I have completed now 35,000 words, and am only about a third of the way done with my plot, if that… it looks as if this one might even end up being longer than TLOC. And I likely, then, won’t finish the entire rough draft before November. But dammit, I’m going to try! And a short excerpt!
Kailash Beldron just stared at me for a few moments more – she had been doing that quite a bit. “Then what is it you suggest, ambassador?” I caught only a hint of contempt and sarcasm in her tone that time; perhaps she was warming up to me.
“Let us take our own shuttle in. We will follow.”
The Terran captain raised an eyebrow. “How is that any safer? Our orbital defenses could still take you out in a second.”
“Thanks for the warning,” I said drily. “We’ll keep that in mind.”
She didn’t express any amusement. “Again, how is that safer? What logic could possibly compel you to want that?”
“We have a very talented pilot,” I replied, referring, of course, to Terethos. “It also would give us more independence, and allow us to leave Earth if things got bad… and to prevent us from being taken as hostages.”
Kailash exhaled in disbelief. “You’re a paranoid little… human being, aren’t you?”
I grinned brightly at her. “That’s right! And look how far that’s gotten me.”
She half-smiled and dipped her head in my direction, conceding my point.
“So I request, then, that we be allowed to use our own shuttle to follow your ship to earth.”
“How long-range is your shuttle? Can it function in deep space and last for that long?”
I turned to Majias, who in turn went into the proper pilot’s room and asked the pilot. He came out a moment later and nodded.
“Yes. We have one that can. So if that is acceptable to you, we should opt to do that.”
She sighed. “The Home Rule won’t be happy.”
I shrugged back. “The Juxtani Congregation won’t be happy if we all die. And frankly, I’m more afraid of death and the ire of the Juxtani Congregation that that will bring than the unhappiness of the Terran Home Rule.”
Kailash smiled crookedly and crossed her arms. “Whose side are you on, ambassador Servidos?”
Sighing, I responded with the answer I had given her before. “No need to view this as a conflict already – that’s a bad way to open negotiations. I am on everyone’s side.” But if it did come to a conflict, which side would I choose? Would I even choose either of them?
She made that cynical half-smile expression that she seemed so fond of and sighed. “Very well. Your shuttle shall follow us – but no weapons. Is that understood?”
I nodded. “Perfectly, captain.”
“Good. You have an hour. The shuttle is to leave your ship then and go to Roland’s vessel to pick him up.”
“Is he bringing anyone with him?” I asked suspiciously.
She shook her head no. “He comes alone.”
Good, I thought. Not too many funny tricks with him, then.
“And then you follow. It’ll be about an hour and a half until we reach local earth space. Once there, a shuttle will detach from our vessel. You are to follow this shuttle into Earth orbit and then through the atmosphere to the Terran Grand Palace. Land next to this shuttle, and wait then for further instructions. Remain as inconspicuous as possible – if your shuttle looks anything like your larger vessel, it will stick out like a sore thumb. If you deviate from this plan you will be blasted into oblivion. Any questions?”
I shook my head. “No, captain.”
“Good. I shall see you soon – in person.”