"Very…good," he said at last, after he'd swallowed and sipped his wine.
"I'm so glad you like it. It's an acquired taste, I must admit, but quite popular on some worlds. The fungus grows on the lower levels here, as of course you know—here and, so I understand, nowhere else in the galaxy. I won't mention what it grows on." Dyll smirked nastily. "So, Captain, I suppose you have no intention of discussing who you were looking for just now. Secret Guard business and all that. But perhaps you can tell me this: what are the Consolidated Guards' plans for Omega Station?"
"Plans, Master—Rudof?" Eversyn coughed. "We're here to keep the peace, of course, and to make sure that the trade routes stay open."
"Of course you are. Of course. We mustn't let the trade routes close, if for no other reason than to keep my dearest papa happy—and he and the rest of my family terribly rich. But to be totally honest, Captain, those were the plans for the last, what was it, six or eight new controllers of the Rock. I had hoped yours would be different."
"Throob," commented Algensio around a mouthful of green salad. It was dripping with a red dressing that looked to Everson uncomfortably like blood.
"Yes, you're right, dear fellow," Rudof agreed. "We'd somehow expected more from the Consolidated Guard of Malpairiso Sector, hadn't we? More, at least, than we've gotten from the Red Publicans, or Inversodynamics, or…well, in short, from any of the groups who've—let's be dramatic—seized power here on the Rock in the last few cycles."
Dyll gave a theatrical shudder.
Captain Eversyn tried to slide his chair a bit further away from the Vamir, who chose that moment to grin at him, baring a double row of pointed teeth liberally coated with green and red bits.
"Yes, well, uh…I'm sorry you're disappointed, ah, Rudof. But after all, you're hardly in a position to complain, are you? In fact, not to put too fine a point on it, you and everyone else on the Rock are under my command. My command, backed up, if you don't mind my mentioning it, by my extremely well-armed soldiers."
"Yes," murmured Rudof Dyll, offering another slash of a smile. "That's too true. It's a pity, that. Complaints are useless, yes. Not to mention, you're doing such a good job at…controlling the Rock, too."
Eversyn felt his face going red. "If you mean the smuggling, that's very nearly under control. And the Depths, well, they're just a matter of time."
"The Depths, Captain?" Slash smile. "A matter of time, do you say? The Depths have beaten better men than you, for all your extremely well-armed Connies behind you. Think of it, Captain." Dyll leaned forward, holding up a bejeweled finger as he made each point. "One: an endless series of corridors, tunnels and caverns, dug from the living rock that composes our homey little planetoid. Two: groups of settlers, squatters, the lost and the discarded, tribes of children, hermits, from any species you might name and some you cannot, all thronging there in the dank dimness."