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Isolde's Initiative -- Serialization of Novel by J.A. Taylor -- Second Installment
Meet the Isoldes
Governor Eidell Isolde of Paldaar,a man desiring to see brotherhood and justice throughout the galaxy, is the architect of the Interstellar Council and driving force of the “Initiative” to bring all the worlds of the Megna-Terran galaxy into peace and harmony.
Cassia, his only daughter, is the chief prosecuting attorney (Interrogator) of the Interstellar Council, and privy to everything her father is trying to accomplish in the galaxy. Like her father, she is as intelligent, tolerant, and her emotions are genuine.
Corey Isolde, second son and her older brother, is an accomplish Shooting Star pilot/officer and the newly-appointed commandant of the Interstellar Academy situated on Gosmaar. He is hot-tempered,slow to forgive, and of a highly suspicious nature, especially where Cassia is concerned.
Owen Isolde is Eidell’s oldest son—15 yrs older that his brother and sister. A scientific genius in everything from astrophysics to robotics, and artificial intelligence, he designed and created two androids [Alec and Ida] whose likenesses , attributes, and abilities rival real human beings. He, then, designed and built AURORA, his extraordinary personal transport.
Prelude to a Galactic War
Under the leadership of Governor Quillar, Delta-Linus is the most feared war-like world in the galaxy. With the word of another unprovoked attack by Deltan forces on a defenseless mining colony comes the demand that Lord Quillar be called to task for Delta's latest atrocity. In an attempt to rein in and discourage similar trespasses on weaker societies or star systems, the Chief Consul and the Interstellar Council of Megna-Terran with the matter set before them, summon Lord Quillar to an inquisition.
However, Morgan of Baldaninus disrupts the court-like proceedings and he quickly spells out the legal inadequacies of the Interstellar Council to hold Quillar accountable for anything he does. Thanks to Morgan, Quillar walks on several technicalities.
Thus, a terrifying alliance is formed, resulting in shockwaves of fear and destruction across the galaxy.
“Peace and serenity, like the inviting streams of Kalanda, always await us at home,” said Artavalon, the famed Mandarin poet, describing his homecoming occasion. Except, all was not peaceful, nor serene on Paldaar. Chaos, in its most extreme, was everywhere.
Mandarins…Uvaldans…Aradaans…mingling with other citizens from all over the galaxy, and of Paldaar, rushed in and out of the spaceport docking bay greeting diplomatic shuttles. Spaceport docking privileges were at a premium with interstellar consular transports receiving first priority.
As more and more ambassadors arrived from other Terran worlds, routine commercial ships received lesser secure third and fourth-class berths. As if the complaints from local merchants and their irate ship captains weren’t enough, the port authorities were now dealing with the rising tension over the arrival of Governor Quillar and his Deltan military escort. Given the volatile nature of the Deltans and negative emotions among alien and domestic alike, the Paldaarean Metropol was on call to ward off potential eruptions of physical violence.
Just arrived on his home world of Paldaar, Corey Isolde maneuvered his Shooting Star fighter into its assigned berth. Being the youngest son of the Chief Consul of the Interstellar Council and brother to the Chief Interrogator, he had firsthand knowledge of Quillar’s inquisition before the Interstellar Council several months in advance, so the prevailing turmoil in the docking bay area was not surprising. At the last possible moment, he left his command duties on Gosmaar and came home to witness the Council’s first decisive step against Delta-Linus for its recent violent aggression against the mining colony on the moon of Brigdaan. The academy on Gosmaar, over-populated as it is with cadets, was far less frenzied and chaotic.
While the ship’s canopy slid back, Corey removed and placed his flight helmet and gloves on the comm console. As he rose up from the cockpit and stepped out onto the boarding plane, he watched a hostile, jeering crowd with upraised fists converge on a Deltan shuttle settling into its assigned berth on the other side of the hangar. The Metropol promptly moved in and had it cordoned off before the hatchway ramp lowered. A troop of twelve black uniformed Deltan Militia bearing riot shields disembarked and formed a protective dome over and around the decrepit, gray-haired figure—Governor Quillar of Delta-Linus. He wore a midnight blue uniform laden with gaudy ribbons, medals, and honor roping. A short, knee-length cape with gold lining swayed from his shoulders.
Anyone diagnosing the turmoil and distress in the galaxy would readily attribute it to this one man. In the eyes of the galaxy, Quillar was like a cancerous tumor—a feared malignancy, requiring the swift, decisive stroke of a master surgeon’s scalpel. Quillar’s very presence in the docking area was comparable to a flaming stone tossed into a pool of combustible karoleen. Waves of intense hatred radiated from him and in return, projectiles of rotten fruits and vegetables smacked the upraised shields as he and his entourage made its way to the nearest exit.
When the malevolent presence was finally gone, the crowds dispersed. Spaceport maintenance crews shouldering brooms, shovels, and pushing wheeled carts began cleanup duties. Corey descended from his ship, removed his flight suit, and was placing it in the storage compartment beneath the cockpit when a Metropol officer recognized him, stopped, and saluted.
“Welcome home, Commander Isolde,” he said, “I take it you witnessed Lord Quillar’s warm reception.” Corey smiled and nodded.
“Well, if you ask me, the rotten fruit and vegetables were wasted on him. Have a good day, sir.”
The officer saluted and continued on his way.
“Thanks. Same to you,” Corey said.
Closing the compartment, Corey turned to see a familiar person entering the spaceport carrying two very large cases. It was Alec, one of his brother’s two crowning achievements in robotics. Alec was an android possessing extraordinary artificial intelligence. At first glance, Alec, standing over six feet tall, could easily be mistaken for a human. He did not move with the mechanical stiffness or the hydraulic sounds associated with ordinary robots. The other android in the Isolde household was Ida, his female counterpart. Other than their gender, the only difference between Alec and Ida was Alec’s tendency to take spoken language literally, whereas, Ida, possessing formal analytical logic, had a more relaxed, human quality.
Since Corey and his sister, Cassia, were children, Alec had been no less another big brother, and Ida was a surrogate mother. Now, Alec and Ida served the family in different capacities. Ida was Cassia’s companion/protector while Alec worked in Owen’s lab as an assistant and piloted Owen’s personal transport, Aurora.
Corey foresaw calamity waiting as Alec’s path across the hangar bay took him through the garbage strewn in the wake of Quillar’s welcoming committee. Before any of the maintenance cleanup crew could issue a warning, the android stepped on a slippery piece of fruit and went down. With astounding grace, the android’s adaptive reflexes enabled him to set his burdens safely down before he took the spill.
Before Corey could get to Alec, two of the workers had already helped him back to his feet.
Not long afterwards, the perturbed workers shook their heads and passed by Corey on their way back to work. “Can you believe it? It’s that same android,” one man said to the other.
“Yeah, you’d think he’d have learned by now,” the other replied.
Alec, obviously a little embarrassed, stood brushing himself off and mumbling. When he turned to pick up the cases, Corey stood in front of him, one arm propping the elbow of his other arm and his hand over his mouth, trying to hide an amused grin.
“Commander!” Alec said, “it’s so good to see you, sir!”
“Same here, Alec. I saw your little mishap, are you all right?”
“I’m fine. However…I have half a mind to lodge a complaint with the port authority chief about the deplorable conditions in this docking bay. Last week, it was hydraulic fluid. The week before, ball bearings. It’s not a spaceport anymore, it’s a disaster area,” Alec said.
Alec, with the cases in hand, started off and Corey walked alongside him. “I hear you and Owen are headed off to Roashaan?”
“That’s the plan, sir.”
“How’s Cassia taking it?” Corey asked.
“The same as when you left for Gosmaar, only more so.”
“Where’s Owen now?”
Alec nodded ahead of them. “He’s working on Aurora.”
The gleaming white ship was just ahead of them. “Is there a problem?” Corey asked.
“No,” Alec answered, “it’s just his way of avoiding another confrontation with Cassia. You’d be amazed at her ability to argue a point.”
“She always could,” Corey replied, “even when we were kids. That’s why she’s the Interstellar Council’s Chief Interrogator, I suppose.”
“Anyway, he has been sending me back and forth from the house to the lab for his personal things all day long,” Alec said. They reached the ship and Alec placed the cases one by one in the open hatchway, then he stepped up into the ship. “Are you coming aboard, sir?”
“In a little bit. Just don’t tell Owen I’m here. It’s a surprise, okay?” Corey said turning his admiring attention to Aurora.
Alec nodded and gave the motion of zipping his lips and headed into the ship with the cases in hand.
Beautiful Aurora…the best-maintained ship in the galaxy, Corey thought. Owen sure out-did himself when he built you. Everything onboard had a place and everything was in its place. Owen—the perfectionist, would have it no other way.
Corey emerged from the narrow passage into the passenger compartment, and there was Owen…a moderately built man in his late forties, in a green technician’s coverall, a screwdriver clasped between his lips, splicing wires protruding from a wall fixture. Corey came up behind him and cleared his throat.
“What is it now, Alec?” Owen asked, “Is something wrong?”
“Why is it, every time I come home…?” Corey asked.
Owen caught the screwdriver as it dropped from his mouth; he whirled about. “Corey!” He threw his arms around his younger brother. “When did you get in? How’s the academy treating its newly-appointed commandant these days?”
“Well, not too bad.” Corey gave Owen a head-to-toe look. “You look pretty good for someone pushing fifty.”
“Not for three more years, brother,” Owen said as he went back to his job. “Let’s see how you’re faring in twenty more years. You’ll be lucky those Cadets don’t turn that dark head of yours snow white in two.”
“At least it won’t be turning loose,” Corey joked.
“Nope…you’ll be pulling yours out.” Owen pressed the wiring back into its receptacle. “What brings you home so soon? You weren’t expected for another month.”
“I wanted to be here for Quillar’s day in court. Cassia told me you’ve taken a position on Roashaan and…” Corey realized his slip of the tongue.
“She did, eh?” Owen placed the cover on the box and tightened the screws with forceful turns of the driver.
“So…what’s the deal here?” Corey asked.
Owen picked up his work tray, walked to a nearby panel, and pressed a small button at its center. The panel door slid up, and Owen placed the tools inside and the panel slid back down into place. “You need to take lessons in subtlety from Cass. You were never good at it.”
“All right, Cass is concerned and she…”
“Sent you to talk me out of going to Roashaan,” Owen said.
“She didn’t send me. I came to offer you another alternative,” Corey said. “There’s an opening at the academy in our Astrophysics Department. I know this has always been your first love and well…the academic staff wholeheartedly agreed you’d be perfect for the position.”
Owen walked across the compartment to a passenger’s recliner and sat down. “So, now, instead of being under Cassia’s watchful eye here, you’ll be my keeper.”
Corey took a recliner next to him. “Of course not, Owen, you know me better than that!”
“Okay, okay! So what’s Cassia’s problem?”
“Ever since that incident on Brigdaan,” Corey said, “she thinks you should…”
“At least wait until the Interstellar Council gets Delta-Linus under the control.”
“Never happen, Corey,” Owen replied. “Besides, Roashaan’s strictly agricultural. Nothing of value there except a bunch of hybrid fruits, vegetables, and plain old dirt. The only minerals there are sodium and potassium nitrates, assortments of nitrogen, phosphates, and potash.”
Corey threw his hands up. “All right, you’ve made your point. But, how about Gosmaar? You have to be interested. I mean, what’s not to like? What do you say?”
Owen shook his head in contemplation. “Corey, it is a tempting offer but…”
“Have you spoken to father? Does he know your plans?” Corey asked.
“If he does, he hasn’t said a word,” Owen said. “Father could care less what I do. I’m a grown man…I don’t need his permission. His time and energies were never focused on this family.”
“He’s got a lot on his mind,” Corey said.
“He always has, Corey,” Owen retorted. “He always has.” Owen rose to his feet and paced a short distance across the compartment.
“So, that’s it. You’ve been avoiding him and Cassia…” Corey stood up with his hands on his hips.
“Now, wait just a minute!” Owen was instantly in Corey’s face, shaking his finger. “If you think I should feel sorry for him, think again. The way I see it, he picked up that responsibility on his own…he can drop it and walk away anytime!”
“You know he can’t do that. The Interstellar Council will make a difference, and after today…Delta-Linus and worlds like it will think twice before moving in on some other helpless society or star system.”
“It’s a pipe dream, Corey. Nothing will ever change.”
“What do you mean, nothing?”
“There’s talk that Quillar will walk away from this without a scratch. There’ll be a loophole. Just wait and see.”
“Not this time. Cassia has an airtight case against him. She has vid-com records of the death and destruction at that mining colony.”
“Our sister…dear brother, has no idea what she is up against. Serious repercussions could come from this. Deltans are not the forgiving sort…and Quillar’s not one to trifle with. Unlike the weaklings seated on the Council, he has the military might to back him up.”
“You’re forgetting, we’re not so bad off ourselves!”
“You talking about the academy?” Owen asked. “You’ve got to be kidding, Corey. That overpopulated school of greenies wouldn’t last an hour against…”
“I wasn’t talking about the academy!” Corey said, “All of the member star systems have pledged their standing forces to support the Interstellar Council’s policies in the galaxy. Quillar would be a fool to take on the whole galaxy.”
“Provided no other star systems outside the Interstellar Council join him.”
“Why would they? Give me one good reason.”
“In a word, survival,” Owen answered. “To a lot of folks, life is more precious than the high-sounding ideals spouted by the Chief Consul and his little social club. Now Cass is caught up in this!”
“She knows what she’s doing,” Corey said.
“She has no idea…Megna-Terran is not ready for galactic brotherhood.” Owen said. “Mark my words, Corey, when all is said and done, the Interstellar Council will fall flat on its face.”
”Maybe…maybe not, but it’s got to start somewhere,” Corey said. This conversation is getting nowhere fast, Corey thought. Owen, you’re being impossible.
Alec emerged from the command center and cleared his throat. The brothers turned as one to face him.
“Excuse me, am I interrupting something important?” The android gave each brother an inquiring look. “Is this a family thing again?”
“Yes!” Corey answered; the same time Owen said “No!”
“I see…” Alec stepped aside as Owen headed toward the command center. “If you wish, I’ll find something else to do.”
“That won’t be necessary,” Corey said. “I think the family thing is over for the time being.”
Corey turned and walked out without another word.
Quillar’s presence in the Great Hall of Justice had the same impact that it did in the spaceport, except the only things the grumbling crowd could throw his way were hostile glares and occasional curses, but the Deltan lord was too vainglorious to care. He sat alone at a table on the left side of the room, primping, straightening his uniform, and flicking tiny bits of sticky debris clinging to his sleeves courtesy of the spaceport welcoming committee.
Softer murmurs began floating around the room, and then someone close by said, “There she is.”
From the corner of his eye, Quillar caught the movement of the slender, shapely form of Cassia Isolde at a table on the other side of the room. There she is, indeed, he thought. With a moonstruck gleam in his eyes, he rose from his chair and gazed at her from head to toe. She was an exquisite, petite young woman—long, auburn hair swept back from crown of her head woven into a single braid from the back of her head down, tapering into a pigtail nearly six inches below her shoulders. She wore a one-piece ivory jumpsuit with long, sheer, ruffled sleeves accented by a pale blue sleeveless jacket that hung to her knees.
In businesslike fashion, she set up her file-comm on the table and then turned to a young man behind her who held out a somber, gray advocate’s robe. As she slipped into the robe, she noticed Deltan lord’s revolting toothy grin, and turned away.
Silence filled the room when the court herald made his entrance and banged his long staff of authority two times on the floor. “All rise. Come to order, the Interstellar Council is now in session. May the Higher Power guide this honorable assembly.”
Everyone, including the spectators, rose to their feet as the Chief Consul and four elderly men attired in gray robes entered, taking their places at a concave-shaped table. As Chief Consul Eidell Isolde stood at the center chair at the table, he watched a tall, scarlet-clad figure enter the doors at the back of the chamber and slip into the back row.
Isolde brought the gavel down. “This inquiry will come to order,” he said.
When the Chief Consul sat down, everyone else in the room took their seats. Cassia approached the Council’s table.
“Chief Consul…esteemed members of the Interstellar Council,” she said, “Governor Quillar of Delta-Linus is here to answer the charges of Uvalde-Minor.”
“Very well,” Eidell replied, “you may proceed.”
After a respectful nod, she turned to stand in front of Quillar, who absentmindedly began stroking the hair around his mouth and chin, and licking his lips. It was all she could do to retain her professional demeanor under his annoyingly lascivious gaze.
“Governor Quillar…you stand accused of a brutal attack on the moon of Brigdaan in which nearly two hundred unarmed Ellersant miners were killed.”
“Attack? Certainly not,” Quillar answered. “It was a police action, nothing more.”
“Oh I see…a police action.” She paced back and forth without looking at him. “How is it not only the miners, but their entire families and the colony itself, were decimated by nothing more than a police action?”
“I assure you, Lady Cassia…”
“We’re not on an informal first name basis here, Governor,” Cassia interrupted. “You will address me as Chief Interrogator. Well?”
“The report of the incident has been greatly exaggerated. In fact, the miners were the ones committing the crime,” Quillar replied.
“Liar!” A man in the audience rose to his feet angrily shaking his fist. “Mad Deltan liar! Brigdaan is rich with agglocite, and Delta-Linus wants it all!”
“Brigdaan belongs to Delta-Linus by treaty with Governor Ryholden of Uvalde-Minor,” Quillar said without looking toward the outspoken spectator. “Therefore…any mineral resources there belong to Delta-Linus.”
“Uvalde-Minor leased those rights to the colony of miners you murdered!” the man retorted.
“With all due respect to our friend,” Cassia said, “the question of ownership or possession is not the issue at this point in time.” The outraged citizen sat back down. “We are here today to bring this barbaric act to light. By doing so, we hope to thwart similar aggressions in the future. That is why the Interstellar Council must rule on this.”
Eidell nodded along with the rest of the council seated at the table.
“If it would not inconvenience the Council,” another voice interrupted from the last row in the back of the room, “I would like to address the Council on Lord Quillar’s behalf.”
All heads turned in the direction of the voice and murmurs of recognition filled the hall as the man in scarlet rose to his feet. He stood over six-feet in height, with black hair, black moustache and goatee. He carried himself with regal flair, as if knowing he needed no introduction; and in truth, he did not. Parading up the aisle, he stationed himself at Quillar’s side.
The irate protests echoed loudly about the Great Hall and the members of the Council all turned questioning eyes on the Chief Consul.
Lord Eidell raised his hand and the derisive commotion subsided. “This is an honor, Lord Morgan,” Eidell said. “But, what do you wish to say in this matter?”
“Someone must speak on Lord Quillar’s behalf, Chief Consul.”
Quillar was visibly surprised when Morgan stepped up beside him.
“Does Lord Quillar accept the counsel of Lord Morgan of Baldaninus?” Lord Eidell asked.
Morgan placed his right hand on Quillar’s shoulder; his touch was electrifying. Before realizing it, and not knowing why, Quillar replied, “Yes…yes, of course.”
Morgan gave Quillar a reassuring pat on the shoulder, and sidestepped Cassia to approach the Council’s table.
“Very well, the Council recognizes Lord Morgan of Baldaninus,” Eidell announced, and Cassia returned to her chair.
“Lord Eidell…honorable members of the Interstellar Council,” Morgan said in a voice so arrogant that caused audience to grumble. “I challenge the validity of this inquiry. Lord Quillar stands here without proper defense. For all the eloquent trappings, the outcome of this inquisition has, no doubt, been influenced and possibly pre-arranged by the Chief Interrogator…” Morgan extended a hand in Cassia’s direction, “…who happens to be the daughter of the Chief Consul—”
The spectators went into another uproar and Cassia jumped to her feet. “I object!”
Morgan casually paced about in front of Council. “The question I raise is whether the Interstellar Council has the right to interfere in a matter that is clearly none of their business.” As Morgan strolled past the Council table, Lord Eidell’s upraised hand suppressed Cassia’s next protest.
“Lord Morgan, the Council wholeheartedly defends the rights of all star systems, including those of Delta-Linus, but this form of aggression…” Eidell said.
“Aggression?” Morgan said with mock-surprise. “All you’ve heard are the accusations of irate privateers and their embezzling cohorts whose profits were cut off by Governor Quillar’s policing efforts.”
“I beg your pardon, Lord Morgan…” Cassia interrupted.
Morgan continued. “What this all comes down to, Chief Interrogator, is one man’s word against a band of thieves and smugglers.”
“Who are you to accuse innocent people?” Cassia asked.
“Innocent? My dear counselor, those people mined and produced more agglocite than they actually reported, and then, hired privateers from Capricaneous and Gregonia to smuggle the ore off Brigdaan. They were, for all intent and purpose, stealing from Delta-Linus. Hardly the behavior of innocent men, wouldn’t you say?”
“The people of Brigdaan…Lord Morgan, for the past twenty years, have been under Deltan domination.” Cassia crossed the floor to stand in front of him. “Their lives, and that of their families, have been no less than forced slave labor, receiving no just compensation for…”
“You’re saying the end justifies the means,” Morgan said, “is that it, Counselor?”
“Of course not,” Cassia replied, “but…”
“Lord Morgan…” Lord Eidell interrupted, “this Council was not aware of that situation, and this Council will take that into consideration, I assure you. But it is the unbridled violence we are addressing at this time.”
“Chief Consul, what about unbridled violence in your very own spaceport?” Morgan asked. “Shortly after his arrival an hour ago, Governor Quillar was, himself, assaulted.”
“We was just serving ’em an early lunch!” a man shouted from back of the room; the spectators broke into laughter.
Morgan pointed toward the audience. “There…see what I mean? You have taken an incident that if left alone, would have been quickly forgotten and peace would now be on Brigdaan.”
“Peace, Lord Morgan? It seems your idea of peace is the opposition totally annihilated,” Cassia retorted, “I’m amazed that you can utter the word without choking on it!”
Though Morgan secretly resented Cassia’s remark, he turned back to the Council. “As I was saying…the Interstellar Council has no right to interfere in the affairs of Delta-Linus and Uvalde-Minor, both of whom are not members of this…body!”
Once again, the audience went into an uproar. Eidell banged the gavel sharply twice on the table and rose to his feet. “Lord Morgan, the dealings of one world with another is of concern to all. Galactic peace and brotherhood is the goal of the Interstellar Council.”
“Peace…brotherhood? Such high-sounding words, Chief Consul, yet you speak for only four star systems other than your own while countless others still remain outside your sphere of influence,” Morgan said.
“True, but as more unite with us, fear will have no place in Megna-Terran. You, yourself, would be…”
“I fear no one, Chief Consul!” Morgan said.
“That was never implied, Lord Morgan.”
“But, you fear…” Morgan’s eyes sought each council member’s, and they all looked away, except Eidell. “All of you.”
“Yes, we have fear…but it is for our children and future generations. These mounting hostilities and invasions must cease,” Eidell said. “We invite you to join us, Lord Morgan. A seat on the Council is here for you.”
“Me? Join you?” Morgan sniffed. “Governor Isolde, I’m a realist. I will not relinquish my sovereign authority to a handful of fantasy-minded fools! In fact, right now…I challenge, Lord Quillar…” Morgan turned to Quillar, and motioned him to stand. “If Lord Quillar will, let him decide now, whether to stay here, cowering to your accusations, or leave…as I am.”
Morgan made a slow, deliberate turn, and walked straightway out of the Council chamber without a backward glance.
As the doors closed noisily behind Morgan, numerous heads turned and eyes focused on the Deltan. Realizing that Morgan had made him the center of attention, Quillar slowly took his first step to follow after Morgan. When it was apparent that no one was going to deter him, he regained his own lordly spirit. He and his entourage left despite the surprised murmurs among the spectators.
When the doors of the Council chamber swung open, spectators, most of whom were irate Uvaldans and Brigdaan miners, emerged from the Great Hall. Metropol officers immediately directed them down the corridor away from the Deltan lord now standing confidently in the company of his newfound friend in the scarlet cloak. As soon as the spectators had vacated the Hall and corridors cleared of potential troublemakers, Quillar and Morgan’s attention turned toward a door opening further down the corridor beyond the main chamber door. Council members filed out in pairs. The last to appear was Lord Eidell with Cassia on his arm.
As the Isoldes stood in conversation with two of the lingering consuls, Corey emerged from the same door and stepped up behind his sister. Sensing his presence, she spun around, throwing her arms about his neck and kissing him on the cheek. While Lord Eidell and Corey embraced in greeting, Cassia became aware of Quillar and Morgan’s presence and glanced in their direction.
Morgan watched a silly grin spread on the Deltan’s face as Quillar bestowed her a quaint nod. She ignored Quillar completely and turned back to her father and brother.
“I see you’re quite taken by the young lady,” Morgan said leaning close to Quillar.
“I’ve had night visions.” Quillar, without thinking, had revealed his one true vice. “Is she not exquisite?”
“No man has ever spoken to me as she has.” Morgan continued to watch the Isoldes.
“She’s that much like her father.”
“And the young man with them…who is he?”
“Lord Eidell’s youngest son, Corey.”
“An officer with the Interstellar forces?” Morgan inquired.
“If you can call that pathetic academy the Interstellar forces,” Quillar sniffed. “He was appointed the commandant of the academy not too long ago.”
“The Isoldes, it seems, have a lot of visibility and authority.”
“All but one,” Quillar said, “Owen, the oldest, a research scientist. He has no interest in the galaxy except what he can put in a test tube.”
“Really,” Morgan inquired. “How is it you know so much about the Isoldes?”
“I have my spies,” Quillar boasted, “I pride myself on knowing everything about my adversaries.”
Morgan watched as the remainder of the crowd dispersed and the Isoldes left. “Tell me, Quillar, could your spies tell me the movements of the Isoldes…for instance, where they are, and what they’re doing?”
“They could hand you their heads, if I gave the order.”
“That will come later,” Morgan stated without emotion, eliciting a surprised look from Quillar. “With your help, I—or I should say, we—could put an end to Isolde’s initiative and split Megna-Terran between us. I have a plan, Quillar. And you, my friend, have a place in it. That is, of course, if you’re interested.”
While Quillar rubbed his bearded chin in thought, Morgan led him down the corridor.
Cassia rushed into Lord Eidell’s study with a smile on her face. Her father sat at his desk signing some documents. Standing in front of him was Cort Rommas, captain of the Androcles.
“Father, I just spoke to Kettring…” Eidell’s upraised hand cut her off.
When he finished signing, he slipped the document in a packet and gave it to Rommas. “We’ll leave within the hour, Rommas.”
The officer accepted the package and as he turned toward the door, he afforded Cassia a respectful nod.
When the door closed, Cassia turned back to her father as he tidied his desk. “Father, is it true?”
“Yes. The door to Alpha-Bynaurus has finally opened to us. Lord Kettring has worked very hard to arrange this meeting with Governor Frashure and his Cabinet.”
“But, an hour isn’t enough time for me…”
“You’re not going this time, my dear,” Eidell said.
Reaching across his desk, Eidell held out a vid-doc pad to her. “You’re needed elsewhere.”
After a brief read, she looked up. “Uvalde-Minor? You mean they actually want to join the Council now after that fiasco at Quillar’s inquisition?”
“I would hardly call it a fiasco, my dear,” Eidell said. “Evidently Ryholden was impressed.”
Cassia put the vid-doc down and leaned on the desk with both hands toward her father. “Impressed? Morgan disrupted the whole proceeding, and all I could say was, ‘I object.’ Some impression.”
“It had nothing to do with how you conducted yourself, you held your own with Morgan. You weren’t intimidated by him like most people, and you are to be commended, but, like Corey…you need to control that temper,” Eidell said. “Never allow personal feelings to take over.”
“Personal? Father…that man accused me…no us…of falsely accusing Quillar and having already made up our minds about his guilt, and I was supposed to let it slide? We had proof. We had eyewitnesses!” Her father seemed to be meditating, his hands in front of him, fingers entwined, and pressing his joined index fingers to his lips. “You and I know it was no police action. We had him until Morgan stepped in.” She saw his all-too-familiar I-told-you-so expression and sat down in the chair in front of his desk, and sighed. “Then, I lost my temper.”
“My dear, losing your temper did not lose this case,” he said. “The evidence of mass destruction was there, it was evident that Quillar was guilty, but we didn’t have all the facts.”
“Morgan did raise valid points which we were not prepared to address. When we both visited that decimated colony, the death and destruction overwhelmed us, however, no one told us, not even Ryholden, of the rights granted in the Delta-Linus/Uvalde-Minor Treaty of Reconciliation. It is possible that Quillar was trying to maintain law and order when this unfortunate event took place?”
“But, father, the brutality! Was all that deadly force necessary?”
“That’s something we’ll never know now. We now have to consider the circumstances that led up to it, and I regret to say that our hands are tied.”
“In what way?”
“Lord Morgan made a convincing argument against the Council’s involvement. In our zeal, we may have overstepped interplanetary bounds. Uvalde-Minor and Delta-Linus are not members of the Council, therefore, we had, as Morgan so aptly put it, no right to get involved.”
“I can’t believe you’re saying this,” she said. “Then, nothing good has come from this.” She watched her father get up and walk around his desk to her.
“On the contrary, my dear…” Eidell sat down on the edge of his desk and crossed his arms. “Ryholden has finally come around. It seems that Lord Morgan’s effort to discredit the Council has backfired. The stones Morgan keeps throwing at us will eventually bury him.” Eidell stood and rubbed his hands together. “Now…on to other business.”
“But, what could be more important than this?”
“I’ve already spoken to Corey…he’s going with you to Uvalde.”
“Really, father, there’s no need…”
“And afterward…you and Corey have some business on Roashaan.”
“Roashaan? No way!” Cassia resisted like a spoiled child. “Owen is totally unreasonable! I have nothing more to say to him…whatsoever.”
“I’m well aware of what was said at the spaceport before he left. Corey told me everything.” Eidell gently took her by the shoulders. “You were wrong, my dear.”
Cassia realized how she must have sounded and looked up. “Then you know how he feels?”
“About the Council…what happened to your mother…everything.” Eidell nodded. “Owen and I had it out years ago. He expressed his feelings and I’ve respected them.”
“But, the accident wasn’t your fault. Surely, he knows that.”
“Yes, he knows. You and Corey were only ten and eleven and Owen was almost seventeen when he shouldered what should have been my responsibilities for you and Corey. My grief consumed me, and the only peace I found was in my work. In the process, I failed him miserably as a father—you and Corey, as well. By the time I realized what had happened, you were all grown and pursuing your careers and the breach between Owen and I was too wide to heal.”
Cassia had never heard her father speak with such brokenness before, she watched this tower of noble strength, hands clenched in tight fists at his side, steel himself against an emotional tidal wave surging up from within him. She took one of his hands, kissed, and pressed it to her cheek; a moment later, she felt a soft caressing kiss on the top of her head, and he embraced her.
“You and Corey are no longer children, and Owen is a grown man entitled to the life he’s chosen,” he said. “There’s no written law that the firstborn son must follow in his father’s footsteps, hmm?”
“No, buts!” Eidell interrupted, “Corey, and you especially, owe your brother an apology. Despite our differences, I love Owen and he loves me.” He stepped back an arm’s length, and his hand raised her chin. “Now, you and Corey will go to your brother, and close this rift between you. The Isolde household cannot have such disharmony and estrangement and expect to unify a galaxy. Do you agree?”
Cassia nodded. Eidell maneuvered her back into a chair in front of his desk, and then sat on the edge of his desk and heaved a sigh.
“What’s wrong, Father?”
“My dear, you must realize this initiative is not without its own dangers. We have a mighty opponent out in the galaxy. You must be prepared to face it.”
“I know,” she said. “His name is Morgan.”
“It’s not Morgan. Or Quillar. However, they’ve made it their most powerful ally. It’s fear, Cassia.”
“What danger, Father…and prepare for what?”
“The last Alphan emissary was Governor Frashure’s son. His ship disappeared on his way here and he has not been heard from since. No one knows what happened. Governor Frashure refuses to discuss the matter, but Kettring suspects foul play.”
Cassia’s eyes widened. “Then, you must not…”
Eidell saw her fearful concern. “Don’t, Cassia…don’t give in to it!”
“But, Father, you can’t,” she stammered.
His finger touched her lips. “That’s fear talking, daughter,” he said. “Don’t give in to it, Cassia, for it will paralyze and kill you as swiftly as a knife piercing the heart. You need to be strong and I need you to start now, understand?”
Cassia took a deep breath. “Yes, but…”
“Good!” Eidell said, “Now, you must not allow the Council to dissolve. What has begun here on Paldaar must see its completion in the galaxy. Promise me you’ll not let this initiative die. It will be the most difficult challenge you’ll ever face.”
“I promise,” Cassia said as she nodded.
“Now, come with me. There are a few more things you must know.”
© 2015 Janet A Taylor