Raptor leaned way back in his sea and stared at the ceiling of his habitat. He started counting the tiles from left to right, from right to left, up, then down.


“Yes, Raptor, Avenger of the Nine Dry Worlds, Prince’s Champion?”

“Where’s that slippery little bastard Millard?”

“He’s currently speaking with the Vice-Admiral about the Gazers Mission, Raptor.”

Raptor sighed with boredom, “Guess we won’t be drinking any time soon then…” He glanced across at the doorway to his habitat, then back up to ceiling. He straightened his seat stared at the table.


“Yes, Raptor, Keeper of Royal Virtue, Feared in Fifteen Systems?”

“Do you have any idea how bored I am?”

“No, Raptor.”

“Well let me tell you…”

“Please don’t.”


“Please don’t be upset, Raptor. Besides calculating several million equations a second, I’m also observing phenomena several billion clicks away, answering questions from a dozen of your comrades, and moving this vessel through an extremely complex four-dimensional space. It keeps me rather busy.”

“Isn’t that an excuse from an Iain M. Banks book?”

“I’m surprised you read, Raptor.”

“Iain doesn’t count.”

“Of course, Raptor.”

“Is Millard finished yet?”

“Yes, Raptor, he’s in the common room.”

Raptor lurched up and onto his talons, and clacked out of his habitat and into the walkway. Ship’s crew, mech and bio alike, scattered as his 3m tall frame lurched down the hallway, ungainly and awkward in the near 1G gravity the Navy liked to maintain in its capital ships. He ducked beneath low-hanging cables and swatted at drones making running repairs to the ship after its last confrontation with the Gazers. He grumbled at bio guards who insisted on checking his credentials at or near section-dividing bulkheads, and finally stumbled into the common room to find Millard having an in-depth conversation with what appeared to be a large block of ice.

“Oh, apologies Vice-Admiral” Raptor coughed, “Puter said you and Millard had finished speaking.”

The block vibrated back in reply, “No problem Raptor, we have finished just this second. Doubtless Puter anticipated your transit perfectly.”

“Damn smart-ass tech…” Raptor mumbled.

“Sorry, Raptor?” The Vice-Admiral asked.

“Nothing Admiral, just congratulating the Puter on its usual spiffy work.”

“Of course.”

Millard slithered off the bench on which he had been reclining, and informed Raptor that the Vice-Admiral and he had been discussing the demise of the Gazers.

“Demise?” Raptor stated, a little shocked, “We’ve only just engaged them. How can they be demised?”

Millard smiled his distinctive reptilian smile. “Easssy, Raptor. We had the intel boffinss analyssse their sssociology. They’re an extremely tough raccce, and highly advanccced technologically, as the damage to thisss ssship indicatesss. But they’re also rather obssessssed with thought.”

“What are you saying? Are you saying that I don’t get to shoot anyone? Because that sounds a lot like what you’re saying. That I don’t get to shoot anyone, and might not be Champion again this year.”

“Apologiesss Raptor, but that is what I’m sssaying.”

“Wait… what exactly did the boffins come up with that stopped this entire star-faring race in its tracks?”

“Sssimple, Raptor. I suggested that our Ambasssador ask them a sssimple quessstion.”

“Which was?”

“How do I know I’m a Gazer, and not a Ssslave dreaming I am a Gazer?”

“Dunno, how do you know?”

“No, that wass the quessstion.”

“Oh… And that stopped the Gazers?”

“Yesss Raptor.”

“And what are they doing currently?”

“We think that their sssociety will unravel within two yearss. Individualsss are currently retreating into mental isssolation acrosss their planetss at approximately 140 beingss per sssecond.”

“So they’re just falling to pieces because they’re thinking about this problem? Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yess Raptor. It iss called a SSSolopisstic Mind Bomb. Highly effective on advanced and overly-cccerebral sssocietiesss.”

“So I don’t get to shoot anyone?”

“Maybe the stupid ones.” The Admiral interjected.