Despite Loo-Macklin’s revelations, the Tremovan armada continued its steady plunge toward the civilized worlds.
Chaheel was in the vaulted command chamber on the day when both massed fleets were to come within short detection range of one another. Then maneuvering would begin in earnest. The ships would be unable to see each other, even with the aid of powerful telescopes. Even at sublight speed, where physics dictates such fighting must take place, ships remained impossibly far apart until actual combat was joined.
“Truly will we know what our future is to be before this day is over.” The ambassador surmised, staring up at the main viewscreen, which occupied the entire wall and was three stories high.
Currently it showed two clusters of slowly shifting lights: white for the approaching Tremovan and mixed red and green for the united Human-Nuel forces.
“Detection, mark,” a technician’s voice boomed over a speaker. The lights moved, changing position only ponderously on the screen but in reality at unnatural speed. There was a pause.
“Positioning,” repeated the human voice. “Phase one,” echoed the gurgling voice of a Nuel technician. A longer pause followed. The observers on the floor below the screens stared and waited.
“Still positioning,” announced the two voices … and then, jubilantly in both languages, “Turning. Enemy forces are turning. Slow wheel through four degrees one half arc of space. They are definitely turning!”
The shift was not immediately perceptible on the huge screen. Parsecs away out in a vast open area of space where suns were thin, out between two arms of the galaxy, the huge Tremovan fleet had begun to turn away from the massed forces confronting it. Several hours passed before the announcers were able to declare it with finality.
“Observers and officers,” the twin voices said, “enemy fleet is retiring toward Shapely Center. Exact course unpredictable. It appears they are taking evasive action. Velocity of retreat precludes pursuit.”
There was some heated arguing to punctuate the wild cheers and shouts that filled the chamber. Despite the poor chances of overtaking the retreating enemy there were those among both human and Nuel staffs who argued for following, in order to administer a drubbing the Tremovan would not forget.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. It was pointed out that while the conservative Tremovan apparently were not ready for a fight with a powerful and prepared opponent, if attacked they would have no choice _but_ to fight. Thus far not a single sentient had died, not a missile or particle beam had been unleashed in anger. No, the Tremovan might elect not to attack, but they would most certainly defend. The outcome of such a battle could not be predicted. A standoff would result in a victory for the Tremovan, for they knew the location of the UTW-Family worlds while human and Nuel remained ignorant of their enemy’s home.
In brief, the Master Computer finally declared portentously to the hawks of both races, better not to push your luck.
Chaheel saw the Nuel ambassador conversing with a member of the Board of Operators, the latter recognizable by his haughty air and gilded coveralls. After a while the first father rejoined Chaheel and the subambassador.
“It has been decided that truly will the joint fleets remain at station until we are absolutely sure these Tremovan are not attempting some intricate circumferencing maneuver. As soon as the linked computation systems of both governments agree, the main forces will be withdrawn. A group of monitoring warships will remain in position, and construction will begin immediately on a complex network of automatic surveillance stations. These Tremovan could not surprise us this time. We shall make truly certain they can never do so in the future.”
It had been a momentous day, one of those rare days that appear in bold type in the history books, a day for men and women to speak of fondly in their dotage.
“Verses untold will be composed to celebrate this occasion,” said the subambassador. “The Si in particular will gain much in reverence, for this Lewmaklin is claimed as one of their own.”
For the wrong reason, Chaheel wanted to say, then decided it would be tactless.
“Birthings will be dedicated to this moment,” agreed the ambassador. “This is a Day of Names.
“Now work will begin to expand and improve the fleets. Human and Nuel knowledge will be combined to produce the most powerful spacecraft the nothingness has yet experienced. If we have to confront these Tremovan a second time we will be the ones in the position of confident superiority.”
They were strolling toward the exit, intent on an evening meal (Chaheel finding himself famished … he’d forgotten to eat) when a human woman came running past them. Her eyes were wild with excitement and she was shouting.
She stopped in the middle of the room before anyone; high officer, politician, programmer, human or Nuel, thought to question her credentials. Her uniform was not military or operator. But it didn’t matter. All that mattered was the message she brought.
Word spread rapidly around the vast war room. Finally someone thought to check for confirmation. A communications tech high up on the second catwalk pulled out his earpiece and yelled joyfully down toward the floor.
“It’s true. He’s alive.” He threw the sensitive aural pickup high into the air, not caring what any superior might say. “Kees vaan Loo-Macklin lives!”
An explosion of exhilaration suffused the room with a mental glow the likes of which Chaheel had never felt before. Human and Nuel participated in the celebration with equal enthusiasm. As a trained psychologist he was doomed never to enjoy such outbursts because his brain was too occupied with recording and examining them.
Details of this minor resurrection filtered throughout the chamber as fast as communications was able to decipher them. The special engines, which had been built into the _Tarsis_, hadn’t been quite special enough, or else the Tremovan pursuit craft had been a trifle faster than anticipated. It had been subject to attack (which everyone had seen evidence of during Loo-Macklin’s broadcast) and pursuit (which they had not).
The _Tarsis_ had managed to evade complete destruction, however, dodging and hiding until the Tremovan encountered the massing Human-Nuel fleet. At that point all alien craft had turned back, including those seeking the _Tarsis._
By that time the research ship was a near-derelict, pitted and hulled by repeated near-misses, able to crawl through space only at sublight velocities. Under normal circumstances it would have drifted helplessly out of the galactic disk. Circumstances in that section of space were anything but normal by that time, though, not with thousands of warships filling a tiny corner of the firmament.
A Nuel vessel taking up position at its assigned coordinates near the upper curve of the outermost warsphere had fixed on the _Tarsis_’ feeble request for help. More than half its crew had been killed. Most, including Loo-Macklin, who’d lost an arm and was near death from loss of blood when rescue finally arrived, had been wounded.
The Nuel surgeons had worked on him for hours, with the assistance via transcom of human surgeons elsewhere in the fleet. Stitching, repairing, and replacement of missing parts which had been shot away required the most delicate work. The Nuel were better at that than their human counterparts.
A prosthetic arm replaced the old one. Blood was analyzed and duplicated (the Nuel are especially facile with fluids). Skin was relaid.
It took a fleet decision to finally make the news known. No officer would take the risk of announcing Loo-Macklin’s survival until it was assured.
Both on a personal as well as professional level, Chaheel found the events, which followed, to be of particular interest. Gratitude, the gratitude of many races, rained down on the man who had deceived the governments of both in order to save them.
The main body of the conjoined fleet returned to bases, dispersed to active reserve status. An impressive wall of security monitor stations was erected along the edge of the galactic arm facing the stars from whence the Tremovan had emerged.
As it is wont to, the general citizenry soon forgot its proximate Armageddon and returned to living and dying and the plethora of ordinary activities, which fill life in between. Business quickly resumed its rapid pace, as did the underworld.
Nuel and human commerce quadrupled in an impressively short time. The informal alliance forced on both governments by the Tremovan threat was now cemented permanently with taxes and tariffs, notices and exchanges, government officials, and the gloriously hollow pronouncements of bureaucrats.
The first step in the actual merging of government functions took place when the Family Board of Ten was created. Chosen to sit on this prestigious panel of decision-makers were five Nuel, four humans and one Orischian.
For the post of Arbiter, who would have an eleventh and tie-breaking vote, a human was selected. He tried to refuse the position. Interracial acclaim forced him to accept. The nomination, after all, had been unanimously approved by both the Master Computer, functioning under the aegis of the Board of Operators, and the Nuel Council of Eight.