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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

=Chapter 4=

State of the Union[]

Hartzborg, Zaniah III
Skye Province, Lyran Alliance
11 December 3062

It was more than ten years since Daniel had been allowed to follow his father into negotiations with prospective clients and he'd thought that the range of Clovis Holstein's contacts would no longer surprise him. He'd been to Outreach and met Wolf's Dragoons, to New Avalon where his father had dropped in on Doctor Banzai and the two of them had vanished into a workshop for three days straight, even on a couple of very bold expeditions into the Jade Falcon Occupation Zone for sanctioned but not very welcome contacts between the Inner Sphere and the occupiers from the deep periphery.

But he had to admit that he'd not expected his father to be meeting with a group of monks in traditional habits. These weren't typical denizens of the short-hire offices used at drop ports for ship owners and clients to meet.

"Brother Giles, it's been too long." His father bowed respectively, dipping his head well below the oldest monk's belt. Even Daniel's deepest bow wouldn't manage that - Clovis had an unfair advantage in that, since he was a good fifty centimeters shorter than his son - but the younger Holstein tried to be similarly respectful.

The monk smiled paternally. "I see you're doing well, Clovis. And this must be Daniel. I haven't seen you since... hmm. Since Morgan stopped by in '42."

Clovis nodded to Daniel in confirmation. "You were just a child at the time."

"I worked that out from the date, dad," he murmured - obviously not quietly enough because the largest of the three monks chuckled.

"And there's a face I didn't expect to see under these circumstances," Clovis added with a nod to the man. "So this is where you've been." He turned to look at the last monk - or was the word nun? Daniel wasn't sure - and then paused. "Hmm. And the surprises keep coming."

The woman's face was delighted. "For a short man, Mr. Holstein, you've cast a remarkably large shadow on our history."

"Not so great as others." His father sounded uneasy for the first time. "You have need of a jumpship?"

"And a dropship." the younger man said.

Brother Giles looked at him and shook his head. "I'd rather you took them to Thorin or somewhere else that they would be safer, but it isn't my decision."

"I agree that it's unwise, but I'm willing to take the chance." The younger man rubbed his chin. "Of course, that depends on Mr. Holstein's willingness."

Daniel saw his father give him a sidelong look and decided to take the chance. "May I ask what it is you have in mind? I'm Daniel Holstein, my father's aide."

The monk gestured towards the chairs. "Ardan Morgan and this is my sister Catherine. What I have in mind is some salvage work... inside the Free Worlds League."

"That's... not as dangerous as it has been in the past, but the Captain-General still generally prefers to be the beneficiary of such work. I'm assuming you don't have that in mind?"
"No, not really." 'Ardan' grinned somewhat tersely. "It's an old militia bunker under Cienfuegos."

His sister frowned at that. "Cienfuegos?"

"You said the burned capital city, for New Delos that would be Cienfuegos."

"Las," she said, stretching the syllables. "Uncle Chandy found it on New Dallas."

Daniel saw a flush of embarrassment rising up Ardan's cheeks. "Right. I stand corrected," he said after a moment. "So New Dallas is..."

"I know it." Daniel's father said calmly. "Rather nearer and easier to get to than New Delos but I take it we're still in the early planning stages?"

"Relatively, yes."

Clovis looked over at Giles. "I see what you mean. Is this really a risk worth taking?"

"Warriors kill warriors," Catherine said. "Lestrades kill Lestrades. Didn't you say that?"

Daniel's father twitched, the folded waldos around his wrists scraping the table. "That was before your time."

"She's right though. Family have to deal with family." Ardan looked over at them. "A good man - a lot of good men and women - are going to die trying to make right one of our family's errors. This gives us a chance of doing something to keep those deaths to a minimum."

What did Lestrade have to do with this, Daniel wondered. That House still controlled some parts of Skye province but their political position was far from what it had been. "It's an odd thing for two monks to be concerned with, isn't it? Aren't you supposed to leave the outside world behind?"

Brother Giles smiled slightly. "Ardan and Catherine are members of our community, but they have taken no vows. They have my help, and my blessing, even if they haven't chosen the path I counsel."

Leaning back in his seat, Daniel eyed them. "So a wild goose chase after a cache of lostech? I'm not convinced this is a good idea, Dad."

"Isn't it the young who are supposed to be like adventures?" his father asked, folding his stubby arms. "At your age, I'd have loved the idea of going looking for some old cache."

"Lostech isn't exactly a major concern these days."

"To be honest," Ardan told him.

"Always the best policy, just ahead of dishonesty," his sister interrupted.

"Thank you, sis." the redhead said a trifle testily and Catherine looked chastened. "From what Catherine has been able to remember, we're not really looking at Star League technology here. It's an old militia base where military hardware was put into storage when the Star League had the member states demobilizing much of their armed forces."

"Wouldn't they just have dug it out again for the Reunification War?" asked Daniel.

"Probably not." His father's eyes were distant, focused on what he remembered. "The SLDF mostly commissioned new equipment that would be standardized for their needs and use the advanced technologies they were putting into production. If what had been stored away was only on par with the sort of equipment the Succession Wars were fought with, it probably wouldn't have been considered fit for service."

"Seems wasteful to me, if you're thinking BattleMechs."
"Yes, but we're used to seeing every 'Mech as valuable and worth recovering and upgrading. The Star League was intent on maintaining their military production so they'd almost always look at buying something new rather than improving what they had." Clovis nodded. "It's plausible such a cache could exist... now that you know what planet it's on."

Ardan sighed at that point. "Yes, my fault for jumping to conclusions. We'll need to find out what the capital of New Dallas was."
"Caddy... Cadooo... Caddo City," Catherine muttered, half to herself. "Upon the isthmus between the continents, a peninsula jutting northwards into the ocean..."

"Is that it?" her brother asked asked.
"Have you been there?" asked Daniel. He was beginning to think that the blonde wasn't all there.

She snapped her head from side to side, hair whipping behind it. "The robes had an camp there... re-education for the masses... dig the dead for a year... never doubt the horrors of war again..."

Ardan turned and gathered her into an embrace. "It's okay, sis. You're not there."

"I never was! I never was!" she sobbed.

"I'm sorry I asked." Daniel muttered. "Dad, this doesn't sound like a good idea."

"It probably isn't, but with civil war breaking out, getting out of the Alliance for a month or two sounds appealing." Clovis pursed his lips. "One thing's sure, Loki wouldn't come looking for those two on a dead world in League space."

Daniel flinched at that. The Lyran government's professional terrorism force had featured in some of Nana Holstein's bedtime stories and they hadn't been the good guys. Not at all. "Maybe you're right, but let's not get our hopes up."

His father gave Ardan a nod. "Alright, you've hired yourself a jumpship and an engineer - although we'll be talking about payment shortly. I know a few people we can talk to about a dropship and salvage gear."

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