The Last Angel: The Hungry Stars, Chapter 21

As my patrons have voted for, here is the month’s final major update: a new chapter for The Last Angel: The Hungry Stars (or as some like to call it, the ‘hangry’ stars). In this chapter, we check in with the Principality and their plans for the Compact. Hint: they need the reprieve, but don’t like being called to heel just because their oldest enemy says so. We also get a chance to return to Nibiru and see how the cultural exchange is going. A bit literally at the moment.

But is it really an exchange if they’re giving something back to you?

Below is an excerpt from an earlier part of the chapter, as Noble Fleet Lords Tasho and Jirrico debate the strategic situation. For the full scene and chapter, check out the links above!

~

When the Compact chose to move, it was as a landslide. Divination estimated that Chrysalis and Cocoon would have strike within the next seven months for the greatest value of resources expended to damage inflicted. Any longer and that risk to reward ratio became rapidly less favourable. If the machines could be encouraged to strike within that time frame, the odds of victory were good, but every day the Compact could re-fortify Galhemna was another day the odds shifted a little farther.

Not for the first time, Jirrico sorely wished that the Argosy had some kind of insight into the neverborns’ condition. The status of their vessels, rate of repair and production, what they were doing with the hundred-odd hulls they had stolen from the Compact. They’d tried to send scouts of their own into the Radiant Streams, but the nebula’s snarl of transit lines had confounded their progress.

The most data that they had came from a courier drone from a missing deep-ranging squadron. The drone itself had been discovered close to the Radiant Streams’s perimeter, its transit systems utterly ruined by the effort of traversing the nebula. The data it had carried was severely corrupted; even weeks later, Kebrak Daun had their best computer teams and uplinks trying to reconstruct it, but it seemed to be irrecoverable. All that had been pieced together was that the squadron had detected a group of unclassified vessel: size, identity and number unknown. The only other piece of data, seemingly deliberately left intact, was a fragment of a recording from one of the scouts’ internal communications networks. All that was on it was screaming.

Chrysalis was never one for subtlety when it had a message it wanted to deliver, and in this case the message was exceedingly clear.

Don’t come in here again.

“We are taking a lot on faith,” he finally said.

“No,” Tasho disagreed. “Not faith. Faith requires belief, not evidence. The Compact has provided the latter,” his teeth bared in a grimace. “The truth is an odd thing to have from them, isn’t it? Or, at least, the unvarnished truth.” As far as we can discern went unsaid. The data the Compact had provided had been put to every test, analysis and examination that the Principality had available. All of them unequivocally confirmed the veracity of the information and the Compact’s version of events. Even all these months after the initial meeting and all the debates, arguments and discussions that Tasho had had with peers, subordinates and superiors, he was still somewhat amazed at how forthright – desperately so – the Compact was in this matter.

When the Compact spoke, it was always from two mouths but in this instance…. It was as he’d told Jirrico before: he believed their fear. They’d given up too much for it to be anything other than genuine and if that was, then what else was true? So far, the answer seemed to be everything about Recombinant or Chrysalis. He wouldn’t trust a thing they claimed on any other topic, but here… yes. They were afraid.

~

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