When he stopped painting at lunchtime to tuck into the huge sandwich Miss Lucy, as he called her, prepared for him, Zhaan heard the distinctive beep of his communicator, but put off reading the message from Malla until the end of his work day. Now as he waited for Alice and Jesse to pick him up on their way home, he fiddled nervously with the device in his pocket, still reluctant to read what it said. He knew the Guy would be eager to know what other races were up to. They would probably instruct him to try to get involved in the situation. That could only bring change, and he was so content right now with things just as they were.

He didn't have long to dwell on the prospect, as Jesse's black pick-up drew up at the kerb. Zhaan waved goodbye to Miss Lucy, who was watching him through the window. She tried to insist he wait inside in the warmth, but he needed a couple of minutes to himself and didn't want to hear her talking about the aliens any more.

He no sooner slid into the passenger seat of the truck, than Jesse asked him, “Did you hear anything yet?” Zhaan merely shook his head, feeling bad about not being honest with his friend. He wanted time alone to digest the content of the as-yet unread message.

When they made it home, Clare and Claudia were glued to the TV which, since the incident in New York, had shown nothing else. Jesse went straight to join them, Alice too, after giving Seren a big kiss. Zhaan insisted he needed to take a shower, raced up the stairs and straight into the en-suite bathroom in his and Alice's bedroom. He locked the door behind him and pulled out the communicator.

There it was; the small blinking light which would change his life forever. He sighed deeply before pressing a button to recover Malla's message.

'Hi Trouble!' it began. 'Guyara has confirmed that they are unaware of any deep space exploration by the Duran people. However, they cannot entirely rule out that the craft is manned by the Duran. The possibility also exists that others have commandeered the ship and are using it to their own ends.

‘Command is keen to know who has landed on Earth and to understand the Human response to this invasion, to minimise the risk of inter-species war. They wish you to attempt to intercede and assist with this situation, if this is possible. They appreciate they are asking a lot of you, Zhaan, given the circumstances, but hope you will agree out of loyalty to your race and to assist your adoptive planet. They request frequent updates of developments and will provide any assistance possible.

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