A Hotly Disputed Prize: @Di_Rossi

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A Hotly Disputed Prize

by Di_Rossi


South Georgia Island, 273 BC

"Hasn't the Babylonian ambassador arrived yet?" asked Seti, drawing his leopard cloak closer as he peered out into the darkness. "I'm freezing."

The Egyptian ship was tied to a barely-functioning bollard but that was enough to keep it from drifting away from the coast of the cold, uninhabited island to where the other ships lay at anchor.

Amunet held up the round lamp of glowing blue plasma and swung it a few times. Off to the left, another blue plasma lamp answered.

"No, no sign of them yet."

Seti shook his head, the gold beads of his long, goat-hair wig gliding coldly across his cheek. "And this metal is important enough to risk a diplomatic incident? I want to be sure of exactly what I'm getting into." He shot the other man on the deck of the ship a stern look.

"The metal, as you call it," said Amunet irritably, "are stars fallen to Earth." After a moment, he added. "Similar to the one in the temple at Bekumen."

That made Seti's eyebrows rise. The Star of Bekumen was famous, a holy stone that cured illnesses and could make things move, levitate, or even speak on their own. It was said to have been a gift from the Sky herself.

"And the Babylonians followed the stars here, now claiming the territory where they landed?"

"With our sun-turbine fleet on their heels. Pharaoh has great respect for their ability to chase stars. And these stars he wants. At all costs."

"As well as every High Priest in Egypt," snorted Seti.

Amunet waved the plasma lamp again; this time causing small fingers of light to slide across the casing as if they were stroking the inside of the smooth glass. After a few moments, the answering signal came.

Lowering the lamp, Amunet said, "Not the priests, the Army."

"Army?"

"The Star of Bekumen has other, more closely guarded, talents. One of them being that it can propel chariots forward without the use of horses."

A cold breeze ruffled the water beneath them and rocked the ship slightly. Seti stared at the illuminated side of Amunet's hawk-sharp face.

"Imagine," Amunet said quietly, as if fearing eavesdroppers even here. "An entire fleet of self-propelling chariots that can be steered mentally. The Star is too large to be moved for experiments, but smaller versions?"

Seti nodded slowly. "That's why I've been dragged to this frozen wasteland even the gods don't know about to negotiate."

"And why we can't fail. We need this territory. And -- "

In the distance, a plasma lamp swung several times in a complicated pattern.

"The Babylonians've been spotted." Amunet swung his own lamp in reply. "Ready?"

"Of course. I'm the best negotiator the Royal Court has." Seti grinned, adjusting his leopard skin.

"I don't think you quite understand the situation," said Amunet, lowering his lamp. "You're here for the sweet words, and I'm here for the knife when they fail."

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