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5.

The merry band of humans and Primoids held a somewhat more formal meeting and decided who was going to make the trip to PSB6a: Park, Rachel, Clay, Natasha (the original Alpha wing) plus Bonnie Bain and Jamaica Leith from Park’s “special wing,” and one cruiser and three fighters from among the Primoids. Park added Apple and Izawa “to keep them out of harm’s way.” They were set to depart from Hot Spot in fifty hours, by which time Clay’s and Natasha’s fighters were expected to be fixed up as good as new.

When forty hours had passed and they were all awakened for final prep, they were informed by Honshu’s advanced telemetry that a reinforcing blob was decelerating from the direction of the Fyaa’s one known home world.

“What are we to make of that?” said Kalkar, as he and Park hung onto sashay bars in Cassiopeia Root’s spacious bridge on the Honshu. Clay and Rachel “stood” nearby. “Are they just in a state of constant reinforcement?”

“We have no idea about their logistics,” said Natasha, from the screen, which showed her on the bridge, or whatever, of the Primoid cruiser, with a Primoid working away right next to her. “But the Fyaa seem to produce really fast. It’s all about quantity, to them, and somehow they drive this enormous starship production.”

“But we clobbered them,” said Rachel. “Frickin’ Maria Apple’s lining them up and gunning them down.”

“Trust me, they can do better than that,” said Park. “We can’t produce like they do. They just have to get the occasional kill. And every one of us we lose is one less shot against the Ngugma. So remember our Tactical Rule.”

“And hope, somehow, we can turn out their fighters to fight on our side against the Ngugma,” said Natasha. “The Primoids say they just want to keep their current systems. But they have literally no diplomatic contact with the Fyaa. Well, guess what? We can talk to them both.”

“We can talk Fyaa?” asked Kalkar.

“Oh, yeah,” said Natasha, “about five hundred words? More than that, by now. Um, ‘Tsee tsee kajonk,’ that’s a polite greeting. Daria made a database of our text and sonic intercepts when she was in the same system they were. Do a little machine magic, and you can ask them if they accept status quo ante bellum.”

“Is there any chance you’ll actually be saying, ‘Your sister’s a dead fish?’” asked Clay.

“Oh, there’s always the chance,” said Natasha. “Not like Primoids, who you know you won’t understand.”

“That’s why you’re along,” said Park.

 

The group sped across the empty outer star system, reaching speeds well in excess of ten percent of light speed, and then went dark and coasted, while sending messages ahead to the planet. The Fyaa did not react. The blob dropping out of light speed was resolving into a lot of ships: freighters and cruisers and who knew how many fighters.

Twenty hours later, the humans were decelerating hard. The inner of the two gas giants was hundreds of millions of kilometers to their left in its orbit; the singular inner planet lay ahead, in the warm lap of the cool red star. The little fleet shot across the dead zone between the inner giant and the terrestrial, and then slowed nearly to a stop, fifteen million kilometers away still but moving at a mere 0.5 % of what light can generally manage.

The Primoids communicated for a minute, space and ground, and then the planet’s Primoids sent a short video of a ship landing and humans getting out and waving.

“Okay,” said Natasha, as Alpha flew a little ahead of the rest of the fleet, “they want us to land.”

“And wave,” said Clay.

And so land and wave they did.

 

PSB6a is Mars-sized, with a very slow rotation, so that the day length was more than three weeks. It has a thin atmosphere with a breathable amount of oxygen. It has ice caps and swamps, and about ten thousand Primoids, and farms and mines and a thriving animation industry.

“It also has a heck of a satellite defense,” said Jamaica Leith, as the fighter pilots sashayed weightlessly about inside the main spaceport satellite. Primoids came sashaying out, using their six pincered arms to grip the bars. They stopped to allow the humans through and bowed and wiggled their head tentacles as the humans passed. “What the heck was that?”

“Those guys,” said Natasha, waving toward three Primoids holding devices. “They’re taking your picture.”

“Oh no,” said Apple. “My hair!”

 

It only took one four hour meeting for Park and Rachel and Natasha and the Primoids to settle on a strategy. It was the predictable one. The Fyaa were many but scattered across at least seven bases; why not attack an isolated one? And the base on a moon of the outer gas giant seemed like the obvious choice.

Clay, along with Bonnie Bain and Jamaica Leith and at least two of the Primoid pilots with them, and some number of local Primoids, were attending a different ceremony.

Gemma Izawa and Maria Apple, bare-headed and clad in dark robes, clasped right wrists. Jamaica Leith, holding a replica printed copy of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, said, “Make the unbreakable vow!”

“I will not be dead at the end of the next battle,” Apple and Izawa said, almost together. They giggled, then kissed, their hands still clasped.

“This is serious stuff,” said Clay. “It’s not a joke.”

“No,” said Izawa. “It’s not a joke.”

A Primoid priest, or something like that—maybe just a register of oaths—came up, took the book from Leith, hand to pincer, and dropped the book on their clasped hands. They pulled apart and caught it before it fell. They giggled some more. The priest bowed and swayed as if belly laughing.

“Okay,” said Bain. “I guess we have a new cultural trait.”

 

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