Mr. President?” she called, though he was already looking her way. “I have—”

Her hip rammed the corner of a desk. She flailed for balance, tripped over her own feet, and pitched forward. The president caught her in an awkward embrace. Mortified, she lurched backward and found her feet as heat swarmed her cheeks.

Professor Komitopis,” he said gently, amusement in his blue eyes. “Do you surf?”

Tikaya stared at him in bewilderment, then over his head and out the open door. In the bay, a steamer rumbled toward the docks while a few students straddled surfboards near the beach.

No, sir,” she said, letting puzzlement into her tone.

Don’t start,” the president said.

Her supervisor snickered. Oh. She was being teased for her clumsiness. The men’s eyes held no spite, but that did little to abate the heat plaguing her cheeks. It was bad enough she stood two inches taller than either man; she had to stumble around like a drunken sea lion in front of them too?

You have a message?” the president asked.

The importance of the note flooded back to her. “Yes, yes. The war, sir. It’s over.”

The president’s eyes widened.

Or it will be in a couple weeks,” Tikaya said. “Listen: ‘Admiral Dufakt, by his Ancestrally Ordained Imperial Highness Emperor Raumesys’s order’—I love it when they use that long title in their encrypted communications. You don’t even need frequency analysis when you’ve got such an obvious key phrase. Every time they—”

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