M4

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M4 - THE DRAFT

Emperor Abaddon appointed Arioch the head of the Eyes of Belial and commanded hym to allow Lilith to leave unmolested so long as che kept moving toward hez avatar, and so long as hez avatar was moving away from Palato.

Lahatiel requested access to the full personnel records of the Navy of Belial in order to obey the emperor's command to staff the Exiler with a new crew, and Arioch said he would accommodate him only if he could be present and retrieve the records. The Empire was running old school. All of the archives were in the form of microfilms embedded in punch cards. At Sol the equivalent archive would be in the Swarm and accessed by Micros.

First on Lahatiel's agenda was an operations officer. He asked for the best tactician in the fleet, regardless of rank. Arioch retrieved four microfilms and Lahatiel instinctively went for the one that he seemed to be most reluctant to hand over. Suriel Larund was har name, and sha had last served on the cruiser Coercer when the Emperor had sent that ship in together with a squadron of smaller ships to follow up on rumors the Beaters had constructed a spacecraft carrier. They found the vessel in question, but during the battle the skipper of Coercer was killed when the hull was breached. Suriel took command using the lander as a secondary bridge, and sent fourteen four-yeng corvettes to their deaths making futile torpedo runs against the carrier. The Beaters were obliged to pull their fighter cover in close, and that opened a window for three bombers to stand off and let their payloads fly. Scratch one Beater carrier.

Arioch didn't care about any of that. What was important to him was the fact that Suriel was a yen, she was a "bliss" who preferred other yen in bed, and she worshiped Chokhmah. But Lahatiel knew most yang approved of the post-Summit policy of letting yen serve in Belial's military. If a yang, by some fluke, was killed by a yen in the death combat, then he did- n't deserve to live and contaminate the gene pool. And if sha died sha yielded up a sister who would otherwise be unavailable. But she must be very fierce, Lahatiel said. Always on guard against being raped. As for Arioch's other objections, neither Belial nor Lahatiel really cared.

Lahatiel settled on a navigation officer named Barakiel Antero, with the rank of Erel. On the Adversary during a raid by rebels from Ganymede, Barakiel had flown the ship into the Palato ID Grid and brought the vessel to a stop inside, where she could fire at the rebels while being perfectly safe from counterbattery fire, at least if the rebels still wanted to go home. Arioch's objection was that hy was actually just a fraud, a homosexual who faked the two death combats that led to hyz current rank and whose "mate" was a convincing yen but still a yang where it really counted. Lahatiel knew Belial's only penalty for homosexual yeng was to withhold their access to breeding females, which probably suited them quite nicely.

The Sar called Adnarel Sala, at least, was not a fraud, sha easily killed har opponent in the death match, simply because sha could not miss. That was the talent for which Lahatiel proposed to make har hyz weapons officer. Arioch's objection was that sha was too feminine, it was jarring to see that in Belial's navy. At least Suriel made an attempt to emulate a yang.

Arioch had no objection to the Ravmalak named Kushiel Bellon, neither hyz devotion to Belial, hyz adherence to Law, hyz sexuality, masculinity, or any other grounds, aside from hyz low rank. An engineering officer should be an erel at least. But Arioch knew there was no use convincing Lahatiel.

I wonder when daylight appeared between the things that were important to Belial, Lahatiel purred, and the things that were important to Balberith? I think it was Binah announcing her starship. Imagine the universe filling up with people who are loyal to Chokhmah rather than Belial. Imagine what Belial would do if he found another Balberith dragging his feet.

So Arioch left without another word, leaving the archives unmonitored.

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