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The last place we could put Reeowin was in New Age, which he had just conquered as part of the fleet of the Little King of Gretza-Leona or some such place. He had received a large payment in gold and slaves, and pressed several free captains into his service. Our intel had him taking the voidgate to Zeron, and presumably he Lonied from there to parts unknown. This was about four years before we departed, so he could have been anywhere in the galaxy by then. I decided that the best course of action was to pursue intel from a friendly port.
So we Darked out of Kraznus to the black hole Lanneret. From there we arrived in Peace some hundred-an-twelve days later. Of course I talked to the Commander (of the Defence Force), expecting just a formalised wave through for our ships. But… something wasn’t right. I know… knew… Messeret Dalcoran well. Back when I was commanding the Tar Baby under Lyan Lariz in the ‘60s and ‘70s I drunk with him dozens of times in The Golden Treaty on Ceasefire. So I knew he was on edge. He wouldn’t let our ships in. I had to keep all forty-seven of them in formation at the edge of the system and take the White Heart in on his own. Dalcoran wouldn’t even give shore leave for the rest of the ships, so I had ten thousand pissed off Kraz to deal with as well.
It was strange. Defence ships were everywhere, and there were far fewer traders than I expected. I was in the Peace at the height of the Bastard’s War, and even then things weren’t as on edge. I couldn’t think what was causing it. The only on-going conflicts since the end of that New Age business were the usual small fare between the littlest of the Little Kings. So I radioed Dalcoran again, and asked him to meet me for a drink in The Golden Treaty, for old times’ sake.
I don’t know if you’ve all been to Peace, so I guess I should tell you, for context, that the orbit of the gas giant Armistice is the busiest thoroughfare in known space. You can’t land any but the smallest ships on the two moons, Truce and Ceasefire, so mostly you have to orbit your ship and shuttle back and forth. But everyone comes to Truce, everyone from Windstari and Ganite traders to the sons of Little Kings to Riv mercs, to see the legendary sights, or do business in the only real, safe international trading post on the Grid. Lyan once told me that during the Thirty Year Peace he saw one million vessels orbiting Armistice. That’s probably bullshit but even so, after the Bastard’s War, seeing a full hundred thousand hulls wasn’t particularly unusual. When we got to orbit there were less than four thousand ships there. That’s lunacy. That’s dead. Hell, when I took my shuttle down to Ceasefire I even got landing clearance in less than an hour.
Dalcoran was waiting for me. He was sitting at a table in the far corner, nursing a pitcher of Ganite ale. I went to the bar and ordered a Breekinburg. The girl behind the bar was a Zionite, with beautiful white wings and a nice smile.
“I didn’t know you drunk those,” said Dalcoran as I sat down opposite him, “They’re a little strong for my taste.”
I sipped the cocktail. “I had one down in Zion space and know I’m hooked. And their strength is the attraction. Gives a real kick.” I put it down. “Doesn’t last long, of course.” There was an awkward moment silence. “How’s Vallara? And the kids?”
“The kids are fine. Tilly’s working for the parliament now. I sent Vallara back to Praggis.” He stared into his beer and swirled it slowly. “There’s a war coming Kala,” he said slowly, like he was confessing a dirty secret.
“That’s nothing new, Messeret. War’s always coming.”
He shook his head. “I don’t mean – what is it you Kraz say? – Little Wars for Little Kings. I mean a big war, bigger than the Bastard or Breekinburg maybe. I’m not the only one who thinks it either. You saw the system, it’s empty.” He grabbed his pitcher and downed the whole thing. “They know it’ll start here. There’s at least ten Canthin fleets in striking distance of us right now.”
“The Mella have attacked here before,” I told him, “You know, you’ve beaten them back every time.”
“Aye, I know. I’m just afraid that soon some damn fool will be stupid enough to actually succeed.” He sighed, and gripped the empty pitcher. “Why are you here Kala?” he asked suddenly.
“To start a war man,” I said. He laughed bitterly. “I’m looking for someone,” I told him, “Laaros Reeowin, a slaver. You know him?”
Dalcoran thought for a moment. “I remember he fought at Octars… Flies with the Silver Swords doesn’t he?”
“Not for seven years.” I finished my drink and stood up. “It was good to see you again, Messeret.”
We shook hands. “I’ll tell Vallara hello when I visit her,” he said. I nodded, and left.
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