Fire in the Sky (2)

Grand Peterhof Palace, Peterhof, Russian Territory, Earth, Sol System, Orion Arm, 30 March, 08:00 hrs. Local Standard Time

Shaparov waived his hand over the conference table, “Please take a seat.”

To the left of  House de Havilland sat the ambassador to Earth of House Garou, Altain Jorgen whose pointed canine ears twitch in response to every sound in the room. To Edwards right say Jackelyn Carter-Moore, representative from the Imperial Bureaucratic Corp, with her long black hair running the length of her gold trimmed white robes, both front and back. Both seats across from him remained empty. Light streamed from the large floor to ceiling windows. Edward noticed the rich baroque furnishings, from the vases to the ornate frescoes in the ceiling

Shaparov stood by his seat, waiting for the final delegate, “And there she is.”

She glided into the room. Her sapphire blue eyes pierced the young duke’s mind like nothing he had ever seen before. Platinum blond hair flowed in long streams behind her. She had a single escort, a shot hair woman of about the same age with a stern expression on her face.  It was the sight of the second that snapped the duke back into reality.

With a snap of the boots and a bow Shaparov welcomed them, “Thank you for coming, Lady Andrea. Now if you will take a seat, we shall begin.”

Edward took a zip from the glass. He saw the Lady’s impish smile refracted through the water. He cleared his throat to distract him from the burning sensation on the tip of his ears.

Shaparov’s demeanor changed from amiable host to military commander in a heart beat, “Ladies and gentlemen, the reason why you are here is simple.” He took a deep breath and held it for a few seconds. ” With your help, I intent to reshape the universe.”

The announcement was greeted with stunned looks of silence by all of the participants except two, Edward Duke of  House de Havilland and Lady Andrea Jessica,  First Daughter of House Kaiser. “For the past three hundred years, the Throne of Stars has remained empty. This was and still is due in grand part to the infighting between and within the Major Houses. We in the Imperial Arm have also contributed to this by our own military actions. Although the intentions of those who held my post were honorable, they were also misguided. One can be a soldier or a ruler, but not both. Soldiers need leaders to follow. Those leaders in turn set the missions to be accomplished and give the soldiers the means to accomplish them. Therefore I propose that,” he waved an open hand toward Edward, “that we find such a leader.”

This time the gesture was greeted with murmurs by the others.

Jorgen spoke first, “House Garou’s position has always been to support any legitimate candidate to the Imperial Throne. Considering that the last Dynasty came from House de Havilland, we believe it to be the logical choice.”

“We have the Duke’s genetic material on record and it is a match to that in the Imperial files. There is a question about parentage–”

“A question that has been asked and answered,” Edward retorted.

“Yes, well the Corps would have to review the records. But if they meet with the established requirements then the path should be clear.”

Edward felt Lady Andrea gaze on him, studying him closely.  Her soft lips move slowly and deliberately with each syllable, “The position of House Kaiser is thus, we make no direct claim to the Throne of Stars. However, we do reserve the right to support or reject any candidate to it, and we will enforce that right by any means necessary.”

She drank from her cup, delaying the moment.  Then she spoke again, “Our approval hinges on one condition.” Her looked directly at Edward with an unflinching stare, “that our Houses be united by marriage.”

“I see. An Emperor needs an Empress, but I did not know that the Duchesses was still available,” Edward replied.

“Not her, me.”

“A union between the eldest and youngest of the Houses would erase any question of legitimacy, would it not Ms. Carter-Moore?” Jorgen added.

“It would help the Duke’s cause, although there is the question of who would take the Duke’s title. After all, once he becomes Emperor, should that happen,  his House would be the Imperial House, not House de Havilland,” added Carter-Moore.

“Indeed, in order to retain the balance of power, the would be Emperor must appoint a successor,” Jorgen said with a flick of his pointed ears.

“That will not be a problem. My cousin is next in line and more than ready to take the position if comes to that. My only question is what you, Grand Marshall, get out of this,” Edward said.

“The only thing that an Emperor could give me and those who have served with loyalty the Empire for hundreds of years, the recognition that we are due.”

“A title of your own. That would elevate the Orion arm to the same level of the other Houses, and deprive the Imperial House of territory,” Edward said.

“However misguided, our loyalty to the Throne of Stars has never wavered.  What is territory compared to the fealty of millions of the best troops in the galaxy standing at the call of the Empire?” Shaparov said.

“A net gain,” Edward said. Turning back his attention across the table, “Which leaves the matter of marriage. You’ll forgive me my Lady if I take sometime to ponder your proposal.”

“I expect no less. But I believe I speak for everyone here when I say that the window of opportunity is small and could close at any moment,” Lady Andrea said.

Now it was Edward’s time to smile, “I understand.”

“If there are no other matters to discuss I call this meeting adjourned. I hope you stay with us until this evening. We planned some modest celebrations in your honor and I hope that you take the time to enjoy them.”

Edward exchanged a last glance with Lady Andrea as group departed the conference table, a move that met with stern disapproval from her escort. On their way back to their quarters Mercer spoke into his duke’s ear, “There was someone missing from the table.”

“I know. But I expect that we will hear from the Han soon enough.”

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