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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 37[]

State of the Union[]

Castle Davion, New Avalon
Crucis March, Federated Commonwealth
13 September 3063

As a close cousin of the ruling dynasty, George Hasek would have been granted apartments in Castle Davion itself or sole occupancy of one of the many subsidiary palaces within the Royal Court without question. Instead, he'd chosen to stay in the Hasek 'townhouse', a sizeable mansion on the northern outskirts of Avalon City - twelve minutes by aircar from the capital offices of the Ministry of the Capellan March.

Jon could be so exact because he'd flown over the offices on the way out to meet the Duke. At least it was more convenient than having to fly all the way to the Hasek estates down on the south coast of Albion.

The aircar didn't land on the usual pad out back, instead setting down on the driveway just inside the main gates and idling up the drive to bring Jon directly to the portico. Apparently the duke wanted to make a statement of some kind.

Whatever the statement was, it couldn't be too antagonist though, for George Hasek was waiting himself at the door and offered his hand immediately that Jon exited the vehicle. "Please come inside," he said as they shook hands. Jon was amused again that despite their distant kinship, the Duke of New Syrtis looked far more like Jon than he did the closer Steiner-Davions - both had dark hair and the cavalry mustaches fashionable among more traditional AFFS officers.

As they stepped through the door, Jon noted the familiar plaque on the floor noting that this was the exact spot where Colonel Jason Hasek had accepted the surrender of Terran Alliance colonial marines during the Outer Reaches Rebellion. Jon's ancestor Robert had been there, if history was to be believed, having deserted the marines to advise Hasek. If so, the plaque made no mention of that fact.

The two men had died together as well, of course. Ten years later at the start of a civil war that lasted for five years.

Eight hundred years separated those men from the current generations of both families. What would they make of the current state of affairs?

"Something to drink?" George asked once they had entered the library, a formal room with the books secured behind glass doors that had locks on them. It looked out on one of the inner gardens of the mansion, two stories high with a mezzanine level and plenty of seats. Jon had always had a sneaking dislike of libraries that locked the books away. He also didn't think much of having a drinks cabinet built into a bookcase but it wasn't his house and it had been a long morning.

"I wouldn't say no." Jon told him

"Gin and tonic. More tonic than gin, is that right?" asked George

Huh, he was well prepared. "If you don't mind."

“Not at all.” The duke poured the glasses himself, although John noted that he poured barely a sliver of gin into his own glass before filling the rest with tonic. Either he didn't like gin or he wanted to keep his own head clearer than Jon's. "What shall we toast to?"

"To a swift victory on Algol?"

"Hmm. Indeed." They both sipped and settled into chairs facing each other. George studied him across the gap. "Marshal, you met this Catherine Steiner-Davion on Galax, didn't you?"

"If you mean the Vice-Regent, then yes."

"Are you sure of that?" asked George

Jon frowned. "I'm not sure what you mean."

"There is a theory," George said thoughtfully. "I'm not convinced, but I can't rule it out. That the Catherine from Galax and before that on Addicks was a body-double. Once they reached New Avalon, the real Katherine 'vanishes' and re-emerges in her brother's forces, with the body-double departing."

He couldn't help but laugh. "That's ridiculous. Besides, there was a blood test."

George tipped his glass. "Against Peter, who hasn't been seen himself in several years? Or..."

"We were also able to check her against myself and later against a distant Steiner cousin here on New Avalon."

The duke nodded. "Alright. It'll never satisfy all the conspiracy theorists, but it's as certain as we can hope for. It doesn't really matter."

"The... authenticity of the person on the throne doesn't matter?" Jon set his glass down. "I beg to differ."

"I care more for their allegiance." George Hasek studied what was left of his own glass. "I've known Victor's siblings since they were children - he himself less so. But neither Victor nor Katherine raised a finger against Sun-Tzu as he wrecked the Sarna March and conquered St Ives - a state we had a mutual defense pact with."

"Victor had been dethroned by the time of the St Ives war."

"He was also commander of the SLDF. He was content to use that to block Katherine from being First Lord but not to defend our allies and our citizens." The duke's voice lowered dangerously. "Indeed, both of them voted to elect Liao to the First Lordship for three years. My people have learned these last few years that we cannot look for support from New Avalon. I must decide if that has changed, or not."

Jon shook his head in disappointment, "Your father was Hanse Davion's most loyal supporter."

"I am not my father and the Fox's children are not him." George paused and when he resumed, his voice was more conciliatory. "Which need not make them unworthy."

"Peter has gone directly to defend Algol, part of your March."

The duke nodded. "The Fox would have trusted my father or I to manage that. But then, the so called Archon-Princess would have stirred the matter to undermine House Hasek, so we have progress of a sort.

"Is that how you see it?" asked Jon

"I don't, from what I have heard, think it is how Peter saw it. Hanse's sons seem to take more after their uncle than their father, but there were worse First Princes than Ian Davion."

And better, Jon thought. Ian, like many Davions, had loved the battlefield more than the throne. He'd died in the rearguard of his regiment, during a retreat. Brave, but ultimately neglectful of his other responsibilities. "I take your point. What, may I ask, are you looking for from Catherine since she has remained here?"

"A year ago I would have wanted reinforcements and supplies for St Ives but with Candace Liao and her family in Sun-Tzu's hands, that would be an uphill struggle." George steepled his fingers. "I cannot expect a Steiner-Davion to forego fighting for the realm the first part of their name comes from, but we must take a stronger stance against the Liaos."

"I'm sure James Sandoval also feels we should do the same about House Kurita."

"Of course." George Hasek leant back and his face slipped into shadow. "The Capellans and Draconians are our enemies. We may at times have mutual interests, but these are temporary at best. Katherine's actions showed her to be soft towards the former and Victor is openly an admirer of the latter. I don't require an immediate declaration of war, the current situation would make that unwise... but we must recognise their fundamental hostility and prepare accordingly."

"You want me to tell her that?" asked Jon quietly.

George nodded. "I would very much like a First Prince I can give my full support or an Archon-Prince if they can manage that somehow. If House Steiner-Davion can provide such a leader, so much the better. I don't share my grandfather's ambitions for the prince's throne - or desk - but my first loyalty is to my March, not to New Avalon and certainly not to Tharkad."

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