Chief Ambassador Carillion of the Gjigantrox Interstellar Empire stared out the viewport at the planet Orbispira, capital of the United Republic of Cyrannus. He was in his quarters aboard the Diplomat, a small yacht that he'd chosen to transport him to Orbispira, where he would be meeting with President Apollo. They would be discussing the state of the war and how the Gjigantrox fleets assaulting the Confederacy of Allied Systems colonies in Cyrannus could best be used. Carillion was looking forward to the meeting. He'd met with Apollo on several other occasions, and was familiar enough with the President to know that he liked and respected him. He was hoping that this visit would go off well, and that it would improve relations between the GIE and the URC, as well as between himself and Apollo.
A short while later, Carillion was stepping out of an elevator onto the top floor of the Republica building. He glanced around, spotted a map of the top floor, examined it, and set off for President Apollo's office.
He got lost twice along the way, but eventually he found the door to the President's office. A guard stood on either side of the door.
"I'm Chief Ambassador Carillion," he said to them. "I'm here to see the President."
After verifying his identity with fingerprints and three retinal scans (one for each eye), one of the guards pressed a button on his comlink and spoke into it.
"Mr. President, Chief Ambassador Carillion is here to see you."
"Excellent," came the reply. "Send him in."
Carillion entered. The President sat at his desk, with a wide window behind him displaying a panoramic view of Orbispira.
"Carillion!" Apollo said warmly, rising and shaking the Chief Ambassador's hand. "I'm glad you could make it. We have much to discuss."
"Indeed we do," Carillion replied as they both sat down. "Am I right in guessing that the war is first on your mind?"
"I'm afraid so. The GIE's assault from the east has been, as you know, moderately successful. I've decided to send a sizeable amount of URC ships to reinforce your fleets there. Hopefully we can press even further into CAS territory." He pressed a button on his desk, activating a holoprojector which displayed a map of the Cyrannus Galaxy to him and Carillion. The two began discussing strategies, indicating locations on the map, and the conversation continued in this manner for the next hour. Then they discussed some of their government policies, and complained about the inability of most intergalactic organzations to accomplish anything (which all politicians do when they get together), and then they talked about other empires, and what they thought of them. Finally, the discussion turned to their families. Carillion told Apollo about his father, and his son, and his wife, all of whom were dead. He told him about his cousin Karadril, the GIE's current Emperor. Then Apollo told Carillion about his father, the great Admiral Cretacea, and about his wife Gianne, and about his not-yet-born-daughter.
"But keep her a secret," he said conspiratorially. "We haven't told the people yet."
Carillion smiled. "I won't tell a soul."
Suddenly, Apollo seemed sad. He looked down, and then he put his head in his hands.
"What is it?" Carillion asked, a little worried.
"It's just... I'm worried about the universe she's going to grow up in.' The President's voice was quiet. "With the CAS, the Vartekians, the Grox, not to mention the Xhodocto. I want her to know peace, not to grow up in a universe at war. And I also wonder if the presidency will keep me from getting to know her. I have so many responsibilities, and so little time... And even when my term is done, the people will need me. What can I do?"
Carillion understood. He knew the importance of family, although most of his was gone.
"Apollo, I can't tell you how to balance family with responsibility, because in my family we never had to. We ran the empire as we saw fit, and time with the family was time with the government. But I can tell you this: If you take a small amount of time to spend with your wife and your daughter, I don't think anybody's going to begrudge you that."
Apollo nodded. He smiled at Carillion. "Thank you. Thank you very much."
He still looked sad, as if he was still thinking about the universe his daughter would inherit. It was dark now, and in the sharp relief cast by the lights of the office, the president looked very weary.
"Apollo, when was the last time you had fun?" Carillion asked.
The President opened his mouth, and then he closed it. He thought for a moment.
"I can't remember," he said finally.
"Well, we're going to fix that," Carillion said, standing up. "Do you like Wormulus Wine?"
"What?" Apollo was completely confused.
"We're going out for a drink. I don't care if the CAS is about to blow up Orbispira or if Angazhar's rampaging about the Senate Rotunda, you need to relax for one night."
Apollo opened his mouth to protest. Then he thought about it for a moment.
"All right," he said. "Let's go."
Fifteen minutes later, Apollo and Carillion were seated at a table in the Republica Restaurant, a bar located a few miles from the building that gave the place its name. They'd managed to give Apollo's bodyguards the slip at the Republica building, and had sped off in an anonymous yellow airspeeder. Apollo was wearing a dark hood, at Carillion's urging- the Chief Ambassador said that he should avoid being recognized, and try to spend the vening like a regular citizen.
Now the two were examining the menu. In addition to Wormulus Wine, the Republica Restaurant's selection of drinks included Bearian Beer, Kilnok Kocktail, Jovar Juice, and several matinis, including Angazhar Apple, Ravenrii Raspberry, and, to the President's delight, Apollo Apricot.
Carillion ordered a Bearian Beer, while Apollo requested an Apollo Apricot. Fortunately, the waitress was too flustered (there was quite a crowd that night) to take too much interest in her customer's identities, and the two remained inconspicuos at their table.
Apollo glanced around the restaurant, smiling. "They don't seem worried about the war," he noted.
"I think they are, in their hearts," Carillion replied. "But they've come here to forget that for a little while. And so have we! So lets talk about something else. Tell me about your campaign to become President. I've always wondered how campaigns work."
Apollo told him about it, and Carillion told him about his training to become Chief Ambassador. He also told him about his Psionic powers and, to the President's joy, levitated his mug a few inches into the air as a demonstration.
Then the conversation moved to girls. Apollo talked more about his wife, and about how they met, and when he asked her to marry him. Carillion talked briefly about his wife, but not for long- it saddened him too much. She had died tweny years ago, in childbirth. However, Carillion did share a few stories about his attempts to find another wife, none of which were successful and all of which were hilarious. Apollo laughed so hard that he almost choked on his spoonful of Serindian Soup (they had ordered their food some time ago). This, of course, turned the topic of conversation to the Serindia, which inevitably brought up Emperess Ramashe, and Apollo shared with Carillion their experience with Kazurhal Angazhar.
At the mention of Angazhar, Carillion was reminded of Angazhar Apple, the martini, which in turn reminded him that he needed another drink.
"What do you say we step up to the bar?" He suggested to Apollo.
"Sounds like a plan," Apollo said, and they did so. Upon reaching the bar they were recognized by the barteneder, but they stopped him before he could shout their identites to the whole bar. As it turned out, the bartender, a Lequian called Inzar, was a war veteran, and Apollo and Carillion swapped jokes and old battle stories with him for some time.
It was during this conversation that a certain less-than-friendly face entered the bar.
Éaltar Gauisa stepped through the door. Nobody took much notice of him. That was the way he liked it.
His objective here was simple: Kill President Apollo. He'd been planning an assassination for several days now, and when he'd heard through a spy he employed that Apollo had entered the Republica Restaurant, without guards, he could hardly believe his luck.
Gauisa looked around the restaurant and found Apollo standing at the bar, talking with the bartender and an odd three-eyed creature. The bounty hunter considered his options. He couldn't just shoot the President now; he would need a distraction. Fortunately, it seemed like the three-eyed creature was going to create one for him.
Carillion, laughing at one of the bartender's stories, sumbled a bit to the side. His reflexes were a bit off from the amount of alcohol that he'd consumed, and he accidentally bumped into another patron standing at the bar, a Libertus, as he slipped.
"I'm sorry, sir," he said. "I tripped, I'm afraid."
The Libertus looked at him angrily. "Oh, you tripped, did you? Just happened to bump into me? You alens are all the same, you think you're so superior, always trying to push us around!"
Clearly, the Libertus was drunk. "Sir, I assure you that it was an accident. Please, let me buy you a drink." He actually thought that giving this being another drink was a very bad idea, but he saw no other way out of the situation.
"I can afford my own drinks, you three-eyed freak!" The drunken creature shouted, and then he punched Carillion in the face.
Carillion staggered backwards, then steadied himself. He looked at the Libertus with cold anger in his face. Then he hit him right back.
Just like that, the restaurant, which had been silently watching the confrontation, exploded with noise, people yelled, people screamed, and some people leapt into the fray. Several of the Libertus's companions charged at Carillion, while the Inzar vaulted the bar and jumped into the fight to aid his new friend.
Gauisa watched as the three-eyed being began a fistfight with a Libertus up at the bar. Several others joined in, and the attention of the entire bar was on them, including that of the President, who was shouting at the combatants and ordering them to leave the three-eyed thing and the bartender alone. It wasn't having much effect, and Gauisa could tell that the President was preparing to join the fight himself. He had to act quickly.
Drawing a small, high-powered blaster, Gauisa took aim at the President's back. One hit would do the trick.
He squeezed the trigger.
Carillion was having a great time. He hadn't been in a barfight for a long while, and this one was wonderful. He took down one opponent with a flying wine bottle, courtesy of his Psionic abilities, then whirled and brought down another with a quick succession of punches.
His whirl left him facing Apollo, who was rolling up his sleeves and about to join the fight. Carillion grinned; he'd never seen the President in action before, and he suspected that it would be a good show.
But then he saw something behind Apollo and to the left. It was a creature, in the shadows near the door. It was holding something in its hand.
Cold fear shot through Carillion. There was no time to think- he knew what was going to happen and he had to stop it. He reacted on instinct.
As Gauisa’s blaster bolt flew through the air, Carillion reached out with his Psionic abilities and pulled a chair from a nearby table. As Apollo turned towards the sound of the blaster shot, the bolt caught the chair and sent it spinning. It sailed towards the President and crashed onto the floor a few feet in front of him.
“Apollo!” Carillion shouted. “Get behind the bar!”
As Gauisa fired again, Apollo leapt over the bar, landing out of sight. The second shot hit the wall above the bar. The barfight had stopped now, with all of the restaurant’s attention focused on Apollo, Carillion, and Gauisa. Carillion drew his own blaster and fired at Gauisa. The bounty hunter dodged aside and fired back, then rushed for the door. Carillion charged after him. Apollo, who’d come up with his Presidential Blaster in hand as soon as he got behind the bar, jumped back over and followed.
Outside it was dark and raining, but the two could make out a figure on the edge of the Republica Restaurant’s landing pad, just outside the circles of light cast by the light bulbs outside the restaurant. It was running. Then, it leapt into the air and disappeared.
By the time Carillion and Apollo reached the edge of the landing pad, the figure was long gone.
“He must have had a speeder waiting below.” Apollo said.
Carillion nodded. “Did you recognize him?”
“No. But I can guess who he was working for.”
Carillion could too. “The CAS.”
“Exactly.” Apollo looked grim. “I suppose we should call in some police units.” He reached for his comlink.
“Wait.” Carillion said. “I’ll call them. You have to keep enjoying your night as a regular citizen. If the police find you, that night is over.”
“I think that by this point everyone back there-” He indicated the restaurant, “know who I am,” the President replied.
“Then go and see how many of them offer to buy you a drink. I’ll return shortly.” Carillion puled out his comlink.
A short while later, Carillion walked back into the Republica Restaurant. There had been a low murmur of talk, but when they saw him everyone in the restaurant fell silent.
“My friends,” said a voice. Carillion looked over at the bar and saw Apollo, holding a glass of Wormulus Wine in the air. “I would like to propose a toast. This Gjigantrox before you is none other than Chief Ambassador Carillion, hero of the Deathspire and brave Psionic warrior.” Carillion was pleased to see some recognition and respect in the faces of the restaurant’s patrons. “And tonight, he saved my life. And he also showed me that sometimes, you have to relax, and take a little time to have fun in your life.” He raised the glass even higher. “To Carillion!”
“To Carillion!” echoed the citizens.
Carillion smiled at Apollo, and at everyone. “Thank you. Thank you very much. You are all very lucky to have such a wonderful President running your Republic.” He picked up a Ravenrii Raspberry martini from a nearby table and raised it. “To Apollo!”
“To Apollo!” the citizens cried.
“Let’s have a round on the house!” yelled Inzar.
“And a round on me!” Apollo cried.
Everyone cheered even louder.
“And a round on me!” Carillion called.
Everyone cheered like mad.
Several hours later, Apollo and Carillion left the Republica Restaurant. They’d had an excellent time, made numerous new friends, and were both a bit, though not very, intoxicated.
When they reached the Republica building they did their secret handshake (which they’d invented a few hours back) and messed it up considerably because of their level of intoxication.
“Well,” said Carillion, “Did you enjoy your night as a regular citizen?”
“Yes,” Apollo replied. “Except for the part where someone tried to kill me.” He laughed. Then he looked serious. “Carillion, thank you for saving my life. I don’t know how I can repay you.”
“Oh, come on.” Carillion waved the idea away. “You don’t have to repay me. At our level, saving lives is what friends are for.”
“Perhaps,” Apollo said. “But I appreciate it anyway. And thank you for showing me that I need to relax sometimes. You’re right, I do. And I think that doing so will help me to be a better leader. You can’t lead a nation when you’re unhappy.”
“Exactly.” Carillion was glad that Apollo had learned from this lesson. “So, next time we go out drinking it’ll be on one of my planets, right? Somewhere where they’re more likely to try to assassinate me than you?”
Apollo laughed. “Deal.”
The two friends shook hands like the government officials they were, and headed off.