Chapter 1917 Heartless Choice
The calamity that befell the Larkinson Family was both sudden and controversial. Compliance was anything but adequate, and many Larkinsons managed to slip the net.
That said, the Bright Republic still took plenty of Larkinsons into custody, including virtually every Larkinson who resided in Rittersberg. The capital planet was simply too well-guarded and well-regulated to give any Larkinson a chance to escape!
Word of the capture of hundreds of Larkinsons, many of them spouses and children, alarmed and enraged the rest of the family.
The Bright Republic went too far!
Many Larkinsons exhibited a lot of indignation towards the state for bowing to the unreasonable demands of the Friday Coalition. What of their loyalty? What of their unflinching duty? How could the Bright Republic be so dishonorable to ignore centuries of service and sacrifice?
The betrayed Larkinsons couldn't help but recall Ves' words of how foolish it was to serve a state instead of themselves.
Was he right?
"No! If not for Ves provoking the Friday Coalition, we would have never become at odds with the patrons of the Bright Republic! It's all his fault!"
Rather than blaming the Bright Republic or their own choices, they instead turned their ire towards the controversial Larkinson who split off from the old family and started his own clan!
"You're right! It's all his fault! It's fine if he is seeking death for himself!"
The mood among the escaped Larkinsons was very turbulent. These discontented members of the family soon made contact with the members of the clan, causing both groups to share each other grievances.
Both of them fed from each other's indignation! Calabast, who was keeping a very close eye on the Larkinsons, noticed this alarming trend and realized that the problem had suddenly exploded to a very substantial threat to the continued existence of the Larkinson Clan and everything Ves had built!
"This is bad." She told Gloriana after she paid a personal visit to the Stellar Chaser. "Only a week has passed since we have left the Kesseling System, but already there is word among the clansmen that some of them want to bring Ves to account!"
"How ungrateful!" Gloriana displayed an ugly scowl. "These Larkinsons continue to disappoint me! Ves should be rolling in his recovery pod if he heard about their spoiled reactions. Per angusta ad augusta. What part of this motto don't they understand? This kind of setback is very common among family groups in their infancy! Plenty of clans and houses have suffered worse disasters, yet managed to survive through these hardships and used the lessons they learned during those arduous times to thrive!"
"You shouldn't blame those Larkinsons." Calabast crossed her arms. "The old family are truly victims. No matter how much it wants to pretend that Ves and the clan share no relations with them anymore, their blood and heritage still share a common relation. I would be pissed as well if I was a part of the old family."
Both of them fell into a momentary silence.
"The Larkinsons will soon demand a response." Gloriana guessed.
The former spy nodded. "Ves should be the one to face the angry Larkinsons. Since he isn't here, someone else needs to step up. No matter who speaks for Ves, the stakes are extremely high."
"Wait a minute. I think Ves prepared a contingency plan for this eventuality. Let me browse the database…"
After half a minute, Gloriana managed to find the right plan. She projected the recording that Ves attached to the plan.
[If you are watching this recording, then the old Larkinson Family may have become an enemy of the state. Whether the Friday Coalition or the Bright Republic has moved into action, it is clear that the old family stands no chance against the might of an entire state. If any of these states have unjustly and dishonorably captured the members of our old family, then I can foresee that many Larkinsons from my clan and the old family will request that we should do something to free them. Either we give in whatever demands the captors issue to us, or we organize some sort of breakout attempt.]
His projection seemed to stand proud as his eyes swept throughout a crowd that didn't exist with an imperious stare.
[Don't entertain any foolish fantasies. If the old family succumbed to the power of a state, how will it be any different if the clan tries to intervene? The reason why I led the Larkinson Clan away from the Bright Republic is because my former home state has proved that it doesn't deserve our trust! Before I left, I warned the Larkinson Family how foolish they are for continuing to cling to their duty to a state that has already stabbed a Larkinson in the back! If my blind and foolish relatives in the Bright Republic insist on putting their lives in the hands of those who don't care about them, then I don't see any need to risk everything to undo their grievous errors!]
Both Calabast and Gloriana looked shocked! Was this really the Ves who cared so much about family? His response would definitely result in an immense backlash from his own clan if Gloriana dared to show this recording to the clan!
"Ves is mad!"
"He's being selfish." Calabast grunted with respect. "He's also making the most rational choice. Whatever ransom or blackmail demand the Friday Coalition plans to issue will inevitably hamper him in a very severe way. If the Fridaymen really plan to push Ves around, then the most rational course of action is to write off the hostages."
[Let me be clear.] Ves' projection continued. [As the patriarch of the Larkinson Clan, I have a duty to protect our clansmen. While we share a bond with the Larkinson Family, I will not sacrifice the lives of the former to go on a futile quest to save the latter! This is not an action drama! Even if our clan was ten times stronger, we still wouldn't be able to succeed in rescuing our captured family members! Therefore, instead of demanding that we sacrifice ourselves in vain, we should instead demand the captured Larkinsons to sacrifice their own lives and wellbeing for our sakes! As far as I'm concerned, this is the price for their foolishness! They should have taken my warnings seriously if they wanted to avoid this foreseeable fate!]
His arguments, while twisted and outrageous, made sense. Yet even Gloriana knew that the principled and family-oriented Larkinsons would never be able to respect Ves again if his opinion on this matter became known!
With everything that happened, realising this response might very well turn over eighty percent of the Larkinson Assembly against their founding leader. This was disastrous as the Assembly could easily vote to strip Ves from his leadership position and hand it to another Larkinson!
[I am very much aware how harsh I sound, but don't think that I am callous or cruel. I love my clan. I love our Larkinson heritage. It is out of my love for our lineage that I choose to support the decision that best preserves the strength and future of our clan. I can promise you that while I might not be able to rescue our captured relatives, I will certainly do my utmost to avenge them! The Bright Republic or the Friday Coalition are making a big mistake if they think they have leverage over me! In order to preserve the lives and freedom of the captured, I believe it is better to resort to deterrence rather than appeasement!]
"I like his thinking direction." Calabast smiled in approval. "It's unfortunate that his relatives are Larkinsons, not Vrakens. If Ves was like this all the time, then he would fit right in with my former dynasty."
"He'd have to be a woman, though."
Ves' projection spoke again.
[If you disagree with my stance, that is fine. If you want to mount a rescue attempt, then that is fine as well. Just don't drag the rest of the clan down with you. Therefore, if you are entertaining any suicidal notions, then please leave the Larkinson Clan first. I don't care if you join the remnants of the old family or defect to the Friday Coalition. Just like the Larkinsons who stubbornly insisted on following tradition, you are responsible for your own actions!]
"He is not mincing any words!"
[Now, If you wish to leave the clan to mount a rescue attempt or because you're disgusted by my choices, then you can leave whenever you wish as far as I'm concerned. I don't need any clansmen who turn out to be fair-weather friends! I promise that each of you will receive 1 million hex credits as a farewell gift. If you or your direct relatives have contributed significantly in battle or suffered a major loss, then you will receive 10 million hex credits! This is what you deserve. Just remember that as long as you turn your back on the clan, the clan will also turn its back on you. The Larkinson Mandate will no longer recognize you if you abandon the clan in its time of need! Choose carefully and make the decision that you think is best!]
The projection finally disappeared, leaving Gloriana and Calabast numb. The Ves they heard today was completely different from the Ves who always showed at least affection towards his family.
"What? I'll never do that!"
"I'm serious." Calabast turned to the younger woman. "Delete this recording and all of the files associated with this contingency plan."
"Didn't you just approve of his choice?"
"I approve of his mindset. That doesn't mean I think he is making the right choice in this situation. Ves may have prepared a contingency plan for thousands of scenarios, but even he can't foresee every single possibility!"
"What are you talking about?"
"There is a better option than the binary choice that Ves thought that he would face." Calabast grinned.
"As long as I cash in my favors and promise some more, I might be able to persuade DIVA and some other Hexer elements in the Bright Republic to break the Larkinsons out. What is out of the reach of the clan is well within the reach of our state as long as it is willing to undertake action! We just have to move quickly while the hostages haven't been transferred into the care of the Fridaymen!"
Gloriana widened her eyes as a bit of hope started to light up her darkness. "That's right! The Hegemony might be able to do something! It's just.. will DIVA or our other government institutions even care?"
"On the surface, they won't." Calabast soberly explained. "Ves is just a boy. Even if he proved himself to be valuable, he's mostly a concern for your Wodin Dynasty. Therefore, we need to offer DIVA something that will make them invested!"
"That doesn't sound easy."
"I know. I'll think of something. For now, I want you to delete this recording and anything related to it. Just keeping it in the database is an immense risk. Going by its current state, the Larkinson Clan will certainly disintegrate if they hear what Ves has to say."
Though Gloriana felt a bit hesitant, she eventually agreed with Calabast that it was for the best. She resolutely erased the recording and the rest of the documents related to the contingency plan, making sure to scrub the storage chip thoroughly in order to foil any recovery attempts!
Once she was done, she turned to the spy. "You failed Ves several times already. I hope you won't fail again. He won't be happy when he hears what we've done to his contingency plan. The only way to placate him is to deliver a better result than what his choice would bring!"
"Relax. DIVA should definitely be capable of rescuing the Larkinsons. Their strength shouldn't be an issue as long as the Fridaymen aren't involved. It is motivating them into action that is our biggest concern. I will definitely need the support of your Wodin Dynasty to convince them to move."
"I'll try my best to convince my mother."