Monday, February 3, 2020

Star Talker: Part 23: Breach of Protocol


After about half an hour, the yelling started giving him a headache. Rha’han stood quietly in the back of the room, hands resting behind his back, squinting unfocused at the opposite wall. After he had brought the news to Fahrash, they’d immediately taken it to their general. Now the advising council along with the Shara sat in the war room shouting at each other. Demanding from each to know how this disaster had been allowed to occur. They were fully prepared to repel the Jin Fai, but the entirety of the Federation allied planets was another story.

The Shara smacked the table, commanding silence. Amrach, Shara of the Klotharan Empire, was a rather imposing man. As a pure-bred Lo’Rahni, a rare thing in this age, he stood taller than most in the room. His hair fell well past his broad shoulders, woven into tight braids decorated with gold rings to contrast the silver of age mixed through the black. His beard, though not overly long, also glittered with gilded beads. His corkscrew horns were not unlike Rha’han’s, but were thicker and bore jeweled bands of bright gold befitting his rank. His kohl-rimmed eyes were the color of molten gold and had not left Rha’han since he’d sat down, pinning him with a thoroughly displeased glare. Rha’han deliberately avoided his uncle’s gaze.

“What I wish to know," he said, his voice deceptively calm, "is who allowed the Centauri on our planet to begin with?”

Everyone in the room turned to stare at Rha’han.

“The translator, Selima--”

Amrach arched an aristocratic brow. “Your wife? A wife that you did not ask permission to take, I might add.”

Rha’han looked at the floor. “Yes, Great One, my wife. She claims that you authorized their research expedition.”

The Shara sat back, resting an elbow on the arm of his chair. “That is interesting, as I do not recall seeing any treaties, let alone signing one. I can’t imagine why I would. Terrans are dangerous, greedy creatures, as evidenced by the Jin Fai’s devouring of the southern sextant.”

Geshi, a thin scholarly man who had been serving as a royal adviser since before Rha’han’s birth, spoke up. “Even so, Great One, we would not be aware of the Jin Fai’s movements were it not for our access to the Centauri Archives. They have been essential to the expansion of our marshal intelligences. It is not a thing that we can really afford to lose at this point.”

Amrach’s intense stare slid from Rha’han to the scholar, causing the man to flinch slightly. “Yes, but who. Authorized. It?”

An aide scurried forward and bowed deeply. “If you’ll permit me, Sire. Based on our records, the treaty was drawn up and signed by His Highness the Ambassador.”

“I see my brother oversteps his bounds, yet again. First the Terran child, now a whole Federation of them.” Amrach rolled his eyes with tangible frustration.

“Um...a-actually, Sire…” the aide said, still bent at the waist.

“What.” The Shara growled.

“H-his Highness the A-ambassador’s ward was among the delegation sent to the Bassir region to conduct the study. She has been in the c-care of the Centauri Federation for sum fifteen years for educational purposes until she reaches her majority next year. At that point she w-was to be collected and wedded to His Highness Fahim Qa’iir.” The aide remained bowed as he said all of this, but Rha’han could see the muscles in his thighs beginning to twitch with the effort.

Amrach interlaced his fingers and resumed glaring at Rha’han over the top of them. “And what is the name of the ward, pray tell?”

The aide tapped on the tablet he held in his hands. Rha’han knew what he was going to say before the words left his mouth.

 “Selima Fouad, Great One.”

Gold eyes flashed. “Everyone except Rha’han? Leave. Now.”

The council rose as one and sped out of the room, casting Rha’han nervous glances. Such men as these were usually quite stoic, faces plastered with unreadable expressions. One had to be in positions such as theirs. But the Great Amrach inspired a good deal of healthy fear. Which wasn’t entirely a bad thing. The Shara was a fair man and a good ruler, but he could be utterly ruthless when the need arose.

The Shara rose from his seat with an elegance one might not expect from a man so large and crossed the room in three swift strides to loom menacingly over Rha’han. Rha’han was used to being loomed over by the men in his family. Certain houses within the empire, and likely others across the planet were required by law to maintain a certain degree of genetic purity. Half-blood Lo’Rahni were abundant, for sure, but within the Royal houses, Rha’han was an aberration. A fact many in his family liked to remind him of on a regular basis. Such looming no longer intimidated him. He remained stoic in his uncle’s shadow, bracing for the oncoming storm.

“Look at me, boy.”

Rha’han ground his teeth a bit at being called “boy,” but obediently lifted his gaze to meet the radiant gaze of his uncle.

The Shara’s speech was slow and very deliberate. “I do not think you quite comprehend how unfathomably sick I am of this incessant feud between you and my idiot brother.”

“Permission to speak freely, Sire?”

The other man crossed his upper set of arms, eyes flashing. “What.”

It wasn’t a question. It never was. It always sounded like a challenge.

“I did not cause this. I had nothing to do with the duplicitous treaty. I didn’t know my father had a ward, let alone the woman I captured.”

Amrach narrowed his eyes. “Perhaps, but you knew she belonged to Ashrad before you branded her. Did you not?”

Rha’han lowered his eyes briefly. “I saw the brand of his house, yes.”

“And you took her anyway.”

“It is the prerogative of those in service to the empire without mates to claim female prisoners of war as an avenue of proliferation.”

Amrach rolled his eyes. “Don’t quote law at me, boy. Especially if you’re going to neglect to list the protocols regarding those acquired in a defensive action versus an offensive one. Protocols you willfully broke.”

“I believed she might be more cooperative in such a setting,” he said defensively.

“No. You wanted to fuck over your father.”

Rha’han shrugged. “That was certainly a bonus. But I honestly believe I can persuade her to work with us.”

Amrach snorted. “I don’t think your cock is quite that magical, boy.”

Rha’han closed his eyes and took a calming breath. “I never said it was, but when given the opportunity to report the incident to the Centauri, she did not do so.”

Amrach straightened, eyes igniting with fury. “Excuse me?”

“She accessed my home terminal and pulled up Archive material, but claims she did not contact them because she didn’t want to start an intergalactic war.”

Rha’han found himself slammed violently into the wall, the Shara’s massive hand wrapped around his throat. “Are. You. Telling. Me. That you. Allowed. A prisoner. To access the global network under your supervision? Can you appreciate the massive consequences such a security breach could have caused?” He pulled back and slammed him into the wall again. “You say she claimed she did not contact them. She could have lied!”

Rha’han gasped for air. “If she had, I think we would know by now.”

Amrach released him and stalked away, pacing angrily. “Ashrad has been recalled immediately. He will arrive within the next fortnight. I will see what he has to say for himself.” He stopped, pressing a button on the table and glaring at Rha’han. “You,” he said, pointing at him, “will receive fifty lashes for your lapse in judgement and your breach of protocol. And tomorrow you will bring the girl before me. I wish to speak with her.”

Rha’han snapped to attention and bowed deeply. “Yes, Sire.”

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1 comment:

  1. This has gotten intense quite quickly! I like the suspense :)

    Rebel xox