Author : Suzanne Borchers

Lieutenant Sher took a deep breath then pushed the button to open the door to the officers’ lounge. She made sure her open friendliness included the five officers in its beam. Her eyes met a gray-haired general fighting to keep his gaze above her breasts, two brown-haired lieutenants who interrupted their animated conversation to smile at her, and one silky-blonde officer who pulled her mouth into a frown. Next to the woman was Ensign Cole, Lieutenant Sher’s close friend and a communications officer. Sher kept smiling with great effort.

She deliberately moved toward the refreshment bar and requested tonic water, knowing it would be vodka on ice. She needed it. Hearing Ensign Cole approach, she threw back a swallow before turning to greet him. He slid his arm around her waist and released her an instant later.

“Now this place has some class,” he said.

“Nice looking officer you were speaking with.” Lieutenant Sher watched him carefully.

“Never noticed.”

“Who is she?”

“Security. Asks a bunch of questions but doesn’t give any answers.” He placed credits on the bar and sipped the synthetic Scotch with appreciation. “Let’s talk about us. Much more pleasant.” Ensign Cole drummed his fingers softly and lowered his voice. “Actually, there’s something else I have to tell you. Something we can’t talk about here.”

She noticed the deep crease between his narrowed eyes and tensed. She pressed her lips together before whispering, “Meet me at my quarters in ten minutes.” Then she gave a quick laugh, swigged her drink, and walked to the door. She glanced back at him and smiled.

In her quarters, Lieutenant Sher checked the threads strategically placed around her hiding places. Nothing was disturbed. She sighed knowing her secret was safe. No nosy blonde security officer had been there–yet. How could she protect herself? She scratched at the surgical scar behind her implanted ear. Humans had too many protruding parts. Home was sleek and smooth. She ached to go back to her planet.

But she had a job to do.

Seated on the couch, Lieutenant Sher watched as Ensign Cole stepped through the doorway, hesitating to approach her as the door slid closed behind him. Finally, he sat on the edge of the couch to face her.

“Horrible news,” he said. “My brother died last night. The bastards showed up without warning and blew apart the whole military base. It was underground. How did they know?” He covered his face with his hands.

She slid over to him and reached out to hold him. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “Um, I can’t believe it.” She held him until he relaxed into her embrace with shallow and slow breaths. She was sorry for his pain…but humans had committed worse atrocities.

With her free hand, Lieutenant Sher slipped a carefully-wiped, small jewelry box into the inside pocket of Ensign Cole’s uniform. Nestled inside it was a shiny patriotic pin with a dot-chip containing a schematic of the ship. She had liked him, but now she’d have to move on by sacrificing information to frame him. He was expendable to her assignment, and she wanted to go home. Home.

She jumped at the buzzer then disengaged from Ensign Cole to open the door. The blonde security officer looked beyond her as Ensign Cole stood.

“I’m so sorry,” he said, as he approached Lieutenant Sher. He looked at the blonde officer. “It’s in my pocket,” he said.

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