Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer

“Nine hundred ordinary people have experienced portal transit to Nambinull with the help of a Candamar grant. Nine hundred lives transformed thanks to the generosity of our donors, many of whom come from impoverished zones themselves.”
Doffen Stahl looks up from the prompt screen, the lenses of his contacts strobing green in the barrage of flash photography his raised head causes.
With a little smile, he turns his head to one side, then continues.
“The Candamar is the greatest humanitarian effort since the Tidal Bastion Projects at the end of the last century, and,” he turns back, seemingly gazing into some private distance, “I believe it represents a path forward, rather than an escape from the consequences of the past.”
There are a few murmurs of quiet outrage, but the majority seem to agree.
A lone hand is raised. Doffen points to it.
“Your question?”
The hand drops. A woman’s voice fills the silence.
“Nancy Tarn, Excelsior Intergalactic Network. What percentage of those transited does this represent?”
Doffen brings up a personal holo and rapidly gestures in a query.
“The latest ratified figures do not include the most recent migration. Up to that, the nine hundred represents three percent of those transited.”
There are expressions of disbelief. The susurrus of query is along the lines of ‘why is the total so small?’
Doffen raises a long-fingered hand.
“We cannot rush this. No matter how much political pressure, Nambinull can only support a small population until infrastructure and crops are established.”
There are nods of grudging acceptance.
Doffen signals me with the hand he didn’t raise. I hasten up onto the stage. Raising my hand to prevent lip reading, I whisper nothing in his ear. My job is to give him an opportunity to leave.
“Regrettably, I am needed elsewhere. Please download today’s information pack should you wish.”
There’s a round of applause as he leaves the stage. I trail behind his two protection drones. Looks like he’s heading straight for our limotruck.

The hatch seals shut. With a sigh, Doffen sags into the support couch.
“I’ll never get used to a whole gravity. How do they do it?”
I chuckle.
“They evolved here, remember?”
He blinks, then laughs.
“Oh yes. Slipped my minds.”
Jade lenses slide free, revealing pupilless white eyes. He looks at me.
“Do you ever take those sunglasses off?”
“Only when I sleep.”
He nods.
“I saw a caution marker when I looked up the transit statistics. What happened?”
I knew he’d notice.
“Two of the ‘ordinary people’ were security agents. We kept them in a daze until all the replaced were complete, then let them go along with. It’ll be a good test of the masquerade.”
Doffen sits up a little.
“If they suspect?”
“We’ll secure them, mindscan and replace them, then correct whatever tipped the originals off.”
He nods and settles back.
“Good enough. When is our colony ship scheduled to arrive at Nambinull?”
“Seventeen months.”
“The Nambinull disaster will officially happen a week after unloading completes?”
“Yes. Earth will mourn another lost colony. After a two-month wait, Candamar will push for the establishment of a portal to the next habitable planet on the list, Fexune.”
“How many more times can we get humans to provide funds and fuel for us?”
“Predictions say once more. After that, public opinion will turn. Candamar will fail. Doffen Stahl will perish in a fire, with no remains. Meanwhile, we’ll be on the way to Fexune.”
Doffen sighs contentedly.
“With our people saved, and sufficient docile originals to form the stock of a useful slave race.”