Gods of Sagittarius – Snippet 11
“That’s ridiculous. Moral isotropy applies only to sublime issues, not choosing a pathway or a meal.”
“Fine. Take the center option –”
“Shut up. I’m thinking.”
Thought proved unnecessary. The hatch on the far left opened and the Ebbo peered through. The shelves above its eyesockets which were an extension of its exoskeleton were very pronounced and colored a pale green, indicating vexation.
“Why are you dawdling?” the Ebbo demanded. “Amerce Imposer Vrachi does not like to have her time wasted.” An instant later, it was gone again.
Occo restrained herself from making an equally rude response. She just headed for the still-open hatch. “Always choose the center option,” she muttered derisively.
“Not my fault,” said Bresk. “The Ebbo was obviously misgui — ark!”
Occo whistled with amusement. She’d moved so quickly that Bresk, still attached to her thorax and floating above her, had almost been rammed into the top edge of the hatch. The familiar shortened the attachment lines just in time to avoid the collision.
“You might have warned me!”
“There’s something wrong with your legs?”
That wasn’t really fair. Bresk did have legs, of a sort, but they were not designed for walking quickly. Occo didn’t normally mind having her familiar attached to her. She was just edgy and ill-humored because of the unexpected Envacht Lu demand for their presence.
But she made no apology. Just as it was a given that familiars were annoying, it was also a given that one of their functions was to be blamed for anything their mistresses and masters chose to blame them for.
The intrinsic injustice of the universe was the third of the four great truths, so why should familiars be exempt? Indeed, one could argue that heaping arbitrary and unjust accusations upon the creatures was simply an exercise in theological prudence.
They had to pass through two more hatches and connecting passageways before they finally reached the quarters of Amerce Imposer Vrachi. Each time the Ebbo would race ahead and then have to return to guide them through the next stage in their progress. Perhaps it was mentally defective. Occo had never heard of a mentally defective Ebbo — leaving aside the psychological peculiarities to which the entire species was subject — but she wasn’t all that familiar with them. No one was, really, except the Envacht Lu and a few scholars.
The Ebbo had played a critical role in the development of the Nac Zhe Anglan, both as a species and as a civilization. No one denied that incontrovertible truth. But that was all ancient history. Not for millennia had the Ebbo been of any great significance in the affairs of the galaxy. If it weren’t for their connection to the Envacht Lu — which no one outside of that secretive order understood at all — they would simply be one of several minor and obscure intelligent races confined to a small number of planets.
Much as Humans had been before their Diaspora. And as most other species wished Humans still were.
The personal quarters of Amerce Imposer Vrachi doubled as her office, as it turned out. One could as easily say “tripled” or even “quadrupled.” The gigantic scale on which the revanship was built meant that all permanent members of the crew had very expansive quarters. If a revanship set out upon a punitive strike — what the Envacht Lu called an Uttermost Reproach — there would only be a skeleton crew aboard. Just enough to keep the ship operational during the long years of relativistic travel, as the small crew rotated the duty of standing watch. They would spend most of the time in suspended animation.
Occo knew enough about Envacht Lu doctrine to know that the order believed such long and tedious watches were best done by solitary crew members. Two or three were likely to start quarreling. So, each member of the crew who had volunteered for Uttermost Reproach missions were provided with spacious quarters and a great deal in the way of what would be considered frivolous luxuries by most military units.
When they entered her quarters, Amerce Imposer Vrachi was squatting on a bench behind a desk which was of a size to match everything else on the revanship.
She wasted no time with pleasantries. “I have had your course analyzed. You are headed for one of four locations. The first is Nabborothrapto, whose Paskapan residents call a ‘sin planet.’ But since the sins involved are only suited to members of that noisome species and they label every one of their planets a ‘sin planet,’ I believe we can eliminate that possibility. The second is the Human world named New New Jersey. But even though Humans seem to title all of their settled colonies ‘new’ something, this one actually is new. Apparently it has less than a thousand permanent inhabitants. So I believe we can rule that one out, also. The third –”
Occo could see where this was going and saw no point in obfuscation. Attempting it, rather. She was quite sure that trying to fool an Envacht Lu Amerce Imposer was an exercise in futility.
“I am headed for Vlax Broche.”
Vrachi inclined her head. “As I suspected. More accurately, you are headed for the habitable moon of Vlax Broche known as Zayth. Where you intend to assault the Repository of the Old Ones despite its Nedru Concord guard force, presumably in order to steal one of the sacred relics. At a guess, either the Skerkud Teleplaser or the Warlock Variation Drive.”
Occo hadn’t realized the Skerkud Teleplaser was also contained in the Repository. She made an immediate decision to steal it as well, if at all possible. The Teleplaser was reputed to be a fearsome weapon. If one could make it work, of course — always an uncertain proposition when using Old One relics.
But she said nothing. She was beginning to get angry, regardless of the Envacht Lu’s ominous reputation.
“You have no right under the provisions of the Pact to question me concerning my gadrax intentions. I remind you –”
The Amerce Imposer raised a forehand. “Please. I am aware of that. But I do not raise this matter either to question you or to caution you concerning your plans. As you say, that is none of the Envacht Lu’s concern. What is our concern — and recognized as such by the Dessetrai Pact — is the possibility that the destruction of your home cloister transgressed the bounds of propriety. In which case, we may be obliged to deliver an Uttermost Reproach.”
Occo stared at her. “But . . . Against who?”
Vrachi inclined her head again. “Precisely the question that needs to be answered. And I believe the question whose answer you are determined to ferret out, no? So I am requiring you to maintain regular contact with the Envacht Lu –”
She extended her forehand to forestall Occo’s gathering protest. “Gadrax! I am well within my perquisites to make this demand, so long as I understand that you are not required to deflect your own mission — whatever that may be, and please note that I do not inquire — for the sake of maintaining such contact. That said, it is quite possible your travels — wherever they may take you and please note that I do not inquire — will bring you within reasonable proximity of an Envacht Lu station or vessel. In which case you will be required to report whatever you have learned.”
The Amerce Imposer grew stiff and angular, foreboding in every aspect. “And do not doubt that we will discover if you choose at any point to evade that responsibility. The penalty is severe.”
Vrachi wiggled a digit at the Ebbo, who had been busily working at its scribe station. “The specifics, Academe Lwa.”
“It’s quite elaborate,” said the Ebbo, for the first time animated by enthusiasm rather than irritation. “One begins by immobilizing the miscreant and surgically removing –”
“Enough!” snapped Occo. “I do not contest your right to require such reports, Amerce Imposer Vrachi. I will do as I am obliged. Assuming, of course, that the opportunity arises. Is our business here concluded?”
“I believe so. I cannot wish you well on your project, of course. On the other hand, I cannot wish you ill, either.”
Occo rose. The Ebbo eyed her in a manner which made clear than the past moment’s gaiety had been replaced by the scholiast’s normal sour mien.
“I know the way out,” said Occo. And with no further ado, made deed follow word.