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Strategos (A Great Captain Roberts Tale!!)

Chapter 6 - Embarkation…

"Cecil, you've been quiet…

…all evening. There must be something on your mind." Lord Colonel Erich Bakker's chin was marked with drippings from the evening's feast. "The exercises-"

"The exercise was a waste of time." Lord Commander Cecil Halford had remained stone-sober at the celebrations, eschewing Ale and Wine for Chicory Coffee and water. "Two maneuvers against imaginary targets and a series of navigations between systems we already know everything about, during which the Belleau Wood was more often broken down awaiting repair, than maneuvering-and yet?"

He nodded across the room at Lord Captain Winston, slopping it up with a conditioned Slave Girl on his lap and a tall glass of wine. "Lord Captain Winston's conduct has not been questioned."

"You have a direction with this…don't you?"

"IF we actually end up facing anyone with warship grade firepower, we're going to get our asses thoroughly kicked. Just like those poor bastards on Tresspass. We are feasting and Celebrating the latest birth of the royal family, when we should be practicing, and Drilling, and Maintaining!!"

"Your ship, and your armsmen, did well…"

"I can't cover the entire rest of the Ninety-Ninth, never mind the rest of our holdings alone!" Cecil snarled, "I have one Destroyer, four Star Lords, a dozen Superiority rated dropships, and your landing forces with their transports, Lord Colonel, we did well but there are more responsibilities than any one Lord Officer can maintain, especially when our largest, and most potent ship is in the hands of a negligent, perverted, oaf."

"You aren't drunk enough to speak so in public, Cecil." His counterpart cautioned. "Lord Captain Winston has the ear of the Lord Marshall and the ear of the Basileus herself."

"I am just remembering my grandfather's stories, how the Sons were driven out of rich pickings by a Davion upstart in the thirty forties…we learned to be drilled and disciplined then, but we've lost it. Neither Her Majesty, nor the Lord Marshall, have advanced any plan to regain our hold on Onverwacht or Blommestein regions, and now we're losing the Cerberus front to interlopers."

"I am sure a plan is being formulated." Erich cautioned.

"I miss my Eloise." Cecil added, "I want to return to her soon."

"The performance was abominable...

…Lord Marshall." Basileus Katrin spat, "These exercises show it! You have allowed Standards to lapse!"

"Your Highness!! Warship operations are-"

"Spare me your excuses, Lord Marshall, they may have pleased my father, but he is no longer the Basileus, I am, and I state again, for the record, that I find the performance of my Royal Naval Assets to be atrocious!!" She was young…ish. Thirty five, and already had two potential heirs of her body by two male consorts. Not husbands-but toys, slaves chosen for their health and virility so that no man nor woman could claim equal to her throne. "I have reviewed the after action reports, and reports from our spies, Lord Marshall, and now, I have reviewed the data from last month's 'exercises'."

"Your Majesty, we can do better."

"Yes, someone can do better." she agreed.

Her movement was faster than his eyes could inform his brain.

"The someone, will not be you." she knelt, and picked up the severed head of the former, now Late, Lord Marshall sir Alban Lovegoode. "I'm sure your son will do a better job in your role, Alban, you had to know, after losing Tresspass, and our chance to take the Erinyes, that this was coming."

She placed the head on her bookshelf, and summoned guardsmen. "Dispose of the late Lord Marshall's corpse, fetch me his oldest son, Lord General Lovegoode, and also, round up these men-I want them in processing for failing in their duty by mid-afternoon, no later."

The Guards of the Basileus flinched a little, but did as they were told.

Somewhere out there, Katran knew it, because the reports couldn't be lying.

Somewhere, someone had either replicated the Desmond implant that her family had passed along to each successor for centuries to protect the Royal Line. Replication would be worse. An original would have to obey, once it encountered the genetic inheritor of House Cameron.

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