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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 40

Book II - The Ninety-five Theses

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Aftermath I: Comstar[]

ComStar Councel Chambers of the First Circuit
Terra, Sol System

"You told them." Nicholas stared at Will.

"About what? Holy Shroud, our four Warships? You'll have to be specific, Nick."

"Holy Shroud?"

"They aren't idiots. And if Myndo pulled off what she wanted to, do you think they'd ignore Sirius? The idea that he was a renegade is pretty threadbare to begin with and so to get credibility, I had to blow some big secrets. Of course, so long as nobody tries to get clever, it's not that big a deal. We blame Myndo, and predecessors who were desperate to preserve the Inner Sphere from more death—in fact, we can release some of the Holy Shroud files, like the hit on the New Syrtis Agricultural Institute—you know, the ones who were trying to figure out what had gone wrong on Murrain, and who were still screwing with it, even after they accident allied a world." Will shrugged. "Sure they can find examples that were a little more ambiguous, but "saved the Inner Sphere from the Planetary biosphere killer" is going to have a lot of pull with some people."

"Even so, Blake—"

"Was a man, Nick. A great man, but a man. And he didn't have a future scope looking at us. You know that he was afraid that the House Lords would smash everything and that didn't, barely, happen." Will jumped up and started to pace, the First Circuit staring at him. "We have a window. People are enjoying more prosperity, but they still remember the bad old days, especially on the frontiers. Most of the big atrocities are things that happened to great grand-pa, at best, but plenty of little ones happened later. We need to use that, to keep them focused, and to keep the people happy about what they have—and unwilling to let someone toss it away. Bribe 'em with microwaves and a car in every garage."

"That's not going to work forever," Precentor Tharkad said. "They'll forget how fragile their progress is."

"Eventually, yeah. So we go with something else." Will glanced around. And here's where the pitchforks come out. "The ComGuard goes public. Our final defense when Terra was at risk but now? Now in this golden new age, we can use them to keep the peace, to serve as observers and buffer troops."

"You'll admit to having an army?"

"Peacekeepers and defensive forces. Comstar would never have an army, although I won't be upset if any greedy sorts consider what else we might have if we're willing to show the ComGuards off. Nick, I want you to work with the people in Intentions & Forecasts. Wherever we go, find out what those people need, and what they aren't getting from their local lord. We'll give it to 'em, complete with bring your family and let your kid ride in a genuine mech. I want specials about the first and second succession wars done, and tell'em they're to focus on the common people, the ones who didn't make it onto the evac ships…" Will tapped his chin. "But make certain we have nice prologs of the characters enjoying their shiny new cars and talking about their vacation. You know the drill—not a dry eye in the theater."

"But that won't stop the growth of the Inner Sphere," Precentor Canopus said. "more money means more guns, and sooner or later…"

"You're right. Well, I'm going to set the stage, so I don't become the first Primus to be lynched. How big was the Star League GDP compared to our modern GDP?"

Nicholas frowned. "Ten to twelve times as large, as I can recall, what does that have to do with anything?"

"And building the HPG network was a strain for the Star League. We could never build the network from scratch."


"If the devil finds work for idle hands, how about if we give them some thing else to do? Those cores all have HPG theory and blueprints, and I bet that Takashi and Hanse are both thinking of weaning themselves from our monopoly. I suggest we help them."

"WHAT?" Will didn't know who shouted first but he waited for the furor to die down.

"At most, the current houses might be able to afford linking their primary worlds, but the cost will be… astronomical. They don't have experience, and if we give them our own code, they'll get to deal with two centuries plus of official Star League code, legacy code from earlier systems, and whatever the hell every local Precentor put in when he got a burr up his ass without bothering to document it."

Even the politically astute members of the First Circuit couldn't help wincing at those words, given that nobody got to the First Circuit without experiencing at least one "undocumented feature" in the HPG software.

"We'll beat them in terms of civil traffic, and as for military and governmental traffic? If they want to pay the price of a not-so-small fleet of McKennas to avoid our dastardly monopoly…"

"Why are we helping them?" Precentor New Avalon asked.

"Because I want those stations to be compatible when they realize what a white elephant they have on their hands and sell them back to us."

There was a pause as everyone digested that news. Greed and fear warred, and in most faces, Greed won.

"Building a network would take decades," Nick muttered. "And all that money would be moving into non-military purposes… It could work."

"We'll make it work," Will said. "We're in a race. Keep war from breaking out, at least until the Horse Learns to Sing and the house lords decide to do something more useful. Also, we're going to initiate what I'm calling "Operation Tattletale."

"And that is?" Precentor New Avalon said, rolling their eyes.

Will grinned. "Well, we are the new, reformed Comstar, free from Myndo's excesses. We would never dream trying to blow up a secret shipyard, but as you have seen, the House Lords are peaceful men and women who would never do something like that, unless some dastardly subordinate was exceeding their authority. That's why when we find out, we'll notify them… and everyone else. We won't even be subtle about it, just talk about our desire for peace and stability and the danger of… surprise moves."

"They will hate that."

"They're all preparing for our sudden but expected betrayal when I whip my mask off and reveal that I was Amaris, all along. I think they've forgotten that we're also the biggest media provider in human space, and we have the biggest intelligence and analysis section." Then all humor left his voice. "I wasn't kidding about a race. The longer things go, the more confident people will be that they can lose this factory if it means a won battle. We will keep reminding them where that road ends, and keep ahead of things."

"What if we don't?"

Will didn't bother to turn to face the speaker. "Then you get to pick up the pieces and tell everyone how Myndo was right all along."

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