In which Commander Vepal checks his mail.
We’ve encountered the Yxtrang word “kojagun” a few times before, a couple of times in scenes with Hazenthull and once with Vepal himself in The Gathering Edge (his internal monologue acknowledging that JinJee Sanchez is not kojagun). Previously, it’s generally been glossed as “not a soldier”; this is the first time it’s been said that it also means “prey”, although in retrospect both aspects of its meaning would fit the occasion Haz uses it in Neogenesis.
Vepal’s precautionary measure with the breather mask says something about where he rates Erthax as a threat. He anticipated Erthax tampering with his bedroom’s air supply, but appears to be confident that the breather mask won’t be tampered with. It can’t be that he’s confident Erthax wouldn’t tamper with the mask; it might be that he’s confident Erthax doesn’t know about the mask, or that Erthax can’t break into the command locker (or at least not without leaving traces of his actions).
If I’m following correctly, High Command can’t have a clear idea of what’s going on yet. They got the offer dictated by ter’Menth, which they distrust, and have asked for clarification, but all they got was Vepal’s terse message, which speaks of treachery but doesn’t say whose. With what we know, it’s apparent that Vepal means Erthax was the perpetrator of the treachery, but with what they know, and coming as a reply to their message asking whether Erthax’s last message was really from Erthax, it could be taken to mean that Erthax was the victim of treachery by Perdition Enterprises.
Vepal’s up against several ticking clocks now. He has to figure out what to do about Perdition Enterprises before they decide what to do about him, and it would be wise to be on his way before High Command decides what to do about his last message. The deadline for the end of his docking privileges is minor in comparison, but it’s also there. (Although the fact that he takes his field kit, and has Ochin do the same, suggests that he’s anticipating being obliged to abandon the ship in place. If he never comes back, will High Command have to pay the parking fines?)