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He'd already begun to see how complex the Traiti were, much more so than the Empire suspected. The Empire's knowledge was limited to these people's savage ferocity or what seemed like savage ferocity. The war had exploded suddenly and simply: a scoutship exploring about 150 parsecs coreward from Irschcha had fallen silent.
"Typical pattern for a Ranger, all right," the Emperor said with a smile. Then he turned serious. "How many potential Rangers are we missing? The gods know we need every one we can find! Anything else?" "She's lacking self-confidence, but that's the only negative thing I saw. As for missing others, there can't be too many we would miss, even on Irschcha.
We of the Order are able to use our Talent to govern better than do those who lack it. Honor demands that we do so. We cannot avoid our duty." He could feel her rejection of that argument even before she spoke. "That may apply to Irschcha, but it is obviously not true of humans. They did quite well before MacLeod found us, despite their lack of Talent.
Formalities were certainly briefer since Irschcha had joined the Empire, Thark thought. He wasn't sure yet whether he approved of that or not. They had been time-consuming, but they had also given life a certain grace that now seemed lacking, and had provided a social lubricant that Irschchans, in his opinion, needed. He could be wrong, though, he thought as he returned to his cushions.
"According to the message I just received, it is not only possible, it has happened, and worse. She made it past both, and into the Planetary Palace. Ranger Medart, who was unfortunately on Irschcha at the time, arrived two hours later. His lander, presumably with him and young Losinj aboard, left for his orbiting battle cruiser soon afterward." He turned to his chief aide.
As on Terra or Irschcha, it was simply a lane cleared to a low ground cover, all that was necessary for null-grav or air-cushion vehicles, and it doubled as a pedestrian walkway. The traffic passing three meters overhead provided occasional shade, and he got waves and smiles from some of the drivers and passengers, which he returned even though he couldn't extend claws in emphasis as they did.
Still, he thought, perhaps in the final extremity, a rare human could show a trace of Talent; such things had been known to happen on Irschcha. He would check on it later, perhaps; for now, it made no difference.
Corina took that opportunity to think. She was, she had to admit to herself, still more than a little frightened. It was less fear for her life now, as it had been when the Sanctioners captured her; it was more nervous apprehension about her future. She could not remain on Irschcha, she knew. If she did, as she had told Dawson, she would be killed. But then where could she go? What could she do?
Without a Traiti's natural armor, he'd have to depend on luck and brains to avoid that fate. He couldn't help wishing he could turn a shipload of biologists loose on this planet. Irschcha and Ondrian were the homeworlds of the other two intelligent Imperial races, yet a Terran without specialized medical preparation beforehand would die within a few days, trying to survive in either's wilderness.
With the Traiti War barely over, what Thark planned might as easily trigger a disaster as lead to the peace he expected. It was a difficult decision; no matter what she did, people would be killed. Yet Thark himself had taught her that her responsibility to Irschcha ought to be paramount, and that meant she had no choice but to support the Empire that had done so much for it.