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BattleTech Player Boards => Fan Fiction => Topic started by: Red Pins on 14 August 2022, 21:09:57

Title: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 14 August 2022, 21:09:57
Ok, a few excuses first.  I chose a writing project from the list for a 5-day, no-electronics allowed camping trip, and I need to type it up and get it done - I'm running out of time before summer cleaning ends and teachers start to make life complicated, and my chore list isn't getting smaller very quickly.  I can't type/write fast enough and wait for smarter, more educated people to explain what the roman culture (in Ancient terms and in the Marian Hegemony) is like, so the rewrites are likely to be brutal, but I'm excited to write about my favorite faction, so...

All the errors are mine.  Some volunteers in this thread (https://bg.battletech.com/forums/the-periphery/need-roman-history-and-marian-hegemony-advisors-for-a-fanfic/ (https://bg.battletech.com/forums/the-periphery/need-roman-history-and-marian-hegemony-advisors-for-a-fanfic/)) are going to try helping me to keep to some kind of historical and fictional accuracy.  You're welcome to chime in, and comments are always welcome.

*Edit - due to time constraints and subject matter, from now on all story entries will use headers with 'under review' or 'final copy'.  On the plus side, there should quickly be no need for them as I get more familiar with the culture.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 14 August 2022, 21:13:43
Final Version                    Final Version                   Final Version                    Final Version                    Final Version                    Final Version                    Final Version

HEGEMON

Day 1
  November 22, 3162
  Caesar’s Palace, Alphard
  Marian Hegemony


  “For years after the putsch, it was what I did to the cat I regretted most.”
     -Cyrus O’Reilly

  Engrossed in the latest historical treatise from the notable scholar Roger Fermet Wilson of Universitas Alphard, Cyrus was shocked back to an awareness of his surroundings as the scarred and elderly cat suddenly howled and scrabbled among the notes and texts scattered across the table to turn and dash past his chair.  Rearing back on his chair from the maddened animal, the muffled gunshot and searing pain in his right shoulder suddenly brought the situation back into focus and he turned to face the door as Angelica, one of the young noblewomen from among his mother’s body servants dropped the smoking barrel of a disguised single-shot pistol.

  The sight made him freeze, as the pretty, short-haired blonde woman turned to close and lock the door before pulling a small but sharp-looking knife from beneath her plain grey robes and began to march toward him as alarms began to sound in the hallway.

  “Angelica?!  What the hell’s going on here!”  Recovering his senses, he began backing away, cradling his arm and getting up from his chair to put the table between them, only to stop as she began climbing onto the cluttered table.  “What do you think you’re doing!”

  You idiot!  What do you think she’s doing?

  Seeing his chance as she reached the middle of the table, he fled deeper into the library to keep his distance among the stacks, coming across the terrified cat cowering in a dead-end.  Picking up the hissing animal by the scruff of the neck, he fled back towards the library’s rear door as Angelica turned the corner in hot pursuit and the two began circling one of the smaller sets of shelves as knocks at the main entrance began to turn into heavy thuds that rattled the door in its frame before a short burst of gunfire and the sound of breaking glass seemed to firm her resolve to finish him off at any cost and she tore the books off their shelves as she tried to climb them.

  Perfect.

  Taking advantage of her distraction, he stepped forward to throw the cat at her head.  Not completely unaware of the situation she raised the knife to defend herself as the cat, hissing defiance and contorting in mid-air to land hissing and clawing on the knife in her hand turned into a dead weight pulling her arm down and forcing her to try and tug the knife free.

  Two of the Palace’s Royal Guards turned the corner at a run as he grabbed the largest book he could conveniently hold and threw it as hard as he could at her head, connecting and drawing blood before throwing himself behind another stack and landing on his injured arm.  The Guards, seeing him out of the line of fire, immediately opened fire.

  The book is mightier than the knife, his mind gibbered at him.  Shit!

  “Cease Fire!  Take her alive!”, he yelled.  His father would be very interested in discussing the day’s events with her.  Better her than me, he thought morosely.

*

  “…as insiders among Senatorial aides have concluded yesterday’s tragic accident over Ostia has dealt a blow to House O’Reilly not seen since the Jihad, representatives of the Caesar’s household have refused comment.”
  -Ada Kryzinsky, Channel 3 News

  “And his mother and siblings?”

   Paul Flamen, Director of the Ordo Vigilis, sat in the austere office of Palace Security and could only grimace.  Lit by soft, indirect lights and continuing the common theme of marble and native woods in the remainder of the Palace, the dress uniforms of the Praesidii Praetoris cast an ominous shadow over the two men looking conspicuously out-of-place among the elegant surroundings, despite the silk and other fine fabrics replacing those of the standard-duty uniform.  Like nearly every room within the Palace the ‘window’ framed a high-resolution monitor, normally showing a pastoral view of Neuva Roma but presently showing a repeating loop of the announcement of a new Caesar of the Marian Hegemony and head of House O’Reilly. 

  News and images of the unfortunate VTOL accident claiming the lives of the Caesar and his Heir had spread too quickly to be suppressed, but the news of his death had been announced to his wife Adrijana in the company of her body servants and one of them had taken the opportunity to poison the rest of the group and the O’Reilly’s youngest children before nearly killing Cyrus as well, leaving the men of I Legio enraged and the Ordo Vigilis quietly looking for clues to her true allegiance.

  In the meantime, the Caesar had endured the removal of the small-caliber bullet and bandaging of his wound with local anesthetic and reinforced the security forces of the Collegium Bellorum Imperium around his remaining siblings with Contuberniums of Infantry and Battlearmor from I Legio.  Having discussed the situation with several of the most powerful Senators to confirm their support for his claim to the title of Caesar, he was currently ‘consulting’ with the remainder of House O’Reilly from the Dais and the majority of the Palace staff was confined to their quarters as the Ordo floundered.  His foul mood seemed to be a mixture of pain, grief, and the tension of browbeating the older, more influential members of his family in positions of authority across the planet to support the announcement of his new status.

  “Their deaths were quick and painless, thankfully.  It means ours are likely to be, as well.”

  His deputy, Donald Effeil, CO of the Securitatis Internum and the man most likely to precede him to a cell and eventually The Wall in a secluded corner of the Palace, seemed uncertain.  His middle-aged features and dull blond hair and uniform made him look the image of a younger brother, seeking council before some momentous occasion, and not liking his choices.  The clock quietly continued to count the minutes, and eventually one of the Guards reached out to tap the corner of desk and return the image to its default sunny Palace courtyard as he stood up, ushering the two men from the room.

*

  Cyrus looked like the stereotypical evil Hegemony villain, an extra doomed to a particularly gruesome fate, and he knew it.  And…  completely reveled in it.  His parents and most of his siblings were dead, and his normally relaxed, friendly face was pinched and grim with pain and loss.  And STILL the influential shareholders and executives of House O’Reilly - money-grubbing, back-stabbing, hypocritical narcissists - seemed determined to pursue the most idiotic, selfish, destructive policies for personal gain it had ever been his misfortune to be pitched by seemingly earnest, patriotic Patricians, ‘for the good of the Hegemony’.  It gave him exactly the motivation he needed to offer quietly-reasoned arguments to do as they were told in a calm, mild voice with the words ‘or else’ followed by silence, presumably remembering the actions of I legio and the Ordo Vigilis in the wake of avus Cassius’ ascension to the Dais of the Marian Hegemony.

  He was utterly willing to execute a wayward member of his own House if it meant controlling it, and after a uniform pause of about three seconds, they ceased being a nuisance and became confident supporters to his claims.

  In public, anyway.

  Still, the appearance of measured, calm consideration for law and order – and the deployment of I Legio to strategic locations around the capital – should see him through the day and an appearance before the Senate tomorrow morning for its customary rubber-stamp approval for his claim to the rank of Caesar of the Marian Hegemony.

  Rising from his curule chair and descending the dais in the modest audience room set up for the video conference calls his father had preferred for quiet conversations between senior members of their House, he followed a functionary from the Officium Caesaris to the next meeting and whatever crisis someone felt needed to be addressed.  His escort made the short journey to his father’s private cubicula in sober silence, and Cyrus allowed himself the time to take stock of his situation.  With the family’s safety assured he had time to consider his next moves, and the trip through the elegant halls of native marble was complete before he had more than a few minutes of peace.

  Passing the Royals Guards already present, having secured the room and ensured his safety, he ignored the uniformed and civilian men and women standing to attention and restrained himself to a gracious nod and subdued salute before climbing the dais at the front of the room to seat himself in another chair beside a lectern with an agenda and other paperwork beside it.  His father’s closest advisors and confidants of the Consilium Securitatis made a colorful audience as they returned to their seats with several of them shuffling papers on their own lecterns as he picked up the briefing notes to orient himself with the agenda as the topic became clear.  “Intelligence shortfalls”, clearly the after-action report of his father- and brother’s helicopter accident and the assassination attempts within the Palace.  Surveying the room and seeing the expectant faces looking up at him, he took a deep breath and began.

  “So,” he began lamely.  “What have we learned so far?”


*edit - Securitatis Internum is a civilian-run outfit, so rank is inappropriate.  Paul and David have no rank. Nor are they in uniform.  Nor is it Paul's office.  And they're under guard.  Fixed.
*edit - typos, Consilium Securitatis
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: drakensis on 15 August 2022, 01:25:38
in the wake of avus Cassius’


I'm not sure what the avus means here. I assume Cassius is Cassius O'Reilly, who would most likely be Cyrus' father?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: CVB on 15 August 2022, 01:43:40
Ancestor, progenitor, forebear, grandfather?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 15 August 2022, 02:10:15
Comes through the latin/english translator as Avus/Grandfather.

Avus Cassius was the father of Ignatius, who was father of the main character here, Cyrus.  Sorry, like a lot of things, I have no idea how a family member would refer to a grandfather, and so 'avus Cassius' it is until somebody can correct me, although I suppose I should capitalize it.

Nice to see you here, Drakensis, I enjoy your work, hope you find it interesting.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 15 August 2022, 02:51:56
Ignatius' father was Lucian killed in combat on Logan Prime.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: drakensis on 15 August 2022, 08:25:10
Thanks for the clarification. Looks interesting so far.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Daryk on 15 August 2022, 10:21:17
Perhaps Pater Familias?  ???
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 15 August 2022, 11:33:55
Perhaps Pater Familias?  ???

It is a fairly broad term Pater Familias, it could be taken as that or as Los Paters Familias, the most exalted of the Patricians for being together with the O'Reilly since the Foundation of the State
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 19 August 2022, 14:54:32
Final Version                      Final Version                    Final Version                    Final Version                      Final Version


  Imperator Blacklake, his father’s chief military advisor and field commander, rose from his chair and descended the amphitheater’s wide, shallow steps of the audience rooms to stand at attention and salute in the center of the empty space before the Dais.  The brown hair and deep tan set off the dark uniform of the Legions and his grim visage made him the center of attention as the rest of the council seemed to hold its breath.

  “Caesar,” he intoned.  “Battleroms from the Caesar’s escort and eyewitness accounts from members of I Legio have allowed technicians to identify the probable cause of the accident; a fatigue fracture in the main gearbox.  Examination of the wreckage has begun, but a thorough examination of the crash site and some testing will be necessary before we can be certain.”  Report delivered, Blackwell remained in place as Cyrus considered the news for a moment.  I Legio was well-known for fanatic loyalty to the Caesar, and the care and concern taken to ensure his vehicles were maintained was beyond reproach to the point of photographic evidence taken by technicians to document it.

  “Very well.”  Taking in the rigid posture and stony face of the Imperator, a thought struck him.  It wasn’t unusual for the Legions to mete out justice and punishment to those they felt deserved it with a heavy hand and few repercussions.  What would the fanatics do to the men they felt were responsible for the accident?

  “And…  Unit discipline?”

  “A Gauntlet, dishonorable discharge from the MHAF and exile, Caesar.”

  “I see,” he said.  Not taking his eyes off the Imperator, he took a few seconds to consider.  Clearly, the Imperator felt there was nothing to be gained from their deaths.  If they survived the gauntlet – and the Imperator seemed to consider that a foregone conclusion – they would be considered to have atoned for their failures and be taken to the borders of the Hegemony as free men.  “Very well.”

  Placing his right fist over his chest in salute, the Imperator turned and walked stiffly to his seat.  As he did so, the mood in the room turned darker, more somber.  The ruling elite of the Hegemony, as a rule, were acknowledged as only a step above banditry and harsh punishments considered routine.  Still.

  Standing to read the documents on the lectern he allowed the silence to remain for a moment before declaring, “I believe the Ordo Vigilis will have found nothing of such a deeply buried plot in such a short time.  Prefect Diaz? Has the Praesidii Praetoris secured the Directors of the Ordo?”

  As another middle-aged man in the uniform of the Palace Guard began to descend to the floor of the room with the heavy footfalls and rattle of his archaic (but fully functional) armor, a side door on the floor of the amphitheater opened and a pair of well-dressed, similarly-aged men with their hands chained in front of them and in leg irons shuffled forward with a pair of armored guards behind them to stand in a rough line before him.  Their duty complete, the guards took positions at the bottom of the staircases where they continued to watch their charges.  As always, the guards were excused from offering salutes while performing their duties to safeguard the Palace.

  “Caesar,” began the Prefect, the ceremonial armor and salute looking strangely appropriate amidst the marble of the Palace.  “The investigation remains ongoing.  Directors Flamen and Effeil are continuing to perform their duties under the guard of the Praesidii Praetoris.”

  “Director Flamen,” Cyrus acknowledged the man in control of the Ordo Vigilis.  “My father admired your dedication.  What have you to report?”

  “Caesar,” the older prisoner responded, shuffling a step forward, his voice grim.  “Our preliminary investigation has found the probable source of the compounds used to create the poison used by the assassin – it was hidden within makeup containers of several different types and from different manufacturers, both foreign and domestic.  Her weapon seems to have been a similar combination of parts from furniture to jewelry, assembled from materials inside the palace and hidden until an opportunity presented itself.”

  “Her age, obvious inexperience, and background make it extremely unlikely she was recruited until she was moved to the Palace as part of your mother’s entourage, which leads us to the assumption that someone more experienced and dangerous remains in the Palace.  Until that person can be found a heightened state of alertness must be maintained, and it may be necessary to purge a great many non-essential personnel from the Palace.”

  Cyrus nodded, but internally he was taken aback by the scale of the attempt.  Domestic and Foreign manufacturers?

  “And does the Ordo have records of these items being brought into the Palace?”  Cyrus inquired.

  “Yes, Caesar.  Serial numbers have been used to identify their owners and the dates they were brought to the Palace, but several have been identified as belonging to your mother and sisters.  Chemical analysis of samples from outside the Palace are still being performed, which might provide some insight on how widespread the plot is but right now anyone with the potential for supplying the needs of the Palace has been detained and interviews are being conducted by Section A.”

  “And does your subordinate have anything to add?”

  The two prisoners exchanged places, shuffling back and forth to an accompaniment of clanking chains.

  “No, Caesar.  Although,” Director Effeil trailed off.  “It may be there is no trail to follow.  All that may be left to you is vengeance.”

  As the three men fell silent, Cyrus felt the anger at his family’s murder come to his face but could only take a step back from the lectern and return to his seat, he could only wonder at the time spent preparing the attack that had come so close to success.  The nature of the conspiracy would make it extremely difficult to prove and the longer it took for the populace to see someone punished could encourage others to see weakness.  Still – not for him, the role of the mad prince.

  “Let us hope not,” he said tightly.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 20 August 2022, 14:09:33
Replaced entry.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 21 August 2022, 09:32:09
Interesting, the status report meeting seems suitably tense as it should be, the Imperator seems more interested in hanging the Ordo than someone looks too long in his direction Good!
The appropriate and healthy paranoia in a sphere of power in cases of political instability
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 28 August 2022, 22:57:23
Final Version                    Final Version                     Final Version                    Final Version                     Final Version

  “Let us hope not,” he said tightly, as he leaned forward in his chair slightly and fixed the three men with a hard look.  Waving in dismissal with his good arm, he came to his feet again amid the clanking of Director Effeil shuffling back into line with the other men.

  “I find the response of the Praesidii Praetoris appropriate, Prefect Diaz”, he said formally.  “I find the performance of the Ordo…  Confusing.”

  “For now, continue your investigations, Director Flaman, Director Effeil.  Seek the truth.”

  He gave a meaningful wave toward the door they had entered from, dismissing them and nodded acceptance of the Prefect’s salute as he turned to climb the stairs to his seat once again as the two men accepted the guidance of their guards to turn and precede them from the chamber.  The sound of chains and armor ended quickly and as the door sealed once again, he was left returning the stare of his father’s advisors before standing once again and selecting from among the papers on the lectern next to the Dais.

  “Next, approval of the text of a public statement from the Officium Caesaris.  Any comments?”

*

  His remaining siblings, the twins Horace and Helena, had been ushered into high-security bunkers under armed guard as a temporary measure to ensure their safety while the Ordo continued their investigation into the plot behind the assassinations.  As an amateur historian Cyrus knew the danger of disputed successions and taking the opportunity to ensure the twins’ safety while keeping them isolated from supporters and assassins alike had been his first order. 

  That order was quickly becoming a bone of contention between them, however.  Protocol demanded either a face-to-face visit or a video link, and while he would have preferred to use his own, the situation required he maintain the appearance of fulfilling the duties of his new status rather than leave it to intermediaries, leaving him to try having a private conversation surrounded by aides from the Officium Caesaris and the ever-present bodyguards.

  “As the oldest remaining descendent, yes, I expect to inherit our father’s rank and become Caesar.  Is there a problem with that?”

  The twin’s glares were answer enough, the background behind the pair’s short black hair and pale features shifting slightly as the portable device on the other end was fought over by the twins.  “Let us out of here, Cy!  We can help!”

  “Really?  With what?”, he asked evenly.  “Will you order I Legio to avenge our family?  Demand our spies find the conspirators and bring them before me – us?  Why do you think I’m calling you?”

  Rubbing his face with his good arm, he continued tiredly.  “Imperator Blacklake has failed to find any reason to loose I Legio on the enemies of our House.  The Directors of our intelligence service and Section A have discovered the means of our mother’s death, and it points to either a wide-spread conspiracy from across the Periphery states, or penetration of one of our most secure facilities by a foreign government.  How, exactly, are Mechwarrior Cadets going to solve these problems when the Ordo Vigilis and Consilium Securitatis is silent on these matters?”

  Silence returned to the video call and looking up to the screen once more Cyrus could feel the beginnings of eyestrain and a growing tension in his forehead that presaged another of the headaches that told him he had spent too long in the library again.

  “Let me be blunt, Horena,” he said, using his sibling’s nickname.  “I’m calling because within moments, news of our parents’ deaths and my rise to the Officium Caesaris will be announced and I need your support.  A state funeral is going to be announced, and decisions have been made for you to allow you to participate in a safe manner.”

  “‘A safe manner?’”  “What do you mean?”

  Hearing them trying to talk over themselves caused Cyrus to feel a twinge of nostalgia – the children had often tried to completely monopolized their parents attention speaking out of turn until his father had threatened to impose the same parliamentary rules of order as the Senate on family dinners.

  “We aren’t certain of the security of the Palace, Horena.  Until we can confirm that, my own security overrules me except for the necessary actions to secure the Dais and the Hegemony.  Which means that to secure a line of succession, Horace will be presented to the Senate as the Heir after the funeral.”

  The twins exchanged glances.  “This is more of that moldy old history of yours making you think you know everything that might happen, isn’t it,” demanded Helena.  “I’m the oldest – why aren’t I the Heir?”

  “Because the Hegemony has a tradition of male Caesars, and this isn’t the time to rock the boat,” Cyrus reminded them tersely.  “We aren’t the Magistracy, Helena.  You know I’m not responsible for this.”

  “Because you won’t try, Cy, even though the people would support equality those old men in the Senate would sooner retire to fondle farm animals on their estates rather than put meaningful legislation to a vote in the Senate.” Horace nodded in support from the side of the screen as Helena finally managed to dominate the camera, her faced twisted with anger.

  Through force of will, Cyrus managed to control his own temper and fought the urge to close the connection and stalk out of the room in annoyance.  The twins had been arguing about the same topics since they were old enough to complain they were left out of their older sibling’s games and why they couldn’t have the same treats or pursue the same careers.  Those arguments had seen the twins sent to CBI as both chose the Legions to pursue the rank and privileges they felt they deserved as scions of House O’Reilly on their own merits.  From what he had gathered from occasional conversations from his father, the twins would have already washed out of their classes without the family name to shield them from the consequences.

  “It’s been a long day and tomorrow looks to be worse.  I’ve told you what I know, and the statement has the rest of the relevant information for the next couple of days.  I need to go, Helena.  Horace, a package with the relevant information will be delivered tomorrow.  The two of you read it, and I’ll answer your questions tomorrow.  Good night.”

  The satisfaction he felt ending the call without allowing the ‘babies’ of the family an avenue of rebellion quickly ebbed as he realized he had just eliminated one of the final duties standing between himself and the silence of the Caesar’s personal quarters.  Remaining seated at the Dais, he wished he could simply slump back in the chair and let the day’s events consume him for a few moments in privacy, but his new rank was still fragile and Caesars had never bowed to the temptation despite the tragedies and crises that seemed a constant punishment for the audacity of House O’Reilly to try and build an empire in the Periphery.

  Beckoning one of the as-yet nameless functionaries of the Office forward, he rose to accompany his escorts and attendants to clean and re-bandage his shoulder before allowing himself to mourn and try to rest in the privacy of his parents’ personal apartments.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 29 August 2022, 04:47:27
I like how it shows the relationships and conflicts due to different points of view between the young O'Reilly
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 30 September 2022, 16:14:07
Final Copy

Day 2
  November 23, 3162
  Caesar’s Palace, Alphard
  Marian Hegemony

  The first night trying to sleep in the Caesar’s personal apartments at the Palace had been reasonably restful, thanks to the mild sedative and instructions to attendants that saw him undisturbed for nearly six hours.  The furnishings and decorations favored by his parents had been removed before his arrival; in their places were new pieces or the more familiar and worn furniture of his own apartments, seeming to have made the journey to their new homes with even the books and study materials of his projects open and undisturbed.  The arrangements were a little jarring given that entire rooms he had remembered playing in as a child with his brothers and sisters were now barren and unrecognizable except in his own memories.

  Designed as a series of smaller cubicula along the walls of a large atrium connected to the rest of the Palace through a vestibule opposite the bedroom itself, the shining Alphard marble was complemented by collections of native plants and furnishing blending rich, dark woods and soft leather reclining chairs beside classical triclinium with colorful cushions under open rafters of the same dark wood and coffered ceilings providing bright lighting without glaring off the walls.

  Bleary-eyed and uncomfortable, the lessons of a lifetime living in a militaristic family rendered him instantly awake for the day as the familiar alarm from his rooms urged him to start the day despite the desire to stay in his rooms and mourn the losses of the day before.  Other, more natural urges brought him to his feet to robe himself over the loose shorts he preferred to sleep in and visit the small lavatory discreetly to one side of the room as a series of quiet chimes alerted him to the arrival of the Caesar’s household servants waiting to assist him despite the early hour to begin another stressful day of presenting the calm, confident image expected of the ruler of nearly a dozen worlds and millions of people.

  “Good morning, Caesar.”

  Exiting the bathroom he found a tall, older man with black hair going grey at the temples in the atrium, dressed head-to-toe in the grey tunic and leggings of the Palace staff with the simple scroll case of senior representatives of the Officium Caesaris.  His eyes were immediately drawn to the left breast of his tunic where the small golden laurel wreath pin signifying his position directly serving the ruling family shone.  The soft chimes rang again, and the two men turned to watch the Caesar’s personal servants enter the atrium.  Lining up in a neat row behind the Scribe and offering a deep bow, Cyrus was nonplussed at how to deal with the latest interruption of his morning ritual.

  “Good morning…”  Acknowledging the group of men with a nod of greeting, the men straightened once again.

  “Lucius Thorvalsson of the Officium Caesaris, Caesar.  I will be your Scriba Caesaris, your primary aide until you either confirm the position or request another.”

  “Lucius.  Thank you.”  Nodding acceptance, he turned slightly to watch the household staff, who had dispersed through the apartment and begun their assigned tasks.

  “Caesar, for now the household will conform to your father’s previous orders and requests.  I believe your valet has prepared suitable clothing to address the Senate in the dressing room,” he said, gesturing to the now open door to what Cyrus knew was an enormous walk-in closet.  “And the rest of the staff is waiting to greet you at breakfast in the dining room.  Will there be anything else I can assist you with?”

  “Not yet, thank you, Lucius” Cyrus said.  Stepping into the dressing room he moved toward the ornate privacy screen set along one side of the room, as a man he presumed to be his valet waited on the other side of the screen before stepping forward to examine the results.

  “Your father preferred to shave himself, sir,” the man explained.  “An electric razor is in the lavatory beside your bedroom.”

  “Thank you.”  Eventually making his way to the cavernous dining room he found the household staff waiting in neat ranks with Lucius at their head beside the marble and polished wooden table and benches, bronze filigree decorating the places of the Caesar and his immediate family.  Most of the tables and benches had been removed, he noted.  Returning their bows of respect with a shallow bow of his own, he realized they were waiting for some further acknowledgement and cleared his throat.

  “Good morning, and thank you for your services.  I realize this has been a shock to all of us,” he said quietly.  “But it has a familiarity to it as well.  This is not the first time our nation and House has been dealt such a blow, and we can only move forward and deal with it as best we can.”

  Running out of graceful-sounding platitudes, he was simply silent for a moment, gazing back at them.

  “God willing, they will be avenged,” he said finally, his voice rough.  “I look forward to meeting you sometime in the future, but for now, I ask that you continue to attend your responsibilities as if the rest of the family was absent.  Dismissed.”

  Acknowledging their bows with a shallow nod and watching them return through the double doors to the servant’s areas, he turned to seat himself at the head of the table.  Lucius, who had moved to open one of the doors scattered along the wall connecting the rest of the Palace of the turned and announced, “Imperator David Blacklake and Director Flamen, Caesar.”

  The Director’s chains clinked and rattled as he entered behind the Imperator, allowing him to come to attention and salute before murmuring, “Good morning, Caesar,” and moving aside as Cyrus acknowledged him.  A few steps behind, Director Flamen, trailed by a Palace Guard in his ceremonial armor, stopped beside the table and bowed, trailed by a Palace Guard in his ceremonial armor behind him.

  The two men entered the room, Imperator Blacklake quickly moving to the table to come to attention and salute before murmuring, “Good morning, Caesar.”  As Cyrus acknowledged him with a nod, Director Flamen came up beside him, trailed by one of the Palace Guards, to offer a deep bow.  At Cyrus’ jerky nod the Imperator pulled out a bench from under the table for the older man, far enough for him to sit facing the Caesar as the Guard moved back slightly to give the three men the illusion of privacy.

  A serving cart came through the double doors to stop before Cyrus, who accepted his normal breakfast of toast and coffee.  As the cart rattled its way back to the kitchen, the Imperator was the first of the men to speak.  “How are you feeling, Cyrus?”

  Cyrus shrugged, taking a sip from the hot mug.  “Like someone died?”  Looking up as the Imperator put a hand on his shoulder, he nodded and continued.  “Dad always warned us the fate of the Hegemony could turn on a single catastrophe and we couldn’t prepare for it until it happened.  I guess he was right.”

  Staring down at the plate of toast for a few seconds, he looked up at his father’s military advisor and continued before eating his toast moodily.  “I noted the leniency toward the technicians – has the cause been found?”

  “A hidden flaw,” David said quietly.  “The gearbox of your father’s VTOL was salvaged from an older airframe being retired, but passed the mechanical examination by MAI.”

  The Cucurum was one of the rare success stories of the Hegemony’s military-industrial complex – a light vehicle that managed to provide a domestic alternative to foreign vehicles and made a healthy profit on domestic and export sales, especially to smugglers.

  “Director Flamen?”

  “We have complete access to the Marian Arms database, Caesar.  Embedded serial numbers and markings match the X-ray images taken by inspectors looking for flaws before they were approved for salvage.”

  Cyrus slumped on the bench a little more.  “And Angelica?”

  “Don…  May not find anything.  She passed every security check, was under constant observation by Section A or her family at all times…,” the Director trailed off.

  “We may never know,” he repeated.  “The Ordo is hardly the only – or the best - intelligence agency in the Periphery, after all.  MIM is known to be active in the Hegemony, and one of the things we don’t have is a dedicated counter-intelligence section.  Any one of the major intelligence agencies would have the resources to tie us in knots, and a resurgent Free Worlds League would surely prioritize pacifying their border regions to neutralize raiding by the Legions.”

  The Director shook his head.  “We may never know.”

  Cyrus was silent for a few seconds, feeling tears well up before slamming a fist on the table, using the pain to focus on maintaining the public dignity his position required before grating out in a hoarse voice, “If I can punish no one else, then her family is forfeit as well.”

  Glaring at each of the two men in turn, he continued.  “Arrest her parents and extended family, at once.  Confiscate their homes, assets, and bring them to the Palace for interrogation.  If nothing else can be proven, I want her loved ones to pay the price for her crimes.”

  The two men nodded, and Cyrus had begun to rise when the Imperator reached out to grasp his shoulder.  The two men’s eyes met, and David asked him in a quiet voice, “Have you talked to anyone about all this?”

  “No.”  Taking a deep breath, Cyrus exhaled slowly before answering.  “The twins are angry – but it stops there.  They want blood spilled, but don’t have a clue whose, or why.  I haven’t had time to reach out to the rest of the family, either.”

  “Your parents wouldn’t want you to carry all this around with you,” David said in the same tone.  “The military and Ordo have councilors available that you can speak with.”

  “I don’t need a councilor,” Cyrus muttered.

  “You don’t need to frighten the entire Patrician class by arresting an entire noble House and executing it for treason, either,” the Director interjected softly from the other side of the table.  “It’s understandable, but you can’t just lash out, either.  There’s an ‘after’ you need to plan for as well.  And living happily and well while making the Hegemony feared and respected again would be the best revenge.”

  The three men sat quietly for a few seconds, before the soft chimes alerted them to someone intruding on the dining room’s privacy, and Cyrus realized it was probably Lucius shepherding him to his next appointment.

  “Alright.  Leave her family alone for now, but don’t let them disappear.” Cyrus said tiredly.  It was important to show there was no benefit to treason, but it was unlikely they could flee before the axe fell.  “And speak with Lucius to arrange time for me to meet one of these councilors.  I can’t afford mistakes at this point until my hold on the government is secure.”

 
Type: Cucurum
Tech base: Inner Sphere (Modern)
Engine Type: ICE
Movement Type: VTOL
Armor Type: Standard
Tonnage: 30

Equipment      Mass
Internal Structure:        3.0
Engine:      160   12.0
     Cruising MP:     10
      Flank MP:     15
Heat Sinks:      0

Equipment
  Control Equipment:         1.5
  Lift Equipment:         3.0
  Power Amplifier:
  Turret:

Armor Factor:    80 AP     5.0
  Front       28
  L/R Side                    19/19
  Rear       12
  Rotors         2


W & E                       Loc   Mass
2 Machine Guns     F     1.0
  Ammo (MG) 100     B     0.5
8 RL-10        F     4.0

Variants
     Growing accustomed to the growing strength of Battlearmor on the modern battlefield, Hadrian Mechanized Industries has reduced the Cucurum’s weaponry to create the CU-7i, allowing it to carry a 5-ton Infantry Bay or Battlearmor Compartment with an extra half-ton of armor.
     Further modification created the CU-7e, a lightly armed executive transport with twin machine guns, a pair of underslung RL-10s, and a 3-ton Infantry compartment to accommodate wealthy executives and their bodyguards or security forces.
     As a final variant, the CU-7c creates an unarmed domestic freight hauler, with a bare half-ton of armor to protect the craft.  The 10-ton cargo compartment has created a stir among smugglers in the Periphery, as exports of the versatile Cucurum continue to grow.


 

*

  The short flight to the Senate was both a relief and a bother, Cyrus mused, as personal concerns were overshadowed by political ones.  Having left the Caesar’s apartments to negotiate the corridors of the Palace to meet Senate President Felix Gaius Rothman and Gerald Davidson, his father’s primary Senatorial ally and members of the Consilium Securitatis, in the antechamber to the secured helipads of the Palace he found himself the target of political posturing and deals focusing on the ‘needs’ of his new status by the two men.  Unable to do more than try to remain composed and smile at his presumptive allies, he tried to ignore the frequent glances Lucius had for the watch on his wrist.

  “Thank you for the suggestions, gentlemen.  I feel sure, however, the integrity of my claims will be ratified by the Senate-”, because setting fire to the building with you in it would be a terrible start to my reign, “-and the civil upheaval resulting from the failure of the Senate to uphold them would be.. Unwise.”  He concluded.  Forestalling another verbal sally with a gesture, he turned to listen as the helicopters sent to convey him to the capital of Novo Roma finally came into view with the carbon scoring of recent use around the housings of the machine guns and rocket launchers on the sleek aircraft.

  Aides and staff began to exit the room to board as the noise subsided and the spinning rotors began to slow, and Cyrus turned to Lucius asking, “What took them so long, and why do these aircraft look like they’ve been in a fight?”

  “The technicians and flight crews of I Legio refused to certify them as ready for use by the Palace without confirming their weapons were completely functional, Caesar,” Lucius explained.  “Or to fly unarmed.  The crews had to re-load the pods on a crash basis.”

  Cyrus nodded his approval and turned back to the Senatorial party as the ground crews cleared them to board, entering last and taking the middle of the three seats behind the pilots.  Familiar with the harness from his military training and political outings with his family, he strapped in quickly and donned the headset racked behind his seat before returning the thumbs-up from the ground crew checking restraints.

  As the doors shut and the rotors began turning, the Senators began arguing over the intercom system and the voice of the flight crew blocked out their concerns for the moment.

  “Caesar, Miles Pak.  Are you receiving?”  Reaching up and turning the channel knob on the side of the earpiece to converse with the flight crew, he ignored the men beside him for the moment.

  “Miles, Caesar, loud and clear.”

  “Welcome aboard, sir.  We’re instructed to convey you to the Senatorial complex, Nova Roma, and ETA is roughly 35 minutes.”

  “Thank you,” he said formally.  “I understand you were late arranging for reloads?”

  “Yes, sir.”

  “Good.  Make up the time if you can.  I’m told Senators get cranky if you keep them from sneaking off and visiting their mistresses.  Out here.”

  “Roger, Sir.”

  “…Senate is concerned with keeping our control of the Senate intact after next year’s Plebian elections…”

  Cyrus leaned back, waiting for the pilot to take off, and let himself be drawn into the discussion.  While he was aware of most of the political concerns behind the scenes the minutia involved in navigating the Senator’s personal and political concerns was far more complex.  Despite its appearance (And function, he admitted to himself.) as a mere ‘rubber stamp’ to approve the decisions of the Caesar, the Senate had its finger on the pulse of the Hegemony’s upper class – an important consideration, considering the disposable income and wealth of most Patrician families and the assassination of most of his immediate family.

  Fortunately, the sudden increase in cabin noise and the tentative rise off the landing pad gave enough warning for the experienced fliers to brace themselves for the violent jinks to throw off ground fire that may have been aimed at the aircraft and the almost vertical tilt as the massive acceleration pinned the passengers to their seats and the first escorts sped past them to assume their positions ahead of the transports.  The escorts to the rear would be searching for targets trying to pop up and take advantage of the transport’s low speed and altitude, Cyrus knew.  Years of experience in garrison and guerilla warfare on conquered worlds had taught the Legions something, at least.

  The conversation quickly turned to the prospects of political support from the public after his speech to the Senate as the flight of transports proceeded from waypoint to waypoint, Battlemechs of I Legio keeping the flight under observation at points along the way.  As conversation trailed off and the outskirts of Nova Roma came into view, the aircrew contacted him again.

  “Caesar, Miles Pak.  Clearance to Senate Pad 1 confirmed, ETA 3 minutes.”

  Switching channels once again he responded with a formal acknowledgement saying, “Roger, Miles.  Caesar, out.”

  As he switched back to the cabin circuit airspeed began to fall and the aircraft’s flight path became erratic, minor changes in speed, altitude and flight path as they prepared to land.  The landing, when it came, was notable more for the falling sensation as landing gear absorbed their momentum rather than the jarring impact from his military training.

  Now, to survive another day.  Not the most optimistic goal, but he didn’t anticipate much he could do to personally influence the outcome.

*

  One of the many small, comfortably furnished conference rooms had been set aside for his use while visiting the Senatorial complex.  The polished native woods, black leather and greenery setting off the austere grey-and-white marble of the room.  As the door opened, he reflected that although soldiers of I Legio had secured the building there was no-one to protect him from his family.  Which was too bad, because Horena had built up quite a head of steam by the time he had been able to take his leave of his political advisors and was escorted to meet them.  The grey uniforms of the Imperial War College mimicked those of serving members of the Legions, and the two looked virtually identical to each other as they sprang to their feet and froze at attention as he came through the door.

  “Cyrus!”

  Finally safe behind bodyguards and doors he could simply be the older brother once again, comforting his family after the death of their parents and the first fleeting moments were spent in hugs and shared tears as he could lower his guard for a few minutes.  Those moments were fleeting, however, as Helena began to take the initiative and struggle to pull away.

  “I’m sorry, guys, there’s so much I want to tell you, but-”

  Relinquishing his hold on his siblings, he began to dry his eyes and step back, only to have Helena step forward to jab a finger into his chest.

  “Well, you can start by explaining why you made my younger brother the Heir instead of me, Cy,” Helena burst out.  “It’s not fair, Cy, it’s my turn!”

  Standing beside them, Cyrus held up his hands in self-defense as Horace tried to calm her down.  “Nobody here is arguing about that, Helena, calm down!”

  Cyrus took another step backwards in shock, but his sister continued to press forward trying to hammer his chest angrily.

  “No!  He’s lying to us!”

  “About what!”  Cyrus demanded.  “That you’re not the Heir?  You can’t be the Heir!”

  “It’s not fair, Cy!  These fat, misogynistic old men you’re cuddling up to are using their control of the government to stop people like me from contributing!  The Hegemony is one of a handful of Periphery nations treating women like second-class citizens and people are getting tired of it!  What is it going to take to make you see it from our point of view?”

  “Enough!”  Cyrus barked, slashing an open hand across the space between them and holding up his hand in emphasis.

  Seeing the twins had been driven off-balance by the order, he forced himself to take a deep breath before asking calmly, “Who chooses the Caesar’s successor, Helen?  Who!”

  “No one,” Horace supplied.  “The position is the right of the oldest proven male descendent of the Caesar.”

  “Primogeniture,” replied Cyrus evenly.  “The Hegemony – and most of the human race – embraced the concept at some point.  It wasn’t until the rights of women were recognized by the Western cultures of Old Earth that it was even politically possible for them to vote and hold high office, and it wasn’t universally accepted for a long time even after education allowed a majority of the world to accept that the sexes were equal.  Which brings us to why we’re here today.”

  “In order to maintain their own authority, the Senate has no choice but to approve my claim,” Cyrus explained, bringing the tone of his voice back to something reasonable and turned to drop into one of the comfortable leather chairs scattered around the room.  “We can’t switch horses at the beginning of the race, no matter how much we might want to.  The winner is already chosen at this point.”

  Glaring at the twins, he waved at the chairs opposite him.  “Sit.  Its going to be a long day.  ‘Rest when you can; the enemy will give you none.’”

  Unwillingly, the two sat across from him on one of the modern couches as Horace leaned back and closed his eyes while Helen remained leaning forward, poised on the edge of the chair, clearly not finished the argument.

  “If you’ve been paying attention, you know we all have parts to play here,” Cyrus said calmly.  “We can talk and debate after the Senate confirms me.  For what it’s worth, I have no compunction about women serving in the Senate or as Caesar.  The social disruption it leaves in its wake will trail off eventually, but the time to plan for these things is during my reign, not before.”

  “Now,” he said wearily.  “Before I fill you in on the investigation, do you understand your roles today?”

  Seeing the twins’ nods, he nodded in agreement.

  “Good.  Because before I can tell you about it, we need to discuss the Canopian Ambassador…”

*

  The Hegemony Senate chamber was smaller than he remembered.  Senators from the recently conquered worlds had swollen their numbers during his father’s reign, although the strength of the MHAF had faltered in the effort.  His father’s efforts to regain those worlds taken from them in the counterattack had repeatedly floundered in the face of determined resistance until the Hegemony had abandoned several of their conquests and consolidated their forces to strike their opponents – mercenaries and Canopians, primarily – in successive raids to hide Infantry and Armored forces positioned to attack their rear areas before launching a final assault on the defenders.

  The effort had forced the Hegemony onto the defensive as the Legions recovered, although the captured mercenaries had been as willing to serve their captors as their former employers.  The mercenaries were a welcome addition to the garrisons of those worlds but consumed a disproportionate amount of resources to retain their services including close observation by the Ordo Vigilis, which after securing the support of the Senate made the strengthening the Hegemony military the next most vital task ahead of him.

  Speeches made and votes cast, the Senators had hailed him as the rightful Caesar of the Marian Hegemony and approved the choice of his brother as Heir, preserving the chain of succession.  Cyrus and his siblings now waited as the Senators left their places to attendants who efficiently removed the 
Curule chairs and lecterns to clear the room before the doors were opened once again and the coffins bearing his parents and siblings were placed in their positions to rest in state with the pomp and dignity expected of House O’Reilly, escorted by the silent Palace Guards in their ceremonial armor.  An honor guard from I Legio assumed their positions under the watchful eyes of the Imperator and the new Caesar, allowing the Guards to withdraw as he prepared to formally pay his respects to the deceased before receiving the diplomatic representatives of the nearby Periphery nations at the ceremony and reopening the Senate chambers to allow the Senate and citizens of Nova Roma to view the deceased.

  As the doors closed once again and the lights dimmed, aquilifers bearing the banners of House O’Reilly and the Hegemony began a slow march to the center of the Cubicula where they would rest for the next week.  As the representative of House O’Reilly and chief military advisor of the fallen Caesar, Imperator Blacklake mounted the O’Reilly’s standard first, allowing the aquilifer of I Legio to mount the Hegemony’s standard in the place of honor across and in front of it before the two men retreating a step and saluting them in unison before turning and marching from whence they came.

   As the master of ceremonies gave him his cue, Cyrus began a slow, dignified walk to the center of the Cubicula with his brother and sister a pace behind him, burdened by the personal mementos they had chosen and flowers to place before the caskets of their family.  As the three of them came to a halt a few steps short of the two standards, Cyrus offered a salute and held it a few seconds before advancing once again to kneel and place the wreath of native flowers at the center of the crossed spears.

  Taking the funeral tokens from his left arm where they had been hidden behind the flowers, he placed the toy gladius and pistol – suitably worn and scarred by childhood adventures – to one side, and one of his favorite gifts, a child’s history text on the other side before resuming his place as Horace and Helena advanced together to place their own tributes to either side before retreating to their places behind him.

  Turning to face the two as they completed their roles in the ceremony, the two of them saluted Cyrus and the memorial behind him before turning and marching from the Cubicula.  Coming from behind the caskets, a pair of household servants wearing the golden pins of the O’Reilly household took up positions between him and the memorial to accept the funeral gifts of Ambassadors from outside the Hegemony.  The doors to the entrance hall swung open, and Cyrus turned to watch a signifier hoisting the banner of the Magistracy of Canopus march into the hall escorting their Ambassador and an aide in military uniform with a long rectangular case in one hand into the Cubicula.

  The chief economic and military rival of the Hegemony, the Magistracy’s representative was dressed in what would be a scandalous assault on the standards and traditions of the Hegemony with the low-cut gown in the traditional emerald green of the Magistracy, setting off her Asian features and long, silky hair in a long braid down her back.  Taking the opportunity to flaunt her looks before the Caesar and the rest of the Hegemony, she came to a stop and curtsied beside the Signifier before advancing alone to greet him.

  “Caesar,” she addressed him with a wide smile.  “A funeral gift commemorating the loss of your father from the Magistrix, her government and the people of her realm.  As promised.”

  The silence in the Cubicula was suddenly broken as the doors of the main entrance to the hall were opened, flooding the room with the noise of the crowd.  Nominally subdued as they awaited their chance to view the bodies of the Caesar and his family lying in state, the column of Infantry in dress uniforms marched with parade-ground precision through the doors two abreast beside the Imperator.  Seeing the Ambassador’s faint expression of concern, Cyrus felt a burst of pride at the appearance and the effect of the uniform on outsiders.

  Gleaming silver triangles decorating the large pauldron with silver trim on the left shoulders of the Contubernium showed them to be Legionaires and Mechwarriors, led by a Centurion with silver trim surround the repeating silver triangle on a black field motif.

  As one of the household servants approached the aide, the Centurion’s shouted commands in latin caused the formation to shift and became two ranks as they came closer to the Canopian party before stamping to a halt and the formation rippled as they dressed ranks.  Accepting the case, the servant brought it to Cyrus, who opened the latches – suddenly loud in the silence – to find the Signum of Quinta Cohort, IV Legio, lost to the Magistracy Cavaliers on their home world of Thraxa.

  Examining it and finding nothing amiss, he took it in both hands before resting it on the spike in its base beside him.

  “Thank you, Madame Ambassador,” he said gravely.

  The curtsy was more impressive this time, affording him a view past the dress to her rounded breasts and gleaming skin almost to the flat midriff below them.  The twinkle in her eyes and knowing glance as she confirmed his interest was worth the familiarity, but the savage denouncements of his mother for the Ambassador’s semi-private affairs among the Patricians of Nova Roma was a stern reminder of the Magistracy’s attempts to spread their influence among the rich and powerful of the Hegemony.

  Spread something, anyway, he reminded himself.  Down, boy.

  Watching her step back and turn to saunter away, he enjoyed the view for a few seconds as long, tanned legs flashed through slits cut into the gown and the braid swung back and forth above her shifting hips.  He expected her to check her audience as she left but watched her reach the exit on the far side of the chamber before meeting her eyes once again.

  With the Ambassador and her party out the way, he advanced to stand a few steps in front of the Centurion to plant the signum with both hands on the shaft before reciting the latin commands he had practiced.  The Centurion stepped forwards and Cyrus presented the Signum to him with the words, “Capiat et teneat honorem quartae cohortis.”

  Grasping it in turn with both hands, the Centurion responded, “Etiam, Caesar.”

  Cyrus stepped back a pace himself as the new Signifier for the Quarta Cohort of IV Legio rejoined the ranks and led them to follow the Ambassador from the chamber.

  Returning to his place to greet the next Ambassador, he wondered if the Hegemony had come out ahead in the exchange.  The Capellan sensibilities of House Liao-Centrella had made his father leery of extended contact closer than laser range.  With nothing better to do, he replayed the experience of meeting the Canopian Ambassador in his mind, before reminding himself to ignore the gambit next time.  Despite the closeness of the encounter, he found he couldn’t remember the faces of the aide and Signifier that had accompanied her, and he doubted it had been an accident.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 30 September 2022, 16:15:02
*

  He was on time for the next meeting due more to the conscientious efforts of the Officium Caesaris and the escorting detachment of I Legio than any effort of his own – understandable since select members of the Consilium Securitatis included such lofty personages as the Imperator, Director Flamen, members of House O’Reilly and major CEOs and investors from across Alphard.

  Fortunately, Horace had been waiting at the VTOL landing pads at the rear of the building and between them he was able to move at a rapid pace through the Academy while observing the work still being done to prepare to reoccupy their former campus.  The massive economic undertaking of fully recovering from the Jihad’s assault on Nova Roma continued to overshadow the prospect of renewed economic development and threatened to derail it again, as the military situation became more perilous with the damage to the Legions from the two-front war his father had tried to fight.  The low-yield nuclear warheads that emitted the bursts of neutrons to such effect had been ‘salted’ with material to ensure the lesson of betrayal by Julius would last for generations, as the Hegemony lost most of their most successful and brilliant minds, the factories and educated workers that had set them on the path to greatness and the federal and military infrastructure to take advantage of the confusion gripping the Periphery during the Jihad and its conclusion all at once.

   Today’s recovery of IV Legio’s missing Signum was a good first step to reopening diplomatic – and economic – channels strained for the last decade of his father’s reign, but the continued support of the military was vital to ensure future operations and policies would be embraced by the rank and file.  As the Academy’s primary briefing room finally came into view he began to slow his pace before entering the cramped cubicula and accepting the Imperator’s salute from beside the head of the table as ranking representative of the military before moving to stand at the opposite end of the table.

  As with most federal buildings, CBI had a definite architectural bent to embracing the same polished marble and furnishings of the ancient romans in public, but the actual workrooms and lecture halls would not have been out of place at any military academy across the Periphery.  Intended to support military operations, the room’s electronics were similar to those provided to the Legions, although the added security and more capable computer system Would provide a welcome level of increased detail.  Despite never having been introduced to the facilities, he found it comfortingly similar to the classrooms and training areas of the Academy, drab greys and off-whites similar to the Academy uniform with the harsh blue-and-black contrast of instructors and staff broken up with the spots of color provided by civilian contractors and equipment.

  Here, the harsh lighting had been dimmed and the preponderance of military uniforms brought a sense of foreboding, the harsh black and blue of the military dominating the room.  The clink of Director Flamen’s chains where he sat next to the curule chair and the empty chairs for the Heir and Imperator drew the eye, but the stiff attention of the military officers at the table and salute from Imperator Blacklake at the far end of the table forced them to refocus on the room as a whole.

“Caesar,” said Blacklake calmly.

  Recognizing he needed to assert his authority over the group, he acknowledged the Imperator’s salute and gestured him for him to return to the speaker’s lectern at the far end of the table, leaving his seat at the table empty before similarly motioning Horace to take his own beside the Director.  Bereft of a Dais, nonetheless a Curule had been placed at the head of the table.  Waiting to claim his seat, he began examining the remaining members of the (Military Guidance Committee), noting the wealth and status of the Patricians present.

  Taking the seat at the head of the table, he began examining the documents in front of him.  Prefaced with an atlas, the map displayed the current deployment of the MHAF with an easy-to-read color code.  The overview was…  Alarming.

  I knew my father was concerned, but – what the HELL was he thinking?

  Seeking time to adjust to the startling conditions of the Legions, he looked to his right to exchange glances with Horace – was it his imagination, or did the younger man suddenly look pale in his grey uniform?  The remaining pages were breakdowns of individual units, their condition and the best assessments the Ordo had been able to make of the opposition they were engaged with.

  Intelligence, Military, Lack thereof.  The Observationis Externum was considered notably lacking in the whispered conversations with advisors during exercises from his time at the Academy.  What were the odds of that here?

  The remainder of the briefing documents were no more optimistic.  Losses in equipment and manpower were mounting steadily in the face of determined resistance, pirate attacks – Raids, I suppose – against interior worlds of the Hegemony were happening in areas once considered inviolate, and the growing prevalence of Primitive Battlemechs among the Legions was leaving them at a technological disadvantage exploited by their adversaries.

  I have to do something about this – quickly, he thought grimly, throwing the documents a foot or more down the table, the fluttering pages coming to a stop and drawing all eyes back to him as he turned to lock eyes with the Imperator at the lectern at the far end of the table.

  “Imperator Blacklake,” he said quietly.  “Perhaps you could explain these -reports- more thoroughly.  How did we get in this situation?”

  “Yes, Caesar.”

  Seeming to gather his thoughts a moment, he began.  “Caesar – in 3148, your father ordered the Legions to begin operations designed to take advantage of weaknesses identified through raids and Intelligence assessments of planets in the former Free Worlds League.  Data unearthed by the Ordo Vigilis,” he said, glancing at the Director before continuing.  “Convinced him to open a second front.”

  “Director?”  Cyrus prodded.

  “Caesar,” Director Flamen acknowledged.  “The reports are awaiting a review, given their inaccuracies.  Copies are available for you to review in secure storage at the Palace.”

  Nodding woodenly, he returned his gaze to the Imperator.

  “And opening the THIRD front, Imperator – was that also a direct command?”

  “No, Caesar.  Distraction raids against the Magistracy were more successful than planned for, and your father ordered them to be held if possible.”

  Yes, Cyrus thought.  That would be just like his father.  Overconfident and opportunistic to the core.

  Pushing against the arms of the curule chair and leaning back, he considered the unclassified reports he had been allowed to read at the time for a few moments.

  “A false retreat,” he guessed aloud, sitting upright once again.  “Diplomacy between the Duchy and Canopians.  A lightly defended target, supplied for a guerrilla campaign, tying up a portion of the Legions to allow them to mass overwhelming force in a limited campaign elsewhere.”

  A snort escaped him before adding, “And we did much the same back, seeding our lost worlds with supporting units to attack from the rear as the Legions attacked to recapture worlds in the Illyrican District.”

  “Precisely, Sir.”

  “I see.  Thank you, Imperator.” Considering his father’s military advisor for a few more seconds, he sat silently for a few seconds, then nodded at the report thrown onto the table.

  “We have not recovered from these losses,” he said flatly.  Looking around the table, he continued.  “The last major military operation I was aware of was the effort to reclaim Illyria itself.  Where has the military production of nearly a decade gone, and why have the Legions not been made whole once again?”

  “Caesar,” the Imperator responded stiffly.  “That question is more complex than just questioning production numbers.  I can think of five, off the top of my head, and each of these council members was summoned by your father to address them.”

  “Then, please educate us, Imperator,” Cyrus responded evenly, indicating his brother with a nod.  “Neither of us was in the immediate chain of succession, and what may have been obvious to my brother was probably never a topic of conversation over dinner.”

  “Yes, sir.”  Stepping back to slide panels along the wall behind him apart, he took an erasable marker and began writing on the whiteboard beneath.  Skeptical at first, Cyrus could feel his face tighten as the implications he had glossed over became apparent. 

  Production, Losses, Technical capabilities, Economic costs, Mission/Role.

  “The mathematics of nations,” the Imperator announced in a dejected tone, pointing to the board.  “Once upon a time, your father and I sat through a meeting much like this one.  Serving officers have little to do with taxation, government purchasing, educational policies, or politics.  By the look on your face, I presume you understand the concept of the ‘Gordian knot’ and the implication of these concepts?”

  Cyrus gave a choppy nod, looking to Horace beside him in time to see his own nod of affirmation.

  The Imperator turned back to the board, saying, “Production numbers of modern Battlemechs remain low – most of our neighbors would prefer to limit those, seeking to retain parity with their own militaries and keeping us from expanding the economic and industrial base to increase it through deniable means – ‘pirate’ raids and supporting open rebellion by conquered populations.  Supplementing these with Primitive units is possible but cause their own concerns.”

  The Imperator resignedly shook his head as he addressed the room.  “And the second-order consequences have their own impact.  Much like constant losses in equipment and troops to low-level conflicts prevent us from raising larger formations, complex repairs to existing units draws down inventory that might have gone to manufacture new units, and logistical needs tie up shipping and manpower keeping those units on the front line.  Again, with their own consequences.”

  “And the economy,” Horace interjected.  “Government revenue rising and falling – events like the bombing of Nova Roma, and the recovery attempts…”

  Becoming more animated, the Imperator began waving his arms in front of him in a complex pattern.  “…Preclude military build-ups, can cause increased demands for civilian shipping inflating costs, money invested in education reduces subsidies and expenditures elsewhere…”

  Turning back to the board, the Imperator waved a hand at the board and indicated the final line.  “And Mission or Role.”

  “The Legions have been an offensive tool for most of the Hegemony’s existence.  And since its creation, the most effective tool has been the Battlemech.  They lead every military operation; nothing else is as durable, flexible, or efficient.  But even ‘Mechs aren’t always the answer.”

  “You trained as a Battlearmor trooper specializing in Ravagers, didn’t you, Caesar?”

  Cyrus nodded.

  “I did,” he admitted.  “And I see your point.  Assault Battlearmor isn’t suitable for every role.”

  Cyrus traded a glance with his brother.  Military production supported military policy.  Units equipped and trained for counterinsurgency with non-lethal weapons and tactics were useless against pirate raids in Battlemechs, for instance.

  “This becomes a political matter very quickly,” the Imperator concluded.  “I wish you luck with it.”

*

  Cyrus and Horace were able to quickly absorb the rest of the background quickly once the Security Council finished explaining how badly the Hegemony was straining to complete production runs of everything the military needed and measures to keep the political situation from becoming worse.  The meeting seemed to drag on for hours, and although the situation demanded attention there was little he could do immediately.

  Cyrus would have denied it if he could, but history was rife with examples of economic warfare more vicious than anything fought by the military, and if the Hegemony wasn’t defeated yet, the path before them demanded changes in military and economic philosophy from the highest levels of government.  Himself, basically.

  “This sucks.”

  Cyrus exchanged a sardonic glance with his younger brother.  “What?  Not looking forward to long, boring meetings on economic theory and the implications?  Not interested in ruling the Hegemony?”

  “No!”  Horace exclaimed, scowling at the empty halls of the Academy as he escorted Cyrus and his entourage back to the secured VTOL pads at the rear of the school.  Cyrus felt a tinge of amusement.

  “I’ll remember that when you ask to be seated opposite the Canopian Ambassador, Horrie.”

  Horace turned the scowl on his bother as they continued down the halls of the Academy.  Cyrus was in no real hurry; the next major event was the formal dinner at the Palace to celebrate the beginning of his reign.  Other than approving the speech Lucius and the Office had written to his specifications, there was a little time he could spare to help his brother adjust.

  “She reminds me of an over-ripe fruit.”

  Cyrus could only grin.  The Canopian reputation for loose and undisciplined behavior went back decades, but association with the Liao dynasty had abated it somewhat.  Still, the honey trap was considered a uniquely Canopian gambit.  One that still worked, he admitted.

  “Any plans for tonight?”

  “Not really.  ‘Mill and swill’ while looking imperious.”  Cyrus reconsidered as the pair walked.  “Thinking.  Lots of thinking.  The Senate vote legitimizes my reign, the military seems to be falling in line…  Now that the strategic situation is a little clearer, it’s going to take time to come up with a solution.”

  “I thought historians knew everything already.”

  Cyrus frowned.  “If so, I haven’t found that text in the familia bibliotheca yet.”

  Coming to a halt as the doors to the landing pads came into view with Lucius and a young lady with Asian features and formal clothing awaiting him, he turned to Horace.

  “Delegation comes naturally, though.  Put on your new hat as Heir and order the staff to present the problem to the Senior class, demand their assistance to come up with a way to counter or eliminate these losses.”

  Horace brightened.  “Right.  I outrank them!  This could be fun.”

  “Enjoy it while it lasts.  You’ll be pulling double-duty as my Heir and still be expected to excel in all your classes.  Remember how hard it was for Rex?”

“Crap.”

“Yeah.  Fun all around.”

  Exchanging a close embrace with his brother and continuing to the secure landing field, Cyrus exchanged an enquiring glance with Lucius as he approached the doors, noting the white linen of the young woman’s formal robes were trimmed with blue, showing her affiliation to the military.  The leather carry-all slung from a shoulder seemed to bulge, and as he drew closer she had to reach up and steady it as she gave him a deep bow.

  “Caesar.  The Imperator sends his respects and wishes to introduce Miss Meilin Neal-Zhao, a grief and trauma councilor working for the MHAF.”

  Cyrus acknowledged her with a nod saying, “Miss Neal-Zhao.”

  “Caesar.  Just ‘Zhao’, please.”

  Cyrus took the opportunity to examine the young lady.  Black eyes and hair, neatly arranged in a bun with a bright smile.

  “I see.  Will she be accompanying us, Lucius?”

  “To the Palace, Caesar.  Should you wish to make arrangements for future sessions we can easily accommodate her at the Palace.”

  “Very well, to the Palace then,” Cyrus confirmed, leading the party to the awaiting helicopter.

*

  “How do I look, Lucius?”

  “Young, well-dressed and powerful, sir.”

  ‘Most Eligible Pirate Lord, 3162.’  Cyrus rolled his eyes, not turning from the mirror.  A bachelor at twenty-six, the household staff had explained years ago the discrete means of conveying his romantic intentions should he desire privacy with a young woman. 

  The predicable march of attractive young daughters accompanying their parents had begun sometime after addressing the Senate and looked to intensify as families tried to ingratiate themselves with the new Caesar should he desire to seek political allies among the Patricians of the Hegemony.  Nodding in dismissal to the valet whose name he hadn’t been able to remember yet, he turned away from the mirror to study the man who had become his Scriba Caesaris.

  Poker-faced, the older man remained motionless beside one of the leather chairs scattered around the apartment.

  “My father advised me to trust the representatives of the Office, Lucius.  How much can I trust you?”

  “That is the question, isn’t it, Caesar?”  The older man looked back calmly.  “The Household failed your mother and her children, leaving aside the accident suffered by your father and brother.  I can’t imagine anyone would be eager to risk that.”

  “The Household staff was cleared by the Ordo, wasn’t it?”

  “Yes, Caesar.”

  “And your position necessitated an even more intensive check, wouldn’t it?”

  “Very much so, Caesar.”

  Cyrus turned back to the mirror to admire himself in the formal robes once again.

  I know I didn’t do it.  I’d bet my life that Horena couldn’t have done it, but they could have been the goal – a pair of easily manipulated pawns.  But, he thought as he turned back to Lucius, I have to start somewhere.

  “Very well, Lucius.  I need your help.”

  As Lucius began opening his document case to take notes, Cyrus began pacing in front of the mirror.

  “I want Legatus Peter Cluff, third Cohort of IV Legio summoned to the Palace – he and I went to the Collegium together – I want to ask him to serve as my Imperator.  Arrange for Director Effeil to visit me privately after midnight, tonight – If you can’t arrange things discretely, I’ll come to him.”

  Seeing Lucius writing furiously, he paused before concluding, “And I want to visit my father’s Battlemech tomorrow morning.  No, tonight immediately after the dinner.  Ensure the tech crew are standing by to assist me.”

  Looking up, Lucius commented, “There should be no problem carrying out your requests, Caesar.”

  Cyrus nodded sharply.  Time for Dinner.
 
*

  The Palace is alive tonight, Cyrus thought, watching the crowds of people come through the formal entrance of the Palace, ascending the winding staircases on either side of the room to reach the formal dining room as a select few were ushered into the receiving line for the nobility of the Hegemony.

  Sitting in the curule chair on a Dais to one side, flanked by members of the Palace Guard with Lucius standing prominently nearby, he took a few moments welcoming the Patricians and special guests before greeting the next.  Helena, at the top of the opposite staircase, would be occupied greeting the less well-known or wealthy among the guests tonight.  Since avus Cassius’ reign, the rulers of the Hegemony had sought to prevent the kind of opportunities that led to the disastrous bombing of Nova Roma, and although the Palace was equipped for these kinds of state occasions the inner workings of the Palace shut down and were monitored off-site until security forces cleared the grounds and staff were allowed to return the next day.

  Beyond the opportunity to engage select members of the Senate and Patrician classes in conversation without the backdrop of Senate politics, the occasion was vital to earn public support for his reign by dropping hints and idle chatter in the ears of society gossips and minor celebrities who could be trusted to seek attention by claiming a closer association to the new Caesar than might be expected.  Descending from the Dais to greet many of the Capita Familiarum and guests including their most influential clients, he found the politics behind the scenes becoming tiresome as Lucius moved to intercept him on the way back to the Dais.

  Moving to face away from the crowd he murmured, “Ambassador Leland-Chau has been passed by security, Caesar.  She is escorted by the Merchant Caste representative of Clan Sea Fox, tonight.”

  Facing away from the crowd, Cyrus felt a scowl cross his face.  Although the Factor was largely frustrated by the lack of interest in Clan technology and trade agreements to benefit his rise within the Caste, that he should crawl into bed with the Canopian Ambassador – an apt metaphor, and probably true, he thought – would complicate his relationship with the Clan representative.

  “Thank you, Lucius.  Re-arrange the seating plan at my table to accommodate them, please.”

  Hopefully they would put the Clansman above her in regard to seating, he thought moodily.  She’ll probably insist on being on top to flaunt herself after the dinner.

  His hopes fell as the two were escorted past the receiving line by security, their escorts including Signifiers provided by I Legio hoisting the banners of the Magistracy of Canopus and Clan Sea Fox.  Distaste for the genetic engineering of the Elemental genome after the events of the Jihad aside, Factor Benjamin was ignored by most of the influential members of the receiving line in favor of his escort for the night, who wore a rich brocade of Laio green over white silk, cupping and accentuating her physical attributes with a short train the former Warrior had to struggle not to step on.

  Having returned to the Dais, he advanced to the edge where he exchanged a formal bow with the representatives, Lady Chau holding the attention of the majority of the guests behind her and setting off a wave of muttered criticism and jealousy.  Cyrus tried not to avert his eyes from the pair, noting the Factor’s appraising glance while watching as one of the household servants collected her train to offer the Ambassador.

  “Lady Chau, Factor Daniel.  Thank you for coming.”

  The massive Elemental gave a curt nod.  “The honor is mine, Caesar.  I look forward to negotiating with you, should you require our services.” 

  Cyrus smiled back, emphasizing, “Unlikely, Factor.  Besides being newly ascended to the Dais, I have other responsibilities.”

  “I understand you were a Battlearmor trooper.  Perhaps we will discuss our experiences.”

    Off-balance from the unexpected comment, he let it pass and turning to the Ambassador, he continued.  “And my compliments, Lady Chau.  I look forward to continuing our discussion tonight.”

  Nodding in dismissal, he returned to his chair, awaiting the next guest.

  Finally, Lucius informed him the most important guests were accounted for, and he gratefully left the Dais to withdraw to a secured area to refresh himself before opening the banquet.  Well-practiced and experienced at their duties, Lucius soon informed him the Staff was prepared to begin.  Taking his place as Lucius left to put the evening into motion he tried to settle the sudden burst of anxiety as he was hailed as Caesar among his subjects for the first time since his confirmation that morning.  Squaring his shoulders and settling a non-committal but pleasant expression on his face, he walked forward onto the Dais and delivered his speech to polite applause before ordering the banquet to begin and took his place at the head table.  Cyrus had been willing to risk offending the rest of the guests to surround himself with trusted supporters, so tonight Helena sat on right to represent the immediate family and the Imperator took his normal place to his left.  Senate President Felix Rothman and his wife Diana were a counterweight of sorts to the Sea Fox Merchant Factor Benjamin, and CEO of ATC Gerald Davidson, his wife Evelyn,  and Ambassador Leland-Chau were squeezed together in the remaining space.

  You are a rock, Cyrus reminded himself.  Nothing to see here.  Get through the dinner, and I can try to get some rest.

  Returning the quiet greetings and small talk from around the table before enjoying the gustatio, an egg-and-spiced meat concoction that was a particular favorite from his childhood, he and his allies managed to steer the conversation to domestic policies that would benefit no one.  To his delight, the Office had managed to place the Ambassador on the other side of the massive Elemental, nearly completely concealing her from view.

  I guess Lucius doesn’t like her either, he thought.

  The Factor took the opportunity as the plates were being cleared and the prima mensa still being prepared to address his own concerns.

  “I have been told you were a Battlearmor trooper of some merit, Caesar.”

  Finishing the sweet wine as the Factor spoke, he put the glass to the side and nodded.  “Yes, I graduated at the head of my class at the Collegium Bellorum Imperium.  I served out my five-year enlistment in I legio here on Alphard.”

  “You never saw combat?”

  “No,” he admitted.  “I had hopes of an academic career.”

  “Which gives me hope,” interjected the Ambassador, leaning over the table in an attempt to look at him past her escort.  “Since you might have a better understanding how the Marian predilection to wander into other nation’s territory and commit provocations leads to difficulties.”

  Cyrus said nothing - could say nothing, in fact – but nodded as he conceded the point.  During the founding of the Hegemony, raids had been a matter of securing materials in short supply in the Periphery.  That they were held by their larger, more prosperous neighbors made them the natural targets, safer to offend than the neighboring Free World’s League.  The Circinus Federation, home to the Black Warriors, had done much the same for most of their existence, but the Hegemony had -barely – managed the transition to domestic manufacturing and the economic growth that accompanied it.

  “Tell me Ambassador, what did you think of your appetizer?”  Asked Felix Gaius Rothman, President of the Senate, as the table looked on.  “It’s a specialty of the Caesar’s Household.  I dare say we’ll see it fairly often in the future.”

  “It seemed…  Off,” she said thoughtfully.  “I’ve had better, at any rate.”

  “So, you chose not to see combat?”  Asked the Factor as he eclipsed the Ambassador, turning on his bench to face him.  “That seems…  Shortsighted of you.”

  ******.  Cyrus kept a straight face as the server placed his meal on the table, not wanting to encourage that line of questioning.

  “My siblings represented the family among the Legions and would have inherited the position, Factor.  Given my position in the succession I decided to look elsewhere.”  He said evenly, looking at the man.  “We seem to have found a personal topic I would prefer not to discuss, Factor.  Can we find a different topic?”

  “We could discuss military and economic support if you prefer – given the performance of your military in the last conflict,” the Elemental turned slightly to indicate the smiling Ambassador beside him, looking back at Cyrus.  “It may be wise of you to seek out our assistance now, before the situation worsens and the Empire confronts the Periphery in turn.”

  “That’s very kind of you, Factor,” interjected Gerald Davidson.  “I presume your attempt to open new markets for the Clan would come at a significant discount?”

  “Perhaps,” he admitted carefully.

  “I’m surprised you would consider that, with Alaric Ward’s efforts to reestablish the Star League,” commented his wife, turning to face her husband.  “It’s hard to imagine he would approve of someone so…”

  “Indiscriminate?”  Gerald suggested, facing his wife.

  “Indeed,” she agreed amicably, smiling back at the Factor and his escort.

  Cyrus was taking the opportunity to enjoy his meal of domestically farmed Terran meat and potatoes as the couple put the two in their place, but took the opportunity to intervene as silence fell once again.

  “I’m sure our guests would prefer not to discuss their own personal matters,” he reminded them.  “Gaius, although the appetizer is one of my favorites, I’m sure the Staff will be careful to provide a variety.”

  “Have you tried your beef, Gerald?  I can’t remember the last time it was presented with this sauce..”

  Auntie Evelyn deserves a ‘thank you’ and some flowers, he decided.  I hope Uncle Gerald doesn’t mind being dragged in more often as a representative of the (Internal Security Council?).  With friends like these its OK to have enemies.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 30 September 2022, 16:15:42
*

  The ‘Mechbays under the Palace were a familiar destination, as avus Cassius had prepared to maintain a limited number of them within the Palace grounds for security reasons.  The majority of I Legio’s facilities were scattered over the planet with an emphasis on Nova Roma and the surrounding continent but were deliberately kept separate from the Palace after the Jihad.  He was more familiar with the Battlearmor ‘morgues’ scattered through the lower levels and the hidden tunnels leading to exfiltration and ambush points, both as a trooper and because of the emergency escape routes the family had occasionally trained to use.

  The mobile warfare embraced by generations of Legionaries operating as raiders eschewed fortifications and permanent garrisons as much as possible, while events in the Jihad had reinforced the notion that an invader without scruples would seek to destroy them if only for the strategic and economic losses they would inflict.  Cyrus could remember being heartbroken that someone might seek to burn down the Palace and take away his toys, but as he grew up he feared losing the dozens of history texts he had collected and the personal projects he worked on more.

  His father had told the tales of Cassius’ boyhood, passed down by his father.  Cyrus was hoping those stories had inclined his father to imitate them, storing some clue to unravel his death and the murder of his family among the independent computer systems behind the armored shell, insulated from anything that might try to destroy it.  Technicians working on the Caesar’s personal Battlemech worked in teams, much as they did with his personal vehicles, documenting the work done and ensuring sabotage was impossible.  Intimately familiar with his father’s ‘Mech, if there was anything amiss, they would be the ones to find it.

  Despite taking the Battlearmor path in the Academy, he had met the technicians on a regular basis several times a year since he had been old enough to take for a ride in the family’s Sunder OmniMech.  If his father had been unsure of the situation and chosen to leave a message for Rex where no one else would find it, it was here.  Walking into the high-security bay containing his Father’s ‘Mech, he saw the teams spring into motion from where they had been waiting.

  “Stand easy!  It’s too late at night for this,” he called out.

  Freezing in place, the men and women remained at rigid attention regardless.  Coming to a halt in front of them and acknowledging the Miles Gregarious’ salute, he stepped forward to exchange a handshake with their leader.

  “Caesar.”

  “Cyrus, Martin.”  In his late fifties, Martin had been the one to amuse the eager boy waiting to watch his father come and go from the hanger while his older brother got to go out for his weekly run-through of the training course I Legio maintained nearby the Palace.  The old man had gotten slower, fatter and now completely bald, but the man’s smile remained as open and cheerful as he remembered.

  “You’re a head of state, now,” Martin protested.

  “I’m sure the other House Lords have their close supporters call them by name.”  Ambling forward, Cyrus walked into the center of the group before announcing, “I’m sorry to keep you up.  But I need to know if there was some message my father left for Rex before he died, and since I’m an Infantry trooper, not a Mechwarrior Cadet, I need your help.”

  Looking back and forth to address the group, he added, “I’m looking for something out of place.  Anything unusual.”

  “Communications buffer is under lockdown,” announced one.  “But it would be anyway.”

  “That was an instruction to look closer, not an inquiry about what was normal, Jackson!”  Martin snapped.

  “I’m not sure if there is anything, Martin.  I just think you should look,” Cyrus said quietly.  “It’s something I can’t check for myself.”

  “We get it, Caesar.  Peace of mind is never overrated.”  Martin said.  “We’ll go over her and let you know.”

  As the techs began turning to pick up tools and equipment, Martin lingered to watch them go before turning away slightly to exchange words with Cyrus.

  “How are you doing, sir?” He asked quietly.

  Cyrus took a moment to consider the question.  “Coping, I guess.”

  “Need to talk to someone.”

  Cyrus grimaced.  “Got a councilor already.  David’s idea. She works for the military.  Shock and trauma specialist.”

  “Good.”  Martin fell silent for a moment, considering.  “Is she pretty?”

  “Yeah.”

  Any further discussion was interrupted by the loud whistle behind them.  Turning to find one of the techs waving from the cockpit, the two men began walking to the gantry to take the lift up.

*

  As expected, Director Effeil was working late.  Also as expected, so were Director Flamen and Imperator Blacklake.  Unable to penetrate the security surrounding the three men, the Office determined to simply wait until Prefect Diaz’s Second-in-command could be notified the Caesar had requested his presence to a secret meeting in his personal apartments.  Lucius was present to open the door with aplomb; turning to bid the Caesar good night with an admonishment not to stay up too late, it was plain he considered the task a trivial matter for one in his position.

  Cyrus acknowledged his concerns and let him go, feeling some minor amusement himself.  He looked forward to surprising the man someday, somehow, but had no idea yet how to accomplish it.  A good foundation for a working relationship, he hoped.

  Turning his attention to the clinking chains as the Director saluted, he stood and acknowledged it, waving at the chair opposite him.  Waiting until the Director was able to shuffle over and relax into it, he sat himself and reached for the carafe of ice water to pour generous glasses for the both of them.

  “So.  How goes the investigation?” Cyrus asked politely.  Clearly exhausted, the Director made no effort to reach for the glass.

  “Nowhere,” the other man said quietly, looking at nothing.  “It goes nowhere, Caesar.  If there is a lead in this investigation, the Securitatis Internum has failed to find it.  I failed.”

  Silence fell between the two men as Cyrus considered him.  The restraints had clearly begun to wear at the skin of his wrists.  Cyrus could only wonder at the difficulty he had walking in them.

  He sat there a moment, unsure what to say.  Effeil said nothing, clearly angry but unwilling to shoot himself in the foot – an unfortunate turn of phrase, he admitted – by showing it to the one man who held his fate in his hands.

  “For what it’s worth, I don’t think you had anything to do with this, Director Effeil.”  He assayed.  “It’s a sign of some deeper concern, but something neither of us had any idea existed.”

  “Caesar, we followed every procedure.  Every method the Ordo has puzzled out to determine the loyalty of our citizens, our government officials, our spy agency – and we have nothing.”  The Director leaned forward, placing the glass on the edge of the table, and looked Cyrus in the eye.

  “Why am I here, Caesar?”  he asked.

  Cyrus put the glass on the table as well. 

  “Because I want answers, Director Effeil.  And I think you would agree that we will find nothing – nothing at all, no matter how long you search – and I think that is deliberate.”

  Seeing the surprise on his face, Cyrus continued.  “Ambushes are the most effective way of eliminating your opponent, Director – may I call you Donald?  Thank you.”

  Raising the glass to his lips and sipping, he leaned back once again and continued.

  “If I was to try and kill the rest of my family,” he began.  “I wouldn’t try it here and now, with suspicions raised and everyone alert for treachery.  I’d withdraw, infiltrate, prepare…  And I would never take part in the attempt myself.”

  Silence returned before Effeil murmured, “‘If you come at the king, you best not miss.’”

  “Excuse me?”

  “Machiavelli’s book, ‘The Prince.’  Required reading for the officers of the Ordo Vigilis, sir.”

  “Cyrus.”

  The Director looked up.  “Cyrus.  I’m not here for a briefing into the investigation, am I?”

  Cyrus shook his head.  “Not anymore.  Tell me, Donald, how would you like a job…?”

  Donald blinked in disbelief.  “A…  Job?  Doing what?”

  Cyrus leaned forward.  “Has it occurred to you we are just waiting, Donald?  I feel like looking over my shoulder, every moment, wondering when the axe will fall and the rest of this plot bursts out of the shadows.”

  Cyrus allowed the anger to show on his face, his words becoming colder, more precise.  “My brother and sister are committed to continue their studies at the Collegium for another year and a half.  Their jobs, right now, are bait.  But I can’t address the situation myself, Donald.”

  Cyrus leaned back in the chair, again.  “I need your help.”

  Donald seemed frozen with indecision.  “I… I can’t.”

  “I’m the absolute ruler of a Periphery realm considered barely better than bandits by my neighbors, Donald.  Why would you say that, sitting in chains in the middle of my apartment, waiting to be executed for your failures?”

  Cyrus leaned forward again, glaring.  “I intend to have your full support, Donald.  Because if you refuse my offer – I’m still going to order you gagged and beaten, but, if necessary, I’ll order you taken to The Wall and executed before looking to find someone else to carry out my plan.”

  Donald’s face paled as he began to understand the situation.  “In that case…  I accept, Caesar.  And…  Thank you, sir.”

  “Cheer up, Donald,” he said.  “We’re going to get even.”
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Daryk on 30 September 2022, 17:53:33
Yeah, that's par for the course for the Marians (says the Lothian patriot)...  ^-^
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 30 September 2022, 20:29:29
Ooooh, can you tell me about the Lothian League in the dark age, please?  Economics is next, diplomacy probably a evening topic with Horace and Helena.  Politics, commerce, education, SLAVERY, military policy/strategy, OV and military shakeups, LOGISTICS - oh my god - and MORE LOGISTICS...

I remember some author, probably Chris from TWEOT or that Taurian Concordat fanfic, who described his story as unrepentant fan-wank.  I'm Canadian, so mine is apologetic fan-play.  Second base. I hope.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Daryk on 01 October 2022, 05:04:07
Dark age is well past my preferred era.  Succession Wars?  All day long...  8)
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 01 October 2022, 09:40:20
Naturally, because I set it in 3162.  I swear, it's almost worth buying DA sourcebooks.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 13 October 2022, 01:02:34
...And, I just found out I was lazy and didn't do enough research.

FM: 3085, p. 152 - Collegium and AAA were destroyed, capital is "O'Reilly" while Nova Roma decontaminates.

Now, I'm going to have to go back and correct the mistakes, because I just can't tolerate my screwups.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: cklammer on 13 October 2022, 11:15:11
Ouch! Good Luck!  :thumbsup:
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 13 October 2022, 12:26:39
...And, I just found out I was lazy and didn't do enough research.

FM: 3085, p. 152 - Collegium and AAA were destroyed, capital is "O'Reilly" while Nova Roma decontaminates.

Now, I'm going to have to go back and correct the mistakes, because I just can't tolerate my screwups.


Don't worry, the city was decontaminated and the Bellorum and the Aerospace Academy were rebuilt, the academy only changed its name
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 13 October 2022, 18:32:49
It's just the principle of the thing.  Wait - when do they start recovering Nova Roma?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 13 October 2022, 18:38:05
It's just the principle of the thing.  Wait - when do they start recovering Nova Roma?

In the time of Cassius, there they already commented that they had rebuilt the senate, removing the original stones radiated by others from the same quarry and I bet that the rest of the city was demolished, cleaned and rebuilt, leaving the work carefully for the emblematic buildings
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 13 October 2022, 20:31:10
...

Citation?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 14 October 2022, 02:45:34
...

Citation?


I'm not sure of the page, but check the Starcorps Dossiers chapter on the Marian Hegemony
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 14 October 2022, 07:15:01
Don't think I have that one.

Does anybody have the text?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 14 October 2022, 09:55:39
Don't think I have that one.

Does anybody have the text?

I'm back from work and I'll send you the text, you'll have to wait 7/8 more hours
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 01 November 2022, 00:35:44
Day 3
November 24, 3162
Caesar’s Palace, Alphard
Marian Hegemony

Cyrus opened his eyes in the darkness; the exhaustion from the last couple of days had been enough to allow him to drop off without the sedative of the night before, but the years of military training and a regular routine attending the University of Alphard was a hard thing to control.  Most of the time, it was useful, in a kind of unexpected way, but the inability to shut it ‘off’ was annoying sometimes.

The alarm clock next to the palatial bed was inconveniently far away, but the soft red glow was enough to see by and it proved the rest of the morning was still far enough away to roll over.  Moving over onto his side helped, and assuming the fetal position and tucking the blanket up was a favorite way to drowse off from his Academy days after the grueling days of conditioning gave way to gave way to the mental effort to keep from flunking out of the school.  Sleep refused to come, but he continued to try to remain still and fall back to sleep regardless.  Today was another day full of meetings, the most exciting of which would be enough to put him to sleep if he sat down long enough to get comfortable.

The thought was daunting, and his ability to concentrate on the mental exercises that lulled the mind and allowed an Infantry trooper to nod off whatever the situation were useless.  Even so, the mental turmoil of the last couple of days demanded an outlet and the pillow became wet before he could return to a fitful sleep, regretting passing up the offered sedative.  Finally, tired but unwilling to continue pretending he might still get enough rest to make it worthwhile he gave up, turning off the alarm and throwing back the covers to sit upright in the darkness.

Eventually he rose to begin his morning routine, dressing himself for the day in the clothes laid out in the wardrobe before preparing tea in the kitchen.  Seating himself and activating the small pad left on the table, he checked the day’s appointments.  By the time the chimes had sounded and Lucius arrived to greet him and announce his first appointment, he was already seated behind the desk in the Caesar’s personal office going over the first reports of the Ministry of Economics.  Like many of the reports he had seen since the assassination attempt, it attempted to educate him in the basic principles so he could better understand the more voluminous presentations later.

Economics makes my head hurt, he thought angrily.  I doubt I’ll be able to ever understand this stuff.  Were they trying to make this so difficult, or is it me?  Time to delegate, again.  I wonder if there’s someone at the University whose arm I can twist?

  “Miss Zhao, Caesar.”

  “Send her in, Lucius.”

  Putting the report and his notes back neatly into the folder, he turned in the chair to the small filing cabinet beside his desk and placing it within before turning again to rise from the chair as Lucius and the councilor returned to the office.  Dressed again in the formal robes trimmed with Legion Blue and a bag over her shoulder, he accepted her deep bow with a nod as he walked over to the door, ushering them into the atrium.

  “I thought we might go for a walk, Miss Zhao.  My time has become metered so closely, I’d prefer a change of scenery.”  Turning to Lucius, he added, “I’m aware of the Intelligence meeting, Lucius.  You can expect me to be there on time.”

  Taking the slight inclination of the man’s head as assent, he turned to lead the young woman out of the apartments, opening and holding the door for her.

  “I hope this isn’t an inconvenience, Miss Zhao.”

  “Not at all, Caesar.  It’s actually a good sign, wanting to put the past behind you and move on,” she said, looking up at him with a smile.  “Or a bad one.  Psychology isn’t an exact science.”

  “I will have to record to write up my notes later, however,” she said, stopping and turning slightly to reach inside the bag she was carrying.  “Is that acceptable?”

  Cyrus nodded, then grunted assent as he realized she was busy searching for something and might have difficulty seeing him.  Clipping a small case into one of the hems of her robes, she settled the bag on her shoulder and looked at him inquiringly.

  Signaling the Palace Guards who had followed him down the hall to stay out of earshot, he turned and began to amble down the hallways. 

   “So, Cyrus, how do you feel?”

  “Tired,” he said quietly after a few steps.  “Angry.”

  “Understandable.”  She looked up at him as they continued down the hallway.  “Have they been able to learn anything about the murderer?”

  “The murderer?  No,” he admitted.

  “How do you feel about that,” she inquired.

  “Anxious,” he said in the same tone.  “And frustrated.  We may never know, they tell me.”

  “And how do you feel about that…?”

*

  The early morning meeting eventually ended, as Cyrus brought them to the underground entrance to the Palace’s secure command bunker not far from his new apartments.  He expected the day’s Intelligence briefing to be an intense affair, and despite having helped plan and arrange the outcome wasn’t looking forward to doing his part.  Even Lucius, waiting to one side with Director Effeil and his escort in tow seemed more wooden than normal as he came forward to escort Mei to her office in the Palace.

  The Security team, bolstered by the presence of the Guardsmen as they took up positions to either side of the doors leading to the deeper chambers beneath the Palace, saluted as they came to a stop.  Acknowledging the salute, he turned back to the councilor.

“Mei, this is where we part ways.  I’ll see you tonight.”

“Of course, Cyrus, I look forward to seeing you.”  Finishing her sentence with another of her deep bows, he acknowledged it with a nod before waving Lucius toward her and prepared to enter the Palace’s high security bunkers with Director Effeil.  Having entered the facilities only a half-dozen times before the assassination, the process was still awkward enough be unsettling as he first stripped and dressed in the utilitarian coveralls worn only within the facility before undergoing the battery of tests to confirm his identity.

The two men took turns confirming their identities through several methods, including fingerprints, retinal scans, and a brainwave scan similar to those used to identify Mechwarriors.  Given that the Word of Blake, MIM, and the other major Intelligence agencies had never acted on information believed to come from the bunkers since their construction he supposed the extreme levels of paranoia espoused by its builders had some merit.

Finally receiving clearance to enter the facility, the two men were escorted to the shaft descending several hundred meters into the active ECM field of multiple emitters.  ‘The Motte’ was the Caesar’s personal command bunker and strategic headquarters for the Hegemony’s military, separate from the Imperator and I Legio’s command structure in case of an assault on the planet and the Palace itself, although meetings of the Consilium Securitatis were occasionally held within the facility to take advantage of the high security arrangements.

Although alternate command facilities were scattered across the planet in secret locations, they were considered compromised until proven secure, denied access to information and codes required to confirm their assumption of command until the physical destruction of the primary facility allowed personnel with the proper codes and procedures to active them.  Given the depth and precautions to prevent foreign Intelligence organizations from breaching its security, the hardwired nuclear demolition charge had seemed absurd when Cyrus first learned of it, but he supposed a bit of paranoia was something more understandable now.

Cyrus felt the tension lighten as the elevator continued its descent.  One way or another, the die was cast.  The plan he had worked out with Director Effeil would rely on the skill and loyalty of the security teams within The Motte, but as the two men exited the elevator to accept the salute of the security team and be introduced to their commanding officer he was impressed with the professionalism of the men around him.  A brief whispered conversation with Principes Flynn had him wave over one of the older Legionnaires who after a few murmured words joined their escort.

The three men walked in silence, the noise of the Director’s chains proceeding them, and Cyrus examined the interior of the bunker with interest.  The effort to duplicate the natural spectrum of Alphard’s primary and the faint echoes of the Palace’s architecture and décor made it look like a remote corner of the Palace, but the lack of authentic greenery and woodworking made the efforts to soften the utilitarian purpose behind The Motte’s construction priorities stand out in an odd way.

“The surroundings do kind of blur in your memory, Caesar,” the Princeps said quietly.  “And it does help the morale of the men stationed here.”

“How long have you been in command, Princeps?”

“A few years, Caesar,” he responded in a non-committal tone.  “Long enough.”

“Prior service?” He guessed.  “Injured on duty?”

The Princeps nodded.  “Huntington.  Healed now, of course.”

“How often was my father here?”

Taken aback, the Princeps took a few seconds to consider, then shrugged and replied, “About twice a week, Caesar.  Sometimes more, sometimes less.”

Cyrus watched the man carefully.  “You served in Section C, didn’t you?”

Flynn smiled.  “Still do, Caesar.”

“I haven’t met the Precept yet,” Cyrus said neutrally.  “Tell me, what do you think of Director Flamen?”

The Princeps took a few seconds to consider, shifting slightly to turn away from the security team behind him before answering.  “He seems…”  Flynn seemed to struggle for a moment.  “Detached.”

“‘Detached’?”  Cyrus pressed.  “Could you explain?”

“When I was posted here, your father, Imperator Blacklake, and the Director seemed…  Closer,” the older man said.  “Since the attack into the Tamarind-Abbey District, something hasn’t been quite right.”

Cyrus traded glances with Effeil before turning back to the Princeps.  “A falling out?  Both of them?”  Flynn nodded.

Mind whirling, Cyrus turned to begin ambling down the corridor again, flanked on either side by the two men as Effeil commented for the first time, “Director Flamen was promoted from Section B, wasn’t he?  Part of your father’s effort to improve the External Intelligence branch if I remember right.”

Cyrus looked over to see the Princeps nod in confirmation.

Tradition again, Cyrus noted.  Caesars traditionally placed loyal supporters in positions of power, especially early in their reigns when cronyism and mutual interest mattered more than competence.  Loyalty to the man, rather than loyalty to the State.  It’s possible.

Guided around a final corner, the Princeps opened the heavy-looking door to find Director Flamen rising to his feet to offer a deep bow of respect as the guard behind him came to attention and saluted.  Cyrus accepted their salutes with a raised hand and the guards left the room to leave the three men alone in the room as Director Effeil joined his superior at the conference table, the security team closing the door behind them.

  “Welcome to The Motte, Caesar,” said Director Flamen.

  “Thank you,” he said.  “Naturally, this isn’t my first time here, but the facility seems a little over-the-top.  I hope the build-up is worth the effort.”

  “We think so, sir.  It seems to be, anyway.”  From the top of the stack of folders beside him, Director Flamen handed Cyrus a single piece of paper with a list of code words without notes or background materials, presumably topics to be discussed.  Director Effeil’s estimation of his superior seemed spot-on, Cyrus noted.  As expected, there was no mention of his family or an admission of the man’s failure, thus hoping to leave his subordinate solely responsible. 

  “This is not what I hoped to discuss,” Cyrus began as he dropped the paper to the table, his voice intent.  “I invited Director Effeil to accompany me to reassure both of you to speak freely.  What have you discovered about the assassination attempt?”

  As the silence stretched out, he could feel his temper rising.  Nothing.  Has he even looked?  Or was Donald to be staked out as a sacrifice from the beginning?  Reaching across the table, Cyrus fumbled for purchase on the man’s jacket, snagging the chain draped loosely around his shoulders and using it to pull the man forward out of his chair.

 “Answer me!”

  “Caesar, No!”

  Cyrus felt the yank on his free arm, and gave up trying to choke the intelligence chief to pull Effeil off-balance, throwing him to the floor before rearing back and – barely – remembering to aim somewhere that wouldn’t cripple the man, kicked him in the belly as the older man started yelling for the security team.

  Bursting in the door as Cyrus aimed a second kick, lower than the first, the Legionnaire that Flynn had spoken to in charge of the team held a needler at arm’s length with both hands, aimed at the floor but ready to fire.  The Contuberium behind him quickly pulled Effeil out of reach as Cyrus stopped fighting and stood still among the scattered chairs.

“Give me your Needler,” Cyrus said as the two men were restrained.  Taking possession of the proffered weapon, Cyrus pointed the Needler at the men restraining Effeil and added, “Take that man into the hallway and beat him.”

The Legionnaires paused for the briefest moments, looking to the Miles, who said nothing, before hustling Effeil into the hallway.  Turning back to the Director, still standing there with his arms restrained by two men, Cyrus stepped forward to pull at the fabric of the man’s coverall and put the barrel of the pistol beneath his jaw aiming upward at a sharp angle.

“I want answers, Director,” Cyrus asked quietly, moving to the side and forcing the man to look past him towards the door as the dull sounds of fists meeting flesh and Effeil’s pleas to stop began.  “I want to know who ordered this done.  And I’m going to hold you personally responsible to find out.  Do you understand me?”

From the hallway, Effeil’s scream of pain was enough to distract Cyrus from the cowering Flamen.  Taking the opportunity to end the beating, he released the older man’s coverall and turned back to the door.

“My parents will lie in state for a week’s time, Director.  Find their murderer, or be a nameless corpse buried the same day,” he continued in the same tone.  Stepping back to raise his voice to be overhead over the noise from the hall he called to them, “Legionnaire!  Get that man up the elevator before someone needs to carry him.  Contact the terminal upstairs and have him taken to The Wall and disposed of.”

“Yes, Caesar.”

As the man began to direct the rest of the detachment to drag the injured man to the elevator, Cyrus held out the officer’s pistol and returned it before motioning to the two men restraining Flamen to seat him at the conference table once again.  The two men dragged the Director to the table, righting one of the chairs for him to sit before ramming it tightly into the table.

Cyrus picked up the open folder, reorganizing the loose papers within it and sat himself directly across the table from the Director.

“Let’s start with what you do know, shall we?”  Cyrus suggested as the men exited the room and the heavy door closed once again.  Leaning forward to open the folder and remove one of the briefing sheets, he closed it once again and slid it across the table to the Director.  Leaning back in the chair again, he tried to calm himself and slow his breathing, allowing the Director a moment to regain his composure before opening the folder with fumbling fingers.

“Caesar,” he began.  “As you might imagine, the Intelligence situation is quite complicated and Section A has been unable to determine if the assassin was part of a larger attack, but the remainder of their reports are satisfactory, and are items 1-7 on today’s agenda.”

Which made up the majority of the items for discussion, Cyrus noted.

“Section B has successfully infiltrated several worlds your father and Imperator Blacklake assigned them, and several raids are on schedule against Periphery and League targets.  There are also several decisions made by your father and predecessors you asked to be made aware of, such as the failures of the Observationis Externum and the Illyrican conflict.  These are items 7-9.”

“Section C has no serious problems to report, as most members of the military are taking a ‘wait and see’ stance to your ascension.  The text of their report is available as Item 10.”

“Section D has had no recent operations but are continuing to expand their training syllabus on Illyrica where they continue to assist the Legions with the domestic terrorism situation.”

At Cyrus’ nod, he continued.

“Before we begin, however, we must discuss the Arcana Imperii - confidential information with major impacts on the Hegemony’s strategic situation.”

“I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that term,” Cyrus said cautiously.  “What does it refer to?”

“When Cassius was reorganizing the Hegemony government, he established a secret classification for closely-held information he felt was vital to the future of the Hegemony,” the Director explained.  “Knowledge of their existence is discussed only in the highest security facilities, and individuals aware of its existence are restricted from traveling off-world.  To date, there have only been four times the classification has been invoked, twice of them by Cassius.  Only two of them still exist, and the remaining records of the other two have been destroyed, although there may be some record of them in the Caesar’s private documents.”

“The most significant of these is the so-called Alexandria Core, a small computer core recovered by the Legions during a raid on Astrokaszy. The core was recovered from what appeared to be a small Intelligence-gathering outpost, but time and radiation damage – the core was being examined by scientists and technicians in a secure facility hidden in the Capital during the neutron bombing – have left it unusable.  Cassius ordered it recovered immediately, but the damage was severe.”

A Core!  Cyrus took a few seconds to absorb the information before blurting out, “Any idea what was on it?”

The Director shook his head.  “Given the equipment discovered, its location and that there are indications it was run by the AsRoc, it may have been focused on either the FWL or Territorial States.  It seems unlikely to contain anything still relevant.”

“The other most significant piece of Intelligence is far more recent.  Your father was in negotiations to petition Nikol Marik to join the new Free Worlds League as a counterweight to the Canopian-Capellan alliance.  Their close relations were a concern when considering military action and with the possibility of the Wolf Empire attempting to resurrect the Star League by reuniting the Inner Sphere against the Periphery states he felt it was a necessary precaution to investigate the possibility.”

The two men sat in silence as Cyrus struggled to assimilate the news.  That the FWL would demand the repatriation of their citizens and the disavowal of the concept of slavery in the Hegemony was a given; the loss of so many educated and essential workers in all areas of the Hegemony’s economy would be a disaster of epic proportions.  That his father had been willing to risk such a divisive strategy could have been enough to provoke the assassination – a possible clue to the identities of the conspirators.

Putting aside the revelations, he leaned back for a moment.

“Well,” he said quietly.  “Where do the negotiations stand as of right now?”

“Your father was beginning to canvass for support among the Consilium Securitatis and major industrial supporters, Caesar.  Nikol had reiterated her demands to renounce the practice of slavery, offer reparations to those subject to the practice and provide military support to the League, and more.  The ball is in our court, sir.”

The two men sat in silence as Cyrus considered his options before standing to begin to pace up and down the table in frustration.

“Shit.”

“Quite.”

*

Cyrus found it hard to ignore the implications of Director Flamen’s revelations, but found himself in agreement with the man about the need to deal with small problems before they became large ones.  As they began thrashing their way through the agenda most of his father’s decisions received Cyrus’ approval, as in some cases they were already far enough along that not doing so would result in a net loss for the Hegemony.  Several more were decisions made by officers of the different Intelligence services in accordance with standard procedures and he was simply being informed of them to provide a ‘bigger picture’ of events across the Hegemony.

Fortunately, none were as ground-shaking as the Arcana, and he was able to lean back in the chair and relax for a moment, feeling like he had been hammered through a knothole as he ordered the Director escorted to the elevator and returned to the Palace where he would brief the new Section heads before taking over Effeil’s investigation.  The literal ‘deadline’ of four days would hopefully force him to expose himself before too much damage could be done,

Unfortunately, the drama surrounding their meeting would delay the rest of the day’s events and beyond a moment to come to grips with the situation there could be no delay.  The elevator would return quickly, and while Lucius would no doubt make arrangements to resolve the situation he had little choice but to come to grips with the situation as quickly as possible.  As Flamen was led away, he forced himself to his feet again and spent a moment wishing his father was still here to take the burden of the Hegemony from his shoulders before wiping away the tears that formed in response and took another moment to composed himself before following.

The Princeps was waiting in the hallway, and wordlessly turned to accompany him down the hallway.

“Director Effeil?”

“Badly bruised, but mobile, Caesar,” the Princeps responded.  “First aid and painkillers.  I’ve seen worse.”

“And you understand the situation?”

The Princeps nodded.  “Director Flamen’s activities will be monitored continuously.  Director Effeil will contact you through the Office when he finds evidence of a coverup.  No one leaves, no unusual messages, normal operations.”

Unless he finds something, Cyrus thought, nodding.  Because all hell will break loose.

*

Lucius was waiting patiently as Cyrus marched briskly through the doors of the security checkpoint, continuing down the hall at a rapid pace and forcing his escorts to catch up.  Lucius took up his normal position at his right shoulder as he passed the man.

“Were you successful, Caesar?”  Lucius asked.

“Probably.  It’s up to him now,” Cyrus muttered.  “Make sure that the next time I have an Intelligence briefing I have some time to think and recover afterward,” he ordered.  “And more sleep.  If the Hegemony can’t manage for ten hours without a crisis, it won’t be long until I cause one.”

“I’m told your father felt much the same way, Sir.”
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 05 November 2022, 01:57:23
There's barely a couple hundred words left to Day: 3 and a single scene, but - RL.  I should be able to post the rest tomorrow, and the next chapter, I won't leave such gaping holes needing to be filled in and checked later.  Lesson learned.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 05 November 2022, 01:58:31
*

The meeting of his father’s closest political allies took place in one of the Cubicula near his private apartments and after a quick stop to refresh himself, Cyrus was walking through the doors held by his escort to come to a stop and accept the deep bows of Senate President Felix Rothman and the rest of the Senators to accompany him.

“My apologies for my tardiness; the Intelligence briefing was… unexpectedly complex.”

Turning to dismiss the guards, he turned to mount the Dais as the doors closed and he sat on the curule chair.  The Senators had arrayed themselves in a semi-circle across from the dais, and Felix came forward to introduce them.

“Caesar, I present Senator Yukio Roxas, representing the Patricians of Pompeii, Senator Elias Molina, representing the Patricians of Addhara, Senator Ignatius Lupercal, representing the Patricians of Suetonius, Senator Remus Volanov, representing the Patricians of Marius's Tears, and Senator Lorenzo Puentealto, representing the Patricians of New Venice.  Together, we communicate your desires to the Senate.”

“And communicate your needs to me.  My father had many good things to say of your efforts,” Cyrus said evenly, appraising the men arrayed in front of him in turn.  “I trust you have good news?”

“We do, Caesar,” admitted Felix.  “Your father’s efforts to persuade the Senate to accept his proposals are likely to succeed.”

“Good news, I’m sure,” Cyrus said quietly.  “I remember arguing with him about these proposals.”

“Tell me,” he said.  “Which of those proposals is the Senate in agreement with?”

The Senate President seemed to hesitate slightly.

“The Senate has approved of most of his desires, including the proposal to increase conscription among the Plebs–“

Cyrus jumped to his feet, interrupting the man.  “Forcing them to fight in an endless series of battles for the Hegemony and the Patricians who benefit from their..  Patriotic business arrangements and investments supporting those efforts,” he hissed in anger.

“Inform our supporters in the Senate of my intention to withdraw my support.”  Regaining control of himself, he reclaimed his seat.  “Felix?”

“Passion is best reserved for the bedroom, not addressing the Senate, Caesar.  At best, our supporters will hail your decision; at worst..  Has there been progress determining who sent the assassin?”

Cyrus gritted his teeth as the sitting Senators indicated their agreement with Felix’s point.  “No.  Not yet,” he admitted.

“Exactly, Caesar.”

Turning in a slow semi-circle to gauge the rest of the Senators behind him, Felix pointed at Senator Roxas.

“Interrupting a speaker on the floor of the Senate is a sign of a weak argument, Caesar.  Let him dig his own hole, then bury him.”

Again, the Senators indicated their assent.  Felix’s turn came to Senator Molina next.

“Promise more, threaten less, Caesar.  Senators are aware of the difficulty encouraging enthusiasm among the commons.  Offer a compromise, not a threat.”

Remus and Lorenzo nodded, but said nothing as Felix turned to them before looking back to the Caesar once again and addressing him.

“Caesar, support for the continued preservation of the Silent City remains strong…”  Encouraged by Cyrus’ silence, he continued.  “We,” pausing to turn to indicate the Senators to either side, “believe the public would support a resolution reached by the Senate..”

“All of it, Felix?”  Cyrus demanded as he came to his feet again.  “The idea of reclamation includes the return of private property and possessions of many Plebeian families.  Surely, you would not deny the economic benefit of taxes levied on past and future estates?  The billions of Talents in salvaged materials, now available for reuse?”

Cyrus returned to his seat again.  “I will not have Nova Roma – the New City – exist alongside a fortune in land and materials to watch it rot.  No, Felix.  Nor will I allow those bastards of the Word of Blake to gloat of their victory forever.  I withdraw my support.”

“Caesar,” Felix protested.  “The radiation…”

“Gone,” Cyrus said quietly.   “Like the Blakists themselves.  What remains will be removed, left to fade away elsewhere.  Well?”

“The noble Houses would benefit greatly by regaining many of their assets, Caesar.  The Plebs are the lynchpin here – how the Ministry of Revenue would spread the tax income gained by the decision is the question.”

The Senators behind him nodded enthusiastically.

“On the other hand, our colleagues have expressed disinterest in expanding the Plebeian Tribunes..”  Felix paused, clearly expecting a reaction.  Cyrus obliged him.

“..Leaving themselves the sole democratic body with the political power to influence the Caesar?”  he said from the chair.

Felix stiffened.  From behind him, Senator Molina admonished, “Democracy was described in the histories as a Greek vice, not a Roman one, Caesar.  We are not the Free Worlds League.”

Not yet, Cyrus conceded.

Coming to his feet once again, he diverted his focus from Felix to address the Senator.  “We are not living in Ancient times, Senator Molina.  Almost three thousand years separate our civilization from theirs.  I will do what I think I must to ensure our future, and it does not include encouraging ignorance or slavery.”

“One argument, Caesar.  One focus, one vote, one success at a time,” counselled Senator Lupercal.

Cyrus nodded in comprehension.  His father had always let him exhaust himself arguing, then reminded him to eat his greens without blinking.  Seating himself again, he concentrated for a moment before shrugging in dismissal.  “Next?”

“The grants discussed for the Ministry of Education.”

Cyrus nodded, thinking a moment.  “How many of your clients have been able to turn their skills to bettering the Hegemony?  The proposals to increase the funding for basic education translate directly into the increased demand forecast for investment.”

“True,” Felix admitted.  “But that same education increases contention within the Houses.”

“Which insures a broad interest in.. Shaping that demand.  Patricians can benefit from the growth of domestic markets more surely than elsewhere.”

“Jealously guarded monopolies would be your targets, Caesar,” came the suggestion from Senator Volanov.  “For and against, depending on the situation.  The output from the Germanium mines has become devalued, for example.  They depend on outside expertise and low overhead to make a profit.”

“The same mines we can’t operate commercially without personnel educated outside the Hegemony?  Nor consume their output in the domestic market?”  Cyrus said quietly.

Volanov’s rebuttal was interrupted by a knock on the door, Lucius’ way of announcing his presence and the end of today’s lesson.

“Saved by the bell,” Cyrus muttered as he stood once again, stretching to loosen stiff muscles

“Admitting it in public is admitting defeat,” Felix chided sternly, leveling a finger as the remaining Senators came down from their places.  Together once more, Cyrus nodded in acceptance of their respectful bows.

“Thank you, Gentlemen.  Felix, please accompany me.”

“Caesar.”

Cyrus turned to lead the Senate President from the cubicula, seeing Lucius standing to one side, accepting a package from one of the Staff.  Cyrus waited patiently as the young woman turned and hastened down the corridor and Lucius returned his attention to the two men.

“This way, Caesar.”

The two men walked in silence for a moment before Felix finally ventured, “Coincidence is a poor spokesman, Caesar.”

“Is it?”  Cyrus asked innocently.

“Your father arranged for fewer young ladies among the Household and the Officium Caesaris for his sons to admire.  Lucius had to approach someone from your mother’s entourage for that little scene.”

“True.  Something about allies, not all eyes.”

“Familial alliances between allies don’t always end well.”

“I understand,” Cyrus said quietly.  Felix was quiet once again.  Rather than allow him to control the discussion, Cyrus turned to address him directly.

“I am..  Concerned.  Deeply concerned, Felix.”  Searching the man’s face for signs of comprehension, he continued.  “I look forward to discussing it with you.  Soon.”

Felix nodded.

“We are too isolated,” Cyrus continued in a low voice.  “I intend to make important decisions, sooner rather than later.  The Legions will be central to my plans, but domestic support will influence their reach.”

Felix nodded again.

Good.  Message understood.

*

Cyrus was busy enjoying the late lunch provided by the Household staff as the chimes in his apartments rang.  So far, he mused, being Caesar of the Marian Hegemony was proving to be more trouble than it was worth.

For one thing, turmoil seemed a constant companion.  I never imagined the stress Dad must have been under, he thought morosely as he swept the crumbs off the table before rolling his eyes at the unconscious act.  The Household Staff were a silent army, following him and calmly picking up the detritus of everyday living with the burden of leading the state, but he had discovered a perverse satisfaction keeping his surroundings clean of anything the Staff might swoop down upon as evidence the apartments might be inhabited.

He toyed with the idea of hiding under table like a child to finish his sandwich, but Helena was already through the door and following a laser-straight path towards him, Horace in his usual place a step behind.  What the hell?

“Helena?  I knew Horace was going to be here as Heir, why are you here?”

“Surprised?”  She said sarcastically.  “I’m here for Hegemon.”

Cyrus felt a sinking feeling in his stomach as Lucius stepped unobtrusively in the room behind them.  Looking at his sandwich and shaking his head as he put it on the plate, he came out of the chair before Helena could approach the table to loom over him.

“Helena, we’ve already discussed this.  I can’t name you as Heir,” he began.

“Its not fair!  I’m a better MechWarrior-”

“You’re not the HEIR!”  Horace yelled.  His siblings were taken aback slightly, as Horace advanced on the table between them fists balling.  “That’s not how it works!”

Cyrus took another step back, unwilling to get into another confrontation with the two.  Horace will have to dominate the Senate should the worst happen, he reasoned to himself.  He’ll need to do something about his sister before then, even if family dinners are going to be strained in the meantime.

“I don’t even want to be a MechWarrior,” he said, bringing his fists down on the table in frustration.  “Mom and dad wouldn’t agree because of the risks.  But it doesn’t mean YOU get it!”

Helena was far more comfortable fighting with her siblings rather than her parents, and rather than back down she came around the table to look down on her shorter brother.

“It doesn’t mean YOU earned it!”  She yelled in his face.

Cyrus struggled to keep from breaking into the argument.  The two would start –

Helena pushed her brother back slamming her open palms against his chest and stepping forward aggressively.  Horace retaliated, pushing back in the same fashion.

Cyrus had had enough.  Waving to ensure Lucius was paying attention, he pointed at the twins, shaking his head and gesturing for them to be taken from his quarters.

Lucius simply nodded, opening the door a crack and clearly giving orders he couldn’t hear over the.. Tantrum, he decided, now in full swing.  Taking his seat and resolutely taking another bite of his lunch, he noted the way the door slammed open as the two Palace Guards entered the room.  The sight of the armed and armored Guards drove home the situation, cutting the twins off mid-argument as they turned to protest their innocence and found him studiously ignoring them.

As the Guards took up positions behind their new charges, Cyrus enjoyed the last bite, drawing out the moment with a long pull on his water glass to wash it down.

“If you can’t carry out your duties without involving me,” he said finally, glaring at Horace.  “You’re no use to me.  You can leave willingly and swear to never come to my attention again, or be sent to The Wall, and join our parents in the Senate Cubicula.”

Stunned into silence, Horace made no objection.

Turning to Helena, he glared at her for a moment before continuing.  “Your brother is now your keeper.  I have better things to do than tolerate your behavior, and if you continue to piss me off, you’ll get your way and go to The Wall first.”

Cyrus turned back to his brother.  “Problem?”  He snapped.

“N-no,” Horace said clearly.

“Then deal with her.  Now,” Cyrus said as he rose from the table.  “Our parents are dead, I’m trying to find their murderers, run a government I never expected to inherit, and I’m not going to be able to hold your hand.  Get it done and join me in the conference room down the hall.”

Turning back to Helena, he spat, “Embarrass me again, and I’ll make you my new sparring partner.  I understand you’ve been neglecting your classes again, and I could use an outlet.”

Taking advantage of their shocked silence to storm angrily from the room, he turned to Lucius as he closed the door to his Apartments.

“Is it just me, or are they even worse?”

Lucius, no fool, managed to keep a straight face, refusing to rise to the bait by answering the rhetorical question.  Taking a few deep breaths and carefully rearranging his formal robes he nodded to Lucius and accepted a small, nondescript folder from the man before turning and leading the way to the conference rooms set aside for the afternoon.  He didn’t bother asking for the man’s opinion.  Having upbraided the twins, he was perfectly aware of the lonely path he had set for himself.

Familiar with the larger cubicula set aside for today’s meeting of the Hegemony’s military suppliers, he found it depressing the evidence of collusion between the major suppliers had been so easy to find.  The steady stream of better and better ways to kill people had been a fact of life from the days mankind evolved to dominate ancient Terra, but the Hegemony was oddly silent on the topic.  The Rocket Launcher, present on many refits serving the Hegemony had been the most recent development3064 almost a hundred years ago.

Like most established businesses, military suppliers had no desire to upset the apple cart and jeopardize revenue streams without evidence of a bigger payout down the line.  Unfortunately, the Hegemony needed the benefits those potential opportunities represented.  Today would not be what he was sure the representatives expected; another useless attempt to chivvy them towards increasing BattleMech and weapons production across the Hegemony.

I truly despise being the one person forced to stick his neck out, he thought moodily.  Instead of ignoring the situation, I have to..  Reach an accommodation with these people.

Reaching the cubicula, he briskly crossed the room to mount the Dais before accepting the deep bows of the assembled representatives and their entourages.

“My brother will be joining us momentarily,” he said quietly, placing the small folder on the Lectern amid the shuffling.  “In the meantime, we will begin with a review of recent military developments.”

Looking around the room, he continued.  “It is no secret the Legions have suffered reversals of late.  This gathering..” he said, spreading his hands to indicate the room.  “Is not here to assign blame.  Or make unreasonable demands.  Rather, I seek to provide..  Guidance.  And advice.”

Opening the folder, a knock at the door forestalled him before Horace entered.  Acknowledging his salute and waving him toward a chair next to the Dais, he continued.

“Mr. Davidson?  Mr. Hargreaves?  I hope the two of you get along, because you’re now business partners.”

The two men turned to each other in consternation, then back to Cyrus in protest.  He held up a hand to forestall them, taking his seat.  “It has been over two hundred years since ATC was founded, Mr. Davidson.  Since that time, regardless of the difficulties involved, the company has stagnated.  Despite its size and profitability, ATC has not been successful in its ultimate goal; military production for the Hegemony.”

“Techwizards, on the other hand, is both privately funded and already famous for equipment recovery and restoration..  And research.”

Cyrus came to his feet once again, “I propose a joint project, to research and develop a new military technology.  ATC will be responsible for financing and provide their facilities; Techwizards will provide leadership and personnel.  Details will be announced at a later date, at the next meeting of the Consilium Securitatis.”

Cyrus turned the top page of the document folder over with an air of finality.  “Any questions or concerns..?”

Gerald shot to his feet in protest.

“Caesar..!  ATC has faithfully carried out its mission to the Hegemony!”

“What mission?”  Cyrus asked quietly, cutting off the older man from continuing.  “I seem to have forgotten.  Wasn’t it, ‘Strengthen the Hegemony’?”

Forced to pause for a moment as he worked out the answer to the unexpected question, Gerald reluctantly nodded.

“It seems to me,” Cyrus said as he sat down once again.  “That trying to do both civil and military manufacturing under the same leadership was a mistake.  The Primitive ‘Mechs built by ATC have staved off calls for them to manufacture modern technology for too long.”

“It has not been announced yet,” Cyrus said, trading glances with Horace.  “But as major stockholder, the government..  My government, has decided to split ATC’s civilian and military division.  Coupled with the downgrading of Primitive units and reassigning them to the Cohors Morituri as a permanent defensive force on worlds of the Hegemony, it leaves ATC in danger of bankruptcy.”

Gerald just stood there, mouth agape as Cyrus destroyed his career.

“I’ll miss you and your wife at state dinners, Gerald.  But if you want to be a player, you better plan on getting things reorganized quickly.”

Turning to the Techwizards representative, he continued.  “I expect results, Mr. Hargreaves.  Until my candidate for Imperator has accepted his office, you may come to the Officium Caesaris with your concerns.  Understood?”

“Yes, Caesar.”

Letting the silence grow for a moment, he stood up and returned to the Lectern.  “Examples and specifications will be presented to you within a reasonable timeframe, gentlemen.  Be prepared to present an update of the project at the next meeting of the Consilium Securitatis.  Thank you.”

Cyrus moved on to the next document, taking a moment to consider it before announcing, “Mr. Cortes.  Can you give us your opinion on the Gun Trailers in use by the Inner Sphere?  When can we look forward to a proposal from Marian Arms for these systems?”

Holding up a hand to forestall the older man from presenting himself, he continued.  “I think we can consider the formalities dealt with, thank you.”

Motioning once again to Horace, he gave the younger man the sheaf of documents and directed him to return to his seat.

The older man remained in conversation with his entourage for nearly a minute before turning to stand and face him.

“Caesar, I am sorry to say we have no detailed information-”

“Yes, Mr.Cortes,” Cyrus interrupted him.  “You do.”

Returning to his seat, he continued.  “Before the turn of the century, the Observationis Externum reported on the deployment of the so-called ‘Ambush Trailer’ – a ten-ton tracked chassis with six RL-15s in a rear-facing mount with a ton and a half of armor, most of it on the rear.  The data has been available to you the whole time, and the fact these trailers are still on the open market makes this an extremely poorly kept secret, Name.”

“In fact, I find it extremely interesting in general.  Such an armed trailer, carried in bulk as cargo could be very useful.”  Cyrus turned once again to his brother, motioning for him to speak before holding out a hand for the return of the documents.

“Very useful, Caesar,” he began.  “If we could bypass the limited number of vehicle bays on our DropShips, we could – possibly – bring multiple trailers to bear at a fraction of the cost..”

Cyrus stood once again, placing the sheaf of documents on the Lectern once again before taking up another document.

“I believe I speak for the Legions,” he said quietly.  “When I say I would like to see proposals for such trailers at our next meeting.  Thank you.”

“Mr. Pidwerbesky?  I understand HMI is set to complete the factory expansion on Pompey within eighteen months?”

A middle-aged man, hair going white at the temples stood in the front row.

“Yes, Caesar.”

“And what security provisions have been taken to ensure its safety?”  Cyrus asked mildly.  “Despite representing the entirety of Hegemony Aerospace manufacturing, your facilities seem badly exposed.”

The representative seemed hesitant, but shrugged and answered saying, “We had assumed the Legions would take responsibility for providing a garrison, Caesar.”

You mean, you hoped the Hegemony would cover the expense of providing the required security, Cyrus thought sourly, not letting his face show the disgust he felt.

“Yes,” Cyrus said finally.  “But.”

“I am..  Displeased at the way basic security concerns have been ignored,” Cyrus said as he reclaimed his seat.  “Production will be delayed while those concerns are addressed, beginning with secure facilities for employees caught unawares of an impending attack, and a security force assembled to deter an attack against your facilities.”

“Caesar,” began Pidwerbesky.  “Our commitment to our employees-”

Cyrus raised a hand to forestall the inevitable claims of innocence from the man.

“I’m told interrupting a speaker is a sign of a weak argument,” he began again.  “But..  For all the modernity and efficiency of your facility, your decision not to protect the government’s investment has saddled me with a significant ongoing defensive commitment.”

“Let me speak plainly, Mr. Pidwerbesky.  Your profits from this project will go into a fund to address these issues before executive bonuses and investor dividends are paid.  And because of this expense,” Cyrus said evenly.  “Your next projects will be funded by the company.”

“Discussions are still ongoing, but Hadrian will be required to diversify with a new factory site on a different world of the Hegemony – Pompey has become too much of a target for my taste, now.”

Cyrus stood to return the document to the folder once again, closing it and gesturing Horace to come forward once again.

“Do you have any new proposals from CBI?  This would be a good time to present them.”

Hector shook his head, and Cyrus allowed himself a grimace.  If it doesn’t walk, it isn’t a threat.  What are we teaching people these days?  As the murmur of whispered conversations grew, Cyrus stepped down from the Dais. 

“Horace,” he said in a low voice.  “Take over the meeting.  Discuss these,” he said, pointing at the folder.  “And request updates or presentations at the next meeting.  And tell them do their own research.”

Horace nodded.

“How’d Helena take it?”

Horace grimaced.  “Badly.  I ordered her back to the Academy.  And I warned her the next time she got the bit between her teeth, I’d order her cashiered and married off to some Pleb twice her age.”

“You’re going to need to carry through with that,” Cyrus pointed out quietly.

“I will,” he said resignedly.  “I’ll miss her, but you’re right.  She can’t be the baby anymore.  It’s time to grow up.”

Cyrus shrugged.  His parent’s tolerance of the twins had been one of the drawbacks living in the Palace until the two were enrolled in the Academy.  He simply didn’t have the time or patience to deal with it anymore.

Turning to address the chamber once again, he took his leave, accepting their bows with equanimity as Horace took responsibility for the rest of the meeting.

*
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 05 November 2022, 01:59:45
*

The constant sense of being watched and handled had become irritating to his bachelor habits and lifestyle, and he had decided to dismiss the Staff and try to recover his equilibrium preparing a simple meal for Horace and himself before trying to go to bed.

Definitely a sedative tonight, he thought idly.  Deep in his own thoughts, the soft chimes caught him by surprise as Horace came through the door.  Oh, right.

The two men embraced in the well-equipped kitchen, Cyrus thumping his brother warmly on the back a few times before the two separated and the younger man lifted the lid on one of the pots.

“Stew?”

“Mom’s recipe,” Cyrus confirmed as he busied himself wiping the counter and moving dirty dishes to the sink.  “I’ll give you some to bring Helena.  Sorry I made you deal with her.”

Horace shrugged as he turned and went to sit down at the small table across from the embossed place setting reserved for the Caesar.  “She’s getting harder to deal with.  Even her Century has noticed.”

Cyrus snagged a bag of rolls from the counter and tossed it at him.  “Making me do all the work?  Who am I, your mother?”  The joke fell flat, a sudden reminder of their loss.

Turning away, Cyrus busied himself preparing a pair of bowls of the fragrant stew, taking them to the table and setting one in front of Horace.

“Is there any good news from the investigation?”  Horace asked quietly.

“Not yet,” admitted Cyrus.  “Its been less than a week.  People have told me that’s bad news, others have told me not to give up hope.”

Taking a sip of his stew Cyrus sighed and pulled a roll from the bag saying, “There hasn’t been time for much of anything.  I don’t think there’s much risk the Palace is going to burn down or a coup attempt is around the corner, but I’d be lying if I didn’t think it was long odds that we find out who or why they were murdered.”

“You keep saying, ‘they’,” Horace noted.  “Dad and Rex?  I thought that was an accident.”

“I don’t know,” Cyrus said dejectedly.  “No one knows, so until something’s proven one way or another, everything or everyone with motive or opportunity is a suspect.”

“Including you?”  Horace asked.

Cyrus looked up sharply.  “Yes.  Both of us.  All three of us, actually.”

Ripping the soft roll apart and dipping it in the bowl, he continued.  “Murders are normally done for personal reasons by people known by the victims.   Dad was starting to feel out some of his closer allies to see if he could get enough support to push a decision to outlaw slavery through the Senate, so the number of suspects is larger than you might have realized.”

“Slavery?  Really?  Why?”  Horace asked curiously, finishing his bowl of stew and pulling apart the bread to eat the remaining liquid.  “It’s not like they’re being mistreated.”

“It’s something we can’t discuss, even here.”  Cyrus said quietly.  “We’ll have to find time to have a private conversation in The Motte.  It’s..  Bigger than you think.”

Cyrus braced his elbows on the table and put his face in his hands, saying, “I never knew why, and you’re going to wish you didn’t have to, too.  But we can’t tell Helena.  At least”, he amended.  “Not everything.  You can tell her there are complications, that I don’t know if Dad’s helicopter was an accident, I don’t know why Angelica went nuts or who trained her..”

“No answers so far, then,” Horace said, pushing his empty bowl to the side.  “We can’t let them get away with it!”

“Who?”  Cyrus said bluntly.  “I can execute Angelica’s entire extended family, if I choose to risk the repercussions.  I can send Cohorts to raid our neighbors, take slaves, destroy infrastructure, factories, military objectives if I want to risk the backlash.  But I need proof.  And even if I find proof, is it real proof or just someone hiding their tracks by assigning blame to someone else I already want to hurt back?”

Cyrus pushed his own bowl to the side.  “We’re alone, Horace.  The people we might have asked to help us are laughing at us becoming the victims of our own policies and actions.  There are so many potential suspects, the Ordo has no way to determine if this is a domestic or external plot.”

Scooping up the bowls, Cyrus carried them to the large sink, filling them with warm water to sit before returning to the table.

“At this point, I have my own list.  None of the three of us is on it – I know I didn’t want this, I doubt you or Helena could have arranged it – but I’m still finding people I can trust to start looking from the top, down.”

Horace was rubbing his eyes to wipe away tears as Cyrus sat back down.

“Right now, all we can do is try and keep things from getting worse.  The Legions, the Senate..  Even the Plebs, they all need to see business as normal.  Speaking of business, what have you come up with from CBI?  Or is ‘more’ their only excuse?”

Cyrus waited as Horace pulled himself together.

“‘Business’?  How can you just talk about business when our parents are dead?”

“You get nearly assassinated the same day,” Cyrus said quietly.  “Then become autocratic leader of a Periphery nation pointed to as bandits.  Then you have to do the job to keep the government functioning.  Then take sedatives to sleep a couple hours a night while wondering if the rest of your family is still in danger.  Then take more pills because trying to send an entire Patrician household to The Wall without proof could start a civil war.  Then find out things were worse than you thought and your dad was the reason things started going to shit and try to fix things relying on the same people with the most to gain from his death.”

Cyrus looked his brother in the eye.  “Now, try all that while your only remaining family is asking you to find out who did it, and why haven’t you gotten revenge yet two days after their murder.”

Cyrus dropped his eyes to the table and rubbed away tears of his own for a moment before continuing.

“I’m a little numb.  No,” Cyrus corrected himself.  “I’m in shock, according to my councilor.  It’s not quite real, yet.  I’m just trying to get through the day, led from meeting to meeting like a prize sow to the butcher.  Just going through the motions, trying not to think about it.”

Silence returned to the table for a moment.

“CBI doesn’t have any idea,” Horace said haltingly.  “The trailers you brought up today were the first concrete suggestion there might be something new we could try.  Triple-A had suggestions, but nothing we could start doing right away.”

“What did your friends suggest?”

“They pointed out the potential to intercept raids begins at the Jump point, so they wanted to start with something that would deter Jumpships from trying to enter Hegemony systems.”

“Like.. The ‘Fortress’ Stone’s Republic threw up?”

“No, like a small, manned station with enough weapons to prevent them from using their Jump Sail to recharge.”

Cyrus leaned back, considering the suggestion.  Techwizards and ATC didn’t know it yet, but samples of Blakist drones and drone control stations and had been recovered in the late ‘80’s on former Federation worlds.  The technology had been ignored ever since in favor of manned vehicles and equipment, even in the Republic, but the Hegemony faced several of the same challenges the Blakists had encountered before the Jihad and Cyrus had wanted it developed to benefit the Legions.

“I need more information,” Cyrus said finally.  “I could see it working, but some aspects would need clarifying, and some weapons and technology would need to be..  Built and adapted.  And it might not work, besides.”

“More secret meetings?”  Horace asked.

“Absolutely,” Cyrus agreed.  “Dad was apparently using The Motte almost twice a week before he died.”

“And no guarantees?”

Cyrus shook his head.  “Realistically..  The number of successful, war-winning inventions is miniscule compared to the number of historical failures.  Whether we can duplicate the technology I’m thinking of is a reach given the state of education here in the Periphery.  It’s one of the reasons we’re going to have to make changes – major changes – in education and forcing educated workers into slavery to run our institutions.”

“A domestic population able to understand the principles could create and continue to refine them.  We can’t attract these people..  Enough of these people, rather, and going out and finding them is hit-or-miss to begin with.”

Horace nodded.

“And vested interests in keeping the system are going to protest.”  Cyrus paused, leaning across the table slightly.  “Another complication for investigators.”

The quiet chimes interrupted the two men, and both of them turned in surprise to see the Imperator wave as he entered the Atrium.

Cyrus waved back, shooting Horace a warning look and shaking his head minutely before rising from the table to cross the atrium and seat himself in one of the comfortable chairs as Horace and the Imperator joined him.

“I hear Gerald over at ATC is panicking over the fallout from today’s meeting,” David said bluntly.  “What’s going on?”

“They’re finding out that ‘business as usual’ and tomorrow’s bonuses and dividends aren’t as sure a thing as they thought,” Cyrus said coolly.  “I need them to produce, and if I need to threaten their status and profits by separating military and civilian production, I have the leverage to leave the Davidsons sitting on the sidelines trying to recoup their losses for years.”

David grunted, leaning back in thought.

Horace piped in adding, “The haven’t replaced the Perdition facilities, after all, even though they’ve been making steady profits for years.”

Cyrus got up to make tea as David started to defend the company’s situation.  The familiar task took only a few seconds, the small machine familiar from years of use before being moved into his new apartments and he turned to watch and listen to Horace and David start to argue about who was responsible for the attacks on their parents.

Mariks and Canopians aside, I suppose that leaves me to argue in favor of ‘domestic terrorists’.  Is the universe insane?  The more he considered it, the more logic argued in favor of it.  And the more the Ordo tied itself in knots trying to identify the source, the more suspicious it was.

It’s up to Effeil, now, he realized.  He had assumed the system would remain competently run while he settled into his new position, but tradition mandated the new Caesar replaced senior officials with loyal supporters rather than competent junior officials on their way up.

Shaking his head and coming back to the discussion between the two men, he grabbed a handful of mugs and the teapot to bring back to the table where Horace and the Imperator were still debating who were behind the attack.

Cyrus silently put the mugs on the table in front of them before pouring himself a cup.

“So, what’s your decision, Cyrus?  Tamarind or the Canopians?”

Cyrus paused to consider the question carefully, then realized an uncomfortable silence had begun to stretch out as they waited for him to announce policy.

“Neither,” he said finally.

“Aggressive action would go a long way to ensure the loyalty of the Legions,” David pointed out.

Cyrus felt a spurt of rage and snapped, “If I have to worry about loyalty, I’d rather order the officers responsible for that failure decimated.  Including you, David.”

Horace sat in stunned silence, but after a moment the Imperator broke into a wide grin and reached across the table to clap Cyrus on the shoulder in approval.

I wonder if that was a concern for Simon Cameron, Cyrus thought bitterly.  The quick, decisive war to reassure wavering supporters seemed to have a way of becoming a long-term commitment, and his father’s offensive in the Duchy of Tamarind proved the inadvisability of it.  He glared at the other man for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and tried to control his temper. 

Cyrus took a sip of tea from the heavy mug.  “I should mindlessly attack a neighboring power to avenge the insult of our family’s deaths at the hands of an assassin, without confirming the identity of those responsible?  With the military still trying to rebuild from the Tamarind offensive and the losses pushing the Magistracy from the Illyrican province?  No.”

He watched the two men react over the edge of his mug before continuing.

“Barring raids – where we can assure the balance of forces favor us – we come up short in equipment in terms of quality as well as quantity.  I won’t rule out a punitive assault on a major objective if the assassin’s backers can be confirmed, but I won’t be drawn into weakening our defensive posture while fighting an allied force on two fronts.”

Putting the mug down and leaning back, he continued, saying, “I want ATC, Hadrian, and MAI to start innovating and reinvesting in their production facilities rather than relying on Primitive units to rebuild, and I need the Legions to stand down and recover the sharp edges dulled from endless skirmishes and grand offensives that go nowhere.”

Leaning forward, he picked up the mug once again and spoke forcefully for the first time.  “And I need time to consider my own strategy.”

“I look at the waste at Niops, and I want to puke,” he said in the same tone.  “At one stroke, we could have made an alliance that would have given us access to their population, educational materials and facilities, and advanced military technology and threw it away to raid and provoke another enemy.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Ordo begins to find discrepancies in the Duchy’s behavior,” the Imperator warned.  “Will you authorize a raid if it turns out they’re responsible for the assassin?”

“Yes,” Cyrus said promptly.  “If they can prove it.”

“So, can I start planning for such a thing?  Even if it isn’t confirmed yet, it would give my replacement a place to start planning his own response.”

“Yes,” Cyrus said thoughtfully.  It would be a few weeks before NAME arrived, if he decided to accept the post.  Having the experienced Imperator plan the basics of such an operation would save them valuable time if the Ordo managed to find the evidence to confirm his claims.  Besides, a successful operation would give Name some valuable political capital early in his career.

“I’ll get things started tonight, then,” the Imperator stated.  “It sounds like ATC is panicking over nothing.”

Coming to his feet, he stretched and came around the table to embrace both of them in turn before continuing.  “Good night, boys.  See you tomorrow.”

The two brothers sat in silence as the older man made his way out of the Atrium before Horace turned back to him.

“‘Decimation’?  My god, Cyrus, where did that come from?”

Cyrus slumped back in the chair, throwing his head back and closing his eyes.  “You heard him – he practically threatened me.  I need their respect, yeah, but I can’t allow myself to be a pushover, or I lose it by default.”

Cyrus let the silence sit for a few seconds then added, “I promised myself I wouldn’t go insane with power; our people need to see ‘the good emperor’, someone who can improve their lives, not complicate them.”

Looking back at Horace, he continued.  “The endless attempts to expand the Hegemony have to stop.  We’ve made enemies of every government of any size, and if Alaric manages to resurrect the Star League we could find ourselves embroiled in a new Reunification War.”

The brothers sat in silence for a seconds before Horace came to his feet awkwardly, announcing, “Well, I’ve got to bring Hegemon to the ‘Mechbays at CBI and spend a couple hours studying.”

“I’ll get some stew for Helena,” Cyrus offered, coming to his feet and turning to walk back to the kitchen.  “We need to get you up to speed tomorrow morning – I’ve made arrangements for us to attend another briefing tomorrow in The Motte.”

“Couldn’t we do more in the evenings?”  Horace complained.  “I’m going to have to work evenings and weekends just to keep up at this rate.”

Taken aback, Cyrus just smiled in amusement as Horace flushed and the two men hugged again.  Taking the container from his older brother, he passed the table on his way out to snag the remaining rolls to take with him.

Following the younger man to the door, he found Lucius and Miss Neal-Zhao waiting outside.

“Who’s this?”  Horace asked.

Cyrus sighed.  “My councilor.  Miss Neal-Zhao.  Come in, please.  See you tomorrow, Horry.”

Curiosity satisfied, Horace traded handshakes with the woman before waving goodbye.  “See you tomorrow, Cy.”
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: David CGB on 05 November 2022, 05:20:07
Very interesting, looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 05 November 2022, 10:30:22
Thanks.  So, what could I do better?  The holes seem gaping to me.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Shadow_Wraith on 05 November 2022, 14:25:02
Enjoying the story so far.  I am glad to read that the new Ceasar is a get the facts first, before lashing out to internal opponents and external threats/targets.  Will you do a side story update on the reaction to the previous Ceasar's death?
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 05 November 2022, 15:57:46
Unlikely.  The original plan was a 5,000-word-a-day project for my camping trip, to write it all out and transcribe it at home.

Then, it freaking ballooned.  Day: 2 and 3 took an entire month each, and I made some uneducated decisions like skipping names, places, details I could only get online from Sarna or at home from books in favour of actual writing.  Now, I'm trying to play catch up writing Day: 4 to keep on schedule and editing the last 6-700 words of Day: 3 while agonising over things like whether to refer to it as a command couch or ejection seat.

It's on track to be just short of 65-70 K words, and my other project is on hold for another 4 months.  Since it got taken up by the battletech fan wiki I am determined to finish, but doubt I'll do more immediately, although I'd like to come back at some point since they're my favourite faction.  I have been toying about doing some kind of setting document so other people write more about them, but that's just fantasy right now.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 07 November 2022, 01:11:19
*

One of the rarest Assault ‘Mechs available to the Hegemony and painted in the midnight blue and grey with red and white trim of I Legio, Hegemon dominated the high-security bay.  Escorted by Hegemon’s chief tech and armorer, Martin Stowell, Horace had to pinch himself to prove it was really happening.

“Wow,” he said reverently.

Martin snorted.  “Just about more trouble than its worth,” responded the older man, clapping him on the back and pushing past him to cross the bay.  Raising his voice, he called, “An Archer can just about beat it, costs less, and you don’t need extra training to fix it when it breaks.”

Seeing Martin had no intention to slow down, he broke into a jog to catch up, clutching the Neurohelmet in its case in one hand while keeping his eyes on his new ‘Mech.

“But it’s an OmniMech!  That has to count for something.”

“Sure,” said Martin.  “It costs more but its more flexible.”

Glancing up at the massive war machine, he shook his head.  “The last time this machine even saw a battlefield was with Julius and putting it back into the field is a bad idea, mark my words.  You’ll be singled out everywhere you go.  You’d be better off serving in something more common.”

Surprised to hear the Technician in charge of the ‘Mech malign it he turned away from the Assault ‘Mech to face its detractor.

“But – why?”

“How long did it take you to hit what you’re aiming at in that Cyclops?  Now, double that.  Every time you change something,” he said, waving at the ‘Mech.  “..You have to relearn how to use it.  The Legions concentrate on general-purpose units that can fight anywhere.”

Stopping short of the base of the gantry supporting the lift and repair equipment, he continued.  “We’ve already warmed it up for you.  Take some time on the way to make sure you make the most of that XL engine,” he said.  “It’s a colossal pain to fix one, let alone replace it.”

As one of the Astechs pulled the gate of the lift shut and it lurched into motion, Horace turned back to the ‘Mech to admire it again, noting the muzzles of laser and PPC emitters in the arms and torso before the regular patterns of the massive MRM launchers took over as the cockpit came into view.  Horace barely noted the jolt as the lift reached the top of the gantry, focused as he was on the view through the wire mesh of the gate.  As the Astech pulled the gate open, he found himself walking quickly down the walkway to the cockpit access, stopping in front of it to strip off the light jacket over his cooling vest and uniform.

Finally ready, he grabbed the bar over the access port and entered feet-first, sitting on the floor of the walkway to turn around and slide back into the cockpit, hunched over in the cramped space to accept his gear handed down by the Astech before helping him lower the hatch and sealed it from the inside.  The steady hum and almost imperceptible vibration of the fusion reactor confirmed the ‘Mech was active, although the sophisticated system of Primary- and Secondary monitors and controls were dark.  The maintenance settings had been enough for the Techs to activate its basic systems and one or two of the consoles, but the ‘Mech required an authorized user to interface with the gyro and DI computer to bring it life.

Nothing can stop me now, mwa-ha-ha!, he thought as he connected the heavy Neurohelmet and placed it on the floor next to the ejection seat before dropping into it, avoiding touching the active consoles.  The standard restraint system took only moments to fasten over the unfamiliar bulk under the cooling vest – he didn’t think it was necessary for the short ride to CBI on the outskirts of Nova Roma, and the Alphard System was already headed to Perihelion, making the school’s Mechbays cool enough to have to bundle back up against the cold before leaving the cockpit.

Shouldn’t matter too much as long as I’m not going to overheat, he thought cheerfully.  His father had been careful adjusting the custom configuration to limit heat build-up from weapons fire, preferring to trade intensity for steady firepower.  Donning the heavy Neurohelmet, he crossed his fingers, triggering Hegemon’s security system as he activated the link between the two components and prepared to take command of the massive war machine. 

“Identity passcode required.”

The standardized challenge of the Legiones Marianes suddenly brought a sense of finality as he responded, “Immortal Warrior 9, Periphery bandits zero, Warrior 17.”

“Identity confirmed, Cadet Horace O’Reilly.  You have assumed control.”

“Thanks,” Horace answered distractedly as the remainder of the consoles in the cockpit began to light up as automated checklists brought them online and he gave them a once-over as he prepared to disconnect from the gantry.

Weapons off-line, yup, Master Arm switch OFF, yup..  The computer began confirming the weapons loaded into the ‘Mechs pod space, the gyro beginning to spin up and actuators shifting under him as the system activated.  The compressed 360-degree view of the active sensor system blinked into existence in the main monitor, blurring as the sensors adjusted for variations in wavelengths of visual light in the ‘Mechbay, and warning indicators overlaid on the HUD warned him the sensors were restricted from using active radars and sensors.  Double-check that.. OFF.  Ensuring the portion of the consoles dedicated to the sensors was locked-out and dark, he moved on.

The Tactical monitor had already loaded, the feed from the sensors on the Palace grounds showed the situation in precise detail, the waiting ‘Mechs of his escort waiting a half-kilometer away from the Palace exit.  The switches to disconnect the umbilicals and supports weren’t in the normal place; a few seconds later, the red warning beacons lit and began turning, accompanied by a klaxion heard through the armor around the cockpit and he felt a burst of exaltation realizing that Hegemon was truly his for the first time.

“Martin, Hegemon.  Moving to exit the bay.”  He said.

“Rodger,” came the Tech’s voice over the earphones built into the Neurohelmet.  “Crawl mode?”

“Engaged.”

“Carry on.  Bay doors,” Martin paused for a moment.  “Opening.”

Now, yellow caution lights began to illuminate the Bay in a clash of colors, and as they came to a stop Horace engaged the throttle to the first detent, accelerating to 10 kph before crossing the bay as Martin confirmed the Tactical monitor’s accuracy.

“Passage to exterior Bay doors cleared, exterior doors,” he announced.  “Open.  See you at CBI Primary ‘Mech Bay.  Good luck, good hunting.”

“Roger, Martin.  Hegemon out.”

The slow speed was nevertheless exhilarating, the familiar motion bringing him to the massive, armored doors in under a minute before reaching out to the communications board and changing frequencies as the 90-ton OmniMech left the hanger.  Using the multi-function keys would have cycled through the available options and been faster but he was still uncertain what several of them were, and rather than embarrass himself it was easier to use the dedicated console to one side.

“Hasta Century, Hegemon.  Ready to move out?”

“Hasta one, here.  Let’s go, Hegemon.  Weapons hot, set Nav Point One, best speed.”

“Roger.”

By tradition, the Legions traveled prepared to defend themselves and Horace had been waiting for the order.  The Nav Point came up on the HUD, and he was able to use the multi-function controls to quickly select it, then reached across the console in front of him and lifted the cover up over the Master Safe toggle and flipped it to Active before letting it snap back into place.

Moving the throttle forward, he didn’t notice the channel opening for the first few seconds as the Battlemech under him surged forward and the noise level in the cockpit increased until the man’s voice came over the cockpit’s speakers.

“Hello, son.  Don’t reveal or acknowledge this message – it’s important we have a talk, just the two of us..”

Horace’s attention snapped to the communication speakers in the cockpit, the sudden movement causing an instant’s shudder in Hegemon’s smooth movements before the OmniMech’s DI computer smoothed out the inadvertent control input.

“..Now that the safety interlock is off, you can find this message in the Comm buffer if you need to replay it..”

The incoming transmission from one of the escorts made stepped on the recording, and Horace leaned over to scrabble at the control panel, trying to pause it, to no avail.

Can’t listen to this now, Horace thought furiously.  Can’t talk over it – or can I?

Finding the correct dial to lower the cabin volume took only a second or two of frantic groping, bringing the chatter of his concerned escorts back into crisp reception through the Neurohelmet’s built-in headset.

“Uh.. Sorry, Hasta one, not paying attention,” he said in a rush.  “Wait one.”

Trusting the DI computer to maintain course and speed, he turned back to the Comms, bringing up the history and making sure there was indeed a new file – still being recorded from somewhere, but visible now in the system.

Slumping in the ejection seat in relief, he started to panic.  Oh, shit.  Cyrus said he checked for this.  What the hell am I gonna do NOW?

The steady rocking motion of Hegemon’s cruising pace helped distract him, and he realized he was safe and secure, alone in the cockpit for the next hour or so and had time to make a decision.

Clearing his throat and tightening his grip on Hegemon’s controls, he reopened the channel.

First..  Lie.  Listen to the message, and call Cyrus for help.  I hope.

“Hasta One, say again.  Sorry, just enjoying the sweet new ride, over.”

*

“I’m sorry, sir, the Caesar is..  Indisposed.”

Horace stiffened.  That bastard!  Sleeping with his therapist?  How desperate did the man have to be..?

“I see,” he said resignedly.  “Well, I guess tomorrow is soon enough.  Thank you, Lucius.”

“You’re welcome, sir.  Good night.”
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 07 November 2022, 01:18:42
Also, stats for Hegemon, a Sunder SD1-O Ignatius.  Note its similarity to the -OC, slightly modified for the existence of Battlearmor;


Sunder SD1-O Ignatius

Mass: 90 tons
Chassis: Standard Biped
Power Plant: 360 XL
Cruising Speed: 43.2 kph
Maximum Speed: 64.8 kph
Jump Jets: None
     Jump Capacity: 0 meters
Armor: Standard
Armament:
     35.0 tons of pod space
Manufacturer: Unknown
     Primary Factory: Unknown
Communication System: Unknown
Targeting & Tracking System: Unknown
Introduction Year: 3162
Tech Rating/Availability: E/X-X-X-D
Cost: 28,592,625 C-bills

Type: Sunder
Technology Base: Inner Sphere (Standard)
Tonnage: 90
Battle Value: 1,870

Equipment                                          Mass
Internal Structure                                    9
Engine                        360 XL               16.5
   Walking MP: 4
   Running MP: 6
   Jumping MP: 0
Double Heat Sink              15 [30]                 5
Gyro                                                  4
Cockpit                                               3
Armor Factor                  279                  17.5

                          Internal   Armor   
                          Structure  Value   
     Head                    3         9     
     Center Torso            29        44   
     Center Torso (rear)               14   
     R/L Torso               19        29   
     R/L Torso (rear)                  9     
     R/L Arm                 15        30   
     R/L Leg                 19        38   

Weight and Space Allocation
Location                      Fixed               Space Remaining   
Head                          None                    1
Center Torso                  None                    2
Right Torso                   3 XL Engine             9
Left Torso                    3 XL Engine             9
Right Arm                     3 Double Heat Sink      6
Left Arm                      None                   10
Right Leg                     None                    2
Left Leg                      None                    2

Right Arm Actuators: Shoulder, Upper Arm, Lower Arm
Left Arm Actuators: Shoulder, Upper Arm

Weapons
and Ammo              Location  Critical   Heat    Tonnage   
Snub-Nose PPC            CT        2        10      6.0   
MRM 30                   RT        5        10      10.0 
MRM 30 Ammo (16)         RT        2        -       2.0   
Apollo MRM FCS           RT        1        -       1.0   
Small Laser              LA        1        1       0.5   
ER Medium Laser          LA        1        5       1.0   
MRM 30                   LT        5        10      10.0 
MRM 30 Ammo (16)         LT        2        -       2.0   
Apollo MRM FCS           LT        1        -       1.0   
Small Laser              RA        1        1       0.5   
ER Medium Laser          RA        1        5       1.0   
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 24 November 2022, 00:07:15
Day 4
  November 25, 3162
  Caesar’s Palace, Alphard
  Marian Hegemony

Despite the sedatives, it had been something of a restless sleep.  The warm presence of another body in his bed was something he was unused to, but he had found himself unwilling to push Mei out of bed the night before.  She had accepted the invitation to stay the night, after all, and it would have been churlish of him to insist.

His internal alarm beat the clock on the nightstand once again, and he carefully got up and fixed the covers before turning off the alarm and began his morning routine.  Mei eventually joined him, fully dressed and summoned by the smell of breakfast.

“What are you making?’  Mei asked, coming closer for a good morning kiss.

“Skillet with sausage and cheese,” he answered awkwardly as he opened the door to the small oven.  “I cook everything, freeze it, then defrost and reheat it when I feel like it.”

Resetting a timer, he turned to offer he a cup and saucer and waved her toward the kitchen table.  “Cheese will be melted right away.  Can we talk?”

“I suppose we should,” Mei said as she walked to the table and began to pour herself a cup of tea.  “Technically, last night was a breach of ethics.  My professors would have been disappointed in me.”

“How do you feel about it?”  Mei asked, pulling out a chair and sitting down.

Cyrus considered.  “Relieved,” he said finally.  “Reassured?  I think I can see a way to be myself, rather than a paper cut-out of a Caesar.”

“I noticed you took the sedatives last night,” she noted.  “Still trying to get up in the middle of the night?”

Cyrus turned to lean against the counter, a smirk on his face as he rolled his eyes.  “Somebody was in my bed, trying to throw the blankets off and cuddle up to stay warm.”

The chiming timer interrupted her embarrassed laughter, and Cyrus turned off the oven to pull out the hot dishes.

“And..  Yes.  I need to make sure I’m able to function without issue,” he said, putting the hot dish on the table in front of her and handing her a fork as she smiled up at him.  “Double-meanings aside, some of these meetings are so boring just staying awake and not insult them by falling asleep is an effort.”

“And then..”  He said as he brought his own breakfast to the table, “There are the meetings where being at your best, well-rested and clear-headed make it easier to avoid the kind of mistakes that..  Well.  Are the result of personal issues.  Anger, frustration..”

Watching the steam rising from the hot dish in front of him, he paused for a second.  “As Caesar, my political life and responsibilities outweigh my personal wishes and any relationships I may have, since none of that has any bearing on an empire of millions of people and over a dozen worlds.”  Looking up, he continued.  “And as much as I’d prefer to just be ‘Cyrus and Mei”, I have a responsibility to ensure we can agree on the situation.”

Mei had already eaten most of her cheese but paused to listen as he tried to explain.  Glancing up at her, he saw she was watching him intently.

“What?”  He asked defensively.

“Your parents did a surprisingly good job raising you, considering how far you were from inheriting your father’s rank,” she said, leaving her fork in the dish to reach across the table and hold his hand as he took a bite.

“I have to wonder how many heirs in your position would be able to disassociate themselves this way.”  She said, taking a sip of tea.  “Like a lot of things, it’s a bad sign, too, if done to extremes.  Be careful not to push people away too far.”

Cyrus nodded, reclaiming his hand to lift the edge of the mat and hold the bowl as he leaned over the table to shovel the hot food into his mouth. 

“What’s the rush?”

“We’re going to be late,” he explained.  “Lucius and the Office will cover for us and reschedule what they can, but ‘Cyrus and Mei’ are going to have to go to work soon.  Ready to be ‘Caesar and Miss. Zhao’ again?”

Watching him bolt his food amusedly, she nodded.

It only took a few seconds to finish the small portions, and Cyrus was putting the dirty dishes and cup in the sink as Mei came up beside him to pull him down to kiss her.  Pulling her into a close embrace, they spent a moment locked together before parting reluctantly, Mei turning to leave as Cyrus pressed the kitchen’s unobtrusive call button and the familiar chimes rang again through the Apartments.

Lucius and his valet were through the door in an instant with a murmured greeting as they passed each other and Cyrus turned to follow the man into the wardrobe as she left but hesitated.

“Lucius,” he said quietly as the other man drew closer.  “Send a message to The Motte to have her background check examined by our friend.”

Seeing Lucius nod and turn to arrange matters, he turned and followed the valet to the wardrobe.  He had never been ‘poked and prodded’ by the press before, but he was sure he wasn’t going to like it.  Turned out in the formal robes it seemed he was doomed to live in for the rest of his life, he patiently followed the guide arranged by Lucius to one of the smaller cubicula where a film crew awaited him.  Once on the set, a makeup artist quickly prepared him for the interview and he found himself sitting in a comfortable chair under the bright lights as people talked and worked in the background to prepare the small auditorium for the occasion.

“Thank you for agreeing to this interview, Caesar,” the host, Adrian Jackson said gravely.  “There’s been a great deal of speculation around the circumstances of your parent’s death, and what policies the Hegemony might pursue under your leadership.”

“Understandable,” Cyrus replied, raising his voice slightly to be heard over the surrounding activity.  “I preferred to avoid the spotlight before now.”

“The Office informs me you have no special requests to avoid any particular topics this morning?”

Cyrus shook his head.  He had checked the list of questions they had submitted to the Office and was prepared to catch the ‘softball’ questions they had proposed.  Given the reputations several of the figures in front of him enjoyed, he had decided to ignore the risks even if he had to slap one of them down on-camera to deter the next overly eager reporter from using such an opportunity to make their reputation.  Of course, if he had to, he could pause the interview long enough to recover.

“With your permission, I thought we would start with the circumstances surrounding your ascension to the Dais.”

Cyrus nodded his approval and leaned back, trying to get comfortable as last-minute makeup and checks were completed.

“Good evening.  I’m your host, Adrian Jackson, and tonight we bring you a special broadcast to interview Caesar Cyrus (Name) O’Reilly.”

“Caesar, thank you for speaking to us tonight..”

*

Cyrus was still seething with emotions as he began the trek to the secured entrance to The Motte with Lucius.  Felix had been right; Jackson had managed to manipulate the situation to his advantage.  One thing was clear; he needed a few minutes alone to regain his balance.

“Just a moment, Lucius,” Cyrus said quietly, waving one of the escorts from behind him to clear a convenient bathroom down the corridor.  Finished, he stepped past the man to turn the water on and listen for a moment before reaching down and using his hands to spread the cool water on his face and neck.

I didn’t think about how hot the bright lights were, he thought ruefully.  Something else to plan for.  I wonder..  Perhaps I need an aide with a ‘snivel kit’?  I’d kill for a pain reliever and sports drink right now.
 
Feeling slightly better after a few minutes, he came out and resumed his steady pace.  Fortunately, security at The Motte gave him only a cursory going-over, perhaps aware of how difficult it would have been for a double to have penetrated Palace Security undetected and swap places with him.  The delay had allowed Horace to beat him to the elevator, despite undergoing the full gamut of procedures, and so he was forced to cool his heels for the few minutes it took for the elevator to return.

Emerging into the bunker, he accepted the salute of the waiting Principes Flynn and despite small talk over weather on the surface was led to the waiting conference room without further delay to find Donald and Horace seated waiting for him.

“Consider it done, both of you,” Cyrus said as he entered the room and waved them back into their chairs before landing heavily in the curule chair at the head of the table and reached for the pitcher of water placed evenly between the three of them.  “I don’t plan on insisting on formality in private, especially from my closest advisors.”

“Especially if one of them is dead?”  Snapped Horace.  “Why, exactly, is he one of your ‘closest advisors’?”

“Because I have suspicions,” Cyrus said evenly, filling one of the small glasses at the table and taking a sip.  “And Director Effeil has the motivation to find the treasonous elements behind recent events.  Or do you really think this was a plot by outsiders?”

“Speaking of evidence,” Donald interjected, opening a folder on the table in front of him and offering Cyrus a piece of paper.

“Miss Meilin Neal-Zhao has an interesting background,” he began as Cyrus began a cursory examination of the document.  “The Motte’s systems contained an override, re-directing queries to an earlier security check rather than the most recent.”

“Director Flamen, I assume,” Cyrus said softly.  I might have known it was too good to be true.  “Or was it David?”

“Both, I think, sir,” said Effeil, pulling out another document.  “She was suspected of abusing her authority as a counselor to pull military personnel from active duty for a variety of reasons that didn’t always stand up to consultations with other psychiatrists.  A fair number of her patients were also proscribed medications that mandated transfers or being relieved from their commands.”

“So, David would probably have been made aware of it,” Cyrus said.

“That’s his signature at the bottom, advising the Director to investigate the situation, sir.”  Effeil said.  “Who suggested her in particular?”

Cyrus had to think for a moment before replying softly. “David,” he said as he leaned his elbows onto the table and covered his face with his hands.

Horace took the break in conversation to clear his throat.

“Cyrus..  Turns out Dad was smarter than you thought,” he said roughly.  “Or Martin thought.  He left a personal message undelivered in Hegemon’s Comm system.”

Cyrus looked up at his brother in surprise.  “How..?”

Horace shook his head, waving at Effeil.  “I think we’re better off leaving that as family business given the situation, don’t you think?” 

“He wanted Hegemon’s new owner to know about a diary of sorts, exclusive to the Caesar and his Heir.  Its apparently kept here, in The Motte,” he said.  “The rest of it was personal.”

“It must be kept in the High-Security storage area,” Cyrus noted.  “Along with the Alexandria Core.”

“A-Alexandria Core?”  Horace said excitedly.  “We have a Core?  Why is it here!”

“Cassius was apparently concerned the Word of Blake would realize they failed to completely destroy it after the Neutron bombing,” Cyrus explained.  “It was hidden until the end of the Jihad and found to be damaged by the radiation despite all the precautions, so it was kept in storage.”

“Then we have another problem,” Effeil said cautiously.  “Why was it put back into storage by the Delatura Militaria last year?”

“Last year?  What was Military Intelligence doing with it?”  asked Horace.

“I don’t know,” said Effeil.  “I can’t find any communications or reports in the system.  It makes me think he’s diddling the records using the computer over-rides in The Motte to hide something.”

“Damn it!” Cyrus stood up and began to pace back and forth across the head of the table before scooping up his glass and throwing it against the wall, expecting it to shatter.  He was surprised to see it bounce off, rolling under the table.

“Shatterproof,” Donald explained.  “Too much risk as a potential weapon.”

Cyrus continued pacing.  I swore not to act like a monster, Cyrus thought grimly.  There are worse things than death, though.

The room was too small to get any satisfaction from pacing, and Cyrus returned to his seat in frustration, reaching with a leg under the table to fish it out.  “I don’t imagine it’s the first time something’s been thrown around down here.”

The three men sat in silence as Cyrus turned it over in his hands for a few seconds before slamming it back on the table and refilling it with water.

“We’re going to run late, soon,” he announced as he leaned back into the chair.  “This was to be a short meeting to bring Horace up to date and get an update.  I wasn’t planning to have to deal with a conspiracy before lunch and order executions for dinner.”

He looked back at Effeil.  “What else is in that folder?”

Donald slid it across the table.  “Background checks for Angelica Marcotte, Director Flamen and his staff, as well as the Imperator and the military high command.  There are more than a few …questionable...  choices here,” he explained.  “Political considerations, some shady financials and other concerning behavior.”

Cyrus slid it back across the table.  “Put them on hold, for now.”

“Right now, we need to put everything on the table, and limit the damage these two can do,” he said coldly.  “I want precautions in place to prevent them from getting away.  I want their supporters identified and watched.  Speaking of,” he said, looking to Effeil.  “What happened to the tech crew that certified my father’s VTOL?”

“Under guard at one of I Legio’s permanent facilities outside Nova Roma,” Donald said.

“Contact them discretely,” Cyrus continued in the same tone.  “Warn them they could be in danger from their accomplices.  If one of them doesn’t turn within a day, poison one or all of them with something painful – but not lethal – and convince them to turn on each other.”

Cyrus looked Donald in the eyes, adding, “I want this made public and dragged through the courts, Donald.  Make sure its deniable.”

Donald nodded.

Feeling his anger subside, Cyrus took a moment to gulp down the contents of his glass, then took a deep breath and sighed.

“We need to understand each other and coordinate,” he said in a more normal tone of voice.  “I’m not going to risk them getting away with this, but I could reasonably be Caesar for another fifty- or sixty years.  We’re going to start preparing for that now, because I’m not going to spend all that time sitting on the Dias and in meetings to see the status quo handed down to my kids.  No offence, Horrie.”

“None taken.  I wouldn’t touch the job with a stick,” Horace replied.

“So, lets start at the beginning,” Cyrus said, refilling his glass as well as the two empty ones on the table.  “It all started with that stupid cat..”

*

The elevator wasn’t a tight fit for the three men, but Horace seemed unable to restrain himself any longer as Effeil stood off to one side uncertainly.

“Cyrus, are you out of your mind?”

“No,” said Cyrus calmly.  “I’m simply fed up with the way things are, and I’m going to change them.  Possibly for good, but if I can live the rest of my life and retire before it all falls apart, I’ll call it a win.”

Horace’s raised voice echoed in the enclosed space.  “But this is the Periphery we’re talking about!”

“It’s not Johann’s Periphery!”  Cyrus snapped back.  “It’s not Cassius’!  The circumstances have changed, and we shouldn’t have to rely on personal loyalty to the Caesar to keep me alive.”

“Tell me; have you ever read the principles the Hegemony was founded on?”  Cyrus asked rhetorically.  “You haven’t, have you?”

Clearly not expecting the question, Horace paused to regroup.  “Ancient Rome..?”

“Gaius Marius was nobody’s idea of a liberal.  He helped found the Roman empire, an aggressive state where soldiers were loyal to their commanders, not a Republic.  Three thousand years later, we should emulate that?  How’s that working for you?  Because I’d rather have my parents back than live under the same system that saw them killed.”

Cyrus stared at Horace, daring him to disagree before continuing.

“If I’m stuck doing this for the rest of my life, I’m going to do something I can be proud of.  We’re going to focus on defending the Hegemony and rebuild the military to something that makes Alaric hesitate before forcing us to join his new Star League as a non-voting member.  I’d rather join Nikol Marik’s Free World’s League than let that happen, and we’re never going to be accepted until we manumit the Slaves.”

Horace slammed an open hand into the door of the elevator but said nothing for almost a minute as the elevator continued on.

“You’re going to get yourself killed, Cy,” he muttered.

Cyrus sighed.  “Were you at the same meeting I was?  What don’t you agree with?”

“None of it,” Horace said stubbornly.  “But… It’s too much, too soon.”

“We might not have a lot of time,” Cyrus pointed out as the elevator began to slow.  “And I’m not going to play fair.”

“Right.”

“Right,” Cyrus echoed as the doors opened and waved his brother and Director Effeil out of the elevator ahead of him.  “Now get out here and do your damn jobs, eh?  We’ll talk again tonight.”

Spotting Lucius standing unobtrusively to the side, he waved him over.

“Lucius, we need to move quickly.  I want Palace Security to escort Director Effeil to Director Flamen’s office to arrest him for treason and attempted murder, immediately.”

Lucius somehow managed to restrain himself from any overt reaction, but Cyrus counted the blank look and half-second of hesitation before shaking open the scroll case to take notes as a victory.  Waiting for the man to finish, he continued.

“Announce the promotion of Cadet Horace O’Reilly to Imperator of the Legiones Marianes.”  He turned to Horace.  “Take command of I Legio.  Locate and detain Imperator Blacklake for treason and have him brought to the Palace for interrogation as soon as possible.  If anyone resists, order them arrested and detained.”

“I’m still just a Cadet,” Horace muttered.

“You’re the Heir,” Cyrus snapped.  “Cassius was sixteen.  Be calm.  Forceful.  Do your duty, and remind them of theirs.”

He turned back to Lucius, waiting until the man looked up from his notes.

“Order the Praesidii Praetoris to detain Meilin Neal-Zhao under suspicion of being a foreign spy,” he said bleakly.  Somehow, he didn’t feel like smiling in triumph as Lucius dropped his stylus in shock.

“Get going,” Cyrus said, turning back to the two men.  “Lucius and I will be for a few more minutes, then I’m going for lunch.  We’ll meet again tonight at dinner.”

Exchanging an embrace with Horace, he nodded at Effeil’s sketchy bow and traded a firm handshake with him before he turned to follow Horace out of the room.  As Lucius picked up his stylus and looked up from his scroll case again, he continued.  “I think I’d like to have a few professors from the Universitas Alphard listen to the presentation this afternoon, Lucius.  Confidentially, of course.”

“Sir?”

“Contact the Economics department and request they listen in and submit a report,” Cyrus explained tiredly.  “And push back the meeting with the finance minister by an hour.  Contact CBI and inform them my sister will be representing me.”

Marching back to his apartments, he took shameless advantage of the Staff and ordered Lucius to reschedule the rest of the afternoon, falling asleep across one of the leather couches in the Atrium rather than force himself to confront the situation by trying to sleep in the bed he had shared last night with Mei.  At last, the chimes announcing one of the staff arriving with a hot meal sounded and he dragged himself to the kitchen table to eat.

With Lucius running around behind the scenes with some additional last-minute instructions, Effeil taking command of the Ordo Vigilis and Horace busy with I Legio he had some time left to scrape himself together before Helena arrived to represent him at the meeting this afternoon.  Or so he thought before he discovered it was Lucius himself presenting him a sandwich and soup.

“What is it now?”  He asked resignedly.

“Your sister refused to represent you at the presentation by the Finance Minister, Caesar.”

Of course not, he thought moodily.  “I see,” he said mildly.  “Has she been thrown into a Cucurum and told to grow up yet?”

“Yes, Caesar.  I’m told she insisted on contacting the Imperator, who indeed ordered her to comply immediately.  Your brother informs me the call was acrimonious, and he ordered the Headmaster of the Collegium to remove her from classes until she, and I quote, ‘grew up.’”

Forcing himself to eat methodically, he asked, “Are the arrangements with the Ministry of Communications made?”

“Yes, Caesar.”

“Good enough.  I’m unavailable until dinner, let my sister know she’s invited.  Otherwise, if she wants to talk to me she’ll have to wait until tonight or tomorrow morning.”

“Yes, Caesar.”

“Thank you, Lucius.  See you this evening.”

*

His valet and the Staff were on time but found Cyrus waiting patiently in the Atrium reading the glossy briefing book provided by the officials from the Ministry of Finance.

I can’t understand anything in this book, he thought uneasily.  I need an expert; someone I can trust.  And then, someone I can trust to vouch for him.

“Lucius, I need you to schedule meetings with the finance minister.  When can I expect the report from the Economics Department?”

“A draft copy is available already, Caesar.  The Dean made sure to tell me the basic premises are correct but inquired if you were looking for a second opinion.  Her husband is the finance minister, after all.”

Cyrus looked at him sharply.  “Damn.”  Closing the book and standing, he made his way to the wardroom as he considered his options.

“I can’t agree with the Hegemony’s economic policy controlled by a husband-and-wife duo, no matter how talented they are,” he said finally as the valet ensured he was presentable.  “For now, ensure the Minister attends the next meeting of the Consilium Securitatis.”

Lucius nodded, taking out the stylus and making a small note in his scroll case.

“Where’s Helena?  I had expected her to be knocking the door down.”

“I’m not sure, Caesar.  Should I call the Praesidii Praetoris and have her located?”

Cyrus weighed the option for a moment before nodding assent as he turned to leave, only to find Donald and Horace in the hallway waiting for him dressed in their own finery.

“Gentlemen.”  He said, accepting the men’s bow and salute with a nod.

“Feeling a little better, Cy?”  Horace asked.

Cyrus ran a hand over his head, then pulled it away.  At this rate, I’m going to go bald.  Or pull it out.

“Yeah,” he said quietly as the three of them stood in the center of the hallway.  “Maybe this will be settled now that the bad apples have been found.”

“It might be too early to relax much,” Effeil pointed out.  “Factor Benjamin is escorting the Ambassador again.”

Crap.  Cyrus groaned.  “Crap.  All we need is for the Canopians to get any sort of influence with the Skate Khanate.”

Their circle widened as Lucius walked out of the Atrium, saying, “Your sister has been located, Caesar.  She’s entertaining the Canopian Ambassador and Factor Benjamin in the banquet room.”

Seeing his advisors turn to him for his reaction, Cyrus drew a blank for a moment.  “I think there’s a problem,” he said finally, looking to Effeil.  “How much contact have those two had?”

“I’ll find out,” Effeil volunteered.

“Get her out of my hair,” Cyrus said to his brother as he began walking towards the banquet room.  “I don’t know what’s going on, and I might be paranoid, but Helena’s radical feminism is starting to raise my hackles.  Is she being led on?”

“Maybe,” Horace admitted.  “Given the source…  I’ll send her back to the Collegium.”

Cyrus sighed.  He was willing to allow Helena a place in the government to bolster the political arguments that would allow women to contribute more in government, but if he couldn’t rely on her not to embarrass him it would make it harder to argue in favor.

“We’re going to have to talk to her.  If she can act like a grownup, I’d appreciate her help,” he said finally as the banquet room came into view down the hallway.  “But if she’s going to make things harder..”

“It’s another year and a half until she graduates,” Horace said quietly.  “Or another three or four to marry her to some Patrician from the wilderness.  I suppose we could send her to the barbaricum as your representative, since you want to expand into the deeper Periphery.”

“I wouldn’t trust her to represent me at a buffet,” Cyrus muttered back.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 24 November 2022, 00:08:26
*

The expert staff ensured the evening went smoothly, although Helena’s behavior raised red flags among the more politically inclined.  Her sudden habit on expanding on the Ambassador’s comments was especially annoying, Cyrus found, as several comments were clearly rationalizations on why Canopian political theories should be embraced by the Hegemony.

If Horace turns any redder, he thought amusedly, he could stop traffic in Nova Roma.  I get the feeling Helena is going to have a hard time getting back in his good graces.

The seating arrangement favored him, keeping Horace and Helena to his right, with the Senate President and the Lothian Ambassador forming a silent bulwark to the Canopian and Clan representatives, leaving  Effeil to occupy the Elemental on his left.  The request for a private meeting seemed to be a capitulation to the merchant sensibilities of the former Warrior, who had urged his neighbor to discuss it several times only to be rebuffed.  Cyrus didn’t mind; it had kept the attention off of him long enough to enjoy the superb meal, and he wasn’t in the mood to talk, anyway.

Still, the interview was scheduled to air unannounced in a few minutes, and if he was going to present his claims to the wider Periphery, it would be best to do so with the grudging respect of the Lothario League to bolster them.  Waiting for the right moment had brought them to lingering over wine, and although the digestion of a number of Hegemony extremists was at risk, he hoped it would put one of the many mistakes of his family to rest.

“Ambassador Harkness – I wonder if we might speak honestly for a moment,” Cyrus said quietly.  The older man’s eyes darted to regard him from the wind- and sunburned face of a former trapper and fur trader.  Dressed in somber formal wear Cyrus knew was popular in the resurrected Free World’s League, he had remained silent for most of a night, clearly resigned to an evening of representing his nation in the formal pictures taken before the gathering.

“Of course, Caesar,” he said, suddenly cautious sounding.  Understandable, Cyrus thought.

“I would like to see closer ties to the League, Ambassador.  Despite Sean’s war, your time in the Hegemony saw a great deal of benefit for your people.”  Cyrus said quietly as he leaned back to study the man, aware of the growing intensity at the table.  Diplomacy?  Without a gun?  His eyes flitted to the other representatives at the table, Benjamin seemingly unaware of the serious nature of the exchange.

“Going forward, I intend to reverse some of the..  Misguided attempts to take us in the direction of Empire.  I intend to embrace the Republic aspect of Ancient Roman civilization, rather than the militaristic Caesars intent on conquering our neighbors,” Cyrus said clearly, leaning forward in his chair.  “In particular, I would like to ask you to represent us to the Niopsians, who I believe we owe reparations of some sort.”

Helena could only gawk, jaw open, as he repudiated nearly two centuries of political thought.  Beside her, Lady Fiona had better manners, although she seemed as shocked as her new admirer.  And in public!

“Forgive me, Caesar,” he interjected in a low voice.  “But it seems to me this is something we should discuss privately.”

“In the company of our advisors,” Cyrus said, locking eyes with Effeil before sweeping across the half of the table he controlled and returning Horace’s firm nod of agreement with one of his own, looking back to the Ambassador.  “And in the proper forum, as neighbors...  And, I hope, friends.”

The Ambassador leaned back against his chair, staring back at him as the servers busied themselves refilling glasses across the table, and Cyrus stood as Horace began beating on his glass with a piece of silverware.

“I propose a toast, ladies and gentlemen,” he said, raising his glass high.  “To the Grand Mistress of the Lothian League and House Logan!  Ave!”

*

“Are you insane!”  Helena screeched at him, fists shaking in rage between them.  “What are you doing?!”

“Leading,” Cyrus said quietly, surrounded by his advisors, watching her from his seat in the Atrium.  Finished with being seen in public for the night, he was lazing in a worn sweater and leggings from his university days.

“Off a cliff?  Why would you do this?!”

“Because we can’t win, Hel,” Horace snapped.  “We’ve burned every bridge we’ve ever come across, and we need their help to dig our way out.”

“Your brother is right,” asserted Felix, cutting off her next outburst.  “Both of them.  Which you would know if you were willing to cooperate, instead of relying on arrogance and ignorance to see you past logic and reasoned consideration.”

“The assassination was brought about by domestic issues,” Donald interjected.  “And those issues need to be resolved before we can move forward.”

Helena pointed a finger at him, accusing him, “You were supposed to have been shot for your mistakes!”

“And the real murders will take my place!”  Effeil yelled back.  The force of his outburst was enough to rock her back long enough for Cyrus to interject.

“Sit down, Helena.  You would have known what was going on if we felt we could trust you.”  He said quietly.  “So, here are your options; Cooperate, support the reforms that are coming, and help me make the Hegemony safer.  Work with me, and we’ll use your example to try and advance the legal reforms you say you want.”

He pointed past her to the door.  “Or get out.  I’m risking everything to make this work, and I’m not going to tolerate you sticking an oar in and giving people the idea I’m willing to tolerate your defiance,” he said grimly.  “And when I say, ‘get out’, I mean, exile.  I can’t risk someone using you to stir up rebellion,” he finished quietly, getting up to walk to the kitchen and press the call button.

The quiet chimes announced Lucius’ entrance.

“Have my sister escorted to her rooms,” Cyrus instructed as the two men met at the edges of the small circle of advisors and he returned to his seat.  “Post a guard outside her door and keep her confined until dinner tomorrow night.”  Frozen in disbelief as he ordered her arrested, Helena began to offer a stream of apologies and promises as a Guard arrived to take her by the elbow and escort her to her rooms.

Alone again as Lucius closed the door behind them, Cyrus took up the television’s remote to switch it on and watch the reaction to his first interview with his advisors as a thought occurred to him.

“Donald?  Ensure she’s monitored closely.  I want to know if she tries to talk with someone.”

*

“It’s almost midnight,” complained Horace as the elevator doors closed.  “Did we have to do this now?”

“Yes,” Cyrus said resignedly.  “One thing you can be sure of, until things settle down, we’re playing catch-up.  There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for everything Lucius could cram onto my schedule.  If we don’t keep up...”

“Besides, I wanted to see this diary,” Cyrus said finally.  “To hold the same book Cassius held, the history behind it...  I’m a historian, after all.”

“Is that where you got all those snappy lines from the interview?  ‘None of us have been shot in the back running away?’”

“Why not?”

“And being the ‘good Emperor’?  You think you can do that?”

Cyrus sighed, turning to face him.  “Do you know the rarest type of ruler?  It’s the one that rolls up his sleeves and does what he has to for the good of the people he rules, not the one that starts a war.  It’s the reformer that fixes problems, the educator that creates the conditions for economic and industrial development – and the fool who takes advantage of it and wastes it on useless military actions, trying to take and steal what people would have shared, willingly, to be part of it.”

He looked back at the featureless door of the elevator, waiting for it to open.  “I’m perfectly aware of the risk, to the Hegemony and myself.  But I have to do something.”

Horace grunted.  “Even sleeping in my old rooms, it’s still going to be another couple hours before I can finally go to sleep.”

“Pity Effeil, then.  If ‘Section E’ is going to earn its place, it’s going to need to produce results.  He’s putting more effort into finding foreign agents and the dross among our own citizens than he ever did as Director of the Securitatis Internum.”

“It’s a little frightening,” Horace said quietly.

“He’s not doing it himself,” Cyrus pointed out.  “And he’s not doing anything more than investigating and informing law enforcement or Section A of his findings.”

“It’s not just that,” Horace said irritably.  “What’s wrong with how we’ve been doing?  Why shake everything up at once?”

Cyrus was silent for a moment before answering.  “All I can do is take it a day at a time, but I’m not leaving these problems behind me to fester.  And the plan is to put Senatorial committees in charge of things to help prevent the kinds of blowback you’re talking about – have you ever seen a committee in a hurry to do anything other than what benefits them in some way?  Besides, it’s going to take the Communications Ministry months to get couriers to the Concordat and the Duchy and back with a response, let alone our own representatives to find people we can trust with the qualifications we want to audit Dad’s economic policies to help us.  How’s that doing everything at once?”

The sudden feeling of the elevator beginning to decelerate silenced the two men for a moment.

“At least we know why David got involved in all this,” Cyrus said.  “I still don’t know why Paul got involved, but if Dad really was going to replace David with Rex as Imperator it would have left him with nothing.”

“Something else he might have removed from the system?”

“Maybe,” Cyrus said as the elevator came to a stop.  “Whatever it was, I’ll bet David knows.  The three of them were in each other’s pockets for a long time.  I’m not above offering to let him off in exchange for information to satisfy my curiosity.”

“You’ll really let him get away with it?”

“No,” Cyrus said quietly as the doors began to open.  “But it’ll be all the sweeter when I let him walk into a courtroom believing it and the judge sends him to the Wall.”
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: drakensis on 24 November 2022, 07:26:21
Another place where you omitted a name and left a placeholder - one of Cyrus' middle names I think.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 24 November 2022, 16:34:07
AARRRGGH!   NO MORE PLACEHOLDERS EVER!
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Known Glitch on 24 November 2022, 22:25:53
I've never really cared about the Marians...until now.  Enjoying the development of the characters and the story.  Thanks for sharing!
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 25 November 2022, 17:26:58
Just leave a comment and tell me what you like or hate.  I have thick skin, I just don't know how to get better without someone COMMENTING.     :(
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Adacas on 28 November 2022, 09:58:28
I can only say excellent beyond the gaps in the names to be filled, I'm dying of curiosity about that RWR Database...
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: DOC_Agren on 29 November 2022, 19:55:59
Okay....
I think this is a good fresh take on Marian Hegemony, and the 1st I have seen that doesn't make them the Villians.  I'm trying to see what the end game for the Assassinations of the family, or if something kicked off early when the copter went down.

I have questions that I hope to learn on Helena, but those are as a reader,
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 29 November 2022, 23:38:40
Okay....
I think this is a good fresh take on Marian Hegemony, and the 1st I have seen that doesn't make them the Villians.  I'm trying to see what the end game for the Assassinations of the family, or if something kicked off early when the copter went down.

I have questions that I hope to learn on Helena, but those are as a reader,

Yeah, I thought it was time for something positive. 

Early?  Not really - more unexpected.  Like getting a hattrick (sp) in hockey.

End game?  REVENGE!

Helena's fate has been decided, although a question or two has to be decided yet.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Wrangler on 01 December 2022, 22:07:39
We still need figure out what going on with assassination.  Were like 4 days in and long ways to go perhaps.  :D
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 01 December 2022, 22:34:27
<G>  Its not like chasing OJ down a highway.  It's a 'whodunit'.   :)

 "All is as I have foreseen...". Already written and moved on.

 And, no.  I'm killing myself clearing snow at work, it's Christmas in 23 1/2 days, nothing is bought (!), decorated, baked, cleaned, organized...  I'm within 2-3 scenes of the end of Day: 5, a 1500-2000 word jump to Day: 9, and an Epilogue with a space battle scene, Helena's outcome (toying with her dying in the cockpit), and some homebrew new tech, etc. of about 5,000 words.  So it's coming to a head very soon.

In a burst of hubris I thought about another story, where his pregnant girlfriend is injured (set immediately after the epilogue) and is more...  Violent.  Did you ever see that Burt Reynalds movie, where he walks into the party with an empty glass and a small Jerry can, fills the glass, and throws it in the other guy's face then holds up a lit lighter and says, "Get out." ?  Like that.

Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: DOC_Agren on 01 December 2022, 23:54:32
we will be here when you get dug out in May  >:D
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: Red Pins on 02 December 2022, 00:10:09
 :bang:

Seems like it.  And this is normally the quiet time - its 2-3 hours of yardwork every day, spring, summer and fall.  I just need it to stop snowing and drifting for a week to catch up.
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: DOC_Agren on 02 December 2022, 17:00:23
I said May.  8)
Title: Re: Hegemon
Post by: cklammer on 03 December 2022, 06:49:11
May in year of .... ?

Edit: yes ... that is me being supportive  ;D ... question is: of what?  >:D