The Fringes of the Universe Prequel Chapter Five

Their further appoints, of which they were never late for, took two months. Jutel spent two months of her life sitting, or standing, in silence as Mal took control. He spent all of his free time reading up on protocols so that they wouldn’t do anything that set them back. Everything relied on him sometimes knowing a random obscure, no longer used, rule that only applied to their certain situation and their certain planet. It was mind numbingly dull but could become nail-bitingly tedious.

Feeling useless Jutel just did her best to not screw anything up. Often times Mal was able to warn her what was going to come next, but not always. She’d tried to read the same information he did, but it just wouldn’t stick with her. She didn’t care about certain levels or bows or saying words in a particular order, or offering tokens. She just wanted to clear her planets reputation in the universe.

The process had started out with Madam Secretary Liticik, then moved to Master Secretary Grjik, then on to five other secretaries. Today they were meeting Madam Viceroy Calio. She would be the first Viceroy and they both hoped that it signaled the end was near.

It wasn’t.

Not even close.

How was it possible that this level of bureaucracy could be achieved? Just when they thought they were starting to make headway, just when they’d convinced someone that their request had merit and they had the proof required to clear the Nian name, they would get transferred to someone else. It was exhausting, for both of them, and on more than one occasion they talked about giving up, but that wasn’t in their nature. If anything it was starting to make Jutel paranoid, which is why she ended up saying what she did.

It was now a year since they’d started and they were currently in the largest office they’d been in, which wasn’t actually very large. It did have a window which taunted them with a glorious sunny day. The man sitting across from them was an alien species that Jutel wasn’t familiar with, he was humanoid, his eyes were very large and he had a small nose. He had a very pompous air and somehow looked down his tiny nose at them. Everything about him and the situation was rubbing Jutel the wrong way.

“Malikina of Nian I see that you have been working with several of my colleagues, a year now is that correct?”

“Yes, Master Duke Haloriugh that is correct.”

Jutel didn’t say anything and Duke Haloriugh barely even glanced her way before saying, “We will, of course, be throwing away all of that information already gathered. I am a Master Duke and as such my findings trump everyone you’ve already spoken too. What you’re asking to do is very complicated. Your planet, Nian, is currently listed in neutral standing with the UUAC, that’s a normal standing for most planets with your current population. However, what makes your situation unique is that your planet was one of the original founding planets.

“We’re just getting started with this process and we’ll need to have many conversations and exchanges as the process continues. It is also possible that this situation will require escalation to an even higher authority.”

He paused and Jutel would realize later it wasn’t so that they could respond.

“Are you telling me that after a year, an entire year mind you, of mindless meetings and dead-end conversations we’re still no closer? You can just throw out everything and start it all over again?”

Duke Haloriugh actually smiled at her, as though he were rewarding her for being clever, while she just wanted to rip his face off. Thoughts of violence had started coming to her more and more frequently the longer they’d gone through this process. Normally it would trouble her, but it had become oddly comforting, which was the last thing a Nian should think.

“Exactly Jutel of Nian. You grasp the situation perfectly. I’m surprised I was told that you were not intelligent. You are part of the warrior class, correct?”

Mal shot her a worried glance and she gritted her teeth before answering, “My profession is warrior, but that does not distinguish a different class on Nian, just a different career branch.”

Before she could continue and tell the duke exactly what she could do to him as a Nian warrior Mal stood up, dropped a quick bow, and said, “What my colleague is trying to ask is if there would be any way possible to have a more definite time frame on how long it will take to reach a conclusion to this process. We, of course, mean no disrespect, but I have been unable to find a timeline to fit our situation and from what I can tell resolutions have been known to take anywhere from a few months to many years. If we could possibly be given a finish line to work toward I’m sure Jutel and myself would be able to work more efficiently.”

A look came across the duke’s face, almost like he had just scored a major victory, but neither Nian knew what. “Of course, I understand. Many people working with the United Universe Aid Coalition find it difficult to get used to how we accomplish our objectives. The Nian home world situation is complicated, quite possibly the most complicated issue we’ve ever come across, because of that I could only guess at a date for possible conclusion.”

His hesitation was clearly staged and the pupils of his large eyes dilated when he finally gave them a date that was over two decades in the future.

A curse almost made its way past Jutel’s lips and she turned away from the duke so he couldn’t see the murder in her eyes.  Mal’s shoulders visibly sagged for a moment before he said, “Of course, we understand that this situation is unique. Is there anything that we could do to speed up the process?”

A strong scent filled the room as the duke stood up. His hands jerked around for a moment Mal thought that he’d said something very wrong, but it quickly became apparent that was not the case.

“I am so happy to hear how eager you are Malikina of Nian to regain your planet’s standing in the United Universe Aid Coalition. In fact, there is a way to expedite the process. There are certain tasks that unfortunately our own members in full standing are not able to accomplish, either due to unavailability or the risk has been deemed too high. Of course, you wouldn’t have to complete a dangerous task, not at all, but the Coalition looks favorably on those that so clearly want to increase their standing.”

Jutel’s eyes narrowed, there had to be a catch. Why had it taken them a year to hear of this? The duke, whatever his name was, seemed excited and she was pretty sure the smell that was filling the room was coming from him, some species emitted different odors when they were feeling strong emotions, but why would this suddenly new option excite him? Uneasy she reached out to tug on Mal’s sleeve, to signal to him not to agree to anything until they’d researched, but she wasn’t fast enough.

Bowing just low enough Mal said, “We humbly accept this new option. Whatever we can do to signal to you and the United Universe Aid Coalition that we are serious about our goal we appreciate.”

A noise almost like a giggle came from the duke and Jutel’s eyes closed and a sigh escaped her lips. She knew things had just gotten so much worse.