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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 3[]

State of the Union[]

St Marinus House, Zaniah III
Skye Province, Lyran Alliance
10 December 3062

Through the flight back to St Marinus, Peter barely looked at the reddish-yellow wasteland that surrounded the abbey. All his attention was on the paper in his lap. He'd not even wanted to let it out of his hand until he realized he'd crumpled it.


He turned his head and saw Morgan was looking at him from the driver's seat. "Yes?"

"We're about to land. You should secure that or it'll wind up at the bottom of the footwell."

Peter forced a smile and rested one hand on the paper, pinning against his thigh. Morgan was the third person by that name that he knew... no, the fourth. It was Katherine's middle name. But the monk was considerably smaller and his accent had the bite of Tikonov, along with a slavic face that fit with neither Morgan Kell nor Morgan Hasek-Davion. "Thank you."

"Hmm. You're leaving shortly?"

"...I think so, yes." said Peter

Morgan nodded quietly and said nothing more until the aircar had nosed into the cave that served as their hangar. Then he shut the engine down and extended his right hand to shake. "God go with you, my friend. Don't worry about the unloading. You have enough on your shoulders."

Peter accepted the hand and they shook. "Thank you. I'll help you anyway."

Exiting the vehicle, he tucked the letter through his belt and started lifting parcels from the back. Morgan recovered a small trolley and between them they made short work of shifting the supplies to the store room. "Now go," the monk said sternly and pointed to the door.

Obediently and with a slight smile on his face, Peter left and headed for the Abbot's office. The door was open and to his surprise he heard a familiar voice through the crack. What was Victor doing here?

Opening the door he felt foolish, seeing that it was simply a holovid playing. But then the details sank in. Victor Steiner-Davion was wearing the traditional dress uniform of the Armed Forces of the Federated Suns - not of the united Federated Commonwealth or even of the ComGuards he currently led. As their father had, he wore the silver rank badge of a Field Marshal on his shoulder instead of the gold badge that was reserved for the First Prince.

{"- Katherine's tyrannical actions, and by the sacrifices of patriots already fighting on the worlds of Kathil, Benet, Kentares, Demeter, Bromhead and others yet unreported," the half-sized hologram of his already diminutive brother declared bleakly. "We will resist with any and all means at our disposal the efforts to subjugate and enslave our freedoms. We will fight with the truth on our side, and we simply ask that everyone listen and judge accordingly. In the end, I know we shall be victorious, re-establishing a trustworthy and accountable government among our people, worlds and nations."}

"...Peter." He saw the image blink out and turned to see that Brother Giles had used a remote to deactivate the holovid. "I take it that you missed the news at Starsboro?"

"What's happening? What was Victor saying?" He stepped towards the abbot forcefully. "Why did you turn it off?"

"He'd finished his speech, Peter. I have it recorded for you to watch the whole thing." The abbot seemed older even than his own advanced years. "But you may wish to sit down. It's hard to crane my neck back to look at someone as tall as you."

Peter took a deep breath and deliberately stepped back. "I'm sorry, but what is going on? Is Victor... back?"

Giles hunched forwards in his simple wooden chair, not meeting his eyes. "Yes. That's part of it."

"And the rest?" he demanded.

The bald abbot looked up sharply, "Sit down, nephew and I will tell you."

The snap of command cut Peter's knees out from under him and he groped blindly for the spare chair. Sat and he thought, Nephew? His parents were dead and neither had a living brother so... oh. "Hermann Steiner?" he asked.

Giles made a face. "I haven't used that name in more than half a century, Peter."

"You've been here all along?" Hermann was the younger brother of Alessandro Steiner, the inept Archon whose power had been usurped by Peter's maternal grandmother with popular support. Despite his abdication, the dethroned Archon had remained a focus for opposition for two decades and many thought that if Hermann had backed him then he might have been able to reclaim his former power. But instead the commander of the Second Royal Guards had resigned his commission and vanished into obscurity.

"I did not wish to trigger a civil war within the Commonwealth," Giles said softly. "It seems your brother is less resolved to his exile. No," he added, raising his hand. "My apologies. That was unfair, he has reasons I do not."

"What reasons." asked Peter

The abbot pressed his hands together. "Peter, I have bad news. Your brother Arthur has been taken to heaven, along with many other innocent lives."

A chill went through Peter and his jaw hung loose as his tongue searched for words. Arthur? His little brother? "H-how?" he asked once he was able."

"It was..." Giles looked away. "He was making a speech at a stadium on Robinson, in the Draconis March."

I know where Robinson is! Peter bit back before the words. Arthur had been a cadet at the Robinson Battle Academy. The news, although Peter didn't follow it closely, had suggested that he distinguished himself defending the capital of the Draconis March when it was raided earlier in the year. That he was the sort of bold mechwarrior that both of them had dreamed of as boys on New Avalon.

"There were explosives," Giles continued sadly. "The stadium was demolished, the podium where he stood almost obliterated. Victor claims that your sister Katherine was behind it, that Arthur was speaking against her."

Peter shook his head in denial. Their mother had been blown up as well, an assassin's bomb. Victor hadn't managed to return for the funeral. But this would bring him back. "Was he?"

"I don't know. His speech, what he had said before... before, hasn't reached our news outlets yet. It's been four days apparently. Victor's speech was on the eighth."

"He heard sooner than we did?" Victor was supposed to be up on the Clan border, commanding the ComGuards there, the supposedly neutral armed forces of ComStar. That was considerably further from Robinson than Zaniah. "No, foolish of me. ComStar must have sent him a priority message."

"I would assume so." Giles nodded. "Here, I'll re-start the speech for you."

Peter nodded and started to turn his chair but his sleeve brushed against the paper he'd forgotten about. "Katherine... has she made a response."

"I'd assume so, but not in the news." Giles saw the paper and smiled slightly. "Our little lost lamb?"

Unfolding it, Peter handed it over. "In summary, yes. She is my sister."

The abbot scanned it. "I can't say I've studied this sort of thing in detail but..." He visibly blinked at as he reached the summary. "They do consider all the permutations, don't they?"

The younger man nodded his head. Probabilities for sharing one or both parents, anything from one to four grandparents... but all of them well above ninety percent certainty with an added note that both had grandparents from two distinct planetary ethnic mixes, most probably with one from the core worlds of the Federated Suns and one from their Lyran counterparts. Which was true of course. "From the way she looks, either she's the real Katherine or I have a third sister no one told me about."

"That seems just a little far fetched," Brother Giles conceded. "A missing princess either way."

"Not missing," Peter corrected him. "We know where she is... unless you've moved her."

"No, no. She's still in the infirmary. Calmer, when she was awake, but not really able to converse, at least so far."

"I see." No answers yet then. "Perhaps when I see her again she'll be more coherent."

"One can hope," Giles agreed dubiously and started the replay.

The infirmary was quiet and Brother Antony let Peter sit by his sister's side without comment other than to remove the IV and inform Peter that she should drink water cautiously when she woke.

The waking, when it came, was so quiet that Peter almost missed it, mind light years away as he tried to guess what was happening on the nearly one thousand worlds that Katherine - or whoever she was - ruled. The hand he held between his twitched, catching his attention and he saw the blue eyes open, staring in confusion at the ceiling.


She made a noise he took for affirmation and then coughed. Freeing one hand he filled a glass with water and held it to her lips. "Just sip."

Obediently, she suckled on the edge of the glass, swallowed, sipped again. Peter removed the glass and got an indignant look. "Sit up first," he advised, thinking back to how his mother had treated him when he was a child and stuck in bed with some flu or the like.

Katherine tried to sit up abruptly only to find she didn't have sufficient leverage and she slipped backwards, head embedding itself in the pillows with a look of astonishment on her face. "Peter?"

"Yes. I'm here." He offered her his arm as support and then adjusted the pillows behind her, giving her support as she sat back cautiously.

"Peter," she repeated. "James. John. Thomas, doubter. Judas... no. No-no. Wrong."

"That's Saint Peter," he said lightly, trying to hide his concern. "I'm Peter Steiner-Davion. Not quite the same."

"No," she agreed. "Peter. Not saint. At saint. Saint Ma-mare-mm... gh."

"Saint Marinus?"

She nodded sharply and then started looking around hopefully. "Arthur!" she asked in a voice that was so childishly hopeful that Peter choked, feeling the sting of tears forming at the corners of his eyes.

"No, no. I'm sorry." He took her hand between his again, studying it. "Arthur's gone, Katherine. I wasn't in time."

"Time is the fire in which we burn," she said in a flat voice.

He looked up sharply and found she was leaning towards, aiming a kiss for his forehead that landed on his nose instead.

"Eskimos?" she asked abruptly and leant back, shaking her head. "Nu-uh. Bad."

"Yeah, uh. Don't do that please." What the hell was an eskimo? "What happened to you?" Peter asked her.

She looked at the glass pleadingly and he passed it to her. Holding it in both hands she sipped from it. "Desert..." she began. "Storm."

"There was a storm?"

"Stormhammers!" Letting go with one hand she thumped it down on the bedsheets. "Kelswa!"

"Kelswa? Robert Kelswa?"

"Grandson, I think. Ja...y? A J name." she said

Peter blinked. Robert Kelswa-Steiner's father had been a political enemy of their mother and of Victor. He'd been assassinated on Solaris right before Peter got embroiled in Tormano Liao's scheme to start a new war in the Inner Sphere. He was only vaguely familiar with Robert, who'd married into the loyal House Aten since Peter came to Saint Marinus. He certainly wasn't old enough to have a grandson.

Then again, Katherine had claimed that Peter had a son too. Which was almost certainly untrue. He'd hardly had the opportunity... at least, not lately. Damn. "You said I had a son too."

"Did I?"

"Yes. Earlier."

"Hmm. Too early," she said after a moment. "You aren't Archon yet."

Peter snorted. "Not likely to be, either."

"Victor and Katherine will see out a century," his sister said confidently. "But only Yvonne dies a natural death."

"Aren't you Katherine?" he shot back. God, what a horrible thing for her to say.

"...Katherine is crazy," she confided. "She hears voices. K is for crazy. For coconuts."

"I think that's C?" Did she have brain damage? If so then he'd have to take her to hospital.

"I like C. C for cat. Cathy. Cathy-rin."

"Katherine." said Peter

"With a C." she insisted

"Okay, with a C." Dammit.

She smiled warmly. "I'm Catherine."
"Okay, fine." He thought again. "You knew Arthur was in danger."

"Stadium," she said and shook her head sorrowfully. "He wanted freedom of speech, and the loyalists silenced him."
"Loyalists?" "Loyal to Katrina. Victor's allies."

Peter shook his head. "Victor's allies? Do you mean Victor was behind it?"

"No!" she snapped angrily. "Victor's allies against Katrina's loyalists. Two sides of the war."

"You mean the war between the Lyrans and Davions?" he asked.

The glass went off the bed with a crash that coincided with her hand almost smacking against his cheek. "No! Don't buy her lies!" Catherine shouted. "Lies lies lies, everything burns in her lies."

"Whoa!" Peter hesitated and then hugged her against him, gently pinning her arms. "I won't, I promise."

"What's going on here?" asked Brother Antony, poking his head around the curtain. "Are you alright."

Peter gestured to the glass. "Just a little accident. I'll sweep it up."

Antony gave him a skeptical look. "Right now, if you please. There's a dustpan and brush in the cupboard. I can't have broken glass on the floor of the infirmary."

"Alright!" Peter released Catherine. "You be good."

"I'm always good." She paused. "But in purple I'm adorable."

Purple? Why purple? Never mind.

Cleaning up the glass took only a few moments and in the meantime, Brother Antony checked Catherine's vitals and found a fresh glass for her. "I'll bring some soup up after supper," he advised. "Solid food probably won't be an issue but better to be safe than sorry."

Catherine thanked him in german, for no reason Peter could guess at, and the monk retreated again, shaking his head.

Taking the seat by the bed, Peter sighed. "Catherine, we need to talk."

"I think we are talking," she said seriously and then paused. "Ah. Metaphor. Sorry."

"You knew about Arthur before it happened - you couldn't have gotten here in time to have heard about it after the fact. How did you know about it?"

She pursed her lips. "I remembered."

"Remembered what?" he asked her

"I -" With a cry she doubled up, clutching her head. "Too much, it's too much!"

Peter caught hold of her. "Okay, okay, think of something else, don't hurt yourself."

"I can't... I can't change..." She was biting her lip, hard enough to draw blood. "It's..."

"Think about Victor," he hissed. "Our brother, you know him. What do you know about him?" "Mogyorod," she grated out. "He's on Mogyorod. Katrina sent an assassin. Isis Marik saved Victor and Omi."

"She did what!?" It shouldn't be a surprise, he thought. Not if she'd also killed Arthur, but to attack Victor when he'd already ceded power to her... or was this more recent. "When?"

"Months ago. I like her, she's good for Victor."


"No, god, that's horrible. Their child would carve an empire for the Wolves." Catherine shook. "No, I mean Isis."

"Isis... and Victor?" He shook his head. Most likely Catherine was subject to an over-active imagination, although it would be interesting to know if Isis really had saved their brother from an assassin. He'd thought she was engaged to marry Sun-Tzu Liao. "Never mind. What else about Victor?" It seemed to be calming her down at least.

"He wore father's uniform." she told him. "A mistake, it plays into Katrina's narrative."

"Victor wouldn't fit into father's uniform." Hanse Davion had been tall and broad-shouldered like Peter. "Wait... you mean, the AFFS greens?"

"Yes. Davion against Steiner. Anything to muddle the issue that he's fighting to end her tyranny." Catherine tells him

Peter rubbed his jaw. That did sound plausible. It was how Katherine had won both the Lyran Alliance and then the remaining Federated Commonwealth - manipulating public opinion to create a divide between Victor and those he ruled, which she could then exploit. "I see. What would you have suggested? AFFC uniforms."

"Use the bishop to take the king." she says

"Are we playing chess now? Anyway, you don't take the king in chess - you checkmate them."

Catherine sniffed. "She'll kill the bishop before he can win the war. So many dead."

"What bishop?" Turning on the religious community would be incredibly clumsy for Katrina. Granted, she'd disbanded the Estates-General in the Alliance, but religion hit home in a way that elected officials rarely did. "Is he a bishop here in the Alliance?"

"No, on New Avalon."

"One of the New Avalon Catholic Church?"

"No?" She shook her head. "I don't know his faith."

"But what's he bishop of then?"

"The Guards, of course. He'll march on Castle Davion but Katrina has too many soldiers."

"The Guards." He leant back and thought. A chaplain? That didn't seem likely, military religious representation wasn't part of the command structure, but... "Oh! Bishop Sortek, the head of the Davion Guards!"

"So many Sorteks dead for us. Adriaan for our grandfather, Ardan for our brother and Bishop for our sins." she stated

Peter rose and started pacing. "Bishop rising for Victor's sake... he'd have to have the First Davion Guards with him at least. If he could take New Avalon from Katherine it would badly weaken her... When, do you know when he plans this?"

"The avalanche is in motion, the rock has no vote."


"Peter the rock."

He sighed. "That's the saint again, sis. Try again. Is there anything we can do? It'll take months to get to New Avalon and it's not as if I have a regiment of 'Mechs to take to his aid."

"Time, ask me for anything but time."

"Time and 'Mechs. Since I'm apparently making wishes."

Catherine slumped back onto the pillows. "Wishes and horses, and so we must ride."

"Yeah, that's what I thought." he told her

"The bunker..." Her eyes were closed. "The militia bunker, lost for centuries. Beneath the burned capital of new... beneath new d'las," she slurred. "Forgotten cache."

Peter stared at his sister but her breath had steadied and her eyes were closed. Was he grasping at straws here? Probably, yes. But if Bishop Sortek was really going to make a play to remove Kath... Katrina... then he deserved better than to be left to die. If there was any chance at all...

"New Delos," he said thoughtfully to himself. "Anton Marik's old capital, Cienfuegos, the Dragoons burned it and if I recall correctly it's never been restored. There could be something there, stores lost in the Marik Civil War or any of the times the Capellans and League fought over it."

And while I could just go and hook up with one of Victor's supporters, if I do that I'm just another junior officer. No one's going to take me seriously, but if I bring resources to bear... I don't know if I can save Bishop or not but at least I could do something...

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