Varouforos opened his eyes, drawing his laser pistol. He relaxed. Only he and Ippocampos had come through. The reactive translocator clipped to his belt hummed and ticked as it cooled down. It would be of no further use for an hour or two while it refilled its capacitors.
It had dropped them into a vast chamber, full of machinery, as far as Varouforos could see. He could discern neither the source of the dim light, nor the purpose of the mechanisms around them. They pounded a slow rhythm, which nearly covered the strange sounds emanating from Ippocampos’ translation box.
Eventually it found its words. “What did you do?” it asked.
“Saved our lives, I believe,” Varouforos replied. “I suppose I owe Archigos five hundred drachmas.”
“One of my cruiser karaviarchoi. I expect he will be putting in an appearance shortly.”
“You had more ships? Why were they not here?”
Varouforos showed half a smile. “To tell the truth, I had hoped by feigning weakness to goad them to make their play.”
Ippocampos’ translation box made an alarmed squawk. “You don’t mean to fight them, do you?”
“I do.” Varouforos held up his hand to forestall any protest. “I was hired to guarantee peace between your Confederation and these yashcheritsy. This is still my objective, but you cannot ignore the facts. They attacked us. Peace is not their aim today. They must be made to change their minds.”
“We do not want another war.”
“Peace cannot be won except by the sword and the spear,” Varouforos replied. “You have shown them by your former war that you will fight, if need be. To me, their actions smell of desperation. We may yet find peace through victory here and now.” Ippocampos bobbed silently in the air currents from the ventilators. Varouforos took that as assent. Waving to encompass the whole space, he asked, “What is this place?”
Ippocampos raised two opposing tentacles in a reasonable facsimile of a shrug. “Machinery deck. Power generators, communications hubs, and environmental controls. Have we gone very far?”
“Some hundreds of paces at the very most,” Varouforos said.
“Then this deck likely controls Spire Park.”
Varouforos smiled. “What good fortune. Find the environmental controls. Turn off the heat, and see that it stays that way until I say so.”