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The Bull and the Genie[]

Chapter 36 - Book II - The Ninety-five Theses[]

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Messages and Conversations over Steak[]

Mentality Weighing the Odds[]

Dinning Room, Palace of the Protector - Taurus, Taurian Concordat

There were problems with the plan. Not the least of which, it couldn't get out to Waterly, who was already acting as Primus.

And there were limits to what Will could do to find out what she was doing, just that Comstar was having meetings with Takashi.

Which puts us on a time limit. If Myndo convinced Takashi he needed her…

Plenty of stuff she can give him…

But right now they needed to talk to the house leaders, and that meant sending out messengers, because nobody was going to trust Comstar for this. Not even with Will's offer of help.

Will snorted. Edward was an idealist, but he was far from stupid. Will wouldn't trust Will in his place. Will was being kept in some very nice apartments that he wasn't to leave, not until Edward was ready for him to talk to Stacy, who would be staying until Myndo's new people arrived. And until Edward was ready to send Will where he could do the most good.

The head of the New Avalon Business Association, was, officially, just a businessman. Unofficially, he was the primary point of contact between Taurus and New Avalon. So when a messenger arrived with "information of vital interest to the First Prince" he looked at it.

Fifteen minutes later, he was sending orders for a dropship to be chartered for New Avalon…

And warming up the Black Box in the basement. It would be up to the First Prince if he wanted to risk the secret for this, him and Katrina, but he needed this information. Now.

Unusual Message by Unusual Means[]

Luthien System, Draconis Combine

Pony express style JumpShip travel wasn't as rare as many people assumed. If you stuck to the major worlds, and had money, you could almost always find an empty docking collar that was getting ready to jump.

When amateurs spoke of the difficulty of such networks, they almost always were thinking of full scale military operations, not a single DropShip. And so, two weeks after Will and Edward's talk, a Dropship appeared in Luthien's system, beaming an encrypted message to the Taurian embassy. His Honor Timothy Staven, read the message.

Then swore. At length. Then took a quick drink of the bottle he kept under his desk for such cases…

And then he requested an urgent meeting with the Coordinator of the Draconis Combine, a meeting that he prefaced with the statement that its security was of the utmost importance.

Imperial Palace - Luthien, Draconis Combine

Takashi Kurita knew that the Taurian ambassador was a man not given to overstatement. So when he came to the palace it was to a wing that had been swept not an hour ago for bugs. Only the most loyal of the Otomo were there, and he stood alone with Subhash, as the ambassador walked in, the room oddly empty.

"You asked for a meeting vital to the survival of the Draconis Combine."

"Yes, Coordinator," Timothy said. "Precentor Tuarus was the near victim of an assassination attempt by Myndo Waterly. They recovered the body of the assassin and were able to tie him to Comstar."

"I do not see how that would harm the Combine."

"Precentor Taurus provided information, which we have since confirmed, about Operation Holy Shroud, a campaign of assassination against scientists, carried out by Comstar." He held out a Datapad. "It is our belief that it is likely Waterly may commence such a covert campaign again, in the misguided believe she can turn back the clock."

Takashi handed the pad to Subhash and frowned. "And what would you suggest the Combine do? The HPG network is vital, and a battle with Comstar, especially after the recent conflict, would not be in our interests."

And Waterly promised us mechs. But she said nothing about this.

"Protector Calderon wished to point out that Jerome Blake was appointed by the Star League Council, even in the absence of the First Lord. The fact that Comstar has never asked for the input of the members of the council for later Primuses doesn't change the fact that the office derives its authority from the council, and that were the council to be reassembled for the purpose of providing its input to the selection the new Primus…"

Takashi stared at the man for a moment. Raised his eyebrows. "For someone who claims to desire stability, Edward seems to enjoy casting stones into the pond to see what the Koi do. I assume that Davion would also be there?"

"Yes, Coordinator. I ah, was assured that any plates would not have planets on them this time around."

Takashi couldn't resist a chuckle at that. "If the others agree, and if the site is secure, then I will attend."

Meals and new Job Offer[]

New Avalon, Federated Suns

Precentor Huthrin Vandel, stared at the man who had sat down at his dinner table at the 70th floor diner in New Avalon.

"You—you're supposed to be dead."

"What can I say, Myndo really needed to bone up on her ROM procedures," Will said. "Mind if I eat? Edward stuck me on the fastest ship he had." Will consulted the menu. "How's the steak?"

"Good—Will, what do you mean, she tried to kill you?"

"What I said. TMI and MIIO both confirmed the hit. He was ROM, sent out before Julian died, with a go order for when he died. We don't have her finger prints, but it's close enough."

"TMI? You told them?"

"Well, in between talking about Holy Shroud and our four ship [Warship]] fleet. As well as our nine regiments of BattleMechs."

Huthrin leaned back in shock. He understated the numbers, but even so… "Why?"

"You've been getting requests about research labs. So has everyone else. Myndo's going to kick off a new Holy Shroud, never mind that it won't work, and never mind it'll see the order smashed. After Sirius, nobody is going to buy: oops, a bunch of your labs exploded, how sad."

"And you told them more—"

"I told them because I need some credibility. I'm telling you, because I know you don't like the idea of bios or nukes being used."

"She wouldn't—"

"How else could a new Holy Shroud go down? I landed just in time to read a puff piece about some rich guy buying data cores from the Taurians for primary school libraries. That genie is out of the bag. The only thing trying to stuff it back in will do is destroy any ability for us to manage the consequences."

"What do you need, then?" Huthrin asked, then they both paused as the waitress took their order.

"I need to get into Terra and into Hilton Head."

"Why? Myndo is the—"

"And If I'm here, she'll just say the House Lords have a gun to my head, which might be true. Because when they call her and inform her that the Star League Council has decided to take up its oversight of Comstar Leadership again, someone's going to need to be there to be the voice of reason—"

"What?" Huthrin said.

"I'll tell you after I eat," Will said as the plate was put in front of him. "Might be my last good meal."

Huthrin just stared as Will happily started to eat his steak.

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