Saturday, October 27, 2012

Gifts

One thing that Ed had successfully imparted to Alex, outside of piloting skills, was to be early. Particularly when military or various government types were involved. If five minutes early was their ‘on time,’ show up ten before that.

So, Alex had arrived a solid twenty minutes early to meet the Empress, all decked out in the fanciest human-style clothing he could get. His tailor - no getting used to that - had even gone so far as to produce a full three piece suit, eetaleeahn cut with a pretty good approximation of a tie. That was too much for him, though. He’d skipped the tie, vest and jacket entirely.

Then Eleya kept him waiting. He had sprawled out across a small couch up arrival and the twenty minutes burned up and then another ten... He checked his tablet - 44 minutes now - and drummed his fingers on the dark wood of the table that he was using as an armrest. That was unlike her, but she had been different in the last few weeks. Carbon indicated that it was more like how she had been, more than a decade ago.

The door opened silently, swinging wide on well maintained hinges. There appeared to be little different to Eleya today, aside from a new jacket. It was a darker blue than normal, a simple vine motif in bright silver stitched in as decoration. The front was abnormally long, down to her knees. She looked him over, then scanned the room as though something were missing. Her antenna raised slightly, perplexed. "Where is Carbon?"

"She went over this morning." Alex picked himself up from the couch and brushed a few stray hairs off his shirt, inspecting them for a moment. Silvery grey, they could have belonged to Tashen, or perhaps senator Lehata.

Eleya chuckled with a crooked smirk. “Ah, that is funny. She is waiting at the transport? She did like to inspect them herself.” She turned for her private elevator, a subtle hand motion indicating he should follow.

“Why would I even joke about that?” Alex rolled his eyes. “She left like four hours ago.”

“Why would she do that?” The very idea seemed distasteful to Eleya as she stepped into the elevator. “The meeting is not for several hours.”

The Navy had requested an all-hands type of meeting about exploration of the artifact. Alex and everyone else considered this an excuse to get him off the ship so his implant would have a chance to upload all that juicy intel he wasn’t supposed to know about without interruption.  "She was going to have breakfast with mom and then they were going shopping."

"With your mother?" She drew the question out, as though she expected that to be a bad translation.

Alex rolled his eyes and used the voice he reserved for small children or dumb animals, spacing his words out and enunciating carefully as they boarded the elevator. "Yes, that would be the one."

Another thing that had changed in the past two weeks was that Eleya had become much more comfortable with him in general. She buried an elbow in his side with a grimace. “There is no need for such condescension.”

"All right... Just saying, not a lot of options in the mother department for her."

"There are not." She stared at the lift's control panel and squinted, ears and antenna pressed down in concentration. When the glyph for the lower shuttle bay lit up she got that just-mastered-something smile of a newbie to implants. "I did not know she is so close to your mother."

Alex managed not to smile too much at that. He had been staring hard at controls like that just a few years ago. "I didn't either. Turns out they've been emailing a lot since I came on board."

"Curious. She actually went shopping. Willingly?"

"Right? Totally didn't see that coming. I mean, Carbon’s been a little down since Shenna showed up." It hadn’t been too bad until he explained to her how Shenna was involved in a half-dozen of his teeth getting knocked out. "She was really excited to go do stuff with mom, though."

“That is... good. It is good they has a relationship like that.” Eleya wilted a little, her shoulders slumping with an almost imperceptible sigh.

“They’re working on it.” Alex did not mention that Carbon had specifically requested he not tell Eleya about this before she left, for fear that she might invite herself along or do something that would put Alex’s mother off. “You should do something with her too. You’ve changed a lot lately and I think she’d be much more receptive to it now.”

Eleya considered that for nearly the rest of the ride down. “Do you keep your threats as well as your promises, Alex?”

He was pretty sure Eleya was talking about when he had informed her just how precarious her relationship with Carbon had become and that his focus would be helping Carbon however she wanted, even if it meant shutting the door on Eleya. “Of course I do.”

“Thank you. I believe I will, perhaps tomorrow after all of this has been settled.”

The lift eased to a stop, doors opened and they departed into the shuttle bay. It was a fraction of the size of the regular hangars on board, but still large enough for a handful of ships. Right now there were three shuttles being prepped, two for security and one to transport them. Alex expected there would be even more waiting for them upon departure. “Don’t thank me. It’s really what she wants.”

She nodded and continued walking past the shuttles. “It heartens me to know that.”

“Yep. Aren’t we going-” He gestured towards the shuttles. “You know, in the space ships?”

“Soon enough. I have something for you, first. I was going to save it for winter’s nadir, but today feels auspicious.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “I am sure you will like it.”

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