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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 24[]

State of the Union[]

Canaveral City, Galax
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
25 June 3063

The sudden summons back to headquarters had caught Jon Davion working at the spaceport as a mixed battalion of the Third Huron Panzers and Fourth Huron Heavy Infantry practiced disembarking from one of the new Conquistadors. His own staff had been amongst them so he was wearing field uniform as he entered the conference room next to the Marshal's office.

The room was well-appointed, a horseshoe-shaped table with a holotank in the center and subtly elevated seats around the edge of the room so aides and other specialists could see the display past the senior officers.

He was one of the last to arrive and took his place among the armour officers on one side of the table, facing the infantry while Mechwarriors, Aerospace pilots, and other specialists from combat and staff positions more directly flanked the empty seat reserved for Marshal Adelmana.

"Do you know what's going on?" he asked Donovan Kleif. The colonel commanded the brigade's auxiliary - a mixed artillery and engineering regiment.

"Scuttlebutt says a shuttle landed three hours ago. Who was aboard it I don't -" Donovan began to reply

Kleif closed his mouth with a snap as the door opened to admit the Marshal. Like the other officers he and Jon stood and came to attention as their commanding officer rounded the table and went to her seat.

"At ease." Ann Adelmana scanned the room for a moment and then nodded in satisfaction. "Ladies and gentlemen, we have a visitor."

Jon looked back to the door, which hadn't closed after the Marshal's entrance, and saw a woman enter on cue.

She was tall, blonde and wore an AFFS-issue jumpsuit and field jacket without rank or service branch markings. The clothing and the ill-disguised unease on her face were so out of character for her that it took him a moment to recognize the face as that of Katherine Steiner-Davion.

"Be seated please." Adelmana sat and her aide, Wendy Karner, sharply unfolded a seat for Katherine to sit in the gap between the two ends of the table.

Other officers also sank into their chairs but Jon glanced to his side at Klief and then across the table at Linda Igler of the Fourth Huron. Both looked uncomfortable - understandably - but he could be sure of them and he thought most of the other officers would back him if it came to.

"Is there a problem, General?" asked John Davion

Jon placed his hand deliberately on the sidearm holster on his belt. "Marshal, may I ask why your guest isn't under arrest?" He took a determined step towards Katherine, Igler and Kleif moving to back him up.

There was a fine line between what he'd just said and treason. A line he doubted the usurper would care about.

To his surprise though, she looked first at his gun, then up at his face before deliberately turning her head back towards the head of the table. "It's a fair question, Marshal Adelmana. Am I under arrest?"

The Marshal's face was already reddening. "Sit down, General. This is a staff briefing, not a bar brawl. Don't make me disarm you."

Katherine raised her hand slightly. "Please, Marshal. General Davion's concerns aren't unfounded. If, once the situation is explained, he still wishes me to be arrested then it will probably be the best course of action."

"What situation is that?" Jon asked, not taking his hand away from his holster.

"She isn't who you think she is." The voice came from behind him and Jon turned his head slightly, seeing a young lieutenants in dress uniform. A mechwarrior by the spurs on his boots and the red piping on his uniform pants.

"Permit me to introduce Leftenant Conner Sortek." Adelmana's voice was sharp, but her color was returning to normal. "Many of you may remember him as Katriel Sortek, the youngest of Marshal Cadent Sortek's children."

Jon's service with the Heavy Guards had begun after Field Marshal Ardan Sortek's wife, a distinguished officer in her own right whom had retired, but he saw nods of confirmation around the room.

"Why the change of name?" asked Donovan.

"I was tired of being called Katie." Conner shrugged slightly. "I love my parents dearly but they have no business naming children. And it made my kinship to them a little less obvious while I was at NAIS."

"Didn't you only graduate last year?" Donovan asked

Jon shook his head. "If the catching up can wait, please, I'd like an explanation. If this isn't the Archon, then who is it?"

"According to letters Leftenant Sortek brought me," the Marshal told him. "..he and our guest came directly from Addicks. Which left in early April in company with Prince Peter Steiner-Davion and the Prince's personal command." She paused. "Both the Prince and Ardan Sortek have independently had blood tests carried out, confirming that our guest is also a Steiner-Davion - the prince's full sister."

"That's... hard to believe." But Jon moved his hand away from his sidearm anyway. It was too wild a claim to be made without some confidence. "Where is the prince then? And if you're his sister... You can't be Yvonne."

She shook her head. "Peter is on his way via Delavan. Our last information had Yvonne somewhere in the Draconis March. As for the Archon... I honestly don't know who she is. I go by Catherine - with a C not a K - but even I'm not sure if I'm Peter's elder sister or some sixth child of his parents that no one knew about."

"You're not sure?" asked Jon

Catherine smiled weakly. "I was found wandering a desert with a memory like swiss cheese. For all we know, I was grown in a test-tube and brainwashed to believe I'm royalty."

"That's a bit fantastical."

"It's been done before." Conner advised quietly. "My father told me that there was a plot once to replace Hanse Davion with an imposter who'd been brainwashed by his handlers to the point he honestly thought he was the real First Prince."

Jon shuddered. "Really? This sounds like a bad espionage thriller."

Catherine's smile was wry, but he thought it genuine. "I blame the Davion side of my ancestry. We seem to have a penchant for drama."

"As the Major General has displayed." Adelmana pointed to Jon's empty chair. "Do I have to order you again?"

"No sir." He returned to his seat. "My apologies."

The Marshal took a deep breath and let it out.  "In point of fact, General Davion, you do have the right basic idea. Two days ago soldiers in First Davion Guards uniforms attacked several military installations on New Avalon. Whether they were agents provocateur or genuine doesn't really matter at this point. Marshal Sortek - Bishop Sortek," she clarified, "..has declined to stand down his forces for investigation. In my estimation it's only a matter of time before the Archon orders the First Guards disarmed by force - and she has them outnumbered six to one."

"Six to one?" Catherine's voice was concerned. "I know the Third Robinson Rangers, the Tenth Deneb Light Cavalry and the New Avalon CrMM are on New Avalon."

"They've been reinforced." Wendy Karner informed her. "Two further March Militia Regimental Combat Teams and the Fifth Lyran Guards have either arrived or should do so in the next few days."

Adelmana nodded her head sharply. "If the First Guards aren't the best regimental command team in the AFFC, it's only because they come second to us. The weight of numbers though, gives me little hope for their success."

"Unless, of course, they also receive reinforcements." Catherine said quietly. "I've brought with me three BattleMech battalions of the Fifth Royal Guards. That is... probably not enough to turn the tide. Unless," and she smiled impishly, "..General Davion would care to accompany us to arrest the person he thought I was?"

"You've definitely inherited the Davion genes for drama." Jon told her and then looked at Ann Adelmana.

The marshal left him on the hook for a moment and then nodded her head in agreement. "It seems our R&R on Galax is over, ladies and gentlemen. It's time for the Heavy Guards to go home."

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