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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 32[]

State of the Union[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
21 July 3063

The coffin holding Ardan Sortek's bodily remains lay in state in Notre Dame Cathedral. Fortunately, the center of the New Avalon Catholic Church had been spared more than incidental damage in the fighting - looking down from Castle Davion, Peter could see a few scars but the centuries old cathedral would still serve.

Perhaps the same could be said of the rest of the Federated Suns.

"Not even a trace?" he asked in frustration.

Michael Searcy shook his head. "I'm not an expert investigator, but she seems to have packed thoroughly and the cleaning staff are very efficient. We're bringing in forensic teams but I don't know if we'll find any usable DNA samples in your... in the Archon's quarters." He paused. "Has there been any sign of her?"

Peter snorted. "If we had her then I wouldn't need forensics to try to find samples, now would I?"

"Okay..." Searcy raised his hands defensively. "I'll just... go keep looking, shall I?"

"Thank you." Peter said sharply and then sighed. "Sorry, this just... isn't how I saw things as turning out. I appreciate your help."

Castle Davion's last defenders had surrendered shortly before sundown the previous day, although there were still hold-outs in other parts of New Avalon - most of whom hadn't heard or simply didn't believe that the leader who they were fighting to protect had departed Avalon City at some point the day before. The arrival of Ardan Sortek and Stephan Cooper along with the Davion Assault Guards and First NAIS Cadet Cadre had apparently been enough to convince her that the battle had been lost.

Several thousand soldiers had still died on both sides, loyalists kept unaware that they were no more than a diversion for Katrina's escape.

Searcy nodded in understanding and opened the door to leave, only to step back instead, admitting Captain Gordon.

The captain saluted crisply. "Your highness, we've found someone you need to see."

Peter rubbed his chin tiredly. "Who is it?"

"Jackson Davion, sir." reported the Captain

"What damp rock was he hiding under?" asked Peter

Gordon shook his head. "He was in the palace detention center, Your Highness. As far as we can tell he'd been locked in there for at least forty-eight hours."

Wrinkling his brow in calculation, Peter tried to fit that into the timeline of the last few days. "Before Sortek landed? How sure are you of that?"

"We're double-checking, but it adds up so far."

Peter looked around and confirmed that the office he'd commandeered had enough chairs. "Did you bring him here?"

"Yes sir. He's under guard in one of the anterooms." said Gordon

"Okay, send for General Davion... Jon Davion, I mean and General Lucy Davion as well." This could get confusing. "I'll see him once they arrive. They're family, they deserve to be here."

The cousins arrived fairly quickly, along with Catherine.

"I thought you were resting." Peter looked at his sister with concern. She had bags under her eyes.

"I'll rest as soon as you do," she told him. " much sleep did you get last night."

He sighed. "I'm fine."

"You won't be if you don't get a few hours of downtime." Cat told him.

He rubbed his jaw. "I promise I'll get a full night's sleep tonight."

"And I'll do the same." Catherine slumped into a chair at the side of the room, her posture nothing like the proper and dignified way that Peter remembered Katherine behaving before he left for Saint Marinus. Back then she'd been very much aware that she was on display at all times. He thought that this Catherine might be something of a surprise to the royal court by contrast.

"Alright, captain." He looked over at Gordon. "Bring Marshal Davion in please and thank you for finding him."

The white-haired Field Marshal entered the room crisply. His uniform was a little creased. Peter guessed that he'd been wearing it since he was locked up - but otherwise he probably seemed little different from how he would have reporting for duty to Katrina a few days ago. His frosty blue eyes flicked from one to another of the four who awaited him and he paused a moment on Catherine, brow furrowed.

"Field Marshal Davion." Peter kept his tone neutral.

"Your highness." Jackson inclined his head. "Not quite the homecoming you expected when you left New Avalon?"

Peter frowned and shook his head. So much had been different then. His mother had taken up the reins of government after father's death but none of what had happened since had been in Peter's expectations. "You may as well sit down. You'll remember your cousins of course."

"Naturally." Jackson nodded equably towards Jon and Lucy. "..and this must be the mysterious Catherine Morgan." He gave her a second look. "Although our reports didn't convey the resemblance to your sister."

"Catherine is my sister." Peter couldn't keep a snap of anger from his voice. "I don't know who you've been working for."

The Field Marshal froze for a moment, halfway into his chair. "I... What are you suggesting?"

Jon leant forwards. "Blood tests confirm that Catherine and Peter are siblings. While more distantly, relatives of ours. Do you know of any similar test to show that the woman you were working for was really a Davion? Or even a Steiner?"

Jackson slowly finished sitting down, saying nothing for a moment, eyes lowered in thought. "I don't recall any such test being carried out. No one had any doubts of her identity - after all, she's been in the public eye at all times. Do you have her in custody?"

"No. She left her soldiers to die here. We don't know where she evacuated to. Do you?"

The old field marshal shook his head slowly. "No. I was dismissed and detained once it was clear that you were going to take the city." He smiled thinly. "I recommended pulling back to Brunswick - we have, or at least had, enough dropships to withdraw our forces more or less intact and we could resupply from the factories there."

"She didn't like that?" asked Lucy.

He shook his head. "No. I assume Simon Gallagher took over. Did he get away as well?"

"Not exactly." Jon folded his arms. "He shot himself after the gates were breached."

Jackson lowered his eyes for a moment. "Poor Simon. Loyalty should be a virtue, but when it isn't returned..."

"Should we expect the same from you?" asked Peter. "I don't plan on giving you access to a gun with one bullet, even if it might be traditional."

The older man stiffened. "That would be no kindness, your highness. I assume that I will face a court martial."

Catherine stirred in her seat. "We can't crucify half the Armed Forces. There isn't enough wood and the..." She broke off and blinked in bemusement as everyone stared at her.

"Cat, crucify?" asked Peter

Her face colored. "Damn. Court martial," she said, enunciating carefully. "Sorry."

"But then what would wood have to do with court martials?" Jackson asked carefully.

"Wooden walls and iron men, like Athens against the Spartans." Catherine looked around the room, as if for support. "We need them against Blake?" she offered weakly.

Peter stood and went over to her. "Cat, you really need to sleep."

Her voice was truculent. "So do you."

"I promise," and he held his hand up in quasi-salute, "That I'll get some sleep as soon as we're done here."

Catherine met his eyes and then nodded meekly.

Peter helped her to her feet and guided her to the door, handing her off to Captain Gordon. Once the door was closed he slumped against it. "Dammit, I thought she was getting better."

"What exactly is wrong with her?" asked Lucy, clearly speaking for Jackson in this.

"I don't know," Peter admitted. "..we've not exactly had time to get her proper treatment or even diagnosis. When she found me on Zaniah III she was barely coherent. Her memory is scrambled. It leaves her making connections that aren't there or are at least tangents. I'd take her to the College of Medical Science but..." He made a helpless gesture.

"Well there are other hospitals." Jackson offered kindly. "You've won the day, your highness. Even if the war goes on, you can afford time now for her, surely."

Peter returned to his seat. "Yeah. She's not wrong though. While I never planned to crucify anyone literally, I can't exactly purge the AFFC of everyone who's fought for Katrina. Or who is currently fighting for her. We've got two wars on our hands and could have a third at any time, depending on what Liao gets up to."

"Are you proposing an amnesty?" asked Jon.

He rubbed his chin and then nodded. "I'll court martial over war crimes," Peter declared. "..I can't honestly blame soldiers for following Katrina when, up until Art... until seven months ago, there was no other Steiner-Davion stepping up to lead them." He turned his head to look at Jackson. "There's going to have to be a lot of reorganization and I'm not confirming anyone in the jobs they held."
"I take it you want my resignation?" asked Jackson

"I can't keep you as Marshal of Armies." Peter studied the older man for a long moment. "If you want to retire, your long service has more than earned you that. Or... if you give me your oath that you won't follow Katrina any further, then I certainly have a job for you."

"I think she's done with me, whatever I say," Jackson mused. "You'd trust my word."

"Bishop Sortek speaks highly of you." He shrugged slightly. "He's the new Marshal of Armies, if you hadn't guessed."

"And Ardan as your champion?"

The lightly asked question sent a shiver down Peter's spine. "No one's told you then."

Jackson paused. "Told me what?"

Peter searched for the words and Jon stepped into the breach. "Ardan Sortek was killed in action yesterday," he said gently. " of the last shots fired hit his cockpit."

Jackson's eyes seemed to dim. "I knew it could happen, but I never thought it would. Losing friends and family is one thing, to lose them to troops under your own command..."

Peter nodded in understanding but said nothing.

After a moment to gather himself, Jackson looked up. "If you'll accept my service, your highness, then you have it."

"I'll need a formal, public statement of that." Peter told the former Marshal

"Of course."

"In the meantime." Peter looked out of the window. There was still smoke in the sky, but it had lessened to a degree. From the clouds coming westwards off the ocean, the city could expect rain in the near future. "In the meantime, Jon can take you to the communications center. See if you can talk any of the holdouts into laying down their arms. I don't want to kill more of them if I don't have to."

Author's Trivia
The Mackie II used by the Royal Guards (they tend to drop the II) is a pair of refits based on the MSK-5S and MSK-6S. As stated in the text (unless I've made a terrible mistake), Clovis cut 10 tons of equipment in order to make maximum use of the overpowered reactors (both use 360 SFEs).
The results aren't perfectly legal under rules construction because the Mackie IIs still have 10 tons of internal structure (and as many structural points as a 100 ton Mech) despite only weighing 90 tons, however this is basically an inefficiency resulting from limited time and resources in the conversion. They're also less than ideal for long term operations since they predate the SLDF's standardization of parts. By the end of the Battle of New Avalon more than half were write-offs or at least not practical to restore to service before the campaign was over.
Of course, for that battle it gave Peter a very large hammer to wield against the defenders.

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