Diamond Star
wall, with his boots underneath. Oh, well.
    He found the bathing room and let mists in the shower cleanse his body and hair. Soothing jets of warm air dried him off. Back in the bedroom, he dressed languidly, feeling lazy and restless at the same time. He thought about Ricki, the way she smiled, her husky laugh, the temptress under that soft exterior.
    Del wandered into the room where they had shared drinks last night. In the daylight, Washington hummed below the tower, a city of arches, glossy skyscrapers, and soaring flycar traffic. All the taller structures were new, built since the ban on height had been lifted. From up here, no trace showed of the grit or aged buildings he had seen during his ride from the airport to Annapolis. That had been after Allied Space Command had taken him away from the Scandinavian base where they were keeping the rest of his family. He was supposedly an honored guest here. Right. He wasn't nearly so naive as they believed. They had separated him from his family because he was the youngest member, the one they thought most likely to slip up and reveal useful information.
    His stomach rumbled. The room had nothing in it except the table where he and Ricki had sat and a blue console against one wall. Maybe it was empty so a couple could dance in the light of the nighttime city. Very romantic. No food, though.
    Del went to the table. He had no idea how to call Jack, or whoever was on duty, so he just tapped the mesh. "Hello?"
    A man's voice came out of the comm. "Good morning, Mister Valdoria."
    "Uh, good morning." Del thought the voice belonged to a human, but he couldn't be sure. "I was wondering if I could get some breakfast." He had to admit, nothing could compare to the morning meals people ate here on Earth.
    "What would you like?" the man said.
    "Do you have pancakes?"
    "Certainly, sir. Anything you would like."
    Del wondered if they really could bring him anything. "How about pancakes with raspberry syrup, scrambled eggs, two sausages, hash browns, orange juice, and coffee with Antares cream extract."
    "I'll have it sent up right away."
    Del grinned. "Great." He could get used to this. The Star Tower might not have the opulence of his family's palaces, but he liked its modern sleekness. He didn't feel lacking here, either, the way he did around his family. No one knew anything about him; he was just Ricki's enigmatic guest.
    While Del waited for breakfast, he wandered over to the blue console. "Hello?" he said.
    A female voice answered, rich and beautifully modulated. "Hello. What can I do for you?"
    "Are you the EI for this suite?"
    "Yes, I am," she purred. "My name is Aphrodite."
    Strange name. She had a gorgeous voice, though. "Aphrodite, can you connect me to an offworld communications mesh?"
    "Certainly, Mister Valdoria. I'll just need your Prime-Nova security codes."
    "I don't have any."
    "I'm terribly sorry." She sounded like she really meant it. "I can't link you in without the codes."
    Oh, well. She might sound a lot sexier than the EIs at the base, but she said the same things. "Can I check my mesh-mail from here? My account is local."
    "Certainly, sir."
    A flat screen on the console rippled with gold light, and a holo of the Prime-Nova lobby formed above it. The double doors swung invitingly open to the outside. Nice. This probably wasn't a live image of the Prime-Nova building, though. To send it live would require lasers there to scan the lobby and screens here to create the holo, and using that much bandwidth just to enter a mail server would be silly.
    After Del gave Aphrodite his codes, the view changed to the guitar case he used to represent his mesh-mail. Nothing interesting greeted him in his account, just some spamoozala that had escaped the junk sentinels. After he washed it down the drain, however, he discovered a message from Mac.
    "Play Tyler one," Del said.
    Mac's agitated voice rose into the air. "Del, comm me at my office as soon as you get this."
    Del's pulse

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