Hall of The Khans
11 November, 3005
“Five years to the day, My Khans, we sent out a reconaissance force to determine the strength of the Inner Sphere. That force has been to the Inner Sphere. Their reports have arrived. Now, if the Wolves and their Star Adder patsies are done wasting our time, I say that the time for the Return has come! I call for a vote for immediate invasion of the Inner Sphere and the destruction of the so-called ‘Successor States’ that defile our legacy. I call a vote to re-establish the Star League!”
Many in the Hall of Khans noded as the Smoke Jaguar Khan finished his rant, but one man stood against the tide.
Kerlin Ward. How I loathe you. ilKhan Nadia Winson thought to herself. That her own Clan could produce such a simpering coward let alone elevate him to Khan was beyond her. She had begun to suspect he secretly sympathised with the Successor States — a crime punishable by death among the Clans, if only she could prove it. But for now he is a Khan, quiaff?
“Khan Kerlin Ward of the Wolves is recognized. Why do you stand before this Conclave?”
“I have remarks to offer against my esteemed colleague’s proposal.”
“You may proceed.”
“While there can be no question that the Inner Sphere is horrifically debased, I submit that the time is not yet right for our return. The Successor States still command potent if diminished armies of Battlemechs. We had originally planned for a twenty-five year survey of their defenses while we built up our own forces. Surely we should wait while the reconaissance force finishes their mission?”
Several more in the Hall nodeed. Nadia had done her homework in preparation for this vote, and knew where each of the Khans would come down. Despite the pro forma speeches, the majority of votes were decided by ideology. The moderates would vote to delay, they always did. The more extreme Crusaders would vote to invade, they always did. The Wardens would vote against any invasion, it was anathema to them. Nadia wasn’t really sure where she’d come down herself, but she knew it didn’t matter. Though there were fewer Wardens in the Hall of the Khans than there had been five years ago, they still formed along with the moderates a bloc of unbeatable power.
She was about to call the vote when another Khan rose.
“Khan Thaddeus Jorgensson of Clan Ghost Bear is recognized. Why do you stand before this Conclave?”
“I have a question.”
“The Wolves. The Jaguars. Any one of these assembled Khans perhaps. Can you tell me who the King of the Federated Suns is?”
“King Ian?” the Smoke Jaguar answered, with uncharacteristic hesitation.
“Ian Davion.” Kerlin Ward answered, confidently.
King Ian Davion? Something was wrong, but Nadia could not quite put her finger on it. It almost sounded right.
“Have NONE of you read this?” he hurled a datapad, presumably containing Galaxy Commander Jaime Wolf’s most recent report, across the chamber in apparent disgust “The Federated Suns has a First Prince, not a King! How many Regiments does the Draconis Combine Field, Khan Wolf? How many Mercenary Companies hire out of Galatea, Khan Smoke Jaguar?”
The two most powerful Khans among the Clans looked at the Ghost Bear Khan with a poorly-concealed mix of shame and resentment, somewhere between how dare he? and I should know that.
“Any of the Khans, which Successor Lord commands the most force?”
A significant pause followed.
“Perhaps before we go any further, we should take advantage of the intelligence that Intelser and the Ebon Guard have taken such pains to provide us. How can an uninformed decision based on blind ideology be anything more than a shot in the dark? The Founder would be apalled, and you should be ashamed.”
Clan Ghost Bear’s Junior Khan stormed from the chamber. Without him, the Crusaders stood even less chance of passing an invasion vote. Nadia had read the intelligence. She saw it as her duty, and yet the Ghost Bear’s impromptu quiz had left her momentarily puzzled as well. The answers finally came, and she repeated them.
“First Prince Ian Davion. Eighty Battlemech Regiments, with another two hundred in armor and another five hundred in regular infantry, according to preliminary estimates. Over a hundred mercenary companies hire out of Galatea, with no more than a third employed in any given month. House Steiner commands the most significant Battlemech force.”
The ilKhan of the Clans sighed heavily. “Something has been demonstrated to us this day, and I suspect our excitable junior member is right. I will command Intelser to prepare personal briefings for you. There will be a quiz afterward. This meeting is adjourned.”