"Did you get the package I sent you?" Ambassador Primakov's face appeared on the communications console at Erin Locke's desk.
"I got it." Erin picked up the black, leather bound book from her desk, and held it up so it was visible to Primakov. "The Holy Bible."
"I thought it was fitting, given the nature of your assignment." Primakov smiled.
"Very thoughtful. But you know there were literally hundreds of sects of the Christian religion. It's impossible to know the specific beliefs of any one of them without talking to them directly." Erin held up the bible. "I doubt I will be able to glean much about the Catechumen from this."
"Surely it'll give a sense of their beliefs?"
"Maybe." Erin set the book down. "But I doubt it."
"I just thought it might be worth having a physical copy."
"Thank you. I'm sure it will be, as a show of respect, at least."
"Well, was there something you needed?"
"It's about Jovan Leeper, the Dragoon."
"You have an update?"
"Oh." Primakov's face stiffened. "Well, maybe. What is it?"
"I'm still worried about what he might be up to. And I know you've got competent mystics on board."
"You want to use the mystics to spy on the Dragoon?"
"No. I just want to know what's inside his ship."
"That sounds like spying to me."
"Can you do it?"
"Not a chance."
"You must have some pull with the department?"
"That's not the issue."
"You're worried about regulations, then?"
"Yes, and you should be too. If the Federation tried spying on the Dragoons it wouldn't be taken well."
"That's why I'm trying to get your help."
"I'm just as concerned about the Dragoon as you, but as for using the mystics, no, that's out of the question."
"It was worth asking, I suppose."
"Enjoy the book."
Ambassador Primakov's face disappeared from the communication console, leaving Erin alone in her empty room. She leaned forward to tap a few commands into the system. Moments later, Irfan Levy's face appeared on the screen.
"Ambassador Locke, how can I help you?"
"Did you get the update?"
"Yes, I did."
"Good. I'm going to need your help, so please come over here right away, and be ready to work."
Irfan nodded and the screen switched off.
Irfan's room on the Excalibur was just across the hall from Erin's. She leaned back in her chair and waited for him to arrive. A moment later, he stepped into the room.
"How can I be of assistance?" Irfan asked.
"I want to know what's inside that Dragoon's ship."
Irfan sighed. "We talked about this. I'm not comfortable with using my abilities that way. It's a violation of my code as a Vizier."
"But not as an officer of the Federation."
Irfan scowled. "I suppose not. But nevertheless -"
Erin stood up. "Irfan, I remember our discussion. If you recall, I didn't let your hesitation to help me come in the way of our working relationship. I accepted your personal commitment to the Vizier code. Now I'm asking you to provide for me the same courtesy. Since I'm calling the shots now, we're doing things according to my commitments, not yours. I would hope that you're able to put your personal feelings aside and perform your duties as an officer."
Irfan rubbed his chin. "I don't think you understand how important this is to me. I don't think I can do it."
"You'd disobey a direct order?"
"I might have to."
Erin sighed. "Would it help if you had some time to think about it?"
"Yes." Irfan said. "Yes, I'll think about it." He started towards the door.
"Okay." Erin said. "Hold on a second. Let's think about it together."
"What?" Irfan stopped just in front of the door, his back to Erin.
"Well, let's weigh the options. You could break your oath, or you could violate a direct order of a commanding officer. If you violate that order, you'll probably lose your post. But if you follow the order, you'd provide a valuable service to the Federation. Who knows? You could even save lives, depending on what that Dragoon is hiding. That has to be a good enough reason to use your abilities. I mean, if it isn't, then what is? And as for your oath, no one needs to know except you and me. I'd be more than willing to keep this off the record."
"It's not people knowing that bothers me. It's the principle."