Fari watched the Chinuri delegation leave the conference room, each scheming their own schemes, each blissfully unaware that there was a traitor in the group working at a cross-purpose to their own.
Fari couldn’t see the lines of fate that ran between the delegates. She couldn’t see which were slated to die before the night was over or which would stand victorious over the ashes of their opponents. Even with all her many-revealing spells and razor sharp senses, the exact makeup of the delegate’s psyches were a mystery to her.
In part that was because they were protected by diplomatic immunity from the best of her more probing spells and in part it was because each of them was a career politician, so merely being aware that they were lying didn’t do much to explain what they were lying about or why.
“And that’s why we need to experiment on them,” Fari said, presenting her case to her boss.
Captain Hanq Okoro steepled his hands over the bridge of his nose and took a moment to consider his Tactical Chief’s recommendations.
The Chinuri that were onboard hailed from a world outside Imperial sovereignty. The Empire wanted them to join the Galactic Parliament and the Chinuri wanted that as well. For various reasons however it had taken over a decade to broker a deal which would allow that to happen.
Experimenting on the latest round of delegates was unlikely to be well received by the Chinuri Planetary Congress and under normal circumstances was something that would never have even been suggested much less entertained as a serious option.
Hanq hadn’t been blessed with a life where he was allowed to live under “normal circumstances” often though.
“What sort of experiments do you have in mind?” he asked Fari.
“Just one,” she said. “I want to see how they react to learning who Mel and Darius are. And who their child might be.”
“That’ll put Mel and Darius in danger won’t it?” Hanq asked.
“Possibly,” Fari said. “If my guess is correct someone will try to kill them before the night is up.”
“You do recall that with all that’s been going on, they are both more delicate than normal, right?” Hanq asked.
“Yes, I can hardly forget that can I?” Fari said.
“And you don’t think that will be a problem for your experiment?” Hanq asked.
“It might even work in its favor,” Fari said.
“Will you get what you need out of this plan?” Hanq asked.
“Definitely, even if Mel and Darius are killed, we’ll have it all recorded for later analysis,” Fari said.
“Why do you never bring me plans that I like?” he asked.
“Because you’re the captain,” Fari said. “You only like plans that put you in danger, and those are terrible plans.”
“Leading was so much easier when I was Warlord,” Hanq said. “Worst thing I had to worry about then was being killed by an underling.”
“I could make daily attempts on your life if that would make you feel better?” Fari asked.
“You know, I might just take you up on that,” he said. “Keep me from getting too old and soft.”
“One way or the other,” Fari said. “But the question remains; can I experiment on the Chinuri?”
“I know I’ll regret this, but I’m curious to know what’s going on here too, so yes. You may provide them with the rope they need to hang themselves,” Hanq said. “And if by some miracle this doesn’t blow up in all of our faces, I’ll see that you receive a commendation for the work you’re doing.”
“Commendations are unneeded sir,” Fari said. “This is all part of my gift to Mel.”
“I will never understand you two,” Hanq said.
“I think that’s ideal for helping you sleep at night sir,” Fari said.
Hanq waved her off with a shake of his head.
Out in the corridor, Fari stumbled upon the next person she wanted to talk with.
“We’re going to hold some emergency negotiation sessions with the Chinuri delegates before the action against the River base,” Yael said. “Can I call on you to be there for logistical support?”
“I believe you can,” Fari said. “I have a wide variety of information relevant to their discussion.”
“That exactly what we need,” Yael said.
“Are the delegates assembling now?” Fari asked.
“Yes, we wanted to give them as much time to work the information as possible,” Yael said.
The two women smiled at each. Each had their own plans in place and, as they’d expected, those plans dovetailed together quite nicely.
The conference room was abuzz with chatter when Fari entered it. She walked in through the door rather than simply appearing within the room so as not to remind the delegates of exactly how much of a presence she had throughout the ship.
In a sense, she was the most confined of anyone on board. She lived within her gem and was bound to wherever it was taken. If someone stole the gem, they effectively stole her. At one time that bothered her, despite knowing that most people were just as stuck within their bodies as she was in her gem and kidnappers stole people all the time so she was at no greater risk there either. Over the years of working with Horizon Breaker’s crew though, things had changed.
Fari was thousands of years old by one measure, but it hadn’t been until the Jewel of Endless Night that was her body was destroyed that she truly started to live again. For the millenia that she’d been bound as the control spell for the Ravager, she’d been held in its stasis. With the bindings broken, she’d freed of more than the slavery that it imposed on her. She was free to change. As all living things do.
Change wasn’t easy of course, but looking back, especially to the odyssey she, Mel, and Darius had recently undertaken, Fari was finally starting to the see the signs that other people had been telling her about for years.
“Ambassadors, if you could take your seats please,” Zyla said. “As you know, we are fast approaching our target and there is much that we are sure you will want to discuss.”
“Yes,” the lead delegate said. “Foremost of which is how you will guarantee the safety of the Chinuri citizens on the planet during your assault.”
“I’ll take that question,” Fari said. “We have several highly trained Advanced Operations teams on board the Horizon Breaker. While we will be waiting for proper support to show up by tomorrow to launch a full scale lockdown of the Red Running River’s base, the initial covert assault on them will begin within a few hours.”
“A covert assault?” the senior tactical delegate asked. “You can’t possibly hold a contingent large enough for that on this ship.”
“It takes fewer people than you might think,” Fari said. “One of our team leaders is an experience Void anima caster.”
“Is she still leading the team?” Bo asked. She was observing Fari carefully, searching for the clues that Fari had to prevent her from spotting for the time being.
“Not directly, but she will be overseeing the mission,” Fari said.
“I would think we should meet with this mission director,” the lead delegate said. “I would prefer to hear the plans from her directly if she is the one who will be responsible for any accidents which occur.”
“I can send for her,” Fari said. “But Black Team reviewing their initial assault plans now. Is it critical that she be part of this?”
“Yes, I believe so,” the lead delegate said. “Or are the lives of my people only a secondary concern?”
The bald-faced belligerence of the lead delegate’s tone was nothing more than a tactical play to wrest control of the meeting from the Imperials. Fari knew this. Yael knew this. Everyone in the room knew it, but the game still had to be played.
“Of course not,” Fari said. “She’ll be with us in a moment.”
“Won’t that impact the raid though?” the delegate for financial oversight asked.
“Her team is very well coordinated,” Fari said. “They can handle most of the review process without her.”
“Be fair, they can handle all of the review process on their own,” Mel said, walking into the room with Darius close behind her. “I just like to keep up the appearance that they need my help still.”
“Guardian Watersward, the Chinuri delegation,” Fari said, introducing the room.
“You seem to have a lot of faith in your team Ms. Watersward,” the tactical delegate said.
“They are among the best in the Empire,” Mel said. “We’ve worked together for years.”
“Those are easy claims to make,” the lead delegate said. “What proof can you offer that this will not become a bloodbath for my people.”
“I wasn’t aware that this meeting was about proving anything to anyone,” Mel said.
“We are ready to deny our approval for this operation and rescind all offers which are on the table if we are not satisfied in this matter,” the lead delegate said.
“That is something which would need to be put to a vote,” the financial delegate said. “Bleakwater is not our colony, and any of our citizens there are either on the other side of the planet or are probably working with the organization which just tried to kill us all.”
“An organization which the Empire claimed they could protect us against, and is now using as an excuse to assault a world on our borders!” the lead delegate said.
“Ambassadors, please,” Yael said. “This is unnecessary. We can present our plans to you and you will see that we have the safety of your people accounted for.”
“Even the ones you claim are working with the Red Running River?” the lead delegate asked.
“Yes, even them,” Mel said. “You’ve been outside the Empire for decades now, which means you’ve probably never seen the things a full Imperial Strike team is capable of.”
“You can take down the Red Running River with a single strike team?” the financial delegate asked.
“That’s impossible,” the tactic delegate said. ”There are too many of them. even if you started winning, the others would flee before you could catch them all.”
“They can’t flee if they’re locked down before they know the fight has begun,” Mel said.
“And how can you accomplish that?” the tactical officer asked.
“We have a very good spell web infiltrator on board,” Mel said.
Each of the delegates carried a clear glass panel with them and, simultaneously, each of the portable screens blipped to life.
“Very impressive,” the tactical delegate said. “But how are you going to deploy that asset. Surely you can’t risk someone so talented on a combat mission like this one?”
“The asset is a resilient one,” Mel said. “I usually safeguard her myself but for this mission my team leader will be her handler.”
“Why is that?” the lead delegate asked. “Isn’t this a mission you should be involved in personally.”
“I am not allowed on active combat missions until my child is born,” Mel said, holding her belly to indicate the swell of the child within.
“I thought you were a Void caster?” the tactical delegate asked. “I was under the impression that such casters could not reliably reproduce.”
“That was my belief as well, but between the fact that my mother was a Void caster and that I’ve heard my daughter’s voice already, I think we will prove to be an exception to that rule,” Mel said.
“You’ve spoke with your daughter?” the tactical delegate asked.
“Not spoken to, only listened to her,” Mel said. “We were on holiday and discovered a planet where you could hear people you might someday be connected to. So we’re reasonably sure she’ll come to term if we avoid exposure to any dangerous situations.”
Fari suppressed a grin. She’d been scanning all of the delegates. Waiting for this very moment. With the lightest of touches she put forth tethers of Mental anima to connect to the delegates who matched a very specific profile of detectable biochemical responses to what Mel said.
The threads of Mental anima came back with solid pulls of connection. The killers Fari was looking for were here. In the conference room. All she had to do next was let them get away with murder.