Renaissance

Tsew!

A crimson-blue laser beam broke into the atmosphere of the masterpiece planet, a bright phenomenon on such a dank and slimy world. It slingshot its way through the upper, middle, and lower sky, boldly defying nature and her way's on this planet. An albatross flying fiercely through a storm, the beam put a hole in the dense clouds and shattered their rain-giving layers, finally touching down on a grassy pasture. But it didn't disturb the remote pasture or any of its bountiful grass and plants. At least, for the moment. The beam hit and disappeared. Then, out of nowhere, a tiny cloud of the same color as beam appeared over the spot where it had hit a second earlier. The tiny cloud, with a "zap" sound, panned to the ground, creating a blooming waterfall of blue energy. The grass around the waterfall still remained undisturbed, except for the millimeter-long bugs that scattered, running away from the strange light as fast as their numerous legs could propel them. The scene was as out of the ordinary as it could have been. But just as quickly as it had appeared, the waterfall ceased and dissipated.

Once again, all became quiet.

Standing just as tall as the energy waterfall had been, there stood a human being, erected as tall as her height would allow. She looked strange to the new world around her, almost seeming like an interruption to its life. The strangeness centered around her woven clothes, which looked paler than her smooth skin, the latter which could barely be seen because of the uniform. The uniform, whiter than the stars themselves, was worn loosely on her elegant body, and covered her from shoulders to ankles. It was a symbol of what lay beyond the restrictions of the green planet, of what power a species of thinking minds could create. But the show of power didn't end there. Appearing as a simple glint in the sunlight, a badge lay on the left side of her chest. It's shiny luster retained three identical objects. They were doves, made of the purest ivory, barely the length of a human finger nail. She wore the doves like medals, though they were only insignia's of rank, another symbol of her foreign presence on this world.

The human's pixie-cut black hair swished from side to side as she gazed around at her surroundings. The grass beneath her feet swayed in the wind, dancing to the force's swirling beat. Brandy-brown eyes quietly surveyed the general area, laughing slightly at the vagueness and irony of it. According to her friend, this place was supposed to be a little more lively. Her little nose tasted the air in small sniffles. A rush of clean oxygen mixed with the dank smell of a not-so-distant swamp that, for a moment, put a disgusting taste in her mouth and made her nose-hairs tingle ever so slightly. She shook the smell off with a snuffle. Her hands had already lost a majority of their moisture to the dry air. She could feel them turning crusty as they hung loosely at her side.

But she was barely paying any attention to that, because her gaze had shifted to the sky.

The afternoon sun rose fearlessly into the sky, a triumphant maroon medallion. It's awesome color and magnificent rays split the endless turquoise sky above the human. No longer was it restricted by any of the dark objects that hovered around it. It shone bright down on its worthy planet. The rosy brightness emanating split the ground in front of the human into two worlds, dark and darker.

The human finally moved, her white hand moving, arcing down to her belt. It grasped a rectangular box with a silver-armor outer shell filled with a cornucopia of rainbow-colored buttons and a built-in compass. Near one end of the box was a clear, glassy screen that was completely blank. A curved, transparent lens jutted out at that end, silent and unmoving. The human removed the device from its holster at her belt and brought it around to in front of her. Holding it flat in her wide palm, she quietly pressed a blue button on the face. The screen and the lens actuated all at once, with the former turning on and pulling up a image, and the latter scanning the area using a gliding red dot. A faint beeping sound went with these two actions. The scanner screen took in all the data gathered by the red dot and fused it into a green-braced geographical grid map of the surrounding area. Licking her lips for moisture, the human's pretty eyes analyzed the map. As she had expected, the map showed absolutely nothing but hills, dirt, and grass. Confident that nothing was in this scanning vicinity, she turned towards what the compass indicated was North. Extending the scanner farther in front of her, she licked her lips again. Her attention suddenly became drawn by a flashing red white light that blinked in one corner of the scanner. She pressed the button under the light. The image on the screen moved over two of the grassy hills, and fell down on a sophisticated looking structure that lay at in an large impasse. The structure, a man-made building, was also highlighted white, indicating that it was a "friendly". The human next pressed a green button, and life appeared in the image, coinciding with the gliding red dot from the lense. The bugs that had scattered were still running furiously, even by the building, like water in an ocean. Other animal-shaped images were dancing across the screen along with the bugs, a quaint but small ecosystem. That wasn't what the human was looking at though. She was stubbornly concentrating on the shaped images that looked-like and walked like her. Other human-shapes. The human looked up from the device at the hills in front of her, then back down again. Abruptly, she switched it off and re-holstered it on her belt. The grass "swished" and "crunched" as the human began walking towards the building two hills and a long walk over, straight from the sun's dark world to its darker world.

Commander Cara Chester had never been on a planet like this before. The sights weren't that amazing, as many had described them. Yes, the wine-colored sun was very pretty, but even it couldn't cover up the dark turquoise sky's ugliness. But then again, the sun still had risen all the way into the sky, if that was even possible on this planet. The world–called Pridia by its proud inhabitants, the Licathans–rotated on three different axis, which caused the everyday sun to rise and fall almost every five hours per continent. Everybody that Cara had talked to said that the beauty of the planet came only when the sun was completely up. But as she continued to tread across the dewy grass, she still wondered how that would be possible. All she could see at this point was grass; miles and miles of it. How could that possibly be any more beautiful than it looked at this point? Also, turquoise wasn't exactly the perfect color for a sky. She was sure that even a gorgeous rosy sun couldn't save that. The Delgan Plains, which was what this eighty-three-point-five kilometer track of land was officially named, just wasn't that marvelous.

Cara forced herself into taking another deep breath, not that she wanted to. The oxygen in the air was one molecule per one-hundred nitrogen and thirty sulfur molecules. Basically, every time Cara took in a breath, it was stale, dank, and absolutely horrid, like breathing in the smell of the dead, something she had done before in her past several times during the wars of the past decade. She hated it with a passion. And it was all over this planet, a virus that had virtually contaminated every inch of the surface air.

Three minutes later, the first of the two hills was behind Cara. Keeping her brisk pace, she licked her lips yet again. The marching of her feet became a drum beat as she walked into a patch of dry dirt. Several mammal-like animals wiggled around and dashed back and forth. It became clear to Cara as she watched a few munch on the grass that these creatures were responsible for the creation of the patch of dry dirt she was now walking through. Their burrows and holes were scattered everywhere around the dirt. The animals barely even noticed the human marching through their territory. The furry, slinky animals were called whisk's according to the Columbia's computer. They were only prone to this part of the planet, the plain's region.

The sun had risen to its full gloriousness in the sky. But there was nothing glorious about it. It was as light as it was going to get on this planet, and there was still nothing that beautiful about it.

Cara squeezed her eyes shut, trying to use the pressure applied to create tears. Her eyes felt extremely irritated and dry, like a desert. The try didn't work as well as Cara would have liked. With barely any moisture anywhere on or in her visible body parts, she tramped through the wet grass towards the second and final hill. She licked her lips again.

If only this planet wasn't so damn screwed up. The Columbia would have been able to teleport her directly to the garden building, if not for the bewon radiation in the local atmosphere. The radiation was harmless to humans. But it did interfere with all space-to-planet channels, including communication and teleportation channels. So she had to be dropped off nearly two miles away from she needed to be for the ground crew's morning report. But even nine years of walking back and forth in a grandiose space stations had more or less prepared her for the hike.

Not liking the fact that her breathing hadn't calmed in the past five minutes, but knowing she could do nothing about it, Cara reluctantly tromped up the hill. She licked her lips another time.

Tired by the time she had reached the top, the Commander stopped to rest, relieved now that she could see the garden's building, only a short walk away. Her spine sent a relaxed tingle down her back as she sat down momentarily on the grass, eyes continually scanning the sights below her. The twelve-by-twelve foot garden's building stood at the center of the scene, basically a guard tower for the lone mile of fenced-in garden behind it. Vegetable-like koto, pawrat, and the tomato-shaped derra, as well as some other foods Cara didn't recognize from the Columbia's databanks.

Cara took in another deep, tired breath, still completely disgusted by the air.

The story behind all the reasons Cara was even down here was this: the United Alliance–the government that Cara served for–was on the verge of chaos. Nearly a decade ago, three-fourths of what had been Alliance Territory had been destroyed in a shockwave, including Earth and its entire solar system. The Alliance lost almost all of its primary resources and raw materials, and as a result, industrial manufacturing had taken a plunge for the worst. Now, about nine-and-a-half Earth years later, the Alliance was still recovering from the shockwave's destruction, but having a real hard time doing it. Since the shockwave, they'd fought two wars, one with a xenophobic species called the Duglorins, and one against an insurrectionist Alliance faction called the Sedition. On top of all that, they're were still two other major enemies the Alliance contended with that basically wanted death to the Alliance, mainly the humans. It was hard life being a member of the ADF(Alliance Defense Force) but it was the only thing standing in the way of total annihilation. Since the threat of interstellar war was always present, the Alliance had downed it strict requirements for membership, and had actually requested that some independent factions join them, in the hope of a mutual industrial and marketing agreement, as well as military support. The Licathans had been the first to respond, agreeing to host a Alliance diplomacy delegation in exchange for relief efforts to help the Licathans clean up their ecosystem.

But where Cara was headed wasn't doing that at all. This particular posting, here in the Delgan's, was assigned to guard theDelgan's garden. The garden had been poisoned one Licathan cycle–one week in Earth time–ago. The food in the garden was for a semi-sentient species called the Yennox. They made up less than half of one percent of the population on Pridia, but were desperately essential to Licathan reproduction. Without the Yennox, the Licathans couldn't have babies. And the Yennox population here were currently very hungry since they hadn't eaten in a week.

Cara stood up, and began to run instead of walk down the hill in front of her. She just felt like running in this case. Get there faster. She eventually stopped at the bottom of the hill, breathing as restraining as she could. The garden was less than a minute away now. She finally arrived.

A pair of eyes watched her closely as she approached the building. The thin, dry lips curled into a smile. He leaned his rifle weapon against the railing of the watchtower deck. Leaning forward, his placed both his big hands on the railing.

"Afternoon Commander!" he called to Cara.

The tired, dry eyes of Cara Chester panned up to his. She didn't want to play any games with doing this, just to get the morning report and get back up to the ship. It was a mistake wanting to come down here. "Where's Lieutenant Webb?" she called to the man.

And much to his dismay, he pointed left over the top of another nearby hill. "Lookout Post Beta. It's a two minute walk from here."

Cara heaved a sigh, and rolled her eyes in annoyance. She shook her head in anger.

The man noticed this, and held up a finger. "Hold on ma'am, I'll be right back."

Cara stood up, stretching her arms high in the sky. She was straightening her uniform's wrinkles when the man returned, holding a bottle in his hand. He raised so that Cara could see what it was. "Would you like some water for your trip?" He shook the bottle of water over the railing.

Cara raised both hands in a catch form. "Yes, please!" she shouted back. The man tossed her the insulated blue bottle. Cara caught it and took a huge swig. The fluid moisturized her tongue and revitalized her throat. The ice cold liquid almost made her melt in her relief. She barely even noticed what her facial expression probably looked like. Blushing slightly, she looked up at the man. "You're a life saver. What's your name?"

The man stepped back from the railing, but in no orderly way. "Ricky Sanders, ma'am. I'm a cadet in geographical."

"On the Columbia?" Cara asked.

Sanders nodded. "Yup." He gestured to his weapon, nervously. "The reason I have this is because I just wanted to experience the feeling of having a gun in my hand. I've always wondered what it's like." He looked like he was going to say something else, but didn't. He just shrugged his shoulders.

Cara smiled nervously, not knowing how to answer. So instead, she saluted him by raising her water bottle. "Thanks for this," she smiled.

Sanders nodded curtly, his eyes repeating what he said a second later. "Enjoy your walk Commander." He lifted his rifle into his hands and walked back, guard-like, looking left and right, to the portion overlooking the garden.

Cara snickered at his remark and started for the nearby hill where Sanders had pointed. She licked her lips for the umpteenth time, then took another swig of the refreshing water. Soon the garden's building was far behind her, and as she started down the hill, the small tower platform designated Lookout Post Beta, a temporary Alliance guard tower, came into full view.

The problem was, nobody was at the top of the platform. This frustrated Cara even more. What kind of place are we running here? She thought. Two lookouts missing at their posts, and a geographer who likes the feeling of holding a weapon in his hand, on a planet that made Cara partially dizzy because of the shifts in gravity caused by the orbiting asteroid belt and the planets axis' rotations.

It didn't take her long to find the two missing lookouts. They were right where Cara had expected them to be: if not in the tower, then on the ground near the tower. Both men were on their arms and knees, looking at something on the dirt at the base of the tower. The Commander, amused by the irony of this situation, calmly strode up to the two men, who didn't notice her even when she was a step away from them. And she surely didn't like the view of their butts in her face.

"Shh!" the one of the right hissed. "We don't wanna scare it." Cara recognized the voice of Lieutenant Samuel Webb, this outpost's commanding officer.

Cara looked in between them, and saw a infant whisk, standing in a defensive position, left side facing Webb and the other man, buck teeth out, hissing.

"It hardly looks scared to me," the other said, nervously.

Webb noticed this. "Oh, come on, you big baby; look at it. What's it gonna do to us?"

"Bite us, maybe?"

Webb snickered. "How's it gonna get close enough to bite us, Einstein?"

The infant whisk had saliva dripping off the top of its mouth. Cara hoped it wouldn't get close enough either.

"What is going on here?" Cara asked rather loudly. The whisk twitched in surprise, as did Webb and his friend. The whisk hissed.

Both men's heads swung around to look at her. "Oh, nothing Commander," Webb said plainly. "We're just playing with it."

Cara raised an sarcastic eyebrow. "What are you playing, the Crocodile Hunter? That thing looks ready to kill you."

"It's alright, Commander. I know what I'm doing." The whisk suddenly flinched and hissed, causing Webb to scoot back, a reflex.

The other man chuckled. "So he says."

Webb gazed over at him. "Shut up!"

The other raised his hands in surrender and stood up, about Cara's height. Webb grunted a sigh and pulled a hand-gun from his belt, slowly bringing it around.

Cara took a step forward. "What are doing now? You better not shoot it," she warned. "Relax Commander," Webb shrugged off the warning. "I'm just going to stun it and keep it as a pet."

Cara nearly burst out laughing. "A pet? Mr. Webb, get up. That's an order."

Webb gave her a hand. "Hang on. I just wanna have it as a pet, my first pet, just hang on."

Cara took another step forward, now directly above him. "I gave you an order, Lieutenant. Now stand up."

"Hang o–"

He was then interrupted when a circle patch of dirt suddenly burst apart, and the head and upper body of a much bigger whisk, probably the infant's mother, erupted onto the surface from underground. Already facing Webb, the big whisk gave a deep, angry hiss. It scurried out of its hole and trotted towards Webb, clearly wanting to rip the man apart if it could. Instinctively, Webb shot up to his feet and took aim at the charging animal. But at the last second, Cara grabbed his shooting wrist, diverting the gun. His shot sailed above both the mother whisk and infant whisk, and impacted just before the base of the watchtower, sending a flurry of dust and dirt into the air. The mother whisk was still charging, so Cara used the inside of her boot to kick some dirt into the animal's face. The furry creature recoiled, teeth still at the ready. With an infuriating glare at Webb, it turned its back to the humans and went back to its child, chittering something to it. The infant responded by crawling into the hole in the ground, followed almost immediately by its mother, who disappeared into the dirt quietly.

While that was happening, Cara tightened her grip on Webb's wrist, and wrenched the gun from him, gripping the barrel. She then roughly released his wrist. "Lieutenant, when I give an order, you do it. No questions, no complaints, no 'hang ons'. Understood?"

"Yes, ma'am," Webb said blankly. "I'm sorry."

"You don't have to apologize. Just listen." She cleared her throat. "Now, your daily report, please."

Webb sighed and shrugged. "Nothing new, ma'am. Same old thing. The Yennox are still taking this whole situation pretty good. The Licathans are still basically ignoring us. Everythings...for lack of a better term..." he shrugged again. "Peachy." He kept his hands flat in a shrug. "Like a big field of peaches...with plenty of peach trees..."

Cara closed her eyes humorously and smiled. "Ok, Lieutenant, that's good enough."

"Yeah..." his voice trailed off. "The samplers say they're no closer to finding a solution to the food problem."

"Yeah, I know about that," Cara responded. The samplers were a group of agricultural researchers that were rapidly trying to find an antidote to the poisoning in the Yennox food. Another service the Alliance had offered in exchange for a Licathan-Alliance negotiation. And the Alliance, in Cara's mind, had already offered to do enough. "Is that it?"

Webb nodded. "Aye, ma'am. That's basically the summary."

"Do you have the full report on a data chip?"

Webb nodded again. "Yep. It's up there in the tower." He started past Cara to the ladder. "Come on up," he said with his back to her. "The sights of this place are a bit better from up high."

Cara began to follow him. "Does it smell any better?"

"Nah, not really," Webb responded blandly. "But what can you do? It's nature."

Cara hmmphed.

"Keep watch down here, Billings," Webb called to the other man.

"Aye, sir."

A minute later, Cara climbed up the last rung in the ladder, and heard the "clang" of the dextarium metal below her boots. Webb's feet and legs were standing at the opposite end of the ladder. As Cara rose from her knees to her feet, Webb's fingers tapped two buttons, and a flat data chip slid out of a terminal slot on the tower console. He turned and handed it to Cara. "The complete report: a full eight hours worth."

Cara curtly nodded, and placed the chip in a compartment on her belt. She then stepped past the slouching Lieutenant to gaze over the console at the view. The first thing she noticed was how many hills there were. Though more far apart than it would seem from ground level, the hill's looked like mogul's at a ski resort, giant lumps that stretched past the magenta/turquoise horizon, as far as the eye could see. Cara realized, thanks to her salty-feeling mouth, that she hadn't taken a drink of water in a while, so as she turned to face south, she took another swig from her bottle. At the end of that horizon started the swamp region of the planet, whose climate's dry air had mixed with the Delgan's dry air, giving the atmosphere the dank, dead smell that Cara was sucking in now. The cold metal railing felt good on her dry palms.

Then, Cara noticed the back of her white hand started turning black. A dark shadow passed over her head and onto her face, eventually eclipsing her entire body. She craned her head and gazed up at the sky, to where a moment ago the magenta sun had been. Now, it had disappeared behind the black form of an asteroid overhead, casting a huge shadow over the Delgan plains. The asteroids acted like clouds in a sense.

Cara exchanged glances with the small eyes of Webb. "What a strange planet this is," Cara commented.

Webb only smirked in response.

It was then that Cara noticed a faint white light in the distance.

The point of light was a small as a star to Cara's view. But it was much brighter than the normal stars appeared, especially on this planet, where the nighttime stars were barely visible at all in the sky. It was even brighter than the stars seen from space. The difference was that it also generated a laser from it. The laser was cutting through the air, and hitting Webb somewhere on his back; Cara couldn't see exactly where from this view.

Alert but not alarmed, Cara furrowed her eyebrows. "Lieutenant, what's that?" she asked quickly, pointing to the laser. Webb turned around, first seeing the distant, star-like point of light, then looking down and seeing the laser, frozen on his stomach area.

"Oh," he said calmly. "It's a direct-communication signal. Looks like someone at Lookout Alpha wants to talk to us." The tall man walked over to the North console, and jabbed his index finger onto a blue button. A small chunk of the front section of the console rose out of a berth in the metal. It rose until it blocked the laser, and caused the light to disappear from Webb's stomach, intercepting it. Once the chunk had been locked into place, the white laser disappeared, canceled out by an identical light emanating from it.

The Lieutenant spoke to the chunk. "Webb here."

Direct-communication was the only way Alliance communication channels could operate in this dense bewon radiation–by laser-to-laser sighting. A direct connection.

"We have a situation over here, sir." A light, young female voice said over the line. "A mob of about one-hundred-and-one Yennox are heading this way. They're about a mile away and I can hear them roaring. They don't sound too happy. At all."

Webb and Cara exchanged worried glances. "How many did you say there were?" Webb asked.

"One-hundred-and-one, sir," the woman responded.

Webb sighed nervously. "Jesus." His eyes met Cara. "That's all of them in this region." His eyes stilled looked very worried. "If they attack, we're dead."

For a moment, there was an awkward pause.

The woman broke it. "What should I do, sir. Should I contact Sanders?"

Webb remained silent. Then, his expression became one of jittery sarcasm as he casually looked at Cara.. "Orders, ma'am?"

Cara stepped forward, experience and confidence kicking in as she did. "This is Commander Chester. Contact Sanders, tell him to lock up the garden and get to battle stations. Then get to your own battle stations, but don't agitate the Yennox. Me and Lieutenant Webb will be over there soon to back you up. Set weapons for stun–"

"No, Commander," Webb interrupted. "Stun setting has no effect on them." He started for the west console. "Only thing we got for 'em are these sonic resonators." He entered a passcode, and a door on the top of the console swished open, revealing an empty shell for some sort of round device, and then one of the round devices itself, placed neatly inside the other shell. "They're like dog whistles," he explained. "Only ten times as stronger." Webb quickly removed it, then close the access door. He walked the device over to Cara and gave it to her. "It'll knock the things out in only a few seconds."

"Any pain?" Cara asked.

For a second, he looked at her like she was crazy. "For a few seconds, yeah."

Cara nodded, satisfied, then activated her resonator. It "beeped" to life, a pattern of lights shining back at her. The front face was marked with alien sentences which Cara recognized as the international Licathan language, spoken in all parts of the world, desert, swamp, and plains. And she had no clue how to read them. "How do you work this?" she asked, a little irritated as to why Webb hadn't taught her how to in the first place.

He reached a hand out to her. "Here," he said. He grabbed hold of the resonator, pressed a button on its surface. As a result, a sound like a laser gun charging resonated into the air. Webb handed it back to Cara, not letting go of his end for a few moments longer. "When you want to fire the wave, press that red button with the X on it," he said, pointing to the alleged button.

"Ok," Cara nodded. She latched the resonator onto her magnetic belt. "Is there any way to get in touch with the Columbia?"

"We can't talk to them if that's what you mean. But we do have a distress beacon." He pressed a large red button on the west console, activating the beacon. "The Columbia won't be able to pick it up, but the Licathans will."

"Good," Cara responded. She walked fast towards the ladder.

"Wait, Commander!" Webb called to her. He was again at the west-facing console. Another access door was swishing open, this one containing two sets of rifle-handgun pairs. He only grabbed one rifle though, and tossed it to Cara. "Just in case," he explained. "Kill three is the only thing that can affect them quickly." He closed the access door.

Cara swallowed. "Kill three?" she repeated. "That could kill them."

Webb shrugged innocently. "Only thing that's tough enough to pierce their skin quickly."

Cara swung her legs over the side and started down the ladder, gun strapped behind her back. "Quickly? And that's measuring against how many shots?"

A moment's hesitation. "Well," Webb finally answered. "Assuming I understood what you just asked; it takes three shots to bring them down on kill three; it takes twelve on kill two." He snickered. "Twenty-one on kill one."

"Then I hope those resonators work well. I don't want this coming down to a shootout." Cara hopped off the remaining part of the ladder. "How do you all this, by the way?" she asked as he jumped down.

"Theories by Cadet Granger. He's our local dermatologist-slash-biologist back over by the garden. He used Licathan data on the Yennox."

The other man, Billings as Webb had called him, walked up behind them. He pointed to the resonators. "What's going on?"

"The Yennox are coming," Webb retorted. "Come on. We need all the help we can get."

"Shouldn't I stay here, sir, then. Just in case more–!" he started to shout.

Webb and Cara were already jogging away. "There won't be any more!" Webb called over his shoulder. "Their all over at Alpha, now let's go!"

Cara heard Billings running footsteps behind her. Realizing that she had dropped her water bottle somewhere on the tower, Cara prepared herself for another long journey through the toxic-smelling, dry Pridia air.

It was shorter than she expected, a very good thing.

The Alpha lookout tower was exactly identical to the Beta lookout. It stood at the top of a hill, giving a bird's-eye view of the Delgan's, much like Alpha. Webb and Cara stood at the tip of the hill, gazing down its side as the crowd of tan and white silhouettes charging up the hill towards the two humans, every breath containing angry howls and snarls. The pounding of their muscular feet on the grass could be felt and heard like thunder to Cara's ears.

She quickly scanned and analyzed the situation in her brain, one question immediately coming to mind. "Can we communicate with them?"

"Yeah, but I doubt it'll help," Webb admitted. "Maybe it's the pounding of the feet or the howling, but, uh, I don't think they're interested in talking."

Cara shook her head. "We have to try anyway. They're getting closer. Do it."

Webb stepped forward, swallowing nervously. "The resonator also acts like a translator." He pressed more buttons on the resonator, and a new pattern of lights and retractable speaker proportionated themselves on the upper face of the object. Webb brought the speaker up to his mouth, turning what Cara believed to be the volume knob up to full. "You can't go to the garden," he started, and immediately Cara knew this was going to end badly. "Your food is poisoned. We are trying to find an antidote, but our scientists need more time. Please. Return to your housings. Or will we be forced to use force to stop you."

The Yennoxes were now a halfway up the hill.

Cara moaned. "Oh, crap," she murmured to herself. She brought her resonator up to in front of her chest, ready to fire when ready. Webb was a terrible speaker. He should've been remembering that he's speaking to a primitive society of creatures.

In response to Webb's warnings, the Yennox's roared even louder, and then dropped onto all four of their strong legs, charging even faster, only a few long strides away from the top of the hill and Webb, and Cara's thumb hovered over the resonator trigger. He mind tracked over to the combat and weapons training she had received during the seven years she was enrolled in the Alliance Junior Officer's Program.

"That's attack posture!" the woman up in the tower shouted.

"Shit!" Webb cried. He quickly reset the resonator, and then pressed the side button, desperately.

As he was doing this, Cara took a step back. "Get back here, Lieutenant!"

Webb ignored her, shooting his hand forward as he pressed the button. But he did take two cautionary steps back toward the tower, a look of fear on his face. Something was wrong though. The resonator had been fired, but the Yennox were still coming a few seconds later. Snarling louder than ever.

And Webb knew something was wrong. He looked down, despairingly, at the device in his hand. Now afraid, he shouted wildly at the resonator. "Come on, dammit! Not now!" He jammed the button. Nothing.

Cara tried hers. Nothing at all. Cara's breath began to quicken. This definently wasn't going to end well.

"Shhhit!" Webb said slowly. He gave up on the resonator and tossed in the direction of the charging Yennox. He and Cara shouted the next two sentences simultaneously.

"Weapons to the ready–"

"Set to kill three and open fire–"

"Aim for the legs!" Cara shouted by herself. However, since the beasts were in fast motion, only hitting the legs would be difficult, if not impossible. But there was nothing that could be done. The team was screwed badly.

Webb brought his rifle around, aiming in the general direction of the Yennox. He stepped back, hurriedly, back towards the tower, dodging one corner of it, holding and pressing the trigger. Red drops of pure, dangerous, energy erupted out of the gun. They shot, like arrows, through the air and smacked into the Yennox mob. Nobody went down at first, but instead they bayed and growled, some in pain, others in anger. The pounding grew immense as they reached the top of the hill at last, stampeding directly at the humans. From her visual standpoint, Cara saw four distinct volleys of laser drops barreling into the Yennox, one from Webb, one from Billings, who Cara just now noticed standing at an angle to her right, and two reigning down from the officers on top of the lookout tower. Reluctantly, Cara raised her own weapon and added a fifth volley into mix.

Finally, one Yennox fell to the ground, a large chunk of the skin along its bony spine having been completely torn apart. A second later, another mighty Yennox fell to the ground yelping in pain, it's fourth leg having been cut off. A third one died soon after, head completely pulverized. But this didn't stop the rest of the Yennoxes. They grew angry as a fourth, fifth and sixth of their kind were dropped. This caused them to charge faster and growl louder, the loudest Cara had ever heard a growl before. But they weren't growling just anything. Words were included in all the noise.

"Ree ja kar! Ree ja kar!"

The words–Cara didn't have a clue what they meant–soon began to repeated over and over again by what sounded like every single one of the Yennoxes. They were now two long strides from Webb and only going faster than before. Webb was backpedaling as fast as he could, as was Billings and Cara. But that wouldn't be enough, especially for Webb. He was about to be cut down by them. "Get up the tower!" she shouted to him. "We'll cover you. Billings! Help me keep those things off of him!" Webb had moved completely past the ladder. He was either an idiot or he hadn't heard her over the sound of his gun. "Get up that ladder, Lieutenant!"

Webb turned his right ear towards her, momentarily, before he realized what she just said. Easily spying the ladder, he sidestepped towards it, keeping his sights on the closest Yennox, gun blazing. Cara swung her own around towards his location, still squeezing the trigger. Two more Yennoxes fell. Webb was now three sidesteps from the ladder, and the combined power of his, Cara's, Billings's, and now the two tower officers' volley of rounds kept the Yennoxes off of him.

But now there was a new problem. The Yennoxes were starting to dodge, though most were primitive and inexperienced attempts. Nevertheless, there were only five humans and one hundred agile Yennox.

By now, over twenty of them hadn't gotten past Cara and were becoming very distant, dashing to the garden and their poisoned food. She hoped Sanders had effectively locked the garden.

Webb was one step away from the ladder. And then one Yennox broke through all of the crossfire. It landed just in front of Webb, and quickly rose onto its hind legs, standing two heads taller than Webb. It wasn't long before the crossfire veered to shoot the Yennox down, but not before the creature was able to knock Webb's rifle out of his hand, not to mention the two fingers that went with it. The Yennox was killed almost instantly after that. But the damage had been done.

Webb reached out and grabbed a adder rung, still yelping furiously at the pain. All of a sudden, he looked up, hearing something close by. His head shot backwards as if he had just dodged something, and he pointed at something coming towards him. It was then that Cara noticed the Yennox that had broken through the crossfire. She hadn't even seen it, and she'd been looking in that direction the whole time. In a speedy, tan blur, the Yennox closed the distance between it and Webb. In a flash of ivory and tan, it grabbed Webb and threw him off the ladder and onto the ground.

"No!" Cara cried. She again swung her gun around. "Kill it!"

The Yennox crouched over Webb's exposed chest and stomach, driven by a ferocious rage. Before anyone could even shoot it, it opened its mouth and locked it's sharp teeth onto both sides of Webb's neck, all while the tiny human screamed. The Yennox began to shake it's head and mouth, brutally twisting and jolting Webb's neck, which was starting to run red with the man's blood. He was still screaming too.

The rest of the humans despairingly shot at the murderous Yennox, but all their shots missed, instead hitting other Yennoxes that were gathering around the bloodbath, wanting a piece of the human too. The last Cara saw of Webb was his head, bouncing and twisting on the grass, like a pinball in a pinball machine. His scream seemed endless.

Cara stopped firing and sighed in frustration. Inside, she cursed severely. At everything. This planet, the negotiations, the Licathans, the Alliance–everything! She hated it when things ended like this. Especially when there was nothing she could have done about it.

Then she'd have to do what she could to save who was left. "Fall back to the garden building!" she shouted to Billings.

Billings started walking backwards. "What about Tanner and Frieda?"

Cara assumed he was talking about the two people in the lookout tower. "They'll be fine! The important thing is that these things don't get to the garden! Now let's go!" She resumed firing at Yennoxes, who were now starting their charge towards the garden once again. I hope Sanders is alright, Cara thought randomly. Billings turned and ran sideways, shooting wildly at the beasts that had murdered Webb. Under the combined firepower of both of them, three more Yennoxes went down. But there was still an immense number of them left, even though Cara couldn't begin to estimate how many were on their way to the garden or were there. Again, her thoughts briefly switched to Sanders safety.

No, she thought. He'll be fine. I have to concentrate on the here and now. And the "here and now" were nearly on top of her and Billings right now. Cara spotted one a few strides away from the running man. She stopped, planted her feet firmly on the grass, and fired a rainstorm of shots at the beast. The Yennox took in five-to-seven of them, and fell to the ground, bleeding profusely from its neck, legs, and body. It was then that she noticed that he was running at her with his back turned completely away from the Yennoxes. She would've yelled at him to back peddle for safety reasons, but stopped herself when she realized that that was definitely the fastest way of running away. And it wasn't likely that they'd outrun the Yennox, so whatever ground they could gain would be precious. Nevertheless, the last thing Cara would want is a Yennox tackling her unexpectedly from behind. Or Billings. So she continued to back peddle, watching the action around both her and Billings.

She continued firing, downing another Yennox safely. In doing that, she almost didn't notice the Yennox that came in from her left side. Finally, Cara turned her head and spotted it as it raised its arms to strike at her, charging on two legs. It missed, though, as Cara ducked her head from the death blow, and stuck her ankle out timidly. The ankles of both combatants banged into each other. The first thing Cara noticed was the immense pain that shot up her ankle to her knee. Webb had been right about the beast's skin. It was tough as rock. The next thing she saw was the Yennox loose its footing and falling to the ground, letting a growl of anger as it did. Cara quickly reestablished her balance, not dropping her guard for even a full second. No other Yennoxes were in her direct area besides the one she'd just knocked down. But then she spotted something else, a sight that shocked and horrified her. She'd accidently tripped the Yennox straight into Billings. The two went down in a tangle of arms and legs and yelps. Luckily for the human, he stopped rolling a full meter away from the Yennox. He leapt to his feet in an instant, impulsively aiming for the down Yennox and firing, a look of fear on his face. The monster was completely immobile the next second practically.

But Billings wasn't out of trouble yet. "Heads up behind you!" Cara shouted at him. Two Yennox were zeroing in on him behind his back. Cara resumed firing in front of the Yennox, watching as it ran straight into the volley unknowingly. The shots pierced the skin on its right side legs and torso. The beast buckled under the pain and injuries, and slid to the ground a few feet away from the terrified Billings. But the other Yennox was too close to the man for Cara to shoot it in time. And as Billings turned to shoot it, Cara watching in dread, the Yennox flung its arm down, and chopped off his shooting arm. Billings scream echoed in Cara's ears.

Almost to the point where Cara barely heard the roar of an attacking Yennox leaping to tackle her. She spotted it at the last second, and rolled on the ground in its direction. The semi-sentient beast tried to readjusted its falling angle, and ended up tripping on its forelegs and rolling head-over-heels away from Cara. When she looked up again, she did so just in time to see the blood spill from Billings neck, caused by three immense cuts across his throat by the Yennox. The fragile human tried to scream again, but it came out as a gurgle. He fell to his knees, and then flat on his face, motionless.

Cara, now terrified completely, blinked back the tears in her eyes, got up, and started to run as fast as she could away from the charging monsters, briefly spotting the now distant lookout tower, where the two officers were now descending the ladder. Cara charged away up the hills of the Delgan's, her back turned to her enemies. She found herself now panting furiously. Throwing her rifle over her shoulder, she charged faster up the hill, watching three Yennox on both sides of her shoot past her, sprinting towards the garden at full speed, outrunning Cara by a mile. The human made the mistake of watching them–she seemed to be doing a lot of that– not seeing the large whisk scurrying across her path. She finally noticed it when she stepped on it and tripped on it, falling down flat on her face, hearing the sounds of a dozen animal roars from all around. Cara immediately bolted to her feet, the ground beneath her feet pounding furiously. She gripped her gun tightly, twisting in every direction, getting a grip on the situation.

Stupid animal, she thought as her eyes briefly fell on the retreating whisk she had tripped over earlier. And directly past it was an angry Yennox, down on all fours, charging at Cara. It was baying furiously.

Though Cara kept her eyes on that one, out of the corner of her left she spotted another one on the rampage. Closer than the other. And closing fast. So Cara relaxed her body and swung into action. She sidestepped left, kept her feet shoulder-length apart and turned her waist, in a risky decision, towards the Yennox of the left, bringing her gun around as well. The Yennox straightened it's huge knees and raised its upper body, coming to a standing position. Poised to strike, it reared back its muscular arm and sharp talons, foolishly exposing almost every part of its body. So Cara shot it the face. Several times, although it took barely under two seconds. Until it fell dead.

Cara felt terrible about doing that. But she would die if she didn't. And the resonators hadn't worked. Sadly, though it was brutal. It was the only way to control the Yennox now.

Even before the first Yennox was collapsing, Cara spun around back to her right to face the second one, which was now only a few strides away from the woman. It, too, made the mistake of rising to only two legs and stretching out its arms, exposing its entire body and face. The problem was that Cara had barely any time to bring her gun up. So instead of trying to fire, Cara slunk through the thin gap between her death by impalement and the body of the dead Yennox, ducking under the Yennox's striking right arm. Unfortunately, her foot caught the Yennox's, and she found herself, yet again, falling to the ground behind the body of the dead Yennox. Her attacker didn't even stumble. It hunched over on al fours again and turned a complete one-eighty towards the human. Cara propped up on her knees as the Yennox leapt into the air, like a lion, with its arms spread wide and it eyes practically drooling with anxiety. Anxiety to spill human blood. However, it now exposed its entire body again, and this time Cara had plenty of time to fire a volley, which she did in a heartbeat. Two of the shots impacted on the creatures face, with four more slamming into the front chest and torso area. Cara grunted and flash-rolled to her right, but not fast enough. The creature mighty bulk landed on the gun, luckily not on Cara's left hand, crushing the front end of the weapon under it. Damn, Cara thought. She thought her arm was broken, judging by the pain rippling up it now. But she managed to yank her hand free from the weapon, and found herself to have nothing more than a temporary sore in her left arm.

But that was the least of Cara's problems right now. All of the Yennox were already past her and heading for the garden. All but one. Cara saw it hurrying towards her, hunched over into a full crouch. Cara saw this, and she felt her breath leave her all at once. There was nothing she could do to defend herself. Well, there was, but against the Yennoxes superior physical shape and practically unbreakable outer skin, it wouldn't have much of a chance. The ju jitsu and kung fu that she had been required courses during her years at the ADF Academy.

Cara let out a long exhale and dropped into a fighting stance. Her skills may not help her much in this situation, but it was the only thing left now to try.

The Yennox closed the distance in what seemed like only a second, and it once again, predictably, stood up on two legs and spread its arms wide, ready to spill blood. These things were so predictable. Cara concentrated, targeting the creatures right eye. The Yennox brought its arm down and around, growling. Cara easily ducked under the strike, positioning herself right next to the Yennox's right shoulder. In a flash, Cara brought her left hand up, chopping her hand into the beast's face, her pinky going straight into that right eye. The eye squished into her pinky like cottage cheese, and caused the Yennox immense pain. It's hand shot up to the eye like a bullet, and it moaned painfully. The backside of the creature now vulnerable, Cara reared back her left leg and kicked it hard on its butt. Which she knew, by memory, housed the Yennoxes genitalia. The Yennox opened its mouth, but no sound came out. Instead, the potential scream came out only a high, squeaky groan. Then the Yennox opened its mouth wide and gave a long, despairing cry of pain. Cara's foot throbbed from the kick, but she ignored it. She twisted her body so that her shoulder was perpendicular with the Yennox's back, then slammed her full body weight against it. Still in immense pain, the Yennox wasn't ready for the blow, and it tripped over its own feet and fell to the ground.

Cara didn't waste any time boasting though. After the Yennox went down, she instantly started off up the hill towards the garden, keeping a keen eye around her, knowing fully that that Yennox wouldn't stay down forever. The good news was that it was still moaning in pain behind her. At the rate Cara was traveling, it didn't take her long at all to reach the top of the hill in front her. Beyond it, in the distance, the garden was full of activity. From the Yennox, and nobody but the Yennox. Though she did expect it, Cara was nevertheless relieved to see the garden's titanium, barrier walls up and blocking the poisoned food from the furious Yennox. In response, the creatures were repeatedly ramming the sturdy wall, but didn't seem to be getting anywhere. Meanwhile, on the observation deck of the garden building, three human figures–she couldn't tell which one was Ricky Sanders–were standing guard at their posts, weapons at the ready. Cara paused for a moment, hunching over on her knees, panting. That's when she heard the swishing and the tearing of the ground behind her, and sensed what felt like an earthquake slowly running towards her, and she knew instantly that it was the Yennox from before, the one she had kicked in the balls. Cara looked back in surprise to see that she was right. She hadn't expected it to be up and running so soon. The human turned around to face it, dropping back into her fighting stance of before. Looking back behind her, she gingerly stepped down the hill backwards, waiting for the beast to barrel over the hill, the feeling of anxiety flowing with her rushing blood throughout her body. And when she saw it leap into the air, she stepped forward, planting her left boot in the soft grass, and using it as a fulcrum to lift her into the air. Her confidence grew thin as she neared her target, but that didn't stop her from doing her next move. She this time targeted the creature's right eye. When it was just the right moment, Cara brought her right leg around, in a chop-like motion, and made contact with the side of the Yennox's face, instead of the objective right eye.

The first thing she felt was the bone in her foreleg snapping off upon contact with the tough Yennox skin, and the pain rippling up her leg like a fire. The first thing she heard was the sound of that happening. The second thing she heard was the Yennox snarling in surprise as it was kicked off course. Cara fell, feet out in front of her, to the ground at the top of the hill, and immediately gripped her agonizing right leg. The pain was worse than before. Her hand didn't help it much at all. Her sense of survival kicking in, Cara jumped to her feet as safely as possible, still holding her bewildered leg. The Yennox had landed and rolled about halfway down the hill, face down now but stirring quickly. So Cara wasted no time again. She hobbled hastily down the hill, grimacing each time her right foot made contact with the ground.

"Sanders!" Cara cried desperately, even though she knew he couldn't hear her. Maybe he'd hear an out-of-the-ordinary tone above all the ramming. Maybe not. "Sandeeeeers!" She bolted even faster, practically crying now, afraid that any moment she was going to end up like Webb and Billings. She nearly tripped, and stopped momentarily to balance herself on the angled ground. Her ears caught the sound of more grass swishing under a Yennox's powerful feet, and, before Cara could move out of the way, the same Yennox, attacking for a third time, pounced onto her back, knocking her down, face flat, into the grass. Her body and the Yennox slid a few feet, her face creating a run in the ground, covering her body with dirt. Cara screamed in agony, realizing what was coming next.

Without even a moment of hesitation, the Yennox, it's paws already on her back, dug its sharp talons into Cara's back. The human cried in pain, feeling eight holes being punched into her fragile body, feeling the blood gush out of her body and onto her uniform. And she knew. Her life ended now, but nothing happened. Nothing flashed before her eyes in an instant. All she felt was the pain. She tried to focus her thoughts on something other than the pain; tried to focus on her friends, especially those she'd had on Jack Talisand Station, especially Talon Page, her former mentor and best friend who'd she'd gone to high school with so many years ago...This wasn't fair. Wasn't fair to Cara. But deep down, she felt that this situation was being unfair more to Talon. He'd spent seven years preparing Cara for a command rank. And now, in the middle of only her first year away form Talon and Talisand Station, she was about to die. Now, after all the time Talon had spent helping her learn the ropes of command in the Junior Officer's program; after all the lessons he had taught her; all the experiences she had gained from nine years serving aboard the Station; in the last half of the first 365 days that she was on her own, she was going to die. This wasn't fair! She had only been collecting a routine morning report and had just wanted to see the planet. That's all. She had never wanted any of this to happen. Please, her minded to anything, anyone. Don't let me die.

Then all at once, as if someone answered, as Cara was deep in thought, the pain ceased to accelerate. It remained at one level, not getting better or worse. The Yennox had removed it's deadly claws from inside Cara's body. It now pushed them hard against it's large ears. It's mouth was open wide, roaring in extreme pain due to a noise it was apparently hearing in its head. More extreme than the pain Cara was in. It shook its head furiously, as if trying to root out a deadly attacker or assassin. Cara was in too much pain to move. The Yennox's endless screaming went on for a few more moments before the creature finally buckled under the mysterious pain. It's hands fell from its ears and it slouched over, not moving. Out of the corner of Cara's fading vision, she saw that's its eyes were closed and no part of its body was moving. Not a muscle, not a finger. It was unconscious.

Cara took the advantage she had. Not caring why that had suddenly happened, she scampered as fast as she could from under the beast's hulking but out cold body, and let it fall over onto it's stomach. Panting to the point where she was getting dizzy, Cara let her head fall hard onto the grass. Closing her eyes and allowing herself to rest and try to heal, Cara converted her desperate pants to sobs, and her eyes began to tear up. She began to cry, still very scared, but joyous at the same time. She had survived.

As air returned to her head and her vision cleared up, her senses slowly started to return to normal, and she heard the sound of running, but the lightness of the footfalls told her that it wasn't a Yennox, because the ground wasn't pounding beneath her body like thunder. Her ears told her about the yelling taking place all around her from all sorts of voices, all male though. And not speaking English. Rather, it was the Licathan language. They had saved her, probably with working sonic resonators, judging by the way the Yennox had been taken down. She heard two sets of footfalls swishing toward her, and hoped they were medics. Who else would be running across the grass towards her. Licathan soldiers maybe. Inside a corner of her mind, Cara prayed that they were understanding soldiers. From what she'd heard and read about Licathans, they weren't very forgiving or compassionate, especially the Licathan Special Forces. And to see the dead or wounded bodies of goodness knows how many Yennox would not bring out the compassionate side. The Yennox were a required part of Licathan reproduction, and there weren't that many of them; less than some small percent of the Pridia sentient population; Cara couldn't remember the exact percent.

A pair of feet stepped into Cara's vision, quickly disappearing as two knees dropped to the grass. Cara couldn't tell what faction this Licathan was a part of–she was for sure the man was a Licathan because of the language he was speaking. His hand grabbed her face gently and turned it towards him. Cara was blinded for a moment by the ruby-colored sun, which had come out from behind that asteroid a while ago; Cara couldn't remember exactly when. Not like she was trying to as of right then and there. As soon as the sun flashed past her vision, a medium-sized head with small ears and hair being wildly tossed in the wind appeared. She couldn't see the man's features at all, for he was only a shadow eclipsed by the sun. He finger's began dancing all over Cara's face, pulling back her skin to test for bruises, turning her face left and right. Sharp pain suddenly flooded through her nervous, causing Cara to wince and grunt. Someone else was administering some sort of anticoagulant to the wounds on her back.

The garden, Cara thought all of a sudden. "Kar il(The garden)" Cara coughed.

She saw the head nod. "Utokit vera ferd''ol kar il. Jugetut(We've already taken care of the garden. It's over)."

Cara nodded as best she could. "Retroy''vo(Thank you)." She swallowed, her throat practically a salt lick. That stupid Pridia air still smelled like crap. The Licathan medic set her head down back on the soft grass, a relief to the Alliance officer. She exhaled, her lips still cracked from the dry air. She winced a few more times as more anticoagulant was added to her wounds. How bad was she bleeding?

The medic's knees scooted to Cara's left, and the medic asked a question to another person. The two proceeded to carry on what was probably a medical conversation as Cara just allowed herself to breath. In through her nose, out through her mouth; in through her nose out through her mouth...It was somewhat relaxing.

Cara opened her eyes, not having realized that they were closed. She saw several pairs of boots run past in front of her, heading in the direction of the garden. Several orders were being shouted back and forth across the grassy plains. A few soldiers were staring at her from a few dozen feet away, holding huge Licathan-made rifles in their hands. Many of the voices sounded very angry. That reminded Cara of the dread of the situation she could be facing.

Then, a panicked, desperate voice cut through it all, speaking English. "Commander Chester! Oh my God! Is she alright?" The voice was very female, and seemed to suddenly be right behind Cara.

The Licathan medic said something in his best English that sounded something like, "Shays oki," which Cara assumed was "She's okay."

The female fell to her belly, and her remarkable pretty brown face suddenly appeared right in front of Cara's eyes. "Are you okay, Commander?"

"No!" the medic said sharply at the women.

Cara blinked. "Listen to the medic. I'm okay. What's your name?"

"Cadet Frieda Coles, ma'am."

"What about Tanner and Frieda," the question Billings had shouted to Cara shortly before his death. That's who Frieda was.

Cara tried to smile as best she could. "Thank's for your consideration, Cadet Coles. But I'm okay."

Coles nodded. "Aye, ma'am." She bit her lower lip, then stood up on her feet. "Save your strength, ma'am."

"I know Cadet. I will." Then, a thought went off in her head. "Check on the garden and Sanders," she ordered, trying to sound as down-to-business as she could.

"Aye, ma'am," Coles nodded. She disappeared to the right, running, just as a reassuring sight came into Cara's vision. A medical bed, swooping in on the Licathan version of hoverjets, stopped right beside Cara's eyes. She breathed a sigh of relief. She'd be ok for sure now; now they were going to take her to a hospital. She felt even more relieved when the hands of the medic and his supposed assistant slipped under her back to pick her up.

"Fretarda(Stop)!" a light but stern Licathan voice called out in the direction of the medic. The team continued to lift her off the ground though. "Fretarda!" the voice shouted again, much closer. "Grio, Fretarda(Stop, doctor)!" The two men froze, holding Cara two feet off the ground.

Cara craned her head to try and see around the medic at who was telling them to stop, more confused than angry. But she soon discovered that she couldn't see past the medic at all. What now? She asked herself.

"Dut sawa fu il hio juvep(Sit her up on the bed!)" the new man said now, not having to yell anymore. Not hearing his footfalls anymore told Cara he was right behind the medic. And she could see his right arm hanging out behind and to the right of the medic's body. She didn't understand what he had just said completely. All she understood was the verb for "sit," and the words "the" and "bed," so she put two-and-two together and came up with the sentence "Sit her on the bed" or something like that. Why did this new man want the medic to do that? Couldn't he plainly see that Cara needed medical attention?

"Prid, sawa'i seeot grio''dath ferser. Herre(Sir, she needs immediate medical attention)!" the medic finished, practically shouting the last word. Again, Cara had trouble translating. She could understand the words being said, but not their meaning. Something concerning medicine though.

"Sawa yui wesut op. Gu see''st gardt hy jull(She will get it. I need to talk to her now)."

The medic hesitated, his eyes reflecting a slight fear, maybe about something he was about to say. Cara knew he was trying to defend her, but he was addressing a Prid, a commander in Licathan. And Prid's were known for their disciplinary tactics, strictness, and lack of compassion for just about anyone. The Licathan feared them more than they respected them. Finally, the medic took a step forward and spoke. "Poll sawa derrow; sawa seeut op jull(She can't wait; she needs it now)!" Something about waiting is what Cara heard. Now she was beginning to get a little light-headed. She assumed it was from the stale air. The medics moved her closer to the medical bed and placed Cara's bloody body on it. "Prid, dstale gu''i(I'm sorry, sir)."

A low growl, sounding to similar to that of an Earth lion, emanated from somewhere behind Cara's head, sounding like it had come from the Licathan Prid. At first, Cara thought it was a Yennox. Adrenaline flowing through her blood, Cara lifted her head as far as her newfound strength could lift it–two inches into the air. Nevertheless, her hands were curled into fists, ready for battle. Upon seeing this, the medic reached out a restraining hand and lowered her head gently back onto the bad. This immediately calmed Cara down. It wasn't a Yennox. If it was, the medic would probably be more scared right now–more than he already seemed to be. His nervous gaze was still fixed on the Prid. Cara finally deducted that the lion-like growl had come from the Prid, created by the unique Licathan vocal cords rubbing together.

Cara watched as, upside-down in her vision, the Prid finally moved into vision. He was young Licathan, with elegantly handsome features, small eyes, small nose, rose-red lips and a straight Licathan military haircut. He seemed very tall too.

"Prid," the medic pleaded, taking small steps back as the Prid took several big steps forward, raising his left hand to strike the innocent man. "Prid, roll gu gett''st hy''re(Sir, I don't mean to be)–"

"Poolfeder(Treason)!" the Prid shouted in rage.

The medic brought his hands up in surrender as the Prid closed the distance to practically zero. And with brute strength and the fury of an angry bear, he smashed his knuckles straight into the medic's face, hard. As hard as someone could do. The medic yelped in pain, grunted, then fell down onto the soft grass, his hand cradling his cheek.

Cara's reflexes kicked in, and she jumped slightly where she was lying. Her gaze shifted from the Prid to the medic and then back to the Prid, is disbelief, then in longing, then back to disbelief followed by scorn. She couldn't believe it. The medic had only been doing his job, what he was trained to do. He didn't deserve that. Inside her mind, Cara thanked him deeply for all that he had done.

The Prid slowly turned to face the human, and walked briskly towards her. As he did, two armed guards who had apparently only been a few steps away marched over to the moaning, stirring medic. They yelled words at him then picked him up and placed his wrists inside some sort of handcuff-device. They were arresting him. Cara wanted to help him, wanted to fight those guards using the same skills she had fighting the Yennox. If she nearly escaped a four hundred-and-fifty kilogram warrior beast, she could certainly take those guards down, probably even with their guns and everything. The adrenaline started to flow again, and her hands became fists again. She wanted to take them all down. Right now. It was then that she realized that it hurt to make fists. Oh, who was she kidding. She could barely get up, much less take anybody down. The Prid walked right up to beside the medical bed. In her mind, Cara played a scene where she kicked his ass as well as his two guards.'

"Fo! Gu''j fo''y degga'st gardt ferderer gr nuo(No! I'm not going to say anything to you)!" Cara shouted.

The Prid stood there for a moment after, just staring at her. He then calmly gestured to Cara, looking over at the medic's assistant, who was standing at ease with his head down near the foot of the medical bed. "Nuo! Dut sawa fu!" the Prid shouted orders. The assistant jumped, looked up momentarily, then looked back down, moving his hands onto Cara's ankles, and swinging them over the side of the bed. She glared coldly at him. Traitor. You're a coward.

Cara looked up into the cold red eyes of the Licathan Prid. His face was expressionless, dead. But she didn't say anything. She wouldn't.

"I spik yur English," the Prid said in the best English he could muster. "It is 'n easy languige to lurn; no challng."

Cara kept quiet, just staring at her enemy.

He stared deep into her eyes, the typical Licathan tactic of intimidating a prisoner or captive. The next part of the tactic was to say his name and rank. "I'im Commanda Shjereth uf the Licathan Special Forces."

Typical.

"Whut happened 'ere?" Shjereth asked. There was a hidden tone in his voice. A tone of suspicion.

Cara crossed her arms weakly. "The Yennox attacked us," she said, her voice barely a scratchy whisper. "We were trying to stop them from getting to the garden, and they attacked us." So much for not talking. She assumed it would probably be better to cooperate.

Shjereth's face remained expressionless, but the same suspicion as before appeared in his voice. "Wy did they attik yu? Did yu provoke thim?"

Cara felt offended by the question. He had basically asked if she had just, out of the blue, decided to shoot at the Yennox for no reason. "No," she responded in an even whisper. "We tried to stop them using the resonators, but something was wrong with them, like a malfunction or something; I don't know. So I ordered the men to open fire on them."

Shjereth's face finally changed expression: to one where he looked like he was about to explode in rage and fury. "Yu shot at thim first!"

Cara raised her head to look at him so quickly that it hurt, and pain rippled down her body. She grimaced. "No," she managed to cough. "Can we please do this later. I'm thirsty and in a lot of pain," she pleaded.

"No," Shjereth responded immediately. "I need yu to anser the qestion." He paused to step towards her. She could now feel his clean breath on her nose. "It coud determine waere yu go to sleep tonight. I'im only tring to help."

Bullshit, Cara thought and almost said. "That was an accusation, not a question. I opened fire on them because they attacked us. It was in self-defense." She looked at him, her vision slightly blurry. "This entire incident was in self-defense." She grimaced again. "Prid, I need–"

Shjereth ignored her, moving right on. "Shut up! Yu wil get it. Did the Yennox attak yu firs'?"

Uh-oh, Cara thought. Dammit. They didn't attack first. Cara gave the order to open fire before the Yennox had hurt anyone. This wasn't going to end well either. She stared up boldly at the man. "No, but they would have if we hadn't shot some of them. More people would be dead right now."

Shjereth took a step back, now two arm lengths away from Cara. His face was turning red. Cara knew exactly what was going in his mind. She was definitely in trouble. "Prid, I know what you're thinking," she swallowed dryly. "I didn't intentionally kill these Yennox." How many have been killed? She wondered. "They would've killed us, I know they would have. No doubt."

"Yu cunt be sur abouta at!" Shjereth shouted. "Yu killd dem befour yu new derr intensions!" He was red as a cheery now, in so much fury that he apparently couldn't stand looking at her anyone, and sharply turned away, staring out at the grand view of numerous hills that made up the Delgan Plains.

Cara desperately swallowed, her breath quickening. Alarm rushed down the nerves in her spin. "I know, Prid, but I couldn't take that chance."

Shjereth turned on his heels and Cara suddenly found him directly in front of her, left arm raised to strike. "Sillence yu murder'r!" he shouted. Cara raised her hands in defense, but Shjereth's back hand strike got past it, and he slammed his knuckles, hard, into her left cheek. Her reaction to physical pain had always been bad, and the immense she felt after that knuckle punch–which is what it felt more like, a punch–nearly caused her to black out, which would have been a great pleasure if it had happened. But it didn't. Cara's reflexes to the slap slammed her upper body down onto the cotton-like cover of the bed, but it didn't help her much. Her cheek hurt like nothing else she had felt before. It throbbed and practically hummed as her blood tried to clot and seal the inner wound that had been caused by the slap. Cara cradled her bruised cheek, gritting her teeth and closing her eyes so tight that tears began to form. The pain was unbearable, like someone had just dropped a two ton cinder block on her face. She knew her cheek bone was broken. It had to be after that hit. Her nerves throbbed, and kept throbbing, and kept throbbing...and Cara just tried to breath, and she did at first, panting heavily. But then the panting broke into slight sobs, then heavy crying.

Cara sat there, eyes closed, crying and heaving in pain. No one came to help for a long time after that, so she remained, hunched over on the medical bed, weak and crying, holding her broken cheek. But she tried to suck up the pain the best she could. Because she knew that this pain was only the beginning. Cara knew that her troubles were only just starting.

Her cheek throbbed. And kept throbbing, and kept throbbing, and kept throbbing, and kept throbbing, and kept throbbing, and kept throbbing...

Admiral Duke Adovee of the United Alliance of Free Worlds and Civilizations sat back his chair, slouching slightly in its comfort. But he wasn't feeling comforted at all. The report he had just read had seen to his discomfort. It dealt with what the Licathans were now calling the Delgan's Incident. And according to the report, Commander Cara Chester, one of the finest and most respected officers he had ever met, had opened fire on a crowd of "innocent" Yennox, and had "brutally and maliciously" murdered sixty-two of them. Sixty-two of one-hundred-and-one Yennox.

Sixty-two of the Licathans precious, semi-sentient Yennox. Commander Chester was in deep trouble now.

Admiral Adovee couldn't and didn't believe it. Whatever must have happened had to be an accident. Mass murder was above Cara Chester. There was no doubt in Adovee's mind about that. He just couldn't imagine her committing a crime like this. It was beyond belief. And Adovee had a hunch that the Licathans knew that too, because in all the entire report, nothing telling Commander Chester's side of the story. The Licathan's just claimed that Chester had opened fire "without provocation" on the Yennox.

Without provocation. That had to be a lie. Seeing over one hundred large, muscular, sharp-taloned Yennox charging at you would be enough provocation for Adovee, as it had probably been for Chester.

Nevertheless, with the amount of Yennox deaths and wounded, and since the beasts were a major part of Licathan reproduction, many members of the Licathan Special Forces, including all of the Command Circle and General Bakazar Yamir himself, the Commander-in-Chief of the LSF, wanted "immediate justice." In this case, that was Chester's decapitated head on a silver platter. It wouldn't take long for this to get out to the rest of the galaxy, though it hadn't happened yet. Adovee already had the whole political game that would sprout in the Alliance from this incident playing in his head. This news would eventually seep out into the Alliance. Supreme President De'nehring would call off the treaty negotiations with the Licathans in shame and formally apologize to them. Treaty negotiations would resume a few months later, not getting anywhere for quite a while. Other potential Alliance allies would either cut off communications with the organization or become extremely cautious and careful around it. Either way, everyone in the galaxy would distrust the United Alliance just a little more than usual. Then the Alliance Congress would make a big deal out of the whole thing and start pointing fingers...it would be the most ridiculous political issue in the present time. And now was definitely not the time for the Congress to start arguing with each other again. They had already done that enough in the ten years since Old Alliance Territory had been destroyed. Issues like the Denari-Polster Act, the New War Powers Act, and the Mercenary Trade Pact, all eventually essential to the survival of the Alliance, had nearly been filibustered away in their early days of creation by the bickering Congressmen. No one agreed with anyone else it seemed anymore.

Admiral Adovee sat up in his chair, still staring blankly at this dreadful report. It could ruin everything the Alliance was trying to establish now before half of it had even begun. This could be the fateful blow that crippled one of the galaxies most powerful, not to mention one of its only, democracies. Without new allies, the Alliance was practically left exposed and doomed, easy prey for the sheer military force of the Ruzars, their most powerful and relentless enemy.

Well, the middle-aged Admiral thought as he finished the report. At least their giving her a trial. He snickered. Not a fair though probably.

Adovee straightened his white uniform in his chair, a nervous gesture. He had to stop this before it got out; had to treat it like a deadly virus. No matter what the cost, these negotiations would not, could not, be ruined.

With that, Adovee put the report aside. He tapped a button on his personal control panel in front of him. Almost instantly, a section of the far wall parted, and an obsidian-colored monitor pushed itself out to replace it. It wasn't long before the monitor hummed to life, which in this case was the upper left hand corner of it flashing the word READY in white bold letters. Also, the emblem of the United Alliance, a sleek-looking white Earth dove, with three blue five-pointed stars representing the planets Earth, Blee, and Yminok, the three founding planets of the Charter of the United Alliance.

Adovee cleared his throat. This ship's computer system, Adovee had noticed, had some glitches in its voice command system. He would have to be loud and clear. "Computer. Open a secure channel to the Licathan Special Forces Command Circle, attention General Bakazar Yamir."

The monitor stopped flashing the word READY, instead reading OPENING CHANNEL. Adovee nodded to no one. Good. It's working today. He shifted uneasily in his chair, anxiously awaiting the connection. He was about to attempt what would be considered treason, and with a man who could potentially be his enemy or ally. It could go either way with the Licathans. Adovee exhaled as the monitor came to life. On it appeared the handsome face of General Bakazar Yamir, stern as a Licathan General's face always was. And practically emotionless as usual. It had blood-red eyes with a sharp, pointy-like nose, thin lips, small ears, a round head, a Licathan military haircut, and no blushes in the cheeks. Adovee noticed how much he looked like his brother, Akarov Yamir, a Licathan who had kidnaped the wife of Supreme Admiral Timothy Ganondry seven years ago and had paid the price for it with his life after he tried to kill the Supreme Admiral. And Admiral Adovee knew for a fact that General Yamir deeply hated Supreme Admiral Ganondry with all of his will and heart.

And humans. "Yes, Admiral?" he said in Licathan. The universal translator translated it to English. "Is this important?"

Adovee had to play his cards just right, here. "Yes. I'm concerned about the relationship between our two governments. I don't want it ruined." Already, Adovee wanted to start that all over again.

"Then talk to Dictator Viraj when he gets out of the hospital," Yamir responded blandly, reaching his arm towards the termination button.

Adovee reached out an objecting hand towards the monitor. "Wait, General. So Viraj isn't out of the hospital yet?"

Yamir looked irritated. "No, the doctor's are still operating on him." The Dictator of Pridia, Viraj, had needed surgery on his lungs on this day, luckily for Adovee and the rest of the Alliance. He wouldn't know about the Delgan's Incident until he got out of the operation room and recovered. Praise any deity for that set of circumstances.

Adovee decided to cut to the point, or else this was going to end badly for him. "Good. General, I have a proposal for you. Don't tell Dictator Viraj about the Delgan's Incident, nor the Licathan public. Don't tell anyone about it. Can I trust you this far to do that?"

Yamir blinked, and his expression changed from blankness to a slight show of surprise. "Not tell anybody?" he answered quizzically. "Why shouldn't I Admiral? Let me remind you that Ms. Chester murdered sixty-two Yennox today, an irreplaceable loss to me and my people. You think I'm going to just let that go?"

Adovee gave him a quizzical look. "I know General, and my heart goes out to you and your people for your loss. All that I am asking is that you keep it a secret."

Yamir snickered.

"For the sake of the peace treaty, please," Adovee finished through his gritted teeth.

"The treaty?!" Yamir shouted. He slammed his palms on his desk and pushed his angry face toward the screen. "I don't give a damn about the treaty! The public is going to start wondering what happened to the Yennox, and I won't lie to my people. Not for you, and not for your asinine peace treaty, Admiral."

"General..." Adovee huffed out a sigh. He was beginning to lose his last bit of hope in General Yamir. Why did it have to be him that Admiral Adovee had to deal with? Because he was the first man that would tell Dictator Viraj about the Delgan's Incident, that's why. But doing the whole thing over a communications link isn't the way Adovee wanted to do this. "Can I make an appointment with you, General Yamir. To discuss this further?"

Yamir looked at him like he was crazy, and Adovee feared he would say "no." Then, suddenly, his facial expression changed to the neutral one he had on when Adovee first saw his face on the monitor. Yamir nodded. "Yes. Make an appointment with my secretary. Yamir–"

"General!" Adovee half-shouted in alarm. "A secret meeting."

Yamir frowned. "Your in a tight corner here Admiral Adovee. Making demands won't help you. Not if you want to be my 'friend.'" He paused. "My secretary or nothing, Admiral. Yamir out."

Adovee frowned and growled in his throat. He found he had grown a deep hate for Licathans in the time that he had been here. They were wretched, untrustworthy, deceiving, arrogant, unpredictable, unreliable...the list could go on forever. This was ridiculous. And with General Yamir being his possible counterpart in this cover-up, Admiral Adovee felt like he was negotiating with a terrorist. These bastards, he thought. They'll do anything to get attention. Licathans were known for their pride. They were like ancient Earth warriors, the kind like Odysseus, Aenaeus, and Beowulf. They valued treasure, pride, and fame above all else. Adovee snickered at the humorous memory of First Contact with the Licathans. They had judged the species of the Alliance to be inferior and had demanded that they, the Licathans, take over as the leaders and military officers of the Alliance. What made the whole ordeal humorous was that the Licathans thought that the Alliance would willingly adhere to their demands.

Admiral Duke Adovee next contacted Yamir's personal secretary, a rather nice-looking young woman, and made an appointment for 02000 today. He got into a tiny conversation with the secretary, but had to cut it short when she got a call from General Yamir himself. He terminated the connection with the Command Circle channel, then promptly erased it from the computer's communication files with his top-priority clearance.

He turned off the communication system, and didn't watch as the monitor slunk back into the wall and became hidden again behind the wall. Sitting back in his chair, Admiral Adovee tried to relax. But he soon found that it was a worthless try. He couldn't. He barely gazed at a picture of his handsome son–a famous movie actor who didn't even know who his father was–before putting face flat on his desk. The Admiral turned his chair to face his wall-large viewport of space and the green-and-tan-colored planet Pridia. But he didn't at the ugly planet. He focused on space, and its vastness, and allowed himself to get lost in the view. And in the black void, he said goodbye to...to everything. His dignity, his compassion, his career. The Admiral sighed, and just stared.

General Bakazar Yamir sat back in his chair, hands falling on the armrests. He let out a dissatisfied breath, impatiently waiting for his doors to open and the dark human Admiral to walk in and turn Yamir's glorious, medal-filled office into an ugly, disgusting room. Then he realized he had forgot to do something.

"Computer," his slightly-accented voice said, giving the silence in the room a rude awakening. "Set air conditioning system to maximum circulation and activate, temperature 'normal room'." The computer silently took in the information, and a second later, the air conditioning came to life soundlessly, only a green light on Yamir's extensive control panel. He could hardly stand the stench of those humans. He'd tried fragrance once before with them, and even that didn't work. He prayed to his Dictator that the air conditioning idea would work.

"Admiral Adovee has arrived for his appointment, General," the com suddenly said. A tremor went through Yamir's body, but the General ignored it. "Send him in," Yamir ordered. He didn't bother to straighten his uniform. The Admiral wasn't worth looking that presentable for. Speak of the devil, the Admiral walked in right after that thought. Yamir didn't smile though. He just sat back in his chair, and gestured to the left chair on the other side of his desk. Sitting to a military officer's left was a sign of disrespect in Licathan society. Adovee knew that also, but if he was annoyed by it, he didn't show any of that on his face. He simply sat down, wanting to get down to business. Which is what Yamir didn't want to do. "I won't betray my Dictator, Admiral, so i don't understand why you're here." He hid his true intentions in his voice. "But I'd like to listen anyway, because I can understand the predicament you're in right now."

Adovee squinted his eyes in disgust. Yamir guessed that he knew where Yamir might direct this conversation.

He want's something out of this, Adovee thought. A reward or something. No, i can't let him get the best of me. Adovee rose to his full height in the chair, not caring that it was to the left of Yamir. "I'm sure you don't understand, General. And I'm also sure that you don't care the current 'predicament,' or me." he paused, and breathed. Then he lowered his voice, and hesitated. "But tell me what you want, and I'll do what I can to get you whatever it is." Forty two-and-half years of honorable service down the drain.

"Anything i want?" Yamir repeated. "Can you really do that?"

Adovee stared bullets at him. "Yes."

"Good," Yamir said, suddenly sounding orderly. "Because i want a lot, and twice as much if I agree to your alleged deal. That's what i want."

Adovee sat up in his chair. He swallowed dryly, the lump in his throat immense. "Okay then, General. Listen." I can't believe I'm doing this. I just hope I don't forget why I'm doing this.

General Yamir listened, although he really didn't want to. Admiral Adovee could say whatever he wanted, it wouldn't have mattered to Yamir. All he wanted was whatever reward he could get out of the dark-skinned human. It wasn't going to be much, considering Adovee's rather low rank in the ADF. Yes, he was an Admiral, but in the Alliance's flawed military system, he basically only had command over the fleet, and not much access to anything that the higher ranking officers didn't want him to see. High-file intelligence reports, for example.

"I want our governments to be friends," Adovee started. Yamir caught his gaze. The brown eyes were in shadow, with no twinkle. It made him look like a king who had just watched his city walls be torn down by his enemies. "I want to be able to walk into Pridia City, and stand in the public square." He paused, then sat up as tall as he could, his lips curled slightly into a proud smile. "It would a symbol for the history books; an Alliance Admiral, standing in the middle of the most famous piece of artwork on all of Pridia, a feat that you've only allowed to no more than four men." He sounded extremely excited.

General almost laughed. "That spot is only rewarded to your Supreme President, assuming that he'll ever get the chance." The General made sure to get his hidden message across to the Admiral. Get to the point, it said. The pitiful part of the whole situation was that it took Adovee a moment to realize the message.

"The Alliance wants peace," Adovee said sternly. "I know we've said that at least a thousand times, and you're probably annoyed to hell by it, but I want you to hear it coming from me, because I want you to understand that I want peace as well. It's the basis of my proposal."

Yamir raised his eyebrows in utter amusement and the pathetic human. They were all like this. All, talk, no sense. Adovee reminded him of Admiral Ganondry, and a fiery tingle of anger and revenge made its way down Yamir's spine. "What proposal? You haven't said one yet!" his tone turned to spite. "Either say one or give me my reward now. For wasting my time with you."

If Adovee reacted to anything Yamir had just said, he didn't show any of it. "You already know what it is, General. Don't tell Dictator Viraj about the Delgan's Incident and I won't tell my leaders about it either. They would go crazy over that information. They'd bite both our heads off. The next thing you know, the treaty negotiations fall through, then war–"

"You're acting too extreme here," Yamir snapped. Adovee was thinking like a fool. "We wouldn't last a day in war against your military forces. You should know that." Yamir wanted to smack the man. No, he wanted to kill him. "And also, my head wouldn't get 'bit off,' yours would. It was your people that killed those Yennox, YOUR people who caused the Delgan's Incident." Yamir grinned victoriously. "You're in trouble here, Admiral, not me."

Adovee leaned forward in his chair, pointing a solid, rigid finger at Yamir's face. Totally like a human when the human thought he had someone trapped in a corner in an argument. "You are too, Mr. Yamir. It was your job to–"

Yamir angrily smacked the human's small hand away. He stared, a hawk's icy expression, at Adovee. "How dare you put any blame on me! Your people shot the Yennox–!"

"Because their sonic resonators didn't work General. The pathway wires were cut," Adovee began digging into his pocket, pulling out three pictures folded in half. He unfolded them and threw across the top of the desk at Yamir. "These are images taken by the Columbia's computer. It shows where the cuts are. Look!"

Yamir snatched one of the pictures off the desk and gazed casually at it. It wasn't much to look. Just those pathway wires, and the spot where they had apparently been cut, though it didn't seem that way. The crimson ends were frayed like it had been ripped, possibly by too much tension on both ends of the wires. General Yamir barely payed attention to that picture, nor any of the other ones Adovee presented. They didn't prove anything, just that the resonators hadn't worked, possibly due to a malfunction. So Yamir ignored them. "These prove nothing. Anything could have made these cuts. Look at them. The ends are frayed; nobody cut them." He tossed the pictures back across the table.

"Yes somebody did!" Adovee countered. "How could those wires possibly break on their own!" This man was mad. But what else was new?..he was a Licathan. "They're inside the con–contraption. How could they possibly break!"

Yamir stared up at the ceiling in annoyance. "They could have been dropped by someone. You humans have a repeatable tendency to be clumsy."

Adovee practically laughed out loud. Yes, human's could be clumsy, but not that clumsy. And besides, Adovee knew personally that the resonators had drop-proof armor welded onto the critical components. It would take a drop from a kilometer-high cliff to damage the inner workings of the device. They were also stored well, very secure.

"The resonators are kept, locked, inside a sealed compartment accessible only by a digit code. Where are they going to fall, General, through the metal–?"

"Admiral, your men must have broke them somehow, because my men wouldn't dare sabotage them because if they did and i found out about it—some punishments on Pridia can be very painful. But I don't have time to argue with you. I have another appointment in five minutes, and as soon as that come, I'm throwing you out, so you'd better get to the point of this whole meeting."

Adovee couldn't believe this. He was about ready to explode in Yamir's face. "The-the point? The-the-the point is not to tell our leaders about the Delgan's Incident. That's the point! General, if you would please–"

Yamir heightened the tone in his voice, easily overpowering Adovee's deep sound. "Then stop trying to defend your Commander. She's guilty no matter what; trial or no trial. No matter what, you will not be able to free her. Now tell me what i will get if I agree with your proposal."

Adovee leaned back against the chair, clearly wanting to keep stalling the matter of payment. Nevertheless, he had stalled long enough. It was time to get down to business. So the dark-skinned Admiral placed his hands on the armrests, he expression turned solemn. "Ok, General. Here's what I'm willing to offer. Intelligence. I will allow you to have access to all the intelligence and federal files in the Matrix Archives. Those codes can get you into any file and/or report in the Intelligence Archives, as well as information from Section Zero-One Intelligence."

Yamir's face remained a stone expression.

And Adovee knew he wasn't going to like the catch to this part of the deal. "However, this Intelligence is only good for another twenty days. That's when they rotate the first level access codes, and those are the only codes I know. But, don't worry, you shouldn't be disappointed." He took in some air.

"What else?" Yamir asked, stone-faced.

Adovee frowned in a snap, clearly not expecting that response. "'What else'? What more can you possibly demand? That's all i can give." Adovee smiled outrageously and leaned in. "General, the information I'm giving you access to is–"

"It's not enough Admiral. I want power, not secrets. I want something in terms of your military."

Adovee struggled to retain the instinct to strangle the Licathan. How dare he ask for military power. Adovee knew Yamir was teasing him; he knew Adovee couldn't give him anything from the military, if he wanted to keep the Delgan's Incident a secret that is. The Admiral gritted his teeth, and his eyes became ablaze with anger. "I can't give you any military power General. You're not a member of the Alliance. Join the ADF if you're that hungry for power."