King Armand’s Day Chambers
Royal Compound, Bortal
King Armand looked up at the sky for a few lingering moments before stepping back inside from his private garden balcony. Modern technology had made a mockery of past structural impossibilities, and having an acre of private garden suspended the better part of kilometer up the side of his palace tower was probably the most ostentatious use of such technology. But then he always had preferred to be a bit showy. What was the point of being able to do something if you couldn’t show you could?
“You won’t be seeing them just with your eyes, your majesty.”
The king snorted out a chuckle. “Oh I know, Shad. I’m not quite that foolish! But it is something of a tradition to watch our fleets as they sail over the horizon.”
“Even if we know they probably won’t be coming back?”
“More a certainty than a probably. A good thing we’ve assigned the older Canne IIIs then, isn’t it?”
“If the fleet only had the older designs like the Canne IIIs I wouldn’t be so concerned, but we’ve got several King Philips in there as well. The admiralty isn’t going to be happy losing some of their newest battle cruisers.”
Minister Shad followed along as King Armand began to walk from the centre of the garden and to the shaded portico. “And then we’ll send the deWulf the bill to replace them.” King Armand continued to talk as he walked further “The Admiralty will probably have a few improvements they’ll want to make in any case.”
King Armand walked to his buffet table and selected a few small sandwiches, tossing them into his mouth one at a time. Minister Shad could see that the eating stopped at his mouth, so to speak. The king’s eyes remained unfocused, locked on some distant object to the other side of his garden portico. Four sandwiches in total disappeared, before Armand selected a drink mug and filled it with a dark, bitter fluid. The mood had cooled in the shade, and it was clear that the king’s mind was continuing to work behind his unfocused gaze.
“Still thinking about Rheinbach’s offer?” Minister Shad had been a part of that quiet discussion some weeks back, and while King Armand hadn’t officially said anything, orders had been issued. Discussions had begun. Plans drawn up and alternatives reviewed. Minister Shad was no fool, and he had seen this pattern before. The king had never been one to rush to a decision, but once it was made it may as well be chiseled into the bedrock.
“Past time for thinking now. We’ve known that we’d be joining the pups-” King Armand used the semi-pejorative name for the Fenren that ran the Corporate Democracy “sooner or later, the real question was on what kind of terms. And it seems the political tides are slack right now, which is making the corporations nervous.”
The king turned back from his buffet and walked back to the open portal out to the patio. “You’re going to say that they’re not the ones running the show. Please. We both know that the executive council are the ones making the decisions and guiding their elected assembly. And they’re right to be concerned about their navy. Their Naval Intelligence department has some frightening wartime powers, and worse for the executives, those powers have been used before. With Article Seventeen in play, they seriously believe they just might have handed a armed warhead to someone not just knows how to use it, but has the ears to do it.”
“So you WANT to get us involved in this?”
“Have you met Rollen?”
Minister Shad looked nonplussed at the change in course, shaking his head in the universal negative.
“Ah. It was just a few months before the attack on Soban. He was here as part of a planning conference with his command staff. It was a short meeting, but enough to get a feel for him.” King Armand snorted, almost chuckling “unlike Reinbach, I understand how Rollen thinks, at least in part. He’ll burn them all down in order to end this war, that I’m certain of. But he’s not going to put himself in control as part of the deal. He’s spent enough time dealing with the politicians to know just what kind of swamp he’d be sinking himself into, and it’s not something he wants to be a part of.”
“So why are you agreeing to this even though you think it’s a defence against a paper threat?”
“Because Shad, Rheinbach is up to something. And whatever it is, his navy is either in the way or he’s afraid they will be. If we’re not on his side, he’ll think we’re on their side and act accordingly. Even if we try to be neutral he’ll push us that way. But if we’re on his side from the beginning, we have an inside track on whatever scheme he’s building. And if things start looking bad for us, we quietly leave him high and dry. But if his side is in the ascendant, and he’s right, well…”