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The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye (Cover Art)

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Chapter 88 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

"You...salvaged an abomination."

"No, we salvaged a starship." Duke Patrick replied. They were meeting on an island in the middle of Golden Lake, a massive, mostly-freshwater inland sea, one heated by subsurface vulcanism. "The Tabiranth is just a ship now. Whatever your ancestors built it to be, it's just a ship-mind you, a very effective one since everything that wasn't mission-critical was pared off during the construction, but it's just a ship. If you're going to try and claim we cheated, I'll remind you who showed up without so much as a 'hello' and launched an unprovoked invasion of people who didn't even know you still existed, then waged that invasion behind a rolling communications blackout and only AFTER losing your ilKhan over Radstadt did anyone on your side bother to come up with the revolutionary idea of actually speaking to anyone."

"That is a rather per-emptively hostile position to hold, Duke Patrick." Conal Ward said.

"Yeah..well, look from my angle, if you can bend your neck that far-The Achon wants the meeting, you guys want it, but I don't see why unless you're playing a game. I'm loyal to the Realm so I have to host it because that's what was demanded, but I have no reason to be gentle about this, and since you've wasted the first half hour of this meeting ranting about a starship that your ancestors left behind when you deserted us?" he spread his hands, "Honestly I don't see the point. You haven't offered a single reason we can't close this up right now, send you back to your battleship out there, and consider this a bad idea all around."

The crusaders in the delegation were taken aback, so were the Wardens, except for Nelson Elam.

"My colleague, the Wolf Loremaster, was simply raising some legitimate concerns-the M-3 Caspar drones-"

"The Tabby's the hull of an M-Five."

"Noted...there is concern that such extensive automation as your Coast Guard employs may pose a hazard if it gets out of control."

"Fair." Patrick stated, "When we get to where we can build a processor that big. It'll be a concern for moral theorists and computer programmers. Please note, I am neither. The tech is necessary on a practical level because of the practical realities of my system's economy and population demographics, just like the entire Coast Guard structure is necessary."

"Why is it 'necessary'?" Nelson asked.

"That's because your ancestors abandoned us. Trillions dead, Khan Nelson Elam, whole systems wiped out, so much knowledge lost we don't, as my sister puts it. Even have words for what's been lost, centuries of pointless, grinding warfare. Your proposal mentions nukes? I can show you on a star chart the number of worlds that aren't worlds anymore from biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons deployed in a five-sided civil war your ancestors chose not to prevent when they had the power to do so. My system militia has had to deal with rogue military forces plundering our systems and neighbors for centuries in the aftermath of the Exodus...every single thing my ancestor warned them would happen, happened." He paced as he spoke, "And guess what? we start recovering from it, we actually start to drag things OUT of centuries of chaos, and here you come out of nowhere, as invaders." he halted, regarding each of them, "if you had come in the open, announced the return of the Star League Defense Force?"

He clenched his fist, "You would have been welcomed as good news, but you chose to come as invaders instead. Just like pirates from the periphery; behind a shield of darkness and silence to take by force what many would've given you freely."

"But not your people." Nelson observed.

"No. Not us, but the Lyrans? Yeah, they would've greeted you as old friends-they believed in the Myth of Aleksandr Kerensky. Hell, the Archon AND her husband still cling to the idea of the Star League to the point they have combined their 'rightful claims' in the body of their oldest son to try and tie it back together. Most people don't remember that the SLDF was the only thing keeping the House Lords from tearing the whole thing apart-not because it could beat all five on their own, but because Kerensky had the position of being 'kingmaker'-ally with ANY of the Houses and your ancestors would be in the Hegemony member-state and you'd be Terran troops instead of make-believe Mongols from a romanticized interpretation of the distant past. It was their ****** duty, and they abandoned it...and they made a promise, and it turns out their word was no good, only their threats." Patrick stopped, and leaned on the table with both hands, "So...why are you here?"

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