Friday, August 12, 2011

Preparation

Neya had shown up sometime in the morning, bearing breakfast. Alex was not sure where the clock was and he was not inclined to turn his augs on while he was still half asleep. Whenever she had shown up, it was too damn early as far as he was concerned.

He was perfectly content to ignore her, as he was still warm and comfortable. Then Carbon got up, turned the lights on and they started chatting. He had more trouble ignoring that. He couldn’t tell what they were saying, but it sounded amicable. Friendly, even. Perhaps a bit gossipy.

Resigned to the fact he was not going back to sleep right now, Alex rolled over to the edge of the bed and slid his arm out from under the blanket, trawling the floor for clothes.

The conversation stopped while he did this, pulling one garment after the next into the warmth of the bed. He was pretty sure none of it was his. It didn’t feel like something he’d wear.

Carbon pulled the blanket back and he squinted up at her in the bright light, wrapped in a long purple robe. She set a neatly folded stack of clothes next to him with a wry smile. “These are for you.”

“Thanks.” Alex was pretty sure that’s what he said. The light went away with a pleasant laugh and the chatting resumed. At least his bag had made it here. It only took a moment for him to pull on a pair of pants and he rolled out of bed with a grunt and a wave at his audience.

Carbon waved back with a pleasant smile and they watched him for the few moments before he got up and trudged into the bathroom, securing the door behind him. It was pleasantly familiar, a toilet looked like a toilet no matter where you went, apparently. The shower was a little tricky, but Carbon had shown him how to use that last night.

Hot water washed away the last of the cobwebs in his head, giving him time to reflect on just how insane the past few weeks had been. Admiral Argueta had wanted him to ingratiate himself to Carbon and experience Tslao culture. He was doing a pretty damn good job of the former and not very well at the latter, by his estimation.

Despite that, Alex suspected he had enough information already for several reports. He would start off with a nice loose overhead view for them to chew on while he looked into the legal side of marrying into alien royalty for him. Did they even know that Carbon was related to the Tslao empress?

He shut the water off and tapped the dry button, vents overhead opening up and blasting him with warm, dry air. That was the trouble with working with spooks though, wasn’t it? You couldn’t tell what or how much was the truth with them. Ed, he could depend on. The Admiral? Just her lack of facial expressions was worrisome.

Alex hit the button and scrubbed a hand over his head to make sure he was dry before he stepped out of the stall. He checked the rubbery coating over his mark, still firmly in place. A burst of dental spray and getting dressed left him feeling pretty much human again, ready to take on another day. An uneventful one, with any luck.

He had planned to announce his return when he opened the door, instead treading quietly over to the table when he noticed Carbon and Neya in a link. There was a setting for him next to Carbon, tea and that orange mash that she had always eaten on the ship. It was already cold but still tasted fine, a very palatable mix of pear and apple flavors with a smooth consistency.

He’d never realized how silly the act of linking looked. They leaned across the table towards each other, breathing slowly with eyes closed and faces absolutely serious. Long antennae bridged the gap, the fluffy tips resting at the base of the other’s antennae. Alex successfully suppressed a laugh.

They stopped just before he finished his bowl, his return apparently unnoticed until then. Neya gave a start and stared for a moment, looking away as she flipped her antennae back into place. She looked a bit embarrassed as she stammered out something in Tsla. Alex thought he understood the word for ‘food.’

Alex flipped the mental switch for his augs and they came to life, his senses going fuzzy for a moment before returning. “Sorry, translator wasn’t on. Say again?”

She composed herself and cleared her throat. “Was the meal to your satisfaction, sir?”

“Yes, it was fine, thank you.”

“Now that everything is finished, perhaps you could be convinced to just call him by his name?” Carbon slid a hand across the table and patted Neya’s with a soft smile.

“Yes, the titles did seem to aggravate him.” She seemed to brighten at that, her gaze shifting between them. “You would still prefer I call you by your name?”

“Please.”

“As you wish, Alex.” Neya relaxed a little, relieved.

“She will have to use a title on occasion, for formalities like last night when she returned my marker or public events.”

“Sounds better than being Prince Sorenson all the time.” He was really hoping to avoid that as much as he could. “So, what’s on the agenda for today?

Carbon sipped her tea and considered that for a moment. “I would think it wise to discuss things as they are with your parents, before much more time passes. I do not want them to feel marginalized in the face of such events.”

“Yeah. That’s a good idea.” Alex was not looking forward to this particular conversation.

“I thought as much. The flight plan is being filed, we should know when we can arrive soon.”

“Good. I guess. Look, I don’t know how this is going to go over with them. Us dating is one thing, but being married... Even if I have decided I’m up for this, I’m still not even sure that it’s legal for me.”

“I am aware.” Carbon sighed quietly, “I am still hoping for the best. If they are as upset as my father was, we can do what is best for our families and force a separation. While they are few, there are some places where even the Empress’ power can be overridden.”

“I don’t think they’ll be that mad. Shocked, surprised, upset... Maybe. But not furious.” Alex very clearly remembered Eleya’s warning about keeping Carbon happy being his reason for being there, the tacit threat her words contained. Despite that, he replied with what he felt was the truth. “Even if they are, it’s not their life to live.”

6 comments:

  1. I get the impression that Carbon thinks of Neya as a sister. Sisters tell each other things.
    There may be a generation of Tslao who are curious about "Kirking". XD

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  2. Neya's relationship with Carbon/Alex is... well, spoilers. There's more about that coming, though.

    Hah, as the two races intermingle more, it's probably going to happen.

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  3. Good chapter, solid, and completely avoiding what we think might have possibly maybe but probably didn't but could have happened the night before. Guess I'll still have to tune in next week.

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  4. You never know... Though perhaps I was being too subtle. Probably. Still getting the hang of subtlety.

    Also, finally responded to your comments in Allies. Did some thinking before I started running my mouth.

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  5. I'll try to be more specific and/or helpful with a later comment, but seriously I love this this story. Also, and let me be totally clear that I mean this in a totally positive way (not a negative towards the written word way) I really want to watch a show based on this.

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  6. I'm glad you're enjoying it! I would kind of like to see a show based on this too - Animated, I think. Maybe some sort of puppet working with real people, but I dunno. "Now make out with the puppet. Great, just like that. Cue vomit in 3... 2..."

    Animated. Definitely.

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