Continuing from Oh, I look over Jordan: A Soldier's View of Paradise . . .
Lucas Warmbier wished he hadn't forgotten his pipe as he fidgeted and stared at the sky on the ride. His escort, the elder Ganbaatar brother Galbadrakh, was a fine cyclist and machinist, but not much of a conversationalist. Far too stoic. But they were nearly at the castle and the air was warm and the day clear and cloudless. Soon he would learn what Colorado, the esteemed Rex-Avis matriarch, had up her sleeve this time.
And quick as that there they were. With Rex-Avis were her constant companion Sir Stanley Ursaline-Drakemore and the minuscule Kitty Luong, which meant Walker was about somewhere, and probably other's of Colorado's household. And of course Captain Temur was there as well, which implied this was bigger than just a trade meeting between the Burkhan Kaldun Prime guild and the Rex-Avis clan. It was beginning to look as though this might involve half the rim.
"Lucas!" Colorado chirped. "So glad to see you! I have news from the Proconsul himself."
Ganbaatar rumbled at that. "Comodus? He's involved in this?"
"Indeed. It's largely his idea. His and Lord Whye's. And they've entrusted us with carrying it out."
At this Luke's interest was piqued. "Oh? What does he have in mind?"
"Some months back," Colorado began, "we found ourselves on the wrong side of some agents in the employ of the Imperial Inquisition. They stole some very promising technology from our trade mission to the Kingdom of Colores."
"I heard a bit about that," Lucas replied. "But you retrieved it without further incident, correct?"
At this Sir Stanley interjected: "Not . . . exactly. We were able to secure it, but there was quite assuredly an incident. We manged to keep it controlled, and spun the worst of it in such a way the Terrans couldn't pin it directly to us. At least not easily. But there were probably suspicions. And lately they've been sending far too many embassies and trade missions for comfort. Most recently, they sent a Legate named Gaius Josephus."
"Oh?" said Captain Temur, looking up a touch startled.
"We're afraid much of it is spying in advance of a military expedition. Or possibly even a full scale re-invasion," Sir Stanley finished.
"To that end," continued Colorado "we must learn as much about their current military capacity as we can, even if we cannot afford to spend the sorts of resources Terra can. So Lord Whye suggested that we call for a joint exercise in the name of preparing for possible alien incursion."
"From whom?" Temur asked.
"Oh, possibly the gobs. Or maybe the gators," Colorado responded.
"But we've got peace with the gobbos for now!" Temur said in surprise.
"The Terrans don't know that," Sir Stanley interjected. "Nor do they particularly need to. And the centauroid gators could be a real threat. Where they go the hexapods usually seem to follow."
"The hexxies do seem to scare the pants off the Terrans, now that you mention it," Temur answered.
"So the idea is we present them with sufficient flashy distraction that they look towards that instead of straight at us. And while we're preparing alongside them we're carefully studying what they can do." Colorado seemed quite pleased with herself at this.
"If we can study them during an exercise you can be damned sure they can study us too," Lucas responded.
"So we have to make sure we don't let them see everything. Let them win." Colorado said flatly. "But don't let them know you let them win."
Everyone blinked a bit at this. "We don't have to tell them everything. No need to demonstrate the full alliance, for instance. We're not inviting the Crimson Dragons for the moment. As an example."
"So you want us to act. And to let them win," Ganbaatar said.
"Precisely," Colorado replied. "In the end, it's a game. No one dies. We all go home. And we all learn something. We just flash the lights right so the audience sees what we want them to see. And we make darn sure we're paying careful attention and looking in the right spot, else they pull the trick on us. Agreed?"
Lucas pondered this for a moment. "I can't speak for all the Lords, but you can count on our hearth, at least. I'll take the proposition back to Burkhan Kaldun and see where it goes."
"Very good," Colorado replied. "Can you deploy a trustworthy unit here in the next few weeks?"
"Absolutely," Ganbaatar answered. "We have my best company aboard the Chingis Khagan in orbit right now."
"That will do nicely," Sir Stanley said quietly. He was fairly certain Ganbaatar referred to a unit from the infamous "Flaming" Burkhan Kaldun Fifth. "Captain Temur has orders to bring the Logansport First. Between the two of you there should be enough hands to accomplish the task. But keep the important details close to the vest. There's too much riding on this."
Barely a day later elements of the Logansport 1st regiment were landing in the spaceport, debarking into the fine spring weather, and marching to join their short, but stout cousins from Burkhan Kaldun. This should be interesting, Luke Warmbier thought to himself as he sat and watched.
As always, thank you for reading along.