Foley looked down at the floor like he was embarrassed, while Ithica explained what had happened to them.
“So what you’re saying is that you’ve gone from no-girlfriend-having, freak of nature and bonafide bachelor, to havingheras a wife?” Leto had a way of putting things in a way that ensured maximum embarrassment to all those present.
“I WISH I had your troubles, my lad…”
He looked back to Ithica. She was blushing as well. Renata was far from pleased, but that was understandable. She was sometimes a little overprotective. Harlan looked to be the least surprised of all of them. The man was unshakable. He stood up and went over to a keypad near the door. He keyed in a code that allowed him to turn off the internal surveillance. What needed to be said wasn’t to be recorded under any circumstances. He returned to the conversation.
“No one is to hear a word of this. We speak to no one. Not the residents, the security –no one. Is that clear?”
He looked at Ithica. She returned his gaze, unafraid. She sensed in him through Foley’s mind that he was their world’s greatest soldier for many generations and a man to be respected and worthy of trust.
He placed his hand upon his heart and bowed slightly at the waist. “We don’t have a word in our language that adequately conveys who you are. This is a moment we have known might come for many years. “
“I don’t understand. Wha-?” Leto asked.
“By the light of Ellah, we will protect you both.” He spoke the words in English first, and then apparently repeated them in what appeared to be her native language. She was taken aback for a moment. Foley turned to look at her.
“Do you know of this?”
He was amazed at how quickly his mind had adjusted to speaking to her this way. The moment he finished his thought, she closed her eyes, engaging her connection to the Ellah. Chemical sequences within her body --highly specialized chemical precursors within her blood acted to induce links within her mind. She had accessed the Ellah on her homeworld before but this was the very first time she did it for her “Husband.” She liked the sound of that word. She remembered hearing from others how much of a spiritual experience it was for them. It lived up to the stories she remembered and more. When her eyes opened, her pupils had become iridescent blue and glowed with a warm, brilliant aura.
“Captain Cole, Commander of the United Earth Directorate Ship, Exeter. Honored as a hero of Vaelor for rendering aid to a Daughter of Ellah in her time of need, twenty five of your earth years ago. Though a member of a non-aligned world, he and his crewmates nearly sacrificed their vessel to retrieve a Vaelor ship that had was trapped within the Illius foldspace corridor. These humans showed great courage and sacrifice to render aid, not knowing the value of the ship, nor its precious cargo. The Captain and his crew nearly destroyed their own ship’s drive to bring them out of the foldspace before the ship’s power systems failed and they were crushed in the pressures of exiting a foldspace rupture. ”
The light in her eyes subsided and their color returned to the deep blue of his dreams. Ithica exhaled and took in a deep breath, calming herself. He looked on in silence, stunned by the revelation. Renata was visibly taken aback as well, and Leto had just attained a complete fan-boy love for his hero.
“I had no idea…” Renata said.
“Those days are long past. And that mission and the space craft in question no longer exist in the official record. It needs to stay that way. Just so you know what we are up against, if any harm to Ithica while she is here on Earth – the Vaelor will completely obliterate this entire star system.”
They all turned to Ithica who cast her eyes downward slightly. It was considered impolite to state one’s own value so the Daughters of Ellah never spoke of it directly. Even so, to hear others speak of it made her uncomfortable. “Yes, Valar Cole. This is true.”
“Valar?” Renata asked.
“It is a proper form of address for one so honored in the Vaelor Confederation.” She explained.
“What now? I mean… That bounty hunter is still out there. I’m sure she’s not just going to stop.” Renata said. She’d regained her composure quickly. Foley had no doubt that one day she might be as unshakeable as her father.
“We keep very quiet. No one outside this room knows any of what I have divulged.”
“How did you explain the destruction of the ship?” Renata asked.
Harlan sighed a deep, painful sigh. It was the kind of sigh that signaled them that he was about to tell them something that they truly didn’t want to hear.
“We didn’t explain the loss of the ship. We didn’t explain anything. If word of the Vaelor had gotten out at the time –we would have torn ourselves apart trying to gain control of each other in order to reap the benefits of the Ellah.”
He turned away from them, but continued to speak.
“We had to come to it on our own… solve our own problems before stepping out into a larger universe. The United Earth Directorate together with assistance from Vaelor, removed all memory of the incident, the space flight, and all traces of the ship. We erased the technology from every computer, every slip of paper. Everything.”
“The Center is the only place where any evidence of that technology still exist; and I have been the sole keeper of this knowledge…”
He sat down in one of the more comfortable chairs in Foley’s living room and took a long gulp of his drink before continuing. He inhaled deeply and began to recount the tale of the Earth Ship Exeter.