A Call To Arms – Snippet 27
“That’s because you didn’t know him before King Michael,” Breakwater said ruefully. “He was quite the politician during Elizabeth’s time, with a firm grasp of his opponents’ weaknesses and a clear eye for pushing through whatever laws or policies his sovereign wanted.” He shook his head. “I’d assumed that age and the lack of a strong monarch had simply sapped his strength. I appear to have miscalculated.”
Winterfall turned that one over in his head. Only minutes ago the Chancellor’s faction had been striding fearlessly through the Star Kingdom’s political waves. Now, suddenly, they seemed to have fallen in over their collective head. “What are you going to do?”
“I’ll tell you what we’re not going to do,” Breakwater said. “We’re not going to make our stand on this issue. This smells too much like the aftermath of the Secour incident, and I have no intention of going through that kind of humiliation again. No, I think that for the moment we’ll support their move.”
“Support it?” Winterfall asked, frowning. “You mean actively, as opposed to staying on the sidelines?”
“Very actively,” Breakwater assured him. “For one thing we’re in the middle of a pirate crisis. For another, playing that card also all but requires them to turn over those remaining corvettes to us in a timely fashion.” He cocked his head. “In fact, if we work it properly, we may be able to make the cause and effect run backwards. That is, we make it look like the Navy gave us the corvettes in exchange for graciously allowing them to reactivate the battlecruisers.”
“Not much of a distinction,” Winterfall murmured.
“It’s all in the presentation, my boy,” Breakwater said. “For now, the perception of victory will be enough.”
He settled back against the cushion. “And sooner or later, Edward will have to show his hand. Once we find out what this is really all about, we’ll find a way to turn it to our advantage.”
Winterfall exhaled a huff of air. “I hope so.”
“Trust me,” Breakwater said. “Burgundy may be an excellent politician. But I’m better.
“Much, much better.”
* * *
The door closed, and it was once again just the two of them. “So you’re not going to tell them?” Burgundy asked.
“Not yet,” Edward said, feeling some of the tension draining away. He’d tried to hide it from Burgundy and Dapplelake, but he’d dreaded this confrontation. Dreaded what Breakwater and his allies would do in the face of Burgundy’s effective coup d’Ã©tat.
And it wasn’t over yet. Not by a long shot. On the surface, Breakwater had committed to supporting the Crown and the rest of the Cabinet. But Edward didn’t believe for a minute that that would be the end of it. Odds were that the Chancellor was merely treading water while he analyzed, considered, and strategized for his next move.
What that move would be Edward didn’t know. But it wouldn’t be good. Not for him, not for Burgundy, and not for the Star Kingdom.
“Then when?” Burgundy pressed. “This is a serious threat, Your Majesty.”
“I almost wish it was,” Edward said with a sigh. “Threats can be faced and dealt with. The problem is that all we have are possible threats, and that argument isn’t going to get us anywhere. Not with Breakwater.”
“I’d say Gustav Anderman’s newly-enlarged empire is more than just a possible threat, Your Majesty,” Burgundy countered. “I know he keeps saying he’s not in the expansion business, but somehow his territory keeps expanding. Add to that Haven’s assessment that the Silesian Confederacy is starting to look outside its borders, and we need to be rethinking the Star Kingdom’s security needs.”
“I do understand the problem, Davis,” Edward said mildly.
Burgundy ducked his head. “My apologies, Your Majesty,” he said. “I’m justâ€¦Anderman’s forces could conquer practically anyone in the area. Even Haven would have a serious fight on its hands. I’m just suggesting that reactivating our battlecruisers without Breakwater being totally on board will be like driving a car with the brakes still on.”
“I understand that, too,” Edward said. “And if I could be sure he would be on our side I’d bring him aboard in a heartbeat. The problem is that if he adds up all the ifs and gets zero, it would be worse than simply having the brakes on. He’d be hitching up a tow truck and pulling the opposite direction, back toward focusing all our efforts and resources on MPARS.”
Burgundy was silent a moment.
“I suppose you’re right, Your Majesty,” he said at last. “He doesn’t have the strength for a serious challenge, but he could still roil the waters and make things more difficult. As long as he isn’t demanding explanations, we might as well let sleeping dogs lie.” He eyed Edward closely. “But sooner or later, you’ll have to tell him.”
“Sooner or later, I will,” Edward assured him. “But he’ll keep for the moment.” He smiled. “Besides, Daddy just promised him a whole set of shiny new corvettes. With luck, he’ll take them back to his favorite corner and play with them for a while.”
“I hope you’re right, Your Majesty,” Burgundy said doubtfully. “If you’re not, there will be hell to pay.”
* * *
“You’re kidding,” Redko said, craning his neck to look over Chomps’s shoulder. “They’re sending you to MPARS?”
“That they are,” Chomps confirmed sourly, running his eyes down the tablet again. This was not what he’d expected.
BuPers Order 76-7762
(1) MT 1/c Townsend, Charles, RN01-962-1183, hereby detached RN duty effective 00:01, 22-5-76.
(2) MT 1/c Townsend, Charles, RN01-962-1183, assigned Temporary Duty MPARS, effective 00:01, 22-5-76.
(3) MT 1/c Townsend, Charles, RN01-962-1183, hereby assigned HMS Ares, CT05 effective 001:01 22-5-76.
(4) Transport MT 1/c Townsend, Charles, RN01-962-1183, to HMS Ares, CT05 hereby authorized, to be arranged BuPers/MPARS liaison at the convenience of the Service. (See attachment No. 1.)
LT CMDR George Sukowski
By direction of
ADMR Anastasiya Dembinski
“Hell on wheels,” Redko murmured, shaking his head. “I’m so sorry, buddy.”
“Hey, it could have been worse,” Chomps soothed. “I could have been tossed out completely.”
“You have been tossed out. Just like Calvingdell was.”
“Not exactly the same thing,” Chomps murmured. The last person he wanted to talk about right now was Countess Calvingdell. “No, you’re right,” Redko said scornfully. “All that happened to her was that she got kicked out of the Defense Ministry and had to go back to a life of ease in Parliament.”
Chomps looked sharply at him. But Redko was still gazing at the orders on Chomps’s tablet, with no hint of secret knowledge or insight in his face.
“But I suppose they needed you to work on their new missiles,” Redko continued. He hesitated. “You knowâ€¦I never thanked you for keeping my name out of things back at Casca.”
“Not a problem,” Chomps assured him. “The Captain was ready to chew nails. No point in both of us catching the shrapnel.”
“I still appreciate it,” Redko said. “Especially –” he waved at the tablet “– with this.”
“Not a problem,” Chomps said again. “You know, I do have two more weeks before I have to report.”
“Right,” Redko said. “Maybe the orders will be countermanded.”
“Could happen,” Chomps said, knowing damn well that they wouldn’t. “Maybe MPARS will collapse.”
“Or maybe we’ll all die in an asteroid collision.”
“You’re a cheery one,” Chomps said. “I was thinking more along the lines that you’d have plenty of time to buy me a drink.”
“More than just one,” Redko said. “In fact, let’s start right now. We’re off-duty, right?”
Chomps checked his chrono. “Seven more minutes.”
“Seven minutes, then,” Redko said. “Start the clock. And if you ever need anything — anything at all — don’t hesitate to ask.”
“I will,” Chomps assured him. “And rest assured that I will collect. You can count on it.”