"You have nothing to prove."
The words hung in the air, causing D'deridex i-Mheissan tr'Irrhaimehn to frown slightly. He continued to don the powered armor as he sought the proper response to S'enrae's assertion. From where she lounged on his bed, his new lover watched him as he dressed. A small part of his ego allowed him to imagine that it was concern for his life that glittered in her eyes, not worry for her new station.
"On the contrary, I have everything to prove," he declared. Turning to face her, he made it a point to look into her eyes. The urge to let his gaze roam down her nude form was quite difficult to suppress. "I am still new to my rank and position. Most of my officers distrust me and envy my rapid rise." As he began securing the cuirass, she rose and approached to assist; his breath caught as she was momentarily bathed in a halo of light. D'deridex swallowed; she was entirely too attractive for his state of mind. He needed to focus on the here and now, not his base instincts. "If I am to accomplish my goals, I must earn their respect." He did not add that he trusted no one to speak to the Xin'di in his stead.
"Male foolishness," S'enrae murmured. She circled him, eyes examining the armor. "Where do I fit in this master plan of yours?" she asked. Her eyes bored into his.
"I haven't decided yet," he replied with a smirk.
Before she could reply, the ambient sounds of the Vastagor changed, and D'deridex's amusement faded. They had arrived. It had taken nearly four dhaei to get here, with his chief engineer complaining the entire time about the speed needed, but they were finally here.
"You should get dressed," D'deridex said as he turned away. To his surprise, S'enrae caught his arm and forced him to face her again. This time, he could easily see concern on her face.
"If you die," she started, and D'deridex placed two fingers upon her lips to silence her. He did not know if she was truly concerned about him or merely an exceptional actress; in the end, he allowed himself to think that it was the former.
"I will not," he stated firmly before heading for the door. As befit his station, he paid no attention to the two Reman bodyguards that stood watch inside his cabin. They were completely loyal to him, and most of the time, he was barely even aware of their presence.
His first officer gave him a tight-lipped nod when he entered the command-executive center. There was no love lost between them, and D'deridex knew that Arrain L'haen was behind the two assassination attempts that had already been made on the commander's life. The first had been made within dierha of the Vastagor's departure from the Convocation of Commanders; a pair of centurions had gambled upon D'deridex being alone and unarmed while in his personal quarters.
He had been neither.
In retrospect, D'deridex had realized that it had been a tactical error to simply dispose of the two centurions without fanfare or announcement. He had presumed that their silent disappearance would have been warning enough, but the second attempt on his life proved that to be an error in judgment. It was fortunate that S'enrae had been present at the time, as the poison that one of the cooks had laced his food with had caused an immediate cardiac seizure; coming on the heels of his sated mating cycle, the poison had taken advantage of his weakened state. According to S'enrae, he had died twice while she tried to revive him.
This time, he had not allowed sentiment to cloud his judgment. He had acted swiftly and completely without mercy; three of the four cooks had been killed during the purge, and two additional centurions had been executed by airlock. There had been no official ties linking Arrain L'haen to the assassins, but the circumstantial evidence was overwhelming, and D'deridex had acted. The poison that he had fed to L'haen was a binary one, and the first officer had been made quite aware of the terminal consequences of a third attempt on D'deridex's life.
"We are now entering orbit," L'haen announced stiffly. "Communications has already been made with planetary defense. They are awaiting your arrival."
"I trust the trip will be a smooth one," D'deridex said, his expression blank. "It would be ... unfortunate if there were some form of miscommunication that led to an incident." L'haen frowned darkly.
"There will be no incident, Daise'Erei'Riov," he replied. "This I swear."
"Good." D'deridex made no further comment as he strode from the command-executive center.
The trip planetside was uneventful, and gave D'deridex an opportunity to review communication intercepts from the humans. His mood darkened as he studied their reaction to the Hnoiyika's attack on the Terran homeworld. Exactly as he had predicted, the humans were rallying together, and were now united where they had once been divided. Chulak was a fool, he decided as he set aside the data-slate, and would likely look at the entire excursion as a success.
With the slightest of bumps, the shuttle came to a stop on the designated landing platform, and D'deridex forced himself to relax. He pulled on the concealing helmet, blinking quickly as the laser pulses within clicked on. The integrated heads-up display snapped alive as the lasers beamed the information directly onto the lenses of his eyes, and he spent a long moment examining the data that appeared before him. Satisfied that everything was in working order, he strode to the hatch of the shuttle, flanked by the everpresent Reman guards.
The Reptilian Xin'di that was waiting for him outside the shuttle was indistinguishable from the others of his species, and D'deridex wondered if they used some sense other than sight to tell one another apart. It was wearing the ridiculous-looking uniform that he had seen all other Reptilians wear, but the metal rings were bronze instead of silver. He wondered if that had some meaning.
"I was expecting Admiral Valdore," the Reptilian said as D'deridex approached him. The integrated translator within the helmet appeared to function without problem.
"The admiral is no more," D'deridex replied, offering a data-slate with his credentials upon it. "I am his replacement." For a long moment, the Reptilian studied the device, prompting D'deridex to wonder if perhaps this was a mistake. It should not take this long to verify the information that was plain. "Is there a problem?" he asked, grateful for the voice modulators on the helmet that robbed his words of emotion.
"No," the Reptilian replied as it handed the data-slate back. "Certain changes in protocol have occurred since the war began." It spoke matter-of-factly about the ongoing civil strife between the Xin'di, evidently presuming that D'deridex was already aware of those facts. He nodded in understanding.
"It is unfortunate," he said, "that your Arboreal and Primate brothers do not recognize your superiority."
"They have always been difficult," the Reptilian groused. It studied D'deridex for another long moment, clearly attempting to see past the opaque faceplate. "Your communique indicated that your need was urgent. How may we assist our ally?"
"My government," D'deridex stated calmly, "desires to reopen negotiations for your matter transmission device. We are willing to provide you with military assistance in your war."
"How is this urgent?" the Reptilian demanded, almost angrily. Behind him, D'deridex could sense the two Remans tensing at the Xin'di's body language.
"There are two other things that we are interested in," he revealed. "One is a trivial matter, barely worth mentioning, but the other ... we wish the technical schematics for the weapon that you deployed against the humans." He crossed his arms. "We wish to construct one of our own."
Watch for Endeavour: Medea coming soon...