Ippocampos, however, presented Varouforos with a different problem. The alien was influential in its government—the presiding member of some ruling council or another. As such, it had the money. Scads of it, in point of fact. More than even Varouforos ordinarily charged, especially given that what Ippocampos did not bring to the table was a job. Or, at least, not a job for Varouforos and his mercenaries.
The kraken represented a state which called itself the Confederation of Independent Worlds, spread across two dozen star systems populated mainly by kraken and athati just beyond the Imperial border. Some two and a half years earlier, a party of yashcherit raiders had swept across the galactic north, conquering the Confederation and installing their leader as a false Orthodox Patriarch. Varouforos glanced at a portrait hanging on one of the pillars, just below the Autokrator’s. He doubted the news had ever reached old Patriarch Agapios, back on Homeworld.
That was ordinarily where Varouforos would sweep in, taking command of the scattered forces of the government in exile, leading them back to their home, and delivering them to a glorious victory. In this instance, however, the Confederation had managed on its own. The war was won. All that remained was for some representative of the Confederation to sign a piece of paper purporting to guarantee the yashcheritsy would not return, as though it had some strength on its own not backed by force of arms.
Through the psionic translation skepsis box clipped to one of its tentacles, Ippocampos repeated, “We would hire you as our representative at the treaty signing.”
“Again, I do not understand where I come in.”
Ippocampos tapped on its translation box with a tentacle. “Is this thing working?”
Varouforos stifled an exasperated sigh and plastered on a fake smile. “I understand what you want,” he said. “I do not understand why you want me. I am not known for diplomacy.”
“But you are well-known.” The alien waved a tentacle as it spoke, in a fashion Varouforos found almost human. “The yashcheritsy prefer to deal face-to-face.” It gestured to itself. “In a distressingly literal sense. We are not suitably equipped.”
Varouforos canted his head, amused. “You want to hire my face?”
“It is familiar in this part of the galaxy, and will lend gravity to the proceedings,” the kraken said. It hurried to add, “We wish to hire your fleet as well.”
“Of course,” Varouforos replied. “Very well. It is not my ordinary line of work, but I will do it. Fair warning: I do not see it being very difficult, but my rate stays the same.”
“This is acceptable.”
Varouforos raised an eyebrow, then pressed a button on the table in front of him. “Mr. Gray!”
A brown-haired man of average height entered through the door behind Varouforos. “Yes, Navarch?”
“Draw up an agreement for our client here.”