The Nall exploration vessel Brazen Star isn’t docking at the Consortium fuel tanker. Tyalavikil lacks the authority to do so without clear permission from the Vox Council on Nalhom.

So, instead, he orders ship’s systems to minimum except for sensors and decryption. The Brazen Star goes into passive spy mode while the ship’s commander awaits clearance from the homeworld.

Over the past few weeks, the ship’s interrogator has been slowly working on the mind of Tyalavikil. Never a full intrusion, or even enough to make the touch known. Slowly, but surely however, Acran increases the connection with each contact, acclimating the Nall to his presence. He is not, however, doing so when he steps onto the bridge to deliver his report, standing by silently while awaiting the Nall’s response.

“Go ahead,” the commander orders. He seems pensive and edgy. The impatience colors his tone of voice. Before Acran’s arrival, his mind had been on other things, distracted, and the Mekke picks up just a hint of it – something guilt-tinged; something dark. If light treason had an odor, this could be it. Soon enough, though, it is tamped down and replaced by a more focused, attentive, industrial mood.

“Crew morale is significantly higher than is typical,” the Mekke clacks into his translator as he hands the Nall a more detailed report, “Anticipation of glorious service to the empire seems to be a prime cause.” He stays as far from the commander’s mind as possible at this time, avoiding any association between the sensation and his presence.

“Not much to be pleased about until we have the means to refuel,” Tyalavikil replies, gnashing his fangs. “Little has changed but the starfield.” He gestures toward the Rucker on the viewscreen. “Do you suppose the sight of the Consortium tanker is a source of optimism for our crew?”

The Mekke pauses, as if gauging the minds of the crew for a moment. “The predator requires prey,” he says simply, turning his head towards the viewscreen, “I confess, that it is not a mindset we Mekke will ever understand.”

Silence falls on the conversation until the communications officer reports that the Parallax has its own tanker on the way. It’s a ship called the Bountiful Goddess. “She should arrive within the next six hours,” the comms officer concludes.

Tyalavikil’s mind betrays just the barest tremor of disappointment and consternation. His fangs clack together. ¬†Ultimately, he bobs his snout in response to the subordinate. “Inform the rest of the crew. Once the Bountiful Goddess is on station, our expedition may begin and Nalia will reclaim the glory she is due.”

“Indeed,” Acran says, bowing to the ship’s commander, “Permission to be dismissed, Ur’Huluth.”

The commander lifts a tattooed palm in response to the Mekke, saying, “Go.”

Dipping his head subserviently, Acran turns his unblinking stare towards the corridor. Later on, he presses just a little harder on the mind of the Ur’Huluth, specifically attempting to feed the predatory instinct of the Nall.

Tyalavikil, momentarily unguarded within his mind as Acran departs, seethes at the inconvenient paranoia of the Vox Council. It seems he had quite hoped to make contact with someone aboard the Rucker. Bringing a Parallax-flagged tanker into the situation makes it difficult – although not impossible – for the Ur’Huluth to do so.

The Mekke pauses carefully, considering his actions, not wishing to move too quickly. Deciding it worth the risk, the telepath gently reminds the Nall of his access to secure text channels, and the image of the walls closing in around him.

The commander drifts off in thought for a bit, then seems to regain his focus. He glances toward Nall at the other stations, wondering if anyone just called out for his attention. However, at this time they seem concentrated on their duties.

That pleases him. He calls up a tightbeam broadcast window on his monocle HUD, then lets the output pads on his fingertips dance in the air as he prepares a message aimed at the Rucker. Three words: “PORTAL LOCK ANTIPATHY.” He then activates the transmission function.

Just like that, Tyalavikil puts his command – and neck – in dire jeopardy.

The Mekke’s mandibles spread wide, but he merely returns to his work, waiting for the opportune moment.

Meanwhile, aboard the Rucker, Captain Miranda Lee is awakened in the darkness of her quarters by the shrill ping of her PDA. She rolls over on her bunk to reach to the bedside table for the device. Peers at the message. Sees the source. “Shit.” That’s just before her intercom buzzes. The tanker’s bridge officer reports: “Our sensors are picking up…”

She finishes for him: “A Nall ship. Right?”

“Aye, Captain,” the bridge officer replies. “Not doing anything. Just on the drift.”

That draws a mordant chuckle from Miranda Lee. The Brazen Star, she knows, is a bomb waiting to go off.

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By Brody

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