"Prepare all platoons for atmospheric deployment by assault shuttle. I suspect the mimetic hunter is no more, but even so we may be able to recover invaluable data. Your orders are twofold. Neutralize agents of this witch that has betrayed the trust of the code of trade and find Linus Guthry. I would like him alive."

"What of the humans, sir? If we incite panic we do not have sufficient strength to restore order."

"Kill any that stand in your way Axion. These primitive beasts are soft and stupid, a fact that the former ambassador seemed reluctant to admit. If chaos erupts then it can consume this world for all I care, just find Guthry and destroy this troublesome human female."

Axion lifted his clenched gauntlet to the side of his helmet in a martial salute and then turned smartly and marched from the raised command platform. Maximillian watched the door to the lift close behind the sub-commander and then returned his attention to the slowly spinning sphere of the earth.

"Now," he intoned with some relish, "get me this bitch on a communications channel. I want to see her squirm."

***************

The bowl was filled with half a dozen kinds of chilled and sliced fruit, each exotic and half of them man-made by the adepts of the commercial genetics ministry. Next to this bowl was a platter of scrambled ostrich eggs, lightly dusted with salt and herbs. Raylene held a piece of thick raisin toast, a bit of plumegranate jelly oozing off its crusty surface as she read the morning's newspaper. Her hair was up in curlers and her face was covered with a thick pastel green paste that was scientifically proven to rejuvenate dead cells.

The newspaper was not particularly pleasant to read, although it allowed her to take the annoying squealing of the only half-leashed press at her own pace. Television news was far too abrasive for this early in the morning, and she knew all of the top stories would involve the New World Order in one form or another.

"President Clark blah blah blah." She flipped the paper over.

"Aerial photos from devastated Guatemala." Page 2-B.

"North Korea blamed in nuke fiasco." Page 3-A

"Beckham to wed potted-"

The communication panel came alive with a whoosh and startled her. She dropped the toast and wiped her mouth with a silk napkin, careful not to smear the green rejuvenating paste.

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