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Bunco sat at Banderon's desk and calmly explained the situation to the man. When he finished, the man slowly nodded his head, the black hair falling in tufts to the floor.

"Your first mistake was playing her game." The disfigured man said. The skin on his face looked like wax that had melted down the side of a candle. He wore a tattered black Hussar's uniform with a braided blood red collar. "If you desire her destruction, then destroy her and be done with it."

Bunco said, "I have tried to be subtle and used every resource to keep us out of the spotlight. I am at the end of my rope. "

The disfigured man smiled a wide, crooked smile with his broken, black teeth. Green pus dripped from the corner of his mouth. "I knew that the moment you called me."

"What do you suggest?"

"You are dealing with someone smarter than your entire group, allied with the only real power left in this universe."

"That's why you're here," Bunco said. "I want you to kill her and destroy that cursed drydock."

Banderon entered the office, and the two looked at him. He shivered and quickly moved to the wall. "Queyn Loi!"

The disfigured man smiled.

"This is my aide, Banderon." Bunco said. He looked to Banderon. "Queyn Loi is going to solve our little problem."

Banderon looked at Bunco. "You're making a deal with the Azarians?!"

"We are out of options," Bunco said.

Banderon glared at Bunco more out of disbelief and shock than anger. "The Keityr Reih destroyed a half-dozen worlds and almost destroyed Scramblon. They've killed billions of people; it's why the Coalition of Forces was formed in the first place!"

"That was then," Bunco said. "Times are different now."

Banderon glared at him. "This is treason. You can't!"

"He already has." Queyn Loi said. He raised his decaying hands and steepled them under his chin. "Don't worry, the Keityr Reih will aid you, and our price is well within reason."

Banderon said, "What do you want?"

"We," Queyn stressed. "We... want the Restless raised."

"How will that help you against the Pride?" Bunco said. "Wasn't it the Pride that scuttled your Ionclad Battleship?"

"It was, and it did," Queyn said. He leaned forward towards Bunco. "The Pride is a very powerful vessel, but I heard it was used recently to foil what sounded like a clever plan. Word of advice Mister Bunco, if you want someone killed, just kill them. It really is that simple."

"I'll remember that," Bunco said. "So why can't she use the Pride?"

"It overheats rapidly and requires several days of cooling down to reactivate. If you hurry with my demands, I can honor your request, before the Steel Tiger finds out."

Bunco looked to Banderon.

Banderon said, "You're making a deal with the devil, Bunco."

"Is he?" Queyn said. He turned towards Banderon and gave him a curious look. "Are you prepared to repel JG Hull when she comes here?" Queyn said. He looked to Bunco. "You just tried to kill her. She won't let that lay."

Bunco said, "She's just an engineer, we got Hussars and guns. She comes here, and we'll bury her in the front yard."

Queyn leaned over and stared into Bunco's eyes with his yellow ones. "She's a Weaponsmith. A real Weaponsmith."

Bunco blinked and sat back. "That's impossible, they're all dead."

"Except for her," Queyn said. He let each of those words hang in the air for a long moment. He continued, "So make a choice, Bunco. You want to sit here and wait for her to come kill you or do you want to kill her first?"

Bunco's decision was made without a second thought. He extended a hand to Queyn. "We have a deal."

Queyn smiled and gripped Bunco's. The handshake made a soft, squishing sound.

Banderon stared in horror.

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