In her quarters, Ellie was ready to commit some murder herself. How dare her parents just reject Todd without even getting to know him.

But, oh! They had—in their own ambassadorial way. She should have known they’d investigate anyone who’d dare to fall in love with her.

“Enough!” she interrupted their litany of her heroisms vs. Todd’s rather lackluster accomplishments. “We get it. I’ve done more—”

“That is not the point!” her mother snapped. “And the two of you started this ritual.”

Ellie’s father set his hand on his wife’s arm.

She took a breath and started again. “Todd, my dear, you are a good man. Intelligent, loyal, deeply caring, wonderful with children…”

Todd gave her a confused smile. “Then why…?”

Ellie’s father took up the argument. “But you are also unambitious, complacent…”

Todd cleared his throat, “I prefer ‘contented.’”

Her father gave him a patronizing smile. “I’m sure you do, but these words were not chosen by you.”

Her mother continued, “You are not the adventurous type, Todd. Until the incident with our daughter, you’d never left Sapphire Station. In fact, you turned down a full scholarship at the Juno Institute of Technology in favor of a local college.”

“My father needed me to help with my siblings. You know: loyal? Good with kids? Remember?”

“Yet according to your school counselor, your father was the one who pushed you to apply.”

“What’s your point?” Ellie demanded.

Her mother stepped toward her fiancé. “Todd, we do not dispute that you are a good man. And you will be a wonderful husband and father. But you are not a good match for our daughter.”

A strangled gasp escaped Ellie’s throat. “So this is about me?” Why was she not surprised?

Her father sighed. “Why don’t we all sit down?”

“I can’t in this dress!”


Leslie knelt beside Gavin’s prone, cold corpse.  Only a few hours ago, they’d been laughing, embracing…

“Lieutenant?” the captain prompted.

She smashed her lips together and forced her mind to the present. Around her, Tank and another security minion scanned the area, looking for DNA traces, teleporter signatures, anything that would lead them to the murderer. With 30 other diplomatic parties on board, they had to find the killer before he took another victim.

“I’m not sure when he left, Captain,” she answered. “I was asleep. He must have… Wait. Um, Pulsie? There was a rose and a small box left in my quarters. When were they replicated?”

“Oh-four-thirty-five,” the voice of the Impulsive answered.

“So, the assassin caught him on the way back to his quarters,” Enigo said as returned to stand beside her. “Captain, we’re not finding anything, and Pulsie’s sensors show nothing, not even the ambassador coming down the corridor. Whoever did this, it wasn’t in the heat of a moment. They knew exactly what they were doing and how to get away clean.”

“So who could have done that?” the Captain asked.

From where he was running a scanner over the access ladder for the third time, Tank replied, “The boss, Lieutenant Straus, me…”

The captain stopped him with a raised brow.

“Just being thorough, sir.”

“How about someone who might have a reason?”

“I should be a suspect,” Leslie said quietly. “After all, he was with me last.”

A wave of grief threatened to overwhelm her. She clenched her fists and squeezed her eyes tight, forcing it back.

Enigo set a hand on her shoulder. She hadn’t even noticed he’d squatted down beside her until he’d spoken. “We’re going to find this benndero,” he said.

“Warping damn, we are,” she agreed. She reached out to touch the Gavite under the cheek. She hadn’t meant to bite him quite so hard. She’d laughed when he squealed and had called him a big baby. He’d responded like a Gavite, but with enough gentleness to respect her human nature. It had been fun. “Gregar was a good being.”

The captain let out a breath between pursed lips. “Well, keep at it. In the meantime, we need to protect our guests. Let’s get a guard on every room, and no one goes anywhere without an escort.

“Gel’s already on it,” Enigo said.