Alien General's Bride (Brion Brides)(2)

By: Vi Voxley

The smiling agent looked human-like, but as soon as he replied, his accent labeled him a human-Palian hybrid. When he continued to speak without blinking, she was sure. That was fortunate. The Palians were a nurturing race down to their very genetics. If it was in his power to help her, he would.

“How can I help?” agent Perkins finished on cue, introducing himself and his function properly – an annoying, but useful habit of agents in such a mish-mash society as the station.

Isolde swallowed. “I... missed my flight,” she said. Better to get it all out at once.

“I see,” the agent said kindly. “If you tell me where you were going, I would be glad to help you book another flight.”

“Um,” Isolde said. “Yes. That is the problem, you see. I missed my flight. To Hive-231. The new world they call Rhea.”

Agent Perkins could have frowned, but instead he suddenly looked as though Isolde had told him the Moon was about to collide with the station.

“How is that possible...” he murmured. “I’m sorry, Miss. Your identification, please? And if you do not mind me asking, what was your role in the research team?”

Isolde fumbled through her pockets for her ID-card.

“I’m an ethnographer, and I have some skill with languages. I was supposed to give a report about this new culture and I would also have helped the researchers communicate in-between themselves.”

You neglected to say that you being there would have been extremely unorthodox, Isolde’s inner voice murmured. After the first team suffered an accident on their way to Rhea, the second was put together very hastily. And Terra got the spot on the team by – politely speaking – asking very vigorously. Then they picked you. Official job description: the glue in the research team as the only one to speak all of the four galactic common tongues. Analysis: bullshit, any trained monkey could do that.

Frankly, Isolde considered herself to be the perfect mix of both skilled and replaceable for the Terran government. If she sent back valuable information about the important new planet, all the best for them; and if something happened to her or she failed somehow, Terra wouldn’t lose one of their top people to a strange world on the other side of known space. They really did know how to make a girl feel special.

She had hoped someone aboard that now regrettably distant ship would have been able to relate and they could have brooded over bureaucracy together, but no, she had to be the weird one that missed the flight. Popular from the beginning.

Agent Perkins looked positively sick now. He scanned Isolde’s card and nodded his head in confirmation.

“This is an outrage,” he said, and for a Palian, even half-Palian, he sounded surprisingly upset. “That ship had strict orders not to leave anyone behind. This is a huge setback for the team. My ambassador will be furious.”

Isolde felt her stomach turn. She knew Rhea was important, but she didn’t exactly want to be in the middle of a galaxy-wide political fight. She wished she had run just a little bit harder – an awesome reminder of the fact she wasn’t exactly a small girl, by the way. Hooray for self-confidence!

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to cause trouble.”

Agent Perkins did a full 180° and flashed a true, if strained, smile.

“Miss Fenner, you did nothing wrong. Your ID tells the tale. Your shuttle came in from Terra on time. You passed the security search without problems. Then you went to clear your permissions with the emissary, still all fine. And you proceeded straight to the gate from there. You were but mere minutes late. Five to ten, judging by your electronic trail. The fault lies with the commander of your transport. What went through that head, Go’Ran himself knows… I would like to be present for his trial, when he tries to explain how he thought of shaving 10 minutes off a 20 light year flight.”

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