“Do you know what I like most about your world?” The massive alien rumbled the words softly for him, so that they only vibrated in baritone across the room instead of blasting out at a painful volume. “Two things that Gar'et lacks. Mountains, and fish.” To punctuate his statement, two of his arms reached out, each holding a massive fork, and took hold of a well-grilled fillet of sole. Glancing between them, the creature shoved one into his mouth in its entirety, chewed politely, and swallowed before continuing. “Absolutely delicious.” He said in a car-engine murmur.
“Not oceans?” His companion asked politely, speaking perfect Akagari. The shadows coiled up and around the table, leaving an impression of grey and black clothes, as his two eyes met his compatriot's four.
“No, your Majesty.” The alien confirmed. “To be honest, oceans are rather frightening things. Ga'ret is a very dry world, you know.”
“And flat, yes.” Rex Mundi nodded. “I suppose I am simply surprised that anything could frighten the Poet of the Flesh.”
Shivarex, the Poet of the Flesh, gave a toothy smile as he finished off the second fillet and glanced down at his plate thoughtfully. Cutting a long slice off a third, he considered for a moment. “I imagine that there are things we all fear.” He said philosophically. “For example, the notion that I might never eat Earther fish again fills me with concern. So tell me about this plan of yours to cut your world off from the galaxy, and why you expect my assistance with it.”
“Nicely direct.” Mundi said. “To answer your second question first, you've been assisting me for some time. I would merely like to formalize the agreement.”
At this, Shivarex set down his food. With a vast frown, he looked at the small man across from him. “Excuse me? I don't recall working for any self-styled monarchs recently.”
“No? Four months ago, you assassinated the Thri-Jut of Rall.” Rex Mundi reminded him.
Shivarex's frown deepened. Rex Mundi didn't react. “That was a mission for the Khureth clan.” He said suspiciously.
“The Khureth Clan owed me.” Rex responded. “One of my few favors among the Akagari was just enough to get me your name. And then, last month, you travelled to Trox space, and framed the Lissan ambassador to the Hegemony as a smuggler. The war is ongoing, I believe.”
“It wasn't easy, either.” Shivarex said, still frowning. “And that was a job for…” He broke off.
“For the Porran Republic, the other major government of the Trox, yes. They didn't know they were working for me – but didn't you wonder how they found you?” Rex pointed out. “Which is to say nothing of your last job, fending off a Yocanu assault squad that was acting as a gang of pirates against the Dem'kra…”
“Enough.” Shivarex waved a hand, eyes narrowed. “I accept that you have either been manipulating my clients, or that you are disturbingly well-informed about me. Why approach me directly, if the indirect route is going so well?”
“To be frank, I am running out of alien agents.” Rex Mundi admitted. “The bulk of my activites have always been Earthside, and as wars and skirmishes spread across the galaxy, my traditional spies are becoming nervous. Besides, I'm almost out of favors, and I need to move even less visibly than I have to date. Two great wars are coming, Shivarex – to Sayleen, and to Earth. If they do not work out in my favor, everything will be ruined, and I've spent too much time for that. I need the absolute best at both combat and intrigue. In short, I need you.”
“I see.” Shivarex nodded slowly. “And why do I need you?”
“Because this is your only chance at true power.” Rex Mundi answered bluntly. “The Akagari, as a culture, are going nowhere. Even if they were, you are a sovak. The Akagari don't see your value, only that you aren't like them. Other species only see you as an Akagari, a brute for hire. It is a difficult conundrum, yes?”
“I'm not certain I enjoy your tone, your Majesty.” Shivarex said darkly.
“My apologies. I only mean that I see your value, Shivarex. I would offer you something very rare – a place as a true agent of Rex Mundi, rather than as the simple pawn you have been. There are certain requirements – there will be quite a lot of travel, and you will have to be based out of Earth. On the other hand, you will have wealth, power, and the fear of a planet behind you.”
“And if I say no?” Shivarex asked.
“That rather depends on if you try to tell anyone about our little meeting. If you can keep quiet, well…” Rex shrugged. “I have other possibilities. None nearly as skilled as you, but I will take what I can get.”
“And what assurances can you offer me that I can trust you?”
“What fun would it be if we trusted each other all the time?” Rex answered.
There was a short pause, and then Shivarex laughed uproariously, his voice rising to set the room shaking. “I like you.” He boomed out, before lowering his voice back to a more reasonable level. “Very well, your Majesty, you've got yourself a deal. I'm not saying I'll stick with you all the way, but you've got me curious, and if the pay's good, I'll stay loyal.”
“I never had any doubts.” Rex Mundi said with a smile in his voice.