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Aug 28, 2021

This month's patron-funded story is "Diplomacy" by Emily L Byrne, narrated by Violet Jade. 

Captain Bridget O’Halloran smoothed her dress uniform and polished her medals with one sleeve before she pressed the glowing button that would allow her to enter Admiral Chen’s office. She managed not to run a hand through her short red hair before she pressed the button, but only just. The doors slid open and she inhaled deeply before stepping through them in a futile effort to relax. 

The admiral’s office was just as she remembered it: grey and spartan with only the comp unit’s glow casting any direct light. “Done,” the admiral barked at it and the glow faded to a muted blue. “Lights!” The office flickered into a startling brightness. “O’Halloran!” The admiral’s dark eyes took in her brisk salute and her medals with a “Humph! All right, Captain. At ease.”

She relaxed her spine slightly and stood awaiting his orders, a wary look on her face. What did the old coot want this time? Last time she’d been in here, 3 cycles ago, it was because she’d volunteered to infiltrate the Lyrizi navy as an agent. She’d succeeded but the cost had been high. The burn scar that ran the length of her ribs throbbed a little at the memory.

Chen gave her a fierce glare. “All right, Captain. We’ve only got a few minutes. There’s trouble again in the Arment system about the selerinite clauses in the treaty.” He paused as if he wanted to see if she was still paying attention.

Bridget stood up a little straighter, copper brows drawn together in a sharp frown. “Without the selerinite our ships will be grounded within two Earth months. This is what we went to war with the Lyrizi to prevent. So you’re sending us to Arment to deal with it?”

“Not you. Let me make myself clear, O’Halloran. The Confederation Council has appointed a new ambassador and a diplomatic team to resolve the matter. I can’t say I approve of their choice but then, they didn’t ask me. Just drop them off and give them any support they need. Don’t let your personal feelings get in the way. That clear?” 

The door slid open behind Bridget with a nearly silent hiss. She forced herself not to look directly at the intruder until ze stopped beside her. Not like she could see anything past the other’s hood anyway. She shifted her weight, wondering what kind of ambassador came with a warning label from her commander.

Chen got a lot more formal. “Captain O’Halloran, you have your orders. This is Hight Isandre, the Confederation’s new ambassador to Arment. Once you arrive at Arment, you will provide all necessary support for her and the rest of her team before returning to base. No nonregulation maneuvers this time.” 

Bridget let the tiniest of smiles curl her lips and saluted with vigor. Hight, huh? And a female, too. That was a surprise. From the gossipvids, she always figured that Highborn women of any galactic species spent all their time getting gene modifications and sampling every mind-altering substance in the galaxy. Admiral Chen scowled at her, breaking into her thoughts. “Yes sir!” He nodded his dismissal and she turned smartly and left, the ambassador at her heels.

Once the door shut behind them, she turned to get her first good look at her passenger and almost yelled in surprise. Greenie her mind screamed and she nearly reached for her blaster, hands shaking just a little. The Lyrizi female looked back at her from gorgeous amber eyes that nearly glowed under pale green eyebrows against a background of dark green skin. One of those eyebrows quirked upward as the captain tried to recover her composure.