Episode 11 – “Masquerade”, part 5

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Tred nervously kneaded his hands as the lift doors opened.

Security ushered him through the doors into Reactor 7.  He had full clearance to be here, after all, but it seemed like it had been weeks since he had been.

Had it been that long?  He started to count the days, but quickly swatted that thought away.

Forcing himself to stop kneading his hands, he walked into the reactor monitoring chamber.

The reactor itself was a massive elongated ovoid, twenty-seven meters wide.  Within it flowed plasma like a miniature star – though far hotter than most stars.

He automatically checked the readouts on the reactor, innately feeling alarm when he saw that some of the numbers deviated from the norm.

But that was actually okay; those changes were to make the plasma flux more suitable to a Star Angel.

They were, really, miraculous beings.  Intelligent by sheer chance, able to live in a wide range of plasma environments.  He’d read that some lived under the ‘surface’ of their star, others in the fringes, and these circumstances produced slight variations of being and culture.

For the most part he did not really understand their culture; hardly anyone did.  A few thousand diplomats and researchers who lived in the fringes of their home system of Yia were still trying to decipher those very things.

Beings who were non-corporeal, who lived so very differently, could be incredibly difficult to understand.  He could get that.

But it hurt him to think, because he truly thought that he and Jophiel had an understanding.

The Star Angel ambassador had even appointed him her assistant!  He had built her a custom drone, replete with specialized sensors so that she could move about the ship and feel as if she was actually there, rather than receiving just a limited band of information.

Yet since they had gone to see the play Ussa and Usser, she had . . .

She had been ignoring him.

He had spoken to her only twice; both messages were brief, the bare minimum, and only for diplomatic purposes.  Which, after she had asked him to send some dispatches, he realized he was thoroughly untrained for and absolutely awful at.

Perhaps that was why, he mused.  She saw his dispatches sent back to Yia and been disgusted.  Perhaps after he’d made that drone she’d assumed he was at least passably skillful at all things, not just engineering.

That was probably it, he reasoned.

He had done research into how to improve, even run his documents through the diplomatic AI, which had marginally approved them.  But still – he was clearly a rank amateur.

And she was an ambassador!  She was probably an expert in communication in ways he didn’t even know existed.

He approached the terminal that communicated into the plasma chamber.  Star Angels did not sleep, but at times went into low states of activity, so he was not sure if talking to her would be okay or not.

He had come down here just to speak to her.  He wasn’t even on-duty.

Now he was hesitating, his nerves so bad that he was about ready to walk back out.

He could always come back, but what if she was watching?  She was always so understanding of his . . . oddities, but maybe she’d grown tired of them?  Maybe she found him annoying after their greater contact.

Taking a deep breath, he approached the terminal.

“Madam Ambassador,” he messaged.  “My apologies for disturbing you.”

He paused; he’d already written out what he was going to say, though now it all seemed horribly inadequate.

“Today is a special date in the Sapient Union, a holiday we call Darkeve.  People enjoy dressing up in fanciful costumes and there is even a parade of costumes with awards given out to those who make particularly good ones!”

He changed the exclamation point to a period.  It seemed too excitable.

“I was hoping that I could take you to see the parade.  It is an ancient holiday, and one I think you may find quite interesting.”

That was all he had written, but on a whim he quickly added and sent; “That is, if you are not busy today, of course, Madam Ambassador!”

Damn it, he’d put in an exclamation point again!  And he had opened the message calling her by her title.

Feeling like an utter fool, he could only stand there and wait.  If he hadn’t been so frozen with nervousness, he might have wanted to bolt.

A message beeped, his heart jumped.

“Thank you for your kind invitation,” it said.  “However, I must decline.  Please enjoy your holiday.”

Tred felt like all the energy had been drained from him.  Automatically, driven by habit of politeness, he replied.

“Thank you, Madam Ambassador.  Good day to you.”

Turning, feeling numb, he left.

< Ep 11 part 4 | Ep 11 Part 6 >

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