Previous chapter here.
This one gets back into the action with a vengeance, when both the Clarke and a Conclave ship find themselves being attacked at the same time by a mysterious third party, which turns out to be a Conclave ship that disappeared awhile back. Comparing notes, our intrepid crew of the Clarke and the folks of the Conclave--doing a secret back channel between Ambassador Abume and Halve Sorvalh--realize that (a) they're both missing certain kinds of ships, and (b) if they haven't been poaching the other's ships, then who is? That question won't be answered in this episode, but we do find out that a la Anne McCaffrey's Brain and Brawn series, some poor bastard's been brained-in-a-box and forced to pilot his ship. Harry does his best to save the poor bastard, but...well, even some things Harry can't fix. Damn. This is a gutkicker. Assholes, indeed.
I'm not even sure what to say, other than this one leaves you sitting there stunned and sad and above all else, angry. (Not to mentioning wondering WHO THE HELL IS THE THIRD PARTY?) This book definitely has wildly varying tones from chapter to chapter, all right. It doesn't really connect back to the previous chapter in the way that I was expecting, but...well, maybe later.
Seriously, what other parties are out there? Folks on Phoenix? Erie? WHERE ARE YOU BASTARDS?!?!