Amanpreet was enquiring after the bioforming supplies the Ishtari on Talis had asked her to obtain when Umi called.
“I thought Kayla would like to know the results of the Council of Planet’s deliberations on Vaia,” she said without preamble.
“Yes, I imag–” Amanpreet broke off as Kayla rushed over. “Yes, she definitely does.”
“Have they come to a decision?” Kayla asked. “What are they going to do?”
“A blockade,” Umi said. “As my people suggested. But the Humans and Ishtari insisted that vital food supplies be permitted past the blockade, since Vaia is not yet self-sufficient.”
“I can see why,” Kayla said. “But it’s going to be a pain to enforce, isn’t it..”
“Yes, and that’s assuming the Vaians don’t declare war. They are threatening to.” Her slug-like body rippled with contempt. “That wouldn’t be much of a war. Even given how tough you people are, it would be more like digesting a–” She spoke the next word aloud in her own language. Amanpreet looked over at Niobe who glanced up from the book she was reading before she could ask.
“It’s a small amphibious creature from the Mez homeworld,” she said. “About the size of your thumb. The Mez eat them sometimes because they are easy to engulf but they are neither tasty nor satisfying as I understand it.” She shrugged and looked back at her book.
“So she means they don’t stand a chance?” Amanpreet asked.
“Pretty much,” Niobe said.
“I’m sorry,” Umi said. “The idiom doesn’t translate well. But, yes, we may be out of practice but our numbers are so superior they can’t win.â€
â€œThat probably won’t stop them,â€ Kayla said. â€œThe Vaian military drill a lot and have a great deal of faith in themselves.â€ She pulled a face. â€œActually there’s a pattern of hubris in Vaian institutions.â€
â€œAnd the pattern still holds true,â€ Umi said. â€œHaving seen their ambassador charged with conspiracy to murder and been informed of the blockade, they still tried to have you charged with piracy and demand your ship back.â€
Kayla hit her forehead with the heel of hand. â€œThey what? After they tried to kill me? That’s dumb even for them.â€
â€œIndeed,â€ Umi said. â€œThey were told no, in no uncertain terms. The human head of security apparently told the Vaian deputy ambassador to do something with her warrant that sounds like it would be painful. But they have withdrawn your passport and the Dreamsong’s registration. Nothing we could do about that. So I took the liberty of contacting a human friend who’s high up in the Northern Cels’ government and asking if he’d arrange asylum for you and an emergency Celish registration for your ship. He agreed. I’m sending you the documents now but you’ll need to go to Cels in the next Earth month to confirm your status and get permanent registry for your ship.â€
â€œMonth…â€ Kayla hummed to herself. â€œWe need to talk to Oni again then, because we need to make a slight detour on our way to Talis. No other way I’ll make it Cels in time and we need the Dreamsong for this job. I hope he doesn’t mind.â€ She turned back to the screen and inclined her head to Umi. â€œThank you for your help, Administrator Umi.â€
â€œYou’re welcome,â€ Umi said. â€œIt is the least we can do having heard your story earlier.â€
â€œYes, we can handle a diversion to Cels,â€ Oni said when Amanpreet asked. â€œIt’ll only add a few days to the journey anyway, as it’s very much on route, and everyone on Aletheia knows about Kayla’s situation and it will be a good place to obtain the bioforming supplies for the Ishtari.â€
â€œEveryone?â€ Kayla exclaimed. â€œWhy…â€
â€œThere were journalists viewing the Council session when you gave your evidence,â€ he replied. â€œAnd your testimony was pretty lurid. They lap that up.â€
â€œI’m glad I haven’t checked the press then,â€ Kayla said.
â€œI’ve seen it,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œYou really don’t want to. I’m amazed they haven’t been trying to get interviews.â€
â€œSecurity are keeping them away,â€ Oni said. â€œAnd your contact details are private. They can’t reach you. They did get an interview with Promise apparently but that’s a different matter.â€
â€œOooh, now that I do want to see,â€ Amanpreet said.
Oni laughed. â€œDon’t we all. But more seriously, how are The Whisper’s repairs coming along?â€
â€œThey’re nearly done,â€ Amanpreet said. â€œThe technicians say she’ll be hyperspace worthy tomorrow.â€
â€œExcellent,â€ he said. â€œBecause we need to leave as soon as we can.â€
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