“Hans, you need to look good when you go to see Admiral Falun and Admiral Georgio. You cannot go in the same rags you’ve been wearing for the last while.” Honora was shouting through the door at Hans who didn’t bother to answer her. She smoothed down the dress shirt she was wearing, uncomfortable outside of her usual jumpsuit.
“He’s not going to listen. You know he wants nothing to do with either of those people. He still blames them for Alfie’s death.” Duke leaned against the wall his hand feeling the smoothness of his chin. It was strange for him not to have his usual stubble.
“That is irrelevant. Feelings should have no part in this. Alfie did what he needed to do knowing the risk and the officials responded in a way they felt fit. It is a non-issue at this point. This is a meeting that needs to happen.” Eve spoke from the doorway, but it was loud enough that even Hans had been able to hear what she was saying.
Hans opened the door, standing in a replica of his old dress uniform. “Let them try and talk down to me in this.”
“That was not the outfit that we gave you to wear. I will not ask where it came from, but I do approve of the change. Please try to keep your emotions under control during this meeting.” Eve said she turned and was met face to face with another woman. “Altheia.”
Hans looked craned his head to try to see past Eve at the new leader of A Bloc that he had yet to meet. He had heard that she would be joining them for the meeting, but had wondered at her persisting absence. Hans knew that it wasn’t really any of his business, but it was his neck on the line here.
Eve stepped aside to allow Altheia into the room and Hans could feel his jaw drop. Every thought he had been thinking had just disappeared. She smiled, almost shyly, and raised a hand. “Hi Hans. Ready for that meeting then?”
“You.” It was really more of a statement than anything. “I though your name was-“
“No, I was lying to you about my name. It was a cover while I was on Cantun.” Altheia shrugged. “Never really expected to see you again, but this is definitely much bigger than any of us could have thought in the beginning.”
“You could say that again.” Hans walked over and held out his hand to shake hers. She grasped his hand in both of hers and pumped it twice. “It’s a pleasure to actually meet you Altheia.”
“Same here Hans and, just so you know, I really appreciate all you’ve done.” She turned her head to look at Duke and Honora. “All of you. It was a big risk and I know it took a lot of courage. Thank you.”
Duke gave her a nod. “It’s nice to hear that. I think it’s the first time anyone has really thanked us or acknowledged the risk. Glad to see someone has some priorities.”
“Well if the introductions are done, shall we go and get this meeting started? This will be the first time that we’ve been able to be on a level playing field with the government as opposed to being considered nothing more than an annoyance.” Altheia grinned and then the joy in her face just crumbled in to sorrow. “I wish Alfie could have been here to see this. It would have made him very happy.”
“I would advise that you also try to keep your emotions contained.” Eve said to Altheia who just nodded in response. “If you have all finished your greetings I would recommend that you leave immediately. Please let me know how things went upon your arrival.”
“You’re not coming?” Hans stared at Eve and looked at Altheia, his eyes trying to find an answer in hers.
“No, while this organization is barely tolerated it would be hunter ruthlessly if my association was known. I am still considered and illegal object by the government. I cannot be there.” Eve tilted her head to one side. “I thought you were aware of that Hans. I know you know what I am.”
“I guess it slipped my mind.” Hans shrugged and walked past her into the corridor after the others. He paused after a few steps and turned to face Eve again. “I guess I should get you to remind me not to anthropomorphise machines, then again you’re not just a machine. Maybe I should remind you of that.”
She said nothing to him as he quickened his step to catch up with the others. A small smile played on his lips at his own little joke. He knew she wouldn’t understand, but it made him feel a little better to have just said it.
All four of them loaded into a transport, having turned down the official transport that had been offered. It was a silent drive to Capital City Complex where the United Worlds government held its office. No one really had anything to say, there was nothing to discuss at this point, they all knew what was at stake and what was required of each of them. Hans absently played with left hand trying to keep his mind occupied.
As the stepped out of the transport and at the entryway to the Capital City Complex Altheia glanced down at his hand which he had returned to a more human five digits. “Please try to keep your left hand steady. It’s bad enough that it’s black, but if you constantly change your digits it’s bound to bring the wrong kind of attention to you.”
“Of course.” Hans nodded. He had already considered that because he was now an anomaly among humans. Special Forces were always interested in the strange and unusual. He definitely qualified for that now. He had a feeling though that at some point he would have to show off his hand.
A guard was waiting to escort them into the impressive building. They went through countless security checks and several guard changes before they finally stood outside the meeting room. Hans had spent most of the time staring at the grandeur of the building. He had never thought that he would have ever have a chance to the Capital City Complex.
Two guards admitted them into the meeting room that was far less grand and much cozier than he had been expecting. Already both the Admirals stood waiting in one corner, deep in discussion about something that none of them could overhear.
Admiral Falun looked up and met Hans’ gaze before whipping his gaze away. Hans though he could see guilt in the Admiral’s face, but he a part of him wondered if it was just wishful thinking. A small round table had been set up in the room with cozy stuffed chairs around it. Hans, Duke, Honora and Altheia sat at the table and waited in silence.