Ambassador Iphigenia looked at the assemblage; Administrator Horton, bruised on one eye where the troops had knocked him about with a rifle butt, and High Xiphos Ovyavu, with his mating tentacle hanging broken and useless at his side.

“I’m not telling Ovyavu anything it doesn’t already know, but when he offered me up as a mediator and communicator between your two peoples, that was a ruse. I was a spy, pure and simple, feeding it information.”

“I knew it,” Horton said between clenched, bloody teeth. “They can engineer you to look as human as they like, but you’re still a bloody alien being. We never told you anything useful, Ovyavu, I hope you know that. Misinformation was all you got, and this betrayal is your reward.”

Iphigenia smiled. It looked a human smile, playing across a face that was that of a beautiful woman in everything but its distinctly teal hue, but the muscle groups and support structure behind it were completely different. “That’s why they gave me the gift of reading thoughts, Mr. Horton,” she said.

Horton scoffed. “Nonsense.”

“And yes, I know your wife always privately thought you and I might be involved,” Iphigenia said. “You can tell her that nothing was further from the truth. Thanks to Ovyavu, I find both your kinds equally repulsive.”

Horton gasped. Ovyavu, for its part, expelled a frothy mass of bubbles from its orifice–the ob’Thu equivalent of laughter. “Is it really a weakness to succeed too well?” it said. “If we had not also nurtured a rather human penchant for betrayal in this thing, the attack would have been completely successful.”

“Perhaps,” Iphigenia said. “But then, I always saved the best pieces of information for myself.”

“The data download made such a thing impossible!” Ovyavu burbled. “We knew all.”

“In making me neither fish nor fowl, neither ob’Thu nor human, you guaranteed the existence of thoughts so alien that half of them were incomprehensible,” Iphigenia laughed.

She nodded at both of them. “Think about your many sins, my friends, in your cells as you await execution. In the meantime, I have two colonies to rescue from the brink of self-destruction at your meddlesome hands, and a new empire to forge with myself at the head.” She tapped one temple, delicately. “Perhaps I’ll start by making a mate.”

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