The incursion into Quivira space has taken its toll, and there is a growing unease amongst the Federation of pilots.
The first wave of assault sent in waves of mercenary pilots to weaken the infrastructure and prevent the departure of the civilian population. With this comes a greater latitude in the way that the mercenary pilots conduct operations and some of the more extreme kinds of attack that can take place. Overall there there is less coordination, less strategic thinking, and the intent is quite simply to inflict more psychological damage to the enemy.
There is also plausible deniability.
A golden fist inside an iron glove, and one intent on weakening spirits before an occupation force rolls in to assume command and control operations. Something didn't quite go right for Patreus this time though.
The population simply wasn't cowed by the naked aggression. Mercenary support as shock troops did not fully commit having already seen the naked ambition of this Senator in action, and the Quivira government had put in place a contingency plan for evacuation.
A mercenary force was waiting, and held the line.
There is speculation on how much of the interest on that debt is used to fund the war machine's operating costs, and a coalition of defaulters might do more harm than a thousand war ships. The iron first must squeeze tightly or others will default with a sense of impunity.
The cost of control of a system like Quivira will always be high. This powerplay by Patreus may still overextend himself, and the tower of cards may collapse in on itself as the iron first is a recruiting sergeant for rebellion. The Senate has also noticed the destabilising effect of a displaced population of Quivirans, and is concerned about the consequences.
Most of the civilians have escaped to nearby systems, and the displaced will place burdens that might themselves create a domino like collapse of nearby economies. The Senator's personal fleet has also arrived in Quivira, dominating the system in a way that can no longer be deflected.
There is some satisfaction in having deflected the intended blow of the iron fist, however the Quiviran's can no longer support operations, and so it is now time to move on.
The efforts here have allowed me to invest in a combined trade/combat vessel - the renown and reliable Python. Less agile than the Debitum Naturae, but a much more powerful gun platform. She'll participate in future action.
In the meantime I'll have to learn to fly all over again.