Chapter 1

Pre'tu sighed, staring out of the starboard viewport of his father's Rolls Royce gravity car. He was being dragged along on yet another one of his father's diplomatic meetings. Of course, Pre'tu knew that he was only there as one of his father's little maneuvers. Bringing family along will help him appear more like a normal person, putting other delegates further at ease around him. Vreeno, even his car was part of the scheme. Showing up in a vehicle of Terran manufacture would make him look better to all the human diplomats. A civilized alien, Pre'tu thought bitterly. He had noticed the way the Terrans all looked at his father, him, and others of non-homo sapien origins. They all thought that they were inferior to them. No, Pre'tu corrected himself mentally. Not all of them look at us like that. 'Stereotypes' as the humans call them, are to be avoided. I don't want to be just as bad as the people I accuse of prejudice against us.

Vreeno, thought Pre'tu again. But why me? Why does my father always drag me into these ridiculous functions? Why not my mother? After all, she is his BondMate.

But he had also been smart enough to figure out the other part of his father's sinister little plan. He wanted Pre'tu to stop with his ambitions of joining the Skree'Varian (the military of the Skree), and to become a diplomat like him. Not a chance in Yul'Ta. Why would anyone ever want to be something as boring as a diplomat?

The car came to a halt, setting down on a landing pad on the floating embassy. Pre'tu looked at it through the viewport, not impressed in the least. It had been built by Terrans, who evidently knew neither of beauty nor grace. The building was large and rectangular, stretching even further towards the sky than the hover platform that it sat on raised it up to. But it had no subtlety; no gently flowing lines, no streamlining, and no elegance whatsoever. Pre'tu snorted incredulously; Terrans had long claimed that they possessed the best artists in the galaxy. This building was testament to the otherwise.

His father gently tapped him on the shoulder, indicating he should stop examining the embassy, and that he should exit the vehicle. Pre'tu pressed the egress button, the door swinging upward gracefully. At least the Terrans knew how to build their cars right. He stepped down onto the red carpet, walking forward a few feet and waiting for his father.

"Now, son," his father said to him as he exited the vehicle as well, "remember: speak English when around Terrans. Very few of these representatives would know Skree'Tulna. Most human brains are not as developed in the linguistic centers as ours are, so they have more trouble acquiring knew languages."

Pre'tu could accept this, as he had learned English, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish all in under a year; the languages of Earth were ridiculously simple. The Asian languages weren't all that bad though. Chinese had fascinated him for a while. He loved any language that, when it was printed, appeared to be art... and yet the Terrans insisted on using English, a clumsy language that possessed no intrinsic beauty, and was derived from many old languages that were stripped of all inflection. Not only that, but slang was so prevalent among the Terran people that their entire language changed daily, new words coming into play, and old ones going out of fashion. It was a confusing, disordered language to say the least.

They walked up to the entrance, where a human servant opened the door for the both of them. They walked through the main hall into the ballroom, where fifty or sixty diplomats of about ten different species were mulling around, examining the food laid out on tables that circled the room. Some were talking to each other in soft undertones, or were listening to the orchestra that was playing on the stage. Pre'tu thought he recognized the current song as belonging to a Terran composer known as Ludwig van Beethoven. It wasn't too bad, but it had not been optimized for Skree hearing; Terrans only heard from about the twenty hertz to the twenty kilohertz range, whereas Skree hearing covered twice the frequency range. The song utilized no softly done high-pitched tones, or light extreme-bass tones as most Skree music would have.

Pre'tu narrowly dodged an incoming Bulkan diplomat as the man... or rather, as the being rushed past him to introduce himself to Pre'tu's father. Bulkans could not be characterized as male or female, as they had six different genders, and an immensely complex mating cycle. It was a true wonder of evolution that they still existed, really.

"How be you, sir?" the Bulkan asked his father in somewhat slurred and confused English, "I be Pagma, the diplomat origin Bulka. If me be not very mistaken, sir, you be Takas'na Ecaep, the diplomat origin Skree?"

"I am the person whom you name," Pre'tu's father responded with the infinite patience born of a long career as a diplomat. "What can I do for you, diplomat Pagma?"

Pre'tu smirked, as he realized that his father had carefully avoided using the word "mister" and had instead replaced it with diplomat, as there was no way to know what gender Pagma was.

"Well," Pagma continued, "I possess query as to Section four, paragraph five of you proposed constitution. I be thinking if you could maybe re-thought line sixteen, which be granting equality to all genders of any race. Us Bulkans have us a gender where we be loosing most of our possessed faculties, sir. It be current Bulkan law the while in state of Trypa, an one week period out of interstellar year, sir, that majority of rights be taken from Bulkan in question. Otherwise, chaoses maybe ensue."

Pre'tu's father nodded thoughtfully. "Yes, I have heard of the difficulties with the Trypa stage of life on Bulka. I shall propose an amendment during the preliminary ratification tonight. Thank you for bringing this to me, diplomat Pagma."

Pagma bowed respectfully, and walked off to chat with other diplomats. Pre'tu, growing bored with eavesdropping on his father's diplomatic banter, headed over to a mirror to check his appearance. He looked fine as far as he was concerned; his skin had a healthy blue glow to it, his slightly greenish head spikes were lying flat against his scalp as they should (Skree head spikes only extend upwards if the Skree in question was severely agitated), and his bright red eyes were clear and sharp. His spine was completely extended, as it should have been when he was calm, bringing him to his full height of just a little over two meters. Perfect.

He looked around, and unfortunately, saw no Skree girls. One of the few times he was dressed fancily in a Plik'mek scale suit, and there was no one he would be interested in asking out around him. Just great. He could have been air surfing, playing Rak'de'daj with his friends, or even just working on his genetic tailoring, but no, he had to be stuck here at a diplomatic function. He really needed to teach his father the true meaning of "father-son outing." He was jostled from his thoughts as a strange Terran shoved him out of his way.

Pre'tu squinted at the human who had just pushed past him. This Terran was the most awkwardly dressed one he had seen so far. He was wearing what looked like a green military outfit, with a bright red arm band around the left arm of the man wearing it. It had a white circle in the middle of this band, displaying an ink blank symbol which was completely unfamiliar to Pre'tu. It looked sort of like the English letter "x," but with sharp ninety degree bends at both of the ends of the two lines forming the letter. He watched with a complete lack of understanding as the man drew a metallic device of some sort, pointing it at his father. He thought the man was a reporter for a fleeting instant, and that the cylindrical end to the device was some sort of microphone. All of his thoughts froze though, as the man pulled a lever on the device, and a small explosion emitted from the tip of it. Blood sprayed from his father's head as he fell to the ground.

Pre'tu heard himself shout "No!" as if he was outside of his own body. He rushed forward, the spikes on his head extending fifteen centimeters upwards, and hardening to the density of stone. In a typical Skree rage driven combat maneuver, his head connected solidly with the chest of the assassin. The man was hurled ten feet across the ballroom, blood oozing from the twelve holes in his torso. Pre'tu's head spikes flattened, and he turned to look at the corpse beside him in complete despair.

He sunk down beside his father, simply staring at his prone body in utter disbelief. Shouts for medics were delivered across the ballroom, but he heard none of it. He didn't see the security forces running around madly, barring the exits. He didn't hear the screams of diplomats who had broken down into hysterics. He only saw his father, his ignoble death replaying itself over and over in his mind, torturing him for what felt like an eternity.

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