"…and thus I have explained the Three Counters and Three Rejoinders for defense against hypervelocity smart projectiles, depending on one's access to matrix incantations. Not counting data appendices, this completes the 144-Fold Petals of the Flower of Armoured Conflict."
"It's a fine treatise, Haruman. Much improved from the last draft."
"Thank you, my lord."
"I was saddened to hear of the loss of the Silver Star those two years ago, but pleased that you've continued thus in my service since."
"It gave me a respite and a chance to finish my book. Cores all must bloom eventually, my lord."
"Yes, I suppose. Odd, that the blossoming of a Core is a terrible thing, yet the blossoming of a generation of people is an opportunity."
"An opportunity, my lord?"
"Oh yes. The Silver Star gave you many years; you've given me the Flower of Armoured Conflict; I give you the flower of the Commonwealth's youth, and a new machine, which it pleases me to name the Silver Moon."
A curtain fell, revealing two dozen or so young people in Commonwealth pilot uniforms, and a gleaming new Armour that towered above them. They cheered as one.
"I was hoping to retire soon, my lord."
"Oh, no, you're far too dangerous for that. These fine young people have trained with your old officers, on previous drafts of the Flower."
"Ah. Then they are to be my new officers… my bodyguards… my jailers… or my executioners?"
"Oh, whatever the situation calls for. I'm told that a warrior's expertise should be both broad and deep, Haruman. Ware their depths."
"Ah, my lord, so you did read the book."
"I was afraid of that."
Having nothing more to say, Haruman raised his hands in assent. The pilots cheered once more as he joined them.