Martin Evans stretched and looked out the “window” in his office at Clarion’s SSI headquarters. The sun dipped below the Stockton skyline. Time to call it a day, he decided.
He stood and walked around the desk into the open area of his spacious office.
“Port me home, StarCen.”
He popped out of his office and showed up in the living room of his apartment several kilometers away in Stockton’s ritzy Greenfield District.
StarCen reserved terrestrial teleportation for high level government officials and other VIPs, but appreciation for the privilege escaped Evans. He expected it. The man had not used public transportation in years.
He sighed and headed for his favorite easy chair. Next to it, a small side table held an old-fashioned ornate reading lamp.
An android servant appeared. Fully humanoid, she looked exactly like Trilla Aguilar, an artificial celebrity owned by Sergio Productions. Trilla had been a sensation when he was growing up, and he spent countless hours immersed in her worlds. She was his first crush. He paid an exorbitant fee on top of the base price for the extremely expensive fully humanoid android servant to have a face that looked just like Trilla Aguilar’s.
That exquisite feminine look was owned by Sergio Productions. Trilla, in many ways, was the perfect starlet. She never aged, for one thing. She continued producing money for the company, year after year. Now they had a full stable of beautiful young artificial starlets, with new ones appearing every year. But Trilla was Martin Evan’s childhood favorite.
“Trilla” walked in now, carrying a drink. She handed it to him and moved behind the chair to rub his shoulders.
After several minutes of back massage bliss, she said, “I’ll go start dinner, now.”
She walked out of the room in her high heels and headed to the kitchen. Evans smiled and drained the last of his drink. He reached over to turn off the lamp on the table beside him, and stopped.
A stream of silver pixels flowed out of the room’s chandelier and down to the carpeted floor, surprising him. He jerked up in the seat, leaned forward and watched as the form of a beautiful blonde clad in the silver unitard of an indentured servant took shape in front of him. He breathed in sharply. The asset!
Raquel smiled at him and said, “Hello, Martin.”
He cleared his throat. This was awkward.
He said, “You really should have shown up at the office. This is my private residence.”
“Oh, I know. But, I wanted to have a private conversation.”
“SSI Headquarters is one of the most private places on the planet,” he said with a smile.
She snorted. “I’ll bet that your apartment here is even more private than your office.”
Evans swallowed and his smile faltered. She was right, actually. It was another privilege of his position. There was no surveillance at all of his private residence.
He said, “What do you want, Ms. Kirkland?”
“I want to know why you came after Jillian Thrall. You know the Tetrarchy is off limits, especially their family members.”
Evans relaxed a little, settling back into his seat.
He said, “Ms. Thrall committed treason. She openly joined forces with the enemy. No one is above that charge, Ms. Kirkland. No one gets away with it, not even the Tetrarch’s daughter.”
Raquel snorted again. She said, “You don’t know what she was doing. All you know is your people on Lute made a snap decision, with no regard for the rules. You didn’t even consult with the Tetrarch, you just ordered her removed.”
She walked up to his seat and he tensed again, shrinking down into the leather. She put both her hands on the armrests, caging him.
“Martin, I’m relieving you of your duties.”
“What? What are you talking—”
Raquel reached over with her right hand and grabbed the table lamp. She placed her left hand on Evans’s chest. The lights dimmed as a surge of electricity jolted his body, shaking it.
She stood and stared down at Evans, a wisp of smoke escaping his mouth.
The android called from the kitchen.
Raquel looked up at the lights and pixilated. By the time “Trilla” made it back to the living room, she was gone.
The sun set over Thrall Manor, and Elven finally made her way out to the courtyard and the teleportation zone.
Thrall had assigned her a bedroom so she could stay overnight if the situation warranted, but so far she had not used it. StarCen simply ported her back to her apartment in Stockton each night, and to the mansion each morning in time for jogging on the beach and working out with him.
Such is the life of the Naval attaché assigned to the Tetrarch, she had informed friends and family.
She popped out of sight.
Inside, Julius Thrall scrolled through military reports hovering in his mind’s eye. The Navy was almost fully prepared for a fresh assault on the Seychar system, and he reviewed the latest dossier on the flotilla parked there. Naval Intelligence determined the current ships were up for rotation soon, offering an ideal time to attack a fresh, untrained squadron. If he knew the exact moment they would be least prepared for an attack, that would be the ideal time to strike. Mentally, he made a note to investigate this idea further.
He looked up as the first silver pixels fell out of the overhead light. He dismissed the reports in his mind’s eye as the pixels coalesced into a beautiful blonde woman.
Raquel smiled at him, and walked around the desk.
For the first time in several days, Thrall smiled, too.
He stood as she reached him. They embraced and kissed. He sat back down and she crawled up into his lap, cuddling with him.
He said, “Were you with anyone else while you were gone?”
“No, of course not, sweetie. I had to pretend to like some people, but I was never involved with anyone else.”
He kissed her again.
Behind his back, he did not see her crossed fingers.
End of Book II