Previous Page Next Page

UTC:       Local:

Home Page Index Page

The Course of Empire: Prologue

       Last updated: Sunday, June 8, 2003 01:00 EDT



    "The Pluthrak scion has left Marit An, Preceptor. He should be arriving on Terra soon."

    The Bond of Ebezon's strategist did not look away from the holo tank which, at the moment, was depicting the latest known activities of the Ekhat in Markau sector. "Send a courier to Terra then, Tura. Inform our agents that it is beginning."

    "Finally," she said.

    He turned and studied her. The young Pleniary-Superior's posture was excellent, the gestures and stance subtle and subdued in the manner that the Bond preferred in its private discourse. In public, of course, Harriers were expected to maintain a completely neutral posture at all times. Tura had risen quickly in the ranks of the Bond. The Preceptor had great hopes for her; indeed, had selected her for this assignment with the specific aim of furthering her training. Not the least of the responsibilities of the Strategy Circle was training its own replacements for the time when its existing members grew too old to serve.

    "Do I detect a trace of amusement in the lay of your ears?" He waggled his own whiskers with understated humor.

    "Not amusement, exactly. Call it... exasperated rueful-patience."

    The Preceptor tried to summon up an image of that combination. It could be done, by a master movement stylist, but it would be an exceedingly difficult tripartite posture. The Preceptor's old bones almost ached at the thought.

    "Finally, indeed," he murmured. "Twenty years, it has taken us."

    The Pleniary-Superior seemed a bit confused, and the Preceptor realized he had lapsed into a humanism again. He did that often, of late. Not surprising, of course, as long as he had studied the species.

    "A 'year,' Tura, refers to a Terran orbital cycle."

    "Ah." She did the calculation in her mind. It was not easy. Translating the particulate human notions of time into Jao concepts was always difficult. "A very long time."

    The Pleniary-Superior's eyes moved to the holo tank. It was still showing the reported Ekhat movements, but, not long since, she had seen the image of a young Pluthrak there. The same scion who was even now on his way to Terra. The Preceptor had spent much time, studying that face.

    "Do you think he can do it?" she asked.

    The Preceptor shifted into a very subtle version of the tripartite posture best-attempt coupled with uncertainty. It was very elegantly done, as always.

    "There is no way to know. We can only create the situation, which we have done. There is always the chance he will shrink from the task—and, if he doesn't, the impossibility of knowing in advance what, exactly, he will create as well as destroy. Such is the nature of strategy, Tura. The element of unpredictability is inherent to its working."

    "Yes, Preceptor," she said respectfully, and left.



    Just before entering the doorfield, Tura paused for a moment and looked back at the Preceptor. He was turned away from her now, back to studying the holo tank.

    There was fondness in her eyes, as well as deep respect. The old Preceptor was a splendid commander, and in all respects. The greatest of the Bond's strategists, even if, officially, only one of five members of the Strategy Circle. But, also, someone who invariably treated his subordinates with courtesy and dignity.

    Tura had no doubt at all he would order her death in a moment, if he thought it necessary. The Preceptor was perhaps the most ruthless Jao in existence. But that knowledge only brought further admiration. If he found it necessary to do so, she was quite sure he would be right.



    As she passed through the doorfield, she sternly corrected herself, remembering one of the Preceptor's maxims.

    He would probably be right. Strategy did not deal in absolutes.

Home Page Index Page




Previous Page Next Page

Page Counter Image