Pandora 0.14

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It took a while to relay what had happened to Captain Chui; I wanted to be very clear that I didn't hold any animosity against the Psittacans over the misunderstanding. (Even if my lower lip still throbbed slightly.) Once we were clear on the details and I knew what needed to be said, I started bracing myself. We'd made a good enough impression on the Psittacans that they gave us the benefit of the doubt, but how would they react to the captain's request?

"I'll try my best," I told her, glancing across the way to Completes The Whole's platform.

"That's all I ask," Captain Chui said. "Though from everything you've told me, he sounds like a sensible fellow."

"He gave me the chance to defend us," I agreed. "Many others wouldn't. I'll report back shortly with his answer."

"Very good. Ms. Baranka? I wish to speak to you in private later."

Christa flushed and looked away.

"As for you, Ms. Corelel, I'd like just a few more moments of your time."

"Yes, Captain?"

"I understand this may be difficult for you," Captain Chui said, switching to subvocal, "but you're going to have to learn to reprimand your team members if they step out of line. Christa should not have attempted to contact me without your say-so."

"Oh, um..." My cheeks began to heat and I half-turned, not wanting anyone else to see the expression on my face. "I...she was just doing what she thought was right."

"She was undermining your authority, and I know you know it. Had you been incapacitated in some way it would be a different story, but you were not."

"I..." What could I even say to that?

"I will teach you to be assertive, Xandri Corelel, if it's the last thing I do," Captain Chui swore. "Now, please relay my request to Completes The Whole. We can talk more later."

I nodded, even though she couldn't see it, and unfolded my legs with a groan. The others watched me closely, Christa with an air of suspicion; I said nothing, making a big deal of standing up and stretching out. Let her stew, I told myself. What's important right now is getting Completes The Whole to agree.

Though I tried to focus on the task at hand, a small voice whispered in my mind: Should you really trust her so easily? So many suspicions flooded mind. What if this was what she wanted? What if she'd hired the Titans specifically to strengthen our offer for the Psittacans to join the Alliance? Or worse? But...I just don't get that impression. Why drag me into this if that was her intention? Of course, people had dragged me into unexpected things before. And betrayed me in the process. But even if I hadn't trusted Captain Chui, I was still in far too deep to back out now.

As we approached Completes The Whole's platform again, the waiting Psittacans parted to let us through. Their chief stopped his pacing and turned to look at us.


I swallowed hard, trying to wet my dry mouth. "Our leader has some requests. She—she wishes to come here herself, so she can speak to you about this matter face-to-face. She swears the Titans are not with us."

Diver muttered something dark and grim, but I couldn't hear it over the rustle of feathers. All around us Psittacans shifted, and I couldn't tell if they were alarmed or curious.

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