Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

Agent Dalton looked down at the dead alien, a swirling ribbon of smoke drifting upward from the hole his phaser had blasted into its chest. Once again, he was certain, an autopsy would validate that he had killed another shape shifting Haudvir, and not a human being. It was risky killing the alien outright, but his proven success rate had granted him exempt status; the authorization to use deadly force without repercussions, provided the autopsy confirmed the deceased was an alien. Dalton had executed fifty suspects so far, and all of them proved to be Haudvir. This one would be fifty-one.

* * *

“Agent Dalton,” bellowed Senator Balordo, “are you refusing to tell the Anti-Infiltration Committee how you are able to differentiate these aliens from humans? This is a matter of Global security. We need to ferret out these alien scumbags before they destroy the very foundations of our Empire.”

“I understand the consequences, Senator,” replied Dalton, “but my method is not something that I can transfer to another agent. Therefore, I prefer to keep it a secret, so the Haudvir cannot develop countermeasures.”

“Need I remind you Agent Dalton that these are top secret hearings? The Haudvir will not discover what is said inside this chamber.”

“With all due respect, Senator, one of you could be a Haudvir. And since the medical establishment does not have a non-lethal technique to identify a Haudvir, I cannot take the chance. Unless, of course, you are all willing to undergo an autopsy?” A chorus of indignant outbursts erupted from the panel members, but Dalton ignored them with a half smile. “I thought so,” he said as he unofficially excused himself from the hearing, and defiantly walked out the double doors at the rear of the Senate Chamber.

Once in the main hall, two lieutenants in the Secret Service intercepted him. They carried no visible weapons, but Dalton knew they were armed, and meant business. The larger of the two extended an upheld palm and planted it firmly in the center of Dalton”s chest. “Not so fast, Agent Dalton. The Emperor insists on a personal audience.” The shorter man led the way to a waiting armored hovercraft, with the larger one bringing up the rear. After a twenty minute ride, and a ten minute brusque walk, Dalton found himself in the Emperor”s Private Library, with the Emperor himself sitting behind a large mahogany desk.

Against all protocol, Dalton decided on a preemptive strike. “Your Imperial Majesty,” he stated, “I’m afraid that I cannot divulge my methods even to you, especially in the presence of your guards. Either one of them could be a Haudvir shape shifter.”

“I can assure you, Agent Dalton, that my guards have been well vetted. But, if it releases your tongue, they are dismissed.” Neither guard made an audible protest, and despite misgivings, they obeyed the Emperor’s wishes. After they left, the Emperor stood and approached Dalton, stopping only inches away. “I am not an impotent Senator, Mister Dalton. I get what I want, when I want it. And I want it now. You will tell me how you can identify the Haudvir, and I will decide what to do with that information. Ahhh, I see that your eyes well with fear. Good. Now, tell me what I want to know.”

The Emperor suddenly dropped to his knees, a ceramic knife bisecting his heart. He fell over backward; his eyes still open as he hit the floor. Agent Dalton brought a handkerchief toward his face and sneezed. “I suppose I can tell you now, I’m allergic to Haudvir.”


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