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Book: The Nomads and the Mind Machine
Chapter 32: Gender Reassignment

“We’ve lost more than ten percent of our hull, sovereign.  There are severe breaches in more than a thousand…”

Sovereign Dug Tihsadeen grabbed the throat of the damage control engineer and pulled him closer to his command chair.  The engineer’s furry chin hit the chair’s arm.  The sovereign growled.  “Why were our shields not raised immediately when we emerged from subspace?”

The engineer cowered.  “They were being raised, sovereign.  It takes quite a few seconds for them to reach full power.  They were only at twenty percent strength when the attack occurred.”

The sovereign let go of the engineer and yelled out across the Sadeeni flagship’s cathedral-sized bridge.  “Destroy those bounty hunters!”  He got his feet and hit out to either side with his black furry fists.  His two Nin servants took the full fury of the punches and collapsed, moaning, to the floor.

The ship’s senior weapons commandant, who was sitting directly below, looked up at the sovereign.  “They are shrouded by atomic explosions, sovereign.  We are finding it difficult to achieve a satisfactory weapons lock.”

Sovereign Tihsadeen pointed at the theatre-sized screen, which currently showed the explosions that trailed the course of the bounty hunter ships.  “They are heading for the nomad ships!  They must not reach them!”

The weapons commandant shook his head.  “They’ve almost reached the nomad ships.  We cannot stop them, at least not without harming the nomad ships themselves.”

“That is not an option, and you know it!  Those nomad ships are essential to our mission.”

The weapons commandant looked up at the sovereign.  “Perhaps we need to make it an option?  If the bounty hunters know about the capabilities of those connected nomad ships they may attempt to use them against us.”

Sovereign Tihsadeen breathed heavily.  He looked up at the giant screen.  The explosions that had been trailing the bounty hunter ships had stopped.  Now all that was shown was the dark masses of the nomad ships linked together against the faint backdrop of stars.  “Surely they would not know about that?  The nomads would not inform anyone, even bounty hunters, of their secret weapon.”

“Under normal circumstances I would agree,” The weapons commandant said, “but we did penetrate one of their ships and take control of its bio-mind.  In such a critical situation the nomads might reveal such secrets, especially to bounty hunters who claim to be able to save them.”

The sovereign’s heart sank at that realization.  He collapsed back into his command chair.  All hope of completing his mission faded.  He looked up at a smaller screen to the left of the main screen.  It was currently displaying Yug Evahsadeen’s non-anaesthetised gender reassignment operation in full high-definition glory.  Even Yug’s shrieks of agony and despair and his baby-like writhing could not comfort the sovereign.  He scowled at the image of Yug.  It was his failure that had brought the bounty hunters here.  He made a mental note to ensure that Yug’s operation was just the very start of his suffering.  The sovereign smiled briefly at that thought.

A subtle warble sounded.  A sensor operator to the sovereign’s left stood up.  “There is a massive power surge emanating from the nomad ships, sovereign.  It’s growing rapidly.”

Sovereign Tihsadeen snapped his attention back to the current situation.  “Display its power signature on the screen.”

The massive screen ahead was overlaid with a graphical representation of the power surge.”

The sovereign recognized it immediately.  He stood and yelled.  “Get the fleet out of here!  Now!”

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