“Wait, really? You agree with me on that?” Alex nearly dropped the empty hypo cartridges he had been collecting. He had been channeling quite a bit of anger a few moments ago and swearing just didn’t seem like Eleya’s thing. For that matter, he wasn’t even aware that there were swear words in his translator.
“Have I not made that plain enough?”
“Yeah, but I mean... He’s your brother. Sort of. You understand how that zeshen stuff works better than I do.”
“Do I? Instruct Neya to give you a thorough course in the formalities for working with them. It is important for someone of your station to know.” There was something amiss about her. She was much more mellow than Alex expected her to be, but there was something else he couldn’t put a finger on.
“All right, I’ll do that.” He looked around for a garbage and, finding none, shoved the empties into his pockets. Whatever was off about her itched at the back of his mind, urging him to talk a little more to suss the difference out. Alex started to put the medkit back in order slowly. “What was that she said about a council?”
“The zeshen council. They oversee the health and wellbeing of all zeshen. Oversaw, perhaps. Most of them are dead now.” That got a little sigh out of her, another shake of her head. “Most of the network they had set up is gone. The two remaining zetelao are... It is best to say they do all they can to maintain the traditions.”
“Couldn’t they just get some more council members?” Seemed like the thing to do.
“Were it so easy.” Eleya had a sly sort of smile, amused by the simplicity of his suggestion. “The council is made of retired zeshen and there are not many retired zeshen available right now.”
“Really?” He closed the kit and reset the seal, the little status light glowing yellow - used and missing some components.
“The town the council chambers were in is now a very large crater.” There was a bit of tension in her voice. “You would do well to know more about the disaster and the homeworld. It will come up at some point and having that knowledge at hand should be endearing.”
“Consider it added to the list.” The list of things he was trying to learn about fitting in with Tslao society had become so long that it lost meaning to him as a list. It had turned into ‘learn to be Tslao’ sometime in the last week. He’d actually look into those specifically, though. “Up near the top.”
“Good.” She pushed herself out of her chair and swept aside one of the wall hangings that lined the room, a deep closet hidden behind it. She shrugged out of her plain blue jacket and hung it, taking a moment to straighten it out and pick a few hairs from it.
Alex turned away as he was inclined to give people the same level of privacy he expected for himself, even if they didn’t seem to care. He understood the base-layer wrappings Tslao wore counted as dressed to them in private, but he still saw the bands of fabric as underwear.
Still, he looked back when he caught something weird out of the corner of his eye. A large patch of her back was shaved down to the light blue skin, just below her rib cage. The fluffy tips of her antennae weren’t weighed down with wireless interfaces, either.
“That’s how you could swear!” He blurted out as he made the connection.
Eleya looked over her shoulder at him, an eyebrow raised and one arm stuck into a decorated jacket. “Would you clarify your statement.”
“You got a translator. Installed.” He waved an accusatory finger at her bald spot.
“Did I? Nh, you are good with the obvious.” She shrugged the other sleeve on and placed the collar on her shoulders with a delicate shift to even them out as she returned to her bedroom.
Alex grunted his displeasure at that shot. “It’s not like you put a sign out or something. When did that happen?”
“Just yesterday.” Eleya swung the tapestry back into place. “When I can, I lead by example, Alex. I would not expect others to go through something so invasive without stepping forward first.”
He nodded in agreement. “How do you like it?”
“Those connectors have pulled my antenna down for too long. Having my...” She petered off for a moment, thinking better of whatever she had intended to say. “My connections all routed through the implants is very convenient. You sound much more pleasant this way, as well.”
“Thank you.” He wanted to pry at what she had stopped herself for, but didn’t particularly want to roll the dice any more. She was in a good mood, he wouldn’t go looking for something to change that right now.
“Thank you, as well.” She picked the cane up from off her bed and inspected the pommel, rolling it over a full turn before looking back up at Alex. “You could have let him die there. It was your right.”
He shrugged. The blow to the head the older Tslao had taken was more severe than Alex expected. It was something a mediboard could take care of, if he reached one promptly. “It didn’t seem right.”
A tiny smile crept onto her face. “I am glad. I would have missed the old fool if you had done so.”
“Good. He can’t have his cane back for a while, though.”
Her eyebrow went up again.
“He busted out all these teeth.” He held his mouth open for a moment, showing off the craters and jagged peaks. “I swallowed like half of that and I’m keeping it until I finish passing them.”
Eleya recoiled at the damage but laughed when she understood what he meant and held the cane out to him. “Very well. It is unusual, but amusing.”
“It seemed fitting.” He lifted it out of her hand and spun it. He’d been practicing to use a sword and managed a simple flourish without slapping it into his leg or head. “There are dentists on board, right? I’m up to my eyeballs in painkillers right now, but I’d like to get this fixed soon.”
“Several, and I am sure they would all be honored to work on you.”