TRU SMILED AT TWO CREWMEN AS HE WALKED PAST THEM. THEY GLARED back. None of his crew trusted him and he’d had enough bad captains to know why, but he held to the hope things would get better.
He entered the senior officer’s mess hall were a handful of senior officers ate in silence. Tru crossed the room to the captain’s mess and found Ambassadors Anderson and Teb waiting for him. They stood when he entered, Teb bowing slightly to Tru.
“Good evening,” Tru greeted them, sitting at the head of the table.
Ambassador Anderson sank into his chair, glaring at the table.
“Good evening,” Anderson stiffly replied.
“Good evening, Captain,” Teb cheerily said. “Chef Kauffman is a very good cook; I’ve served with her before. I took the liberty of ordering the roasted beef for you. Do you wish for something else, sir?”
Anderson rudely interrupted, asking, “Is there an Ensign Tobin aboard?”
Tru and Teb both looked at him. There was a dark emotion in the man’s eyes, which seemed darker when Tru noticed he clutched his knife and fork like weapons.
Tru answered, “I’m not sure.”
“I was told he would be working on Prosperous.”
“I haven’t memorized all of the crew’s names yet, Ambassador.”
“Let me know if you find out.”
“Is he a friend of yours?”
With a tight smile Anderson answered, “Sure.”
Tru’s empathic ability to sense lying flared and almost made him vomit. He took several deep breaths, attempting to soothe the feeling. Finally he looked Anderson in the eye. There was no feeling in them, only cold burning anger. But why lie about being friends with a person? What was there to gain from that?
A petty officer walked in, bringing Anderson and Tru’s plate. He sat them down, left, and returned with a bowl of vegetables for Teb.
“What work will you be doing on Righel Prime, Ambassador?” Tru asked Anderson.
Anderson looked at his plate, not answering.
“Ambassador?” Tru asked.
Tru swallowed hard, trying to settle his stomach. Another lie?
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the religious restrictions the government is trying to enforce, does it? That’s a touchy subject, I’ve heard.”
“I said it’s confidential.”
Tru cut off a piece of his roast beef and chewed if before continuing, but he didn’t take his eyes off the Ambassador. It bothered him that there were so many lies.
“Are you married?” Tru asked.
Anderson dropped his silverware as he stood. “If you’ll excuse me, Captain, I have work to do. Good night.”
He walked out of the room.
“Perhaps he is tired,” Teb offered.
Tru watched Anderson until he was out of sight. With Anderson and his lies removed from his presence, his nausea subsided.
“Perhaps.” Tru ate a bite of mashed potato, contemplating how concerned he should be about the conversation.
The ship alarm suddenly went off and the warning lights along the baseboard and ceiling throbbed red.
A recorded voice warned, “Malfunction has been detected in aft cannons. System overload detected and temperature is rising to critical. Please evacuate to the nearest life boat.”
“Gracie, reset it. Again.” Tru ordered.
The alarm and message turned off.
“Get me Commander Ag.”
There was a short pause.
“Ag here.” The Commander sounded perturbed.
“I have told you three times today to find the source of that warning, Ag. What’s taking so long?”
“I have other work to do, sir. Fixing some damn alarm is not the most important item on my list.”
“Ag, it’s going off every four hours. No one is going to get any sleep because of it.”
“I’ll get to it as soon as I can, sir. Ag out!”
Tru opened his mouth to argue but stopped when he noticed how silent the communication link had become. “Commander Ag?”
There was no reply.
“Gracie, is he still on the com?”
He has closed the communication link, Captain.
Tru sighed, looking at his food. He remembered Teb was still in the room with him and turned his attention back to him. The Quiir was busy eating his vegetables, politely avoiding staring at Tru.
“Teb, are you married?”
“Yes. I have eight wives, all lovely.” He smiled, as much as a Quiir could. “And twenty-seven children, two with their own swarm.”
Tru smiled, glad to see his xeno-liaison wasn’t short tempered tonight.
“Tell me about them,” Tru urged.