Chapter 28 - Revelation

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"Princess."  He growled with a minimal dip of his chin.  He showed just enough respect to not be outright offensive while still conveying his absolute disdain for the woman.

"Nice work with the Demon."  She used the term that the Arian combat pilots had given to the massive ship with glowing edges.  Twice, the Baron had attacked that ship, and twice, it had flown away.  The Hellfire cannons were in full production back in Arian space, the weapons facility retrofitting ship after ship and readying them for an attack.  The decision to give the weapon up for fleet use had been a hard one, but, in the end, necessary.

"And yet, it still flies."  The Baron checked his rising anger.

"Had you destroyed it, Baron, this conversation would be proceeding quite differently."

The mission had been intelligence gathering.  The Baron worked that out.  If he had destroyed the Demon, then the officer taken prisoner would have been lost. The death of a military unit and the destruction of that hangar would have been for nothing.  The conversation would, indeed, be proceeding differently, as the Princess would have issued an execution notice.  Then he would have had to destroy the entire Arian incursion.  His ship was in need of repair, so the process would have been lengthy and would have delayed his ultimate objective.

"The Duke is aboard, then?" While he couldn't erase the anger from his voice, he could tone it back.

Pleasure swept over her face.  "You've a solid mind, Baron.  No one has yet been told the details of the mission.  What gave it away?"

"You found a way to kill that bastard, Grim.  He died with the Duke's sword in his hand."

The woman paused, her face becoming passive.  "Walk with me."  She began to move away and the Baron fell in beside her.  "Grim wasn't supposed to die.  The idea was to eliminate the intruders, disable the Demon and board.  The Duke chose a more direct route.  He was captured as a prisoner of war."

"Simple and effective, if dangerous." The Baron stated.  There were no guarantees that the Terrans wouldn't kill the man, outright.  He had taken a chance, rolled the dice of Death and, hopefully, would be rewarded for it.

"That wasn't the main purpose of this incursion in Terran space, Baron."  She turned a corner and the two began a descent into the bowels of the carrier.

"I didn't believe it was, Princess.  This ship isn't equipped for combat.  Those bodies in the hangar were not conditioned for an assault.  Despite a tactical advantage, the hangar's fighter compliment was not utilized, indicating a lack of pilots.  The fact that you survive while the Duke is now a prisoner of war tells me that the intel mission was a secondary objective.  This carrier wasn't meant to return home."  The Baron understood the logistics of sacrificing a command ship.  They weren't fast in production and the resources required to assemble and crew it were valuable and rare in the Arian system.

"For a mere Baron, you miss little. What interest have you in this matter?"  Her condescending tone released the final tumbler in the lock that secured his fury.

The Baron stepped sideways, brought one hand up to her throat and slammed her into the wall, pressing his weight into a forearm barred across her neck. She was a combat Lord, but the suddenness took her off guard.  When she attempted to rip out of his grasp, he pressed harder.  She couldn't wrest herself free, but landed a dozen solid strikes to his face and neck.  If he felt them, he showed no sign of it.  His eyes were wild, the rage inside him burning through his eyes like fire.

"The Demon still flies!" He shouted into her face, spittle flying unchecked.  "These were not warriors, woman!  These were civilians!"  He felt her body begin to sag as she began to succumb to lack of air.  Attacking civilians was below their race's standards.  He could.  He would, because there was no honor in this war for him, but he would not see the Arians lower themselves to his level.

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