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But if Tarlac could feed his opponent's confidence until it overwhelmed his caution . . . he'd only get one opening, at that . . . He got the chance to begin putting his plan into effect almost immediately. The Traiti made the first move, lunging for Tarlac's chest. The Ranger dodged, Valkan's blade cutting air less than a centimeter from his skin.
"Civilizing influence? I suppose so," Medart said with less than total agreement. "It did cut down on warfare, which is a major benefit but I still say it caused stagnation, too. Your progress slowed from faster than ours to almost nothing after the Order took over, in the name of stability. Even slower than the Traiti, and for them gradual progress is the norm.
I'd be willing to bet you'd even recognize this ship's designation, maybe name IBC Emperor Barton." "I do," Medart said. An Imperial Battle Cruiser, named after the twelfth Sovereign. "Then from what you've said about Captain Chavvorth, I'd expect him to be a Traiti." "He is."
When the out-clan visitors had left the gathering hall and Channath had excused herself, Tarlac very deliberately went to Hovan and put his arms around his sponsor, his head on the massive chest. Hovan tensed at the touch, and Tarlac realized the Traiti couldn't help himself. Tarlac backed off, looking up. This time he had to relax Hovan. "Am I in-clan or not?" he demanded.
He still didn't know exactly what that relationship meant, but the Traiti commando had come to mean a great deal to the human Ranger. More, perhaps, than anyone else he'd met. He visualized Hovan in forest green, then smiled at himself.
Weapons were customary for the warrior caste, but a warrior or equivalent being unarmed around others wasn't considered an insult, the way it was in the Traiti Sector; they could have disarmed him without dishonoring him. Something to eat seemed like a good idea, so he left his cabin and started exploring. Almost immediately, he ran into the w'woman who'd taken part in the interrogation.
The Ranger didn't know what to say to what sounded like praise, or at least like approval, from a Traiti. He settled for, "Thanks again. I try, too." Then he quickly changed the subject. "Uh, Hovan, I don't want to be offensive, but I think it might be a good idea if you show me where the sanitary facilities are." "That next on the tour was," Hovan said, smiling.
"I could transfer myself or all of us, for that matter but humans aren't as ready for open divine intervention as Traiti. I'd rather let things seem as normal as possible. Can you arrange for the ship?" "Of course, Lord. We will be ready at daybreak." "Thanks." Tarlac returned fully to his mortal body at the Ch'kara clanhome.
He stood for a moment on the Lindner's hull. He enjoyed being EVA, especially near a planet, and the blue-white world off to his right was achingly reminiscent of Terra. Then he spotted a blinking white light "above" and to his left, on a Traiti ship.
Taking him at his word, the two rulers gave the orders and Tarlac relayed their images and words to the Traiti ships' communications equipment, as he had activated the Palace's comm channels the night before. There were no objections from the Fleet, though acknowledgments ranged from almost enthusiastic to openly skeptical. Tarlac passed them all along, thinking that it didn't matter.