Today's Reading

"I figured you'd be in meetings all day, so I wanted to catch you beforehand," she said. She took a deep breath and relaxed her shoulders. "I have some human-related business. Can I come in, please?"

He didn't step aside. "What human-related business do you have that I don't already know about?"

"Let me in and I'll tell you," she said.

He sighed and stepped aside. The door opened all the way, and she stepped inside his quarters. The door slid closed behind her.

"God, it smells like my grandmother's freezer in here," she said, looking around his quarters. "Were you having a party of one?"

While stinking of vodka, his rooms still appeared neat and efficient (and larger than hers). The bed was made, the closet closed, the desk free of books or papers, the laptop turned off. Even the vodka bottles were arranged neatly, three full bottles on the right side of the small kitchenette sink, three empties on the left.
"Ms. Viridian, what do you want?" he asked stiffly. "I need to keep getting ready for my meeting. I like to look presentable before I leave my quarters. It shows people I respect them." He straightened his tie and cast a pointed look at her clothes.

She rolled her eyes. "Whatever. We need to talk. Can I sit?"

"No, say what you need to and then go." He gestured toward the door and manually slid it open.

She flopped onto his one easy chair, trying to force a casual position. "When were you going to tell me about the humans?"

He paused for a moment and then closed the door again. "What other humans beyond you and me are you talking about?"

"Adrian, I found out about the shuttle," she snapped. "The shuttle full of vacationing humans on its way to the station, who's apparently now just letting anyone on. Don't act like you don't know."

His face, already pale, grew white, emphasizing the small mole on his cheek. "Tell me everything you know."

"What, that Eternity is changing its position on allowing humans as a species to come aboard? That we won't be the only people here very shortly? Tourists, diplomats, businesspeople, even the military!" She took a deep breath and forced herself to lower her voice. "How could you not tell me?"

He rubbed his face with both hands. "I don't know anything about this. How did you find out?"

"Are you kidding me? You're supposed to be negotiating for Earth tourism, and it's happening without you doing anything? What the hell have you been doing, if not that?"

"How did you know?" he yelled. "Why did they tell you and not me?"

She sat up straighter and held her hands out. "Whoa, hold on, it's okay. Sheesh. Are they really keeping you in the dark?" He nodded. "Okay, I've been trying to learn the station layout, iconography, and basic universal symbols, on top of the laws so I don't accidentally get arrested. Again. Anyway, the early news this morning said a human shuttle would be here shortly. I thought you would get a daily news briefing as part of your ambassadorial breakfast or whatever your routine is."

He stiffened. "I do. An ambassador's report is read to me every morning."

"It's read to you? You don't read it yourself?"

His pale face flushed, two red spots appearing on his cheeks. "The station host reads it to me," he said.

"So you meet with Ren and he tells you what he wants you to hear," she said. "You know he doesn't like us, right? That's exactly why I have been trying to get the news that everyone else on this damn station has, not just what he wants me to know. Why would you trust him?"

"That's not the point," Adrian said, looking down at the carpet as if it offended him.

"Yeah, the point is we have to stop them," Mallory said. "Especially if you don't know what they're doing here."
"But why would they change their mind about allowing more humans to come?" he mused, ignoring her. "None of my arguments have worked."

"Well, someone did something, because the station is ready to allow humans aboard. You promised me you would tell me if that ever happened. Now I don't know who to be mad at. If you're telling the truth, of course. Usually not diplomats' and politicians' strong point."

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