Chapter 1--Alex Verin

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Johnson Building

Washington, D.C.

November 9th, 2300


“You offer us these medical scanners—wanting nothing in return—and they can create detailed images of our anatomy right down to the genetic level,” Dad said as he crossed to the center of the floor and faced the Ambassador. “Our only assurance that this information won’t later be used against us is your word. I’m sorry, but how stupid do you think we are? I want real answers for once and not some act that you’re doing this out of the kindness of your Hannarian hearts. What do you hope to gain from this?”

Several spectators in the balconies and a few on the floor clapped as Dad sat back down, but they were restrained claps like people weren’t sure if they wanted the Ambassador to know their position. Out of all the EIP senators and representatives in the room, Dad was the only one who ever talked to him like this.

Still seated at his table, the Ambassador’s eyes flared to a bright blue—something that always happened when Dad hit a nerve with him. Instead of responding however, he leaned forward on his elbows until his eyes faded back to normal again. The silence in the room lingered to the point of being awkward. Dad’s friend Fred Keller coughed to clear his throat, but he also smiled at the Ambassador’s reaction.

“Can I please just get out of here?” I whispered. Mom nudged me with her elbow and gave me a warning look to be quiet. “I’ve heard them argue back and forth so much it’s like watching the same rerun every year. They should just prerecord themselves and send the videos so we can all go home and be done with it!”

It could’ve been my imagination, but the Ambassador smirked right at that moment—like he’d somehow heard me even though Mom and I were in a balcony. I shuddered.

“Just make it back before the recess,” Mom said. I stood to leave but waited a moment.

The Ambassador started to say something then looked over at Dad. He blinked, making his eyes glow bright again as he stood. Silently, he walked to Dad’s table and leaned forward on top of his files—causing a few to close and disappear from the screen. Several news photographers moved in closer, but I froze in place because this was something I’d never seen the Ambassador do before. Dad seemed kind of shocked, too.

“If getting this passed through deception was my goal, don’t you think I’d have come up with a much better lie?” the Ambassador asked. “You say you want answers, Verin? How about I’m getting tired of coming back year after year—decade after decade—and watching millions of your people suffer and die! Now I won’t stand here and try to extort Earth out of something we don’t even need so you and your party can make us out to be monsters. We want to offer our help—nothing more, nothing less. You need to pay more attention to the people outside these walls you’re paid to represent—while you still have time!”

More people clapped for him than they had for Dad, but most of them were confined to the same balcony section. It made me wonder if his bodyguards were required to do it.

As the Ambassador sat back down, I took my opportunity to exit. I was careful not to let the large wooden door slam behind me—a mistake I’d made once and never heard the end of—and walked quietly my first few steps down the hallway. Then I slid down the wide polished stair rails to the basement break room used by the maintenance personnel and security guards.

When I reached the bottom, the room was empty with the exception of a lanky blond-haired boy at one of the tables. He glanced up at me then went back to what sounded like a game on his handheld DMR—short for Digital Matrix Relay. What caught my attention was the device was either a prototype or a knock-off, considering the latest version wasn’t supposed to be released yet.

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