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The Bull and the Genie[]

Chapter 38 - Book II - The Ninety-five Theses[]

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Setting the Table[]

Unexpected Guest with unexpected News[]

ComStar ROM Offices
Terra, Sol System

Nicholas Cassnew had assumed that most of his tenure at ROM would be fixing his predecessors disastrous mistakes in attempting to locate the origin of Wolf's Dragoons.

But now it was occupied with attempting to thread the needle. Waterly was the favored, especially with the death of her main competitor, and was already acting like she had been appointed.

Lists of research installations, and a suggestion that I prepare ROM for operations against them.

He massaged his forehead. How did she expect ROM to deal with them? There were thousands of them!

That meant that he didn't have much support from the rest of the First Circuit, having presided over the single greatest disaster in Comstar's History. Unfortunately, "it wasn't my fault" didn't cut much ice at his level.

But there were some more ominous developments. Myndo had directed ROM to work with the biological research center, on the possible deployment of "biologically active payloads."

Which meant bio's, and Comstar had plans, up to and including LOCKOUT, the use of long-duration biologicals to essentially confine planetary populations to their own worlds—a plan that had been first developed by the Hegemony as a less than lethal tool to immobilize the house lords.

And it wasn't the worst.

No, the worst remained on some worlds that had once been possessed of oddly untouched ruins, save for the endless bones in the streets—up until Comstar had pushed several 100KM diameter impactors into a collision course, ending the threat by ending the biosphere.

Except even that wouldn't work. After Sirius, and the fact that the House Lords believed. No matter what they said in public, that Sirius was a difference in degree, but not of kind when it came to Comstar's policies. Cassnew believed that there were likely thousands of "Secret cores". The only way to purge the cores from the Inner Sphere was to Purge the Inner Sphere and—

"Precentor Cassnew?" the Adept was high ranked, and had worked with Cassnew for decades. Cassnew had said he was not to be disturbed which meant it was important.

"What is it?"

"I—a guest, Sir. He came in through the secure entrance."

Cassnew blinked as a dead man came walking in through the door, wearing a T-shirt reading…


"Hello, Nicholas," Will said. "Should have changed those codes. Sloppy."

"Wouldn't have worked without your biometric data."

"And cloning is a thing." Will sat down. "How are you doing?"

"I—Will, how are you not dead!"

"Myndo got too clever. Maybe she wanted me for my information, maybe she wanted me to arrest, but she went with a bagman instead of forty pounds of HE in the limo." Will leaned back. "And just like here she's going to be too clever for Comstar. She hit you with the bio plan yet?"

"Wh-how did you know?"

"Didn't, until now, but she's all about putting the genie back into the bottle, and the only way to do that right now is bios or nukes. Of course, since I know that, the House Lords know that."

"Well, maybe if you hadn't played coy about not being dead—" Nicholas shook his head. "Half of her supporters are already in position."

"That's good. Makes the clean sweep easier."

"And how do you expect to be in that position?"

"I have a job reference."

Normally, Nicholas prided himself on his ability to keep calm. Today, he prided himself on the sound proofing of his office.


Meeting Arrangements[]

Epsilon Eridani, Federated Commonwealth

Mary checked off the list. Air space, clear. The locals hadn't been happy with a 120km airspace exclusion zone, or the inner "shoot down without warning" zone especially since she hadn't told anyone why. The comstar station had gone onto black out, why or how, Mary didn't know, just that Edward had a few words with them and now they were down for maintenance.

Every street for five KM around the Stannisburg convention center was patrolled, every building and every tunnel checked and double checked.

In case someone was blind to everything else, the order had come down that the official schedule wasn't to be changed. The 10th Annual Flower Festival and Chili-cookoff was still on, as the cheery banner proclaimed, and nobody was to pay any attention to the looming BattleMechs, Tanks, and power armor.

Some idiot from the diplomatic core had suggested a grand gesture, all the DropShips grounding at once. Mary had been tempted to transfer him to an empty system, and had overridden him. The DropShips were landing at newly prepared fields, each one the same distance from the convention center. Who was going to land at what platform was going to be decided by a dice, just before they grounded. They would be brought in by escorted convoy, and the only place everyone knew they would be was Conference Hall H.

Which was, if you looked at the public record, Conference Hall C. Mary had changed the designation. The Conference Hall H in the public records would just have a platoon of troops in it.

"General Cheng! We have a problem."

Mary took a deep breath. "What is it?"

"Who is going to chair the meeting? Traditionally it was the First Lord or his chosen representative, but well, that might imply a primacy of place, and ah…"

Mary paused. "Understood. We need someone who understands protocol."


"Get me the local college, they probably know someone who can help."

The Job Offer of the Century[]

Epsilon Eridani System, Federated Commonwealth

"John, so help me if you play another joke, I will call your parents in!" June Williams had expected many things. To become a professor. To change the world. Then her student debts hit, and so the best choice was to open young minds to the future they eagerly wanted to learn about.

That hadn't worked either, so she taught Junior High. Right now, half the class was more interested in the rumors that a new Star League cache ha been discovered under Stannisburg, and the Taurians were preparing to dig it up. The other half of the class was probably discovering the joys of the opposite sex for the first time, which is why June wanted to murder John, who had decided that the best say to get Judy to be his girlfriend were a series of increasingly over the top jokes that had the rest of the class laughing, and made it plain she had no control, and oh, God, what if they didn't renew her contract!

"I just—"

"You do not slip adult magazine centerfolds into Judy's folder!" She gestured. "You could get into real trouble—" The door opened behind her. And June prayed that it wasn't Administrator Thomas who had been making pointed comments about discipline.

The entire class went dead silent, which they didn't do for anyone.

"I agree, you could get into real trouble, especially if Judy has a good right hook," the voice was amused, and sort of…

John turned white and made an interesting eeping noise, and then June turned, and realized where she'd heard that voice before.

General Cheng, when she'd accepted her posting to the Police Zone. June had done an assembly for it, and even the students had been interested.

She's almost as short as some of the students here. On the other hand, the power armor troops flanking her made up for it, and June had a brief horrified moment wondering what she could have done that was so bad that the Taurians had been sent out to arrest her!

"Ms. Williams," General Cheng said. "Your Master's Thesis was on protocol and policy of the High Council during the last decade of the Star League."

"Um… Yes."

"Excellent. I'm going to have to borrow you, if you don't mind."

"Um… For what?"

Mary said nothing, glancing at her watch. It was just thirty seconds to twelve. "Well," she said, keeping her eye on the watch. "The announcement will be at twelve so…" She waited, and then the bell rang. "June Williams, it is my request, on behalf of Hanse Davion, Takashi Kurita, Edward Calderon, Katrina Steiner, Candace Liao, Kyalla Centralla, and Janos Marik, that you accept our request to chair the first meeting of the Star League High Council since August 12, 2781. I am authorized to compensate you for your time." Mary glanced back up. "Will you accept?"

June nodded since she was unable to think of what to say. Quite oddly, the only thought running through her mind was that someone had finally found a way to shut John up for more than ten seconds.

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