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COVER: Shot of the planet & moons from space. A circle with a iconographic representation of the Candidate shows where on the planet the Candidate is.
In a small, mostly sparse room, with some belongings, on a comfortable sort of cushion, sits Euffae, last seen as a baby. She's grown up now, and talking to her friend on a handheld tablet.
EUFFAE: No, we're not heading back yet! Our, um, arrangements aren't official yet. You?
NYMFF: We're going with some Hive ships - plural. Three. Whole. Hive ships.
NYMFF: Seriously, Euffae - we're hiding among troop movements. How's Thyssa?
EUFFAE (pouting): She's okay. We're gonna meet with the Ambassador and -
NYMFF (interrupts): I thought she hated the Ambassador?
EUFFAE: Right? You know what she says though - (mimicking Thyssa:) Candidates belong to all Penn, not just the ones you like.
EUFFAE: But -- I'm worried. 'Cause soon I'm -
SOMEONE OFF-PANEL: Nymff!
NYMFF: Oops, that's my cue to go, sorry!
EUFFAE: Oh! Okay! Bye! And, um, stay safe, Nymff.
NYMFF: You too, Euffae.
Euffae slumps forward, putting down her tablet.
EUFFAE (to herself): I'm worried cause soon I'm meeting the C'efil and - ugh. I can't do this.
There's a loud BUZZ and someone appears at her door's view screen.
Euffae looks up, leaning on her knees.
THYSSA: It's Thyssa. Ready to go?
EUFFAE: Um. No?
Outside in a busy hallway, stands a tall, stern, purple Penn, one hand on her hip.
THYSSA: Nice try. Don't make me buzz again.
Euffae comes out of her room, looking nervous.
EUFFAE: But I'm not ready for this.
THYSSA: The C'efil? Listen, I'm not fond of them either, but you need to meet them sometime.
She puts a hand on Euffae's shoulder as the younger penn doesn't quite meet her eyes.
THYSSA: You also need the practice in diplomacy.
EUFFAE: I know, but - but it's... not like, just going to a party...
The two of them begin to walk down the hall.
THYSSA: Listen, you don't have to decide now. Just hear their proposal. In fact, you should stall.
Euffae and Thyssa are approaching the entrance to the building. Outside, there's a small ship, and it's revealed the building they were in was dug into the ground of a hilly sort of country.
THYSSA: We still have time before the election. And a 'maybe' is far more flexible than a 'yes' or a 'no'.
EUFFAE: Thyssa... do you trust them?
THYSSA: We're allies now, for better or worse. We don't have to trust them to work with them.
Euffae and Thyssa fly up to the ship, where the door is open and waiting for them.
THYSSA: Remember, you are a Candidate. Don't let them know you're frightened, don't refuse anything outright and most importantly: don't be yourself.
An angry, yellow striped C'efil shouts.
A blue spotted C'efil turns her head. They're standing in a room with a window - through the window is a glimpse of water and a sunset, with a ship and a city floating in the waves.
VIREL: Strange, I thought I was captain.
MASTIG: You KNOW what I mean. Permission to speak freely?
VIREL: You always speak freely.
The two C'efil continue speaking to each other in the sparse, empty room.
MASTIG: Do you respect my opinion or not?
VIREL: I respect your experience. Please respect me.
MASTIG: I do, Captain, I do. Just listen.
CAPTAIN: Go on.
MASTIG: This 'deal' is dangerous. You can't trust the Penn. At best, they'll spy on our ship. At worst? Sabotage.
The captain rubs her temples.
VIREL: Why WOULD they? They need us and we need them. We cannot fight the Droem alone, Mastig.
MASTIG: This war will make us vulnerable. You think the Penn won't take advantage once it's over?
VIREL: I'm trying to make sure there will be an 'over'!
Virel and Mastig are continuing their discussion.
MASTIG: That’s naïve –
They’re interrupted by a newcomer.
CIRRIN: Excuse me! Captain Virel, the Penn Candidate is arriving.
The captain turns to Cirrin as Mastig huffs.
VIREL: Thank you, Cirrin. We’ll be out shortly.
CIRRIN: Their ship hasn’t landed yet, if you wanted to continue your discussion?
VIREL: No, thank you. Just a moment, Chaplain.
The captain turns back to Mastig.
VIREL: It’s too late to back out of the offer now. But I will take your concerns into account. In the meantime –
MASTIG: Be polite?
VIREL: - and quiet.
Outside, the building they’re in opens up into a pavilion, guarded by two C’efil. It’s by the sea, surrounded by beach and hills. In the distance, a ship is arriving. One penn, orange with stripes with one of his eyes scarred and blind, holds a hand above his face as he watches the incoming ship.
The ship lands, using its shields to buffer the stop. Cirrin has come out onto the pavilion, and she and the orange Penn watch the ship land.
CIRRIN: She said we didn't have to stall, but -
PENN: Don't worry, I was planning to spend a moment greeting them anyway.
From the ship, they're approached by Thyssa and Euffae, fronted by an armed guard. The Penn waves to them.
PENN: I am so glad you arrived safely! Welcome, Candidate Euffae and all. I will introduce you to the C'efil shortly, but first: how are you?
Euffae bows to the other Penn.
EUFFAE: Hello, Ambassador. We are well. I, um, I hope I don't disappoint you.
AMBASSADOR: Don't be nervous, Candidate. You'll make us proud, I'm sure.
EUFFAE: Th-thank you, Ambassador.
The Penn Ambassador smiles at a still-nervous Euffae.
AMBASSADOR: The C'efil won't bite. In fact, I think you'll enjoy meeting them. After all, if Thyssa can forgive and forget, so can you.
Thyssa interjects, not happily.
THYSSA: I forgot nothing.
Thyssa points at a now unsmiling Ambassador, as Euffae stands awkwardly in the middle, looking at the ground.
THYSSA: But Euffae will do her duty, Attacus.
AMBASSADOR: Very well.
Smile back on, the Ambassador gestures to the pavilion.
AMBASSADOR: Shall we, then?
The four Penn, Euffae, Thyssa, the Ambassador and Euffae's guard, walk towards the pavilion. As they go up the ramp, the guard splits off to stand by the entrance.
AMBASSADOR: It's easy to be intimidated, but if it helps, Captain Virel is an old friend of mine. Just act calm and natural and you'll be fine.
EUFFAE: Natural, okay, right. I can do that. Yeah.
The three Penn are now standing in front of the three C'efil, who are all much taller and bigger than the Penn. Euffae is stiff as Virel looks down at her in surprise, Cirrin smiles mildly patronizingly, and Mastig stares unsmiling. The Ambassador smiles as he introduces them.
AMBASSADOR: Captain Virel'nel, all, may I introduce you to Thyssa, head of the Candidate Program -
AMBASSADOR: - and the Candidate herself, Euffae.
EUFFAE (in a very wavering text bubble): Hi.
Virel takes over introductions, putting a hand on Cirrin's back as Euffae nervously smiles at them.
VIREL: This is our chaplain, Cirrin'ina.
CIRRIN: A pleasure. May the Silence keep you safe.
Mastig looks down at Euffae, arms folded. Euffae gives a little wave.
VIREL: And Commander Mastig'oteut.
EUFFAE: Nice to meet you?
Now Cirrin gestures toward a low table with all sorts of food in dishes upon it.
CIRRIN: We have arranged a meal. Would you care to join us?
EUFFAE: Th-thank you, we accept. It um. Looks. Delicious?
The Penn and the C'efil are now all sitting around the table.
CIRRIN: Thank the Waters of Life for providing us with abundant sustenance.
VIREL: And I believe that is the end of the formalities. To the point, then.
Virel and Cirrin are speaking seriously, as Mastig deals with the food.
VIREL: We understand you need transport to your capital for the election. Safe transport.
CIRRIN: The Droem have killed a candidate already, we heard?
Euffae has her hands to her mouth, looking sad and nervous, as Thyssa looks angrily away from the C'efil.
EUFFAE: Ah! Um, well --
VIREL: ...Is something wrong?
The ambassador interjects.
AMBASSADOR: Two. We lost Crissi since the last time we spoke.
Virel looks down as Mastig watches her. Cirrin looks forward towards the Penn.
VIREL: I see.
CIRRIN: You have our condolences.
As Virel speaks, both Euffae and Thyssa are pinged, and Thyssa in particular is not happy.
VIREL: We know that transporting candidates during wartime is dangerous.
THYSSA: Yes. It is. You would know.
Virel looks toward Thyssa -
VIREL: Believe me, we are aware of past crimes in that regard. We -
She turns towards Euffae now, earnest.
VIREL: I hope to make amends.
Virel leans forward, towards Euffae.
VIREL: I offer you transport in my ship, and all the protection we can offer.
Euffae looks toward Thyssa, who isn't looking at her, and increasingly anxious towards the Ambassador, who tries to be encouraging.
EUFFAE: Yes, um - thank you, Captain, but --
Euffae raises a finger, visibly un-composed. Neither Thyssa nor Ambassador seem pleased with how she's handling it.
EUFFAE: Aren't you, um, needed? In the war? Or something?
Virel looks to Cirrin, who shrugs.
VIREL: If you do not accept our offer, we would likely continue supply transport.
Euffae thinks about this.
EUFFAE: You're not combat-ready?
Mastig leans forward, angry, startling Euffae and annoying his captain.
MASTIG: Of course we're combat-ready!
Mastig backs off a little.
MASTIG: Apologies. We've had skirmishes but not active duty. Command is keeping us in reserve, that's all.
Euffae looks regretful.
EUFFAE: Oh! I'm sorry, I didn't mean to say-- sorry. I just - I just don't want to distract from your war effort.
Cirrin smiles, putting her hands together, before closing her eyes and spreading her hands in an open gesture.
CIRRIN: The Holy C'efil Confederation views our alliance with the Penn as vital to the war effort. We would like to clean the waters between our two peoples. This may be the first real stroke towards that.
The Ambassador speaks up as Euffae listens.
AMBASSADOR: We need this too. And - we hope - the Droem will not expect a Penn Candidate among the C'efil.
Virel holds out her hand.
VIREL: Our ship is at your service. What will you say, Candidate Euffae?
Euffae thinks about it, as Thyssa watches her sternly. Then the little Candidate looks up, smiling awkwardly.
EUFFAE: Thank you - that would be... nice?
THYSSA: THAT WOULD BE NICE?!
Euffae, the Ambassador and Thyssa are watching Euffae pack her stuff into a bag. Euffae is apologetic, the Ambassador hiding a smile.
EUFFAE: I'm sorry! I didn't have a reason to say no! You told me not to say no!
THYSSA: I told you to stall!
AMBASSADOR: It was her decision as Candidate.
THYSSA: Yes, but she's also supposed to listen to her advisors! I wanted to research them, find out if they're safe.
The Ambassador has lost his smile.
AMBASSADOR: My assurance meant nothing?
Thyssa and the Ambassador are arguing.
THYSSA: I am in charge of the Candidate's safety, not you! I need to know myself.
AMBASSADOR: And I know the C'efil better than you do -
Euffae interjects, before huddling herself in a ball.
EUFFAE: I'M SORRY! I'm sorry. I didn't know what to say and... they were nicer than I expected... and... I just wanted to go already.
Thyssa reaches out to Euffae.
THYSSA: Euffae -
Suddenly, the lights go red and an alarm goes off, surprising all of them.
Shields start to cover the door. The three Penn look up, listening to an announcement broadcast.
EMERGENCY BROADCAST: LOCKDOWN INITIATED. ALL RESIDENTS ARE TO STAY IN THEIR QUARTERS. ENEMY SHIPS HAVE BEEN SIGHTED IN THE AREA.
The scene cuts to the hill country outside, and a small watch station within view of three Droem ships.
EMERGENCY BROADCAST: REPEAT. LOCKDOWN INITIATED. PLEASE CLEAR THE HALLS AND STANDBY FOR EVACUATION ORDERS. THE DROEM ARE IN THIS SECTOR.
CAPTION: End of Chapter One.
2014, Zoe Maxine