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Fifty-nine of the Traiti warcraft were in positions that englobed a point in space a quarter-million n'liu from a blue-and-white oxygen planet over forty diameters out, nearly in the orbit of the planet's moon. The Hermnaen was still at the center of the twenty-n'liu-diameter sphere of ships, its Ship-Captain and crew waiting for Arjen's orders.
Although that sounded simple enough, it would take both firepower and trickery. Arjen's fleet, now with sixty ships instead of forty, had firepower enough to overwhelm even a Sovereign-class Terran battle cruiser, the type of ship a Ranger normally used.
They've made sure the Empire loses a Ranger, one way or another, but if Arjen's being honest, at least it keeps a cruiser and crew. And you know as well as I do that if there's any chance of ending this slaughter, I have to take it." He grinned fleetingly. "I guess this is one way to find out what they're really like. While I'm suiting up, squirt-transmit a copy of the log to Terra, would you?
I'd like you to have the Hermnaen ready for takeoff tomorrow morning, with just the ship crew, no combat troops. You'll be carrying the human prisoners instead, plus the Supreme, the First Speaker, my sponsor Hovan, and myself." "You, Lord?" Arjen knew he shouldn't question a god, but why would one want to travel by ship? Tarlac understood Arjen's question.
Now here he was, aboard a Traiti warship, surrounded by a squad of the fearsome warriors and going voluntarily, if with no great enthusiasm, to an Ordeal that he suspected, despite Fleet-Captain Arjen's assurances, would cost him his life. Brooding on it would do no good, though, so Tarlac turned his attention to his surroundings. The ship was surprisingly unwarlike, by Terran standards.
I you greetings bring, from the Supreme and First Speaker. I Fleet-Captain Arjen am." Tarlac was surprised, but Rangers were adaptable; he returned the Traiti's salutation with a crossed-arm bow of his own and a quiet, "Fleet-Captain." Then he waited for Arjen's next move. Arjen felt unwilling respect for the human who remained so calm and left the initiative to him.
Even the Emperor's private landing pad near the Palace wall could be covered by a heavy disruptor cannon. The Hermnaen, here, was as vulnerable as the Lindner had been when she was englobed by Arjen's fleet. As he had arranged, Tarlac met the other three at the main entry ramp. The coming encounters wouldn't be easy for them; they simply had no experience in coping with other cultures.
A spacesuit use, your ship to leave. When you far enough from it are, you will onto this ship brought be. You need nothing extra bring; we will all your requirements supply." "It'll take me about twenty minutes to get to an airlock and suit up." "Understood, Ranger. I your arrival await." With that, Arjen's image disappeared from the Lindner's viewscreen, replaced by a view of his fleet.
Hovan suppressed a gasp of astonishment and heard some around the bridge that weren't suppressed. How could a Terran know to accept hospitality in the proper way? Unless the Lords . . . No, such a thing was far too unimportant for the Lords to concern themselves with. Arjen's hands covered the Ranger's briefly in response to the gesture, and the moment was over.
The moment the distinctive paired triple-pings, used only for body-return containers, sounded on the ship's receivers, Arjen found himself the focus of fourteen pairs of eyes, from the ship's operators in their U of consoles facing him and the Master-Pilot and Ship-Captain Exvani, whose consoles flanked Arjen's at the opening of the U but not even those senior officers spoke their questions aloud.