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The Bull and the Genie[]

Chapter 19 - Book II - The Ninety-five Theses[]

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Making Plans, on both sides of the fence[]

Bull on the Move[]

Police Zone, Capellan Confederation

The entire TDF wouldn't be enough to successfully occupy more than a fraction of the Police Zone.

And pirates knew this.

Just as the Capellans had found out, it didn't matter how many soldiers you had if you didn't control the ocean.

While Mary finished up and prepared to return home, plans and counter plans made their way to fleet HQ on Taurus.

Four fast response detachments. Six DropShips, based on either two Invaders, or one Star Lord. Or rather, based on several JumpShips. It would be expensive, but it leveraged the great advantage of DropShips—so long as there were JumpShips available, a DropShip had unmatched strategic maneuverability. Three sets of JumpShips gave a fast response detachment a range of ninety light years. Another detachment, based on individual Merchant Class DropShips would serve as a secondary response force, being placed in dangerous sectors, where its single jump range would not be a disadvantage. Meanwhile, a set of contracts were drawn up with Comstar to make use of the Class B and A HPG stations to quickly transmit information. It took days to realign a class B HPG, so a system of "priority calls" were set up, moving along their regular network, until they hit a Class A HPG.

Not instant, but more than enough time to respond to pirates, or force them to use a pirate point, which would create its own form of attrition—and even there, TCN astrogators were very good. Each task force was heavy on small craft, fighters, and assault DropShips. Their goal was not to destroy any forces on the ground, but to take their transport.

On the ground, small groups of liaison officers were assigned to work with the still somewhat shell-shocked Capellans. Proud and prickly, the last thing Protector Edward wanted to do was lend credence to the rumors of secret annexation agreements. Despite the mismanagement that they'd suffered due to their ruler's impossible ambitions, there was nothing wrong with the Capellan fighting spirit, patriotism, or training, so they would handle the majority of ground combat, were it to become necessary. Beyond that, save for commercial and humanitarian assistance, the Taurians were hands off.

Well, except for the Taurian businessmen, some working alone, some working with Lyran businesses and investors.

Not all victories came with the sound of guns, after all.

Reeling from an Intelligence Failure[]

Throne Room, City of Crimson - Canopus IV, Magistracy of Canopus

"Explain it to me," Magestrix Kyalla Centralla said. "How is it that we missed DropShips armed with capital ship missiles, Power Armor, and a sudden alliance with Hanse Davion?!" the shout echoed through her chambers.

"We do not believe that—"

Kyalla cut the agent off. "The Federated Suns has signed off on the Concordat's protectorate, and warned the Free Worlds League against invasion. And then, by your own evidence, Ardan Sortek and Morgan Hasek-Davion privately visited Michael Hasek-Davion, after which he suffered his heart attack. Which is accurate, because when a man commits suicide with a laser pistol, his heart shuts down. Michael wasn't just a pain in Hanse Davion's backside, he was the most aggressive proponent of continued hostilities with the Concordat. That was clearly a quid pro quo for better relations with the Concordat."

"This could present us with problems," Marie Scrivener said. "Our negotiations with Andurien."

"Yes, the part about invading the Confederation worlds that are currently under the protection of the Concordat, with the support of the victors of the latest succession war."

"It's not just that," the Minister of Education said. "The Concordat is rapidly becoming one of our biggest customers for medical treatments and assistance." Nobody needed to have a diagram drawn for that. The Magistracy was still a cutting edge power in medical science, even if the income wasn't enough to rebuild the rest of the economy. The Concordat was paying both in C-bills and in kind, electronics, heavy machine tools… All of which could end if they got into a shooting war with people Edward had promised his protection to.

At the very least. The last person who had killed people under Edward's protection was sitting in a cell in Samantha City.

"Not just that. If Hanse is serious about incorporating the worlds he's conquered, he won't be attacking anyone else, at least not for a while, which means…"

That the Free Worlds League could concentrate on us—and Humphries. And they had been so close, until that damnable fool Liao had brought it all crashing down on his head. For that matter, even if the Taurians refrained, the Capellans had saved far more of their military than anyone had expected, due to Candace's quick decision to negotiate.

"We'll keep talking with Dame Humphreys. But as much as she'll hate the idea, this is not the time to rock the boat. On the other hand…"

"My Lady?"

"Janos isn't going to stay quiet forever. He's already burned his reputation with the Capellans, the Taurians don't care for them, and neither do the Lyrans or Davions. We can't throw the first punch, but…if Janos were to launch a treacherous attack, the Duchy, with our support, might withdraw from a League that has proven to be unworthy of its allegiance. And we might even get help from the Taurians, or Lyrans…" Kyalla nodded. "I'll be making contact with Edward. We need to prepare the ground for this, and it's as good as time as any to broach the need for development in the regions that separate our two nations. After all, you can never have too many friends…"

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