Thursday, September 22, 2011

Broken Fences

There had been no further issues with the local police after that. The walk back to the shuttle had been quiet, Alex still knew his way around the Arcology well enough to avoid running into almost anyone else. It had let them both cool down before boarding the shuttle for the flight back to the Sword of the Morning Light.

This shuttle was different from the one that Carbon had taken down last time. Alex thought it was something that Eleya was more likely to use, the cabin well appointed with plush furniture, carpeting and a well stocked bar. Alex tossed the sandwiches into the small and already crowded stasis fridge and collapsed onto the couch.

Carbon returned from the flight deck as the engines were warming up and headed for the bar. She poured herself a fairly conservative glass of something dark red, from a bottle that looked similar to the one from the Kshlavo.

“That’s deep wine, right?”

“Yes. Would you like some?” She reached for a second glass before he could respond.

Alex still mulled it over for a few seconds. “I think that is in order.”

Carbon poured him a much larger portion than she had, hurrying over to the couch as the shuttle lifted off. The lane they were sort-of abusing was kept clear of non-diplomatic traffic, letting them depart the planet at will after clearing with the local tower that no one else was on approach. The late hour and their location basically guaranteed they had a clear launch window.

She settled into the couch with far more grace than he had, handing him his glass after she had situated herself. “A toast, I think, is appropriate? To family?”

Alex laughed as he clinked his glass to hers. “Sure, to family. Maybe would have been more appropriate at dinner, but it’s the thought that counts.”

“Ah. The details of toasting were not laid out as clearly as they could have been.” Still, she smiled and drank. “We have a similar custom, but it is only to be started by the host. Others may add things once that has been done.”

“Huh.” Alex took a long drink of the wine - sweet and fruity, definitely stronger than the wine he’d had in the past - and made note of that particular custom. It hadn’t been mentioned in the primer and would definitely go into one of the first reports he wrote. Which he should get around to doing soon. “I’m glad I haven’t been to any formal dinners, I would have screwed that up.”

“I am sure you would have been forgiven.”

“Probably. I imagine I would suffer some form of wrath from Eleya.” He swirled the wine as the window across the cabin went from the dull gray of the hanger to the darkness of the night sky. It wasn’t a real window, just a display showing an external view. No one put windows on space ships unless it was necessary.

Carbon sort of snorted and laughed at the same time. “She would have acted upset, I am sure, but according to Neya she does like you... In that your presence disrupts everyone else. An agent of a subtle sort of chaos, at her disposal.”

“Oh, great. This whole time I thought it was because I was a simpleton. Makes me feel nice and used.”

“That is how she makes everyone feel.” She finished what little was in her glass and leaned over to kiss him. “So that you do not feel too important or alone.”

“Yeah, I got that impression. Everyone else is there to do what she wants.”

“Effectively, yes. She is the Empress.” The sky faded from ink blue to truly dark black as they left the atmosphere. Carbon got up and retrieved the bottle, now safe from turbulence, and refilled her glass halfway before topping his off.

“Yup. Comes with the territory, I would imagine.”

“It does.” She sipped her wine and nestled against him. “On second consideration... She does seem to have a genuine affection for Neya, even if she is often an instrument for her.”

Alex mulled over that for a minute as he worked on his glass. “Makes sense.”

“How does it make sense?”

“Neya’s a contra. Takes your place, is you when she’s wearing the right clothes. Right?”

Carbon did not seem to get where he was going, her reply tentative. “Yes. It is more complex than just that and I do not think contra is the right term for her in English.”

“Translator always tells me contra. What is she supposed to be called?”

Zeshen. Second soul. It is sort of a catch-all term for them.”

“Huh. Zeshen. Sounds nicer than contra. Well, anyway, like I was saying. Neya is like a surrogate you to her. Eleya seems to regret whatever she did to you that wrecked your relationship. I mean, she married us because she wants you to be happy. I don’t think she wanted me to tell you that, but whatever. I can’t believe she’d ransack my memories and come away thinking I wouldn’t tell you.”

She stared at the window for a long time before she drained her glass and refilled it, fully this time. “I... I do not know.”


“I do not know what to do with this information.” Carbon blanched and emptied her glass again. “We were close for many years, she felt like a sister to me...”

“Tashen said she drove a wedge between you two. Had to do with, ah... Royal life or something. He wasn’t very specific.”

“She explained how it was going to be. How I was currency, or a weapon or a shield for her, depending on what she needed. If I was not to be a martyr somehow, I would be married off and I would keep whoever I was given to happy even if I was not. I was terrified and my parents were both away and...” She trailed off and set her glass on the side table, curled up next to him and sniffed. “It was so confusing. I was just ten and thought she intended to give me away to someone right there. I hid on the roof of the castle for two days before Tashen found me.”

He set his arm on her shoulder and gave her a squeeze. “That’s... Really fucked up.”

Carbon sniffed again was silent for a moment before she laughed weakly. “That word is too flexible.”

He smiled and stroked the top of her head. “Yeah, it is. I think Eleya knows she messed that up. I get the impression she’s been trying to make it up to you but... I can’t blame you for not wanting to let her back in after that.”

“Good. You seem to have given her an opportunity to repair what she has broken.” She sighed. “But I do not know.”

“Whatever you want to do, I’ve got your back. As much good as that will do when dealing with her, anyway.” Alex finished off his wine and set the glass down.

She reached up and directed his face to hers to kiss him softly, the hint of a smile on her lips. “Even if it does no good, it means everything to me.”


  1. Coming from someone who grew up emotionally abused, it feels like you hit the nail on the head. Plus Alex's unconditional support is the kind of thing that is truly needed. Well Done!

  2. Archnemesis: Nobody should have to go through that, I'm sorry. I'm glad that I can accurately portray it, though, thank you.

    Nikoda: Thanks!

  3. @icallshogun: The world is not perfect, and I am adaptable.

  4. I appreciate that you save profanity for the appropriate time. I wish I could say the same.

    There are many levels to your story, I'm barely keeping up sometimes. This is a wonderful thing and you should be proud that you do it well.

  5. @archnemesis: Good.

    Tummy: Alex doesn't swear much. I'm more than happy to bust out the cussing for other characters/projects/whatever, when it's more appropriate per character.

    Sometimes I think I could update this two or three times a week. Don't have the time for that, but sometimes it feels like I could. Particularly if I did chapters from other characters view points... Thank you, that means a lot to me.