Friday, June 24, 2011


Eleya regarded Carbon for several seconds before she responded. "I have taken care of the problem, dear niece. What else would I have done?"

Carbon bristled at that, hands clenched into fists and eyes burning. "How did you do it?"

"I have married you." Eleya was remarkably nonchalant, given Carbon’s reaction to her knowing about their relationship before.

Alex was a quarter of a second behind the conversation because of his translator. It wasn’t much but it only giving him enough time to make a sort of surprised guttural noise before Carbon exploded. "That is not what we discussed! That is illegal!"

Eleya turned back to her cabinet and topped off her drink. "I was so moved after the young pilot confessed his... enduring love for you that I made it legal and oversaw the ceremony myself. That is the official story. It is much more elegant than what we discussed and I believe it will be taken well enough back home."

Carbon had begun to shake as Eleya spoke. Alex had never seen her this upset before. “Why did you do this?”

She turned and leaned back against the cabinet with cool eyes, all traces of the humor that had been there before gone. “He needs protection. Our people need to have some scrap of confirmation that we are not just being held at arms length as we are drained of our technology. Marrying one into the family worked with the western tribes, it will work here.”

“The western tribes!? That was three hundred years ago and this is hardly the same! They- they were Tslao!”

“They were, but it has always been the place of the royals to lead the way. I do not expect that we will embrace humans the same way the tribes were, but I do expect that the rebellion’s legs will be snapped by this. I told you long ago, dear niece, that your life is mine. That if you were lucky, you would be my sword and shield rather than a payment to keep someone in line. I think it appears that you are very lucky.”

Carbon seethed in silence with her eyes locked on Eleya, hate etched on her face and teeth bared. Her words came slowly, each one loaded with venom. “May I be dismissed?”

Eleya sighed quietly and waved a hand towards the door. “Yes. Go.”

She had started to turn before Eleya had even finished her first word, Alex rising to follow as soon as he realized what had just been said, still shocked at what had just transpired.

Eleya stepped into his path and grabbed his wrist, twisting his arm till his elbow locked. In one smooth motion she pivoted her shoulder into his upper arm and forced him back, the edge of the bed knocking his knees out from under him and planting him where he had just been. “I did not dismiss you, young prince.”

It took Alex a few moments to pick a question out of the possibilities that were roiling in him. His first instinct was to go to Carbon, but Eleya’s statement and the knowledge there was at least one cloaked guard made that seem unwise, for the time being. “Why did you do this?”

She took a drink - he just now noticed she hadn’t set it down when she had stopped him - and gave the room a sidelong glance. “All of you, out.” She paused and shook her head. “He will be fine, Captain.”

The door appeared to open by itself and perhaps three or four indistinct shapes wavered out. Eleya watched them go and seemed to relax as the door closed. She dragged a chair over to the bed and sank into it, gesturing out past the door with her drink. “They sometimes think I am a frail old woman.”

“What the hell?” He was starting to get sorted out. Carbon was upset and he was feeling more and more violated. Erring towards anger felt pretty right.

“You must understand, this is how most of our conversations end. Carbon will hate me for a few hours - perhaps a few days this time - and then go back to just not liking me. I like seeing your concern for her, Alex. It makes me feel much more confident in this decision.” She stretched her legs out and set her feet on the bed next to him.

He felt strangely good when she said that, the fire in him cooling slightly. “Why did you marry us? What does that do other than upset her?” Alex still felt distant from that, the fact of what Eleya had done hadn’t sunk in yet. Mentally, he was still back where he hadn’t even told his parents that he was involved with an alien.

“A bouquet of reasons, the most important being Carbon. As Empress, it is my right to use my family as I see fit. Aside from her odd name, Carbon has always been a tremendous asset. Smart, capable and quite pretty.” She studied her glass before taking a long drink. A sad smile crossed her face as she looked back up. “Long ago, her mother made me promise that I wouldn’t use her as currency. That I would do my best to keep her happy.”

Alex was surprised to hear this coming from Eleya. “You don’t seem to be doing very well at that.”

She laughed. “No. The girl never trusted me and I can’t blame her. I pushed her hard when she was young so that she would be all that she could. As she has grown, she has pushed herself harder than I would have. I have spent the last twelve years trying to make her take even a week of vacation. I gave her houses and ships, offered her everything I could, consulted the best psychologists to find some angle to make her stop for a day. I think she believed that she could outrun me somehow if she did not yield.”

“She is driven, but I don’t see what this has to do with us.”

Eleya’s smile changed, delight in her eyes. “You are blind in the most pleasant way. I wield all the power of the Tslao empire and could not make my niece take lunch early. You flash a smile and the galaxy stops. She loves you more than anything. I linked with you as I did to ensure that you reciprocated that strongly enough. Everything else this might accomplish is just convenient, so long as she is happy.”

Alex was rendered speechless. He almost didn’t believe that Eleya just wanted Carbon to be happy, though he did suppose that Carbon’s memories could be biased. Eleya at least seemed to be honest about this. “I... Uh, I’m glad.”

She stood and pushed the chair back to where it had been. “You should be. Now, go find her. Take Tashen with you. He knows her hiding places and is getting very nervous with my guards out there.”

“Thank you.” He was up and headed for the door in a heartbeat. He needed to talk to Carbon, get everything sorted out and make some sense of what just transpired.

“One thing, before you go.” Eleya stopped him before he opened the door, taking his arm gently and pulling him down to eye level. Her voice was low and her gaze deadly serious. “I do not care about you, Alex. I care about how you make her feel. Do not disappoint me.”


  1. I didn't think she really gave a flip about Carbon, until her last statement.

    Last sentence of the 7th paragraph,
    Marrying one in worked with the western tribes, it will work here.
    Is the "in" meant to be there?

  2. She's got motives for everything...

    It is meant to be there. Like one of the members of the western tribes was married into the royal family. Might change that to make it more clear, though.

  3. I think "into" would be clearer. Aside from that, no other problems that I can see, and a good chapter.