Thursday, September 13, 2012

Good Graces

“So, you’ve spent the last few years in the outer colonies. That’s got to be pretty exciting. New frontier and all.” Alex cracked open a spider leg and sucked the meat out. His mouth worked against him, trying to push everything he ate over to where he didn’t have teeth right now. It was frustrating, but he was still full of painkillers. They took the edge off most everything.


"It is not. Where there is not hardship, it threatens to arise almost daily." Shenna was a little bit chilly. Not a big surprise. At least Alex was sure they were on the same page.

“I suppose that is rather Human view.” He tried the green sauce this time, pungent and burning hot in the back of his throat and up into his sinuses. His eyes watered. “Have things been improving at all?”

“Slowly.”

“That’s better than the alternative.” Might as well look on the bright side of things.

Shenna made a disgruntled noise, dipped her fingers into a cleaning bowl and scooted her pillow backwards. For a moment it looked like she was done with being around Alex, that she was just going to get up and leave.

Eleya glared at her, a single harsh look that crystallized in her eyes but barely went beyond them. It carried an unmistakable warning that Alex imagined lined up with what he had discussed with Shenna.

The Zeshen hesitated, dried her hands on the napkin in her lap and slid back to the table. “It could be worse.”

Carbon sighed quietly, clearly not oblivious to what was going on around her. “I understand there has been some resistance to using supplies donated by Humans.”

“Yes, there has. Though the refugees can hardly be blamed. Everything is so strange.” She shook her head and picked through the legs on her plate, eventually leaving them alone.

“You make it sound like they’re aliens or something.” Alex went back to the green sauce, the heat balancing out the richness of the spider meat nicely.

“You are an alien.” She didn’t appreciate his humor.

“Just saying, everything we sent was brand new, ready to go. Must have been some use to someone.” He had become familiar with the rescue and relief operations while in training for the scouting mission that had eventually lead to him meeting Carbon.

She scoffed. “They have tiny square domiciles, entirely above ground with no plumbing. Hardly useful.”

“That was temporary emergency housing. You know, for emergency situations.” Alex took a drink of water while he went over supplies that had been given to the Tslao in his head. Just about everything you’d need to set up a refugee camps for five million and rebuild a manufacturing base. “So when you say hardly useful, how hardly useful do you mean?”

“Most of it has gone unused.” Shenna finished her glass of wine, gesturing to the waitress for a refill.

“There were... Over three million tons of equipment shipped to the outer colonies. Let’s just put ‘most’ into a percentage. For chuckles.”

“The majority, perhaps eighty or ninety percent.”

Alex stared at her for a long moment before he noticed Carbon’s foot rubbing his shin. That brought him back to reality and he loosened his grip on the table, the urge to flip it over fading quickly. Which was good, as he would have just flipped it at Carbon. “Wow, you know. That’s a lot of stuff that went unused.”

She shrugged, indifferent. “Many did not see the materials as fit for use by Tslao.”

Eleya piped up, looking into her wine glass as she spoke. “That is not what Sharadi’s reports have indicated to me. He stated there has been a high rate of use for feeding and housing our people during the worst disaster we have ever faced.”

“I am sure...” Shenna petered off, her ears and antenna pulled flat against her head. She took a long pull of wine and tried to sound nonchalant. “That there may have just been an error in the report.”

Eleya looked up and caught Shenna with a withering gaze. “You gave me two of those reports, in person.”

“Well, this is awkward.” Alex might have enjoyed this turn of events, just a little bit. “But, do go on. I’d love to hear about these reports.”

Eleya’s gaze remained fixed and her words were clipped and angry. “I would like to hear more about them as well, Shenna. This was no small gesture on the part of Humanity, I would hate to think that we have squandered it. I would hate to think that we let our people suffer when there was comfort offered to them.”

Shenna broke and her words came fast and low, her dislike for Alex made quite clear again. “I had exaggerated to upset the human.”

“It seemed that you succeeded in that, but you have done the same to the rest of us. We will have to discuss this later.” Eleya looked back into her glass before taking a sip.

Alex studied Carbon. She was rearranging the food on her plate and looked disappointed. Not hurt, per se, so Shenna wasn’t on his shit list just yet. “I can understand that. This whole situation is pretty overwhelming, sometimes that can make people act out in ways they normally wouldn’t.” That might have been the painkillers talking.

Shenna had not expected Alex to hand her an out, antenna raising in surprise. She eyed him warily and nodded in agreement. “I had not slept well on the trip here and this situation is very unusual. I am sorry, Alex.”

Carbon knew what was going on, her mood not changed until Shenna apologized. She did a double-take, brow furrowed as though she did not believe what she had heard.

That was good enough for Alex. “Hey, no hard feelings. It happens sometimes.”

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