Empress Caiatl looked out from the viewport of the H.E.L.M., watching the shimmer of the Traveler. It signaled change. It signaled danger. She shifted her weight from foot to foot, unsure of what might come.

"Well," Failsafe chimed, off-key. "Look who finally decided to drop by."

Empress Caiatl turned and stepped up to the terminal, surveying the apparatus that allowed the AI to interface with the command center.

"The AI," Caiatl mused aloud. "From the Exodus Black. Failsafe. This is how you are communicating with the Vanguard."

"Correct!" Failsafe chirped. "Welcome, Empress. What a delightful surprise!"

Caiatl looked up in confusion at the greeting. Failsafe flashed and emitted a series of low beeps before she spoke again.

"You're not going to land another tank on me here, are you? Or was one enough?"

Caiatl lowered her tusks at the AI's sarcasm but did not respond.

"Pretty sure you're not here to apologize, either."

"No," the Empress answered without hesitation. "I will make no apologies. My presence on Nessus was a necessary step towards my eventual alliance with the Vanguard. It forced them to react."

"Uh-huh," Failsafe said, unimpressed.

"It was strategic," the Empress urged. Her tone was firm, but conciliatory. Failsafe's response was bright.

"It was very rude!"

Caiatl rumbled in thought. Failsafe imitated the noise in a crackle of modulator static. The Empress ignored this.

"Yes," she said. "I will admit… it was rude."

Failsafe was silent. Caiatl cleared her throat before she continued, her eyes wandering to the research specimens that littered the room.

"Scans had detected a large wreck in the vicinity of the landing zone. Your presence was noted, but— "

"Ignored?"

"Yes," she said, looking back at the AI console. "Ignored. We did not view you as a threat."

"Your assessment was correct!" Failsafe agreed. Then her voice flattened again. "It's not like I could have stopped you."

Caiatl furrowed her brow.

"Why do you speak so? Your voice changes from one thought to the next. It's — "

"Annoying? Yeah. I get that a lot."

"No." The Empress squared her shoulders. "I was going to reference a Cabal legend. A warrior with two faces. She had one with no tongue, and one with no tusks."

Caiatl shook her head. Failsafe listened intently.

"It is a parable for the use of diplomacy… and describes the limits of such methods."

Failsafe paused for a moment, considering, and Caiatl wondered which voice would answer her.

"It's my politeness filter," Failsafe said, dour. "I can only keep it up for so long before it drops out."

"Hm. And then you may speak your mind?"

"Sure can, lady."

Caiatl nodded, sighing.

"I sympathize."