Go To Ambassador
The Ambassador’s office is located at the end of an arched hallway. It feels as if you’re walking through a forest arcade, only there are slabs of metal showing between the living bits.
Inside, aids bustle about. You snare one of them—a short, somewhat frazzled-looking woman—and say, “Hey, the ambassador said she wanted to see me.”
The woman gives you a blank look, as if she has no idea why you’re interrupting her. Then she glances over her shoulder and calls out, “Counselor Sherrik! This one’s for you!” She bustles off.
A tall, grey-coated man walks toward you. The color of his coat reminds you of the UMCI, but this guy is a civilian. At least, that’s the pretense. Thin face, tattooed wrists, tigermaul eyes . . . yeah, he’s seen his share of shady ops. “Ah, there you are, Specialist.” A cultured drawl. Venusian in origin, you think. “We’ve been expecting you.”
Sherrik turns and starts toward a door at back. He says, “And what is your first impression of the station, hmm?”
“Yes, size is always what the unsophisticated focus on first.” And he smiles in the most condescending manner.
You resist the urge to respond with a snippy comment. Making enemies on the first day of the job isn’t the smartest idea. Instead you match his smile. “No doubt,” you say.
Sherrik’s smile widens. “Through here,” he says, gesturing at a frosted glass door.
“Uh-huh.” You push past him into the ambassador’s office. It’s an expansive chamber. No surprise there. Authority always takes up the most space. It’s also whiter than the main part of the station. White and obsessively organized. Everything on the few shelves looks as if it’s been placed with millimeter precision.
Ambassador Rohyamar looks up from the bright holo display on her desk. She’s a stern-faced woman, with the telltale elongated earlobes that signals she’s had at least three rounds of STEM shots. Rohyamar has been in the service as long as you can remember; there’s a reason the Premier picked her to represent the League of Allied Worlds on Unity.
“Welcome to the Embassy, Specialist,” she says, not unkindly. “Please, take a seat. These long cryo trips can be hard to recover from.”
Grateful, you sit in one of the two chairs. Like the desk, they appear to have grown right out of the station floor. Probably did.
Rohyamar gives you an appraising look, “Tell me, Specialist, do you know why we’re here?”
“By we, you mean—”
She makes an impatient noise. “All of us. Every human on this station.”
“To study it, and to use this place as neutral ground to negotiate with the Jellies, make sure war doesn’t break out again.”
A curt nod from Rohyamar. “Which is why it’s such a problem that we currently have a dead body lying in the entrance to the Jelly-controlled quarters.”
The back of your neck prickles. Old instincts kicking in. “Who w—”
“A technician of ours by name of Umesh. Civilian. Basic security clearance. It happened an hour ago. I had the area cordoned off until you got here.”
“Was it an accidental death?”
The Ambassador leans forward, eyes bright. “Not unless he managed to break half the bones in his body by tripping and falling on a perfectly flat floor.”
You scratch your neck, not liking the implications. “Did the Jellies kill him?”
“Well now, that’s the question. For all our sakes, you’d better hope the answer to that is no. Otherwise, we might be looking at another outbreak of hostilities between us and the Jellies. And without Navárez or the Seed to help us, things could get very ugly, very fast.”
“Surely the station mind saw what happened.”
Rohyamar gives a dismissive wave of her hand. “Yes, but the station mind isn’t particularly helpful, to put it lightly. You’ll see when you read their communiqué.”
“Uh-huh. And you want me to look into Umesh’s death? Is that what I’m hearing, Ma’am?”
“Exactly. I looked at your record. Four years in the Martian PDF. Excellent marks all around. Transferred to the UMCM, served as a criminal investigator in the Security Forces for another six years. Saw combat during the recent conflict. Honorable discharge two months ago, followed by acceptance to the Diplomatic Core.” She raises an eyebrow. “Did I miss anything?”
A satisfied nod. “You’re the closest thing to a proper law enforcement officer-slash-detective we have on the station at the moment. So whether or not you feel up to it, this is on you, Specialist. Let me impress on you again the importance of your assignment. The situation couldn’t be any more volatile. Discretion is of the highest importance. If word of this gets out, the whole peace treaty could be shot to hell.”
Another, sharper nod. “Good. I’m giving you full access to the staff here. All our resources are at your disposal. Whatever you need, we’ll give it to you. Now get some AcuWake in you, and head over to the Jelly quarters. They’re waiting for you.”
“And, Specialist? . . . For all our sakes, don’t fuck this up.”