(Galactic Dynasty #5)

by E. M. Lohr & Wendy Lohr

Everyone is vested in something; financial, emotional, spiritual, or otherwise. For Rosa and the Starward crew, their vestments are all of these and more. They journey through the universe to convince alien species that Earth is worthy of joining the Galactic Council. But not all aliens are as welcoming as they seem as their vestments are elsewhere. And the Earth delegation is learning that intrigue, murder, and deceit are not just human traits as conflicting vestments collide.


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Chapter 1 (Lorig)

Arriving at the open door of Commandant Valia’s office, Nuncio Lorig paused for a moment to observe the petite yet powerful female sitting at the head of the conference table. She was frowning about something and he wondered what was so important that he’d been summoned. He didn’t like being called on like some ServBot and wondered again how he could unseat the female so he could take over her position. It was a long-held goal of his that had yet to come to fruition simply because the female was annoyingly good at her position. That and he’d yet to find anything on her that could force her out of Space Exploration.

“Captain Plint here,” a male voice spoke through the audio device imbedded in the conference table.

“Captain Plint. This is Commandant Valia,” the head of Space Exploration announced. Lorig was slightly taken back to hear Plint’s voice as he knew the captain was currently assigned to Outpost Vagar.

Valia, seeing Lorig at her office door, waved him in and indicated a chair, which he took. Lorig had been rousted out of a going-nowhere meeting with several instructors of the Space Exploration Academy. They had approached him with ideas about including Earth as a new curriculum, something he was fighting tooth and nail against in hopes that the new species would be ultimately rejected by the Galactic Council. Of course, that would have been the case if his plans within the subversive society hadn’t gone awry. All because of one measly little Human/Metrusian female and her over-protective Nanibot.

“Greetings, Commandant Valia,” the male now in charge of operations on Vagar returned. Lorig struggled a moment before recalling that Plint had been the Deputy Captain to that infuriating female, Brogue. She was one Metrusian Lorig would personally love to eliminate, but had refrained, barely, as it might ultimately draw unwanted attention to him.

Having no idea why he was being pulled into this meeting with his superior, he forced his attention on the exchange and listened as Commandant Valia shared, “There has been an incident just beyond the entry point into Valorian star space.”

Perking up as he realized his latest little plan to foil the humans was unfolding, he remained quiet as she continued, “Some Recreants attacked the escort ships protecting Starward and a small skirmish ensued before the threat was eliminated. We did lose a couple of our escort fighters, but none of the Humans were injured during the skirmish. Starward remains intact and they are currently continuing their journey to Valoria with the remaining escort.”

Dammit, another plan gone awry, Lorig grumbled silently. Attempting to maintain outward calm, he felt the first inklings of panic as she relayed, “In the aftermath, some rather disturbing information came to light that leads to this communication with you. According to Nuncio Brogue, the attack was planned by a subversive group operating here on Metrus. And it appears that Ambassador Gredor was a member of this group. As I want answers, I am redirecting him to you, Captain Plint. I want him isolated and heavily guarded until the Analysis Contingent can get there to question him. While they are questioning him, he will remain in isolation. No one is to interact with him besides you and the Analysis Contingent. No outgoing calls, no meals without being thoroughly vetted for poisoning, and no visitors. Is that understood?”

“Yes, Commandant. I’ll have the isolation cell prepared immediately. Is there an estimated time of arrival?” Captain Plint inquired.

“The escort with Gredor should arrive in the next hour or so. The Analysis Contingent should be there early next cycle.”

“I’ll make sure their quarters are prepared as well, Commandant.”

“Thank you, Captain. Once the A. C. begin questioning, I want to be kept informed of all information gleaned from the prisoner. From what Nuncio Brogue has shared, he is asking for full immunity and retention of all assets in exchange for the information he can provide regarding this subversive group. That, of course, will be up to the Judiciary Committee. I’ll be speaking with them today and will be in touch once they reach a decision. I’d like for you to pass that decision on to the A. C. when they arrive so they’ll know what they have to work with,” Commandant Valia informed the captain and Lorig struggled to keep control over his emotions. Gredor hadn’t spilled his worthless guts, yet, or Lorig was confident he’d be on the next ship out to Vagar to be questioned as well. But it sounded like he had less than a cycle to figure out what to do before the A. C. got ahold of Gredor and made him talk.

“I’ll be available all cycle, Commandant, and will make sure the decision is passed on to the Analysis Contingent when they arrive,” Captain Plint assured her.

“Excellent. Thank you, Captain. That will be all for now. Valia out.”

As soon as the communication ended, she turned her intense gaze on him and he resisted the urge to fidget. He just needed to hold it together a little while longer, learn all he could about what she planned to do next, and then put his own safe exit plan in motion.

“Thank you for joining me, Nuncio Lorig. I do apologize for having pulled you from your meeting this morning. If you don’t mind waiting a few moments longer, the Judiciary Committee should be here soon,” she finally spoke.

“Of course, Commandant,” he responded smoothly. Fortunately, he was saved from having to come up with small talk with the arrival of the Judiciary Committee moments later.

Once they’d settled around the small conference table which was to the side of Commandant Valia’s desk, she informed them of why she’d called the meeting. She shared about the incident and what she was currently doing with Gredor. She also informed them of his request for immunity and retention of assets.

They were all quiet for a few moments before murmuring amongst themselves. Then Belex, the head of the committee, spoke in deep, lyrical chirps, “Do you believe he will be able to provide pertinent information that can help root out this subversive group and put a stop to it?”

The commandant didn’t respond to the male’s question right away and Lorig had to tighten his grip on his control as his impatience grew. But she finally responded calmly, “According to Nuncio Brogue’s report, he claims to know who the leader of this subversive group is. And since he is a member of this group, I believe he could provide a lot of insight into how the group operates and what their goals are. This information could lead to multiple arrests with the ultimate goal of shutting down their operations for good. And, if nothing else, he could provide our intelligence community with enough information to begin the process of pinpointing possible group members that we can then question to gain even more insight.”

The Judiciary Committee eyed each other thoughtfully and had another murmured discussion before Belex announced, “Very well. It is the decision of this Committee that Gredor receive immunity, but be stripped of his title and duties as Ambassador. His assets must remain inaccessible by him or other family members until we are assured of the validity of his information. Retention of his assets will be revisited at a later date and will depend on how helpful he is in putting a stop to this subversive group.”

“And if he won’t cooperate without assurance that he retains his assets?” the commandant questioned.

“Then the Analysis Contingent will just have to do their best to obtain all the information he can provide. We are firm on our decision concerning his assets,” Belex replied resolutely.

“Thank you, Belex. I’ll relay the Committee’s decision to Captain Plint on Vagar. I’ve asked him to relay it to the Analysis Contingent when they arrive so they’ll know what they have to work with,” Commandant Valia shared.

“We want to see justice done, Commandant Valia. It disturbs all of us greatly that members of our own species would go to such lengths to sabotage newly forming relations with the Humans. Furthermore, we all have a great respect for Rosa and are displeased that there are individuals out there willing to harm her in order to achieve whatever their goal is. As far as we’re concerned, the A. C. is welcome to use any and all methods to ensure we obtain as much information as possible to put a stop to this,” Belex stated strongly.

“I feel the same way, Belex,” the commandant agreed. “I’ll be sure to keep the Committee apprised of any and all information learned from Gredor.”

“Thank you, Commandant Valia,” Belex returned and the Committee left soon after, none of them looking pleased with what they’d just learned. Most of Metrus had a strong fondness for Rosa Martinez, the half-Metrusian/half-Human that carried the legendary Joja’s DNA. Because of that, Lorig knew the punishments would be brutal if anything were to happen to the female, but that wasn’t stopping him from trying to achieve his goals.

“Lorig,” the Commandant spoke, turning to focus on him, “what do you know about Ambassador Gredor? I seem to recall you were involved with him being chosen for that position.”

Lorig struggled to maintain his composure under the Commandant’s intense scrutiny and responded, “It is true I endorsed him for the position. But I hardly knew the man, just his reputation, which was outstanding here at the Academy.”

“I see,” she remarked thoughtfully. “It would seem that he fooled both of us then.”

“Indeed. And from what I heard you and the Captain discussing about him and this disturbing subversive group, I hope the A.C. learns what all this is about so our species can move forward in a more positive direction,” he agreed, trying to emote a confidence that felt hollow.

After a brief silence, Commandant Valia nodded and dismissed, “I’m sure they will and things will work out for the best. Thank you for sitting in on this, Nuncio Lorig. I believe that will be all for now.”

Eager to be out of the room, Lorig nodded and bid the female good cycle before departing. Trying to maintain normalcy, he headed back to his office and checked with his assistant regarding his schedule for the rest of the day. It was clear, so he told his assistant he’d see him early next cycle and walked as casually and confidently as possible out of the building.

Settling into his HoverTrans, Lorig absently ordered it to take him to his abode. It wasn’t a long ride and soon he was climbing out and hurrying inside. As he headed straight to his sleeping chamber, he began making a mental note of everything he needed to take with him. His safe exit plan was a contingency that he’d hoped he would never have to use. But he wasn’t stupid; there was always the possibility that his involvement would be discovered and he’d have to make a hasty escape. He just never thought it would be that imbecile Gredor that would send him running.

“Going somewhere?” a chilling voice inquired as Lorig was pulling some clothing out of the closet.

Whirling around with a set of robes clutched in his fists, he found the assassin, Darlox, sitting quietly in the corner of the chamber, watching him with those dead eyes of his. Lorig had always been pleased with the idea that he had a pet assassin to carry out his more fatal orders. But that didn’t mean the male didn’t make him uneasy. Darlox would enjoy killing him just as much as he enjoyed killing others and probably wouldn’t hesitate.

Taking a deep, calming breath, Lorig rapidly ran through various scenarios in his head, trying to locate one that would allow him to escape instead of being on the receiving end of Darlox’s latest delivery of death. Knowing the assassin wasn’t stupid, he finally went with, “There’s been a development. The attack didn’t go as planned and now Gredor is threatening to reveal the identities of various subversive group members.”

“I did hear that the attack was not successful and that someone was in custody,” Darlox revealed and Lorig wondered how he had heard. At least that explained why he was sitting in Lorig’s chamber waiting for him. “Shall I put a stop to his chirping?” Darlox inquired, looking almost eager to carry out that order.

“Normally, I would say yes. But I have a feeling no one is getting near Gredor. Not even you. Instead, I need your assistance to get off this planet,” Lorig admitted reluctantly. He briefly toyed with the idea of finding out who Darlox’s informant was, but dismissed it, knowing the assassin probably wouldn’t share. Besides, getting off this planet was more important now than learning more about how his little assassin operated.

“I take it you have a destination in mind?”

“Yes. I have some contacts located in Floom’s star system. If you can get me there, we can continue our work.”

Darlox eyed him thoughtfully for a moment, causing more than one eerie shiver to crawl across Lorig’s synthetic skin. Then he asked softly, “Were you originally planning to ask for my help?”

Lorig had learned early on in their interactions that Darlox was shockingly adept at knowing when someone was lying. So, hoping he wasn’t signing off on his immediate demise, he admitted uneasily, “No, not originally.”

An emotionless smirk lifted one corner of the assassin’s lips and he remarked, “At least you’re honest. I’ll help you. But I want to be kept apprised of all developments and plans from now on. And I want input into any plans we put into action. As your Second, of course. After all, if something should happen to our illustrious leader, someone will need to step up and continue the good fight. And we both know your sniveling son isn’t that someone.”

Lorig shuddered inwardly at the thought of the subversive group being led by the assassin but knew he had very few options at this point. Besides, his son, Jorip, was an idiot that Lorig barely trusted with simple tasks. Running an entire society just wasn’t his strong suit and Darlox knew it.

Lorig was, however, aware of something none of the others were: he wasn’t the true head of the subversive society. Sure, he let everyone think he was, but even he took orders from someone higher up. Lorig just hoped that when Darlox discovered this little secret, new plans would be set into motion to keep Darlox too busy to even consider removing Lorig from the playing field… permanently.

So, in interest of self-preservation, he decided to continue to keep Darlox in the dark for now and agreed, “Very well, Second. I suggest you get packed. We need to leave before my name gets mentioned.”

“Meet me on the space port in one hour. I’ll have a ship procured for us. Don’t be late,” Darlox instructed, rising to his feet. Before Lorig could respond, the assassin was gone.

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