“I am a man of my word,” Varouforos interrupted. “I said that I would make you sign. There will be peace. It will come either by your signature, or by the death of your host. The choice is yours.”
Basil was quiet. After some time, he approached the table and took the pen. He stared at the treaty. After a moment, he signed it, then held out the pen to Varouforos.
Varouforos held up his hand. “Keep it. I have others. Ippocampos, turn on the heat. Send word to Morana that peace has been secured.” The kraken bobbed an affirmative and floated off. Varouforos returned his gaze to the yashcherit patriarch. “Alert your fleet and your men. It is not my desire that more blood should be shed today. Take your people and leave this place. Do not come back.”
Basil watched Varouforos unblinkingly, then looked to the signed treaty, then back to Varouforos. Eventually, he said, “I, too, am a man of my word.” He turned and left.
Morana and his fleet stayed at Proti for another two days while the yashcheritsy gathered their dead and wounded. Their jump ship appeared from its hiding place further outsystem. Their raiders docked. The jump ship’s drives spun up, and in a flash of light, it vanished.
Soon after, Morana left in the same fashion.
Some days later, Varouforos and Long sat across from one another in the meeting room where the Abilan affair had begun. “… and Koliada sustained no damage we cannot repair, given some months,” Long said.
“Excellent. We are owed some yard time at Sparta. Perhaps we will see if we can’t speed things along,” Varouforos replied. He leaned back and looked out the window over Long’s shoulder, taking in the swirling blues and whites of jump space.
Long cleared her throat. “Why us, do you suppose?”
Varouforos raised his eyebrows. “I can only speculate.”
Leaning forward, Varouforos replied, “We are humans. Humans cheat.” Long’s brow furrowed, so he went on. “We aren’t the fastest, the strongest, or the smartest of the peoples of the galaxy, nor are we the wisest, most numerous, or most respected. We cannot compete on the fields others would choose for us. Instead, we must be sly, and we must be persistent. When we prepare for battle, we choose our time and place with care, and once we have chosen, we fight until we win.”
“If the enemy fleet is stronger than ours, we must capture the false patriarch?”
“Precisely so,” Varouforos replied. “Ippocampos knew that we would find a path to peace for its people, and that once we started down it, we would not stop until we had reached its end.”
“There are worse things to be known for,” Long mused.
“Indeed,” Varouforos laughed. “Humans. We finish the job.”