As he approached the Lord Chairman, Ahja heard his own footsteps echo strangely in the almost empty chamber, and with each foot fall, the degree of anxiety that he experienced, grew stronger. Even after so many years as the Master Guild Translator assigned to the Central Council, Ahja still felt uneasy whenever he was summoned to the great chamber. This unshakable feeling of nervousness, however, this feeling of anxiety and expectation was more than mere apprehension. He stopped in mid‑stride and glanced around the great hall as if he could sniff out some source of danger. He felt foolish, after all he was on Trag, and in this place of all places, what danger could there exist for him?
Ahja controlled the unsettled feeling in the pit of his stomach long enough to smile at Minje as he held his hands level with his shoulders in the customary greeting of Trag.
“Your servant Ahja is here, Lord Chairman Minje, by your command, ready to serve you, and the illustrious council.”
“Yes, now we may begin,” Minje muttered. He had cut short Ahja’s greeting, and he had ignored, or perhaps had failed to notice the look of dismay on the Master Translator’s face.
With an abrupt wave of his bejeweled hand, the Lord Chairman signaled to Ahja to follow him into his private cell. Ahja followed silently, and once inside the cell, Ahja stood formally at attention; he had not been invited to sit. The Master Translator watched the Lord Chairman circle his cell in silence. The older man seemed to be lost completely in his thoughts; Ahja had never seen him so disturbed.
Before responding to the Chairman’s summons, Ahja had indulged in a brief session with his teacher‑set at the highest level‑the review speed. Ahja was beginning to feel the after‑effects. He shifted his weight and looked longingly at a comfortable chair; he was very tired. It had been a long and tiring day, and had he left his cell when he had planned, he would have missed the message that summoned him to the Lord Chairman. And yet if it were this important, he would have been found anywhere and brought here.
The message itself had been brief and abrupt:
THERE IS A PROBLEM ON RIZORIA
REPORT TO THE CENTRAL CHAMBER AT ONCE!
and when he had received it, Ahja knew that the situation had to be extremely grave; nothing else would have caused the Chairman to by‑pass the normal diplomatic courtesies which were the Chairman’s stock‑in‑trade. But yet, why did the Chairman now waste time pacing his cell instead of getting down to business?
Ahja sighed; his head ached and his back hurt. Perhaps Minje was angry with him for not responding immediately to the summons. Ahja hoped that he would have a chance to explain that the
short delay had been a vital one. He had not used his Rizorian language skills since his student days. It would have be en foolish to attempt to work in his state of total unpreparedness. He had needed the short session with the language teacher in order to sharpen his skills to the degree expected of the Master Translator of the Guild. Ahja was the youngest Tragian ever to hold the office of Master Translator, and he would never allow himself to be anything less than perfect in his performance.
Suddenly, Ahja felt dizzy. Even for him, the review speed of the teacher could be dangerous. He looked at the chair again; he had to sit down soon.
“Ahja, my friend,” Minje said suddenly as if he had just noticed that Ahja stood in his cell. “it is so good to see you. Having you here fortifies me, and believe me, I need to be fortified. I fear that the next few hours, and even the next few days will be most difficult.”
Ahja murmured something appropriate.
“I need your knowledge, and your unique ability to see through the maze of words into the heart of true meaning,” the Chairman’s smile grew broader. “Only Master Ahja could be at my side at such a time.”
“Your words give me much pleasure, Lord Minje, because I know that they are sincerely spoken.” Ahja had spoken formally; he was still a little annoyed with his earlier reception.
The Lord Chairman Minje smiled his famous smile, and instantly Ahja felt disloyal for having been impatient with his friend.
“Ahja, there is a serious problem on Rizoria which brings the Rizorian ambassador here to file a request with the Inner Council of Ten.” The Chairman’s voice had dropped to a whisper, and he looked around the room nervously as he spoke.
“But the Council of Ten does not deal with intraplanetary matters, Minje. I do not understand.”
Lord Minje chose to overlook the translator’s ill‑timed interruption.
“Understand that I have insisted on your presence so that no shade of meaning may be mis‑interpreted. Her request and our reply must be clearly understood. There can exist no doubt in anyone’s mind as to our position, or our intentions. I will not allow anyone to use our words against us.” Minje had spoken with such uncustomary vehemence that Ahja was shocked.
“I have already been briefed on the Rizorian request and I fear‑” Minje’s usually deep resonant voice seemed to grow hollow, it echoed off of the luminous walls of the cell before it faded into the still, awkward silence that pressed in on both of them.
After what seemed to be a long while, Minje spoke again.
“Ahja, they want to enter the Forbidden solar system!” Minje’s face whitened, and then it flushed into an unnatural, dark purplish color.
Still standing, Ahja felt his knees grow weak. What he had just heard, couldn’t be. He put out his hand to brace himself against the chair that he had coveted earlier.
“Not for a thousand years, since the formation of the Second Federation, has any of our people trespassed the zone sanctioned by our ancestors. Throughout the centuries we heard the ancients’ warnings, and we have obeyed.”
Ahja felt the dizziness begin to overwhelm him; Minje’s strong arm helped him into the chair. The Chairman stood in front of him now; his words spewed out from him, out of control.
“Of course the Rizorians are not of our people, but they are bound by covenant to accept our laws; they knew the conditions when they sued for membership. Now they march in here with this so called ‘request’. I know and they know that this ‘request’ is nothing more than a statement of intent. I don’t even know why they’ve bothered.
“We know so little about these people, but the one thing that everyone knows is that they always accomplish what they set out to do.
“These people are fanatics. Do you have any doubts about that?” Minje did not stop for Ahja’s
answer. “They will enter the zone, and land on Terra; they will break the commandments and covenants that were entered into by our ancestors and the Terrans. You do know your history, don’t you? You are aware of the consequences of such an act, aren’t you?”
Ahja nodded. Every part of his body felt numb, the tips of his fingers tingled and a dangerous ringing sounded in his ears. He fought for control.
“Our lack of knowledge hinders us, Ahja. I need to know how far they will go to achieve their aims, and whether a blockade would be effective.”
“Armed confrontation?” the Master Translator couldn’t believe his ears. “Is there still an active military force?” For over two hundred Tragian years there had been no need to maintain a battle ready military force. Those forces that were still active were largely ceremonial.
“Now you see, my friend, what has haunted me since I first gained this intelligence two days ago. It was necessary to keep this secret; not even the Council members suspect what they are going to hear. Truly there was no way of preparing them for it without revealing my source of information. Furthermore, I don’t think that they would have believed me.”
“Perhaps we worry unnecessarily, Minje. In the past, many terrible conflicts have been ironed out by your great skill.”
“Let us hope, friend Ahja, that this is one of those times.”
The two men left Minje’s personal cell and walked slowly towards the visitor’s area where the Rizorians were to have waited, but they were no longer there, and the Tragians continued to the Central Chamber. They walked through broad, glowing corridors in silence.
The Central Chamber was almost deserted; the only people present were the Chief Delegates of the Council and their translators. Everyone else had been excluded. The privacy panels had been drawn and the Tragian Guard of Honor stood ready to insure that privacy.
The Chief Delegates were seated at their designated places; their faces were devoid of expression like machines waiting to be activated. A sudden flash of color and movement captured Ahja’s attention.
The Master Translator was dazzled by the appearance of two Rizorian women, and he gaped at them like some uncouth, first year apprentice. He had forgotten just how truly beautiful the people of Rizoria were.
Ahja continued to stare at the two women as he approached them even though he did his best not to, but he couldn’t help himself. The Rizorian, who wore the translator’s pendant, was so incredibly thin that she reminded Ahja of the beautiful, wild Tragian flowers that grew along the steep mountain side in the rough, rugged country to the south of the capital. Those flowers flourished in the dappled shadows of some of the most powerful, awesome trees of Trag. Yet when the Feyea, that vicious killer storm struck to shake the land and level the trees, it was always that thin, deceptively fragile flower that survived. After the storm, the flower would lift its lovely head on its long, thin stem and continue to grow until it eventually covered the twisted, broken limbs of the fallen mighty trees.
The Rizorian translator’s skin was a pale cream color. It was very unusual since most Rizorian skin tones were a deeper copper, and much more vibrant. Her hair was typical of the Rizorian norm; it shone bright copper, a single, thick braid that cascaded the entire length of her slender back. Her eyes were wide, almond shaped and expressive; they gleamed with the same bright copper color of her eyelashes that at times cast them into mysterious shadow. Ahja was entranced.
A slight sound broke the spell. Reluctantly, Ahja turned to investigate the source of that sound only to be re‑enchanted. The other Rizorian woman at first appeared to be heavy by comparison. Yet as he studied this other Rizorian, Ahja realized that he knew many women who would envy that full, voluptuous figure. Her shoulders and hips were broad, and her breasts full, yet firm. Her waist, however, which was encircled by the girdle adorned with many ribbons, medals of honor and emblems of office, was exquisitely narrow. But it was her hair that held Ahja transfixed. It was the color of deep dark copper as were her skin and her eyes; the coloring was the Rizorian conventional shade, but it was curly. He could not take his eyes from her shoulder length copper hair and its numerous tendrils that curled wildly in every direction. Curly hair was extremely rare on the inhabited planets of the United Federation.
Both women wore simple, almost severe floor length gowns that were held at their shoulders by clasps, at the waist by girdles and emblems of office, at the hips by other clasps, while the entire length of the leg was left exposed. The gowns were white—a luminous, shimmering white‑that almost matched the pearlescent quality of their skin. Contrary to the custom of fashion conscious women on Trag, the Rizorians wore no paint on their faces, and aside from their official pendants, they wore no personal jewelry. It seemed to Ahja that they needed no adornment, and that the severity of their attire only enhanced the perfection of their beauty.
Rizorians, the perfect ones. The words appeared unbidden, and without warning in his consciousness. The language teacher had done its job well. Suddenly other information flooded his mind. Information without words: feelings, tastes, odors, half fleeting things that Rizorians know and take for granted. Yet Ahja knew that while such information was very helpful, it wasn’t enough.
Rizoria—the world and its people—beautiful beyond belief—mysterious, enigmatic, arrogant and aloof, but no one could ever be sure how much of what was said about the planet, and its inhabitants was malicious slander, or truth. Of only two facts were outsiders certain: Rizorians devoted all of their time, energy and wealth to the search and attainment of perfection of their bodies, minds and environment, and Rizorians never left their world willingly. Yet here in front of him stood two high ranking Rizorians, and the implications of that one fact were staggering to Ahja.
The Rizorian translator turned to face the Envoy. Her voice had a soft, breathless quality that caused Ahja’s flesh to prickle and quiver. He had to remind himself that this was not a social occasion when she spoke the melodic Rizorian words.
“My lady, we are ready and we await you.”
Ahja felt an electrifying surge of excitement and pleasure. The beauty of those sounds were not lost on him. He had understood every word perfectly; the Master Translator smiled.
The introductions were brief and formal, and once the courtesies were completed, the Rizorian Envoy moved gracefully into the Central Chamber leaving the others to fall in behind her. Minje followed her solitiously.
All of the representatives were at their respective places, and waiting patiently. It seemed best to Ahja not to attempt to test the limits of that patience. He headed for his position rapidly.
The meeting was set to begin. Minje stood in his place in front of the semi‑circle where the Council of Ten was seated. All eyes were riveted at the visitor’s table that was positioned to the left of the Chairman’s position and faced the semi‑circle. The Rizorians were seated on unusual straight back chairs, their feet were flat on the floor, as if bracing themselves, and their hands were folded demurely in their laps. They stared serenely at some indefinite point straight ahead of them; they waited.
Everything was just as protocol demanded. Minje opened this special meeting carefully; he followed the set formula of words, gestures and expressions as required by tradition. Ahja noted with pride that the Chairman’s voice did not once betray the feelings of anxiety which he had expressed earlier. it seemed to the Master Translator that there was always much comfort in the old, the familiar, the formal words and the routine gestures.
Minje introduced the Rizorian Envoy to the Council of Ten; he begged that theyreceive her and listen to her request. She stood slowly, and walked gracefully around the visitor’s table to stand within the semi‑circle. The Rizorian Envoy faced the Chief Delegates of the Council; proud and elegant, she stood erect, and directed a disquieting, penetrating gaze at each member of the Council in turn. And when she looked at him, Ahja felt almost helpless, and sensed extreme discomfort, as if he were trapped by the strange power of her copper eyes. Abruptly, she discontinued her scrutiny and signaled with a slight wave of her hand for her translator.
The incredibly thin Rizorian translator seemed to glide to the side of the Envoy. They stood side by side and clasped each other at the elbow, The Envoy was now ready to speak.
Ahja’s pulse quickened as he leaned forward in astonishment. Although he had read and studied about the phenomena that was about to take place, he had never seen it practiced before. Very few people in the galaxy had developed the mental powers which would allow them a linking. It was rare. And even those people capable of linking were only able to establish the very vaguest of sensory, or emotional communication. Never before had Ahja ever seen, or heard of using linking for a practical purpose such as translation. The Master Translator felt highly uncomfortable as he wondered what else the Rizorians had been able to accomplish hidden by their veils of privacy.
The Council members leaned forward all of them were open‑mouthed and wide eyed. The two women enjoyed a firm telepathic link. The Envoy was able to draw upon the Translator’s linguistic ability to deliver the speech in her own voice. There would be no permanent transfer of knowledge as with the Tragian teacher, and as soon as the physical link was terminated, the Envoy’s knowledge and ability to use the official Tragian language of the Council would end.
Suddenly Ahja realized that his services weren’t going to be needed at all; he relaxed back into his seat. As she opened her speech with the long salutory formula, Ahja turned his attention to the Council members. It was a rare and unusual opportunity to study their reactions, and Ahja was going to take advantage of that opportunity.
There were ten Council members whose home planets had achieved full membership status in the United Federation of Planets. In addition to the Inner Ten, there were half a dozen worlds serving under the conditions of the Intergalactic Treaty before full membership would be attained. Rizoria, like the other five, was still under probationary status.
The original Federation had consisted of six member planets that came together in an effort to secure peace after centuries of brutal war and widespread carnage. Weary of devoting their entire resources to war, the people of those worlds reached out timidly for peace. But it wasn’t until Ruwe of Trag conceived the idea of an inter‑galactic federation that any moves towards a concrete peace were begun. What had seemed to be a hopeless dream began to take form. It was because of Ruwe’s force of personality, his incredible diplomatic skills backed up by the great military might of Trag that his vision of a United Federation germinated in the rocky soil of discord. An extremely popular statesman, each vicious attempt on his life only seemed to hasten the formation of the Federation.
Within a very short time after the birth of the Federation, the original six member planets discovered to their delight that because of their union, they were rapidly becoming the strongest, and most advanced group of planets in the galaxy. From a respectful distance, non‑member planets watched them grow in wealth and power. Many of these decided to sue for membership in order to gain entry into the Intergalactic Common Market, and to gain strong allies as insurance against an uncertain future in an unstable galaxy.
Although Ruwe encouraged an open membership policy, he had insisted upon a long probationary period to insure that the Original Six not be over‑powered by the less prosperous, hungry worlds eager for power. As the clamor for membership grew in volume, the requirements for admission grew increasingly stringent. Those seeking admission had to comply.
The only planet seeking admission that objected to the requirements of open travel and communication was Rizoria. Eager to enter the Common Market, but not at the expense of giving up her isolationist policies, Rizoria held out. Years of talks took place before an acceptable treaty was agreed upon. The Federation gave into Rizoria’s demands in order to assure itself a continuing supply of the rare and beautiful Rizorian gems desired throughout the galaxy.
Ahja heard Rizorian Envoy finish the introductory part of her speech and he directed his attention to her words.
“As all of you know, disease on our world was eliminated hundreds of years ago; we have no immunity to any, not even the most innocuous of diseases as you do. We are aware of the many rumors and malicious stories pertaining to our isolationist policies, and we know that because of that false knowledge that we are considered aloof, cold and unfriendly. I have come here this day to beg you to look past the old prejudices and try to understand the Rizorian passion for isolation.”
Ahja noticed that the Council members were beginning to get restless. This was nothing new; they had heard it all at one time or another, and, furthermore, they looked unconvinced.
“I am sure that you are aware that we on Rizoria are a simple people who love our beautiful world more than our own individual existence,” the Envoy smiled wistfully. “None of you can fault us for this. And many of our people still believe that a Rizorian cannot live away from our world. Separation from Rizoria for too long a period of time causes a deep sadness that deepens into an overwhelming despair, which in most cases ends in death!”
The Envoy shuddered dramatically, and Ahja noticed that several of the Council members nodded sympathetically with her words. The white skinned, white haired and blue‑eye
Drewe was particularly moved by the subtle pleading quality in the Envoy’s voice. The Drewe’s reaction reminded Ahja that he had better shield his mind against the powers of the Envoy’s voice; it was something that he had learned to do during his stay on Rizoria as an apprentice.
The Council member next to the Drewe seemed to be unaffected by the Envoy’s plea, and the muscular Merke, to the other side, stroked his lustrous black beard in an obvious display of bad manners. Ahja shook his head disapprovingly. None of the Merke could ever understand such love for a world. A planet was a planet like any other; dirt, rocks, vegetation and beasts. When the resources of one world were exhausted, there was always another one to be colonized; there were many empty worlds in the Galaxy. Such sentimentality as displayed by the Rizorian Envoy was completely outside his realm of understanding.
“Since Rizoria became a member of the United Federation, we have all been content; trade and economic growth have never been better. It pleases us that so many of our wonderful gems have found homes throughout the galaxy, and it is our fondest hope that Rizorian gems will continue to flow forth to gladden the hearts, and brighten the lives of all of your people.”
The Merke stopped stroking his beard and started to pay attention to the Envoy’s words; Rizorian gems were vital to his planet’s economy. It was on Merke that the rough uncut gems were fashioned into the most desirable jewelry in the entire Federation. Ahja wondered if the Merke had understood her last words as some sort of veiled threat. Whether he had, or not, she certainly had his complete attention now. Once again the muscular Merke continued to stroke his beard, but Ahja noted that he was not nearly as relaxed as before.
“Nine generations ago we began to notice unusual mutations appearing among our young.”
Now this was indeed news! No one in the Council Chamber had heard of this before. The delegates listened intently.
“Our scientists studied these young mutants carefully. In outward appearances they were no different from the rest of us. As they grew and developed, however, these youngsters began to demonstrate the most remarkable mental abilities. When we realized what was happening, we named this new species among us the Adept.
“Almost all of the Adept displayed telepathic powers to some degree, and there were other unusual powers as well. Not all of the Adept demonstrated abilities in all of the areas, and some had a wide range of powers while others were limited. There was a lack of uniformity that we couldn’t understand, but we did know that while telepathic power was basic, each one of the Adept seemed to possess at least one special talent, and the very gifted ones, many. Some were telekinetic, others were able to pass through seemingly solid objects, and still others were able to communicate with beasts, even with vegetation!”
An undercurrent of disbelief rumbled through the Council hall. How could all of this have taken place and the Council of Ten not have even an inkling of any of it? The slender, hairless Tetroid stared questioningly at the feather bedecked Morie to her left, who in turn shrugged her delicate shoulders and turned to stare at the Merke, whose people had the most dealings with the Rizorians. The Merke, aware that more and more of the delegates stared at him, looked past the stares coldly. Few of the delegates could observe his short, heavy fingers tap furiously into his personal computer outlet. Suddenly the same thought occurred to the others and they proceeded to follow suit. They demanded information from their respective intelligence agencies, even as they continued to listen to the speech of the Rizorian Envoy.
“Yes, I assure you; all of my words are true,” the Envoy’s voice wavered slightly. When she began to speak once again, Ahja noticed that her voice had become even more melodic, and almost hypnotic. He knew that she was about to enter an emotional plea; her voice had acquired the serene‑like quality which is feared, and yet adored in the dark, empty corridors of space.
“Imagine the joy, the rapture of our people when the abilities of these children flowered. And as the children grew into adulthood, their abilities were passed on to their offspring.
Evolution seemed to have taken a giant leap forward, as if we had somehow traveled through time a million years into our future. We nurtured and cherished these children, and later their offspring, in spite of some early adverse reports, which we foolishly chose to ignore. Our enthusiasm blinded us; we refused to believe that negative characteristics could not be overcome by our superior knowledge in genetic engineering. Perhaps it was not enthusiasm that blinded us, perhaps it was our pride.
“In any case, we were wrong. The powers of the Adept grew strong, but their control over those powers diminished alarmingly.”
The Envoy grew silent. For the first time since she had started her speech, she appeared nervous and almost uncertain of her next words. Ahja noted that this slightest of hesitations seemed to intensify her listener’s interest in her next words. He wondered if this was showmanish, or actual sincerity.
“The Adept themselves were the first to come to us with the warning that their powers were not to be trusted. And we did not believe even them! Loyal Rizorians that they were, their only thoughts were of our safety and the well being of our world.
“I repeat that we were blinded by the vision of the immense good that such power could accomplish; we would not accept the possibility that such power might be tarnished, or that evil could touch this perfection. This was, after all, the fruit of our evolution, for which we had all struggled so hard to achieve.
“But we were wrong not to listen or heed. We had thought that we, the Beautiful People, had freed ourselves from the dark evil things that contaminate most of the intelligent life in the galaxy,” the Rizorian Envoy took a deep breath and bowed her head as if in prayer. Twice she opened her mouth as if to speak, and twice it seemed that she could not. The entire Council appeared to be moved by her distress and they were obviously eager for her to continue her address.
“The price we paid will haunt each and every Rizorian through the ages,” her words rushed out as if she had lost control.
“The Adept themselves suggested it,” she said in an almost apologetic manner. “Not knowing what alternative to offer, helpless and dismayed at the situation, we agreed. In any case, we would not have been able to stop them.
“One by one, each Adept adult and child stepped into disintegration chambers, and painlessly put an end to agony that had held us all in its grip. Their sacrifice was for our sake, but the nightmares it spawned will haunt us forever!”
“But why?” Minje shouted. He jumped to his feet and clutched the edges of the table tightly. “You are talking about mass suicide. Why should such an unspeakable thing happen? How could you allow it to happen?”
The Council Chamber was in an uproar. All shouted the same questions. How was this possible? How could it have happened? Why hadn’t they been consulted? They might have been able to work out some solution, something less drastic.
The Rizorian Envoy stood silently amid the uproar, tears slid over her cheeks and spilled down on her breasts.
Seeing that the special meeting threatened to get out of control, Minje strode to the Envoy’s side, and he begged the representatives to please regain their seats and composure. For a moment Ahja was frightened; he had never seen the representatives behave in this fashion before. He was thoroughly relieved when suddenly all was quiet again, and Minje had regained control. Ahja knew, however, that an even more turbulent uproar would take place in just a short while. He almost wished he were someplace else, but then he knew that he would have defended with his life, his right to be present at this time, in this place.
The Rizorian continued her address.
“The Adept couldn’t live with the knowledge that their powers were beyond their control. Many of them had already achieved the creation of inert matter from energy through pure mental effort! Unfortunately, the equation is reversible. They could destroy matter, just as easily, with just a single thought!
“For the first time Rizorians lived in fear; perhaps it is more accurate to say, in terror of their brothers. And it was no easier for the Adept. They found themselves under unbearable stress. They had to guard against all emotions, feelings, dreams, or any stimulation that might suddenly unleash the power of their subconscious against someone else.
“Before the Adept appeared among us, the last murder to have taken place on Rizoria occurred fifteen hundred Rizorian years ago. Now suddenly, and without warning, there were terrifying and unexplained outbreaks of violence that escalated daily into vicious bloodshed. Violence dirtied our beautiful world; horror and death overran our cities!”
From his vantage point, Ahja watched the four non‑humanoid members of the Council glance at each other, and it seemed to him that he could detect some measure of amusement in those glances. The Master Translator understood Selenian psychology better than many Selenian experts; he could easily imagine the thoughts that had prompted their amusement. Ahja felt uneasy, and he wished that the Selenians had not attended this special audience.
“Can any of you imagine what the unfortunate Adept must have felt? They were, after all, Rizorians responsible for the taking of Rizorian life!” The Envoy’s words were low and all strained to hear them.
Ahja glanced at the Selenians again, but he could not discern any emotion on their reptilian faces; they were masters of control, although it was common knowledge that they were capable of deep feeling and passionate outburst. Once again Ahja squirmed uneasily in his seat.
“The Adept could not live with the knowledge that during any unguarded moment, they might be directly responsible for someone’s death. Many of the Adept took their own lives immediately.
“We tried to help them. We sought a way to shield ourselves from their powers, but we failed. And because we failed, the Adept died.
“All of the Adept children died! They died by their parent’s own hand. We are not murderers of children, but there was no other way. We, the Others, were forced to stand back and witness the Adept sacrifice. And it was the greatest sacrifice in the history of Rizoria, or any other world; they died that we might live!”
The two Rizorian women wept openly. Such a display of emotion was unheard of, and it caused many Council members to squirm in discomfort.
The Council listened in stunned silence. Even the Selenians wore a respectful expression. Sacrifice of a few for the good of the many was something that any Selenian could understand.
“In the midst of the terrible chaos, those wonderful people asked us just one thing. They all begged us not to allow their sacrifice to become a meaningless gesture. If in the unthinkable instance one Adept refused to die, we had to accept the burden of extermination. They felt strongly that Adept blemish should be forever eliminated as a threat to the peace and well being of the galaxy.
“How could we not agree to this one ignoble request? We now carry this most heavy of burdens on our shoulders in the memory of all those who died.”
Once more there was an undercurrent of voices among the Council members. What was she leading up to? What did the Rizorian want? What did this have to do with any of them? And why this special session of the Council of Ten?
“In testing the remaining members of our population, we found many hidden carriers to whom we offered the choice of sterilization, or death. Many of those unfortunates also chose the disintegration chambers rather than live with a less than perfect body.
“At this point, I must admit that a few, but very few of the Adept carriers did most shamefully try to hide from the purification process. Our squads were very thorough, however, and the joyous day arrived when we thought that our grisly task was at last completed.
“A few years passed, when it was discovered that one Tech working in the Palace of Purification was in reality a low level Adept. This tech had falsified the records of a few Adept, and quite a number of carriers. Once again the Purification Squads were set into action. All of the adept were tracked down, and all were eliminated. All, except for one.
“We seek a Rizorian female of child bearing age from one of the ruling families. This carrier and her husband, an interplanetary trader, chose to escape into space. They used her family’s wealth and position, and his access to a space vehicle to effect that escape. Their act has brought great shame and anguish to both of their families.”
Ahja watched many of the Council members sit forward in anticipation once again. Was this perhaps an invitation to a hunt?
“We suspect that she was with child, which might explain the insanity of her actions, but which would never condone, or forgive her. Whatever the reason for her crime, every Rizorian man, woman and child stands by the sacred promise made to those noble, self‑sacrificing Adept. Our task is not done until she is found, she and her offspring, if any exist.”
“By your leave, most distinguished Envoy, 1, Torenz, speak for many of my fellow members of the great Council of Ten. We truly grieve for the people of your world, and this is indeed a most tragic story, but we do not understand what it is that you seek from us at this meeting. We are confused as to the purpose of this audience. We all have extradition treaties with each other. just tell us where your fugitive is, and she will be returned to you.”
“I knew that the council would feel that way, and yet if it were only that simple.” The envoy smiled sadly and nodded her gleaming head. “I have taken too long in the telling of my story, forgive me.
“You see, friend Torenz, the outlaws have fled into the Forbidden solar system, to the ancient penal colony, Terra.
“Members of the great Council of Ten, it is to Terra that we seek permission to travel!”