Castle Roland


by Kyle Aarons

In Progress


Posted: N/A


Copyright © by
Kyle Aarons

Lord Talborne looked across the tactical map as the first reports came in from his field commanders. A deep frown coupled with deep worried wrinkles told those in the command station to keep their distance.

He shouted into his radio, "My planetary display shows several craft departing from the primary star-base! We were supposed to secure all three star-bases before the ground assault started! Where are my space assets?"

A few moments past of nothing but static before Lord Talborne looked across the command room of his Planetary Landing Craft. "Air assets, where are my space marines?"

The young major looked up horrified, "My Lord, those are mercenary space units. They are not under my command."

"Whose command are they in then?" Talborne hissed, sending a few staff members scurrying away rather than updating real time battle reports."

When no answer was forthcoming the ruthless man turned his attention back to his air assets commander, "Who does handle our space units and what exactly are you responsible for Major?"

Beads of sweat broke out on the man's forehead as he looked around desperately, "Umm, I don't know. I only have atmosphere strategic control my Lord. My station only handles the mesosphere up to 100 kilometers and gives me warning of encroachments through the thermosphere once they are below 200 kilometers. We have several pitched dogfights planet wide, but other than over the capitol city we clearly have the upper hand."

Lord Talborne shook with rage, "Who in the hell has command of the space assets then?"

Field Marshal Jenning glanced up from her command station, "Most of our space assets were hired out my Lord, so I believe they are being handled by General Oallic over on the combined merc command ship."

A confused looked crossed the tyrant's face, "General who?"

Field Marshal Jennings took a deep breath to calm her voice down, "He was your replacement when Command General Yoshawk retired last month."

"Oh, yea, the short guy with the missing finger on his right hand." Lord Talborne spoke aloud, to no one in general before looking over to the field marshal, "Get him and find out why we have ships fleeing the system! They must be stopped! There are members of royal delegations getting away!"

Many in Lord Talbone's upper military circles had warned him multiple times that a coup on the capitol planet of Andar IX was not nearly as easy as the vicious and power hungry Duke of Ulysses IV had made it sound. Unfortunately, his commanders also knew he would never take the blame for the operation's failures. Instead he would point fingers at others and they would suffer horribly for their lack of success.

Because of this tendency for him to imprison, torture or even execute military commanders who didn't accomplish unreasonable objectives, many of his best had bowed out the moment they realized the middle aged dictator wanted to usurp the whole of the Avalon Breakaway Republic.

Many of them opted for retirement while others found sly ways to slide out by bribing doctors to diagnose them with newly discovered fake virus that mysteriously spread like wild fire through the upper military ranks or by taking leave time for family emergencies to get out of participation in the deadly raid on the palace where the leaders of all 63 worlds would be discussing everything from economics to joint military maneuvers to disaster relief. This left Lord Talborne with a group of dedicated and power hungry, albeit second line group of military commanders to pull off the incredibly difficult assault.

Part of the problem, at least in the eyes of those who really thought it over, was the fact the every 5th year mandatory meeting was accompanied by military and cadets competitions. Each planet would have elite teams of aerospace, armor, infantry and frame warriors on world vying for the individual awards and the highly prized ABR Military cup. At the same time junior and senior cadets from around 75 schools scattered across the ABR would compete for a host of awards. This meant not only were there some of the best on Andar IX competing for military trophies, there were scores of other military men and women tasked to guard and lead the hoards of cadets occupying the newly refurbished military base just to the south of the palace.

What was a tactical and strategic nightmare in the eyes of military commanders was, in Lord Talbone's way of thinking, a perfect situation. He could capture or destroy many of the ABR's best military men and women and cripple school cadre loyal to the old ABR leadership. This would be a stunning defeat to military commanders of worlds and give them pause. This delay would allow him to consolidate power on Andar IX and take control of the powerful ABR military by bribe, blackmail, and leverage the hostages where possible.

At the same time, he would be able to capture kids from low noble and other prestigious families throughout the ABR and hold them as hostages, forcing the upper echelons of the planets to give him undisputed ruler ship and crown him the Emperor of the Avalon Breakaway Republic. In his twisted mind, he figured most of the hostages would be returned in a year or two once things settled, while a few would be made examples of. In the grand scheme of things, the deaths of a few noble and ultra rich brats would do more good than harm. Just as importantly, it would send a clear message to the rest of the ABR royalty as to their own fate or that of their children if they should try to cross him or his heirs in the future.

Less than an hour in, however, the cracks in the plan were starting to show. As usual, Lord Talborne was pointing fingers and taking names rather than trying to get a revised plan put together. "Why am I not hearing from Oallic! He better get his shit together up there and give me an update!"

As with almost all grand military plans, they only look good until the first shots are fired. This was no different. Field Marshal Jenning clenched her fist, knowing the news she was about to bring would put her in the hot seat, but she also realized she may be able to look like the hero if she played her cards right. "My Lord, I have tried all three encrypted frequencies. There is no response from the Gladiator."

Talborne's eyes went wide, "The mercenary command ship?"

"Yes my lord. Chances are it has either been destroyed or damaged too badly to coordinate."

"How? We had complete surprise!"

Colonel Mica shook his head, "I don't think we had total surprise my Lord. I am getting reports of Forest Garden Military units moving as if on an alert moments before the assault troops landed. Baker's Bandits lost over a dozen transports and totally failed in their penetration of the landing pad defenses. We estimate they are at less than 10%. Other southern units also got nailed. The War Witches and our 129th light infantry got hammered. Both pulled back from the southern perimeter of the old base with some pretty staggering losses, possibly as high as 70%. My bet is Blood's Honor's superior equipment caught some of our ECM cloaked inbound craft somehow. Their Space Fold Craft is an Omega class Warship and it is off all our scopes, so it is cloaked and may have located the Gladiator and killed it already. We are getting some hard resistance from their frame units as well."

Talborne looked horrified, "So we have not captured the cadet area or the southwest landing pads?"

Colonel Mica took a nervous breath. "Commander Graffon moved up our armored reserve to handle the problem but put his unit into a meat grinder. I just took over ground ops on the southwest quadrant, but they didn't ask for help soon enough. Our Ulysses 6th Armor moved into the cadet area and secured many of the cadet buildings but most of them were empty. We have captured some scattered senior cadets and even a fewer younger ones, but Commander Graffon was killed as they tried to cut across open ground so I don't have actual numbers.

"Reports are sketchy and rallying the 6th has proven difficult, but once again it sounds like Forest Garden was prepared. One Junior Lieutenant reported Forest Garden cadets got to their frames and somehow released their weapons to full power. The 6th was caught in the open moving from the senior cadet billeting area to the junior cadet barracks across the parade grounds and paid a heavy price. The 6th is at about 45% losses including the entire command unit. It has almost no skilled leaders left."

Field Marshal Jenning spoke up again, "Sir, I think I should drop command of the palace forces and hand them to our young major and take over. We are basically on mop-up inside the palace. I could then take command of both air and space units. The major is a good man, but does not have the experience needed to handle both missions. I also recommend you give all ground units attacking the capitol over to Colonel Mica to consolidate and reorganize. We are squandering some valuable resources out there and Colonel Mica is your best ground commander on planet by far."

Lord Talborne looked over the holographic maps for a moment. "OK Field Marshal, I'll go with your recommendations, but I'm handing the entire Southwest quadrant over to my son. Colonel, I want you to hand him control of two merc units of your choice and one of my armor forces. You have the rest of the capitol city and the sectors north of the city and can use everything else to secure all other objectives!"

The colonel and field marshal exchanged glances and shrugs, but both decided further argument was not only pointless, but flatly dangerous. Yet both of them saw the error in Lord Talbone's plan instantly and the exchanged looks verified each other's line of thoughts.

Lord Talbone's oldest son was a good frame pilot, but only a mediocre force commander. Although a brilliant strategist, the young man had no tactical abilities and simply didn't have the charisma needed to really lead. Both silently hoped the very fact a full frame force was being sent in with three reserve forces might just allow the plan to succeed, but they were going against Forest Garden forces. The only world owned by a mercenary unit, the most powerful mercenary unit ever put on the field of battle.

No other mercenary unit could touch Blood's Honor and both the Field Marshal and Colonel knew it. The name itself struck fear into corporations, planetary governments, and even multi planet coalitions. The chances Talborne's son could handle the relatively small detachment of Blood's Honor cadre and cadets were slim at best.

Blood's Honor units would not go down without a fight, and truth be told, both senior leaders in the command center doubted they would go down at all. Without speaking it, both senior officers wondered how many of the 155 Ulysses frames and supporting mercenary armor and infantry would fall while thanking the powers of sheer luck they would not have to lead men and women against such a powerful foe.

Lord Talborne yanked the radio mike right off the neck of the nearest operator sending the young woman spinning off the chair and leaving a light gash on the side of her neck. Talborne ignored the yelp of pain as he held up the communication unit up to his mouth. "Switch to palace 2 command frequency!" He growled into the computer controlled unit.

The change in chatter instantly confirmed the computer had switched to the new frequency, "Clear the channel!" Lord Talborne bellowed into the throat mike, "This is Talborne One!"

All chatter ceased instantly causing a satisfied smirk from Lord Talborne "Subato, our assault on the southern base has totally failed. I need you to drop in and deal with it."

"Understood Father." The young frame force commander responded, "Do we have a drop position?"

Lord Talborne turned, "Field Marshal?"

Field Marshal Jenning took a deep breath, "I'm still trying to get a handle on what's going on outside the atmosphere, but we have great air info for the atmosphere. The problem is Forest Garden has committed heavy ground to air and air asset units in the southern sectors."

"Dammit woman, give my son something to go on; we are losing time!"

"Fine," Jenning had to bite her tongue to prevent snarling, "Commander, you've got a tough drop. You'll have to do a high air drop on the north perimeter of the base and move through the static lines Colonel Mica has managed to get the decimated merc units to establish. Fighting is very heavy and Blood's Honor gained control over most of the bases defense so I'd recommend using some of your armor and infantry assault craft to lead the way so they can take most of the air defense fire while you slide your frame forces in. Still, Blood's Honor isn't going to simply hammer on shielding ships once they realize what you are up to. Because of this, your command assault craft should drop you second so you have the highest probability to hit the ground intact. You'll have to drop as fast as possible cause they will knock your pod droppers out as they are falling."

"Understood Ma'am. I'll proceed under your recommendations."

Lord Talborne shot a dirty look over to the new aerospace commander.

Field Marshal Jenning nodded with a grim frown. "I'm directing extra resources in to make sure his force gets on the ground, but we'll take some fierce losses and it'll make it harder to control some of the outlying areas. It'll also remove any space defense from over the battle field"

"So be it. My son takes priority. His drop pod better hit the ground intact."

Another exchange of glances between Colonel Mica and Field Marshal Jenning caused many in the command center to have to hide disgusted snorts and snickers behind faked coughs and throat clearings.

Lord Talborne eyed everyone with a flicker of confusion. Just as rapidly, he dismissed the strange outburst, "Ground ops, put my son's force up on the main holo-viewer! Aerospace, get me an overhead camera drone over the coming battle site."

Colonel Mica started to say something but thought better of it. The fact of the matter was the main viewer was needed for a whole host of more important battles raging across Andar, but to question Lord Talborne was akin to playing Russian roulette. With a flick of a switch, the command center's central viewer changed to an internal camera view coming directly from Subato Talbone's command frame.

Meanwhile, Field Marshal Jenning looked over to a junior officer next to her. She kept her voice soft so Lord Talborne could not hear the conversation. "Get me a trio of drone launchers into the area now and have at least a couple of others ready to move in at a moment's notice. We'll probably lose an average of 1 drone a minute if not 2. There is no chance Blood's Honor is going to allow us to easily keep command and control resources over their forces let alone their cadets. The second they realize we are committed to getting aerial views they will seek out and destroy our aerial launchers as well. I'll assign fighter coverage to protect them, but this is going to kill any chance of picking off escaping ships from everything south of the capitol.

The young officer nodded, "You do realize that will work to the advantage of Forest Garden forces. They are using the southern landing fields as an evacuation staging point."

"Yeah." Jenning replied, taking note of the young officer's name as she turned to look at him. Anyone so quick to notice such a major tactical error so quickly deserved to be noticed. "Ensign Narvison, you're correct. Even if we take the southern base with this action we are going to lose more royal captives than it is worth, but unless you are going to tell our lord he is wrong, we'll go with this plan."

"No chance ma'am. I'd like to live to see what dawn brings."

"Wise decision." Jenning filed the young man's name away knowing the second she got a chance she would find a multi grade promotion and put him in an open slot that needed a good new leader.

"So what do we do now ma'am?"

"We do our jobs and hope when the dawn does arrive we have control of Andar."

The command center officers did exactly as Field Marshal Jenning recommended. Each continued to maneuver units across the planet, crushing opposition when and where it occurred, but none of them could completely ignore the ongoing struggle being shown on the central holo-viewer.

Lord Talborne ignored everything but the central viewer. With the simple push of a couple of buttons, every sound and command of his son's frame force could be heard and almost every move they made was shown in real time on the viewer.

The initial landing went almost exactly as Field Marshal Jenning had suggested. Almost a score of landing craft were destroyed before they could disgorge troops while almost a dozen others came in hot and heavily damaged. Most of those managed to do controlled crash landings, but were effectively out of the fight because many on board were injured or killed. Those who were not injured abandoned the mission to save injured comrades.

On the other hand, the staggering losses of the armor and infantry Landers allowed the majority of Lord Talbone's son's frame force to drop from high altitude into the battle area. But even with the defensive screen of other Landers coming in below the high altitude Frame droppers, Blood's Honor ground to air units managed to destroy the final assault craft before it could drop a single frame. They also managed to blast two dozen individual frames as they were free falling toward the planet.

Subato Talbone's drop pod hit the ground hard but the internal shock resisters did their job. The young frame force commander saw stars but shook off the impact and pushed outward with the hydraulic powered frame arms. The drop pod shattered as it was supposed to and he stepped out.

All around him, others from his frame force were doing the same thing. Bits and pieces of drop pads littered the field and the sounds of frames walking over them sounding like egg shells being broken. As satisfying as this was, the sights of his force moving out of the drop area was even more so. Already, the first wave was moving through the weak defensive lines established by units all but wiped out in the initial assaults against the cadet competition areas earlier in the night. Exhausted, many troopers in the decimated Ulysses IV and Lord Talborne hired mercenary units sagged against shot up equipment as the fresh frames moved past to take the fight to a mob of kids.

The 21 year old grinned as he saw his second team easily push back a line of small cadet frames on the opposite side of the parade ground. The intense fire from the larger frames under his command would certainly overwhelm the youngsters in no time!

He moved forward linking up with two others from his command squad. "Either of you see the executive officer?" he radioed over.

"Negitive." His ops officer responded, "I am getting nothing from the XO's transponder either so he may not have made it. I know for a fact Sergeant Major Yollomo's pod splintered on impact and his frame didn't get any shock absorption. His frame basically blew apart with him in it."

"Their ground fire must have hit a stabilizer." Subato stated with sadness. "Coming in it looked like we lost most of the armor and about half the infantry before they hit the ground. We'll have to do this on our own."

"Most of team three didn't make it either." The supply officer stated nervously. "Their dropper took a direct hit and crashed without any drop pods being ejected.

"Then their commander and XO can move up and take over for our missing command staff and those on our dropper can fill in for those who didn't make it in teams one and two."

"What about survivors sir?"

"This is a lightning strike mission, people." Subato informed the others in his command squad. "The medical teams will have to deal with those in the crashed Landers when they get to them. In the mean time, task one of the infantry units to see if they can help."

Subato's operations officer closed his eyes and clenched his fists to hold back an angry comment. An entire infantry force would not do half of what a squad of 5 frames could. A single frame could rip into the wreckage and pull heavy debris out of the way and lift it off the injured and trapped. "Sir, we have a few damaged frames. They could assist."

"Negitive. Of our 155 frames, my battle map heads up display shows only 114 operational. We are facing over triple that amount in hostile cadet frames with a lot of infantry and base defense support on their side. We'll need everyone."

"Sir," the supply officer spoke up trying to use some reason, "4 damaged frames may be able to rescue 10 or more frames that survived the crash of dropper 4."

"Lieutenant, I said no. Now start doing your job. I want a rearm and refit point set up so we can reload expended ammo and do quick patches of armor."

The supply officer shook his head sadly, "As you command sir."

Lord Talborne slammed his fist down on his table in the command center causing several in the command staff to flinch. "I want that man put in command of garbage on the most remote outpost we can find!"

"We'll find someplace fitting my lord." Field Marshal Jenning stated as she quickly jotted down a note to get the poor guy as far away from Subato and Lord Talborne as central command could find.

"Excellent." Lord Talborne nodded in satisfaction as he turned his attention back to the developing battle.

Subato looked at his battle HUD, "Team two push up on them hard but don't shatter their line yet. Team one, split up. Unit one find the left flank and keep it contained. Unit Two do the same to their right flank. Once we have them boxed I want team two to shatter their lines and Unit One Three to burst into their rear to prevent escape."

The operations officer felt his blood boil, "Commander, most of their frames are not firing at all why not just crush them now?"

"Because some will escape unless we contain them."

"Some are going to escape no matter what sir. But the longer we let them hold the more casualties we are going to take."

"The chances are we will bag more my way. Besides if we lose a few more then they die for a great cause." Subato stated smugly.

Commanders on the ground and in the command center felt their hearts sink at Subato's words. The reckless force commander was certainly going to sacrifice good troops in the name of glory. More than a few realized it was a like father like son situation as they worked to minimize the casualties of their own forces within the framework of the orders given to them by the son of Lord Talborne.

Per orders, Subato's frame force quickly split. The slow but heavy and powerful frames in his second team pounded the cadets in a frontal assault while the first team broke up and moved with their lighter and faster frames around in flanking attempts.

Subato moved up with his command squad as the outer lines of the cadets were found. "OK team Two, move through the parade field and shatter their line!"

The first few minutes looked great. The large lumbering frames stood and moved into the open field. At the same time the lighter frames on the enemy's flanks stood and advanced. Almost instantly the cadet frames facing them pulled back, seeming to collapse into a ball.

"We got em!" Subato shouted in delight as he moved into the open parade grounds followed by the others in his command squad.

An instant later, however, everything changed. The cadets they were boxing in dropped to the ground while from outside the closing perimeter lasers slashed into the exposed sides and rear of Subato's lighter flanking frames.

Subato jerked his head to the left and watched in horror as 7 light frames from his first team fell under what looked to be walls of laser light. The flanking units lines crumpled, folding inward, to put their weapons and heavier front armor to the intensive fire coming from outside the trap they had been trying to set in place. As they did so, they exposed their backs to the cadet frames in the center which suddenly opened up with live ammo taking the attacking fames totally off guard.

Panic set in as Subato lost the overall picture in his head, "Team One commander what the hell is going on?"

A female voice came over the radio, "Team One leader just fell sir, this is team One unit One's XO. We are totally cut off. There are frames all around us and…" Static suddenly replaced the woman's voice.

Subato's ops officer broke in, "Sir, I just intercepted an open band communication. The Blood's Honor cadets got the release codes for all the other academies. Every cadet in a frame out here now has free weapons. They also pushed our merc reserve back and took back the base's armory. They are loading ammo and patching frames as they chew up our exposed frames."

"We have to close the flanks!" Subato shouted.

"Sir, don't you get it? We never had the flanks. They set us up to make it look like we had their edges marked. They kept the youngest ones on the far outside hunkered down. Most of the fire we are getting now is coming from over a hundred micro frames from the junior academies! We have been out maneuvered by a bunch of rug-rats, we have to pull back and regroup!"

Subato looked back and forth clearly not having a firm grasp of the situation. "Who is leading these kids?"

"The transmission came from the right flank, but their ground to air defense units knocked out our last aerial comm unit, so triangulation will have to be from the ground."

Subato paused trying to set priorities. The delay cost him dearly as two more of his outermost frames fell to scores of light lasers and other energy weapons cutting across the open parade ground.

"Command," Subato shouted in desperation, "can you give us a fix on cadre leading these kids?"

Colonel Mica did a quick scan from aerial assets handed over to him by Field Marshal Jenning, and shook his head. "We have nothing but cadet and micro frames out there and the supply depot was captured by a group of cadet frames with no sign of adult support. I have pinned several Blood's Honor heavy frames to the east and another line of them to the west. We have their adult assets contained. As best as our intel can guess, you are fighting nothing but kids out there commander."

"Impossible!" Subato tossed up his arms in frustration as he shouted into his radio again, "Unit Two expand the lines and link up with those on the right and left and let them fold in behind you; we'll push through the open ground and take the fight to them on the far side!"

Subato moved forward as he continued to shot commands, "All defending units, move forward to support the advancing frame units. We'll just overwhelm them and finish this the hard way."

Colonel Mica turned to Lord Talborne, "Sir I should move in reserves and take over his northern sector. Otherwise, we leave that half of the hostages all but unguarded!"

Lord Talborne glared, "I gave my son full authority over everything south of the palace. He can handle it Colonel."

Before Colonel Mica could say more he watched in terror as a squadron of interplanetary superiority craft blasted through the thin screen of atmospheric superiority craft Field Marshal Jenning had just started to establish. The six combination space and atmosphere fighter craft then split as they approached the battlefield and tore into all remaining aerial resources over the battlefield. Within seconds all the command views from above the battlefield were eliminated.

Lord Talborne went ballistic, "What happened to my overhead views?"

Field Marshal Jenning looked over, "I used most of our fighters to cover the landing of Subato's force and they got hammered in the process. Blood's Honor just used that to their advantage. They swept in from space taking down all air assets I had left and then used the uncontested air superiority and took out every drone and drone launcher we had from the capitol all the way to the southern landing pads. It'll be about 30 minutes before we can get more into the area.

"So my son is going to take air to ground fire too?"

Negitive, the Blood's Honor IPSC squadron headed straight back up out of the atmosphere where I can't track them. They could appear anywhere they need them and I won't know about it until they push through the mesosphere. Loosing space command really screws us. It'll be a full hour before I can get enough resources together to get new satellites in place and be able to defend them.

Lord Talborne let out a string of curses damming everyone form Blood's Honor to those of his missing mercenary command ship. Finally he regained enough composure to yell into the radio again, "Subato, I want you to find who is leading those brats and rip them apart!"

"Confirmed father."

Subato took a deep breath, "The last idea of any command and control came from the direction of the landing pad so we move on and damn the losses. Kill as many of these cadets as you can as we move forward!"

Those in the command center watched through Subato's onboard camera as scores of frames under Subato's command fell. Yet relentlessly they pushed forward. The cadet frames rotated in and took hits then rotated back out allowing those behind them to flee. The constant use of fresh frames meant few actually fell to the much heavier yet vastly outnumbered attackers. Both Field Marshal Jenning and Colonel Mica both watched and listened in hidden admiration at the use of such simple tactics to inflict massive causalities while taking so few. There was little doubt in either of their minds Subato's charge, although heroic in effort, would fall short of the goal.

15 minutes later, the camera from Subato's command frame showed a line of departing planetary landing craft and one lone PLC still on the ground, albeit with clouds of dust belching from underneath telling even the least observant it was readying for liftoff. In front of the ship's lower open bay door stood a line 16 cadet frames, each showing some damage, but holding firm as behind them the last of the stragglers raced up the ramp.

Subato pushed forward with the last of his surviving force in an attempt to rush, but much to the surprise of everyone out on the field and in the command center the line did not back up further. Instead, they broke into two groups of five and two groups of three. The groups of 5 formed a V with the point facing the advancing frames and knelt while the two groups of three moved in behind and stood daring the last 18 frames of the once proud 155 frame force to move in.

Subato wobbled in exhaustion, but the sight of mere kids daring, almost mocking, the military of Ulysses IV gave him a rush of adrenaline induced by anger. With an overhand motion, he signaled the remnants of his unit to charge.

Laser, rocket and machinegun fire ripped into the charging frames. As they got closer, laser fire from frames standing just inside the PLC further filled the air with flashes of death. Frames on both sides of Subato fell, but the return fire from his frames forced some of the final 16 cadets to retreat to the safely of the ship.

Slowly he moved forward, knowing as he did so there was no chance he would ever be able to get inside the ship let alone take it, but maybe he could cripple it or at least do enough damage to prevent it from leaving the atmosphere. He ordered the last of his frames to switch fire away from the cadet frames instead to focus on the PLC.

The few remaining cadets outside the ship noticed this instantly and increased their fire. Suddenly, one of the forward most kneeling frames stood and fired a large laser, an extremely heavy weapon for a cadet frame. The polarizing shield of Subato's frame went dark to protect his eyes and with it obscured the face of the offending cadet from the camera inside Subato's frame, but not the after effects of the devastating hit. The laser burned through the already damaged face shield and into Subato's left eye. The camera caught part of the left side of the young man's face melting before everything went dark.

In the command center, all eyes turned to Lord Talborne. The man's face was no longer its normal angry self. Instead, all they saw was a blank look on a very pale face. Lord Talborne stood, shaking, and left the command center leaving Colonel Mica and Field Marshal Jenning to command the planetary assault.

Both watched the central viewer as one of the cameras on the 7 remaining frames caught the last two cadets backing into the ship still firing taking out yet another frame as they did so. Seconds later, the door closed behind them and the ship lifted off leaving behind an abandoned base and taking with them countless members of royalty from scores of worlds.

Silence fell over those in the command center, as they collectively realized a bunch of cadets just pulled off a coup within a coup. Lord Talborne would certainly end up with control over the capitol of the ABR, but loyalty of dozens of worlds could not be guaranteed. Even as they wrapped up the battle for Andar most realized there would be a coming civil war and leading the opposition was none other than the ultra elite Blood's Honor mercenaries and the planet of Forest Garden they owned.

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