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Untitled Empire of Man 5: Chapter Three

       Last updated: Saturday, September 14, 2013 17:56 EDT



    Despreaux had been standing among the 'Companions' and subtly gestured at Roger as drinks and hors d'oeuvres started to circulate again. The ennoblement of heirs had taken nearly two hours. And they weren't even up to the long part.

    Roger kind of rolled his eyes as if to say 'Like you have to ask' and waved for her to ascend the stairs.

    "Tired of standing, honey?" Roger asked.

    "I've stood much longer watches," Despreaux commented. "Although not in heels. However, we've been having people fall out from locking their knees."

    "I noticed," Roger said. "I hope it's not something that the major networks are covering."

    "They're not, but there's already a 'passed out at the longest audience in history' thread," Despreaux said. "How long is this going to go on?"

    "As long as it takes," Roger said. "And there's going to be more and more and more."

    Julian walked up the stairs without asking permission and held out a data tablet.

    "You gotta see this one," Julian said, grinning.

    "At this rate, he's going to appoint that dog-lizard thing he brought back Duke of Mars."

    "Tempting, but no," Roger said as a palace servitor, as if on cue, brought up a pile of freshly sliced meat. "We'll take it."

    "Yes, Your Majesty," the servant said, handing over the platter carefully. Dogzard's head was up and he was already whining but he'd been taught not to attack the servants for food.

    "Who's a good Dogzard?" Roger asked, holding out a strip of raw atul. The beast snapped it out of his fingers, just missing them as always. "Good Dogzard. Here's another..."

    "You're getting the usual looks," Julian said, continuing to scan info feeds.

    "Which is the point," Roger replied, quietly. The area had a sonic scrambler but it didn't mean people couldn't read lips. "Dogzard acquired a bit of a taste for man-flesh during the counter attack. I'm... We are still trying to convince Ourselves that it is a taste best unrewarded. We are still not entirely convinced. If the House of Commons comes back with their usual suspects as a government... We might just let him revel as it were."

    "Don't even joke about it... Your Majesty," Despreaux said.

    "You are exempt, always, from my title, darling," Roger said.

    "I was actually talking to my sovereign, Roger," Despreaux said. "Prosthetic moral code, right?"

    "Spoilsport, more like," Roger said, grinning. "I won't feed anyone to Dogzard. Promise."

    "And no cutting off any heads," Despreaux said, smiling.

    "I won't be cutting off any heads," Roger said, looking at the assembly darkly. "That doesn't mean that everyone who is at this audience is going to leave alive."

    "Excuse me?" Despreaux said.

    "Krindi," Roger said, waving a finger in a circle. "Time to get back to work."



    "Despite how it sometimes feels, not everyone who fought on the side of Our self and Our House died in battle," Roger said. "Many risked their lives in the battles around Terra against the Pretender's forces and survived, some supported, clandestinely, Our cause here on Terra and a few even made it off of Marduk. So we continue... Captain Gloria Demesnes, Imperial Navy..."

    "...Commodore Theodore Chan..."

    "Admiral Lord Angus Helmut, Third Baron Flechelle," Roger said. "There isn't enough to say about the aid that the Dark Lord of the Sixth gave Us in the battle to restore Our house. Since the Admiral officially hates accolades, I'll skip it," Roger added with a feral grin. "Admiral hereby ennobled, Duke Persephone and Demeter, Count New Lacadaemon, Earl of Athens, Persephone. Second...?"

    "Sorry, Admiral, but you're going to have to swear your oath to Us," Roger whispered as the diminutive admiral knelt. "If you have a problem with that, we can work something out. Little we."

    "I do not have a problem with it, Your Majesty," Helmut said. "If it had been Jackson... well, I wouldn't be here, would I? I hereby pledge my service and the service of my House to the House MacClintock..."

    "Sixth Fleet is hereby ordered to take up the position of defense fleet of the Capitol System vice First Fleet, most of which is in rebellion," Roger said as the Admiral rose. "Now for the last group to be ennobled. Despite what some so-called wits on the info-channels may think, I do not intend to ennoble either Dogzard or Patty the Packbeast. Although there appears to be a good bit of voting in favor on the nets.

    "However, there is one remaining group that fully deserves such ennoblement. And not all of them, by their lights, are commoners. Honal C'Thon Radas. Honal, We are reserving Duke of Marduk as an Imperial demesnes. So you can't have that. We hereby confirm and make an Imperial Position, Baron of Sheffan. You are ennobled Duke Dunweddy, a cluster of solar systems which you've probably never heard of, including the planet Leviathan, Our original destination, as well as Count of Whetu and Vasin, and Baron of Sheffan..."




    "Lord Zlata, you are out of order. However, We assume your objection is to the elevation of a non-human to what is, after all, the House of Peers of what is officially referred to as The Empire of Man."

    "Yes, it is, Your Majesty," the Peer said, his voice automatically being rebroadcast by the enunciator system. "While I and other recognize the great service that these Mardukans have done for Your House and the Empire... Honal K...Kee... This person, while a fine person, is not a man."

    "Indeed, biologically he is a she," Roger said, chuckling. "Don't let the apparent anatomy fool you. When the Empire of Man was founded, there was only one other alien race encountered, the Althari, and there were few to none within the borders of the budding Empire. Currently, non-humans make up ten percent of our population. There are six non-human populated worlds within the Empire as well as contract workers, residents and subjects from among the Althari and Phaenur. No one had ever done a census of Marduk, but the population appears to approach a billion souls, more than three times the population of the entire Dunweddy sector. All subjects of the Emperor although most don't know it.

    "We would put it to you, Lord Zlata, members of the House of Peers, that it is past time to include non-humans among your ranks and the ranks of members of commons. For rather obvious reasons of Our own personal experience, you are about to have to make that decision. Without a good bit of debate. I will simply remind the assembled Peers that this Mardukan has fought by the side of your Emperor, saved his life on more than one occasion, fought valiantly in an air-fighter having until recently never seen anything more complex than a dinosaur looking riding beast and lost his cousin and closest companion in the battle for the Palace. Alas that Rastar had no heirs. Had he survived We would make him Duke Centauri as well as Baron Therdan. Call for vote on the elevation of Honal C'Thon Radas to Duke Dunweddy, Count of Whetu and Vasin and Baron of Sheffan. Second?"

    "Second," Alexandra said, loudly.

    "All in favor...?"

    "Aye," Zlata said, just as loudly, raising his right hand and covering his head with his left. With what everyone was still thinking of as 'The Real Empress' in favor, how could he say nay?

    "The ayes have it, We will take your oath..."

    "Duke Dunweddy, the sector has never had representation in the House of Peers. We're sure you'll do a fine job representing and supporting them."

    "I'm not even sure where Dunweddy is, Your Majesty," Honal said. "Or what it is. But I will as always endeavor to do my best."

    "And your best is always excellent," Roger said. "Further, although We shall not add the bit of ceremony at this time, We intend to create a new knighthood, the Basik's Own, which shall be for close and trusted associates of the Throne. We'll induct you into that later."

    "I am yours to command, Your Majesty," Honal said, clapping his hands.

    "Now for the fun one... Erkum Pol!"

    "Huh?" Erkum said. He'd been more or less napping at attention standing by Krindi Fain.

    Seriously? Despreaux mouthed, her eyes wide. The massive Mardukan was loyal as a dog but not exactly the sharpest pike in the inventory.

    Captain Fain got the gigantic Mardukan lined up at the appointed spot.

    "All members of the court and certain positions must, by order of the Constitution, be members of the peerage. Not sure what, exactly, Miranda intended with that but it's law. Since Erkum is someone We intend to keep around, We hereby ennoble you with the title Lord Pol, Baron of Anica. It's a nice little city on the planet Tipu which is nice and hot by human standards and rather pleasant by Mardukan. Maybe someday you can even get there to see it. Vote is called..."

    "...Lord Krindi Fain, Count Suatan, Earl of Placensia, Baron of Zhanna and Kriviratoa..."

    "...Lord Denat Afsuan, Count Volka, Baron of Fralova and Jagan..."

    "...Lady Pedi Karuse, officially titled Light of the Vales, Countess Gentzler, Baroness of Adelsio..."

    "...Lord D'Nal Cord..."

    "I do not want a title, Roger," Cord whispered.

    "Shut up for once," Roger said, grinning thinly. "There's a reason. Just swallow your tongue and pledge. Or is there some conflict between an oath of allegiance and being an asi? Didn't think so..."

    "... Duke Quasem, Count Vemula, Count WayFarGone, Earl of Burma and Ladha, Baron of Rohall and Dunmanifestin..."

    "Colonel Thomas Catrone..."

    The returned commander of the Gold Battalion, who had led the 'underground' loyalist forces in the counter-coup, was clearly not looking forward to being 'ennobled.'

    "You're cursing my family with this you realize," Catrone said.

    "I grew up with that curse, Tomcat," Roger said, seriously.

    "...Duke Valvano, Guardian of the Dowager Empress, Count Mongolia..."

    "Don't be averse to uncanning a spare heir, he or she would be someone I'd trust," Roger said as the newly minted Duke got to his feet.

    "Excuse me?" Catrone said, angrily.

    "You know exactly what I mean," Roger said.

    "We'll talk," Alexandra said, smiling lightly. "Roger, we're going to need to speed this up."

    "Trying, Mother."

    Lieutenant Mark St. John..."

    Mark had never really gotten over the loss of his more intelligent twin. But like Erkum, he was doggedly loyal and Roger was going to need that.

    "...Lieutenant Justin Bebi, Count Ottaviano..."

    "...Captain /// Macek, Duke Cansdale..."

    "...Captain Julio Poertena..."

    Despreaux and Julian both started to snort and even Colonel Kosutic winced. Poertena just growled at them and headed to the base of the dais.

    "... Duke Pinopa, Imperial Artificer, officially titled 'He Who Holds the Wrench and Fiber Tape', Count Baya, Earl of Mangonan..."

    "...gotta be pocking kidding me, You Highn... Majesty...!"

    "...shut up and kneel..."

    "...pedge my... damn... pedge mytelf an' my hout... modderpocker what t'e ne't line? ... to t'e servite of t'e Hout MacClintock..."

    "...Major Adib Julian..."

    "...Duke Mars..."

    There was another indrawing of breath from the assembly. The Duke of Mars was the traditional holding of the Heir Secundus. The previous holder of the title had been Princess Alexandra. And the one time petty thief and unit cut-up received nine other titles including the more long-term binding Duke Catheron, a major planet in the Asgard Sector.

    "... Heir Secundus pending arrival of children of the Body. Duke Mars is hereby appointed Director, Imperial Bureau of Intelligence. Such appointments must be approved by the House of Peers. Without debate, all in favor say aye..."

    While there might have been some resistance at the suddenness of such an important appointment, and call for debate, more than half of the votes in the House of Peers were now recently ennobled lords and ladies who were strong Roger loyalists.

    "This is starting to make more sense," Kosutic whispered.

    "Colonel Eva Kosutic..."

    "...Duchess Armagh..."

    "Now that makes sense," Julian whispered.

    The colonel was not only an Armagh native but a High Priestess of the Satanic Church of Armagh.

    "Just locked in Armagh and the Satanists," Despreaux said.

    "Last but certainly not least, Nimashet Despreaux..."

    "Gonna load me down with titles, hon?" Nimashet said, smiling thinly.

    The two had had a rocky start to their relationship but over time it had 'blossomed' into a love so deep sometimes they both occasionally found themselves drowning in it. Or trying to drown the other. Depended on the day.

    "A few," Roger said, quietly. "And more."

    "...Duchess Venus, which is more than appropriate, official heir primus, pending birth of an heir..."

    "Roger..." Despreaux said, desperately. "No!"

    "Just until we can get an heir uncanned," Roger said. "At which point you'll be the Regent if anything happens. Countess Aphrodisia, Countess Texas..."

    "You okay with kneeling to swear an oath?" Roger asked.

    "Not like it's the first time," Despreaux said, archly.

    The comment elicited a chuckle from Roger's mother.

    "I like her..."

    "That completes the appointment of new nobles," Roger said. "We shall now take a one hour recess so everyone can get off their aching feet and get a snack. Then we're back. At which time we are going to have the single fastest trial in history. And maybe by then the legislative body will have stopped waving its arms



    "No," Eleonora said. "Again."

    "What the hell is wrong with Lord Tackmin for Finance Minister?"

    Daniel Osborn had never particularly wanted to be Prime Minister. He was more than happy with the job of running Parliament. But he was slowly finding himself as the default choice for Roger's new Prime Minister. Although he was starting to think that the obvious choice was the young lady he was arguing with.

    "Shall I list the reasons?" Eleonora said. "One, he's been investigated, several times, by the Exchange Commission. Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, seven times is 'where there's smoke there's fire.' Two, he is a close acquaintance of Jackson..."

    "There is virtually no-one who is in high finance who didn't spend some time with Jackson," Lord Kim pointed out. The tentative Home Minister was having to simultaneously give an occasional 'aye' to the ennoblement of people he'd never heard of as well as trying to come up with a government 'suitable' to what was looking increasingly like a military dictatorship.

    "Spend some time is not the same as being a close acquaintance," O'Casey said, shaking her head. "Try to figure out that we're in a war. A civil war. And putting people in positions of trust who are members of the same clubs as the leader of the opposition, who have spent days in their company, who, for God's sake, shared a blue-water sailing team together, who have their business interests so entangled it's going to take months to sort them out, who are married to their second cousin... He's a close acquaintance. Not acceptable. What's wrong with Duke Torres?"

    "He has virtually no backing within the Social Democrat Party?" Osborn said, raising his hands. "His Majesty may prefer him as Finance Minister but we've got to get the votes through Parliament? And I guarantee that he won't have the votes. Especially with Tackmin running interference. The Earl was more or less guaranteed the post in the next government."

    "Guaranteed the post by whom?" Eleonora asked. "I realize, by the way, that that is a rhetorical question. But it's worth answering."

    "Jackson," Lord Kim said. "Hang on: Aye! Your point is taken."

    "Anyone, anyone, who was supported by Jackson, affiliated with Jackson, has anything to do with Jackson is entirely unacceptable and I don't care how much political capital they have of their own. They are back benchers as long as Roger is Emperor."

    "He's going to have a trial?" Lord Kim said as the audience recessed.

    "Which is why you should probably wait to have the vote," Eleonora said. "By the time Roger's done with New Madrid, you'll be able to push through any government His Majesty will approve..."

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