Piras and Tranis walked side by side down the wide corridor. Aides and other officers passed by, quietly muttering amongst themselves. The quiet conversations held excitement, and expressions were avid. Banrid’s treachery was no doubt the focus of everyone’s attention.
Only Piras and Tranis were silent as they navigated their course through the silvery-walled hall. They were in the wing that contained all the offices of the highest-ranked officers of Fleet Command, where they themselves worked to help command Kalquor’s space arm of the military. Where up until now, they’d enjoyed a slight advantage over the vessels the Basma had won to his side, roughly a third of the original fleet.
Now Maf had Earther battlecruisers, maybe thousands of them. The thought curdled Piras’s guts.
Though Tranis walked alongside him, there was nothing Piras wished to say to his once-first officer. The only conversation they might have had was top-secret. Talking about personal things…such as how Lidon was doing in his newer career as a Global Security officer…would have been more awkward than the silence that weighed between them.
Lidon. Just thinking the Nobek’s name made Piras’s stomach hurt.
Fortunately, they neared the traitor Banrid’s office, giving Piras an opening to fill the uneasy quiet. Fleet security was filing in and out of the room, guiding small hover carts filled with the treacherous admiral’s personal and official belongings. Piras and Tranis paused until their credentials were verified and they were waved past the open doorway. A concealment field blocked their view of whatever evidence-gathering was going on inside the office.
“Hard to believe. I never would have guessed it of Banrid,” Piras muttered.
“Shocking,” Tranis agreed. He shot Piras the haunted look he’d worn since the horrific end of the war, when Earth was destroyed by her own leaders. “We’re tearing ourselves apart. For what end? What is happening to us?”
It was a younger man’s question, the kind of thing someone who had not seen all Tranis had might have asked. That the younger Dramok still possessed the idealism to wonder at it made Piras feel as old as Hobato.
Piras heard a gruff voice in his head give the answer, a voice as familiar as it was heart wrenching. He repeated the wisdom his companion’s spiritually-minded warrior clanmate would have said. “The usual. The wish for power. Wanting what one doesn’t have. Fear.”
“Many captured traitors have claimed they were blackmailed into what they’ve done. That they were victims.”
“The Basma’s secret son testified to that. The man’s web of deceit has been dragging in conspirators, both willing and not, for a long time. Perhaps it will come out that Banrid was such a dupe.”
“Foolish men making foolish choices that Maf capitalized on. Now we’re paying for it in blood. He’ll destroy us all.”
Piras’s tone was dry. “Promoting extinction over interbreeding would be a good hint of that. With Browning Copeland added to the fun, we get to fight two insane fanatics. Life is marvelous, don’t you think?
They reached Piras’s office. Piras sketched a bow, but Tranis didn’t return it right away. Instead, the other Dramok gazed at Piras for a long beat.
He finally said, “Lidon’s doing well.”
Piras’s breath stopped for a moment. When he could speak, he blurted, “I didn’t ask.”
“I know.” Tranis bowed and walked away, leaving Piras staring after him.