It was perhaps the most difficult thing Grakker had ever done to approach Flinge Iblik for help. Grakker was almost the top of his class – he didn’t ask for help from anyone, especially not a sissypants like Flinge. If Grakker was going to ask someone for help, it should be someone like BKR – someone with a straightforwardly aggressive way of dealing problems. It certainly shouldn’t be someone as soft as Flinge who tried to solve problems by thinking at them.
But BKR was the problem, a problem that Grakker couldn’t think how to tackle alone. If Flinge couldn’t help him, at least he was too soft to tell anyone else what Grakker was doing if threatened enough. Grakker was confident he could make the long-snouted creature comply with what he needed doing. And if he couldn’t find a way… the words echoed through his mind and he shuddered. Millions will weep.
He slid the diplomatic module into the back of his head before he went to look for Flinge. It sometimes seemed to glitch, but even so it was probably better to have it than not.
“Cadet Iblik,” he said formally, and saluted. “I must request your assistance in dealing with a possibly traitorous colleague. If you refuse, the universe will be endangered, and when this comes to light you will be guilty of-“
“All right.” Flinge cut him off calmly, sliding off his bunk.
Grakker was taken aback, opening and closing his mouth for a moment. He’d hardly made an attempt to make friends with the other cadet; he’d made no secret of his contempt for Snout’s methods. He’d expected to have to threaten for at least five minutes before gaining his co-operation.
Maybe Flinge Iblik was more of a coward than he’d guessed.
“I have reason to believe Cadet BKR has an unfortunate tendency towards…” he lowered his voice “…cruelty.” Even in a hushed tone, the word seemed almost obscene.
And yet Flinge received the news with a curious lack of shock. “I would agree.”
“You would?” And now Grakker stared at him. “How would you know? You wouldn’t possibly be able to know that!”
It seemed as though Flinge was struggling not to sigh. “If you’d been paying any attention to the rest of the class…” There was a rebuke there, and Grakker wrinkled his face in annoyance that Snout, of all people, would dare to rebuke him “you might have noticed the effect he has on them. Nothing obvious of course, nothing big, but nobody speaks to BKR without coming away a little sadder.”
Perhaps he should have noticed, but then what sort of sissy went around noticing the emotions of others? That wasn’t fighting work. Grakker grunted to himself disgustedly. “Well, why didn’t you tell anyone?”
The other cadet wrinkled his snout a little. “Would you have believed me?”
It was a fair question. Grakker had to admit, if asked, that he wouldn’t. BKR was an excellent student and, as far as he was concerned, Flinge was entirely the opposite. Any objection by Flinge to BKR’s behaviour was probably due to the former’s lack of backbone rather than any lack on BKR’s side.
At least, that was what Grakker might have said, had he not caught BKR muttering to himself.
“I’m unlikely to be believed either,” he admitted reluctantly. Flinge wasn’t good enough to be believed, but he was too good. It would be taken as an act of jealousy and disbelieved.
Snout’s nod said he understood the problem. “But we have to stop him somehow. Will you work with me on this?”
Work with him? Work with some softy who barely knew how to fight? But, BKR had to be stopped. And, a little voice inside Grakker’s head remind him, he had gone to Snout. Perhaps it was the module, finally working as it should. “I will, Cadet Iblik,” he agreed reluctantly.
“Snout.” The other’s snout wrinkled in something close to a smile. “My friends call me Snout”
Grakker shuddered inwardly at the thought of calling this sad creature a friend, but managed not to object out loud. Maybe the module was having a good day.“We have to find something that will stop him,” he said instead and Flinge – Snout – nodded agreement.
And if they couldn’t… millions would weep.