LAST EDITED ON Jun-19-17 AT 02:54 PM (EDT)
(Gryphon is in his office shortly after the Challenger's christening ceremony, scouring the want-ads for a helm officer.)
The Chief punched the intercom panel on his desk without
looking at it and said in an irritable tone of voice,
"Unless you're bringing me a Class A helmsman, don't bother
me right now."
The door opened all the same, admitting the trim shape of his
assistant Ruri, a creature of indeterminate species who looked like a
human girl in her early teens, except for the far-too-mature look of
bored ennui on her pretty face and the curious pale blue shade of her
hair. She stood in the doorway, unimpressed by the incipient wrath
implied by her superior's growl, and said flatly,
"By a strange coincidence."
Then she stepped aside and allowed the person behind her to
enter the office.
Gryphon looked up as if prepared to be further annoyed, then
blinked in puzzlement. The person whom Ruri had just shown into his
office was another girl, taller but no less trim, who crossed the
threshold with a slightly fey grace that was wholly out of place in
this old-fashioned, cluttered office. She stood just inside the
doorway, a lovely girl in a simple gray jumpsuit, with long, straight
hair that was a shade or two darker, but the same gray-blue hue as
Ruri's. Where Ruri's eyes were golden and bored-looking, this one's
were steel-gray and curious, as though she had never seen an office
Aside from her odd hair color and peculiar grace, the only
things about this newcomer that didn't look entirely human were her
rather large ears, which stood out from her head, jutting through her
hair, and came to delicate points. They weren't as extreme as, say,
the ears of a Hyelian, but they weren't the understated points of a
Vulcan or Romulan, either.
Gryphon was looking at her as if he thought he ought to know
who she was, but either it wasn't coming to him or he kept thinking of
somebody else instead. He came slowly up out of his chair, the
expression on his face changing from puzzlement to amazement at about
the same rate as he rose, until he was fully standing and fully
With a slightly mischievous smile, the girl in gray squared
herself up to a very respectable military attention and gave a
slightly odd salute, touching the first two fingers of her right hand
to her forehead a little above her right eyebrow.
The movement seemed to jar Gryphon loose from his frozen
"Well, I'll be damned," he murmured; then his face split in a
huge grin and he lunged out from behind his desk, rounding it with
arms spread wide. "LAFIEL!" he cried, seizing the elven girl in an
embrace that, at first glance, seemed rather too rough for her.
She weathered it easily, though, and returned it in kind.
When they'd finished, he stepped back, hands on her shoulders,
delighted astonishment on his face.
"What are you doing here?" he asked.
"I heard a rumor that you needed a helmsman," she replied;
then she smiled, saluted again, and said in a sharp, military voice,
"Lafiel Abriel Nei Dobrusk Paryunu, reporting for duty, Captain!"
Gryphon blinked, then gave her a a look that combined
skepticism with surprise.
"Aren't you a little busy to be taking a day job?" he
Lafiel made a dismissive gesture. "I'm retired," she told
him. "I'm over three hundred, you know - practically in my dotage.
It's time for me to lay aside the intricate duties of state and spend
my twilight years in quiet, relaxed pursuits."
"I hadn't heard anything about a change of power in the
"We didn't exactly send out a press kit," said Lafiel wryly.
"The Humankind Empire Abh isn't a corporation, that we have to
advertise our changes of management - oh!" She blinked and looked
down; the Chief's beagle had come over to introduce himself, and was
now standing with his forepaws braced against her knees, tail wagging
furiously, looking up at her. "Hello," she said with a smile, bending
down to pet him.
"Wolfgang, down," said Gryphon with good-natured exasperation.
Wolfgang got down on all his feet again, but didn't leave off wagging
until Lafiel stopped scratching behind his ears and shooed him back to
his basket. To Gryphon's mild surprise, when shooed, the dog went,
curling up contendedly.
"Well," said Gryphon, strolling back behind his desk with a
comically exaggerated military-superior air. "So you want to join the
International Police, eh?"
Lafiel gave him a look, then played along, bowing like the
teenager she resembled and blurting, "Oh, yes, sir! More than
"Hmm." Gryphon threw himself down in his chair, put his feet
up on his desk, and told her, "We don't just take anybody here in the
IPO, you know. What are your qualifications?"
Lafiel adopted a look of intense consideration. "Well... I
was in the Wedge Defense Force for five years... I have 5,000 hours in
the VF-1 and VF/A-4 variable-configuration fighters... and I ruled a
galactic empire of four hundred billion sentients for 300 years."
Gryphon swung his feet off his desk, slapped his palms down on
the blotter and stood up again, leaning forward.
"Beautiful," he said. "You're hired." He punched a key on his
intercom, then noticed that Ruri was still standing in the doorway and
switched it off again with a mock-embarrassed cough. "Ruri, please
commission Her Majesty a lieutenant commander in the Space Force and
file all the usual crap accordingly."
"Right," said Ruri with her usual air of boredom, and she
turned and went back to her own desk in the outer office.
Gryphon dropped the mock-pompous air he'd assumed for the
"interview" and grinned at Lafiel, then pulled an old flip-top
communicator out of his pocket and flipped it open. "Gryphon to
"Go ahead, sir," a voice replied.
"Lore, have the bridge fitters finished yet?"
"Not quite. They're still working on the science station." A
wry note crept into the remote speaker's voice as he added, "Some of
the controls needed some reinforcement."
"Ah," said Gryphon, nodding, though the person to whom he was
speaking couldn't see him. "Well, when they're done with that, have
them re-do the helm station with type 11-C controls, would you?"
"That's right." Gryphon grinned and said, "The Abh Empire is
having a special on used royalty, and Ruri just got us one hell of a
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