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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 33[]

State of the Union[]

Fox's Den, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
30 July 3063

With its security withdrawn for the last ditch defense of Castle Davion's gates, the Fox's Den had fallen into the hands of the Davion Heavy Guards almost intact. There had been an abortive attempt at purging the computers but several of the remaining officers had been sympathizers feeding information to Bishop Sortek and they'd delayed that long enough for Jon Davion's infantry to arrive.

"What's he doing here?" demanded Stephan Cooper as he entered the central briefing room. He pointed one finger at Jackson Davion.

"Making himself useful." Peter assured him. "If nothing else, he's saved us time lives bringing the Crucis March Militias to surrender."

Cooper shook his head and took a seat without waiting for permission. "Seeing him next to your sister there makes it look as if not much has changed." he grumbled.

"Appearances can be deceiving." Peter looked at the screens dominating one wall of the command center where data was constantly streaming in reflection of the latest reports and shook his head. It would take time to get used to interpreting it. "Jon, can you give me a high-level overview of where we stand?"

"In terms of the Federated Commonwealth?" the newly promoted Marshal asked. On Peter's nod he manipulated his controls to bring up a display of the broad wedge of space occupied by House Davion's realm, golden worlds framed by the red of the Draconis Combine and the green of the Capellan Confederation.

"There's no immediate concern about Katrina's Loyalists making an attempt to retake New Avalon." Jon confirmed. “When Katrina had Jackson reinforce New Avalon he called in effectively every mobile unit she could rely on from the Crucis March. The other March Militias lack the transport and to some degree the inclination to try anything. Kestrel has declared for us and once your conversation with Nondi reaches them it's likely the rest will do the same."

"Fair weather allies." Cooper grumbled.

"But allies nonetheless." Lucy Davion folded her hands. "Most of them aren't in position to do anything immediately useful but they can probably scrape together enough transport to deal with ongoing skirmishes across the outer regions of the Crucis March."

Bishop nodded. "We don't want to have to spread out our main units in penny-packet out to deal with that, so there's a start."

"Have you heard from the March Lords?" Catherine looked more rested than she had since... since they parted at Delavan, Peter thought. Hopefully that would help with her recovery but he still had to get some mental health professionals vetted to speak with her.

"Nothing so far."

She frowned. "Duke Hasek was officially neutral but, opposed to Katrina because she was circumventing his authority. Duke Sandoval was the same, but supporting her because she backed his invasion of the Combine."

"Destroying the Third Robinson Rangers won't help us with that." Peter mused.

"Can we afford to continue supporting his operations?" Cooper looked around the room. "I'd rather have his regiments fighting for us, but the optics on that..."

"It'd do you no favors politically to call him back." Jackson agreed. "On the other hand, taking Addicks already cut into what he had available so that bridge may have been burned already."

"Since Katrina no longer has anything to offer him, it's unlikely Duke Sandoval will continue to offer her tacit support." advised Jon. "We believe most of his regiments can be considered neutral to the civil war but will continue to support the fighting in the Combine. There are a few exceptions, mostly along the Outworlds region. As of the last report, Tanced Sandoval and your sister Yvonne are headed for Woodbine to regroup there after..."

"After Mayetta." Peter said and sighed. That had been a debacle, Tancred had won over a combat command of the Crucis Lancers and been pledged the support of the Mayetta Draconis March Militia only for two other DMM RCTs to hit Mayetta before he even arrived. General Yalo's incompetence had sealed the disaster and Tancred had actually had to abandon the man, extricating what forces he could. That 'betrayal' and Yalos' unsanctioned execution of imprisoned loyalist officers had done nothing for Tancred's support within his father’s March.

"Yes. The Capellan March looks more promising." Jon offered. "Loyalist forces on Kathil and Sirdar have requested ceasefires, and the Fifth FedCom RCT on Chesterton has declared for us. Based on some intercepted back-office communications, it seems that the Donegal Guards RCTs on Kathil and Sirdar are looking to join their sister RCT on Kentares and return to Lyran space. Losing them would at a minimum leave the loyalist positions in the Capellan March untenable."

"How about Algol?" asked Peter, looking at the third blazing star representing major clashes ongoing in the Capellan March.

"Algol... we don't know for sure," Jon admitted reluctantly. "the Fifth Crucis Lancers are still under pressure from the Republican Guards and the Fifteenth Deneb Light Cavalry. That could change, of course, once Marshal Lipstein learns of the wider situation."

"Or they may feel that they have nothing left to lose." Bishop shook his head. "The Lancers aren't alone, are they?"

"They had two regiments of the Vegan Rangers with them. Not much more than one regiment now, due to losses." It was Catherine speaking rather than Jon. "General Stancel is bringing his Alpha Regiment from New Aragon but that'll give no more than parity of forces against the opposition."

Cooper gave Catherine a startled look and then turned back to Jon. "Is that right?"

The armor officer consulted his notes and then nodded. "Yes, that's exactly right."

"Not a good situation if they keep fighting then." Cooper gave Catherine a respectful nod. "Would we be better withdrawing our forces until we can hit Algol with significant numbers? The Crushers can reconstitute on our dropships and -"

Peter was about to interrupt but a ping from the communications screen did so for him. A high priority message. "What are those routing codes?"

"Seventh Crucis Lancers are the source, but that's a Field Marshal's originator code and their commander is a Marshal." Jon said.

Bishop nodded. "They're stationed on Winter, which is very close to Newtown Square, so there's a good chance this is from Prince Victor." He broke off and smiled self-consciously. "Of course, we could just watch it and find out."

"By all means."

Peter's approval was enough for someone to open the holo-file.

Victor Steiner-Davion's head and shoulders popped into view above the table. He was wearing dress uniform save for the golden half-breastplate, and a sling secured his arm - probably to stop him joggling the collarbone broken on Newtown Square. His line of sight was aimed close to, but not squarely, at Peter's seat and the redhead shuffled slightly to more directly face his brother.

"To my brother, my comrades in arms and to Field Marshal Sortek, my deepest thanks and congratulations. While a full report hasn't reached me at the time of sending this message, it's clear that the liberation of New Avalon has been accomplished. The cost must assuredly be high, and I regret that, but I cannot regret the freedoms we’re fighting to restore to our people."

He paused. "I have no intention of trying to direct your actions from the far side of the Inner Sphere. Instead I will trust you to continue as you have begun. At this time I am moving deeper into the Lyran Alliance, into Coventry Province and eventually - I hope - to Tharkad."

Peter rubbed his chin. That seemed possible now, or at least more possible than it had been. It depended how many units fought on as Nondi ordered the or if they would defect now that their Archon was on the run.

"Ardan, you remain the best choice to lead our forces, but I must also appoint a civil leader and we can't have a divided command. I hereby appoint my brother, Peter Steiner-Davion as Regent of the Federated Commonwealth. Peter, you have the authority to give Ardan orders but not to remove him as Marshal of Armies. I hope you'll consider his advice but you have both the final authority and the final responsibility. I think you've grown into both and I look forward to seeing that when we have the chance."

Victor's eyes flicked to one side and he nodded. "I'm sure there is more that I will wish to say once I have the full report but for now, let me repeat my deep gratitude."

The holo file cut out and silence filled the room. "He must have not heard that Field Marshal Sortek is dead." Lucy said and then looked embarrassed.

Peter nodded and then looked around the room. "If anyone has any hesitation in accepting me as Victor's Regent, please say so now. I'd rather hear it now in confidence."

Cooper glanced around as if expecting someone to speak and then shook his head. "I suppose you were right about coming here. But I hope you'll listen to advice from someone other than Ardan Sortek. I doubt he'll be offering much."

"Only an example," Peter told him. "While I'd not have presumed to remove him, under the circumstances I think I must replace him. Bishop, I feel you're the right man for the job."

The commander of the Davion Guards ran one hand through his thinning hair. "I can hardly refuse."

"You could but I'm glad that you aren't." Peter leant forwards and looked around the table. "Field Marshal Cooper, as far as I'm concerned that makes you the overall commander of the Davion Guards, and most importantly, the commander of New Avalon's Garrison. I appreciate your wish to take the Crushers out onto the frontlines, but you and they are needed here first."

Cooper grunted. "I don't like it, but you're right. We can't leave Algol alone though. Someone has to go back there."

"Agreed." He looked over at Lucy Davion. "General, I appreciate it's something of a sidestep, but I'd like you to take over the Fifth Royal Guards. Officially, I'll remain the commanding officer but in practice they need someone more experienced at the helm."

"Sir, I accept." She saluted. "Although you realize I'm not a Mechwarrior, and your Guards have nothing but Mechs."

"That's the first thing that needs to change." He folded his arms and stared defiantly at the assembled officers. "I will be taking them to Algol and I will deal with Katrina's forces there. Not just because it's the nearest sound of guns but because once we settle the Marches the focus of defeating Katrina shifts to Lyran space and Algol is as good a place as any to assemble a task force to cross the Terran corridor."

"Regency rather assumes that you'll remain here on New Avalon."

Peter bared his teeth. "My uncle Ian and many other First Princes governed from the frontlines. Perhaps not as well as they might have from here but we will never know. Right now, our people have had too much of a ruler sitting here in safety while others do their dirty work."

"Who'll govern in your absence?" asked Bishop drily. "Someone has to."

Peter turned to look at Catherine. "Congratulations, you're now my Vice-Regent."

She blinked and even looked behind herself to see if she was somehow mistaking who he was looking at. "Me?"

Cooper groaned and covered his eyes. "You can't be serious."

"I'm not leaving immediately." Peter rubbed his jaw. "Hopefully, Yvonne will be here before I go and I'll arrange other advisors."

"Then why not give them the job," Catherine asked weakly. "I'm not... not always here, Peter."

"I know." He looked her over again. "After the last few months I've decided you have two qualities to a greater extent than anyone else I can think of. Even," he gestured around the table, "in this select company."

"Which would be?" asked Jackson Davion curiously.

Peter raised one finger. "More insight into this war than anyone else." And then another finger. "And my absolute trust."

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