‘Execute plan B, please,” Gregor said, and the Head of Domestic Affairs picked up his comm link and gave the orders.
The Regent was called away; a minute later, so was Cordelia. Gregor could guess who the calls were from, and was relieved that no one was trying to talk to him. It was hard enough for him to talk to people about ordinary things; he didn't think he could have managed talking to Vorgarin's family in this tangled mess.
A thought struck him. The Head of Domestic Affairs was about to step out of the office door when Gregor asked, “The hostages. Who are they, exactly?”
They were Komarrans; they were from prominent industrial clans; three of them were women. “Do they have families?” asked Gregor. The officers around the room glanced at each other in silence. That information had not been on their briefings.
Gregor waited for the five seconds it took for Simon Illyan to cross-reference the name of each hostage against his chip's memory. “Five of the nine are married,” he answered at last. “Three of them have children, one has grandchildren. All are on Komarr.”
Gregor took a deep breath. "Thank you," he said with perfect calm, before turning away from the soldiers.
He had never been involved in handling a hostage crisis before, but he had been on the other end. Gregor closed his eyes for a moment, remembering the crack of a nerve disruptor and a blue shoe and Negri's arms; remembered narrowly escaping being taken hostage along with his mother in the opening gambit of Vordarian’s Pretendership.
The Dowager Crown Princess Kareen had remained Vordarian’s hostage - though some still whispered otherwise when Gregor's back was turned - imprisoned in her own home throughout the war, until she was finally killed in a botched rescue attempt days before it all ended.
All that it took was a simple command from Gregor's lips. A continent away, soldiers were moving, weapons were being charged, and nine innocent men and women were sitting in a locked room with nerve disruptors pointed at their heads. And children were waiting to see their parents again.
We can’t negotiate with terrorists, Gregor repeated to himself, looking down at the assault plans. That was what he had been taught. The Lord Regent had made his policy on hostages as clear as crystal thirteen years ago, and it had not changed since.