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Two human armored freighters, a hefty Primoid cruiser, three stringy Fyaa cruisers, and assorted fighters accelerated away from the orange sun of Fyatskaab, with its twin ice giants and its twin, very damaged, terrestrial planets. They did not know what system they might be headed toward. They were already ten light hours out, further than Pluto from the Sun of Earth, and moving at 7% of the speed of light. They were slowly catching up with the Ngugma super-freighter and its two battleships; one of these had been forced to jettison one of its four engine pods, but it still had no problem matching the grindingly slow acceleration of the gigantic ore-hauler.

In the Honshu bay, the human fighter pilots (and mechanics) assembled once more. The Fyaa and Primoid fighter pilots were there as well. The Primoids didn’t have anything to say, though Natasha and the one she called Skippy stood near each other and exchanged the occasional gesture. Floating about or gripping random hand-holds were a dozen of the Errhatzky, the little toady hexapod mechanics of the Fyaa. Captain Fvaerch stood at the edge of the group, using one of its stork-like legs to grip a sashay bar.

“You have your specific orders,” said Park, “and of course you will follow them to the letter.” She gave Apple a look, then switched it to Clay. “This looks good on paper, so to speak, but there is literally only one way to find out if it will actually work, so you are reminded again of my directive. We have Padfoot and company with us, so we should be able to fix up any damage your fighters take, and the same is true of you Fyaa pilots who get to go along. We cannot fix your bodies if you break them.”

On paper,” whispered Skzyyn to Clay: the Tskelly was again floating between Clay’s shoulder and Rachel’s. “Like it was written?”

“It’s just a manner of speaking, Skzyyn Aarndr-rii,” said Park. “And I do hope your human comrades have informed you of exactly how unlikely it was that you changed my mind on a tactical matter, in assigning you to join Alpha Wing.”

“Oh, they have informed me,” said Skzyyn in its louder, squeaky voice.

“Captain Root?” said Park.

“Thank you,” said Cassiopeia Root. “We’re pretty sure you put a significant dent in the number of fighters and cruisers they have with them. We count half the number of cruisers in flight now as we did before, and they don’t hide those things in their bays. So we do think we can mount a significant attack on the damaged battlecruiser, and possibly the undamaged one as well.”

“Can we blow the crap out of them?” asked Acevedo. “Is that okay to do?”

“You may blow the crap out of them,” said Park, “so long as you don’t get the crap blown out of yourself. You will, however, follow my lead until I give you leave to operate on your own. We’ve gone to a lot of trouble to choreograph—do the Tskelly and the Errhatzky know ‘choreograph’?”

“Eez a dahnce,” said one of the Errhatzky, evidently the lead mechanic. It was sitting with three of its mates, hanging onto a piece of bay machinery.

“It refers to a careful plaaaan,” said Fvaerch.

“Yes,” said Park, “because everyone is involved and we need to leave nothing to chance. If this works, it will be because we all knew where we were supposed to be and when, and if it doesn’t work, we need to break off in good order and live to fight another day.”

“And our Primoid and Fyaa friends understand this,” said Acevedo.

“We,” said Fvaerch, “will follow Commander Park’s,” and it paused to choose the exact English word it wanted, “instructions. I am sure the Kleegrg, the Primoids, will do the same, they are very,” pause, “reliable.” It turned its beak toward the Primoid cruiser captain, who bowed and nodded; Fvaerch made a nodding gesture back, accentuated by its huge beak.

“Thank you,” said Park. “I don’t think any of us thought six months ago, in our biological chronologies, that we would wake up one morning and go off to do what we’re trying to do. I find it invigorating.”

“Just the word I was looking for,” said Kalkar.

Park looked around. “All right,” she said. “Fighters at ready. Places, everyone.”

Clay looked at Rachel and Skzyyn, who had its stalky eyes aimed his way. “Let’s do this,” said Clay, just because he felt like someone ought to say it.