As casual as a turai in full battle rattle can, Swao walks over to the courier. "I'm here," he says. "What's next?"
As casual as a turai in full battle rattle can, Swao walks over to the courier. "I'm here," he says. "What's next?"
Her senses alerted, she quickly scans a tight perimeter around Swao and the courier, both of which seem oblivious to any possible threat. A rather fit young woman is walking on a low, arched bridge with what looks like an elaborate cane. Is that a weapon of some kind? She doesn't look like she needs a cane. Nearby An older gentleman is speaking into a tiny, levitating VR communication device. His eyes are darting in many directions.
"You seeing this?" she whispers sidelong to Utari. Fucking hate feeling paranoid she thinks.
Fuck it though, someone has to be.
The courier looks up at Swao, nodding. "What's next is I give you this message," she replies in an even tone. The courier's eyes dart up, remembering something memorized. "Keji Iyuzo hopes your greed does not dominate your intelligence. You do not want a relationship with Segal Iyuzo, and Keji will explain why." The courier finishes her recital and moves to get up. "That's all I've got," she says, but then her head turns to look at a luxury skimmer, comparable to the rented one the team has, as it glides in and settles right next to the plaza entrance. Robin and Zaef see it too, and although Swao's been braced for it, it's a surprise when Keji Iyuzo exits the rear of the vehicle and starts over towards the Turai. He wears a long flowing overcloak and carries a cane that very probably does conceal weapons (Robin considers this with some irony). Although he leaves the skimmer without accompaniment, two of the bystanders fall in with the Iyuzo lord as he passes them in the park. Again, Robin's sense of bitter irony slams against her better judgement like a tsunami. She wonders if maybe every single bystander here was in the Iyuzo's employ.
Keji nods to the courier, who turns to leave. He waves Haaj and Zaef over but addresses Swao directly as he approaches. "Perhaps you were expecting a different Iyuzo? My brother only knows how to waste money and be a thorn in everyone's side. If you wish to reconsider your stance from last night, please, let us talk."
"I don't appreciate getting ambushed," Swao says back. "You wanna make me an offer, I'm listening. You wanna get your head splattered across the plaza, just try something clever." Swao's hands rest casually on his beamer. Even through his opaque helmet, you can feel his eyes narrowing on Keji.
While Swao takes in the surroundings, Keji replies to his ultimatum. "'Clever' is why I am here, Samal. My sources informed me of your master Arakuna's plan-within-a-plan last night. He needs better encryption if he truly intends to keep his giant rectenna... usurpation project a secret." Keji pauses, thinking he's just revealed something shocking and wanting the impact to sink in. "I do not know the whole story between you and Dropchief Arakuna, but it seems obvious that you and he do not see eye to visor, else you wouldn't be shopping around. I believe that what I propose can help us both."
Keji walks a few steps over to the bench the courier vacated and sits. "What would happen if Arakuna's project failed utterly after soaking up all the resources of Akis' elite, most notable among them my brother?"
*Dropchief? Ah, good morning. Listen, I had my people run the numbers on that proposal we spoke of and it looks good. We'll go ahead with Array 11 for the site, and have that settlement pacified ASAP based on your helpful intelligence on the... * Abe muses a moment. *On the presence of a hidden cell of seditious Narsai-sympathizers and rebel terrorists. Sounds like the whole settlement will have to be cleared to ensure no traitors escape.*
This is the creepy part about Abe; he just keeps talking, like state-sponsored mass murder is just a bullet point in a Powerpoint presentation. *So with that out of the way, what's the next step in getting this thing operational? I don't want to have too much downtime from that region.*
Abe laughs, honestly surprised. "You thought... oh, I see. We had two different meanings for 'clearing a settlement', I guess. I know your people aren't there right now, which is why I wanted to hold off this call until now. Better to move ahead quickly, right? Strike while the drives still have remass, or however that old spacer's adage goes?"
Saloma talks on, and Davis and Tanakta look around for anyone who might be really interested in a noble taking a vox call. There's an unmistakable air of tension simply because. well, it's not the first time an enemy has used a phone call to set up an ambush. The pedestrian throughfare doesn't supply any ready assailants, and there are no glints from hidden weapons on third- or fourth-level windows.
"I agree, which is why my team and I are located at Array 11. However, what you need here is more subtlety than a simple pacification sweep. If you simply send your Turai in, and then roll right in with reconstructing the mesa into an Arena, it would make our collusion a bit too obvious, no?" Haralin asks. "What you need is a more overt excuse to send in the Turai. Foment dissent and anger against the Imperium, get the locals to turn against you. Once even the local Kansat are consorting with the rebels, then you pacify the mesa. You had no other choice, what should you have done, let the rectenna array fall into rebel hands?"
"I appreciate your caution, Harry," Abe shortens the cover's name without realizing it matches up with an English name. "If your planning is accurate, and my peoples' projections are anywhere close to reality, this Arena expansion is going to generate so much income that the Bureaucracy will wonder why aren't we sunballing more solar farms. Unless... your projections were a little... overestimated?"
"Believe me, Steward, this project will be producing far in excess of what even your people's projections might be, as they are not in possession of the whole picture," Haralin says. "Is this channel data secure? And I don't mean 'protected from your ridiculous ravilar assistant' secure, I mean 'it'll be a cold day on Hedion before it's cracked' secure."
Abe's tone grows annoyed now. "It's the channel your man gave me, Chief, ask him."
"And I don't know how secure your gear is, but I suppose this will have to do," Haralin says, brings up his vox's holodisplay and sends him the super-rectenna plans. "This is what the Arena is really covering, why we need that mesa secured as surreptitiously as possible."
Haralin can almost feel Abe very reluctantly not giving into the urge to randomly smite something. "I... I don't know what I'm looking at. Some kind of... what is this, some kind of super-rectenna? Why waste my time with the Arena ruse? Why not just bring this up from the get-go?"
"The difference between graft and extortion, Steward," Haralin says. "We're not going to just siphon funds off of the Arena with this, we're going to centralize the energy transmission and charge for every watt of power that leaves the planet. If you replace these tiny rectenna farms with five or six of these...well, the profits speak for themselves. You'd be able to buy Akis."
"You're messing with the plantary econo.." Abe trails off. "Economy nothing, this is infrastructure. You're asking me to put my arcology - maybe the planet's - trust in this plan. You better be on the level with the payout." Abe's silent threat carries across the vox as easily as his usual practiced smile.
"I never kid when it comes to that kind of money, Steward," Haralin says. "You cannot tell me that having to watch those low-class peons walking away with all of your money is even remotely palatable to you. My way, we all become rich enough to buy our own palaces on Napai, and we do so beyond scrutiny from even the Emperor's Avatars."
Abe pauses, mulling over the options, peering over the rectenna plans Haralin sent. "Let's say I buy into this super-rectenna thing. And the... the Arena thing is a cover for it?"
"The Arena provides the legit clearance we need to begin construction. We can start work on a proof-of-concept rectenna array immediately, as a matter of fact, that's half the reason why sowing discontent works better than a simple purge, we're going to need all of your manpower at Array 11 to work on constructing this proof-of-concept. It shouldn't take more than two days to construct, given around-the-clock work, and once that is activated, your workers should be ripe for an 'inciting incident' that Tanakta and I are all too willing to provide. We escape from the mesa while your Turai come in and pacify the crowds. The mesa is clear, and construction can begin immediately."
"I see your reasoning," Abe explains. "I just don't see why it's better than uncovering 'proof' of a terrorist plot that implicates the entire settlement. Your presence there would obviously spook the perpetrators into revealing themselves, and it'd be an easy operation and then my men wouldn't have to deal with some carefully orchestrated uprising. It's easier to work in peace and quiet," he adds.
"Your men wouldn't need to," Haralin says. "The whole point is to drive the situation on the mesa to the point where even the Kansat that are supposed to be monitoring the settlement are working with the rebels. Keep your men away from the mesa, except when stoking the flames of the situation, and then, when the entire mesa has turned against the Emperor, we will incite the mesa to riot and revolution. The test rectenna array will be fully powered and impervious to attack by that point, so all that is left to do is send in your Turai to pacify the techs and the Kansat. It involves zero manpower investment on your end, unless you are somehow attached to the Kansat on the mesa. All we require from you is the authority and the raw materials to construct the test rectenna array and the time to complete it and bring it online."
"Maybe you're right," Abe concedes. "Maybe this scheme would benefit from a little more insulation." His voice takes on a crisp decisive edge. "All right, we'll do it your way, but believe me, Chief. You lie to me again and I'll sunball that array with you on it. You have a nice day, I'll be in touch."
"Same to you, Steward." Haralin disconnects and nods to Tanakta. "I think that went well."
Luis nods and, feeling like he's about to put his head into a lion's mouth, gets into the exam chair. Jalis reassures him with a pat on the shoulder and tightens up a cerebral harness.
Not being able to move his head does nothing to relax Luis. Arketta visibly tenses along with him, but steadies herself. The surgeon conducts the examination; the cogitator whirrs and lights blind Luis in just about every way possible. He feels pressure - excruciating for a brief moment - and then there's a sense of completeness. The chair stays reclined with the harness still paralyzing Luis' head, but the surgeon's moving around now.
Luis distinctly hears the exam room door cycle and two people enter. "Mr... Nasa," a rough voice says. "Looks like you're a prime candidate for your proposed enhancements."
"The Quoronas," Arketta hisses to Luis. She's standing now, one hand on her beamer.
"Settle down," a female voice purrs from behind Quon. Arketta said 'Quoronas', plural. Must be Tealni Quorona, the wife. "We're here to talk."
"L'Zakest?" Arketta almost blunders. Her tone makes the question clear: Should I shoot them right now?
Luis blinks in surprise. "I'm sorry, I wasn't expecting to need to discuss business right now. What can I help you with?"
"Information, mostly," Quon says. "You came here in a big group and immediately started waving your collective junk in the wind. Your dropchief's got some secret rectenna project hidden away on his vox, and I say 'hidden' in the loosest possible fashion." Quon nods to his wife. She takes a step forward slowly as to not raise Arketta's ire.
"The security around those plans wasn't nearly as good as the crypto you were using to mask your presence here on your first visit," Tealni says. Luis' terror-heightened senses pick up just a slight waver in her voice. It's possible Tealni might not be as confident in her surprise intel as she sounds.
Zakest would shrug if the restraints let him. "I do the crypto for our official stuff, but the Chief gets his own for his private stuff. I don't agree with it, but when has he ever taken my advice? I was here to check out what's going on. The Chief likes to take things as they come, but I'd rather know what I'm walking into."
"A world of hurt," Quon barks. "This caper your master's planning stands to make kiloloads of cash and even more enemies. But he's a noble, right? You don't have to tell me how he treats you or how he acts. He's only ever known silver linings and servants. When the shitstorm hits because he's usurped the power flow to First-knows how many arcologies, who do you think he's going to deflect the trouble onto?"
"The closest person who's not him," Zakest says. "Unfortunately, that's pretty much my job description. You just here to tell me what kind of hole I'm in like I don't know?"
"We're here to give you a hand out of it," Quon replies. "All in all, it's not a bad plan, it just suffers from having some conniving no-name Expansion noble running it. With Faxom-Io behind it, the right partnership could stand to make a real long-term profit off consolidating Hedion's utilities. I find it's always a better choice to involve the people who actually do the work, which is why we're talking to you. I think we could work out an arrangement. That is, assuming your bodyguard lady here is trustworthy. If she's not, well..." Quorona trails off and Arketta's gauntlet creaks on her weaponry.
"She's trustworthy," Zakest says. "What kind of arrangement are you thinking? And what do you plan to do about the Chief?"
Quon laughs. "Ain't that just like a noble. Surrounds himself with people who barely tolerate him. Mr. Nasa, I am willing to bet Arakuna's part in the plan ends after he finds someone to bankroll this venture. We don't need him to buy up a rectenna array or muscle out solar farmers. You know the details. You're the one we want."
Tealni interrupts. "We'd have to know who else he's approached, though. On your first trip, you tagged our datastores, Reno Kesh's accounts, and the mariposas at least. You were at Khalkiota" - her husband grimaces thinking about it - "and could've shopped this plan around to countless others. Who else are we going to have to worry about?"
"The Chief likes to make people come to him, that's the idea of his Grand Entrance. So far, the only person who has come to the Chief is Saloma. Two Iyuzos are trying to make something work with Samal Swao."
"Which two Iyuzos?" Tealni asks.
"So far just Segal and Keji," Zakest says. "However, I would be unsurprised if Kohan also got involved to attempt to confound both of the others."
Quon nods. "We think alike. Don't worry about the Iyuzo. We'll make sure Kohan hears about his brothers' machinations. The Steward is tricky. He is unfortunately an excellent choice for this. A greedy, powerful sap." Quorona's thick brows contort in thought. "Could you poison the Steward against the idea of backing the chief?"
"No, Quon," Tealni suggests. "Use his resources and then drive a wedge between them."
Tealni adds, "I like the Series 778s. They fixed the headache problems from the 604s."
"Whatever works," Quon acquiesces. "So, Mr. Nasa, how about it? We provide the legitimacy and political muscle to keep this rectenna project from collapsing around you, and you keep the other parties involved from mucking with our cash flow. I'll even discount you this consultation and throw in some extras on whatever enhancements you decide to have done."
Tealni adds, "I like the Series 778s. They fixed the headache problems from the 604s."
Zakest smiles, "I believe you have yourself a deal."
Jalis enters the exam room after Quon and Tealni leave and frees Luis from the chair. Luis considers his options. The Quoronas knew he was here, knew about the leaked rectenna plans, and most worrisome, knew about the team's initial recon trip to Hedion. At least he had deflected that somewhat; their presence on Hedion now was shady enough to blend seamlessly with their prior activities. If the Quoronas knew about this consultation, then they could theoretically bug any implants he might want installed. No, no, Luis discounts that option. The risk of bugging the implants isn't worth the fallout should the bugs be discovered, and the payoff for maintaining a working relationship would be far more lucrative. Luis wonders if maybe he should look into implants later, but then realizes that right now may be the only downtime the team's going to get. Their machinations would only draw more factions into conflict as time went on. Or, Luis winces, he could drop the whole thing and look later. But... he's here now and he's getting a discount to boot.
Luis informs Surgeon Jalis of the enhancements he'd like - onboard vox with a hardware switch for its Cortex access and ocular implants boosted with augmented reality and vision magnification. Jalis nods and leaves in order to prepare the surgery room.
Haralin and Tanakta, still window-shopping, spot Quon and Tealni Quorona leaving the cybersurgery. The Quoronas get into a skimmer that pulls up in a well-timed dance between foot traffic and aerial congestion. Their vehicle blurs into Akis' traffic. The two men wait a while before Arketta alerts them that Nasa has pulled the trigger on getting those implants. Haralin and Tanakta proceed to wait even more.
Luis' head is killing him. He vaguely remembers echoing, basso commands and trying to look in prescribed directions, but perhaps mercifully, the surgery is a big dark blur. The pain is worst right behind his right ear, and as Luis claws reflexively at the pained area his fingers scrape along a hard-shelled half-helmet or mask that leaves his ear exposed but covers the area around the surgical site. The prodding stabs needles of white fire into his skull, and Luis explores his new additions much more gingerly. The mask covers his forehead, temples, cheeks, and stretches out above his ears kind of like Lobot from Empire Strikes Back. Balancing out the heavier protective shield over his right side implant is a reservoir of medical gel and goop, housed in scheduled-release injectors on the left. These medications would speed the healing process; although it's no kauka, the Imperium's medical resources are still impressive. His fingers encounter small sconces near his temples, and from the obscuring darkness flashing across his vision in time with his fingers Luis deduces that the mask houses cameras hooked into his onboard vox, allowing him to see. Everything's off though; he notices a few extra shades of color here and there (he swore the wall was dark blue, but now Luis would have to admit it was just this side of purple), and his depth perception, while present, is at a slightly unfamiliar ratio. It makes him clumsy, but Luis can walk out under his own power, Arketta at his side. He sees Haralin and Tanakta waiting for him near the throughfare outside the Faxom-Io strip.
Meanwhile, Keji Iyuzo sits there in the plaza in the uncomfortable silence. He exhales thoroughly and gets up. "Well then. Get Segal associated with Arakuna through Utari while reducing your own contact with my brother. Once Segal is on the hook and bankrolling the Arena project, let him know about the super-rectenna. Sabotage the project. Then I make sure Arakuna drowns in the fallout and you stay afloat. Do we have an accord?"
Swao, Haaj, and Zaef head back up to the Faxom-Io strip by way of a local tubetrain. Zaef notices a few other commuters looking at him with a mixture of vague recognition and fear that he'll notice them looking. The ride is uneventful and the group soon spots Haralin (of course) standing with the rest of the team outside the local ostentatiatory. The Dropchief is on his vox.
As it turns out, it's Tor, Segal Iyuzo's henchman with the gravelly modulated-sounding voice. *...And so Lord Iyuzo requests the presence of Zaef Utari and his entourage at the Iyuzo estate tonight at eighteen o' clock for a celebration in his honor, welcoming the Bloodwraith back to his rightful place as Arena Champion.*
"Everything's fine. Better than planned, even," Zakest says.
Davis nods and flashes Luis his trademark smile for a moment, before picking his cover back up again. "Excellent. Come, you must prepare for a party at Segal Iyuzo's palace tonight," Haralin says. "Other arrangements force me to be elsewhere, but Segal seemed mostly interested in Utari's attendance, and you can represent my interests ablely enough."
Zakest nods, an odd-looking motion with his protective helm on. "Anything you say, Chief," Zakest responds.
"Perfect," Haralin says, and motions for Tanakta to pick up the fruits of their shopping. "Now we're just waiting for Swao and Utari, First knows where they wandered off to." Haralin turns around and sees them walking towards him. "Ah! Swao! I trust you had no problem taking your charge for a walk?"
"Excellent," Haralin says. "Samal, I need you and your Trin to accompany Utari and Zakest to a party in Utari's honor at Segal Iyuzo's palace tonight. I will be unable to attend, but since this event is for Utari, it wouldn't do to have him not show up. Keep him safe and get him back to the camp at a reasonable hour, would you?"
"Yes, Sir," Swao replies.
Haralin takes the bag of listening devices and motions for Tanakta and Haaj to follow him. He walks them across the dusty rock of the mesa to the door of the Kansat post and knocks. He takes a step back and waits, hands clasped in front of him. A surveillance drone, almost comfortably familiar by now, swivels to regard the three visitors, then the barracks' door cycles, ruffling loose gear with a welcome blast of frigid air. One Kansatai sits at a monitor post, idly tapping away at a console. He glances up, the plumage on his helmet bobbing a bit, and nods briefly to let you know he's seen you. The... waiting area, as it were, is stark, white, and clean compared to the golden dusty landscape outside. Two more Kansatai are taking lunch in a small autochef that's set apart from the main area by windows. From the lack of sounds emanating from the rest of the barracks, it would appear that there's not many officers here right now.
The desk-Kansatai stops tapping and looks up. He decides to pin Haralin with his glare after careful consideration. "Can I help you?" he asks. It's the annoyed tone of someone with something better to do, not a receptionist's helpful chatter.
Haralin carefully puts the bag of listening devices on the desk in front of the Kansatai, then takes a step back, maintaining his "I'm bigger and way more important than you" presence. Tanakta and Haaj flank him on both sides, exuding the same degree of menace, trying to impress on the Kansatai just how out of his league he is. "I believe these are yours," Haralin says.
"Where did you find them?" the Kansatai replies. He's not annoyed anymore, choosing instead to show a little caution with his words. His eyes remain suspicious, and the soft whiirr common to most Imperial everythings resolves itself into another surveillance drone scanning the front area. Tanakta and Haralin both know it's not one of the armed models.
"In the residence where we are quartered for the time being," Haralin says. "On top of being a most...unwelcome intrusion into the privacy of my team, they are a security theat. Zaef Utari has extensive technical skills, and I would most prefer to not be on the receiving end of a stun device fashioned out of Cortex sniffer batteries."
The Kansatai nods and holds out his hand to take the devices. "The Quis hab? All right, you want to talk to my watch commander. Wait here, please." The officer takes the bug-bag and stops in the small kitchen. You catch snippets of words, but nothing coherent, but the two Kansatai eating give you a glance every few moments. The desk officer heads back out of sight, returning shortly with a short, wide, ox-shouldered officer. He's helmetless, which shows off nearly Ming the Merciless-worthy eyebrows and an equally bald pate. He's in his undersuit booties but still wears the rest of the light orange and black armor common to Imperial law enforcement.
"Thanks for not destroying these," the short cop says in a rather pleasant tenor. "You are interfering with an ongoing investigation, however, so if you mess with Kansat surveillance equipment again I'll have you all killed. If that's all...?"
Haralin is unperturbed. "Excuse me for one moment." He makes a show of opening a connection to Saloma's office. "If you would rather we discuss why you are spying into the Steward's private business, I think that he would be very open to discussion on the subject, not to mention your current posting, and the possibility of future openings for you in the Underhive."
The commander's eyebrows waggle in barely-contained anger. At a curt nod, the two officers in the autochef trudge out, hands resting comfortably on their longlancers. "We are surveilling individuals marked as potential terrorists. Maybe you've been humping seven-armed alien freaks on distant worlds for too long, but back in civilization the Emperor has placed sort of a priority on rounding up terrorists. Perhaps you should put that vox away before I start suspecting you of seditious activity, eh?"
Haralin nods. "And we are on the same side, officer..."
"...So don't make it harder on my men to do their jobs," the commander offers. "If you have legitimate business here, by all means don't let me stop you, but do not interfere with our duty as officers."
"But why do you think we are here?" Haralin asks. "Why would an Expansion dropchief do something as stupid as quarter a known terrorist leader like Utari with possible seditious elements like the Quises?" He leans in. "Can you be trusted, officer?"
The waggling continues. "Save your threats for someone who doesn't have air support. Why don't you just have your people sweep for bugs, pretend it's clear, and you can try to manipulate Utari and the Quises into revealing themselves?"
Haralin sighs. "Because if they do find the transmitters, they will shut down." He opens the connection to Saloma on his holo. "If you want clarification as to what your duty entails, let us consult the Steward, then."
The bald Rav-Kansat crosses his arms and frowns. "I have my orders, Chief, and you're not someone who can change them with a little bit of bluster and some chromed-up abortions from the underhive. Call who you have to call," he says. His eyebrows settle into a holding pattern as he calls Haralin's... well, not a bluff, really, because the man does have Saloma's channel.
Haralin ignores the Rav-Kansat. "Connect me to the Steward please," he says into his vox's earpiece. "Let him know that Haralin Arakuna is having problems with his Kansatai disrupting our plans on Array 11."
It takes a few moments, but Abe Saloma's diplomatic but subtly irritated voice crackles to life. "What's the problem?"
"There's a dedicated but misguided Rav-Kansat here on Array 11," Haralin says. "He insists on placing bugs inside the Quises residence, including Cortex sniffers, and has gone through my party's belongings. I think we would both prefer our plans for the Quises and Array 11 to remain secret, and would prefer that the Quises remain unaware of our plans, yes? The audio transmitters and particularly the Cortex sniffers are both an obvious tipoff to the Quises, if my men were so easily able to locate them, I doubt the Quises would have had much difficulty, not to mention a vast security leak for our operation. Discretion is the word for us, I think you'll agree, and having these bugs lying around, creating records..."
Saloma sighs. "Put me on speaker. Rav-Kansat?"
The commander straightens in surprise. He wasn't expecting Haralin to actually have the Steward's ear. "Um, buh... yes, Steward?"
"Changes are coming to Array 11, Rav-Kansat," Abe explains. "There's going to be a lot of activity in the next few days, activity beyond your clearance level. I appreciate your adherance to duty, but in this particular case I have to insist that you cease surveilling these Quis people until further notice."
"Of course," the Rav-Kansat answers.
"Dropchief Haralin," Abe continues, "Is there anything else, or can I please return to my meeting with the Council of Lords?"
"Nothing else, Steward," Haralin says. He gives the Rav-Kansat a "You know not who you are fucking with" look. "Many thanks."
The commander's eyebrows lower in a "you thought I was uncooperative before" decision. Something in his eyes gets walled off as he returns Haralin's look and says in a neutral deadpan, "I think that settles that. I'll have my people account for any additional devices. You enjoy the rest of your stay here, Dropchief."
Robin cannot resist but to reinforce Haralin's overt authority. She picks up the insulated drinking cup that the commander was drinking from, gives it a sniff, and finishes it with a loud that was satisfying exhalation.
The Rav-Kansat fixes Robin with a glare - it's clear taking his drink was worse than anything Haralin just did to him. To his credit, the desk-bound Kansatai next to his commander manages to suppress the smirk on his face pretty well.
Haralin smiles, nods to the Rav-Kansat, and turns to leave, nodding at the other Kansatai in the barracks on the way out.
Once they're outside and clear of any other Kansat, Davis looks over at Robin. "Next time, let me know that you plan to antagonize the guy who can kill us all in our sleep, yeah?"
The ersatz Turai nods her head in recognition of an official order, then looks to Davis with an expression that indicates she's about to speak her mind, whether given permission to do so or not.
"We have to establish ourselves without resorting to the trump card that the Stewart provides. He's not gonna like it when he has to take a vox from us every time we need to solve a problem. That certainly doesn't speak to our ability to be reliable co-conspirators."
Davis looks back towards the barracks, then grabs Robin by the arm and leads her angrily towards the tent. He drags her inside and turns to her as the flap seals itself behind them. When he looks back to her, the anger is gone, instead, just exasperation and apology. "First, sorry about that, but we were being watched by the Kansat and Haralin can't be talked back to like that."
She recognizes her error, and tries hard not to show it. She begins to mouth the beginnings of a reprisal, but instead closes her eyes and bites her lip. "...and secondly?"
Davis sits down at the table. "Just let me know next time, I can work around it. It pissed off the Rav-Kansat, and obviously he's a complete asshole to his people too, so it helps us flip the Kansat over to our side, but if I knew you were going to do that, I could have worked that angle, that's all. You know how this stuff works, Robin, communication is key to making sure everyone's actions work together."
Robin smiles easily. "You are a different man than the one I learned from back on Narsai. You're more careful than I remember." Davis has always been hard to read, but now she imagines she can see cracks in his wall. She attributes this to both maintaining difficult cover and the personal nature of the current mission.
"Still", she continues, "the responsible family man suits you."
Davis smiles. "I think that's the first time anyone besides Ngawai has called me responsible," he says, then smiles and looks past Robin as an idea strikes him. "You know, I think we can build off this. Once Saloma starts fucking the solar farmers and making the Kansatai's lives here miserable, how do you feel about pushing the Rav-Kansat's buttons some more? Get him to take it out on his men?"
"Ah yes, accelerated diplomancy" she says with a clenched fist. "What office pranks do you have in mind?"
Davis' smile grows a bit wider. "Surprise me."