Korval's Game

Korval's Game by Steve Miller, Sharon Lee Read Free Book Online

Book: Korval's Game by Steve Miller, Sharon Lee Read Free Book Online
Authors: Steve Miller, Sharon Lee
Tags: Fiction, General, Science-Fiction, adventure, Space Opera
to attention, as if he were a corps captain facing another, and half-sketched a salute.
    “It is your campaign, sir.”
    “ Win Den .” This time his delm’s voice could not be ignored. She moved her hand. “I am told that this lady is Miri Robertson Tiazan.”
    Miri came to her feet and bowed into those amused brown eyes.
    “Well, and why not?” said the old gentleman, returning the bow with a certain flair.
    “Lady yos’Phelium,” Val Con murmured in the room’s sudden stillness and tel’Vosti straightened with a laugh.
    “Aha! A man who wishes to be absolute of his assets! My felicitations, sir! Perhaps you are not so poor a player of the game as you would have me believe.” He glanced back at Miri.
    “You are a soldier?” he asked, in the almost-friendly mode of Comrade.
    “I was,” Miri said, allowing him the mode, though not without a few mental reservations. “I retired a year or two ago.”
    “Indeed? At what rank?”
    She eyed him warily, wondering where this line of questioning was going; wondering, with a sudden spurt of panic, if he was trying to figure her melant’i and if it was going to come up to par. “Master sergeant.”
    “Master sergeant.” He said it like a caress. “And your age is?”
    “Twenty-eight Standards.” She considered him, the lurking amusement, the straight shoulders, the cane, the mane of pinkish hair. “More or less.”
    He laughed and glanced at Emrith Tiazan, who stood, grim-faced and silent, near the desk.
    “So you tell me you retired two years ago, with the rank of master sergeant. A private troop, perhaps? Industrial?”
    “No,” Miri had to tell him, against a building wave of dread. “Mercenary unit.” She mustered enough nerve to glare into his perpetual amusement. “I was with the Gyrfalks before I retired. I began in Lizardi’s Lunatics, which is how I came to be a sergeant in the first place. We got into a spot of trouble, command-chain broke down . . .”
    “So you were made field sergeant.” tel’Vosti tipped his head. “But your rank was upheld, once the—trouble—was past. And the Gyrfalks raised the stake by a star.”
    Suddenly, amazingly, he bowed. “A Master of mercenary sergeants by the time you attained twenty-five Standards! A significant feat, Lady yos’Phelium, for I have seen the Gyrfalks in action. Their conduct is always professional and they are most resourceful. Their services do not come cheap—am I correct, Emrith?—but they are worth their weight in cantra, each of them. Korval does well to guard his assets.”
    The door clicked, and opened to admit the wide-eyed doorman, barely seen behind the flat crate he carried against his chest. After him came a stern dark-haired woman in a crisp coverall: the senior med tech.
    “Great,” Miri whispered to Val Con, as tel’Vosti and the delm turned away to deal with the new arrivals. “Now maybe we can get this over and get outta here.”
    ***
    The crate had been placed against the desk, and the blue silk drawn away. Emrith Tiazan knelt before it and with her own hands loosened the seals. An Der helped her rise, a solicitous hand at her elbow, a ready arm by her waist.
    She shook him off and stepped back. “Open it,” she said harshly, and the boy bent to comply.
    Val Con drifted forward, Miri at his side. They stopped to the right of Win Den tel’Vosti, who stood with both hands covering the knob of his cane, no amusement at all in his face. The med tech had shrugged and gone over to the couch, perching on the wide arm and watching the proceedings with a sort of distant interest.
    An Der wrestled the cover loose and stepped away.
    The med tech drew a noisy breath in through her teeth.
    Nobody else moved at all, and Miri frowned, wondering why an old mirror should be the focus of such tension, such expect—
    “Oh, shit,” she breathed, and moved away from Val Con’s side, staring at the reflection that didn’t move—didn’t move because it was a painting—a

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