Author : George R. Shirer

Thraewen hangs in the middle of the view-pool, pretty and pristine. Dillon and Three can see the nightside’s cities, bright constellations scattered across the Capwen Archipelago. Three strokes the Starfish’s controls and the bioship moves. Night gives way to day. The view-pool displays high clouds until Three fiddles with the resolution, magnifying an image on the surface.

The house is ceramic, all bright white curves, surrounded by green moss-grass and a white fence. Inside the fence, Dillon sees a child playing with a dog.

“Well?” asks Three.

Dillon glances at the alien. Three almost looks human, only the gill-slits in his throat and the webbing between his fingers suggesting otherwise.

“Well what?”

“Do you want them to die?”

“Back home, the government says the Thraeweni are monsters. Why would they lie?”

“Propaganda? Misinformation? Blind stupidity? Take your pick.”

Dillon frowns. He had met Three at a bar, back on Tranin. At the time, Dillon just thought Three was trying to pick him up. They talked about art and science, politics and the war. The war really interested Three.

After the bar closed, Three invited Dillon back to his place. Dillon was expecting a hotel, not a living starship able to cross interstellar distances in the blink of an eye! Now, Three had brought Dillon to Thraewen, to judge the people and decide if the war was worthwhile.

“Why do you care what I think?”

“I’m getting a second opinion.”

“For what?”

“I have to decide whether or not to stop the Tranin Armada and I can’t make up my mind.”

“How would you stop the armada? You’re one man, in one ship!”

“It wouldn’t be that hard,” says Three. “My species is much older than yours. We can do all kinds of things. I want to make the right choice here, but I’m not human. I won’t interfere if you tell me not too.”

“So you want me to make a decision that it took my government months of analysis to make?”


Dillon looks into the view-pool. The girl is rolling around on the moss with the dog. If the armada attacks, she’ll probably die. He glares at Three. Why couldn’t he have just wanted to shag?

“You’re not human,” says Dillon. “You shouldn’t interfere.”

Three nods. “The Thraeweni girl said the same thing.”

“You spoke with one of them about this?”

“I had to be impartial. She agreed with you, although her reasons were different.”

“Were they?”

“She said the Tranin Armada was a joke. The Thraeweni Navy and their allies would obliterate it before it even got out of the Tranin system.”

Dillon shrugs. “It’s just bravado. Can you take me home now?”

“Of course.”

Three strokes his controls and the Starfish leaps across the parsecs. The interior lights dim and the image in the view-pool changes.

Dillon stares in horror at the wreck of his world. Tranin burns, reduced to cinders by a fleet of monstrous alien ships that hang in orbit around the planet.

“Well,” says Three, “I suppose it wasn’t bravado after all.”

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