The following scene excerpt is from chapter nine, featuring High Chancellor Bertrus Mavin and Rael Anetra.
Mavin shook his head and stirred, as if awakening from a trance. “You’re jumping to conclusions,” he said, returning to his chair with a fresh drink. “Our relationship with Coku-Tau may be strained, but they’ve given no indication they’re considering secession.”
Anetra threw his head back in laughter. “Believe me… The only indication you’re going to get is their notice of intent, and it won’t be open for discussion. The only reason they’ve stayed with the Union this long is they haven’t had any other options. And they aren’t the only ones.” He brought his hands together, fingertips touching to form a steeple. “There’s a new player on the board, my friend. And I’d say she’s a few squares ahead of you.”
Damn it, Omenia. Despite her intentions, her actions threatened the stability of the Union. The old families would fight to save their invisible empire. They’d fight the Arcovans; they’d fight each other—anything to preserve their power. “I assume you have a solution in mind?”
Anetra leaned forward, wearing his worse smile yet. “Coku-Tau’s sending their own freighter to retrieve the shipment. They’ll rendezvous with the Arcovans on our side of the expanse to take possession of the cargo, but the hand-off’s happening just outside Union space.” He rolled his eyes and sniggered. “Wonder whose idea that was.”
As did Mavin. Since the transfer was being made in neutral territory, the Arcovans weren’t required to file a course plan with the Union Transit Registry. It seemed too convenient not to have been planned. If Anetra’s source hadn’t informed him of the shipment, no one outside Coku-Tau would know the Arcovans were supplying the fringe world with advanced medicals. Mavin wondered how else Omenia had circumvented his authority.
“Anyway,” Anetra continued, “the last thing Coku-Tau wants is trouble in their space. So, I say we wait until they take possession, and then hit the freighter on its way back.”
Mavin’s eyes widened. “You want permission to attack a Coku-Tau vessel?”
“Whoa…” Anetra raised his hands palm forward. “Not attack attack. Just a few well placed shots to disable the ship. We’ll make it look like pirates taking advantage of easy prey—happens all the time. And if Coku-Tau thinks their new partnership is attracting the wrong kind of attention, they’ll back off in a heartbeat.”
Mavin’s eyes fell to the floor as he considered the proposal. His head began to nod. “It could work. But we should wait until Amun Matisse has returned to Coku-Tau. The immediate response should come from her.”
“The shipment is arriving next week; Matisse isn’t scheduled to return until sometime next month.”
Anetra shrugged. “Guess good friends have a lot to talk about.”
Mavin wasn’t amused. “Then proceed with your plan.” His eyes narrowed. “But no mistakes. I don’t want Kryton implicated in this, and certainly not the central government. Pirates. Do you understand?”
Anetra rolled his eyes. “It was my idea, remember?”
“Yes. I do.” Mavin stood, preparing to leave. “And I promise you, Rael. I won’t forget.”
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