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

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Chapter 92 - The Glow of a Worm inside a Child's Eye[]

"Let us speak of the terms of this trial."

"So, you figured out what you want if we lose." Duke Patrick observed.

"Aff. We have. The price you will pay, is real estate-if we win, the barony of Spider Moon and the outer system goes to the winning Clan."

"Someone paid attention." Pat noted, "I'm curious how you expect to enforce that, but not REAL curious. That isn't terrain that favors 'mechs, or specialist ground forces."

"It is the more valuable portion of the system." Nelson noted, "So...I want to bargain with who I will be actually dealing with, once we have defeated your forces."

"Liz." Patrick scowled, "She's fifteen years old."

"I know...and while you may be her superior in rank, in social rank, and in political rank...she is the one who will pose the problem once we have achieved victory, so I want to see her with my own eyes. It is...fair."

Patrick muttered a swear, then turned to an aide, and whispered something.

"Half an hour." He said, "Can you wait half an hour?"

"make it an even two hours." Nelson said, "To bring my experts."

"You don't have to do this, Liz."

"What? he can't be worse than confronting Ryan Steiner over his Free Skye contacts and missing tax revenue." Elizabeth almost growled, "It'll be fine, Colonel Roshak."

"I am just saying, you are not obligated to participate, despite what the Clan representatives would say."

"Yeah, well, in a way, I am. Sandra Deen is out at Winter negotiating a claim, which means I'm wearing her hat too-as rep for the Rockjacks, and since the Clanners have figured out we're the real 'take' in the system, I kind of have to be there."

The modified Mk VII shuttle settled on the landing pad, and Elizabeth picked up her briefcase-a gift from Max, it, and the black-and-gray suit were 'professional clothes' for planetside, and there's always a need to look 'good' for a negotiation. "You decided on what you're going to do when your five is up?" she asked Roshak.

"My 'five'?"

"Look, I know every one of you filled out and signed immigration papers." she said, "Your service in the one-seven-one is a standard five year hitch, you can re-up, or you can look for a different job...once your term is over. Have you considered where you want to be in five years?"

He shrugged as he helped her step down to the tarmac. "I was thinking Coast Guard's Marine branch. Might be the first Mechwarrior to cross over." he suggested.

"Maybe." she agreed, "Then again, you're smart, you could try for a Naval commission or extend with AFFC. You're a Lyran citizen now, just like you're a Citizen of Kowloon."

"too many masters that way. I prefer a simpler chain of command." he informed her, "Besides, as Baroness, your guard detail is normally drawn from the Marine Corps, and I've grown fond of the duty."

She chuckled a little. "No wonder Hank likes you, you've got a twisted sense of humor."

"All part of the service, Milady." Nathan commented, helping her into the back of the wheeled GP quarter-ton, before taking the bodyguard position with a nod to the driver.

" your argument defending the hidden hope doctrine and the Crusade on humanitarian grounds, now you serve as her...what, helper?" Conal Ward sneered at Nathan.

"He's my carer-he cares so I don't have to." Liz snapped, drawing the Wolf officer's attention back to herself. "Though if you want, I'll have him break your legs for you-on general principles, you're disrespecting a Kowloonese citizen, Loremaster."

"Citizenship too?" Conal scoffed.

"Yeah, it comes with taxes, voting rights, and civil liberties, it also comes with the possibility of a retirement that isn't spelled 'spent like used brass in the shittiest duty we can find'. My people are not disposable."

"you are edging right up to insult, Stravag."

She grinned wider, "If you want, we can bring it, I'll let you pick the venue, or the gear, but if it's augmented I'm afraid I'm only qualified on ships or capital ordnance. are you qualified with capital ordnance, Loremaster Conal Ward? because if we use champions, mine can kick yours ass."

"The Jade Falcons? They were hUMILIATED at Tukayyid against spheroids!!"

"That's because I stole all the good ones." she snapped back, "Come to think on it, how many Galaxies have you personally overcome, Conal?"

"I have been informed that Clan Wolf will not be participating in this trial." Ward shifted the topic. "Kowloon is too far from our Liberation corridor. I am here merely as an observer."

"That's...nice." she shrugged dismissively, and strode past him, her walking stick making a steady, rhythmic tapping.

"So...saKhan Nelson Elam, you're the face for this. Who are these 'experts' you brought and why do they need to have a look at me?"

Nelson motioned, and a group of Goliath Scorpion medtechs stepped forward with instruments and samplers.

"Oh Christ, more fun as a guinea-pig, right?"

"You might say that." Nelson said, "Once you have been defeated my clan tends to prefer their Merchant-Administrators to be in working condition for as long as necessary-regardless of the outcome, you will be given treatment-the glory of overcoming one of the six incurables is a...sweetener? to the rest of the victory, and not half bad as a consolation prize."

She scowled, but with her brother looking on, she couldn't throw the tantrum she wanted to. "Fine...let's get the medical exam over with...can we do it in the locker-room though?"

which got a few chuckles as the saKhan and the Duke each nodded assent.

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