“Threats, now?” said Vanderberk. “You’re being very stupid. Think about our circumstances for a moment. It’s you, me, Jercash, Morgunov, and Dozer. That’s all we’ve got right now. What if the Vannies decide to take advantage? Hmm? What if they launch a full-scale assault tomorrow? Or next week? The five of us would have to repel the eight of them. Do you honestly not see the importance of freeing Ivan as soon as possible?”
Gohvis did not answer him.
Emiliana felt the air grow heavier still.
Vanderberk smacked his lips again. “Fine. You don’t consider me your equal yet. Comes with being the new guy, I suppose. But tell me. What about the Star? Is he your equal, you think? Because I imagine he’d like to put that to the test. And sometime soon, am I right? I mean, after Horsht and Jesbol, he must be feeling very good about himself. And oh, I have heard such tales! About how he tore your boys to pieces! Gunny and Dunny both! Always thought they were two peas in a pod, so I suppose it’s only fitting that they went out together like that--but by the Star? Of all people? Oof, it must be eating you up inside.”
The air grew heavy enough that Emiliana felt like a thick blanket had been thrown over her. She heard rocks shifting and settling all around them.
“Hey, don’t get mad at me,” said Vanderberk. “I didn’t kill your friends.”
“They weren’t my friends. And neither are you.”
“Oh, is that right? Is that why you’ve been sitting on your ass this whole time instead of avenging them? Why you’re not en route to Jesbol right now in order to make things right? Because they weren’t your friends? Because Dozer doesn’t care that two of his top three were killed in one night? Doesn’t mind how weak that makes him look--especially to us? No, sure, I get it. Obviously. Makes total sense. It’s certainly not because you’re scared or anything like that, right?”