Alex paced back and forth across the confines of the elevator, the cane he had appropriated clicking in time with his steps. Things had gone as well as could be expected since the fight. The two that had attacked him were being taken to sickbay, the two that had stayed with his father-in-law’s zeshen were heading to the brig and dear old “dad” was flanked by soldiers in the back of the lift.
He wasn’t sure about a lot of things right now, all of them pertaining to this stand-in for Carbon’s father. Alex didn’t even know his name, let alone how he should deal with a zeshen. He knew the basics of pretending they were who they represented, but he understood there was much more to it than that. He knew who would know more, though.
He stopped and held his breath, then tipped his head back to swallow before he started drooling on himself again. The badly swollen cheek and half a dozen stumps and empty sockets where his molars used to be filled his face with an impressive amount of pain. Alex was particularly careful not to grind his remaining teeth together as he liked to do when he was feeling agitated, and he really wanted to do that right now.
The elevator chimed and the lift opened into the Eleya’s opulent waiting room. The entrance to her bedroom was open, the translucent forms of her personal guards holding the heavy doors for them. A regular soldier waited as well, the large human medical kit Alex had requested sitting beside him.
Alex wasted no time, gesturing for his guards to follow. He picked up the medkit with a nod and stormed into Eleya’s inner sanctum like he owned the place.
“You will not believe who showed up.” He slurred at her as he tossed the kit onto her bed and ripped the seal open. It was packed full of top shelf medical gear, enough for several people who had been through very traumatic events. He plucked the tissue regenerator out first and jammed it into his mouth like a toothbrush, holding the activation button down with his front teeth.
“I will believe a great deal when it appears before my eyes.” She gave him hardly a glance before she turned to watch her brother’s zeshen.
She wasted no time getting down to business. “You must rescind what you have done, Eleya. Return my daughter’s rightful name, send this animal away and-”
“Hey, fuck you.” Alex said around the regenerator as he finished loading a magazine of injections into a hypo. His eyes darted over to Eleya as he pressed it to his arm, the little device automatically kicking vials of painkillers, synthetic plasma and medigel onto the floor as they emptied. “Fuck him, am I right?”
That just got him a glare from both parties, though Eleya almost seemed amused.
“You must do what is right for all Tslao, sister. This human must be removed and the royal lineage made whole again.” The righteousness she started with seemed to swell as she continued, ramping up to a fever pitch with startling speed. “The throne cannot be tainted in this way! My daughter cannot be tainted in this way! I WILL NOT LET YOU BRING ABOUT THE DOWNFALL OF OUR PEOPLE!”
Eleya watched the pale lavender female nearly shaking with rage, eyes as cool as ever and thoroughly unimpressed. “Tell me, dearest Sharadi. You have not gone blind, have you?”
“What stupid question is that? Of course I still see.”
“Good. Do your ears still hear?”
There was not much patience to be found in dearest Sharadi. “Yes.”
She set her drink down and stood, smoothing her pale blue jacket before coming face to face with her brother’s proxy. “Then you certainly know how thin a thread ties the empire together now.”
“Of course! I care deeply about our people.”
“As do I. But you are not truly here about them. I am not a fool, Sharadi, and you are as transparent as ever.” With that, she plucked the sigil from the zeshen’s jacket and looked it over.
Sharadi, or whoever Sharadi was now, gave a start. “You cannot do that! The council-”
“The council is ash, Shenna. All but two of them.” She slipped the marker into her jacket and sighed. “They will side with me. This is not a matter of business, this is a matter of family.”
“It is about the whole of our race, Empress.” Shenna seemed very, very different from Sharadi. The anger was entirely gone, replaced by a strong voice that seemed legitimately concerned. “Surely, you must see that.”
“It may be so for you, but he is delusional with anger. Tsalo do not move quickly by ourselves, Shenna, with rare exceptions. We will fade and die unless a breath kindles the embers of our fire. While the source of that may not be agreeable to everyone,” she gave Alex a sidelong glance, “it needs to be strong and true.”
Shenna was unconvinced. “He is an outsider.”
“You see well, Shenna. You know that Carbon has never followed a traditional path before. I do not think anyone could make her follow one now.”
She considered that for a very long time. Long enough that when she spoke again Alex’s cheek was healed and the hairline fracture in his jaw had almost set. “We may disagree on some points, but you provide an interesting view as always.”
“It is necessary for my station.” Eleya smiled and spread her arms, drawing Shenna up into a hug. “It has been too long since we have spoken.”
Shenna hugged her back, sheepish. “It has. The outer colonies have been very busy lately, as you know.”
“I have heard about it, yes.” She clasped her hands around Shenna's. “Please, give what I have said thought, you may provide my brother with wisdom that he will not take from me.”
She nodded, head dipping low. “It will be done.”
“Perhaps you should speak to Carbon, as well. It may be an enlightening experience.” Eleya gestured towards Alex. “And the young prince. He is somewhat coarse yet, but he has his charms.”
Alex lifted an eyebrow at that. Despite the change in demeanor, he wasn’t inclined to trust Shenna just yet. He would still play their game, though, even if he would keep a wary eye on her. He put on a big smug grin and stuck out his hand. “Hey, didn’t see you there when I came in. Lord Alex Sorenson, crown prince. You may have heard of me.”
“Yes, I have.” She did not know what to do with all of that, looking curiously at his outstretched hand and turning to Eleya for some sort of help.
“As I said, he is unrefined but improving regularly.” Eleya pushed his hand down with a grimace. “I wish that you will make yourself comfortable Shenna. You may have your choice of quarters and any meetings you desire will be arranged with my decree.”
She registered significant surprise at the offer. “That is very generous of you, Empress. Thank you.”
“It is the least I can offer you.” She gave a very shallow bow and gestured for a guard.
Shenna bowed deeply and left without a bit of trouble. The doors closed behind her and Eleya sank back into her chair, draining what remained of her drink. She sighed and rubbed her eyes. “If I took your meaning correctly, then I must agree.”
Alex looked up from the empties he was picking off the floor. “Oh yeah?”
“Yes.” She inspected her glass and shook her head. “Fuck him.”