Ambassador X looked at the chessboard. The robot had played well and would likely checkmate him within a dozen moves or so. The Ambassador had learned a lot from the play. The progons had never played chess but learned it quickly. Neither one of those things was a surprise. The real reason X had asked to play was to determine who controlled the robot. The style of play shifted just enough, especially in the early moves, that he was fairly certain the robot was occasionally inhabited by a Progon, maybe two different ones.

That was not usual. Progons almost never inhabited machines in front of non-Progons, and when they did, they occupied massive ceremonial machines designed to intimidate and insure their security.

The idea that they would build a humanoid machine and then inhabit it to spy on X was extraordinary.

That’s why he was walking. At least that’s what he told himself. He acted like a typical diplomat going a little insane in the isolation the Progons enforced on all visiting ambassadors. It was their gambit and security. No diplomat could meet with another to exchange information. No diplomat was made to feel comfortable enough that they would want to stay, insuring frequent turnover.

Ambassador X was chosen for his resistance to this. He would stay until he discovered the truth of the Progons secret war. The Progons seemed to encourage this by providing himself more familiarity and entertainment than any other diplomat he had ever heard of. So he decided to push it. He would act like he was succumbing to the pressures of isolation anyway. He would wander off his allowed walk, and if confronted rant about needing to see something new. He told himsefl it wasn’t true. But the act seemed very easy to pull off.

The insanity was closer to the surface than Ambassador X would like to allow.

The surface of Tiel was an endless march of square metal buildings. His plan was to get lost. That was easy too. Enforcer drones would fly to intercept him but they would not harm him. The Progons respcted diplomatic immunity that much at least. They would only use force if he tried to do something damaging or threatening. Wandering off the prescribed path was against the rules but not cause for use of force. It was only grounds for immediate expulsion. So this better pay off.

Getting lost was just as easy as acting insane. He really was lost. He could bee two feet from his own metal box or several clicks from it. The drones followed at a polite distance repeating their broadcast to turn around and return to quarters. That implied that he was headed away from his quarters anyway. So he trudged on ranting.

“Sky! You know,” he screamed. “I need sky! You don’t understand my needs. This place is a deathlake A treason. Why did they put me here? Why did I agree?!?”

“Ambassador X. PLease calm down, turn around, and return to quarters. You are off the prescribed path and in violation of the terms of your acceptance.”

The humanoid robot appeared from behind and began a new tactic, interrupting the Ambassador’s ranting with a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Please don’t do this. We don’t wish any ill towards you. We must do what is best.”

The chess game had not only taught him when a different mind controlled the machine, but how that machine’s communication changed. It was controlled by a Progon now. It was uncharacteristically pleading.

The Ambassador stumbled on. As he reached another intersection, a change in the pattern occurred. A metal building blocked his path out of the pattern. He began to walk around it. The robot blocked him. The drones stopped their announcements.

“No,” it said.

“Why?!?” the Ambassador screamed still in his ranting voice, but meaning it.

“We thought you would cooperate. We meant to bring some peace through you.”

The Ambassador stopped his rant. “Some?”

“The war must happen. Must stay happened. It cannot be subverted. It must not. But through you we can limit the damage. Prevent the total destruction your people would otherwise bring.”

The Ambassador walked around the building anyway.


On the other side of the metal box were trees and a stream and green.

The Ambassador turned to look at the robot.

“What is this?”

“It would have been your home.”

“My home?”

“After your mission. To save the universe.”

“You presume so much.”

“Because we know it is you that will end this. And we know you will decide if the Progons continue We must continue.”

The robot engaged a weapon.

“If I’m your only chance of salvation, you’d best not eliminate me.”

“We cannot, but we must expel you. We will try again in an earlier time.”

“Good luck with that,’ Ambassador X said. The Verity hovered above and landed on automatic.

“You have disappointed us greatly. But remember, for you we may have mercy, for the Alendans none.”

“Worth remembering,” said the Ambassador. Then he climbed in his small box of a ship and took off.

He fed coordinates in spacetime to Verity. The ship informed him it was a conjunction point. A coordinate in which events were locked and could not be experienced in alternate threads or have mainlines diverted.

“I’m counting on it,” the Ambassador said. “Also tender my resignation with the Allendan council. I’m going back to being a simple PIlot for awhile.”

The Verity complied submitting the request from Pilot X.