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I. Intervention

1.

The human task force consisted of sixteen fighters and two well-armed freighters, the old Tasmania under old Captain Alfred Kalkar, and the Bluehorse-built Honshu, commanded by Cassiopeia Root, a first generation child of Bluehorse and a hero, as captain of a cruiser, of the second defense of the system against the Primoids. It was a sign of the times that the task force was accompanied by one Primoid cruiser and one freighter, and nine of the Primoids’ sturdy fighters.

They endured briefings and ceremonies almost nonstop over the final thirty hours on the planet. Then they took off for the Bluehorse-3 space station, a pretty fancy place, where they endured another ceremony, this time with Alfred Kalkar’s Bluehorse-born descendant, Admiral Marjane Kalkar. Amusingly, the Primoid leader (or whatever) co-presented with her, using slides and videos because Primoids don’t use actual words.

But again and again, they made their points, their Su Park Three Points:

  1. The Fyaa had invaded PSB6, the sixth in the list of Primoid “B” systems, but had been stalled by planetary defenses; they’re steadily reinforcing their invasion force, which now sits in the outer orbits of the system.
  2. We can turn the tide in favor of the Primoids, and thus
  3. We can make the Fyaa come to terms, and get them to join the coalition against the Ngugma.

But Point Three, in particular, meant someone had to act diplomatic. Someone would have to figure out when it was time to stop shooting and start talking, or whatever the Fyaa did. The Fyaa weren’t one thing, in any case: they were at least five different species, each with its own role in the Fyaa structure.

“So explain this to me again,” said Clay, as he and Rachel accelerated out of the Bluehorse system, after joining their fighters and assuming their most comfy mode of dress.

“It’s quite simple, hunkalicious,” said Rachel. “We beat the snot out of them till they give, then we get them to join our glorious quest.”

“And fortunately, at least this time, we have Su Park with us to make that determination. Okay. We somehow manage all that. Then what? We all troop off to defeat the Ngugma? Are we going to be carting along both Primoids and Fyaa through jump after jump while we look for the Ngugma? How’s that going to work?”

“Well, hubby man, like you, I have never met a Fyaa, or whatever they’re called individually. I don’t know what they’re like. I’m not sure any of us has actually met them, but I guess from captured computers or whatever, we kind of have a handle on their language. I know it’s not just one species, it’s several, but—Audio only, hey, Tasha?”

“Audio only?” came Vera’s voice from nowhere, over the conduit that attached Rachel and Clay to Natasha and Vera. “Not dressed to have company? As if we were.”

“As if you were company, or as if you were dressed? Is Tasha there?”

“What did you think,” Natasha’s voice asked, “I’d have gone out for donuts?”

“Tell us,” said Clay, “about how we’re going to talk to the Fyaa, once we’ve trounced them.”

“Without suffering casualties,” Vera put in.

“Okay,” said Natasha. “None of us has ever met a Fyaa in person, but the Primoids have, they’ve captured their pilots and also their mechanics. We have got hold of Fyaa documents on what the Fyaa have for computers. They have both a written language and a spoken one, and it’s not all that hard to learn because it’s a lingua franca, it’s the language used to communicate between the different species that make up the Fyaa civilization.”

“Like five different species,” said Rachel.

“At least five different species.” Natasha could be heard muttering as she read the information she had. Then she summarized: “The pilots, the fighter pilots, are these little squirrel-reptiles, and the mechanics are similar but even smaller, maybe they’re chipmunk-reptiles. But their big ship officers and their smart people, their engineers and experts and so on, they’re something like a long-legged crustacean. The workers are yet another species, obviously we don’t know as much from their naval computers, but they’re maybe more of a mollusk thing? Lots of muscle, less brains, I guess. Those are both amphibious: they have big oceans. And the fifth species this sort of academic-priestly caste or whatever, they’re bird-like, they actually fly on the home planet.”

“And all these evolved on the Fyaa home world?” asked Clay.

“Apparently so. That’s not such a surprise. Ted Trein and Rachel Andros evolved on the same planet.”

“So where did Su Park evolve? No, she’s sui generis. So does this make it any easier to beat them?”

“No, because it’s only the squirreloids we’re going to meet. Oh, we might meet a big ship of theirs, but apparently they’re crap, the only thing they have going for them is that those mechanics are scurrying around in the bulkheads all the time fixing stuff. We have that with Padfoot’s nano-robots on our big ships. But their pilots are notoriously reckless badasses. Presumably they’re not who we’re going to be negotiating with.”

“Well,” said Rachel, “they can’t be any more difficult to communicate with than the Primoids. And we manage pretty well, don’t you think?”

“Yeah,” said Clay, “like I was saying to Skippy at our last poker night. He, or she, is that one Primoid with the extra tentacle over his or her left stick arm.”

“Skippy?” Vera repeated.

“He’s making that up,” said Rachel. “Okay, you guys going to go back to what you were doing, or you want to do some simulations or some virtual two on two squash?”

“I think we’re done doing what we were doing, for now,” said Vera. “I have us at 45% on the way up, so plenty of time to do those things as much as we can stand. Let’s squash.”

“Roger that,” said Rachel. She flipped off the comm and looked at Clay. “She doesn’t have any idea how much of those things we can stand.”

“It’s a lot,” said Clay. “Should we get in our suits?”

“I don’t see why.”

“Me either,” said Clay, as they gave each other lascivious looks. Then he hit the JOIN button, and there they were, in a squash court somehow perched atop Mt. Washington, dressed in orange gym clothes. Vera and Natasha appeared together a moment later, in matching blue. “Okey dokey,” said Clay, two bright yellow spheres in his hand, “I’m ready for you to squash my balls.”

 

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