Four Hands, Bridge of the Human Ascendancy Flagship: Glorious Victory
Four Hands could have followed the progress of the battle in full immersion through his implant, but didn’t need the distraction. The flaghip’s admiral had summoned him to the bridge even though full immersion could have handled that as well.
Knowing the Human Ascendancy, Four Hands knew that this could be because the admiral wanted to see him killed in person. They knew he’d met with the human Xiniti recruit. He’d included it in his report, if only because he knew the soldiers would.
On the other hand, the admiral might want to congratulate him personally. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d turned treason into a commendation.
He walked across the bridge, ignoring the crewmen, many of whom appeared to be sleeping at their consoles, but instead were managing the ship, remote drones, or parts of the fleet through their implants.
That was the long outer circle. The bridge’s inner circle held six, two person console rigs, all of them filled with staff, awake, and staring at holographic representations. There to communicate to the fleet as well as personally protect the admiral, the inner circle needed an awareness of the real world and the bridge at the same time.
As much the admiral’s bodyguards as bridge crew, they watched Four Hands walk in as one of their screens showed Xiniti ships dealing the final blow to a damaged battleship.
Admiral Makri Tzin sat in the middle at a command console that had the height and bulkiness of a throne. On top of it, the admiral wore the silver, pressurized, uniform of the navy, making the bulk of an Ascendancy soldier even more impressive.
As Four Hands came before the chair, the admiral shouted, “Abase yourself.”
Four Hands knelt with his head to the floor until the admiral grunted. Then he stood up.
Admiral Tzin looked down at him without saying anything, bushy eyebrows arched and arms across his chest.
“All have spoken well of your accomplishments and leadership on the surface, particularly on how you rescued the mission from the agent who killed our people and lead the mission to utter disaster. Now I know that you weren’t able to capture the colonists either, but you were able to drive them out of the caves and into the woods, and all of that with a force that had been mostly destroyed.
“It’s another brilliant addition to an already impressive resume. I only have questions about one small part of your actions. You spoke to a human Xiniti recruit and then allowed him to leave your presence alive. Why did you choose to make these decisions?”
Inside Four Hands’ head, his main implant reported that the admiral was using a motivator’s tones and that it had scrubbed them from his perception without alerting his official navy implant.
“Your Excellency,” Four Hands said, “the Xiniti recruit exhibited skills similar to my own as well as an impressive competence as a combatant. I thought I might try to recruit him to our side if I could.”
“And?” Admiral Tzin grunted.
“He’s loyal to the Xiniti and couldn’t be recruited.”
“Hmmn,” Admiral Tzin leaned forward, “And why didn’t you have him killed when you had him?”
“As I’m sure you’re aware, fleet policy is to respect flags of truce if there’s any possibility that not doing so would come back to hurt us. I judged that we might wish to meet with them later and there was no reason to end that potential now.”
Admiral Tzin nodded. “Understood. Your caution is appreciated. Our current plans are to capture and suborn the human ‘Xiniti’ recruits along with the colony’s leadership. If that proves impossible, we plan to cleanse the colony from the planet.”
Giving a nod, Four Hands said, “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” Admiral Tzin said. “We are now in battle with the Xiniti fleet or I might send you back to the planet to assist in finishing what you started. Instead, I’m assigning you to guide your own people in coming up with ideas for breaking into and subverting the unusual technology that the Xiniti recruits appear to possess. Kamia expresses difficulty with it and that’s an impressive statement on its own.”
Then the man dismissed him with a wave of his claw.
On the way out, Four Hands thanked the universe for the machines that saved him from influence as well as the admiral’s stereotypical assumptions about his skills that sent him to his own people. It wasn’t inaccurate in his case, but little of his military record showed it.
It was time to plan his next move.