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Dek Meets Telon  

Dek waited until the graying major finished giving his safety and protocol rundown to the visitor, before stating crisply, “Thank you, Major. I’ll take it from here.”

Remm looked up. “He’s all yours, Acting Commander.”

She strode to the table directly across from the stranger but didn’t take a seat. The visitor gave her a frowning once-over and also got to his feet before glancing back at Major Remm.

“This is Lieutenant Commander Garr,” the major said. “Currently our acting commander in charge of security operations.”

The visitor gave her a stony nod. “Acting Commander.”

Dek took considerable time with her assessment of the interloper. Keen black eyes, and not shy about holding eye contact. His features were angular and a shade darker even than her bronze skin, but his hair was black. It was also a bit on the short side for her tastes, but completely professional, nevertheless. The light shadow on his chin told her he hadn’t shaved for a day or so, but even so, he didn’t look scruffy.

On second thought, maybe he wasn’t Rathskian. At least not entirely. He had that intense look about him, yes, but his face was more refined—almost as pretty as a gigadam Tectolian—and lacked the scarring kensmarcs the Rathskian subspecies wore as badges of honor. He had their stature, though, maybe a mark or two taller than her…and he wore sand-camo field gear.

Didn’t anybody tell this guy that Site D is subsurface?

He had a hard set to his jaw and looked about as pleased to be on site as she was to have him here.

“This is Telon,” Renn explained. “His partner goes by a code name. CaSandra.”

“Partner?” Dek angled her head. “I wasn’t briefed about this.”

“She’s classified,” Telon answered. “As is her presence here.”

Dek narrowed her eyes. “And where is your partner?”

Telon exchanged glances with the major. “She’s here.”

He reached down beside his chair and lifted an object onto the table by a handle set into the top. The rectangular box appeared to be made of punched polymer with wire mesh on the side facing her.

“Say hello to the commander, CaSandra.”

Two little golden paws pressed against the mesh from the inside. The creature attached to them gave a high-pitched bark, followed by quiet chattering.

Startled, Dek backed off a step. The animal’s soft amber eyes studied her from behind the mesh with its shiny nose molded tight to the thin bars.

“What in Empora’s Hades is this?” she demanded.

“There isn’t a name for what she is,” Telon answered quietly. “She’s a bio-construct, a first-generation prototype with canine, feline, weasel, and mongoose DNA.”

Dek raised her gaze to the stranger. “Bio-constructed for what purpose?”

His eyes went dark and deep, like the ocean just before a storm. “I’m not at liberty to discuss that, Acting Commander.”

He reached for the wire mesh screen—

“What are you—”

—and flipped it open.

Dek backed off another step and gripped the stunpulse secreted in a pocket of her field uniform. The golden creature exited its crate, eyeing her cautiously, and sniffed the air. Its pointed ears twitched before it bolted up Telon’s sleeve and perched on his shoulder, chattering quietly in his ear.

The man nodded and met Dek’s eyes. “Cassie says she’s on your side. And she’d like you to release the weapon you have hidden in your uniform.”

The little beastie squeaked again.

“Please,” he added.

Dek dropped her chin, squinting. “Is this creature telepathic?”

“Not exactly,” he replied.

The bio-construct leaned toward Telon, nuzzling the side of his face…and purred. Huh. Just like the kitten she’d had as a kid. The man reached up to stroke the animal’s head. Cassie craned her neck and closed her eyes, emitting a happy gruff-gruff.

Dek’s heart warmed a degree or two.

Gigadam thing’s adorable.

She displayed her empty hand. “Tell her if she behaves, she has nothing to fear from me.”

Telon grinned. “You just told her yourself, Acting Commander. She understands you perfectly.”


[Edited for length and context.]

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