The orbiting station grew larger as they approached, allowing everyone on the bridge to get a good look at the sheer size of it. Even from a million miles away the facility proved to be both impressive and troubling at the same time to Talia. It left the warrior wondering just how many people did the Cabal move through there to justify something of such magnitude?
Three ships orbited the station, two of which were human, but the third, that was a different story. Many times the size of the Valiant, the stingray shaped vessel brought up old memories as Talia reflected on the past. It seemed that despite the many thousands of years since she’d seen the lizards last, they hadn’t changed the design of the starships.
Stupid of them if you ask me, she thought. Even an idiot can see what the flaw of their design is.
“Ok people,” she said softly, “We just triggered their sensors. Sherri, lock all weapons on the Wraith vessel.”
“Ensign Tyree, jam their communications except for ship to ship.”
“Talia, we have an incoming message from the Wraith,” Tyree said.
“This should be interesting. On screen.”
“Define ‘interesting,’” Claudio said.
“Just wait and see.”
The image of a large reptile appeared on the screen. It had a long, thin head that curved from front to rear and then joined into a thick, muscular neck. Two rows of razor sharp teeth gleamed when it opened its mouth to speak.
“Who dares enter Wraith space?” It demanded.
“Hmm, good question, but you know the better one is who are you? And why you’re here.”
“I am Kreni Rani of the Wraith Empire and why have you entered Wraith space?”
“And that blather is supposed to impress me?”
“We have claimed this sector, primate.”
“I don’t like your face either. But if memory serves me correctly, this is human territory.”
“So, when did you lot reach this side of the galaxy?”
“When did humans start building Gahl critok?”
Talia raised an eyebrow at Rani’s calling the Valiant ‘shit.’ “About the time your people became shkrik.”
“How dare you call me a coward!”
“Are you sure you want to do that?” Robertson whispered in her ear.
“So Rani, what’s so important that your people would send a warrior from the Court? Aren’t you slumming?”
The black slits in Rani’s yellow eyes narrowed. “I serve the Empire, human.”
“Hmm,” she shook her head. “Now, Rani, did I say I was human?”
“Who are you?”
“The last of the Gahl, and I know your people quite well,”
“Really, hmm, that’s funny even from a lizard ‘cause you can see me looking at you.”
“Talia,” Terri said, “the transport’s broken moorings and powering up.”
“Rani, you can’t be stupid enough to think an unarmed transport can stand up to me? Or, have your people lost what little brains you had over the years? Why don’t you grow some-”
“You will not stop us,” Rani said, “I serve the Empire and will die to stop you!”
“I am talking!”
All activity on the bridge ceased as everyone looked at Talia. No one had seen her angry before or believed that she’d be willing to resort to a combination of arrogance and temper to get her point across. What they thought didn’t matter to the warrior though because unless the humans could see and know what she did, they didn’t have a clue about what type of being they were dealing with.
“Sherri, lock all weapons on the target.” Talia said.
“Rani, tell me this,” Talia said. “Who’s your number one enemy?”
“Talia De’Zahna, but she’s been dead for millennium.”
“And still marked for death, how interesting.”
“She did something to us that will never be forgiven.”
“Oh, you mean that little interdiction of yours? All it seemed to accomplish was make you more arrogant and a lot stupider.”
“How would you know?”
“Cheikra you guys are dense. Because, moron, I’m the one who got you interdicted.”
The black slits grew larger. “Impossible, De’Zahna’s dead!”
She shrugged. “Well now, that’s what you get for thinking. You still haven’t answered my question. What are you doing in human space?”
“This is…our space, De’Zahna! And you can’t take it from us!”
“I can’t? Interesting choice of words.”
“What’s your one ship against our fleet?”
“Is that fear I hear? Never known a lizard to be afraid on anything.”
“I’m not afraid!”
“Is that so? Why’s your voice shaking? Oh, that’s right, you’re the Wraith, and no one can defeat you!”
“I’m going to blow you to atoms!”
“Oh, dear, I seem to have struck a nerve. You’re going to destroy me with what? An unarmed transport?”
“It’ll still kill you.”
“And yourself too, moron. How many humans aboard that ship?”
“Twenty thousand, De’Zahna! You want them to die?”
“Their lives are forfeit anyway,” she ignored Robertson’s stare. “You’re going to ram my ship, killing everyone. If I blow you to atoms, then they die. You think I’m too stupid to know how you’re playing the game, Rani?”
“Talia,” Terri said, “The transport has broken orbit.”
“My, my, MY, it seems that even a Warrior of the Council is a moron after all. Rani, what do you think you’ll accomplish?”
“I’ll send you to Tvonak, De’Zahna!”
“You’re going to send me to hell? Not today, my cold blooded friend.”
“Sherri, fire a warning shot.”
“Now, are we going to sit here and play a game of chicken? Rani, listen to the shaking in your voice. Have you become a coward? I expected more from a warrior.”
Robertson and Reyes probably hated her for getting the colonists killed, but they didn’t understand the lizard’s mentality. Surrender wasn’t in their vocabulary, and a Warrior of the Council definitely wouldn’t.
“Guns, blow that ship.”
Blue beams of death raced across space, touched the transport and it disappeared in a blinding flash of light.
“You killed those people!” Claudio snapped.
“Yes, I did.”
“We were supposed to save them!”
“They were dead already.”
“You don’t know that!”
“‘I don’t know that.’ What am I supposed to ‘know’? The lizards are far more barbaric than even you sorry lot! But what the hell, I don’t ‘know’ anything!”
“Spoken like a true warrior! Arrogant to a fault.”
“Arrogant? You want to lecture me on arrogance? You people are stupid enough to get into bed with the Wraith and you’re going to try to tell me I don’t know what I’m talking about? Listen up, Claudio; those people were dead no matter what I did. Rani wouldn’t have let them live! The Wraith doesn’t want anyone to know they’re smuggling slaves, something highly frowned upon, so they’d space the humans in a heartbeat to keep their dirty little secret.”
“Was I playing a game that I already lost? Welcome to reality, Claudio. Not every battle you go into is winnable! I should know I died in several of them!”
“You’re a cold hearted woman,” Claudio said.
“If you say so.”
She turned and walked across the bridge and then down the stairway to her quarters.