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The Bull and the Genie
- Chapter 19 - Sitting in Purgatory and an Offer

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Samantha, Taurian Concordat

So this is what purgatory feels like., Mary had been brought back, the Dropship detaching and catching other Jumpships and she didn't want to imagine how expensive that had been and now…

Two weeks of intensive interviews. Reports. Discussions with everyone from her military superiors to a historian. He'd been very focused on what she knew about the spate of private attempts to build nations during and after the Star League.

Mary had a simple answer for that. She'd spent most of that part of her schooling doodling dropships in the margins of her history book.

That had seemed to insult him more than anything else.

So here she was in a suite, something a bit larger than her rank merited, with meals brought to her. She could go down to the cafeteria, but it had been suggested that after her long trip she should say up here and rest.

And of course the torment of watching the videos of the successful invasion of Tortuga Prime.

I should be there! Mary grumped. The whole thing had gone off like clockwork. The pirates had been so confident that the first strike had caught most of their ships on the ground, and then, they'd assumed it'd be another raid, and hadn't been prepared at all for when two RCTs grounded around the city.

>>"We're here where the final battles for the city of Raider's Roost occurred."<< the attractive reporter, dressed up in armor to let you know things could still be dangerous was saying. Behind her, there was a burned out pirate Warhammer, EOD techs removing the last of its munitions. The camera panned over to the refugee camp, shelters neatly laid out and a big Comstar pavilion there. >>"Behind me, you can see the camp for individuals who have requested repatriation, along with the Comstar facilities for sending information to their home nations. However, not all of them may be leaving. The passage of the Citizenship Act allows any individual who wishes to stay to claim Citizenship."<< She paused. >>"Let's run the clip, Jack, for General Kincaid's speech."<<

The screen changed and General Kincaid, still in his MechWarrior suit, was behind a little podium, the remains of the Jolly Rodgers' dropship fleet behind him.

>>"Greetings. As you know, the Tortugan Pirates have been taking slaves for centuries. In some cases, this means we cannot find their former homes, and obviously for many, this has been their home for generations. For that reason, all civilians on this world and any other world in the Tortuga Cluster may claim Taurian citizenship."<<

>>"Sir! Why are you moving civilians out of Raider's Roost?"<<

>>"The lack of any environmental regulations, and the general treatment of the pirates has made the city uninhabitable. Currently, heavy metal concentrations in the soil and water stand at two to three times greater than Concordat regulations allow for industrial facilities, let alone housing. By moving them to new regions, we can at least prevent any further damage from being done."<<

"That gives you a chance to see if any bad guys are trying to hide in the crowd. Not that many would, not after Dame pirate queen Paula Trevaline had tried to get out incognito and been caught by a mixed band of Davion and Kuritan slaves who had escaped during the attack and…

Well, her mutilated corpse, hanging from a crane, had been shown all over the media, albeit with some parts blacked out. She had not gone quickly, or easily, but Mary didn't feel a thing for her. Nor did anyone else, not after all the mass graves had been found.

Comstar was also helping with that. A lot of people would be receiving bad news, but they'd at least get closure, and Comstar had waived any HPG fees.

And I'm not there! A fight where you don't even have to wonder if you're on the right side, and I wasn't there!

No, she was here, and maybe she'd just die of old age here, and nobody would notice. Maybe even they'd put a plaque up on her door. Or worse she wouldn't die. Just stay here for ever and ever—

There was a knock on the door. Mary got up, checked her uniform and went to it.

Security officers came walking in, and behind them…

"Lord Calderon." Mary said, coming to attention.

Edward Calderon chuckled. "Brigadier Cheng. My father has a differing levels for how annoyed he is. Minor, very, and 'I can't talk to this person because I might launch myself over my desk at them.' Care to guess where you are?"

"The third?"

"Bingo!" he gestured for her to sit down. "Good news, you solved what could have been an absolute clusterfuck. Bad news? You made a lot of people look very bad. Our diplomatic… well, let's be honest. For much of our history, we haven't needed a great diplomatic corps. It's mostly been glaring at the Davions, making some minor deals with local worlds, and appearing for public events. The big affairs were mostly handled personally by the Protector or his close associates. You showed the problem with that."

"Ah, yes Sir."

"And some of those people have been banging the drum of 'you went wild' very loudly indeed, including some claims that maybe you were in league with the perfidious Davions."

"But there weren't even any there!", Mary responded

"Proof of their skill. Never doubt the power of Schroedinger's Davions in our political dialog. Even when they aren't around, they could be." He sighed. "But joking aside, people targeting you could be an issue, especially since Father isn't an absolute dictator. If we're going to clean the mess of the Foreign Ministry, we can't have people going scorched earth on us—or you. And there's the bit of your last missive, which well, blindsided is putting it mildly." He shook his head. "Don't worry about sending an RCT, I've already overthrown the current government, replaced with with a coalition government, made a binding deal with the Magistracy…"

Mary found herself shrinking a little in her seat. Said like that it did feel a little abrupt.

"Which gets to the last problem. You did well. You were handed a disaster and pulled it out. But we don't want the precedent set, because to be honest, military officers going off on their own has a bigger chance of creating a disaster than solving it. You weren't just smart, you were lucky in that Espinoza was a loyalist to the nation, not simply his own power."

"Yes, Sir."

"Now one solution? Send you home to Brannis, conform a promotion to Colonel and let you stay there until you retire, running the militia. Neither Father nor I agree with that, so we've come up with something else…"


"You like to tour cities, I've heard. What do you think about getting some photos of Tharkad?"

Mary blinked in surprise and Edward continued.

"I have a project in mind, one that Father has fast tracked. One thing you proved is that we're not good with… policing. Our forces have been geared to fight the Davions, or a full scale battle. It's not publicized, but there were several cases on Tortuga where, if we hadn't come with such overwhelming force, things might have been dicey. We need a more flexible formation, right now we're calling it the Medium RCT." He handed a folder to Mary.

Mary stared at it. Mostly VTOL mounted infantry, light, and medium BattleMechs with a few fast heavies, emphasis on small, fast dropship deployment… She blinked. This looked like some of her own suggestions.

"This is impressive, but how does it…", she politely asked

"Relate to Tharkad?" Edward leaned back. "Father believes that we can become powerful enough to stand off the Inner Sphere. I don't. No matter how much we find in that maintenance library, quantity has a quality all its own. We need other tools to stand them off. Economic and diplomatic tools. When the Reunification War occurred, our isolation killed us because nobody in the Inner Sphere had much to lose. That's why I'm working on investments and partnerships with the Lyran Commonwealth, especially given their negotiations with the Federated Suns. The Feddies might be willing to invade for Glory, but the Lyrans count Kroners. But we also have to prove to the Lyrans that we're capable of defending ourselves, and since they also have problems with pirates, I'm killing two birds with one stone."

"You're sending an RCT to the Commonwealth?"

"Yes. Some of their pirates aren't far short of our dear, departed Dame Paula."

"What about other states…"

"The agreement specifically bans our participation in any conflicts with "legitimate states", and the planned AOR is far from those borders."

"Who is going to run it?"

"You, General."

"I—" Mary blinked. "That's jumping me up three grades!" More, actually. The person in charge of an RCT was usually a senior general.

"You'll have time. The RCT is forming, and you need to get some work under you, work out the kinks. Our estimation is you can be sent out in '25. It's not just political. It's clear we're going to need an expeditionary capability, which means that a lot of our serving generals wouldn't bring as much as they might. This is new territory for all of us."

"And then to Tharkad and beyond."

"We send you to Brannis to train up the unit and see your family, then send you all the way across the sphere, with no great medals pinned on your chest for that mess in the Reach. People who aren't happy with you look at it and see it as exile, and who could say being sent that far away isn't punishment? So. Interested?"

Some would, but… This is the first full-scale operation with a successor state since before the Amaris Civil War…

But even so, history was full of cases of people who had been promoted beyond their competence and sank under their new duties.

And if I can't cut it, well, that works as well, proving that I was just a flash in the pan.

On the other hand, if she'd just wanted the easy jobs, she could have stayed home. This was just a bigger version of the terror she'd felt when she'd realized the Concordat was trusting Mary Cheng with a battlemech.

"Yes, Sir," Mary said. "I'm very interested."

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