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Untitled Empire of Man 5: Chapter Two

       Last updated: Saturday, September 7, 2013 09:24 EDT



    This time the throne room was packed.

    Three days earlier, when Roger had gone 'into seclusion', messages had been sent out that all members of Parliament, Peers and Commons, as well as all members of the Imperial Court were to be present in the throne room at 12 PM and be prepared to be there 'until we're done, at least midnight'. Why hadn't been covered but his mother's abdication had been announced and the basic agenda was rather obvious. Approve and swear in the new Emperor and give oaths of fealty. Nobody was quite sure why that would take twelve hours but there was lots of speculation.

    Roger and his Companions were, therefore, marching down the aisle between ranks of the upper crust of the Empire. The group was led by a body guard of Mardukans and Humans. Krindi Fain and Thomas Catrone led the procession. The Mardukans carried Mardukan pikes, seemingly as tall as the ceiling, and were naked except for formal leather combat harnesses while the humans carried formal halberds and wore the antique combat uniforms common among the mercenaries and brigands that had put the MacClintocks on the throne in the first place. The glitterati in the Audience were in many cases the descendants of Miranda's Legion.

    Roger, in contrast, was in the rather muted formal uniform of Colonel of the Bronze Battalion: blue low-collar jacket and pants with 'bronze' piping and red lining. The only medals or awards he was wearing were the combat infantryman's badge awarded him by Captain Pahner on Marduk and the 'Marduk Campaign' medal, a bronze atul head with a tri-color ribbon, authorized before his mother's abdication. Anything else he'd have to award himself and he wasn't about to. Despreaux, Julian and Honal, also in uniform, and with far more ribbons and awards, followed him carrying the Crown, Scepter and Robe respectively. The Imperial Mother awaited them, seated on one of two small chairs set below the Throne.

    Roger didn't bother with the slow march considered der rigeur under such formal circumstances. He strode down the aisle, ignoring the gathered crowds, up the stairs to the Throne then practically spun around.

    He waited until the Companions were in position, looking around the room. There were three major groups present, the House of Commons, House of Peers and the Court. Commons was the largest, composed of nearly 2000 members representing in some cases small worlds. They occupied the east side of the room to Roger's right. At the front were the 'senior' members in terms of pure age in float chairs. There were no chairs in the throne room besides the small seats on the steps of the dais and the Throne. But because many members of Parliament were 'elderly' some provision had had to be made for them.

    To his left was the House of Peers. They were a much smaller bunch, less than two hundred. Being a member of the Peers required not only that one be of the peerage but a rather hefty annual surcharge. So you not only had to be of the 'right' sort of family but wealthy as well. Filling in that side of the house were the Court, the Ministers as well as senior officers of the Imperial Military and Imperial Bureau of Intelligence. Admiral Helmut, still commanding Sixth Fleet, was there in his usual dusty black. Eleonora was standing next to him. They were of a height. Last there was the High Court. Again there were geriatric members to the fore, including the two members of the High Court who were barely functional.

    There were discreet micro cams recording the whole event. All major broadcast networks had been ordered to 'block out' the afternoon as there would be 'a very long and tedious' ceremony. Usually, copies of speeches as well as the agenda for such events were provided in advance. In this case, the major information outlets were as much in the dark as the public. They'd just been told: You're going to want to block out the whole afternoon.

    When everyone was arranged, Roger looked at Alexandra.


    Alexandra got slowly to her feet and eyed the crowded room.

    "As you are all aware, and have been given good proofs, I have abdicated in favor of my son, Roger Ramius ///. During the Interregnum of the Pretender W… I was subject to severe physical, psychological and neurological trauma. This has left Us… Me incompetent to continue to serve as your Empress. I am not doing this under any form of duress. Independent doctors have assured themselves that, to the extent anything can be said to be my will, this is my will. I…" She paused and turned to the side, trying hard to find an angle not covered by cameras.

    "I just can't do this job anymore," she said, softly. "I don't even know who I am from moment to moment. I really doubt I'm going to make it through the afternoon. The Empire needs more, especially in these times. Roger?"

    "It is a legal fact that my mother has abdicated," Roger said, taking a position of parade rest. "She, herself, literally shoved the crown on my head. That does not make me Emperor. Quick civics lesson for those watching who slept through that class. An Emperor or Empress is normally the senior surviving child of the previous Emperor or Empress. However, they must be confirmed by a majority vote of the House of Commons and House of Peers. In normal times, with normal heirs, that is not an issue. These are not normal times nor am I a normal heir. I have been publicly accused of being the master-mind behind the deaths of my siblings. Of course, I was on Marduk at the time but nobody watching nor most of the people in this room were personally there to see it. So you can believe whatever you'd like to believe. And I was never well thought of before all these excursions and alarums. Playboy. Clothes horse. Etcetera. So I suppose you could choose someone else. There is Duke San Cristobal," Roger said, pointing to one of the geriatrics in the front row of the Peers who appeared to be asleep and was definitely drooling.

    "Dear Uncle Thorry. He's a nice old duffer. Not sure he'd be aware that he was Emperor but that's a choice. Assuming you want his 'helpers' running the empire. There is, of course, Prince Jackson, the Pretender. The guy who ordered the torture and sexual assault of our Empress not to mention tried to destroy the Imperial City. Unquestionably capable. Also power-mad and bug-house nuts. Then there's my Father who, of his own right, has a minor claim to the throne. That would be the person who actually sexually assaulted my mother. There's a great choice, don't you think? There are dozens of others with minor claims to the throne.

    "Then there's the truth. The truth is that you have the choice between civil war and an uncivil monarch.

    "Civil war. What does that mean? We had a battle, more of a skirmish, here in Imperial City and in and around Terra. During that skirmish sixteen thousand fighting persons were killed including both Loyalists and forces fighting for the Pretender. The majority were killed in space battles. Many were killed fighting here in Imperial City. There are grieving families scattered throughout the Empire. Along with those fighting men and women, fourteen hundred civilians were killed. If Jackson's plans to destroy Imperial City had succeeded, the death toll would have been in the millions.

    "That is what happens in a civil war in an empire this large and powerful. On the trek across Marduk I ended up in a half a dozen of them and the losers are always the people who just want to avoid trouble. There are more potential pretenders than Jackson and more potential targets for destruction than Imperial City. Such wars are never clean and quick. They pit sibling against sibling, family member against family member, friend against friend. Do not think that your world will be exempt, that you will be exempt, that your children will be exempt. Rich or poor, commoner or Peer, from homeless on the streets to glittering apartments in the sky, everyone becomes nothing but a target, a victim as power mad bastards such as my father and Jackson vie for who gets the biggest share of the pie. They spiral out of control until worlds burn.

    "Civil war or an uncivil monarch.

    "I am uncivil, even barbaric as some have said, despite my penchant for fine dress. And I am going to be uncivil as a monarch. You can bet your bottom credit on that. I have no use for the politics of Court. I have a great hatred of the sort of intrigues that led us to this pass. I will not, as my mother did, try to 'work' them. There are going to be heads rolling and they will not be some minor player who is tossed out as a sacrifice. Further, we are in a defined state of crisis meeting the tests of the Emergency Powers Provision. Jackson controls a significant portion of our empire and our fleet. And if you think I wouldn't possibly use those powers to do a little dusting and cleaning, you're wrong.

    "On the other hand, if you think I'm going to let that bastard Jackson sit on this throne," he said, thumbing behind him, "either directly or by proxie, you are also wrong. If this vote doesn't go my way, the civil war starts now. And I've got every ship captain, every admiral and every Marine commander in the system cheering me on.

    "Civil war or an uncivil monarch. Your choice. President of the House of Commons of the Empire of Man, call for a vote on Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang Alexander MacClintock as Emperor. Straight aye or nay. Debate closed."

    "Question is called for Prince Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang Alexander MacClintock as Emperor," the President called brusquely. "Any Second."

    "Second!" several voices called out. Unsurprisingly, they were towards the back of the group where the Outer Worlds representatives were clustered.

    "All in favor?" the President called.

    "Aye!" It wasn't a resounding chorus but the voting system automatically tallied the vote. There was a hand system but the automated system worked by voice recognition and even noted stress levels indicating duress. Over fifty of the votes went into the 'potential distress' category and had to be recertified. They all were. Took about a minute.

    "Any opposed?"


    Roger rather liked that there were opposed. They were honest. He'd rather trust them than the ayes. There'd be a list. He was personally planning on appointing some of them to positions of trust.

    "Count is in favor in the House of Commons," the President said, formally. "One thousand four hundred twenty-three aye, sixty-three nay, six hundred thirty-eight abstaining, sixty not present."

    "The previous Chairman of the House of Peers was the Pretender," Roger said. "Senior member is…" He looked again at Duke Ambroy who was snoring. "Not currently available or really in this universe. That would leave me which is a bit awkward. Duchess New Charlotte, Lady Wells-Johnson? Care to do the honors?"

    "Of course, Prince Roger," the Duchess said. The tall slender red-head was in her nineties, making her just past middle age in the Empire and quite mentally competent. "Question is called for Prince Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang Alexander MacClintock as Emperor. Any Second?"

    "Second!" Alexandra said loudly enough to be heard without the public address system.

    "All in favor say aye," Duke New Charlotte said.

    This time there wasn't any problems with tallying.

    "All opposed? The ayes have it. One thousand five hundred twenty-two aye, nine hundred nineteen opposed, six hundred forty-three abstentions, four hundred twenty-two not present."

    There were just short of two hundred members of the House of Peers. That did not mean there were only two hundred votes. The number of votes per peer depended upon two things: What 'level' of peer they were and how many titles they had. A baron had one vote, an earl two, a count three, a duke four and archduke five and a prince six. Furthermore, one individual could have more than one title. Archduke Ambroy was in addition Count Brazilia, Count Sri Lanka, Count Nepal, Baron Miami. Thus the dotty old geezer had croaked out eighteen 'ayes', prompted by an aide, with one bare gasp of air.

    "Chief Judge of the High Court," Roger said formally. "There being a votes upon the question by the House of Commons and the House of Peers, how do you rule?"

    "In favor," the Chief Judge said, her face sour. Lady Nerijus Bredelis was a great supporter of precedent and procedure. "Prince Roger Ramius Sergei Chiang Alexander MacClintock hereby certified as Emperor by inheritance and approval."

    "Princess Alexandra, if you would please take the crown…" Roger said.

    "Wait…" Duke New Charlotte said, holding up his hand. "You're going to do the coronation now?"

    "We have a lot of ground to cover, Your Grace," Roger said, tilting his head to the side. "You don't think We brought you all here just to vote on whether We should be Emperor, do you? In case you hadn't noticed, there's a war going on and a bunch of things to decide. Mother, the crown? Duke New Charlotte, the robe. Admiral Helmut, the scepter. And quickly if you don't mind. People are wondering whether they should be getting popcorn or continue watching. For those people, just give it a minute and we'll have a bit of a break for popcorn."

    Roger walked down to the base of the dais, knelt and turned his back to the room as the threesome gathered the materials. Duke New Charlotte had to have a bit of help with the long and heavy robe. The robe went on first, then Helmut formally handed him the scepter. As Alexandra approached with the crown, Roger raised a hand.

    "Mother, if you'd do Us the favor to not ram it on Our head this time," he said. "We've still got a bit of a headache from your last coronation."

    "Wait til you've been wearing it a while," Alexandra said, lightly setting the Crown on his head. "You don't know what a headache is yet. Rise, Roger the Second, Emperor of Man."

    Roger stood up, hugged his mother once again, walked up the steps to the throne and sat down. Then he leaned to his left, whistled and pointed at the step next to the Throne. Dogzard came trotting up happily and settled into a ball by his side.

    "Better. We will now take a five minute break in the coverage so that people can get popcorn and tinkle and networks can run commercials. The following agenda will take the majority of the day and well into the evening. And you do want to stick around."

    "It would be nice to know what the agenda for the rest of this extraordinary audience might be," Lady Wells Johnson said to Eleonora. "I'd assumed, we'd all assumed, that it was simply going to be formalizing his position. There was far less opposition than Roger appears to think. We know we're in a civil war."

    "Roger knows it," Eleonora said. The face of the Emperor's Chief Administrator was tight. "His Majesty that is."

    "Any hints?" the President of the Commons asked. Daniel Osborn was nearly two meters with graying blonde hair and built along the lines of a very solid pear. He took a glass of champagne from a passing servant and downed it in one gulp.

    "I said Roger knows it," Eleonora said. "I didn't say I do."

    "This is highly irregular," the Prime Minister noted. ///get description from We Few/// "I understand that these are extraordinary times but things like this should be handled in a measured fashion. And a coronation shouldn’t be this harum scarum."

    "Prime Minister, the one thing I am sure is on the agenda is how long you remain Prime Minister," Eleonora said, not bothering to look at him. "The answer I'm just as sure of, because it is the one part he did discuss with me, is 'not very long' and 'no, he's not going to let Dogzard eat you.' I had to get personal reassurances on that one."

    "He's going to call for a vote of no confidence?" Osborn asked.

    "The Prime Minister was reminded that the government sits at the pleasure of the Monarch," Eleonora said. "It is an understatement to say that Roger is less than pleased with the current government."

    "While there are precedents…" Lady Wells-Johnson said.

    "Yes, I know them," Eleonora said. "And so does Roger. What he spent the last three days doing is reading pretty much everything on Imperial history I couldn't get him to read when he was a teenager. As well as other imperial history. Roman, Byzantine, Chinese, Congo, Brazilian. Continuously. I don't think he's slept since his mother passed the torch. It was the first time I realized there was something of a scholar in our Rog. I think he could probably pass the Imperial bar with a couple week's brush-up. Roger is going to dissolve the government. Today. When, I don't know. But it's the only thing I know is on the agenda."

    Captain Fain started hammering his pike butt onto the steps in signal that the 'break' was over.

    "It's the rest of the agenda that's got me worried…"



    "Ladies, gentlemen and other beings, We are Our new Emperor," Roger said, holding up a scroll. "God what a horrible sentence but true. The other reason for the short break was to get people to sign the required paperwork. So herewith, Our first Address as Emperor.

    "The Imperial We, that snooty nose in the air way We emperors affect, is not just a high falutin’ way of speaking. The Imperial We denotes that, as Emperor, We speak for and are responsible for the lives of all the people of the Empire. When this person, Roger MacClintock, says ‘We’, We are speaking for all of Us. Not just Our close advisors, We Few who turned this tide. Not, assuredly, the power players of the capital. When We say ‘We’ We represent the Empire, Core Systems and Border Planets and all the people that live and love and laugh and breathe and hope for a better tomorrow. Let us face facts: We got some problems.

    "Our advisors have cautioned Us on Our tendency to expediency learned the crucible of Our trek across Marduk. After long and deep thought, We have decided to differ with those advisors. We, this whole Empire, have a Pretender to the throne who has suborned much of Our fleet, a rival state so callous and believing in its own power and worth that it destroyed one of Our ships on one of Our own systems and endemic domestic issues including massive underemployment of Our subjects and notable failures in Our military's supply chain, the latter of which We, this guy, Roger, shall personally attend to. It seems to Us that the time has come for a touch of expediency. And I sincerely doubt that the majority of the Empire disagrees.

    "We love Our Mother and loved, equally, Our beloved and lost brother John and sister Alexander. We really did love and admire John and Alex. We especially miss John because, damnit, that guy was smart as a whip. We could really use his help right now.

    "Each were, in their own right, exceptional people known for their ability to smoothly manage the conflicting challenges of the Imperium. The very last choice of most of the leading lights of Our Imperium for Emperor would be, well, the person speaking. Yet all of Our extremely capable relatives, mother, brother and sister, failed in the face of the intrigues of the Pretender. We did not fail. And there is a reason for this besides a bit of luck and very able bodyguards.

    "During Our long road to this moment We did not use the model of Our Mother nor that of Our well regarded and frankly dotty grandfather nor Our inestimable siblings. Our model for manners, deportment and sheer bloody-mindedness was Our great something granny Miranda McClintock. And We fully intend to continue in that vein. Our brother and sister, God rest their souls, were killed in the first serious attempt at an assassination on them. We have survived, by rough count, sixteen attempted assassinations. We have fought in seven civil wars, one of the reasons We don't like them. Be fully aware that civil wars absolutely suck. We will try to reduce the damage from the one that's currently going on but it's not going to be fun.

    "All of this mess we, little we, us the Empire, are in is due to the action or lack of action of the august personages here assembled as well as various others who were it not for Our actions would also be among this august assembly and wield the power of high and low justice upon Our Empire. To be clear, were it not for Our actions, those of this person and Our close Companions, as well as the Loyal members of the Navy, Marines and other Imperial forces, Jackson, New Madrid and the rest of Jackson's known cronies would still be making decisions. Not acceptable. The fact that they got away with it as long as they did is highly unacceptable.

    "A wise man once said that all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. We will add that it helps the triumph of evil if the powers-that-be are themselves not particularly good men or care more about money, power and prestige than, say, the fact that their Empress is being raped on a daily basis. Having done a quick review of history, generally what happens to Empires about now is something along the lines of the French Terror. But that never seems to work out in the long run. So instead of, say, setting up guillotines in the park and inviting people to decide by vote or lot which peer or MP gets his or her head cut off, tempting as that might be, We begin Our reign by doing a bit of restructuring.

    "As I noted to the Prime Minister in the rubble of the Imperial Palace, the government sits at the pleasure of the Emperor. It has been three hundred years since an Emperor had what We're sure people will call the 'temerity' to dissolve a government just cause he's royally pissed off. But it has been a similar period since the last time one screwed up this badly. The government is hereby dissolved. This would normally be a time for all sorts of back-room deals and brinkmanship that would take weeks to resolve. We, this person and the House of Peers and others, are going to be doing things for a while. Probably the next few hours. That is exactly how long you have to form a new government that is acceptable to Us. And, no, We are not going to take just any old list you hand Us. We are responsible for the actions of Our ministers and the ministers of the next government shall understand and recognize that responsibility. If they can't… Well, the ministers that We shall accept will understand and recognize that responsibility.

    "Our former Chief of Staff, Companion on the long march across Marduk, prosthetic expert in all things government, is Our current Chief of Imperial Administration, Eleonora O'Casey. Miss O'Casey will be joining you as you attempt to figure out how restructure yourselves in real time. We would suggest you put some welly in it since your constituents are watching and they know a crisis when they see one. If you cannot perform this simple task in a reasonable time, I'd suggest they can the lot of you and start over. Back of the room for this, I'm sure there's going to be argument and We have other things to do. Go.

    "Now, as to the House of Peers… The purpose of the peerage is to create a stable governmental structure, separate from the mundane trivia of the Empire, that can look to the Empire's long-term interests. Says so right there in any civics book. Alas, what the Peerage appears to have become is nothing more than a snake-pit of double-dealing and inbreeding for the purposes of concentrating power in the fewest hands possible. A condition that Jackson used to his benefit. It is also supposed to be the central repository of all things Loyalist since peers are sworn to the Emperor. Something We'll get around to. Oddly enough, while my mother, the Empress you were sworn to protect and defend, was being tortured, very few peers even raised the question of what, exactly, was going on. A few did, of course, and a few suffered for those questions. But only a few, so very few.

    "If the House of Peers had united in opposition to Jackson when it was apparent a coup had taken place and the Empress was being held under duress, Jackson could not have succeeded. This is prima facia evidence that each and every one of the surviving peers has failed the trust embodied in your positions and oaths. We, therefore, shall not accept your oaths of loyalty until such a time as you have, each individually, redeemed yourselves in Our eyes. This means that you cannot hold power of high and low justice in your demesnes because that power is attached to your oath."

    The aristocrats of the Empire had broad executive powers in their 'demesnes', defined as the area attached to their titles. Duke Mars, for example, was functionally the governor of Mars. They had the power of appointment of local judges and other governmental officials, acted as tax-collectors and collected fees from those taxes and had the power to pardon or charge persons. Local legislators created taxes and set the budget, 'the power of the purse', but the Dukes, Counts, Earls and Barons decided how the money was spent in many ways. Their lands and other properties enjoyed broad tax exemptions, so companies in which they held primary control had a significant competitive edge, and they generally had a lot of privileges that were all designed to keep them loyal to an sitting Monarch.

    Roger had, in one broad stroke, stripped them of everything except the power to vote as members of the House of Peers. It was a step without precedent in Imperial history, likely to cause chaos in the long run if Roger remained adamant, but so was a civil war this broad and corruption this deep.

    Roger kept firmly in mind one of Pahner's sayings: Cuius testiculos habeas, habeas cardia et cerebellum.

    "When Our personal favorite Empress, Miranda, created the peerage, she, over time, created over a thousand peers drawn from loyal retainers. And that at a time when there were a bare fifty planets in the Empire. Now we have two hundred planets and an equal number of Peers. Those first Peers did not act in lock-step by any stretch of the imagination but they were loyal and they did have a sort of central focus and philosophy which might be best summed up by Duty, Honor, Empire. A central focus and philosophy the current Peers have apparently forgotten. Otherwise, We could have simply turned up as the prodigal son lost on Marduk during all the fuss because the Peers had followed their oaths, done their damned jobs and taken care of the problem of Jackson!

    "All of this leads us to conclude that it is time for some new blood. We shall mention in passing that loyal and willing agreement with Our opinion shall be taken as a nice step in the direction of proving your individual and personal loyalty to the Monarch and We might possibly be willing to accept your oaths thus again permitting you full authority and duty as Peers.

    "Mrs. Constance Janforth-Krasnitsky, if you would be so kind as to join us?"

    The dowdy, mouse-haired lady who walked down the very long aisle projected a sort of nervous pride. When she reached the balk line she bobbed a curtsey then proceeded forward where she knelt on the provided cushion.

    "Mrs. Janforth-Krasnitsky is the survivor of Captain Vil Krasnitsky, captain of the Puller Class Assault Ship HMS DeGlopper. When after suffering tunnel drive failure from a toombie attack the DeGlopper was then jumped by two Saint cruisers, Captain Krasnitsky made the heroic decision that rather than surrender and spare himself and his crew, the primary mission was to keep Our sorry ass from being captured by the Saints. So he selflessly went into a battle he knew he and his crew weren't going to survive while We and our bodyguards snuck away like cowards into the black night of space.

    "If Captain Krasnitsky had not taken that choice, the sole surviving heir to the Throne of Man would at the very least spent a couple of years having his own head tinkered with the by Saints. Wouldn't that be special? For his heroism and selflessness, his heir, Mrs. Janforth-Krasnitsky is hereby ennobled ///terms of art/// Lady Janforth-Krasnitsky, Duchess Yong Li and Raina, Baroness Nadejda. Such entitlement requires a majority vote of the House of Peers. I'll go ahead and take my place as Duke Terra in this case. Call for entitlement of Constance Janforth-Krasnitsky, Duchess Yong Li and Raina, Baroness Nadejda, any second?"




    "Voice vote?"

    "I hereby pledge my service and the service of my House to the House of MacClintock for now and until the end of time?"

    "When a person is found guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, especially treason, their lands and goods are seized and placed in trust of the Empire. Specifically, they are placed in trust of the Monarch. The formal documents of seizure of the goods, shares and lands of not only Prince Jackson but his known co-conspirators, like my biological father, were filed about the time that Jackson's ship made the Limit so extensive holdings are up for grabs.

    "In normal circumstance they would be auctioned off and the funds added to the general treasury. Since such auctions invariably end up selling off the material well below market, I'm sure that many in this room, and watching, have been rubbing their hands in glee at the killing they were about to make buying up Jackson et al's former holdings at pence on the credit.

    "However, this is a rather recent, last couple of centuries, precedent. Prior to that, the Monarch would dispose of those good and land as He or She saw fit and although the precedent has changed, it's not a law. In reality, We can do as We wish with those lands and goods and shares and We are gonna do just that. Because We don't really give a damn about precedent especially when it's an inexpedient precedent.

    "In this case, We deem it fitting to support herself in the style of a Peer of the Realm that Duchess Yong Li and Raina shall be granted full deed upon all holdings of the Pretender on the planets of Yong Li and Raina, including majority ownership of the Yong Li shipyards and large share of Kumansho Orbital Mining Group. May you use the funds better than their former owner?"

    "Captain Suvo Talukudar Royal Marine Corps?"

    "Captain Suvo Talukudar is the heir and widower of Ensign Amanda Guha who was, to be clear, the toombie who nearly destroyed the DeGlopper. Ensign Guha was a victim in this matter and from all accounts was a loyal officer of the Imperial Navy. Furthermore, Captain Talukudar fought with distinction in the Lunar Insurrection against the Pretender. As such, the Captain is hereby entitled Lord Talukudar, Baron Apraku. Second??

    "To support his position as a Peer of the Realm, Baron Apraku is awarded twenty six thousand shares in Kruplon Armaments. Kruplon, by the way, makes a really lousy plasma rifle. Given that Jackson's majority holding in KA will be going to subsequently ennobled persons, eventually there will be enough for a seat on the board. Use it wisely, Lord Talukudar?"

    "Harko Sawato, Father of the late Lieutenant Carmin Sawato, Royal Marine Corps, Bravo Company, Bronze Battalion?"

    One by one, survivors and heirs of members of the DeGlopper crew, Navy and Marine officers and enlisted who had died fighting on the Loyalist side of the recent battles and the dozens of Bronze Battalion casualties came down the aisle and were made members of the House of Peers not to mention instantly winning the lottery. There was little or no way that the peers could protest. The story of the daring and heroism of the DeGlopper crew and the Bronze Battalion had been all over the news since the counter-coup and the Loyalists were considered heroes by the general public. Voting to not ennoble the survivors' heirs and allow them into their storied ranks would be tantamount to suicide given the current popular sentiment. Roger hadn't been entirely joking about guillotines in the Park. It was a fairly popular comment in the info-stream.

    And then there was the whole issue of Roger having them by the balls in terms of their oaths. Possibly, if they'd seen it coming, the Peers could have mounted some resistance. But Roger hadn't discussed his full plans with anyone. Kosutic had been in charge of assembling the survivors but even the Colonel thought that the intent was to individually thank them. Not give them titles. And she'd worked from a list Roger had given her.

    Roger wasn't just picking people at random, either. He, or rather Julian, had done their homework. Not only were each of the persons picked for the peerage related to Loyalists and body guards, they showed indications of both being loyal and able to survive the internecine slaughterhouse that was Capitol City. The last chosen was a classic case in point.

    "Mrs. Sylvia Pahner, wife of the late Major Armand Pahner?"

    As the woman left the third balk line, Roger stepped forward and himself knelt on the provided pillow.

    "Your Majesty?" Mrs. Pahner said, uncomfortably. "Please get up."

    "We cannot kneel before the man who was the only true father We ever had," Roger said. "We cannot thank him for the thousand of lessons he taught Us. We cannot seek his council. We have taken council of others and know that, simply put, he was as wise in his choice of spouse as he was in all other matters. We therefore beg of you to become a member of Court as well as the intended ennoblement and to become one of our counselors."

    "I am not Armand, Your Majesty," the woman said, biting her lip. "But I of course accept."

    "Thank you," Roger said, standing up. "Armand Pahner was the very best of this Empire. Intelligent, wise, capable in battle, level-headed in crisis or ease. He even, occasionally, showed flashes of a humor so dry you could evaporate oceans with it. In memory of his service and sacrifice, we hereby ennoble his heir, Lady Pahner, Princess Kellerman?"

    The gasp was so deep it felt as if the room momentarily went to vacuum. The planet Kellerman was the home planet of Prince Jackson and had been in his house from nearly the founding of the Empire. While not one of the inner planets it was an important interstellar cross-roads and rich from trade.

    "Duchess Corelia, Countess Britannia, Viscontessa Okansas, Baroness of New Northampton?"

    Viscontessa was the female equivalent of 'Earl' because nobody had ever found a good female equivalent. It was one of the few details Miranda MacClintock overlooked when she was setting up the peerage. Oddly enough, she didn't appoint any 'female earls' during her initial group and by the time she noticed it was too late. When she appointed her first female earl she substituted 'Viscontessa' but kept 'Earl' instead of switching to Viscount. The results had been a two thousand year head-ache for fifth graders in the Empire ever since.

    "Your Majesty does my late husband too great an honor," Lady Pahner said, tearing up. "I promise to manage the demesnes of Your Empire with great care, Your Majesty."

    "Of course, Our forces are going to have to recapture Kellerman and Corelia before you can visit safely," Roger said. "We'll try not to do too much damage. Might be missing a couple of cities when We're done."

    "As Duchess Kellerman and wife of your late mentor, I would remind Your Majesty that you are Emperor of all of Your planets," Lady Pahner said. "Due care with regard to the lives of your subjects is not weakness but strength."

    "As we remarked, Armand was wise in many ways including choice of spouse," Roger said. "We shall refrain from saturation bombing the planets out of pique. We shall now take your oath."

    "This completes the ennoblement of survivors of the battles to restore freedom and justice to this Empire," Roger said. There was a bit of a collective sigh of relief from the peers. Many of the peers as well as their aides had been calculating the effect of the new titles and watching their relative power and position melt away. Roger waited a moment and then smiled, thinly. "Aaand? we're not done. But we'll take a brief break to run commercials and commentary while the House of Peers gets to know their new members and the old members sweat a bit."

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