The servitor was another Sentience-designed organism, though not one often seen outside warzones or the more euphemistically labelled “police actions”. Its presence in the Court at such a gathering – serving drinks at that – was causing comment and conjecture in those who recognised the creature for what it was.

Sleek, with well defined muscle, it had a powerful upper-body structure and moved with steady grace through the crowds. Any expression it may have had was hidden beneath the bony casque that covered its face and most of the head like a silky mask. The only portion of its face visible to the onlooker was a pair of deep-set eyes that watched the world around it through nictating secondary eyelids.

A series of tattoos were neatly arrayed down the back of its skull and broad shoulders, denoting unit and command structure position. Such creatures were short-lived shock troop stock, and augmented with further wartech to foster directed, coordinated aggression that bordered on the frenzied.

“He talks a lot”

“Hmmm?” Krisla-Tenu looked round at the speaker to see a tall Njereen ambassador in formal robe-draped encounter suit proffering a glass of wine. Evolved in a lower-gravity environment than many, his ornately enamelled suit supported his physiology at these events. The ceramic and overlapping laminates comprising the visible surfaces blurred the distinction between hard and soft materials while masking the mechanics of the suit’s articulation; while the ornamentation was designed to misguide and waylay the eye with its intricate ribbing and interleaving of features.

“I’d have thought he would be a bit more of a cipher really, given what he does.”

“Hah! You’ve not been listening too closely, have you?”

“What do you mean?” The elegant casque inclined in query.

“His speciality is up-close wetwork – he’s a master of infiltration – so he’s learned to be very good at being a mimic.”

“So when he’s here among the gossips and rumour mill..?”

“Correct. He’s got to be good at small-talk, but you’ll notice over time he’s never consistent in his stories about himself. It’s a smokescreen – it’s something we all do, but he’s quite deliberate about it.” Out of the corner of her eye she could see the emaciated form of Ambassador Torshan weaving through the crowds in her direction.

“I don’t get it – surely that would be quickly noticed at gatherings?”

“With respect, you didn’t notice.”

“I’m not a suspicious security type though.”

“Ah, but you are the type of person he’d be contracted to hit.”


The princeling moved on after that, leaving her alone again to circulate around the edge of the crowd. She tapped the rim of her glass absent-mindedly and let her eyes scan across the assembled dignitaries. A small blue light pulsed twice in her peripheral vision to remind her that Bensen should be getting his private hearing about now.

“Ah – there you are – a moment of your time?” Krisla-Tenu turned to see Torshan approaching, and her heart sank. A native of the Belet system, his fragile appearance and sparse fine hair slicked across his skull made a powerful juxtaposition with his rich formal Court dress that he knew made many people uncomfortable. It was widely noted that Torshan found human discomfort at his appearance rather entertaining. It was also noted that he was not averse to publically puncturing the pride of people who fell to their own prejudices in their reactions.

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