I'm glad he's been forgotten. He was the Duke of Summer and the leader of the Free Skye movement up until the Fourth Succession War. He was my father." He leant back and studied the sky. "When he pushed too far, I snuck into his castle and poisoned his brandy. Then had a long and frank talk with him to keep him from realizing until it was too late to do anything about it."

"Dad!"

"Does that shock you, Daniel?"

"Well, yes!" His father was an assassin! How could that be possible. He'd killed his own father? Daniel couldn't imagine doing that to one of his family.

"Good, then I've raised you right. If I behaved that way then I hope someone would stop me." Clovis put one hand on his shoulder. "The first time I met Melissa Steiner she was willing to surrender herself to save innocent lives. We couldn't let her, of course. The Archon-Designate in Kurita hands would be an nightmare, but she was willing to sacrifice herself for others. She was almost certainly assassinated to clear the way for our current ruler - a woman who's abandoned allies, removed freedom of speech, and even disbanded the Estates-General."

"You're saying she's worse than... than Lestrade." Daniel studied his hands. "Why us? Why not...?" He trailed off.

"What do you think Peter came here for? He's building a force to take her down."

"For his brother's sake. Or for his own?" Thinking about 'Ardan Morgan', Daniel could see in hindsight the confidence - arrogance really - of royalty. But was he really any better than the Archon was?

Clovis' face grew grim. "It's not a given that Victor will live to see Katrina dethroned. Ardan Sortek does not approve of rushing to New Avalon now, which is what Peter has in mind."

"So they're at odds?" asked Daniel

"In this case, Peter will have his way." His father's eyes were distant. "The latest news is that Prince Victor has been ambushed by the Fourteenth Donegal Guards, led by his cousin Adam. His forces are scattered and it's entirely possible he's already been captured or killed."

Adam Steiner (Young)

General Adam Steiner in his youth.

Daniel rose and looked over at the Glowworm. "That would gut resistance to the Archon, wouldn't it?"

Clovis nodded grimly. "Peter and Yvonne don't have the sort of reputation to step into his shoes. Catherine would almost certainly be dismissed as an imposter. If Victor survives, well and good. But if he doesn't then we have a limited opportunity to take her down."

"You don't think that this is a forlorn hope?"

"Of course it is. But so is one dwarf challenging the ruler of an entire planet." His father hesitated. "If you don't want to go with us, I'll understand. I know your heart isn't in it."

Daniel shrugged uneasily. "Do my feelings really matter?"

"If you mean, will I withdraw for your sake then no. But you're a grown man and just because your mother and I are willing to risk ourselves doesn't force you to do the same. If you want to follow another path, we'll not love or respect you any less."

"You wouldn't think I was a coward?" asked Daniel

Clovis stood up, his head barely above his son's even when Daniel remained seated. "It takes more courage to stand up and make a choice for yourself than it does to follow someone else's cause."

That was reassuring, but it was also a weighty burden.

"I don't care about causes," he said at last. "But someone obviously needs to be a voice of reason. Between you and his sister, Peter's going to need someone with a level head."

Daniel's father clasped his shoulder, wordless for a moment. "Besides your mother, you mean?" he said at last.

"Mother puts up with your sense of humor. I'm not sure we can rely on her for good sense. Now how about we dig out your design data on the Mackie, I've had an idea about how we can fix the ammunition storage." said Daniel

His father's eyebrows rose and he gestured up the steps into the shuttle. "Now this I have to see. Getting cellular ammo storage in there would make me feel a lot better about their survivability..."


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