Nova dressed in formal clothes, brushed through his hair and fur hurriedly in an effort to look presentable, and then accompanied William to Sector 40's Civil Affairs office.
Rather than an office, it was instead a fairly rich looking mansion in the off-planet Starka Moyar style.
He wasn't sure whether to comment on it as pretentious or not; it all looked expensive, but there was something very pointed about the fact that his exiled brother had adopted the Moyar custom over the Storam.
" There's a lot of beaded curtains in here, huh," William remarked as they walked down the entry hall.
" Moyars pride themselves on their glass," Nova remarked absently.
" Mm," William acknowledged. " It's quite different from the palace in Sturm."
" Yes," Nova said.
" Your brother, then; he'll be quite different too, then?" William asked.
" Insufferably so," Nova remarked.
They came to a large door with a bas relief mural of countless intertwined birds, each a different color and material. William observed it for a moment, before settling his hand on the glass handle and opening it.
" Insufferably," Nova affirmed dryly.
The room was large, glittering with various ornaments, a rug across the floor, and choked with a heavy smoke that smelled faintly of mint. It was also full of cats. Many cats. Nova folded his arms with a little sound of disapproval.
" Heyy, you finally got here!" A man stood from up behind a cluttered desk at the top of a short flight of stairs, setting what looked like a rolled cigarette down in an ashtray. A cat that had jumped down from his lap flicked its ear before padding to the beaded curtain behind him.
He began to walk down the stairs, his stride long and relaxed.
" Brother," Nova acknowledged him with one word. He seemed a bit hackled.
" Oh, is that all you have to say? We haven't seen each other in ten- no, twenty, that's the DASS standard- twenty years, man," his older brother said, stopping in front of him and clapping a hand on his shoulder.
" We have not," Nova said, a look on his face like he'd really rather step away.
" And this is the uhhh... The little human thing you've got carting you around, huh?" the older man said, leaning over to look at William. " Mistleton? Massey?"
" I'm the Commodore General William Masterson," William answered cheerily, not moving from where he stood, but smiling brightly. " I command Sector 30's flagship Theologica."
" Yeah? I heard that's the one that got rebuilt from their Technologica, isn't it?" he replied, slouching casually.
" You're well-informed," William evaluated.
" When it comes to these sorta things, I kinda gotta be in the know," he said.
" Redlin!" a woman's voice called out, thin, and William saw the beaded curtain move. " Are they here yet? I'm not done getting ready-"
" Yeah, they are," he yelled over his shoulder.
A woman that might be considered petite for Starka stepped out, fiddling with something by her ear; she had long, calico hair.
" Help me with my earring," she complained.
" Yeah, yeah," Redlin said, and without much fanfare he hurried back up the stairs and helped her clip the jewelry on.
" It's like this-"
" No, baby, this-"
" Oh, right-"
Nova was so tense he felt like he was made of stone, and even William seemed a little put off by how the two Starka at the top of the stairs were fumbling over something so simple.
A grey cat brushed against his leg and purred loudly; he tried not to let any outward irritation show on his face.
Redlin turned to them again, and made a grand, sweeping gesture.
" This is! My beloved wife and raeli! Ulgir!" he announced. She smiled at them, and did a little wave.
" I help with civil research grants, so my office is the one behind his," she said.
" Isn't she the cutest?" he added.
" Oh, honey, you're embarrassing me..."
William cleared his throat a bit.
" So I heard you called for some sort of official business?" he asked.
Redlin sat himself back down in his pillowy chair, folding his legs and patting his thigh. Nova felt an indescribable terror that his wife sat on his lap in front of guests.
William climbed the stairs as Redlin relit his rolled cigarette, and Nova found he had no choice but to follow him; it was better than standing rooted to the spot.
" Right, right," he said, taking a drag and passing it to Ulgir.
" What may that be, exactly?" William inquired.
" It's some kind of complicated shi- well, Ulgir knows more, it's about her niece," Redlin said.
Ulgir nodded, petting a cat that had jumped on the desk.
" My niece, she still lives in Imperial territory," she said. " She got arrested last month, and they... They put a death penalty on her!"
Nova was a bit taken aback.
" What did she do?" he asked. " With both my changes to law and post-DASS restructuring, the courts should be far more lenient."
" Wellllll, that's the complicated part," Redlin answered. " It's some kind of political sh- stuff, see? Since Diurn's in charge of that planet, and he still f- hates me, he's gone and put her on some kind of messed up false charges, and he keeps denying the extradition orders I've been sending over, and it's a wreck."
Ulgir lightly pinched his arm every time he began to curse.
" So you're attempting to involve me in petty sibling squabbles?" Nova asked stiffly.
Redlin kind of gave him a look.
" Well I mean- you're with the DASS now, right?" he asked. This seemed to be some sort of veiled assessment of character.
" I'm on a goodwill tour. Of ambassadorship," Nova answered, avoiding direct statement.
" What exactly were the charges?" William asked. He had that terrible look in his eyes like he was interested in the affair. Nova really wished he wasn't.
Ulgir leaned forward.
" Well, see, it's crazy! Crazy serious stuff! You see, my niece... She's in training to be a doctor, right? But Lyewa-Diurn had her locked up for- Ohh, Moa, how to say this?" she lowered her voice. " He said she was experimenting on corpses!"
" And do you have proof she did not?" Nova asked, voice cold.
" She's a medical prodigy, she's nearly graduated to become a doctor, why would she do such a thing? Especially so close to earning her license? She's been framed," Ulgir complained. " Because Diurn doesn't like me or Redlin. He's been threatening my family ever since he lost the uh- the other Lyewa, with you. He's looking for people to kick around."
" That's not a convincing reason," Nova said. " You've dragged us across this many sectors of space for something like this?"
" It's interesting," William said. " If you could send us more information, we'll handle the matter."
" W- Masterson!" Nova said sharply, a bit taken aback by his declaration of interest.
" Ohhh, would you? Can you really convince Lyena to pardon her?" Ulgir asked, petting yet another cat.
" I have my methods," William replied cheerily.