‘Master?’ The courier bowed low into the room and remained with his unreadable gaze fixed on the ornate marble flagstones of the floor.
The tall figure, its already above average height greatly increased by the tall base-gold and gem-encrusted headpiece, nodded in vague recognition but did not turn around.
‘The Qap’t delegation is here, Master.’ The stooped figure reversed from the room, bowing the full length of the furniture-poor but furnishing-rich space.
Shira was alone again, for a few precious moments, to collect her thoughts and prepare for this meeting. She didn’t like the Qap’t, didn’t like their ways or their intentions. And yet they were powerful and she did need their influence, not to mention their weapons, to quell the rebellion in the southern districts.
Shira arranged her ceremonial robes around her and mounted the dias to her security enabled throne, a personally configured forceshield emanating from its podium, and sat, carefully, down. The robes were bad enough, heavy and unwieldy even if they did provide full body armour, but the headpiece was something else. The overly elaborate design disguised weighty mindshield technology that was still in the early stages of development. Shira’s chief scientist was remarkably proud of this infuriating prototype which buzzed slightly though only Shira could hear the steady hum of the motor.
This meeting would be its first live test.
The double doors at the far end of the throne room swung smoothly open and Shira composed herself behind a mask of calm reflection and serene intent.
Qap’t dignitaries were famed for their lack of acknowledgement of local common courtesy and for this reason the half dozen members of the delegation had not bothered with clothing for this visit. Shira could instantly see that these visitors were of the highest order of the Qap’t meritocracy as no shred of rag covered any part of their obscure skin.
It was not pleasant to see creatures with opaquely gelatinous outers which revealed grotesque and active internal organs striding quickly towards one, especially as the four hands of each Qap’t were all busy manipulating various limbs and layers of body fat in order to portray a vision of intense movement and nausea inducing clinical lucidity.
Shira smiled and nodded majestically at her guests and motioned them to the specially adapted couches that formed a neatly semi-circular audience around her feet.
The Qap’t ignored the couches and remained standing, forming instead a straight line of confrontation. Both sides remained silent for what seemed to the watching officials to be hours of negotiated one-upmanship. It was probably only minutes, maybe even seconds. To Shira it felt like an eternity as she struggled hard to keep her mind clear and positive – just in case the fledgling technology could not protect her from the telepathic intentions of her supposedly friendly guests.
A shiver ran up and down Shira’s spine and she could feel prickles of sweat popping out over her back and deep in the folds of her armpits. This was going to go wrong, she could see that now, the delegation had a plan that did not fit with her own.