Chapter 26

Traci Ganner accompanied Emperor Pearson aboard his new dreadnought flagship, Njord. It felt odd to take this awkward step to help secure the change of government with a new head of state. The crew of Njord had provided him with a royal guard that would not leave his side until he returned to Earth to be crowned. He called Traci into his day cabin for their final discussion.

 “Can I assume that you will also turn over the new torpedo technology to the Empire, so that we may be at parity?” he asked as they stepped into the flagship’s day cabin. His marine escort remained in the room with them.

“I’m afraid you expended our last two torpedoes against Thor. We plan to dismantle the launchers, since we have no way of crafting additional gravity-fed torpedoes. But, in order to secure our own Orion sovereignty, we are keeping the advanced shielding,” Traci said. “I am truly sorry for your loss of Thor’s officers and crew. We both knew friends there.”

“I owe you a great debt for what you have done for me, and for the Empire,” he said, switching topics. “You have opened my eyes to what happens when a single man rules absolutely.”

“I’m glad you have been able to see inside to who you really are,” she said. “I can only hope that our two peoples can live in peace.”

 “Yes, about that,” Scott said uncomfortably. “I’m afraid we still have an outstanding warrant for your capture.”

Traci looked at him with those same frost blue eyes he had grown to know and respect over the last several months. So much fire and compassion, but mixed with a strange misery and weariness.

“Now that you know that I am not responsible for the death of the crew of Corsair.”

“Yes, and that will weigh heavily in your favor. But you are ultimately responsible for the death of thousands of Terran citizens. You are also charged with treason to the crown.”

Traci leaned forward in her chair. She was still fearless, even now. “Your majesty, you know that you have the power to make great changes among your people. You can still enlist our help to build a congress of worlds that can help govern all peoples with an even hand.”

“And yet, the Empire is not yet ready for such a provocative step. I have given my word that a parliament will be created, and it will be made up of the people, not just the nobility. I will bend all my will to that task. Even that step alone will take effort and time. But we are talking about you.”

They both stared at each other for a long moment, each weighing their own thoughts and arguments. Scott leaned back heavily in his chair.

“Traci, you must understand. In order for the Empire to heal and have any chance a good relations with Orion in the future, we must all submit to the rule of law. You are an icon of hatred to my people. If I let you go, I will be seen as weak and hypocritical; there will always be an element looking to see if I rule by might alone or by virtue. I must judge you, not as the man whom you helped come to power, but as the emperor of law, and I must represent true, blind justice.”

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