It was before your time... (The Elephant Assignment)

by Tammy Nott

This was originally posted to the lois-bujold mailing list in June 1998.

"It was before your time..."

The Captain sat in his office and called up the morning's reports, messages, and alerts. Halfway through the list he stopped. Stared. Mouthed a silent query. Went back and reread the memo from the beginning. Then did it twice more. He sat back, the disbelief on his face already starting to fade into unholy amusement.

An extra glint lit his eye and he leaned forward again to call up some information on his comconsole. He requested a certain Lieutenant Vorbete to report to his office, then turned to alerting the Galactic Affairs Head of the new assignment facing his department.

Vorbete reported to the Captain with gratifying promptness and was ordered to sit.

"Lieutenant, I understand from the Head of Galactic Affairs that you are, ah, exceptionally skilled at taking initiative." The Captain was keeping his face very bland. "This should prove to be a useful quality in your next assignment." Vorbete sat up straighter.
"My next assignment, sir?"
"Yes. The Prime Minister has requested that ImpSec provide him elephant."

The Captain was watching Vorbete closely. Vorbete's mouth had dropped open and the rest of him had gone completely still, almost rigid. He stayed that way for several seconds. At last, he blinked, drew breath as if to speak, but closed his mouth instead. He opened and closed his mouth a few more times before he finally managed a weak "And...and just how big does the elephant have to be...sir?"
The Captain said, "The Prime Minister did not request any particular size, Lieutenant. A small one should be enough."
"A small one."
"Mm, say, one metric ton, two meters tall."
"Oh." Vorbete's look grew, if anything more glazed at this information. The Captain handed him a data disk.
"Here are the necessary orders and authorizations, along with visas and transport licenses. Notify the Galactic Affairs Head as soon as you've managed to locate the beast."
"Yes, sir."
"Dismissed, Lieutenant." Vorbete got up, staring at the data disk in his hand and sleepwalked out, colliding with the doorframe along the way and entirely forgetting to salute.
Only after the Lieutenant made it out the door and it slid closed behind him did Captain Simon Illyan, Chief of Barrayaran Imperial Security, begin to giggle.

© 1998 by Tammy Nott (

The Story Continues as told by Judy Nott.

Current version by Michael Bernardi,

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Last updated: November 20th 2002