Indigo rode the lift to her floor in the Ground Tower, contemplating the events of the day and mulling over the wording of her report. Her steps faltered as she approached her door and saw a blue light on the control panel alerting her to an admin override of her lock. She keyed in her access code and stepped into her room.
“Late night, Commander Turner?”
Indigo stood at attention just inside the door. “Training exercise, ma’am.”
Anne rose from her seat at Indigo’s desk. “We heard about the incident in the dining hall and the punishment Paladin Creed set for the class. Your classmates were dismissed hours ago.”
“The field reset was incomplete. It was my responsibility to see the job was done properly. Is there something I can do for you ma’am? Sir?”
“We hope so.” Darris pushed away from the wall he was leaning against. “Your records show you studied linguistics at Academy before joining Dawn’s Light. We’ve encountered something in an unidentified language and hope you will be able to help us interpret it.”
The young commander tilted her head. “What sort of something?”
“A song,” Darris replied.
Indigo took a deep breath. “I would be happy to help, but I’m just starting my training. Acolyte candidates aren’t normally assigned missions until after preliminary testing.”
“We can ensure this will not have a negative impact on your training,” Anne assured. “Commander, it is vital to our mission that we understand this song, and you are one of the best people at our disposal to help us interpret it.”
“We could order your transfer from the candidate program to our office, but would rather not have to resort to that.” Darris avoided meeting her eyes as he issued the ultimatum.
“So either I volunteer or you make me do it anyway.” Indigo smirked. “Looks like I’m volunteering. What do you want me to do?”
“You will report to Admin 83 in the morning and work with us there instead of attending lectures and training,” Darris instructed. “We will ensure all class materials are available to you, but you will be excused from assignments for the duration of this mission. Paladin Gilbert and I will assist with practical exercises in the afternoon so you do not fall behind your classmates.”
“Understood,” Indigo bowed her head slightly. “Is there anything else?”
“We’re assigning you temporary quarters in Admin while you are working with us. These quarters will be sealed, so I suggest you gather any personal items you require for the next few weeks.” Anne stepped around her to the door. “I’ll meet you at the entrance to the Admin building in one hour to show you to your room.”
Indigo waited for Darris and Anne to leave before packing her clothes and toiletries in a duffle bag. The Order ran on gossip, and the past few months Paladins Harson and Gilbert were popular subjects. All accounts acknowledged they were steadfast in their duties. All accounts acknowledged they were doing a hard job that had to be done. But nearly the entire Order felt betrayed by their departure, and accounts of their investigations varied from ‘thorough’ to ‘dispassionate’ and even to ‘merciless.’ Indigo wondered if she would now be the subject of similar rumors.
Reporting for duty the next morning, Indigo discovered Room 83 was actually a suite of offices taking up most of the top floor of the Administration and Operations building. Not only would she be working with Darris and Anne, but she would be doing so in the Director’s offices.
Anne met her in the reception area and escorted her past a guard station and down a corridor. Indigo tried to hide her nervousness as they approached the end of the hallway and large wooden doors bearing the seal of Dawn’s Light. To her relief, Anne stopped before a rather plain, much less impressive door. “This will be your office for the duration of the assignment. I’ve programmed the door to accept your entry code.”
Indigo tapped her code on the keypad and the door opened to reveal a small but well-appointed office. A window in the back of the room looked out over the rapid transit airfield, and a door on one wall connected to the next room. A red light on the door’s panel indicated it was locked from the other side. A large desk stood in the center of the office and was home to a workstation with multiple holographic displays, a linked headset, and tablet.
“The song is already loaded on your workstation,” Anne explained. “You also have direct connections to all Academy language resources.”
Indigo took her seat at the desk, picked up the headset, and let out a low whistle. “Always wanted to try these. I’ve heard they have amazing sound isolation.” She donned headphones and tapped a button on the workstation to play the song. She was only a few notes in when her eyes widened and she paused the playback. “Paladin Creed?”
Anne returned a single nod.
“Why not just ask him about the song?”
“He knows the song but doesn’t know the meaning of the words.” Anne paused a moment then added, “I want to stress now that we are investigating the song, not Paladin Creed. I know how the Order likes to talk and I’d rather not give the rumor mill more to chew on.”
Indigo bowed her head slightly. “Understood.” She put the headphones back on to listen to the rest of the song. She played it through twice more before looking back to Anne. “This doesn’t sound like any of the languages I’ve studied before, so it could take some time to translate — if it’s even possible. It would help if we could get more samples of the language.”
Anne shrugged. “We’ll try but I make no promises. Paladin Harson and I will be next door if you find something or have any more questions.”
Indigo watched Anne leave through the side door and turned her attention back to the song.