Kila didn’t react to the insult. “The Basma is exceedingly careful about those he can’t blackmail into helping him. If he can’t hold you hostage through past misdeeds, then he must be absolutely sure of you. That means immersing yourself in being the best turncoat you can be.”
The queasy feeling strengthened, turning into outright nausea. “I’m to defect. All the way. Give Maf the means to take out an actual target.”
“You will feed me, the Basma’s somewhat trusted spy, information about a colony or military installation that will benefit his forces. You must give me its weaknesses and strengths in preparation for the revolt to attack it. It has to be a real target, Piras. Something the Basma will want to have.”
Piras thought it over. He could see the advantages and difficulties of such a project. He appreciated the wisdom of such a maneuver, that it could indeed get him into Maf’s inner sanctum. Yet he felt there was more to it, something ugly under the seemingly cut-and-dry operation. Why else would his gut be churning so hard?
He repeated what he thought he knew to clarify the assignment. “I’m to identify a target that will help swing the war to the Basma’s advantage. Give him the means to successfully attack that target. And no one, including those who are aware that I’m playing double agent, can know what target I choose?”
“Such a smart fellow. No wonder they made you an admiral.”
“Fuck off. What am I missing, Kila? If the Fleet Admiral or Admiral Tranis don’t know what I’m up to, who will warn the target of the coming attack?”
Kila shook his head. “Warn the target? So much for you being smart. At least you have a nice ass.”
Piras ignored the innuendo, his focus on the dawning horror. “Wait, if no one warns the colony or base I choose, then people will be killed. You’re talking about me serving up victims to the Basma on a silver platter.”
“My faith in you is restored.” Kila sounded tired rather than teasing. It was as good a sign as any that bloodshed was on the menu.
Piras stared at Kila, aghast. No wonder his instincts were screaming. “If I choose a colony, it will mean civilian casualties. A military post will lose us good, loyal fighters and perhaps weaken our defenses.”
“It will also win you and I the Basma’s complete confidence, making us privy to important information we can pass on to the fleet.”
Piras jumped to his feet and paced back and forth. His bare feet managed to make plenty of noise on the wooden balcony. He was stomping in his agitation, but it still didn’t make as much noise as the disbelieving chaos in his head. How could Hobato sanction such a ruse?
“You’re telling me to become a butcher. I’m an asshole, not a murderer, Kila. There is a difference, you know.”
Kila watched him, his expression weary but unruffled. “If that bastard Maf has the Earthers under Copeland on his side – and it’s certain he does – then we are in for a long, deadly war, Piras. One that could finish the Empire. To get in close enough to Maf and the Holy Leader means sacrifices must be made.”
“But to give the victims no chance! No hope!”
“If the target is military, then we’re discussing mainly Nobeks.”
Piras halted to snarl at him. “Just because there are more of your breed and they make up the majority of the deserters doesn’t mean I should sign them up for a killing spree.” Lidon’s face flashed in his imagination.
A ghost of Kila’s sarcastic smile flitted over his lips. “Well, that warms my sweet little heart to hear you care so much for my breed, Dramok.”