“Do we know how much of the Vaian Defence Force is still at large?” Sangat asked once they had returned to the station. “This Corona mission is going to be very difficult if they are appearing and shooting at us.”
“A handful of ships maybe,” Oni replied. “Our escort seem to think as much anyway and I guess they’d know.”
“Unless the Vaians had more ships than we thought,” Amanpreet said. “They seem to have been ready for this situation so it’s not impossible they have retrofitted mre of the merchant ships.”
“That is possible and is a worrying thought,” Oni agreed. “But we can’t call off the mission. There will never be another first foray into space moment for the Coronans. Observing how they react to it will tell us a lot about them and–” He broke off as the buzzer on the door to Sangat’s suite went off. “Looks like you have company.”
“Odd, I’m not expecting anyone.” Sangat opened the door to reveal Midori standing there.
“Ah! You’re back,” she said. “I thought you would be. So did someone stick the Donut of Doom into the computer’s mouth?”
“No doomy donuts,” Sangat said. “Only non-doomy donuts.”
“I know, I was being silly,” she said. “We’re about to test our control of the defences would you like to come of control and watch.”
Sangat looked around at the others. “Should we? I admit to being curious but discussing Corona is important as well.”
“I think we can spare a few minutes to see this,” Oni said. “I admit to being curious.”
“Okay then. Let’s go.”
“Okay, deploy the targets,” Midori said. “Let’s see what this defence system can do.”
“Yes, ma’am,” one of the technicians on duty in the control centre said. “A moment later a dozen or so spherical green objects were propelled out of the station and into orbit around Talis. Each one was about the size of a small ship like Kayla’s dreamsong. “Target’s deployed.”
“Good.” Midori took a breath. “Talis defence system please designate the objects we have just released as hostile targets.”
“Affirmative, designated ally Midori.” The voice came from the console. “Should I engage them?”
“Please,” she said.
The defence system did not respond again. Instead a coherent energy beam shot from the surface and sliced through several of them and a host of small cubes shot out of the atmosphere and destroyed the rest. It was over before Amanpreet really had time to register it.
â€œTargets destroyed. Was the test satisfactory, Midori?â€
â€œIt was?â€ Midori said. â€œWith this we’ll make mincemeat out of anyone who attacks us. No wonder your enemies resorted to making a nearby star go supernova.â€
â€œIndeed,â€ it said. â€œAnd your technology is tougher than theirs. Theirs would have disintegrated instead of just being sliced up.â€
â€œYou’re not the first to comment on that.â€ Midori said. â€œThank you.â€ She turned back to Amanpreet and the others. â€œWe were able to designate you as allies as well. So on the unlikely event that someone does attack us you’ll be able to move freely in system instead of having to wait like earlier.â€
â€œThank you,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œI’m afraid we’re going to be stealing some of your technicians for a while.â€
â€œI’ve heard,â€ Midori said. â€œIt shouldn’t be too much of a problem since it’s only for a few weeks. By the time you get back we should be ready to hatch the eggs.â€
â€œCorona is what you call the planet you were asking about?â€ The Talis computer spoke through the interface. â€œIf they are about to go into space things as you think things are very possibly about to get interesting there.â€
â€œWhat?â€ Oni said. â€œWhy?â€
â€œTheir late cousins left a gift for them when they realised they couldn’t save themselves and that their nearest relatives were better able to handle the changed atmosphere then they were. A cache of knowledge which would be released to them once they were ready. Attaining spaceflight would be a major technological marker. Assuming they’ve also attained the correct sociological status their system â€“ assuming it’s still active â€“ will release it to them. It will be quite a shock.â€
â€œOh!â€ Oni exclaimed. â€œI’ll have to send a message to the council about this. It might change our mission parameters. Can we detect if their system is still active?â€
â€œYou should be able to once you’re in the system,â€ it replied. â€œI’ll send you what you’ll need to look for. If it is it’s probably already aware of your observations of Corona and trying to decide if you are hostile. And it will notice now that you are designated allies of ours. Fortunately they were also allies of ours so it will know that makes you non-hostile.â€
â€œWhat’s the correct sociological status?â€ Amanpreet asked.
â€œStable, peaceful and free,â€ he said. â€œThey had a history somewhat similar to yours and the Mez’s and were concerned not to give their knowledge into the hands of those who would abuse it the way their ancestors had.â€
â€œThat shouldn’t be an issue,â€ Oni said. â€œThe various Coronan cultures get on well with each other from what we can tell. Not quite as well as the Ishtari do but no sign of empire building or warlike tendencies.â€ He frowned. â€œI’ll go and message the council. See what they want us to do if the Corona computer does release its information to them.â€
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