THE DAY THE MUSE OF MISCHIEF STUMBLED ONTO PLOOSNAR

The Muse of Mischief leaned back, kicked off her heels, and put her feet up on the low table in front of her, “Long, long ago, in a land far, far away…”

“Liar, it was not that long ago and it was on Ploosnar.”

Emperor Bartala said.

“Hey who’s telling this story anyway?” He waved his hand and leaned back, settling in next to his beloved Empress. “So anyway…. I was wandering around Trella, escaping from the pretend parents on Earth. If Brzko couldn’t get away I used to spend time on…”

“The banks of the Pink River?” Lelelu interrupted.

“Funny, no.” M replied smiling, “I used to spend a lot of time on the banks of the Green Lake. It’s more of a pond, and it’s surrounded by these blue stones that are perfect for skipping. Sometimes you can get them to skip six or seven times.”

Nalau interrupted, “Skipping stones?”

“Yeah, if you throw a flat stone with just the right angle you can get it to bounce across the water’s surface a few times before it sinks.” Nalau just nodded, M thought she was really in

for some new experiences on Trella. “The weather is always perfect on Trella, not too hot, not too cold. So after I grew tired of skipping rocks I sat down on a flat boulder that made a great bench, and I start reading a book of short stories I had with me. I never went anywhere without a book when I was young.”

“What was it?” Zri asked.

“Sorry?” M didn’t understand what he was asking. “What were you reading?” he clarified.

“Night Shift, it’s a collection of horror fiction by an author named Stephen King.”

“Hmmm makes sense.” Zri said.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” M asked.

“You, horror stories as a child, it just makes sense.” Zri said.

“Agreed.” Bartala piped in.

“Ok, moving on….” M said a little intrigued that her friends were psychoanalyzing her, and getting it right. Brzko was grinning, their friends knew her well.

“I was rereading one of my favorite short stories in the book, it’s about an astronaut that is exposed to alien germs or something, and how they begin to transform him into a different being. Anyway, I fell asleep. When I woke up, I noticed that something was sparkling in the rocks on the other side of the pond. I hadn’t noticed it there before. In fact I had never seen sparkling rocks on Trella before, so I walked over and bent down to look at it. It looked like a bright blue crystal it didn’t look dangerous so I reached for it. The instant I had my hand around it I left Trella and found myself at the top of the palace stairs on Ploosnar. I had startled the palace guards by just arriving, not to mention myself, I had no idea where I was, but I knew I wasn’t on Trella anymore. The palace guards assumed I was a threat to Bartala’s father, Emperor Wisssdartai, and attempted to restrain me.”

“Attempted?” Lelelu asked.

Bartala couldn’t wait for M to answer, he jumped in. “Oh yes! You should have seen it! We were warned of the commotion and being Emperor, my father was kept protected inside the palace, but I ran before they could secure me. I got to the palace entrance and there’s M,” at this point Bartala stands up to add some animation to his story, “in high heels, striped stockings, and a mini-skirt and of course a derby. She’s already knocked four of the guards down and is standing like this…” He bent his knees and lifted his hands in an attempt to mimic her defensive posture. “The remaining guards cannot decide if they want to approach her, they know they will end up on the ground like the first four.”

“I don’t like to be restrained.” M said in her defense. “I stepped between her and the guards.”

“How did you know she wouldn’t hurt you?” Nalau asked.

“I just did. I walked right up to her and do you remember what I said M?”

“Of course, you said Hello friend, I’ve been waiting for you.” she answered.

“That’s right; I put my arm around her and led her into the palace. The guards were furious with me for having a friend show up unannounced they believed I was really expecting her. We went inside and I hid her in my rooms to wait for everyone to calm down. I went to get my father so that we could try to figure out who she was.”

“But I didn’t wait for you to return. I’d had enough excitement for one day, I went back to Earth.” M interjected.

“Yes, you did that vanishing thing you love to do, and my father thought I had lost my mind and invented pretend friends.” Bartala scolded as he picked up the bottle of espidrun and began refilling everyone’s glasses before he sat down.

“Well I came back!” M said.

“Yes, you did. You appeared next to me in my rooms the next morning and startled me so badly one of my hearts stopped.” “No it didn’t, you’re exaggerating! It only skipped a few beats, besides you have two other hearts.” she teased.

Everyone laughed at this exchange between the Muse of Mischief and Emperor Bartala. The room grew quiet while they reflected on the story they had just heard.

Lelelu broke the silence, “So Brzko, when did you meet Bartala?”

“It was a few years later, not until I had left the pretend parents on Earth. I knew M had some….” He paused to consider his next word, “non-Earth friends that she hung out with when I couldn’t get away, but I didn’t realize how much exploring she’d done until the first time we went to the Planet of Portals. I was amazed. Not only is your home beautiful Lelelu, the whole concept of the portals is fascinating.” Brzko said.

Lelelu had more questions, “Yes, the Planet of Portals is an unusual place. I’ve never been through a random portal, but I know Trelods that find it addictive. Once they do it they just can’t stop, I guess they find it thrilling. The same way a gambler would find a sporting event exciting. So how did you and Zri meet, M?”

Zri answered before she could even open her mouth, “I saved both of their butts from being eaten by a Haplogawa on Chyke 2C95.” He said pointing his finger back and forth between M and Bartala.

“What is a Haplogawa?” Nalau asked.

“It’s a giant reptile kind of creature that lacks communication skills. Its sole purpose for existence seems to be to eat anything it can swallow.” M said casually.

“And it had you and Bartala trapped between it and a fresh lava flow.” Zri said.

“I was just about to take us out of there when you grabbed us. I wanted Bartala to get a good look at it first.”

“Right, and if you had hesitated at all Bartala would have been eaten.”

“Eh, I had other friends.”

“Oh thanks M, I appreciate your loyalty!” Bartala said trying to sound hurt.

“Isn’t Chyke 2C95 covered in active volcanoes?” Nalau asked.

“Yes, the indigenous population lives in underground caves. Gaznzulians provide security and scanning services for the planet, mapping volcanic activity and making sure they have time to relocate when needed.”

“So you just grabbed them off the surface and what, took them to your ship?” Lelelu asked.

“Sort of. I transported down, attempted to grab them both and transport them back aboard. But that one resisted,” Zri pointed to M “I was not a commander at that time and my commanding officer was furious. But I couldn’t just watch these sentient beings be eaten or cooked in lava. I didn’t know M could open an aperture and travel. I thought they needed help. But I was only a science officer at the time, and not authorized to act on my own.”

“I thought I was dead, I thought I must have already died when I was grabbed by a Ploosnarian who just appeared. But then on the ship I realized you weren’t Ploosnarian, you only appeared that way to me.” Bartala said. “Then I wondered if was going to become dinner.”

The Muse of Mischief giggled at that idea.

“Of course not, Gaznzulians are an advanced raced. We do not consume anything with a consciousness.” Zri said sounding disgusted.

“So how did you finally catch my defiant partner?” Brzko asked.

Zri and M spoke at the same time “He didn’t”, “I didn’t” M continued, “I kept moving around the planet so he wouldn’t have an easy time finding me. I figured Bartala was a goner, eaten, held for ransom, something like that. Anyway, Zri finally caught up with me and transported himself near me, but not too close.”

“I said, I am Gaznzulian, I will not harm you, and dropped my mental cloak. That did it, she was intrigued enough to stay put and let me explain. I explained that I thought they needed to be saved from the Haplogawa and that her friend was safe on my orbiting ship. Then she demanded to know why I had looked human when she first saw me. I explained that Gaznzulians use reflective mental cloaking to blend in with those around them. I guess that answer satisfied her because she disappeared immediately. She went to the ship, retrieved Bartala and reappeared with him.”

“I wasn’t OK with my pal Bartala being held on someone’s ship.” M said and shrugged.

“And I appreciated that, especially since you had gotten me into that mess in the first place!” Bartala said. “You and your Haplogawas!”

“Oh come on Bartala, you know it was one of the most exciting things you’ve ever seen!” M said.

Lelelu interrupted, “Wait, Bartala being eaten by a Haplogawa is not the important thing here. What does a Gaznzulian actually look like?”

Everyone, surprisingly even Bartala was quiet waiting for M to answer. M held Zri’s gaze intently, without looking away she answered, “Gaznzulians rarely, if ever, drop their cloak around others. I am honored to have had the experience but it is not something I can share.”

The Muse of Mischief was the only one in the room that had seen a Gaznzulian without the mental cloak. Everyone was curious, and wanted to persist in questioning, but at the same time they respected Zri enough to let it go. After everyone had been silent for a few moments, contemplating what M had said, Nalau broke the silence.

“So the three of you explored the Universe, jumping in and out of trouble until you were adults?”

“They did, I had to work.” Zri said.

M shot him a challenging look.

“OK, I had some fun too.” Zri admitted, grinning. “But that is all the fun I can have today. I’m going to check on ShyUst and then retire for the night. Please alert the crew if you need anything.”

“Wait, wait, wait….” M said. “You are attempting to make your exit just when the story becomes entertaining. If you prefer I could tell the stories without you here to defend yourself.” she teased.

“Stories? What do you mean stories? I don’t know what you’re up to M, but I’m going to need another espidrun to survive it.”

Bartala was already on his feet with the bottle in hand, refilling everyone’s glasses. Surprisingly, even Empress Nalau was keeping up with them.

“So after Zri rescued us from Chyke 2C95, Bartala and I returned to Ploosnar by my power. There was no need to inconvenience Zri’s commander to take us back to Ploosnar or worse, Earth. A few weeks later I was on Earth and I felt like someone was following me when I was at a mall, which is a huge indoor shopping venue. I could never spot the same person in the crowd. But still, I couldn’t shake the feeling. So I went down a long hallway that led to a service area, I passed through a restricted door and hid. Sure enough I was being followed, Zri walked through the door after me.”

“I wanted to make sure you made it back to Earth.” he said.

“And to find out just what I was, you’d never met someone that could travel like Brzko and I do.” “True.”

“So I jumped out of my hiding spot ready to kick his butt, and for the first time in my life I couldn’t kick someone’s butt. I was too pissed to even be frightened.”

“Ha! You were seriously angry. You really thought you could take me down, and I have to admit you were about ten times stronger than you looked but you didn’t have as much skill as you do now, and well, I’m a Gaznzulian. We’re built for defense.” Zri said casually.

“Once I recognized him I was glad to see him. He was projecting the same human cloak he’d used when we met.” M continued, “I was curious about Gaznzulians. So I asked him if all Gaznzulians were able to defend themselves like he did.”

“You had no fear and I respected how direct you were.” Zri said with admiration for his old friend. “I couldn’t resist finding a way to help you harness all that strength and energy, teaching you how to defend yourself.”

“You trained her to fight?” Brzko asked. “I didn’t know you had trained with Zri, but that explains a lot.”

“It’s true.” M said smiling. “He invited me to his home on Gaznzul and I went frequently. Over a period of a few months I trained with him and others on Gaznzul. That’s when he developed his fondness for disco music.”

Brzko laughed loudly, “Zri, you have a thing for disco music?”

“Yes especially the Bee Gees. I do not understand what the lyrics are about, but I find it soothing. Why is this funny? “Zri asked.

“What is the Bee Gees, and what does their music sound like?” Lelelu asked with genuine curiosity.

Brzko’s tablet was already out and unfolded. He scrolled through his music video database and found a video of the Bee Gees singing How Deep is Your Love from 1977.

Everyone gathered around the tablet to watch the amazing Bee Gees.

“What are those lights, why are the lights spinning?” Bartala asked. “It nauseates me.”

Lelelu answered him with a harsh “Shhhhhhh, I want to hear this.”

After the video played through, and everyone was seated again, M continued, “I even took him to a Bee Gees concert.” “What? You took a Gaznzulian to a music performance on Earth? Weren’t you concerned that someone would notice him?” Lelelu asked.

“No, I knew I could trust him to keep his “Earth” cloak up while we were at the concert.”

Zri laughed lightly, tilted his head back and closed his eyes. A smile spread across his face as he remembered that adventure from long ago.

It was late and they were all tired, the espidrun made them even sleepier. After a little more chatting and well wishing, they all retired for the night.

~~~

The Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko were up very early the following morning. On the command bridge, ShyUst was showing them the scanning process he was using to look for clues, anything that might lead them to Clyrea X9.

“Is that Trella.” Brzko asked “Just coming into range now.”

“Yes, that’s Trella.” ShyUst confirmed. “We should be close enough to start scanning the surface later today.”

“How soon will we be able to see the planet?” Brzko asked.

ShyUst paused for a moment, “Possibly late this evening.

But we may be able to see the sun now.” He moved to the center console to activate the main viewing screen. “Yes, there it is. Do you see that glow?”

There was a faint glow just becoming visible. It looked very distant, surrounded by the blackness of space.

“How can we see the sun already?” Brzko asked.

“Because it’s huge, it’s one of the largest we’ve encountered. It lights the entire Trellan Galaxy, even the outlying planets receive enough light to support life.” ShyUst explained.

“How many planets are in the Trellan Galaxy?” M asked.

“Over twenty.” he answered.

“And they all have life on them?” Brzko asked.

“Our scans have not been detailed enough to answer that with any certainty, but it does seem that many of them could support life.” ShyUst answered.

“Interesting,” M said, “is there a way to scan for the remains of a planet?”

“The remains, I don’t understand, why…”

“Because the Suus have found a reference to a planet, possibly in this galaxy, that doesn’t seem to exist. Clyrea X9 may hold clues to their origins.” Zri answered ShyUst  as he approached from behind M and Brzko.

“I see. I’ll reconfigure the scanners to detect any unusual matter.” ShyUst said, turning to embark on the task immediately.

“What about hidden or cloaked planets?” Brzko asked.

“Interesting idea Brzko. We would need to be able to detect an emission or perhaps a lack of scan data would suggest there is something hidden. I’ll have each ship start scanning for different things. If you’ll excuse me, I need to visit the ships to configure the scanners.” With a slight manipulation of his armband, Zri was gone.

With ShyUst and Zri working hard at scanning the galaxy there was nothing M and Brzko needed to do on the command bridge. “Breakfast?” Brzko asked.

“Hell yeah, sounds good.” M headed for the lift. As soon as they stepped out of the lift on the lower level they were hit with the smell. “It smells like pancakes!” M said.

“It sure does, someone’s making breakfast.” Brzko said as he headed to the community room.

Emperor Bartala was seated at the head of the table, facing the door; Empress Nalau was on his right, Lelelu on his left. The table was filled with plates stacked high with pancakes, there were several different varieties. There were also several small pitchers with a variety of pulverized fruits for topping the pancakes.

“Well, finally out of bed eh?” Bartala teased.

Before M or Brzko could answer Bartala, Lelelu offered an explanation, “I hope you’re hungry, I think I made too many pancakes this morning.”

“I think we can help you out with that Lelelu.” Brzko said, taking a seat at the table.

M slid into the chair next to him, “Wow, they look great

Lelelu.”

“What have you two been up to this morning?” Empress Nalau asked, knowing that they had not just gotten out of bed as her husband suggested.

“We were up on the command bridge working with Zri and ShyUst, configuring the scanners. There isn’t a lot known about this area of the Universe.” M said as she helped herself to a variety of pancakes.

“How much longer will it take to get to Trella?” Bartala asked.

“We’ll arrive tomorrow. After breakfast I think M and I will go look around and make sure nothing has changed; look for the best place to land.” Brzko said.

“Ha! You just want to visit the banks of the Pink River again.” Bartala teased.

“What makes you think we haven’t already?” Brzko fired back.

The thought of Agent Brzko and the Muse of Mischief being able to “sneak” away from Zri’s ship at anytime caught their companions off guard for a moment. The room was silent for just a second. Then the laughter set in, they all shared a hearty laugh.

“What is everyone laughing at?” Zri asked from the doorway.

“It seems our friends have been taking excursions to

Trella while the rest of us slept.” Bartala said.

“Ah. Aren’t you used to that yet Bartala? These two never stay put for long.” Zri said.

“I guess I should be used to it by now, I suppose I miss the adventures too. But with responsibilities as an Emperor I can no longer think of only myself.”

M disappeared.

“Oh! The mischievous one is up to something.” Bartala said.

“This ought to be interesting.” Brzko said and went back to eating his pancakes.

M returned, standing behind Bartala with her hands behind her back, everyone was looking at her but Bartala.

“What?” At first Bartala thought they were looking at him. “Oh she’s standing right behind me isn’t she?”

Nalau giggled and said, “Oh I see why you have so much fun on adventures with these friends!”

M brought her right hand around and presented Nalau with an amazing bright purple flower, the same shade as her outfit. “For you Empress. If you place it in a vase with water it will last for many days.”

“Oh! It is lovely, thank you M.” She got up and took the flower into the kitchen area to find something to put it in.

M stepped up, alongside Bartala, “And for you,” she brought her left hand forward and revealed the contents to him, “one of the blue skipping stones and one of the blue crystals from the same area. I thought you might enjoy looking them over and contemplating them while we travel.”

Bartala was clearly pleased. He accepted both items, handling them delicately as if they had great value. The crystal illuminated brightly, turning his face blue. “Thank you M, I will enjoy them. This crystal looks like the ones that line the caves located at the poles of Ploosnar. There is much folklore about them, they are said to have mystical powers and often used for jewelry. I wonder if they are the same.”

“Do you have any of the crystals from Ploosnar?” Brzko asked.

“Well not with me, but back at the palace. And…. that does not matter because you can retrieve them.” he trailed off. “In my private sitting room there is a chest of drawers near the desk.”

“Yes, I’ve seen it.” Brzko said.

“In the bottom drawer there is a small black box, there is a crystal in there. But your arrival in my sitting room would trip the alarm, the palace guard would respond.”

Brzko walked over to Bartala, “Then I’ll have to take you with me.”

“But as Emperor, it is frowned upon for me to travel without palace guards. I am no longer free to jump around the Universe with you and M.”

Brzko patiently waited for him to get it, he just looked at Bartala expectantly.

Bartala snapped, “But! I would be going from a place that has palace guards to a place that has palace guards.” He stood up, Brzko took his arm and they were gone.

It took them less than a minute to retrieve the box and return. The sat at the table as though they had never left.

“How was home darling?” Nalau asked with a little sarcasm.

Bartala just chuckled. He took the small black box and lifted the lid off. The glow was the same as that from the crystal M had brought.

“They look the same, but we would need to scan them to be sure. I would like to use the scanners on one of my ships, can you take me there?” Bartala asked, looking back and forth between M and Brzko.

“There is no need.” Zri interjected. “You can use your arm console – there are temporary transports on both of your escort ships. This allows your guards and my crew to move freely between the ships. I’ll show you how to initiate the transport.”

Zri, Bartala, and Brzko sat close, looking over Bartala’s arm console. Soon the trio was gone, leaving the ladies to clean up.

They returned within a few minutes. “Wooooooooooooooo!!!! I could get used to that! Zri can I keep this arm console and those temporary transports?” Bartala asked, grinning like a child that had just received a beloved toy.

Zri laughed heartily and clapped him on the back, “Yes, my friend. You may keep them.”

“Stop playing with your toys and tell us the results of the scan.” M said taking a seat at the table where Nalau and Lelelu were already seated.

Brzko, Zri and Bartala joined them. “They are identical. The crystal you brought from Trella is identical to the one from Ploosnar.” Bartala answered.

“They are covalent network crystals, the structures are identical.” Brzko added.

“How is that possible? Or if it is possible, what is the likelihood that identical crystals would develop on Ploosnar and Trella?” M asked.

“The Suss may have an answer for that, based on all of the data they’ve collected and catalogued. But, my instincts tell me that it’s highly unlikely. The crystals on Trella may have been placed there on purpose.” Brzko said.

“It seems the mystery continues to evolve,” Lelelu said “and I just can’t resist a mystery! I’ll contact Kiik and see if the Suus have any relevant information. Why would crystals native to Ploosnar be purposely left on Trella?”

“It seems that someone wanted the Muse of Mischief and Agent Brzko to find Ploosnar.” Nalau said.

“I think you’re right my love.” Bartala said. “But was it for our benefit or theirs?” He walked over to the sitting area and took a seat on one of the sofas. He still had the crystals in his hand. He placed them on the table in front of him and leaned back. “These are almost the same color as you Lelelu.”

With the exception of Zri, the group wandered over and settled into the comfort of the sitting area. Zri excused himself and went back to the command bridge.

The group sat in silence for few minutes, contemplating the crystals.

“Well I guess there’s nothing else we can do until we arrive at Trella.” Nalau said. “We know how Bartala and Zri met these two, but Lelelu how did you meet them?”

~~~

Lelelu looks to Agent Brzko with a question in her eyes. He nods and says, “Go ahead, and tell the story Lelelu.”

She looks back at Empress Nalau and begins, “I grew up on the Planet of Portals the same way most Trelods do, raised by bonded  parents  receiving education  with  an  emphasis on Universal history and exploration. I took a job as a communications operator for a shuttle company. At first it was exciting, it entitled me to visit a few worlds. But after a while it became boring so I started monitoring the interstellar communications boards for something off of the Planet of Portals. I love my home but I wanted to experience more of the Universe.”

Lelelu kicked off her shoes, and drew her legs up under her on the sofa where she was sitting. She was a stunning today, bald with bright blue skin, wearing a simple green dress. This was a relaxed look for her, but she knew there would be no calls to action today.

“I came across an ad for an interstellar communications associate, I responded to the ad and after answering a few preliminary questions, an interview was scheduled. Surprisingly the prospective employer was willing to travel to the Planet of Portals.” She turned and looked at Brzko. So did everyone else. “That’s when I met the eminent Agent Brzko.”

“Had you already heard of him and M?” Nalau asked. “Yes, but I wasn’t sure they were real. There are stories told about them throughout the Universe. As soon as I saw him in the plaza though, I knew who he was. I couldn’t believe I was about to meet THE Agent Brzko. As soon as I saw him and realized I was being considered for employment with him and probably the Muse of Mischief I was ecstatic. He was sitting on a bench in the central plaza of Unilond, I approached and said…”

Brzko finished her sentence… “I’m Lelelu and you will not find a better communications associate than me Agent Brzko, hire me and you will not be disappointed.   How could I not? That confidence reminded me so much of my beloved Muse of Mischief.” He reached over and squeezed M’s hand.

“How did you know that he wouldn’t be offended but such a direct, confident statement?” Nalau asked.

“I didn’t. But I figured if the stores I’d heard about them were true, he would appreciate the direct approach. When I realized what the job was I knew I would do anything to work with these two. I thought they would expose me to experiences I’d not yet had, in places I’d not yet been, and that is so true! The interview alone was like no other experience I’d had.”

“How did you interview her Brzko?” Bartala asked.

“We took three short missions, the goal was to communicate with each population and obtain a useful commodity. Since all of the portals in Unilond lead to the Glion Galaxy we started in Foskpruchu where they speak in bizarre riddles. Then we went to the moon of the Black Sea Planet and met the League of Mongers. And from there we went to see the traders on Smd. She never lost her cool. She stayed focused on the goal and was always in command of herself.”

“What about you? Were you part of the interview?” Bartala asked M.

“No, I was back home while Zri made upgrades to our security and communication systems.”

“And you trusted Brzko to hire your assistant?” Nalau asked.

“Of course, I trust him implicitly. If there had been an issue when we met I could have intervened. But we needed assistance, we are constantly asked to help. All of those requests need to be investigated and prioritized. It’s a full time job. I prefer to be out doing rather than answering requests.” M said.

“So why do you still live on the Planet of Portals? Wouldn’t it be easier to live where M and Brzko do?” Nalau asked. Her cheeks blushed just slightly, “Oh right, Earth is infantile, they think they are the only inhabited planet, and you’re… blue.”

Bartala added what he knew of Earth, “It is an incredibly racist planet my darling. They fear what they are not familiar with and often turn violent toward it. Beings with dark skin are often oppressed and frequently unsafe.”

Lelelu nodded at Bartala, as if to confirm what he had just said before she continued. “I can go to Earth, and have several times, but because I’m blue, I have to stay hidden or disguised, and that damages my productivity. Besides, with communications technology and a fast ship, having my base of operations on a different planet doesn’t really matter.” Lelelu said.

Bartala always straight to the point, asked “Is it true that

Trelods remember every experience they have?” “Yeah, it’s true. We have great memories.” “What about bonding and children?” he asked.

“No thank you.” Lelelu replied. “I love my life just the way it is. Well bonding maybe, if I ever find one that is compatible.”

But there was a look, a brief sparkle in her eye that suggested she had already found one that is compatible. M looked at Brzko to see if he had caught it, he had.

Everyone laughed at her direct answer, it sounded so much like something M would have said.

“I felt the same way.” Nalau confessed, “Luckily we were able to use a surrogate for our son.”

“You two must be excited. Things at the palace will change.” Lelelu said.

“Yes! For the better!” Bartala said. He stood and stretched. “Is anyone else hungry?” He asked. “I think it’s lunch time.”

“Seriously?” Zri said from the doorway. “You just had breakfast!”

“It’s hard work being an Emperor, besides my metabolism runs fast, maybe faster than yours.”

Zri just smiled and nodded at Bartala. “Right, because you have three hearts. I’m headed to the cargo bay for some training, anyone care to join me?”

M, Brzko, and Lelelu all jumped at the chance for a physical workout. They weren’t used to spending an entire day sitting around talking, multiple days of it was taking a toll on them. The three of them headed for the door, leaving Bartala and Nalau to enjoy some time along together.

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