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It was time to feed the fire and get some rest, if he wanted to make an early start in the morning. His bed was leaves that rustled under his weight as he settled down, then lay watching firelight reflect off the inside of his shelter. It was odd . . . he'd slept alone from the time he was six until he boarded the Hermnaen, and he'd thought he would enjoy his privacy here but he didn't.
Hovan didn't believe those, for Steve had used a spacesuit to transfer to the Hermnaen; he hadn't breathed vacuum. But even so, to name-call such a one must be as great a privilege as the task Yarra had given him. "Do many you so call?" "Hmm? Oh. No, not many." Tarlac seldom thought about it, and was surprised at the brevity of the list.
"If you'll provide escorts and transportation?" "Done, Lord," the Supreme said promptly. "They will be at the Hermnaen by daybreak, as the First Speaker and I will. By your leave, then?" Both rulers bowed formally and held that attitude. "Granted," Tarlac said. As they straightened, preparing to leave, he turned back to Jason. "Dismissed, Doctor."
That it was a branch home, in most cases, didn't matter; being in-clan was what counted. Ship-Captain Exvani, as anxious as anyone to rejoin his family, had called ahead so that every clan with a member aboard the Hermnaen could send transportation, and the ship emptied without delay.
The Ordeal was neither short nor continuous, so he would be part of Traiti society for some time, both aboard the Hermnaen and on Homeworld. The more he knew about his adopted clan and culture, the better. Even without that consideration, Tarlac was delighted at the opportunity for such studies.
"I know the newsies are a bit overwhelming, but there's no danger. They're just doing their jobs, sending this story all over the Empire. Traiti monitoring stations will pass it on to your worlds, too." That helped; the three Traiti relaxed a little. Arjen, on the Hermnaen, was too busy to relax.
He was a Ranger of the Empire, yet at the same time he was a member of a Traiti until now, an enemy clan. He had carefully qualified his oath, and he'd done everything he could for the Empire before boarding the Hermnaen. Still, the idea of owing allegiance to both sides in a war was . . . disquieting. He had to resolve the war now.
With racial survival at stake, the Lords would be monitoring both the human and the Traiti ships. There would be no accidental or intentional infractions of the cease-fire. Once they boarded the Hermnaen, Tarlac accompanied Arjen to the control central and took a place standing behind Arjen and Ship-Captain Exvani.
There was something awe-inspiring about watching a world grow from a featureless point to a globe boasting continents and seas though cloud cover obscured most details on Terra-type worlds. The Hermnaen descended slowly, gently, on null-grav, and the globe grew until it was beneath them, rather than ahead.
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.