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Chapter 16 - The Advisor[]

Norfolk III Station
Geosynchronous orbit, Terra
Sol Star System
Republic of the Sphere
3155

[The following morning...]

As much dubious 'fun' as it was attending parties ground-side, Anh was happier to be off the surface of Earth again.  There was no quiet down there. FFor a natural environment, it just smelled wrong to her senses.

The viewing area for VIPs was laid out like an arena skybox-or that's what Francois compared it to.  The only 'arena' she'd seen was during the riots on Timehri. That had been a shell of concrete that was mostly convenient as a secured LZ for the Coast Guard relief teams. A sally-port for riot control units trying to lock down the planetary capital so they could fight the fires, and maybe save a few lives.

"Penny for your thoughts, Commander?"  an RAF officer with Major's ranks asked.  Like the...well, like everyone she'd seen. The only sign he wasn't a ground officer were the branch identifiers on his otherwise-useless-in-vacuum uniform.

Anh paused to push the tumble of words that wanted to come out into something like order.  "Just thinkin' 'bout how to git everyone inter beachballs ifn' somethin' goes wrong is all."


"We're well protected from accidents here." the Republic officer said with a smile.  Anh didn't comment on his facial hair or the fact that he would be one of the people she'd be stuffing into a beach-ball (emergency depressurization shelter) if the seals in here failed.

"O'coarse."

"The...skin art-you're a belter?" he asked.

"nuh-uh.  Arlunan." she said, "I's born with this face." she added with a rueful grin.

A subtle shift in his posture,  "I see."<br>

She looked him over.  "Seeyoh son'oth'blek?" she asked.  See you, the son of the black?

He looked left and right, "innanight's everdark meaning?"

"Free stars." she made a fist and clenched it to her chest. Then, more carefully, "I didn't know there were any of The Folk left this side of Skye."

"My parents. I'm actually from Titan." he confessed, "Nobody's left in the Belts, it was considered too...disruptive after the Ceres riots in '25."

"Huh." I reckon that 'nobody' is a few thousand more people than you officially think.  Anh kept her own counsel.  During the ride to Earth, she'd done some sight-seeing of her own and using the right optical filters on her helmet. She'd counted dozens of low-signature ion traces between the orbits of Jupiter and Mars.

Ion engines don't leave a drive plume. They're slow as hell, but good if you're hiding.

"Show's about to start." he said, "Enjoy the parade."  and sauntered off to his duties.

"What was that about?" Lt. Lafayette asked her.

Anh nodded in the direction the Republic officer had gone in, and speaking carefully, and low, she said, "He thought we might be family."

"Is it possible?"

She shook her head, "No. Not family." she turned her attention to the large viewing window as the first squadron of Republic warships passed by.



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