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“Ghost in the Machine” by C.E. Kilgore

Ghost in the Machine” is a Science Fiction Novel by C.E. Kilgore. Below is a synopsis:

Ghost in the Machine – Corwint Central Agent Files Book 1
(Science Fiction Romance)

“Love is like a wormhole. You stumble on to it blindly, it sucks you in and takes you somewhere completely unexpected, but you sure have one hell of a ride. You can’t fight it, because that would tear your ship apart. You can’t control it, either. All you can do is set your thrusters on glide and let it take you where it’s going to take you.”

The empathic race of Vesparians move through the universe unseen and without existing. Suddenly finding herself thrown into open existence by her Director, Orynn tries to change the fate of her people’s future while desperately seeking to reconcile past mistakes. Will the darkness hidden within her spirit and the lies that surround her life bring her world crumbling down around her again, or will her heart finally be released from the protective bindings she has placed around it?

Mechatronic Automaton. Machine. Soulless construct. Ethan has never denied the truth of his nature or pretended to be anymore than the sum of his parts. When the logic that governs his system is thrown out of balance by an unexpected encounter, can he evolve beyond the confines of his programming to realize the truth? That deep down, we are all machines, but we are all alive.

C.E. has been kind enough to provide us with a sample from this story:


The harsh Berian winter wind blew flakes of crystalized snow against the large picture window that made up the back wall of the modest hotel room. Orynn sat on the heated bench seat with her forehead pressed against the cold glass. The reflection of her liquid mercury colored irises stared out at the city street several stories below the room with a disconnected longing. She watched as people walked by in their thick winter attire, clinging to one another against the bitter frost as they entered and exited the warmth of the various shops and restaurants lining the street. A group of children darted between arm linked couples and light posts as they threw mounds of snow at one another. It brought a small smile to her lips as she watched their playing, and before she could stop herself, she let out a quiet laugh.
“Orynn?” An irritated female voice behind her called her name and brought her out of her thoughts. “Have you heard a single word I just said?”
Orynn turned her head to the source of the voice. She started to give a dishonest nod to her mother, but the look in her mother’s eyes made her rethink her decision. With a sigh, she tucked a strand of her white hair behind her ear and shook her head. “No, my mother. I am sorry for my disrespect.”
Tersai let out a long exhale to cool her frustration and stepped closer to her daughter. Her own silver eyes glanced out of the window to see what had taken over her daughter’s attention this time. The scene playing out in the street below made Tersai take in another long breath. Her eyes refocused on the reflection of her and her daughter in the window glass, and she saw the sad longing in her daughter’s eyes. In the reflection, they resembled one another closely in appearance, height, and even age. To most, they would be seen as sisters, and possibly even twins. Despite the appearance, Orynn was much younger. Perhaps still too young.
“Perhaps it would be best if I did not take you on this mission.”
Orynn looked back up at her mother pleadingly. “No, please. I am sorry, A’kai.”
“This will be a much longer mission than our previous ones. It will require us to be around many others on a large ship for a prolonged period of time.” Tersai glanced back out into the street below. “You still want to be part of their lives, and that is starting to concern me. How can I be sure that you will be able to cut the connections when it becomes necessary?”
Orynn frowned. So we are having this conversation again. “You have taught me well. I will be ready and I will do as I have been taught.”
“Will you?” Tersai stared down into her daughter’s eyes. It was almost like looking at a mirror image, but where her own eyes had grown cold in the face of nearly five hundred years of reality, her daughter’s eyes still held that dangerous flicker of hope that things for them could be different. That hope was something that a Vesparian could not afford. “You are still too young for this. I will contact your sister, and she will continue your training while I am away.”
“No!” Orynn let her anger show through as she stood away from the bench. The last thing she wanted was to be passed back over to her sister. Asha would be just as annoyed with the idea of having to stop what she was doing to come and look after her failure of a younger sibling. She didn’t feel like putting up with Asha telling her again what a poor Vesparian she was turning out to be. The thought of having to listen to Asha’s arrogant tone only pushed her anger further.
“That, right there, is what concerns me.” Tersai felt the strong empathic wave of anger emanating from her daughter. “You still have not learned to fully control your emotional aura. If I had been a Common, you may have affected me with your anger.”
Orynn lowered her eyes and took in a breath to steady her anger. Once again, her mother was right. With a thought, her aura calmed and dissipated. “I am sorry, but A’kai, please. I know that I still have much to learn, but I am one hundred and eighty years old. I am no longer a child who needs to be kept by her sister. I am ready for this.”
Tersai knew her daughter did indeed have a great deal to learn, but it was not about how to control her empathy. At almost two hundred years of age, Orynn was still considered young by her people’s standards, and so her lapse in emotional control from time to time was expected. It was not the real reason Tersai was having second thoughts about taking her daughter with her on this mission. The largest concern was her daughter’s heart. She was still so very much like her father.
“Look at them, Orynn.” Tersai nodded towards the window, and they both stepped closer to look down at the street. “They live such fleeting lives. Even the longer lived races are still just a blink in the eyes of a Vesparian. They try so hard to fill those short lives with so much that it gives them a powerful energy, and I understand how those energies can be so tempting for you. You want to feel it with them and be a part of it. You want to be surrounded by the strength of their joy and their sadness. You want to know them, and you want to be known. You want to exist.”
“Rule two.” Orynn whispered at her own reflection. “We do not exist, but allow existence to move around us.”
Tersai wrapped an arm around her daughter’s shoulders and squeezed her gently. “I know it is hard, my daughter. I too have stood where you stand, with my own mother reminding me of our place in this universe. We must stand apart, but remember that what we do is important. What we do helps those people to continue living their lives freely. In a small way, we exist with each of them, even if they must never know it.”
Orynn thought over her mother’s words as the glass frosted over with the setting of the sun. The view of the street below and the people moving about their lives became obscured and distorted. She knew that part of what her mother was saying was true. They were doing important work that was helping to keep planets like Berian Two free of the growing influence of the Xen’dari Empire. Still, she could not deny the part of her heart that forever longed to do that work out in the open instead of hidden behind false identities and shallow relationships. Her mother said it was her father’s heart that gave her that longing to make connections with others and be part of existence. He had been a man of Corwint whose lifespan had been just as fleeting as those on the street, and there were times when she wished she had been more like her father in that respect.
But she was Vesparian, and it was perhaps time she began acting more like one.
“I understand, my mother.” She turned her eyes back to her mother and nodded with a soft smile. “I understand, and I am ready to allow existence to move around me if it will let us help these people.”
Tersai smiled and kissed her daughter’s forehead. “I am so proud of you, my daughter.”
Orynn let the soft warmth of her mother’s aura surround her, but she could not stop her eyes from turning back to the street below them. She may have said the words her mother wanted to hear, but her father’s heart could not be silenced so easily. The way Vesparians lived their lives within a set of rules that governed how they were to move through the universe without existing in it had been in place for a very long time. The longevity of their race made them slow to change, but she felt as if things had to change or one day her people would cease to exist entirely, even from one another. It was a secret fear that she kept for herself, tucked away in her heart along with her secret longing that one day she would be able to walk down the street on a cold winter day and have people smile at her because they knew who she was.
It was a secret hope that one day she would know real friendship, despite rule three warning against it.
It was a secret dream that one day she would know the real emotion of love and that it would be her own, even though rule five forbid it.
That dream and that hope kept her father’s heart beating strongly within her, and despite her desire to make her mother proud, she refused to let him go.


Thirty five years later.

Even when he slept, he was awake.
The mind of a Mechatronic Automaton, which was comprised of a network of constantly firing electrical synaptic pulses that connected the multiple processors required to operate a being as complex as he was, wasn’t prone to going offline. At least not completely.
He often wondered if the mental activities that occurred while he was in a state of sleep were akin to the dreaming minds of those who were not machines, often referred to as Organics or Breathers, depending on how polite you were intending to be. He, however, never dreamed of walks on the beach, monsters lurking from the shadows, or giving speeches in the nude. Unlike the dreams of Breathers, his thought processes were, what he liked to boast, much more logical. He could spend an entire recharge session working on a calculation needed for improving the intake ratio of their ship’s engine, or mapping the best route to their current destination down to the very smallest speck of space junk floating in the vast void of empty darkness.
It seemed, to him at least, to be a much better use of time than thinking about some imagined scenario that would, probability speaking, never happen.
Still, despite the differences he liked to focus on between his “dreams” and those of the Breathers, one similarity seemed to be undeniable. Being woken up and pulled out of your current thoughts by the insistent beeping of a communicator was still one of the biggest annoyances in the universe.
With a fumbling hand searching for the connect button, the communicator was pushed off the nightstand and onto the pile of clothes below. A muffled voice emanated from the inside of the pant leg where the communicator had landed.
“Ethan? Are you there?” The male voice on the other end of the communicator was more than a little perturbed. “Ethan? C’mon you big hunk o’scrap, pick up the damn line.”
Ethan moved his head over to the edge of the bed and looked down at the communicator in his pant leg. He smirked and wondered if he should tell his Captain to kiss his ass while he was in there. Thinking better of it, he reached in and fished out the communicator. Leaning up on one elbow, he looked into the view-screen with a few long calibration blinks of his sapphire blue eyes. “A bit early in the morning to be tossing insults, isn’t it Hank?”
“Never.” Hankarron Eros’s unshaven face appeared as tired as Ethan felt. The young Captain looked as if he had a bit of a wild night, which was not unusual after being out in space for a few months on assignment. Hank was also a bit of a playboy on the surface, even if Ethan knew it was all a cover. The fact that he looked the part, with his light brown wavy hair, puppy-dog brown eyes and a well-practiced impish smile that made the girls blush, made the guise all the harder to question. Most port guards didn’t think to look twice at a flamboyant spice trader with a well-endowed giggling girl on each arm.
Sometimes drawing attention to yourself is the most effective way to stay hidden.
Hank rubbed the stubble on his chin and surveyed the Mecha on the other end of the com unit. He had known Ethan now for twenty four years. The first day was when he had gotten free of his nursemaid and stumbled onto the bridge of his Uncle Jhonis’s ship. He had bumped head first into Ethan’s leg and the Mecha had picked him up by the seat of his overalls, lifting him over six and a half feet in the air to his eye-level, and smirked at him. Since that day, they had gotten into and out of more trouble together than he could count. After Jhonis died, Hank took over the family “business”, and Ethan stayed by his side.
He didn’t give a geffarion shit if Ethan was a machine dressed in a synthetic skin to look like a man. With all the poor excuses for men he’d seen in his life, Hank was convinced Ethan was a better man than most, including himself. “You look like hell. Did you not plug in last night?”
“You’re one to talk.” Ethan rolled into a seating position at the edge of the bed and set the communicator back onto the nightstand, propping it up against the base of a lamp. He planted both feet flat on the hard white tile floor and wiggled his toes. Scratching the back of his neck where his black rooted, dark blue hair started, he looked around and tried to regain his bearings.
Sleeping in a console seat on a spaceship ninety-nine percent of the time made waking up in a soft bed on a natural gravitational planet a disorienting experience. Flashes of the night before erupted from his memory bank and the smirk re-appeared on his grey-blue lips. “And define ‘plug in’.”
Hank shook his head and gave a gruff laugh. “Uh-hu, I figured as much. The blonde you left with from the bar?”
“Red head from the hotel lobby.”
“Red… geeze, Ethan, you’re worse than I am, you know that?”
“I should hope so. I’ve been doing this for about fifty years longer.” Ethan stretched his arms out and then up, careful not to knock over the lamp. His inner graphene wrapped, titanium composite core skeletal structure felt stiff, and he found that the muscular bands responsible for his motor functions were operating at less than optimal response times.
Damn. Perhaps plugging in to a charge station would have been a brighter idea than plugging into the red head.
He glanced over his shoulder to the other side of the bed, and he wasn’t surprised to find it not-recently vacated. The infrared heat sensors in his eyes told him it hadn’t been slept in for at least four hours. The faint outline of where the red head’s curvaceous body had been was still visible, but the owner of the outline was long-gone. Her curiosity had been satisfied and the embarrassment, or perhaps the revulsion, had set in and she had fled before she had to look the machine next to her in the eyes again.
“Well, get your ass dressed and meet me at the station. Our meeting with Central is in an hour, and traffic this time of day on the express is a bitch.”
“Aye aye, Captain.” Ethan gave the com unit a mock salute as Hank’s face faded into the black glossy screen. Without a second glance to the empty spot beside him on the bed, he stood, stepped into the legs of his casual black pants and pulled them up. He slipped his communicator into his pocket and refocused his eyes on the rest of the small hotel room. It took him a few moments longer to locate his shirt, a white tight fitting long sleeved pullover made from the same breathable and flexible poly-blend nanotech fiber as his pants. He found his black jacket still hanging from the corner of a high back chair near the entrance of the hotel room. All were Central issued garments; a casual comfort blended with protection against tracking, body scanning, and the occasional small class firearms.
After zipping up the sides of his thick soled boots and drawing the cuff of his pant legs down over them, he strode over to the chair and reached for his jacket. He checked all the pockets for their designated contents before slipping it on. His important identification credentials were all logged with an ocular scan, but his civilian identification was still the commonly used One Pass that everyone carried these days.
One Pass – Recognized in fourteen systems and growing!
He cursed under his breath. Now that jingle would be stuck in his head for hours.
The One Pass was still in his left inside jacket pocket, and his sunglasses were still in his right. One hundred and twenty three partners as of last night, and not a single one had ever robbed him of anything except seeing their face in the morning. One hundred and twenty three, and each one had been gone when he woke up, not that he cared. They had used him to satisfy a curiosity most of the women he encountered seemed to have.
Were Mecha any different, or any better than an Organic?
He liked to think so.
He knew he was no more innocent. He didn’t take girls into his bed to satisfy the primal needs that Breathers seemed utterly incapable of ignoring. For him, it was all part of his study of the ways of Organics. He did the expected motions; caressed their skin, kissed their lips and performed, what he believed, was probably the best sex they would ever have. All the right moves, and he was rewarded with their moans and sighs. Still, he knew from the looks in their half-closed eyes that something was still missing. There was still something he wasn’t able to provide. He doubted he would ever be able to understand what that something was, no matter how many girls he bedded.
His eyes glanced back at the empty bed one more time. He admitted that it might be nice to wake up one day to someone willingly lying beside him, no matter how unlikely the probability of that happening was. He guessed that was as close to a dream as he would ever get.
One Pass – For when your credentials need knowing!
“Fuck sakes.” Ethan put on his sunglasses and stepped out into morning light of the glass-enclosed hallway.


“You know, just once I’d like for us to be on time.” Hank pushed through the glass double doors of the front entrance of an unassuming office building in the heart of downtown Easton.
Easton was one of the six mega cities that together incorporated sixty-three percent of the planet Corwint’s main landmass. It was a vast metropolis of increasingly tall skyscrapers that spread out as far as you could see before thinning into less dense older suburbs and the newly built housing districts. As the capital city of Corwint, it was the center of all commerce for the planet, and it served as a binding point for Corwint’s ever more diversified population.
Still untouched by the Xen’dari Empire, it had become a haven for all planetary races seeking refuge, or simply a place for one to live outside of conflict. It also held its place in history as one of the leading centers for technological innovation, and it was the birthplace of Hydrofusion Theory, Mechatronic Engineering and graphene synthesis. At the heart of the interplanetary cooperation and technological advances was this very simple building of white concrete and glass.
Ethan caught the doors as they swung back his way and followed Hank into the large open lobby. His six feet, ten inch height required him to duck slightly as he passed under the door frame. “Why break our record now? If we keep it up, maybe they will start sending an escort.”
“An escort to the detention cells in the basement, I bet.” Hank rushed his steps to the automated lift doors to beat out a woman heading that way.
“No, I was thinking more of a personal transport.” Ethan stepped onto the lift next to Hank and pushed the button to close and seal the doors. The woman reached the doors just in time to give the pair an angry glare as Hank flashed her his boyish grin and waved. Once the doors were sealed, Ethan leaned in to let the panel scan his right eye as he held down the button for the one-hundredth and forty-fourth floor. The scan completed and gave an audible beep of acceptance.
“You know,” Ethan completed his previous thought. “the kind where the driver sits in front and you sit in back having a provided cocktail from the built in mini-fridge.”
“Maybe you should ask the Director for that in our meeting.” Hank laughed lightly before his stomach jumped with the sudden movement of the lift. He hated these damn things. It always felt like it was just going to keep going and shoot your ass out of the top of the building. Moving compartments should have a control stick.
The gravitational shift didn’t faze Ethan, whose internal gravitational stabilizers adjusted to keep his footing solid against the floor of the lift. “Good idea. I’ll be sure to mention your request for a pay raise too, while I’m at it.”
“Thanks.” Hank exhaled a slow breath as the lift came to a jarring stop and the doors slid open. “At least the cells down there are solitary confinement.”
“Oh I’m sure they would make an exception, just for the two of us.”
They stepped out into a long, empty, glossy white hallway and waited for the lift to close behind them. The lift doors closed and sealed, leaving behind a seamless glossy white wall. A decompression hiss broke the silence and the pseudo-solid wall in front of them opened. From the new doorway stepped a very short and small boned older woman in a confining pinstriped business suit.
“I assure you boys,” The woman’s Hedarion accent of buzzing s’s and drawn out monotone vowels was thick and only added to her stiff appearance. “we have a very special place reserved down there for the both of you.”
Hank dropped the smile and cleared his throat. He hated those damn, audio tapped, lifts. “Good morning, Director Szina.”
“Morning?” Jehdra Szina slowly raised one eyebrow high over the rim of her red-framed glasses. Even looking up at them from her four-foot three-inch height, she managed to look down on them with a whip-cracking glare of her natural completely black Hedarion eyes. “I believe, Captain Eros, that it is sometime after noon, Corwint time.“
“Yes ma’am.” Hank hated how much power this tiny little woman held over him. She could order him dead, here in the hallway, and no one would blink an eye or even remember who he had been if she requested it to be so. She also had a glare that could freeze the ass off of a Berian sled bear.
“There was a wreck on the express line and…”
“Yes yes, I know.” She turned on a pivot, the flip of her bright red shoulder length hair adding to the disinterested tone of her voice. “Be late again, boys, and next time I will send a transport. And, I can assure you that it will not include a mini-fridge.”
“Yes ma’am.” Hank and Ethan responded at the same time and followed her through the doorway, which sealed automatically behind them.
Ethan had to force the smile away that was on the tip of his lips. He had known Jehdra long enough to know that, under her course all-business facade, there was a warm hearted woman with a fiery temper who once drank Hank’s uncle under the table after saving their asses in the Kilari Embargo Wars of 1423ot. Hank didn’t know that, however, and Ethan wasn’t in a rush to tell him. It was fun watching her squeeze Hank’s balls and seeing his eyes water. Hank was his best friend, but being kept in check was one of the things keeping the kid from turning out like his father.
Beyond the doorway was a normal looking reception area, complete with waiting room, a large receptionist desk and an attractive blond female receptionist. The receptionist nodded at the director and moved her hand away from a side console on her desk which controlled the sterilization system in the hallway. Uninvited guests were not welcome at Central, and they maintained a strict “vaporize first, try and DNA match later” policy.
As the group move passed the desk, the receptionist smiled at Hank, but she avoided looking towards Ethan. Number one-hundred and eighteen. It was a bit too close to home, he knew, but she had the most symmetrically pleasing face.
He didn’t hold the avoidance against her, and he had even considered offering her a memory removal procedure. The high probability that she could turn out even more of a vegetable, however, had persuaded Ethan that she was best left with what brain cells she did have. That was one of his key disagreements with Central. Discretion was at the top of the employee requirements, not intelligence.
Jehdra led them past several closed and unmarked office doors before turning into a large conference room. She gestured toward the clear acrylic chairs near the head of a long conference table as she continued toward the front of the room. “Have a seat, but don’t make yourselves comfortable. This won’t take long.”
Hank and Ethan exchanged apprehensive glances as they took the two seats across from each other at the end of the conference table. Normally, the only thing at Central that didn’t take long was a termination of service contract. They watched silently as she turned on the large view screen that hung against the wall. The bright LED lights in the room automatically shut off and were replaced by the warm glow of several small desk lamps that were attached to the conference table between every two seats. The view screen displayed the image of a space port just outside of the Meris system. Its main hangar bay and communications tower were in several floating pieces orbiting the station.
“Now then…” Jehdra turned back to the table and set her palms flat against its cold white quartz surface. She leaned forward and stared at the boys in front of her. The glow from the lamps cast a dark and foreboding shadow across her face. Any question of her power within Central vanished with the look in her black, pupil-less eyes, and she was not pleased. “Which of you would like to explain this mess to me?”
Hank grumbled slightly. “They were holding us with bogus charges of smuggling Kilarian ale. They were going to tear my ship apart for the next two weeks, which would of caused us to miss the ransom deadline set by the T’jaros!” He blurted the words out, his nerves overriding his brain telling him that a calm, well thought out response was the best recourse for survival. He cleared his throat and lowered his eyes as his brain kicked his ego in the ass. “…ma’am.”
Ethan watched as the blackness in Jehdra’s eyes darkened to a hue he was certain was not part of the Organic visible spectrum. Hank’s fiery nature made him a force to be reckoned with, but it also got them into a lot of trouble. This was not the first station that Hank’s brash decisions had left in pieces. Discretion was certainly not his strength, and Ethan was starting to think that Central had found him to be more of a liability than an asset.
Time to step in before she bites his head off. Literally.
“While the damage to the port is regrettable, Director…” Ethan paused as Jehdra slowly moved her glare over to him. “I must agree with Captain Eros that it was unavoidable. The key point of our mission was dependent on reaching the T’jaros blockade before the deadline in order to retrieve the girl and remove her from the equation for the negotiations between the Kilari and the Merae, which we accomplished.”
“I am not questioning the success of the mission, Ethan.” She took in a sharp hissing breath. “I am questioning the burning trail of disemboweled space stations, collapsed buildings, wrecked vessels, and ruined highly expensive equipment Captain Eros and his crew always leaves in their wake!”
Hank fumed. He had always done what he was asked to do, and he had always completed his missions in one form or another. He also watched out for his own. He had the lowest crew casualty rate in Central. Yet, here they were because some bureaucrat had gotten his shit-stained undies in a twist over a rundown rusted piece of space junk passing as a port suffering a few taser cannon burns.
And they lost their communications tower. And their internal gravitational assembly. And those transport pods full of Keszite ore…
“Collateral damage has to be expected when shit hits the fan, Director.”
“Oh trust me, Captain…” Jehdra refocused her glare on Hank. Ethan was certain that, beyond all logic, she was about to spew flames from her mouth and burn Hank’s head off his shoulders. “Shit has indeed hit the fan. I’m your Director. Who do you think has to keep explaining these fuck-ups to the Central Command Council? Who do you think has kept you in active service this long?”
Hank swallowed hard, taken aback and remembering who he was dealing with. “Ma’am, I..”
“I’m sorry…” She finished with a small huff. “Yes, I know. I’m sorry too that your Uncle, whose performance record for Central remains the standard by which we evaluate all others, seems to have trained you how to shoot a gun when necessary, but not how to set the gun down when other avenues exist.”
Ignoring Hank’s attempt at rebuttal, she turned her viperous tongue on Ethan. “And you! I expect so much more from you, Ethan. You should be leading by example through tactful negotiations and evasive maneuvers. Instead, you act like you were compiled yesterday and run in after Hank with guns blazing like you’re in some damn action movie!”
Ethan had lost all the humor from earlier that morning. His face had gone stoic as his neuro network worked to devise the best way to get he and Hank out of this office alive. The look in Jehdra’s eyes told him, with great certainty, that everything depended on the next few words to come out of his mouth.
He swallowed hard out of a reflex produced from his organo-relative subroutines, a small set of commands that ran instinctively in order to help him appear more like a Breather. It was something he both thanked and cursed his designer for. It was the reason his chest lifted and fell naturally to support his cooling system, why his eyes blinked in an undetectable pattern, and the reason that, at this very moment, his leg gave a nervous twitch.
“I agree, Director, that we need to make great improvements to our tactics. You are right that we should attempt to be more diplomatic, even in situations where it seems there is no recourse but to shoot our way out, such as with this station. We are both open to any and all suggestions that you have. I know that your ability for such tactics is unmatched.”
Jehdra let the silence hang in the air as Ethan finished his response. She could tell by the way he spoke that he understood the gravity of the situation they were all in. Her eyes moved to Hank and she knew that he was a mixture of bottled anger and nerves. He was a young Captain who had a great deal to learn and prove. Perhaps she was expecting too much of him too soon due to his uncle’s legacy. Jhonis had been the best damn Captain that Central had ever had. She had hoped that it had rubbed off on Hank. She owed Jhonis more than a few favors to give his nephew another chance, though it may be the last one she would be able to give him.
“I don’t have a suggestion for you, Ethan.” Jehdra turned back to the view screen control panel and pulled up a file from Central’s mainframe. “I have an order. You are going to be taking on a new crew member as of right now, and you are going to be under her direction when it comes to anything even remotely resembling the need for discussion, mediation, diplomacy, or even just asking for clearance to dock.”
Jehdra turned back to Hank to make sure her point was reaching home. “She is your new Tactical Relations officer, and she reports directly to me. Is that clear?”
Hank didn’t like the sound of this at all. That last comment from Jehdra’s mouth basically said that this chick was going to be an overseer on his own damn ship. The Director’s very own watchdog. Perfect. Just fucking perfect. That was all he needed. Some uptight bitch watching their every move and whispering reports back to the Director. Could it possibly get any worse?
“Director?” Ethan cocked his head to the right as his eyes surveyed the mostly blank data sheet. Normally, a personnel file would have every small detail about the person, from their allergies to their psych evaluation. This file didn’t even have a picture. It just had a first name, listed as Orynn, and a Central agent id number. It also had an exceptionally long list of previous mission dates with codenames. Below that, and the only other thing on the sheet, was her race. It was that last part that gave him second thoughts about making a run for it.
“Does that file say Vesparian?”
“The fuck?!” Hank’s eyes shot back up to the data file and searched for what Ethan was reading.
“Yes. It does.” Jehdra crossed her arms. “And you’ll watch your fucking language in my conference room, Captain.”
Ethan’s eyebrow raised. “Are you telling us that Vesparians actually exist?”
“Yes. This is classified information. You are to tell no one but your crew, is that clear?”
“Oh come on, Director!” Hank planted both feet on the ground and started to get up, but paused as Ethan gave him a stern look. Hank sat back down and took in a deep breath to try and cool his nerves. “Even if half the rumors I’ve heard about them are true, you can’t honestly expect me to let one on my ship!”
“I do.” Jehdra leaned back down and stared Hank in the eyes. “And by my last count, that ship belongs to Central a hundred times over after all the messes we’ve had to clean up for you in the past five years with you as its Captain. You will be expected to treat her with respect and take her tactical suggestions very seriously.”
She stood up straight again and turned to face the pictureless file. “Ethan, you said I was unmatched in my tactical abilities. This one, Orynn, makes me look like a damn amateur. I need you to trust me on this, for old times’ sake.”
Hank started to protest again, but Ethan stopped him and stood from the table. The tone in her voice told him more than he knew Hank could read. She had put her neck on the line for them this time. If they crashed and burned again, so would she. This was a last ditch desperate move to save all their asses. “Where do we pick her up?”


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© 2012, Steven R. Drennon. All rights reserved.

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