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Book Cover: The Ambassador

The Ambassador:

Chapter 1: Departure Day: Episode 3

In the previous episode, the Ambassador met Captain Alexander Logan and used the Ancient Arts to test him. She introduced him to her team.

In this episode, the Captain takes command of the Magellan. We meet Maja, the ship’s AI.  The Ambassador and N’amani discuss a previous mission and Captain Logan. As they get underway, the Ambassador tells them about their mission. The Captain expresses his concern. N’amani reassures him by telling him that doing the next-to-impossible is what they do.

Access Granted

Space Station / Magellan Gateway

Captain Logan walked over to a large open doorway. It had thick metal doors set into the walls. A palm scanner was set into a metal side panel. Just beyond, a transport platform was visible at the end of a short passageway.

The Captain stepped up to the door and put his hand on the palm scanner. “Prepare command transfer. Mark Time. Logan, Alexander. Theta twelve eighteen Gamma three Alpha Mu seven nine.”

A purple light came on and began passing over his body.

Maja, the Magellan’s AI, appeared in the center of the entryway. She could block or grant access to the ship. She wore a ship’s uniform. She looked like a human female in her early thirties with upswept brown hair, light brown skin, clear brown eyes, and perfectly-crafted bright gold earrings. She was not an ordinary AI. She was designed to serve the ship. Every choice she made, every decision to act or not act, was based on the good of the ship, it’s crew, and anyone or anything else on board. She could not disobey a direct order from the ship’s Captain.

Maja looked squarely at the Captain. “Voice, palm, DNA, medical records, access code. Match confirmed. Transferring all systems to your authorization, Captain Logan. Welcome aboard, Captain. You have command,” she said and stepped to one side. It wasn’t just a formality for her to say this. She was actually giving him full control of the ship, it’s systems, and all her programs.

The Captain paused and took a breath. “I have command.” His voice seemed to get a little deeper with the responsibility he just assumed.

The Ambassador turned her head slightly to one side, listening. She heard the change in his voice. She smiled. ‘Oh, I like him,’ she thought. ‘I like him.’

“I’m sure I have much to learn about the Magellan,” the Captain said looking at Maja.

“Indeed Captain,” Maja replied smiling. She had been programmed with several types of humor, irony among them. She turned to the Ambassador. “Welcome back, Ambassador.”

“Thank you, Maja. I’m happy to be back. It’s good see you again, too.”

Developing a bond with an AI had not been easy. Gradually, as she worked at it, the Ambassador began to understand the practical implications of Maja’s core programming. Then, she asked to have Maja modified with new branches for diplomacy. These included assessing patterns of behavior, physical responses, engagement, and cultivating confidence and trust. In addition, subroutines for ethics, rewards, and all sorts of things that supported the Ambassador’s missions were added. It took a little training. Maja adapted quickly and progress was rapid. The High Council had been very happy with the modifications. They had added the new branches to the AI’s on a few select ships with great success. And, they gave the Ambassador another medal for her initiative.

Maja moved a little closer to the Ambassador. “Does he know?” she whispered.

“No,” the Ambassador replied. “He will want to see the ship’s logs.”

Maja shook her head. “It may be difficult for him to understand. He has just come aboard.”

“I agree. Not all at once. Give him a day or two to adjust. Maybe you could be just a little slow at finding things. Offer him something similar while you are looking for what he wanted?”

“To distract him. I understand.”

“For now. Only for now. Once we are underway, I will tell him. He must know everything.”

“Yes Ambassador,” Maja said recognizing the command to her core programming.

The others had walked past them to the transport platform.

The Doctor waved to them. “Are you coming with?”

“Of course Doctor,” the Ambassador said smiling at him. “Thank you Maja,” she whispered, taking Maja’s arm.

They walked to the platform together.

The Captain stood up straight. “Guest Quarters, Section 3, Deck 8, Please Maja.”

Maja smiled. “Does he really think I don’t know where the guest quarters are?” she whispered to the Ambassador.

“Humor him,” the Ambassador giggled.

“Yes Captain,” Maja said as she engaged the transport.

New Settings

The Ambassador’s Quarters on the Magellan

The Guest Section was designed for those times when dignitaries or special guests from a planet might be invited on board. It was secured with restricted access and isolated from the rest of the ship by a system of locks. A network of hallways connected the guest living areas with several meeting rooms. Each meeting room offered a different perspective on the stars or planets outside. The Ambassador and her delegation had quarters in this section of the ship. It was convenient for her to be near any guests. It was also less of a distraction for the crew.

The Ambassador, N’amani, Kell, Beth, and the Doctor stepped off the transport platform into an open foyer with tall windows along both sides of a broad hallway. The Captain remained on the platform.

“Ambassador, I’ll take my leave for now,” the Captain said. “There are still a few things I need to do to get us underway.”

“Thank you, Captain. When you can, I’d like to have that briefing to go over the details of our mission.”

“I will let you know, Ambassador,” the Captain said nodding. “Bridge,” he said activating the transport platform.

The Doctor, Beth, Kell, and N’amani started towards their rooms.

“N’amani, may I have a minute?” the Ambassador asked motioning to him. She opened the door to her quarters. Her room was standard – a large open living space with a built-in seat along the outer wall, a panel separating the sleeping area from the main room, and an open doorway leading to a sink, toilet, and shower.

N’amani took a small cube out of his pocket. He put it in the center of his palm and walked around the room. The cube glowed green. “All clear, Ambassador.”

“Thank you, N’amani,” the Ambassador said shaking her head. “All this secrecy, even here. It makes no sense.”

“What makes no sense?”

“All the extra precautions we are taking.”

“Well, so far, I haven’t found any false walls. I will continue looking, of course,” N’amani replied, referring to their first mission together.

They both laughed.

N’amani set the cube on his palm again and did several spins before deftly sliding it back into his pocket. “Seriously though, you know you have friends on the Council. You know you have enemies, too. There are those on the Council who would like to see you fail. They may appear to support you and they will rally around if you succeed. But if you fail, they will be happy to make you a scapegoat.”

“I know. I know. I suspect that’s part of why Sorrensen was promoted. Not that she didn’t deserve it. She did. She’s one of the best captains I’ve ever worked with. She has great instincts and an impeccable sense of timing.”

“Being careful isn’t a bad thing, Ambassador. I have no wish to be pulling you out of any more piles of rubble. That last attempt on your life was much too close.”

The Ambassador smiled. “You made the headlines. Unknown Hero Saves Survivors. Nice image of you bringing that old man out on your back. It really was impressive. N’amani, I’m very glad you didn’t stop to talk with their press. It could have been a problem.”

N’amani smiled. “Their press were happy to talk to the old man’s family. He was apparently one of the local favorites. Always a kind word for everyone. There’s more to it, Ambassador.”

“More than you being a hero?” the Ambassador asked, a mix of pride and kindness in her voice.

“Yes,” N’amani said quietly

The Ambassador turned her head to one side and raised her eyebrows. N’amani knew what he could do and he wasn’t afraid of it – he embraced it. She liked that part. She liked his modesty even better. He didn’t try to make anything about him – it was always about the other person, the one he was doing something for. “What happened?”

N’amani took a breath. “That old man was really in bad shape when I got to him. I was with the search teams in the second building when I thought I heard a something. I followed the sound. I was clearing the debris to make a way through when I saw the old man huddled in a doorway, the walls collapsed all around him. He was half-buried under the rubble, shaking, afraid. Nothing I said reached him. I kept asking him to come with me. I told him I wanted to help him. But he was too scared. He couldn’t hear me. Finally I told him I was his transport. I was there to take him to see his children and had to get on board right now. When I knelt down to help him get up, he grabbed my shoulders, climbed on my back and put his arms around my neck like a small child hugging his father. He started shaking and sobbing. He kept hugging me and wouldn’t let go. He couldn’t talk. Even after I brought him out to his family, he didn’t want to let go of me. He finally took hold of his oldest grandson and let me go.”

“I didn’t know. Why didn’t you tell me?”

“You were being treated for your own injuries,” N’amani replied with a shrugg. “It didn’t seem important.”

“Sometimes the smallest actions can make the biggest difference. That old man is never going to forget you. I’m more than pleased you found him.”

N’amani nodded and smiled. “I’m glad I was there to do it.”

The Ambassador smiled at him. She began pacing the floor. “What do you know about Logan?”

“He’s seen as a rising star in the Alliance. He was given the Star Cross last year for extracting a trade negotiator from a difficult situation near Epsilon Indi. The team had been told there was an agrarian planet that was interested in trade. What they weren’t told was that there were two governments vying for control of the food supply. When the trade negotiator arrived, he and his delegation were taken hostage in an attempt to force the other side to give them a high-producing hybrid grain they had developed. Captain Logan managed to create a diversion by tricking their weather systems into registering an unusually cold air mass that would freeze their unharvested crops. Then, he offered to send equipment and a team to complete the harvest before the cold arrived. Once the harvesting team arrived, they insisted the trade negotiator and his team were the foremost experts and needed to handle the controls. Once they were all on the shuttle, the cold air mass disappeared… and so did the shuttle.”

“I heard about the rescue, but not how he did it. Clever.” She stopped pacing and turned to face N’amani. “Can we count on Logan?”

“Ambassador?” N’amani asked with surprise. “That’s not a question you usually ask.”

“I need your candid assessment,” the Ambassador said a bit more sharply than she wanted.

N’amani heard the tone in her voice. “I think he will do whatever he believes is the right thing to do. He will protect the ship, the crew, and you, Ambassador.”

“Thank you,” the Ambassador said quietly. She turned away to look out the window.

“We’re going to find out what that means, aren’t we?” N’amani asked with concern.

“Yes, we are,” the Ambassador replied.

The comm link next to the door chimed and lit up.

“Ambassador, we have left the station,” Maja said.”The Captain asks if you would join him with your team in the diplomatic briefing room in 30 minutes.”

“Thank you, Maja. We will be right there,” the Ambassador replied.

N’amani started toward the door. “I’ll go get the others.”

“N’amani?” the Ambassador asked.

N’amani turned back. “Yes Ambassador?”

The Ambassador shook her head. “Never mind. I’ll see you in the briefing room. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. I’ll see you shortly,” N’amani said as he walked out.

The Ambassador sat down near the windows. She watched the ship moving away from the station. In just a few seconds, she couldn’t see the station any more. She turned and looked forward. The Hyades Cluster was just barely visible far in the distance. It would take them just over two weeks to get there. They could go faster, but there were preparations to be made along the way. ‘It should be enough,’ she thought. ‘It has to be.’


The Diplomatic Briefing Room on the Magellan

The Ambassador was the first to arrive for the briefing. The lights in the Diplomatic Briefing Room came on automatically when she entered. It was the largest of the briefing rooms in the Guest section. It had comfy chairs and large windows to watch the stars plus security to protect whatever was said.

“Where should I sit today?” the Ambassador asked aloud. She liked being the first one in the room when she had to give a presentation. It gave her a chance to see the room before anything started. It wasn’t as trivial as it might seem. Her position in the room gave her an advantage. It was like that with negotiations, too.

“Wherever you like,” the Doctor said, coming up behind her. “Daydreaming or planning?”

“Both,” the Ambassador said turning around. “It’s good to see you, Marc. How was your vacation?”

“It was GREAT! I spent most of the time floating in the Tree Gardens on Qili 7 in the Altair system. Have you been there? They have the most amazing fruit. They call it por’a. It’s like a sweet cucumber with a hint of apple. It’s wonderful. Here’s some for you.” He handed her a small basket.

“Oh, thank you!” She brought the basket up to her nose. “Oh, this smells nice. So sweet. It sounds like you found a place to go back to.”

“Absolutely. They have several things I didn’t get to try,” the Doctor said feigning disappointment.

“I’m sure you made an effort,” the Ambassador replied.

“Yes, I did. I made a double effort. I went to the buffet every day. Just like clockwork,” the Doctor said.

“How many plates?” the Ambassador asked.

“Just three,” the Doctor replied holding a fist with his little finger up to show the number six.

The Ambassador chuckled.

They both liked to eat. The idea of going somewhere and not making a serious effort to try the local foods would never occur to either of them.

The Ambassador moved to the head of the table and put the basket down. She went over to look out the windows.

The Doctor walked over to stand beside her.

Just then Beth and N’amani came in followed by Kell, the Captain, Commander Brandon, and a pleasant-looking, medium-built young woman with wavy, shoulder-length blonde hair and bright blue eyes. .

The Captain walked to the head of the table. He saw the fruit basket in front of what would normally be his chair and shook his head. ‘That is not there for me,’ he thought. He moved to the first side chair. “Ambassador, I’m sure we’re all eager to hear about our mission. I understand you know Commander Brandon.” He nodded to the Commander.

“Yes, Captain. The Commander and I have had the pleasure of working together a few times,” the Ambassador replied, smiling and nodding.

“Lt. Meredith Katy is our new flight officer,” the Captain said, gesturing to the young officer. “She just completed her training with expert qualifications on three of our fighters. This is her first assignment on a starship.”

“Welcome, Lt. Katy,” the Ambassador said. “Pleased to meet you.”

“Thank you, Ambassador. It’s my honor to meet you,” Lt. Katy replied.

“Shall we get started, Captain?” the Ambassador asked.

“The floor is yours Ambassador,” the Captain said, taking a seat and motioning for the others to sit.

“Thank you Captain,” the Ambassador replied. She looked around the room. “I appreciate that you have not been briefed until now. I had instructions to keep this quiet. We are going to the Hyades Cluster to meet with the High Council of Ka’len. The Central Alliance wants to establish a treaty.” She activated a screen showing a star chart of their route to the Hyades Cluster. Then, she activated a 3D model to show a system with four planets, two suns, and a heavy asteroid belt just outside the system.

“But why are we going?” the Doctor asked.

“We’d like at treaty, Doctor. Two of the planets and this entire nearby asteroid belt are rich in magnesium and other rare earth minerals,” the Ambassador replied. She added an overlay to the display that showed what they projected the deposits to be.

“Jackpot! ” the Captain said.

“Rich seems to be not quite the right word,” Commander Brandon said smiling.

“Indeed,” the Ambassador said nodding. “The people of Ka’len, the Kora, have been mostly receptive to our overtures. So far, we’ve only contacted them through remote traders. This is a First Contact mission.”

The Captain sat up just a little straighter in his chair.

The Ambassador pointed at the model and went on, “We know these four planets formed a federation about 300 of our years ago. It appears they have developed slowly. Our traders have talked with the leaders on these two planets. We believe all four planets are receptive to joining the Alliance. They have also told us quietly that the Ka’len Council could be receptive to our plans.”

“Our plans???” the Doctor asked.

“I’m getting there,” the Ambassador replied. “This asteroid belt,” she continued.

The Doctor wasn’t having it. “But why are we going? It’s a long way to go for a mining agreement. Even if we are a First Contact team, why do we have to go all the way out there? Can’t somebody else go have a look-see? Why are we getting stuck with it?”

The Ambassador looked at him and then around the room. She took a breath. “Alliance merchant ships passing through the sector have reported seeing Olmeri scout ships here.” She pointed to an area just beyond the asteroid belt. “They are still far enough away to not be an immediate threat to Ka’len. But they are headed towards the system.“

The Doctor frowned and shook his head. “This is not good. Once the Olmeri arrive, they begin taking over any habitable planets. They drain the planet’s resources to build their megacities and power their ships. They don’t leave anything for the original inhabitants.”

“This is really not good,” Beth said. “Our early reports are that the Kora are mostly agrarian. They don’t seem to have much industry. They seem to have very limited construction abilities. Their planets are heavily forested. They don’t have any large cities.”

The Captain looked down and shook his head. “They can’t defend themselves.”

“It gets worse,” the Ambassador said. “We’ve just gotten new reports that show the Olmeri are accelerating their timetables. We used to see a few years between the time we got reports of their scout ships showing up somewhere and when that sector would begin withdrawing from trade treaties. Now, it’s less than a year.”

“Less than a year?” Lt. Katy asked.

Commander Brandon looked at Lt. Katy sharply and furrowed her brow. ‘Be quiet before I come over there,’ she thought.

The Ambassador continued, “From what we know, it appears the Olmeri are assaying the asteroid belt. We think they want what we want, the minerals. But they don’t know what’s there. And we want to keep it that way. So, to your question, Doctor. Why are we going? If the Olmeri keep traveling along the belt, it will bring them directly into the Ka’len system.”

The Captain frowned. “If the Olmeri are able to establish themselves in the Hyades Cluster, they will become an even bigger problem for the Central Alliance.”

The Ambassador nodded to him.

“They’re already a problem for the Kora,” the Doctor said.

“Exactly, Doctor,” the Ambassador said. “So, we’re going to do two things. First, we want a treaty that will allow us to set up a monitoring station near Ka’len to give us an early warning about any Olmeri incursions.”

“Just land and ask them to sign?” Lt. Katy blurted out. She was an exceptional pilot and very good with flight operations. She wasn’t deliberately trying to be disrespectful. She was used to saying what she thought during flight briefings.

“Not quite, Lieutenant,” N’amani said firmly frowning at her “This is not a training flight briefing.”

Lt. Katy bit her lip and looked down.

The Ambassador looked at N’amani and nodded her acknowledgement. She went on, “Second, we want the Olmeri to believe that the asteroid belt is not worth their time; that even if they find a few minerals, there’s not enough of anything useful to bother about. We want them to go away thinking that whatever they have found isn’t worth the trouble.”

“How can you get them to do that?” Lt. Katy asked with more than a little disbelief.

The Ambassador frowned at the interruption. “Lt. Katy,” she said firmly and looked around the room. It was clear that question was on everyone’s mind. She smiled. “That is a good question. We’re going to seed the belt with other minerals to confuse their sensors.”

“You want to win without fighting as the old Earth philosopher Sun Zi would say,” Kell said.

The Ambassador looked at Kell and nodded. “If we can do it. It’s going to take quite a bit of preparation and a barrelful of luck.”

Everyone looked around the table and nodded.

“Being able to do either one of these seems like a pretty big challenge, Ambassador,” the Captain said, a little worried. “What are we actually going to do?”

“If you’re asking for an operational plan, I don’t have one yet, Captain,” the Ambassador replied. She smiled, raised both hands, shrugged, and shook her head.

The Captain frowned. His brow furrowed. He looked down and shook his head.

“We have two weeks,” the Ambassador said looking around the room. “I know it’s not much and it’s never enough. But it’s what we have. If we don’t go now, the Olmeri will have enough time to finish their scans. We need them to believe they found nothing and go away. And we need to do whatever we can to stop them from taking over the Ka’len system.”

The Captain looked up and shook his head.

“You look concerned, Captain,” the Ambassador said.

The Captain looked straight at her and then around the room. “I am concerned. We are going to a remote area where we have few allies. The Olmeri have been spotted nearby. We have two weeks to prepare. You have some goals but you don’t have a plan. So yes, you could say I am a little concerned.”

N’amani turned to him and smiled. “Captain, you’ve not been on a mission with us before. Two weeks is something of a luxury.”

Her team and Commander Brandon all chuckled. It was true.

“Okay. So I’m the new guy,” the Captain said. “I’m still concerned. I was expecting a briefing to cover transport times, official dinners, and how you wanted me to manage any meetings on the Magellan. That’s mostly what I had been doing. I’m actually happy about going to the Hyades Cluster. I’ve not been there. Going somewhere we are likely to meet the Olmeri is, well… em… different.”

The Ambassador and her team all laughed out loud.

“Yes. Yes, I’m sure this is very different,” the Ambassador said with a more stern and unforgiving tone than she wanted. She went on, “Captain Logan, I am sorry that you have been thrown into this. I’m also a bit unsettled having a new Captain to work with. We are going to have lots of opportunities to get to know each other really, really well over the next two weeks. You will come to understand what my team and I do. But I have to tell you honestly, for this mission, we can’t succeed without you, your crew, and the Magellan.”

The Captain looked at her, questioning her without saying anything. Then, he sat up a little taller and his expression changed to one of pride. The Magellan was his ship now. “Ambassador, I didn’t take this commission without understanding what it meant. We will do whatever it takes to help you succeed. But I have to be honest, the High Council didn’t tell me any of this. Not even a hint.” He shook his head.

“They couldn’t tell you, Captain,” the Ambassador said. “I told you where we were going because I decided you needed to know at least that much. My team did not know where we are going or what we’re going to try to do until just now.”

Beth and Kell looked at each other, nodded and shrugged.

The Doctor grinned and nodded.

“We’ve been on several very quiet missions like this,” N’amani said.

“My entire plan depends on making the Olmeri believe what we want them to believe,” the Ambassador said. “We cannot give them any opportunity to find out otherwise. They may come back and try again. That’s also why we want a treaty with the Kora. We don’t want to walk in the door sounding the alarm bells. But we have to do something. What that something is remains a question.” She looked around the room slowly. She knew this mission was going to be a challenge. She needed to get them ready. Sugar-coating it wouldn’t help. “Do we know what the Kora want? What do we know about their civilization and history, Beth?”

Part of Beth’s job was to make herself an expert, to learn everything she could about the civilization they were going to visit. She also needed to be able to offer advice and put things in context. That meant reading lots of reports and reviewing any language banks that might be similar to what they could expect.

Beth looked up. “All the reports I’ve seen are that the Kora don’t have much industry,” she said. “They seem to have very limited construction abilities. Their planets are heavily forested. They don’t have any large cities. They have a fusion process quite similar to ours that they use for most of their energy needs. Their ships aren’t fast enough to go much beyond their local system. Their culture is focused on providing for their people. Our best guess is that the planets have more than enough magnesium and rare minerals. They don’t need them, don’t want them, and can’t eat them, so whatever’s in the asteroid belt isn’t something they think of as desirable.”

Everyone chuckled a little at that last bit.

Beth continued, “The Kora appear to be interested in seeds and other agricultural help that we might be able to offer. That’s been the conversation the traders we have contacted them through have had. The Kora are hesitant to trade, it seems, because they haven’t had that much contact with anyone outside their systems. Reports indicated they would be very concerned about any sort of outposts nearby. They would likely be alarmed by the Olmeri.”

“Thank you, Beth,” the Ambassador said nodding to her. “Very good insights. Do your people know anything about the Kora, Kell?”

“My people have met the Kora and have traded with them on occasion,” Kell replied. “They didn’t have much of anything we wanted and we didn’t have anything they wanted, so we have mostly left each other alone. They are generally not aggressive, although we have heard reports of some difficulties on their third planet recently. Some sort of civil unrest apparently to try to force a change in their ruling council. I think their Council would like to have allies with big guns and long-range weapons.”

The Captain and Command Brandon chuckled and nodded to reach other.

Lt. Katy smiled.

“I’m sure they would,” the Captain said.

“So Captain, are you ready to get started with the details? We have a lot of material to cover and quite a few scenarios to review,” the Ambassador asked smiling her Cheshire cat grin.

“I need a little time to digest all this. Could we start first thing in the morning?” the Captain asked.

N’amani smiled.

“Certainly, Captain,” the Ambassador replied. “It is a lot to take in. N’amani, would you give us a quick summary?”

N’amani nodded to her and stood up. “Beth will continue her research of what we know of the Ka’len culture and languages. The Doctor will be reviewing plants, foods, and medical topics. Kell is going to  make some modifications to his cruiser. The Ambassador will brief you, Captain, on what she needs. I will be working with Commander Brandon and Lt. Katy on possible scenarios. I will also work with Maja to prepare a study plan for you.”

The Ambassador smiled and nodded to him. “Perfect, N’amani. Thank you.”

The Captain smiled and nodded his approval. ”A study plan for me? I need a study plan?”

“Yes Captain,” N’amani replied. “Time is short.”

The Captain frowned and tried not to look puzzled. “Ok, sure. Thank you,” he said smiling.

“Doctor, are you cooking for us today? Or do we have to forage on our own?” the Ambassador asked.

“I was hoping you’d ask,” the Doctor replied with big grin. “May we avail ourselves of the Magellan’s gardens and stores, Captain.”

“Certainly. Commander Brandon, would you help the Doctor get whatever he needs?” the Captain asked.

Commander Brandon nodded. “Lt. Katy, you should come with us,” she said firmly as she started toward the door.

Lt. Katy followed her out.

“You are welcome to join us Captain,” the Doctor said. “It should only take me about an hour to prepare something.”

“Thank you, I’m going to pass this time. Seems I’m going to have some studying to do,” the Captain replied.

“Ok, more for me!” the Doctor said. He took Beth’s arm and they walked out the door.

“Ambassador, I will take my leave for now,” the Captain said.

The Ambassador smiled. “Try to get some rest. It really is a lot to take in.”

The Captain nodded. “Thank you. See you in the morning,” he said as he walked out of the room.

“Now then,” the Ambassador said turning to N’amani and Kell. “Let’s take a closer look at where we’re going.” She touched a control panel that opened a much more detailed 3D map of the Ka’len system. They sat down and began studying the map.

Over the next two weeks, they studied maps, looked at the history of the Ka’len system, practiced hand-to-hand combat drills, and ran scenarios. Preparations she hoped wouldn’t be needed.

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