The utilitarian desk was swamped with heaps of paperwork. Folders, files and scraps of paper, collected in drifts of dreary neglect.
“It’s either this or a retraining, Olwen. You have no idea the strings I had to pull to get you onto this project. You are not exactly the most popular protégé the Institute has produced.”
Olwen’s eyes blazed back at his Sponsor. “Offworld! You know that my career will be over the moment I step onto that shuttle. This is old man Phillips doing! He cannot take his precious Protocol being challenged! All I asked was a few questions, I have been persona non grata ever since.”
“Yes, dear boy,we are all painfully aware of the questions you asked.” Wincott sighed, “But you did have to pursue your line of enquiry. Even when you were warned of the dangers of your path.”
“But this is a place of learning,” he stuttered, “how can we not ask questions? Especially when they are begging to be asked.”
In hind sight, Olwen conceded, that was probably the last straw. The rest of his briefing was concluded in unceremonious haste and he now found himself suitably restrained in the shuttle.
None of his remonstrances, none of his extravagant bargains, none of his outlandish promises, had made any impact on the implacable review committee that had assigned him to this project. The last-ditch option of retraining had even been taken off the negotiating table.
He was to take his professional curiosity and his questions off into the ether, a million light years away, where the impact of his inconvenient nature would not be felt for another two hundred generations on his home planet. By which time, the aggrieved parties would be safely enshrined in the hallowed annals of history.
As the craft was freed from the blue planet’s gravity, Olwen felt a slight pang. Never again would he surf the glorious waves of the Southern Sea, never again feel the glow of this sun on his skin. In effect, he had been exiled, from his home world and, for all he knew, his species.
Slowly succumbing to SpaceSleep he wondered what he would be facing, and how he would manage the rest of his natural days. Of the seven species that were the members of the FOSB only five were humanoid and able to share the same habitat. That still left a fairly wide field. Mind finally relaxing, his last conscious thought was wondering if he had left his apartment light on.