At the Palace of Liberation, the First – the ühn•ki – of the Legion of Red and Black was seated at ease behind his desk studying a document his assistant had just handed him. Feeling far better than he’d felt in years, the ühn•ki reread the brief message – an intercept from one of his sh’ônfenn operatives.
The window of his office was open and a light breeze stirred the paper in his hand. From outside he could hear the murmurous splashing of water in the fountain in the plaza far below. Occasionally his ears caught the snapping sound of one of the two large flags flying over the building. In his mind he could picture the two golden snakes intertwined on a field of red gently riding the wind; they reminded the citizens of Küronas that here, in this place, the sh’ônfenn conducted its daily business. After a few minutes of silence he looked up at Arlat, his personal secretary who’d been patiently standing in front of his desk.
“What are the latest reports from Eagles Rock?” The ühn•ki’s eyes met those of his assistant.
“Everything is progressing according to schedule, noble leader,” the young man replied.
“And there are no problems in completing the work, Arlat?”
“None, noble leader. May I say, when the plan was first proposed I was worried about our ability to keep it clandestine, but so far everything remains hidden.”
“That’s because we have many like-minded friends there.” The ühn•ki sat back in his chair as the slightest glimmer of a smile hovered about his lips. “But what about Ajax Prime? I know there are no reports, since any documentation could compromise our plans.”
“As you know, ühn•ki, information is hard to come by – that was by your own design,” Arlat replied.
“I don’t need to be reminded,” the ühn•ki nodded. “Just some indication would be fine. At this point, we can’t afford any careless mistakes.”
“I will discretely inquire and inform you, noble leader.”
The ühn•ki then rustled the sheet of paper in his hand. “How old is this information, Arlat?” he asked, laying the paper on his desk and tapping it with his finger.
“It was just intercepted, ühn•ki,” Arlat replied, and then “Your orders?”
“No orders, Arlat. You’ve brought it to my attention. That’s sufficient, although I do find it fascinating. He’s created a code using prime numbers – at least that’s what it looks like.”
“Do you wish it to be decoded?”
“No Arlat, I already have a good idea what it contains. There’s no reason for us to waste precious time on it. There are far too many other things we must accomplish, and I fear our time grows short. Just allow it to go through the proper channels.”
“Would you like to be notified if the command is implemented and the Imperial printing office actually prints the book?” The ühn•ki’s assistant was a bit puzzled by his superior’s blasé reaction.
“No, it won’t be necessary.” Once more, the ühn•ki tapped the papers in front of him. “The boy is clever; it’s something I wish I’d thought of, but now that he has, I think we’ll let him go through with it if he decides to act.”
“Then if there’s nothing else, ühn•ki, I’ll leave you.” Arlat turned, intending to walk to the door.
“Wait,” the ühn•ki called out just before Arlat left the room. The young man quickly turned, the feathers of his red and black tipped wings fluttering slightly. “I’d like to make one change, possibly two, as long as we can hide them.”
“Yes, ühn•ki?” Arlat turned and took a few steps toward his superior’s desk. “What would you have me do?”
The ühn•ki then explained his wishes in great detail.
“It will be done,” Arlat bowed, and turned to leave.
“And two more things, Arlat,” the ühn•ki said. “First, it looks like he kept all the standard defaults set by the printing office, which means that a copy will be sent to the Library of Donas at Eagles Rock. We’ll keep that option in place. Second, that copy should have a plain hard cover enclosed in a dust jacket – something that can easily be removed.”
“Any design on the dust jacket?” the young sh’ônfenn legionnaire inquired.
“Oh, I think something simple,” the ühn•ki said, pausing a few minutes to think. Once more hearing the flags atop the building flapping in the breeze, he smiled. “I think plain red with two golden, intertwining snakes would look nice, and below them my name and title.”
“As you wish, ühn•ki,” Arlat gave his superior a low bow. As he rose, a flash of remembrance gleamed in the young Avionnes eye. “Please remember, ühn•ki, that you have a meeting at the palace this afternoon.”
“I remember, Arlat, but thank you for the reminder” the ühn•ki smiled knowingly. “They want a briefing on the preparations at Eagles Rock. I'll tell them that it’s all in place, but I don't believe I'll include a report on the special private arrangements we’ve made.”
“Then if there’s nothing else, Noble Leader?” the young man raised an eyebrow in anticipation, awaiting a reply.
“No, nothing more, Arlat. You have my leave; go and continue your work.” The ühn•ki turned back to the papers on his desk.
After giving his master one final bow, Arlat absented himself from the ühn•ki’s presence.
For a few moments the ühn•ki studied the papers spread out before him. Finally, he shook his head and slowly leaned back in his seat. A sudden gust of wind lifted the papers from his desktop and sent them flying across the room. Would that everything could be handled so simply, he thought as a soft smile came to his face.