The Szuiltan Alliance (The Szuiltan Trilogy)

Free The Szuiltan Alliance (The Szuiltan Trilogy) by Neil Davies

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Authors: Neil Davies
a hangover I'm sure, but nothing he hasn't dealt with before," said Jack, nodding. "He'll be fine."
    Baxter seemed to hesitate, turning to leave and then turning back.
    "We've had further reports that strengthen our belief about Suzex's involvement. Watch your back Mr Holt. He won't hesitate to kill you if he suspects you're working for us."
     
     

Chapter 14
     
    "He refused to follow a direct order!"
    Loadra's voice, full of venom and righteous anger, filled the Controller's private office, echoing off the walls that, even painted a subtle shade of blue, could never quite disguise their true nature as sections of a space cruiser.
    The Controller paused before answering, making the High Priest wait, never letting his eyes stray from that wild glare filled with the certainty and blind confidence of all fanatics. He moulded his voice with a perfection born from years of diplomacy, calming it down, refusing to be drawn into the emotion-filled argument that Loadra seemed intent upon.
    "He refused to kill a child as I understand it." He made a show of studying the report on the desk in front of him, although he had already memorised the contents. "Yes, a child. And where did this direct order come from? I didn't give it."
    "She was no child, she was an Aksian soldier. Lieutenant Lichfield disobeyed an order from his Commander. He is guilty of mutiny ." Loadra spat the word out.
    The Controller leaned backwards in his chair, steepling his fingers thoughtfully in front of his face. When he spoke, his voice was as controlled and calm as before, but the underlying menace was clear.
    "Tell me about the raid, since no one saw fit to tell me beforehand."
    The High Priest hesitated. This reaction to the news of Lichfield's mutinous behaviour unnerved him. The Controller had always held the military forces he commanded in high regard, understood the chain of command, and had never balked at the often difficult decisions of wartime. Perhaps thoughts of peace with the heathen Aksians had clouded his mind, altered his reasoning? He almost spoke like an academic, with their pathetic bleatings about religious freedoms and the right to worship. They also whined of peace and the right of the individual to conscientiously object to the killing that was so necessary.
    When Loadra finally spoke, his voice had calmed to a cold, flat, emotionless drone, but the eyes still burned.
    "An Aksian listening post was detected operating from the Milos system. We are still at war. That listening post posed a threat to your safety. I gave the order to proceed with the mission."
    " You gave the order."
    The Controller pursed his lips, his eyes closing in deep contemplation. He wanted to explode with the anger that boiled inside him, to scream a tirade of abuse at this religious fanatic who would jeopardise the future of a whole planet for his own personal hatred of the Aksians, but he knew enough about the man to realise that a confrontation at this time would do nothing but increase his fervour, deepen his hatred. The Controller was already aware that Loadra disliked him personally and despaired of him spiritually, but at this point the High Priest still respected his leadership. There were times when Loadra balanced precariously on the edge of overt hatred and dissent, but his inbred loyalty and powerful belief in the rightness of Earth's Larnian faith held him in line. The Controller did not want to push him too far at such a delicate time.
    "Loadra, my old friend." The Controller's voice was smooth and tinged with sadness, but the words tasted bitter in his mouth. "I know you acted in the way you thought best, and I appreciate that you had my safety in mind, but this time you were wrong. We are on our way to sign an historic peace treaty with our age-old enemies, the Aksians. We have agreed with them to suspend all hostilities in the time leading up to that treaty. Your actions have broken that agreement, perhaps even threatened the whole process. You

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