“Lieutenant Zeke, this way please.” Lampré didn’t walk, didn’t fly, but rather glided.

“Master Ji will see you in his private chambers. He’s expecting you.”

Zeke drew a slow steady deep breath. Letting the air out at a slightly faster nervous cadence, he stepped into Ji’s private quarters. Immediately his mind felt like mush, time seemed warped, and his thoughts slowed. His eyes took in light in the dimly lit room, yet even light seemed to move at a different tempo. An unusual lightness lifted his body as if Ji’s room operated at a different gravity than the rest of the ship. Zeke felt like a Hynerian who had checked his wits at the cloak room. He had them but they weren’t here now.

“At ease Lieutenant.” Words registered. Ji had spoken. Body failed to respond. Then laughter. Ji could manifest as either body or spirit, and preferred his spirit form whenever possible. Invisible to the normal eye, Ji employed an ocular oscillator so that others could visually interact with him.

“Sorry Master Ji. I . . .” and then nothing. Zeke felt like his vocal cords were frozen. More laughter. Ji always seemed to know how to break the tension. “Everyone reacts the same the first time they use the ocular Zeke.”

“Our time is short and there is little to say,” laughed Ji. “No need to speak my son, I know your mind and I know your heart. If I didn’t have faith that both were exactly where they needed to be, you would not have been invited on this mission.”

“Javalina Destroyer’s will attack before we will arrive. The planet is lost but our objective is to save the Zaels we can and bring them back to Hyneria. For you, my friend, this mission has a different purpose. You will see things your eyes have never seen before. Your heart will feel vibrations and tremors of terror new and alien to anything you have felt before.”

“The days ahead Lieutenant determine where you go from here within the order. First contact has a way of blunting growth. The heart grows callused in some, and a callused heart becomes dull with anger and bitterness.”

“Watch your heart. Let it grow not in revenge, not in justification, but let it expand in compassion for our adversary. Hate begets hate. Watch your heart. Cultivate love and compassion. Only love is truth and only truth conquers. Zing Tao, Lieutenant. Prepare yourself. Much is expected. Much you will do. Dismissed.”

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