". . . Yukariah Heap announced today that all ties with CN Leonis are now broken, and has ordered all noncitizens out of the Leonian bases in Metropolitan Areas one, three, and four. A Vote is expected later this week to make these announcements official."
A shaking Centaurian hand brushed the display's pause key.
Mercurand shot out of the Sirius hyper hole and zoomed toward the attackers at near-relativistic speed. "Defense Force control, this is Mercurand," Ken beamed his announcement to the startled Gate Guard. "We're with you. And we've got a little surprise for those Sirian bandits!"
"We split," Alroyjfi said flatly. "Clan Zorra just got too big. The splitters are now Clan Zoor(l)i(t)i."
"Was there ..." Torra made itself say the words, "Was there a name dispute?"
Silently, Alroyjfi held one tentacle-finger skyward in assent.
"Oh no ..." Torra mumbled, barely audible.
"It was pretty bad," Alroyjfi said. "Fichatra really wanted to keep the Zorra homestead.
"Tratlo died earlier this year," Kurkedti told it somberly.
Torra covered its eyes with its hands.
"Chairholder," Ken said with some trepidation, "I'd like to be at Mercurand's controls again for this mission."
Yukariah Heap made an odd grunting/shrugging gesture, whose nuances were lost on a human observer. "You certainly have more experience than anyone as Mercurand's Navigator. And you're the only one with any practical experience maneuvering in limbo. But you understand that I can't have a lowly captain as the commanding officer on such an important mission."
Ken looked hurt. "You're ... picking a new mission C.O.?"
"Not exactly," the Chairholder said, and picked up a small hinged box from its desk. It flipped the box open with a casual flick of one tentacle-finger. Ken's eyes widened. A pair of gold oak-leaf pins gleamed from inside it.
"Technically, your approval went through before we even got confirmation that you'd survived the trip to Sol space," Yukariah said, "But I wanted to give this to you in person. Congratulations, Major Tractor."
Ken blinked in astonishment as he took the box into his own hand. Then, his mouth widened into a smile. "And to think, it only took me ten years to get this promotion."
One of Torra's eyes fixed on Ken's collar, and the gold-hued oakleaf pinned there. "They promoted you to Major!"
Ken positively beamed. "Yep! So where's your new insignia? I'm betting they've made you at least a Captain by now."
Torra rotated its torso slightly until one of its shoulders pointed straight at the new Major. The arm band sported just one lone silvery bar, with a slight bluish tint to make it stand out to Centaurian eyes. "Nope. I'm still a Lieutenant."
Ken's eyes bulged wide. "What?! After ten years? After we saved their bacon from the Sirians?"
"I killed my commanding officer," Torra explained. "Until I'm officially exonnerated of any and all wrongdoing, all pending promotions are on hold."
And just like that, the Pentagon War was over.
The Pentagon War is continued in chapter 17.
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