“We’re picking up their signals,” Grace reported. “Looks like they’re all fine.”
“Ophelia,” Kat’s voice came in.
“Ophelia here,” Ophelia answered. “Go ahead.”
“First off, I have to report myself,” Kat stated. “I disobeyed orders and dragged Yuri with me to find the source of Lunais’ power. It’s entirely my responsibility and I’ll accept the consequences.”
“That is not entirely accurate,” Yuri interjected. “I was a willing accomplice.”
“I’m your superior and I used that fact to bring you with me,” Kat said. “This is all on me.”
“I attempted to deceive all of you in order to go,” Yuri stated. “Your disregard for orders simply afforded me an opportunity.”
“Understood,” Ophelia interrupted. “I’ll deal with both of you when you get back. What else do you have to report?”
“We got a second job,” Kat answered. “It might be a bit dangerous and doing it may result in us having to avoid Yujin until the heat dies down but I think you’ll like it. I also have a pretty good idea of how we can pull it off and, you’ll like this, we got paid in advance.”
“Sounds interesting,” Ophelia said. “Give me all the details.”
“I’m ready to patch you through to the Yujin,” Farah reported.
“Grace, how is the progress for phase two?” Ophelia asked.
“Ready to go on your mark,” Grace said.
“That’s amazing!” Farah declared. “How did you connect them all like that?”
“I had a cute Pakistani girl to impress,” Grace stated. “It gave me a skill boost.”
“You two can flirt later,” Ophelia said. “Lucy, are you ready?”
“Phase three is good to go,” Lucy said. “Feel free to tell me how amazing I am so that I can flirt with you.”
“Later,” Ophelia said.
“Promises, promises,” Lucy stated.
Ophelia sat up straight and looked directly at the screen. “Farah, make it so.”
The screen flashed and the Yujin representatives appeared.
“Captain Wester,” the first said. “Do you bring news?”
“I do indeed,” Ophelia said. “We found him. He is, indeed, in the Himestrix’s garden.”
“Proof!” the second cried. “Proof is required for this.”
Ophelia nodded. “Of course. We took a thorough bio-scan. You can compare it to your own records. I also have a recording from him, taken at the same time. I’m sending those to you now.”
“Your transmission is received,” the first said. “Please hold while we verify it.”
“Can do,” Ophelia said. She waited until they’d walked away and muted her audio. “So far, so good. Grace, Lucy, be ready when they return.”
The four waited in silence for a while. Finally, the two representatives returned. Thol’s parent hanging his head. l
“We were able to verify,” the other stated. “You did your job well, Captain. Your due payment has been transferred. But, if I could ask one more favour, will you explain how you got these results?”
“Certainly,” Ophelia said, surreptitiously sending a signal. Grace and Lucy both nodded, very slightly. “My people went inside the Himestrix’s Garden. As I recall, you said that no one returned, right?”
“That is correct,” the first stated.
“What they found there was an idyllic society,” Ophelia continued. “Yujin from different factions were all living in peace with no violence or threats thereof. I can see why such a thing would be difficult for your people to leave behind, however, Lunais doesn’t force anyone to stay. So, my people were able to complete their mission and return.”
“Impossible!” the delegate declared. “There can be no peace, not as things are.”
“And yet, in the garden, there is,” Ophelia stated. “Any Yujin who wishes to live a life of peace is welcome there, where the Himestrix won’t allow anyone to harm anyone else, regardless of faction.”
A third Yujin burst into the room with the two delegates and hurriedly whispered something to them.
“Transmitted? This conversation is? But how?” The delegate looked over at Ophelia, a look of shock on his face.
“We kept the confidentiality agreement,”Ophelia said, with a smirk. “Information on the Garden, however, was not included in that. I’m afraid that my engineer here thought that it would make entertaining viewing for everyone on your planet.”
“Hey,” Grace said. “Anything about the Himestrix has to be hot news, right?”
“I may have also recorded it and spread it online,” Lucy added. “Hey, it’s already getting a lot of views!”
“You dare!” He demanded.
“What I dare is to bring your people the truth,” Ophelia said. “You wanted to know what was in the garden, now you do. In fact, everyone does. Please, call us again the next time you need help.” Farah cut the transmission.
“I would suggest we leave before they mobilise their ships,” Lucy said.
“Agreed,” Ophelia said. “You have the Bridge, signal me if anything major happens.”
Ophelia moved to the conference room where Kat and Yuri were waiting.
“You both know what I’m going to say,” Ophelia said. “What you did may have turned out fine, but it was reckless and stupid. If Lunais wasn’t so benign, she could have killed you both and gone after the others. I know that I give you a lot of leeway in how you accomplish your missions, but I explicitly ordered you not to look into her. We need to look after each other and control ourselves. When necessary, that includes our curiosity.”
“We understand,” Kat said. “And you’re right. We screwed up.”
Ophelia nodded. “You’ll both be taking some remedial training with Lucy and you’ll both be confined to your quarters for the next two weeks when you aren’t training. Both of you are going to be off duty until Lucy says otherwise, understood?”
The two nodded.
“Very well, dismissed,” Ophelia said.