I don’t think this was quite conscious, but after the brutal scenes for Byron in the last chapter, I was a bit eager to rebalance his narrative with some broad comedy. Sorry for overusing the Bruce Banner line, though; we’d put it to bed after this.

It’s interesting to me to trace the development of Syr’Nj and Ardaic’s relationship (a term I use in the broad sense). His remarks on the last page were not a rhetorical trick: he is under pressure from the Heads to keep proving his Peacemaker initiative is a good idea, and that pressure has only increased now that the leadership of the Peacemakers no longer matches their demographic. But here he airs his own concerns: intellectual pursuits are all very well, and at this point he even respects Syr’Nj as a scholar. But you don’t put Stephen Hawking in charge when the boys are pinned down in Nam.

As usual for her, Syr’Nj gets her best results with weaponized, focused honesty. She and Ardaic will clash again after this, but he will never question her basic competence or focus again.

(Also, “Savage Races,” not “World’s Rebellion.” For one thing, Syr’Nj knows her audience here; for another, even she is only so civil about the preferences of a people whom she’s met once and who then killed her.)