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The Broken Commonwealth (Chapter Cover Art)

Chapter 7 - The Broken Commonwealth[]

Ngo House
Hue, Kowloon
Lyran Commonwealth
July, 3145

Sharon grasped the upper bar and ground her toes into the footpads, and then, she began the push-pull and stepping-steps on the exercise machine.

Sharon Ngo is not a beautiful woman.  Her face is creased with a permanent 'weightlifter's grimace', her neck is thick, corded with muscle, as are nearly every other part of her body, the result of an 'exercise habit' developed in childhood. The machine is designed to give resistance both on the pull, and the push, working both muscle groups equally with each repetition. Normally, this type of machine is used shipboard on spacecraft to keep the crew in condition when spin gravity or thrust gravity are unavailable, but it fits in her office without obstructing much. So she brought one down as soon as word of her mother's death reached Kowloon in 3132.

She used vigorous exercises, martial arts, and even dance to help focus her thinking, running through the issues she needed to make calls on while beating her body into exhaustion.  Economics, finance, justice issues, whatever it might be.

It was a means to cope with stress for a relatively young woman who felt no presence of prospects nor desire for romance, just a burning need for release, that she refused to use narcotics to feed.

Narcotics, after all, were why her older sister Caroline was not in this office, but instead ashes in a jar in the family crypt. A victim of an overdose that was the reason for her mother's decision to return to Kowloon on that fateful and lethal trip.

"Increase resistance to two gravities, add twenty earth kilos." she ordered the machine mid lift.

Sharon knew the rumors. An older sister dead, then both parents, leaving her to the company of retainers and an emotionally distant Grandfather in Hue.

The last time she cried was at his funeral six years ago. Leaving only herself, with a few loyal officers behind.

The distraction was becoming irritating, she slowed her breathing and focused on burying the memory again, bringing up manpower statistics and her own projections of what would be needed to guarantee Kowloon's de-facto independence in the face of a rising power to anti-spinward, and a resurgently aggressive Clan presence to spinward.

The door chimes sounded a second time.  "Come!"

The door opened and a large man stepped through it.  Colonel-Brigadier General of Reserves Charles Icaza looked a little uncomfortable in his uniform-his reserve activation status had caught no-one by surprise, but his sudden promotion to command of all Kowloonese Ground Forces had caught HIM by surprise, right along with the promotion to Brigadier.

"Well, Chuck?" she kept pumping, "What's news?"

"We have begun de-caching the equipment from Beta Galaxy." he began, "I have six Sibkos from the Hue County to report as passing initial exams, the deficiency in Mchwarrior personnel is...momentarily solved."

"Good news then." she said.

"Do you really believe the Jade Falcons will come for Kowloon?" he asked.

"It's us or Inarcs." she stated, "They have to know we're more isolated from reinforcement. It's the safe bet, either Malvina's madmen will hit us or we'll be dealing with Jaina Morrison's Rim Territories slaver units."

"Not immediately?" he asked.

"Not right away, no." she said, "Soon though.  The Commonwealth's falling apart, Chuck, the jackals are circling on the corpse, we need to be ready when they think we're going to be easy pickings."

"You don't have any faith in the new Archon?"

"None. Zero, zip, nada not a bit." she shook her head.  "Trillian is a Steiner-Davion, and that family's track record is civil wars and nation breaking-their own, going back to Victor and Katherine. She was raised on Tharkad, at best that means she's inured to the social general scene. At worst, she's the leader of the gang that can't shoot straight. Either way, there's no way they can afford to send significant forces this way, when the vultures and the jackals come to pick at the Commonwealth's rotting corpse."  she finished her fiftieth rep, and stepped out of the machine.

The Elemental-breed Brigadier handed her a towel, which she used to wipe away the sweat.  "I can't work out any better scenario right now than that. Not without doing what we're doing faster than we can do it."

"You could always try choosing which side to fall to before the choice is made for you." he told her.

"Screw that, Chuck, you'd shoot me if I tried." she accepted a bottle of water from his hand.

"I probably would." he nodded.  "Dinner tonight?" he asked.

"You have a place in mind?" she asked.

"Mama Giri's on Lanterns." he said.

"Dinner, conversation that isn't work, and then frisky times?" she asked.

"I would like that to be the outcome, yes." he said.

"Mmmm... yeah. We'll do that...besides, I want to dress 'girly' tonight. You're a big enough side of beef that it won't feel awkward."

He laughed. "It is a date!"

"Pick me up at nineteen hundred, and not a dot later." she told him.

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