A Matter of Oaths by Helen S. Wright

By Helen S. Wright

An issue of Oaths

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We can sort that out later,” Rallya decreed. ” “Amsur will brevet him immediately, if we ask,” Joshim predicted. ” Vidar asked. ” Rallya scoffed. “No problems at all. ” “Emperors, of course he wants the berth! ” Rallya said in exasperation. “Still, if it will make you happy to ask him first, ask him. And ask him which he wants to be: a Commander or a Webmaster,” she called after Joshim’s retreating back. ” *** Rafe poured himself a third glass of jack and drank from it without tasting it. Sleepers would be a safer way of achieving the oblivion he sought — alcohol on top of web-cramp was a fool‘s trick — but sleepers had to be obtained from the station surgeon at the cost of a question and answer session to which Rafe refused to submit.

And as for Fadir, mooning around over a pretty face and a well-turned backside… “Fadir, if you don’t remember to breathe soon, you’ll faint,” she told him sharply. “There speaks the voice of experience,” Rafe commented. Even Fadir forgot to blush in the stunned silence that followed. Rallya opened her mouth and closed it again. “I never actually fainted,” she said eventually. ” She looked Rafe up and down slowly. “Of course, the provocation wasn’t quite as intense,” she added. “Of course, ma’am,” Rafe agreed seriously, taking the mug of alcad that Joshim handed him and raising it in salute.

Buhklir had probably supervised the lad’s apprenticeship himself, then made sure that he was assigned to a ship with a Commander who could be relied upon to continue his special treatment. Rallya grinned nastily. Relied upon to continue his special treatment, but not to keep him safe in the right Empire. Or was Rafe’s crossing of the Disputed Zone not the result of a mistake by his Commander but arranged as a deliberate curb on his father? It had happened before: an aristo who put loyalty to Empire before loyalty to Guild, rising to a high position and needing to be reminded of the full meaning of the Oath.

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