Catch a fistful of sky

Old Friends, New Places, Part 6. | August 13, 2010

The chime to Chris’ door played several tones, and she leaned out from her office to see who it was. The screen next to the door showed Clay standing there, dreamblade and all. “Come in!” she shouted, and then slid back into her office. The door slid open with a pneumatic hiss and then closed again. When she came out a moment later, Clay was standing at the windows to her apartment looking out over the vista of sea and sky. Birds were wheeling around a floating advert stand off in the distance, and sleek ships were cutting the water.

“I don’t know how you manage to live under the water like you do,” Chris commented.

“Its peaceful down there. Not too many humans go down there, or even live down there, so it works out for me,” he said as he pushed up the sleeves of his commando sweater. “Especially at times like this.”

Chris caught the oblique reference. “Ah. I see. Already?” she said, “Coffee?”

“Please. I caught your email. Allison will be here, but what about the other two?”

“Enjoying what comforts Aquilia Station has to offer. They don’t need to be part of our little get togethers yet,” Chris said, walking over to a machine with a small basket and groove for a cup. She slid in a small packet of coffee, and pressed a button. The cup filled with steaming brew which she passed to Clay.”The good news is we’ve already got our next mission.”

“Oh? So soon? Not that I mind, of course,” said Clay, sitting at her breakfast bar and taking a quiet sip.

“Yes. We’ve deciphered a little of the sphere, and it seems like they were working on some biological project. A Doctor Essoms is referenced in there, who specializes in neurology out on an asteroid based station. It seems they were going off his research and may have had some contact with him.”

“I thought we couldn’t decipher the sphere without those two ladies?”

Chris gave a snort. “They’re not as indispensable as they think. It would be slow going without them though, but I want to see how they acted if they thought they had as over a barrel. If they tried to put the screws on us, well, that’s information we need to know.”

Clay nodded. “Not that I don’t agree with that assessment, but I’m sensing something more…personal behind it.”

“You’re talking about how I feel towards Chi,” said Chris. Clay took another sip of coffee, and arched an eyebrow.

“Am I?”

Chris smirked. “Don’t play mind games with me. Of course you are. I have issues with her attitude towards everything that makes her freedom possible, but that’s all it is,” she said. “You seem to have made a mark on Jane. Should I tell her to learn how to use a rei mal if Jia takes offense?”

“Jane looks at me as a story to be told at best, as a thing to be understood, documented, and surveyed at worst,” Clay said without heat.

There was another chime at the door, and Allison appeared on the screen, the hulking form of Wuoh behind her and unable to fit in the dimensions of the camera.  She was dressed fashionably, her hooded sweatshirt weaved completely in holothread, which displayed a different image according to whatever she programmed into her datapad. Right now it was a continous, hypnotizing screen of colors.

“Come on in,” said Chris. She gave the two a wave, and Clay did the same. Allison returned it while Wuoh gave a brusk nod. “Can I get you something to drink?” she asked.

“Just a pop for me, something fruity if you don’t mind,” said Allie.

“Wuoh?” asked Chris.

“I’ll be fine,” he said, “But I thank you,” and he went to look out the window.

Chris got Allie her drink, and she sat at the bar next to Clay. “So what did I miss?” Allie asked.

“Only that we have another mission coming up,” said Clay, following Wuoh’s gaze outside.

“Already?!” the pilot exclaimed. Chris nodded.

“Yes. We’ll be heading to an out system asteroid belt acting as a biotech firm. We’ll need to get Harlequin back to looking like a shuttle and not an armed frigate,” Chris said.

“Ah, damn,” said Allie. “I was hoping for at least a week of downtime. Guess not, huh? Anything else?”

“Yes,” said Chris, “Try to establish a rapport with the two while they’re on the ship. I think I’ve established myself in an antagonistic role, while Clay may be a little too… exotic to break through.”

Clay snorted, which drew a smile from the two women. “Alright, I’ll see what I can do. Anything I should look into in specific?” Allie asked.

“Yes, I think Chi might be a dodger. Her records look good and solid, but she’s also something of a genius at this sort of thing, I’ll be the first to admit. Try to see if you can get her to open up to you about that,” Chris said.

“Right. You know its not going to happen anytime soon? A woman like that knows how to keep secrets, especially if she dodged the Imperial Draft.”

Chris shrugged. “I have time. I want something to bring her to heel if needs be. She’s the type who works best with a long leash that has a sharp collar.”

“I see. Remind me never to give you a reason to fit me with one of those,” Allie said, turning her attention to Clay. “You’re quiet. Did it not go well with Jia?”

“It went fine. Just that time again,” Clay said.

“Ah, well. There’s really nothing I can say,” said Allison. She reached over, and gave Clay’s shoulder a tentative squeeze, and then pulled back.

“Speaking of Jia,” he said, “She said the reports worried her.” The women sat up at that. “You’ve got Defenders, Rulons out of Rulos Sector, and Leitani on the ground. She thinks they’re gearing up for war again.”

“They can’t win. They don’t have the bodies, to begin with, and so much of their tech was demilitarized after the armistice,” pointed out Allie.

“Unless they think they can. Its a lot of space out there. Maybe they have a Plan B we haven’t found yet,” said Chris.

“Or maybe we crush them, and then we fall apart from within. Its what the Illurians are worried about the most,” Clay said, finishing up his coffee.

“Everyday that becomes a little less of a concern. Right now I’m more concerned about them having something up their sleeves that we don’t see coming.”

“Worst than when the Rulonians joined the Federation? Or the genome bombs?” asked Allie.

“I hope not. Though the schism that happened because of that might have been worst in the long run for them. We certainly didn’t see either coming,” Chris mused, and then shook her head. “Whatever, its our job to find out what’s coming down the pipe. I’ll transmit times for you guys over email here in a little bit. Take care in the meantime, eh?” Chris said.

“I’m going for a walk on the upper levels. I need some sunlight. Either of you want to come?” asked Allie.

“I’m good,” said Clay. “Jia wants a night in, and I’m inclined to give it to her.”

Chris also demurred. “Thanks, but I have some paperwork to finish up. Fletcher has me running around for these two trainees.”

“Okay then! Maybe another time,” said Allie, and Wuoh fell in behind her as she left, giving the two a wave.

“I’ll see you around Chris,” said Clay as he left.

“Take care,” said Chris, and she let out a sigh of relief as the door shut behind them. She walked down the hall, and checked on Lissie, who was fast asleep for her nap. She sat on the child’s futon, and stroked her hair for a minute. It took a force of effort, but she pulled herself away and went back to her office.

She typed an email to Fletcher. It was her report on Clay, and how he was doing. She had trained for a year to be able to be around him without his empathic sense picking something up, and what she had first thought of as glorified babysitting was becoming one of her most rewarding jobs. She still didn’t think she’d be telling him anytime soon, as FOSsils had serious trust issues. Which was only fitting, she imagined, seeing what was done to them. Still, she swallowed her distaste and noted to the Old Man that Clay was already experiencing disaffection, and asked what could be done to help allieve it. It was one of the harder parts of her job, spying on her comrade and friend, but she would do as she was bid. Otherwise, everything would fall apart if people just did what they wanted.

~

Allie leaned over the railing, the wind taking her hair and blowing it around her face. A fresh breeze was coming in off the ocean, and she inhaled the salty scent, relishing the life it held. Faintly, fish could be smelled as they were gathered by the harvesting boats, and if she focused in the right places she could see the forms of huge predators waiting underneath the schools of fish, biding their time for when the boats went in and they could feed.

This is what she lived for, she thought. If she had to answer Jane, she would tell her that this world, and all the ones like it, were why she was busy flying for the League.  Worlds with the amenities a girl could want and need, but with enough wildness that was only a day’s flight away. She took one last look at the ocean, and decided she would get in a swim before they left again.

“Come on Wuoh, let’s walk,” she said, and the Bhae Chaw fell in with her. “What do you think?” she asked him.

“About?” he responded.

“Everything. The new mission. What Clay said Jia was saying. The new crew we’re taking on board. How much nicer this place is than High Toronto. Pick one. Pick them all. And nothing too laconic, please,” she said. There were few people around walking the bend, so she felt safe discussing this in public. Just in case though, she flipped a lever on a device in her pocket that would let her know if she was being listened in on, and scramble any devices.

“Well, Miss. The new mission is coming at us quite quickly, which leads me to believe the League sees either an opportunity to gain or stop something.  I don’t have an opinion on the new crew, but I believe Chris was right to set you to befriend them for better or for worst. You know how I feel about Illurians, and I hope Clay is not comprimised because of his relationship, even though I will admit she does offer him something that seems to work in maintaining his psyche. And this is a nice planet, but I believe your parents would like you to return to High Toronto all the same.”

“Thank you. For what its worth, I agree with most of that,” she said, and then looked over at a rare sight as they came around a corner: A Rulonian abeyyah with his charge.

She knew that a Bhae Chaw sifu was a mark of a status, functioning as teacher and protector all in one as well as demonstrating the culture require to house an alien. A Rulonian abeyyah was a new thing, and too risky for some families. The presence of a Rulonian around a male child before puberty had an interesting effect on the child in question. He grew taller, stronger, and possessed certain traits not found among humanity, such as night vision or an increased lung capacity. Some even were seen to grow scales along their brows, but they would never bear children with a human female. The genetics were simply incompatable, but some families thought this worth while to turn a younger son into a born soldier.

Such as this family. It would be hard to estimate his age – he could simply be tall or under the effects of the Rulon next to him. He was caucasian, but clad in robes that would mark him as a child of New Shanghai. She stopped, and immediately the gaze of the armoured Rulonian took her in.

The Rulonian was a beautiful creature, she had to admit. Muscles flexed under pearly white underscales that were contrasted with reds and browns on top. His armor was intricately designed, the shiny metal covering his forearms, legs, chest and back, and the top of his head. The breastplate was marked with the twin claw marks and personal sign of the Bastard Prince, Ianviur. Ianviur, who took monogamy to a religious level, and lead some of his people away from the warfare and rape that had been their hallmark. And of course the rai’lith, the holy weapon of the Rulons, was in his hand, the broad blade and gunbarrel glinting in the fading light.

She held up her hands to show she meant no harm, and the Rulon looked over to his young charge and croaked something in his language. The boy looked over at Wuoh, and then at her, and gave a bow of obesiance, from one lesser to one greater to her. To Wuoh, he lowered his hands, palms up. Wuoh smiled at this, and raised one hand, palm down. Allie was impressed that the boy knew Bhae Chaw courtesy so well, showing respect to a veteran fighter from an untested novice.

“You’ve done him well,” she told the Rulonian. “Not many people know how to great a Bhae Chaw.”

“Ah, thank you. And for my part…” the abeyyah began, and then raised his gun spear towards Wuoh, to which he responded by showing the Rulon his palm. Courtesies finished, the Rulon turned back to Allie. “I would not have Jin dissapoint on his first off world trip.”

“Your first?” she asked Jin. The boy nodded, and spoke in a clear voice.

“My first. We’re traveling the inner quadrants first. We’re actually going to visit Pandora next,” he told Allie.

“Pandora? Impressive. I take it you know your Old Blood culture then?”

“I know some of it, but I go to learn. I came here to learn some of the family business,” he said, giving a wave towards the boats that were heading into the harbor. “Then I will go to see the great forests of Pandora and hopefully speak with the Elders.”

Allie nodded. “Well good luck to you both. Very few get the opportunity you are,” she told him. She gave a brief nod to them both, which was returned. Wuoh and the Rulon exchanged salutes, and the two groups went their own way. She spoke to Wuoh when they were far enough away. “That boy couldn’t have been more than eight. I wonder if he knows what’s going on, or if his parents simply decided what was best.”

“I imagine they decided what was good for him. He is fortunate to learn at the knee of a Rulon.”

“Maybe, but I wonder if he knows what he’s giving up.”

“And what if he did? Do you think everyone would make your choice?”

Allie looked up at the Bhae Chaw, and shook her head. “Duty. Doody. About the same.”

“If you had no sense of duty, I would be shamed. And you would not be working for the League,” pointed out Wuoh.

“True, but no one forced me into the League, just like no one forced me into Star Command. Its one thing to take on duty willingly, its another to be obligated into circumstances due to ignorance.”

“I don’t believe the distance is as far as you think, little one.”

Allie gave a half smile. “Remind me never to argue duty with a race that makes a religion out of it. But what about Clay? Who chose for him?”

“”One to lead/One to see/One to deceive/One to reave,'” quoted the sifu, “We all have to serve. Only fools and gods deny a master.”

Allie didn’t respond for a moment. “I don’t need the guilt trip, Sifu. I’ll go home when I decide to, and not before,” she said, putting a little of the whip in her voice.

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Paratrooper. Correctional Officer. Federal Agent. Hello world, these are my thoughts and this is my story.

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