Title: Change of Vector: Delta 2
Spoilers: Through TWWW
Disclaimer: not mine, never will be.
Distribution: Just let me know where.
Summary: Chance favors those who approach empty-handed. Set during "Family Ties".
Notes: A thematic sequel to "A Change of Vector", archived at http://cofax.freeservers.com/stories/vector.html.
Change of Vector: Delta 2
*They say on Fellishan that Shirkata is the mistress of chance and chaos. Her blade is sharp: on one side is certain death; on the other the living-death life of the complacent and the fool. But for the man who dares to walk the sharp edge of the dagger, risking all in the endeavor, she promises -- nothing. Shirkata makes no promises, save that such life as he achieves will be interesting and full of possibility. But he must approach her empty-handed.*
The transport pod was cold and quiet, and the Hynerian was a better pilot than Crais would have expected. They had not spoken since the hatch had closed behind them and the Hynerian had brought them out of the carrier's shadow. One barrier had been crossed; the next would be harder.
He had had to destroy the research data, of course. Years of research, thousands of files, dozens of trials and failures. Much of the research was archived at High Command, out of his immediate reach. But Bialar Crais had not achieved the rank of Captain without learning something of a tech's skills -- he could never afford that level of arrogance. By the time High Command thought to look for it, the data on his Leviathan hybridization project would be gone.
Scorpius had been remarkably amenable to his proposal to accompany the Hynerian back to the Leviathan. It was possible the half-breed suspected something, but for his own purposes was allowing the plan to progress. Regardless, Crais did not expect Scorpius to wait very long before reporting him irretrievably lost.
He cast a distasteful glance at his traveling companion. Hynerians did not constitute unclassified aliens for the purposes of contamination. But Crais had always loathed them, ever since his first campaign, for their arrogance, their smell, their unfettered breeding. The response of the deposed Dominar to the display of his trophies had been . . . gratifying. It was possible, Crais considered now, that he might have to suppress that revulsion, if this scheme were to succeed.
Dominar Rygel had not been convinced of Crais' good intentions -- but he did not need to be, if he believed Crais could be useful. The Hynerian had acquired no mean reputation among his jailers for his negotiating skills and political pragmatism. He would do the work of convincing the others -- they would believe Rygel before they believed Crais.
The pod had long since cleared the carrier's range, and now entered the asteroid field. Their speed dropped, as the Hynerian uneasily navigated his way through, skirting past tumbling asteroids and dozens of smaller stones, spiraling deeper and deeper into the maze. Crais couldn't tell how much of this was necessary to find their way and how much was an attempt to evade any potential Peacekeeper tracking. After more than an arn of increasingly ornate maneuvering, they burst out into a large semispherical opening, and approached the Leviathan from the rear. Clinging close beneath Moya's golden bulk was a smaller form; Crais could not see it clearly from the pod's windows as they approached the hangar doors, but he saw enough to know it was no color ever seen on a Leviathan. The gunship.
Crais shifted in his seat and adjusted his coat. He had come away with nothing, not even a change of clothing. There was nothing he needed to keep except the holochip of Tauvo in his pocket. In his favorite image, Tauvo was caught mid-step, smiling broadly at someone out of sight, his hands full of raslak glasses. That had been the night Tauvo earned his commission. "One for you, one for me, and one for Shirkata --we're walking the blade, Bialar!"
They had lost everything in becoming Peacekeepers: home, family, native tongue. Tauvo had sworn it worth the price. But seven cycles later, Tauvo was dead. Killed by the man Crais was going to meet in a quarter-arn. The man he had sworn to kill: the man Scorpius insisted be taken alive.
However satisfying it would be to kill Crichton, Crais had realized the act would also doom him. There could be no victory against Scorpius; High Command was far more interested in the wormhole project than it was in his own failed experiments. He could have chosen to submit to the half-breed, try to salvage something of his position, preserve his life -- if nothing else. His gut had churned at the thought; there were few places for a deposed Captain in the service.
Or he could seize the chance the Hynerian's presence offered. Get to Moya, say whatever the prisoners would believe to keep himself alive, make his way to the infant Leviathan -- child of his work, however delayed by Velorek's interference. His property: his gunship. Shirkata's promise, extended at the tip of the knife.
But to seize the chance he had to give it all up, everything he held. Sacrifice his position; deny his honor.
Forswear his vengeance.
The transport pod touched down in the hangar bay; they waited long minutes while the bay repressurized, and then the Hynerian opened the hatch. Crais stepped back, letting him leave first, and the Hynerian headed through the door to the maintenance bay, braying his loyalty to his shipmates. Fools that they were, to trust the animal.
Crais would not be a fool. Tauvo was gone -- nothing would change that. He would take the risk, swallow his rage, use whatever he had to. The hybrid ship would be his.
He would walk the blade.
Notes: Many thanks to Huzzlewhat, Melymbrosia, and Vehemently for beta and brainstorming. Feedback makes me do the wacky: send it to email@example.com.
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