Laghet’s silence on the way back to the transport was born of both frustration and a healthy dose of relief, making him twice as withdrawn and stern-faced beneath the shade of his wide hat. The otherwise comforting rumble of the surrounding conversation made him on-edge, and he fidgeted subtly with the front of his clothes, the glow pulsing erratically with his movements while his face remained shaped from iron. Stupid, it was completely irrational what he’d just done, he couldn’t justify it to himself. He could only be grateful that those flat-faced robots managed to save his hide in time, and the other calf’s skin, however much it turned his sour snout to feel such an emotion towards them.
He escaped the increasingly stuffy crowd of the transport as soon as he could and hurried into the crowded hallways of the Hub, leaving the main level for one of the areas leading to a quiet maintenance bay, looking over his shoulder and slipping into a side hangar that was currently empty and devoid of workers. He leaned against the wall, pulling out his screen as a pretense and reaching for his ear to answer a signal that had been consistently beeping at him since the ride back.
A large, clawed finger pressed against the comm in his ear. “Impatient, you are.”
“I think we have a right to be, Abeloghau.”
“I would disagree, but I have what you’re looking for.” A few taps on the screen and a short slide.
There was a short pause. “The first two, possibly. The third…”
“He is no captain, though that was my initial label. Believe me. Just try it, listen for a few days.”
“You have been lax on your agreement, Abeloghau. If this proves to be an unworthy investment–”
“You know me, Havlar.” The screen flickered slightly in protest as Laghet’s grip tightened. “I deliver. What about the fourth? Another Collective code. It’s a good one, too.”
“On your word only.”
“Do I need to take this to the Khagan?” he growled, his voice pitching lower, finally fed up with the posh, thin voice in his ear. There was another, longer pause and a strange sort of vocal clicking noise. “Honor the deal, scum.”
A short, irritated sigh. “I will present the codes to Maio’a. She will decide their value.”
“It better be enough.”
“Your case isn’t strong, Abeloghau. You won’t be getting a good word from me.” After another round of irritated clicks, Havlar stiffly stated, “You’ll know in the next eighteen hours. Never cross the chasm.”
Laghet was so irked by the being he nearly forgot to respond with the second half of the phrase. His heart raced as he flatly retorted, “We do what we must.” I nearly got myself killed just then. He was getting sloppy in his old age, he grudgingly admitted to himself. The contact ended and he stalked heavily out of the bay area, leaving a few curious gangly young mechanics to wonder idly where he’d come from and blink when he seemingly disappeared in a heartbeat, back to the Hub, only seeing the faintest residue of green light on the inside
If any god of the old world hears me…have mercy and let me return.