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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 35[]

State of the Union[]

DropPort, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
30 August 3063

Yvonne hadn't seen Peter for almost eight years now - not since his graduation. She'd thought then that she might be welcoming him back to New Avalon but now she was the one disembarking from a dropship while he waited in the arrival lounge, shielded from both the weather and the heat of the dropship's thrusters.

"He looks well," Tancred Sandoval said in a neutral tone as he escorted her down the extending boarding passage from the dropship. Beneath them the landing pad was still too warm for vehicles but this mechanism meant no waiting.

He looks even more like father, Yvonne thought. He'd always had the same broad, powerful frame and the coloring, but now Peter was developing lines on his face. Just age... or the weight of responsibility?

"Peter..." she said hesitantly as they reached the end of the passage and entered the lounge. "It's been... a long time."

"We've both grown." her brother agreed and extended both arms to take her by the forearms. For a moment they looked each other over and then he pulled her into an awkward hug, Tancred stepping back to give them space.

When the embrace was done, Yvonne glanced around and saw that the three of them were alone. "You didn't bring your Catherine?"

"'My' Catherine?" Peter made a face. "I'm not sure how to take that. I don't own her."

"But you found her. Brought her here." She paused. "Claim she's our sister."

"Blood tests don't lie." he stated.

"I know our sister. Perhaps better than you. Whether she called herself Katherine or Katrina I never saw a change in her behavior. I don't know who this Catherine is."

Peter snorted. "I left to find out who I was and after six years I was still getting to grips with it. I've had less than a year to figure out Catherine and sometimes I think she knows less about herself than I do." He shrugged. "But we can talk about her later. How are you. And you, Tancred." He gestured with his arm, subtly re-inviting the heir to the Draconis March back into the conversation.

"It's been a long trip." Yvonne told him.

"And a wrench to leave my troops behind." added Tancred. His brigade's jumpships had been commandeered to move other units and while he could have refused, making an enemy of Peter probably wasn't worth that. Probably.

"I haven't made any hard decisions on their next orders." Peter gave them what was probably intended to be a reassuring smile. "I have to talk to you first, after all."

"I'm glad that that's a consideration."

At Tancred's tone, Yvonne took his arm again as a reassurance. He was older than Peter, more experienced... but his one campaign so far in this war had been a humiliating defeat while Peter had gone for the throat and against similar odds had won a glorious victory.

Peter's eyes betrayed that he saw Tancred's irritation, but rather than responding directly he gestured towards the door. "Why don't we talk in the car?" For safety reasons the palace drop port was far enough from the rest of the palace that it would have been an inconvenient walk. An armoured limousine was parked waiting and Yvonne asked about the damage to NAIS as they walked to it.

"Two days of fighting and two projected years of repairs." Peter told her wearily. "Some classes will resume immediately, others in temporary accommodations... and then there's the research. Fortunately faculty casualties were pretty low - they had enough warning to take sides or take cover."

"How many sided with Katherine?"

He gave her a thoughtful look. "Not so many. Except for those at the College of Military Science, I'm not going to do anything but have them on another MIIO watchlist. Although as NAIS professors they're all watched anyway."

"And those who do teach at the CMS?" asked Tancred.

"I don't want them teaching our future soldiers. Field service or administrative positions elsewhere... at least for a year or two. We have enough people up for medically recommended light duty that we can replace them."

The heir to the duchy of Robinson held the door for Yvonne. "There are other qualifications for being able to teach besides not yet being fit to fight."

"I can be selective." Peter let him enter and then followed them, sitting with his back to the driver and facing the two of them. "But loyalty matters, and I want the next generation of our officers to be trained by men and women who have bled for us."

The door closed and as they pulled away, Peter turned to Tancred. "I see a few possible options for your command, Tancred. You may see others that I don't and I'd be glad to hear them. I'm sure - because I've asked him - that Bishop Sortek will also listen. But the two of us will have the final decision."

"What options do you have in mind?" asked Tancred with a stony face.

"General Zardetto would probably like to bring the Third Crucis Lancers back up to strength with the troops he loaned to you, and we could do with a cadre to rebuild the Mayetta DMM around." Peter smiled toothily. "However, that would mean disbanding your command, which seems a little wasteful."

"I'm glad you see it that way, Peter." Yvonne raised her chin a little. "I know that Mayetta was a defeat but the men who fought for us deserve better than shame."

"General Yalos has paid for his failures when he was executed for his crimes."

"You say execution, others would say murder."

"If he had simply failed, maybe. But he faced a properly constituted court martial for the murder of Marshal DeGreer and many of her staff. A war crime committed on our behalf can't be ignored if I'm to prosecute those committed against us."

"You may find it hard to keep your hands clean." warned Tancred, but his expression had lightened.

Peter leant back and rubbed his chin as he thought. "I can only afford mercy if I am strong enough to impose justice. Or as much as I can."

"Good luck with that." said Tancred

"I may need it." He smiled faintly. "We were talking about options. I pulled your jumpships to speed the 1st Ceti Hussars and the 3rd Lyran Regulars towards Algol. There's an ongoing situation there. It's not impossible that your brigade could catch up, but the logistics would be difficult and since I'll command there, sending another trusted commander might be wasteful, to use the word a second time."


"Simple fact. I could also send you onwards to Woodbine, but honestly I'm not concerned greatly for the loyalty of those worlds. I'm more worried about worlds closer to New Avalon. Not everyone has accepted the change of authority there and I can't afford to weaken the garrison too much putting out those grass fires."

"I'm sorry, you said you're taking command on Algol?" asked Yvonne. "That's in the Capellan March. Why are you going there rather than staying here on New Avalon?"

"That because that's what Katrina would have done. Delegated. Given license to local officers to act while she kept her hands clean. The more George Hasek has to do to resolve this mess we've made, the less he will look to New Avalon for leadership. By stepping in and resolving this - in the favor of his authority - I both endorse him and tie him more closely to us."

"The Haseks have always supported us," she told him and felt foolish immediately. "George's father Morgan had been a strong and loyal supporter to their father and to Victor until his death. But his father had been very different."

Peter was kind enough not to call her on the mistake. "Mostly, yes. But they're also loyal to the people they rule. Neglecting them would be a mistake, and one I don't feel I can afford to make."

Tancred leant forwards. "Marlette, New Avalon and Remagen Combat Regions are all short of their usual March Militias. You want me to act as a fire brigade."

"A little more than that. I know it'll take time before we can move them but it'll be easier to ship them towards New Avalon than towards Algol. In the meantime you're authorized to expand your forces by recruiting from militia, conventional forces... whatever you can dig up."

The older man hesitated. "Up to what strength?"

"Your father created the First Federated Commonwealth RCT, and oversaw the creation of four more before he took on the Draconis March. If you're agreeable, I'd entrust you with forming the Fourteenth Federated Commonwealth RCT."

Tancred tilted his head to one side. "Fourteenth?"

There had been twelve Regimental Combat Teams in the Federated Commonwealth Corps at their height, Yvonne recalled, before the Clan Invasion. The Second had been destroyed in 3057, five others had defected to Katherine and become her Alliance Guards, two of them later disbanded to form other units.

"Thirteen isn't a lucky number." Peter said simply.

"You smashed the Sixth on Addicks and the Third were destroyed on New Aragon. If the Eighth surrender -"

"They have."

Tancred nodded. "Some would suggest disbanding the Corps entirely."

"They may say that if they wish, but I believe they still have value." Peter eyed him. "Given proper leadership, that is."

"Marshal Venger has led them for a quarter of a century."

Peter nodded. "That's a long time. They need fresh blood at the top and none of the RCT commanders seem ready for it. That would be a sad end to what our fathers worked towards. I believe you can be an alternative to that."

He turned to Yvonne and grinned suddenly. "Of course, you'd also have to put up with Lord Sandoval spending a lot of time on or around New Avalon. Are you bored of him yet, Yvonne?"

"Not at all." Then she glared at him. "And whether or not I ever am, it's our business, not yours, Peter."

Her brother held up his hands in token of surrender. "Catherine will be my vice-regent while I'm away. I hope you'll support her."

"I'll do my best." she agreed, hoping she wasn't making another dreadful mistake.

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