... It wasn't as though they threw rotten fruit, or anything cartoonish like that, but Nova felt immediately that his reception was not a warm welcome.

" Commodore General William Masterson."

There was a human woman, hopelessly severe, older looking; she had a very cold expression on her face.

" Admiral Rosenthal," William said in turn, smiling. " It's been a while! How are you?"

" I've been keeping well," she responded stiffly. " I wasn't aware that the cultural ambassador was their crown prince."

" Oh, yes, but he's really progressive-minded, you know? He's no problem to be around at all," William assured. She continued to hold a stony expression.

" How long will you be staying?" she asked.

" Oh, about another two weeks or so. Theologica needs engine maintenance and some software updates," he said. " Higher level personnel will be at the Servene, if you need us."

" Stay on base," Rosenthal said. " There have been anti-DASS demonstrations since the repeal of the Silurian Agricultural Act's third amendment. Stheno Corporation is holding a board meeting about moving to Lerananda-3 and they've received several bomb threats."

... It made sense that there would be public disturbance in the heart of DASS territory, but it was still useful information. Rosenthal looked over at him.

" You. Starka. I can see that you're filing that information away for later," she said harshly.

" So what if I am, Admiral? I'm stepping into this social climate, after all," he replied.

" Hey, now, Nova, don't be so harsh! Admiral Rosenthal, he means nothing by it, you know? He's just on edge. Who wouldn't be?" William chided lightly, still smiling as though it was all in good sport.

" I don't know what Dawson sees in you," Rosenthal deadpanned. " Carry on playing peace while you find it convenient to do so. I'll be attending to more important work."

She swiveled, cape flowing, and walked away.