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You emerge onto the bridge, Rei… Her Grace the Duchess following close behind you.
“Captain on the bridge!” Qing calls out. Everyone looks and you can see eyes widen a little bit at seeing the Duchess up here.
Rajani herself has rejoined the bridge and is standing at the command table. She straightens on seeing your guest and bows to her as is proper, then turns to you.
“Our onboard issues are nearly resolved, Sai, thanks to Mr. Bezier and Mixter Archebelloch. Engineering is cleaning up and making minor repairs. Life support is returning to normal as we speak and external communications have been restored. Winter’s Heart is still on intercept vector but we have recieved no further communications.”
Jekintar Bézier said:"Aye Aye, Captain King. I can leave the situation here. En route."
"Aye Aye, Captain King. I can leave the situation here. En route."
“Of course, Captain. Right away.” I move to an available crash couch and strap myself in with an efficiency and familiar ease that one does not expect from someone of my age and station. Indeed, the good captain has scarcely finished attending to the Duchess by the time I’m done–though if I’m not mistaken, he does seem to take a bit longer than strictly necessary where she is concerned. He would hardly be the first man in my experience to allocate assistance to Rei far in excess of her need.
“Captain, I would not presume to instruct you on the relative merits of our vessels. However, I have a passing acquaintance with Commander Taru, and perhaps I can be of assistance. I believe that it considers all of us expendable, but I suspect that this is less true of the technology aboard this ship–just a moment.” My eyes lose focus momentarily as I shift to my ’plant comms.
“Commander Taru, authorization unchanged. Check assertion: strategic objective is control of Mayaran system. Check assertion: technology aboard ship designated ‘The Thousand Blessings’ is vital to strategic objective. Validate inference: destruction of ‘The Thousand Blessings’ is counter to strategic objective. In other words, Taru, capture of certain humans aboard is useful but non-critical. Capture of technology aboard, however, is critical.” The corner of my mouth twitches upward slightly. I don’t have to talk to it like a human–it produces the same chain of assertions and inferences in either case. I’m just savoring the moment. “Analyze historical expression: ‘pyrrhic victory’.”
“Commander Taru: stand by. Negotiating surrender. Evaluating possibility of maximal success on all mission parameters.”
“Pardon me,” I say, my eyes returning focus to the captain. “I had hoped that capture of the ship itself was Taru’s top priority and that we could use the threat of its destruction as leverage.” I turn a bit pale in spite of myself as I glance toward Rei. I draw myself upright against the restraints. “That is not the case. The ship, the passengers–all of it–all expendable. Taru’s single critical success criterion is the capture or…death…of Duchess Soyinko. The Council believes this will give them control of the Mayaran system.”
“If you have any tricks up your sleeve, Captain, now would be an excellent time to use them. If we cannot get away, I can buy you a bit of time by surrendering myself and the Duchess. Taru assigns more value to her capture than her death. Once the Duchess is no longer aboard, it changes the equation. The ship remains a target, but its destruction and the deaths of those aboard no longer accomplish any objectives. ”
Forgive me, your Imperial Highness, but you've also mistaken my title — my name is mud. I'll see to I don't make the mistake again.
It seems that talk we need to have later should take on a different tone...One of appreciation, perhaps.