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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 18 - Better to Ask forgiveness than permission

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Arrest Me[]

Outskits of Cordia City - Coromodir, Aurigan Reach

In a way, convincing Lady Arano hadn't been that hard. She listened to her mercenary advisers, and they had a few words, mostly euphemisms for "you lose, badly" about what would happen if a RCT got dropped on their head.

So Mary had recorded a message, one that offered Lady Arano safe passage, even if the agreement wasn't made. She had a feeling that went right to the Canopians. They could disavow her, Mary knew, but it'd still cost them. Enough to convince the rebels that she, at least, was serious about this. Enough to convince them to let her get in touch with Thomas, which was why she was wearing a ridiculous dress, complete with bonnet that she pulled down over her face. After all, her coming back to life was supposed to be a surprise.

But the city was on lockdown. Dusk to Dawn curfews were in effect, and police checkpoints were at every corner. It took Mary nearly half the day to work her way through to a Taurian Checkpoint.

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but this is a security—"

"Force Sergeant Michaels." Mary pulled the bonnet back, looking up at him.

"I—Ma'am, but you're—"

"Take me into custody," she whispered. "I'm just someone you're suspicious of."

"Yes—I mean, Jenks, take the civilian into custody. I think the XO will want to talk to her."

And with that, she was yanked into the perimeter, the police unawares.

"Brigadier, what happened?", Thomas asked

"Victoria decided she liked you better as a commander," Mary said. "Hit me from the rear. I have the Roms."

"Damn…" Thomas shook his head. "What is your plan?"

"I had a long talk with Lady Arano. First of all, what's the ETA on our reinforcements."

"I yelled. They're still hung up. This has played merry hell with the Tortugan theater, so right now they're trying to see if they can pry some defensive units loose, but evidently, there's worry about the Davions and the local militias… Yeah. It isn't good, but we'll get them."

"Not if we're lucky," Mary said. "pull all of our units in. Also, inform Lord Espinoza that we've found evidence his security is compromised. Lady Arano is going to try for a simultaneous decapitation strike coupled with a general uprising."

"She is?", he asked with surprised

"Not if we're lucky, but he needs to believe it. Thats because we're the only reliable force. I want you to suggest, as strongly as possible, but he needs Taurian soldiers and 'Mechs standing watch. After all, we're not in a position to grab the throne, not like the noble houses."

"Ma'am… is there something you're not telling me.", Thomas asked

"A lot of somethings." Mary sighed. "Thomas. I'm your CO. What I'm doing isn't… technically violating general orders. But it may go bad. In that case, all the shit needs to fall on me."

"Well… Anything to fix this clusterfuck. I trust you."

"Good. Don't worry, if this goes wrong, you'll be able to work with me without any concerns—I'll be the best trained private in the TDF."

With that, Mary stayed in the HQ, avoiding anyone else. Thomas, some of her command staff, and the checkpoint guards had seen her, but they were… dependable.

She waited, and then Thomas came back to her. "It's done. He'll be moving the Royal 'Mechs out to hold the perimeter, but they can get back quickly."

"Doesn't matter. This will either be done quickly, or not at all. We need to pick some people up on the way to the palace."

They took the APC (bombs were common enough now that nobody drove in civilian vehicles), and drove through the empty streets, stopping at one small diner to allow three people to come in.

Thomas' eyes widened at them, but he remained silent.

Unexpected Negotiations[]

Santiago hurried through the corridors, accompanied by his daughter. The Taurians had gone from looking for their lost commander to forting up in the city, expecting something. The information they had sent…

Did it work. Did our gamble succeed? The Taurians were infuriated by the death of their leader, and that could have gone so terribly wrong, but now they would stay and he could hold the Directorate. He could…

He came to a halt as he entered the throne room. There was someone on the throne. A figure in a brightly colored dress, leaning forward, bonnet obscuring her face.

Then she leaned back and pulled the bonnet off.

"Hello, Lord Espinoza, Lady Victoria. I regret to say that your aim needs some work."

Suddenly, Santiago was aware that everyone in the castle, save for a tiny cadre of his most loyal guards, were Taurians, and if they knew what Victoria had done…

They were probably infuriated, just not at the right people.

"If you don't mind, my officers will take your guards and your firearms." she said. "I don't want any unfortunate incidents to interrupt our discussion."

Santiago gestured to his guards. They were wearing formal uniforms. The Taurians were wearing combat armor, and quickly and politely divested him of his weapons.

Then a door opened and…

"Kamea?" he said.

"Hello, Uncle."

"She is, of course, also disarmed."

"And you are our queen?" Victoria asked. "That is not your throne!"

"You know, I wonder what you were planning. Why kill me?" Cheng asked.

"You were about to leave. The communications we intercepted, the way you were hanging back, it was pla—"

Cheng cut him off by laughing. "Oh, God," she said. "How many times did you get two plus two equals five in school. No, Lord Espinoza, I wasn't getting ready to leave. My orders, which you obviously didn't get, were to stand by for a regimental combat team to land and to prepare to detain a list of people—including you and your daughter." She tilted her head. "I wouldn't be sitting on this throne, but some Taurian might be."

"You—You betrayed us?", sputters Espinoza

"No. But surprisingly enough, we came here because you promised order, and the only thing we've seen is disorder. You made plans. Lady Arano made plans, but well, so did Richard Cameron. Like him, you haven't made good plans, and well, here we are. I'll say to you what I said to Lady Arano. We will come. Your people will fight. They will lose on the battlefield, but they'll keep fighting and one day, we'll get tired. Maybe we annex the Reach. Maybe we have a war over it with the Magistracy—and you can bet we'll both keep the war confined here. Maybe we get tired, and after years of fighting have left you hopelessly fractured, we leave you to the pirates and Great Houses."

"I do not believe you enjoy gloating." Santiago said.

"No. The one way we get out of this with the Reach intact is to make an agreement. Here. Now." Mary gestured at the third individual she'd picked up. "Precentor Jarrus has agreed, in the interest of fostering peace, to upon the conclusion of our meetings, send a priority transmission to both Canopus and Taurus, and add t to Comstar's diplomatic database so that all can see this was conducted with the utmost honesty."

"You expect me to work with him?" Kamea said.

"It was you who refused to accept what was needed, father—" said another woman.

"Ahem!" Mary said. "Remember that Stefan Amaris didn't compromise, and where is the Rim Worlds Republic today?"

I can still recover something from this wreck. But I must work with her. She has the whiphand, and if she is not lying… "What do you suggest?"

"Lord Espinoza, the people hate you. If you stay, you will be seen as a Taurian puppet, and to be blunt; You'll likely be dependent on our goodwill, so…"

"I see.", he admitted

"Father, we can rebuild the Reach, we don't need them!", shouted Victoria

"Really? When your own supporters have turned on you?" Kamea asked.

"What would you suggest?" Santiago asked.

"The relationship between the Magistracy and the Reach remains important. I would suggest you could serve as an ambassador on Canopus."

Exile in all but name, watched all the time. But alive, and an Ambassador would have… some influence. Little for now, but that could grow. And yet…

"What of Lady Victoria?"

"As I understand it, she was groomed to be an adviser for Lady Arano. Let her stay."

"WHAT?" Victoria and Kamea's shriek rose.

"It'd be the best say to assure the various houses you're not intending a campaign of vengeance, to leave Lady Victoria to advise Lady Kamea and run your holdings in Lord Espinoza's absence. Also, you keep Lord Espinoza's external and military reforms."

Santiago stared at the woman. I underestimated you. The thing he'd overthrown the Coalition for, the ability to be a powerful independent nation, was on the table. The military reforms would leave none able to oppose the head, and the ability to negotiate would keep them from falling into a war.

Here was his dream, and yet… None would ever see him as the author. It would be Lady Kamea Arano who would reap the benefits. They'd probably call her "Good Lady Arano" or some such foolishness. The girl who worked to overthrow the tyrant Espinoza and then was merciful to him.

And yet… If he refused, all he feared would come to pass. Victoria would fight—if he told her to charge across the room and try to complete her mission, she would… and she would die, and never consider that such a gesture had accomplished nothing.

And so the trap closes. He snorted. "You are wasted in the military." He told Cheng. "Will you give me your personal word that you did not arrange for some later vengeance to fall upon my daughter or my house?"

"Why? Sometimes mechs have fire control issues. As for the other, I can merely say that with this agreement broadcast, any attempt at vengeance would see serious diplomatic consequences for Taurus."

"Ah, yes. And your Protector, what will he say?"

"I'm… certain he'll agree with this." For a moment, Cheng looked nervous.

You didn't consult him. This is you, alone. You are going to blindside your leader with an agreement he almost certainly cannot back out of. You may have sacrificed your career in the service of your nation. , he thought.

Santiago held his breath, then nodded. "I… Agree."

"Father!", Victoria called out.

"Hush, dear, you can visit me on Canopus, when your duties allow. I assume that his agreement will see me sufficiently busy that any return visits will be… rare, and most definitely scheduled well in advance.", he told his daughter.

"Of course." Lady Kamea glared at him.

"I suppose I should work on my speech. I'll have to admit to excesses, springing from my desire to do too much, too quickly."

"Yes." Cheng got off of the throne and nodded.

Lady Arano walked to it, seemingly a little nonplussed.

I suppose I can understand, these things in the stories usually end with a duel of mechs, and thunder and lightning. I wonder if you noticed that you only got on the throne after Cheng gave it to you?, asked in his mind to Arano.

And then the Comstar precentor was coming forward, a few other men and women joining him to write the surrender that they were play as a glorious compromise.

Message from Samantha[]

Mary emerged from the shower, happily looking at her bare arm. No more cast, no more itching and—

"Brigadier, we just had a diplomatic courier arrive from Taurus."

That fast? They'd received a note that the RCT was heading back to Tortuga, but nothing else. Just "Stand by."

Fortunately, the city was calm, the videos of Lord Espinoza and Lady Arano standing together to declare that the violence was over (Mary had had them both searched for weapons), and a new era was upon them had stopped enough of the violence that her soldiers were now sitting on base getting bored. Mary didn't care. Being bored definitely beat getting shot at. She'd also taken about a quarter of the unit's expendable munitions budget and used it to pay compensation for families of the hundred martyrs.

She hadn't even lied. If handing someone cash kept them from wanting to shoot you, you didn't have to buy bullets.

Thomas had been doubtful, but nobody had tried to blow them up over the last week.

So she threw on her uniform, and they headed out to the field to see the diplomatic courier land. Based on the Fury class, it had better facilities and room for light diplomatic vehicles and a bodyguard detail.

Mary and Thomas were waiting for the group at the Bay. For a moment, Mary was surprised. She saluted, but the band of civilians didn't even acknowledge her. Thomas tensed beside her, and then they both saluted as a Colonel appeared. He didn't look at Mary, merely stared at Thomas.

"I'll be the overall commander, he told her XO."

"Yes, well, Brigadier Cheng is—"

"Brigadier Cheng is being recalled to Taurus. Immediately." That came from two men in civilian suits with the added bulk that indicated body armor. A ID was flashed. "Special Investigations Division."

Thomas went still.

SID? The TDF handled it's own military justice for events in the field, but the SID got involved for other matters, usually things like embezzlement, where someone figured an independent eye was needed.

They also got involved with the higher-ups were very upset indeed, and wanted to know what the hell was going on.

"Ah. In that case, I can have my things brought to the dropship—"

"That is not necessary, Brigadier Cheng. Everything you need is on the ship, and I believe your Executive Officer is up to the task of briefing your replacement."

"Of course," she said. "I am at the disposal of the Concordat."

And I think that might actually be literally true.

With that, Mary got on board the dropship, and right after they'd finished refueling, felt the acceleration push her down as they boosted for the Jumpship.

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