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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 45 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]


"They aren't aliens."


The wave of 'blackout' along the coreward periphery has generated a lot of speculation. But the Geometry? That's not speculation. Cartwright is sharing data from Taskforce 4 with me, and it's clear who it has to be.

Kerensky's descendants. They're coming back, they're coming home.

"Can you identify them?" He asks.

"Well, yeah...sort of. Those are SLDF hulls-warships, Aegis, McKenna, Lola III, looks like some modified Rigas in some of the imagery. They've had SLEP work done, but the base outlines are the same, and the Camerons Class Battlecruisers look like late model with some of the speculated updates to correct the thermal bloom problem. TF Four didn't try to engage, did they?"

"No, Huyn was smart enough to make a general order to avoid closing or provoking them." He leans forward to look my remote in the 'eyes', "It's Kerensky's people, isn't it?"

"Seems likely. I'd say better than ninety percent chance that it's the descendants of the SLDF units that deserted under Aleks Kerensky, and based on HPG non-traffic from that region, it's a good bet they either seized HPG network hubs immediately, or they've got the Ministry of Communications, which you know as 'ComStar', working with them directly."

I'm running strategic analysis in my background processes. The results keep going sideways. "This isn't the main force, maybe a Vanguard force, but it's no probe." I conclude.

"What are they after?" he asks.

"Better than ninety percent chance they're aiming to claim territory inside the old Star League." I tell him, "Mass movement, a 'reinvasion', and that doesn't really make sense-they've had three centuries wherever they're based, long enough that they finished the Rostov-Kripke updates to the Camerons, which would require heavy duty shipyards you don't pack on the back of a Newgrange. Unless there's been some kind of disaster or emergency, this move, with this timing? makes zero sense."

"Could it just be conquest?" Thirteen years old and she's still surprising me, Liz's question cuts...in a good way.

"It could be, but then, this would be a SMALL scouting force. Populations alone they should have several times the combat effectives they had when they left, barring some sweeping pandemic or frequent colony failures-which wouldn't match the technology we're seeing." I tell her.

"So they're probing, then bringing the rest in force if we're weak enough...or strong enough." she comments. "They're checking to see if we're in the 'sweet spot' and they're getting local collaborators from Comstar."

"That is just speculation, Elizabeth." I caution her.

"It fits though, doesn't it?" she's dogged on this, and I can't say I disagree. The probability curve alone suggests she's interpreted it correctly. "We need confirmation."

"Of..?"

"Their intentions. If you know what someone wants, you can predict what they're going to do to get it." she asserts, "wht their risk appetite is, what they're willing to pay to get it, what they aren't willing to pay."

"What do you want to do, Milady?" Cartwright asks.

"Give the data to Regent Stonecipher, and CC it to my brother Patrick and the command at Mount Asgard." Elizabeth states, "Then, pull in our anti-piracy and training task forces, we're going to need to start reassigning people from the Sampan IIIs to the IVs we've got furthest along, and start working up crews. The Archon will want to call on the Guard for this, but keep a Squadron on rotation out there spying on our...the SLDF, see if we can pick up intelligence data on their dispositions, intentions, and logistics-TF four said it looked like these bastards were mostly concentrating on Rasalhague and the Combine borders. We might want to LET THEM do their business, if it doesn't spill on the Commonwealth."

Sampan III Class Cutter in Orbit (Ngoverse)

Sampan III Class Corvette

"What if it does?" I have to ask her that.

"Then we fight." she said, "Cartwright, call the Ban and Arriere' Bans of the Rockjack collectives and get every functional hull we have crewed and started on collective training for deployment. If nothing else, it'll be good practice for when we actually NEED it, have Huyn and Cu'ong start inventories of mining charges. We'll need to test the plan to mount those on missile hulls with guidance modules, I'll have Kelli get with the industrial planners to work up conversion of a few pinnace factories to ammunition production."

"Nukes?"

"Nukes. We dust them at seventy-five K from inhabited planets and we're still within Ares Conventions rules, no war crime. If this IS a mass migration invasion, we need to be able to stop them before they make planetfall."

"Liz..."

"Tabby, we both watched my ancestor's last conversation, you confirmed the Elbar Proclamation was real. You've confirmed that Kerensky and his men abandoned duty, nation, and people in the face of a crisis. That makes what we're looking at the best equipped bandit kingdom in history, and there's only one way to treat Bandits and Pirates when they come on the attack-so. We're going to kill them the most efficient way possible if they cross the line into friendly territory."

"...and what if they're legitimate?"

"If they were legit, they wouldn't have come as invaders. They would be announcing themselves and most of the governments in the Inner Sphere would be greeting them as the return of legends and good news." Liz stated, "Their shoddy stealth attempt argues these are enemies, not family, we prepare accordingly and hope that the Archon isn't too busy to pay attention to what we've gone and found...and that Regent Stonecipher won't dismiss this as a rumor because I really don't want to have to work behind his back-he's a good administrator and he cares."

"If Comstar is involved, we can't let them hear about preparations." I remind her.

"I...guess not. we need to keep it quiet while still getting the word out."


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