Admiralty men, who took umbrage at military ranks being applied to spacers, no matter how archaic. It was the Commodore's eldest, Han Holder, who had built the Vulture as the first of a luxury line of junkers, complete with entertainment suites and a deck from which the stars could be watched in all their glory slinking harmoniously by. The Vulture and her sister ships were well-made but priced too high for the market, and Han lost a fortune on them. Lang had acquired her out of mothballs for a song. Lang looked out from the bubble at the top of the observation deck and saw the length of his ship. He saw her bridge, and he saw her stern, and he saw the starboard wing extended to hold the prize that was not a prize. The damage to it was noticeable, but even in such a condition the Admiralty still would have paid well for it. He looked at it for a long time, and thought. He had known Jae a long time, like most of his crew. He had enjoyed Jae's company, as a crewmate and as a bed-companion and as a friend. He thought of her corpse spinning through the stars until some imperceptible gravity brought her back into some solar maw in a billion years, and he could They moved softly down the gangway and obliquely through the corridors that lead to Sick Bay. not escape concluding Jae wouldn't have wanted it any other way. The Alera stood beside him. He wondered what she was thinking. Then something occurred to him. "What happened to the Executor?" The Alera looked out at the stars. "The way you see..." she said. "What?" "Nothing. The Executor was infiltrated by us. Badly. We tried to take the whole crew at once. The captain of the ship understood what was happening, and scuttled her the only way he knew how." Lang had no other words than "That makes sense." "It does. And it settled a question within us about tactics. Have you seen what you wish to see, Lang? May we proceed?" Lang looked out at the stars again. "What about the way we see?" The Alera did look out at him this time. "You are a complex species. Individually, I mean. Collectively, you function much the same as insects or other animals, but as an individual, you have such complexity within you, so many conflicting impulses and memories. You are so easy to kill out here. We do not have that problem: Extremes of temperature, even in the near-zero of deep space, only slow us. When you look out at the stars and the galaxies, you see so many ways to die. It must be horrible." Lang said "We can go." They moved softly down the gangway and obliquely through the corridors that lead to Sick Bay. The form of Covey was there, waiting. When Lang and the Alera walked in, he began to prep instruments for surgery. He put out gauze and medical epoxy and isopropyl syrettes, and the Alera coughed. The Covey looked up. "He won't have time to heal."