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white lie coverGreyling finally reveals the purpose of their assignment is to go after a crazy dictator named Aurialonus on a small, insignificant planet that they’ve never heard of. He’s taken the royal family captive and intends to murder the members of the family if no one complies with his demands.

“So what do you want from the four of us?” Wil wanted information and now. He was a man of immediate and direct action. If there was a job, he wanted to get started on it yesterday.

“You will be going in and freeing the royal family, and putting Aurialonus to the sword,” she said dramatically.

“Wait a damn second,” Wil stood, leaning over Greyling’s desk. “You want the four of us, one of whom is a semi-invalid, to take out Aurialonus and his band of merry lunatics? Those people are religious fanatics, Elise. They think that Aurialonus is a god and that he and Jesus do lunch! I like playing the odds, baby, but not that long.”

Running a strong hand through his unruly brown, wavy hair, he began to pace. Greyling said nothing, watching him.

“I never said it was just you four, Wil. You are making an assumption.”

“Maybe it was the way you said it, Admiral, but it sounded like that’s what you were telling us,” Penny tried to smooth over the troubled waters which churned between Wil and Greyling.

“An error, I assure you. There will be a team of your choosing, Colonel. Drexel and Schmidt have talents key to an operation of this nature.” The look she gave him was long and full of meaning.

Wil, feeling contrary, broke his own unofficial rule of silence. “You mean, since we’re all genetic freaks, you need us on this mission. Can’t get the normals to do it, huh?”

Greyling’s eyelids fluttered and she blanched. “They would be unable to perform up to standard, Colonel.”

“What about Penny?”

Greyling said nothing. Wil felt a cold finger of doubt run up his backbone and linger at the base of his skull. The hackles on his neck began to rise, they were never wrong.

“What about Penny?” Greyling said sweetly. Her smile was forced.

Penny was looking at her toes, saying nothing. A loud silence resonated around them like a gong.

“You mean?” Wil was flabbergasted.

“I’m a genetic freak too, Wil,” Penny said softly, still staring at her toes. “Maybe not as much as you three,” she added, looking at him for the first time. “Yes, I’ve seen some of the files, Admiral Greyling showed me.”

“Not even I am able to access everything about you,” Greyling sounded disgusted as if it were a personal affront. “But enough to know you’re the ones I need here. Penny has some talents you’ll find helpful. The files will be made available to you, Colonel. You must know what your team is capable of.”

Wil nodded, still stunned by the news about Penny. He’d had no idea there was anything different about her. He had always thought he’d be able to tell, like he had with Ben and Ray, but realized that was gleaned after having worked closely with them for weeks preparing for their mission. His observation of Penny in action had been of a completely different nature.

“How many more do I have at my disposal, Admiral?”

“The team must be as unobtrusive as possible, Wil. No more than ten, preferably less.”

Wil spun on his heel, glaring at Greyling. “Have you any idea what you’re asking?”

“I am asking the next to impossible task of putting down a rebellion nearly single handedly. I know it won’t be easy…”

“There’s an understatement,” Ben contributed sotto voce. The others looked at him inquiringly. “Well, it is. There are hundreds of religious fanatics guarding a royal family who has denigrated and subjugated their people for centuries. And we’re supposed to waltz in there, release them and put down a rebellion? Really, Admiral, we’re good, but are we that good?”

“You have to be, Lieutenant Commander.”

Ben blinked, she had just raised his rank from Lieutenant. Noticing his surprise, she smiled. “I have included analysis of Aurialonus done by an expert in aberrant psychological conditions, with an emphasis in megalomaniacal psychosis.”

“That’s a mouthful I’d not want to repeat,” Ray quipped, winking at the Admiral.

Greyling smirked, a chuckle escaping her lips. “Well, it took a little practice to get it right.” Her demeanor changed abruptly as she went back to business. “The intel information will be available to you and your team, Colonel. I have taken the liberty of including names of possible team members broken down by specialty. I fear it’s a rather short list,” she added quietly.

They chatted a few minutes more, but Greyling could see Wil was anxious to get started. She dismissed them and ordered them to start right away, as if Wil would wait for her permission. She smiled wistfully. Was it really over forty years that she and Wil had known one another? She could still feel the touch of his lips, his hands caressing her. It had been years since she had felt a lover’s touch, but a woman in her position couldn’t really afford to let anyone too close. Love made one vulnerable.

Maybe, for old time’s sake, just once… but she set the thought aside. He wanted a younger woman than she, still vibrant, buxom, not some washed up old crone whose breasts sagged. Perhaps once this was over, but she knew that was impossible, too. If all went as anticipated, this would be Wil’s last mission.

It would be a shame to lose Penny, for she had been the best aid Greyling had ever had. But word had come down from the Council, the unofficial power behind galactic government, that the super soldiers were to be weeded out, gleaned, put to the harrow.

©2015 Dellani Oakes

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