Da'an was standing in the garden surrounding his Embassy in Washington and watching those few stars that managed to shine their way through the smog hovering over the human city. Far away among these stars was his home, yet the memory of it did not bring peace to his troubled mind.
That evening for the first time he noticed the changes within him; and even if it was only the shadow of what he had become (for one could not truly know oneself) it was already terrifying. When he recalled Zo'or's words spoken earlier that day, and how he had denied his every single accusation, now piece by piece he began to undermine his own judgment. Perhaps there was truth in the other Taelon's words. Perhaps his previously free spirit had now grown roots into the soil of this planet to form a most troubling union.
He was not a human, yet the human moral system had already begun to alter his Taelon beliefs; his perception of good and evil became unbalanced; his logic could no more account for the fact that he felt what others of his kind did not. In the midst of logic there were spaces in between visible to him only among the whole Taelon race.
He was petrified when he looked at the surface of the water in the fountain and saw a slight, almost human smile on his lips. He quickly turned his gaze towards the sky again. There, in the eternal darkness, was his home, all that he loved and detested at the same time. The never-ending void. The silence that would scream to him before he woke up.
But Earth was different. Earth bloomed with life. His palm opened and the glistening surface of a small microchip soon drew his gaze. The information he had secretly gained from the probe was stored there: the identities of all humans who worked for the Resistance, images of their faces and the recordings of their conversations. Information that in the hands of his brethren would become a tool for eliminating what his superiors defined as the threat.
He had suspected that there were spies around him, but still could hardly believe that there were so many: so many and so close. It became obvious to him that humanity would not cease to fight. Recalling their vows, oaths and threats, he remained mystified by their actions. He wondered why they did not kill him when they had so many occasions. Was it the phenomenon they called conscience that prevented them from depriving him of life? Pity or mercy - or a mere whim based on fugitive human emotions.
Every day they had a chance to do it, yet they refused to fight openly: they would spy on him, steal information, or simply be, be so close to the truths they were seeking, yet never really grasp them. They were everywhere: the guard who stood at the gate, the gardener, the shuttle pilot, four security agents and even his own Protector, William Boone. He saw them every day but had scarcely suspected anything, unaware of the tangled web they weaved around him.
An unknown sound made him turn around. There, near a root of an old oak another being rested, small and brown with a yellow beak. Da'an blinked, his mind searching the human lexicon.
‘Bird’, he eventually stated to himself. ‘Blackbird. She'thea.’
He stared at the being for some time, but as soon as he made a step forward, the bird moved backwards. He bowed his head to one side, still observing the visitor. ‘Sha'te umra'tha esha'a’, he whispered, yet the bird kept standing where it was, its black eyes glimmering in the darkness.
A thought appeared in the alien's mind as he waved his hand to shoo the bird away. He smiled, seeing that it only moved backwards a little and after a few seconds again approached nearer. ‘Is this truly your game’, Da'an said more to himself than to the blackbird, ‘or a subconscious certainty that I will not harm you.’ He wished this to be a question, yet he found his answer even before he managed to utter the sentence.
Again he looked at the microchip in his palm. Executing his will, the small energy particles of his body flew up from his fingertips and engulfed the microchip, piercing its surface through like knives. Satisfied, he watched the device being torn to pieces and disappearing as dust carried away by the slightest move of the cool wind. The only proof was gone.
* * *
The next day when the sun rose, Da'an was still standing in the garden. He welcomed the gardener and the security agents who were entering the Taelon Embassy with a Taelon greeting. They replied the alien Ambassador with a smile, clumsily though, as all humans, trying to pronounce ‘Sinuai Euhura’.
He observed the Embassy personnel entering the building and eventually became so lost in thought that he did not notice his Protector standing behind him. William Boone chose to remain silent until the diplomat finally noticed his presence.
‘The security report you asked for’, the auburn-haired man stated, handing in a small data disc.
‘Thank you, Commander’, Da'an answered, accepting the disc.
Boone waited to be dismissed, but the Taelon diplomat did not say anything more as if lost in thought again. The man followed the Companion's gaze and noticed a small bird with black feathers sitting on the edge of the marble fountain and chattering noisily.
‘Blackbird’, Da'an stated tilting his head to one side.
‘I didn't know that you were acquainted with the proper names of our birds’, Boone smiled slightly.
‘I was not aware of this either’, Da'an sighed. ‘I believe that a stranger should only know as little as it suits them to remain a stranger. Yet can one ever take a step backwards and forget what one has already become?’
Boone seemed puzzled by the question and the Taelon only smiled.
‘Perhaps it is best not to dwell upon it. Be what shall be.’
This said, Da'an waved his hand in a Taelon farewell and Boone mimicked it as if he were no more than the diplomat's reflection in the surface of the fountain water. While the alien Ambassador watched his Protector leave, the blackbird twittered and took wing.