The Cairo Saga, book 4: Operation Chindit
Part 1: Give and Take

Sigfried Glacier Reserve
Evirons, Tharkad City
Tharkad
District of Donegal, Lyran Alliance

"You've got a lot of nerve showing up here, Davion." Cairo didn't even look round as he tossed the lure into the air. There was a blur of movement as the young hawk grabbed it from the air and wheeled of into the clear blue sky, crying out loudly.

"Just thought I'd pop in before I headed out to the space-port." The Precenter Martail shrugged, "See if you'd changed your mind."

"I think you've been hanging round in the Combine too long if you think I'm going to fall on my sword." Cairo held up his hand and the hawk settled on the gauntlet, "Not for you, not for anyone."

"There are more important things than your personal honor..."

"I thought I was stripped of my honor when the Judge Advocate General took my rank and regiment away from me. Treason kind of grabs people's attention. I'm told I have half a dozen offers for my life story."

"I take it you've not agreed to any?"

"I don't even know what the hell it is I've been charged with: no one's telling me a damn thing! All I know is that if I try and leave the grounds I'll be killed by the MP's with the sniper-rifles."

"I'm sorry, you should have been told: there's been an enquiry into your mission to Hesperus II."

"That would explain why only those who took part in the mission have been arrested, but not why."

"It appears Archer Christifori has suffered some kind of mental breakdown on Donegal. The doctors and physiatrist say it has something to do with his time as a prisoner of Word of Blake. They think that the attempted to brainwash him into acting as a sleeper agent."

"I take it that it didn't work?"

"No: Christifori's sense of duty stopped him from doing anything to help Word of Blake, but there have been questions raised as to how he was to be used."

"I don't quit follow."

"There are those who believe his escape from Hesperus was arranged to get him back to us where he could do the most damage. Once that idea had surfaced, people started looking into the means of his escape, and those that where involved."

"They can't possibly believe that I had anything to do with some insane conspiracy theory like that?"

"There are those who will believe anything, and you have made more than a few enemies yourself: your continued disregard for authority and the chain of command has done little to endear you to the Lyran military establishment."

"And that little coup I stopped in Costa Mesa..."

"...was perpetrated by a die-hard faction within the Lyran military who wanted my sister back on the throne. Word of Blake merely took advantage of the situation."

"And the fact that I thwarted the attempt? What do the conspiracy theorists have to say about that?"

"They tend to play that down, but the fact remains that they have enough pull with the JAG to get you charged with treason and held over for trial. You will most likely face a full Court Marshal, and if you are found guilty, most likely executed."

"Surly you can stop this?"

"Steven, the war has stressed the Alliance to braking point: factions that where fighting just a few years ago during my war with my sister must now trust each other. If we are to maintain anything approaching a stable defense we must allow a little give-and-take."

"And if the 'give' part is my life; so be it?"

"We are all ultimately expendable Colonel, even me. I will not put the Alliance under any more stress, not so soon after we won a narrow victory."

"Yean mean the Clan Wolf relief force?"

"Yes, that was quit good timing, if a little unfortunate in its origin."

"Yeah, what did happen? No one seems to know just what really happened."

"It appears that Khan Vladimir Ward of Clan Wolf believed that he could use the Word of Blake attack on Arc Royal as cover for a sneak attack on Clan Wolf-in-Exile. Not trusting it to any of his commanders, he personally led a mission to strike at the Command and Control center. He was spotted, and Khan Phelan Kell personally led the counter-attack. The two of them ended up engaging in personal combat that lasted for some time. In the end, Khan Ward's Mech was disabled, and Khan Kell called for him to stand down."

"From what little I know of Vladimir Ward, I doubt he did."

"In deed: it appears he set his Mech's reactor to overload. The resulting explosion destroyed both Mech's, killing both Khan's. In all the confusion, asKhan Ranna Kerensky stepped in and summed control of both Clans, reunifying them. It was she who sent the relief force here."

"I'm sorry for your loss: I know you and Khan Phelan Kell where close."

"Indeed, but you can no doubt see why I can not interfere with your forthcoming Court Marshal."

"This is about Thor's Gap: you told me that my stubbiness would someday get me into trouble."

"Despite what you may think, I don't hold a personal grudge against you: this is a hole you've dug all on your own."

"Just remember one thing Precenter Martail Davion, sir: when this is all over, and the dust has settled, I'll remember this conversation."

"Is that a threat?"

"If I wanted to threaten you, you'd know it. No, this is a warning, the same warning I gave Clearwater: I will not forget this, and neither will you."

"We shall see." Davion turned and walked away, "I personally hope you get off, but like I said: I can't interfere."

Cairo pulled a small radio from his pocket as he headed back to the house, "It went just as you said it would."

"Victor is too predictable." Simon Clearwater laughed over the link, "He doesn't realize just who he's playing against."

"So what's going to happen next?"

"The verdict of the Court Marshal has already been decided: guilty. They will give you a showy trial, but they'll shoot you at the end."

"You have a plan?"

"I always have a plan Steven. The only question is: are you willing to trust me?"

"That remains to be seen..."

To Be Continued...