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State of the Union (Chapter Cover)

Chapter 44[]

State of the Union[]

The Triad, Tharkad
Donegal Province, Lyran Alliance
1st June, 3064

The throne of the Lyran Commonwealth was as stark as Peter remembered from when his mother had sat there.

House Steiner - Throne Room (by Anthony Scroggins)

Triad Throne Room of Lyran Commonwealth/Lyran Alliance

Now it was empty, though once again flanked by a pair of BattleMechs. In the absence of any Griffins - the model that traditionally filled the role - Peter had selected two of the least damaged Mackies of the Fifth Royal Guards to take up the positions. Catherine would probably chide him for the political message, but at least he'd realized that using 'Mechs built in the Suns would be a mistake.

Victor had clearly not yet grasped the issues inherent in his own uniform. While Peter wore what was recognizably the dress uniform of the Royal Guards, if with the tunic a darker green than was standard, his elder brother was still in the uniform of a AFFS Field Marshal.

They faced each other across the strip of carpet leading up the steps to the throne. Peter could feel the eyes of the Mechwarriors in the Mechs, of the officers of both their forces who'd been able to join them. Someone had to make the first move...

Victor reached out and accepted the hand that Peter hadn't realized he'd extended. They shook and somewhere holo-cameras recorded the moment for posterity. "Well done, Peter. Thank you."

Peter felt abashed for a moment and jerked his chin towards the throne. "Aren't you going to sit down?"

"No." His brother looked around the room and then shook his head. "I've no intention of taking the throne again."

Catherine had warned him but somehow he'd assumed she was wrong about this one thing. More fool him. "I was rather under the impression that that was what all this" he gestured to indicate the entire war "was all about."

"Then you're mistaken." Victor gave him a tired smile. "Although I imagine many other people feel the same way. I did this to remove Katherine, because she'd proven herself to be a tyrant. If the last - mein gott, nine years now? - have shown me anything, it's that I'm not suited to rule."

Peter felt his temper fray. "If you don't..." He broke off. "I'm sorry," he told the officers. "could you give my brother and I the room? I think we need to have a frank exchange of views."

The men and women stirred, some backing away and others looking to Victor. A tall blond man took a step towards Peter's brother. "I've heard that phrase used to describe a beating... your highness." He looked up at the two Mackies. "Are you sending them away too?"

Peter glanced up and couldn't help but snort. "Fair point."

"I'm not afraid of my brother, Jer... Galen."

What? Looking again, Peter subtracted the blond's beard - and more than half a decade of lines at the corner of his eye. "Galen... Cox?"

"It's a long story." Cox admitted.

"Katherine let Ryan try to kill him, it was safer for him to disappear." Victor said impatiently. "Why don't we step aside ourselves, Peter? Let our staffs get to know each other."

Peter rubbed his jaw and nodded in agreement. Then nodded again to Galen. "Not such a long story, I guess."

One of the antechambers had long served their mother, grandmother and other Archons before them as a place to withdraw for impromptu private discussions. Victor automatically went to one of the chairs and then paused, one hand on the back. "Old habits," he said out loud.

"I can think of a few you should break. One of them being running headlong into battle." commented Peter

"If I'd known Katherine wouldn't get here by now, maybe I'd have decided otherwise." Victor told him

Peter raised his hand. "Catherine is our sister on New Avalon. The other one calls herself Katrina."

"Katrina was our grandmother," Victor responded sharply.

Eyes narrowed, Peter decided there were more important things to worry about. Cat would want him to stay focused. "If you're not going to be Archon-Prince again, who will? I can't exactly tie you to the throne, but what alternatives are there?"

"I was thinking you and Yvonne." Victor told him

"Neither of us has any experience of ruling," he shot back. "Except the few months Yvonne had before Kat-herine rolled her off the throne in your absence."

"My experience is mostly making mistakes," his brother told him. "I'm a soldier, not a statesman. The two of you can grow into the roles - and neither of you has the baggage I'd be bringing with me."

Peter raked his hair back from his face, remembering Morgan Hasek-Davion doing much the same with his similarly long hair on a few occasions when he had cause to remonstrate with his younger cousins. "When we're talking the two of us, do you mean dividing the realm?"

"It's already divided." Victor looked away. "And even after she took the throne on New Avalon, Katherine couldn't undo that. If she, a far more adept politician than I, couldn't repair that damage then what hope is there?"

"I refuse to believe that that witch is a good example of anything," Peter growled. "she wanted the FedCom divided so she could keep playing people off against each other. You have responsibilities, Victor."

"Yes, but grasping for power isn't one of them." He settled into one of the chairs, taking a moment to let the tension between them ebb. "If you feel the Federated Commonwealth can be salvaged, then take the throne yourself and try it. But I can't."

"This is about..." He paused before he said something that he knew would provoke a angry reaction. "I have nothing against Omi, but is she a factor in your thinking?"

To his surprise, Victor let the implicit accusation wash over him. "Yes, she is. When I left to fight the Smoke Jaguars I hoped that with victory we might... have a chance to be together. I was wrong... or at least, I was naive. I got what I hoped for but not as I envisaged it. And however angry I am with Katherine, at least she gave me a chance at that... unintentionally, of course."

Peter frowned. "You could..." Then he broke off as he realized he was speaking nonsense. With the fighting over the last year and the fragility of the Steiner-Davion's position over the civil war, there was no way that a marriage or even an public relationship would be accepted.

"Maybe I should just give the job to Cat," he said after a moment. "God knows, she seems to be doing alright as Vice-Regent."

Victor shook his head. "Even if there weren't questions about her identity, you know that that wouldn't work. I've had reports on her and she's... erratic. In the long run that may not be a bad thing, but if Katherine came back she could push her aside easily."

"She might try, but I think Cat would push back. And unlike her, Cat is a mechwarrior."

Victor shrugged. "Alright. But it's a rotten thing to do to someone who needs time to recover from what seems to have been quite an ordeal, even if we don't have details."

"Damn you, that's not fair." Peter told his elder brother

"Politics isn't, get used to it." advised his bother.

Peter clenched his fists for a moment, then caught himself. What would Father Giles do? he wondered, thinking back to St Marinus House. "Alright," he said at last. "If the throne is one responsibility too far for you, then I guess I have to take it - but you don't get to run back to ComStar and leave us to pick up the pieces."

Victor shook his head. "You don't get it, Peter. As long as I'm here, my history would work against you. It'd be assumed you were just my proxy."

"That would be their mistake and I don't mean to keep you here on Tharkad, anyway." Peter told him

"I'm listening." Victor answered him

Pointing at Victor - more precisely at his uniform: "You're wearing a Field Marshal's uniform, aren't you? If commanding troops is all you think you're good for, I can use that. Maybe in the Terran Corridor - Marshal Lamont has secured three more worlds there and George Hasek's sending in the Vegan Rangers to help, but it's still a narrow link." He grinned. "I remember you wanting a command in that part of the FedCom back when you were at NAIS for your exchange year."

"Here's what you wanted, but not as you expected?" Victor arched an eyebrow. "That's the story of my life." He paused. "Let me think about it."

Peter nodded. "Of course. It would be easier for Omi to visit you if you're near the Combine anyway."

"I said I'd think about it. Don't push." Victor told him.

Peter raised his hands defensively. "Fine, fine."

"I do owe you, though. That warning about the assassin working in the gardens - you were right."

"Thank Cat, not me. What happened to him? He didn't get away again?"

Victor's smile was shark-like. "No, he didn't get away."

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