Chapter II

"Like Splitting an Atom"

"Leadership is the ability to hide your panic from others."

The humans filed in slowly, one by one, like an oncoming terror, silent, blank, and hesitant. They seemed afraid to look at me. When they did sneak a peak at me, I saw that look of awe in their wide-eyed faces. They were weary, as would be expected. I grew nervous with each one that stepped in. Lucky for me, my people were excellent at concealing our emotions.
They took their seats at the back, as they had in Teacher Darv's class earlier that day. I was sitting behind my desk, watching them. I was looking for a hint of comfort. As if it hadn't been hard enough dealing with what I had then for those humans, they had to make it harder by making their fear so obvious. I couldn't stand having someone be afraid of me. It was a horrible feeling. It was the worst feeling there was. They feared me, still, though. I could only fix that with time.
I allowed a moment of silence after they'd sat down. I was still, myself. I took a good look at them all. Most of them weren't looking at me. Most of them had their eyes glued to their desks. A few others looked around. Two males watched me menacingly. That was comforting I suppose. It was better to feel like someone hated you than it was to feel like they were scared of you. .I knew that feeling all too well.
The silence passed and I stood up. I walked slowly around my desk. As I found the center of the room I stopped. I attempted to assuage them with a smile, though futile. "Good afternoon," I said, finally, my tone forced into serenity. "This is going to be your philosophy class. In this class we'll be studying reality with nothing more than what we already know. You'd be surprised how much you can learn from what you already know. I know humans. I know you all. I know there's a point at which humans eventually ask themselves 'Why am I here?' and 'Do I have a purpose?' Will we answer those questions in here? Absolutely not. All we do in here is elaborate on those questions. You have to learn how to understand your environment. You have to learn how to accept it and not make such a huge fuss out of everything. I'll tell you right now, I never raise my voice around others. Perhaps while I'm alone and frustrated at the universe I will, as I pace back in forth in whatever place I may be as I 'consult the heavens'. You have to understand your environment. You need to know what life is. Analyze it. Teach your own self about it. And the key to it all, the one tool that you'll ever need to take advantage of in doing this is observation."
I had paused in thought. I was looking for just the right words and, at the same time, allowing my recent ones to set in. Finally, I continued, "Tell me, how do you learn about the universe around you?" I gave pause again. I looked around them for an answer. The only movement they made, however, was to look at each other. I just gave up. "By observing it, of course. You have to watch its every move. You have to study every twist of its muscle, every molecule of blood that flows through its veins. You have to accept what you learn as well. Once you learn it, there's no turning back and there's no changing it. But, if you are ever to become a wise, enlightened individual, you have to know the truth of what is. That is what this class is for, to enlighten you. Observation is our tool; enlightenment our goal. But, and as hard as it may be for you, you have to set aside the differences you discover, no matter how large or distinctive. Because, whether you like it or not, we all live in the same universe, everything exists in this same universe, and you must deal with that. You don't have a choice, it is set, and you have to conquer it."
I had to pause to catch my breath. As I look around then, it was comforting to see that they were all looking at me. At least I had their attention, and, no doubt, they were actually listening. My empathic abilities were sensing some curiosity among them. That was exactly what I was going for.
"Now," I continued, relaxing, "first things first, I need to know who you are. I want you all to stand up right now, stand up." They looked around at each other. Had I not known better, I'd almost swear they were communicating telepathically to each other in that way. Finally, they rose, some shaky, others tired. I let another moment of silence pass. Targeting the individual directly ahead of me, one of the taller males, with sort of wild, dark hair and tanned skin, I got up from my desk upon which I sat and stared into him. "You. What is your name?"
As I looked at him, I allowed my telepathic abilities to focus on him. It hurt. He was disturbingly empty. He had so little emotion emanating from him I'd almost bet he were a robot. But what little did, was . His monotone voice was deep and grave. "Evan," he said simply.
"Evan what?" I shot back.
His eyes wandered the floor below. "Meyer."
I stared into him a few seconds. I was trying to read him, but he was so closed and shut down. "Evan 's your talent?"
He shook his head. "I don't have a talent."
"Everyone's got a talent, Evan Meyer. I want to know what yours is." I was purposely making my tone terse and commanding now.
To my dismay, he uttered some distasteful, profane words and walked toward the door. "Quitting on me already, Evan Meyer?" I asked suddenly, stopping him where he was. My eyes hadn't followed him, they'd only found their way to the floor his had wandered. Now, I did turn my head to face him, just as he turned to face me. "Evan," I said, "you walk out that you're going to wish you hadn't." He stared at me. The tension, admittedly, had my heart pumping like crazy. I was hoping my first day of class would go a little better. I resorted to a much more terse tone, and said, sharply, "Sit down."
He hesitated. He looked around a little, then slowly slid his way back to his desk and slumped into it. I let out my own sigh of relief, disappointed, but relieved, and my eyes found their way back to the other humans. I spotted Maryline to my right, and focused on her. "Maryline, we already know your name. Tell me, what are you afraid of?"
Her sad face looked toward the ground in thought. She shook her head. "Spiders, I guess, I don't know," she said in a low, almost inaudible tone.
I frowned. "Maryline, give me more than that. Help me out here. I don't want to know what creatures you're afraid of; I want to know what you're afraid of mentally. Do you fear the dark? Are you afraid of being alone? Perhaps judgement?"
She looked down again, thinking harder, that I could sense. Tension seemed to be coming back. Silence befell the room, and I wished, with all my might, that she would say something, anything, other than "I don't know".
.And did.
"I'm afraid of what you are going to do to us."
I froze. I was afraid then, myself, to move. I hoped that somehow, by not moving, time would freeze with me, and I wouldn't have to face the next second. was afraid of me, afraid of us, my people. I could feel my heart sinking, and, had I not known better, I'd think from the way everyone else seemed unmoving and silent that time really had frozen.
My head dropped. "Wow," I whispered, "that hurt."
I may have whispered it, but they heard it nonetheless. As quiet as it had been in there, you could hear a clock's second hand move. I was so utterly despondent that I couldn't even grip their reactions with my empathic abilities. I walked back around my desk and sat down again, letting my head drop in my hand. I sighed. It was turning into a really bad day.
I tried to push it off, but as I looked up I noticed they were all still standing. "Sit down," I said quickly, "sit down, please, all of you." I shook my head as they did so. I started to say, "I don't know.I don't." Rethinking my words, annoyed at myself as is, I said, "This isn't easy for me either." My voice was shaky, fragile. "My life isn't perfect either, okay," I said, defiantly. Then, sympathetically, I added, "We have to learn to live with each other. I know this isn't easy. But you have to deal with it. Just like I do." My mind drifted momentarily to what Verbadnn had told me about what he'd seen on the bridge of the personnel ship the night before. Drifting further, they ended up where they had been just before class began, while I was outside strolling between ships. That first day of class wasn't helping. I doubted my people, and those humans didn't seem very fond of us either. "We have to overcome these fears," I said. "Overcome your fear of me, your fear of us, unknown." My eyes became glued to whatever was before me. I was bemused, in a trance. ".Overcome your fear your own people." Those words had slipped out. I didn't understand how I could just let them slip out. It seemed the more worried you got those days, the less you thought about what you said. was true.
No! What am I saying? I thought to myself. I'm just not myself. It's that blasted Verbadnn. He's got me all worked up about what he said. so, perhaps. .I really need to stop letting this bother me so much. I'm used to being able to set aside my emotions. Why can't I now?
As that question crossed my mind, I realized the humans were all watching me, waiting for me. Doing my best to brush it aside, I let out a long, slow exhale and searched desperately in my mind for someplace to go from there. It was obvious that I was getting nowhere with them. I had to find a way to make them more comfortable with me. I had to find out how to make them able to act normally around me. They had know me..
"Why don't we try this again," I said, standing up, a bit more confident now. I walked around my desk again. "I'll introduce myself. I am Anar. I am a Commander of the Masters Division of the Star Dust Unit of His Majesty's Might. I was raised in the training of teaching and development of leadership skills. Once I reached adulthood on our world I was assigned training within His Majesty's Academy. I have mastered thirteen different alien groups, excluding my current ." I smiled, looking around at them. I leaned back on my desk and made myself a little more comfortable. "I guess you could say we have our lives planned out before we start them. On my world, we don't go for what we think we want or learn the things we think we want to know. At birth, telepathy and genetics measure our physical and mental capacities. We're assigned under a Youth Master, and they watch us and teach us until we're ready to be sent to where we're supposed to be. Sometimes that happens while we're still pretty young, and sometimes it happens a little after adulthood. It all really depends on how fast you learn and your capabilities.
"I will say this for the Academy," I continued, feeling a chuckle coming on, "it's probably the best thing that's ever happened to me. It set me on my path. Which, per chance by itself, brings me to our first subject, fate." I stood up off the desk and started to slowly wander aimlessly between desks.
"Fate," I said, "is Law of Life number one. You are all familiar with the Laws of Physics, correct? Science and laws govern the universe itself, just as life is governed by its own laws. And Law of Life number one states that all life is governed by fate. There's proof of it everyday, all the time, people just don't realize it. You've all had coincidences happen to you. Or, at least, what you call coincidences. You have to look at the big picture. Think about.a car wreck! You are in a car wreck, but had you just left your home a split second later; you wouldn't have been in that car wreck. In turn, you would've never gone to that hospital where you got your leg braced and those crutches. Had you not gotten those crutches, you would've never been struggling your way down the hall in school one day where another adolescent of the opposite sex ends up running into you. They stop, help you up, you introduce yourselves, and next thing you know you're in love and married five years later. Of course, by then the leg brace is long gone and you're running the hundred meter dash in college at record speeds." I stopped back up at the front and looked over them all. "You see? It happens all the time. And had you simply been temporarily frightened by some tiny little insect on the handle of your car door before you left that day, you would've never been hit by that car, broken your leg, fallen in love, and created a whole family of your very own that would be there for you for the rest of your life. Coincidence? .I think not.
"Everything happens for a reason. Is it always for the best? Most times methinks, yes. It all depends on what the universe has planned for you. It's all part of the bigger picture, the 'great, master plan', if you will. And, whether you like it or not, there's nothing you can do to change that path. It never changes; it's been set since the beginning of time. You were meant to be hit by that car now, just as much as you were billions of years ago before you were even born. And that, in turn, brings us to your first assignment. What is that 'great, master plan'? Where does it lead? Does someone or something set it? Is it a plan that works in life's favor or the universe's favor?
"Think about that, and while you're thinking about it, I want you each to take out the personal HC's you should've been given earlier in your first hour with Teacher Darv and type up your thoughts on the questions I've just asked you. I also want a good, detailed story about a 'coincidence' like the one I gave you an example of just now that happened to you. Think about the ripple effect it caused, tell me what events, no matter how small or possibly insignificant, that led to this one 'coincidence' happening, and then tell me what happened in effect to the coincidence. You should all have my messenger channel saved on your HC's, have them done and sent to me by nine tonight. And don't think for a moment that you can wriggle your way out of doing it and not send me anything like I'm sure a few of you probably did at your human schools. If I'm not sent anything, then tomorrow you will be forced to do it. Just as we've told you, obey, or be forced. The only other choice is death, and none of us want that. Why are we doing this? We're doing this to help you. Either you work and contribute to society, or your existence is pointless, and you will be therefore expelled. Any questions?"
No one said anything. I looked at each face. Some still had a bit of worry in their eyes. Others seemed angry, and some simply had no expression at all. I read that, empathically. They would get used to it, though, I was sure. Since no one said anything, I finished. "Alright then. Once our hour is up, I'll lead you all to the construction grounds for work, then nourishment, and then the day's yours. Get to work."
As they slowly started to pull the small, personal holo-computers they'd been given earlier to keep up with their schoolwork out, I sat back down at my desk. I'd decided to try and keep my mind off the fact that those humans were afraid of me forevermore and get some historical reading done. I had done sufficient studies of human history before we presented ourselves the day before, but I'd taken a bit of an interest in what was known as "Ancient Rome" and decided to do some personal study of its government and social structure. It seemed like a rather interesting society to me. And, besides, the more I knew of those humans' history, the more I'd be able to get inside their heads and work my way around them. His Majesty Himself knew I was going to need all the help I could get.

By late afternoon, the sky had gotten much cloudier and the wind had picked up quite a bit. The earth's sun was still sitting pretty high and mighty in the sky, breaking through the cloud barriers every once in a while. A cloud would go over it and a shade would settle over the land, momentarily masking us from the sun. Then it would pass, and the light would break through again, shining brightly on me. Its warmth soothed me and lulled my body into a sense of rest. It wasn't at all like home on our planet, Xrice. On Xrice, the atmosphere was much thicker than earth's, and the planet itself was much smaller, only about a third the earth's size. Most of the time, the sky was filled with a thick vapor that blocked out most of the sunlight, leaving our sky to appear as a bright twilight during the day and a foggy darkness at night. Sunlight was an increasingly annoying thing. It was much too bright, and you couldn't see anything once it got in your eyes.
And, for my people, it was deadly.
Our developing on a world masked from sunlight caused exposure to such an amount as humans took in to be fatal. Within merely a few minutes our skin would start to break out and boil. It would be like a human getting skin cancer, only it happened and killed within minutes. That, as one would assume, would be quite uncomfortable for us, especially myself; such a thing seemed absolutely horrifying to me.
Therefore, it was for that reason, that each day we were on earth, we had to apply a thick chemical gel to our bodies as a sort of sunblock to protect us form the Ultraviolet radiation. It was certainly very much more powerful than some human sunblock; it was no SPF 45. In fact, it would most likely have killed a human if applied to them as thoroughly as ourselves, or, at the very least, caused them some extremely severe irritation.
Simply as a sort of precaution, we were ordered to apply it at least twice each day that we spent on earth. I, personally, liked to do it four times. As humans say, better safe than sorry.
I sat now, rubbing it along one of my legs, on the construction grounds. I was sitting at a small table next to one of my good friends, and a fellow member of the Masters Division, Bjevorikk. Bjevorikk was there with his own unit of eighteen teenage humans. He'd been in service in HMM for a few years longer than myself and was therefore allowed more responsibility. When I thought about having eighteen human teenagers instead of just fifteen, though, I couldn't help but wonder where the reward in it was.
I'd met Bjevorikk about eleven years before. We were both assigned in the Masters Division of the Star Dust Unit at the same time, though he'd been in three more other Units before than myself. He was a bit of a thrillseeker, that Bjevorikk. He liked to find as many ways as he could to make things fun or funny. He knew how to make a good joke when he wanted to, but he also knew how to kick back and relax when the opportunity presented itself. He saw an assignment as one of those opportunities. Which was especially noticeable then as he leaned back comfortably in his chair with his feet resting upon the table before us and his wings hanging lifelessly at his sides, their lower stems just grazing the dirty ground below. He had a smile across his face and his eyes wide with pleasure. He loved the Masters Division.
I snickered at the image of him beside me then, doing what he did best. I shook my head and looked out before us where I could see my humans setting up framework and carrying large sheets of metal alongside Bjevorikk's. There were armira strewn about here and there, directing them and giving them instructions. Just making sure they didn't do something horribly wrong.
They seemed so fragile, the humans. Their clothes were covered with dirt, their faces and arms smudged. I sighed. They'll be in the grooming facilities for hours tomorrow, I thought dreadfully.
"Speaking of grooming," Bjevorikk said, reading my mind, "why are you putting more of that stuff on?"
I realized he'd meant the sunblock and I frowned. "It's much better than the alternative, don't you think?"
"Oh, what?" he asked, smiling wryly. "You mean letting your skin boil and turn into soup. Eh, you're right. Cook Tessel may end up getting hold of you and serving you as his main course tomorrow on the nourishment grounds," he joked.
I laughed. "Did you try that so-called 'seasoned' ashta meat of his this morning?" I asked, remembering it regretfully. "Blandest blasted thing I've ever had," I said, just finishing applying the sunblock and drying it off my hands with a small towel I carried with me.
"No, I went with the erdin this morning," he said.
"How was it?" I asked, sitting back and relaxing.
"It was okay," he admitted. "Certainly not the best I've ever had. You'd think that with as boring a life as his, he'd be good at something."
My brows furrowed. "Who? Cook Tessel?"
Bjevorikk turned his head and looked intently at me. "Read my mind, Anar. Yes, Tessel."
I frowned again. "Well, you know me. I try not to do that too often."
"Oh, yes," he said, "little Mr. Ethics here thinks it's an invasion of privacy."
I spied him curiously. "So, you mean to tell me that you don't find it at all violating when someone reads your mind, at any time?"
"No," he shrugged. "Actually, I find it quite a compliment. The person's just admitting that they find you so fascinating that they actually take the time to read your mind."
"Then you find me fascinating?"
"No, I find you idiotic. I read you for amusement and entertainment. There's a difference."
I smiled sarcastically at him. "Of course."
He chuckled back. As a silence fell in for a moment, it was broken by the sudden appearance of Qaz, the Unit Coordinator, diving down out of the sky and lightly touching down next to us. Both Bjevorikk and I stood as he faced us and bowed. He bowed back. He stepped up closer to us. "Commanders Anar and Bjevorikk," he said, confidently, handing us each a key card. "These are your pass keys to your humans' new chambers. The information on where to take them has been sent to your messenger channels."
"Ah," I said, pleasantly surprised, "so you were able to finish preparing them today? Good, good."
"Mmm, yes. I'm afraid, though, that the more younger humans' needs have not yet obtained sufficiency. They'll be spending another night in the cargo ships tonight."
My brows furrowed disappointedly. "Oh, that's too bad."
"Eh, they'll live," Bjevorikk said, shrugging it off as he looked over his key.
"Indeed," Qaz said, looking at Bjevorikk. He looked back at me. "It should only be for one more night. But you need not worry yourself with any such matters as is. Your humans are your concern, and their chambers are ready. And remember not to cut them any slack during the third course later, the human curfew is 7PM." He bowed. "Good day."
We both bowed back.
"Thank you, Sir," Bjevorikk said as he bowed.
I watched Qaz take off, Bjevorikk still examining his key. I frowned in thought of what Qaz had said. "Do they really need a curfew?" I asked.

"Well, I'm sure as His Majesty I don't want a bunch of humans running around the ships while most of us are asleep in orbit."
"Yeah, but to keep them locked up in chambers like that."
"What are they going to do, Anar? Go to a party?"
"They could visit each other."
He waved it off. "Eh, they can make friends with the others in their units."
I grimaced as we sat back down. As if the idea of keeping them locked up like prisoners wasn't bad enough, they had to have a blasted curfew? I imagined for a moment what it would be like to be where they were then and a scary realization came to mind. I'd be terrified of us, too.
Just then I became aware of some arguing over by the construction ahead. I looked up to find that Evan was standing right up in front of an armira, staring up into him, and yelling at him. Bjevorikk beside me watched curiously, almost awe-stricken. Not that I blamed him, I was a little surprised myself.
As Evan continued to yell, I decided I'd better do something about it before he got himself into too much trouble. The armira he was arguing with was just getting ready to draw his sword as a threat as I reached them.
"What's going on here?" I demanded.
They both stopped and looked at me.
"Is this your human?" the frustrated armira guard asked.
"Yes. What's he done?"
"He's refusing to work," he said, looking down on Evan with a grimace. "I tried ordering him to, and now he's arguing with me."
I looked down at Evan, who then proceeded to yell at me. I couldn't understand what he was saying through all the yelling and slang, so I just blocked him out. Annoyed, I sighed and looked over at the armira. "I'll take care of this," I said, Evan still yelling at me as if he hadn't noticed my ignoring him.
"I suggest you do," he said sharply, in a threatening tone as he turned and walked off.
When I looked down at Evan again, he finally stopped. "I suggest you get back to work, now!" I yelled. He yelled two words back at me. I only understood the "you", but I was fairly sure he wasn't trying to say "thank you". "I'd appreciate it if you not use such language," I said, sharply.
"I'll say whatever I wanna say!" he said.
I knew I had to bring some order then. It was getting to a point where I was wondering if I'd finally have to resort to force and hostility. I tried to suppress it, though. Slowly and without moving my body, I reached my tail out behind him and wrapped it around his arms. I tightened my grip and raised him up to my eye level so I could face him. As he struggled and yelled more profanities, I wrapped my wings out around him as well and made him fall deadly silent as I gazed angrily into his eyes.
"You see this, human?" I said, menacingly. "This is what you can do when you have a tail. And this," I said, razing my arms into the air to motion toward everything around us, "this is what you can do when you're part of an enlightened, intelligent race, a race that has evolved beyond the need to use such words." I moved him in a little closer to me. "A race strong enough to crush you like paper," I whispered. "Now, work!" I let loose my tail's grip of him and he fell to the ground with a nice loud thud. Expecting him not to disobey me further, I turned my back to him and started to head back toward Bjevorikk and the table.
"Oh yeah! Well, if you're so strong, why don't you do the work!"
I stopped and turned back to him, unbelieving that he still persisted relentlessly. Usually, I'd have finally resorted to violence then, but I had a better idea in mind.
Bjevorikk had stood up and walked around the table, about to head toward Evan and show him a thing or two himself, but I stopped him. I walked slowly up to Evan, looked down at his face that was now displaying, for the first time, a hint of nervousness, and I drew my sword. Evan watched the sword, a sword with a blade a foot taller than his self and practically as wide as his face, with an obvious fear building within him. A silence blew with the wind, and I could feel everyone's eyes on us then. I'd stood there for a few seconds, unmoving, wielding my sword threateningly, before, finally, I turned the sword so that it pointed at the ground and thrust it deep into the grassy soil. He'd jumped slightly as I had done it. I mused secretly at his being frightened and stepped around him, picked up the sheet of metal he was supposed to be setting up, and started setting it up myself.
"What are you all looking at!" I heard Bjevorikk's voice yell to everyone else. "Get back to work!"
The sound of bustling work came back to my ears. I heard nothing from Evan, nor did I look at him. But I could feel his confusion and awe flowing from him like a raging river rapid. I did his work for the rest of the three hours we were out there. When the alarm finally went off to dismiss workers on the construction grounds to nourishment, I walked back up to Evan and took my sword. I sheathed it, and said, "There," I said, quietly to him. "I showed you that I can do it. Tomorrow I expect you to show me that you can, too."
Evan's mouth bobbed up and down for a few seconds, trying to find words to speak. Finally, he managed to stutter, "But, how did you know I wouldn't run?"
I cocked my head to the side. A little curious as to why he didn't myself. "I didn't." I said. "I guess you're smarter than I thought." I walked around him, leaving him there in his own little world. "Alright everyone!" I hollered to everyone else. "To the nourishment grounds!"

After showing my humans around their chambers that evening and leaving them back there, I found myself standing on the top of a hill just beyond the construction grounds.
They'd loved their chambers. It was surprisingly, very luxurious. Two levels, with a study a library and a kitchen at 25 feet by 25 feet. The design looked as if it augmented Greek architecture. There were columns that held up the second level and marble floors. The walls were lined with soft, shining oak and copies of famous paintings hung about them. There was even a very nicely sized bedroom for each human. And, perhaps most surprisingly, there was even a fireplace in the main room with leather chairs and couches strewn about decoratively. The chairs were huge, too. They'd been made large enough to support your average armira, a size that could fit four average humans in it comfortably. The couches were a good fifteen feet long with a backrest that rose six feet high. They were extremely comfortable. Personally, I wouldn't have minded spending a lot of my own free time there.
I would have, too. Unfortunately, I had that meeting with Admiral Noltass aboard Star Dust that evening. When I thought about it, it did seem kind of odd. What would the Fleet Admiral want with me? The Fleet Admiral was the Commanding Officer and Chief of every starship in the unit. His position fluctuated from first to second when it came to him and the Unit Master. The Unit Master, Master Ovarus, was the Master of all group masters in the Masters Division. Myself a group master, had to report to him each week. He was Commander of all alien Intel's while on assignment, whereas the Fleet Admiral was Commander of all armira affairs both planet- bound and off-world.
As it was said in the mission statement, the Fleet Admiral was the absolute C&C (Commander and Chief) of all Units. Second in command was the Unit Master, followed by the Captains of each starship, then followed by the Fleet Senior Staff, Masters Senior Staff, group masters, starship crews, and finally Master crews.
Why the C&C wanted to see me, I hadn't a clue. In fact, I'd never actually spoken to him directly. I'd sat at the same table with him many times during meetings or at celebration or ritual dinners but never actually spoke to him. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous.
Just then, before I went up, I stood on a hill overlooking the earth's setting sun. I was enormously tired. That planet's gravity weakened us to such an extent that we practically needed double our usual sleep. We were much more used to the smaller gravity of our quaint, little homeworld.
It was the same place upon which I had stood earlier that morning before I made my way to the storage ships to meet my humans. I reflected back on the day's comings. Majesties, I thought, this day was absolutely horrid.
I left then, and took a pod up to Star Dust. I used the ship's computer layouts to find my way to the Admiral's office. When I got there we bowed, greeted, and he offered me a seat in front of his desk. I sat down, got comfortable, and awaited his speakings eagerly.
"Commander Anar," he said his voice surprisingly soft and youthful, "you have a female by the name of Maryline Nicole Wood in your group, correct?"
I only got more curious with this question. "Aye," I answered simply.
He spied me with a curious look for a few seconds before finally saying, "What are your thoughts on her?"
I looked to the side a moment, thinking of a way to describe her. It surely wasn't easy. "Well," I began slowly, "to be quite honest, my thoughts on her are rather lost. There seems to me something about her I can not quite wrap my wings around."
He nodded lightly. "I see," he said, snorting slightly and readjusting himself in his chair. Brows furrowed, he went on. "Your senses have picked up nothing from her that might point to the idea of her ?"
"Inhuman?" I reiterated, confused. "I'm not sure what you mean?"
He sighed a bit and looked down from me. "Commander, the Royal Council says they have reason to believe that Maryline Nicole Wood is an endeff infiltrate."
"Sir?" I nearly shouted almost jumping from the seat. "Admiral, if I may, what would an endeff be doing on earth pretending to be a human?"
"We can't share that with you," he said, terse now, his smile gone. "As you know, Commander, since the Nexus Wars with the endeff ended ten years ago, we've been weary of secret factions still strong in opposition to the treaty signed at Temler planning terroristic acts against the Kingdom. If there's even a possibility, no matter how slim, that there's an operative of one of these oppositions on that planet we have to check it out. Tomorrow during their first hour of schooling, you are to bring Maryline Nicole Wood to Star Dust for interrogation and examination."
"Sir, I really don't think."
".Do not argue, Commander. I can have you stripped of rank, shipped back to the homeworld, and working in a holo-pad factory by tomorrow afternoon if I wanted to. You will bring the human here. Understood?"
Somehow, his tone had managed to stay soft throughout the threat. I acknowledged and left. But I left utterly disgusted.